The director of national intelligence, as well as directors from various intelligence agencies, briefed the new Worldwide Threat Assessment to the Senate Intelligence Community Jan. 29, 2019, lining out the top international threats to the US.
Cyber threats from China and Russia and the loss of allies were highlighted as significant threats to the post-World War II world order. The report also directly contradicts White House statements on North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization and the defeat of ISIS.
Cyber threats, espionage, and election interference
“We anticipate that all our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack, and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies,” the report states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Confirming Russian influence during the 2016 presidential election, Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, also reiterated that foreign groups tried to influence the 2018 US midterm elections — and stressed in his opening remarks to the Senate that the 2020 election remains the community’s top priority.
“We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” Coats said during the hearing. “We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each others’ experiences and efforts in previous elections.”
North Korea is stalling denuclearization — despite Trump’s assurances
The report highlights the stalling denuclearization in North Korea — something the Trump administration has been reluctant to admit as it has sought peace with leader Kim Jong Un.
“The [intelligence community] continues to assess that [North Korea] is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities,” the report states.
Although North Korea has not conducted any nuclear tests in over a year, its leaders maintain that the country’s nuclear capabilities are paramount to the survival of the regime, the intelligence assessment said. The White House acknowledged in January 2019 that progress had stalled in Pyongyang.
ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory, but has not been defeated
Although Trump maintained that his administration has dealt the final blow to the ISIS caliphate, his intelligence community still views the terrorist organization as a threat to the US.
United States President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
The report highlights the thousands of ISIS fighters that remain in Iraq and Syria, and notes that while territorial expansion is unlikely, the group has developed an international network that spans across the eastern hemisphere. In the long term, ISIS will also use its social networking capabilities to exploit instability and “pursue external attacks” against the US, the report states.
Losing allies in Europe
“Some US allies and partners are seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing US policies on security and trade and are becoming more open to new bilateral and multilateral partnerships,” the report states.
Though not explicit, the report suggests that the Trump administration’s repeated anti-NATO sentiment may be driving allies away from the US — and warns that Russia and China are eager to embrace the partnerships Trump has been pushing away.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Raven 08, Deci Tower, cleared for take-off, wind calm.”
I’m in the backseat of a Tornado IDS belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi, currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, for the yearly training activity in the Sardinian firing ranges. The words of the controller, that I can hear quite clearly before the noise will spread through the cockpit making all the subsequent communications barely readable, have a double meaning to me: first, they give the “go ahead” to the most exciting part of my flight in a Tornado (the very first one on this kind of aircraft); second, they mark the end of the long and delicate stage of the jet flight preparation; a preparation that determines either the success or failure of the sortie from the journalistic point of view.
Italian aircraft IDS Tornado flies over a live fire range in exercise Eager Centaur II in an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, March 14, 2016. Eager Centaur II is conducted to complete initial joint terminal attack controller training and exercise the SPMAGTF-CR-CC Fire Support Coordination Center, to include combined arms live-fire tactics, techniques, and procedures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake)
A flight in a jet usually lasts between 45 and 110 minutes (longer if it includes aerial refueling, but it’s not the case): in my case, fully exploiting the (short) time available to “observe” a mission from the inside and collect all the photos and video material for both aviation magazines, this blog and its connected social networks, is paramount. A flight in a combat aircraft represents an almost unique opportunity and it is important to make the most out of it. If something in the backseat goes wrong, if a camera body fails or a lens proves to be unsuitable for the photo session, there will hardly be a second chance. In about 20 years I’ve had this opportunity quite a few times, hence here are a few suggestions based on my little (if compared to others) experience in a combat aircraft. If you are going to fly in a fast jet for the first time, because you were invited or simply because you’ve paid for a ride, maybe the following few tips will help you maximize your experience.
Even though the thrill of flying in a jet fighter is always the same, learning from the past mistakes as well as the experience gained over the years, have been pivotal to perfecting the preparation of the mission so as to minimize the risk that something unexpected can jeopardize the reportage’s success. For example, during one of my first jet flights, to have a back-up in case of problems with the main camera, I decided to put a compact camera in one of the pockets of the flight suit, the one located more or less over the right’s lower leg. Fortunately, I did not need it. In fact, I hadn’t taken into account that the anti-G suit, dressed over the normal flight suit, would have made the “emergency” camera inaccessible during the flight! Since then, I only use the pockets of the anti-G pants for all those small accessories I might need in the cockpit.
With regard to the flight gear, in addition to my mask, I always try to use my own helmet, which is also easily recognizable by the bright yellow-green checkerboard on the cover. However, this is not always possible: for instance, in the case of the Eurofighter, the aircrews have to use the specific flight equipment designed for the Typhoon flight line which differs from that used on any other Italian Air Force aircraft and includes, among the other things, a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) helmet and an EFA / ACS mask. For my flight in the Tornado, I had to use to an HGU-55G helmet, with the characteristic 154th squadron’s “red devil” symbol painted on the cover, that I was lent by the unit.
Back to the preparation of the mission, once the flight gear’s check and fitting have been completed, I think the most important thing is the inspection of the rear cockpit of the aircraft: it is essential to know how to “move” in the backseat, where to attach the GoPro so that it is both stable and reachable (to modify some settings or move it), evaluate the size of any storage compartment to see if it can be used to accommodate a camera body or lens. In fact, digital cameras have greatly simplified life in a jet: when I was still using color slide films I needed to change the rolls several times during the flight. This forced me to continuously estimate the number of photographs I could take so that I didn’t run out of shots during a maneuver: in order to replace the finished roll with a new one, it was necessary to remove the gloves, be more or less stable (that is, in level flight) and have the time to safely remove and store the used roll before inserting a new one; an operation that would take just a few seconds in other conditions but, performed in a very narrow space, strapped into the ejection seat, wearing the heavy helmet, the mask, the Secumar, etc., was, especially at the beginning, quite challenging. With the advent of digital photography, this problem has been solved.
Returning to the preparation of the flight, once understood how to move (or not move) in the rear cockpit, it is important to discuss with the crews that will take part in the mission and determine which phases of the missions will be suitable for some aerial shots. Although I have had the opportunity to arrange “pure” air-to-air photo sessions, I usually prefer to take part in missions that bring me in the aircraft’s operational environment: I am a journalist and I find it much more interesting for my readers (and for myself) to see and recount the mission from a privileged point of view, focusing on both the tactical aspects of the flight and the technical details of the employed weapon systems. This means that the time available for photography is normally reduced to about ten minutes: during the transition to the operating zone or during the RTB (Return To Base) phase.
Obviously, a sortie with well-defined operational goals leaves little room for aerobatics or formations flying in favor of light: if you are part of a 3-ship that is acting as “Red Air” in a 4 vs 3 supersonic training mission, as in my flight in the Eurofighter, the aircraft will fly towards the operational area in fighting wing, with a significant spacing from one another, and the time for close formation will be reduced to a few minutes. However, as I have already explained, I prefer a few clicks from a realistic operational situation rather than taking part in a sortie that is particularly cool from a photographic point of view, but “poor” from the operational one. Generally, “how to arrange the aircraft” and “when to take photographs” are topics discussed with the aircrews during the briefing and reviewed, if necessary, during the flight, asking the pilot in the front seat to assume a specific attitude so as to obtain a particular shot.
Dealing with the photographic equipment, in addition to the GoPro and camera, I bring with me what I need inside a large removable pocket that comes with velcro to be attached to the anti-G at the thigh: here is where I put spare batteries or extra lenses, like fisheye and zoom for the iPhone, used to take short videos or photos that complement the work of the DSLR camera. As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle. From 1999 to today, I have carried several camera bodies with me, but the lens I prefer in the back seat is almost always the Canon 28-135 USM, an extremely reliable, versatile and lightweight lens, more than adequate for my needs. If you do not have hundreds of flights under your belt, photographing air-to-air from the cockpit of a military aircraft is not an easy task: properly framing the other jets during some maneuvers requires some physical effort (the camera is subject to the same accelerations as aircraft meaning that in a 5 g turn the camera weighs five times its weight on the ground …) and gives very nauseous feelings, too. Luckily, I have never needed it, but I always bring a bag for nausea in the anti-G pocket; I also drink a lot of water and limit carbohydrates, alcohol, or spicy foods ahead of flying. Anyway, pro photographers, with hundreds if not thousands of flight hours in fast jets, such as Katsuhiko “Katsu” Tokunaga, Jamie Hunter, or Frank Crebas (to name but few), may provide much more expert advice about air-to-air photography and related tips and tricks.
The opportunity to fly in a high-performance aircraft every now and then has given me some exciting and long-lasting memories: the formation aerobatics with the TF-104, the BBQ (Ultra-low level flying) with AMX, the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) sortie with the T-346A or the supersonic BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception flown as Aggressor with the Eurofighter.
The ground-based version of the AIM-120 Sparrow air-to-air missile just got a major upgrade as Raytheon announced that it has successfully tested a new engine and enhanced fire distribution center that gives the system a much longer range and higher maximum altitude, according to a company press release.
Used by militaries around the world, the system is designed to bring down helicopters, jets, and even cruise missiles. Basically, it’s an oozlefinch with an “If it flies, it dies” mentality.
The National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the AIM-120 air-to-air missile, also known as the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, but fires it from tubes parked on the ground. The new version of the missile borrows the engine from the Navy’s Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
This new engine, combined with better flight control, allows the AMRAAM-Extended Range to engage targets at a 50 percent longer range and 70 percent higher altitude than it used to be capable of. The exact range of AMRAAM-ER has not been released, but the Evolved Sea Sparrow can engage targets at over 30 miles away when fired from a ship.
Already popular in NATO, the NASAMS is designed for low and medium-altitude air defense. Norway was the first adopter and helped develop it under the name “Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System,” and the system is deployed by U.S. forces and five other countries.
The U.S. uses NASAMS to defend Washington D.C. from aerial attack and typically deploys Patriots, Stingers, and other air defense assets elsewhere in the world.
Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.
The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.
“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a reportpublished on its website.
Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.
It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.
“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.
British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.
“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.
Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.
The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.
British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.
In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.
Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.
The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.
The US Army just moved one step closer to a new light tank intended to boost the firepower of airborne and other light infantry units.
The Army is currently looking for a new tracked armored vehicle able to protect and support infantrymen as they “destroy the enemy in some of the worst places in the world,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said Dec. 17, 2018.
“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” he told reporters at a media roundtable.
The infantry has artillery, but “there’s no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield, to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain,” Coffman explained. That is where Mobile Protected Firepower comes into play.
Two companies, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, have been awarded Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping contracts for this development project, the Army revealed Dec. 17, 2018. Each contract is worth 6 million, and each company will provide a total of 12 prototypes.
BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.
(BAE Systems photo)
The purpose of Mobile Protected Firepower is to “disrupt, breach, and break through” fortified defenses
The MPF, a 30-ton light tank expected to fill a critical capability gap, is one of five next-generation combat vehicles being developed by Army Futures Command, a new four-star command focused on preparing the force for high-end warfighting against near-peer threats in an age of renewed great power competition.
The Army, shifting its focus from counterinsurgency to high-intensity multi-domain operations with an eye on rivals China and Russia, wants contractors to deliver a vehicle that offers mobility, lethality, and survivability.
The MPF light tanks would provide the firepower to breach heavily-fortified defensive positions, potentially in an area, such as Russian and Chinese anti-access zones, where the US might not be able to achieve absolute air superiority.
The MPF vehicles will help Infantry Combat Brigade Teams (ICBTs) “disrupt, breach, and break through” secure defensive zones, Coffman explained.
The final Mobile Protected Firepower light tank, which will be delivered to troops in 2025, will be a tracked vehicle with either a 105 mm or 120 mm cannon that can withstand an unspecified level of fire. The Army also wants to be able to carry at least two light tanks aboard a C-17 Globemaster III for easy transport.
BAE Systems displayed its Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting Exposition in October 2016 in Washington.
(BAE Systems via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)
BAE Systems’ MPF solution
BAE Systems presented a Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting Exposition in 2016. BAE Systems’ latest proposal is a variant of the original design.
BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.
(BAE Systems photo)
“Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach,” Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems, said in a statement.
GDLS displayed its Griffin tech demonstrator, a starting point for MPF discussions, at the AUSA Annual Meeting Exposition.
(General Dynamics via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)
General Dynamics’ MPF
General Dynamics Land Systems displayed a technology demonstrator at AUSA 2016 as a starting point for discussions with the Army about its expectations for the MPF platform.
The company is currently playing its cards close to the vest with its latest proposal, offering only the following picture while clarifying that the vehicle pictured is not the company’s exact offering.
A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.
(General Dynamics photo)
“We are excited about this opportunity to provide the US Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams,” Don Kotchman, the vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems US Market, said in a statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
The US Air Force flew B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers through the disputed South and East China Seas on March 4, 2019.
“Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019,” US Pacific Affairs told ABC News, explaining that while one bomber “conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” the other trained near Japan in cooperation with the US Navy and Japanese forces.
Online flight-tracking data for the flights indicates that one flew near the Philippines while the other conducted operations around Japan.
The last time the US Air Force sent bombers through the South China Sea was in November 2018. The US repeatedly sent bombers through the area in 2018.
The B-52 bombers stationed in Guam are there in support of the US Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission intended to deter any country with adversarial intentions.
The B-52H Stratofortress.
Bomber flights over the South and East China Seas are perceived as challenges to China, which has attempted to assert its dominance over the strategic waterways. The US has, in the past, sent bombers to Korea in a show of force to the North in the wake of hostile actions.
As it does with US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, Beijing has previously criticized US bomber flights over the South and East China Seas, calling them “provocative.”
The US has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea in 2019, and the US Navy has also twice sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
In response, China has issued warnings, urging to steer clear of these areas, and even flexed its muscles by showing off its anti-ship weaponry, such as the “carrier killer” DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile.
B-52 bombers are high flying heavily-armed aircraft. Some are nuclear-capable bombers, while others have been denuclearized. It is unclear whether the B-52 bombers flying above contested waterways are nuclear-capable aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan March 16, President Donald J. Trump asked for a defense budget increase of $30 billion for the Defense Department in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, to rebuild the armed forces and accelerate the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The fiscal 2017 budget amendment provides $24.9 billion in base funds for urgent warfighting readiness needs and to begin a sustained effort to rebuild the armed forces, according to the president’s letter.
“The request seeks to address critical budget shortfalls in personnel, training, maintenance, equipment, munitions, modernization and infrastructure investment. It represents a critical first step in investing in a larger, more ready and more capable military force,” Trump wrote.
The request includes $5.1 billion in overseas contingency operations funds so the department can accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIS and support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, he said, noting that the request would enable DoD to pursue a comprehensive strategy to end the threat ISIS poses to the United States.
At the Pentagon this afternoon, senior defense officials briefed reporters on the on the fiscal 2017 budget amendment. The speakers were John P. Roth, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense-comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, director of force structure, resources and assessment on the Joint Staff.
“Our request to Congress is that they pass a full-year defense appropriations bill,” and that the bill includes the additional $30 billion, Roth said.
“We are now approaching the end of our sixth month under a continuing resolution,” he added, “one of the longest periods that we have ever been under a continuing resolution.”
The continuing resolution run for the rest of the fiscal year, Pentagon officials “would find that extremely harmful to the defense program,” Roth said.
“We are essentially kind of muddling along right now in terms of … borrowing resources against third- and fourth-quarter kinds of finances in order to keep things going,” he said. “But that game gets to be increasingly difficult as we go deeper into the fiscal year.”
Under a continuing resolution, the department has to operate under a fiscal 2016 mandate, creating a large mismatch between operations funds and procurement funds, Roth explained. The department can’t spend procurement dollars because there’s a restriction on new starts and on increasing production, he said, “but we have crying needs in terms of training, readiness, maintenance … and in the operation and maintenance account.”
The continuing resolution expires April 28, “so before then, we would want a full appropriation and, of course, a full appropriation with this additional $30 billion,” he said.
Roth said much of the money in the fiscal 2017 request is funding for operations and maintenance.
“We’re asking for additional equipment maintenance funding, additional facilities maintenance, spare parts, additional training events, peacetime flying hours, ship operations, munitions and those kinds of things,” he told reporters. “This is the essence of what keeps this department running on a day-to-day basis. It keeps us up and allows us to get ready for whatever the next challenge is.”
The officials said full support from Congress is key to improving warfighter readiness, providing the most capable modern force, and increasing the 2011 Budget Control Act funding cap for defense.
Ten thousand times more potent than morphine, the drug carfentanil poses a risk to both civilians and warfighters.
The powerful opioid, with lethal amounts smaller than a poppy seed, was developed as a tranquilizer for use on large animals and is now part of the illicit drug trade. Easily obtained, concern about weaponization has led researcher Michael Feasel, Ph.D., of the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, to determine how to treat exposure to the drug.
There is significant interest in opioids and their impact on the population, from the public health crisis of heroin and fentanyl abuse, to events like the Dubrovka Theater siege. According to an article published by researchers at the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, carfentanil and remifentanil were the main components used by the Russian government to subdue the terrorists.
Carfentanil activates the body’s opioid receptors, depressing the respiratory drive and other central nervous system functions. The anti-overdose drug naloxone (an opioid antagonist) can reverse the effects of the narcotic. However, carfentanil is so potent that larger doses of naloxone may be required to counter its effects. Currently, little research on the effective dosage is available.
“Higher potency versions of naloxone are available, however the Food and Drug Administration has not seen a need to get them approved for human use, until now. These ultra-potent opioid exposures are not only a chemical defense issue, but they are also a public health issue,” Feasel stated.
Feasel is working to understand the effects carfentanil at the cellular and systemic levels. His work will help determine the dosage of naloxone needed to resuscitate casualties of carfentanil exposure. In collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the ECBC scientist set out to identify metabolites in carfentanil using hepatocytes, or human liver cells. Feasel identified twelve metabolites in a 2-D, in vitro platform, which showed slower clearance. This advancement provides insight into the duration of carfentanil’s effects on the human body.
The follow-on study uses 3-D spheroids which mimic human liver activity and provide more complex results.
“By using a 3-D subculture we are enabling the access to realistic data,” observed Feasel. With conclusions on the research forthcoming, he is continuing to address the issues of chemical and biological defense and public health to develop methodology which can be applied to relevant compounds.
In fact, his research is so pivotal that Chemical Engineering News, a publication from the American Chemical Society, recently named Feasel as one of the “Talented 12.” Each year, this distinction is given to 12 path-paving researchers and entrepreneurs identified to revolutionize industry and solve global problems.
Feasel’s groundbreaking research not only aids the Department of Defense in protecting the nation and our warfighters from emerging chemical weapons, but has broader applicability to the White House initiative for the war on opioids. By finding the proper dosage to treat exposure, strides in research will reduce the impact if a weaponized version is used on the battlefield or in terrorist attacks.
Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.
Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.
“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”
Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.
In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.
Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.
Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.
“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.
People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.
“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”
From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.
“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”
After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.
Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.
But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.
“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”
In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.
Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.
“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”
He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.
The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.
“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”
Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.
“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”
“Worry about the dollars and the pennies take care of themselves.” — anonymous
It’s worthwhile to keep that adage above in mind when you are being pitched to buy a franchise business.
One of the most costly mistakes veterans can make is paying too much upfront for a franchise that you can’t sell for the same price the next day. It’s the venture equivalent of buying a used Chevy for the price of new BMW.
I hate it when I receive letters from veterans who “want out” of a franchise they just bought. They feel snookered, trapped, and annoyed at themselves for not looking at the details before signing on the dotted line.
The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to become a smart shopper of franchise opportunities. Here are five tips to help you assess if you are more likely to make money or lose money in the franchise world.
1. Set higher standards
If your objective is to merely “go into business for yourself” or “own a franchise” then your aspirations are not high enough to be a successful business owner. After all, you will achieve your goal of business ownership the day you sign the franchise contract! Then what?
A more purposeful objective is to own a franchise that will make money for you. When you set high standards for your financial return on your invested time and savings your tire-kicking “due diligence” questions become more precise and purposeful.
2. Understand sales rep motivations
When you start to explore different franchise opportunities, you will come in contact with franchisor representatives and business brokers who have just one purpose—to sell you a franchise as fast as possible. These individuals are not your trusted friends or unbiased financial advisors. Certainly don’t sign any franchise agreement without prior review from an experienced corporate attorney who understands franchise valuations and royalty obligations.
3. Add up cost of acquisition
Sneaky franchise brokers are adept at hiding the true investment cost of a franchise purchase. If you sign up to buy a franchise, your cost of acquisition is more than the down payment. Include the amount you have to borrow to acquire the franchise plus other savings you may have to apply to the business until it achieves at least cash flow breakeven. (when net sales revenues exceed expenses every month) This is the total amount you will have at risk in your new business. How comfortable are you with this amount? What would happen if you lost it all?
4. Evaluate owner’s compensation
Another trick of franchise sales reps is to present impressive financial projections of average franchise unit performance. Look closely at these projections. Do they include a budget allocation for the owner’s salary, healthcare, adequate insurance and other real world expenses associated with running a business? If there is no allocation for an owner’s salary and benefits and you intend to work full time in the business, beware!
Remember, year-end profits should be your financial return on your invested capital, not your sole source of compensation for working 40 to 70 hours a week to keep the franchise alive! Of course, the business could fail to generate a profit too which means you as the founder earns nothing for a lot of work.
5. Understand market value
Buy low, then sell high. If you pay $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to buy into a franchise, then you should find evidence that other franchises can be sold at least for that much or more. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
Research the market for this brand of franchise. What are the average resale purchase prices in your state? Who buys up franchises when the owner wants out? Does the corporate office buy back franchises? What does the franchise agreement call for? Frequently, one regional franchise operator buys distressed properties at deep discounts.
Given all the risks associated with owning a business and personal obligation to repay debt, you should walk away from any franchise that cannot eventually be sold for at least two times your invested capital.
Unfortunately, I get too many letters from franchise buyers who are desperate to get out of a money-losing franchise. They realize they overpaid for a franchise usually within a year of purchase. They didn’t pay attention to the quantitative issues where they could lose hard cash because the sales reps kept their attention on how great it will be to at last be the boss of a money making business. At the end of the day, they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any fun as a business owner.
Now you know better.
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.