Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency - We Are The Mighty
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Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.


Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.

Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police, and a chief of surgery.

Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.

Former President Barack Obama originally appointed Shulkin as a VA undersecretary. By the end of the Obama administration, however, Shulkin had grown increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union and other groups defending bad employees’ supposed right to a government check even when they hurt veterans.

“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
President Donald Trump. DoD Photo by Maj. Randy Harris

Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The published data predates those new powers, and does not note which disciplinary actions were later overturned.

One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB.

Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald seemed to have so little grasp on firing employees that in August 2016, he said that he had fired 140,000 employees, a figure that made little sense since that would be nearly half the workforce.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
Former Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo.

He said “you can’t fire your way to excellence” and blamed “negative news articles” for a morose culture, rather than the individuals perpetrating the misconduct described in those articles.

Though high-level hospital officials were affected, according to the data covering the first six months of the Trump administration, relatively few disciplinary actions occurred in the central offices where Washington bureaucrats work. Those employ fewer people than the hospitals, but repeated scandals have also shown such employees looking out for one another to preserve each others’ jobs.

There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.

The data does not include employees’ names, and does not show which employees were on new-employee probationary status. Employees can be fired much more easily during their first year.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald. Photo from US Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the Obama administration, McDonald lamented that in the private sector “you cut a deal with the employee and you’re able to buy them out,” but said you cannot do that in government.

Yet VA repeatedly made five and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit after they threatened to gum up the works by appealing disciplinary actions. The department even allowed Hamlin to offer a low-level employee $300,000 to quit after she refused to help management retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed Hamlin’s arrest.

The agency paid more than $5 million in settlements to employees under McDonald, which had the effect of encouraging bad employees to relentlessly appeal and make unsupported charges of discrimination when they were targeted for discipline, in an often-successful attempt to convert punishment into reward.

Shulkin said he “will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged … and not as a matter of ordinary business.”

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes of the week of May 18th

Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).


Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via /r/AirForce)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via American AF)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via the Salty Soldier)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and Japanese soldiers train with military working dogs

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.

JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.


“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)

The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.

“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”

Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.

Articles

8 things vets learn while transitioning out of the military

 


Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.

Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.

1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.

LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry’s hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.

2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.

Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.

3. When you interview, play up your strengths.

Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.

4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.

It’s important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company’s benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.

5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.

This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It’s important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.

6. Don’t seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.

While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.

7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.

People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. “One team, One fight” is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a “team player,” make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation’s measure of trust with you.

8. Research your state’s requirements for terminations and layoffs.

Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It’s important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.

More from GI Jobs:

This article originally appeared at GI Jobs. Copyright 2015. Follow GI Jobs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What life will be like for the first colonists on Mars

Elon Musk said being one of the first people to colonize Mars won’t be glamorous.


Speaking during a QA at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, the SpaceX founder addressed his plans to colonize Mars and what it will be like for those early pioneers on the red frontier.

According to Musk, there’s a misconception that a base on Mars will serve as “an escape hatch for rich people.”

“It wasn’t that at all,” Musk said of his colonization vision. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”

“There’re already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” Musk continued.

Speaking to a packed theater in Austin, Texas, Musk said he expects SpaceX to begin making short trips back and forth to Mars in the first half of 2019. His long-term plan is to put 1 million people on the planet as a sort of Plan B society in case nuclear war wipes out the human race.

Also read: This is what Elon Musk had to say at a Marine ball

In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
The surface of Mars. (Photo by NASA.)

In order to “regenerate life back here on Earth,” Musk said he prefers to get the backup civilization on Mars operational before an event like World War III begins on Earth.

“I think it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” Musk said.

Musk’s plan to build giant reusable spaceships for colonizing the red planet is an ambitious one. He and SpaceX have yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end. Many people still have practical questions for the tech billionaire.

Musk has ideas for how Mars might be governed

Musk instead offered some predictions for what he thinks governance on Mars might look like.

The SpaceX founder suggested his title might be “emperor,” adding that it was only a joke.

“Not everyone gets irony,” he said.

Related: Russia claims its T-14 Armata tank can run on Mars, because why the hell not

Musk said he imagines Mars will have a direct democracy instead of the system of government used in the US — a representative democracy — whereby elected officials represent a group of people. On Mars, Musk expects people will vote directly on issues.

He said that the centuries-old representative democracy made more sense during the nation’s founding, before the government could assume most people knew how to read and write.

Musk urged future colonizers to “keep laws short,” so that people can easily read and digest the bills before voting on them. He warned that long laws have “something suspicious” going on.

“If the law exceeds the word count of Lord of the Rings, then something’s wrong,” Musk said.

More: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

The quote got a laugh from the audience and sparked speculation that Musk was taking a jab at the Republican tax bill that was passed in December 2017. The bill came in at 503 pages and ran over 1,000 pages including the related conference committee report.

Musk also recommended that laws be easier to repeal than install. Doing so would prevent arbitrary rules from accumulating and restricting freedoms over time, he said.

On creating culture on Mars, Musk said that “Mars should have really great bars.”

“The Mars Bar,” he laughed.

Articles

Iran, China hold joint naval drill in Persian Gulf

Iran’s navy has conducted a joint exercise with a Chinese fleet near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.


The official IRNA news agency said June 18th’s drill included an Iranian warship as well as two Chinese warships, a logistics ship, and a Chinese helicopter that arrived in Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas last week.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
The Strait of Hormuz. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It said the scheduled exercise came before the departure of the Chinese fleet for Muscat, Oman. It did not provide further details.

The US Navy held a joint drill with Qatar in the Persian Gulf on June 17th.

US and Iranian warships have had a number of tense encounters in the Persian Gulf in recent years. Nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US government warns Americans not to travel to Venezuela

The US Department of State issued a level-four travel warning for Venezuela on March 14, 2019, to tell Americans “do not travel” to the chaos-stricken country, and that all Americans in the country should leave. It’s the highest travel warning that the department issues.

The advisory pointed to “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens.”

The announcement aligns with a top-level warning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued in May 2018. That warning said outbreaks of measles, malaria, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases are contributing to “an increasing humanitarian crisis affecting much of the country.”


The Department of State noted on March 14, 2019, that, throughout Venezuela, “there are shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and medical supplies.”

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

(Flickr photo by Anyul Rivas)

Political rallies and demonstrations occur with little notice, the warning said. And these rallies attract a strong police response with “tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets against participants and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism.”

“Security forces have arbitrarily detained US citizens for long periods,” the warning said. “The US Department of State may not be notified of the detention of a US citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.”

After this warning was issued, American Airlines announced on March 15, 2019, that they would suspend flights into Caracas and Maracaibo. “Our corporate security team has a collaborative partnership with all of our union leaders and we will continue to do so to evaluate the situation in Venezuela,” the airline said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just deployed more nuclear-capable bombers than normal to Guam

The U.S. deployed every type of strategic and nuclear-capable bomber to Guam amid soaring tensions between the Washington and Pyongyang in a move sure to rattle North Korea.


The B-1B Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, and the B-52H — the workhorse bomber that dropped tens of thousands of tons of munitions during the Vietnam War — will be in Guam, the Pentagon has confirmed to Business Insider.

North Korea can’t stand U.S. bomber deployments to Guam, where the U.S. hosts massive military bases in relative proximity to Pyongyang. North Korean media statements usually react strongly and issue threats in response to the U.S. flying B-1 training missions over the Korean Peninsula.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
A B-52G/H cruising above the clouds (Photo U.S. Air Force)

In statements, North Korea refers to the B-1 bomber as a nuclear asset, although the plane has been modified not to carry nuclear weapons as the result of an arms control pact with Russia. The B-2 and B-52 do have nuclear capability, and make up the air-launched component of the U.S.’s nuclear triad.

In August, North Korea threatened to fire intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles towards Guam, arcing them to fall just short of the island and instead in the sea. The U.S. responded by saying it would meet any attack on Guam with full force.

Recently, rumblings that North Korea is planning to launch a satellite and that the U.S. is planning to strike a North Korean launch have been making news.

Unlike in-ground nuclear silos and under-sea secretive submarines, the nuclear-capable bombers in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet enable the U.S. to signal its resolve and intentions during times of high tensions.

Also Read: The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here’s why

While some may interpret the deployment of the nuclear-side of the bomber fleet as an escalation, the deployment is part of a mission called Continuous Bomber Presence, wherein the U.S. has maintained a bomber presence in the Pacific at all times to assure allies, enable readiness, and promote regional stability since 2004.

But it’s still rare to find all three in Guam at once. The three bombers first flew together in Guam in August 2016, and this deployment is the first time since that they’ve all been gathered together in the South Pacific.

Sending all three strategic bombers to Guam sends the strongest message bomber deployments could possibly spell out.

Articles

Congress just made it a crime to post nude photos of troops without permission

The House has unanimously approved legislation that makes it a crime for U.S. service members to distribute intimate photos or videos of people without first getting their consent.


The measure is a direct response to a nude-photo sharing scandal that has rocked the Marine Corps. Lawmakers voted 418-0 to pass the bill Wednesday.

The scandal came to light after it was discovered that sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page.

Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, the bill’s sponsor, says the “Neanderthals” who posted the photos aren’t emblematic of the vast majority of U.S. troops. But she says the idea that any one in uniform thinks it’s acceptable to upload and comment on nude photos is a problem that must be fixed.

Articles

The F-35B can take off like an Olympic ski jumper now

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
Photo: Youtube


The F-35B Lightning II aircraft can now take off from a “ski jump,” reports Kelsey D. Atherton at Popular Science.

The Marine Corps’ version of the jet — built for vertical landings and short takeoffs from ships — was successfully tested taking off down a short runway with the assistance of a “ski jump” on Tuesday, according to IHS Jane’s. Interestingly, as Atherton notes, the test was for the benefit of NATO partners with “ski jumps” on their aircraft carriers, not for the U.S. Navy, which does not use them.

Jane’s writes:

For the F-35B, the ‘ski-jump’ will be used to launch jets from the decks of the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales carriers being built for the UK Royal Navy, and may be adopted by other customers such as Italy. Phase I testing will continue for two weeks, ahead of the Phase II trials to take place through the third quarter of the year. The MoD did not disclose what Phase II will entail, but it will likely feature shipborne trials aboard the Queen Elizabeth (QE) aircraft carrier (the first of the two QE-class ships).

So here it is. The F-35B, trying for Olympic gold:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=10v=BJvV2N791Ok

NOW: Navy officer feels the need for NASCAR speed

Articles

Marines may expand PSYOPS with new job specialty

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred


As the Marine Corps looks to prepare for future conflicts and expand key highly skilled communities, the service will consider adding a new primary military occupational specialty: 0521, Military Information Support Operations.

A briefing document obtained by Military.com proposes expanding what is now a free, or additional MOS, into a primary MOS and increasing the total number of MISO Marines from 87 to a steady state of 322. The enlisted-only MOS would be composed chiefs of sergeants and staff sergeants, with a tapering senior enlisted leadership structure.

MISO, which has also been called psychological operations, or PSYOP, aims to influence emotions and behavior by targeted messaging and information distribution. It requires an understanding of the people and cultures with whom Marines will interact and how they are affected by various communication strategies. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers that blast messages to communities, leaflet information campaigns, and one-on-one meetings with local leaders all fall under the umbrella of MISO.

Currently, the Marine Corps deploys its small community of MISO Marines in teams of two to four aboard Marine expeditionary units and its special purpose Marine air-ground task forces for Africa and the Middle East. They also support elite operations at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and assist in major exercises and sometimes with larger Marine force operations.

The MISO MOS brief, prepared in October 2015 by Col. Drew Cukor, commanding officer of Marine Corps Information Operations Center in Quantico, Virginia, which contains the MISO program, notes that U.S. adversaries have seen success in exploiting the “information environment” to their own advantage.

“[Marines] may win physical battles but still lose because of failure to fight effectively in the cognitive dimension,” Cukor notes.

Creating a MISO primary MOS would allow the Corps to get more value from the investment it makes training its Marines, the brief notes. Currently, about 30 Marines a year complete a 17-week training course at Fort Bragg, N.C. at a cost of $12,000 per student, plus another $5,000 per Marine to obtain a required Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Total training costs add up to more than $600,000, according to the brief.

However, few MISO Marines remain in the community, with 80 percent choosing to end active service following their three-year tour in the free MOS.

In an award-winning Dec. 2015 essay published by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Marine Sgt. Dion Edon, a MISO Marine, said that those in his community tended to seek out other opportunities after their three-year tours because there was little incentive to stay.

“The Marine Corps loses an Army Special Operations Forces–trained Marine to the civilian contracting world, Army SOF, or the fleet, where their MISO-specific knowledge is unavailable,” he wrote. “The MISO MOS should become a primary MOS with warrant and limited-duty officer opportunities so that the Marine Corps can retain its investment in behavioral experts who can support senior-level staff with technical expertise and advice.”

Edon, who recently returned from a deployment supporting the 15th MEU as a MISO noncommissioned officer, also proposed giving MISO Marines more regionally focused and language specific training, and incorporating them further into Marine Corps planning and wargaming operations.

He quoted 15th MEU commanding officer Col. Vance Cryer, who said the addition of the MISO capability aboard the MEU had resulted in a “much more refined” approach to the integration of intelligence with operations.

“The MISO mission and support provides me [with] critical context, insight, and validation of various levels of information for use in the planning and execution phases,” Edon quotes Cryer as saying in the essay. “As a key part of a networked organization, it provides timely, value-added tools that enable asymmetric advantages to the MEU or MAGTF level of operations.”

Expanding the community would also better allow MISO Marines to meet high operational demand and increase the number of MISO personnel available to serve within each Marine expeditionary force and at MARSOC, Cukor’s brief shows.

Officials with Marine Corps Information Operations Center declined requests for an interview because the plans were pre-decisional.

But the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, told Military.com that preliminary decisions could be made as soon as this fall regarding how to develop the MISO community.

“In MISO, within those specialties and capabilities, I think those are some of the things that we’re going to be wrestling with to determine whether or not the Marine Corps needs more structure, whether it becomes a primary MOS, whether it becomes an expanded MOS, or whether it becomes a series of MOSs, depending upon the specific specialties,” he said. “So if individuals are interested in MISO and expanded realm of information operations, etcetera, then they should stand by, because I think more will come out of this.”

He noted that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has directed Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to conduct a study that defines where the Marine Corps needs to be in 2025 and whether the force is properly organized to address future challenges.

“One of the larger discussion areas is in cyber, information, deception, psychological operations, where is the Marine Corps with those capabilities, that structure, that capability inside the force,” he said. “So there will be a fairly robust discussion about where we sit today, and where we may want to go tomorrow.”

Brilakis declined to speculate whether the Corps could add even more MOSs, but said many decisions had yet to be made.

This push for a MISO primary MOS comes as Neller pushes to expand certain Marine Corps communities, including information and cyber warfare. He told an Atlantic Council audience in February that the Corps had two options in light of this objective: to ask for an end strength increase, or to restructure, perhaps shrinking other communities such as infantry, to realize growth in others.

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NATO debts anger Trump

US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary broadside at allies for failing to pay their fair share of the defense bill.


The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.

Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.

“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.

Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defense, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.

“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg (DoD Photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte Brantley)

The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.

In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.

“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”

Trump said the bombing of a pop concert in the British city of Manchester on May 22nd, claimed by the Islamic State group, showed that “terrorism must be stopped in its tracks”.

“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
NATO Headquarters in Brussels (DoD Photo by Sgt. James McCann)

The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.

“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.

Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.

Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency
Trump has stated that many UN member nations aren’t paying their share for defense. (Photo by MadGeographer.)

Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.

Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.

Related: Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.

A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.

During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.

“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.

“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.

Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.

Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.

Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.

Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.

Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.

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