Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.
In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.
“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.
His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.
Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.
“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)
The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”
Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
ISIS on Oct. 31, 2019, announced it has a new leader as it confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up amid a US-led raid on a compound in Syria’s Idlib province over the weekend.
Baghdadi’s successor is Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, according to Site Intel Group, which tracks the online activities of extremist groups like ISIS. This is a nom de guerre, according to top analysts, and signals that the new leader is indicating he’s descended from the Qurayshi tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.
Baghdadi also claimed to be descended from this tribe in order to establish his legitimacy as “caliph” or leader of the Islamic world. ISIS is referring to Baghdadi’s successor as the “caliph” as well.
ISIS also confirmed that its spokesperson, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed in a separate, subsequent US strike that was conducted after the Baghdadi raid. A man identified as Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi is ISIS’s new spokesperson, according to Oct. 31, 2019’s announcement.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid video released by Pentagon
This announcement came several days after President Donald Trump on Oct. 27, 2019, spent nearly an hour speaking about the Baghdadi operation in a celebratory and self-congratulatory fashion.
Trump’s remarks on the Baghdadi raid have sparked criticism, as the vivid details he provided seemingly revealed classified information. The president also appeared to have made false claims about the operation, including that the ISIS leader was “whimpering,” that’s left US officials scratching their heads as to where he got such info.
Though ISIS no longer has a so-called caliphate, or the large swath of territory that was roughly the side of Maryland that it once held across Iraq and Syria, analysts have warned that it is far from defeated and still poses a threat.
ISIS’s announcement on Oct. 31, 2019, warned the US against rejoicing in Baghdadi’s death.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Reps. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, and Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, traveled to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, over the weekend to meet with the depot’s commander, Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, about the findings of three command investigations into the death of 20-year-old Muslim recruit Raheel Siddiqui and other allegations of hazing.
Renforth, an infantry officer, took command of the base in June, after three senior leaders had been fired and 15 drill instructors sidelined in connection with the hazing probes.
In a joint announcement Wednesday, Dingell and Issa expressed horror at the findings of the investigation, but optimism that the Corps was moving in the right direction.
“This weekend’s visit was an opportunity to see firsthand the changes that are being implemented to achieve this goal. After meeting with General Renforth and talking with other key members of leadership, drill instructors, and recruits, it is clear that the Marine Corps is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves,” Dingell said in a statement.
“General Renforth has assured me this is personal to him and he is committed to working towards real change to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future,” she added.
Dingell, who has the Siddiqui family in her district and has pressed the Marine Corps for information since his March 18 death, said the immediate changes the service had implemented — including automatically suspending staff who are being investigated for hazing and increasing officer oversight of drill instructors — provided evidence of Renforth’s dedication to eradicate the problems.
“This is just a first step and continued monitoring in the weeks and months ahead will be necessary to ensure these policies have their intended effect,” she said.
Issa, whose district includes the Marine Corps’ West Coast recruit depot in San Diego, called the findings surrounding Siddiqui’s death “nothing short of heartbreaking.”
“Beyond training procedures and safeguards, we must do more to prevent active-duty personnel suicide overall,” he said in a statement. “Statistics released earlier this year show the number of service members committing suicide remains unacceptably high while reserve suicide rates have increased.”
I remain committed to assisting our Marines and all of our services in working to provide all the support they need,” he added.
The results of the three command investigations, reviewed by Military.com on Sept. 8, revealed that the drill instructor whose abuse and harassment of Siddiqui provided “impetus” for the recruit’s death had been previously investigated for hazing another Muslim recruit by throwing him in a clothes dryer and calling him a “terrorist.”
The probes revealed a culture of hazing within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that stretched back at least as far as 2015 and was only curtailed after a recruit’s family wrote a letter to President Barack Obama in April, a month after Siddiqui’s death.
The Department of Defense confirmed to CNN that a test had taken place, but did not mention the result.
“The Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy sailors manning the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex (AAMDTC) conducted a live-fire missile flight test using a Standard-Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii,” DoD spokesman Mark Wright told CNN.
If confirmed, the test would be the second time this year that the missile, made by Raytheon, failed to intercept its target during tests. The last failure happened in July of 2017, and was blamed on a sailor accidentally entering data that identified the target as a friendly, causing the missile to self-destruct.
Raytheon is developing the missile as part of a joint project between the US and Japan, which plans to install two of the systems on its mainland in order to defend against threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
The failure comes amid high tensions between the US and North Korea. Defense officials told CNN that they would not publicly discuss the failed launch, in part because of “sensitivities surrounding North Korea.”
He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.
Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.
In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.
His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.
Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.
After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.
And maintaining that excellence has been no small feat, considering the Corps has served a role in every conflict in US history. That’s because the Marines operate on sea, air, and land, and can respond to a crisis in less than 24 hours with the full force of a modern military.
To celebrate the Corps, we’ve pulled some of their best shots ever.
Marine Corps Military Free Fall Instructors assigned to Marine Detachment — Fort Bragg, release the ashes of Sgt. Brett Jaffe (1971-2012), a Marine rigger, above Phillips Drop Zone at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., on July 26, 2012. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps
Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.
“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”
The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”
The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.
In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.
During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.
We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”
The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent. The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.
I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.
Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation. The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience. And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.
To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.
Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.
We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.
The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.
The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against. In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).
As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.
These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.
A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.
We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns. We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.
Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.
When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.
Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said. “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”
I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.
I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.
Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah. Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.
The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.
Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)
Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.
On August 14th, 1945, as news of the Allied victory over Imperial Japan reached the United States, Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt immortalized an unlikely pair in a photograph which has come to represent the jubilation and relief Americans felt upon the conclusion of the Second World War.
The picture features a sailor planting a kiss on a very surprised dental assistant in the middle of Times Square, New York City, while onlookers smile, laugh, and walk by. On February 17th, one George Mendonsa — widely believed to be the sailor in that image — passed away at the age of 95.
Mendonsa was preceded in death by his paramour in the image, Greta Zimmer Friedman, who died in 2016 of age-related health complications.
Alfred Eisenstaedt signing a print of his V-J Day in Times Square picture.
(Wikimedia Commons photograph by William Waterway Marks)
For years, the identities of the two kissers were unknown, with a number of men and women stepping forward to lay claim to their part in what soon turned into one of the most famous and iconic photographs of all time. Friedman herself did not see the picture until the 1960s, when she came across it in book of Eisenstaedt’s works.
After contacting Life Magazine with her account of what went down that balmy August day in New York, it became apparent that she was undoubtedly the female participant in the picture, though Life only got back to her in 1980 to confirm. It was just around that same time that Life brought along George Mendonsa, who claimed to be the sailor.
V-J Day in Times Square.
(Wikimedia Commons photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt)
Though, according to Friedman, the kiss happened quickly and was a complete surprise to her, she recognized Mendonsa and held that he was the celebrating smoocher from that day, celebrating the end of the war.
Mendonsa served on a destroyer as a helmsman and was, at the time, on shore leave from the USS The Sullivans dreading yet another wartime deployment overseas. As such, the young sailor was with his fiancee (yes, you read that right) taking in shows on Broadway and partying it up before he was due to ship out again.
The news of the war ending was obviously a major relief to the sailor who, living up to the drinking reputation of sailors worldwide, was already sporting an alcohol-induced buzz by early afternoon. He apparently couldn’t help himself amidst the throngs of euphoric New Yorkers and pulled the first woman he saw into a quick kiss.
As it turned out, the first woman he saw was a young dental assistant named Greta, who was told to close the dental clinic and go home to celebrate when news broke about the Japanese surrender in the Pacific Theater.
Greta Friedman and George Mendonsa as the guests of honor at a 4th of July parade in 2009.
George’s then-fiancee, Rita Petrie, is visible in the picture standing there with a laugh watching her sailor’s antics. She must have been greatly caught up in the celebration, as she later recalled, because it didn’t register on her mind that her man had just swapped spit with another woman right in front of her.
Either that, or Rita was in a very forgiving mood, as she spent the next 70 years blissfully married to the love of her life — George Mendonsa — who later joined the family business and became a fisherman in Rhode Island.
Friedman let on that she and Mendonsa maintained a cordial relationship due to their bond as the kissing couple from the V-J Day in Times Square picture, exchanging cards throughout the years before she died in 2016.
The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.
Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.
The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.
The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.
“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.
The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.
But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.
Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.
In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.
“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.
Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.
But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.
“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.
The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.
Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.
“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.
The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.
Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.
There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.
A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.
The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.
“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.
Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.
“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.
Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.
Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”
While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.
“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.
“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.
Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.
Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.
“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”
Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”
To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.
While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.
“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”
Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.