United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.
US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.
Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.
SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.
There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.
For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.
On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.
This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.
Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2015, members of the Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson community received an odd email. As part of their outreach efforts, the Alaskan base’s Sexual Assault and Prevention office – commonly referred to by the acronym SAPR – had given away tubes of lip balm.
They had to be destroyed.
“It has come to our attention that approximately 400 ‘SAPR lip balm’ promotional items … contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the public address read, referring to the active ingredient in the drug marijuana. “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office has ceased the distribution of the lip balm … and requests that you dispose this product, if you received one of these items.”
Both the Pentagon and the Air Force – the lead service at the base – ban personnel from ingesting any substances that contain hemp seed or oil from those seeds. The flying branch specifically worries the small amounts of THC could trigger a positive result during random drug screening.
On Dec. 14, personnel from the 673rd Air Base Wing had sent the vendor a “heads up” email explaining the situation for future reference, according to records We Are the Mighty obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier, the Wing had reached out to the Office of Special Investigations for advice on how to proceed.
The next day, Global Promotional Sales responded by pointing out that the lip balm did not contain any THC, along with at least two follow-up messages asking to chat with base staff. They ultimately sent along a 2001 scientific study from Leson Environmental Consulting that concluded hemp oil would never have enough THC to register in a drug test. At the same time, Wing staff and the SAPR office were debating what to do with the tubes of fruit-flavored moisturizer.
Citing personal privacy exemptions, censors redacted the names of all Air Force personnel in the records. However, they did not remove the name of the Global Promotional Sales representative.
“I’ve been told that lip balm made from Hemp [sic] will not result in a positive for THC,” an unnamed colonel in the 673d’s commander’s office wrote in one Email. “How many have you handed out?”
While the colonel’s position is widely accepted, rules are rules. “Because of the regulations banning any use of hemp products we understand that the product must be disposed of,” the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator shot back.
After untold hours working on the issue, the base leadership decided to send out the public address and ask personnel to voluntarily trash the items. In total, the SAPR office had purchased 1,600 “Fruity Lip Moisturizers” at a cost of over $1,580, according to an invoice.
The Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson public affairs office told We Are the Mighty in an email that they were unsure what had happened to the more than 1,000 tubes of lip balm that the SAPR office had not handed out. They didn’t know whether the vendor reimbursed the cost or offered credit on a future order.
What we do know is that for at least three days, both the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and the 673d’s staff were actively involved dealing with a problem that took away from their core mission in more ways than one. Emblazoned with the SAPR logo and the text “Consent, Ask, Communicate,” the lip balm itself seems to have served an unclear purpose.
“I mean, just the weight of those emails … the weight of coordination spent on pursuing swag and trinkets,” Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer and outspoken critic of many of the flying branch’s policies, told We Are the Mighty in an Email after reviewing the documents. “This is what SARCs are doing while the issue of sexual assault continues to hover somewhere between confused and irresolute.”
Legislators, celebrities, and others have repeatedly criticized the Pentagon failing to improve the situation. While the services have focused on education, accountability seems to be the real factor holding back progress on the issue.
The Pentagon was forced to admit that “sexual assaults continue to be under-reported” when they released their latest sexual assault prevention strategy on May 1, 2014. The new policy cited a need to pursue offenders regardless of rank and make sure that accusers did not suffer retaliation from their superiors, who were often the attackers.
Retired Air Force Col. Christensen, who worked in the military legal system for more than two decades, said the incident highlighted the Pentagon’s “very simplistic” responses to very difficult problems, like rape. Christensen is now President of Protect Our Defenders, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit advocacy group that focuses on sexual violence in the U.S. military.
“They think they can powerpoint their way out of it,” Christensen lamented, describing seemingly endless briefings and courses on the ills of sexual assault. He specifically singled out the bystander training as “pretty much ridiculous,” adding that he was not aware of anyone being punished for not speaking up on behalf of a victim.
Of course, both Carr and Christensen were quick to note that these sorts of responses were not necessarily limited to one particular crisis. “It reinforces the ‘leadership by harassment’ approach of inventing and then enforcing rules with no valid military necessity,” Carr said. “I’m amazed at the extent to which this continues happening.”
Christensen compared the idea of handing out lip balm, mints, and other novelties as a solution to sexual assault to the much maligned fluorescent yellow belts troops have wear in many situations. Instead of really delving into how to prevent people getting killed while running or doing other activities at night, the Pentagon simply decreed that everyone had to wear the reflective wraps nearly everywhere, nearly all the time, he said.
But this sort of response is especially galling when it comes to sexual violence. Gimmicks like the lip balm “trivializes the impact of sexual assault” and contribute to troops generally “tuning out” the messages, Christensen added.
To really start fixing the problem, Christensen says the Pentagon and its critics both need to recognize that it will be impossible eradicate sexual assault from the military entirely. Instead, the focus needs to be on treating servicemen and women like adults who know it’s a crime, empowering investigators and prosecutors to go after attackers and instill an overall sense of accountability up and down the ranks.
Until then, SAPR offices will easily find themselves spending precious time dealing with promotional missteps than actually advocating for a healthier climate within the services.
Since the earliest days, humans have employed bioweapons both invisible and nefarious: killers on two legs, four, six, eight – and plenty with no legs at all. All of these agents of biological warfare, fresh with the fury of nature, have taken their turns inspiring terror in enemy forces, and turning the tide of unwinnable battles.
In the modern day, just as many bio-weapons have been employed by terrorists and monsters, “humans” who barely qualify for the title. Yes, history is filled with deadly organisms – viruses, bacteria, harmless looking flowers, and even playful sea mammals. All have seen their fair share of battle, and some were admittedly pretty awesome. But if this otherwise terrifying bioweapons list anything to teach, it may be that nature’s most brutal creations are those dogs of war called “man.”
After receiving information that war was near, German Vice-Adm. Maximilian Von Spee sent a message to his Imperial navy colleagues in the Pacific to rally up for a fight.
Spee was aboard the SMS Scharnhorst docked near the Pacific island of Pohnpei when he sent his message to Tsingtao, at the time the administrative center for the German Pacific colonies.
The battle damaged German ship SMS Cormoran geared up and was ordered to disrupt enemy supply lines. But after months at sea and under constant pressure by the Japanese, the Cormoran began running low on coal and needed a safe place to dock.
The Cormoran reached Apra Harbor in Guam — which had recently become a U.S. protectorate — on Dec. 14, 1914, hoping for some aid by the neutral Americans there.
Interestingly, until the 1950s, Guam’s governor’s office was held by American naval officers.
Guam’s Gov. William Maxwell initially refused to help the Germans because America wanted to stay neutral in the war, but since the Cormoran nearly was out of fuel, the ship wouldn’t leave.
The two sides finally came to an agreement and the German could stay but must live under restriction. The Cormoran’s crew had to stow their weapons on the ship, and the firing pins of the 10.5 cm guns had to be removed from service.
Letting the Germans live on the island was extremely risky as the small amount of Americans were now outnumbered.
But during the time the Germans inhabited the small island alongside their soon to be American enemy, there weren’t any known reports of violent incidents — but that peace wouldn’t last forever.
In 1916, Guam’s new governor received a message that the US just entered the war. A small group of Marines assembled and demanded the German’s surrender right away. When the Germans refused, the Marines fired two warning shots across the Cormoran’s bow.
The warning shots were fired just two hours after the US entered the Great War, thus making history as the first shots fired by Americans at their new German enemy happened in Guam.
Check out The Great War‘s video to learn about this incredible story.
Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.
Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space.
Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.
“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)
Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.
Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit‘s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.
Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”
Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes
More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more.
What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.
Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets.
“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”
Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.
“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit.
He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”
Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.
An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.
“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”
According to a CBP release, a narcotics-detecting canine directed attention to the Xbox, and after an inspection, the agents seized the drugs, which had an estimated worth of about $10,000.
The 16-year-old was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.
Synthetic drugs like meth have become increasingly common as producers and traffickers adjust to factors like marijuana legalization and widespread heroin use in the US.
“That has shifted the marketplace in a way. It means that Mexican illicit-drug exporters have had to … diversify their offerings,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider. “They have moved into … heroin as a source of revenue, but also … into other, I would say, synthetic drugs, like MDMA and various forms of methamphetamine.”
While seizures at the border can only reveal so much about the black-market drug trade, reports from Customs and Border Patrol indicate that heroin and other synthetic drugs are frequently intercepted at the US-Mexico frontier.
On September 9, a search of a Chevy Tahoe crossing the border at Brownsville, Texas, uncovered 37 pounds of what was believed to be methamphetamine, valued at $740,000. That same day, a search of a Nissan Murano at the Laredo, Texas, border crossing turned up 12 pounds of crystal meth and 4 pounds of heroin, worth a total of nearly $360,000.
In two separate incidents on September 9 at the border crossing at Nogales, Arizona, 17 pounds of meth valued at more than $52,000 was found in the wheel well of a Dodge van, while later that day a 16-year-old woman was found to have nearly 3 pounds of heroin worth almost $48,000 in her undergarments.
On September 13 at the Nogales port of entry, a Mexican woman was found to be carrying three pounds of heroin worth $50,000 in a can of baby formula. On September 15, agents in California found more than 43 pounds of meth worth about $175,000 concealed under the floor mats of a gray 2014 Nissan Sentra.
In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.
It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.
But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.
If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too
“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”
This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.
But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.
ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.
If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.
It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.
Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous
“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”
Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.
“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”
While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.
[China’s] commitment to new-tech military hardware [is] proof that it’s latest laser weapons have a “bright future” on the international arms market, state media has claimed in multiple write-ups aimed at international arms dealers and nation-state buyers.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, has developed a road-mobile laser defense system called the LW-30, which uses a high-energy laser beam to destroy targets.
CASIC, China’s largest maker of missiles, has also brought the CM-401 supersonic anti-ship ballistic missile to market, describing it to the China Daily as capable of making rapid, precision strikes against medium-sized or large vessels, or against land targets.
Meanwhile, China South Industries Group Corporation (CSIGC) a major manufacturer of military ground weapons, wants to secure buyers for its mine-clearing laser gun.
Carried by a light-duty armored vehicle and together with the laser weapon system, CSICG unveiled the laser weapon during the recent Zhuhai China 2018 air show, creatively called the “light-vehicle laser demining and detonation system.”
The system can destroy explosive devices such as mines through high-power laser irradiation at a long distance, avoiding casualties caused by manual bomb disposal, designers told state-owned media.
Flying off the shelves
According to Global Security, CSIGC is an especially large and internationally operating state-owned corporate established under the State Council, which falls under the purview of Premier Li Keqiang.
With splashes across all the major state-owned foreign language media, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) has begun a strange sales strategy for its newly developed road-mobile laser defense system.
China has pumped money and perhaps a little hyperbole into its laser weaponry research, but according to state media, the LW-30 is going to fly off the shelves.
The LW-30 uses a high-energy laser beam to destroy targets ranging from drones and guided bombs to mortar shells. It features high efficiency, rapid response, a good hit rate and flexibility, according to CASIC.
An LW-30 combat unit includes one radar-equipped vehicle for battlefield communications and control and at least one laser gun-carrying vehicle and one logistical support vehicle.
The laser gun can be deployed with close-in weapons systems and air-defense missiles to form a defensive network free of blind spots, CASIC claims.
According to The People’s Daily, in a typical scenario, the LW-30’s radar will scan, detect and track an incoming target before transmitting the information to the laser gun.
The gun will reportedly then analyze the most vulnerable part of the target and lay a laser beam onto it.
“Destruction takes place in a matter of seconds,” according to People’s.
As part of the sales pitch, People’s cited a Beijing-based “observer of advanced weaponry,” who seemed to suggest that the new laser weapons were a more effective and less expensive way to intercept guided weaponry.
Wu Peixin, the said “observer of advanced weaponry” told China Daily the new weapons would sell well on arms markets.
The LW-30 laser defense weapon system.
“Therefore, a laser gun is the most suitable weapon to defend against these threats,” he said. “Every military power in the world has been striving to develop laser weapons. They have bright prospects in the international arms market.”
In addition to CASIC, other state-owned defense conglomerates are ready to take their laser weapon systems to market, although science has it’s doubters.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation is the world’s largest shipbuilder, and its technology is undoubtedly dual-use. That is to say, one of the reasons China’s navy has been built up so quickly is because of the initial investments made way back by Deng Xiao Ping to revive China’s shipbuilding capacity — all but ignored under Mao Zedong — have resulted in CSIC and other shipbuilders producing both leisure and military naval technology.
CSIC meanwhile, claims has made another vehicle-mounted laser weapon that integrates detection and control devices and the laser gun in one six-wheeled vehicle.
“Observers said the system should be fielded to deal with low-flying targets such as small unmanned aircraft,” state media said.
Showcasing a defense industrial base amid rising global tensions
Before market reforms reinvigorated the People’s liberation Army and the defense industry in China, five corporations and one ministry represented China’s defense industrial base, now each of the five corporations have been divided into two competing corporations in the shipbuilding, aviation, nuclear, ordnance and missile/aerospace arenas.
The current organization of China’s defense industrial base is pretty simple — two competing corporations face one a other in the five key divisions through shipbuilding, aviation, nuclear, ordnance and missile/aerospace.
These include China North Industries Group Corporation (CNIGC) and China South Industries Group Corporation (CSIGC). Each with friendlier subordinate import/export set ups — China North Industries Corporation and China Great Wall Industries Corporation — which facilitate import and sales of commercial and military goods for profit.
Strategic competition with the US is pushing China to speed up the development of new weaponry, from rail gun technology, laser weaponry and hypersonic vehicles and is probably fast tracking and promoting its military inroads amid rising geopolitical tensions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Recently, the United States Navy celebrated the 98th anniversary of the commissioning of its very first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).
CV-1 was named after American aeronautics engineer, Astronomer, aviation pioneer, bolometer, and physicist, Samuel Piermont Langley (the same guy whose name is on a NASA research center, an Air Force base, a mountain, three other ships — two of which are USN ships — and a slew of schools, buildings, labs, and a unit of solar radiation measurement). The USS Langley was converted from the Proteus-class collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), which itself was commissioned in April or 1913.
As the Langley, she had a full-load displacement of 13,900 long tons, a length of 542ft, beam of 65ft 5in, draft of 24ft, and 3 boilers. This was also the United States Navy’s first tubro-electric-powered ship. She was commanded by Commander Kenneth Whiting, upon commissioning.
The USS Langley saw service as both an aircarft carrier and a seaplane tender. In the seaplane tender role, she was commissioned as AV-3 on 11 April 1937. She served as AV-3 until 27 February 1942, when she was struck by Japanese bombers. She now rests on the seafloor near Cilacap Harbor, Java, Indonesia.
The USS Langley was the first step in what would help the Navy — and the United States — project global reach and force. A unique feature of the Langley (among all USN aircraft carriers) was its carrier pigeon house. USN carriers (and signals) have come a long way since then.
Since the commissioning of the USS Langley as the first aircraft carrier, the United States Navy has fielded 80 total carriers. There are currently 11 in service. Both of these numbers vastly outcounts every other nation’s number of aircraft carriers. With a current global total of 44 active carriers (some of those are arguable), America owns 25% of those. But the strategic value of those 11 carriers is much more than 25% of that global total.
The first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be commissioned ever, anywhere, was the Japanese Hōshō, which was commissioned two days after Christmas, 1922.
Top uniformed leaders of all the services urged Congress to waive the use-it-or-lose-it rules and allow them to roll over some of the increased funding slated for fiscal 2018 into 2019.
The leaders welcomed the two-year budget deal authorized by Congress early February 2018 to give the Defense Department nearly $700 billion for fiscal 2018 and $716 billion for fiscal 2019, but they said it also left them in a bind.
Because of Congress’ previous failures to reach a budget agreement for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, the military has been operating at 2017 spending levels under a series of continuing resolutions. The latest CR, which expires March 23, 2018 was enacted to allow the 12 appropriations committees more time to direct the funding of the two-year budget deal.
And there’s the problem, according to Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, who testified along with leaders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Walters told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support Feb. 14, 2018 that by the time the budget agreement was solidified, the military would have only about five months to spend the fiscal 2018 funds before fiscal 2019 begins Oct. 1.
Under current rules, money not spent by government agencies before the end of the fiscal year goes back to the Treasury.
“As you noted, we have a year’s worth of money adds in ’18 and five months to spend it,” Walters told the hearing. “It might help if the appropriators can give us some flexibility, so we can spend ’18 money in ’19 and feather in the plan” to improve readiness under a program ordered up by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran agreed.
“We’d like to have authorities to move funding around as we go, and inform Congress as we’re doing it,” he said.
Moran said the boost in funding is “so significant that we’re going to have to look at transferring that money from account to account.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the Army would be forced into a potentially risky rush to execute contracts unless Congress eases the time limit.
“We don’t get the same type of rigor we would like to get if we had it sooner,” he said of the funding. “Certainly, we appreciate the authorizations for readiness. We just need to get it in the hands of our units so they can spend it.”
On the House side, the leadership is already moving to grant the services more time to spend the money.
Early February 2018, Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that he had met with top appropriators “about making sure no artificial limitation Congress proposes prevents the Pentagon from spending money.”
The Pentagon has vowed that if it cannot use artificial intelligence on the battlefield in an ethical or responsible way, it will simply not field it, a top general said Monday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), made that promise as the Defense Department unveiled new A.I. guidelines, including five main pillars for its principled execution of A.I.: to be responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable.
“We will not field an algorithm until we are convinced it meets our level of performance and our standard, and if we don’t believe it can be used in a safe and ethical manner, we won’t field it,” Shanahan told reporters during a briefing. Algorithms often offer the calculation or data processing instruction for an A.I. system. The guidelines will govern A.I. in both combat and non-combat functions that aid U.S. military use.
The general, who has held various intelligence posts, including overseeing the algorithmic warfare cross-functional team for Google’s Project Maven, said the new effort is indicative of the U.S.’s intent to stand apart from Russia and China. Both of those countries are testing their uses of A.I. technology for military purposes, but raise “serious concerns about human rights, ethics, and international norms.”
For example, China has been building several digital artificial intelligence cities in a military-civilian partnership as it looks to understand how A.I. will be propagated and become a global leader in technology. The cities track human movement through artificial facial recognition software, watching citizens’ every move as they go about their day.
While Shanahan stressed the U.S. should be aggressive in its pursuits to harness accurate data to stay ahead, he said it will not go down the same path of Russia and China as they neglect the principles that dictate how humans should use A.I.
Instead, the steps put in place by the Pentagon can hold someone accountable for a bad action, he said.
“What I worry about with both countries is they move so fast that they’re not adhering to what we would say are mandatory principles of A.I. adoption and integration,” he said.
The recommendations came after 15 months of consultation with commercial, academic and government A.I. experts as well as the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) and the JAIC. The DIB, which is chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, made the recommendations last October, according to a statement. The JAIC will be the “focal point” in coordinating implementation of the principles for the department, the statement said.
Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer, said the guidelines will become a blueprint for other agencies, such as the intelligence community, that will be able to use it “as they roll out their appropriate adoption of A.I. ethics.” Shanahan added the guidelines are a “good scene setter” for also collaborating alongside the robust tech sector, especially Silicon Valley.
Within the broader Pentagon A.I. executive committee, a specific subgroup of people will be responsible for formulating how the guidelines get put in place, Deasy said. Part of that, he said, depends on the technology itself.
“They’re broad principles for a reason,” Shanahan added. “Tech adapts, tech evolves; the last thing we wanted to do was put handcuffs on the department to say what you could and could not do. So the principles now have to be translated into implementation guidance,” he said.
That guidance is currently under development. A 2012 military doctrine already requires a “human in the loop” to control automated weapons, but does not delineate how broader uses for A.I. fits within the decision authority.
The Monday announcement comes roughly one year after DoD unveiled its artificial intelligence strategy in concert with the White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
“We firmly believe that the nation that masters A.I. first will prevail on the battlefield for many years,” Shanahan said, reiterating previous U.S. officials positions on the leap in technology.
Similarly in 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised event that, “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And for a decade after that, they lost touch.
At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”
The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.
The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.
In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.
Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.
“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.
LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.
“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”
When the US Navy accused Russia of “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior at sea after a dangerous close encounter between a Russian destroyer and a US cruiser June 7, 2019, Russia quickly released a statement countering the US version of events.
Each side blamed the other for the run-in — which was close enough for US sailors to spot sunbathers topside on the Russian ship. But an expert who viewed the US Navy’s images concluded the Russians were to blame for the near-collision and were “operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
The US Navy says the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov nearly collided when the Russian ship sailed as close as 50 feet off the US Navy vessel while it was recovering a helicopter in the Philippine Sea. Russia claims that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian ship in the East China Sea, where the two warships came within 50 meters (150 feet) of one another.
“While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet,” 7th Fleet said in a statement, adding that the US warship was forced to execute all engines back full and to avoid a collision.
The US Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD 572), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk.
Russia responded with its own statement, pinning the blame for the close call on the US Navy.
“The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship,” the Russian Pacific Fleet said. “In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
Russian media has invoked the rules of the road, arguing that a vessel approaching another ship on its starboard, or righthand, side has the right of way. Indeed, that is the rule for a routine crossing situation, but there’s more going on here.
The US Navy released photos and videos. Based on these, a retired US captain concluded that the US Navy cruiser had the right of way — and Russia was at fault.
“If the cruiser was actually conducting helicopter operations. That trumps everything,” explained retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded two US warships. “If she’s operating a helicopter, she’s constrained and permitted by the rules of the road to maintain course and speed. She has the right of way.”
In this situation, the USS Chancellorsvilleis considered a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.” A ship in this category is “a vessel engaged in the launching and recovery of aircraft,” according to the internationally-accepted navigation rules for preventing collisions at sea.
Near collision between Russian destroyer and US cruiser.
(US 7th Fleet)
Furthermore the Russian destroyer appears to have been approaching from behind (astern) at high speed at an angle that would make this an overtaking rather than a crossing. In that scenario, the vessel being overtaken (the US warship) has the right of way.
The Russian ship “was clearly approaching from astern, clearly maneuvering to close the cruiser, and was clearly in violation of the rules of the road and putting the ship at risk,” Hoffman said. “The Russians were clearly operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
He added that the wake indicated the “Russians had altered course several times,” more proof that the destroyer was purposefully closing with the US cruiser.
Another possible sign that this may have been a planned provocation on the part of the Russians is that there were sailors sunbathing on the helicopter pad. Were the Russian naval vessel actually concerned about a possible collision, there would have almost certainly been an all-hands response.
The ships alarm would likely have sounded, and sailors would have been ordered to damage control stations or braced for impact.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
Close encounters like the one involving the USS Chancellorsville and the Admiral Vinogradov are particularly dangerous because a ship is hard to maneuver at close range and a steel-on-steel collision can damage the ships and kill crewmembers.
“Unlike a car, a ship doesn’t have brakes, so the only way you can slow down is by throwing it into reverse,” Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert and former US Navy officer, explained to BI recently. “It’s going to take time to slow down because the friction of the water is, of course, a lot less than the friction of the road. Your stopping distance is measured in many ship lengths.”
A US Navy cruiser is 567-feet-long and unable to move its hull right or left in the water very quickly, making a distance of 50 feet dangerous.
“When someone pulls a maneuver like that,” he added, “It’s really hard to slow down or stop or maneuver quickly to avoid the collision.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.