How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House - We Are The Mighty
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How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has become one of the most influential yet least visible decision-makers in the Trump administration, according to a Washington Post profile of the one-time Marine general’s time as the head of the Pentagon.


One area where Mattis and his aides have had outside influence was the debate over Trump’s Afghanistan policy. Mattis’ stabilizing influence came to fore in one contentious meeting about Afghanistan in the White House’s Situation Room.

During the meeting, Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist at the time, misrepresented McMaster’s position. The Post reported he called Bannon a “liar,” according to two officials who were present.

Also read: Opinion: Why Lt. Gen. McMaster is the right choice for Trump

Mattis grabbed McMaster’s knee and advised the Army general to be quiet, the officials told The Post. The confrontation prompted a shocked Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, to turn to a colleague and mouth, “WTF.”

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl)

Bannon and Priebus have both been ousted from the White House. McMaster remains in his position, though rumors have repeatedly surfaced about discontented Trump loyalists seeking to force him out.

Mattis has been selective about when to push for or against specific policy moves — a strategy that has kept him in Trump’s good graces, numerous sources told The Post. The secretary’s low profile has also spared him from responding to, and becoming involved in, many of Trump’s more controversial statements.

Related: These 3 active duty officers served as National Security Advisor before McMaster

Mattis reportedly restrains Trump

The secretary remains highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats alike, and the guiding influence he seems to have exercised over senior White House officials appears to extend to Trump himself. Mattis has restrained the president’s push for muscular approaches to Iran and North Korea while tempering Trump’s desire to pull back in other places.

Trump has been criticized for giving the military broad leeway when it comes to battlefield decisions, particularly in anti-ISIS and counterinsurgent operations in the Middle East and Africa. Trump, however, has also questioned the wisdom of continued or deepened involvement in those places.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
President Donald Trump.(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“You guys want me to send troops everywhere,” Trump reportedly said during a Situation Room meeting with his national security team regarding military action in Afghanistan and North Africa. “What’s the justification?”

Mattis told Trump that the U.S. presence in those places was needed “to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square.”

That response drew ire from Trump, who said it could be used to justify action anywhere in the world.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions backed Trump, questioning whether victory was even possible in Somalia or Afghanistan.

More:4 ways to actually impress Secretary Mattis

“Unfortunately, sir, you have no choice,” Mattis replied, officials told The Post. “You will be a wartime president.”

Trump ultimately decided to expand U.S. involvement in the nearly 17-year-old war, sending 3,900 more troops and intensifying the bombing campaign.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump said when announcing the new policy in August. “But all of my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus and PCS Orders: What the travel ban means for you

As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.


If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.

It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.

You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.

Military Travel

Family and Civilian Travel

PCS and Transfer Orders

CDC Designated Level 3 Nations

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Military Travel

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.

“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”

The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”

“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.

Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel

Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.

“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

PCS and Transfer Changes

The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.

Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:

Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?

A: Contact your chain of command immediately!

Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?

A: It depends.

  • – If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
  • – If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.

Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?

A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.

Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?

A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.

Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?

A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.

The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.

You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.

CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations

The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.

The CDC has also designated the entire continent of Europe as a Level 3 region. This list includes:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Have Marines gotten bigger? New body scanner will answer so many burning questions

The Marine Corps is in the market for a new body scanner that can help officials equip Marines with the best-fitting body armor and gear — and it will even show how to squeeze leathernecks wearing full battle rattle into tactical vehicles.

The service recently published a solicitation for a full-body high-resolution anthropometry scanner capable of capturing 3D images of individuals, still and in motion, for the purpose of collecting data on what the average Marine looks like.

According to the solicitation, posted June 24, the scanner must be able to capture at least 20 seconds of motion, with at least 10 frames or full scans per second and a minimum of 30 different body measurements.


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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this crazy impressive Marine Corps Air Station made of LEGO bricks

I was made aware of the stunning video below by my son Lorenzo, who’s a big LEGO fan. The footage has just been posted by the “Beyond the Brick” Youtube channel and shows the crazy cool MCAS Marine Corps Air Station that Paul Thomas put on display at Bricks by the Bay 2019, an annual gathering of LEGO builders, enthusiasts and fans held in Santa Clara in mid-July.

The LEGO diorama was inspired by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms but it’s (obviously) not a replica: it is a fictional representation of a U.S. Marine Corps base with aircraft and vehicles that you could find at an MCAS. Thomas created the 10 x 7.5 feet diorama in modules (since his garage could not accommodate it all) in about 6 months.


How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Another view of the Marine Corps Air Station by Paul Thomas.

(Screenshot from Beyond the Brick’s YT video)

Along with F-35B Lightning II jets, there are MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion and AH-1Z Viper helicopters as well as a rotating radar, a security checkpoint at the gate of the base, hangars used for inspection and maintenance activities, various vehicles and much more.

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

US Marines Air Base in LEGO | Bricks by the Bay 2019

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former nuclear research site is consumed by wildfires

The Woolsey Fire outside Los Angeles has burned part of a former nuclear research site.

On Nov. 9, 2018, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control said the fire had burned through part of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory but had since moved away from it.

State and federal officials believe the Woolsey Fire, which forced the entire city of Malibu to evacuate, has not caused any radioactive materials to be released from the research facility. But some activists say toxic chemicals from Santa Susana likely contaminated the surrounding smoke and ash.


In the 1940s, the US government began using Santa Susana to test nuclear weapons and rockets. The facility spans more than 2,800 acres on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. A partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 caused radioactive material and carcinogens to contaminate the surrounding soil and groundwater, and some reports say the meltdown released more radioactive material than any other nuclear accident in US history.

In a statement, the Department of Toxic Substances Control said its scientists and toxicologists “reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Aerial view of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the Simi Hills. The Energy Technology Engineering Center site is in the lower left, with the Rocket Test Field Laboratory sites in the hills at the center.

A follow-up statement released Nov. 13, 2018, said staff members had tested the site over the weekend and did not find elevated levels of radiation. The department said it would conduct more air and soil testing over the next several days.

A group of physicians says the damage to Santa Susana could affect residents’ health

Some activists are concerned that the area surrounding Santa Susana may not be not safe for residents. Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, a group that advocates for the elimination of nuclear and environmental threats, says the fire likely released toxins into the air.

“We know what substances are on the site and how hazardous they are,” Dr. Robert Dodge, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “These toxic materials are in SSFL’s soil and vegetation, and when it burns and becomes airborne in smoke and ash, there is real possibility of heightened exposure for area residents.”

A 1997 study found that workers at the Santa Susana site had elevated rates of cancer in connection with nuclear activity at the complex. If radioactive particles were released into the air, it is possible that similar health effects could be observed among nearby residents.

However, Kai Vetter, a professor of nuclear engineering at University of California Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times that the health effects of smoke inhalation are greater than any potential danger from radioactive particles in the air.

“Although there is a possibility that radioactive materials — accounted for or not — could be dispersed through the fire and the smoke plume, the risk for health effects due to radiation is expected to be small,” Vitter said.

The physicians’ group also criticized the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for having “no public confidence,” and pointed out that state lawmakers commissioned an independent review panel in 2015 to monitor the department’s public outreach, fiscal management, and enforcement of hazardous-waste laws.

The clean-up process at Santa Susana has faced delays

Most of the Santa Susana site is owned by Boeing, though NASA oversees one area and the US Department of Energy leases a portion as well. A Boeing spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that more than 50% of the company’s property at Santa Susana burned.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Satellite image of the Woolsey Fire. The majority of western Malibu is engulfed by smoke and fire at the time of this image.

A 2007 order instructed the three parties to finish cleaning up the site by 2017, but those clean-up efforts have repeatedly hit delays. In August 2018, the Ventura County Star reported another delay: an action plan that was supposed to come out in the first half of 2019 is now behind schedule.

These delays have drawn backlash from local community members. In 2017, a group of parents called for tougher clean-up standards, claiming their children’s cancer diagnoses were linked to the nuclear research site. The group delivered a petition with more than 17,000 signatures to state officials.

Investigators have not yet determined what caused the Woolsey Fire. However, utility company Southern California Edison told state regulators that an outage was reported at one of its substations a few minutes before the fire began. The outage was in the same area where Woolsey broke out; in fact, the substation is located within the Santa Susana complex

Southern California Edison spokesman Steve Conroy told the Los Angeles Times that the company is required to file a report whenever an incident may be connected to another event.

“The report is preliminary,” Conroy said. “We have no other information other than a line went out of service and we don’t know why.”

The Woolsey Fire has killed two people and burned through more than 150 square miles.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 8 most useless pieces of gear ever issued

Quality of gear aside, when the U.S. military is equipping its troops, it tries to ensure they have everything they need to defeat the enemy and – if funding permits – not be entirely miserable in the meantime. Given the Pentagon’s track record with winning battles, one would have to concede they’re doing a pretty good job. Operationally, however, the troops figure out very quickly what’s going to work and what they need to improvise.


How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Somewhere in there is a troop still trying to get out of his mosquito net.

Mosquito Nets – Vietnam

One private in the Army who was deployed to an aircraft maintenance detachment in Vietnam mentions using the mosquito net diligently, just as he was trained. Except, when the base was attacked, he stumbled in the dark looking for the zipper, nearly getting himself killed in the process.

He, like many in Vietnam, never used the mosquito net again.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

“Bring out the E-3”

Army Cold Weather Mask

Are you into bondage? Then this is the issued gear for you. If you hate how much it itches your face or if you wear glasses, it definitely is not.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

If they only wore them in dress blues, that would be one thing.

Black Berets

Patrol caps and boonie hats serve the dual purpose of protecting your head from the sun while giving your kevlar a place to rest. They’re also both breathable and prevent the interior of the hat from becoming a swampy mess. The beret did none of these things, but the Army insisted every soldier wear one.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Sun-Wind-Dust Goggles – Iraq & Afghanistan

The only Sun-Dust-Wind goggles that couldn’t protect your eyes from sun, dust, or wind. All that and after a while, the padding slips out of place, the elastic wears out, and they become unwearable. Which isn’t a big deal because they get so scratched up you can’t see from them anyway.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

NBC Gear – U.S. Navy

The U.S. military’s old MOPP system used what is essentially a charcoal suit to protect troops from chemical agents in the air. The only problem was they were useless when wet – which is exactly what happened to the sailors during nuclear, biological, chemical warfare drills when they had to start cleaning the ship.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Black Leather Gloves with Wool Inserts

The dual glove system pretty much meant any fine motor skills you needed weren’t going to happen while wearing these things. Many troops would take off the leather gloves to use their fingers, which promptly froze because the liners themselves were useless in the cold.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Have at it hipsters, you poor deserving bastards.

M65 Field Jacket

Speaking of things that are useless in the cold, there was a time when the only jacket issued for the battle dress uniform was this cruel joke.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

Presenting the most miserable troop of the 1980s.

Load-Bearing Equipment

This is a great way to carry many different kinds of gear. Until someone starts shooting at you and you need to get down on the ground, stay low, and/or maneuver while you’re down there.

Articles

It turns out that bringing a flag to Arlington Cemetery can get you a year in jail

Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.


Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.

Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”

Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.

“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

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 licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Airmen failed fitness tests due to wrong track distances

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Airmen, sprint during the running improvement program at the track Sept. 28, 2012, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps


The Air Force says dozens of airmen have failed physical training tests in recent years due to inaccurate track distances.

All bases should measure their running tracks by Oct. 31 to prevent false test scores, the service announced on Thursday.

If bases determine the tracks are the wrong length, airmen’s scores will be adjusted accordingly, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

Nearly 60 airmen at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, received inaccurate run scores because of the problem, the service said. The test requires airmen to complete a timed 1.5-mile run or a two-kilometer walk if they are exempt from the run.

Officials at Goodfellow determined the outdoor running course was 85 feet longer than required, which may have caused 18 airmen stationed at the base between 2010 and 2016 to fail the fitness assessment, the announcement said. The track was last measured in 2010.

At Hanscom, the track was found to be 360 feet longer than it should be, likely causing 41 airmen stationed there between 2008 and 2016 to fail. The track was last measured in 2008.

“All airmen who should have passed were notified,” Brzozowske said in an email.

“If still on active duty, their fitness scores were adjusted to the correct passing score. If there were any personnel actions taken resulting from the inaccurate [fitness assessment] failures, airmen should work with their chain of command, Force Support Squadron and legal office, and potentially the Air Force Personnel Center to correct records,” she wrote.

The service’s inspector general also plans to include the PT program “as an Air Force inspection requirement on future wing unit effectiveness inspections,” the announcement said.

In addition, each time a base redesigns or modifies a running track, it must measure it as a precaution, it said.

Articles

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.


The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.

Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.

Also read: These 5 vets discuss the ups and downs of the VA

In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”

While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.

“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”

The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.

Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.

Meanwhile, the VA is stepping up efforts to root out bad employees.

The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”

Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.

In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.

AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.


Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.

It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team march alongside Ukrainian troops and other NATO allies and partners during a parade in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 24, 2017. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.

As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.

But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.

“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.

“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”

Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto, commander for the 7th Army Training Command, reviews engineering plans for the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, Near Yavoriv, Ukraine, with IPSC Commander Ukrainian army Col. Igor Slisarchuk, ISPC commander (left). Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.

“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”

“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.

“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.

Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House
Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.

But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of Navy’s most stunning victories had a breakfast break

America’s first great military debut on the international stage took place in 1898 when it launched a war against Spain. No longer was the U.S. military limited largely to the American continent. The new Navy, pushed forward by its new Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt, would not only fight in both oceans, it would win decisively.


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Commodore George Dewey at Manila Bay, his stunning first blow against the Spanish fleet.

(U.S. Naval Historical Center)

And, at the point of its first and greatest victory in the Spanish-American War, a Navy commodore took a quick break for breakfast while slaughtering Spain. And we don’t mean a few sailors were sent belowdecks at a time for food. We mean the entire fleet disengaged, everyone had breakfast, and then came back to finish the shellacking.

The buildup to war centered around control of Cuba, a Spanish colony that desired independence. Americans, meanwhile, were split on the issue. Some wanted Cuban independence, some hoped for a Cuban state, but almost everyone agreed that Spain should screw off.

But there was tension between the hawks and the pacifists in the country. Not everyone thought it was a good idea to risk a war with Spain, a major European power. So, as a half measure, the USS Maine was sent to Havana Harbor to safeguard Americans and American interests during the struggles between rebels and Spain.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

The wreck of the USS Maine is towed out of Havana Harbor.

(R.W. Harrison, Library of Congress)

But on February 16, 1898, the Maine suddenly exploded in the harbor. Investigations in the 20th century would find that the explosion was most likely caused by a bad design. A coal bunker had exploded, an event which occurred spontaneously in other ships of similar design. But the conclusion of investigators at the time was that the explosion was caused by a mine, and the implication was that Spain planted it.

America, already primed for conflict, declared war. And Roosevelt got his man Dewey the orders to take two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and a gunboat to the Philippines to strike the first blow.

The Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo had a large fleet in the Philippines with 13 ships, but they were old and outdated. The armor was thin at key points, many of the guns were too small to do serious damage against newer battleships and cruisers like America’s, and they were tough to conduct damage control on, so fires could easily rage once started.

American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Montojo knew that the Americans would likely come for him, and he also knew that his fleet would struggle against the newer U.S. ships, so he decided to place his own vessels under the protection of shore batteries.

He sailed to Subic Bay where modern shore batteries were supposed to have been recently completed. But when he arrived, he found that not a gun was erected. Because of the constant fighting with Filipino rebels, the engineers had been unable to build the important defenses.

Montojo sprinted to Manila Bay where his men could be more easily rescued and ships more easily salvaged if lost, but he deployed his ships far from the city and in a shallow part of the harbor where his men could easily swim to shore if sunk, but also putting most of his ships out of range of the shore guns’ protection.

During the early hours of May 1, Dewey sailed into the harbor with his six ships in a battle line. He initiated the attack, and American ship after American ship paraded past and launched shells into the ineffective Spanish ships. Dewey turned back for another pass, and the ships repeated their process.

How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Dewey and the Asiatic fleet kept this up for hours. They were like a saw ripping into the Spanish fleet but with cruisers for teeth instead of shards of metal. But around 7:35, Dewey received a message that the 5″ guns had only 15 rounds remaining per gun.

Dewey knew that his gunners would need time to re-arm, and there was no point to doing it while under threat of the Spanish guns. So he took a look at the time, and ordered the fleet to withdraw. While this would later be reported as a withdrawal for breakfast, that wasn’t the initial intent. As Dewey would later write:

It was a most anxious moment for me. So far as I could see, the Spanish squadron was as intact as ours. I had reason to believe that their supply of ammunition was as ample as ours was limited.
Therefore, I decided to withdraw temporarily from action for a redistribution of ammunition if necessary. For I knew that fifteen rounds of 5-inch ammunition could be shot away in five minutes.

But during this withdrawal, Dewey learned two pieces of joyous news:

But even as we were steaming out of range the distress of the Spanish ships became evident. Some of them were perceived to be on fire and others were seeking protection behind Cavite Point…
It was clear that we did not need a very large supply of ammunition to finish our morning’s task; and happily it was found that the report about the Olympia’s 5-inch ammunition had been incorrectly transmitted. It was that fifteen rounds had been fired per gun, not that only fifteen rounds remained.

So Dewey suddenly realized that, first, he had the upper hand in the fight and, second, his men didn’t actually need to redistribute ammo. So, he ordered his men to take a break and get a bite to eat. Meanwhile, he called his captains together and learned that no ship had serious damage or fatalities to report. (One man would later die of either heatstroke or heart attack.)

So, after his men ate, Dewey returned to the attack and hit the city of Manila, quickly forcing its surrender. But he would have to wait for Army forces to arrive to actually hold it. It was the opening days of America’s first great overseas war, and the Spanish fleet was already in tatters, and the U.S. Navy was already a hero.

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The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.


According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.

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Textron AirLand’s Armed Scorpion | Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.

The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”

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Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”

By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.

The Scorpion features a tandem cockpit and a composite airframe in order to keep its weight and costs down. In addition to its twin turbofan engines that are able to achieve a flight speed up to 517 mph, it houses an internal payload bay that’s capable of holding 3,000 pounds.

“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”

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Courtesy of Textron AirLand

From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.

“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.

However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.

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