Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.
China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?
Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.
At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.
Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.
The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.
In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.
A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.
(Vietnam News Agency)
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.
Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.
So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.
But all good things must come to an end, and Juno is no exception.
NASA planned to destroy the tennis-court-size robot by plunging it into Jupiter’s clouds sometime after July 2018. The rationale is similar to the Cassini probe’s recent demise: Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may be habitable to alien life, so carefully and deliberately ending the mission would prevent Juno from accidentally crashing into that moon. This would keep Europa’s ocean — which may have twice as much water as exists on Earth — from getting contaminated by any earthly microbes stuck to Juno.
However, the probe’s fiery end is now pushed back by at least three years to July 2021, according to NASA sources. Scientific work on the mission will continue through September 2022.
The extension is critical to one of Juno’s primary objectives. The probe has been mapping Jupiter as it orbits the gas giant with infrequent close passes called perijoves. Juno builds this map slice-by-slice using a suite of different instruments, including ones that record data about Jupiter’s gravitational field.
But due to lingering trouble with Juno’s propulsion system, by July 2018, the team will have completed only 14 of the 32 perijoves that it needs to finish mapping Jupiter.
Why Juno needs an extension to finish mapping Jupiter
(Scott Bolton / Southwest Research Institute)
Spending too much time in Jupiter’s powerful radiation field can damage sensitive electronics. As a result, Juno orbits the planet on a highly elliptical path that keeps the probe mostly out of harm’s way, yet regularly zooms it over the cloud tops for detailed observations.
When Juno arrived in July 2016, mission managers had the spacecraft orbit Jupiter once every 53.5 days. In October 2016, they planned to fire up the probe’s engines and speed Juno’s orbits to once every 14 days — until the team discovered some sticky valves in the engine’s plumbing. NASA ultimately decided to play it safe and not risk using the engines, delaying Juno’s mapping pace nearly four-fold.
“During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a 2017 press release. “The bottom line is a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives.”
One representative told Business Insider that the agency hasn’t “put anything out yet about that” when asked about the extension.
“NASA is close to being able to announce a decision on the possibility of continuing the Juno mission at Jupiter,” another representative said in an emailed statement. (NASA declined to provide additional information.)
Extending Juno’s flight will help the probe finish mapping Jupiter — a project that primarily focuses on the planet’s gravitational field. That data may reveal what is going on deep inside the giant yet mysterious world.
“It is very exciting for us to be able to complete the mission pretty much as it was originally proposed, except with longer orbits,” Frederic Allegrini, a staff scientist at Southwest Research Institute who works on the Juno mission, told Business Insider.
If Juno stays operational and productive over the next few years, NASA might again decide to keep flying the probe around Jupiter beyond July 2021.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The question over whether or not Confederate soldiers were U.S. veterans is largely a symbolic one today. Only one Civil War pension is still being paid (that pensioner was a veteran of both sides of the conflict), and by the time Confederates received real benefits, they were all dead by the following year. No specific legislation exists that identifies Confederate veterans as having equal status to all other American veterans.
However, provisions exist that could add up to that protected status. Under the law, that is.
President Lincoln considered Confederate citizens and soldiers “Americans in rebellion,” and not citizen of a foreign country. His view dominated in the days following the end of the war. Lincoln even began the Reconstruction process early with the 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which pardoned the average Joe Confederate troop still fighting for the South.
President Johnson continued the amnesty policy in 1868, granting a full pardon to most former Confederates, including men who fought the Union directly. They all regained their citizenship and voting rights, but were not granted veterans status by the federal government, which means they did not receive the same benefits promised to those who fought for the Union.
As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Americans began to care for Confederate graves the way they cared for Union ones. But this was not because any Federal act told them to, it was just the spirit of reconciliation in a nation fresh from a victory over Spain. Eventually it was codified into law.
U.S. Code 38 does require the government, when requested, to put up a headstone for soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War, which was confirmed again in 1958 under Public Law 85. That same law also extends veterans’ pensions “to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
The closest Confederates come to U.S. veteran status is in a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling about whether or not the Confederate flag was able to be flown over a national cemetery, administered by the VA. The court upheld the VA’s treatment of the rebel graves as equally honored, and that it was not obligated to fly any flag except the American flag over the cemetery.
The CSA flag was not considered a legitimate symbol of the United States and the Confederates buried there were honored as citizens, not as veterans.
So when added up, a Confederate’s benefits amounted to much of what was received by a Union veteran, but they’ll never be called American veterans. The closest they ever came was “American citizens” …”who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
President Donald Trump has reportedly soured on Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and is now increasingly making US military policy on his own.
Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, stopped US military exercises in South Korea, and aired plans to create the first new military branch in 70 years all in snap, shock decisions that saw Mattis scrambling to keep up, according to a new report from NBC.
“They don’t really see eye to eye,” said a former senior White House official.
These policy moves represent a budding trend of Trump steering US foreign and military policy by himself, and often against the advice of his top advisers like Mattis, sources told NBC.
Trump has made a number of snap decisions that have met with slow responses from Mattis and the Pentagon.
In July 2017, Trump announced a ban on transgender people joining the US military. Four federal courts struck down the order, and by the end of the year Mattis was accepting transgender troops again.
Trump, unsatisfied with the Pentagon slow-walking his policy decisions, has increasingly cut out Mattis and taken matters into his own hands, NBC cites sources as saying.
Trump recently asked the military to come to the rescue of another imperiled policy by asking the National Guard to come to the border. Mattis reportedly resisted the idea in private but remained tight-lipped and dutiful in his public comments.
“[Mattis] didn’t feel like the mission was well-defined,” a senior White House official told NBC.
A Pentagon spokesperson told NBC that it was “silly” to say Mattis had been out of the loop on major US military policy decisions taken by Trump, but the White House and Pentagon have a record of making disjointed statements.
Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.
But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.
The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.
(Laughs in Blackbird)
When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.
Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.
An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.
(U.S. Air Force)
When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.
West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
(U.S. Air Force)
The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.
Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”
The US Navy challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea on August 10, Navy officials revealed.
The US Navy conducted the third freedom-of-navigation operation under President Donald Trump in the South China Sea on August 10. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (DDG-56) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island chain, according to Fox News.
A Navy P-8 reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft reportedly flew nearby.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed past Mischief Reef in late May. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands, in July.
Over the past year, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea. China has been constructing military outposts in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and equipping them with armaments to protect its claims to the region, discredited by an international tribunal last year, through force.
China has constructed airstrips and hangars and protected harbors for the air and naval units in the Paracel Islands. The military has even deployed surface-to-air missiles. In the Spratly Islands, China has built airstrips and reinforced hangars, possible missile silos, and point defense systems.
The Chinese military has actually armed all seven of its military outposts in the Spratlys, strengthening its stranglehold on the disputed territories.
While the Trump administration was initially hesitant to rile China, which the president believed was an essential ally in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis, Beijing’s hesitancy to act on the Korean Peninsula has led the administration to target China’s strategic interests.
In all of its branches, the U.S. military had an incredibly active 2017.
Luckily, photographers were often on hand to capture the training, combat, and downtime of the men and women in uniform.
We want to highlight the best of the best, 49 images that show the wide range of what military life entails.
Check the amazing photos out below:
49. Sailors create snow angels on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 7 after returning home from a deployment.
48. A member of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 traverses a mud-filled pit while participating in the endurance course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, on February 17.
47. The amphibious assault ship USS Ma kin Island transits the Arabian Sea on March 3.
46. Members of the Leap Frogs, a US Navy parachute team, jump out of a C-130 Hercules during a skydiving demonstration above Biloxi High School in Mississippi on April 6.
45. A Naval aircrewman rescues two dogs at Houston’s Pine Forest Elementary School, a shelter that required evacuation after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds on August 31.
44. A Naval aircrewman comforts a Puerto Rican evacuee following the landfall of Hurricane Maria on September 25.
43. The USS Nimitz, USS Ronald Reagan, and USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carriers and their strike groups in the Pacific Ocean on November 12.
42. A sailor signals the launch of an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the flight deck of the USS Reagan on November 18.
41. The new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier transits the Atlantic Ocean on December 13.
40. A Green Beret provides over-watch security during small-unit tactic training on January 18 at Fort Carson, Colorado.
39. Army mortarmen, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, fire mortars near Al Tarab, Iraq, during the offensive to liberate western Mosul from the terrorist group ISIS on March 19.
38. A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the Mojave Desert on May 30 at Fort Irwin in California.
37. Soldiers conduct sling-load and air-assault training with M777A2 howitzers at Bemowo Piskie Training Area near Orzysz, Poland, on June 7.
36. A US Army Reserve sniper and infantry soldier poses at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on July 26.
35. Paratroopers conduct Hollywood jumps at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska on July 27. They’re known as Hollywood jumps because the paratroopers wear nothing but a parachute and a reserve.
34. US Army soldiers and cadets prepare for a live-fire exercise at Camp Grayling in Michigan on August 4.
33. Soldiers secure an objective on top of a mountain during Decisive Action Rotation 17-08 at Fort Irwin on August 21.
32. A paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne brigade collects his parachute after landing on September 26.
31. US Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation from a C-130 Hercules in Pordenone, Italy, on December 12.
30. Pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron prepare for a night jump from a C-130 Hercules over Grand Bara, Djibouti on March 20.
Pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron prepare for a night jump from a C-130 Hercules over Grand Bara, Djibouti, March 20, 2017. U.S. Air Force photo Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia
29. Senior Airman Jacqueline D’urso, a boom operator with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, prepares to make contact with a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a refuel mission over the southeast US on April 4.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ned T. Johnston
28. Instructors assigned to the 1st Special Operations Support Squadron, Operational Support Joint Office, jump from a 15th Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II above northwest Florida on June 28.
U.S. Air Force photo Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick
27. A 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintainer adjusts the window of a KC-135 Stratotanker boom pod before a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar on July 3.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles
26. US personnel from the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron conduct C-130J Super Hercules airlift operations in East Africa on July 19.
U.S. personnel from the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron conduct C-130J Super Hercules airlift operations in East Africa, July 19, 2017. U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Russ Scalf
25. Joint terminal attack controllers wave at an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft during a show of force on the Nevada Test and Training Range on July 19.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum
24. Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Carr, a crew chief with the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, checks the engine of a C-17 Globemaster III during Exercise Mobility Guardian at the base on August 6.
Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Carr, a crew chief with the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, checks the engine of a C-17 Globemaster III during Exercise Mobility Guardian at the base, August 6, 2017. U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb
23. Airmen from the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit perform post-flight maintenance on an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia on September 3.
U.S. Air Force Andrea Jenkins
22. An air commando from the 7th Special Operations Squadron fires a .50-caliber machine gun aboard a CV-22 Osprey during a flight around southern England on September 11.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Philip Steiner
21. A crew chief assigned to the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron walks on the flight line near a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Beverly Morning 17-06 at Yokota Air Base, Japan on October 26.
U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe
20. A crew chief assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 observes the landing zone from a UH-1Y Huey during a training operation at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue in North Carolina on March 9.
19. Marines working with III MEF Marines fly the AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom past Mount Fuji in Japan on March 22.
U.S. Marine Corps Facebook
18. A Marine with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fires an M777 howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve on March 24.
U.S. Marine Corps
17. Marines fire an M777-A2 howitzer in northern Syria on May 15.
U.S. Marine Corps Facebook
16. A Marine waits to conduct a fire mission in Syria early on June 3.
U.S. Marine Corps
15. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa exit an MV-22B Osprey during assault training at Sierra Del Retin, Spain, on June 26.
U.S. Marine Corps Facebook
14. Cpl. Suzette Clemans, a military-working-dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and Denny, her Belgian Malinois patrol explosive-detection dog, prepare to search for explosives on the beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California on October 21.
13. Lance Cpl. Luis Arana fires the Carl Gustav rocket system during live-fire training at Range 7 at Camp Hansen in Japan on October 25.
12. Capt. Gregory Veteto, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, punts a football sent by his wife revealing the sex of his baby during a weekly formation on November 1.
11. MV-22B Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, transports Marines to land from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima during an exercise in the Atlantic Ocean on December 7.
U.S. Marine Corps
10. The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships on January 16.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley
9. US Coast Guard ice-rescue team members training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington on February 17.
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison
8. Coast Guard Cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area on April 6.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton
7. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oak scrapes mussels off a buoy and shovels them back into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast on May 10.
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oak scrape mussels off a buoy and shovel them back into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast, May 10, 2017. Marine growth and mussels build up over time and can weigh down the buoy. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi
6. US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton unloads about 18.5 tons of cocaine — worth $498 million — seized in 20 separate incidents in international waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, at Port Everglades, Florida on May 18.
U.S. Coast Guard
5. Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyman Dickinson, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, is lowered into the water from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a joint search-and-rescue exercise with the Mexican navy off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico on June 7.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman
4. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailed into some foggy weather in Casco Bay during its arrival in Portland, Maine on August 4. The arrival coincided with Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier
3. Coast Guard members offload MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Florida on September 11.
U.S. Coast Guard
2. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson Ernst uses a line-throwing gun to help pass the tow line to 65-foot fishing trawler Black Beauty, off the coast of New Hampshire on November 11.
U.S. Coast Guard
1. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Rodriguez, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and Sung Jun Lee, from the Korean coast guard, hoist Oscar the dummy during a vertical-surface and self-rappelling exercise at Makapu’u Lighthouse, Oahu on November 16.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Rodriguez, an aviation-survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and Sung Jun Lee with the Korean coast guard, hoist Oscar the dummy during a vertical-surface and self-rappelling exercise at Makapu’u Lighthouse, Oahu, November 16, 2017. Members of the Korean coast guard visited Air Station Barbers Point during a professional exchange and as a way to share best practices. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle
Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.
South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.
Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.
The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”
Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.
Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”
This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.
Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”
Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.
That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.
According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)
But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.
Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,
Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.
The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.
When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.
As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.
“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”
Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”
But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.
Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.
Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.
What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.
Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.
The military community is chock-full of milspouse super-achievers – men and women who manage to find personal and professional success despite the many, many (did we mention many?) obstacles the military throws their way. Anyone living the milspo life already knows dozens of people who make a mockery of the dependa stereotype, and we wrote this story to highlight a few. Here are five more milspouses making their marks on the world.
The country music star
RaeLynn sang her way into America’s ears as a contestant on The Voice in 2012. Five Top 40 hits and two albums later, the talented performer and military spouse is showing the world that being married to the military doesn’t mean giving up on dreams. Her husband, active duty soldier Joshua Davis, enlisted after they were married in 2016, and the couple has been juggling the demands of Army life and Music Row stardom ever since. As she told People Magazine, “There’s a level of sacrifice that you have to do as a military spouse that the average person might not have to do,” she said. “You can’t talk to your significant other all the time. There’s the fear of when they do deploy, of not seeing them again and that underlying fear of just hoping that they’re okay.” We feel you, girl.
Sheila Casey has given most of her life to the military. For 40 years she kept the home fires burning so her husband, former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, could rise to the very top rank in the Army, and she did it without losing her own career or identity in the process. Sheila now serves as Chief Operating Officer of The Hill, a top U. S. political publication that covers The White House, Congress, policy, campaigns, lobbying, business and international news. Prior to joining The Hill in 1997, she was Director of Finance at the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas, and worked as an audit manager for Grant Thornton, a national CPA firm. And she did it all while living that milspo life all over the United States, Europe and Egypt and volunteering with a number of organizations, including as chair of Blue Star Families Board of Directors. She also gives her time to Parents as Teachers; The National Domestic Violence Hotline; Snowball Express; the Washington Press Club Foundation; the Board of Advisors for ThanksUSA; The Bob Woodruff Foundation; The Military Child Education Coalition, and the GI Film Festival.
John Oliver came to the U.S. to do comedy and quickly found fame with his hilarious appearances on “The Daily Show.” In fact, that’s kind of how he met his wife, former U.S. Army medic Kate Norley, who was motivated to enlist by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at age 19. Norley served in Iraq as a combat medic and a mental health specialist and became a veteran’s rights advocate after leaving the Army. Oliver was covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota for The Daily Show, and she was there campaigning with Vets for Freedom. And this is where their story gets funny. Oliver and his crew were caught in a restricted area and, with Oliver in the U.S. on a temporary visa, he and the crew were worried they might get arrested, so they ran. Norley and the veterans campaigning with Vets for Freedom hid them from security, giving Norley and Oliver one of the best “how we met” stories ever. Three years later, they were married. “When you’ve married someone who’s been at war, there is nothing you can do that compares to that level of selflessness and bravery,” Oliver has been quoted saying. “I feel humbled daily by what she has managed to do with her life versus how I’ve decided to fritter away mine.”
Most of the country became aware of Nikki Haley in June 2015 when the then-South Carolina governor stepped in to unite and soothe her state after a white supremacist attacked an African American church in Charleston, killing nine people. Haley masterfully handled a tense, painful moment and helped her state heal. As the first woman to be the governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American to be a governor of any state, she brought a unique perspective to the tragedy. As the sister of a retired soldier and the wife of an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, she understood the risk of inaction. In fact, Haley’s husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, while she was governor. (Oh, NBD. Just juggling all the demands of solo parenting AND an entire state.) “I am unbelievably proud of him and yes, we went through the deployment and single mom stuff, and all that when he was deployed in Afghanistan,” Haley told Military Families Magazine. “I wouldn’t trade it, just because of the pride he has, the pride that we all have for him. We suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Haley in the coming years. She was appointed as the U.N. Ambassador by President Trump, a job she served in for two years, and is widely suspected of having Presidential ambitions of her own.
It’s probably been a minute since Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought of herself as a military spouse. But before she became the Notorious RBG – okay, long before, she was an Army wife. After graduating from college, she married her boyfriend, Martin Ginsburg, and the two moved to Ft. Sill in 1954 because Martin had been drafted into the Army. He served for two years, and then the couple both continued their educations in law and both began legal careers, with Ruth’s culminating in her current position as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Martin passed away in 2010 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. We think those two years as a milspouse must have made an impression on RBG because the first time she argued a case before the Supreme Court, she did it to hook up a milspouse. The year was 1973 and her client was a female service member who wanted military spouse protections for her husband. Back then, the husbands of women who served were not considered dependents and did not receive benefits unless they “were dependent on their wives for over one-half of their support.” But the Notorious RBG helped change that.
SpaceX is gearing up to launch a third top-secret spacecraft for the U.S. government, a mission the company calls “Zuma” but has said little else about.
The mystery satellite is tentatively slated to lift off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Friday, November 17, after 8 p.m. ET though possibly as late as 10 p.m. ET. SpaceX plans to broadcast the launch live via YouTube starting about 15 minutes beforehand. (You can watch the video feed at the end of this post.)
SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by tech mogul and Mars-colonizing hopeful Elon Musk, initially planned to launch the clandestine spacecraft on Wednesday. However, the company delayed the launch multiple times.
The reason for the delay doesn’t appear to be weather-related, given the current forecast. Previous delays were made “to allow engineers to complete additional mission assurance work,” according to Spaceflight Now. SpaceX said in laterstatements that a fairing (i.e. rocket nosecone) inspection “for another customer” caused the company to stand down, and that it “will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date” — so a Friday lift-off may be canceled.
SpaceX has loaded the Zuma payload atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket earlier this week.
When it lifts off, the Falcon 9’s roughly 133-foot-tall booster — the largest and most expensive part — will lug Zuma a few dozen miles above Earth, then detach and attempt to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Right after separating from the booster, a smaller second-stage rocket will fire up and finish pushing the secret payload into orbit.
A clandestine mission without a mysterious customer
The Zuma mission is more secretive than most, as public filings don’t even mention the launch customer paying SpaceX.
It’s not clear whether the satellite is owned by the U.S. military or a commercial entity. The National Reconnaissance Office typically launches spy satellites, but a representative told Aviation Week that Zuma doesn’t belong to the NRO.
SpaceX declined to answer questions about the Zuma mission, but Northrop Grumman — one of the largest defense contractors in the world — has acknowledged that they’re playing a role.
Lon Rains, the communications director for Northrop Grumman’s space systems division, sent Business Insider this statement:
“Northrop Grumman is proud to be a part of the Zuma launch. This event represents a cost effective approach to space access for government missions. The U.S. Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission. We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX.
“As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.
“The Zuma payload is a restricted payload. It will be launched into Low Earth Orbit.”
Low-Earth orbit, or LEO, is considered to be less than about 1,000 miles above the surface of the planet. Rains declined to provide further detail about the mission, however, cautioning that the company is “not saying anything else or answering any other questions.”
Zuma’s secrecy has spurred rampant speculation
Satellite trackers found out about the launch via public yet cryptic FCCfilings in October, and shared them in a NASA Spaceflight forum thread.
Since then, the vacuum of information has led to evolving speculation about the details and purpose of the launch. NASA Spaceflight’s thread about Zuma and a Nov. 15 story from Spaceflight Now have floated a number of ideas and theories:
If the National Reconnaissance Office isn’t behind Zuma (although Ars Technica claims it is the NRO’s), the payload may be for the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, or some other non-military U.S. government agency.
Estimates of Zuma’s orbit around Earth may be good for spying on China and North Korea, though its trajectory can’t be confirmed until after launch.
The predicted orbit is similar to that if the NRO’s USA-276 (or NROL-76) satellite. With Zuma launching around 8:00 p.m. ET, it could go into orbit less than 10 minutes behind USA-276 — very close in terms of outer space.
This has led some to suggest Zuma may be a refueling mission for USA-276, or part of a spy satellite constellation or program associated with that mission.
Watch the launch live
You can watch the launch live via SpaceX’s YouTube feed around 8 p.m. ET on Friday.