The Trump administration will keep the US military in Syria and Iraq indefinitely without new congressional authorization, according to the New York Times, citing State Department and Pentagon officials.
This decision will likely extend to the US’ broader fight against terrorism, which is being waged in numerous countries around the world, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
The last comprehensive congressional authorization to use military force (AUMF) came in 2001 when the legislative body authorized former President George Bush to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Another congressional AUMF was also passed in 2002, but it only allowed the use of military force in Iraq.
After Bush, the Obama administration used the 2001 AUMF to justify airstrikes against ISIS, and other terrorist groups, arguing that ISIS was al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq from 2004 to 2014.
“This is a weak argument,” Cornell University Law School professor Jens David Ohlin said in 2014. “Yes, ISIS once had a relationship with al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, but that prior relationship no longer governs. What matters is the current relationship.”
Many other legal scholars struck a similar tone.
“Congress is supposed to be declaring war, and the president is supposed to be making war,” Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University and former Justice Department lawyer, told NPR in 2016.
“There appears to be a clear abdication of responsibility on behalf of Congress,” Daskal said, adding that it sets a dangerous precedent and could allow future presidents to use the military at his or her own discretion.
Some members of Congress, however, such as Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, have introduced new AUMFs over the years to no avail.
More recently, Kaine voiced his concern over what this means for the US military’s role in Syria, where it will remain even in territories of the country where ISIS fighters have been cleared.
“I am concerned that the United States will soon find itself lacking domestic or international legal standing for operations in Syria based on official statements that our presence, intended for a narrowly-scoped campaign to fight ISIS, might now be used to pressure the Syrian government, target Iran and its proxies, and engage other entities not covered under the 2001 AUMF,” Kaine wrote to US Secretaries Rex Tillerson and James Mattis in December 2017.
“The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or Iran or Iranian-supported groups in Iraq or Syria,” Mary K. Waters, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote back. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition, or partner forces engaged in operations to defeat ISIS and degrade Al Qaeda.”
Everyone can use a little good news. VA employees are no exception. One program office within VHA recently created an opportunity for employees and staff members to share uplifting stories with one another.
Employees within Palliative and Hospice Care at VHA hosted a “Silver Lining Stories” discussion during their national call in May. Staff members from VA medical centers and facilities across the country lifted each other’s spirits with stories about all the good that is happening for Veterans at their facilities as well as in their own lives.
Mary Jo Hughes is the hospice and palliative care program manager at the Grand Junction, Colorado, medical center. She and her team have been using the VA Video Connect (VVC) program to help patients stay in touch with their loved ones. One patient undergoing treatment for cancer was able to speak with their spouse and children by way of VVC.
Family sang for the patient
“It was the most moving experience. I was in tears, along with our chaplain, when the family sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the patient. There is nothing like the power of seeing your family members and feeling nurtured and cared for by them.”
Carisa Sullivan is a hospice nurse practitioner within the Amarillo VA Health Care System Community Living Center (CLC) in Texas. She recently was “part of one of the most memorable things I’ve ever experienced as a hospice nurse practitioner.” Her colleagues organized a drive-by parade for Veterans at that facility.
180 cars in parade for Veterans
“There were supposed to be 55 cars. Somehow it got out into the community and we had 180 vehicles come by. It was just a phenomenal experience for these Veterans to enjoy safely.” Sullivan encouraged other CLCs to explore if something similar could be arranged at their facilities.
Focus on social connectedness
These stories focused on people’s sense of social connectedness, an important social determinant of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environment in which Veterans live, learn, work, play, worship and age.
“VHA and VA colleagues are collaborating to help Veterans, and each other, by sharing good news,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s critical that Veterans and staff members uplift positive events and find social connection right now, through initiatives such as this one.”
Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.
And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.
For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.
An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.
But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.
While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.
And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.
There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.
There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.
There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.
And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.
The recent grounding incident involving the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) in Tokyo Bay is not the first time a Navy vessel has run aground. But some have been more…notorious than others.
Grounding a ship is not exactly career-enhancing in this day and age (never mind that the Antietam spilled 1,100 gallons of oil in one of Godzilla’s favorite hangout spots). In fact, it usually means the end of one’s advancement in the Navy.
Here are a few notorious groundings over the years to remind the soon-to-be-relieved personnel that it could be worse.
1. USS Guardian (MCM 5)
The mine counter-measures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) is the first U.S. Navy ship to be lost since USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968. The vessel ran aground on Jan. 17, 2013 on a reef, and was very thoroughly stuck. So much so that a 2013 Navy release indicated she had to be dismantled on the spot. A sad end to a 23-year career.
2. The Honda Point Disaster
Aerial view of the disaster area, showing all seven destroyers that ran aground on Honda Point during the night of 8 September 1923. Photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). Ships are: USS Nicholas (DD-311), in the upper left; USS S.P. Lee (DD-310), astern of Nicholas; USS Delphy (DD-261), capsized in the left center; USS Young (DD-312), capsized in the center of the view; USS Chauncey (DD-296), upright ahead of Young; USS Woodbury (DD-309) on the rocks in the center; and USS Fuller (DD-297), in the lower center. The Southern Pacific Railway’s Honda Station is in the upper left. (U.S. Navy photo)
Imagine losing seven warships in a day during peacetime. Yes, that actually happened to the United States Navy. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, during the evening of Sept. 8, 1923, a navigational error lead seven destroyers to slam into rocks at Honda Point, California, at a speed of 20 knots. Twenty-three sailors were lost, as were seven Clemson-class destroyers that were about five years old.
3. USS Decatur (DD 5)
This one is notable not for any loss of life but for the career it could have derailed. Accoridng to a 2004 article in Military Review, on July 7, 1908, the destroyer USS Decatur (DD 5) ran aground on a mudbank in the Philippines. It was pulled off the next day. The commanding officer was relieved of command, court-martialed, and found guilty of “neglect of duty.”
However, his career didn’t end. That was a good thing for America because that commanding officer was Chester W. Nimitz, who would command the Pacific Fleet in World War II.
4. USS Port Royal (CG 73)
Now some groundings are just embarrassing. This is one of them. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) had been on sea trials after about $18 million in repairs. According to a Navy release in 2009, the ship ran aground about a half mile from one of the runways at Honolulu International Airport, providing arriving and departing tourists with an interesting view for a few days.
5. USS Hartford (SSN 768)
On Oct. 25, 2003, the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) ran aground off the island of Sardinia. According to a 2004 Navy release, fixing the damage required assets from Louisiana to Bahrain. It took 213 dives to repair the vessel enough that she could return to Norfolk at half speed. Six years later, the Hartford would collide with the amphibious transport US New Orleans (LPD 18).
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.
Young Amy Forsythe was champing at the bit to get into the military and continue her family’s tradition of military service. Her grandfather had been a Marine and her grandmother had been an Army nurse, and the two of them met while serving in on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II.
To please her parents, Forsythe attended junior college for a few years, but she couldn’t suppress her desire to serve. She enlisted in the Marines in 1993 as a combat correspondent and spent her first year as a radio broadcaster stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I ended up serving about eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps and then I went into the reserves before 9/11,” she explained. “After the attacks, it was inevitable that I would be mobilized.”
She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a public affairs chief with an Army Civil Affairs Task Force in 2002 and 2003, the period when insurgent IED attacks were just starting to heat up. In 2006, she deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Al Anbar province, Iraq.
During the 2006 deployment in Fallujah, things started to really heat up,” Forsythe remembers. “We had a lot of close calls — rocket attacks, mortars — we were moving this huge satellite dish around Ramadi and Fallujah trying to avoid heavy engagements. My boss was also a female Marine, Major Megan McClung, and she was killed in Ramadi, which gives you the sense of what was happening.”
Forsythe saw a lot of women serving in combat zones and fighting alongside their male counterparts, regardless of billet or MOS.
“Women in combat isn’t anything new,” she says. “In the Marines, every Marine is a rifleman at the basic level. During Desert Storm, people said Americans weren’t ready for women to come home in body bags, but every person in a forward deployed area is susceptible to injury or death. Women serve and take just as much risk as men. If women can meet the standards, then everyone else can adjust.”
In 2006, Forsythe and her teammate, then-Cpl. Lynn Murillo took a lot of risks shuttling a satellite dish around Anbar Province, connecting Iraqi military and civic leaders with the pan-Arab media for the first time during the Iraq War. Since much of the success of the American mission in Iraq depended on controlling information, it was a critical mission.
She and Murillo spent most of their time out with Marines on foot patrols covering the Iraqi army training and connecting service members with hometown news stations and national news outlets. After a year in Anbar, she redeployed but was right back there a year later, astonished at the changes in the area.
“I couldn’t believe how things changed in Haditah and Ramadi,” she recalls. “There were still attacks to the base and personnel, but it was amazing to see the improvements to the infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. In 2006, the insurgency was at its worst and out of control. By 2008, Anbar Province was seeing security improvements and new construction underway.”
Her 22-year career spans changes for the U.S. military and for the women who serve. “I’ve seen so many changes through the years, but the wars helped prove women are willing to shoulder the burden of serving in combat zones. After her two tours in Iraq, she returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and also served with U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2014.
Of all her assignments and risks, one the most harrowing events of her career occurred when she was on temporary duty assigned to the public affairs office at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013.
“It started like any other ordinary day, until the Navy Yard Shooter put us in lockdown mode,” Forsythe remembers. Our office was next to Building 174, the scene of a mass-shooting incident. “It was surreal, tragic and beyond belief. After surviving four combat tours, there we were in Washington, D.C., losing all those people.”
After her first three combat tours, Forsythe accomplished what she set out to do in the military. Serving about 18 years in the Marines on both active duty and in the reserves, Forsythe was looking forward to retiring from the reserves until the Marine colonel for whom she worked encouraged her to apply for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officer program.
“I didn’t know this program existed,” Forsythe says. “But accepting a commission with the Navy is a continuation of my desire to serve. When you go from enlisted to officer, you can look forward to a 35 or 40-year career and retire at age 60.”
Her education and experience as a military journalist allowed her land a job as a reporter and occasional anchor for a local television station. And these days, when not activated, she runs a media company in the San Diego area.
“I love seeing veterans transition out of the military and end up owning their own businesses,” says Forsythe. “It’s so encouraging to see vetreprenuers who have certain skill sets and want to own their own business. Putting a dollar price on your services isn’t easy. It’s hard to determine your own value because you don’t want to under-sell yourself.”
She doesn’t consider herself special, but makes it a point to inform anyone, especially female service members, that anything is possible if you are aware of your own potential.
“I would tell other female service members and veterans to be curious. Be creative. Be confident. In other words, keep learning and seeking knowledge, use creative problem-solving techniques and believe in yourself.”
Serving as enlisted and as an officer, on active duty and in the reserves, in both the Marines and the Navy, Forsythe encourages others to seek opportunities in the reserves.
“It’s been a struggle to balance a civilian career,” she says. “But it’s like having the best of both worlds. Cutting ties with the military too abruptly can cause regret for some service members. Plus, the extra monthly pay and camaraderie with other ‘weekend warriors’ is a great way to stay connected with others who have similar experiences.”
“I’m sure they’ll have to pry the uniform out of my hands when that retirement day comes,” says Forsythe. “But I will always advocate for veterans. The service has been such a part of my life, I will continue to serve in uniform for as long as I can.”
For many runners, slogging along in the hot sun is a quick way to shut down a good training run. Before heading to the shade, keep in mind that the best training involves running in conditions one may face in actual competition. Although some runners may be hoping for a cool and cloudy day for the Army 10-miler in October, acclimating to the summer heat can provide a competitive edge on race day.
“It is important to acclimatize your body to the heat,” said Dr. Alexis Maule, a Defense Health Agency epidemiologist who works at the Army Public Health Center. “Start your training with short distance runs and slowly work your way to longer time and distance spent running in the heat. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to training in the heat.”
Maule recommends avoiding running in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.
“If possible, train early or late in the day to avoid the hottest times of the day or find a running route that has plenty of shade,” said Maule. “You will get the same benefits of the aerobic exercise while avoiding unnecessary sun exposure.”
Maule recommends runners use sunscreen and eyewear that blocks UV rays to provide protection from the sun.
“Sunburn is the most common sun exposure risk runners face during training and competition,” said Maule. “Sunburn inhibits the skin’s ability to release body heat, which increases the risk of heat illness. High heat and humidity are also environmental risks that runners face during training and competition. Repeated sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer.”
Follow these tips for optimal hydration.
(U.S. Army Public Health Center Illustration)
Maule recommends runners balance the goals of comfort by having loose, breathable clothing, which is important for protecting them from environmental hazards such as sun exposure.
One of the dangers of running in the sun is heat illness, which refers to a range of conditions which includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe and requires immediate medical attention. Runners may develop symptoms including light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
There is no specific time of onset for heat illness symptoms, said Maule. The timing of symptoms can depend on many factors, including the outside conditions (temperature, humidity, wind and direct sun exposure), the intensity of the workout, and the physical fitness of the runner as well as their intake of fluids, electrolytes, and calories before, during and after a run. When enough of these factors combine, runners can lose the ability to regulate their own temperature. Immediate cooling are the two most important words to remember when heat illness is suspected.
“If you are on a training run, find a shady area to rest and remove extra layers of clothing,” said Maule. “If water is accessible, take sips of cool water and splash water on your head, neck, arms and legs.”
To avoid dehydration, runners might have to make themselves drink when they are not thirsty,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center.
“It doesn’t take much water loss for your performance to suffer,” said Reagan. “With only 5 percent body weight of water, your speed and concentration are reduced. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, what your body composition is, or how old you are, you can easily become dehydrated. It can happen quickly when you are physically active, especially in extreme climates.”
For longer runs, Reagan recommends runners try different systems to determine what works best for them, such as a handheld running bottle, a waist belt or a running hydration vest.
“It is a good idea to drink water or fluids every 20 minutes,” said Reagan. “If you are out for less than hour, then water is the best choice. If you are running longer than an hour then you are losing electrolytes and if you lose too many electrolytes, your performance can suffer.”
Reagan says the key for replacing electrolytes is sodium and potassium along with calcium and magnesium. The easiest way to do with is with an electrolyte replacement sport drink. There are also powders or tablets that can be mixed with water runners can carry with them on their route.
The first signs and symptoms for dehydration are a slight headache and dark colored urine, said Reagan. As dehydration worsens, symptom are thirst, muscle cramps, fatigue and decreased heart rate. Runners need to listen to the signs and symptoms of their bodies and slowly sip on a fluids to help re-hydrate.
“Water, sports drinks, diluted fruit juice, milk and milk alternatives are good choices,” said Reagan. “Don’t forget about food choices high in water content such as fruit, vegetables, soups, and yogurt.”
Drinking too much plain water or not eating enough sodium can result in hyponatremia (low sodium levels in your blood), said Reagan. This can be very serious, if not treated. Women can be at greater risk than men of developing exercise-associated hyponatremia. The signs and symptoms include headache, vomiting, swollen hands and feet, confusion and wheezy breathing.
“During exercise, limit fluids to four cups per hour or six cups in hot weather to avoid hyponatremia,” said Reagan. “Do not drink more than 12 quarts per day.”
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the federal agency responsible for investigating environmental threats, will begin assessing residents near eight active and former military bases for exposure to chemicals found in firefighting foam and other products.
The CDC, along with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will check for exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS compounds, which have been linked to infertility, immune disorders, developmental delays in children and some cancers.
The compounds are found in nonstick pots and pans; water-repellent and stain-resistant fabrics; and products that repel grease, water and oil. But they are also found, concentrated, in the foam used on military bases and at airports for fighting aviation fires.
A C-130H Hercules drops a line of fire retardant.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
Research is ongoing into the public health consequences of PFAS compounds, but the Defense Department has identified 401 active and former bases where they are known to have been released into the environment.
It also found 564 public or private drinking water systems off installations that tested above the EPA’s accepted limits.
The DoD is currently working to determine whether area residents were exposed and, if so, to switch to a clean water source and initiate cleanup. The CDC and ATSDR, meanwhile, are studying the extent of exposure and plan to launch studies to understand the relationship between PFAS compounds and health conditions.
The eight communities the agencies will examine this year are: Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware; Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York; Reese Technology Center, Texas; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; and Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia.
The investigations follow exposure assessments conducted in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania, near the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, N.Y.
Firefighters train during an exercise at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Christopher Muncy)
CDC officials said the primary goal of the research is to “provide information to communities about levels of the contaminants in their bodies.” This information will help the communities understand the extent of exposure, they added.
“The lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR.
In addition to the contamination of some base drinking water supply systems, DoD investigations found that the groundwater at some facilities contained PFAS compounds.
According to the DoD, as of August 2017, nine Army bases, 40 Navy and Marine Corps bases, 39 Air Force bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites had groundwater levels of PFAS higher than EPA limits. The DoD tested a total of 2,668 groundwater wells for contamination, finding more than 60 percent above the EPA’s accepted limit.
According to the CDC, the community assessments will include randomly selecting residents to provide blood and urine samples to check PFAS levels. The exposure assessments will use statistically based sampling.
In May 2018, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that supports research and education on public health concerns related to environmental exposures, released an estimate that as many as 110 million Americans may have PFAS compounds in their drinking water.
A 2018 ATSDR draft toxicology report has associated PFAS compounds with ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high blood pressure in pregnant women. In addition, the most commonly used PFAS compounds have been linked to testicular and kidney cancer.
The Air Force in 2018 announced that it had completely transitioned its firefighting services to use foam considered safer to the environment than the original aqueous firefighting foam.
The Army also plans to replace its stockpiles and to incinerate the PFAS-containing foams.
In 2016, the Navy announced a policy to stop releasing foam at its shore facilities except in emergencies and had a plan to dispose of its excess foam. It also announced plans to dispose and replace all shore systems and fire trucks that use the PFAS-containing foam.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Three members of the U.S.-Russian crew have returned to Earth after spending several months at the International Space Station (ISS).
Russia’s Roskosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-15 capsule carrying the crew chief, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed safely on April 17 in Kazakhstan.
Skripochka and Meir spent 205 days in orbit, while Morgan’s time in space lasted 272 days.
Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
The crew was replaced by U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who docked with the ISS on April 10.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of being brought to the city of Qaraghandy in central Kazakhstan for traditional welcome ceremonies, the crew members were taken straight to the Baikonur space complex near the city of Qyzylorda.
The U.S. astronauts will fly aboard a NASA plane directly from Qyzylorda to Houston, while the crew’s commander Skripochka will fly back to Russia.
The ISS, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.
Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”
Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.
He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”
“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.
These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.
“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.
The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.
“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.
The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.
The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.
But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.
Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.
Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.
“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”
With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.
“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”
‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.
As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.
Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.
“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”
Welcome to the free market, North Korea
Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.
“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”
But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.
Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.
Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.
The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.
Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?
Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.
Some of the goals of the National Commission are:
Reviewing the military selective service process.
Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
Igniting a national conversation about service.
Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.
According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:
Americans value service.
Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.
Some Barriers to Service include:
Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.
Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.
Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.
Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.
Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.
“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”
Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.
Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.
Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.
One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.
“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”
The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.
Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.