VA, DoD electronic health records still aren't compatible, and lawmakers are angry - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA, DoD electronic health records still aren’t compatible, and lawmakers are angry

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was grilled by lawmakers May 1, 2019, on the lengthy and costly effort to develop compatible electronic records systems between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan at a House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the DoD’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget.

She said a hearing last month with DoD and VA health program managers on the progress of meshing the records “was terrible.”


“I can’t believe that these program managers think that it is acceptable to wait another four years for a program to be implemented when we’ve spent billions of dollars and worked on it for over a decade,” Granger said.

“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”

Veterans are suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he said.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan during a hearing on Capitol Hill, May 1, 2019.

(DoD photo)

In response to Granger, Shanahan said, “First of all, I apologize for any lack of performance or the inability of the people that testified before you to characterize the work of the department in this very vital area.”

He added that he personally spent “quite a bit of time on how do we merge together” with the VA on the records.

He said pilot programs to make the records compatible are underway in Washington state at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Fairchild Air Force Base.

The “rollout and implementation” of the fix to the electronic health records has shown promise at those installations, Shanahan said, and the next step is to put the program in place at California installations this fall.

“I can give you the commitment that these corrective actions and the lessons learned will be carried forward,” he said.

“There’s a degree of inoperability” between the VA and DoD systems that has defied solution over the years, Shanahan said. “The real issue has been [the] passing on of the actual records. I can’t explain to you the technical complexity of that.

“We owe you a better answer,” he told the committee, “and four years is unacceptable” as a time frame for making the records compatible. He promised to help DoD “deliver” a fix.

Rogers recalled past promises from the VA and DoD and said he is skeptical that the latest attempt at solving the problem will be successful.

Capitol Hill.

(Flickr photo by Elliott P.)

He cited the case of a service member from his district who was badly wounded in Iraq. He lost an eye, but military doctors in Germany saved his other eye, Rogers said.

The good eye later became infected. The service member went to the Lexington, Kentucky, VA Medical Center, but doctors there could not get access to his medical records in Germany.

“They could not operate because they didn’t know what had been done before,” Rogers said.

As a result, the service member lost sight in the good eye.

“Why can’t we have the computers marry? Can you help me out here? Don’t promise something you can’t deliver,” he told Shanahan. “I can’t believe that we have not already solved this problem.”

In the latest effort to mesh the records, then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in May 2018 awarded a billion, 10-year contract to Cerner Corp. of Kansas City to develop an integrated electronic health record (EHR) system, but related costs over the course of the contract are estimated to put the total price at about billion.

Previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and the expenditure of about id=”listicle-2636127747″ billion.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Watch and listen to US Marines conduct artillery strikes against ISIS in Syria

United States Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Callahan is a combat camera trooper deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq. In May and June of 2017, he documented the fire missions of Marines in Syria operating M777-A2 Howitzers.


The Marines were part of the Coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and were conduction 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is a combined Kurdish and Arab militia supported by the United States.

The SDF began their assault on the ISIS capital of Raqqa in June 2017 and currently have more than 1,000 fighters on the east and west ends of the city. They are also advancing from the south and are able to recapture positions taken by ISIS counterattacks.

Not only is Sgt. Callahan’s footage beautifully shot and edited, he also made sure to include the voices of his fellow Marines as they loaded and fired their howitzers. One of the most amazing aspects of this video is Callahan’s use of drone footage to capture the work of American Marines in action in a never-before-seen way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA wants to make you eat your own trash

Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)


Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.

But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.

And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.

A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.

(DARPA)

And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”

The press release went on to say:

A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.

Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.

(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)

Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.

And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.

Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.

It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.

Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking a swing at the drill sergeant is a horrible, stupid idea

Life in the military isn’t for everyone. It’s totally understandable if you get started, realize it’s just not the life you’ve envisioned for yourself, and seek a different path. Best of luck with that, dude. Be a productive and helpful member of society in whatever way you feel best.

Yet, for some odd reason, whenever douchebags open their mouths and offer an unnecessary excuse for not serving, they’ll offer the same tired, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-macho, bullsh*t along the lines of, “I couldn’t do it because I’d knock that drill sergeant out if he got in my face.”

Okay, tough guy. 99 percent of the time, you’ll lose that fight — no contest. That other one percent of the time, when you put up a brief fight, you’ll end up wishing a broken nose was the worst thing you had coming.


First and foremost, drill instructors, Marine combat instructors, drill sergeants, military training instructors, and recruit division commanders are highly disciplined and trained to never initiate a physical altercation. They’ll yell, they’ll get in your face, and they’ll generally treat you like the lowest form of scum on this Earth to break you down before building you up into what Uncle Sam needs. Picking a fight with you is pointless when they’ve got thousands of other tools in their repertoire.

And if they start getting physical without being provoked, the consequences are severe. It’s not completely unheard of, but reports of drill sergeants resorting to violence are few and far between — even when considering old-school drill sergeants. Of course they’re going to threaten it — stressing out and terrifying recruits is kinda their shtick— but they can’t even touch your uniform to correct a deficiency without informing you they’re going to do so, let alone take the first swing.

Now. Up until this point in the article, the disclaimer of “starting the fight” has been attached to each and every instance of hypothetical ass-beatings. What happens to the sorry sack of crap who tries to assault a non-commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces? Well…

Ever wonder why they’re always in PTs?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

Spoiler alert: It won’t end well.

In order to reach the point where they’re screaming in your face, an instructor has undergone intensive hand-to-hand training — to later teach it to young recruits. In the Army, you can’t teach combatives unless you’ve undergone an intensive one-week course specifically on training a platoon-sized element and another two-week course on training a company-sized element. All of this is in addition to whatever personal CQC training they’ve undertaken.

And then there’s the size disparity. Drill sergeants and drill instructors are, generally, physical monsters. That “make you pass out” smoke session is a warm-up for most instructors. They PT in the morning with the troops, with them again throughout the day to prove “it’s nothing, so quit b*tching,” and then find time to hit the gym afterwards. Technically, a drill sergeant just needs to pass their PT test, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t get a (or near to a) 300.

And because this will get mentioned in the comments: Hell no. A drill sergeant would never lose their military bearing by recording a brawl between a troublesome recruit and another drill sergeant and uploading it to the internet.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the hyper-macho scumbag lands a good one and they aren’t given an impromptu tracheotomy via knife-hand. Before that clown can clench their other fist, each and every other instructor in the area will pounce. Drill sergeants are loyal to their own, so expect them to join in swinging — even if they clearly have the fight won.

Finally, there’re the repercussions. The fool that initiates a fight is going to jail and is getting swiftly kicked out with a dishonorable discharge — no ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t expect that court-martial to go over well when every instructor there is a credible witness and the other recruits who watched have recently been instilled with military values. No one will back up the scumbag.

Keep very much in mind — these instructors will never lose their military bearing. Dropping that bearing for even a fraction of a second could mean the loss of the campaign hat they worked so hard to earn. There’s no way in hell that one asshat will take that away from them when they know countless ways to deal with them that don’t involve realigning their teeth.

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This airman is one of only 9 to receive Air Force Cross since 9/11

Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.


It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.

And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”

On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.

The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.

Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.

The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.

Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.

Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.

“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”

According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.

The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.

“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”

Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.

“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”

Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.

On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.

“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”

Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.

In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.

According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.

Calling in close air support is a pretty baller move. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.

There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.

Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.

Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.

Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”

“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Norway asked for 300 more US Marines

Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.

The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.


Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.

The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide

Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.

“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”

The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.

To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.

The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.

The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.

“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”

In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.

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

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Watch Russia test fire a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile interceptor

The Russian military recently tested a short-range ballistic missile interceptor that’s meant to detonate a small-yield nuclear warhead in the air over Moscow to prevent a nuclear strike.


But there are a couple of problems with that, mainly that a nuclear blast over Moscow would already provide an electro-magnetic pulse effect that would cripple the city’s electric grid.

The system, called the A-135 AMB, also highlights differences in philosophies between the US and Russia when it comes to missile defense. The US builds missile interceptors that hit to kill, requiring a high degree of precision and guidance. The US’s THAAD missile defense system, for example, doesn’t even have a warhead.

Russia’s solution to the complicated problem of hitting an incoming warhead at many times the speed of sound is to nuke a general area of the sky.

The A-135 AMB fires. Photo courtesy of RT.

While the US tries to station its nuclear weapons far from population centers, Russia has 68 of these 10 kiloton interceptors all around Moscow, its most populous city. Unfortunately, even in the most careful settings, nuclear mishaps occur with troubling regularity.

Additionally, as Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk writes, interceptor misfires do happen, and with a nuclear tip, that could mean catastrophe.

“It is not clear to me that, if a nuclear-armed interceptor were used over Moscow against a flock of geese, that the Russian command-and-control system would understand it was one of their own or survive the EMP effects. Then all hell might break loose,” writes Lewis.

The fact that the Kremlin is willing to have 68 nuclear devices strewn about Moscow speaks to how much they fear an attack that would threaten its regime security.

Watch the video below:

 

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This 85-year-old Special Forces legend has one of the most badass military resumes we’ve ever seen

While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.


As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.

Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.

His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.

Just the beginning.

In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.

“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”

The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.

Waugh in Vietnam.

“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”

He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.

“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”

In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.

Photo: Nick Stubbs/US Air Force

Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.

“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”

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North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

U.S. officials have sounded the alarm about growing Russian activity in the Arctic for some time, warning that Moscow’s expanding capabilities in the high latitudes threaten to leave the U.S. behind.


The Arctic region, and its natural resources, have become more accessible as the surrounding ice recedes.

In an interview at Coast Guard headquarters at the end of December 2017, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider that while the U.S. should regard Russian activity in Arctic warily, the relationship between the two countries going forward may depend on “who you relate with.”

“Our natural relationship is with the FSB within Russia, and that’s their border security — equivalent to a coast guard when you look at maritime” activity, Zukunft said.

Operational exchanges between the U.S. Coast Guard and its Russian counterpart have gone well, the commandant said, citing fisheries enforcement as an area where cooperation has yielded positive outcomes.

“We have a boundary line between Russia and the United States. In years past we would have Russian vessels sneak over the line because the fishing was much better on the U.S. side of the Bering Sea because of our fishing-management protocols. That doesn’t happen anymore,” Zukunft said. “We have real-time communications with our Russian counterparts. If we detect a Russian vessel coming over the line, they will prosecute it on the other side.”

“At the same time, we’ve had allegations of fish being illegally harvested in Russian waters and then being sold or basically being distributed out of a port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” he added. “We interact with Russia in real time when we have those cases, and so [it’s] very transparent.”

In November, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister, the commander of the Coast Guard’s 17th district — which encompasses more than 3.8 million miles through Alaska and the Arctic Sea — spoke similarly about U.S.-Russia ties in the Arctic.

“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” McAllister said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. McAllister also called China “a good partner” in the Arctic.

Also Read: The Coast Guard is outnumbered 20-to-1 in the Arctic

‘This looks eerily familiar’

Zukunft drew a distinction between Russian internal-security and law-enforcement activity and Russian naval activity, saying the latter presented more of a concern going forward.

“Now when you start looking at the Russia navy, or if you start looking at why is Russia launching icebreaking corvettes — these are really warships that can also break ice at the same time, that can operate in the high latitudes, at a point in time where Russia is claiming a good portion of the Arctic Ocean … to say that, ‘this is ours,'” Zukunft told Business Insider.

“This looks eerily familiar to what China is doing the East and South China Sea, what we could call access denial to all others … that you pay homage to Russia,” Zukunft said.

Russia has “not been transparent in what their intent is, and so we’re playing a strategic game of chess up in the Arctic,” he added. “And Russia’s got … all the pieces on the chessboard. I’ve only got a couple of pawns. I don’t even have a queen, let alone a king. Might have a rook.”

According to a Congressional Research Service report, as of May 2017, Russia — which has the world’s longest Arctic coastline and gets 20% of its GDP from activity in the region — had 46 icebreakers of all types. Four of those were operational heavy polar icebreakers, with another 23 medium or light icebreakers for polar or Baltic use.

The U.S. government had three icebreakers at that time, but just one, the Polar Star, was an operational polar icebreaker. The U.S. also has the Healy, a medium polar icebreaker, and the National Science Foundation operates another, primarily for scientific work.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. The ship, which was designed more than 40 years ago, remains the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

The Polar Star entered service in 1976 and was refurbished in 2012, but it is beyond its 40-year service life and “literally on life support,” Zukunft said in early 2017. (Some parts for the Polar Star are no longer made and have to be ordered secondhand from eBay or scavenged from other ships.)

The U.S. was behind Finland, Canada, and Sweden — all of which had several operational polar icebreakers, though none were heavy. China also had three operational light icebreakers or ice-capable polar ships, according to the report.

Experts have downplayed the likelihood that the Arctic will become as contested as the South China Sea, but Zukunft and others have warned that the U.S. is well behind Russia in the icebreaker capability necessary to operate in the region — and may soon fall behind China as well.

Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area chief, said in December that even with progress on U.S. plans for new icebreakers, Moscow was still outspending Washington. “If you look at what Russia is doing, there’s almost a mini arms build up going on in the Arctic,” he told CBS News.

“Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in November, emphasizing U.S. economic and national-security interests in emerging Arctic waterways. While China isn’t an Arctic country, Tillerson said, “they see the value of these passages. So we’re late to the game.”

In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.

Zukunft has said he hopes to begin construction on the first icebreaker early in fiscal year 2019, which starts in October. It could be in the water by 2023.

The commandant has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers, though he is open to trading mediums for heavies.

Some have argued that the challenge to U.S. security posed at sea comes less from icebreakers than Russia’s growing navy, which can project power far from the Arctic, but the Coast Guard is holding out the option of equipping its future icebreakers with offensive weaponry.

A ring buoy sits at the ready as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts icebreaking operations off the coast of Antarctica, Jan. 16, 2017. Homeported in Seattle, the Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Zukunft said in early January that the newest icebreaker would have space, weight, and electrical capacity set aside for such armaments. Though he wouldn’t specify what types of weapons systems they would be — he has suggested cruise missiles in the past — Zukunft said they would need to be modular, allowing them to be switched out to meet different operational requirements.

“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of December.

“I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up,” he added. “And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”

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Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unbelievable way President Trump cut to the chase with Israel

President Donald Trump reportedly put a blunt question to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by asking if the leader of the Jewish state genuinely wanted peace.

Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported that, in a phone call with Netanyahu in 2017, Trump shocked his aides by getting straight to the point and pressing the Israeli leader on making a deal with Palestine.


The call followed Netanyahu’s approval of Israeli settlements outside the country’s borders, something which Trump reportedly thought would needlessly anger Palestinians.

“The President has an extremely close and candid relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel and appreciates his strong efforts to enhance the cause of peace in the face of numerous challenges,” the White House told Axios.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“The President has great relationships with a number of foreign leaders but that doesn’t mean he can’t be aggressive when it comes to negotiating what’s best for America,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added.

Trump has often discussed a “deal” to be had in the Israeli-Palestine conflict that has raged for decades, but made little tangible progress towards securing peace.

In December 2018, Trump went through with the longstanding US promise to recognize Jerusalem, the divided city that all three Abrahamic religions hold as a high holy site, as Israel’s capital in a move that angered Palestinians and many around the world.

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

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Why Iran’s favorite weapon is the cyber attack

In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.


Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.

Related: US may have to consider firing on Iranian boats after latest attack

Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.

Cyber attacks allow Iran “to strike at adversaries globally, instanta­neously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain,” writes Eisenstadt.

Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world’s finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.

“Hack those guys over there.” | Creative Commons photo by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari

However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.

Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn’t found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea’s hack of Sony, or China’s stealing valuable defense data.

Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a “credibility gap,” which the US must somehow fill.