The most important organization for vets you may not even know about - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Veterans can train for certificates and industry credentials before they leave the military – for free through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The Mission Continues is able to fund veteran empowerment projects and its community outreach programs. Hire Heroes USA is able to confirm it helped some 35,000 veterans get jobs. There’s one organization behind all of it: The Schultz Family Foundation.


If you’re unfamiliar with Howard Schultz, he is the billionaire former CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Coffee, among other entities, and he and his family are on a mission to unlock the potential of every single American – especially veterans. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to fund some of the most powerful, potent veterans programs in the country.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Remember the rumor that Starbucks hated vets and the military from a couple years ago? That was false. In a big way.

The Schultz Family Foundation believes Post-9/11 veterans are returning to civilian life with an enormous store of untapped potential and a reservoir of diverse skills sets that could be the future of the country. Part of its mission is to ensure that every separating service member and their spouse can find a job if they want one. The Schultz Family Foundation makes investments in returning troops in every step of the transition process, from before they ever leave the uniform all the way to navigating post-service benefits.

Once out of uniform, the foundation supports programs and organizations that not only promote finding a job based on skills or learning new skills to get a new career, but also programs that are not typical of a post-military career. These careers include community development, supporting fellow veterans, and of course, entrepreneurship.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Nick Sullivan is an eight-year Army veteran who works with the Schultz Family through the Mission Continues.

Whether working for or donating to causes that directly help veterans or ones that support vets in other ways, The Schultz Family Foundation has likely touched the lives of most Post-9/11 veterans who have separated from the military in the past ten years. Whether through Hire Heroes USA, the Mission Continues, Blue Star Families or Onward to Opportunity, the Schultz Family has been there for vets. Now the Schultz Family Foundation is supporting the Military Influencer Conference.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Maybe starting your own business isn’t your thing. Veterans looking for support can visit the Schultz Family Foundation website for veterans and click on the “get help” button to join a community of thousands who did the same – and are happy they did.

Articles

The Brits are going to deploy their ‘colossal’ new aircraft carrier to confront China

One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.


British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.

“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”

The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
The HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photo from UK Royal Navy

British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.

“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Royal Australian Navy Anzac Class frigate HMAS Warramunga. Canadian Forces Combat Camera Photo By Master Corporal Mathieu Gaudreault

There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.

The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.

MIGHTY BRANDED

This Army veteran and family man still finds time to pursue education with Grantham University

This article is sponsored by Grantham University.


Troy Green is an Army veteran with a full range of responsibilities, from being a father and leading his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop to fundraising for the Missouri Veterans Home. After coming home from the Army, Troy dove headfirst into his hometown. He’s deeply involved in his community and spends an incredible amount of time devoted to significant causes. On top of his heavy schedule, Troy wanted to pursue the education afforded to him by the GI Bill.

Bricks-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.

Grantham University is one of the best online colleges for military service members because the institution strives to make a service member’s college experience fit his or her life. Grantham’s range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs help troops prepare for promotion opportunities or even career changes.

The military has always been in Grantham’s DNA. Grantham University was founded in 1951 by WWII veteran Donald Grantham to provide other veterans a way to better their lives through distance learning. That spirit combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to train nuclear suicide bomber paratroopers

It’s an idea as old as nuclear weapons themselves: If you could slip a nuke into a city and detonate it, the enemy would never know it was coming. No missiles detected, no early warning radar, just one day: BOOM. In Cold War lore, these man-portable devices were usually envisioned as suitcase bombs. But the U.S. Army doesn’t do suitcases.


The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

They used to though. They used to do suitcases really well.

No, the Army’s man-portable nuclear weapon was, of course, a duffel bag of sorts – and it was designed to be carried by a paratrooper, Green Light Team, or Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists in case of World War III. NATO knew if the Soviets invaded with a traditional, conventional force, it would take time to mount any kind of meaningful resistance or counterattack. So in the 1960s, the Army came up with the brilliant idea to pack nukes on the backs of individual troops and drop them into strategic places to deny their use to the enemy.

One single paratrooper could cut off communications, destroy crops, and demolish key infrastructure in both the Soviet Union and in recently-captured, Soviet-held territory. There’s just one problem with this plan that the Army didn’t really see as much of a problem, apparently.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Humans can run faster than nuclear blasts?

Humans can’t run faster than nuclear blasts. In theory, the idea would be that the troop in question would either set a timer and secure the location before hoofing it out of there, with plenty of time to spare. But let’s be real: is the U.S. Army going to leave that much to chance? What if the enemy found it, disarmed it, secured it and then was able to reproduce it or use that weapon against NATO forces? They wouldn’t because Big Army isn’t that dumb.

Even if it were possible to outrun the timer on the bomb and/or the bomb yield was small enough for the munitions crew to escape, there’s no way the team would be recoverable due to the fallout or the alarm raised by such a weapon – or more likely because the use of a nuclear weapon triggered a full nuclear exchange.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Trump Administration is at war with itself over the VA

David Shulkin, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed up to what he thought would be a routine Senate oversight hearing in January 2018, only to discover it was an ambush.


Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was the sole holdout among members of the veterans affairs committee on a bill that would shape the future of the agency. The bipartisan bill had the support of 26 service groups representing millions of veterans. But Moran was pushing a rival piece of legislation, and it had the support of a White House aide who wields significant clout on veterans policy. Neither proposal could advance as long as there was any doubt about which President Donald Trump wanted to sign.

Moran blamed Shulkin for the impasse. “In every instance, you led me to believe that you and I were on the same page,” Moran said at the hearing. “Our inability to reach an agreement is in significant part related to your ability to speak out of both sides of your mouth: double talk.”

There were gasps in the hearing room. It was an astounding rebuke for a Trump appointee to receive from a Republican senator, especially for Shulkin, who was confirmed by the Senate unanimously.

Clearly ruffled, Shulkin hesitated before answering. “I think it is grossly unfair to make the characterizations you have made of me, and I’m disappointed that you would do that,” he said. “What I am trying to do is give you my best advice about how this works.”

Moran dug in. “I chose my words intentionally,” he said. “I think you tell me one thing and you tell others something else. And that’s incompatible with our ability to reach an agreement and to work together.” Moran then left the hearing for another appointment.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS, center) with Kansans serving in Afghanistan, April 2011

The exchange exposed tensions that had been brewing for months behind closed doors. A battle for the future of the VA has been raging between the White House and veterans groups, with Shulkin caught in the middle. The conflict erupted into national headlines as a result of a seemingly unrelated development: the release of a lacerating report on Shulkin that found “serious derelictions” in a taxpayer-funded European business trip in which he and his wife enjoyed free tickets to Wimbledon and more.

The underlying disagreement at the VA has a different flavor than the overhauls at a number of federal agencies. Unlike some Trump appointees, who took the reins of agencies with track records of opposing the very mission of the organization, Shulkin is a technocratic Obama holdover. He not only participated in the past administration, but defends the VA’s much-maligned health care system. He seeks to keep the organization at the center of veterans’ health care. (An adviser to Shulkin said the White House isn’t permitting him to do interviews.)

But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House, and the VA itself, they have battled Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.

Related: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.

The blistering report may yet cost Shulkin his job. But the attention on his travel-related misbehavior is distracting from a much more significant issue: The administration’s infighting is imperiling a major legislative deal that could shape the future of the VA.

Taking better care of veterans was a constant refrain at Trump’s presidential campaign rallies. In the speech announcing his candidacy, he said, “We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military, can take care of our vets. Our vets have been abandoned.” Ex-military people overwhelmingly supported him on Election Day and in office.

Trump’s original policy proposals on veterans health, unveiled in October 2015, largely consisted of tweaks to the current system. They called for increasing funding for mental health and helping vets find jobs; providing more women’s health services; modernizing infrastructure and setting up satellite clinics in rural areas.

The ideas drew derisive responses from the Koch brothers-backed group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). Pete Hegseth, its then-CEO, called the proposal “painfully thin” and “unserious.”

Trump then took a sharp turn toward CVA’s positions after clinching the Republican nomination. In a July 2016 speech in Virginia Beach, he embraced a very different vision for the VA, emphasizing private-sector alternatives. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics,” Trump said, “whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center.”

Trump’s new 10-point plan for veterans policy resembled the CVA’s priorities. In fact, six of the proposals drew directly on CVA ideas. Three of them aimed to make it easier to fire employees; a fourth advocated the creation of a reform commission; and two involved privatizing VA medical care.

Trump’s new direction, according to a campaign aide, was influenced by Jeff Miller, then the chairman of the House veterans committee. Miller, who retired from Congress in January 2017, was a close ally of CVA and a scathing critic of Obama’s VA.

Miller became one of the first congressmen to endorse Trump, in April 2016. He did so a few weeks after attending a meeting of the campaign’s national security advisers. (That meeting, and the photo Trump tweeted of it, would become famous because of the presence of George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with investigators after pleading guilty to lying about Russian contacts. Miller is wearing the light gray jacket in the front right. Now a lobbyist with the law firm McDermott Will Emery, he didn’t reply to requests for comment.) Miller became Trump’s point man on veterans policy, the campaign aide said.

Miller and CVA portrayed the VA as the embodiment of “bureaucratic ineptitude and appalling dysfunction.” They were able to cite an ample supply of embarrassing scandals.

The scandals may come as less of a surprise than the fact that the VA actually enjoys widespread support among veterans. Most who use its health care report a positive experience. For example, 92 percent of veterans in a poll conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars reported that they would rather improve the VA system than dismantle it. Independent assessments have found that VA health care outperforms comparable private facilities. “The politicization of health care in the VA is frankly really unfair,” said Nancy Schlichting, the retired CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, who chaired an independent commission to study the VA under the Obama administration. “Noise gets out there based on very specific instances, but this is a very large system. If any health system in this country had the scrutiny the VA has, they’d have stories too.”

One piece of extreme noise was a scandal in 2014, which strengthened Miller and CVA’s hand and created crucial momentum toward privatization. In an April 2014 hearing, Miller revealed that officials at the VA hospital in Phoenix were effectively fudging records to cover up long delays in providing medical care to patients. He alleged that 40 veterans died while waiting to be seen. A week later, CVA organized a protest in Phoenix of 150 veterans demanding answers.

More: This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Miller’s dramatic claims did not hold up. A comprehensive IG investigation would eventually find 28 delays that were clinically significant; and though six of those patients died, the IG did not conclude that the delays caused those deaths. Later still, an independent assessment found that long waits were not widespread: More than 90 percent of existing patients got appointments within two weeks of their initial request.

But such statistics were lost in the furor. “Nobody stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, time out, are we destroying this national resource because a small group of people made a mistake?'” a former senior congressional staffer said. “Even those who considered themselves to be friends of the VA were silent. It was a surreal period. The way it grew tentacles has had consequences nobody would have predicted.”

In the heat of the scandal, Miller and CVA pushed for a new program called Choice. It would allow veterans who have to wait more than 30 days for a doctor’s appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to get private-sector care. The VA has bought some private medical care for decades, but Choice represented a significant expansion, and Democrats were wary that it would open the door to privatizing VA health care on a much broader scale.

Still, the Phoenix scandal had made it hard for the Democrats to resist. The Choice bill passed with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law in August 2014.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Former President Barack Obama. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By 2016, then-candidate Trump was demanding further changes. “The VA scandals that have occurred on this administration’s watch are widespread and inexcusable,” he said in the Virginia Beach speech. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics, whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center. We must extend this right to all veterans.”

Trump’s contacts with CVA and its allies deepened during the transition. He met Hegseth, who left CVA to become a Fox News commentator, in Trump Tower. Trump picked Darin Selnick for the “landing team” that would supervise the transition at the VA. Selnick had directed CVA’s policy task force, which in 2015 recommended splitting the VA’s payer and provider functions and spinning off the latter into a government nonprofit corporation. Such an operation, organized along the lines of Amtrak, would be able to receive federal funding but also raise other revenue.

Trump’s consideration of Hegseth and Miller to lead the VA ran into fierce resistance from veterans groups, powerful institutions whose clout is boosted by the emotional power that comes with members’ having risked their lives for their country. At a meeting with the Trump transition in December 2016, officials from the major veterans groups held a firm line against privatizing the VA and any secretary intent on it.

Trump finally settled on Shulkin, 58, who ran the VA health system under Obama. Shulkin is a former chief of private hospital systems and a doctor — an internist, he still occasionally treats patients at the VA — who comes across more as a medical geek than the chief of a massive organization.

Trump heaps praise on Shulkin in public appearances and meets with him regularly in private. He was one of the first cabinet secretaries Trump consulted about the impact of the government shutdown on Jan. 21, 2018. They met at Camp David in December 2017 and lunched at the White House on Feb. 8, 2018. “You’re doing a great job,” Trump told Shulkin at a Jan. 9 signing ceremony for an executive order on veterans mental health services, handing Shulkin the executive pen. “We appreciate you.”

Also read: A new petition could help veterans with service animals

Trump may like Shulkin, but that didn’t stop his administration from appointing officials who opposed his philosophy. One of them, Jake Leinenkugel, a Marine Corps veteran and retired Wisconsin brewery owner, became the White House’s eyes and ears inside the agency. He works in an office next to Shulkin’s, but his title is senior White House adviser. Leinenkugel, 65, said he came out of retirement to take the position because he was “excited about taking POTUS’s agenda and advancing it.” As he put it, “I’m here to help veterans.”

He and Shulkin got along fine for a few months. But then, in May 2017, the two men clashed, as Shulkin accused Leinenkugel of undermining him. Shulkin wanted to nominate the VA’s acting under secretary for health, Poonam Alaigh, to take the position permanently, according to two people familiar with his thinking. But, the VA secretary charged, Leinenkugel told the White House to drop Alaigh. Shulkin confronted Leinenkugel, who denied any sabotage, according to an email Leinenkugel subsequently wrote. Alaigh stepped down in October and the position remains unfilled.

Shulkin has even been at odds with his own press secretary, Curt Cashour, who came from Miller’s House committee staff. January 2018, Shulkin assigned an official to send a letter to a veterans group that said the agency would update its motto, to be inclusive of servicewomen. (Adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, the original reads, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The new version would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”)

Cashour told The Washington Post the motto wouldn’t change. A few days later, the secretary’s strategic plan went out using the updated, gender-neutral motto. Cashour then denied the change a second time, telling the Post that was “not VA’s position.” A new document with the Lincoln quote restored subsequently appeared on the VA’s website. Shulkin was stunned at being disobeyed by his own spokesman, two people briefed on the incident said. (Cashour denied defying the VA secretary. “The premise of your inquiry is false,” he told ProPublica. Cashour said Shulkin never approved the letter regarding the updated motto and authorized the restoration of the original one.)

Then there was Selnick, who became the administration’s most effective proponent for privatization. He joined the VA as a “senior advisor to the secretary.” Though he reported to Shulkin, he quickly began developing his own policy proposals and conducted his own dealings with lawmakers, according to people with knowledge of the situation. In mid-2017 Shulkin pushed him out — sort of.

Selnick left the VA offices and took up roost in the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. There he started hosting VA-related policy meetings without informing Shulkin, according to people briefed on the meetings. At one such meeting of the “Veterans Policy Coordinating Committee,” Selnick floated merging the Choice program with military’s Tricare insurance plan, according to documents from the meeting obtained by ProPublica.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Former House Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller.

Veterans groups were furious. At a Nov. 17, 2017  meeting, Selnick boasted that Trump wouldn’t sign anything without Selnick’s endorsement, according to a person present. Shulkin would later tell a confidant that moving Selnick out of the VA was his “biggest mistake” because he did even more damage from the White House. (Selnick did not reply to a request for comment. A White House spokesman said some VA officials were aware of the policy meetings that Selnick hosted. The spokesman said Selnick does not brief the president or the chief of staff.)

Selnick, 57, is a retired Air Force captain from California who worked in the VA under the George W. Bush administration. At CVA, he not only ran the policy task force, he testified before Congress and appeared on TV. In 2015, House Speaker John Boehner appointed Selnick to the Commission on Care, an independent body created by a Congressional act to study the VA and make recommendations.

Selnick impressed his fellow commissioners with his preparation but sometimes irked them with what they viewed as his assumption that he was in charge, people who worked with him on the commission said. Selnick often brought up his experience at the VA. But some commissioners scoffed behind his back because his position, in charge of faith-based initiatives, had little relevance to health care. Whatever his credentials, Selnick had audacious ambitions: He wanted to reconceive the VA’s fundamental approach to medical care.

Selnick wanted to open up the VA so any veteran could see any doctor, an approach that would transform its role into something resembling an insurance company, albeit one with no restrictions on providers. Other commissioners worried that would cost the government more, impose fees and deductibles on veterans and serve them worse. “He was probably the most vocal of all of the members,” said David Gorman, the retired executive director of Disabled American Veterans who also served on the commission, “in a good and a bad way.”

The bad part, in the view of Nancy Schlichting, the chairwoman, emerged when Selnick tried to “hijack” the commission. Selnick and a minority of commissioners secretly drafted their own proposal, which went further than CVA’s. (The group included executives of large health systems that stood to gain more patients.) They wrote that the “the current VA health care system is seriously broken” with “no efficient path to repair it.” They proposed closing facilities, letting all veterans choose private care, and transitioning the rest to private care over two decades.

Related: Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than three million calls

The draft was written in a way that seemed to speak for the commission as a whole, with phrases like “the Commission recommends.” The commission staff suggested labeling it a “straw man report,” implying it was meant to provoke discussion. Still, veterans organizations were angry, and Schlichting had to publicly disavow the draft. “Darin Selnick has never run a health system in his life and doesn’t understand the complexity of it,” Schlichting told ProPublica.

For his part, Shulkin publicly staked out his vision in a March 17, 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In it, he defended the VA’s quality of care and proposed reimagining the VA as an integrated system composed of its own core facilities, a network of vetted private-sector providers, and a third layer of private care for veterans in remote places. Shulkin also edited a book published last year trumpeting the VA’s successes, called “Best Care Everywhere.”

Almost four years after the Phoenix scandal, the emergency measure letting some veterans get care outside the VA is still limping along with temporary extensions, not to mention payment glitches and confusion about its rules. Key legislators grew tired of renewing emergency funding and wanted to find a long-term solution. In the House, negotiations broke down after Democrats boycotted a listening session featuring CVA. So fall 2017, focus turned to the Senate.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. (Flickr)

The crux of the debate was the extent to which the VA should rely on private care. The chairman and ranking member on the Senate veterans committee, respectively, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jon Tester of Montana, drafted a bill to consolidate all of the VA’s programs that pay for private care and let doctors and patients decide where veterans would get care. The VA would buy private care when that makes the most sense but would still coordinate all veterans care in an integrated, comprehensive way. The bill garnered the support of 26 veterans organizations and every committee member except Moran.

Moran represents the Koch brothers’ home state; employees of Koch Industries are the second-largest source of campaign contributions in his career, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. With the support of CVA, Moran wanted to establish clear criteria making veterans eligible for private-sector care, like the 30 days/40 miles standard in the Choice program. It might sound like a subtle distinction, but it means the difference between keeping all veterans within the VA system versus ceding the direction of patient care to the private sector. When the committee rejected his amendment, Moran proposed his own bill and signed up Sen. John McCain as a co-sponsor.

Moran’s bill initially called for all veterans to be able to choose private care. When a McCain aide shared it with a lobbyist for the American Legion, the lobbyist was so enraged by what he viewed as a bid to undermine the VA that he torched a copy of the bill and sent the McCain aide a photo of the charred draft. (An American Legion spokesman declined to comment.) With the American Legion’s input, McCain’s and Moran’s staffs toned down the bill to the point that they got letters of support from the group, along with Amvets and CVA. But American Legion and Amvets were still working to get consensus on the Isakson-Tester bill.

Still, the Moran-McCain bill had a few key allies: Selnick and Leinenkugel. They had gained sway in part because of a White House vacuum. The president himself has been largely absent on veterans policy and there’s no senior point person. The portfolio has at times belonged to Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Omarosa Manigault, according to veterans groups and congressional officials. (A White House spokesman said those officials played a role in “veterans issues,” but not “veterans policy.” The latter, the spokesman said, is overseen by Selnick on the Domestic Policy Council.)

That has given Selnick and Leinenkugel wide latitude to shape White House positions on issues that don’t rise to Trump’s level. “Darin [Selnick] is pretty much in the ascendancy,” said Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based charity serving veterans.

As long as Moran had a competing claim to the Trump administration’s support, the Isakson-Tester bill was stuck. Republicans wouldn’t risk a floor vote on a bill the president might not sign. Shulkin supported the Isakson-Tester bill but he knew his rivals inside the White House were pushing for Moran’s proposal. So Shulkin hedged, awkwardly praising both bills. “We still don’t know which bill he wants,” Joe Chenelly, executive director of Amvets, said. “If the White House wants something different, then we need to know how to reconcile that.”

Amid the impasse, the Choice program was out of money again and needed an extension as part of the end-of-year spending deal. Tester vowed to make it the last one he’d agree to. He called on Shulkin to break the stalemate by publicly endorsing his and Isakson’s bill. “I would love to have the VA come out forcefully for this bill,” he said on the Senate floor in late December. “I think it would help get it passed.”

In a private meeting, Isakson and Tester chided Shulkin for withholding support for their bill, according to three people briefed on the meeting. Shulkin told them he was doing the best he could, but he had to fend off a competing agenda from the White House.

Unbeknown to Shulkin, there was already talk in the White House of easing him out. On Dec. 4, 2017, Leinenkugel wrote a memo, which ProPublica obtained, summarizing his disillusionment with Shulkin as well as with Shulkin’s deputy, Thomas Bowman, and chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson. (“I was asked to tell the truth and I gave it,” said Leinenkugel of his memo; he declined to say who requested it.)

More reading: A new petition could help veterans with service animals

Leinenkugel accused Bowman of disloyalty and opposing the “dynamic new Choice options requested by POTUS agenda.” The memo recommended that Bowman be fired — and replaced by Leinenkugel himself. It also asserted that Wright Simpson “was proud to tell me she is a Democrat who completely trusts the secretary and it’s her job to protect him.” Leinenkugel accused her of delaying the placement of Trump’s political appointees. Leinenkugel recommended replacing her, too.

As for Shulkin, Leinenkugel’s memo advocated he be “put on notice to leave after major legislation and key POTUS VA initiatives [are] in place.”

After the clash between Moran and Shulkin at the January hearing, Isakson said the White House would provide feedback on his bill to help the committee chart a way forward. “The president basically is pushing to get a unanimous vote out of committee,” said Rick Weidman, the top lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “The only reason why we didn’t get it before was there is one mid-level guy on the Domestic Policy Council who threw a monkey wrench into it by confusing people about what the administration’s position is.” That person, Weidman said, is Selnick.

The White House’s feedback on the Isakson-Tester bill, a copy of which was obtained by ProPublica, was the closest the administration has come to a unified position on veterans health care. It incorporated input from the VA and the Office of Management and Budget. Selnick told veterans groups he wrote the memo, leaving some miffed that Selnick seemingly had the final word instead of Shulkin. (A White House spokesman said Selnick was not the only author.)

Selnick requested changes that might look like minor tweaks but would have dramatic policy consequences. “It’s these very small differences in details that the public would never notice that change the character of the thing entirely,” said Phillip Longman, whose 2007 book, “Best Care Anywhere,” argued that the VA works better than private health care. (The title of the book Shulkin edited, “Best Care Everywhere,” was a nod at Longman’s book.)

Most important, the White House wanted clear criteria that make veterans eligible for private care. That was the main feature of Moran’s bill and the sticking point in the negotiations. The administration also asked to preserve a piece of the Choice program by grandfathering in veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. CVA praised the White House for nudging the bill in Moran’s direction. “We applaud President Trump for taking a firm stand in favor of more health care choice for veterans at the VA,” the group’s director, Daniel Caldwell, said in a statement dated Jan. 24, 2018.

The White House feedback also called for removing provisions that would regulate providers, such as requiring them to meet quality standards and limiting opioid prescriptions. And the administration objected to provisions in the bill that would require it to fill critical vacancies at the VA and report back to Congress.

Selnick got what he asked for, but it still might not be enough. Isakson and Tester agreed to most of the changes. But in a White House meeting with veterans groups on Feb. 5, 2018, Selnick continued to insist on open choice, suggesting that’s what Trump wants. Selnick visited Moran’s staff, a person with knowledge of the meeting said, and Moran indicated he wouldn’t support the modified version of the Isakson-Tester bill. (A White House spokesman said Isakson and Tester did not accept all the changes and negotiations continue. He denied that Selnick pushed for open choice.) Moran’s spokesman didn’t answer emailed questions by press time.)

The tensions spilled out publicly again on Feb. 8, 2018, when the Washington Post reported that the White House wanted to oust Bowman, Shulkin’s deputy. The article said the purpose was to chastise Shulkin for “freewheeling” — working with senators who don’t share the administration’s position. Isakson’s spokeswoman called it a “shameful attempt” to derail the negotiations. Isakson resolved to move ahead without Moran, the spokeswoman said, but it’s not clear when the bill will get time on the Senate floor (the Senate focused on immigration this week and then will take a recess). Moran could still place a “hold” on the bill or round up other senators to oppose it.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Shulkin determined that Selnick and Leinenkugel had to go, according to four people familiar with the secretary’s thinking. But Shulkin doesn’t appear to have the authority to fire them since they work for the White House. Plus, the attacks from the right were already taking a toll on Shulkin’s standing. “If leaders at Trump’s VA don’t support REAL CHOICE — why won’t they resign?” former CVA chief Hegseth tweeted on Feb. 13, 2018 tagging Shulkin in the post.

Veterans advocates responded by defending Shulkin against attacks they viewed as originating with Selnick and Leinenkugel. “They thought they could coopt David,” said Weidman, the lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “When he couldn’t be coopted, they decided to go after his character.”

The biggest blow came on Feb. 14, 2018 when the VA’s Inspector General released its report on Shulkin’s trip to Europe in April 2017. It concluded that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, misused a subordinate as a “personal travel concierge,” lied to reporters, and that his chief of staff doctored an email in such a way that would justify paying travel expenses for Shulkin’s wife.

Shulkin disputed the IG’s findings, but he again ran into trouble getting his message out from his own press office. A statement insisting he had “done nothing wrong” disappeared from the VA’s website, and Cashour replaced it with one saying “we look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in more detail before determining an appropriate response.” Cashour said the White House directed him to take down Shulkin’s statement and approved the new one.

Shulkin told Politico the IG report was spurred by internal opponents. “They are really killing me,” he said. By Feb. 16, 2018, his chief of staff had told colleagues Friday she would retire, USA Today reported.

The condemnation after the IG report was swift and widespread. House veterans committee member Mike Coffman, R-Colo., called on Shulkin to resign. Democrats, though generally sympathetic to Shulkin, couldn’t resist lumping the imbroglio in with other travel-expense tempests across Trump’s cabinet (involving Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, and Steven Mnuchin). The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate veterans committees said they were “disappointed” and want Shulkin to address the allegations, but acknowledged the politics at work and the stakes in a joint statement: “We need to continue progress we have made and not allow distractions to get in the way.”

The next day, Shulkin appeared before another routine oversight hearing, in this instance on the House side. He told the representatives he would reimburse the government for his wife’s travel and accept the IG’s recommendations. Shulkin thanked the chairman and ranking member for urging their colleagues not to let the scandal commandeer the hearing. “I do regret the decisions that have been made that have taken the focus off that important work,” he said.

Turning to the VA’s budget, Shulkin resumed his tightrope walk. He praised the VA’s services while acknowledging the need for some veterans to be treated outside the government’s system. By the time he left the hearing, two hours later, the Trump administration’s position on veterans health privatization remained a mystery.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The surprising reason most troops who die in the military don’t die in combat

There are things that can annoy you during your time in uniform, like PowerPoint presentations, waiting to be released for the weekend, and that private who clearly needed a waiver to get in. Wait, that’s not a private, that’s a lieutenant!

And then there are things that can kill you.

The US military has been at war for nearly 20 years, and anyone who has wanted to test their mettle in combat has had the chance. Thanks to modern battlefield medicine and overwhelming fire superiority in most situations, American service members are coming home alive at rates that have never before been seen in the history of warfare.


The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

US Army soldiers fire 81mm mortars during a fire mission in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 6, 2019. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne.

Unfortunately, it’s not just bullets and IEDs that can — and do — kill our men and women in uniform. In fact, 74% of all US military deaths since 2006 have had nothing to do with combat.

1. Training. Train like you fight, fight like you train. It’s a good ethos to have in the business of war, but unfortunately, realistic training can have unintended consequences. Most recently, eight Marines and one US Navy sailor were killed when their Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) sunk during training off San Clemente Island. This isn’t a common occurrence, but in 2017, 14 Marines and one sailor were hospitalized after their AAV hit a natural gas line. The last death occurred in 2011 after a Marine died while trapped in a sunken AAV in Oceanside Harbor.

Training accidents happen on land and in the air, too.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Special Forces Soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June 10, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt, courtesy of DVIDS.

Between 2015 and 2018, the US Army suffered 14 fatalities from vehicle rollovers. That number spiked in 2019, with eight soldiers killed in rollover accidents. According to a US Army safety brief video, vehicle training accidents kill more on-duty soldiers than any other single reason, with inadequate unit driver training programs contributing to 68% of these mishaps.

Airborne operations are inherently risky and are considered the most dangerous training the military conducts on a regular basis despite rigorous risk mitigation procedures. So far in 2020, there have been at least two deaths, preceded by four in 2019. The fatalities affect conventional and special operations troops alike while conducting both static line and military free fall training across the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Air Force.

Training accidents are readily apparent in how they impact the force, while other issues are not so obvious — or forgivable.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. US Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Julianne Showalter.

2. Toxic exposure. Although burn pits have been reduced to an oft-joked about condition of wartime service, their impacts on service members who served overseas are real. Toxic exposure from burn pits is difficult to track, but one organization says they have recorded at least 130 deaths from the more than 250 burn pits that were used across Iraq and Afghanistan. Many compare the issue to how Agent Orange afflicted veterans of the Vietnam War. Like Agent Orange, the full effects of burn pits will likely take decades of research before it’s impact on veterans is fully understood.

If you’ve deployed to Afghanistan, you’ve probably heard about “Mefloquine Monday” and the nightmares it causes. Due to the areas of the world the US military regularly deploys to, a variety of malaria medications have been used for decades, with some having detrimental effects on service members. Mefloquine, in particular, was considered so dangerous that the FDA put a “black box” warning — its most strict measure — on the drug in 2013. It’s difficult to attribute how many deaths are a result of the drug, but the drug’s effects on the brain may be contributing to suicide rates.

Military housing has come under fire in recent years for failing to address issues ranging from black mold to lead poisoning and even asbestos poisoning. The problem affects everyone in the military umbrella, from junior enlisted soldiers in barracks to families living in on-base housing. Despite multiple lawsuits, the US military still grapples with some leaders not taking the issue seriously — even though it’s now affecting service members’ children.

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Members of the Uzbekistan National Guard show a US special operator de-mining techniques during exercise Invincible Sentry in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, Feb. 22, 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin, courtesy of DVIDS.

Depleted uranium has also affected multiple generations of US military personnel, with many suffering through cancer and other afflictions after being exposed.

Most recently, government documents revealed that the military knew Uzbekistan’s K2 airbase was poisoning service members stationed there.

“Ground contamination at Karshi-Khanabad Airfield poses health risks to U.S. forces deployed there,” said the classified report obtained by McClatchy dated Nov. 6, 2001. According to a 2015 Army investigation, at least 61 service members have been diagnosed with cancer or died after serving there, but that number does not include special operations troops at the secretive base.

There are many organizations available to help service members who have been impacted by toxic exposures. Veterans who are experiencing unexplained health issues are encouraged to reach out for help.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, and US Senator John Cornyn take questions from reporters during a press conference outside the main gate at Fort Hood, Texas, April 3, 2014. US Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

3. Fort Hood. K2 isn’t the only base responsible for death in the military. Fort Hood is quickly becoming known as one of the most dangerous places to be stationed in the US Army after a rash of murders and busted prostitution rings have been exposed. Twenty-three soldiers assigned to the Texas base have died this year alone; only one of those deaths happened in combat. The murder and dismemberment of Spc. Vanessa Guillen thrust Fort Hood’s issues into the national spotlight this year, and now multiple investigations have been initiated to find answers about why the base has devolved.

4. Suicide. Suicide afflicts both active duty troops and veterans alike. Between 2006 and 2020, 4,231 active service members died of self-inflicted wounds. In 2017, 6,139 veterans committed suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The reasons for taking one’s life vary, but over-prescription of opioids, toxic leadership, marital problems, and financial problems are all common reasons cited. Fortunately, the military has started to take the mental health crisis more seriously in recent years, with many senior leaders stepping forward to talk about their own struggles and encouraging troops to reach out for help if they need it.

Many of these issues can only be mitigated by calling out problems when they happen and being proactive about avoiding safety shortfalls. If you see something, say something. These problems won’t go away on their own.

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


Articles

The only ship left in the US Navy that has sunk an enemy ship is 219 years old

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about


The only ship left in the U.S. Navy fleet that has sunk an enemy vessel is made of freakin’ wood.

Yeah, that’s right. The frigate USS Simpson (FFG-56) — which sunk an Iranian missile patrol boat in the 1980s — was decommissioned late last month. That means the 219-year-old USS Constitution is the last ship to have a kill on its scorecard.

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First launched in 1797, the Constitution served until its retirement from active service in 1881, but the Navy continues to maintain the ship as a floating museum. It is perhaps best known for its exploits in the War of 1812, when the Constitution took out the HMS Guerriere, which earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

From Dan Lamothe at The Washington Post:

Naval encounters involving the United States still occur, of course. Navy ships have been buzzed by aircraft on numerous occasions, and China has expressed concern this year about U.S. naval operations in the South China Sea. U.S. officials have downplayed any sign of conflict there, saying naval officers from the two countries regularly speak to each other while underway. The U.S. Navy also has continued to conduct aerial surveillance in the region despite warnings from the Chinese.

Meanwhile, the Simpson is being towed from Florida to Philadelphia, where it will be put up for sale to a foreign military, USNI reported. Unless of course, anyone wants to set up a Kickstarter campaign to buy their very own warship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare a grand military parade in Washington, DC, and the initial response has been largely negative.


Democratic lawmakers quickly came out against it Feb. 6, with Rep. Jackie Speier of California telling CNN, “we have a Napoleon in the making here” and saying, “everyone should be offended” by the idea.

“Oh my god… he wants to be Kim Jong Un,” the MSNBC personality Joy Reid remarked on Twitter in response to the news.

The Pentagon is said to be exploring dates for such a parade. But if it does happen, Trump wouldn’t be the first U.S. president, or even the first modern one, to hold a military parade in Washington, DC.

There’s a long history of military parades in the U.S., but its recent history is anchored in the Cold War when the U.S. showed off nuclear missiles long before North Korea’s Kim dynasty even had the capability.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Recent history of U.S. military parades — and their nukes

In 1953 and 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugurations included nuclear-capable missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade included four types of nuclear missiles, the nuclear historian Stephen Schwartz pointed out on Twitter.

Both Kennedy and Eisenhower presided over some of the tensest days of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms race with the Soviet Union.

In Kennedy’s case, a frightened U.S. had just watched the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite, mankind’s first, passing through the skies. American schoolchildren were drilled on how to hide under desks in the event of a nuclear attack. After all, if the Soviets could put a satellite in space and fly it around the world, they could also put up the bomb.

On the other end of the Cold War, when the U.S. emerged victorious from the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush brought back the military for another parade.

The U.S. victory had been decisive, with Saddam Hussein’s army, the world’s third-largest at the time, decimated by superior U.S. military power. Though 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. casualties were forecast in the conflict, where chemical weapons had killed scores of civilians, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died.

Also Read: North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

The U.S. brought its troops home for a parade in June 1991, when Bush’s approval rating was soaring.

Later that year, the Kremlin lowered the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag for the last time. The Soviet Union imploded, and the Cold War ended.

The Cold War is back on, parades and all

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has withdrawn troops from Europe and taken measures to reduce its military footprint and nuclear stockpiles. The Obama administration increasingly treated Russia like a partner and less like a competitor.

But late in Obama’s presidency, the tide started to turn. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 to a muted U.S. and NATO response.

Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war the next year and immediately started bombing U.S.-backed forces. Additionally, Russia stands accused of violating arms-control agreements with the U.S. and placing nuclear weapons in Europe, much as it did in the Cold War.

China, over the same period, embarked on a massive, ambitious campaign to rebuild its military and dominate the South China Sea, a shipping lane where annual commerce worth trillions of dollars passes through, and where China has ignored international law in building artificial islands in contested territory.

The return to Cold War footing for Eastern powers isn’t Trump’s doing and didn’t happen on his watch, but the U.S.’s embrace of a new Cold War definitely is.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
China and North Korea used to be friends. Now, China won’t even take their calls.

Trump takes aim at China and Russia, looking to fight fire with fire

The Trump administration recently released a series of documents outlining the U.S.’s foreign policy and military bearings. In the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration has consistently named its biggest challenges as taming the rises of Russia and China.

Trump’s new nuclear posture looks past arms control and toward an arms race.

Russia regularly holds military parades. So does North Korea. So do many U.S. allies, including many democracies.

Trump’s military parade may be costly, and it may tax an already stretched military, but in context, it marks a return to Cold War-era great-power competition.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is China’s new mysterious stealth bomber project

China made history as the only nation other than the US to ever field a stealth fighter jet, and a new report on China’s military power from the Defense Intelligence Agency just revealed yet another batch of stealth combat aircraft projects.

China “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the report reads. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025,” it continued.


Today, China holds perhaps the world’s most passive nuclear arsenal with nuclear warheads that never arm missiles and nominally “nuclear-capable” bombers that have never flown missions with nuclear warheads on board.

China’s only current bomber is the H-6K, an updated, licensed knock off of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which entered into service in 1954 and was retired by Moscow in 1993.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

A Xian H-6K bomber.

While the H-6K serves the purpose of signaling capability and resolve, by landing on artificial islands in the South China Sea, for example, it’s nowhere near a modern bomber.

Plans and some potential images have leaked for the H-20, a long-range replacement for the H-6K, but until now the second Chinese stealth bomber has remained a rumor and a mystery.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Could China combine the stealth of the B-2 with the fighter prowess of an F-22?

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Fighter/bomber?

Experts who spoke to Business Insider about China’s H-20 described the bomber as likely looking a lot like the US’s B-2, a big, flat, flying wing type design.

But the DIA hinted at something a bit more sporty in its report for the second mystery bomber.

“These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” the report said.

While a long-range flying wing type bomber like the H-20 has little use for fighter maneuvers, a medium-range fighter/bomber aircraft could easily make use of the avionics and tactics China gained in developing its stealth fighter, the J-20.

The DIA in a table later in the report refers to the second bomber as a “tactical bomber” and with a fighter/bomber mission, an advanced radar and long-range air-to-air missiles.

The Drive points out that a bomber like the one described by the DIA would have increased endurance and wouldn’t rely so heavily on refueling tankers, thought to be a weak link with US combat aircraft.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.

(dafeng cao / Twitter)

Secret weapon?

China has long been developing a massive, 19-foot long very long range air-to-air missile that experts say could pose a direct challenge to top US fighters like the F-35, F-22, and all legacy aircraft.

But the J-20 likely can’t carry this long missile. A stealthy platform with a large internal weapons bay, like the fighter/bomber describe by the DIA, in theory, could handle this weapon.

With both an air-to-air and an air-to-ground mission, the mysterious new bomber may represent a missing link in China’s emerging vision of air supremacy against the US.

Every big-deck US aircraft carrier launches early warning radar aircraft to act as long-range sensors for its fighter fleets, and this new missile appears purpose-built to down them.

“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese media of its new long-range missile.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

China’s J-20.

(Times Asi / Flickr)

Super-maneuverability is one of the fifth-generation fighter characteristics that China may employ on its new bomber, according to the DIA.

“So the successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” said Fu.China has long hyped its existing J-20 as an air superiority fighter, but that assessment is routinely shot down by Western analysts who say the plane doesn’t stand a chance in close combat with US F-15s or European Typhoons.

For the US, which can bring to bear the tremendous power of large fleets of land and ship-launched fighter jets anywhere in the world, its main weakness in air combat remains short ranges on its new jets, which leads to a reliance on unarmed refuelers.

But China, by following through on a medium range fighter bomber with long range missiles, may have cracked the code of how to dominate the skies of the Pacific while the US pours money into short range fighters like the F-35 or long-range bombers like the B-21.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran just unveiled its new line of ballistic missiles

It’s finally here, the weapon we’ve been told was in testing and would soon be the undoing of Iran’s regional foes, wherever they might be found: the Dezful ballistic missile. The Islamic Republic’s state-run news agency, Sepah News, unveiled the new weapon on Feb. 7, 2019.

The new 2,000-kilometer missile comes just one week after Iran successfully tested another surface-to-surface weapon, the 1,350-kilometer Hoveizeh cruise missile. The new missile is able to strike U.S. military bases in the region.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has been working on the new weapons in preparation for the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution that ousted the imperial Shah Reza Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the new Islamic Republic of Iran.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

The the Hoveizeh cruise missile. Kassif.

(Mehr News Agency)

Iran’s newest weapons are said to be twice as destructive as the most powerful weapons in its current arsenal, the Zolfaghar missile. Iran has used this weapon to strike ISIS targets in Syria. The United States and United Nations have been urging international partners to keep arms embargoes and economic sanctions on Iran in place to stop these weapons from being developed.

Displaying this missile production facility deep underground is an answer to Westerners … who think they can stop us from reaching our goals through sanctions and threats,” Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said from an underground bunker.

The Islamic Republic has continued to abide by the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as “the Iran Nuclear Deal” – which did not cover the development of missile technology. These new missiles were partly responsible for the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. The state’s European partners have not withdrawn.

Iran says the missiles are in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on the country to refrain from “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Iran says the Hoveizeh and the Dezful missiles comply with both the JCPOA and Resolution 2231.

Humor

5 popular debates Marines are passionate about

When you’ve got nothing but time on your hands, it’s hard not to get into a discussion with a fellow Marine. And, with all the possible topics, you’ll inevitably stumble across something you disagree on.


These are among the most popular debates you might find yourself embroiled in.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Wearing an undershirt beneath your blouse

This one usually spawns after a higher up gives a lower enlisted an ass-chewing. If you’re stationed somewhere hot (say, Hawaii or Guam), the additional airflow from not wearing an undershirt can help make the day-to-day less miserable.

However, there are lower enlisted who believe in wearing an undershirt and they will debate you on this topic.

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Notice the lack of skivvy shirt and f*cks given up front. (image via Okinawa Marines)

4. Rank versus billet

A billet in the Marine Corps is your specific position within your occupational specialty. According to doctrine, certain billets require certain rank, but since it might be more difficult for some to get the required rank, many will have the experience needed without having the position.

This becomes a debate when someone of higher rank with low experience (say, a Corporal fresh out of 8th and I) comes to the unit and they’re automatically thrown into a billet, like squad leader or team leader, when they know nothing about that position — since they just spent the last three years being set pieces at the White House.

3. Foliage on helmets

When you’re in a jungle, adding some of the local flora to your gear might complement your camouflage, but a problem invariable arises when a lance corporal takes a twig and sticks it in their helmet to be ridiculous. This, of course, ruins it for everyone else.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
It’s really effective until that one guy makes a joke out of it. (Image via Military History)

2. Favorite adult film star

Everyone’s got their preference and to each their own, but if you exclaim the name of a favorite, someone is bound to debate you on why their pick is better. They’ll go into insane detail, bringing up every film they’ve ever done and give you a complete breakdown of that star’s career as if they studied them in film school.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
If you know who this is, we’re tellin’. (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Peanut butter versus jalapeno cheese spread

Some like brown glue that tastes like a childhood favorite while others will argue passionately about why they prefer the yellow dog poop with jalapeno flavor more. They’ll also be sure to tell you why you’re wrong for enjoying the other. Either way, they both come in MREs and should be avoided if at all possible.

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about
Mmm, dog sh*t. (image via Imgur)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US fired off its first post-INF Treaty missile

The US military conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile in a test that would have been banned prior to the recent collapse of a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement.

The missile was launched on Aug. 18, 2019, from a testing site on San Nicolas Island in California. “The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon explained in an emailed statement, adding that “data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”

Earlier this month, the US officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 agreement with Moscow that formally limited the development of ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. The US accused Russia of violating the agreement through the development of the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8.


The White House said in February 2019 that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” The president warned that the US intends “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia.

Following the end of the treaty, new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”

The defense secretary has also said that the US is looking at developing these systems to counter China in the Pacific. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters recently. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”

Both China and Russia have expressed opposition to US plans, and some observers have expressed concerns that a new arms race is underway.

While the US moves forward with plans to develop new ground-based intermediate-range missiles, it is still unclear where the US ultimately plans to deploy them.

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