Anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems were stationed on Chinese outposts in the contested South China Sea, in yet another signal that China intends to cement its presence on the disputed islands.
Sources familiar with US intelligence reports said the weapons systems were installed on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines, according to a CNBC report.
The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would provide China the ability to engage surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs; and the HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles are expected to have a range of 160 nautical miles, CNBC reported.
“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” a Pentagon official said to CNBC. “The further militarization of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants.”
“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters.
(Photo by Jeff Hilton)
“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.
China’s increased military presence in the region comes amid another maneuver, one which exacerbated concerns among the US military and its allies. US officials said that in early April 2018, intelligence officers detected China was moving radar and communications-jamming equipment to the Spratly Island outposts.
“This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook.” Stratfor military analyst Omar Lamrani told Business Insider editor Alex Lockie, when asked about potential moves to jam communications channels. “The US will likely seek to counter this in some way,” he said.
Hotly disputed, $3.4 trillion shipping lane
Six countries, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, are contesting at least part of the chain of islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Located between Vietnam and the Philippines, the natural resources and trade routes that pass through the Spratly Islands are a lucrative venture for the countries — around $3.4 trillion in trade is reportedly transported through the South China Sea every year.
China has been one of the most prominent claimants to territory in the South China Sea since the 1980s. It currently has around 27 outposts throughout the islands and has continued to outfit them with aircraft runways, lighthouses, tourist resorts, hospitals, and farms.
According to some experts, the creation of civilian attractions in the region signals that China is undertaking a two-pronged approach in attempts to legitimize its ownership — by arguing it has a vested interest in the region, both militarily and otherwise.
In April 2018, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, nominated to lead the US’ Pacific Command, said Beijing’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.
Davidson said China could use the bases pose a challenge the US and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.
“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.
British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.
“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”
There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.
The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
A U.S. judge has ordered Iran’s government to pay $63.5 million to a former U.S. Marine who was held in Iranian jails for more than four years.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of 33-year-old Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American, after Iran failed to respond to the complaint.
Hekmati was detained in August 2011 after he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with an ailing grandmother.
He was arrested on espionage charges and sentenced to death. The sentence was later overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence.
He was freed in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap along with four other American prisoners after Washington granted clemency to seven Iranians.
Hekmati filed suit in May 2016, claiming he was tortured and tricked into providing a false confession while held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
It is uncertain if the U.S.-born Hekmati will actually receive any of the money, but his attorney, Scott Gilbert, said the family was pleased with the decision and “will do everything in our power to ensure that Amir’s claim is paid in full.”
Freed along with Hekmati was Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans in exchange for pardons or charges being dropped against the seven Iranians.
This American Life’s wildly popular Serial podcast came to fame in 2014 with the story of Adnan Syed, a young man from Maryland who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee. Syed’s case was clouded with a number of possible discrepancies and suspicions not mentioned in his trial. The case was wild enough to merit retelling via the first season of the podcast, which earned the convicted Syed another hearing based on the new evidence.
The much-anticipated second season of Serial features the story of accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl is a U.S. Army soldier who spent nearly five years held in captivity by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network after walking away from his outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province. His captors allege he was captured after getting drunk while off-base, while some of his fellow soldiers say he simply walked away from his post. Others say he was captured from a latrine. Bergdahl has, until now, mostly remained silent.
The episode opens with a vivid description of Bergdahl’s rescue and tells the story of his capture and rescue, laying out exactly what happened and why through the lens of host Sarah Koenig and filmmaker Mark Boal, with whom Bergdahl regularly speaks directly.
Boal, a producer and director whose work includes many war films, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “In The Valley of Elah,” spoke with Bergdahl about everything from his experience in captivity to “motorcycles, God, and how good spicy salsa is.”
Bergdahl reveals in his own words why he left that base in Afghanistan in 2009, which led to a massive search where other U.S. troops died trying to find and rescue him. His story is the same as it always was, he wanted to create a crisis to get a meeting with higher-level commanders to address what he saw were leadership problems in his chain of command, but Bergdahl doesn’t stop there. He wanted to show everyone he could be an outstanding soldier, the outstanding soldier.
“I was trying to prove myself,” he told Boal. “I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person.”
After 20 minutes into his sojourn, Bergdahl realizes he’s made a huge mistake.
“I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,'” he says in the podcast.
Editor’s note: The producers will be interacting with listeners as the show progresses. Ask them questions via Tumblr, twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Featured Image: Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018, shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. (Planet Labs)
Beijing put on a massive show of force on March 26, 2018, with more than 40 of its navy’s ships sailing in formation with its sole operational aircraft carrier for one of the first times ever in the South China Sea, but a close look at the exercise shows something way off.
Satellite imagery of the event, provided by Planet Labs, shows the incredible scale of the exercise, which mostly consisted of rows of two ships lined up neatly.
The formation makes a good photo opportunity, but it’s not practical for battle.
China showed off frigates, destroyers, aircraft, submarines, and an aircraft carrier, but a few US bombers could likely smoke the whole formation in a single pass.
“While impressive view, they would be a rich target pool for four B-1s bombers with 96 newly fielded long-range anti-ship cruise missiles,” Hans Kristensen, a military expert and the Director of the Nuclear Information Project tweeted, referring to the US’s B-1B Lancer bomber.
The ships were not in a usual combat formation and left exposed to air attacks that could devastate a large portion of the force outright in a battle.
Though the huge formation “highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the [Chinese Navy’s] combat readiness,” Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Reuters.
China has worked hard to improve the practicality and capability of its navy in recent years, but as a force with virtually no combat experience, it still lags a long way behind the US Navy and other tested forces.
Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.
Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.
A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.
“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.
“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”
The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.
“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”
And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.
“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
A Navy chaplain who comforted sailors whose ship was torpedoed in 1945, leaving them stranded in shark-infested waters, has been posthumously awarded his service’s second-highest award for heroism.
Lt. Thomas M. Conway, a Catholic priest who died on Aug. 2, 1945, three days after a Japanese sub took out the heavy-cruiser Indianapolis, was recognized for his bravery during a Navy Cross ceremony Jan. 8 in his Connecticut hometown. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite apologized that it took more than 75 years since World War II ended to honor the fallen chaplain.
“My mother taught me that it’s never too late to say you’re sorry,” Braithwaite said. “Today, the Navy is sorry for not recognizing Chaplain Conway’s heroism, dedication and courage sooner.”
The Indianapolis was heading to the Philippine island of Leyte from Guam when it sank in the early hours of July 30, 1945. More than 800 crew members were forced into the ocean, some of whom were badly injured.Advertisement
They were left in the water for three days, where they faced dehydration and shark attacks. They were spotted by a Navy aircraft on Aug. 2. Only 316 survived.
Conway is credited with repeatedly swimming through the shark-infested waters to console clusters of sailors, according to the Navy. He encouraged them, prayed for them, and administered sacraments.
“After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, Conway finally succumbed to exhaustion and died,” a Navy news release about his posthumous award states. “His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of his shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued.”
The chaplain stood by his men when they needed spiritual guidance most, Braithwaite said, as he presented the award to retired Navy Capt. John Bevins, a former pastor, during the private ceremony.
Conway, who grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, before attending Niagara University in New York, joined the Navy in September 1942. He served at several East Coast naval stations before transferring to the Pacific Fleet, where he was assigned to the repair ship Medusa before joining the Indianapolis in 1944.
Braithwaite called Conway a beacon of putting service above self for all serving in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“His actions will inspire others who at dark and challenging moments in their lives must follow their heart to do their duty. For me personally, this has never been more relevant than during the very events of this week,” Braithwaite said last week, referencing the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
“When you are entrusted to serve the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, you must always choose as Father Conway did, to do what you must do — your duty — rather than what you could do for yourself.”
The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.
So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.
That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.
So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.
Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.
All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.
But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.
Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.
So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.
F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.
Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.
“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.
“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.
The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.
A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.
ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.
However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.
Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.
“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.
The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.
Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
F-35 to Control Drones
As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.
New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.
According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.
Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.
For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.
That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.
One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.
So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.
DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.
Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.
The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.
Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.
While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.
Scientifically known as the trapezius, this incredible fibrous structure is attached to the lower portion of your occipital bone (at the base of the skull) and extends toward your thoracic spine. Too much medical mumbo-jumbo? Okay, it’s the muscle that makes you look like a King Cobra and tells everyone not to f*ck with you.
Some people are genetically blessed with prominent, defined traps, while the rest of us do standing shoulder shrugs in hopes of getting ours to grow just a little bit. But did you know that shoulder shrugs aren’t the only exercise that can develop these alpha-looking muscles?
In fact, there are a few ways to treat your traps — and they all start with isolation movements and heavy weights.
Usually, shrug rows are great exercises for toning your back but, with a slight change in positioning, they can help you nail that King-Cobra. By laying face-forward on the incline bench, you can greatly stimulate your traps with an isolated shrug movement.
What’s nice about this exercise is that you can use horizontal resistance bands to build those traps. The key here is to squeeze those muscles in a controlled manner throughout the entire motion. The traps aren’t often worked out on their own — be sure to remain mindful throughout the exercise and try to activate only the targeted muscle group.
Most of us are familiar with doing military presses to get buff shoulders. To really target your trap muscles, consider laying flat on your face — no, really. Prone presses may look kind of odd, but they are a great way to get blood to those muscles and bulk them up.
Unfortunately, most gymgoers do shoulder shrugs completely wrong. When they pull up on the weight, they tend to use their legs to bounce, giving themselves an extra boost. To get your traps to grow, you have to stimulate the muscles, which means isolating the movement. So, sit before you shrug.
This helps remove the bounce and makes the exercise tougher — which is what you want.
1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.
In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.
Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.
“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”
The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.
2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.
Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.
The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.
3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.
Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.
“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”
4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.
Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.
The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.
Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.
While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.
“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”
5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.
Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.
Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.
Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).
There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.