Congress will force the military to stop burning old munitions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress will force the military to stop burning old munitions

The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.

The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.


ProPublica investigated the Pentagon’s open burn program as part of a series of reports on Department of Defense pollution last year. We highlighted a little-known program to incinerate millions of pounds of materials containing dangerous contaminants in the open air at more than 60 sites across the country, often without common-sense protections. The burns posed a substantial risk to service members and nearby civilians, including schoolchildren.

For decades, residents near the Radford ammunition plant in Virginia have worried about the threat from munitions burning.
(Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)

“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.

“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.

Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.

Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.

The Pentagon

Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.

The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.

If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”

MIGHTY MONEY

18 important lessons financially savvy parents teach their kids about money

What are the most important lessons to teach children about money? It’s a good question to consider, particularly because, thanks to a distinct lack of a broad financial literacy curriculum in schools, it falls on parents to be the ones who instill the core concepts of spending, saving, and handling money in general. While there are certainly lessons all parents should be teaching kids about money, we wondered, what do financial planners, accountants, and others who work in the financial industry teach their kids about money? What concepts are essential and how do they distill them down so they can be understood by, say, a seven-year-old? That’s why we asked a broad array of financial professionals, “What lessons do you teach your kids about money?” The varied responses include everything from envelope systems and understanding wants versus needs to the creation fake debit cards and engineering simple lessons about compound interest. All provide inspiration and instruction on how to help kids get a head start on the road to financial success and serve as a reminder that it’s never too early to begin teaching kids about money.


Try the Sticker Chart Reward System

“We use a sticker chart reward system with our young ones, who are in Kindergarten and second grade. You get a sticker for doing homework, practicing, household chores, and the like. After earning 20 stickers each child then gets to pick out a toy, experience, goodies, etc. of their choosing (up to a $ value). This is a foundational value in our household; to instill that effort and hard work is required to earn many of the ‘wants’ in life. And that it takes time.” — Ronsey Chawla, Financial Advisor at Per Sterling Capital Management.

Incorporate Financial Topics into Everyday Life

“This can be as simple as taking my kids to the bank to open a checking/savings account, involving my two kids — I have a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter — in household budgeting conversations during a trip to the store, or planning for a family vacation. It’s important to share lessons and what you learned from your experiences with money management, with the depth of that conversation being up to your individual family. It’s also a good idea to start them saving early. Developing smart saving habits is the first step to becoming money-wise. Encouraging children to contribute a realistic amount to savings, even if it’s just a month, is an easy way to put them on the right track for future financial success.” —Daniel Cahil, SVP, North Dallas Bank Trust Co.

Trust the Lemonade Stand

“With my own kids, who were four and six at the time, we opened lemonade stands, as cliché as it may be. It teaches them literally the fruits of their labor. The help made the lemonade, with real lemons, at every step, until they have the product ready for market. They learn the lessons of “location, location, location,” understanding that where they set up can make a big difference in the traffic they can expect. Setting up on the corner brings some traffic, but not nearly as much as by a nearby field on a hot day where a bunch of kids are at soccer practice.

When they’re done, they bring their profits back home and count it up. This helps them identify and understand what different coins and paper currency mean. They also have piggy banks that are broken up into four different chambers – save, invest, spend and donate. This helps them understand the different utilities of money, immediate gratification, delayed gratification and being a contribution to others.” — Chet Schwartz, RICP, registered representative with Strategies for Wealth, a Financial Advisor with Park Avenue Securities, and a Financial Representative of Guardian Life Insurance

Teach Them to Save — But Also Enjoy the Rewards

“To clarify, this all starts with being responsible, working hard, and earning some dough. But this particular piece of advice is about what I do with that earned money. When I come into some kind of bonus or non-recurring income, I always, without fail, carve off some small-ish amount of that bonus for me, my wife, and my daughter, and we all go out together and buy something fun for ourselves, something that we would not otherwise have bought because we thought it was frivolous or hard to justify. We save the bulk, but the rule is that we have to spend that smaller allocated amount on something fun, and we have to do it together as a family.

This is important to me because one, if you don’t enjoy some part of your money “now,” you may never get the chance, and two, it gets us out, as a family, doing something that breaks the normal rules of saving and spending. I’m all about saving of course, but I’m also about enjoying the rewards of hard work, and that’s what this is really all about. If you don’t treat yourself well, you sure as heck shouldn’t expect anyone else to.” — Dan Stampf, VP, Personal Capital Cash

Use “Skip Counting”

There’s more than one way to count to 100. You can take the long way, starting with the number one. Or you can also count by twos, tens, twenties, even fifties to get there faster. Learning to “skip count” is an important precursor to developing fluency in calculation, number sense, and the basis for multiplication and division — not to mention counting money. Just pour a bunch of coins on the table and put them into piles by coin type (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters). Work with your child to “skip count” using different coins and values, reinforcing what they’ve learned. For example, ask them if they notice any patterns (e.g. while counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s). If “skip counting” is still too complex for your kids, continue practicing by changing the number of coins they are counting. That will encourage your children to figure out another total value.” —Jeremy Quittner, Resident Money Expert Editorial Director, Stash

Put Pocket Money to Good Use

“It’s important to teach your children about saving, and the potential benefits. I think a fun way to do this is with their pocket money. Say you give your child for the weekend. Once its spent, it is gone. But I like to introduce the offer that if, for every change they bring back at the end of each week, that change is matched from my money, and saved until it reaches 0, and they can buy themselves something special. For example, if they bring me change, I put aside for them, and this pot grows until it hits 0. The opportunity here is for the children to really think about what they are spending their money on, while also seeing that saving can result in a better purchase that is actually wanted at the end.” — Andrew Roderick, CEO of Credit Repair Companies

Use The Token Economy with Toddlers

“Make money fun. Toddlers can start to experience a ‘token economy’ by pretending to play in grocery stores or banks: games that can actively involve your child in playing and beginning to understand money. It’s also important to recognize that it may be more constructive to create other activities for older kids, by introducing them to easy-to-read financial books, like this one. Explain to them how your family approaches investing, paying for taxes, and seeking financial advice from an advisor” – Dillon Ferguson, CFP, Head of Product, Zoe Financial

Make the Concept of Prioritization Crucial

“We ask our three kids to do certain activities at home that are outside of their normal chores for which we compensate them with small amounts of money. This way they learn that to make money they need to put extra effort and work hard. They also learn that the money they make at home can be spent on a variety of different things, but we teach them about the concept of prioritization, since money is a scarce resource. Most importantly, we teach them that the best investment they can ever make is their own education, since education leads to better job opportunities and better quality of life.

We opened college savings accounts for all three kids via UNest and our older one is already contributing into her own account. We show her how money grows over time and teach about the concept of investing, compound interest and tax-free growth. In addition, we emphasize that lack of savings can lead to the student debt. Money that is borrowed can be very expensive and the need to pay off student loans would create setbacks in life and delay other important decisions like buying a house or starting a family. Putting a small amount aside each month and investing for education teaches our kids discipline and motivates them to think long-term.” — Ksenia Yudina, CEO and Founder of UNest

Teach them About Coins — And the Four Pillars

“I think that six years old is a good age to start teaching kids about money. A great first objective is teaching them about coins. While that might seem simple, it is not as easy a subject as you might think. Take a step back and think this through: Why is the big nickel worth less than the small dime? I think it’s fun to play games with kids once they understand the value of each coin by having them make different combinations to get to one dollar. 10 dimes. 20 nickels. Four quarters. One-hundred pennies. Fifty pennies and two quarters.

Start with teaching them one of the four pillars of financial literacy: save, spend/budget, invest and charity. For younger children, savings is the easiest as you can simply use a clear jar where they can put loose coins and see them build up. Remember to keep lessons age-appropriate and that developing money-smarts is not an exercise in trying to create the next Warren Buffet. It is about making them feel comfortable talking about money, understanding basic money vocabulary, and eventually starting good habits that will last a lifetime. You want to avoid the firehose method of teaching where you pile on too much information too soon. Rather consider using the drip-drip-drip method that starting them at a young age gives you plenty of time for them to build a great foundation.” — Thomas J. Henske, Partner, Lenox Advisors

Be Open About Your Financial Goals

“When my kids were younger, my wife and I agreed on an aggressive goal to pay off our house in a set number of years. When that goal was reached, we agreed to take the family on a trip to Disney World. We bought a Mickey Mouse puzzle, assembled it, and disassembled it in a way that for each id=”listicle-2646259052″,000 we reduced principal on the loan, we put so many pieces of the puzzle together. It created a visual representation of our progress. We explained our goal to the kids in terms they could understand so they saw the progress and the reward at the end after several years of work. While the kids now understand the financial side of the goal, it is the visual representation of the puzzle they recall most.” — Phil Kernen, CFA | Portfolio Manager, Mitchell Capital

Teach Them About Compound Interest

“As a financial planner and fastidious investor, my kids are being taught about compound interest at a young age. When my five-year-old daughter receives birthday money from our relatives, I show her how putting 25 percent of her money away can give her many more Barbies and dolls in the future. Would you rather buy one Barbie today, or be able to buy five Barbies later, I ask? Even a child can understand that by deferring some instant gratification today, they can enjoy greater luxuries later.” — Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos, Financial Planner, Life Managed

Never Say ‘There is No Money’

“Say instead, money is valuable and needs to be used wisely. Or money is not to be wasted. The reason is that children should not grow up with a limitation mindset but an abundance mindset while learning to be careful with money. Saying ‘there’s is no money,’ tells the child that when they get money in their hands, they can throw it away, and that’s not a good thing.” — Kokab Rahman, author of Author of Accounting for Beginners

Don’t Forget the Power of Delayed Gratification

“My children are 2 and 4 years old currently, and while it’s definitely too early to teach any significant money lessons to the two-year-old (aside from showing him how to put coins in a piggy bank), the four-year-old is another story. I recently tried this simple method of teaching savings and it worked well. Each night, I gave her a quarter for straightening up her toys before bed. She could choose to use a quarter to get a treat from the candy dish, but if she saved five of her quarters, we could do something special that weekend (go to the zoo, a favorite restaurant, etc.). Delayed gratification is such a valuable skill to learn at a young age, and I plan to use more complex ways to incentivize saving as she gets older.” — Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent

Turn Financial Mistakes into Teachable Moments

“We don’t pay our kids for daily chores like making their bed, feeding the dogs, or picking up after themselves. But I do pay them for mowing the yard (my 10-year-old) or helping cut firewood (all my children), things that are above and beyond their normal family contributions that they worked hard to attain. It’s also important to let them make mistakes. Recently my 10-year-old wanted to purchase a new movie release for .99, so I let him. The next day he wanted to buy a video game. I said sure pay me and he could buy it. He then realized he spent all his money on the movie. That’s the time to have a good conversation around it. Was it worth it? What could you do differently?” — Joel Hodges, CPA, Intuit, Tax Content Group Manager

Explain The Difference Between Needs and Wants

One of the most important money lessons I’m already teaching my young children is the difference between needs and wants. If she holds up something at a store — say, something from the candy aisle — I’ll ask ‘Do you need that, or do you want that?’ It took a few tries, but she got the hang of it. It can be helpful to set a firm cap on the ‘wants,’ such as one per week, while showing that we always take care of our needs.”— Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent

Introduce the idea of Money Early and Often

“At home, we value speaking openly about our financial lives and the value of saving such that our kids learn by example. A great way we teach our 4-year old about money is to have them understand the value of a purchase. The other day my son wanted us to buy him a new game for his iPad. To ‘convince us,’ we had him walk through the value in relation to the actually cost of the game. It’s never too early for your children to understand the cost of things. “- Andres Garcia-Amaya, Founder, Zoe Financial

Enlist the Envelope System

“Kids are never too young to learn how to handle money, one fun way for them to learn about money is to have them separate their allowances on what they want to spend. They can do this by having small envelopes and placing a certain amount from their allowances. This helps them learn about budgeting and the value of money when that certain envelope reaches the goal amount. Children are also allowed to have bank accounts, so it is good for them to have their accounts so that they can start learning to save early. — Leonard Ang, CMO, iProperty Management

Try The “Bank of Dad” Approach

“By the time my daughter started elementary school, she had a few chores each week for which she got a small allowance and she might get the odd bill in an Easter card from her grandparents. Instead of a piggy bank, we went forward looking and with the ubiquity of debit cards, I created ‘The Bank of Dad.’ Using an old hotel key card I made a make-believe Bank of Dad debit card and she opened an ‘account.’

At 12 years old and a long-time Bank of Dad customer, she was definitely ready for a real account. With our bank, the account was connected to a parent’s account so we had visibility into everything. At the start, we sat down and introduced the basics of a budget. We talked about understanding how much she “made,” how everyone needed savings for an emergency/rainy day, and how to also save for something “big” like those fancy new embroidered and bedazzled jeans she just had to have.

Now at 24 years old, my daughter came to me and asked if I could help her fix a spreadsheet she made because she wanted to try and pay off her student loans early, but couldn’t make the formulas work. If there’s anything that makes an accountant parent happier than hearing ‘Hey dad, will you check my spreadsheet?’ Turns out she was very close, but having her do the work and walk me through it, made fixing her error make sense to her and empowered her. — Gregg Gamble, Intuit, Lacerte Tax Content Development Manager

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

US Navy amps up to edge out China and Russia

The U.S. wields the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy, but recent developments in China and Russia’s missile inventory severely threaten the surface fleet with superior range and often velocity.


But the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin have a variety of solutions in the works to tip the scales in the United State’s favor by going hard on offense.

For years, the Navy has focused on a concept called “distributed lethality,” which calls for arming even the Navy’s smallest ships with powerful weapons that can hit targets hundreds of miles out.

Yet Russian and Chinese ships and missile forces already field long-range precision missiles that can hit U.S. ships before the forces are even close.

Additionally, both Russia and China are working on hypersonic weapons that could travel more than five times as fast as the speed of sound. These weapons would fly faster than current U.S. ships could hope to defend against.

Related: China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Meanwhile, tensions and close encounters between the U.S., Russia, and China have peaked in recent years, as Russia routinely threatens NATO ships in the Baltics and China cements its grab in the South China Sea.

Lockheed Martin’s Chris Mang, vice president of tactical missiles and combat maneuver systems, told reporters at its Arlington, Virginia, office that “defense is good,” but “offense is better.

“People don’t shoot back when they go away,” he said.

Mang said that promising new missiles like the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile for ships and planes could hit the field by 2020, which would bolster the Navy’s strategy of “see first, understand first, shoot first.”

The LRASM boasts a range of well over 200 nautical miles, a payload of 1,000 pounds, and the ability to strike at nearly the speed of sound.

An anti-ship missile LRASM in front of a F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. (U.S. Navy)

It also has a huge advantage that neither Russia nor China have come close to cracking: naval aviation. Lockheed Martin officials said U.S. Navy F-18s and long-range B-1B bombers could carry the LRASM as early as next year.

While the U.S. has been surpassed in missile technology in some areas, the Navy still has a considerable edge in radar technology and command-and-control that can provide intelligence to ship captains faster than its adversaries.

As for the hypersonic weapons meant to redefine naval warfare, Mang said they’re still a long way out. (The U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are working on their own versions, though.)

An artist’s concept of an X-51A hypersonic aircraft during flight. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“How far do they go?” Mang said of the hypervelocity weapons. “They tend to be fuel-consumption-heavy and thermally limited, so they go really fast for a very short distance. If you can shoot them before they get in range of you, that is a tactic.”

Also read: China’s trying to push around American bombers flying in international space

The Navy continues to improve and spread its Aegis missile-defense capabilities so the long-range missiles Russia and China have can be knocked out and the short-range hypersonic missiles they’re developing can be out-ranged.

Though adversaries out-range the U.S. Navy on paper, the U.S. military has and will never be defeated by figures on paper.

Instead, the U.S. and Lockheed Martin seem to be pushing forward with proven technologies that would bolster the United State’s ability to protect its shores.

Articles

NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Turkey is looking into joining a Chinese- and Russian-led alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Sunday at the end of his official tour of Pakistan and Uzbekistan.


Erdogan said he met with SCO leaders over the weekend and expressed his interest in joining the Eurasian political, economic, and military alliance as an alternative to joining the European Union, which has not been receptive to Turkey’s repeated bids for membership that began in 1963.

Also read: Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

France, Germany, and Belgium — home to Brussels, where the EU is headquartered — have long opposed Turkey’s accession into the EU. Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.

Creative Commons photo

Thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — have been purged or arrested on suspicion that they were associated with a failed coup in July of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Dozens of journalists, primarily those working for opposition newspapers, have also been arrested since the attempted coup, while several opposition outlets have been shut down altogether.

Erdogan insisted in a recent interview with “60 Minutes” that “these measures are being taken by prosecutors and judges in full accordance with the rule of law.” But the crackdown has led the European Commission to warn Turkey that it is “backsliding” in human rights and democracy — an accusation Erdogan appeared to scoff at.

“From time to time, we see insults directed at myself, claims that there was no freedom of expression in Turkey,” Erdogan said on Sunday. “Meanwhile, terrorists prance around in French, German, and Belgian streets. This is what they understand of freedom.”

A rejection, or a bluff?

Increasing disenchantment with the EU and the perception that he is being lectured to by the US — which supports anti-ISIS Syrian Kurds viewed by Turkey as terrorists — has apparently spurred Erdogan to look east, where his domestic policies have not been heavily scrutinized or condemned.

“Erdogan feels much more comfortable and at home among the authoritarian regimes of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization rather than facing the scrutiny and criticism of the European family of nations,” Aykan Erdemir, an expert on Turkey and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider on Monday.

Joining or even threatening to join the Shanghai bloc — which is heavily influenced by Russia and China — would rattle the West and, as Erdogan said on Sunday, would “considerably broaden” Turkey’s “room for maneuver.”

“If Turkey were to actually join the SCO, it would, of course, drastically alter relations with the US and NATO,” Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst and policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider on Monday.

“It would be viewed as a rejection of the Western alliance and make it incredibly difficult to include Turkey in any type of high-level strategic dialogue, given concerns about Russian expansionism,” he said, adding that Turkey, unlike other NATO members, is already a partner country to SCO dialogue.

Still, many analysts are skeptical that Erdogan is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. He has been flirting heavily and publicly with Russia since the summer, but it is unclear whether a closer alliance with Russia and China would benefit Turkey politically or economically.

“Erdogan’s weather vane foreign policy characterized by frequent U-turns is based neither on values nor principles,” said Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament. He noted that Erdogan made the same announcement about possible SCO membership during a November 2013 meeting with Putin, yet never acted on it.

Michael Kofman, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs and fellow at the Wilson Center, said the SCO is “not a cohesive economic or political bloc” and would offer little to Turkey in practice other than to “instill the perception that the West is somehow ‘losing Turkey’ and should chase Erdogan to get it back.”

Creative Commons photo

‘A rogue and dysfunctional’ ally

Complicating the Western temptation to write off Erdogan’s comments as empty threats, however, is Turkey’s recent deal with the EU to help stem the flow of refugees trying to enter Europe from Syria.

“Erdogan knows that the EU views Turkey as critical to staunching the flow of refugees into Europe,” Koplow said. “He has a long history of making these types of threats in order to pressure Europe into concessions of various sorts. It’s a gambit that will probably be successful if recent history is any guide.”

Over the summer, the EU agreed to pay Turkey €3 billion ($3.2 billion) — and German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to speed up Turkey’s EU bid — if Turkey pledged to harbor the vast number of refugees and migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

Turkey’s entry into the SCO would also complicate its relationship with NATO.

“In theory, SCO membership would not require Turkey’s exit from NATO,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Tuesday. “In practice, however, it would severely strain Ankara’s ties with other NATO members.”

Ultimately, however, Bremmer believes Erdogan is just looking for leverage.

“Erdogan wants the US to rely less on the Syrian Kurds and to extradite [Fethullah] Gulen rather than a signal of a historic and strategic shift away from the West,” he said, noting that many existing SCO members don’t necessarily want Turkey to join.

“Erdogan himself said yesterday relations with the US and NATO are on track, so I think there’s lots of smoke, no fire here,” he added.

Erdogan told CBS over the weekend that Turkey is “moving in the same direction with NATO that we have always done.” But July’s failed coup appears to have made him only more determined to stomp out dissent, whether from his own citizens or the international community.

Erdemir, meanwhile, predicted that Turkey’s “gradual drift from NATO” would continue.

“Putin will make sure that this is a slow and painful process for Turkey and the transatlantic alliance,” he said. “He knows that as a rogue and dysfunctional NATO ally, Turkey is of greater use to Moscow than as a defector to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.

The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.


Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.

The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.

The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.

Growing shortfalls and falling retention

Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, walks out to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight Sept. 26, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”

Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)

“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.

Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”

But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.

The Air Force’s fighter-pilot shortfall has grown significantly over the past several years.

Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.

Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.

The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.

These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.

“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.

A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.

Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)

The services have also struggled to retain pilots.

The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.

Stop-gap measures

Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”

The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.

But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention

A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”

Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.

The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.

It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.

Maj. Tyler Ellison, a Thunderbirds pilot, administers the oath of enlistment to enlist Florida’s newest airmen during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in and Expo Air Show at Lakeland, Florida, April, 25, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.

Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.

The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.

The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Hobbs & Shaw’ dunks on ‘Game of Thrones’ finale

“Hobbs & Shaw,” the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, came strong out of the gate Aug. 2, 2019, earning $60 million at the box office. The movie was filled with quippy dialogue, badass action, and a few surprise cameos, including Ryan Reynolds playing Locke, a CIA agent who recruits Hobbs (Johnson) to help takedown the semi-superpowered Brixton (Idris Elba). Reynolds’ performance has been met with praise (and a few fan theories), however, a few fans are upset that his character gave a major “Game of Thrones” spoiler at the end of the movie.

Warning: This post obviously features spoilers about “Game of Thrones.”


Throughout the movie, Hobbs is shown discussing “Game of Thrones” with his daughter, including making a reference to the show’s most iconic catchphrase (you know nothing, Jon Snow). Later, in the post-credits scene, Hobbs receives a call from Locke, who ends up spoiling the ending of the show in a very Reynolds-esque way.

Hobbs & Shaw Final Trailer (2019) | Movieclips Trailers

www.youtube.com

“Jon Snow had sex with his aunt and then he killed her!” Locke says.

It’s a throwaway joke but it’s also accurate, as Snow does end up killing Daenarys in the series finale after she unleashes her dragon on civilians. Of course, we live in the age of post-spoilers, so it’s hard to imagine anyone getting too worked up about the show’s ending getting spoiled months after the series finale aired.

Still, if you know someone who has been holding off watching the divisive finale, you may want to give them a heads up before they watch “Hobbs Shaw.” Otherwise, they may end up holding a life-long grudge against Reynolds.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous pilot once dangled from his plane by the machine gun

Louis A. Strange was a British Pilot who would lead aerial forces in World War I and World War II, eventually rising to the rank of wing commander and earning top British awards like the Distinguished Service Order and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, which is lucky, because he almost died as a young pilot when he fell out of his plane and was left hanging from the machine gun.


Royal Flying Corps Lt. Louis A. Strange was a pioneering pilot and officer for Britain in World War I and II, but he nearly died in 1915 when he accidentally flipped his plane and barely hung on to a malfunctioning machine gun drum.

(Imperial War Museums)

It happened during World War I when the young pilot became a pioneer by being one of the first pilots to strap a machine gun to his plane in 1914 (he might have even been the first allied pilot to do so). But early aviation machine guns were literally just machine guns designed for the trenches, and they didn’t always lend themselves well to aerial combat.

In 1915, Strange was flying his Martinsyde S.1 scout plane with a machine gun mounted when he spotted a German observer and began trading fire with it. Strange quickly ran through the ammo in his weapon’s drum and attempted to reload it, but the drum was jammed on the weapon.

He attempted to pry it off to no avail, and finally stood up to get better leverage on the drum. He was attempting to keep the plane steady in the process, but made some mistake. The plane flipped upside down, and Strange slipped out of his seat and found himself dangling from the machine gun, high in the air.

A Martinsyde scout biplane from World War I.

(Royal Engineers)

In John F. Ross’s Enduring Courage, Strange is quoted as saying:

Only a few seconds previously, I had been cursing because I could not get that drum off, but now I prayed fervently that it would stay on forever.

But that wasn’t the only problem for Strange. His plane’s engine wasn’t designed to run upside down with no pilot at the controls, and so the engine quickly shut off.

So he was dangling by a faulty machine gun drum from a slowly crashing airplane in an active combat zone. But he kept a cool head, watching for where he might crash while also attempting to get his feet back into the cockpit. He managed to hook an ankle on the plane and then get a leg on the stick and flip the plane back over.

He fell back into the plane, which was welcome, but he also fell too hard and fast, crashing through his seat in a way that jammed the stick, making it impossible for him to steer, a big problem since he was still heading for the ground. And then the engine turned back on, speeding his descent.

He had to shove the remnants of the seat out of the way, but was then able to move the stick and raise the plane’s nose, gaining altitude with little room to spare over the trees. He headed back for home and slept for 12 hours.

But, as mentioned before, the survival of Strange would prove to be a great boon to Britain. He had previously earned one award for valor in World War I, and he would go on to earn three high medals over the rest of World War I and II.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 9th

The elections are over? Cool. We hope you got out there and made your vote count, but now it’s time to focus on the bigger things, like the Marine Corps’ upcoming Ball/Birthday and Veterans Day, both of which fall on a glorious four-day weekend.

It’s a damn shame that it isn’t a payday weekend, too — but maybe it’s for the better. Things might get too crazy.

Anyway, enjoy these memes while you get ready for whatever ludicrous plans you have for the long weekend.


1. “To whom it may concern, f*ck this sh*t. Sincerely, everyone.”

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Shammers United)

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via The Senior Specialist)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA needs Arizona veterans to tell their stories in Tucson

The Make the Connection team is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking support for mental health challenges and take part in a national mental health campaign.


The same obstacles that may at first seem insurmountable to an individual are much less daunting when faced by a team. More than 500 Veterans and military family members have already stepped up to be that team for their brothers and sisters by sharing their stories in videos on MakeTheConnection.net, a mental health website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Make the Connection helps Veterans and their loved ones realize that reaching out for support and seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength, and thousands of Veterans have found help to overcome their challenges.

The Make the Connection team will be conducting more on-camera interviews in Tucson, Arizona on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 and is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking help and overcoming mental health and other challenges. Veterans who participate in the video shoot will receive a stipend to offset their expenses for time and travel. When the videos are posted on the Make the Connection website, only the first names of participants are used.

Since its launch six years ago, the Make the Connection campaign has spread positive stories about Veteran mental health via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Veterans featured on the website and in social media have served in every branch of the armed forces and in every U.S. conflict since WWII through today’s current military engagements. They also represent the full diversity of the military community. Each Veteran has coped with conditions such as addiction, anxiety, depression, serious mental illness, PTSD, and the effects of military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury.

Veterans who want to tell their stories to help fellow Veterans should email their name, phone number, and email address to outreach@maketheconnection.net or call our outreach team directly at 1-520-222-7518 by Friday, April 13th in order to be considered.

To learn more, please visit www.MakeTheConnection.net/Outreach.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first combat qualified female naval aviator died in a crazy accident

When Lt. Kara Hultgreen died while trying to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the event touched off a national debate about women in combat roles and the military pushing women who weren’t ready into active service. Except Hultgreen was more than qualified to be a naval aviator – she was just a victim of a well-known deficiency in the F-14’s Pratt & Whitney engine.


“Top Gun” doesn’t mention engine deficiencies.

Hultgreen’s mom thought she would be the perfect debutante. Instead, her little Kara set out to be a Naval Aviator, flying the F-14 Tomcat. The goal didn’t stop at the F-14, Kara Hultgreen wanted to be an astronaut one day. But she didn’t start with the Tomcat, she started her career flying the less-pretty EA-6A. She made it to the Tomcat 18 months later.

“Yes, it’s a macho job in a number of ways,” she told Woman Pilot magazine before she died. “But that’s not why I wanted to do it. I did this to become a fighter pilot. It makes me feel no less feminine and it should not make men feel less masculine. The F-14 is a humbling jet and I’ve been humbled.”

Call Sign: “Revlon”

What she meant by being humbled is that Hultgreen narrowly failed her first attempt at F-14 carrier qualification. But she passed easily her second time around, ranking third in her class overall. Tragically, it was a similar event that would result in her death.

On Oct. 25, 1994, she was attempting to land her F-14 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. She overshot the landing area’s centerline and attempted to correct the mistake. Her correction disrupted the airflow into her Tomcat’s left engine, which caused it to fail. This was a known deficiency in that particular engine. What she did next caused the plane to tilt over to the left. When her Radar Intercept Officer realized the plane was not recoverable, he initiated the plane’s ejection sequences. He was fired out, and .4 seconds later, Hultgreen was fired out of the plane.

But by then, the Tomcat had turned over by 90 degrees and Hultgreen was launched into the ocean, killing her instantly.

By the time she died, Lt. Hultgreen had more than 1,240 hours of flying time in the F-14 Tomcat and had landed on a carrier some 58 times, 17 times at night. She was ranked first in defending the fleet from simulated attacks by enemy aircraft and in air refueling, and second in tactics to evade enemy aircraft and in combined familiarization with tactics and aircraft. The Aerospace Engineer was a Distinguished Naval Graduate of Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola.

Yet, despite all of her achievements, training, and preparation, there were some who blamed the military for her death, alleging her superiors overlooked her mistakes in training in trying to beat the Air Force in training the first female fighter pilot. One group, the Center for Military Readiness, claimed to have obtained Hultgreen’s training records in 1995, records which they said would have disqualified her as an aviator.

These records are contradicted by records released from Hultgreen’s family the year prior, however. Her colleagues and fellow pilots praised her performance as a naval aviator and reminded people that 10 F-14 pilots were killed in accidents between the years of 1992 and 1994. Hultgreen once even brought an EA-6A Intruder to a safe landing, despite flying it with crippled landing gear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stood watch for 23 hours during a hurricane

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nonstop since July 2, 1937. The Tomb Sentinels that protect the site are the best of the best the U.S. Army has to offer and nothing short of Armageddon is going to break that discipline. By the time Hurricane Sandy hit the D.C. area in 2012, it was a “superstorm,” expected to kill more people and cause more damage than any hurricane since Katrina in 2005.

That didn’t faze Sgt. Shane Vincent one bit.


This is what we all volunteer to do,” Staff Sgt. Michael Buelna, the commander of the first relief, told ABC News. “For us we don’t really think anything of it, it’s what we do.”

When the Sentinels due to stand watch during that timeframe found out they could be without power and food for an extended period of time, they brought extra. And they also brought MREs. They were as prepared as anyone else for a hurricane. The difference was they would be standing in it for their shifts and shift changes.

Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment continue to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, despite the worsening weather conditions surrounding Hurricane Sandy.

(U.S. Army)

Like other government sites, the cemetery was closed by order of the Federal government. There would be no visitors, no crowds, no curious onlookers to catch the changing of the guards. The Tomb Sentinels would still guard the tomb, exposed to the elements, with their M-14 rifles – the unknown soldier would not be left alone. There were only a few slight differences in their routine.

Instead of Army dress blues, the six Tomb Sentinels on duty wore wet-weather ACUs. Instead of “walking the mat” for 21 paces back and forth, they would operate from “The Box,” a small guard shack made of green cloth. They also wouldn’t have to be at attention for the duration. It was more than ceremonial guard duty, the men of the 3rd Infantry Regiment would have to stay vigilant during the storm.

Sentinels from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) continue to stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 22, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Cody Torkelson)

For Sgt. Vincent, it presented an opportunity. He’d told his fellow Tomb Sentinels that if the time ever came, he would volunteer for a full day of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – something that had never been done before.

I stayed out there for the entire shift,” said Vincent. “I was the one that was out there, others would come and show love and spend time with me out there.”

As for Sandy, Sgt. Vincent, he was unimpressed, saying it was a basic storm, the worst of it only came when the winds picked up and even then, he enjoyed watching the rain fall sideways. He even walked the mat a few times.

That’s the Old Guard for you.

Articles

5 things the US Military should ban forever

The U.S. military does a lot of good around the world, but it also maintains a few quirks. Usually stemming from the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” some items common to the military experience don’t make much sense. These are those items.


1. The Navy’s blue camouflage uniform

UPDATE: This change is already in the works. We take full credit.

Here is how this went down: The Navy was wearing its completely blue working uniform, and then the Marine Corps and Army went to new and improved digital patterns. The admirals got together and thought of how to best to spend the budget.

They got into a big room with presentations about cool laser beams that can destroy an entire terrorist compound, missiles for fighter jets that can travel 300 miles, and new GPS navigation systems that can tell you where you are with pinpoint accuracy and you can hit one button to call in naval gunfire. And then they decided to spend a bunch of money on uniforms that make no sense.

2. Wearing reflective belts everywhere

Yeah, we know. They reflect light from car headlights so that you don’t get flattened like a pancake when you’re on your run. So maybe that makes sense. But they are overused to the point of absurdity. You need to wrap a reflective belt around your pack on this hike, because drivers may not notice the 900+ people around you with flashlights and making lots of noise.

Make sure you also wear your reflective belt around your forward operating base so that Johnny Taliban can make that mortar fire more effective.

3. Those brown dive shorts that only Navy SEALs wear

The UDT SEAL swim shorts come in khaki, have an included belt, and are short enough to show how terribly untanned your legs are. According to NavySEALs.com, the shorts were issued to the original frogmen of World War II, and now all SEALs are issued them as part of that tradition.

Photo Credit: Valet Mag

Holding to traditions is important, but we’re talking 1940s-era fashion here. SEALs aren’t shooting at Taliban fighters with M1 Garands, because times, trends, and technology has changed. Which leads us to …

4. Marine Corps “silkies” physical training shorts

We can officially conclude that the military has a serious problem with short shorts. The worst offender is the U.S. Marine Corps, with their “silkies.” While Marines have been issued updated physical training uniforms, the silkie shorts that looked like they were stolen from Larry Bird’s locker room still prevail. And sadly, there’s always at least one weird guy in your platoon who actually enjoys wearing them.

5. PowerPoint

There’s a reason Gen. Mattis banned the use of Powerpoint briefings when he was in charge at CENTCOM. Creating slideshows are boring, huge wastes of time, and as he so famously said, they “make you stupid.”

We’re absolutely certain there are other things out there. What can you think of? Add it to the comments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s UN vetoes have enabled mass murder in Syria

Since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, Russia has vetoed 12 UN Security Council resolutions concerning the conflict. Among other things, these resolutions covered human rights violations, indiscriminate aerial bombing, the use of force against civilians, toxic chemical weapons, and calls for a meaningful ceasefire.

Russia’s behavior at the Security Council is not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Its vetoes have provided political cover for the Assad regime, protected Moscow’s strategic interests and arms deals with the Syrian state, and obstructed UN peacekeeping. They’ve helped shift the locus of peace talks from a UN-backed process in Geneva to a Russian-led one in Astana. And they’ve had real and dire consequences for the people of Syria.


The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, turned millions of people into refugees, and all but destroyed the country. While all sides have contributed to this catastrophe, the Assad regime in particular has made repression, brutality, and destruction its signature tactics — and Russia has chosen to protect it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some seem resigned to dismiss this behavior as everyday international politicking. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, recently offered an excuse: “People will always block resolutions. If you look at the number of resolutions America has blocked, I mean that’s the way of politics.”

This is nothing more than idle whataboutism. Yes, it’s right to note what the US has done in defiance of the UN over the years, not least over Iraq and with its 44 Israel-related vetoes in the Security Council. But Russia has taken vetoes to another level on Syria, covering for and enabling atrocities while working to make sure the UN cannot do what it needs to do to stop the carnage.

Regime maintenance

Moscow first intervened militarily to prop up Assad’s deadly authoritarian rule in September 2015; had it not entered the fray, Assad’s reign would have almost certainly given way to a successor. But Russian backing for Assad began well before 2015.

For a start, his government has long been a major Russian arms client. While public data is incomplete because many transactions are highly opaque, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has tracked the build up of Syrian weapons purchases in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising. Russian military resources to Syria increased from 9m in 2000 to 272m in 2011.

Consider the Russian (and Chinese) veto of February 4 2012, which blocked a draft resolution calling on Assad to relinquish power. At the time, there was uncertainty about whether Russia would abstain or vote no. Facing defeat amid mass protests and now armed resistance, the Assad regime accelerated its brutality through bombing. On the eve of the scheduled Security Council meeting, Assad’s forces bombarded the city of Homs, murdering scores of civilians.

Was this massacre designed to signal to Russia that Assad was prepared to go all out, burn the country, and win at any cost, meaning Moscow might as well back him? Or was Assad informed in advance that Russia would cast the veto, so he could slaughter with impunity? Does a veto clear the way for more brutality, or do acts of brutality force Russia to veto UN reprisals?

A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

The most likely answer is both. The pattern is now firmly established: Assad kills civilians and political opponents, the Security Council considers a resolution, Russia vetoes it and puts outs propaganda to provide cover for Assad’s abuses, and the cycle of mass killings goes on. As Russian vetoes have become routine, they have emboldened Assad. As an Oxfam report said, even UN resolutions which were not blocked “have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, other UN member states, and even by members of the UNSC itself”.

The vetoes flaunt Moscow’s power to the world and reassure Russians at home. They are also helping Russia maintain a permanent military and political presence in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In exchange for intervention, the Kremlin has gained access to Syria’s energy infrastructure and secured the future of its major Syrian bases on the Mediterranean.

The wrong path

But Russia still has a choice: it can be a force for peace, liberty, and inclusion, or it can continue to shelter and defend tyrants. Given the Kremlin’s general hostility towards equality, liberalism, and democracy, it has chosen another path: to thwart the Security Council, violate its own ceasefire agreements, and overlook the consequences for civilians. This implicates it in the deaths of thousands of Syrians – more than the so-called Islamic State and the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra combined.

To be sure, not all Security Council resolutions are worthy of support, and Russia cannot be held responsible for all of Assad’s crimes and human rights abuses. Western nations are certainly not unbiased; their decisions and interventions have had long-lasting pernicious effects on civilian populations in the Middle East, and they too have failed civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

The US intervened in Iraq to oust a dictator, Russia intervened in Syria to preserve one in power. Both moves have turned out to be disasters. But to document that Russia has killed civilians via its military and political interventions is not Russophobic. The death of each Syrian matters, regardless of who fired the shot, dropped the bomb, or maintained the siege.

Providing political cover for one tyrant will embolden others everywhere, as they learn how far they can push the boundaries of oppression. And all along, steps could have been taken to prevent or at least limit the carnage. Russia’s failure to do so in Syria and elsewhere will be to its eternal shame.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.