The first-ever audit of the of the $2.7 trillion enterprise that is the Defense Department identified widespread problems in cybersecurity, but found little in the way of savings that could offset potential budget cuts in 2019, according to Pentagon and Congressional officials.
Without going into detail, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement on the report, said the audit identified “multiple material weaknesses” across the department but also provided “invaluable information that will help us target and prioritize corrective actions.”
David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit, said no glaring instances of fraud were found but the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Operations, and the Transportation Command all received failing grades.
“We didn’t pass. That’s the blunt and bottom line. We have issues and we’re going to fix them,” Norquist said.
That was to be expected in a first-time audit, Norquist told defense reporters in a Pentagon news conference shortly before the audit’s release on Nov. 15, 2018.
David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit.
(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
“If you’re not fixing it, the auditors will come back in exactly a year and find you didn’t fix it,” Norquist said before the report’s release. “And they’re going to come the next year, and the next year until you fix it, so each year I’ll be able to tell you how many findings we closed.”
Occasionally, the auditors turned up problems that turned out not to be problems, Norquist said, which is what happened when they went looking at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The Hill database listed million-worth of missile motors as broken and in need of repair. When the auditors went to look at them, the motors were found to be in working order — it was a problem in labeling, the audit report said.
One of the “material weaknesses,” as Mattis put it, was in the area of cybersecurity throughout the department, Norquist said.
“Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our businesses,” Norquist said, and it “reflects the challenges that the department faces in IT security.”
One area of concern was in security clearances for personnel and “terminating user access when they depart,” Norquist said.
The department also had to do a better job of “monitoring sensitive users, people who have special authorities, making sure there is careful monitoring to that,” Norquist said. “Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our business systems. We thought this was likely.”
Mattis has been pushing DoD managers to find efficiencies and savings on contracts and operations to fund improvements in the lethality and readiness of the force, and also to guard against potential budget cuts in the new Congress.
President Donald Trump has already warned that he could ask for five percent budget cuts in 2019 across all government departments.
In a statement on the audit, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urged against using the audit as an excuse to cut military funding.
The audit should be used to make the military “more efficient and agile,” Thornberry said, and “it should not be used as an excuse for arbitrary cuts that reverse the progress we have begun on rebuilding our strength and readiness.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who has called DoD a “.7 trillion enterprise” when all the ships, planes, tanks, missiles, salaries, and buildings are counted on top of the budget, agreed with Norquist that failures uncovered by the audit were to be expected in the first attempt.
“We never thought we were going to pass an audit, right? Everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit,” Shanahan told defense reporters on Nov. 15, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In August 1941, a submarine crew that already had a series of crazy, Mediterranean adventures under its belt slid up to the coast of Crete, a sailor swam from the boat to the shore with a lifeline, and the submarine rescued 130 stranded soldiers, setting a record for people crammed into one submarine in the process.
An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.
(Australian War Memorial)
The Mediterranean and Middle East Theater of World War II get short shrift next to the much more famous European, Pacific, and even North African theaters. But the Mediterranean was home to some fierce fighting and amazing stories, like that of the submarine HMS Torbay. Originally launched in 1938, the submarine was commissioned in 1941 and sent to the central and eastern Mediterranean.
Once there, the crew proved itself to be straight P-I-M-P. It slaughtered the small, wooden ships from Greece that Germany had pressed into service for logistics, and it took down multiple tankers and other ships. At one point, it even attacked a convoy with both an Italian navy and air escort, narrowly escaping the depth charges dropped near it. They were ballsy.
But while the Torbay was killing Italian and German ships and escaping consequence-free, even when it’s by the skin of the crew’s teeth, other forces in the area weren’t faring so well. The New Zealanders, British, Australian, and Greek troops holding Greece were being beaten back by a German assault. The Balkans had oil that Germany desperately needed, and the sparse forces there simply could not hold the line.
German paratroopers land in Crete during the 1941 invasion.
Defenders fought a slow withdrawal south in April 1941, eventually falling back to the island of Crete. Forces there were brave, but doomed. There was almost no heavy equipment. Troops had to defend themselves with just their personal weapons while they could only entrench by digging with their helmets.
Glider- and airborne troops hit the island on May 20, quickly seizing an airfield and using it to reinforce their units. The defenders fought hard for a week and then began evacuating. Over 16,000 troops were successfully withdrawn, and another 6,500 surrendered to the Germans.
But, in secret, at least 200 troops were still on the island. During the night on July 26, these troops signaled the submarine HMS Thrasher by flashing a light in an SOS pattern. The Thrasher gathered 78 survivors, but was forced to leave more than 100 on the beach.
An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.
(Australian War Memorial)
Soon after, the Torbay was sent to patrol the Gulf of Sirte, and it survived a torpedo attack as well as a fight with an escorted convoy. It sank a sailing vessel with scuttling charges, and then got word of the men on the beach of Crete. The Torbay sailed there to help.
Between the two nights, the Torbay onloaded 130 men, setting a record for most people in a submarine at once. Obviously, with quarters that cramped, they couldn’t continue their wartime patrol, so they took the passengers to Alexandria, Egypt.
The Russian defense contractor Rostec just showed off a stealth camouflaged helmet that they claim can change colors quickly and even display moving images to better conceal Russian troops.
“The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment,” Rostec said in a press statement of the helmet displayed Aug. 21, 2018, at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow. “The material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”
Rostec said that the stealth camouflage coating can be “applied to the base, like ordinary paint, and does not require great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”
In this case, it was applied to a helmet designed for Russia’s third-generation Ratnik-3 combat suit, which Russia Today previously dubbed the “Star Wars-like” suit, but Rostec says it can be applied to practically anything, even armored vehicles.
The Ratnik-3 combat suit.
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.
In total, the suit comes with 59 items, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
It should be noted, however, that there do not appear to be any video yet of the helmet changing color, but that doesn’t mean the stealth coating doesn’t work.
“I haven’t seen the system working myself of course, but I doubt they’d be displaying it if it didn’t at least do something resembling what they claim,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.
It’s “not something we expect to see on the battlefield too soon, but as armies move towards more advanced infantry systems including exoskeletons and that type of technology, [it] could be a part of that,” Tack added.
“Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces — spetsnaz — the likely recipients,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami wrote on Aug. 20, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.
He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.
A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.
After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.
initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.
“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.
But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.
Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.
After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.
“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.
By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.
“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.
Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.
“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”
George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.
“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”
It’s official: top Pentagon officials will not clear the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for full-rate production this year, after setbacks during a crucial testing phase.
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord on Oct. 18, 2019, said officials may not sign off on the F-35 full-rate production milestone — a sign of confidence in the program to produce more fighter jets — until as far out as January 2021 because of the latest testing lapse.
“I’m going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly,” Lord said at a briefing at the Pentagon Oct. 18, 2019.
September 2019, it was revealed that the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 would not complete its already-delayed formal operational test phase by the new fall deadline due to a setback in the testing process.
A combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)
Military.com first reported that while F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) was supposed to be complete by late summer, the testing was incomplete due to an unfinished phase known as the Joint Simulation Environment. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pentagon at the time confirmed the delay.
“We are not making as quick progress on the Joint Simulation Environment integrating the F-35 into it,” Lord told reporters during the briefing. “It is a critical portion of IOTE,” she said, adding inspectors need to get JSE “absolutely correct” before further testing can be done.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense would be the authority to sign off on the decision, moving the program out of its low-rate initial production (LRIP) stage.
The JSE simulation projects characteristics such as weather, geography and range, allowing test pilots to prove the aircraft’s “full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios,” according to a 2015 Director, Operational Test Evaluation (DOTE) report.
An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 5, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
JPO spokeswoman Brandi Schiff in September said the JSE is in the process of integrating Lockheed’s “‘F-35 In-A-Box’ (FIAB) model, which is the simulation of F-35 sensor systems and the overall aircraft integration.” FIAB is the F-35 aircraft simulation that plugs into the JSE environment.
“This integration and the associated verification activities are lagging [behind] initial projections and delaying IOTE entry into the JSE,” Schiff said at the time.
Lockheed Martin originally proposed a Virtual Simulator program for this testing. But in 2015, the government instead opted to transition the work — which would become the JSE — to Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
In December 2018, the JPO and Lockheed announced that all three F-35 variants belonging to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would be field-tested “for the purposes of determining the weapons systems’ operational effectiveness and operational suitability for combat.”
The testing had originally been set to begin in September 2018.
IOTE paves the way for full-rate production of the Lightning II. Three U.S. services and multiple partner nations already fly the aircraft.
Some versions of the F-35 have even made their combat debut.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The White House on Nov. 4 hit back after former President George H.W. Bush gave his most candid assessment yet of President Donald Trump.
“I don’t like him,” Bush said. His comments were included in a new book by historian Mark Updegrove, called “The Last Republicans,” which focuses on the lives of George H.W. Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush.
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard,” the elder Bush continued. “And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
George W. Bush threw in his own two cents as well.
“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” he said.
A White House official told CNN, in response to the Bushes’ comments, “If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.”
“And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history,” the official said.
Trump repeatedly blasted the second Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq during the 2016 primaries, as he was running against George W.’s younger brother, and George H.W.’s son, Jeb.
“I was totally against the Iraq war,” Trump said at a national-security forum at the height of the presidential race. “You can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”
But in a 2002 interview during which shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion, Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The White House official added on Nov. 4 that Trump “remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting an ‘America First’ foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great country.”
The George H.W. confirmed in the new book that he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, while George W. says he left his ballot blank.
The three members of Army Special Forces who were killed earlier this month outside a Jordanian military base were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The three soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on November 4. The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to King Feisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
According to The Post, the soldiers were working on the CIA’s program to train moderate Syrian rebels. It’s still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding their deaths.
Jordanian military officials said that shots were fired as the Americans’ car tried to enter the base, and a Jordanian military officer was also wounded, according to Army Times. Reporting from the Post seems to suggest that an accidental discharge from the Green Berets inside their vehicle may have led to a shootout, which an official called a “chain of unfortunate events.”
The loss of the three soldiers may be the deadliest incident for the CIA since 2009, when a suicide bomber killed seven members of a CIA team in Khost, Afghanistan.
The CIA often “details” special operations units to operate within its paramilitary force, called Special Activities Division. Some notable examples include the use of Army’s Delta Force in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which was carried out by Navy SEALs assigned to the CIA.
It has been particularly rough time for the Army Special Forces community. Besides the three soldiers killed in Jordan, there were two others killed in Afghanistan and another killed during scuba training this month.
The F-22 Raptor is already the most lethal fighter jet ever built, severely outclassing virtually every other aircraft of a similar class fielded by the rest of the world’s air forces.
But with the advent of newer anti-aircraft defense systems, stealth-defeating tracking technologies and the entrance of countries such as China and Russia into the stealth fighter foray, the F-22 will eventually need to be replaced with something even more powerful.
With the looming retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle, its secondary air superiority fighter, in the next decade, the Air Force has begun taking strides towards designing the F-22’s follow-on in order to maintain its combat edge over every other air force in the world.
Throughout the USAF’s history, each of its fighter jets have built upon the aircraft they replaced, incorporating lessons learned and proven concepts, while expanding on their capabilities with new technology and methods of prosecuting aerial combat. The F-22’s replacement, currently known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” will take shape in much the same way.
It will likely be highly stealthy, carrying its weapons internally in order to minimize radar detection. It will also probably be supersonic, and able to actively defeat enemy sensors in a similar manner to the F-22 and F-35.
Among the most noticeable differences between the F-22 and its replacement will be the lack of tails. Every American fighter jet ever built has featured one or two vertical stabilizers which, as their names suggest, provide stability and yaw control in flight.
Instead, the PCA will likely remove the vertical stabilizers altogether to enhance stealth by decreasing the aircraft’s overall radar signature. The end result will look more like a sleeker and faster B-2 Spirit or a X-47B drone, instead of something similar to the twin-tailed F-35 Lightning II, or the single-tailed F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Additionally, the new fighter be built for long-range missions — especially escorting larger bomber aircraft like the B-2, or the upcoming B-21 Raider, deep behind the front lines to strike at the heart of the enemy’s war machine. This is a much-needed capability the USAF has sorely lacked for decades.
The PCA will be designed to work alongside the F-35 Lightning II, with both aircraft drawing upon each other’s strengths while mitigating weaknesses in capability. Given that the Air Force plans on retaining its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet long for years and years to come, the PCA will likely also be capable of working with older “legacy” aircraft.
One of the key focal points of the PCA program will be developing an engine that gives the new fighter unprecedented range, while maximizing operational fuel efficiency.
The PCA program seeks nearly $300 million in funding from Congress over the next few years in order to complete its research and analysis goals while developing and investigating new technologies that will make the F-22’s replacement arguably the deadliest and most powerful fighter aircraft ever conceived.
Bonnie Carroll understands the cost of war as intimately as anyone in America – not the dollars and cents cost but the price paid by families for generations after warriors fall in battle. A few years after losing her husband in a military aircraft mishap in Alaska, Carroll turned her grief into action and founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as “TAPS.”
“Twenty years ago there was no organization for those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the armed forces,” Carroll said while overseeing a recent TAPS event for nearly 50 surviving children held at the U.S. Naval Academy. “We are the families helping the families heal.”
“Grief isn’t a mental illness,” she continued. “It isn’t something you can take a pill for or put a splint over. Grief is a wound of the heart, and there’s no one better to provide that healing than those who’ve walked this journey and are now trained to help the bereaved. And as they help others they continue their own process of healing.”
Carroll pointed out that TAPS has strong relationships and formalized memorandums of understanding with all of the Pentagon’s branches of services but that the mission of assisting survivors is best done by a private organization and not a government bureaucracy.
“We have protocols in place so that when a family member dies, the families are told that TAPS exists,” Carroll said. “They will not be alone.”
That wasn’t always the case. For the first three years of TAPS’ existence the organization had trouble breaking through the mazes that surrounded the entrenched (and generally ineffective) agencies charged with dealing with the families of the fallen.
That changed dramatically in 1997 after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, attended a TAPS gathering. “Hearing the stories and seeing the healing taking place was a game changer for him,” Carroll said. “When he got up to speak he said, ‘I really didn’t get it until I was here tonight. I didn’t realize how powerful this organization is.'”
And most importantly with respect to DoD’s responsibilities, the general said, “We can’t do for you what you must do for each other.”
Shalikashvilli went on to speak about the loss of his first wife 25 years earlier, which caused his second wife to lean over to Carroll and remark, “He’s never talked about this in public before.”
“In a room where he felt so safe, where he felt like he was in a place where you could share without judgment, he opened up,” Carroll said. “He got it.”
Shalikashvili went to the Joint Chiefs the following week and directed every branch of the service to connect with TAPS.
“We walk alongside the casualty officers,” Carroll said. “When they knock on the door, when they brief families on the benefits, they let the families know that there will always be comfort and care for them.”
The utility of TAPS was made evident on 9-11 when they moved into the space in the Sheraton across from the Pentagon where the FBI had been gathering forensic evidence. “As hope faded of finding remains, TAPS very quietly moved in,” Carroll said. “We were there for six weeks with peers to provide support for the families.”
On the day the family support center closed – all the remains that could be identified had been so, and some families would be going home without resolution – the general in charge said, “We are headed into war and don’t know what lies ahead.” He pointed to the TAPS staffers dressed in red shirts along the conference room’s back wall. “For those in the room who have lost loved ones, the red shirts will be there forever.”
“It was a wonderful hand off,” Carroll said. “Many of those families are still with us today.”
With a small percentage of Americans actually associated directly with the military, TAPS’ role has also been to educate a disengaged public. Carroll told an anecdote about a young boy who refused to wear anything to elementary school but the jeans he was given by his older brother – a soldier who was killed in combat shortly thereafter. The boy’s teacher sent a note home telling the mother that he would be sent home if he didn’t wear something besides those jeans. The mother was emotionally upset and unsure how to react, so she reached out to TAPS for advice.
“We contacted the school’s principal and suggested he help us educate the teacher on how to better deal with the child’s situation,” Carroll said. “We also recommended the teacher allow the boy to do a ‘show and tell’ to the class about his brother and his dedication and sacrifice.” The school took the TAPS staff advice and the situation improved for all parties – civilians and survivors – after that.
TAPS has a core staff of 77 people running seminars, a national help line, doing case work, and facilitating “Good Grief” camps (the organization’s signature offering). Ninety-two percent of the full-time staff are survivors of fallen warriors. The staff is supplemented by more than 50,000 volunteers nationwide.
On this day at the Naval Academy, surviving children team up with midshipmen mentors and do team building exercises in Halsey Fieldhouse and then break into smaller groups for discussions about loss and healing.
“One of my good friends lost her brother in Afghanistan,” Midshipman 4th Class Kyle McCullough, a member of the Midshipmen Action Group, said. “She told me about TAPS and how they helped her through a rough time with her family. When I heard [TAPS] was coming to the Naval Academy I jumped on the opportunity to come out and volunteer.”
For more information on the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go to taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 800-959-TAPS (8277).
US F-22 stealth fighters have returned to the Middle East to “defend American forces and interests” at a time of high tension with Iran, although it is unclear whether the advanced air superiority fighters have been deployed as part of the ongoing deterrence mission or for some other purpose.
An unspecified number of US Air Force F-22 Raptors arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility June 27, 2019, flying into Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement June 28, 2019.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
This is the first time these fifth-generation fighters have flown into Qatar, as they have previously operated out of Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where a collection of US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are currently deployed.
The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti, citing sources, reported that nine F-22s with the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have flown into the region with at least three more expected to follow at a later point in time.
Photos of the aircraft flying in formation showed at least five fighters.
F-22s flying in formation in the Middle East.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
The US Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles to the Middle East in early 2019 to replace F-22s after years of regular deployments to the region.
“There are currently no F-22s deployed to AFCENT, but the United States Air Force has deployed F-15Cs to Southwest Asia,” AFCENT told Air Force Magazine in March. “US Air Force aircraft routinely rotate in and out of theater to fulfill operational requirements, maintain air superiority, and protect forces on the ground.”
But now these unmatched air assets are back in the region, and their arrival, likely part of a routine deployment, comes as US troops, weapons, and equipment are increasingly moving into the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter possible Iranian aggression.
F-22s in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
As sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, intelligence reports pointing to the possibility of Iranian attacks led the US military to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to confront Iran.
Those assets were followed by more naval vessels, air-and-missile defense batteries, and thousands of additional troops.
In June 2019, Iranian forces shot down a US Navy drone, a serious escalation in the wake of a string of attacks on tankers, allegedly the work of Iranian forces.
F-22 in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
Although the US was prepared to retaliate with airstrikes on Iranian positions, President Donald Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, arguing that taking life in response to an attack on an unmanned system would be a disproportionate.
But after Iranian leadership issued a statement insulting the White House, Trump changed his tune. “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,’ Trump tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.
As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”
And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.
“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”
As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.
Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.
Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.
A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”
“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”
An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.
During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”
In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.
As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.
Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.
October 4: The day of the attack
US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.
As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.
When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.
The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.
One hour later: US troops request reinforcements
An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.
Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”
Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.
Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.
“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”
Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.
“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”
That night: US soldiers evacuated
French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.
Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.
October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered
Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”
“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.
An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.
“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”
That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.
October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly
During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.
Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy
Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.
The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.
After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”
October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack
In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.
Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:
“Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
“Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
“Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
“How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
“And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”
“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.
(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)