The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”
Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.
“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.
“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.
Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.
If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.
Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.
Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.
Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.
The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.
Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.
The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.
The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.
Ensuring the Best Enter Military
With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.
“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”
About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.
The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.
Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.
In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.
During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”
“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.
The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.
The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.
Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.
Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.
Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.
That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.
Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.
Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.
While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.
“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.
Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.
‘What is our red line?’
After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)
Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.
Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.
The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.
More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.
“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.
Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.
In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.
“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.
The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.
President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.
It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”
“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”
That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.
While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”
That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.
“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For as long as video games have existed, there have been fed-up mothers yelling at their kids to put down the controller and get back to their homework. As mom loves to remind us, “no one will ever pay you to play video games!” Well, we hate to disappoint you, ma, but for the last decade or so, there have been plenty of gamers who make a living enjoying their hobby.
As foreign as it may sound to some, there are people who are so good at video games that others will tune in (and even pay) regularly to see them compete, just like a traditional sports player. Today, we refer to this competitive gaming as “eSports.” This concept is slowly gaining traction, but just like any other idea, it’s been met with criticism from people who don’t understand that if enough are willing to pay money for something, it’s a feasible business model.
Now, the world of eSports may have just gotten the validation it needs from a brand people trust. Cloud9’s Counter Strike: Global Operations team has been officially sponsored by the United States Air Force.
Red Bull has made a huge impact in the eSports world. Seeing as nearly every gamer is addicted to energy drinks, that’s an easy win.
Video game tournaments are nothing new. Way back in 1972, students at Stanford University competed to see who could get the highest score at Spacewar. In the 90s, Quake tournaments gained recognition around the world and, by 2015, a League of Legends tournament drew in 27 million viewers — seven million more than the highest viewership average of the NBA finals.
But, in a big way, there’s one thing missing from eSports: sponsorship from outside the gaming world. The biggest sponsors of eSports have always been AMD, Intel, and, typical, the company responsible for whichever game is being played. Occasionally, you’d find a sponsor from outside the hardware/software realm, including soft-drink companies, a certain adult-entertainment company, and even Audi — but these are typically outliers.
This pattern makes good sense in a way. It’s easy for sponsors to use gaming events to promote products that are directly applicable to eSports. Do you want to play like these guys? Buy this mouse and keyboard. Do you want to enhance your reaction times? Buy these goofy, yellow-tinted glasses. Do you want to practice late into the night? Chug some of this energy drink.
The sponsors have almost always directly related to gaming — not to a generally huge audience. That is, until the recent sponsorship deal of the Los Angeles-based Cloud9 by the United States Air Force.
“By developing a dynamic partnership with the Air Force, we will be able to deliver extraordinary content that will show fans a totally different side of the team. No one else in the world can put our team into a jet and let our fans watch the sheer thrill come over their faces. It’s going to be amazing.” says Cloud9 owner and CEO, Jack Etienne.
Starting this week, at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018, the Cloud9 uniforms will now proudly sport the U.S. Air Force logo.
“Join the Air Force! Do all the awesome stuff you see in the video games! Totally!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft)
The details of the partnership aren’t known — but it can be assumed that the USAF has spent more money on getting branded pens dumped into cups at recruitment centers than they did in putting the USAF logo on the t-shirt sleeves of four gamers. Money aside, this is huge news. This means that the United States Air Force has recognized the recruitment possibility in getting exposure in a new, emerging venue.
This offers legitimacy to the world of eSports. This means that a branch of the United States Armed Forces sees the possibility to attract potential recruits out of the pool of people watching eSports events. All jokes about the Air Force aside, younger, nerdy adults are kind of the Air Force’s target demographic — and they have been looking into many different avenues to meet recruitment numbers.
Since the Air Force has been pushing heavily for the cyber fields, this partnership makes absolute sense.
Military units are team-oriented by necessity and design, but when troops leave the service, they often find themselves isolated and working by themselves. The team dynamic is gone. Veteran service organizations are much the same way. Even with an incredible mission and the tools to serve veterans, everyone accomplishes more in a collaborative environment. NAVSO, the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, was founded with that in mind.
NAVSO is out to change the landscape for veterans through further developing the veteran service organization marketplace. Whether public or private, any VSO is welcome to join the ranks and collaborate with like-minded organizations with similar goals. The idea is to improve efficiency and effectiveness while fostering innovation by working together.
In bringing together organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation, USAA, the Schultz Family Foundation, and the PsychArmor Institute, NAVSO has connected thousands of American veterans to other organizations dedicated to creating an environment where veterans and their families can live, work, and thrive.
Most importantly, the collaboration between organizations serving veterans can help identify gaps in services needed by vets and their families, then further identify how to address those gaps. NAVSO works to improve the lives of veterans through many different areas including education, employment, housing, healthcare, financial assistance, wounded warriors, and gold star families. It is the only organization working to change the landscape of the services available to veterans in both the public and private sector.
With more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States whose missions are focused on the lives of service members, veterans, and their families, it is increasingly important to build a community in which these organizations can collaborate towards the same goals instead of competing for the same funds. These organizations may simply be unaware of potential partners operating in the same space or may not know about resources available to them outside of their niche area.
NAVSO is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference.
“We’re geography agnostic, size and revenue agnostic, and specific military/veteran/family-serving mission agnostic – our tools and services can take VSOs at different stages of development from start to solvency, from solvency to sustainability, and from sustainability to growth and impact,” says NAVSO CEO Tim Farrell. “NAVSO is all about transforming the veteran-serving space, one organization at a time by helping them find funding faster and serve veterans better.”
Considering NAVSO’s dedication to collaboration, it makes sense that it would want to be a part of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference. The Military Influencer Conference brings together military and veteran professionals who are interested in developing their entrepreneurial acumen and build a better life for themselves and their families. The conference also brings together leading veteran entrepreneurs, startup accelerators, and – of course – veteran service organizations in the business development sector.
If you’re interested in starting your own business, check out MilitaryInfluencer.com for the next conference or just go check out all the VSOs and personalities involved. The Military Influencer Conference is a shining example of how collaboration makes everyone more efficient and effective.
The Marine Corps is working to build up its own sizable fleet of boats as it postures itself for future combat in shallow coastal waters and dispersed across large stretches of land and water.
Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare, said the service wants to find new ways to put conventional forces on small watercraft for operations ranging from raids to insertions and river operations.
Typically, small boats have been the territory of Marine Corps and Navy special operations and specialized forces, such as the Coastal Riverines.
But, Coffman said, he has received guidance from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to change that.
“If we were to claim any moniker, we want to be the father of the 1,000-boat Navy,” Coffman said at a Navy League event near Washington, D.C., in late November.
Currently, he said, Naval Expeditionary Warfare is resource sponsor to about 800 small boats, including combatant craft, Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats, and smaller craft. While the precise numbers desired haven’t been settled on, he suggested 1,000 boats is close to what’s needed.
“The Marine Corps largely got out of what we call itty bitty boats … the commandant wants us to get back in the boat business,” Coffman said. “He’s recognizing he needs to distribute his force and be able to move in smaller discrete elements and different ways.”
The strategy for employing these boats is still being developed, but Coffman said the Marine Corps wants to be able to cover a wider range of maritime operations. The service, he said, likely wants to develop a family of small boats, ranging from high-tech combatant craft like those used in special operations to lower-end craft for harbor escorts and troop transport.
A good starting point for discussion, he said, is the 11-meter Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat, or RHIB, used by the Navy SEALs for a variety of missions and by Naval Expeditionary Warfare for things like maritime interdiction and transport to and from larger ships.
That design, Coffman said, would be easy to “sex up or simple down” as needed.
For the Marine Corps, small boat employment has largely focused on protecting larger ships, Coffman told Military.com in a brief interview.
“A lot of my theme is trying to flip the script, move from defensive to offensive,” he said.
With the Navy’s riverine forces increasingly employed in the Middle East to defend ships, there’s less availability for other small boat missions that could press the advantage. But with an investment in a new family of watercraft, that could change.
“That’s part of how you counter the peer threat: ‘I’ll out-asymmetric you,’ ” Coffman said. “So [Neller is] excited about that, that work’s going to happen.”
This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who’s the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.
“Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another,” Medina says. “Whether it’s humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages.”
The Latin in the patch above means “not worth a rat’s ass.” During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as “Tunnel Rats.” These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.
The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.
Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.
“Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop,” he says. “There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is.”
“Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base,” Medina says. “There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I’m sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there.”
The patch above is for the USAF’s 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.
Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.
“Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime,” Medina says.
“Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny … making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself,” Medina explained.
Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.
“I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists,” Medina recalls. “As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design.”
That’s how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.
“I once heard ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” Medina says. “Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges.”
More than 500 service members from Joint Region Marianas and other units from within Indo-Pacific Command assigned to Task Force-West (TF-W) are providing Department of Defense support to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Super Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts, which began Oct. 25, 2018, immediately following the storm.
“We are working alongside the people of CNMI to help recover and ensure people get the assistance they need,” said Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander of TF-W. “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication I’ve seen from my team, both on Saipan and Tinian, and I know they will continue to put forth their best effort until contributions from the DoD are no longer needed.”
Super Typhoon Yutu was the strongest typhoon to hit a U.S. territory and was the second-strongest system to hit U.S. soil in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Category 5 super typhoon had sustained winds of 178 mph, which devastated much of Saipan and Tinian.
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier embraces a resident standing in line at a Point of Distribution in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Nov. 3, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)
“Ensuring the health and safety of our family following the storm is our top priority,” said Governor Ralph DLG. Torres. “This is the worst storm anyone in the CNMI has ever seen, and we must ensure we take care of each other. We are grateful for the partnership we have with FEMA and our military partners on island to help us during this difficult time. To our federal and military partners, Si Yu’us Ma’ase for your continued support; thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Sailors assigned to Landing Craft Utility 1634, attached to Naval Beach Unit 7 forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, embarked aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, direct a solider assigned to the Guam Army National Guard as she drives to pick up supplies for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery effort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kory Alsberry)
More than 50,000 residents on Saipan and Tinian are coming together with outside entities to recover from the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.
“The CNMI government, American Red Cross, FEMA and the DoD are prioritizing life-saving and life-sustaining missions throughout the designated islands of CNMI,” said Bern Ruiz, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA, the U.S. government’s domestic emergency response agency. “We are focused on restoring community lifelines and working to ensure food, water, medical, and critical supplies are available in sufficient quantity.”
Guam Army National Guard soldiers land on Saipan via C-130 to provide support operations for those affected by Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 5, 2018.
During Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations, the U.S. military provides essential support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. With FEMA as the lead Federal agency, TF-W continues to partner with civil and local agencies to perform debris clearance on public lands and assist with distribution of water and food to people in need.
U.S. airmen offload a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from a C-130 transport plane so it can be used to move supplies to the citizens of Saipan after Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 4, 2018.
“To the people of CNMI: we stand here with you during this time of crisis,” said Chatfield. “Your military is here to help. We are Marianas Strong.”
TF-W is a joint task force. It is divided into Task Group Saipan and Task Group Tinian, and is comprised of active duty, reserve, and Guam National Guard service members from more than 20 different units across every branch of service. Service members traveled from Japan, Guam, Hawaii, and parts of the continental U.S. as part of TF-W’s DSCA mission. TF-W is providing DoD support to the CNMI civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts.
DARPA, the group behind the modern internet and stealth technology, is taking a big swing at hack-resistant voting booths.
It has been working on new ways of securing computers and other electronic devices for years now in a program it calls System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware. The basic idea is simple: Instead of securing electronics solely or primarily through software, they can improve hardware and firmware—the programming at the most foundational level of how a computer operates so that hackers can’t get in.
Now, there’s a demonstration voting booth with some of these improvements incorporated into it, and DARPA is taking it on the road to a hackers’ conference.
The demonstration booth will be set up at DEF CON 2019, one of the largest and longest-running underground hacking conferences. It will have a set of processors, and the participating research teams will be able to modify those processors according to their proposed hardware and firmware security upgrades.
Hackers will then be able to attack the booth via USB or ethernet access.
Any weaknesses that the hackers identify will be addressed by the research teams as they continue to develop hardware designs and firmware upgrades to make voting booths more secure. Once the teams have finished products with robust security, DARPA will … probably close down the program.
Yeah, DARPA doesn’t typically create final designs of products or manufacture anything. It even does relatively little of its own research most of the time. The standard DARPA model is to identify a problem or opportunity, set up a program that recruits lots of researchers from academia and industry, give those researchers money according to performance metrics, and then let the industry partners buy up research and patents and create new products.
So the best case for DARPA isn’t that their demonstration voting booth fends off all attackers. It’s that the booth takes some real hits and the research teams find out what vulnerabilities still exist. Then the research teams can create awesome hardware architectures and programming that will be more secure. But DARPA does have one surprise twist from their standard model.
Instead of leaving most of the tech developed for the voting booths in private and academic hands, it’s pushing for the design approaches and techniques to be made into open-source technologies, meaning anyone can use them.
But still, don’t expect to see these amazing voting booths when you vote in 2020. DARPA wants to spend 2019 touring the booth at universities and allowing more experts to attack it, then bring it back to DEF CON in 2020 with new tech built on a STAR-Vote architecture, an open-source build with its own democratic safeguards like paper ballots. Most state and local governments don’t update their voting hardware all that often, let alone in the months leading up to a major election.
So the earliest you could see new, DARPA-funded tech at your local polling place is the 2022 mid-terms, and more likely the 2024 or later elections.
The House passed a nearly $700 billion bipartisan defense bill on Nov. 14, boosting the number of jet fighters, ships, and other weapons in an effort to rebuild what critics say is a depleted US military.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018 also calls for an increase of more than 20,000 active-duty and reserve troops, as well as a 2.4% hike in troop pay.
It is the largest defense bill in US history, and lawmakers say the funding increase will improve military readiness and low retention rate.
“Over the last several years, we have seen an increase in threats and a decrease in funding for our military,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, said in a statement. “This year’s NDAA begins to rebuild our military and to ensure we can defend the American people.”
Critics have complained that the Pentagon has abandoned the military in recent years. As a result, they say, the military has suffered from a low retention rate, lack of preparedness, and preventable officer misconduct.
“The military readiness crisis has impacted every service from ship collisions, aircraft crashes, and vehicle accidents to personnel shortages in critical roles, like aviation and cybersecurity,” Sen. John McCain said during a hearing on Nov. 14. “And by the way, the Congress is also complicit in this almost criminal behavior.”
Under the newly proposed defense policy, the Army would see the greatest troop increase, with an added 7,500 active-duty and 1,000 reserve troops.
The Army has said they need more money in order to meet retention goals. Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey told an audience in February that the Army would need more money in order to offer bonuses and other incentives to increase retention.
“We are going to go back and ask for more money,” Dailey said, referring to the then-upcoming NDAA.”That is exactly what we intend to do because we have to.”
House Democrats have also previously pushed for higher military pay, citing private sector opportunities that may pay more. The NDAA’s proposed 2.4% would match wage growth in the private sector.
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deserve pay increases that are competitive with opportunities in the private sector and that better reflect the gravity of their sacrifices on behalf of our nation,” Rep. Ruben Gallego said in a statement in June. “We should demonstrate our respect for their service not just in speeches and public gestures, but in their paychecks.”
Congress helps Trump fulfill a campaign promise
The NDAA exceeds President Donald Trump’s initial budget request by at least $26 billion, but the $700 billion total may not come to fruition if Congress doesn’t roll back a 2011 law that set strict limits on federal spending. Those limits would cap defense spending at $549 billion, according to Reuters.
The Senate will vote on the defense bill later this month. If it passes, Trump is expected to sign it into law, assuming Congress is able to resolve spending cap issue.
Trump had previously set the military pay raise at 2.1%.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to rebuild the military, criticizing former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for overseeing military cuts.
“As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military,” Trump promised during an interview on CNN. “It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military.”
“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” — President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961
The 1960s would take space exploration from a dream to a reality as the Space Race pitted the United States against their Cold War antagonist the Soviet Union. While the U.S. would indeed meet JKF’s goal (though he wouldn’t live to see it) and, as a bonus, beat the Soviets to the moon, there was one critical way the Americans fell behind: including women in the space program.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, wouldn’t make her first space flight until 20 years after the Soviets sent women into space.
Valentina Tereshkova caught the attention of the Soviet cosmonaut program because of her interest in parachute jumping at a young age. She was one of four women selected to be trained for an elite woman-in-space program, and of those four women, she was the only one to complete a space mission. On June 16, 1963, Tereshkova was launched aboard Vostok 6, becoming the first woman to fly in space.
During her 70.8 hour flight, she made 48 orbits around the Earth, and still today she remains the youngest woman to fly in space (she was 26 years old) and the only one to fly a solo space mission.
After her Vostok mission, she never flew again.
Vostok 6 capsule on temporary display in the Science Museum, London in 2016. (Image by Andrew Gray)
She was honored with the title Hero of the Soviet Union and, later that year, she married astronaut Andrian Nikolayev. Their daughter Elena, was a subject of medical interest because she was the first child born to parents who had both been exposed to space. Elena grew up to be a healthy adult and became a doctor, but the effect of space travel on the human reproductive system remains of keen interest to scientists as humans plan deeper excursions into space.
Tereshkova became a spokesperson for the Soviet Union, for which she received the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace. She remains active in Russian politics and on March 6, 2021, she celebrated her 84th birthday.
We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.
For me, that friend is James Brobyn.
As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.
In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.
James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”
Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”
My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.
The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”
James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”
I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.
James: White 1.
WATM:Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.
James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?
I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”
WATM:Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?
James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.
All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.
WATM:When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?
James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.
WATM:Kicked you out?
James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.
WATM:What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?
James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.
WATM:Why do you think they focused on you?
James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.
WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?
James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?
James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.
WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?
James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.
Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, ‘Will you help us out?‘ I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.
WATM:There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?
James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM:Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?
James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.
WATM:You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?
James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.
WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?
James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.
The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: Is the long game paying off?
James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.
WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?
James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.
President Donald Trump gave the State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, to the 116th United States Congress. His speech covered many topics, ranging from bipartisanship to infrastructure reform and veterans affairs to current military operations.
One thing most people skimmed over throughout the night happened during a quick camera pan over the United States Defense Chiefs. Many people were quick to point out that they remained emotionless throughout the entire event because, by military regulation, a service member cannot show political affiliation while in uniform in an official capacity, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
There was a glaringly obvious goof, once you know what you’re looking for. Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, was apparently one of the only ones to catch the mistake on his own uniform. His ribbon rack was put on upside-down.
The accident was made known when he called himself out on Twitter. His ribbon rack, while properly squared away, was in the opposite order of precedence — meaning the rack was organized properly, but placed onto the uniform the wrong way.
The awards of ribbon racks are to be ordered from least prestigious (in the lower right) to the most prestigious (in the upper left). A little life hack for any troops still making their dress uniforms is to place them in the order that it says on your ERB/ORB. As for Gen. Lengyel, his Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon was placed far above his Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
Is this a huge mistake? Not really. But how Gen. Lengyel reacted is worthy of recognition and is an example that all troops should admire.
You took the classiest route possible to address a minor problem. Good job, sir.
(U.S. National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith)
Everyone makes mistakes, from the lowest airman late to formation to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the State of the Union. It’s what you do afterward that really matters. You should take the hit on the chin like an adult and get back into the fight.
You own up to your shortcomings and strive to be better next time. Realistically, Gen. Lengyel isn’t going to be doing push-ups until his supervisor gets tired or sent to mop the rain off the flight line. Chances are high that his uniform was prepared by an aide who’s probably beating themselves up for this far more than their NCOs are smoking them.
If this uniform was mistakenly set up by an aide, I say commend that person as well. Gen. Lengyel came out of this debacle looking like far more of a true leader than if he sat there quietly the entire evening. Give them a coin with the stern warning to never mess that up again.