North Korea's new satellite flew over the Super Bowl - We Are The Mighty
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North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

North Korea launched a new satellite Feb. 7 as Americans were watching Super Bowl pregame coverage (or updating social media to let all their friends know they weren’t watching it). Apparently, North Korea wanted to see the game too, so they flew their brand-new satellite almost directly over the stadium.


Unfortunately for sports fans in the Hermit Kingdom, the satellite missed the game by an hour and so if it caught anything it was only players touching the Lombardi Trophy and Peyton Manning talking about Budweiser.

North Korea’s launch was quickly condemned by the international community. The U.N. Security Council said “a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist, especially in the context of the nuclear test.”

The timing of North Korea’s launch was no accident.

“The date of the launch appears to be in consideration of the weather condition and ahead of the Lunar New Year and the U.S. Super Bowl,” Jo Ho-young, chairman of the South Korean National Assembly Intelligence Committee, told the BBC.

The new satellite, which is North Korea’s second, doesn’t appear to do anything besides orbit the globe. Both of North Korea’s satellites orbit the Earth every 94 minutes, but no signals have been detected emitting from either one. The first was launched in 2012.

It’s not clear if the satellites were ever designed to broadcast data to Earth or if they simply malfunctioned. The new satellite is already facing issues and is currently tumbling in orbit.

Still, with North Korea developing more powerful nuclear weapons and pursuing new missile technologies, the U.S. and its allies in Southeast Asia are looking for ways to head off potential attacks.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles intercept high-flying enemy rockets and missiles. Photo: US Missile Defense Agency

South Korea is considering allowing a U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense site, or THAAD, in their country. THAAD can be used to shoot down missiles in flight outside of the range of the Patriot Missiles currently stationed in South Korea.

Even China, North Korea’s main ally, has discussed implementing new U.N. sanctions against the North Korean regime.

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Top Army leaders may kill ‘Death by Powerpoint’

In a move geared to reduce the bureaucratic overhead for soldiers who’re supposed to get straight to the business of fighting wars, Sec. of the Army Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley announced a plan to cut down on PowerPoints and other mandatory briefings suffered by soldiers throughout the world.


North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during a press conference at AUSA. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

Federal News Radio originally reported the top Army leaders’ comments during the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We essentially made a decision that if it’s Army-directed — which, unfortunately, a lot of it is — then we’re going to leave it up to the commanders to figure out how to get their soldiers trained,” Fanning said, “rather than have them walk through the mandatory PowerPoints we create at headquarters and send out to you in the field.”

So local commanders would get the option of skipping certain training classes to focus on preparing for war. This wouldn’t necessarily result in less training for soldiers, but it would result in more targeted training. An infantry squad would be more easily found in the field than a classroom.

And anyone in the Army could testify that units spend too much time in briefing halls, theaters, and chapels doing PowerPoints. Yes, there are so many troops who need so many classes that it is routine for chapels to be used for briefings and PowerPoint presentations.

Milley shared how bad the list of required classes had grown.

“At the end of the day, the last document I saw was 12 pages of single-spaced, nine-point type listing all of the activities a company commander and a first sergeant have to do, mandated by us. It’s nuts. It’s insane,” he said.

Unfortunately for company commanders, Milley and Fanning seem to have been specifically discussing requirements from the Department of the Army and made no mention of requirements from other levels of command.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gary Sinise Foundation hosts star-studded event for children of the fallen

Since 2006, the Snowball Express has served to provide comfort and a sense of community to the families of fallen service members. Year-round activities across the country culminate in a grand, all-expenses paid excursion to Disney World. This year, when COVID-19 threatened to derail the annual event, the Gary Sinise Foundation, backed by its sponsors, A-list celebrities and hundreds of volunteers, engineered a virtual game plan that kept this inspiring joy ride on track.

“This has been a tough year for our nation,” said retired Gen. Robin Rand, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “Compound dealing every morning waking up to deal with the loss of a loved one with the pandemic. Gary wanted the families to know we were not going to forget them. He’s a genuine force of nature; his commitment to this community of our nation’s veterans and first responders is unmatched. So when we realized we had to pivot from an in-person event, he began reaching out to his connections made over the last 40 years. Gary is hard to say no to.”

Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band were frequent participants in the original iteration of Snowball Express. His foundation absorbed the program in 2018. Planning for a year of Snowball Express activities begins in January. In August, Rand said, the decision was made to cancel the in-person event out of concerns for the safety of more than 650 families and 1,750 Snowball Express-goers. “We quickly went virtual. The sponsors, entertainers and about 500 volunteers (including members of the original Snowball Express team) exceeded expectations.”

Held earlier in December, this year’s Snowball Express featured a “something for everyone” itinerary, including an opening night event streamed from the Museum of Magic hosted by David Copperfield and a dance party hosted by DJ D-Nice, a guided tour by Jay Leno of his classic and vintage car collection, a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, “Free Solo” followed by a Q&A with climber Alex Honnold and a bedtime reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Kristen Chenowith.

Throughout the weekend, actors, musicians and entertainers, including Angelina Jolie, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Hanks, Patricia Heaton, Kaley Cuoco, Joe Mantegna, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, Olympian Simone Biles and Keanu Reeves, offered messages of love and support.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
The Gary Sinise Foundation created a 3D interactive virtual walk-through of the Snowball Express Remembrance Garden with a flag representing a fallen hero from each of the 2,000+ Gold Star families in the program, providing an opportunity for the families to search and directly find the flag and placard honoring their loved one.

But the core mission of Snowball Express is not just to give the families a much-needed and deserved good time, Rand said. It is also about providing resources to help them cope with their grief (children are encouraged to messages of love to their fallen parent) as well as information on such topics as college tuition. Perhaps the most meaningful and moving portion of the weekend is the Remembrance Garden. This year’s garden was re-staged as a virtual event; participants were able to navigate online to find a flag with their fallen hero’s name.

It is these aspects of the Snowball Express weekend that offer the most lasting value to families, according to Peggy Riggen, the legal guardian and great-aunt of 13-year-old Joshua Ryan Blackwell, whose father, Justin R. Blackwell, was killed in action when his son was five-months-old.

“Snowball Express has brought not only fun,  but camaraderie, understanding, and a place to go to for help on questions that you just don’t know where to go to get the answer,” she said via email. “Josh and Allyson, my niece, developed great friendships with other Gold Star families and kids who understood what they were going through. They helped each other when they needed to talk, when they needed to grieve, when they needed to be angry or sad and lonely, and they could talk each other through it. I know that they found a lot of solace in that.”

This year’s Snowball Express was literally a “little engine that could” operation. Preparations for the Remembrance Garden along required volunteers to set up upwards of 2,000 flags, each with its own identifying marker.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Foundation staff,” Rand said. “It was all hands on deck, a lot of late nights and long hours. It goes to show you, give people a task and if they are passionate about the mission there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”

For more information on The Snowball Express and the Gary Sinise Foundation, visit garysinisefoundation.org.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.


The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.

Related: US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.

“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. | US Marine Corps photo

“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.

The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.

The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.

Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.

The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
ISW

A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the US is at disadvantage in a fight against China

The US announced on March 14, 2019, that it would begin testing a whole new class of previously banned missiles in August 2019, but the US’s chief rival, China, has a miles-long head start in that department.

The US’s new class of missiles are designed to destroy targets in intermediate ranges, or between 300 and 3,000 miles. The US has many shorter-range systems and a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel almost around the world.

A 1987 treaty with Russia banned these mid-range missiles, but the treaty’s recent demise has now opened an opportunity for the US to counter China’s arsenal of “carrier-killer” missiles.


China, as it seeks to build up a blue-water navy to surpass the US’s, has increasingly touted its fleet of missiles that work within intermediate ranges and can target ships at sea, including US aircraft carriers — one of the US’s foremost weapons.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)

China has suggested sinking carriers and threatened to let the missiles fly after the US checked its unilateral claims to ownership of the South China Sea.

Now, unbound by the treaty, the US can in theory counter China’s intermediate-range missiles with missiles of its own. But the reality is that China holds several seemingly insurmountable advantages in this specific missile fight.

Geography weighs against the US

China has a big, mountainous country full of mobile missile launchers it can drive, park, and shoot anywhere.

The US has a network of mainland and island allies it could base missiles with, but that would require an ally’s consent. Simply put, the US hasn’t even explored this option.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

With the massive bomber and naval presence in Guam, it’s an obvious target.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

“We haven’t engaged any of our allies about forward deployment,” a US defense official told Reuters. “Honestly, we haven’t been thinking about this because we have been scrupulously abiding by the treaty.”

The US could place missiles in Japan, but Japan hates the US military presence there and would face economic punishment from China. The same is true of South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Furthermore, US missiles on a small island would act as a giant target on that patch of land, painting it as the first place China would wipe off the map in a conflict.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

A floating target?

(US Navy photo)

Guam, for instance, could host US missiles as a US territory, but a few missiles from China, potentially nuclear-tipped, would totally level the tiny island.

While China would simply have to hit a small target-rich island, the US would have to breach China’s airspace and hunt down missile launchers somewhere within hundreds of thousands of square miles. US jets would face a massive People’s Liberation Army air-defense network and air force, and that’s if US jets even get off the ground.

Recent war games held at Rand Corp. suggests the US’s most powerful jets, the F-22 and F-35, probably wouldn’t even make it off the ground in a real fight in which China’s massive rocket force lets loose.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Can’t fix stupid

Ultimately, basing US intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific represents a massive political and military challenge for limited utility.

But fortunately for the US, there’s little need to match China’s intermediate-range forces.

With submarines, the US can have secret, hidden missile launchers all over the Pacific. Importantly, these submarines wouldn’t even have to surface to fire, therefore they would be out of the range of the “carrier killers.”

The US has options to address China’s impressive missile forces, but loading up a Pacific island with new US missiles probably isn’t the smart way to do it.

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

Articles

A corpsman’s advice to ISIS militants who fake injuries to get out of jihad


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

Bad back, knee sprains, and other injury claims ISIS militants are using to scam out of duty are child’s play compared to excuses deployed by the finest members of the E-4 Mafia.

“For starters, headaches and stomachaches are rookie excuses,” says Tim Kirkpatrick, a former Navy corpsman and newest member of the We Are The Mighty Team. “There’s no way to diagnose these ‘chief complaints’ because they’re subjective.”

As a veteran with multiple deployments, Tim has heard every excuse in the sick call commando’s manual and can tell you what works and what doesn’t.

“A Marine rarely gets out of a hike,” he says. “He has to be dead or dying to get out of it, but there are ways.”

In this episode of the “Mandatory Fun” podcast, Tim and reformed members of the E-4 Mafia — your hosts, O.V. and Blake — divulge their ‘skating’ tips to ISIS fighters looking to file a proper jihad-ache.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [02:00] ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting.
  • [05:30] Common excuses Marines use to try and get out of work.
  • [09:10] The best ways to fool a corpsman into giving you a medical pass.
  • [13:00] Who are ISIS doctors?
  • [15:00] ISIS penalties for faking injuries.
  • [18:00] How ISIS organizes its fighters.
  • [27:30] That time a Taliban fighter shot his kid as an excuse to come on to a FOB to check out security.
  • [31:30] The risk Blake is willing to undergo for a buddy.

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Sideshow Donuts V2
  • Heavy Drivers
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why South Korea could pull its troops back from the DMZ

South Korea is reportedly considering withdrawing some of its military forces and equipment from guard posts on the border with North Korea on a “trial basis,” according to a Yonhap News report published on July 23, 2018.

It’s part of an effort to promote friendlier ties between the two countries, South Korea’s defense ministry outlined a plan to transform the [Demilitarized Zone] into a “peace zone,” the defense ministry said, referring to the buffer between North and South Korea.


“As stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, [the ministry] is seeking a plan to expand the [withdrawal] program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ,” the defense ministry said.

The ministry said it would also plan on designating a de facto maritime boundary as a “peace sea” to allow fishermen from both countries to operate.

The Panmunjom Declaration was the culmination of months-long dialogue between the two countries after a year of fiery threats in 2017. The diplomatic detente was signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April 2018, paving the way for a “a new era of peace,” on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Mooon Jae-in.

South Korea has already made some changes on the border that reflect friendlier relations. In spring 2018, it dismantled loudspeakers that blasted news and Korean pop music towards North Korea. The loudspeakers, which were set up in 2016, could be heard for miles inside the North.

However, for many North Korea observers, the declaration’s broad language and the absence of a specific plan tempered expectations of an immediate solution to the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Despite dismantling some key facilities related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program, some experts believe the gesture may not be very meaningful in the aggregate.

Featured image: A South Korean checkpoint at the Civilian Control Line, located outside of the DMZ.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

North Korea and South Korea, two countries still technically at war since 1950, will march under a unified flag during the Winter Olympics next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


The Koreas will also engage in joint training at a ski resort and form a joint women’s ice hockey team, according to Oliver Hotham of the North Korea-focused news website NK News.

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

The news comes after the first major talks between North Korea and South Korea in two years, which began earlier this month amid soaring tensions between the U.S., its ally South Korea, and North Korea. Both the unified Korean flag and the inclusion of North Korean athletes in the games were discussed during those talks.

South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, floated the idea of North Korea participating in the games early in his presidency, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to engage in talks about the Olympics during his New Year’s address, during which he also threatened the U.S. with nuclear annihilation.

Despite the invitation, North Korea has few athletes capable of competing in the games.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

Pyongyang will also reportedly send a 180-member orchestra to the games, but it’s closely tied to North Korean propaganda that glorifies the country’s missile and nuclear programs and the government.

While the inclusion in the Olympics may seem a bright spot for improved relations, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser reportedly dismissed the talks between the Koreas as “diversions,” and his secretary of state on Jan. 17 did not rule out a military strike on North Korea.

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Standby for another North Korean ballistic missile test very soon

American speculation is mounting that North Korea will soon be testing a nuclear-capable missile. This follows a seismic event that the Kim regime claimed was its first successful hydrogen bomb test.


North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

Japan and the United State regularly monitor North Korean test sites for activity via satellite. Two U.S. officials told AFP that the Communist state’s Sohae satellite complex is buzzing with activity.

The North has launched satellites into orbit before, most recently in 2012, but the same U.S. officials believe the technology used for those launches could be used for intercontinental ballistic missile launches as well.

International bodies are still struggling with how to respond to the hydrogen bomb test. There isn’t much left to sanction in North Korea. China, the North’s largest trading partner, is unlikely to slap any more restrictions on trade with the Kim regime without a direct threat to itself or its interests.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
A rocket lifta off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea (DPRK State Media)

Why does North Korea act so provocatively? According to former Soviet diplomat Alexei Lankov, the saber rattling is a function of the nation being starved for resources and strapped for cash. The North’s military mobilizes while the government threatens South Korea, all in an effort to convince the west that the only way to prevent war is to provide funding and grain. But Kim’s strategy has backfired, resulting in sanctions rather than assistance.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

“All the nuclear test proved is the North still does not have a reliable launch vehicle,” Lankov told Fox News.

North Korea is said to have over a thousand missiles of varying capabilities, but is not yet known to have developed a nuclear-capable warhead. Its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, has a advertised range of 6,000 kilometers, but the North has never successfully tested one.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

If the North Korean Taepodong-2 missile becomes operational, it would be be able to hit America’s Pacific allies as well as U.S. bases on Okinawa, Guam, and most of Alaska.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

Bloomberg has reported that the Feb. 7, 2018 attack on U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters by forces aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was actually conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that at least 100 of them died in the failed attack.


The attack happened just five miles east of the “de-confliction” line between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Russian-supported Syrian government in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region.

Some 500 “pro-Assad” fighters attempted to attack an SDF headquarters, but were repelled by American artillery and airstrikes that were called in by U.S. advisers on the ground. Russian nationals were suspected of being part of the attack, but no casualties were reported, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not think there were any Russian casualties.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. (Wikimedia Commons photo from Kurdishstruggle.)

Bloomberg, however, reported that three Russian sources told them the attack was conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that as many as 200 Russian “contract soldiers” died in the attack.

Russia has denied that any of its forces were killed or wounded in the attack, but evidence that Russians had died have slowly begun to surface on Russian social media.

Also read: How militants shot down a Russian fighter in Syria

It is unclear who was paying the mercenaries involved in last week’s attack, or what group they were a part of, but reports of a Russian private military company (PMC) by the name of Wagner have surfaced throughout the last few years.

Reports of Wagner mercenaries in Syria

This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria. Stratfor, an American geopolitical intelligence firm, recently reported that Wagner mercenaries had served in Ukraine, Syria, and parts of Africa.

In September 2017, two Wagner operators were reportedly taken prisoner by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria’s Deir Ezzor region, and in August 2016, Sky News interviewed Russian men who claimed to be mercenaries who fought at the Battle of Palmyra.

Related: Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

The independent Russian media outlet Fontanka published an investigation from 2016 that claimed that as many as 2,500 men from Wagner were operating in Syria. They reported that they had a training base in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region, and that many of the men in the group had fought in Ukraine’s Donbas war on the side of the separatists.

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl

In early February 2018, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister for the self-declared Donetsk Peoples Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight, so as to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

“‘No body, no criminal case’ — this Russian investigative principle is being creatively used in the military campaign,” Girkin said on the Russian social media website VKontakte. “It is possible to dispose of a considerable number of bodies without anyone noticing. What can I say? There has never been such cynicism in our country.”

Russian mercenaries are reportedly being used for two purposes: to achieve objectives that the poorly trained and equipped Syrian Arab Army are not capable of achieving alone, and to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement in Syria.

The tactic is not unheard of. The U.S. employed mercenaries during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their deaths were not reported in official counts. The U.S. continues to rely on PMCs in active warzones around the world.

If accurate, the losses sustained last week would make the number of Russian military deaths five times higher than the official count — and that does not even include previous losses sustained by Wagner.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.

The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.


The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.

In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
President Donald Trump

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.

Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”

Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”

A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”

North Korea’s new satellite flew over the Super Bowl
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”

The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.

“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.

“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.

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

Articles

These new mini-drones could revolutionize ground warfare

Many researchers are working to create the next revolution in drones for both war and peace. At the University of Pennsylvania, teams of researchers headed by Dr. Vijay Kumar are making progress on autonomous UAVs. Since they’re autonomous, they don’t need human operators, just the command to begin a task.


The robots created at Kumar Labs are designed for disaster relief and agricultural work, but could change the way the infantry operates, assaulting contested buildings and objectives alongside troops and performing a variety of services.

The first step to moving drones from overwatch in the skies to clearing buildings with squads is getting them into the buildings. The autonomous UAVs created by researchers weigh between 20 grams and 2 kilograms, feature a quad-rotor design that allows hovering, and are nimble, allowing them to fly through small windows or openings.

Of course, if multiple drones are needed on a mission, the drones have to be able to enter the building and move around without interfering with each other or the human squad. UPENN researchers have created different ways for the drones to behave around each other. The copters can simply avoid one another while working independently or on a shared task, follow a designated group leader, or operate in a coordinated swarm as shown below.

Once inside of a building or a village, the drones would get to work. They could move ahead of the squad and create 3D maps of buildings the squad or platoon expects to hit soon.

The little UAVs are capable of lifting objects on order individually or as part of a team. Fire teams that are decisively engaged could quickly request more ammo be brought to their position and see it arrive slung underneath the autonomous drones. Medics could designate a casualty collection point and begin combat casualty care as more supplies are ferried to them. Drones could even be used as suicide bombers, moving explosives to a point on the battlefield and detonating their cargo.

The drones can also construct obstacles. While currently limited to cubic structures made from modular parts, the drones build according to preset designs without the need for human oversight. Platoon leaders could designate priorities and locations of simple construction and the drones would begin completing their assignments. Metal frames could be placed inside windows and other openings to prevent enemy drones from accessing structures. Mines or flares could be placed by drones on the approaches to the objective, slowing an enemy counterattack and warning friendly forces.

Of course, the copters are also capable of completing the traditional drone mission: Surveillance. While not as fast as the larger drones already in use, they could extend the eyes of the drone fleet into buildings. Also, since they can follow preset waypoints, the drones could continuously patrol an assigned area on their own, only requiring a human’s interaction when they spot something suspicious. The drone can even perch on an outcropping or velcro itself to a landing spot, allowing it to turn off its motors and become silent.

Dr. Kumar discussed the robots, the science behind them, and where he hopes to take them during a 2012 TED Talk.

NOW: DARPA’s new robot can jump hurdles, chase you down, and haunt your dreams

OR: The 7 coolest high-tech projects the military is currently working on

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How to drive a tank and shoot artillery without being in the military

We’ve written about driving tanks before. Several places in the U.S. let you do that, but Drive Tanks at the Ox Ranch in Texas takes it a step further.


Related: This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Not only can you drive a tank, but you also get to shoot from it. That’s right — you can jump in a Sherman and go full “Fury” with its 76mm main gun.

Carlton Ross, YouTube

And there’s more; you can also rent and fire .50 caliber rifles, machine guns, miniguns, and flamethrowers. Feel and see the destruction of an M134 minigun up close. At 6,000 rounds per-minute, it’s the ultimate machine gun.

The flame thrower may be banned as a weapon of war by the Geneva Conventions but you can check one out from this armory.

Carlton Ross, YouTube

And if that’s not enough, they’ve also got anti-tank guns, artillery, and mortars. Fire an M2A1 light howitzer, the workhorse of towed American field artillery from World War II to the Vietnam War. You can physically reshape the ranch’s 18,000 acres with that kind of firepower.

Carlton Ross, YouTube

Aside from all of these incredible adult toys, they’ve got a plethora of outdoor activities that include hunting, offroading, kayaking and more. But perhaps the most remarkable out of these activities is the park’s photo safari tour. They’ve got giraffes, zebras, scimitar oryx, and other free-ranging wildlife not native to Texas, let alone the rest of America.

This video shows the range of outdoor activities Ox Ranch offers on its 18,000 acres of Texas hill country property.

Watch:

Carlton Ross, YouTube

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