That shortfall is expected to increase, and the service has considered a number of steps to shore up its ranks, including broader recruiting, changing training requirements, increased bonuses, and even stop-loss policies.
The Air Force is also looking for outside contractors to provide “red air,” or adversary training, support.
According to a release issued on August 25, the Air Force is now looking to have retired pilots return to the service for up to 12 months in positions that require qualified pilots, an initiative called Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD.
The service is looking for up to 25 retired fliers of any pilot specialty code — which includes bomber, fighter, helicopter, tanker, and remotely operated aircraft pilots — to fill “critical-rated staff positions” and allow active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements, the release said.
“Our combat-hardened aircrews are at the tip of the spear for applying airpower against our nation’s enemies,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “We continue to swing away at this issue and we’re looking at multiple options to improve both quality of life and quality of service for our pilots.”
Two other initiatives were announced on August 25.
Pay for officers and enlisted personnel will increase for the first time since 1999.
Incentive pay, also called flight pay, will increase for all officers, with those who have over 12 years of service potentially seeing the biggest boost, up to a maximum of $1,000 a month. Incentive pay will also increase for enlisted aircrew members — up to a maximum of $600 for those with over 14 years of service.
The Air Force will also offer aviation bonuses to more service members in fiscal year 2017, which runs until the end of September.
“The Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus take rates have been lower than what the Air Force needs,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in the release.
“The bonus is now being offered to a larger pool of pilots that includes those beyond their initial service commitments who have previously declined to sign long-term bonus contracts and those whose contracts have expired,” Grosso added.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized that the service needed to retain experienced fliers.
“We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers,” Wilson said in the release.
In July 2016, Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, identified hiring by commercial airlines, whose pilots face mandatory retirement ages, as a main factor in the Air Force’s loss of pilots.
With the current five- and nine-year extensions offered, a pilot could earn up to $455,000 in bonuses; the Air Force is also considering one- and two-year extension deals, Grosso said earlier this year.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
Here at We Are The Mighty, we can understand if people are worried about getting their ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
So, as a public service, here are some pointers on how to stay off DevGru’s Naughty List:
1. Don’t be a terrorist
SEAL Team 6 is the Navy’s dedicated counter-terrorist group. If you’re not a terrorist, they have no professional interest in giving you an ass-kicking at all. But if you are a terrorist, they will have a very professional interest in ruining your day and going through your stuff.
So, you may ask, “Why might they think I am a terrorist?” Well, if you join a terrorist group, they might think you are a terrorist. Here is a very handy list of groups, courtesy of the State Department, to not hang out with:
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
Aum Shinrikyo (AUM)
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) (IG)
Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
Kahane Chai (Kach)
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (Kongra-Gel)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
Jemaah Islamiya (JI)
Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ)
Ansar al-Islam (AAI)
Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq)
Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
Revolutionary Struggle (RS)
Kata’ib Hizballah (KH)
al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI)
Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
Army of Islam (AOI)
Indian Mujahedeen (IM)
Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT)
Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB)
Haqqani Network (HQN)
Ansar al-Dine (AAD)
Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi
Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah
Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia
ISIL Sinai Province (formally Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis)
Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC)
Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Branch in Libya (ISIL-Libya)
Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent
2. Don’t support terrorists
If you provide money, supplies, or even a place to stay to a member of a group on the State Department’s list, you’ve supported terrorism. This is bad.
Other activities, like drug trafficking, money laundering, recruiting members of terrorist groups, training new members of terrorist groups, and other forms of facilitating can get you on the official ass kicking list.
If terrorists approach you and ask you for help, mutter an excuse and GTFO.
Once you’ve fled, check out the Rewards for Justice web site; turning a terrorist in could be a way to set yourself up for life. Some terrorists could get you up to $25 million.
Wouldn’t you rather have $25 million than an ass-kicking courtesy of SEAL Team 6?
3. If the SEALs pay a visit, don’t resist
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in the hyper-realistic action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Image: Columbia Pictures)
Now, let’s assume that you were dumb enough to attract the professional attention of the SEALs by ignoring Rules 1 and 2. You can still avoid an ass-kicking, but you need to use the common sense you have failed to use up to the point where the SEALs are kicking in the door.
Do not resist. Keep your hands where the SEALs can see them. Do not struggle.
You may get yourself taken to Guantanamo Bay for a while, and yes, the SEALs will take your stuff and look for anything with intelligence value (and some of it may become trophies), but you should be safe from a beating.
Here’s the deal. SEALs are professionals. They’re not gonna kill you just for sh*ts and giggles. But they also intend to go home to their families.
If a SEAL thinks there’s danger present, he’s gonna mitigate that threat.
Don’t threaten Navy SEALs, dude. Just…don’t.
4. Be very cooperative
In addition to not resisting, it would be very helpful to cooperate with the SEALs. Answer their questions. Here are a few phrases to practice:
“I will answer your questions.”
“This is the boss’s laptop and cell phone.”
“I can show you where the booby traps are.”
“Our cash is over there.”
“Our records are in these filing cabinets.”
“My password is [tell them your password].”
“The combination to the safe is [tell them the combo]”
You may still get the all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo, but the SEALs will note that you were highly cooperative. Your stay there will be much more comfortable than if you clam up.
Follow these rules and you might not get your ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Air Force went deeply into its history to name its proposed new strategic bomber, announcing Sept. 19 that it will be the called the B-21 “Raider” in honor of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raiders from World War II.
The name was announced by retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s copilot and is the last surviving member of the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb multiple targets in Japan.
The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole, now 101, said he was “humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the raider. I wish they were here.”
The announcement came in the opening session of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference here. Cole was introduced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said “the legacy of Air Force strategic air power continues” with the proposed stealthy bomber, which is to be built by B-2 Spirit bomber builder Northrop Grumman.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole, a B-25 Mitchell bomber co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, answers questions in the Airman’s Hall at the Pentagon, Nov. 5, 2105. Cole toured the Pentagon and met with service members to share the history of the Doolittle Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)
The Air Force has said it wants at least 100 B-21s at a projected cost of $550 million each. It would replace the B-52Hs, which are approaching 50 years old, in the nuclear deterrence missions. Later, it also could replace the 1980s-vintage B-1Bs, which are limited to conventional bombing.
But the program already has come under attack from arms control advocates and from other defense critics who argue that the nation cannot afford another hyper-expensive aircraft while still struggling with the fifth generation F-35 fighters.
James listed the B-21 among the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs, along with the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 and the KC-46A aerial refueling plane, being built by Boeing.
In a panel session later in the day, Gen. Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command which would employ the new bomber, said the B-21 was necessary to keep the nation’s long-range strike capabilities reliable and effective.
Rand said he has set 100 B-21s as the absolute minimum required, based on the current and projected requirements from the geographic combatant commanders. And, Rand noted, the Air Force currently has 158 combat ready bombers. “I cannot imagine the nation or the Air Force having one less than we have now.”
Although the actual buy would be determined after the first of the new bombers are delivered, Rand said, “I’m going to stick to my guns, that 100 is the minimum.”
The panel was asked how they could expect the B-21 coming in on time and at the estimated cost when every major weapon system in decades has fallen behind schedule and run well over projected price.
Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said they were doing a base lining study with the contractor, but had a cost-plus contract for research and development that has incentives for Northrop “to deliver on cost and on schedule. The contract also sets a fixed price for the first five blocks of bombers, “which normally are the most expensive,” Holmes said.
“All indications are we will beat the $550 [million] estimated cost,” he said.
The B-21 program also is being managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with procurement.
Randall Walden, director of that office, said the B-21 was being designed with “open architecture” requirements, which make it easier to upgrade technology, particularly in the sophisticated electronic systems that drive up much of the cost of new high-tech weapons. He estimated that could save “upward of 50 to 80 percent of the cost” over the life of the bomber.
Holmes was asked how the Air Force could afford its top three procurement program along with all the other expenses it had and the limited budgets expected. He said that because the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 were the top priorities, they are funded first when the Air Force crafts its budget and the other programs are funded with what is left.
He also said the Air Force plans to push through some of the lesser programs, such as replacing the Vietnam-vintage UH-1 helicopters that provide security and mobility at its Minuteman III missile bases, before the big spending starts on the B-21 and the Minuteman replacement.
The panel also was asked about whether the B-21 would be manned or remotely piloted. Rand and Walden both said current plans were to have it manned.
Rand said some future systems could be unmanned. “Personally, I like the idea of having a man, or a woman, in the loop,” he said.
The Air Force has given Boeing a $20.9 million contract to procure the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator — a bomb designed to destroy hardened underground targets like those found in North Korea or Iran.
The announcement does not disclose how many bombs were ordered, but it did say the work is expected to be done by July 31, 2020. Boeing is to get the total amount of the contract at the time of award.
The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is the US’s largest nonnuclear bomb. A GPS-guided bunker-buster, it is “designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” the Air Force fact sheet for the weapon states.
That includes fortified positions and underground targets, like bunkers or tunnels. It is designed for operational use by the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can carry two at a time, but hasn’t been used in combat, and its deployments, if any, are not known.
‘Hard and deeply buried targets’
Under a 2011 contract cited by The Drive, the Air Force paid Boeing $28 million for eight of the bombs, as well as for additional parts and for a redesign of the B-2’s bomb bay. But the latest order comes after the Pentagon successfully tested and deployed an upgraded version, the GBU-57D/B, which may have a different unit cost than previous models.
The latest upgrade, the fourth for the bomb, “improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Bloomberg in January 2018. The spokeswoman said the upgrade had been completed and the current inventory was being retrofitted.
Few details about the upgrade have been released, but, according to The Drive, it likely includes a modified fuse, which is responsible for detonating the weapon. The fuse is a complicated component that needs to function with precision after a fall from high altitude and the shock of burrowing through earth or other barriers.
The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal year 2017 report, that the GBU-57 had successfully completed several tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico over the past year, dropped from B-2s on “representative targets” that “demonstrated effectiveness of the Enhanced Threat Response (ETR)-IV weapon modifications.”
A weapon that ‘boggles the mind’
The GBU-57 is 20.5 feet long, 31.5 inches in diameter, and carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. Much of the remaining weight is a high-performance steel casing that, along with its narrow diameter, is meant to help the weapon burrow into the ground. Some estimate it could penetrate up to 200 feet of earth before detonating.
“What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” B-2 pilot Lt. Col. Justin “Vapor” Grieve told The Kansas City Star. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”
A former Pentagon official who saw footage of GBU-57 tests during 2014 and 2015 told Politico in 2015 that the weapon “boggles the mind.”
Those tests came amid a period of heightened tension with Iran, which developed an extensive underground network of labs and other facilities involved in nuclear-weapons development.
More recently, US tensions with North Korea — which has an extensive network of underground tunnels, command-and-control bunkers, and missile and nuclear facilities — have again raised the possibility the GBU-57 could used over a battlefield.
In fall 2017, B-2 bombers and other aircraft were heard during an exercise over Missouri that appeared to simulate airstrikes on airports in the state, according to a recording obtained by The Aviationist.
During one night of the exercises, an aircraft involved radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site,” whose coordinates pointed to a Jefferson City airport hanger. It’s not clear whether the use of unsecured radio channels was a mistake or done on purpose.
Three B-2 bombers arrived in Guam in January 2018 in what the Air Force called a planned deployment.
Iran and North Korea are not the only countries that have developed extensive underground infrastructure. China’s strategic missile forces have a 3,100-mile network of tunnels under mountains in the northern part of the country. According to a 2009 Jamestown Foundation report, Chinese state media refer to the complex as an “underground Great Wall.”
Your work review is not a military review. Civilian performance reviews are unencumbered by military protocol and structured submission requirements; it is largely up to your supervisor. But both reviews are equally competitive.
Performance review standards for military members vary depending on the branch of service and MOS of the service member. A cook in the Navy serving aboard a ship will have an entirely different set of evaluation standards than a Marine of the same grade serving in an infantry battalion. Civilian evaluations will vary from company to company as well, but whether or not evaluation standards and submission protocol are adhered to is really up to the leadership within each company.
In both instances, competition for advancement is fierce.
1. Physical Standards
Military evaluations will include height and weight standards and recorded performance on a physical fitness test. This is a serious “NO NO” in the civilian world and could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit should this information ever be asked for or included in an evaluation. Any physical requirements for civilian jobs will most likely be included in the job posting and may or may not be tested for at the time of hire.
Physical standards for civilian jobs will only apply if they are required to perform the job in question. Obesity or any other physical limitations cannot legally have any bearing on a job as long as it can be completed within company guidelines. (If you want to stay physically fit regardless, read: 5 Ways to Fit in Fitness at Work).
2. Junior Enlisted Personnel vs. Officers and Senior Enlisted Personnel
In the military, junior enlisted personnel up to the grade of E-5 are evaluated on an entirely different system than officers and staff NCOs. The system varies depending on branch of service, but typically junior enlisted evaluations are geared toward basic skills, military standards and MOS proficiency.
Most civilian companies evaluate all employees on the same basic evaluation regardless of time or position with the company. Consideration for an employee’s time with the company can be given by the manager conducting the evaluation but it may not be required. Performance expectations on the part of newly hired employees can be just as high as those of veteran employees depending on the standards of the company.
3. Career-Ending Evaluations
In the military, being convicted of an offense (such as driving under the influence of alcohol) could be a career-ending infraction that would appear negatively on your evaluation. Junior enlisted personnel may be given a second chance depending on the advice of their reporting senior and their track record with the unit. An officer or senior enlisted member convicted of the same infraction would most likely not see their next pay grade.
In the military, offenses like these are punishable under the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice, and depending on the severity of the offense, members could land themselves in prison or be dishonorably discharged pending court-martial. Under civilian law, individuals who commit such offenses can also be prosecuted. However, it may not affect their position with the company they work for as long as they can still perform the job they were hired to do. As a civilian manager, I have had employees who were convicted of DUI, and as long as they were still able to make it to work on time and keep performing their job within company guidelines, the issue never came up on an evaluation.
4. Reporting Senior and Reviewing Officer
Military evaluations are always reviewed by more than one person to ensure an impartial review process and to validate the review. A reviewing officer may agree or disagree with an evaluation depending on his or her own direct observations of the member in question. This helps level the playing field for military members in terms of discrimination or favoritism on the part of the reporting senior.
Civilian managers are not required to follow such protocol. A company may, however, have guidelines in place for its evaluation process to help ensure impartiality. In most circumstances, evaluations submitted by managers are only reviewed in instances where an employee indicates that they were unfairly evaluated or if an employee was compensated beyond what the company felt was fair.
5. The Scale
Military members are typically graded on a numeric scale which falls on the commanding officer to determine if the numbers are accurate. Military supervisors want to reward their employees who do a good job by giving them good evaluations. Consistent overinflation of marks can quickly lead to a system where it is impossible to determine someone’s true performance because everyone has been rated “outstanding.”
This is a problem that military leaders face on how to assign marks that don’t limit someone’s potential, but still remain true to the evaluation process. However, civilian leaders are not hampered by such dilemmas. Cream rises, and if you are seen to be indispensable by the company you work for, your salary and position will reflect it. It is also possible that some employees who definitely deserve a promotion can be pigeon-holed into a position and not promoted because of lazy managers who are unwilling to give them up. (Read: Promotions in the Civilian Workplace).
Essentially, military evaluations rely heavily on the evaluation process, and civilian evaluations rely more on the evaluator. Although narratives are used in military evaluations, strict guidelines apply to these as well. Systems and procedures that protect military members can also hold them back. By contrast, civilian employees can move forward under the guidance of a good supervisor or suffer under the reign of a bad one.
China is preparing to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Sea by effectively banning exploration by countries from outside the region.
The Nikkei Asian Review reports that China, as part of a longer-term strategy that seeks to divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue, has embedded the proposal in part of a long-awaited code of conduct for the contested waters.
Beijing’s proposal, which is helping drag out tense negotiations over the code with southeast Asian nations, is a likely deterrent targeting US oil interests from securing access to the seas claimed by a host of nearby Asian powers.
China hopes its talks with southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in about three years, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Singapore on Nov. 13, 2018.
Xinhua reports that Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture, titled “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity (“在开放融通中共创共享繁荣”) that China reckons it would like to draw a line under talks on the COC by 2021.
According to a report in the Nikkei on Nov. 11, 2018, people close to the COC negotiations said China inserted the oil exploration ban into a working document proposal in August 2018.
With officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US vice president Mike Pence gathering this week in Singapore, calls have grown for the language’s removal, suggesting the ban is at odds with standard international maritime laws.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
The South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for the world’s merchant shipping, and consequently an important economic and strategic flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific.
Moreover it is the growing focus of several complex territorial disputes that have been the cause of conflict and angst.
China, as it continues to develop its energy technologies and oil extraction infrastructure has in all likelihood inserted the latest sticking point language knowing full well that any delay suits its long-game strategy.
Knowing that a bloc of ASEAN members can and will not accept the proposal, secures China more time ahead of a finalized code of conduct while Beijing’s power in the South China Sea grows and its influence among sympathetic ASEAN nations grows.
ASEAN members are already split when it comes to making space for China and on its role in the region, particularly the South China Sea.
Cambodia and Laos have in recent years fallen further and further under Beijing’s dynamic influence as China has invested heavily in supporting public works that secure the regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.
Meanwhile, firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, has enjoyed his role as a regional disrupter, at once isolating the US while hedging on Beijing.
Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.
Duterte has embraced the confusion apparent in ASEAN waters as leverage for Manila, leaving a fractured bloc at the table with US and Chinese negotiators ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.
The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles of Pacific Ocean encompassing an area from the strategically critical passage though Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam.
Countries as diverse and numerous as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, China are all connected to the South China Seas, which goes some way to explain the waters’ inherent dangers to regional security.
It’s quite a minefield.
The major contested island and reef formations throughout the seas are the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas, the Natuna Islands, and Scarborough Shoal.
The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never been home to or laid claim by an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a tricky one to resolve —China for example likes to say it has historical roots to the region established sometime back in the 15th century.
But their are many other aggravating maritime and territorial factors in this increasingly dangerous part of the world.
As ASEAN’s economic intensity has continued to build under the shade of China’s decades-long economic boom, so has the waterway become a critical channel for a growing percentage of global commercial merchant shipping.
China itself still depends heavily on access through the Malacca Straits to satiate its appetite for energy and resources.
Nearby Japan and South Korea, both net importers, also depend enormously on free access to the South China Sea for unhindered shipments of fuel, resources and raw materials for both import and export.
On top of that, these are oceans rich and unregulated when it comes to natural resources. Nations like Vietnam and China furiously compete through fleets of private fishing vessels organizedwith state backing in a rush to exploit fishing grounds in dire need of governance.
Yet, the source of the most intense friction is the widely held belief that the South China Seas are home to abundant, as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
China and ASEAN have been discussing changes to a 2002 declaration on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea that would give the rules legal force.
As it stands, the declaration has proved wholly unable to stop Chinese island-building in the waters.
The Spratly Islands, where China has been reclaiming land and building strategic assets, 2016
South China Sea nations including China, Vietnam and the Philippines seek opportunities to develop the plentiful reserves of energy that the sea is thought to hold.
But with the notable exception of China, backed by its heaving state-owned behemoths, like Sinopec and CNOOC these countries independently lack well-developed oil industries.
Which is where the US enters the frame.
Beijing has obvious and probably well founded concerns that the US will seek to engage and then use joint oil development projects with ASEAN countries to build a legitimate commercial toehold and thus a greater presence in the sea.
The Nikkei Review noted that the South China Sea’s lack of clear maritime boundaries makes it a difficult place to ban oil exploration by outside countries, according to a specialist in international law.
As part of the code of conduct, China has also proposed barring outside countries from taking part in joint military exercises with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.
ASEAN members including Singapore have not agreed to this provision, creating another obstacle to concluding the negotiations.
ASEAN is moving to strengthen ties with China, as shown by October’s first-ever joint military exercises. At the same time, the Southeast Asian bloc plans to hold naval exercises with the US as early as 2019.
Meanwhile, this week Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to meet with the leaders of the eight Pacific islands that recognise China diplomatically and welcome Chinese investment.
Beijing warned no country should try to obstruct its “friendship and cooperation” with Pacific nations that have already received over billion in Chinese investment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
When he came home from Afghanistan, Max’s mom prepared the classic Nicaraguan Carne Asada dish with fried plantains. It was a symbol of prosperity and transition into good times from his childhood. When he was young, his mother was a new immigrant to the U.S. and as a single mother, it was sometimes hard for her to put food the table. This dish always served as an embodiment of her love and stayed with Max from his home to overseas.
Short Rib Carne Asada w/ Bacon Jam, Apricot Mojo and Platanos
Inspired by Max’s Mother’s Nicaraguan Carne Asada
8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 thin slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 jalapeno, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
Splash of red wine
4 cups Cola
4 cups beef broth (low sodium)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbs apricot jam
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons ground
2 Green Plantains
Corn Oil for Frying
Salt and Pepper to taste
Season short rib liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and bacon in heavy, oven-proof pan on medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat into the pan, add carrots, garlic, onion and jalapeño. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Sear short ribs in pan, working in batches to not crowd pan. If pan starts to look dry, add olive oil. Once all sides of every short rib are browned, deglaze pan with red wine and add cola. Let simmer for 10 minutes on stove to reduce.
Meanwhile, prepare the mojo by adding all ingredients but the olive oil in a blender. Slowly increase blend speed to reach about 4 out of 10. Slowly add olive oil through the top until the sauce becomes the consistency of smooth salsa.
Once cola is reduced by half add beef broth, thyme, rosemary and place entire pan (with top) into a 325° oven and braise for 4 hours. Remove short ribs and add flour to braising components to make jam. Stir ingredients for 4-5 minutes or until ingredients bind together.
Prepare platanos by slicing plantain, frying in 350° oil until light brown, smashing with side of a knife and then frying again until crispy (about 2 mins).
Grill short rib for 2-3 mins just to add final touch of smoke and fire to the meat. Then plate by adding platano and mojo to plate topped with meat and bacon jam.
Whoa! Wounded warriors have been cast as extras for the new “Bill and Ted 3” movie. The excellent news was first tweeted by CNN news anchor Jake Tapper on Aug. 13, 2019.
Tapper, a longtime Homes for our Troops’ supporter and mission ambassador, enlisted the help of friends, namely movie stars and entertainment icons, to arrange an extensive assortment of auction items to benefit the organization back in November 2018. One of the auction items was a tour of the “Bill and Ted 3” movie set.
But screen writer Ed Solomon wanted to do more for veterans than just a tour. He also cast several wounded veterans in the film, and Tapper thanked him on social media for the righteous move.
It’s still unknown what part these veterans will play in the upcoming film starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but judging by the smiles on their faces the Hollywood experience has been epic.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said he would “absolutely” impose tariffs on oil imports if Russia and Saudi Arabia cannot reach an agreement to cut crude oil production.
“If they don’t get along, I would do that. Very substantial tariffs. I would absolutely do that,” Trump said on April 5 during a press conference, adding that he wanted to protect the U.S. oil industry, the world’s largest by production.
Tariffs would hurt Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are among the largest exporters of oil to the United States.
Global oil demand has fallen by about 20 million barrels a day, or one-fifth, due to the coronavirus pandemic, sending oil prices to their lowest in nearly 20 years.
The sharp price decline threatens to bankrupt higher-cost U.S. oil producers and wipe away thousands of American jobs tied to the industry, officials and analysts have said.
Trump has been seeking to broker a production cut agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the second- and third-largest oil producers, following their fallout last month.
Riyadh announced on March 7 that it would ramp up oil production by about a fifth to slightly more than 12 million barrels a day after Moscow rejected its offer to have OPEC+ cut output by 1.5 million barrels a day.
OPEC+, an alliance of 23 oil production nations, is led by Saudi Arabia and Moscow.
The price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia added to pressure on the oil market caused by the unprecedented destruction in global demand resulting from nations around the world imposing quarantines.
Trump tweeted on April 2 following calls with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia that the two nations would cut production by at least 10 million barrels a day. Trump was likely referring to cuts by OPEC+, not just the two nations, analysts have said.
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Saudi Arabia called for an extraordinary meeting of OPEC+ members for April 6. However, after Riyadh and Moscow exchanged barbs over who caused the price war, the meeting was pushed back to April 9.
Russia has said it is willing to cut 1 million barrels a day as part of a global production-cut agreement that includes the United States.
Unlike Russia and Saudi Arabia, whose oil industries are largely state-owned, the U.S. industry is comprised of private companies and Washington has little power over output.
However, the glut is threatening infrastructure as storage capacity in the United States quickly fills up. Texas, which accounts for 40 percent of U.S. production, will hold a hearing about possible output cuts on April 14 to deal with the crisis in the state.
The US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology, super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variantsA key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
The F-15 is also receiving protective technology against enemy fire with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, provides one-on-one employment transition services to veterans leaving the military for civilian work.
The support program is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in Southern California and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.
The program aims to help veterans and their family members successfully return back into communities and pursue healthy, productive lives.
Veterans who recently left the military or service members who soon will be leaving military service can get one-on-one help from the program’s employment specialists — many who also are military veterans and understand the difficulties and struggles many face when leaving service and returning to their civilian life.
Veterans leaving military service get some help and information before they hang up their uniform, but that doesn’t mean they are really prepared to land into a new job or school or home.
“The sooner they start thinking about it, the better,” said John Funk, director of operations with Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veteran Support Program.
Funk knows that personally. In 2012, he retired as a Navy captain after a 30-year career that included ship and helicopter squadron commands and immediately began work as a federal civilian worker.
“I was in a great place, but it wasn’t me,” he said of the job.
His own networking and earlier volunteer work led him to Easterseals Southern California in late 2013, and his priorities include expanding the outreach to transitioning military service members and veterans across the region.
“As a senior guy, I had a lot of people who were working for me,” he said. For the younger veterans leaving service, “who is that support for them?”
Assistance is tailored to each veteran, whether it’s help finding a job, figuring out a new career field or profession, going back to college or technical school or starting a new business venture. They can get support to developing a new career goal and path, writing their resumes, networking, and interviewing with potential employers.
“Our services are very tailored and customized for each individual,” Funk said. “We spend a lot of time to get to know them and to listen to them. We are very outcome-based. Whatever the veteran defines as a success to them. Veterans ‘define the outcome.’ We are not nudging them in the direction they want to go. We are helping them navigate the direction they want to go.”
Funk said military members, in particular, spent their careers focused on teamwork and mission without much thought about their own wants or needs, so many don’t readily seek assistance.
“They are cut from the cloth that they are service providers. So sometimes it’s more challenging to ask for help,” Funk said. “Asking for assistance is not asking for a handout.”
Helping them change their thinking to focus on their own transition are nine Easterseals Southern California employment specialists – that includes Funk – who work closely with each veteran. All but one served in the military and can share experiences that enable them to relate to each client on many levels.
“We are coach, advocate, cheerleader, motivator, providing input, holding them accountable,” he said, and are “real frank with them.”
Since its inception in 2014, the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Program has helped 750 veterans and family members with employment support and referrals. These include assistance in VA benefits, education, housing, physical and mental health support, financial, and autism therapy.
If you’re a military veteran who left service less than 24 months ago or will be leaving military service within three months, you can get more information about the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program by calling (760) 737-3990 or visiting http://www.easterseals.com/ESSCBobHopeVeterans.
You can donate to Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support program via their website, and 100 percent of donations go directly to the programs.
The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they’ll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.
Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies’ children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they’re impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it’s cool.
However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for “chocolate,” which means they’ll take any candy you have.
Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.
Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)
It might piss off their parents
Some Afghan parents don’t want their kids socializing with American troops because they don’t want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.
The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.
What if the kids have allergies?
Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won’t read the nutritional facts to see what’s in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.
If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you’ve just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.
It’s hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.
A friendship going bad
Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might “bro down” a little and give them some candy.
However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.
That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We’re speaking from experience here.
They might sell it for drugs
Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It’s possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.
We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn’t supposed to depress anyone… right?