In 2017, two vets went into an active war zone to document testimonies from survivors of the Yazidi genocide begun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in August 2014.
They were lucky to get out alive.
According to the United Nations, “ISIL committed the crime of genocide by seeking to destroy the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, forcible displacement, the transfer of children, and measures intended to prohibit the birth of Yazidi children.”
Navy diver Andrew Kabbe and Air Force pararescueman David Shumock were in the Kurdish region of Iraq working in refugee camps when they were approached by a Yazidi tribal council.
Kabbe decided to write and direct the film, while security fell unto Shumock, who had been in the region during the events of 2014 and not only had experience fighting ISIL, but had strong Peshmerga connections that would allow the crew to shoot in what was functionally a red zone.
“Without him we would have been lost,” Kabbe told We Are The Mighty.
Much of the crew consisted of Yazidi volunteers who had been forced to live in refugee camps, as well as Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Muslims. They came from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the US, England and even Poland. There were three main languages on the set: Kurdish, Farsi and English. Arabic was spoken as well. Two translators were required to communicate to the entire crew.
But the growing need to tell the story of what the Yazidi people continue to endure took over.
On 18 March, U.S. crude oil prices fell to their lowest level in 18 years. The following day, momentarily distracted from their hype of the coronavirus pandemic, pundits and analysts reminded us again that low oil prices are the result of Saudi Arabia instigating a price war with Russia. And again, the culprit named was Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Among his motives, they claimed, is hobbling the fracking industry that has ended American dependence on Middle East oil. Now, let’s examine the real backstory.
Weeks before a scheduled meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel dedicated to supporting oil prices, the Saudis became concerned that the coronavirus pandemic was causing the oil price to decline. To stop or at least slow that decline, Riyadh worked to get oil-producing countries to agree to counteract falling prices with a production cut of 1.5 million barrels per day.
The Saudis were successful with OPEC and non-OPEC members, with one exception: Russia. On March 7th, it was clear that the Russians would not agree to any cut in their production, despite an existing 3-year old deal with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then punished the Russians by undercutting prices to all their main customers – like Communist China – by increasing production by 2 million barrels per day.
On 20 March, Brent crude closed at .98 per barrel, far below Russia’s cost of production. Even at , Russia loses 0 million to 0 million per day. Goldman Sachs predicts the price will continue to drop to per barrel, far below Russia’s budget needs. Analysts say that even if the ruble stays stable, Russia needs per barrel, even with spending cuts and drawing on monetary reserves. With Russia’s main exports being energy and weapons, there are few other options.
Two things drove Russia to make its drastic decision. First, Russia’s power in the world, especially in the EU, has a great deal to do with energy politics. Russia is one of Europe’s main energy suppliers, and with Brexit, that dominance will increase. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a critical element in Russia’s European energy strategy and Washington, understanding that levied sanctions on the pipeline as well as on state-owned Rosneft. As a result, Moscow rightly believes that American fracking-based energy independence underpins Washington’s ability to threaten Russia’s global energy politics. That was demonstrated in the first days of March when Putin met with Russian oil companies. At that meeting, Rosneft’s head, Igor Sechin, said that low energy prices “are great because they will damage U.S. shale.”
Second, the Kremlin is determined to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East after years of expensive effort. To continue to meet those expenses, Russia must not only use profits from weapons sales but also from unrestricted production and sale of crude oil and gas. Propping up oil prices by restricting production does not fit that requirement, and higher prices certainly do not “damage U.S. shale.”
As it continues to confront Russia’s motives, Washington should take comfort in the knowledge that the dark clouds of the oil price war have silver linings with regard to American national security.
First, rock bottom oil prices that force Russia to sell crude at a net loss will undoubtedly impact its budget, which in turn will substantially lessen its appetite for foreign military adventures. As a bonus, low oil prices will similarly impact Iran. Together, those two aggressive nations continue to menace the United States and kill American soldiers on a roll call of battlefields.
In Iraq, Tehran is attempting to ramp up attacks by its proxy forces on bases manned by U.S. forces. These relatively minor and uncoordinated attacks are hampered by a lack of leadership and lack of essential funding. The recent U.S. killing of an enemy combatant, General Soleimani, has been as telling to Iran as the fall of oil sales revenue.
In Syria, Russia and Iran are successfully propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad at considerable cost. The Saudis are as concerned about Syria as they are about their long border with Iraq, so Riyadh will not be anxious to end the economic punishment they are meting out to Moscow and Tehran.
Who will win the oil war?
Russia has boasted they will survive selling oil at a loss for years by “adjusting the budget.” Those adjustments will mean at least pausing their expensive aggression in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, not to mention developing and brandishing new weapons aimed at NATO and the United States. Despite their brave front, the pain was already evident when Russia signaled it was willing to join an OPEC conference call to discuss market conditions. Saudi Arabia and other members did not agree to attend. The call was canceled.
Iran is using its disastrous domestic coronavirus epidemic as a ploy to gain sympathy, pleading for the lifting of sanctions. The firm U.S. response was to increase sanctions, excepting only agricultural and humanitarian supplies. With just a sliver of oil sales income remaining, domestic unrest, inflation and disease are turning the Islamic Republic into a failing state.
Saudi Arabia, like Russia, stated its budget can weather the lower oil prices for years and is already trimming expenditures by 5%. If further cuts are needed, it will be relatively easy for the Kingdom to postpone ambitious domestic projects – knowing they will not run out of oil for a very long time.
The United States, preoccupied with the coronavirus, is almost a bystander in the oil price war. Despite loud complaints from Wall Street brokers and the discomfort of over-extended oil companies, our domestic energy supply remains secure for civilians and warfighters. Gas prices at the pump have dropped to levels not seen in twenty years. We are filling our strategic reserve with inexpensive oil as a hedge against the future. And Saudi Arabia is an ally that has clearly stated, whatever else may drive it, that it has no intention of crushing our fracking industry.
As for Russia and Iran, Ronald Reagan once summed it up nicely: “They lose, we win.”
The United States has slapped sanctions on a network of businesses that provide financial support to an Iranian paramilitary force that Washington says recruits and trains child soldiers for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The new sanctions, announced on Oct. 16, 2018, are part of the United States’ economic campaign to pressure Iran over what President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign” role in the Middle East, including support for militant groups.
In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department said in a statement that a network of some 20 corporations and financial institutions known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij force, a volunteer paramilitary organization linked to the IRGC.
“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said.
The militia also recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, it added.
President Bashar al-Assad.
The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.
Tehran has given Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
The Treasury said that the Bonyad Taavon Basij uses shell companies to mask its control over multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries.
It sanctioned Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co., and five other investment firms, as well as other entities affiliated with the network.
These include Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., the Middle East’s largest tractor manufacturer, and Mobarakeh Steel Co., the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, it said.
The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the network or its affiliates and freeze assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The tough talk coming out of the Kremlin has been increasingly more provocative in the days since American and Russian troops were involved in an Aug. 25, 2020 armored vehicle crash that injured seven U.S. service members.
U.S. official Capt. Bill Urban says the Russian troops used “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior” in northeastern Syria. There is a series of established means for the Russian and American forces in the country to communicate and the Russians blatantly disregarded those channels.
Instead of communicating a request for passage through an American-controlled zone, a convoy of Russian armored vehicles made and “unauthorized incursion” into the area. They met a joint American and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) convoy, which they decided to “aggressively and recklessly pursue.”
As the U.S. convoy moved, it was sideswiped by Russian vehicles, and buzzed by an extremely low overflight from a Russian helicopter. While the seven servicemembers sustained injuries consistent with vehicle accidents, all are said to have returned to regular duty.
There are now videos of the provocative behavior circulating on social media sites. The Russian Embassy in the United States blamed the US for the collision, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mike Milley and the chief of Russia’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, discussed the incident via telephone.
General Gerasimov said the American-led coalition in Syria was informed of the Russian convoy’s passage and that it was the US convoy that was attempting to block and delay the Russians’ passing through the area. The Pentagon confirmed the conversation, but none of the details announced by the Russians.
The National Security council released a statement to CNN that revealed the vehicle struck by the Russians was a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) and that Russia’s behavior was “a breach of deconfliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019.”
This most recent clash between American and Russian military forces came near the northeastern Syrian town of Dayrick. A number of incidents involving US troops coming under attack from Russian-back Syrian government forces have occurred in recent weeks, including a rocket attack on a U.S. base and a skirmish between Syrian and American convoys.
Russia is opposed to the continued American presence in the SDF-controlled eastern provinces of Syria, which contain much of the country’s oil fields – and are used by the Kurdish-led SDF to fund its continued anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Though President Trump has ordered all but 500 US troops to leave Syria, the United Nations estimates there are still some 10,000 or more ISIS-affiliated fighters operating in the country.
The last time American forces engaged in a direct altercation with Russians in Syria, it resulted in a four-hour firefight between Syrian government troops with the help of Russian mercenaries and a cadre of U.S. troops in an SDF headquarters building. No Americans were harmed.
The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.
Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedoes, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.
US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels, as they’re floating airports powered by nuclear reactors. But after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to protect the ships against torpedoes.
“In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities” over the next four years, the report said.
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)
Essentially, the report said that over five years the program made some progress in finding and knocking down incoming torpedoes, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or nonexistent.
This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service says that Russia’s and China’s submarine fleets have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.
The US ignored the threat of torpedoes, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot
The new class of speedy torpedoes can’t be guided, but can fire straight toward US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.
Torpedoes don’t directly collide with a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship to bend or break the keel, sinking the ship.
High-speed underwater missile Shkval-E.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Other Russian torpedoes have a range of 12 miles and can zigzag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.
In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier-strike-group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercises have seen even old-fashioned, diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.
Even unsophisticated foes such as North Korea and Iran can field diesel-electric submarines and hide them in the noisy littoral waters along key US Navy transit routes.
The US Navy can deploy “nixies” or noise-making decoys that the ship drags behind it to attract torpedoes, but it must detect the incoming torpedoes first.
A US Navy carrier at 30 knots runs just 10 knots slower than a standard torpedo, but with a flight deck full of aircraft and personnel, pulling tight turns to dodge an incoming torpedo presents problems of its own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?
Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.
In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.
Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.
This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.
Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?
A process defined
Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.
There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)
Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.
The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.
Gutting the operational side in the Pacific
As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.
Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.
Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.
The long reach of Fat Leonard
A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.
Admiral Phil Davidson.
Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.
Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.
Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:
Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran
Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.
Reset the grid for war
If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.
In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.
More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.
Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.
Prove your readiness
Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?
An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?
Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)
And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?
Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”
Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.
The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.
The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?
It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.
Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.
It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.
An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.
The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.
Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.
Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.
Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.
Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.
For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.
On April 17, 2020 this country lost one of its greatest defenders to COVID-19. Although fighting bravely for weeks to overcome the virus, it took his life. But how he died is nothing compared to how he lived. Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins was truly a hero.
Adkins was drafted into the United States Army at 22 years old in 1956. After completing his initial training, he was sent to Germany as a typist for a tour and then made his way back to the states to the 2nd infantry division at Fort Benning in Georgia. Adkins attended Airborne School and then volunteered for Special Forces in 1961. He became a Green Beret.
During the ceremony which authorized the use of the Green Beret for the Army Special Forces, Adkins was a part of the Honor Guard. President Kennedy once said in a memo to the Army that, “the Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” Adkins was all of that and more.
After officially becoming a Green Beret, he deployed overseas to serve in the Vietnam War. He would go on to deploy there three times. It was during his second deployment that he would distinguish himself in an extraordinary way, earning the nation’s highest honor.
While serving as an Intelligence Sergeant in the Republic of Vietnam, his camp was attacked. The after action report showcases how he and his fellow soldiers sustained 38 hours of unrelenting, close-combat fighting. Even after receiving wounds of his own during the attack, he fought off the enemy. He exposed then continually exposed himself in order to carry his wounded comrades to safety.
He also refused to leave any man behind.
Adkins had a wounded soldier on his back when they all made it to the evacuation site and discovered that the last helicopter had left. Despite the bleakness of their chances, he gathered the remaining survivors and brought them safely into the jungle where they evaded the enemy for two days until they were rescued.
After his time in Vietnam, he went on to serve the Army and this grateful nation until 1978. Adkins went on to earn two master’s degrees and established Adkins Accounting Services in Auburn, Alabama, where he was the CEO for 22 years.
In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Adkins with the Medal of Honor. His citation states that he “exbibits extraordinary heroism and selflessness”. Adkins was also entered into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. In 2017 he established the Bennie Adkins Foundation which awards scholarships to Special Forces soldiers.
On March 26th, 2020 at 86 years old, he was hospitalized for respiratory failure and labeled critically ill according to his foundation’s Facebook post. Weeks after that post, he lost his battle with COVID-19. He leaves behind five children and his wife Mary, whom he has been married to for 59 years.
Today and always, remember him and honor his selfless service to this nation.To learn more about Sergeant Major Adkins service, click here
Those attending the current four-week run of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of “Henry IV” at the West Los Angeles VA Campus may immediately recognize Tom Hanks as Falstaff, but what they probably don’t realize is that a crew of veterans not only built the stage, but are also working behind the scenes to make the production a success.
“It’s exciting to partner with The Shakespeare Center to provide our veterans incredible opportunities like the chance to work alongside professional actors, and to view live entertainment right here on the West LA VA campus,” said Ann Brown, director of VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “Partnerships like this one are vital to bringing the vision for this campus to life and to transform it into a vibrant, welcoming, veteran-centric community.”
“Henry IV” performances began June 5, 2018, and run through July 1, 2018, at the Japanese Garden located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible veterans and active duty service members free of charge. To find out more on these tickets, visit http://www.ShakespeareCenter.org to receive information about reservations when they become available.
“We’re grateful to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the leaders of the West LA VA for this opportunity to bring our company to the Japanese Garden at the VA,” said Ben Donenberg, the founder and executive artistic director of The Shakespeare Center prior to construction. “We’re hiring and training 40 veterans to work on this production alongside consummate theater professionals to tell a riveting story about the forging of a Shakespearean hero. We’re proud to bring the vision of one of the American theatre’s most esteemed Broadway directors and the talents a world-class cast lead by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, our long-time supporters, to this very special venue.”
Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, have been long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through their 26 consecutive years of hosting and participating in Simply Shakespeare, a no holds barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness.
“The VA location speaks to our mission to present Shakespeare in urgent, vital, relevant and accessible ways that reflect the history, landscape and people of Los Angeles,” Donenberg said. “Our work with the VA and veterans inspires personal and community transformation.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
American officials have concluded that hackers working on behalf of a foreign power recently breached at least a dozen US nuclear power sites, Bloomberg reported July 6.
Bloomberg cited multiple US sources who said they had zeroed in on Russia as the primary suspect behind the most recent attacks, including one at Kansas’ Wolf Creek nuclear facility.
Officials believe the attacks may be related to a separate hack that happened late last month, in which unidentified hackers infiltrated the business-associated end of the power plant. The name and location of that site were not released, but EE News reported that federal investigators were looking into cyberattacks on multiple facilities at the time.
When reached for comment about the latest hacks, government officials and a spokesperson for Wolf Creek said the operational side of its network had not been affected.
“There was absolutely no operational impact to Wolf Creek,” Jenny Hageman, a spokeswoman for the nuclear plant, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “The reason that is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network.”
But the hacks have raised red flags for investigators who worry Russia may be gearing up to levy an attack against the US power grid. If that were the case, it would fit into a pattern adopted by Russia in the past, particularly as it relates to Ukraine.
In 2015, a massive cyberattack leveled against the country’s power grid cut electricity to almost 250,000 Ukrainians. Cybersecurity experts linked the attack to IP addresses associated with Russia. Since then, Wired magazine’s Andy Greenberg reported, Ukraine has seen a growing crisis in which an increasing number of Ukrainian corporations and government agencies have been hit by cyberattacks in a “rapid, remorseless succession.”
Ukraine is now host to what may turn into a full-blown cyberwar, Greenberg reported. Two separate attacks on the country’s power grid were part of what Greenberg called a “digital blitzkrieg” waged against it for the past three years, which multiple analysts have connected to Russian interests.
With respect to the recent cyberattacks on US nuclear facilities, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were aware of the intrusions.
“There is no indication of a threat to public safety, as any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks,” the agencies said in a statement.
But cybersecurity experts say that once a system is breached in any way — even if it’s not on the operational side — nuclear safety could be at risk down the road.
“If a nuclear power facility is attacked on the business side, that might actually serve as a way of information-gathering” for hackers, Paulo Shakarian, founder of the cybersecurity firm CYR3CON, told Business Insider. In some cases, hackers will try to “see if, by reaching that system, they can get more insight into what the facility is using on the operational side,” Shakarian said.
Though nuclear power providers have rigorous practices in place to divide business and nuclear operations in their networks, experts say an attack on one could inform an attack on the other.
Greg Martin, the CEO of cybersecurity firm JASK, said that while it was “wonderful” that network segmentation prevented hackers from being able to attack critical infrastructure directly, “the business side has tons of information about the more vulnerable infrastructure side of these types of plants.”
That information can include emails, communications involving design plans, information about security assessments, emails or documents that contain passwords, and more. Martin echoed Shakarian’s assessment and added that some information that can be gleaned from a breach like this can open up a window that “can be used to set up for future, more damaging attacks just based on the proprietary information they’re able to steal.”
These latest suspicions towards Russia come on the heels of a colossal cyberattack that crippled countries and corporations across the globe, which cybersecurity experts said Russia may have perpetrated.
Russia was also found to have hacked the 2016 US election in an effort to damage then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump. Russia has so far denied all the charges against it.
French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.
In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.
“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.
His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.
Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.
“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)
The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”
Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The next advancement in cellular technology, 5G, is expected to be so fast that it’s able to surpass the speed of wired internet now provided by cable companies.
Current 4G technology provides download speeds of about 1 gigabit per second. With 5G technology, download speeds are expected to increase to 20 gigabits per second, said Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Lord spoke yesterday at the Atlantic Council here to discuss the Defense Department’s efforts to advance 5G technology in the United States and to ensure that when 5G does make its debut, it’s secure enough to transmit information between U.S. military personnel and its allies without being intercepted by potential adversaries.
U.S. and allies must take lead
That means the U.S. and its allies will need to take the lead in developing this next generation of telecommunications technology, she said.
“When we talk about 5G, everything is going to be moving over it, eventually,” Lord said. “What we need to do is make sure how that information is moving, and how you can get at it, and how you can keep it secure.”
Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Lord likened development of the 5G infrastructure and technology to that of a new home. She said new home owners certainly would want to know that whoever built their home, wired it for electricity, installed the communications systems, or installed the doors and windows hadn’t also built in a way for them to sneak back into that house undetected after the new owners had moved in.
“That’s where we are with 5G,” Lord said. “If we are going to run our entire warfighting ecosystem though communications — which is where we are today — we need to make sure that when we send a critical message that others aren’t hearing it. We need to be able to test that.”
On the modern battlefield, and on the battlefield of the foreseeable future, communications is going to play a critical role, Lord said. Information must flow between mounted and dismounted soldiers, from ships at sea and from those under the sea, as well as to space and aircraft.
“In order to get relevant situational understanding, we are trading information back and forth all the time,” she said. “What will happen is, if we do not embrace 5G, and we are just getting going in 4G in a lot of areas, we are going to have a latency or a delay in those conversations that could render everything we have as ineffective.”
U.S. industry and partners must provide advancements
Advancements in 5G must come from U.S. industry and U.S. partners to be trustworthy and reliable, Lord said.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
“Right now there is quite an intensive dialogue going on to understand where in Europe we might partner,” Lord said. “And there has been an enormous amount of discussion about the threat that we see by the Chinese — theft of intellectual property — coming into our networks. We have to collectively decide how we are technically going to secure our networks — how we legislatively have to have protection.”
Lord said a whole-of-government approach is needed to get a handle on 5G. The State, Treasury and Commerce departments and the National Security Council should be involved along with DOD, she said.
“I think you are going to see a huge call to action this year to come together with really what is almost a national industrial policy for 5G, because the stakes are high,” Lord added. “5G from a technology point of view is a huge opportunity, but it’s a huge threat.
“If we don’t embrace it and apply it towards our goals, we could be overcome quickly with technical overmatch,” she continued. “And we can’t allow that to happen. … We have a warfighting imperative. If we cannot communicate as quickly, or quicker than our adversaries, if we cannot have situational understanding as to what is happening on the battlefield, then we are going to be in a position where our national security is threatened.”
For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.
Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.
In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.
With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.
The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.
Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.
Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.