The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.
Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.
The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.
The US military announced it is calling off its search for an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific this time last month.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019, the first time this version of the F-35 has crashed. The US sent the destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and a U-2 spy plane to assist Japan in its search for the fifth-generation fighter and its pilot. Later, a US Navy salvage team joined the hunt.
The destroyer and maritime patrol aircraft scoured 5,000 square nautical miles of ocean over a period of 182 hours at sea before concluding their search. The Navy salvage team managed to recover the flight recorder and parts of the cockpit canopy.
The US Navy is ending its support in the search for the missing fighter, US 7th Fleet announced May 8, 2019. Japan is, however, planning to continue looking for the aircraft.
F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
“We will continue our search and recovery of the pilot and the aircraft that are still missing, while doing utmost to determine the cause,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced, according to Japanese media. It is unclear if, or at what point, Japan would abandon the search.
It is highly unusual for a country to continue the search for a missing military pilot longer than a week, with near certainty they are dead and that the ships and planes have more pressing missions than finding a body in thousands of miles of ocean. But this is the first time an F-35 stealth fighter has gone missing and some observers have said the missing plane would be an intelligence windfall to rivals like China.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is the most expensive weapon in the world today. It’s secrets are well protected, but currently, one of these fighters is in pieces on the ocean floor. Amid speculation that it might be vulnerable, both US and Japanese defense officials dismissed the possibility of another country, such as Russia or China getting its hands on the crashed fighter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the time drags on that we are left to stick with social distancing, more and more folks are celebrating their birthdays — away from loved ones, isolated from friends, and instead, in the safe quarters of their own homes.
But just because you’re celebrating birthdays far from the masses, doesn’t mean they can’t be made special. Look to these creative tips for social distancing birthday ideas throughout the pandemic, and at future duty stations when living far away from those you love.
1. Have a HouseParty
Join this free app and host live games with video chat. Invite family and friends and take part in trivia, charades, and more. Just make sure you have a full phone battery so the fun can keep on going.
Choose a flick you’ve been waiting to see and ask all your favorites to watch right along with you. This is a free feature for all Netflix subscribers. Simply log into your account and share the link with others so they can join in.
If you plan early enough, have loved ones send a card. With the mail still running as an essential service, those from all over can create and send in special cards. Collect them and give to the birthday boy or girl all at once, or spread the love for fun that keeps on coming.
5. Something special
Finally, consider something special that’s personal. Let the birthday celebrator choose a meal, plan a family activity, or order a meaningful gift. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be a day that shows they’re loved.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
As US troops and weaponry pour into the Middle East to counter Iran with threats of “unrelenting force,” Iran warns that US forces are “targets,” not threats.
A little over a week ago, the White House, following approval from the Pentagon, announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force composed of B-52 Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers were being immediately deployed to US Central Command as a warning to Iran, which the US believed might be planning an attack on US interests.
The Pentagon announced May 10, 2019, that additional assets, including an amphibious assault vessel and an air-and-missile defense battery, were also being sent into the region. The US has said that it will respond to any Iranian attack with “unrelenting force.”
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron taxis for takeoff on a runway at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
Iranian military leadership pushed back over the weekend.
On May 11, 2019, Yadollah Javani, the deputy head of political affairs of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that the US “wouldn’t dare to launch military action against us.” His comments came shortly after Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad, a high-ranking cleric in the Iranian government, warned that US forces will face “dozens of missiles.”
Another IRGC commander followed suit May 12, 2019.
“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past,” Amirali Hajizadeh said. “But, now it is a target.”
“If (the Americans) make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added.
Iran’s state media released an animated video back in February showing one of Iran’s Ghadir-class submarines sinking an American aircraft carrier. Such an aggressive act, the success of which is far from guaranteed, would be a bold and dangerous move for Iran.
“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” Bryan McGrath, an influential naval consultant, previously told Business Insider. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of God will come down on them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The launch, the fourth in a matter of only a few days, followed statements by President Donald Trump claiming that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is starting to respect the US and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserting that North Korea has shown “restraint” by halting its missile tests. America’s lead diplomat even suggested that there might be a path to dialogue.
Evidence indicates that Trump and Tillerson may have misread North Korea’s behavior. “This is not the action of a country that is interested in showing restraint or in creating a glide-path to dialogue, at least not on our terms,” James Schoff, an East Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Washington Post.
Not only is North Korea apparently frustrated with the activities of the US and its allies, but it may also be determined to set a precedent for new missile testing.
The US and South Korea began the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises Aug. 21. The North perceives joint military exercises as a precursor to an armed invasion of North Korean territory.
“This is a clear indication of the attempt to mount a preemptive attack on the North,” a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, argued Aug. 27. North Korea is particularly concerned with the preemptive strike elements of Operation Plan 5015, which the North claims is a key part of this year’s exercises.
“The warmongers at home and abroad are working hard to master and perfect the performance procedures and the actual maneuverability of the “beheading operation” and “secret operation” under OPLAN 5015,” the North Korean state media report explained.
“The DPRK will continue to strengthen its defensive capability with nuclear force, as long as US … does not stop military drills on the doorstep of the DPRK,” North Korean ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song explained Aug. 29. “US pressure and provocative acts only justify the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities.”
North Korea is also irritated with the regular high-level meetings between senior US military officials and their South Korean counterparts.
“It is a very ill-boding development that timed to coincide with the exercises, the US Pacific Command chief, the US Strategic Command head, the Missile Defense Agency director, and other US high-ranking military officers flew into South Korea to hold confabs on the DPRK,” North Korean state media explained.
Furthermore, the North is aware of allied efforts to boost their offensive and defensive capabilities in response to the growing North Korean threat. South Korea conducted its own missile tests last week, testing weaponry designed to penetrate North Korea’s underground and hardened facilities, and Japan just deployed a collection of new missile interceptors.
There is also a strong possibility, as this has long been a strategic objective, that North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the US and its allies in Asia.
The latest missile launch may also clear the way for a more realistic weapons testing program, helping North Korea develop combat-capable missiles to boost its deterrence capabilities.
“There is a technical imperative for conducting this test,” Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told WaPo. “They want to be able to look at reentry dynamics and how it performs on a more normal trajectory.” North Korea will need to ultimately move ships into the area to get telemetry data, but this is a first step.
If the consequences for North Korea’s actions are limited, Pyongyang may assume that the benefits are worth the risks and conduct additional tests of this nature in the future, possibly for its new intercontinental ballistic missile.
“In a way, it’s kind of a trial balloon,” Elleman said. “If we overfly Japan, what happens? If the blowback isn’t too significant, they will feel more comfortable with launching a Hwasong-14 to a good distance to validate its performance on a normal trajectory.”
North Korea typically tests its missiles by lofting them, and then analysts calculate their theoretical range were the missiles to be fired along a normal trajectory. North Korea needs more reliable data if it intends to field a viable nuclear deterrent. When North Korea threatened to fire missiles into waters around Guam earlier this month, some observers suspected that North Korea might be trying to set a precedent for launches over Japan.
“This sets a new dangerous precedent of overflying Japan and launching into the western Pacific,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, posted on Twitter after North Korea’s threats.
While the North may have deescalated earlier, it does not appear to have backed down. The country appears as committed to its strategic ambitions as ever.
The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.
Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.
In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.
The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.
As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.
“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”
One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.
Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”
According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.
The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.
The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.
IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.
Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.
The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.
Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.
Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.
“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”
Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life
Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.
“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”
Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.
Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.
Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.
Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.
Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.
To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”
In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.
The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.
“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.
Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.
It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.
The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.
The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.
Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.
The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.
The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.
Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.
In some cases, the personal touch can help.
Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.
“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”
Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.
It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.
The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.
After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”
The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.
“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.
“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”
“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.
The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.
“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.
Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.
Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”
Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.
He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.
It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.
In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.
Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.
There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.
Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.
Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.
Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?
There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.
That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.
We know there’s a big, inter-service rivalry between the Army and the Navy (especially around the time of the annual Army-Navy game), but now the Army is looking to get some anti-ship missiles into service. Has the “Go Army, Beat Navy” slogan gone too far? Well, not exactly. Sure, the Army wants to kill ships, but the United States Navy (and America’s allies) nothing to worry about.
According to reports, the Army is going to be resurrecting an old branch — or at least exploring the possibility in the upcoming RIMPAC 2018 exercise. The Army will be using a truck-mounted Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile to sink a target ship. This Norwegian missile system uses an infra-red seeker, stealth technology, and has a maximum range of over 100 nautical miles.
This would be the functional resurrection of the Army’s old Coastal Artillery Corps. The Coastal Defense Study Group notes that after the Spanish-American War, the Army restructured their artillery from regiments to companies. There was field artillery, which made use of lighter guns, and coastal artillery, which carried the heavy guns.
Back then, the purpose was simple: Protect American harbors and ports from enemies. This was the original purpose of Fort Sumter and other similar establishments. The Fort controlled the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. In World War I, many Coast Artillery units were sent to the Western Front in order to safeguard the coastal homefront. That war, however, also saw the emergence of technologies that would ultimately cause the dissolution of the Coastal Artillery Corps in 1950: The submarine (which the artillery couldn’t hit) and the airplane (which could reach much further than the guns could).
So, why the comeback? Well, one big issue is that the United States Navy has seen a huge decline in hulls. The Naval Strike Missile, able to hit land targets as well, gives the Army another option outside of the MGM-140/MGM-164 ATACMS family of weapons.
Protection against many common pathogens and environmental stressors is written into our DNA. Our skin responds to sun exposure. Our immune system mounts defenses when we get the flu. Our bodies inherently work to mitigate the potential for harm caused by these health threats. However, these intrinsic responses are not always quick, robust, or appropriate enough to adequately defend us from harm, which is why many people experience sunburn after intense sun exposure or suffer severe symptoms, even death, following exposure to the flu.
Military service members, first responders, and civilian populations face threats far more severe than sunburn and respiratory infections. Pathogens with pandemic potential, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials can all quickly and powerfully overwhelm the body’s innate defenses. And though significant public and private investment has been focused on the development of traditional medical countermeasures such as drugs, vaccines, and biologics to guard against the worst effects of these health threats, current countermeasures are often limited in their effectiveness and availability during emergencies.
DARPA is looking to make gains beyond the status quo. Inspired by recent advances in understanding of when and how genes express their traits, DARPA’s new PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program will explore ways to better protect against biological, chemical, or radiological threats by temporarily and reversibly tuning gene expression to bolster the body’s defenses against – or directly neutralize – a given threat.
“The human body is amazingly resilient. Every one of our cells already contains genes that encode for some level of resistance to specific health threats, but those built-in defenses can’t always express quickly or robustly enough to be effective,” said Renee Wegrzyn, the PREPARE program manager. “PREPARE will study how to support this innate resistance by giving it a temporary boost, either before or after exposure, without any permanent edits to the genome.”
The program will focus on four key health challenges as proofs of concept for what DARPA ultimately envisions as a generalizable platform that can be rapidly adapted to emerging public health and national security threats: influenza viral infection, opioid overdose, organophosphate poisoning, and exposure to gamma radiation.
“Each of these four threats are major health concerns that would benefit from disruptive approaches,” Wegrzyn said. “Seasonal flu vaccines, for example, are limited in that they try to hit a perpetually moving target, so circulating flu strains are often mismatched to vaccine strains. Programmable modulation of common viral genome sequences could potentially neutralize many more circulating viral strains simultaneously to keep up with moving targets. Combining this strategy with a temporary boost to host protection genes could change how we think about anti-virals.”
PREPARE requires that any treatments developed under the program have only temporary and reversible effects. In so doing, PREPARE diverges sharply from recent gene-editing research, which has centered on permanently modifying the genome by cutting DNA and inserting new genes or changing the underlying sequence to change the genetic code. Such approaches may cause long-lasting, off-target effects, and though the tools are improving, the balance of risk versus benefit means that these therapies are reserved for individuals with inherited genetic disorders with few to no other treatment options. In addition, some indications, including treatment of pain, may only require temporary solutions, rather than life-long responses.
The envisioned PREPARE technologies would provide an alternative that preserves the genetic code exactly as it is and only temporarily modulates gene activity via the epigenome and transcriptome, which are the cellular messages that carry out DNA’s genetic instructions inside cells. This would establish the capability to deliver programmable, but transient, gene modulators to confer protection within brief windows of time for meaningful intervention.
“Focusing only on programmable modulation of gene expression enables us to provide specific, robust protection against many threats at once, with an effect that carries less risk, is limited but tunable in duration, and is entirely reversible,” Wegrzyn said.
Success will hinge on developing new tools for targeted modulation of gene expression inside the body. Researchers must identify the specific gene targets that can confer protection, develop in vivo technologies for programmable modulation of those gene targets, and formulate cell- or tissue-specific delivery mechanisms to direct programmable gene modulators to the appropriate places in the body. Although the immediate program goal is to develop defenses against one of the four focus areas determined by DARPA, the ultimate objective of PREPARE is to develop a modular, threat-agnostic platform solution with common components and manufacturing architecture that can be readily adapted to diverse and emerging threats.
Research will be conducted primarily using computer, cell culture, organoid, and animal models to establish proof of concept. However, DARPA’s vision is to generate new medical countermeasures for future use in humans. As such, DARPA is working with independent bioethicists to identify and address potential ethical, legal, and societal issues.
By the end of the four-year program, DARPA aims for each funded team to submit at least one final product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory review as an Investigational New Drug or for Emergency Use Authorization. Throughout the program, teams will be required to work closely with the FDA to ensure that the data generated and experimental protocols meet regulatory standards.
Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”
Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.
He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”
“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.
These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.
“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.
The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.
“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.