Lobster tails aren't the problem with military spending, you monsters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

In the wake of a startling report from the organization Open the Books showing massive federal government expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, troops everywhere want you to know that they deserve steak and lobster every once in a while. But the Defense Department spending problems highlighted in the report may have little to do with surf and turf dinners.

The 32-page Open the Books report, published March 2019, showed the federal government as a whole spent an astounding $97 billion in September 2018 as the fiscal year was drawing to a close — up 16 percent from the previous fiscal year and 39 percent from fiscal 2015. DoD spending accounted for $61.2 billion of that spending spree, awarding “use-it-or-lose-it” contracts and buying, among other things, $4.6 million worth of crab and lobster and a Wexford leather club chair costing more than $9,300.


“This kind of waste has to stop. It’s an insult to taxpayers,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted, sharing a Fox Business story about the seafood buy.

Military veterans were quick to protest, however, saying the nice food is often used by military units to boost morale on grueling deployments or to soften the blow when bad news comes.

“Surf turf night was a regular thing even when I was in Iraq,” tweeted Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Corps infantryman and creator of the popular comic strip Terminal Lance. “Feeding troops lobster a few times a year is not a waste of money.”

Fred Wellman, a retired Army officer and the CEO of veteran-focused PR firm ScoutComms, also chimed in.

“Nothing that ever beat the morale boost like steak and lobster night downrange. Period,” he tweeted. “Taking care of the troops that you and your peers sent to war isn’t ‘waste.’ Gutlessly letting the war go without supervision of the actual effort is! But no…let’s take their good food.”

Focusing on the lobster, though, misses the point on how the Pentagon’s spending habits actually do troops a disservice, according to Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.

“The lobster tail example captures one’s imagination, but that’s not where congressional oversight needs to focus,” Smithberger told Military.com. “As you see spending go up, you see the amount of this use-it-or-lose-it spending going up as well, and that’s really not to the good.”

She said the billions of expenditures demonstrated DoD efforts to “use money to paper over management problems.”

“None of our weapons systems are affordable and arriving on time; we can’t take care of military housing,” Smithberger said. “[There are] recruitment and retention problems; [the military] prioritizes procurement over training. As long as you keep having money thrown at these problems, people aren’t making tough decisions.”

For the Pentagon, the biggest year-end expenditure was professional services and support, accounting for .6 billion of spending in September 2018. Then came fixed-wing aircraft, a buy of .6 billion. Other top spending items include IT and telecom hardware services and support, .7 billion; combat ships and landing vessels, .9 billion; and guided missiles, nearly billion.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

(US Navy photo by Dale M. Hopkins)

More than the individual items and services purchased, the biggest problem may be the way the spending happens — and the perverse incentives not to end up with leftover money at the end of the year, because it might negatively impact efforts to obtain funds the following year.

“Congress is a lot of the problem,” Smithberger said. “Appropriators look and see whatever is not spent, they take and use for their pet project.”

As the Pentagon budget request continues to balloon year after year, Smithberger said she’d like to see incentives to save money and a system that would keep planners from worrying about a loss of resources the following year.

“If the department showed that it was able to save tens of billions of dollars, they would have a more credible case for the topline,” she said.

There’s plenty of evidence, Smithberger said, that money alone doesn’t solve or prevent institutional problems. For example, she said, the Navy was making big investments in shipbuilding when two guided-missile destroyers collided with commercial ships in separate deadly incidents within months of each other in 2017. While investigations did cite scarcity of resources, training was found to be a major shortfall contributing to the disasters.

When it comes to defense spending, “it’s a lot of hollow rhetoric and it’s really costly when we decide to only express our support through appropriations and not through real decision-making and responsibility,” she said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army pilots prove their chops in risky terrain

Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.

As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.

For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.


But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”

A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.

The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.

The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.

The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.

“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

Schoolhouse

Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.

Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.

Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.

Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.

“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”

With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.

The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.

“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”

The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.

Crew chiefs

Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.

By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.

“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.

One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.

“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.

While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.

While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.

“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”

Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.

Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.

“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”

Training for combat

Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.

HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.

At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.

“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.

While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.

For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.

“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”

Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.

“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Airline refunds returning soldier for overweight bag charge

A Texas National Guard returning home after nearly two years deployed to says he had to pay United Airlines $200 because his bag was overweight.


KTBC-TV in Austin reports 1st Lt. John Rader of Kyle, Texas, had a duffel bag just over the 70-pound bag weight limit for no charges during his United flight May 15 from El Paso.

Rader had a layover in Houston before arriving at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

United, in a statement May 18, said the charge would be refunded to Rader as a goodwill gesture. The carrier says personnel are allowed to check five bags, weighing up to 70 pounds apiece, for free.

Rader’s bag had a Kevlar vest, two helmets and boots. He didn’t have another bag with him to transfer items.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 27th

Hey Noadamus, how did you get so wise? Were you always so enlightened? If I study at the feet of the master, can I hope to become as wise as you one day? Should I take up a musical instrument? What sort of stocks should I day trade in?

You ask a lot of damn questions. What are you, Congress?


Enough of that noise; let’s jump into what’s important here: your future.

Pisces

Life is even better than you can imagine and the best part is that it’s only getting better. But alas, nothing is simply all good or all bad, and this time of growth and prosperity will wane. Don’t waste it, because what goes up must also come down. Even though you might have some struggles today, they are minor and tomorrow looks better and brighter.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Maybe do this privately. In front of your mirror. Not on the corner at rush hour.

Aries

It is rather difficult to picture how things could get better than they are right now, and if that is your viewpoint then it will be true, but if you can open your mind to the possibility of even greater improvement, you will experience it. Just try not to rub your perfect life in everyone’s face — that’s just rude.

Taurus

You should practice finding peace in chaos because you are about to experience a sh*tload of it. I mean, so much effin’ chaos and discord that it will challenge your deepest well of calm. Best course of action? Remember there are things outside of your control and let them go. The only thing you can control are your choices.

So, you can choose to develop an even deeper well of calm or choose to erupt when angered or annoyed by the almost-unlimited stressors in your life. This week, regardless of what you choose, you will be incredibly successful either way. So, choose wisely.

Gemini

You know what I like about you? When you have something to say, you always say it. Hell, even when you don’t have something to say, you say that, too. You should really try not saying something, and instead, try listening. In fact, you should try to speak less overall this week, you may find yourself revealing things which are completely inappropriate. This is not just a possible embarrassment, but an incredibly damaging event which could ruin your career. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother or the chaplain, don’t say it at all this week.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

We get it. You’re sad. Move on.

Cancer

You may find yourself filled with nostalgia for a person or situation from your past. You may even fool yourself into believing that you want this person or situation back in your life, but you need ask yourself this very important question: Do you truly want this back in your life because you miss it from your life or is your current situation not going the way you hoped and are wishing for better times gone by? You may find yourself rethinking the wisdom of returning to someone or something which you have already let go.

Leo

What is a captain without the crew? A star without fans? If the captain neglects the crew, he or she may find himself walking the plank. And a star without fans is a star no more. While you may believe yourself completely independent of others, this is a falsehood to the extreme. Don’t forget about the little people, you depend on them far more than they depend on you. Be extra kind to folks this week, you’ll thank me for it later.

Virgo

My Virgo brothers and sisters, just because you are stressed doesn’t mean you should tear yourself apart for every tiny little flaw. You’re only human. Allow yourself some grace and try talking nicely to yourself once in a while. Financial problems at home cause conflicts with your career. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the unit EO rep to overhear because this week, everyone will be repeating any dirt you speak aloud.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

We’re all just as sick of your indecision as you are.

Libra

OMG. It’s hard to be so tall, and attractive, and successful, and, on top of that, you have two incredible opportunities to select from and you can’t decide. You know if you pick one the other option is not possible. Please stop trying to make everyone feel sorry for your dilemma. It’s beneath you. Just shut the F up and make a decision already.

Scorpio

I’m not one to judge people for their deviant behavior, but recently you have been a tad bit out of control. Instead of snowballing, this current pattern of behavior into something worse, you can pull the breaks and save yourself from doing something that will leave a serious lasting mark. Have you ever seen that movie where that dude doesn’t touch himself or anyone else below the belt for 40 days? Try it, but let’s start small and aim for a week. You can do it, I believe in you.

Sagittarius

Seriously, do your effin’ laundry, Private. Just because you fall in a pile of sh*t and think you smell like roses, doesn’t mean you really do. In fact, it means you’re covered in crap. So this week, clean yourself up, hit the laundromat, and try drinking something other than booze. Like, I don’t know, water maybe? Just a thought.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Yeah, we see you on your way to ruin everyone else’s lives.

Capricorn

It’s hard to be you, seeing how things should be done and wondering why you have yet to be promoted to Sergeant Major of the Universe so you could implement your plans, but such is life here on earth. Your genius will continue to be unrecognized this week, but you will probably continue to be a terrible human to everyone you meet as the chaos of life overwhelms you. So take a deep breath and try not to such a prick; things will improve, at some point. Okay, that last part about things improving is a lie, but… I got nothing, good luck with that.

Aquarius

Wow, I want to lie say I’m not impressed, but the bylaws of the intrawebs and my contract with the big guy forbids it. So, good job skating through the nonsense of your life relativity unscathed. It is impressive, inspiring even. However, just because your lack of planning and your tendency to wing it has been successful in the recent past, this doesn’t mean that method will hold up this week. Even your luck has limits – don’t test ’em, not this week, at least.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commanders are excited about US Space Force

President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.

Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.


“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.

But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.

Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.

The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.

There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.

“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.

(US Air Force)

While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.

“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.

“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”

Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.

That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.

Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”

“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.

(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.

Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.

In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.

Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”

“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”

Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.

“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”

“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Global Strike flyover to support Super Bowl 55 in Tampa

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) –

Three different Air Force Global Strike Command bombers will conduct a first-of-its-kind trifecta flyover during the National Anthem performance at the 55th Super Bowl, Feb. 7, over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for our command and the U.S. Air Force,” said Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC commander. “We look forward to this opportunity to showcase the reliability, flexibility and precision of our bomber fleet to the nation during this exciting event.”

The bomber flyover, will feature:
– B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
– B-2 Spirit from Whiteman AFB, Missouri
– B-52 Stratofortress from Minot AFB, North Dakota

The aircraft will take off for the Super Bowl LV flyover from their respective bases, join up for the flyover, and return to base following the event, demonstrating the flexibility of AFGSC’s bombers and their ability to deploy anywhere in the world from the continental United States.

The U.S. Air Force performs close to 1,000 flyovers a year, which serves as a way to showcase the capabilities of its aircraft while also inspiring patriotism and future generations of aviation enthusiasts. These flyovers are done at no additional cost to the taxpayer and serve as time-over-target training for our pilots, aircrew and ground control teams.

Digital content for Super Bowl LIV flyover can be found:
https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/SuperBowlLVFlyover
Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @usairforce

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How problems on Navy’s new supercarrier helped it build the next one

Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.

The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.

“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”


Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.

At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.

That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

The Kennedy.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.

“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”

Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”

The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.

“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.

In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.

The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.

“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.

On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”

There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”

“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.

(US Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Matt Hildreth)

The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.

About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.

On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.

“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.

“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.

Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.

Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.

Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.

“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.

Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.

In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.

Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.

Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”

“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”

Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.

“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This innovative treatment for veterans doesn’t involve drugs

More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day in America. This number does not include the loss of first responders, caregivers, or their family members. Due to the lack of effective treatment for mental health issues developed from traumatic experiences, self-medicating, isolation and violence have plagued a generation of heroes.


The Boulder Crest Retreat, a privately funded organization, uses an innovative approach to treating mental health issues in veterans, their families and first responders, without the use of drugs. Treating symptoms derived from mental health issues has become big business in America, especially amongst the Armed Forces. Medicating symptoms of PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues only create new, and possibly, worse issues like self-medicating, leading to addiction.
Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Courtesy of Boulder Crest Retreat.

America’s service members are exposed to numerous levels of trauma when they go to war. Upon their return home, they may experience feelings of paranoia, anger, guilt and sadness. Expected to function normally, many of them indulge in unhealthy coping habits to appear ordinary. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during Vietnam, 15 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD, this number later increased to 30 per 100 in more recent studies. In the Gulf War, 12 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. Now, in OIF and OEF, the numbers have continued to rise and are anywhere between 11 to 20 diagnosed in any given year. With the number of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD growing rapidly, the costs have become unmanageable for VAs across the country. They have partnered with non-profits and other state agencies to help fill the financial void for treatment.

Chairman, and Co-Founder of Boulder Crest Kenneth Falke, spoke about his personal journey to creating a place of peace for Veterans and first responders. He visited top psychiatrists from a few of the best universities in America, including Harvard. He was in search of a way to help relieve the stigma of mental illness. On this journey, he met Dr. Richard Tedeschi. Dr. Tedeschi has studied the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on individuals and families for many years. He now teaches post-traumatic growth and how the traumatic experiences people face can create a positive response over time.

With the incorporation of methods taught by Dr. Tedeschi, Falke was able to offer a comprehensive curriculum to people who’d before, only been treated with medical intervention. “We need to normalize mental health issues,” Falke insisted. Boulder Crest does just that. The program began five years ago with the help of philanthropic funding. Falke said, “At some point in time, we all suffer.” He’s right. Nearly every person on the planet has experienced some form of trauma in their lives. With the help of Boulder Crest, people can feel safe and normal. Instead of treating symptoms, Boulder Crest teaches wellness to their clients, with a focus on mind, body, spirit, and finance. There is a program specifically for family members, couples, and caregivers. The family path program also teaches family members how to live a mentally healthy life. This program has proven to be more effective than symptom reduction alone. The Warrior Path program is an 18-month program with a required seven-day, in-residence stay for all clients. Male and females are housed separately throughout the duration of the program.

The Boulder Crest Retreat has two locations; Virginia and Arizona. Sitting on acres of grasslands, Boulder Crest offers a desirable serene ambiance best for rest and relaxation. Each location houses about 10 males and two females per year. With the ever-increasing need for services, Boulder Crest Retreat hopes to offer its program to more individuals in the coming years. The organization also offers activities outside of formal instruction such as; Archery, Equine therapy, the labyrinth, and so much more.

Boulder Crest Retreat is free to combat veterans (honorably discharged), their families, and first responders. Potential clients do not need a mental health diagnosis to be considered for the program. This retreat is a highly sought-after program. Wait times can be up to six months, depending on location. Proven to be three to five-times more successful than medical intervention alone, this program has changed how PTSD is treated.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Courtesy of Boulder Crest Retreat.

How you can help

Because programs like Boulder Crest are funded through the community, they rely on crowdsourced funds to operate. There are ways you can get involved that will empower you to want to do more for America’s veterans and first responders. By attending events, donating, and volunteering, you can help more Veterans get the treatment they need. If you are a college student, applying to be an intern at Boulder Crest Retreat, not only helps them, but it helps you too.

If you are a veteran or first responder and have experienced Post Traumatic Stress and could use some encouragement and guidance, contact Boulder Crest. Your now doesn’t have to be your forever. Change paths and begin the wellness journey you deserve.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army Military Police receive new Sig Sauer M17 and M18 pistols

The U.S. Army began fielding M17 and M18 Modular Handgun Systems to the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in December 2018 to replace the force’s aging Beretta M9, a weapon that has been in use since the mid-1980s and is quickly reaching its serviceability limits.

Sporting an integrated rail system, a polymer grip module and self-illuminating sights, the modernized 9 mm pistol produced by Sig Sauer couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Mark Farley, USAMPS deputy commandant.


“The (Beretta M9s) we currently have are breaking more often, which causes readiness issues,” Farley said. He explained that the school’s M9s have fired on average about 20,000 to 30,000 rounds when a typical handgun will last through only about 10,000 before they start to have significant issues.

Gary Homer, USAMPS instructor, added, “With these 17 and 18s, you won’t get degradation of the barrel until after 25,000 rounds. The new MHS has an exponentially longer lifespan or life expectancy.”

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters

Sig Sauer M18 Modular Handgun Systems

(Sig Sauer)

Homer said every MHS is test fired before leaving the factory with 13 rounds — three to break in the weapon and 10 to test accuracy. He said each one must hit 10 out of 10 at 25 meters in a smaller than 3-inch group attesting to the gun’s accuracy level.

Both Farley and Homer agree one of the biggest selling points of the new MHS is the modular grips, which come in small, medium and large that allow for the pistol to be modified to the individual shooter.

“The Military Police Corps, is about 16 percent female soldiers, so this is a big deal when you’re talking about soldier lethality and accuracy,” Farley said. “For all soldiers to be able to hold that weapon with a proper grip and use the right fundamentals of firing — it’s very important in order for them to be able to engage the target and thereafter. One size does not fit all.”

In addition to being able to add lights to the guns with the rail system, John Scarbrough, USAMPS instructor/writer, said another thing he likes about the modernized weapons is the consistent trigger. He said this will help the MP students coming through the school’s many courses.

“There is a more consistent trigger so you don’t have to get used to 12 and then a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 pound trigger,” Scarbrough said. “Your first shot is the same as your 17th shot.”

He said the trigger pull in conjunction with the modular grips will improve overall accuracy.

“We have had students before who had to use two fingers to pull the trigger due to strength because of their hand position, or they’re holding the gun in an awkward position so it’s not managing recoil,” Scarbrough said. “Those are the two biggest things that I think will help out whomever is shooting them.”

Farley agreed and said it’s not just the equipment that’s being modernized. He said USAMPS recently changed their qualification tables as well.

“It came at the right time where we were trying to make training a little more stringent and harder. This gun won’t make it easier, but it will ease some of the transition on this new qualification table that is just now being exposed to soldiers in the field,” Farley said. “It wasn’t coordinated but it worked out well.”

Farley said they are excited about the new gun, adding that it’s long overdue. “The sooner we can get it fully fielded to the operational units and the full training base then operational readiness will be enhanced.”

So far the school has only received a few hundred of these systems, but is expecting to receive approximately 1,400.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea had formal talks for the first time in 2 years

North Korean delegates scheduled to meet their counterparts from South Korea in the first dialogue between the countries in over two years will cross the contentious military demarcation line (MDL) separating the border, South Korean news outlet KBS reported Jan. 8.


South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the North Korean officials will walk across the MDL at 9:30 a.m. local time to the Peace House at Panmunjom, or “truce village,” according to KBS. The walk from the MDL to the Peace House is roughly 250 meters, South Korean news outlet YTN reported.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
This shows the Conference Row in the Joint Security Area of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, looking into South Korea from North Korea. It shows guards on both sides and a group of tourists in the South. (Image Wikipedia)

The Peace House, located in the South Korean portion of Panmunjom, was previously used to hold talks with North Korea, including the prospect of reunifying families separated during the Korean War in the 1950’s.

The itinerary for the historic trip has been fully planned out, according to Reuters, and the discussion will focus around the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, including the possibility of having North Korean athletes attend the event.

The MDL has seen escalated tensions in recent weeks, particularly due to several North Korean defections.

Also Read: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

On Dec. 20, a “low ranking” soldier reportedly defected to South Korea, causing South Korean troops to fire warning shots towards North Korean border guards who approached the MDL in what appeared to be a search for their comrade.

In November, another defector crossed the border in a dramatic escape under a hail of gunfire. Video footage of the incident showed North Korean soldiers firing their weapons at the defector, and crossing the MDL in violation of the UN Armistice Agreement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pilots fight at a major disadvantage in Syria

A recent report from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf and supporting the US-led fight against ISIS contained a startling realization — US pilots are fighting in an insanely complicated space that puts them in danger.


“When it first started, ISIS was just steamrolling across Iraq and Syria and there wasn’t really much resistance going on … There weren’t a whole lot of places you could go where there was no ISIS presence about three years ago,” Lt. Joe Anderson, an F/A-18F pilot aboard the Roosevelt, told the US Naval Institute.

Related: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

But in 2018, the US-led coalition against ISIS has all but crushed the terror army. Now, the US troops in Syria, and their backups aboard the Roosevelt, have moved on to other objectives.

“Now where we’re at, there’s not as much going on … Mostly they’ve been whittled down to just isolated pockets within Iraq and Syria,” Anderson said.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria.

As the fight against ISIS dwindles down, the US has turned its attention to denying Iran influence within Syria and a land bridge to arm Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, as well as denying Syrian President Bashar Assad access to the country’s rich eastern oilfields.

US Navy pilots now spend much of their time “doing on-call [close-air support] and doing more defending the US and coalition forces on the ground in the area, and specifically Syrian Defense Forces who are in the mix doing their thing,” Anderson said.

Also read: A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS

That means the US is defending a group of Syrian rebels with embedded US ground troops in one of the most complex fights in history. The US supports the SDF and Kurdish forces in Syria’s north, but Turkey, a NATO ally, launched a military campaign against the Kurds. The US’s SDF allies oppose Syria’s government, but Russia and Iran back them.

US pilots fly the same skies as Iranian, Turkish, Syrian, and Russian aircraft, and they’re only allies with the Turks.

Crazy-complicated skies put the US at risk

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
An F/A-18 Super Hornet launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as the ship conducts flight operations in the US 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King)

Anderson’s commander, Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, told USNI that “the threat picture in Syria is just crazy.”

“How many different countries can you cram in one different place, where they all have a different little bit of an agenda? And you put a tactical pilot up there and he or she has to employ ordnance or make defensive counter-air decisions with multiple people – Russians, Syrians, Turks, ISIS, United States,” Koehler said.

As a result of the multi-faceted geopolitical complexity, US pilots are now in much more danger than a regular combat mission, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke.

“Now the pilots in the airplanes are under stress and using ordnance now have to do interpretations of human behavior and derive the intention of a potential adversary, or at least someone who’s not there for the same reasons,” Berke told Business Insider.

More: US F-22 pilots describe their conflict with Syrian jets while protecting US forces

In normal situations, like over Iraq or Afghanistan, US pilots fly with coalition partners and against enemy aircraft, but the divergent agendas in Syria mean aircraft with potentially bad aircraft can square right up to the US without tripping any alarms.

Berke emphasized that the difference in each country’s agenda made the coordination and combat fraught with difficulty.

If an armed Turkish jet was speeding towards Kurdish forces with US troops embedded, how should a US pilot respond? US pilots and air controllers train endlessly on how to fight, but drawing the line between what constitutes aggression or self-defense is a different matter.

This could start a war

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
(Russian Defense Ministry)

“If you misinterpret what someone does, you can create a massive problem, you can start a war,” Berke said. “I can’t think of a more complex place for there to be or a greater level of risk.”

As a result, US pilots are somewhat bound to deescalation, and may be tolerating higher levels of aggression from adversaries or non-allies in the skies above Syria. No US pilot wants to make headlines for kicking off an international incident by downing a Russian jet, or failing to defend US forces in a very murky situation.

“The less you know what’s going on, the more likely you’re going to make a bad decision that you’re not aware,” Berke said. “The fact that it hasn’t escalated beyond what it is now is a testament to the professionalism of the US military, it could have gone sideways any number of times.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.


Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.

For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
Counter-IED teams locate roadside bombs using Valon metal detectors. (Photo from Army.mil)

Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
A Marine and his trusty scythe will never run out of batteries. (USMC photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson)

By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.

Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.

On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”

That is all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

Lobster tails aren’t the problem with military spending, you monsters
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

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