How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon's first-ever audit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”

The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.

Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy

Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Air Force

It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Alabama startup just revealed the world’s largest drone

  • Scrappy launch startup Aevum unveiled the world’s most massive drone on Thursday.
  • Called Ravn X, the 55,000-pound UAV is designed to drop a rocket in midair, which will shoot small satellites into orbit.
  • The US Air Force picked Aevum to fly a $4.9 million satellite mission in 2021. Aevum has also contracted a commercial mission.
  • Jay Skylus, Aevum’s CEO and founder, says his company’s aiming to launch customers’ satellites within three hours of receiving them at a spaceport.
  • “We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.

Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space. 

Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.

“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)

Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.

Read moreA colossal rocket-launching drone is just one small part of Aevum’s bid to become the ‘Amazon of space,’ the startup’s founder says

Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit‘s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.

Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”

Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Autonomous launch startup Aevum plans to use a Ravn X rocket-launching drone to send payloads to orbit within hours of a customer’s order. 

More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more. 

What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.

Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets. 

“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”

Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.

“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit

He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Skylus, the CEO of Aevum, says his company is “being credited with having invented a brand new paradigm of access to space.” 

Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.

An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.

“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The CSAF’s Bible is one of the least-known Air Force traditions

It’s a tradition as old as the Air Force itself, but one very few have ever even heard of.


On his first days in office, the general in charge of the newly formed service bought a Bible that’s been a part of every swearing in ceremony for Chiefs of Staff for nearly 70 years. And in it contains the signature of all 21 of the Air Force’s top general officers.

“No documented history of the Bible exists,” says Ann Stefanek, Media Operations Officer at Air Force headquarters. “But a verbal history of the Bible maintains the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz purchased the book to be used in official swearing-in ceremonies.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Gen. David L. Goldfein is sworn in as the 21st Air Force Chief of Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Spaatz became the Air Force’s first Chief of Staff on September 26, 1947 — eight days after the National Security Act of 1947 created the service. Since then, each of his successors signed the Bible on their last day in office.

The story goes that when the Pentagon was evacuated during the attacks of September 11, 2001, Gen. John P. Jumper, who was only in the office for a few days, rescued the Bible when he evacuated the office. It was reportedly the only item he took with him.

On June 22, 2016, Gen. Mark Welsh III, the 20th Chief of Staff, signed the CSAF’s Bible, then walked out of the Pentagon with his wife by his side as the airmen who served with him cheered.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
The CSAF’s Bible is signed by every outgoing USAF Chief. The first signature is that of Gen. Carl A. Spaatz. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On July 1, the Air Force had a new Chief, Gen. David L. Goldfein. He mentioned the historic Bible in his first message to the Air Force under his command and how the relic reminded him of his obligation to his airmen.

The names on the Bible’s pages include famous Air Force chiefs Spaatz, Curtis LeMay, and even the controversial Merrill McPeak, whose changes to the service’s dress uniform made him one of the most unpopular figures in Air Force history.

While the book remains an unofficial, undocumented tradition, in 1951 the Air Force Officers Wives Club donated a velvet-lined wooden box in which to store the Bible. Both the Bible and the box are on display in the Air Force Chief of Staff’s office.

Articles

Air Force declares the F-35A ‘ready for war’

The largest buyer of America’s most expensive weapons program just declared it ready for war.


“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said on a call with reporters.

“The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield,” Carlisle said.

Of the sister-service branches, the Air Force has been the most bullish on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II’s combat capabilities.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Fun Fact: The F-35 actually runs on a money-based fuel.

The 15 Air Force F-35A jets, and 21 combat-mission-ready pilots from Hill Air Force Base’s 34th Fighter Squadron, represent a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which began development 15 years ago and has been offset by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.

Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program’s executive officer, said that the Air Force’s decision to declare the F-35A’s initial operational capability (IOC) “sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike, the F-35 can do its mission.”

“The roads leading to IOC for both services were not easy and these accomplishments are tangible testaments to the positive change happening in the F-35 program,” Bogdan said.

As the Air Force is buying nearly 70% of the fifth-generation jets being made domestically — 1,763 of 2,443 aircraft — the Air Force sets the economies of scale for the tri-service fighter, with each plane costing a cool $100 million.

Lockheed Martin, considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, is expected to generate nearly a fifth of its $50 billion in 2016 sales solely from the F-35 program.

In the company’s latest quarter, the defense giant posted net sales in its aeronautics business up 6%, or $244 million — compared to the same period in 2015.

The Pentagon’s top weapons supplier is also building the “jack of all trades” aircraft for the UK, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Behold, the F-35. | Lockheed Martin

Even though the Air Force is operating the oldest fleet in its history, it’s not the first of the sister-service branches to declare its variant combat-ready.

Last summer, the US Marine Corps was the first of the military branches to declare initial operational capability for 10 F-35B jets.

“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,” Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.

“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” Davis said, referring to Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

The US Navy variant, the F-35C, is scheduled to reach IOC by February 2019.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy used to have nuclear-powered cruisers

While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.


How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

The USS Long Beach fires a Terrier missile in 1961.

(U.S. Navy)

The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.

During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.

The head of the Navy’s nuclear program for decades was Adm. Hyman G. Rickover who had a vision for an entirely nuclear-powered carrier battle group. This would maximize the benefits of nuclear vessels and create a lethal American presence in the ocean that could run forever with just an occasional shipment of food, spare parts, and replacement personnel.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

The Navy launched Operation Sea Orbit where nuclear-powered ships sailed together in 1964. This is the USS Enterprise, a carrier; the USS Long Beach, a cruiser; and the USS Bainbridge, classified at the time as a destroyer.

(U.S. Navy)

The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.

That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.

Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

The Navy detonates an explosive charge off the starboard side of the USS Arkansas, a nuclear-powered cruiser, during sea trials.

(U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Toon)

That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.

And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.

The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.

The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Ticonderoga-class cruisers like the USS Hue City, front, and Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers like the USS Oscar Austin, rear, replaced the nuclear cruisers.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Wilson)

But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.

Nuclear cruisers had about 600 sailors in each crew, while the Ticonderoga-class that took to the sea in 1983 required 350. And the Ticonderoga crew could be more quickly and cheaply trained since those sailors didn’t need to go through nuclear training.

Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.

And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Russia changes Stalin to Hitler in new ‘Hellboy’ film

The 2019 “Hellboy” remake has been panned by critics and declared a flop at the U.S. box office. In Russia, however, it’s provoking very different headlines.

Following its April 11, 2019 release in the country, attention has focused on a scene in which the red chain-smoking half-demon meets Baba-yaga, a haggard witch who has a thing for crawling backward like a spider.

“I recall you tried to raise Stalin’s ghost from a necropolis,” Hellboy tells her in the original English-language version of the film.

But in the Russian version, reference to the Soviet dictator who oversaw the mass execution of his compatriots and sent millions to the gulag has apparently been scrapped. Instead, it’s Adolf Hitler whom Hellboy cites.


The script adjustment was reported on April 16, 2019, by the independent TV channel Dozhd, which compared the film’s original version to the dubbed Russian-language release.

Hellboy (2019 Movie) Official Trailer “Smash Things” – David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane

www.youtube.com

Twitter users who saw the film in cinemas noted another curious detail: subtitled versions of the original had the word “Hitler” bleeped out, as well as a single curse-word in a film full of them. The subtitles, however, retained mention of the Nazi leader.

It may not be an isolated case.

According to the Russian film-review site Kinopoisk, MEGOGO Distribution, the company overseeing the “Hellboy” Russian release, has previously changed details in American films.

In the Russian version of the 2017 action thriller “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” Kinopoisk reported, Gary Oldman’s character is no longer from Belarus, but Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Hellboy” is also not the first popular comic-book hero whose franchise has had to fall in line with Russian censors.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

On Jan. 9, 2019, the Russian comic-book publisher Komilfo said that it had removed an entire chapter from its Russian-language version of “Deadpool Max” because Russia’s consumer-protection agency concluded that it promotes extremism.

“In Russian legal terms even satire can be treated as propaganda,” Komilfo director Mikhail Bogdanov told RFE/RL at the time. “In our country there are certain legal lines that you can’t cross.”

MEGOGO Distribution did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the “Hellboy” release.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Same-sex couples aren’t unicorns

Mallory and Stacy “Lux” Krauss are deeply proud of how far things have come since the riots of Stonewall, but they also know this country still has a lot more work to do.

“When I joined the Coast Guard, it was right after they repealed ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. Honest to God, I went to the recruiter that very next day,” Lux shared.

She explained that prior to the repeal, she had wanted to join, but said she couldn’t be a part of something that wasn’t inclusive and accepting of all people.


When the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repeal was being discussed within congress, the Coast Guard and the Navy were the only two branches of service that didn’t initially oppose it.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Mallory and Lux met at the 2013 pride parade in San Francisco, while they were both in California attending “A” schools for the United States Coast Guard. It was the first year that the military was allowing participation in pride events and both had been asked to walk in the parade.

“The pride parade is important because it’s a remembrance of Stonewall, but it’s also to say, ‘Hey, we are here and this is who we are’,” Lux shared.

Following that parade, they began dating. They returned to that same parade a year later. It was there that Mallory proposed to Lux. They married not long after that and eventually Mallory decided to leave the Coast Guard. They now have two sons, born in 2016 and 2020. Both boys were carried by Lux and Mallory is also listed on both of their birth certificates as their mother, something that only became legal shortly before their first son was born.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(Courtesy of Military Spouse)

Although things are moving forward, a lingering fear is always present for both of them.

“It still makes me nervous to go to any new command and share that I have a wife and children. You never know, you could have that one person who may be of the extreme who has the ability to ruin your career because you are gay,” said Lux.

She explained that even now when the Coast Guard puts something official out about pride or inclusivity on their social media, the comments can turn hateful fast and many of those commenting negatively are in the Coast Guard themselves.

That feeling of nervousness is ever present in everything they do and it’s something that many in the LGBTQ community are deeply familiar with. Despite multiple laws being passed to assure equality, there are still those in this country who are adamantly opposed to acknowledging and accepting them.

Once while standing in line at a candy story in Tennessee, a man behind them asked if they were gay. Although this was the first time they’d ever been rudely asked that question, they were very familiar with stares of others. Everywhere they go, especially in the southern states, they wonder if they’ll be accepted.

Now, they have to worry for their children too.

While getting one of their boys registered for a recent medical procedure, Mallory was filling out the paperwork when she was asked who the mom was. She explained that both she and Lux were his moms. The response was one they had always dreaded hearing, ‘but who is the real mom?’ This is a question that most straight couples will never have to face hearing.

Most will also never have to worry about legal custody being questioned either.

“There’s a grey area, if something were to happen to Lux and her parents wanted to take our children, they might legally be able to,” said Mallory.

She explained that although she is on their birth certificates, because she isn’t biologically related to them that risk is present unless she legally adopts them or specific laws are passed to protect them. Although Mallory said she knows her in-laws would never do that, it’s still something that no parent should ever have to think about.

Every time they move on Coast Guard orders, they wonder how the new doctor or school will react to their family. They both shared that so far, their experiences have been positive but they look forward to the day they don’t have to think about it. Although this country has come a long way since Stonewall, more work still has to be done. When asked what pride month means to them and what they want other military families to know, it was easy for them to respond.

They don’t want to be treated like unicorns.

“People need to realize, we are not any different from any other family,” said Mallory with a laugh. “We have our kids and we are worried about their future, there’s nothing special about us. We just want to be like everyone else,” Lux shared.

To learn more about the history of oppression and violence those in the LGBTQ community experienced and the inequality they still face today, click here.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside Mattis’ $2.5 billion plan to make the military more lethal

Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”

Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.


How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)

But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.

Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.

“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”

Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”

“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

​Improving the Squad

Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”

To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.

“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

​Gifted Grunts

For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.

The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”

Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”

Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”

L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.

“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”

Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.

“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.

It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”

The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.

“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

​No Budget, But Deep Pockets

Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.

Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.

But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.

The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”

“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”

The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.

“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”

The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.

“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(US Army)

​Endorsing Futuristic Kit

One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.

“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”

The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.

The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.

The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.

The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.

“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)

The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.

“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”

The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.

“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.

“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.

“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.

“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.

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

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10 time-honored military traditions that civilians find weird

Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.

But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.

At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?


How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Ever since Hostess kinda went under, the tradition changed to use red helmets instead — which is definitely cleaner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katrine M Brisbin)

10. Paratroopers and cherry pies

When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?

When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
There are great call signs out there, you just need to be lucky enough to snag one. (Fox News)

9. Actual callsigns

In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.

In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”

If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
You (and everyone else in the unit) will have to drink whatever you put in. Or do what most people do and hide in the bathroom until this bit is over. (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Peek)

8. The grog bowl

At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.

Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.

You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?

7. Blood wings and blood stripes

When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.

Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
“A Mickey Mouse Challenge Coin? Really?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger/Released)

6. Challenge coin “duels”

There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.

Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:

Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Every airman thinks they can grow a mustache like Col. Robin Olds. The only reason his mustache is so majestic is because he literally gave zero f*cks about the rules. Rules all airmen have to follow. (U.S. Air Force)

5. ‘Stache contests

In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.

The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.

Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.

4. The West Point pillow battle royale

At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.

As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.

Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Don’t think you can just bring a spare cap that won’t be blown up. The troops will find it and make sure it’s also blown to smithereens. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap

In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.

When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.

No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
The real question is, if they’re both military, do neither of them get spanked — or both? (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

2. The sword butt tap at weddings

Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.

The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.

Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Every weird little detail of the “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been replicated as far back as anyone can remember. It can’t be THAT weird if your sailor granddad was also doing it, right? (U.S. Navy)

1. The Court of Neptune

Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.

Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.

Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.

Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey sticks with plans to get Russian missiles, kill Kurds

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey may buy U.S. Patriot missile systems if conditions are right, but insists such a deal would be impossible if Washington forces Ankara to cancel its agreement to purchase S-400 antiaircraft missiles from Russia.

In an interview with Turkey’s NTV on Jan. 10, 2019, Cavusoglu said his NATO-member state will not accept the United States imposing conditions in regard to its deal to buy the Russian-made surface-to-air defense systems.

Meanwhile, in another sign of deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington, Cavusoglu said a military operation Turkey was planning against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria did not depend on a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.


Cavusoglu told NTV it was not realistic to expect the United States to collect all of the weapons it had supplied to Syrian Kurdish fighters who are viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in late December 2018 that he planned to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria stunned U.S. allies and led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

But U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told Turkish officials in Ankara on Jan. 8, 2019, that Turkey’s assurance it won’t attack the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters was a “condition” for the withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bolton of making “a very serious mistake” with the demand.

“We cannot make any concessions in this regard,” said Erdogan, who vowed that “those involved in a terror corridor” in Syria “will receive the necessary punishment.”

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units form the backbone of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces and have been fighting alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State militants in northeastern Turkey.

But Ankara insists those Syrian Kurdish fighters are linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group that is banned in Turkey and has been considered a terrorist group by the United States since 1997.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Does the U.S. Navy Need a 21st Century F-14 Tomcat?

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
A US Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom | U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Lee O. Tucker


While the requirement for a carrier-based long-range strike capability is a frequent subject of discussion around Washington, the U.S. Navy’s need for improved air superiority capabilities is often neglected.

The service has not had a dedicated air-to-air combat aircraft since it retired the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006. But even the Tomcat was adapted into a strike aircraft during its last years in service after the Soviet threat evaporated.

Now, as new threats to the carrier emerge and adversaries start to field new fighters that can challenge the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, attention is starting to shift back to this oft-neglected Navy mission — especially in the Western Pacific.

“Another type of new aircraft required is an air superiority fighter,” states a recent Hudson Institute report titled Sharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict, which is written by The National Interest contributors Seth Cropsey, Bryan McGrath and Timothy A. Walton. “Given the projection of the Joint Force’s increased demand for carrier-based fighter support, this capability is critical.”

The report notes that both the Super Hornet and the F-35C are severely challenged by new enemy fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Russian-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20.

Indeed, certain current adversary aircraft such as the Russian Su-30SM, Su-35S and the Chinese J-11D and J-15 pose a serious threat to the Super Hornet fleet. It’s a view that shared by many industry officials, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and even U.S. Marine Corps aviators.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
US Navy photo

“Both F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs will face significant deficiencies against supercruising, long-range, high-altitude, stealthy, large missile capacity adversary aircraft, such as the T-50, J-20, and follow-on aircraft,” the authors note.

“These aircraft will be capable of effectively engaging current and projected U.S. carrier aircraft and penetrating defenses to engage high value units, such as AEW aircraft, ASW aircraft, and tankers. Already, the F/A-18E/F faces a severe speed disadvantage against Chinese J-11 aircraft, which can fire longer range missiles at a higher kinematic advantage outside of the range of U.S. AIM-120 missiles.

Nor does the F-35C—which suffers from severely reduced acceleration compared to even the less than stellar performance of other JSF variants — help matters. “Similarly, the F-35C is optimized as an attack fighter, resulting in a medium-altitude flight profile, and its current ability to only carry two AIM- 120 missiles internally [until Block 3] limits its capability under complex electromagnetic conditions,” the authors wrote.

“As an interim measure, the Navy and Air Force should significantly accelerate the F-35C’s Block 5 upgrade to enable the aircraft to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally.”

The F-35C was never designed to be an air superiority fighter. Indeed, naval planners in the mid-1990s wanted the JSF to be a strike-oriented aircraft with only a 6.5G airframe load limit with very limited air-to-air capability, according to one retired U.S. Navy official. Indeed, some naval planners at the time had discussed retiring the F-14 in favor of keeping the Grumman A-6 Intruder in service.

During this period, many officials believed air combat to be a relic of the past in the post-Cold War era. They anticipated most future conflicts to be air-to-ground oriented in those years immediately following the Soviet collapse. Together with a lack of funding, that’s probably why the Navy never proceeded with its Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter or A/F-Xfollow-on program.

The Navy’s F/A-XX program could be used to fill the service’s air superiority gap — which has essentially been left open since the F-14’s retirement and the demise of the NATF and A/F-X programs. But the problem is that the Navy is pursuing the F/A-XX as a multirole Super Hornet replacement rather than an air superiority-oriented machine.

“The danger in its development is that it suboptimizes the fighter role in the quest for a hybrid fighter/attack jet,” the Hudson Institute report notes. “This would leave the Joint Force without a carrier-based sixth generation air superiority fighter.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
US Air Force photo

As the Navy’s current director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, has stated in the past, the authors also note that such “an aircraft could feature large passive and active sensor arrays, relatively high cruising speed (albeit not necessarily acceleration), could hold a large internal weapons bay capable of launching numerous missiles, and could have space to adopt future technologies, such as HPM [high-powered microwaves] and lasers.”

“This air superiority asset would contribute to Outer Air Battle integrated air and missile defense requirements and would be capable of countering enemy weapons, aircraft, and sensor and targeting nodes at a distance.”

Outer Air Battle, of course, refers to a Navy concept from the 1980s to fend off a concerted attack by hordes of Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and surface action groups lead by warships like the Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers — as now deputy defense secretary Bob Work [he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security at the time] described to me in 2013.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
These Soviet assets would have launched their arsenals of anti-ship cruise missiles from multiple points of the compass.

As Work described it, the Navy was relatively confident it could sink the Oscarsand surface ships before they could launch their missiles. They were far less confident about their ability to take out the Tu-22Ms before they could get into launch position.

The Tomcats, under Outer Air Battle, would try to “kill the archers” — the Backfires — before they could shoot and attempt to eliminate any cruise missiles that they launched. But, Work notes, no one knows how well it would have worked during a shooting war with the Soviet Union — and it’s a good thing we never got to find out. But with China’s emerging anti-access/area denial strategy, the threat is back.

While the F/A-XX and the Air Force’s F-X are in their infancy, it has become clear that they will be different aircraft designs that will probably share common technologies. The Navy does seem to be focusing on a more defensive F-14 like concept while the Air Force is looking for a more offensively oriented air superiority platform that could replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

“As you’ll see over the coming years, the differences between the primary mission and the likely threats will drive significant differences between the F/A-XX and F-X programs as well as legacy systems like the F-22 and F-35,” one senior defense official told me.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Latin America holds the ignominious distinction of having the most cities on Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Security’s annual ranking of the world’s most violent cities for 2016.


Of the 50 cities on the list, 43 are in Latin America, including 19 in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

The region’s violence is in large part drug related, driven by traffickers and supplemented by gang wars, political instability, and widespread poverty that has been exacerbated by sluggish economic growth or economic reversals.

The council’s ranking contains cities with populations of more than 300,000 and does not count deaths in combat zones or cities with unavailable data, so some dangerous cities don’t appear on the list

In some cases, the Council has determined homicide rates through estimates based on incomplete data.

In Venezuela, for example, the government has not consistently released homicide data(though it did this year), so to find the rate for Caracas, the Council made an estimate based on entries at the Bello Monte morgue — though, as the Council admits, that morgue receives bodies from an area much larger than Caracas itself.

50. Durban, South Africa, had 34.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

49. Curitiba, Brazil, had 34.92 homicides per 100,000 residents.

48. Cucuta, Colombia, had 37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
2012 Car Bombing in Bogota Colombia targeting the former minister, Fernando Londoño.
Four Columbian cities made the list for deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

47. Vitoria, Brazil, had 37.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

46. Manaus, Brazil, had 38.25 homicides per 100,000 residents.

45. Macapa, Brazil, had 38.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

44. Armenia, Colombia, had 38.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Armenia was the home of Carlos Lehder — a cocaine-addled neo-Nazi who helped start the Medellin cartel.

43. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, had 39.19 homicides per 100,000 residents.

42. Goiânia y Aparecida de Goiânia, Brazil, had 39.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
The mafia arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey killed at least 52 people in 2011.Mexico had eight cities on the list of deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

41. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 40.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.

40. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 42.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read more about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students here and here.

39. Cuiaba, Brazil, had 42.61 homicides per 100,000 residents.

38. Teresina, Brazil, had 42.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

37. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 43.63 homicides per 100,000.

Read more about the cartel-related violence plaguing Ciudad Juarez.

36. Detroit had 44.60 homicides per 100,000 residents.

35. Fortaleza, Brazil, had 44.98 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read Now: These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

34. New Orleans had 45.17 homicides per 100,000 residents.

33. São Luís, Brazil, had 45.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

32. Kingston, Jamaica, had 45.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

31. Palmira, Colombia, had 46.30 homicides per 100,000 residents.

30. Gran Barcelona, Venezuela, had 46.86 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. João Pessoa, Brazil, had 47.57 homicides per 100,000 residents.

28. Recife, Brazil, had 47.89 homicides per 100,000 residents.

27. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 48.75 homicides per 100,000 residents.

26. Baltimore had 51.14 homicides per 100,000 residents.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Murder victim in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had 19 cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world.
(Image Andréa Farias)

25. Maceio, Brazil, had 51.78 homicides per 100,000 residents.

24. Culiacan, Mexico, had 51.81 homicides per 100,000 residents.

23. Guatemala City, Guatemala, had 52.73 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Cocaine seizures in Guatemala, a major drug transshipment point, recently hit a 10-year high.

22. Tijuana, Mexico, had 53.06 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Over the last two years, Tijuana has seen a spike in homicides, as rival cartels compete for control.

21. Cali, Colombia, had 54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Also Read: The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

20. Salvador, Brazil, had 54.71 homicides per 100,000 residents.

19. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, had 56.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

18. Cumana, Venezuela, had 59.31 homicides per 100,000 residents.

17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela, had 59.38 homicides per 100,000 residents.

16. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil, had 60.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.

15. Feira de Santana, Brazil, had 60.23 homicides per 100,000 residents.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Sharpshooters in Ferguson, Missouri, wait for violence to break out at protests after the verdict was read in the the Michael Brown death case. The United States has four cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world. (image Wiki)

14. St. Louis had 60.37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

13. Cape Town, South Africa, had 60.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.

12. Aracaju, Brazil, had 62.76 homicides per 100,000 residents.

11. Belém, Brazil, had 67.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

10. Natal, Brazil, had 69.56 homicides per 100,000 residents.

9. Valencia, Venezuela, had 72.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had 82.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

7. San Salvador, El Salvador, had 83.39 homicides per 100,000 residents.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Protesters protecting themselves from rubber bullets on 7 June. Venezuala appeared on the worlds deadliest cities list 7 times. (Image Wiki)

6. Maturin, Venezuela, had 84.21 homicides per 100,000 residents.

5. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 84.67 homicides per 100,000 residents.

4. Distrito Central, Honduras, had 85.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had 112.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

2. Acapulco, Mexico, had 113.24 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Acapulco, and Guerrero state as a whole, has been shaken by spiraling narco violence for more than a year.

1. Caracas, Venezuela, had 130.35 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Official data, released by the Venezuelan government for the first time in several years, put Venezuela’s 2016 homicide rate at at 70.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world and up from 58 in 2015.

Another estimate from a nongovernment organization put the national homicide rate at 91.8 per 100,000 people.

Read more about life in Caracas here.

Articles

The Army has broken ground on its first national museum to celebrate a history of service

The Marine Corps opened its newest one to great fanfare in Quantico, Virginia, in 2006. The Air Force has had once since around 1950 and the Navy opened one in 1963.


So now, it’s the Army’s turn to get with the times.

Senior officials with the service and supporters recently broke ground on a new National Army Museum to be housed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The museum will be free-of-charge to visitors, and is expected to open in 2019. Plans for the 185,000-square-foot facility include more than 15,000 pieces of art, 30,000 artifacts, documents and images.

It’s the first of its kind for the Army.

“This museum will remind all of us what it means to be a soldier, what it means to serve with incredible sacrifice, with incredible pride,” said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

“And most importantly, this museum is a tribute to those 30 million soldiers who’ve worn this distinguished uniform … and their loved ones who supported them,” he said.

Milley, Army Sec. Eric K. Fanning, other Army leaders, donors, guests and Gold Star families attended the ceremony and groundbreaking  at Fort Belvoir Sept. 14.

The Army’s chief of staff said he believes the museum will offer visitors an experience that can’t be found in history books or online, and that a visit to the museum will enhance for them what they might have learned in school about both the United States and its Army, as well as “the cost and the pain of the sacrifice of war, not in dollars, but in lives.”

The National Army Museum, shown in this conceptual design, will be built at Fort Belvoir, Va., partly with funds from the Army Commemorative Coin Act signed by President Obama. (Photo from U.S. Army) The National Army Museum, shown in this conceptual design, will be built at Fort Belvoir, Va., partly with funds from the Army Commemorative Coin Act signed by President Obama. (Photo from U.S. Army)

In the museum, Army weapons, uniforms, equipment, and even letters written by soldiers at war will help visitors better connect with their Army, Milley said.

The Army, Fanning said, is even older than the nation it defends, and their history has been intertwined now since the beginning.

“We’ve waited 241 years for this moment,” Fanning said of the groundbreaking for the museum. “It’s almost impossible to separate the Army’s story from this nation’s story. In so many ways, the history of the Army is the history of America.”

From the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has borne the greatest share of America’s losses, Fanning said. Fully 85 percent of all Americans who have given their lives in defense of the United States and its interests have done so while serving in the U.S. Army.

Besides fighting the nation’s wars, Fanning said, soldiers have also been pioneers for the United States. He cited as an example the efforts Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Army 2nd Lt. William Clark. Together, the two led a team to explore and map the Western United States — an effort that came to be known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Another example of Army pioneering is the effort of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help build the nation’s roads, railroads, canals and bridges, Fanning said.

In the 20th century, he said, it would be Army scientists that took America through new frontiers, such as aviation, creating solar cells and the launching of America’s first satellite into space.

Fanning said he’s reminded of the Army’s history and pioneering every day by a framed piece of regimental colors in his office. Those colors, he said, are what remain of the standard carried in the Civil War by the 54th Massachusetts, the Army’s first African-American regiment, he said.

That small piece of flag will be displayed in the National Army Museum, “joining thousands of artifacts that will help tell our shared story,” Fanning said. “The museum will strengthen the bonds between America’s soldiers and America’s communities.”

Retired Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who now serves as the chairman of the Army Historical Foundation Board of Directors, said the museum is meant to “tell the comprehensive story of the Army history as it finally deserves to be told.”

That story, he said, will include all components of the Army, and will also include the story of the Continental Army, which existed even before the birth of the United States.

The museum, he said, will be a “virtual museum, without walls, having connectivity with all of the Army museums.”

Also significant, Sullivan said, is the museum’s location. The site chosen at Fort Belvoir is less than 7 miles from Mount Vernon — the home of the Continental Army’s first commander-in-chief, Gen. George Washington.

Retired Gen. William W. Hartzog, vice chairman of the Army Historical Foundation Board of Directors, said one of the first things visitors will see when they enter the museum is a series of pictures and histories of individual soldiers.

“We are all about soldiers,” Hartzog said.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, attendees were able to hear some of those stories for themselves.

Captain Jason Stumpf of the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for instance, took the stage to talk about his wife, 1st Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf.

“She was doing what she did for a greater good and she always believed this,” he said. She was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

“She only wanted to help and answer the call,” he continued. “Ashley would be the first to stand in the entryway and say she’s not the only one that answered the call. Many before and many after her will do the same thing.”

White-Stumpf’s story will be one of the many relayed to visitors to the new Army museum.

Another story that will be told at the museum is that of now-deceased Staff Sgt. Donald “Dutch” Hoffman, uncle to Brig. Gen. Charles N. Pede, who now serves as the assistant judge advocate general for Military Law and Operations.

Pede said his uncle got the name “Dutch” because he’d been a tough kid growing up on the streets of Erie, Pennsylvania, and was always in trouble or “in Dutch.”

Dutch enlisted at age 17, Pede said, and soon found himself in Korea. During his first firefight, Pede relayed, Dutch had admitted to being scared. Shortly after, he attacked an enemy machine gun position by himself, rescuing wounded soldiers and carrying them to safety. He earned a Silver Star for his actions there.

He’d later be wounded in battle and left for dead, Pede continued. But a “miracle-working” Army doctor brought him back to life.

Finally, now-retired Brig. Gen. Leo Brooks Jr. spoke about his late father, retired Maj. Gen. Leo A. Brooks Sr. When Brooks the senior entered the Army in 1954, his journey was filled with challenges, the junior said, as the Army had only recently become desegregated.

Brooks senior had to earn the respect of others as a leader, his son said. That he became a leader was due to the sacrifices of others before him.

Brooks junior said he and his brother, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who now serves as commander of U.S. Forces Korea, U.N. Command and Combined Forces Command, both looked to their father for guidance — and followed him into the Army.

We “naturally followed in his profession because we could see and feel the nobility of the Army’s core values he instilled,” Brooks junior said.

Today, the Army is the only military service without its own national museum. The National Museum of the United States Army, to be built on 80 acres of land at Fort Belvoir, will remedy that.

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