In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.
A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.
So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.
We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.
“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”
We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.
Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”
Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.
Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.
At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.
The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.
This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.
That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.
The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.
This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.
North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
Russia’s lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, 2018, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.
Senior lawmakers met on April 16, 2018, to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Russian bill on countering “unfriendly actions by the United States and other foreign states,” introduced on April 13, 2018, would authorize Putin’s government to ban or restrict the import of a raft of U.S. goods and services.
Among goods that could be banned or subjected to restrictions are medicines, alcohol, tobacco, agricultural and industrial products, technological equipment and computer software — though individual Russians would be allowed to bring many of the items into the country for personal use. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Auditing, legal, and consulting services by U.S. companies could also be subject to bans or restrictions, and curbs could be imposed on U.S. citizens working in Russia. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Duma deputy speaker Aleksandr Zhukov said on April 16, 2018, that a group of lawmakers and experts will discuss the bill on May 3, 2018.
Russia has sharply criticized the new U.S. sanctions. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, contended on April 16, 2018, that they are “nothing more than an international asset grab” and an effort to give U.S. companies a competitive edge over Russian firms — allegations that U.S. officials say are untrue.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Colorado Air National Guard Airmen from the 233rd Space Group, Greeley Air National Guard Station, Colo., load a Mission Vehicle 118 onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., Oct. 17, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Lawson, assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, works to complete a 400-hour phase inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 18, 2015, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The phase inspection team conducts inspections after every 400 hours of flight.
A soldier, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, fires a TOW missile system during Decisive Action Rotation 16-01 at theOperations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 17, 2015.
Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct the rope bridge water crossing lane during the United States Army Europe – USAREUR-hosted 2015 European Best Squad Competition at 7th Army JMTC’s, Grafenwoehr training area, Germany, Oct. 21, 2015.
Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conduct a live-fire demonstration with M1A2 Abrams tank and a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Fort Hood, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015.
U.S. 7TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Oct. 16, 2015) Lt. j.g. Michael Cornish, from Omaha, Neb., stands watch in the combat information center aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) during an air-defense exercise as a part of the joint exercise Malabar 2015.
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (Oct. 18, 2015) Lt. Cmdr. Mark Tedrow, pilot number five with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, performs aerial acrobatics during the 2015 Kaneohe Bay Air Show and Open House aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 20, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) fires a Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) during a live-fire test of the ship’s Aegis weapons system Oct. 20, 2015
Dog Pile: Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., apprehend a role-player in a riot control mission scenario during a non-combatant evacuation exercise at Kiwanis Park in Yuma, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. The Marines were tasked and evaluated on their ability to maintain control of role-players simulating hostile behavior.
Heat Street: Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines extinguish some of their first fuel fires at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Oct. 16, 2015. The training exercise taught the new Marines to battle the heat and keep pushing until they annihilate the flames, as well as get used to the environment of a real fire.
From theory to practice, USCG Maritime Security Response Team participated in an exercise focused on enhancing inter-agency capabilities to interdict illicit materials.
San Francisco’s Fleet Week, ending tomorrow, honors the contribution of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Here’s a peek at what some folks got to see at the start of Fleet Week.
The Navy’s new “first-of-its-kind” stealthy destroyer will soon go to San Diego, Calif., where it will go through what’s called “ship activation” – a process of integrating the major systems and technologies on the ship leading up to an eventual live-fire exercise of its guns and missiles.
As part of this process, the Navy will eventually fire long-range precision guns and missiles from its lethal, stealthy new destroyer — in anticipation of its ultimate deployment on the open seas, service and industry officials explained.
The new Destroyer, called DDG 1000 or the future USS Zumwalt, is a 610-foot land and surface warfare attack ship designed with a stealthy, wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull.
On Friday May 20, 2016, the new ship was formally delivered to the Navy at Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine.
“The shape of the superstructure and the arrangement of its antennas significantly reduce radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea,” a Navy statement said.
“The US Navy accepted delivery of the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen,” Rear Adm. (select) James Downey, DDG 1000 Program Manager, said in a written statement.
Several reports have indicated that ships off the coast of Maine recently thought the DDG 1000 was a small fishing boat due to its stealthy design. That is precisely the intent of the ship – it seeks to penetrate enemy areas, delivery lethal attack while remaining undetected by enemy radar. The ship is engineered for both land attack and open water surface warfare, Navy officials explain.
“In the next phase, the Navy will be driving, connecting, integrating and proving the functionality of the ship systems such as the radar, sonar and gun. The Navy will test out the basics make sure the ship can work then by testing those components of the ship that actually make it a warship,” Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 Program Manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The Navy will be making sure that the propulsion system works to create the power to drive the ship at the speeds it is supposed to go.”
Ship delivery follows extensive tests, trials and demonstrations of the ship’s Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical systems including the ship’s boat handling, anchor and mooring systems as well as major demonstrations of the damage control, ballasting, navigation and communications systems, Navy officials said.
The ship is slated to be commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland Oct. 15.
“Zumwalt’s crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the US Navy,” Capt. James Kirk, commanding officer of the future Zumwalt, said in a written statement.
DDG 1000 Weapons
The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.
The ship also fires Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets, or ASROCs. ASROCs are 16-feet long with a 14-inch diameter; a rocket delivers the torpedo at very high speeds to a specific point in the water at which point it turns on its sensors and searches for an enemy submarine.
The first weapons to fire from the Mk 57 vertical launch tubes will be the ship defensive weapons called the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and the Standard Missile 2, or SM-2.
The ship is also built with Mk 57 a vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.
Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage. Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.
In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.
Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Knudson added.
“It has a common launcher to you can change the adapter or computer function which connects the ship to the missile,” he said.
The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.
Most deck mounted 5-inch guns currently on Navy ships are limited to firing roughly 8-to-10 miles at targets within the horizon or what’s called line of sight. The Advanced Gun System, however, fires GPS-guided precision 155m rounds beyond-the-horizon at targets more than three times that distance.
New Sonar, Power Systems, Radar Technology
The DDG 1000 is unique in that it uses what’s called a dual-band sonar system; this includes both medium and high frequency sonar designed to detect both submarines as well as mines and incoming enemy fire. Most ships have only longer-range, lower frequency medium frequency sonar which provides an ability to detect submarines at long distances. Higher frequency brings a much more precise degree of detection, Knudson explained.
Sonar works by sending out an acoustic “ping” and then analyzing the return signal to process information through a receiver designed to help determine the shape, distance, speed and dimensions of an object or threat.
“High frequency is better for detecting small objects. If you are only going after submarines, then medium frequency would be sufficient. You are going to find the submarine — then you would be able to fire one of the vertically launched ASROCs to engage that target,” Knudson said. “What makes this unique is that high-frequency enable mine detection and mine avoidance,” he added.
It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.
“It has a dome that is transparent to those acoustic waves. The acoustic signal detects sea life and submarines and then sends the signal back to the receiver which processes the information. Inside the bulb, ceramic tiles transmit the acoustic wave out through the water,” Knudson said.
The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.
The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.
Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.
Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, Knudson explained.
“The induction motors drive the propellers,” Knudson added.
The speed of the propellers is run through the total computing environment as part of the ship’s controls.
The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added. The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.
The ship will employ active and passive sensors along with its Multi-Function Radar capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over-land, throughout the extremely difficult and cluttered sea-land interface, Navy officials said.
As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer is delivered to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway at Bath Iron Works, Portland, Maine. The DDG 1001, the Michael Monsoor, is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002, the future Lyndon B. Johnson, is already underway, Navy officials said.
The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.
One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.
“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”
Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”
Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.
An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Eyes in the Sky
Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.
A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.
However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.
The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.
However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”
ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”
Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.
Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.
The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019
One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”
Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.
“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”
A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.
“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”
Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.
Unmanning the Battlefield?
Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.
At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”
But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”
A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.
Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.
“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”
An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.
“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.
Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.
“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”
However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.
Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.
Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.
Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”
But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”
A Marine who was present for the Battle of Iwo Jima’s history-making flag-raising has died days before the battle’s 76th anniversary.
Elwood “Woody” Hughes died Feb. 2 at age 95, the Daily Herald newspaper reported. Hughes, of Illinois, landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 22, 1945, the day before the flag-raising. He was a private first class at the time, who had joined the Corps in 1943 and had served under legendary Marine Corps Gen. H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, known as the father of U.S. amphibious warfare.
In a 2020 interview with American Veterans Center, Hughes described being part of the 5th Amphibious Corps Signal Battalion attached to the 5th Marine Division. He worked with the famous Navajo Code Talkers, once delivering an urgent message for relay. He described his role on the island as that of a runner or “gofer,” downplaying the danger of his work. But he admitted he could hear the close “rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire” from the command center.
“We were very close to mortar fire … we would get a siren … they would tell you to take cover,” he said.Advertisement
Hughes, who was an active member of his Marine Corps League detachment in Arlington Heights, Illinois, called the Battle of Iwo Jima the “most historic event in the history of the United States,” but said he spoke about it in tribute to those who gave their all in the battle.
“They kind of treat people like me as a celebrity and a hero, and I feel I’m not. I shouldn’t be, because the heroes never walked off of Iwo Jima,” he said in the 2020 interview. “I feel I’m doing it more for the honor of those who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima.”
The Battle of Iwo Jima stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945, and involved some 70,000 U.S. Marines. It was a consequential, but costly, U.S. victory; with nearly 7,000 Marine casualties, it was the bloodiest battle of the Corps’ history.
The Marines’ raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi became a symbol of the Corps’ indomitable spirit.
Then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal reportedly said, “The flag-raising on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
Hughes was also known in his community as a longtime high school basketball coach and physical education teacher, according to news reports and his obituary.
“Due to his vivacious character and his unique outgoing style, Woody was instantly likable to all who met him. He was often remembered for his smile, a story, and a gleam in his eye,” his obituary reads. ” … Woody will be greatly missed by all those who know him.”
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in Laos during the Vietnam War, Army Capt. Gary Michael Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor.
“This will enshrine him into the history of our nation,” said President Donald J. Trump, during the Medal of Honor ceremony Oct. 23 at the White House.
Rose served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Army Special Forces. He was recognized for his actions between Sept. 11-14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
Trump said Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation involved about 136 men, including 16 American soldiers and 120 Montagnards — indigenous people from Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
The men were inserted by helicopter deep inside Laos.
“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much-needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
“Mike and his unit slashed through the dense jungle, dodged bullets, dodged explosives, dodged everything that you can dodge because they threw it all at him, and continuously returned fire as they moved deeper and deeper and deeper into enemy territory,” Trump said.
“Throughout the engagement, Mike rescued those in distress without any thought for his own safety,” Trump said. “I will tell you, the people with him could not believe what they were witnessing. He crawled from one soldier to the next, offering words of encouragement as he tended to their wounds.”
Rose would repeat those selfless actions throughout the four-day Operation Tailwind mission.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” he said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.”
On the fourth day in Laos, Rose and others boarded the third of four helicopters that had been sent in to evacuate participants of Operation Tailwind. So many troops had boarded the first three helicopters that the fourth remained empty. It seemed to be the end of the mission and a return to safety. But it was not.
That third helicopter was already damaged by enemy fire when it picked up Rose and the remainder of the fighters, and it took off with only one working engine. Shortly after lifting off, its remaining engine failed, meaning the aircraft would have to be “auto-rotated” to the ground.
On board was an injured Marine door gunner who had been shot through the neck and was bleeding profusely. As the helicopter pilots attempted to safely land a helicopter with no power, Rose tended to that young Marine’s neck — saving his life.
Ultimately, the helicopter crashed, and Rose yet again proved his valor.
“Mike was thrown off the aircraft before it hit the ground, but he raced back to the crash site and pulled one man after another out of the smoking and smoldering helicopter as it spewed jet fuel from its ruptured tanks,” Trump said.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American soldiers were able to return home. All of them had been injured. All but three of the Montagnards returned as well.
During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”
Medal of Honor
At the White House for the event were members of Rose’s family, including his wife, Margaret, his three children and two grandchildren, and nine previous Medal of Honor recipients.
Also in attendance were 10 service members who fought alongside Rose during the operation: Sgt. Maj. Morris Adair, Sgt. Don Boudreau, 1st Sgt. Bernie Bright, Capt. Pete Landon, Sgt. Jim Lucas, Lt. Col. Gene McCarley, 1st Sgt. Denver Minton, Sgt. Keith Plancich, Spc. 5 Craig Schmidt, and Staff Sgt. Dave Young.
“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”
After speaking, Trump placed the Medal of Honor around Rose’s neck.
Following the Medal of Honor ceremony, Rose said he believed the medal he received was not only for him, but for all those who served — especially those who had fought in combat but who had not been able to be recognized due to the classified nature of their operations.
“This award, which I consider a collective medal, is for all of the men, to include the Air Force and the Marines who helped us,” Rose said. “This is our medal. We all earned it. And to a great extent, it is for all the men who fought for those seven years in MACSOG, and even further than that, for all the Special Forces groups who fought and died in that war.
“In honor of all those individuals that went for so many years, when the military didn’t recognize the fact that MACSOG even existed, and all of those men that fought — this kind of brings it home. And now our story has been told, and now with this award I am convinced that they have been recognized for the great service they provided to this country. Thank you and God bless the republic of the United States.”
Russia says it has asked Canada to hand over case files on a 95-year-old former Nazi death-squad member to help Moscow investigate the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage during World War II.
Helmut Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine and became a German citizen during the war, lives in Canada.
He obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960 and courts have repeatedly ruled Oberlander’s citizenship should be revoked because he lied about his participation in a Nazi death squad during the war. In December Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on the government’s decision to strip him of his passport, bringing him a step closer to actual deportation from Canada.
Russia’s Investigation Committee announced on February 14 that it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander, saying it was checking his possible involvement in a 1942 “genocide” at an orphanage in the Sea of Azov town of Yeysk.
The committee said in a statement that a death squad equipped with “mobile gas chambers” was deployed in 1942 and 1943 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region.
“As a result of one such operation, on October 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it added.
At the time, Oberlander served as a translator for the Nazis’ mobile killing squads, the committee said.
Oberlander has said he was forced to join one of the squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.
Last year, Russian investigators said they had opened a probe into suspected genocide after declassified documents in the Krasnodar region revealed that the bodies of 214 disabled foster children who had fled the Crimean Peninsula for nearby Yeysk were found after Nazi forces were driven out of the area.
Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.
But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.
Instead, Mattis wants to “ensure that preparation for great power competition drives us, not simply a rotation schedule that allows me to tell you three years from now which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” said Mattis, referring to war and rivalry with massive military powers like China and Russia as “great power competition.”
Mattis’ solution is quicker, more erratic deployments of aircraft carriers.
(U.S. Navy photo)
“When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment,” he said. “There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean.”
But rather than eight-month-long deployments typical of aircraft carriers these days, where one single ship could see combat in the Persian Gulf before heading to the Indian Ocean and eventually back home, Mattis wants snappier trips.
“They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment,” Mattis told lawmakers. “They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles — we’ll actually enhance the training time.”
Mattis’ plan for more unpredictable deployments fits broadly with President Donald Trump’s administration’s national defense strategies that prioritize fighting against adversaries like Russia and China, both of which have developed systems to counter US aircraft carriers.
With shorter, more spontaneous deployments of aircraft carriers, Mattis and the Navy could keep Russia and China on their toes.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps wants to know whether the defense industry can transform its heavy weapons-mounted Joint Light Tactical Vehicles into mobile air defense systems for tracking and killing enemy drones, helicopters and fighters.
Marine Corps Systems Command recently invited defense firms to submit ideas for creating the Direct Fire Defeat System being developed by Program Manager Ground Based Air Defense, according to a March 27 request for information.
The program is designed to arm Marine air-ground task force commanders with JLTVs equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, 30mm cannons and electronic warfare technology to “detect, track, identify, and defeat aerial threats,” the solicitation states.
“This system will provide new and improved capability to mitigate the risk of attacks from Unmanned Aerial Systems and Fixed Wing/Rotary Wing aircraft while maintaining pace with maneuver forces,” according to the document.
The U.S. military has begun to beef up its air defense capabilities as it prepares for a possible future war against near-peer militaries with sophisticated aviation capabilities.
The Army is in the process of modernizing its air-defense units with the Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (MSHORAD) system, which will feature Stryker combat vehicles armed with Hellfire missiles, a 30mm chain gun, a 7.62 machine gun and four Stinger missiles.
The Army is also working on equipping a platoon of four Stryker vehicles with 50-kilowatt lasers that are capable of engaging drones and combat aircraft, as well as rockets, artillery and mortars in fiscal 2022.
The Marine Corps’ direct fire system will be part of the initial phase of the Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or MADIS, which will feature the command-and-control software integrated into Mk1 and Mk2 variants of the Corps’ JLTV Heavy Guns Carrier, according to the document.
The MADIS Mk1 features turret-launched Stinger missiles, multi-functional electronic warfare capability and a direct-fire weapon such as a 30mm cannon on a remote weapons station. The MADIS Mk2 will be the counter-UAS variant, with a 360-degree radar and command-and-control communications equipment, in addition to a direct-fire remote weapons station and electronic warfare tech.
The Mk1 and Mk2 form a complementary pair and are the “basic building block” for modernizing the service’s Low Altitude Air Defense Battalions, according to Marine Corps Systems Command’s website.
Companies have until April 13 to submit proposals, including proof that they are capable of delivering 26 systems in support of low-rate initial production in the third quarter of fiscal 2021, as well as 192 systems in the third quarter of fiscal 2022, according to the document.
I have Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). There, I said it. Now I must be one of America’s “poor, broken warriors” that just doesn’t belong at home or in the workplace. I guess I should now explain how debilitating this injury can be or how no one is helping me. Maybe it was the time in the service that broke me. Yet, all those assumptions are untrue. In reality, I have never felt better.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve married, become a father and not only held a job but risen to a leadership role. I am far from broken and so are the rest of my military brothers and sisters. There is no doubt my path had ups and downs. There may have even been a few rock bottoms, but nothing was actually ever as bad as it seemed at the time. The bottom line is that PTS is scary. It’s terrifying, that for the first time in your life, you don’t have a say in what is happening within your own mind. As many of my fellow veterans already know, courage is rising above fear. In our own minds, we have to find courage every day.
My first panic attack was the most embarrassing. I was driving home a few months after my third deployment to Iraq. My little brother was in the passenger seat when the phone rang. I answered it and the impersonal voice told me, “you have duty on Monday.” It was Saturday. I hung up the phone and grabbed the steering wheel with a death grip. I just could not comprehend how my schedule two days in the future had changed. Slowly my vision narrowed. My breathing became labored. My eyes teared up. The look on my brother’s face turned pale white with terror. I slammed on the brakes and broke down. The years of deployments came flowing out. The phone call was just the tipping point for me. Duty didn’t matter. As veterans will attest, schedules change all the time. It was such an innocent call. Yet, this time was different. The circuits in my brain had reached capacity. There was just no more room left for even a minor change. I stared at my younger brother as he sat in silence. I knew I was not okay.
It took another two years before I did anything about my fractured mind. Frankly, I avoided my thoughts. I tried to hide my injury. I was convinced that I could fix myself just as I had done with every other challenge in my life. First, I tried working out. It helped a little. Then, I tried booze. It helped too much. Lastly, I tried writing. It was too painful. Not surprisingly, nothing actually worked until I went to see a doctor.
I avoided seeking help for years because I was scared of what would happen to my body and career. Let me dispel any rumors right now. PTS treatment is designed to fix you. Not give you a scarlet letter for life. My family and the men with whom I served were nothing but supportive throughout the entire process. Despite my own fears, I was never pulled from a deployment or seen as weak. Once again, I learned that PTS was all about fear. My own fear of something that wasn’t real.
For six weeks, I went through Cognitive Processing Therapy. I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think that discussing old memories would help. It seemed like a lot of useless talk. I was wrong. I analyzed my memories over and over again. My doctor asked me to write about them even though they were painful. In the end, I came to realize the things I remembered had become like a bad game of telephone etched into my brain. These memories had changed over the years and my brain had rebuilt itself to survive them.
Over 10 years of service, my brain had changed. It had become a truly lethal muscle. I could sense danger and act faster than most, but I could barely process an email, endure a traffic jam or sit through a phone call. Only after seeking help, I learned that I could retrain my mind. I just needed to break down old nerve endings and create new ones. After many days and too many sleepless nights, I learned some truly important things about living with PTS.
First, invest in yourself. There was no one who could make me a Marine and a Green Beret. I had to do that myself. There is no one who could fix my brain but me. I had to commit myself to the task. Rebuilding your brain is like remodeling your house. You keep the stuff you like and knock down the stuff you don’t. I kept honor, sacrifice and pride. I threw out guilt, sorrow and anger. At first, my transformation moved slowly. But when I truly invested in me, my brain changed. I became a better soldier, husband and friend.
Second, it’s all about control. I gained a control complex in the military. Like most 20 year olds, I thought I could control the world. But in my reality, I actually did. People lived and some even died by the decisions I made. My brain thrived off of control. I craved it, demanded it and needed it. But true control is never possible. The only thing in this world we can control is ourselves. For almost a decade, I had it wrong. I thought I could control the world without concern for myself. The switch happened gradually, but became evident when I let my wife drive me to work on a Tuesday. For the first time in almost a decade, I let someone else take control. It felt amazing.
Lastly, and most importantly, you have to know your limits. There are some things that your brain can handle well and others it won’t. Everyone’s limits are different. For me, I don’t go into overcrowded places at night. Why? Am I afraid that I will have panic attack? No. I just know that my brain goes into mental overdrive in places like that and I won’t have fun. I did reteach myself patience. In war, patience can be lethal. At home, it is expected. I don’t get angry when I have to wait for things. Veterans, this one is the most important, especially for any of you who have just entered the daunting VA process. Waiting is just time and none of us can control it. There will also be some things that are difficult to get back and age doesn’t help. Sure, it is much harder to remember minor details or focus like I used to be able to, but I also don’t run six minute miles anymore. You learn to live with it.
I do know for certain that by committing to PTS treatment, I have explored places in my mind that I didn’t even know existed. You get to re-write your own personal story and you may find that the plot has changed. I am a Green Beret that likes poetry, statistics and even watching The Voice. Yeah, I am part nerd but I am also part warrior. I would have never been able to know both parts of me without PTS. I am thankful I lost my mind for America. For those of you who are suffering or lost today, I am confident you will find the way as well. Good luck with the journey my brothers and sisters. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.