Private Care Program allegedly enriched companies and hurt vets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Private Care Program allegedly enriched companies and hurt vets

For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.


Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.

The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

(Lucas Waldron/ProPublica)

According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.

“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”

The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.

Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.

“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”

Trump’s promises to veterans were a central message of his campaign. But his plans to shift their health care to the private sector put him on a collision course with veterans groups, whose members generally support the VA’s medical system and don’t want to see it privatized. The controversy around privatization, and the outsize influence of three Trump associates at Mar-a-Lago, has sown turmoil at the VA, endangering critical services from paying student stipends to preventing suicidesand upgrading electronic medical records.

A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.

One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.

TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”

Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.

Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.

In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.

Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.

Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.

(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.

In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.

One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.

In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.

But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.

The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.

Senator John McCain.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.

The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.

The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.

Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.

Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.

Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.

Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.

John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.

“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.

Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.

(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)

After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.

Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.

The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.

The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.

The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.

TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.

The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.

“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”

The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.

“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”

Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.

“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”

The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.

David Shulkin.

But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.

TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.

In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”

Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”

McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”

But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.

McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”

McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.

“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”

The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.

The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.

That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.

“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”

Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.

This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @ProPublica on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sailor killed at Pearl Harbor will be interred at Arlington

Navy Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz, killed at the Pearl Harbor attack, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery Dec. 7, 2018, on the 77th anniversary of the incident.

Bruesewitz, 26, of Appleton, Wisconsin, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft Dec. 7, 1941. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced in November 2018 that Bruesewitz was accounted for March 19, 2018 and his remains were being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.


Assistant Secretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic who will be at the interment ceremony said he is honored to attend the ceremony for Bruesewitz.

“As battleship USS Oklahoma, which on Dec. 7, 1941, sustained multiple torpedo hits and capsized quickly, Petty Officer 1st Class Bruesewitz and other sailors were trapped below decks. He was one of the 429 Sailors who were killed that fateful day,” Slavonic said.

Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz’s name is etched in stone with the names of the 429 Sailors killed aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy photo by Tucker McHugh)

“Breuesewitz and his shipmates are remembered at the USS Oklahoma Memorial on Ford Island which was dedicated in their honor Dec. 7, 2007. Sailors like Bruesewitz who represent the ‘Greatest Generation’ gave so much and asked so little but when the time came to serve their Navy and nation, they answered the call.”

After Bruesewitz was killed in the attack, his remains were recovered from the ship, but they could not be identified following the incident. He was initially buried as an unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Forensic developments, like DNA analysis, allowed reexamination and eventual identification of his remains. Bruesewitz is the 118th crew member to be identified by the DPAA’s USS Oklahoma project. There were 388 personnel unaccounted for from the ship and 187 Sailors have been identified so far.

Renate Starck, one of Bruesewitz’s nieces, told us from Maryland that after Bruesewitz was identified and interment plans have started, the family requested that it be Dec. 7, 2018.

“Because we’ve been aware of loss of our uncle. Since he died, the family remembered him on this day. This is also easy for the young ones to remember. It gives us peace and forgiveness for his loss,” she said during a phone interview.

About 60 people, most of whom are family members and some close friends, will be attending the funeral ceremony at the Arlington National Ceremony which will begin at the administration building at 1 p.m.

Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz’s name is etched in stone with the names of the 429 Sailors killed aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy photo by Tucker McHugh)

A funeral service for him will be held earlier in the day starting at 7:50 a.m. at Salem Lutheran Church, Catonsville, Maryland, after which a procession to Arlington will take place. The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore, dedicated their Dec. 1 and 2, 2018 performances of W. A. Mozart’s Requiem to Bruesewitz.

Explaining the historical process, a DPAA statement says that from December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries. In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Bruesewitz.

In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for analysis. To identify Bruesewitz’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, anthropological and dental analysis, along with circumstantial evidence.

USS Oklahoma crew members have been honored Dec. 7, 2018, each year with a ceremony held on Ford Island at the USS Oklahoma Memorial to include, post of the colors, principle speaker, honoring those who served on the USS Oklahoma, 21-gun salute and taps. Leis are placed on some white standards in honor of each crew member where a picture is placed on a standard when they are identified.

Additionally, there is a USS Oklahoma Memorial in Oklahoma, which has a listing of the crew members lost, near the Oklahoma Capitol honoring 429 Sailors who were killed on USS Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Disney+ just dropped the trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. “The Mandalorian” is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.

Pedro Pascal, best known as Game of Thrones‘ Red Viper of Dorne (Prince Oberyn, for those of you who refuse to become obsessive fans), stars as the titular character, a bounty hunter heavily inspired by the infamous Boba Fett. The series will take place after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.

Check out the trailer right here:


The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12

www.youtube.com

The Mandalorian | Official Trailer | Disney+ | Streaming Nov. 12

“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy but the first film. Not just the first film but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of Star Wars, the Mad Max aspect of Star Wars,” creator Jon Favreau told The Hollywood Reporter.

The opening scenes contain bloody stormtrooper helmets on spikes, so I’d say he’s off to a great start!

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The show, the first Star Wars live-action TV series, will be one of the biggest releases on the new streaming platform Disney+, which will also house Marvel Cinematic Universe shows about Scarlet Witch and Vision, Loki, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye, among others.

Fans got a peek at footage from The Mandalorian at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, but finally the teaser trailer has been released at D23. In addition, the new poster has been released, unveiling the bounty hunter himself — and that fancy new Disney+ logo.

The Mandalorian will be available to stream right when Disney+ launches on Nov. 12, 2019. The service will cost .99 a month or can be purchased as a bundle with ad-supported Hulu and ESPN+ for .99 a month.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the life of an undercover ATF agent

With just over 5,000 employees, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is one of the smaller federal law enforcement agencies.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with their share of vicious individuals, groups, and threats. In fact, the ATF goes after some of the most violent criminals: those who want to shoot others or blow something or someone up. Naturally, being an ATF field agent requires a great deal of mental toughness.


Carlos Baixauli, or “Box” as his friends call him, joined the ATF in 1986. He was recruited after doing undercover work for Florida’s state version of the ATF and for the Miami-Dade Police Department; his 30-year career included working on the Medellín Cartel, headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar.

Baixauli in the field as an ATF agent.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

His first experience as a new agent was witnessing an atrocity on New Year’s Eve at the Du Pont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“The plaza was set on fire by angry union workers,” Baixauli recalled. “They wanted to send a message, and in doing so, killed 98 people and injured over 100 others.”

Baixauli was tasked with walking through the crime scene to investigate.

“People were burned into place,” he said. The scene was like something out of a nightmare. “One thing that’s always stuck with me — they were busting out of a window, and this lady was getting ready to jump. Then a burst of air came out, feeding the fire, and a giant fireball came across, and it was like everyone had been turned into the ruins of Pompeii. They were all ash.”

It didn’t take long for Baixauli to be assigned more undercover operations that put him in harm’s way, dealing with armed home invaders. With home invasions, the crime often goes unreported.

“We started coming up on homes and there would be five or six dead Colombians, Venezuelans, or some other South American nationality in the house,” Baixauli said. “The house was empty. I’m talking big homes, five, six bedrooms. But there was no furniture or accessories. These are homes that the drug cartels would set up in Florida. They are guarded by their thugs, and they are stash houses. They would start delivering drugs from these locations to other locations. The reason they would find the people dead inside is that home invaders would go rip off the dope dealers.”

His undercover role was that of a disgruntled employee of the drug cartel. Baixauli would tell the criminals that he wasn’t making enough money, that there were millions of dollars worth of drugs in these houses, and that he needed his fair share.

“They would talk to me about how they can come and rip the place off,” Baixauli said. “They would take the drugs and the money.”

An ATF Special Response Teams searches an exterior of a building in Baltimore, Md.

According to Baixauli, they were usually either a stash house or a drug house. He would meet with them four to five times before taking them to a house the ATF was in control of already.

“The violent nature of these guys,” he said, “they knew they were going into a gunfight. We were just lucky that we won.”

Sometimes his meetings as an undercover agent resulted in a brush with death.

Later in his career, Baixauli found himself amongst a rough crowd at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant in South Beach.

“I’m sitting there, and a guy puts a gun into my side. My team is wired up and they’re outside. I had to let them know I’m at gunpoint but they needed to wait for the code word because I needed to talk my way out of the situation I was in,” Baixauli said. “The guy with the gun says, ‘Tell me where the stash house is.'”

Baixauli refused.

Undercover and Hired to Kill

www.youtube.com

Instead, he made a comment about the gun. “Why do you have that .45 in my side? Somebody is going to see it outside or from the bar. We have a good deal going here, and now we aren’t going to make any money.”

Baixauli kept his cool and didn’t even signal that the gun concerned him.

“If you’re going to keep the gun on me, put it in my back,” he said. “Nobody can see it then.”

He recalled the event as if reliving it. “We are moving. My team is listening. They are making a move towards the front door. ‘The cashier is going to see the gun,’ I tell the guy. The whole time I’m giving a play by play to my crew outside. Walking towards the front door, I see the cover team. Soon as I go through the door, this guy comes behind him, and he’s taken down easily.”

Baixauli with .7 million in recovered cash.

(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)

One way the ATF differentiates from other law enforcement agencies is that they try not use confidential or criminal informants (CIs).

“ATF doesn’t deal with CIs. CI always brings baggage. The best hand-to-hand is between a good guy and a bad guy. If I need a CI to introduce me to a bad guy, and we do a deal with the CI, we throw that deal away. We don’t want to deal with the baggage from the CI. As soon as we could cut the CI out, we would,” Baixauli said.

While he’s been out of the ATF since 2016, Baixauli is still concerned about current threats; he sees groups like MS-13 as a bigger threat to the U.S than even Pablo Escobar’s cartel.

“MS-13 is 10 times worse. Drugs, extortion, brutal murders, prostitution, terrorizing people — and as far as law enforcement is concerned, they are animals who have no feeling for life.” In 2017, it was reported that the group stabbed a victim 100 times, beheaded him, and ripped out his heart.

Despite the danger, Baixauli loved his job with the ATF so much that he can’t remember a day he didn’t look forward to work. “I loved it,” he said. “I just loved it.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

In an interview with PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, retired Adm. Bill McRaven, the former SEAL who oversaw the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, told Woodruff that there’s only thing a SEAL recruit has to do during their grueling training: “Not quit.”

“So, the one thing that defines everybody that goes through SEAL training is that they didn’t ring the bell, as we say,” McRaven said. “They didn’t quit. And that’s really what you’re trying to find in the young SEAL students, because, in the course of your career, you’re going to be cold, wet, miserable. You’re going to kind of fail often as a result of bad missions, bad training.”

McRaven started out his Navy career as a SEAL, rising through the ranks until he was charged with overseeing the entire special forces community as the commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

While tenacity is an essential part of being a great SEAL, there’s a lot of training that goes into being a part of the Navy’s most elite fighting squad.


A U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) candidate navigates a suspended cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course, May 11. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Les Long)

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

2. Candidates learn the ropes at Naval Special Warfare orientation, which lasts three weeks and orients trainees to what lies ahead at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“During Orientation, officers and enlisted candidates become familiar with the obstacle course, practice swimming and learn the values of teamwork and perseverance. Candidates must show humility and integrity as instructors begin the process of selecting the candidates that demonstrate the proper character and passion for excellence,” according to the SEALs and Surface Warfare Combatant Craft website.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lynn F. Andrews)

3. SEAL candidates start the Surf Passage, one of the most well known parts of SEAL training.

Surf Passage is a notoriously challenging part of BUD/S training, as Business Insider previously reported. During orientation, SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen candidates, usually divided into teams of six or seven, carry their boats above their heads down the beach toward the ocean. They must take their boats waist-deep into the water before they can get in, and paddle out toward breaking waves, which can be three to five feet high — or larger.

Sometimes boats flip over, scattering crew and gear in what’s called a “yard sale.” But if teams successfully make it out past the breakers, they get to ride the waves back to shore.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

4. You’re basically guaranteed to get sandy at BUD/S or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, which lasts 24 weeks.

BUD/S training takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.

Before prospective SEALs even enter training, they must take a physical exam, as well as a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), one called the Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT), and a physical screening test consisting of a 500-yard swim, push-ups, pull-ups, curl-ups, and a 1.5-mile run.

The ASVAB assesses a candidate’s ability to learn, while the C-SORT determines his maturity and mental toughness, according to the Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (SWCC) website.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Push-ups are another part of life for SEAL trainees.

Potential SEALs must be able to do at least 50 push-ups in two minutes to even qualify for BUD/S.

6. SEALS have to be able to do pull-ups — lots of them.

The minimum number of pull-ups to be considered for BUD/S? At least 10 in two minutes.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students wade ashore on San Clemente Island.

(U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

10. It’s important to stay hydrated during training, which is designed to push candidates to their breaking points.

BUD/S has an attrition rate of between 73% and 75%, the Navy told NPR in 2017.

“So, while it is important to be physically fit when you go through training, you find out very quickly that your background, your social status, your color, your orientation, none of that matters,” according to McRaven, who recently wrote the memoir, “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”

“The only thing that matters is that you go in with this purpose in mind and this — the thought that you are just not going to quit, no matter what happens.”

(U.S. Navy)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)

(U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

SEAL Team seven members jump from an MC-130J Commando II during Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., January 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

SEAL Qualification Training students endure a long hike after finishing their second day of close quarters combat instruction.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Menzie)

16. SEAL recruits participate in a land training exercise during the Seal Qualification Training, a 26-week course after BUD/S.

Recruits also receive weapons training, medical training, and demolitions training during SQT. They also learn how to operate in cold weather.

(U.S. Navy photo)

17. After 24 grueling weeks in BUD/S, SEAL candidates receive their SEAL Qualification Training diploma.

After receiving the SQT diploma, SEALS are assigned to their SEAL team to prepare for deployment.

Enlisted and officers must complete SQT and be designated as SEALs to earn the coveted Trident insignia worn on a SEAL’s uniform.

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

Intel

These American veterans are fighting against ISIS — for very different reasons

As ISIS continues to expand its reach in Iraq and Syria, a small but growing number of U.S. veterans and foreign fighters from around the world have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the fight against the terrorist group.


Every fighter has their own reasons for joining the fight, but for former Army Ranger Bruce Windorski, 40, and Marine Corps veteran Jamie Lane, 29, the fight is personal. Windorski is fighting to avenge the death of his brother – Philip Windorsky – who was killed when Iraqi insurgents shot down the Army helicopter he was traveling in during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.

Lane is fighting to avenge the sacrifices of his fellow Marines and to keep the promise he made to the locals during a previous tour with the Marine Corps, according to this Wall Street Journal video.

The video shows real combat footage from Windorski and Lane’s GoPro mounted cameras.

Watch:

NOW: General briefs Congress that fight against ISIS is a total mess

OR: Bin Laden shooter Robert O’Neill threatened by ISIS as ‘number one target’

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Kim Jong Un’s aide panic on the red carpet

Kim Jong Un’s arrival in Vietnam for a second summit with President Donald Trump took an unusual turn when an aide appeared to miss his cue during a grand entrance.

Video footage of Kim’s arrival in Dong Dong, on the China-Vietnam border, shows the North Korean leader walking down a red carpet ramp from his personal armored train.

He initially descends alone. A few seconds later, an aide appears to realise what is going on, and quickly runs down the ramp to join Kim.


You can the moment in this video, via the Filipino ABS-CBN news channel. The aide’s sprint down the carpet comes around the 14-second mark:

The entourage had just completed a marathon 2,000-mile train ride from Pyongyang, across a vast expanse of southern China, which lasted two and a half days.

Experts say that Kim’s decision to travel by train could have been to avoid the appearance of being reliant on China, after he received significant attention for borrowing plane from the government-owned Air China to get to his last summit with Trump in Singapore.

The optics of Kim travelling by train could also remind North Koreans of Kim’s grandfather, who used the same train to get to countries like Vietnam as well as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, The Associated Press reported.

Trump has characterized the summit as a follow-up to the leaders’ first summit in Singapore in June 2018, when North Korea made a vague commitment to working toward denuclearization.

Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the Singapore Summit in June 2018.

Pyongyang appears to have made little progress on that front since the first meeting. US intelligence and North Korea experts have warned that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear arms.

Trump told the Governors’ Ball on Feb. 24, 2019, that he was “not pushing for speed” with North Korea’s denuclearization.

However, he tweeted on Feb. 25, 2019: “With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!”

Trump tweeted on Feb. 25, 2019, that he was “Looking forward to a very productive Summit!”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Major tells Marines to ‘see something, say something’

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shared his second video message to Marines as part of the Own It! campaign. In the video, he calls for Marines to “look around you and see who might be struggling and ask them, how can I help?” Own It! is a Marine Corps awareness campaign designed to provide tips to Marines on how to start tough conversations with fellow Marines.


“We all need to support each other in protecting what we’ve earned. So, if you see something, do something, and help our Marine Corps family be safe and ready for the next fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Green.

Marines and their families can join the conversation by texting OWNIT to 555-888.

By texting OWNIT, participants will receive links to resources that will guide them on how to have a tough conversation with a Marine Corps family member about difficult situations like suicide, consent, rejection, bullying, substance abuse, as well as family issues including relationship red flags, divorce, child abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. These tip sheets are available at www.usmc-mccs.org/ownit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These images of U.S. troops in tight spaces will make you sweat

A space is confined if it has a limited or restricted entry or exit point.

“Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc.,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

And the US military trains for all different kinds of scenarios in such spaces.

Here’s what they do.


Air Force Joseph Chavez from the 120th Airlift Wing, Montana Air National Guard performs a confined space rescue on Feb. 13, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

Senior Airman Jada Lutsky, a fuel system specialist with Pennsylvania Air National Guard, dons a respirator during a confined spaces rescue exercise on Feb. 24, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Members of the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company enter a manhole and extract simulated patients during a training exercise on Aug. 1, 2018.

(Department of Defense photo)

Army Spc. Ridwan Salaudeen, 758th Firefighter Detachment, climbs through a confined space at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 9, 2017.

(US Army photo)

An Army Reserve soldier navigates his way through a building collapse simulator at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Marine Cpl. Seth White, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) defense specialist, crawls through an underground tunnel while wearing a Level-C hazmat suit on Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Army Reserve Spc. Alex Thompson, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, crawls through a tube for training at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Army Reserve Brett Lehmann, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, crawls through a tube for confined space familiarization training at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

Army Reserve Pvt. Kenneth Collins, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, pulls himself from a confined space familiarization tube at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

And the whole thing seems pretty grueling.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

.

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Norway asked for 300 more US Marines

Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.

The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.


Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.

The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide

Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.

“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”

The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.

To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.

The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.

The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.

“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”

In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why you shouldn’t take a cruise when you desert from the Army

Sircaria Coleman deserted her post as a U.S. Army company commander more than five years ago, but her run from the law ended when she walked onto a cruise ship dock in New Orleans this week, authorities said.


Coleman was arrested on the morning of Jan. 29 when the Carnival Triumph set sail on a five-day Caribbean cruise. While documents don’t specify whether the Shreveport native was going on the trip, cruise passengers with outstanding arrest warrants are occasionally captured when they check in for boarding.

According to authorities, Coleman posted bond on Aug. 15, 2012, following an arrest somewhere in Louisiana on unspecified allegations. She never returned to her post in Fort Carson, Colorado, and the Army issued a warrant to arrest Coleman on a charge of military desertion several months later.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Coleman turned 30 four days before her arrest. She was working at a cellphone dealership when she was captured, court records said.

Orleans Parish Criminal Magistrate Court Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Coleman held without bail. She waived extradition proceedings and as of Jan. 31 was awaiting to be transferred out of New Orleans.

It is not all that common for the military to prosecute charges of desertion. Only once since the Civil War has the maximum punishment for desertion during a declared war, execution, been carried out.

Five years’ imprisonment is the second-worst punishment.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this million RPM machine gun is too awesome to be fielded

It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.

In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.

Why?


These could revolutionize drone warfare.

(Metal Storm Limited)

In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”

Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.

Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.

On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.

Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.

These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.

There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.