What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.
PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.
But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.
Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.
“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”
“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.
But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to report a number of medical providers, whose privileges were revoked, to national databases, according to a Nov. 27 report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO reviewed five of the VA’s 170 Medical Centers “after concerns were raised about their clinical care.” It found that VA officials did not report eight of nine doctors it found should have been reported.
The GAO report examined 148 providers from October 2013 to March 2017 and found that more than half didn’t provide documentation of reviews to the National Practitioner Data Bank or state licensing boards, as required by VHA policy. Also, the medical centers did not start the reviews of 16 providers for months to years “after the concerns were identified.”
“Depending on the findings from the review, VAMC officials may take an adverse privileging action against a provider that either limits the care a provider is allowed to deliver at the VAMC or prevents the provider from delivering care altogether,” the GAO report said.
At the five unidentified hospitals, providers weren’t reported because VA officials “misinterpreted or were not aware of VHA policies and guidance related to the NPDB and SLB reporting processes,” the report said.
“At one facility, we found that officials failed to report six providers to the NPDB because the officials were unaware that they had been delegated responsibility for NPDB reporting.”
The report found that two of four contract providers — whose privileges were revoked and were not reported — continued to provide outside care to veterans.
“One provider whose services were terminated related to patient abuse subsequently held privileges at another VAMC, while the other provider belongs to a network of providers that provides care for veterans in the community,” the report said.
Nearly 40,000 providers hold privileges in the centers.
GAO is making four recommendations for the Veterans Health Administration: To document reviews of providers’ clinical care after concerns are raised, develop timely requirements for reviews, to ensure proper oversight of such reviews, and perform timely reporting of providers.
The GAO said the VA agreed with its recommendations.
The Seventh Fleet may have a severe readiness problem, according to a government watchdog.
The warfare training certifications for eight out of eleven US Navy destroyers and cruisers based in Japan, home to the US Seventh Fleet, expired as of June, according to CNN, which cites an unpublished report from the Government Accountability Office. The certificates were for mobility and seamanship, air warfare, and undersea warfare.
For a number of these ships, the training certificates expired as seven sailors died aboard the USS Fitzgerald and another 10 perished on board the USS John McCain after massive merchant vessels struck the ships.
The fatal collisions are part of a string of serious incidents that have occurred over the past year. Both of the collisions are under investigation.
The Philippine-flagged container vessel ACX Crystal slammed into the side of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald before dawn June 17 in waters off Japan. Two months later, on Aug. 21, the oil tanker Alnic MC collided with the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John McCain near Singapore. Ten sailors were killed in the second incident, bringing the number of American sailors killed in the two accidents up to 17.
In the wake of the most recent collision, the Navy decided to relieve Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the Seventh Fleet, of his command due to a lack of confidence in his leadership.
The Seventh Fleet handles most naval operations in the Pacific, from pressuring North Korea to freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea. The USS John McCain had actually just completed a freedom-of-navigation operation just prior to the collision.
Preliminary reports on the incident involving the USS Fitzgerald attributed the crash to poor seamanship. While the incidents are still under investigation, there have long been readiness concerns as the size of the fleet decreased while the number of ships deployed remained constant, with the length of deployments increasing.
“The Navy has had to shorten, eliminate, or defer training and maintenance periods to support these high deployment rates,” John Pendleton, director of the GAO defense capabilities and management, said in his written testimony, according to CNN.
“Navy officials told us that US-based crews are completely qualified and certified prior to deploying from their US homeports, with few exceptions,” he added. “In contrast, the high operational tempo of ships homeported overseas had resulted in what Navy personnel called a ‘train on the margins’ approach, a shorthand way to say there was no dedicated training time set aside for the ships so crews trained while underway or in the limited time between underway periods.”
Pyongyang tripled down on Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s claim that North Korea is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday.
“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said in his New Year’s address, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday, quoting a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson.
“Just because the U.S. is located more than ten thousand kilometers away does not make the country safe,” the Rodong Sinmun, the primary publication of the ruling Worker’s Party, asserted Wednesday.
“Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down its spine,” the paper warned. “There is nothing we are afraid of. In the future, phenomenal incidents to strengthen our national defense power will take place multiple times and repeatedly.”
“We have miniaturized, lightened and diversified our nuclear weapons, and they can be loaded on various delivery systems to be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Rodong Sinmun boasted.
In response to any such theoretical action, the U.S. promises shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile “if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Sunday.
“If the missile is threatening, it will be intercepted. If it’s not threatening, we won’t necessarily do so,” Carter explained Tuesday.
The effectiveness of America’s missile interception capabilities is debatable.
The U.S. has a “limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland from small numbers of simple” North Korean nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the Pentagon’s weapons testing office warned in its annual report, according to Bloomberg.
“I am very confident in the systems and procedures” the U.S. Northern Command “will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory,” Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters.
Pyongyang “has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the U.S. by the end of 2017,” former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho told Yonhap News Agency Sunday.
“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after Kim made North Korea’s ICBM ambitions clear.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact email@example.com.
In the first season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, the eponymous character begins as a low-level financial analyst within the CIA. The series is, essentially, one big prequel, connecting to what will ultimately become Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse, a fictional reality that’s the basis for many great films, like The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.
At the series’ start, Ryan is just a lowly desk-jockey, reluctant to embrace danger — he begins the series complaining about being sent into a combat zone. Now, it’s not necessarily a plot hole, but a CIA analyst being reluctant to get into the mix is a lot like a young private complaining that they’re being sent to Afghanistan: It happens so often that they should kind of expect their number to be called.
CIA analysts often provide the Department of Defense with the actionable intelligence they need to conduct their missions. That being said, the life of a CIA analyst isn’t the fun, high-stakes adventure that films often make it out to be. Since information about specific events is rarely released to the public, we often only hear about their missions well after the fact, or in some broad, vague way.
Each analyst is specifically trained in a given field and is sent to a specific region to learn one specific thing. This is fairly well represented in the show — Ryan is sent to Yemen to learn about terrorist spending habits there. Actual analysts would be given more mundane tasks, yes, but their missions would be along those lines.
Even if it’s a tad unrealistic, upping the ante makes for a great show.
Hacking in the real world is more like using software to crack passwords than improvising lines of written code, just to demystify that one, too.
For the most part, analysts often only report local happenings to their higher ups. Sure, a deep-undercover operative sent to Afghanistan in 2000 may have been doing all that secret-squirrel stuff and agents sent to Berlin in the 70s could have been living it up like James Bond — but analysts might be sent anywhere for any reason, like to get a feel of the trends in the Kazakh media.
The whole spy world gets demystified when you realize that it’s actually kinda boring. Take the often-misunderstood CIA cyber analysts, for example. Moments where you can flex your super-hacker muscles like they do in the movies probably exists, but you’re mostly just gathering intelligence via social media analysis.
Don’t get that twisted, though. They’re still going to be involved with the cool moments you see in spy films — just not very often.
Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001.
Then there’re the analysts that get embedded with the troops. On one extreme, they’re working hand-in-hand with the special operations community to collect as much information as possible about any given threat, like on the Abbottabad Compound where Osama Bin Laden hid. Or they could be working with conventional forces to gather whatever the troops learn while deployed.
Everything just comes down to the second word in the CIA’s name — intelligence — and learning what they can from anywhere and everyone.
North Korean officials are reportedly perusing columnist Michael Wolff’s blockbuster book, “Fire and Fury,” the tell-all that paints a mostly unflattering picture of a tumultuous Trump-led White House, a former diplomat said.
“They were very keen to study Donald Trump when I was there in December,” Jonathan Powell, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, told CNN. “They were reading ‘Art of the Deal,’ and wanted to discuss the book and what it showed about the president.”
“Art of the Deal,” a book coauthored by Trump in 1987, was partly a biography and a broad outline of Trump’s approach to making deals throughout his business career.
“When I went back at the beginning of this year, they were reading ‘Fire and Fury’ – all on PDFs, not buying the book itself, and trying to discuss what that told them about Trump too,” Powell said.
Based on other reports, members of North Korea’s government have been attempting to analyze Trump and decipher his methodology of governing. In 2017, North Korean officials previously reached out to Republican-linked analysts and think tanks in Washington because they “can’t figure him out,” according to a person familiar with the situation.
“Their number-one concern is Trump,” the source said to The Washington Post.
Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” took political and media circles around the country by storm after its release in January 2018. It provided a rare behind-the-scene look at pivotal moments throughout Trump’s 2016 campaign and the beginning stages of his presidency.
However, critics have questioned some of the wilder claims made in the book and questioned the reliability of some of its sources. Wolff has also admitted that he was not sure if all the claims in the book were true, and that there were times he knew his sources were lying to him.
“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue,” Wolff noted in the book’s prologue. “These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.
“You should totally try to draw a penis.”
It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.
They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.
“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”
While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:
“You should totally try to draw a penis.”
“Which way is the shaft going?”
“It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
“I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”
While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.
The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.
More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.
Landing a job interview is one of the most exciting and potentially nerve-wracking parts of job hunting. While it’s thrilling to move on in the selection process, it can also feel like a lot is riding on one conversation.
Preparation is key to soothing those pre-interview jitters. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel relaxed and confident so the conversation can flow naturally.
Too bad you can’t get a sneak peek inside the interviewer’s head and learn the questions ahead of time!
Or… can you?
No mind-reading abilities required! We asked two of VA’s national recruiters, Hillary Garcia and Timothy Blakney, for information on VA’s interview process. Here are the six most common VA interview questions and tips on how to prepare for them.
Question:How have you developed and maintained productive working relations with others, even though you may have had differing points of view?
Tip: Come armed with an example or three. In this case, you’ll want to discuss how you worked as a member of a team, including the role you played and how the group interacted.
Question: Tell us about a time where you worked independently without close supervision or support.
Tip: At VA, you’ll sometimes need to make a decision on the fly, so an independent streak is a good thing. Play up your self-directedness. Also, when you describe past examples, don’t forget to mention the result and how your efforts made it possible.
Question: Describe a time when you went above and beyond your job requirements. What motivated you to put forth the extra effort? What was the result of your effort?
Tip: Many interview questions at VA have several parts, like this one. Consider bringing a notebook to jot down notes as questions are being asked so you answer them in full.
Question:Describe a situation where you have not communicated well with a co-worker, supervisor, management official or union official. What was the situation? How did you correct it? What was the outcome?
Tip: Communication abilities are often front and center in a VA interview, so be sure to think about your skills in this area ahead of time. You’ll probably be asked about a professional area of improvement or a time you could have changed how you responded. Answering this type of question thoughtfully demonstrates that you can reflect on and work to perfect your professional roles.
Question:Compare what you know about the job you are interviewing for with your own knowledge and skill. In what areas do you feel you already excel? What areas do you feel you will need to develop?
Tip: Make sure you read over the job announcement closely, especially the duties and specialized experience sections. Then review your own resume and previous experiences, paying particularly close attention to anything that makes you unique.
Question:Tell us about a time you briefed a supervisor or senior management official about bad news and/or results they did not like, along with recommending a different course of action. How did you persuade them to move in a new direction? What were the results?
Tip: Interviewers often ask questions about how you handled a difficult situation, and this can be a tricky one to navigate. You’ll want to think of a tactful example that demonstrates those vital communication abilities, as well as problem-solving and strategic thinking skills. If this was a negative experience, try to give it a positive spin by treating it as a learning opportunity.
Work at VA
Now that you’re feeling ready for a potential interview, a rewarding VA career is just a few steps away!
The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.
The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”
Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.
PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.
When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.
The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.
Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.
He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.
He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.
“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”
Embedded with industry, academia
Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.
Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.
The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.
The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.
A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.
The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.
“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.
The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added
Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.
In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.
More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.
Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.
“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”
In on the groundfloor
Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.
It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.
The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.
The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.
Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.
(Photo by Luke J. Allen)
After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.
The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.
“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”
As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.
Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.
Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.
By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.
The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.
Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.
“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”
Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.
A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.
“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”
Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.
“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”
A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.
The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.
While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.
Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.
(Photo by Anthony Small)
“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”
For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.
As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.
Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.
Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.
“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”
Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.
“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.
(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.
“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”
Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”
“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”
The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.
For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.
“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent another signal that the U.S. is increasingly attentive to the Arctic and looking to catch up with other countries that are active in the region.
Melting ice has raised interest in shipping, mining, energy exploration, and other enterprises in the Arctic — not only among countries that border it, but also in countries farther afield, like China.
The Arctic “is important today,” Tillerson said during an event at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, on Nov. 28. “It’s going to be increasingly important in the future, particularly as those waterways have opened up.”
“The whole Arctic region — because of what’s happened with the opening of the Arctic passageways from an economic and trade standpoint, but certainly from a national-security standpoint — is vitally important to our interest,” Tillerson said, adding that the U.S. is behind countries in the region that have responded more quickly.
“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Tillerson said. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”
While China isn’t an Arctic country, the secretary of state said, “they see the value of these passages. So, we’re late to the game.”
Other countries build up in the Arctic
China’s research icebreaker, the Xue Long, made its first voyage through the Northwest Passage in October, and it is now the first Chinese polar-research vessel to navigate all three major Arctic shipping routes. China has three light icebreakers, with another under construction, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
“I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”
At present, the U.S. Coast Guard has three icebreakers, and the National Science Foundation operates another. Only two of those Coast Guard vessels are operational: the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy.
The Polar Star entered service in 1976, and while it was refurbished in 2012, it is beyond its 30-year service life. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said earlier this year that the Polar Star “is literally on life support.”
Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including four operational heavy ones. Finland has seven, though they’re privately owned medium or light icebreakers. Sweden and Canada each have six, none of which are heavy.
During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Nov. 29, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of the service’s 17th district, outlined a number of challenges facing his command, but he emphasized that the U.S. is on good terms with its neighbors in the Arctic.
Relations with Moscow on issues like waterway management in the Bering Strait — which separates Alaska from Russia — are positive, said McAllister, whose command encompasses more than 3.8 million square miles throughout Alaska and the Arctic.
“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” he added.
China, too, is seen by the Coast Guard as a “good partner” that cooperates on a number of issues.
“We have great operational-level relationships with the Chinese coast guard,” McAllister told an audience at CSIS. Chinese and U.S. ships do joint patrols and U.S. ships have welcomed aboard Chinese personnel, he said, which allows both countries to extend their presence at sea.
“I don’t think we fear the movement of the Chinese into the Arctic. I think we pay attention to what’s going on,” he said, describing efforts to monitor maritime activity in and around his area of responsibility, as well as the U.S. exclusive economic zone, which extends some 230 miles from U.S. shores.
‘That’s what keeps me up at night’
McAllister pointed to mismatches between his resources and responsibilities as his main causes of worry.
Two of his biggest concerns are responding to oil spills and mass rescues. “The distances are so great, and the difficulty in staging assets is so significant, that that’s what keeps me up at night,” he said.
While he said the Coast Guard was doing well tracking ship movements, other issues, like monitoring ice data and marine wildlife movement, were still challenges.
Even though satellites have made communications with commercial ships easier, McAllister said he still lacked a local network that allowed him to readily contact small vessels. Military and secure communications are also still limited, he said.
Maintaining a sovereign presence also presented an ongoing challenge.
“At any given time, I will only have one or two ships in the Arctic during the open-water seasons, and a few helicopters in addition to that,” he said.
“If you know Alaska, if you know the [exclusive economic zone], it’s just too big an area to try to cover with such a small number of assets.”
But, he said, the replacement of decades-old cutters with new offshore-patrol cutters and national-security cutters, as well as discussions about icebreakers, were both encouraging developments.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard released a joint draft request for proposal in October, looking for the detail, design, and construction of one heavy icebreaker with an option for two more. The two service branches have already set up an integrated program office for the project.
The Coast Guard’s 2018 budget request asked for $19 million toward a new icebreaker it wants to start building in late 2019. The service wants to build at least three heavy icebreakers, which can cost up to $1 billion each (though officials have said they can come in below that price). The first heavy icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023.
Some of the money for the icebreaker has been appropriated and “acquisition is already off and running,” McAllister said. “But even with that capability, there’s still a lack of presence there, and that’s something that we, the Coast Guard, aspire to provide more of.”
Air Force special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron assessed, opened, and controlled air traffic at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11, 2018.
The special tactics airmen cleared and established a runway at Oct. 11, 2018, at 7 p.m., and received the first aircraft at 7:06 p.m.
Special tactics airmen have the ability to assess, open and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment, including those that have been impacted by a natural disaster.
Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron unload an all-terrain vehicle from a CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)
Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron access an airfield on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)
Special tactics airmen are in control of the airfield and are prepared to support airfield operations until further notice, which will allow support to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Tyndall AFB.
Tyndall AFB received extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
For any questions regarding special tactics airmen, contact Jackie Pienkowski at 850-884-3902 or 413-237-4466, or firstname.lastname@example.org.