Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.

One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?


Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District and a lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, is facing scrutiny for tweets and media appearances in which he criticized Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, for deciding to withdraw Wisconsin National Guard troops from the southern border.

Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.

But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.

Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.

The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]

Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.

As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.

Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).

There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.

(Facebook photo)

But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.

Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?

Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.

Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.

Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.

Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.

The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your drone is more dangerous to aircraft than bird strikes

Drones that collide with planes cause more damage than birds of the same size because of their solid motors, batteries, and other parts, a study released by the Federal Aviation Administration on Nov. 28 found.


The study’s researchers say aircraft-manufacturing standards designed for bird strikes aren’t appropriate for ensuring planes can withstand collisions with drones. The FAA said it will depend on drone makers to help develop technology to detect and avoid planes.

Reports of close calls between drones and airliners have surged. The FAA gets more than 250 sightings a month of drones posing potential risks to planes, such as operating too close to airports.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
Quadcopter drones are easily available for commercial purpose. Flying near airports, however, is strictly forbidden. (USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

Canadian officials say a drone hit a small charter plane carrying eight people last month over Quebec City, the first such incident in Canada. The plane landed safely.

Related: Boeing’s new laser fits in suitcases and shoots down drones

A team of researchers from four universities used computers to simulate collisions between drones weighing 2.7 to 8 pounds (1.2 to 3.6 kilograms) and common airliners and business jets. In some cases, drones would have penetrated the plane’s skin.

The researchers said the drone collisions inflict more damage than striking a bird of the same size and speed because drone components are much stiffer — birds are composed mostly of water.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
Drones pose a larger threat to aircraft engines as they’re a little less squishy than, say, birds. (USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

The study was performed by researchers from Mississippi State University, Montana State University, Ohio State University, and Wichita State University. The FAA said studies over the next three years will look at the severity of collisions between drones and other types of planes and helicopters.

The FAA estimates that 2.3 million drones will be bought for recreational use this year, and the number is expected to rise in coming years. Many other drones are used for commercial purposes including news photography and inspecting pipelines, power lines, and cell towers.

Drone operators need special permission to operate in some areas near airports. The FAA said last month that drone operators often call air traffic control towers to ask permission to operate, which creates a potential safety hazard by distracting controllers from managing the flow of airplanes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s big propaganda win is moving attack subs near the US

Russian media reported on March 16, 2018, that its military snuck nuclear attack submarines near US military bases and left undetected just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin hyped up his country’s nuclear capabilities.


“This mission has been accomplished, the submarines showed up in the set location in the ocean and returned to base,” Sergey Starshinov, a Russian navy submarine officer, told Russian state-owned media. Starshinov said the vessels came and went “undetected” and that, without violating the US’s maritime borders, they got “close enough” to US military bases.

The Russian media, known for trafficking in propaganda to glorify Putin and the state’s military, will reportedly release a TV series on the exercises.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

The Pentagon did not respond to request for comment on this story.

The incident remains unverifiable with deniability baked in. If Russian submarines truly came and went undetected, no credible third party could likely verify the exercises. The fact that the military drill will become a TV series suggests that it was carried out, at least in part, for propaganda purposes, rather than practical military needs.

The submarines, which carry long-range cruise missiles that can fire from underwater, have no business coming close to the US, as they have an effective range of more than 1,500 miles. The submarines named by Russian media are powered by nuclear reactors but have no nuclear weapons.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
A Varshavyanka-class submarine. (Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)

The incident comes as Putin prepares for an election on March 18, 2018, though he is expected to win handily. Putin has limited which opposition figures can run and controlled the state’s access to information throughout.

Russia frequently engages in propaganda to glorify its military, as it did when it recently deployed early-stage supposedly stealth fighter jets to Syria. After a few days of dropping bombs on undefended villages in Syria, Russia declared the planes, which are designed for high-end warfighting against US stealth jets, “combat proven.”

In February 2018, Russian military contractors suffered a humiliating defeat to the US military in Syria, with airstrikes and artillery wiping out up to 300 Russian nationals while US forces suffered no combat losses, a US General has confirmed.

Does it matter if Russia can sneak its submarines around like this?

Both the US and Russia have heavily entrenched mutually-assured-destruction nuclear postures, meaning that any nuclear strike on the US by Russia would be immediately returned by US missiles fired from silos, submarines, and airplanes pummeling Russia.

Related: Russia threatened the UK with nukes after nerve agent attack

Russia is currently facing increasing scrutiny and sanctions over its meddling in the US’s 2016 presidential election and its alleged role in the poisoning of former spies in Britain. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on energy exports, and the weak price of oil and competitiveness from the US and other players have crippled its economy, though it continues to spend heavily on the military.

Despite having four times the population, Russia’s GDP is roughly equivalent to Canada’s and military sales and power remain one of its few lifelines to national prestige.

Though the US and Russia are Cold War foes increasingly at odds over foreign policy, the only recent significant clash between the two countries came in February 2018, during the battle in Syria which Russia overwhelmingly lost.

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Army drops Smith & Wesson from pistol competition

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
The Army recently notified Smith Wesson that it is out of the competition to replace the Beretta M9 9mm pistol. | US Army photo


The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.

“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.

TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.

As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.

It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.

“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.

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This is how you develop a tolerance to tear gas

Corson-Stoughton Gas, commonly known as CS gas or tear gas, is a non-lethal irritant that’s often deployed in bouts of civil unrest to disperse riots. The gas “burns” the nose, mouth, and other mucous membranes, causing extreme coughing, partial incapacitation, and a fair share of agony.


Troops typically have to endure a visit to the CS chamber twice throughout their career — first during initial training and once again sometime later. Much like sand, it’s coarse, it’s rough, it’s irritating, and it gets everywhere. Unlike sand, however, it hurts like a motherf*cker.

Oddly enough, the chamber operator or drill sergeant will breathe in the gas like it’s nothing because they can handle it. How?

 

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
They’re laughing and taking in more of the gas while you’re drooling out every bit of mucus from your body. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Brooke Deiters)

There are some people who are naturally tolerant of CS gas (a suggested 2-5% of the world’s population is resistant, with a large percentage of those being of East Asian descent). A mix of both genetics and exposure to an active ingredient in the gas help build a tolerance.

Drill sergeants and CS chamber operators get exposed to the gas on a constant basis over a long period of time. Sure, the first time hurts. The second time, it hurts a little less — and the third time a bit less than that. It’s as simple as embracing the suck for long enough.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Even if you’re not a drill sergeant with East Asian ancestry, you can still grow a tolerance while at home. The chemical that causes the “burn” is capsaicin. It’s the exact same chemical found in chili peppers. This is where the name “pepper spray” comes from.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you go home and squirt Sriracha into your face. While there’s no official study to back it up, people have claimed that eating a diet full of spicy foods has made their exposures to CS gas and pepper spray milder when compared to the spice-averse.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
All it takes is a bit of Sriracha sauce a day can prevent you from crying like a baby in the CS chamber. (Photo by Steven Depolo)

Articles

Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.


But we aren’t The Old Guard.

A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”

The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.

Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.

A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.

The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.

The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.

Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.

Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lack of cyber talent remains a national security threat

The massive shortage of cyber professionals is a national security threat, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Cyber personnel from the private and public sectors are America’s frontline of defense because critical infrastructure sectors, including water, healthcare, and elections, rely on a resilient cyber infrastructure, explained Rob Karas, associate director for Cyber Defense Education and Training from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.


“America’s cybersecurity workforce is a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” he said.

However, there is not enough talent in the field, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“Estimates place the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at approximately three million people worldwide, with roughly 500,000 job openings in the United States,” Karas said. “This global shortage means American organizations, whether in the private sector or in the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments, compete with employers all over the world as well as with each other to find cybersecurity talent. … CISA sees the cybersecurity workforce shortage as a national security issue.”

Army Lt. Col. Julianna M. Rodriguez is a cyber warfare officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She is the offensive cyberspace operations division chief in the Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Section.

Though she did not take a direct path to her current position, her preparation and adaptability enabled her to take advantage of opportunities for the evolving cyber field.

In high school, Rodriguez took advanced classes, focusing on math and science up to AP Calculus BC and AP Physics. After graduating, she attended the United States Military Academy, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Systems Architecture.

In addition to earning a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through Columbia Engineering, she earned two technical certifications: Mirantis OpenStack Certification Professional Level and SaltStack Certified Engineer, and is preparing for the Army Cyber Developer Exam.

For Rodriguez, changing career fields was a process of discovering where she could best serve.

“I started in Air Defense Artillery because [in 2003] it was one of the few combat arms branches in which women officers could lead,” she said.

Rodriguez served in ADA units as a battalion intelligence officer and headquarters battery commander, eventually attending the MI Officer Advanced Course. She also deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan and taught at the USMA before transferring into the cyber branch.

When advising others interested in cyber, Rodriguez gives feedback based on her experience.

“Our citizens can best serve when they use their innate skills and interests for our national good [and] improve daily in learning and practicing related skills. For those who have an interest in computing, information technology, and network communications, committing to engage that interest in service to our nation can meaningfully impact our nation’s security,” she said.

However, she cautioned how the field is not a good fit for those who like routine and clearly defined work. She also described the Army’s cyber branch as highly competitive, so if an individual wants to join, she recommends:

  • Learn programming languages C, Python, R, or JavaScript (Not markup languages like HTML)
  • Obtain technical certifications like OSCP, OSCE, CISA, and CCNP
  • Do networking or security projects
  • Stay current on technology advances and policy impacts

Rodriguez adds specific backgrounds make a good fit for the field, including those with strong computer and IT skills.

“Soldiers from a variety of other branches and MOSes, including signal, aviation, and field artillery,” she said.

Because of the critical need for cyber talent, the Army created the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program. It is actively recruiting “software engineers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, hardware and radio frequency engineers, vulnerability researchers, and other computer-based professionals,” Rodriguez said. “I encourage anyone who has a deep interest in technology, a penchant for learning and change, and a commitment to our nation’s security to pursue a career in cyber with our military.”

For those interested in CISA cybersecurity education programs, check out:

FedVTE (Federal Virtual Training Environment): Free online cybersecurity training

CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service: DHS/CISA scholarship for bachelors, masters, and graduate cybersecurity degree programs in return for service in federal, state, local or tribal governments upon graduation

President’s Cup Cyber Competition: Competition for federal and Department of Defense cyber workforce to promote and recognize top cyber talent in government service

National Centers of Academic Excellence: 190+ academic institutions that DHS/CISA and the National Security Agency have designated for cybersecurity-related degrees

Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program: Cybersecurity curricula and education tools for K-12 teachers

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

popular

The British actually had an effective plan in 1776

One of the biggest questions of the Revolutionary War is this: How did the British of 1776, with immense advantages in troops and ships and an effective plan, manage to lose the war? 


When you look at the material state of affairs, the 13 colonies really didn’t stand a chance. So, how did the British lose the war despite all of their advantages?

 

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
British troops marching in Concord. (Engraving by Amos Doolittle)

 

The reason was not a lack of strategy. After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British assumed that the American uprising was a number of local rebellions. It wasn’t until 1776 that they realized that they were dealing with a uniform rebellion across all 13 colonies. Granted, some states were more rebellious than others (Massachusetts being the most notable), but they had a big problem due to the sheer size of East Coast.

Like this? Read: Rarely seen illustrations of the Revolutionary War

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

At the Battle of Long Island, the actions of the Delaware Regiment kept the American defeat from becoming a disaster. Fighting alongside the 1st Maryland Regiment, the soldiers from Delaware may well have prevented the capture of the majority of Washington’s army — an event that might have ended the colonial rebellion. (Image courtesy of DoD)

So, they came up with a strategy.  The British plan was to first seize New York City to use as a forward base. Next, they’d move one force north while a second force, from Canada, moved south. The goal was to meet somewhere near Albany in 1777. This would cut New England off from the rest of the colonies and, hopefully, strangle the rebellion.

This was not a bad strategy. The problem was, after coming up with the plan, they flubbed the execution. They seized New York and, in fact, George Washington had a close call trying to escape the British. But then, Washington, with a successful Christmas strike on Trenton and beating Hessian mercenaries at the Battle of Princeton, drew the attention of General Howe. Instead of going north, Howe chased after Washington’s army and the Continental Congress, completely discarding the strategy. There was no on-scene commander-in-chief to reign him in.

 

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
This 1777 mezzotint shows General William Howe, who would blow up the British strategy by chasing after Washington and the Continental Congress in Pennsylvania. (Image from Brown University Military History Collection)

The British force moving south from Canada was eventually defeated at the Battle of Saratoga and forced to surrender. Meanwhile, Howe managed to seize Philadelphia but didn’t get the Continental Congress. Meanwhile, Washington’s army battled well at the Battle of Germantown. The combination of defeats at Saratoga and Germantown doomed the British strategy. The French and Spanish, now convinced the colonists had a chance, joined in and forced Britain into a multi-front war.

Watch the video below to see a rundown of how British strategy evolved during the Revolutionary War.

 

(Civil War Trust | YouTube)

MIGHTY TRENDING

British MI5 calls Russia’s ‘fog of lies’ a threat to world order

Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a “fog of lies,” the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.

In a May 14, 2018 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks becoming an “isolated pariah.”


Parker’s address to the gathering hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.

Parker said that a March 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil, and one of Moscow’s “flagrant breaches of international rules.”

London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.

Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
Sergei Skripal buying groceries near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed.

Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.

He said there was a need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”

Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.

Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.

The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.

Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.

The extremist group Islamic State is plotting “devastating and more complex attacks,” Parker said.

“The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together,” he concluded.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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The US Navy strikes back after dodging rebel missiles off of Yemen

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado)


Within a day of a second failed attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), the USS Nitze (DDG 94), a sister ship, has launched strikes against three radar sites in Yemen. The strike came less than a day after the Mason had defeated the second attack.

According to a report by The Washington Examiner, three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at the sites in Yemeni territory under the control of Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels are believed to have been responsible for the Sunday and Wednesday attacks on Mason, but also the attack on HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now owned by a civilian firm in the United Arab Emirates.

“The strikes — authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford — targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement, also noting that the targeted radar sites were destroyed in the strikes.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
The guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) launches a strike against three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile comes in a number of varieties, including nuclear (BGM-109A), anti-ship (BGM-109B), conventional land-attack (BGM-109C), cluster munitions for land attack (BGM-109D), and a “Tactical Tomahawk” that is equipped with a TV camera (BGM-109E).

The land-attack and “Tactical Tomahawk” missiles have a maximum range of 900 nautical miles, and are armed with a unitary warhead (usually a thousand-pound high explosive warhead, based on those used on the AGM-12 Bullpup missile). The BGM-109D delivers a dispenser with 166 BLU-97 bomblets up to 700 miles away.

The Tomahawk has a top speed of 550 nautical miles per hour, and flies in at a very low altitude to evade radars. To date, a total of 2,267 missiles have been fired.

Here’s official U.S. Navy footage of the Tomahawk launch:

Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, released the following statement in the wake of the most recent events in the waters off of Yemen:

“The U.S. Navy remains on watch in the Red Sea and around the world to defend America from attack and to protect U.S. strategic interests. These unjustified attacks are serious, but they will not deter us from our mission.  We are trained and ready to defend ourselves and to respond quickly and decisively. The team in USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again today.  All Americans should be proud of them.”
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Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

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Navy grounds T-45 Goshawk fleet after pilot protests

The navy has instituted an “operational pause” for the entire fleet of one of it’s most important training jets due to problems with its environmental control systems feeding air to pilots.


The Navy announced the grounding April 5, saying it was “in response to concerns raised by T-45C pilots over the potential for physiological episodes.”

Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.

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Student pilots prepare to exit a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zach Sleeper)

According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.

The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.

The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.

“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.

The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.

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