The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

The Defense Department’s budget request for 2019 released Feb. 12 called for a 2.6 percent military pay raise, a modest increase in the end strengths of the services, and major rebuilding programs aimed at retaining the U.S. edge over China and Russia.


Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist said the 2.6 percent pay increase proposal for fiscal 2019 would boost the pay of a staff sergeant by $1,169 next year.

The 2.6 percent increase would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase for 2018 authorized in December by President Donald Trump by executive order.

In addition, the DoD “expects moderate and manageable increases in pay will continue in the near term and will match the growth in private-sector wages,” the budget documents said.

There was some initial confusion on the proposed increases in the end strengths of the services because of the congressional delays in the approval of funding, but it appeared that the Pentagon was recommending an overall boost in the size of the force of more than 17,000 — almost all of it for active-duty personnel.

The Air Force would increase by 4,000 active-duty personnel to boost the overall force to 329,100 airmen; the Army would gain 4,000 active-duty personnel to increase the force level to 487,500; the Navy would gain 7,500 active duty to increase to 335,400 overall; the Marine Corps would gain 1,100 personnel to grow to 186,100.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense of Indonesia Ryamizard Ryacudu during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 23, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Reserve and National Guard forces would see only modest increases. Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserves would add 800 forces total; and the Army and Air National Guard would add 500 troops apiece.

If approved by Congress and the White House, the Pentagon’s $716 billion budget request for 2019 would provide funding to build 10 Navy ships, including three guided missile destroyers, two Virginia class submarines, and one Littoral Combat Ship.

It also would fund more than 400 new aircraft, including 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters, 60 AH-64 Apache helicopters and 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The $716 billion in proposed defense spending for FY2019 would amount to about a 10 percent increase over military spending in 2017.

Congress finally moved past a series of continuing resolutions and reached agreement on a two-year budget deal that called for nearly $700 billion in defense funding for FY2018 and $716 billion for FY2019.

Technically, the action taken by Congress produced another continuing resolution until March 23 to allow the 12 appropriations committees in Congress time to allocate the money going to government operations, but congressional leaders and the White House said the agreement reached was a done deal.

The total of $1.4 trillion in military funding over two years will be directed more to building the lethality and capabilities of the force rather than the end strengths of the services, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Feb. 11 while traveling to Europe for a week-long series of security meetings.

“I am very confident that what the Congress has now done, and the president is going to allocate to us in the budget, is what we need to bring us back to a position of primacy” among the world’s militaries, Mattis said.

“We will be standing up some new elements, cyber is one example, and we will be recruiting more mechanics in the Air Force and recruiting more soldiers and sailors,” Mattis said.

Also Read: Mattis had a simple request for the new defense budget

In addition, “we’ll be buying more stuff” to bolster depleted inventories, particularly on munitions, Mattis said ahead of the release Feb. 12 of the Defense Department’s overview of the fiscal 2019 budget request, and the individual requests of the services.

However, the end result of the massive infusion of money will be a military that’s “not a lot bigger, organizationally. It’s built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up,” Mattis said ahead of the release of the budget request.

At a Pentagon briefing, Norquest said the budget was shaped by Mattis’ National Defense Strategy which concluded that “Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity.”

“The U.S. seeks cooperation with our competitors from a position of strength,” Norquist said but “the U.S. must be prepared to compete, deter war, and if necessary, fight and win.”

The $716 billion represented about a $74 billion increase over current defense spending, Pentagon officials said.

About $30 billion for the Department of Energy and other agencies that contribute to national defense was included in the $716 billion, reducing the DoD’s share to about $686 billion. About $617 billion of the $686 billion was slotted for the Pentagon’s base budget and about $69 billion for the so-called “war budget,” or Overseas Contingency Operations fund mostly for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The OCO funding would allot 46.3 billion for Afghanistan operations, $15.3 billion for Iraq and Syria, $6.5 billion for the European Defense Initiative to bolster NATO, and about $900 million for security cooperation agreements with a range of countries, Norquist said.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest fires the M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle as part of the combat marksmanship program at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2018. Task Force Southwest is continually working on combat marksmanship to ensure proper sustainment of basic Marine combat skills, so they can better train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Conner Robbins)

In arriving at the budget request, the DoD also bowed to political realities and eliminated any request to close excess bases and facilities, which the Pentagon had long sought to cut costs through establishment of another Base Re-Alignment and Closure Commission. “There is not a request for another BRAC round in this budget,” Norquist said.

The defense budget request was part of the overall $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 proposed budget for all government spending put forward Feb. 12 by Trump and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Trump budget would boost spending for infrastructure and border security along with the military while proposing politically difficult cuts to entitlement programs.

His proposed budget “provides resources to enhance missile defense and to build the planes, tanks, warships, and cyber tools that the brave men and women who defend us need to deter aggression and, when necessary, to fight and win,” Trump said at the White House.

“Most importantly, the budget provides funds to increase the size of our armed forces and to give our men and women in uniform a well-earned pay raise,” he said.

Trump said that when he told Mattis the amount of the military’s share of the budget, Mattis replied: “Wow — I can’t believe we got everything we wanted.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

What life will be like for the first colonists on Mars

Elon Musk said being one of the first people to colonize Mars won’t be glamorous.


Speaking during a QA at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, the SpaceX founder addressed his plans to colonize Mars and what it will be like for those early pioneers on the red frontier.

According to Musk, there’s a misconception that a base on Mars will serve as “an escape hatch for rich people.”

“It wasn’t that at all,” Musk said of his colonization vision. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”

“There’re already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” Musk continued.

Speaking to a packed theater in Austin, Texas, Musk said he expects SpaceX to begin making short trips back and forth to Mars in the first half of 2019. His long-term plan is to put 1 million people on the planet as a sort of Plan B society in case nuclear war wipes out the human race.

Also read: This is what Elon Musk had to say at a Marine ball

In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
The surface of Mars. (Photo by NASA.)

In order to “regenerate life back here on Earth,” Musk said he prefers to get the backup civilization on Mars operational before an event like World War III begins on Earth.

“I think it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” Musk said.

Musk’s plan to build giant reusable spaceships for colonizing the red planet is an ambitious one. He and SpaceX have yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end. Many people still have practical questions for the tech billionaire.

Musk has ideas for how Mars might be governed

Musk instead offered some predictions for what he thinks governance on Mars might look like.

The SpaceX founder suggested his title might be “emperor,” adding that it was only a joke.

“Not everyone gets irony,” he said.

Related: Russia claims its T-14 Armata tank can run on Mars, because why the hell not

Musk said he imagines Mars will have a direct democracy instead of the system of government used in the US — a representative democracy — whereby elected officials represent a group of people. On Mars, Musk expects people will vote directly on issues.

He said that the centuries-old representative democracy made more sense during the nation’s founding, before the government could assume most people knew how to read and write.

Musk urged future colonizers to “keep laws short,” so that people can easily read and digest the bills before voting on them. He warned that long laws have “something suspicious” going on.

“If the law exceeds the word count of Lord of the Rings, then something’s wrong,” Musk said.

More: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

The quote got a laugh from the audience and sparked speculation that Musk was taking a jab at the Republican tax bill that was passed in December 2017. The bill came in at 503 pages and ran over 1,000 pages including the related conference committee report.

Musk also recommended that laws be easier to repeal than install. Doing so would prevent arbitrary rules from accumulating and restricting freedoms over time, he said.

On creating culture on Mars, Musk said that “Mars should have really great bars.”

“The Mars Bar,” he laughed.

Articles

Navy adds new regulation after ‘Marines United’ cyber bullying scandal

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley has just issued a new regulation that now gives the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps a new weapon to use against those who post private nude photos.


Related: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

According to a report in the Navy Times, Article 1168 has been added to Navy Regulations, prohibiting the “wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image.” The addition of this regulation means that Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be brought into play against the next “Marines United” scandal participants.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
(U.S. Navy photo)

“The addition of Article 1168 ‘Nonconsensual distribution or broadcasting of an image’ to Navy Regulations serves to underscore leadership’s commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy’s chief of information, said in a statement quoted by the Navy Times. “It provides commanders another tool to maintain good order and discipline by holding Sailors and Marines accountable for inappropriate conduct in the nonconsensual sharing of intimate imagery.”

“This article adds the potential charge of Article 92 ‘Failure to obey [an] order or regulation’ to the possible charges that can be used against an alleged perpetrator. Each case of alleged misconduct will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances,” Cutler added.

According to an ALNAV message sent out on April 17, the addition of Article 1168 is an “interim change” pending formal amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Article 92 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to disobey a lawful order. Violators of that who fail to follow any “lawful general order or regulation” are to be “punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Also read: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

Previously, the Marines had been relying on Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a March 5 release by the Marine Corps. Article 120c was also seen as a possible option in some cases.

Articles 133 and 134 are seen as “catch-all” provisions for “conduct unbecoming.” According to the UCMJ, violations of Article 133 “shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Violations of Article 134 are to be “punished at the discretion of that court” while taking into consideration “according to the nature and degree of the offense.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Arizona is pushing to improve veteran employment

Over the last several years, a spotlight has been placed on employment challenges for transitioning service members, veterans, and Guard/Reserve members. Arizona is taking strides to combat these challenges for the 600,000-plus veterans in the state. In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed 2018 as the “Arizona Veteran Career Year.” Much of the state’s effort can be attributed to groundwork laid by the collaborative team efforts of the Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers (ACCVC), the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.


Hal Pittman, director of external communications for Arizona Public Service (APS) and the co-founder of the ACCVC, said the efforts have focused on developing a road map for reducing underemployment, career development and corporate investment in military service members. In 2016, the ACCVC collaborated with Arizona Public Service (APS) and USAA to develop a baseline for addressing these issues, along with providing a pipeline between the community, government agencies and corporations.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Nick Caporrimo.

Nick Caporrimo, an Army National Guardsman involved with the ACCVC, says these programs and services are imperative for service members and veterans. Caporrimo began his military career in 2010 while he was searching for employment with companies that understand the needs of service members and their families. In 2011, he accepted an internship with APS, which led to a full-time career. Caporrimo got involved in the VETRN program at APS, an employee program geared toward supporting veteran needs within the company. He said APS supports military and veteran employees and understands specific needs. The company provides differential pay to reservists, job security while away at required training and military-related duties, and recognizes the value of hard and soft skills that service members and veterans offer.

Caporrimo said the ACCVC encourages employers to establish a company culture that values military experience and skills such as leadership, teamwork, loyalty, discipline, professionalism and determination. The council is taking this message to human resources professionals at major companies in Arizona through symposiums and trainings geared toward coordinating communication between the companies and the military. The council encourages employers to establish internships and apprenticeships for active duty military personnel prior to discharge. The council has relationships with more than 20 companies.

In 2017 the ACCVC, APS and the Department of Veterans’ Services hired an epidemiologist to develop and conduct a survey that was distributed state-wide to 5,000 participants to further investigate barriers to employment, as well as underemployment, retention and career advancement for service members and veterans. The ACCVC is analyzing this data to develop a statistically supported baseline to further their efforts to combat and reduce employment challenges.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Nick Caporrimo.

One of the programs Caporrimo is excited about is the SkillBridge Program, which was piloted at Luke Air Force Base with more than 400 transitioning military service members each year. Companies involved in this program coordinate with transitioning military service members and their commanders to provide an internship or apprenticeship for the last 180 days of their service to allow the service member to gain access to skills related to the corporate career. Those in the program continue to receive their military pay, which provides stability during the transition as they learn new skills related to their civilian career.

Caporrimo described the critical role the ACCVC and collaborators continue to play in examining private sector employment challenges faced by service members, developing a road map and baseline for best practices to combat these issues, building programs to bridge the gap between the military and private sector, establishing corporate investment in service members, and increasing the availability of careers rather than jobs for service members and veterans.

“The active efforts of the ACCVC has led to vast improvements in many areas related to career retainment and hiring for veterans and service-members in the state of Arizona,” Caporrimo said.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

New silent killer welcomed into Navy fleet

The USS Illinois (SSN 786) was commissioned Oct. 29 in a ceremony at Groton, Connecticut.


The Virginia-class fast attack submarine can carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike at targets on enemy shores, or it can switch some of its missiles out with other payloads to deliver special operators or mines to contested areas around the world.

The Illinois was originally scheduled for a commissioning in December, but the $2.5-billion boat was completed early and passed its sea trials with flying colors.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
The PCU Illinois returns to base Oct. 6, 2016, after completing its sea trials. The Illinois was commissioned and became the USS Illinois on Oct. 29. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Steve Owsley)

Virginia-class submarines are designed to stealthily operate near other countries’ coasts from where they can launch devastating attacks. They can attack facilities on shore with their Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, enemy ships with their Mk 48 torpedoes, or deploy mines and underwater drones.

The submarines can also support special operations by providing clandestine reconnaissance or by carrying teams of Navy SEALs and deploying them underwater through a special lockout chamber.

Conventional periscopes don’t exist on the Illinois or other Virginia-class submarines. Instead, they feature photonic masts that send video and other image data to screens throughout the ship.

The Illinois is a Block III-version of the Virginia class, and features a horseshoe-shaped sonar instead of the older, spherical sonars. And, instead of packing 12 vertical missile tubes, Block III subs carry two sets of six missiles in Virginia Payload Tubes. If the Navy adopts a new missile in the future, the VPTs allow the Illinois to more easily switch to the new weapon.

The boat carries an S9G pressurized water reactor. The nuclear reactor powers the vessel for its entire lifecycle without ever needing refueling. The pump-jet propulsors push the boat forward are quieter than a traditional propeller.

Missions on the Illinois can go on for three months or longer, and the crew can spend nearly the entire time submerged.

To learn more about Virginia-class submarines, check out the Navy infographic below.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
A cutaway look at Virginia-class fast attack submarines. Note that the USS Illinois features upgrades to its sonar, missile tubes, and other systems which cause it to slightly differ from this graphic. (Graphic: U.S. Navy All Hands Magazine)

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s ‘Mother of All Bombs’ is a pretty sweet ripoff

China’s got a new bomb, and it’s a really big one.

A major Chinese defense industry corporation has, according to Chinese media, developed a deadly new weapon for China’s bombers.

Referred to it as the “Chinese version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs,'” this massive aerial bomb is reportedly China’s largest non-nuclear bomb, the Global Times explained Jan. 3, 2019, citing a report from the state-run Xinhua News Agency.


The weapon, said to weigh several tons, was developed by China North Industries Group Corporation Limited. A recent promotional video showed the weapon in action. The video, which was apparently released at the end of December 2018, marked the first public display of this particular weapon.

Carried by the Chinese Xi’an H-6K bombers, which is a version of the older Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 bombers, the weapon almost completely fills the bomb bay, which would make it roughly five to six meters in length.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

The US military’s GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), the “Mother of All Bombs.”

Chinese military analysts and observers argue that China’s large bomb could eliminate fortified targets, clear out landing areas, and terrify enemy combatants.

Indeed, massive airdropped bombs with tremendous destructive power play an undeniable role in psychological warfare, and not just through seismic shock. During the Gulf War, two US MC-130E Combat Talons dropped a pair of BLU-82 Daisy Cutters, the largest conventional bombs in the US arsenal at that time. A British SAS commando about one hundred miles away reportedly radioed to headquarters, “Sir! The blokes have just nuked Kuwait!”

The next day, a US aircraft dropped leaflets that read: “You have just experienced the most powerful conventional bomb dropped in the war … You will be bombed again soon … You cannot hide. Flee and live, or stay and die.”

In 2018, while waging war against militants in Afghanistan, the US military dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon, more commonly known as the “Mother of All Bombs,” on the Islamic State.

Although China is using the same nickname for its bomb, the Chinese weapon is smaller and lighter than its American counterpart. Chinese media speculated that the size restrictions may have been intentional, ensuring the weapon could be dropped from a bomber.

The 11-ton US bomb is delivered by a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

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

MIGHTY BRANDED

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

There are a lot of choice for veterans to leverage their time in the military to get great financial services at a competitive cost. The fact that so many businesses and bank are geared towards veterans is a blessing but one institution stands out among the rest – and has for nearly a century.


The financial institution was founded in 1922 after a group of Army veterans took it upon themselves to secure their own need for auto insurance. In doing so, they provided for their fellow veterans. The USAA of today carries that tradition on, with 12.4 million members and offering auto insurance, along with insurance for homeowners and renters, retirement planning, and, of course, banking services. When other banks were teetering on the edge of failure during the financial crisis, USAA actually grew. This is an institution that is as solid as a dollar.


The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Auto Insurance

USAA’s original purpose is still one of its best offerings – and one of the best offerings. Even in competition with the civilian world’s best insurers, going with USAA can save its membership at least 0 on their premiums, even for high risk drivers who may have a DUI or more on their records. JD Power even gave USAA a 5/5 rating on their customer service and satisfaction records.

They also offer a car buying service that can sometimes save their members money in buying any kind of vehicle.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Credit Cards

Everyone knows too much credit debt is not a good thing, but having a card open with a low balance enlarges your purchasing power and is actually good for your credit report. Still, it’s important to be responsible with your credit. That being said, that kind of responsibility includes deciding which card is right for you. USAA offers a few credit cards designed to fit the lives of military members, veterans, and their families. The USAA Rewards American Express Card and Reward Visa offers the best cashback bonuses a military member can find. USAA’s credit cards also offer some of the lowest interest rates and APRs found anywhere.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Easy banking services

Any bank or financial institution who says they offer the best interest rates on savings accounts may have a bridge to sell you. Most savings accounts can offer two percent at the most. While USAA doesn’t offer quite that much, its banking services are stellar. Since they have few physical locations or ATMs, the bank offers reimbursements on ATM fees and no monthly service fees. On top of that, there’s no minimum balance and their rates are still competitive. They also offer free funds transfers between accounts.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Retirement services

If you’re planning for retirement and want a low-risk security, you could hardly do better than some of USAA’s mutual fund offerings. USAA manages its own mutual funds and, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the USAA Income Fund (USAIX) posted a 19 percent return while much of the rest of the market struggled to break even or even minimize their expected losses. The reason? While USAIX invests heavily in corporate debt, the fund’s mantra is still about minimizing risk.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

TV doctor pose!

Other services and support

There are a couple of life insurance options, including one for military members only if SGLI isn’t enough. On top of that, they can get great rates for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as umbrella insurance for protection against things not covered by other kinds of insurance, like legal judgements. For per month you can be protected from lawsuits up to id=”listicle-2640236181″ million. But this veteran-oriented financial institution does so much more

USAA sponsors amazing veteran-oriented events and organizations – like the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community. The 2019 Military Influencer Conference is sponsored by USAA and brings together the brightest stars in the military-veteran entrepreneurial community to learn and share their business-building knowledge.

Articles

US could be working alongside a terrorist group in Lebanon’s assault on ISIS

Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.


The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.

The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
An ‘informal tented settlement’ in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Lebanon is housing an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees. Photo from Department for International Development.

The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.

Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.

The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.

In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Members of the Lebanese Armed Forces operate a Talon explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robot with Sailors assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1 during Resolute Response 16 in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Scott

The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.

On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.

Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.

Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.

But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.

According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.

“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”

Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Marines with Charlie Company and Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Soldiers of the Lebanese Army conduct a live-fire, combined arms range, May 12, 2012. Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad Kiehl

There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.

A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.

Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.

The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.

“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.

“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.

“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Syrian brothers who are now refugees living in an informal tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Photo from DFID Flickr.

Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.

Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.

Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.

“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian president says compensation offered by Iran for shooting down airliner not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”


Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.

Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.

However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.

“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.

“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

More than 1,500 US National Guard troops are battling the coronavirus across 22 states

More than 1,500 US National Guard troops have been called up across the US to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected nearly 5,000 people and killed at least 94 in the US.


As of Friday, roughly 400 Guardsmen were responding to the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, in six states. By Monday, the number had increased to more than 650 Air and Army National Guard professionals operating across 15 states to combat the coronavirus, the National Guard said in a statement Monday.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

The Guard announced Tuesday that the number of Guardsmen who have been mobilized to battle the virus has more than doubled, jumping to more than 1,560 personnel, which are active in 22 states.

“The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state, and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19,” the Guard said in a statement last Friday.

Current missions include work at drive-through test facilities, logistics support for healthcare professionals, and disinfecting and cleaning public spaces, among others. “Guardsmen and women have been distributing food, sanitizing public areas and coordinating response efforts with state emergency managers,” the Guard said in a statement Monday.

There have been calls for additional military support as the virus, which first appeared in China last year, spreads.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo insists that US healthcare system is at risk of being overrun. “States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough,” he wrote in an opinion article for The New York Times Sunday.

“At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers.”

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“Doing so still won’t provide enough intensive care beds,” he said, “but it is our best hope.”

At a press briefing Monday morning, Cuomo said that he has been having conversations with the White House on this issue, but talks have so far been inconclusive.

The Department of Defense said in a press briefing Monday that it is aware of the governor’s comments and is evaluating its capabilities, which may be limited. At this time, the department has yet to receive a request for assistance.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A former intel officer was arrested for spying for China

A former US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, who had top secret security clearance, has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly attempting to give state secrets to China.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, was arrested on June 2, 2018, while on his way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to board a connecting flight to China, the Justice Department said.

Hansen appeared in court June 4, 2018, and was charged with transmitting national defense information to aid a foreign government, acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, and bulk cash smuggling. Hansen also allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars for his actions.


Hansen, who lived in Syracuse, Utah, served in the army for nearly 20 years, working as a case officer for the DIA while on active duty from 2000-2006, court documents reveal. In 2006, he retired from the military but continued working for the DIA as a civilian intelligence officer.

Hansen had top secret security clearance while working for the DIA.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
One of Defense Intelligence Agency’s 24/7 watch centers.
(Defense Intelligence Agency)

Between 2013 and 2017, Hanson frequently traveled between China and the US, gathering information from military and intelligence conferences and providing intel to his sources in China. He also allegedly sold export-controlled technology to his Chinese contacts.

From May 2013, Hansen received at least $800,000 in funds originating from China.

The Department of Justice claims Hansen repeatedly tried to regain access to classified information after he stopped working for the US government, offering to serve as a double agent against Chinese intelligence agencies.

The FBI began investigating Hansen in 2014. Hansen was unaware of the probe, and met with federal agents voluntarily on nine occasions and allegedly disclosed that China’s intelligence services had targeted him for recruitment.

Hansen joins a growing list of former US intelligence officers who have been accused of spying for the Chinese government.

In May 2018, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was charged with gathering classified information which he allegedly intended to pass along to the Chinese government.

And another former CIA employee Kevin Mallory went to trial for allegedly selling US secrets to China.

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

Articles

Putin says Russia is pulling its forces from Syria

Russia announced today that they are pulling most of their forces out of Syria because Russian air and missile strikes there over the last six months have allowed the Syrian government to push back rebels in many key areas.


“I hope that today’s decision will be a good signal for all parties to the conflict,” Putin said on state television. “I hope that this will considerably increase the level of trust between all parties of the Syrian settlement and will contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue.”

Russia will keep forces at its new air force base in Latakia, Syria. The base was carved out of Bassel Al-Assad International Airport in 2015 and has been the central hub for Russian air operations in Syria. Russian forces will also remain at the Cold War-era naval base in Tartus, Syria.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget
Russian Hind helicopters launch rockets. Photo: Alex Beltyukov CC BY-SA 3.0

According to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian mission in Syria flew over 9,000 sorties and helped the Syrian government retake 400 settlements and 3,860 sq. miles of territory.

The Syrian government was teetering on the edge of collapse before the Russians intervened, but now it has forces surrounding the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. In February, government forces took sections of the city before their supply lines were cut by ISIS attacks.

Putin’s announcement that Russian forces were withdrawing came the same day that peace talks resumed in Geneva, Switzerland. Earlier talks had resulted in a shaky ceasefire but the Syrian government was accused multiple times of breaking the terms of the deal. The timing has led to speculation that Putin’s announcement was timed to place pressure on President Bashir Al-Assad to seek a peace deal.

Any deal would not directly affect operations against ISIS as the terror group is not party to the negotiations. But, a truce between government forces and moderate rebels would allow both groups to focus more resources and manpower against ISIS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taking on veteran suicide, one pair of ‘Ranger panties’ at a time

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.

I was intrigued.


Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.

“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”

But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”

And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.

That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.

So I went for it, Silkies and everything.

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.

As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”

“I found my people for the first time,” he added.

Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”

In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.

Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)

I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.

As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.

But it turned out to be everything but that.

No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.

On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.

Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”

The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.

As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!

After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.

If you want to get involved or donate to support the Irreverent Warriors mission, go to their website, www.irreverentwarriors.com.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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