MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Lists

5 important rules every grunt should follow in a foot patrol

There have been countless military books published about how infantry conduct their impressive maneuvers and tactics.


Troops on the ground spend countless days learning to efficiently execute those specific movements with their squad, so when enemy contact breaks out, each member is ready to go.

Commonly, some of the rules we spend hours learning need to be broken, depending on the situation. But, in the heat of battle, there are some rules that, if they’re broken, lead to people getting needlessly hurt.

Related: 9 struggles infantrymen know all too well about mail drops

5. Don’t walk outside the clear lane

In the crazy land of Afghanistan, the bad guys like to use IEDs instead of fighting real like men. Because of that threat, the engineer, or the guy who walks out in front patrol, has to use a specialized metal detector to search for the buried devices.

After the engineer clears a narrow walking lane, it’s essential that no one steps outside of that isolated and protected area. A crappy thing could happen if a troop does step outside that path.

This U.S. Marine carefully sweeps his Valon metal detector from side-to-side with the hopes of finding an IED before it finds his patrol. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

4. Maintain constant rear security

Rear security is all about “covering your six.” The last man in the patrol is expected to keep a constant eye out for any threat that gets to close to the back of the patrol. In the event that a potential risk comes to close, it’s goodbye bad guy — if that last man does his job right.

3. Follow dispersion

Before a patrol sets out, the squad leader will dictate how far apart he wants each troop to walk from one another. This dispersion helps minimize secondary injuries to nearby troops if an IED goes off.

It’s sh*tty enough when one guy goes down, but it’s even worse when multiple get injured.

These Marines maintain a specific amount of dispersion to combat secondary exploring injuries. (Image form Wikipedia Commons)

2. Don’t touch or even look at the local females — if you’re a male

Many Afghan males find it highly offensive if American males touch or even look at their wives or daughters. The consequences could be fatal for the women, and no one wants that.

So to help this situation, we turn to the services of the FET — or Female Engagement Team — who are allowed to work with the local females.

U.S. Army Sgt. Lidya Admounabdfany writes down information from a local woman at the Woman’s Center outside of Forward Operating Base Pasab, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2011. Admounabdfany is a member of Female Engagement Team and is gathering information from women so the FET can distribute blankets and winter clothing to the women and their families. (Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)

Also Read: 6 ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman

1. Keep your head on a swivel

When you leave the wire, no one is safe, only safer. This idea rings true no matter how much you prepare yourself. A good situation can turn south in a matter of seconds.

So pay attention out there, people!

MIGHTY TRENDING

TrueCar is partnering with DAV to give cars to wounded vets

TrueCar and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) just launched their second annual DrivenToDrive program, which is aimed at helping disabled veterans by retrofitting vehicles to accommodate their injuries. Last year, TrueCar gave their first-ever recipient the keys to a brand-new and modified cargo van.


DAV has been serving veterans since 1920.

And now it’s time to give away another car.

The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke in a March 15 press release, “DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”

“Driving is an expression of freedom and independence,” said Lucas Donat, Chief Brand Officer at TrueCar. “Helping injured veterans, those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom, to drive again is a cause close to our heart. Last year we had such an incredible response that we are excited to open up the contest again, and we’re honored to be working with DAV.”

Vehicle awarded may differ from Vehicle shown.

Applicants are selected by a panel based off criteria to determine who will receive the vehicle. The program is only giving one deserving member of the military community a new vehicle. Active duty, veterans, and immediate family members are eligible to enter by visiting the link here. While there, visitors will be asked “what drives you” and how they would use the new vehicle to help them reach their goals.

Entrants must act fast as the submission period ends Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9PM (PST.) Up to five finalists will be notified on or about March 26 and the Grand Prize winner will be notified on April 9. The official announcement will take place on or about May 21, 2018.

Articles

Meet the 4 heroes who earned Medals of Honor for heroism on D-Day

It’s no surprise that heroes emerged from D-Day,  the largest amphibious assault in history. What is surprising is that three of the four recipients of Medal of Honor for that day came from one division. The Army’s 1st Infantry Division was sent to Omaha Beach, the most heavily defended beach of D-Day. Sheer cliffs and fortified positions blocked the Allied assault against the dug-in German units.


Here are 4 men who were key in breaking the “Atlantic Wall” around occupied France.

1. Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the 56-year-old son of President Theodore Roosevelt and a senior officer in the 4th Infantry Division, had twice verbally requested to join the assaulting forces on Utah Beach and was denied twice due to his age and rank. Finally, a written request was approved and Roosevelt became the only general officer to land in the first wave on D-Day. He walked on to the beach with his cane and began leading troops over the sea wall. He also provided key information to the senior officers of each new wave that landed, including his boss who didn’t want him on the beach.

He died of a heart attack the night before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to inform him that he’d been nominated for the Medal of Honor and promotion to major general, one month after D-Day. The award was given to his widow by his distant cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His citation reads:

“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.”

2. An infantry officer who led tanks when they got too scared to move up the beach

Photo: Army.mil

1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr.was drafted into the Army during World War II but quickly climbed the ranks, attaining corporal in basic training in 1941. He was accepted into officer school a few months later and was sent to the 1st Infantry Division after his commissioning. He fought with them in Sicily and Italy before the assault on Omaha Beach.

On D-Day, he saw two tanks buttoned up and unable to fire due to heavy artillery and machine gun fire. He walked up, completely exposed, and led the tanks through a minefield before directing their fire onto German positions. After that, he led a group of men onto the bluffs and repulsed Nazi counterattacks until he was killed.

His citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault. He then led the assault over a narrow protective ledge and across the flat, exposed terrain to the comparative safety of a cliff. Retracing his steps across the field to the beach, he moved over to where 2 tanks were buttoned up and blind under violent enemy artillery and machinegun fire. Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. Under his direction several enemy positions were destroyed. He then rejoined his company and under his leadership his men captured an advantageous position on the hill. Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain. When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.”

3. The radioman who kept shrugging off mortal wounds until he got comms up on Omaha Beach

Photo: Army.mil

Joe Pinder was a professional baseball player before he joined the Army. His first battles were in Africa and he fought in Sicily as well. At D-Day, Pinder was wounded multiple times and nearly lost some radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving needed items despite sustaining other injuries.

“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”

After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest.

His citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On D-day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder landed on the coast 100 yards off shore under devastating enemy machinegun and artillery fire which caused severe casualties among the boatload. Carrying a vitally important radio, he struggled towards shore in waist-deep water. Only a few yards from his craft he was hit by enemy fire and was gravely wounded. Technician 5th Grade Pinder never stopped. He made shore and delivered the radio. Refusing to take cover afforded, or to accept medical attention for his wounds, Technician 5th Grade Pinder, though terribly weakened by loss of blood and in fierce pain, on 3 occasions went into the fire-swept surf to salvage communication equipment. He recovered many vital parts and equipment, including another workable radio. On the 3rd trip he was again hit, suffering machinegun bullet wounds in the legs. Still this valiant soldier would not stop for rest or medical attention. Remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire, growing steadily weaker, he aided in establishing the vital radio communication on the beach. While so engaged this dauntless soldier was hit for the third time and killed. The indomitable courage and personal bravery of Technician 5th Grade Pinder was a magnificent inspiration to the men with whom he served.”

4. The infantryman who swam back and forth in the D-Day surf, saving his floundering comrades.

Photo: Army.mil

A high school dropout and former cook, Carlton W. Barrett volunteered to join the Army in 1940, just before he turned 21. On D-Day, he was assigned to be a guide, showing the way for each successive wave of troops to hit the beach. This meant Barrett had to land at D-Day not once, but multiple times. During the fierce fighting, he ferried wounded troops from the water and beach to evacuation boats, despite fierce small arms fire and mortar attacks. What’s more, he also carried messages between assaulting elements on beach.

He survived D-Day and stayed in the military, retiring as a staff sergeant in 1963. His citation reads:

“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in the vicinity of St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France. On the morning of D-day Pvt. Barrett, landing in the face of extremely heavy enemy fire, was forced to wade ashore through neck-deep water. Disregarding the personal danger, he returned to the surf again and again to assist his floundering comrades and save them from drowning. Refusing to remain pinned down by the intense barrage of small-arms and mortar fire poured at the landing points, Pvt. Barrett, working with fierce determination, saved many lives by carrying casualties to an evacuation boat lying offshore. In addition to his assigned mission as guide, he carried dispatches the length of the fire-swept beach; he assisted the wounded; he calmed the shocked; he arose as a leader in the stress of the occasion. His coolness and his dauntless daring courage while constantly risking his life during a period of many hours had an inestimable effect on his comrades and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israelis shoot down an Iranian drone to find a cheap US ripoff

Over the weekend, you may have heard about the vicious aerial battle between Israel and Syrian-Iranian forces. That battle was triggered when Israel shot down an Iranian-made UAV that had breached Israeli airspace and ended with an IDF F-16I being shot down.


An Israeli F-16I Sufa. One was lost during a clash with Iranian and Syrian forces. (Israeli Defense Force photo)

According to a report from the Times of Israel, the wandering drone that started the firefight was a Saeghe. That drone is a knockoff of the RQ-170 Sentinel, a stealthy drone used by the United States. In 2011, a Sentinel was captured relatively intact by the Iranians after it went down in their territory. The RQ-170 is said to resemble a miniature B-2 Spirit.

An Israeli AH-64 Apache was credited with downing the Iranian drone. The Israeli response involved a number of fighters targeting Syrian air-defense positions and Iranian installations. The Iranians and Syrians fired over two dozen surface-to-air missiles and downed the F-16I. The plane’s crew managed to safely eject over Northern Israel, but one of the pilots was seriously injured and is now being treated in a Haifa hospital. This marks the first loss of an F-16I and Israel’s first loss of an aircraft in combat since 1982.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the F-16I is a two-seat multi-role fighter custom-designed for the needs of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is designed for long range, with a combat radius of 2,100 kilometers, has a top speed of Mach 2, and can use advanced weapons, like the Python 5 and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Israel purchased 102 of these aircraft.

An Israeli Air Force F-16 from Ramon Air Base, Israel, moves into refueling position July 17, 2009, over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Israel also operates roughly 120 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, which serve as the backbone of the Israeli Air Force. The Israelis also operate a mix of F-15C/D/I fighters. The F-15C/D Eagles are designed for air-superiority missions, while the F-15I is a customized version of the F-15E Strike Eagle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is injecting millions into WHO as the US cuts funds. Experts say Beijing is trying to boost its influence over the agency and its ‘deeply compromised’ chief.

China is pumping millions of dollars into the World Health Organization, an action one expert describes as a political move meant “to boost its superficial credentials” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the US pulls its own WHO funding.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a Thursday news briefing that the country would be injecting an extra $30 million into the agency “in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries.”


China also lapped praise on WHO and its leadership, saying the agency “had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position.”

Last month, China already pledged million to the organization, a move it said was meant to “help small and medium-sized countries with weak public health systems in particular to bolster their epidemic preparedness.”

China’s latest cash injection comes a week after the US announced plans to freeze 0 million in payments to WHO. Until then, the US was the largest financial contributor to WHO.

According to publicly available data, as of the end of 2019, China contributed million to WHO — .8 million in assessed contributions and .2 million in voluntary contributions — while the US gave 3 million — 6 million in assessed contributions and 6 million in voluntary contributions.

It’s not clear whether the US will cut from the assessed or voluntary contributions. Other nongovernmental groups, like the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, gave WHO 1 million in voluntary contributions in 2019.

President Donald Trump told a coronavirus press briefing last week that the organization had “failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”

Trump and other critics have accused WHO of assisting China in efforts to suppress information on the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

In particular, the Trump administration has criticized WHO’s claim in mid-January that there was no known human-to-human transmission of the virus.

According to The Guardian, the tweet was posted because an official worried that a WHO expert was issuing warnings that deviated from China’s messaging. (A WHO source told Business Insider the message was posted to “balance the science out,” rather than for political reasons.)

Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, also referred to WHO last month as the “Chinese Health Organization,” referencing its close ties to Beijing.

‘Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide’

Experts told Business Insider that China’s contributions to WHO were not goodwill gestures but rather a series of political power moves to boost its global image.

“Beijing sees an opportunity to boost its superficial credentials as a global contributor to the pandemic following the US decision to halt funding to WHO,” said John Lee, who served as a national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop from 2016 to 2018.

Lee now works as a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center in Sydney and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

He said China’s other altruistic measures, like sending medical teams and protective equipment to countries battling the coronavirus, were also tools meant to give China a political boost in the global arena.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, previously told Business Insider’s Alexandra Ma that China was trying to craft an image for itself as a global leader in the coronavirus fight rather than the country from which the virus originated.

“Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide trying to paint the Chinese government as the solution to the problem, rather than one of the sources of it,” Richardson said.

WHO leaders ‘captured’ by China

Lee said that while science and health experts at WHO “do wonderful work on the ground in all parts of the world,” the agency’s leadership had become “captured by countries such as China,” putting its credibility to the test.

“When [WHO] leadership is called to make decisions of global health concern such as with the current pandemic, such decisions tend to be overly influenced by political rather than health priorities,” Lee said.

“In this context, Dr. Tedros is deeply compromised and his credibility is heavily damaged,” he added.

WHO officials have hit back at accusations of the organization being “China-centric,” saying its close relationship with China is “essential” in understanding the origins of the outbreak.

“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Tedros, told reporters earlier this month.

Tedros has also dismissed accusations of associating too closely with China, saying the agency was “close to every nation.” “We are color-blind,” he told reporters on April 8.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens to an Abrams tank if hit by a battleship shell

The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank is arguably the best in the world. Yeah, Russia is generating some hype for the Armata family of tanks, but the Abrams is combat-proven and very hard to kill.


How hard? Well, in his 1994 non-fiction book, Armored Cav, Tom Clancy recounted a tale of how an M1A1 Abrams got stuck in the mud during the ground war of Desert Storm. It was then set upon by three tanks, Iraqi T-72s specifically. A round fired from roughly a thousand yards away bounced off, and the Abrams responded by blowing the T-72 that fired it to bits. A second round fired from 700 yards, bounced off, and the offending T-72 was blasted. The third T-72, at a range of roughly 400 yards, fired a round, which left a groove in the armor of the Abrams. It, too, was destroyed by a shot fired through a sand berm. These were, supposedly, Russia’s state-of-the-art tanks.

Then, when help arrived, and the tank couldn’t be freed from the mud, a platoon of Abrams tanks tried to destroy it. After several rounds, they detonated the onboard ammo, but the blow-out panels functioned as designed. Then, when the tank was retrieved from the mud, they discovered that it was still functional. The only issue? A sight was out of alignment.

So, what would it take to reliably destroy an M1 Abrams? Well, someone at quora.com asked what would happen if an Abrams was hit by a round from a 16-inch gun on an American Iowa-class battleship.

The 16-inch armor-piercing rounds fired from the battleship weigh in at 2,700 pounds. The 120mm rounds fired at that Abrams stuck in the mud? They’re about 20 pounds. Do a quick bit of math and you’ll see that the Iowa‘s main gun round is 135 times as heavy as an Abrams’ main gun round. The Abrams may be the world’s toughest tank and can take a ton of abuse, but not this level of abuse.

To put it simply, a main gun round from the Iowa-class battleship will destroy the Abrams easily. In a way, this speaks well for the Abrams – one can’t really imagine anything short of an Iowa‘s main gun being able to destroy one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Given we know that even Neanderthals would bury their dead (even including objects with the bodies) and various human hunter-gatherer groups likewise used to bury or cremate people at specific sites that functioned as sort of pilgrimage locations for these nomads, it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of known warfare soldiers have pondered the question of what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades and enemies. So what did various groups actually do throughout history?


A thing to note before we continue is that there is a definite gap in the memory of history in regards to this one specific matter and historians only have sparse reports of what happened to the dead of many groups after battles. You might think solving this problem would be simply a matter of locating famous battle sites and doing some digging to glean a little more insight, but it turns out even this is notoriously difficult as we’ll get into shortly.

That caveat out of the way, on the more definitive front, it’s noted that the ancient Greeks made an effort to respect the usual burial customs of the dead after a battle and collecting the bodies of the fallen wasn’t uncommon. For example, following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC between Philip II of Macedonia and the Athenians, both sides buried their dead in accordance with the religious customs of the period; this was seemingly done both out of respect for the valor the dead showed in battle and to appease the gods.

With the exception of the Spartans, most ancient Greek societies also made efforts to bury their dead near the city they hailed from if time allowed it, though for the sake of practicality, mass graves or the like were sometimes utilizedinstead. In this case, cenotaphs were sometimes erected near their home city in honor of the fallen.

As noted, an exception to this are the Spartans who often buried fallen soldiers on the battlefield they were killed. Also somewhat unique was that rather than stripping the dead of valuables, as per Spartan tradition, each fallen Spartan was buried with their weapons and armor and their final resting place was marked by a simple tombstone with their name and an inscription that read (translated) “In War”.

This was a special honor among the Spartans. If one were to die outside of battle, no such tombstone would be given and the person would simply be buried in an unmarked grave. The one exception to that was if a woman died in child birth, she too would be given the honor of a tombstone.

As for the Romans, most soldiers paid a small stipend each month to pay for funeral expenses should they fall in battle. As you might expect from this, the Romans made a conscious effort to recover the bodies of those who died and, if time allowed it, would bury or cremate them individually. If this wasn’t possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn’t be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.

The same cannot be said of later wars where there seems to have been an almost callous disregard for the fallen, and looting of the dead and dying was commonplace. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066 shows soldiers piling up the bodies of the dead and stripping them of their valuables. It’s believed that following this the bodies were quickly cremated or buried in nearby mass graves.

It should be noted here, however, that with the rise of Christianity, mass cremation, at least for a time, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in some regions, in favor of mass graves.

That said, despite the countless battles that occurred throughout Medieval Europe, archaeologists have had an extraordinarily difficult time actually finding any of the bodies. As one paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archeology, aptly titled “Where are the dead of medieval battles?“, notes:

Only a handful of mass graves from late medieval battles in Western Europe have been subject to large scale excavation to modern standards. The principal reason is that these, and indeed even early modern battlefield graves, have proven extremely elusive, most being identified by chance. Despite a few successes, no combination of prospecting techniques yet provides a consistently effective method of locating such small archaeological features set almost anywhere within a site covering many square kilometres…

Looking at much better documented times, looting of the dead was also extraordinarily common during the extremely deadly Napoleonic Wars, with soldiers and locals alike pilfering what they could find after battles. For example, consider this account from a British general following the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807:

The ground between the wood and the Russian batteries, about a quarter of a mile, was a sheet of naked human bodies, which friends and foes had during the night mutually stripped, although numbers of these bodies still retained consciousness of their situation. It was a sight that the eye loathed, but from which it could not remove.

And yes, as noted there, the severely wounded weren’t spared the indignity of being robbed of their worldly possessions as they lay dying. And worst of all, this was done not just by their enemies, but comrades as well. In fact, there are firsthand accounts from wounded soldiers who went on to survive their injuries detailing the shock of waking up completely naked.

Illustration of Battle of Heilsberg.

Here’s a snippet of one such quote from a French soldier called Jean Baptiste de Marbot:

Stretched on the snow among the piles of dead and dying, unable to move in any way, I gradually and without pain lost consciousness…. I judge that my swoon lasted four hours, and when I came to my sense I found myself in this horrible position. I was completely naked, having nothing on but my hat and my right boot. A man of the transport corps, thinking me dead, had stripped me in the usual fashion, and wishing to pull off the only boot that remained, was dragging me by one leg with his foot against my body. The jerk which the man gave me no doubt had restored me to my senses. I succeeded in sitting up and spitting out the clots of blood from my throat. The shock caused by the wind of the ball had produced such an extravasation of blood, that my face, shoulders, and chest were black, while the rest of my body was stained red by the blood from my wound. My hat and my hair were full of bloodstained snow, and as I rolled my haggard eyes I must have been horrible to see. Anyhow, the transport man looked the other way, and went off with my property without my being able to say a single word to him, so utterly prostrate was I.

After being stripped of their belongings the dead, and occasionally still barely living, would often be buried in mass graves (sometimes with bodies from both sides unceremoniously thrown in). In general, this was either accomplished via the soldiers themselves doing it, or in many cases members of the local populace given the gruesome task. However, there are accounts of battles where thousands of bodies were simply left to the elements. For example, General Philippe de Ségur states in 1812:

After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood.
On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses…

It should also be noted here that beyond any possessions the bodies may have had on them before being stripped, the bodies themselves were also of value. For example, human scavengers would come through and rob the dead of their teeth, which would then be used to make dentures.

The Napoleonic Wars, and in particular the Battle of Waterloo, were such a boon to the British dental industry in this way that dentures were known as “Waterloo teeth” in the UK over a decade after it ended. Teeth from soldiers were highly sought after owing to predominately coming from relatively young men who still had reasonably good teeth, unlike many others that came from the more wizened dead.

In one account, one Astley Cooper met just such a tooth hunter and noted:

Upon asking this Butler, who appeared to be in a state of great destitution, what might be his object, he said it was to get teeth…but when I came to question him upon the means by which he was to obtain these teeth, he said, ‘Oh Sir, only let there be a battle, and there’ll be no want of teeth. I’ll draw them as fast as the men are knocked down.

Even more grimly, the bones of the dead of some of these battles were later collected and pulverized into fertilizer which was sold for a modest price across Europe. To quote an article from the The Observer written in 1822:

It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment on an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for aught known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!

The remains of soldiers were also sometimes collected for use in souvenirs of major battles. For example, poet Eaton Stannard Barrett wrote, “I know one honest gentleman, who has brought home a real Waterloo thumb, nail and all, which he preserves in a bottle of gin.”

Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Moving across the pond and slightly more recently in history, markedly more respect was shown for the dead during the American Civil War where teams of soldiers were tasked with burying the dead of both sides in simple mass graves, with great care being taken to ensure most soldiers received a proper burial.

Finally, to discuss WW1 and WW2, individual units were largely responsible for the disposal of their own dead with both Axis and Allied forces having their own rules for how this should be handled. For example, during WW2 Colonel Walther Sonntag of the Wehrmacht’s Casualty Office issued a comprehensive guide for military graves officers detailing how mass graves should be constructed.

Amongst other things the guidelines indicated that mass graves should be made as close to railway lines as possible and feature pathways with the intention being that they’d eventually be turned into war cemeteries. As the war raged on, these guidelines were largely ignored for the sake of practicality, leading to, as Der Spiegel puts it, “a surfeit of grave steles”.

As for the Allies, during WW2 burying the dead largely fell to individual soldiers, but some units dedicated to the task did exist, for example the United States Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Tasked with finding and burying every fallen American soldier, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Service have been hailed as some of the unsung heroes of the War due to the general lack of recognition they’ve received since it ended.

Graves Registration units were exceptionally committed to their task and undertook their duties with a solemn sense of duty and determination, going to extraordinary lengths to identify bodies and perform the appropriate burial rights depending on the fallen soldier’s religious affiliation. When appropriate, GRS units would bury civilian, allied and axis casualties they came across, making sure to bury them in well-marked graves, the locations of which would be passed onto the relevant authorities.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America wanted to stop Earth’s rotation during Cold War

A book from a nuclear whistleblower has a stunning claim that the U.S. Air Force once had a plan to throw off Soviet missiles by stopping the rotation of the earth with a thousand rockets.

Yup, the Wile E. Coyote missile defense plan which, theoretically, could have worked.


Like this, but with fewer spectators and tires. And more rockets.

(NASA)

First, the qualifications: The allegation comes from Daniel Ellsberg who worked for RAND from 1960 to 1970 and says he saw the plans before he left the corporation. Basically, it called for 1,000 rocket engines laid horizontally on the Earth’s surface that would fire when missiles were in flight towards America. His claim is the only evidence that remains. He said he stole documents, but they were lost years later.

The plan was in early stages when Ellsberg saw it, and it seems to have gone nowhere. But, in the most limited sense, the science does kind of work. Before cruise missiles became all the rage, nearly all nuclear threats were limited to ballistic missiles and bombers. When it comes to ballistic missiles, they have no guidance after a certain point in the flight; some can’t be redirected after takeoff because they used solely inertial guidance.

So imagine if you shot an arrow at a moving target and then someone stopped the target from moving while the arrow was already in flight. You would likely miss since, you know, target moved. So far, so good.

But the rest of the science isn’t so great.

Can You Change Earth’s Rotation With Rockets – Project Retro

www.youtube.com

Can you change earth’s rotation with rockets – Project Retro

First of all, rockets laid against the ground would be pushing against the atmosphere, and the earth is much, much denser than the atmosphere. So most of the energy would accelerate the atmosphere rather than slow the rotation of the earth.

Even with a thousand of America’s most powerful rockets pushing at once, it’s likely that U.S. cities would be in basically the exact same spot. A YouTuber who plugged the numbers into some simulations found that the rotation would only slow enough to shift the target’s position so minutely that you couldn’t even measure it with conventional tools. Like, the missiles would only miss by the width of a couple of atoms. Not enough to save a single human life.

And then there’s the fact that, even if the rockets offset the cities’ positions by hundreds of yards or even a few miles, that would only shift the pain. The missiles would still impact on the east side of the city or just east of the city. For New York, the missile would explode over the ocean instead of the city. But east of Philadelphia is still New Jersey. East of Atlanta is still Georgia, east of Dallas is still Texas.

But the more success the rockets have in shifting the city’s position, the worse another problem is. Everything on earth experiences the earth’s inertia, we just can’t feel it because it’s always there. But if the earth’s inertia suddenly slowed or even stopped, we would experience it like the earth was suddenly moving.

Ballistic missiles coming from Russia would take something like 30 minutes from launch to impact, but the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily know the missile was in flight for the first few minutes. So, if we give the rockets 20 minutes of time to shift the planet’s rotation 11 miles, the distance needed to keep a missile aimed at western Washington D.C. from hitting the city, the rockets would have to slow the planet’s rotation by 33 mph for that entire 20 minutes. (But the nukes would still hit the suburbs.)

Imagine a model of a city sitting on top of a car, then imagine accelerating the car to 33 mph as fast as you could, driving it for 20 minutes, and then coasting to a stop. And the city isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

And every human and structure and animal and droplet of water in the world would experience this slowdown at once, not just the ones targeted by the missiles. But not all tectonic plates would experience it exactly the same. Assuming the rockets would all have been placed in the U.S., the North American Plate would take all the stress.

​Pictured: Still not as bad as worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

Where the plate borders other tectonic plates, this would certainly create earthquakes, potentially triggering tsunamis off the West Coast as well as deep within the Atlantic. Another fault line passes through the Caribbean south of Florida and it, too, would likely quake.

So, actual earthquakes and tsunamis would be triggered at the same time that every city in the world experiences a weird pseudo-quake as the rockets fire, and the oceans would slosh over continents, all so the missiles would land on the outskirts of a few dozen cities instead of the hearts of the cities.

The missiles are starting to not look so bad, huh? It seems likely that, if the Air Force ever did seriously consider this, it was like the nuclear moon bases. They wrote some papers, decided it was nonsense, and moved on. But then, they did make prototype nuclear-powered planes and rockets, so maybe not.

(Featured image by Kevin Gill CC BY 2.0)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New PD-100 black hornet nano-drones can fit in the palm of your hand

The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.


Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox

(reddit user /u/harriharris)

These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.

This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.

A previous generation of the “instanteye”

The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.

This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.

Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.

US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…

www.youtube.com

Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.

Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.

As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).

Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.

Articles

The Apache is about to get more lethal against jets and helicopters

The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”


But the vaunted Apache is getting a lethality upgrade that will allow it to more easily carry the anti-air Stinger missile, reports IHS Janes.

The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.

Soldiers fire the Stinger Missile on Sep. 6, 2016, during training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. The air-to-air version of the missile will be easier to mount on Apache helicopters purchased after 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Edwards)

Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.

But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.

The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.

The Apache helicopter is a deadly killer of ground targets that is becoming more capable against enemy air assets as well. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson)

It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.

Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.

So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.

Still, many of America’s allies like using the Apache to protect their ground units from enemy aircraft. For those who can’t afford many dedicated fighters, a more Stinger-capable Apache gives them the ability to quickly shift anti-air coverage during combat.

Articles

Afghan soldier opens fire on US troops, wounds seven

An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.


Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.

Presentation of the Resolute Support colors. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.

“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.

“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”

A helicopter flies over Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Another insider attack

Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”

On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.

The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.

Coalition countries, led by the US, are considering sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan to help advise and assist Afghan forces struggling against Taliban and the ISIS.

On June 19th, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he would present options on Afghanistan to President Donald Trump “very soon.”

Articles

House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

Wikimedia commons


The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.

Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.

The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.

To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:

Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.

Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.

TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.

The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.

Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.

The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:

Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.

DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.

The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.

Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.

Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.

The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.

This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.

ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.