VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide - We Are The Mighty
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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Photos show what the US troops on the border are doing

A number of active-duty US troops, the first of thousands, have arrived at the US-Mexico border.

US military personnel deployed to the border ahead of the anticipated arrival of migrant caravans have started constructing bases of operations and running razor wire to prevent illegal crossings.

These photos show some of what troops are doing at the border:


VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Soldiers from the the 89th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, 19th Engineering Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas, arrive in Harlingen, TX on Nov. 1, 2018.

The active-duty troops which have been or will be deployed to parts of Texas, Arizona, and California are among a group of more than 7,000 troops expected to be sent to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Many of the engineering teams are expected to be involved in activities such as barrier construction and the hardening of key border facilities.

Active-duty military personnel are heading to the border to support the Customs and Border Protection mission.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

The troops deploying to the border, according to the US military, will provide planning assistance and engineering support, as well as equipment and resources, to assist the DHS as it attempts to secure the southern border against migrant caravans from Latin America.

The number of troops slated for deployment to the US-Mexico border has risen three times in the past week, surging from several hundred into the thousands, and the number could rise again in response to operational demands.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

A C-17 Globemaster III carrying soldiers and equipment from the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, landed in southern Arizona on Oct. 31, 2018, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

There are already over 2,000 National Guard troops serving at the border, advancing the mission for Operation Guardian Support. They were deployed in April and serve in a different role than the troops presently heading south.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

Troops are bringing significant amounts of equipment for border operations, including miles and miles worth of concertina wire.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly characterized the approaching caravans — without evidence — as an “invasion,” has warned the migrants that the military will be waiting for them when they arrive.

He has said that the total number of troops deployed to the southern border could ultimately be as high as 15,000. The president has also indicated that US troops may open fire on migrants who become aggressive.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

A US Army soldier assigned to 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground while setting up tents at Fort Huachuca, Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.

The military units currently being sent to the border are acting in a Title X capacity. Military police, engineers, medical teams, airlift units, and command teams will be constructing barriers, hardening points of entry, and assisting CBP officials. These troops are not permitted to engage in law enforcement activities on US soil.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

The Department of Defense has made it clear, despite the various claims stating otherwise, that these tent cities will house troops arriving at the border, not migrants.

While some observers argue that sending active-duty military personnel to the border is a waste of manpower, one that could costa s much as 0 million by the end of the year, the administration says troops being deployed to the border are responding to an escalated threat to US national security. As of Friday, there were around 3,500 troops deployed to staging bases along the border, the Pentagon told the Associated Press.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

Multiple staging areas are being established at Base Support Installations, areas where troops from ten different states will set up operations.

One of the larger groups recently clashed with Mexican authorities on the border of Guatemala, a violent exchange which appears to have led President Trump to state that US troops might shoot migrants who throw rocks at US military and border patrol personnel, a position he has since backed away from.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate)

Airmen from the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron construct Air Force deployable airbase systems (DABS) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.

The migrant caravans heading north toward the US-Mexico border are currently believed to be around 800 miles away, putting them a few weeks out.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

These tents, like those set up at Fort Huachuca, will house military personnel deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.

In recent days, as the midterm elections come around the corner, the president has proposed eliminating birthright citizenship, denying asylum to anyone who crosses illegally, and using disproportional military force against migrants who become violent, moves and rhetoric presumably intended to highlight his administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kansas, run 300 meters of concertina wire along the border in support of CBP operations in Hidalgo, Texas.

Critics have accused the president of engaging in a political stunt ahead of midterm elections. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who approved the deployment of troops to the border in response to a DHS request, has countered such accusations, stating, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

US troops deployed with enough concertina wire already in position to cover 22 miles, with officials noting that the military had the capability to run wire along another 120 miles if necessary.

“It’s all preparation in anticipation of the caravan,” Manuel Padilla Jr., US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande River Valley sector chief, told the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that these people do not show up at the border. They’re not going to be allowed in.”

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

Articles

It’s not the Beretta M9 that sucks, it’s the ammo

There’s a decades-old argument about which pistol round is better that stems from a more basic argument about terminal ballistics – which is just a fancy term for what happens when bullets hit living things.


The two sides of the argument are between those who believe fast, lightweight rounds do more damage, and those who believe heavy, lower-moving rounds impart more energy and “stopping power” on the target.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M9 and why ammo matters: 

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | More Subscribe Options

Given its history of weapon adoption, it seems the Army is a proponent of the fast, lightweight department. First it swapped out the 7.62mm M14 for the 5.56mm M16, then the .45 1911 for the 9mm M9. While many agree with the first change (sorry M14 lovers) some still think the M9 should never have been adopted without changing the ammunition recipe beforehand.

Here’s why.

Full metal jacket ammo is really great for sending rounds through paper, but its aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design makes it zip through tissue without dumping most of the energy behind it into the target. Shot placement can compensate for this by hitting harder stuff like bones or vital organs, but under the stress of returning fire, that’s damn tough for even the seasoned Delta operator to land perfect hits with a sidearm.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
An M9 service pistol’s magazine rests on the firing line next to a scoring sheet during a pistol qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 7, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell/released)

Ideally, a round will dump all of its energy into a target, which reduces the need for shot placement at the cost of reduced penetration. On a rifle, this is a big drawback. It means if Johnny-Jihad is hiding behind a plywood shack, the rounds will expand in the wooden walls and lose most of their power. With a sidearm, most shooters aren’t trying to blast bad guys through walls – it’s a weapon of last resort.

So when a trooper needs to draw his M9, he shouldn’t have to worry about the bullets failing to stop his attacker.

If the military wants to put the M9 on even-footing with the M1911’s fight-stopping power, it might only need to swap out the M882 round with the good stuff being issued to American law enforcement officers.

Heck, Rangers have been running heavier, jacketed hollow-points for years. This isn’t news to the brass.

A little more than a year ago, the Army declared its Modular Handgun System should be able to operate with special ammunition like jacketed, hollow-point rounds.  The so-called XM17 is slated to replace the M9.

In fact, one recommendation is to replace the lightweight 112gr M882 FMJ cartridges with heavier 147gr expanding hollow-point rounds like those employed by Ranger elements during combat operations. These heavier rounds don’t just expand better in their targets, they’re also subsonic.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Paquin, assigned to Expeditionary Combat Camera reloads an M9 pistol during practical weapons course training at Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex, July 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric Dietrich)

This has two major advantageous. First, it makes them better suited to pistols and submachine guns equipped with sound suppressors. And second, it provides a more consistent flight path since the bullet doesn’t go transonic.

That all said, many agree the M9 does have some serious mechanical shortcomings. Slides cracking, junk magazines in the early days of the G-WOT, and the gun’s open-slide gobbling up sand all contribute to a pistol clearly not at home in desert warfare.

But with new magazines that work much better, reinforced slides and a proper maintenance schedule, many experts say the M9 beats the hell out of the 1911 it replaced — but only with proper ammo. Hague convention be damned, expanding ammunition isn’t designed to cruelly maim soldiers but to drop them more reliability. Plus, these same rounds are nearly always stopped by walls, putting fewer civilians at risk in adjacent rooms.

Lastly, if you’re worried about our guys getting hit with these types of rounds, don’t be. Expanding ammunition amplifies the effectiveness of body armor, since both are designed to dissipate force. So as long as Joe has his body armor on, hollow points won’t do any more than a standard pistol round.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 10 worst British military aircraft of all time

While the British boast a perfect record in World Wars — including a gritty victory over Germany’s seemingly unstoppable Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain — it is a country that has made some truly bad aircraft.


The Spitfire fighter and the Lancaster bomber ruled the skies throughout World War II. The Harrier Jump Jet served at sea honorably for decades. But the aircraft you don’t hear about are usually pretty awful.

Also Read: Why this light machine gun was the worst standard-issue weapon ever

“If you want something done slowly, expensively, and possibly very well, you go to the British,” begins the first-ever YouTube video from Hushkit, an aviation blog from Joe Coles.

From a nuclear-capable, fatality-prone navy plane to impossibly hard-to-fly transport planes, relive the forgotten history of the 10 worst British planes ever built in the video below:

 

(Hush kit | YouTube)
Military Life

Veterans can win cash in this new competition

Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.

There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:


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1. Cash prizes

Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.

Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.

youtu.be

2. Dancing is awesome AND YOU KNOW IT

Watch this video of Army vet and double amputee Noah Galloway performing and don’t get choked up. I dare you.

“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.

The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.

Plus, it’s fun. And sexy. ?

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh5OgNtlevc/ expand=1]

www.instagram.com

3. It celebrates Hispanic culture

Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.

Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.

Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.

The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.

Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.

For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This country music star is excited to be playing for the military

Country music superstar Chris Young has released two platinum albums, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has nine number 1 hits. He’s on his Raised On Country Tour right now, and he took some time to talk about what it’s like to visit with Navy working dogs, to see so many vets and service members on his tour after his sister’s time in the Marines, and to have a tour sponsor in USAA that can help him get in touch with more military audiences.


Young picked the cities for the tour for the standard reasons, but he’s gotten to enjoy some little perks and experiences at military stops. Like when, two weeks ago, he got to hang out with dog handlers at Naval Base San Diego.

“There are so many markets where we’re going to go that are pretty large military markets as far as bases,” he said, “and, you know, we’re able to do the things like we did in San Diego on the naval base the other day.”

“We knew there were going to be a bunch of partnership opportunities like that [with USAA] and I just have a big love and respect for the military,” he said. “So anytime you get a tour sponsor where you know, everything already lines up on its own, it’s a pretty incredible thing.”

He isn’t new to the military experience, though. Young’s sister was a West Coast Marine who worked on helicopters. And she married another Marine. Seeing his sibling’s sacrifices deepened his respect for the military.

“I remember that I would see, first-hand, about the amount of time that people are going out. She and I have always been really, really, really close and so when you go months at a time, sometimes, without being able to see somebody because their travel versus what you’re doing to travel and anything else I think you understand it in a different way I guess.”

It’s his sister’s and his brother-in-law’s military service that he thinks of when he’s performing “The Dashboard,” a song about two brothers when one is sent to war and leaves his truck behind. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we won’t give away the ending, but it’s not the ending made typical by “Riding with Private Malone.”

Young didn’t write “The Dashboard,” but he connected with it when he heard it.

Chris Young – Raised on Country (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“That song, buddy of mine Monty Criswell wrote it, and I just thought it was so different from the way I had heard other songs written even along the same line, topically, just the way he handled that song and made it something really, really special and anytime that I’ve played I always use the chance to reference my sister because obviously, she’s a Marine so I get a chance to nod to her and my brother-in-law when I sing that song and I always make sure to say something about them.”

For Young, who has gotten a kick out of playing for troops since he was at bases like Fort Bliss before his first record contract, it’s nice to get back in front of them. But as his fame has grown and technology has advanced, he’s found better ways of recognizing vets and service members in huge venues.

A partner company makes these “armbands where we’ve been able to ask people prior to the show, we go, ‘Hey have you or has anyone in your family served?’ And then we can actually light up their armbands for a song and kind of call them out say thank you that way … which is pretty cool.”

For Young, that made USAA agreeing to come as tour sponsor perfect. He already loved the military and liked to take time during shows to raise them up, so having a sponsor whose customer base is almost exclusively military families let everything sync up.

“I’m already totally all in on and any chance that I get to say thank you in multiple different ways to military, that’s something that’s been important to me my entire career. [Partnering with USAA] is just going to be awesome. It’s just going to work so I think it’s one of things that just happened.”

And that partnership has already helped Chris Young take part in multiple events. He played a small concert for military and family members at the NFL Draft back in April and then got to visit the working dogs at San Diego this August. (If you watch the NFL Draft video, you might recognize WATM’s own Augie Dannehl who helped host.)

If you’re interested in seeing when Chris is coming to your town, check out his tour calendar here.

Articles

12-year-old becomes the youngest EOD Marine

Nathan Aldaco is twelve years old and suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare defect. Because his biggest wish in life is to become a United States Marine, the Marines from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Pendleton were happy to oblige him.


VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, walks with Marines to a demolition site during a Make-A-Wish event supported by 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

“It’s a true honor to do this for Nathan,” said 1st Lt. Ernesto Gaudio, 2nd platoon commander, Bravo Company, 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “We wanted to make him feel like he was a part of the Marine family. We are in service to the United States of America and Nathan is a citizen of the United States. We were just making his wish come true.”

The Marines decked Aldaco in his own MARPAT Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform and gave his family a tour of the explosives ordnance disposal site at Pendleton. He was taken through a demolition range in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. The team demonstrated their EOD robots and then detonated TNT, C4, dynamite, and blasting caps. The youngest Marine even shared MREs with his fellow Marines while out in the field.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, looks out of a bunker during a Make-A-Wish event supported by 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

“The bombs were cool,”  Aldaco said in an interview with the Marines’ official website. “I like working with robots. It was fun controlling them and picking stuff up with them.”

He was awarded the Master EOD badge in an official ceremony by Col. Jaime O. Collazo. It is the highest badge an EOD Marine can receive. Aldaco saluted the colonel before marching off.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Nathan Aldaco, a 12 year-old boy with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and his family, pose for a picture with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines during a Make-A-Wish event. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Laura Gauna)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s latest threats remind us we’re still close to nuclear war

President Donald Trump addressed a key North Korean complaint on May 17, 2018, ahead of a planned historic summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

But in doing so he evoked the threats that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 2017.


Asked about comments by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the White House was looking at a “Libya model” for ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, something to which North Korea responded angrily, Trump essentially issued an ultimatum: Denuclearize or die.

The ultimatum was clear, but Trump’s understanding of the history of disarmament in Libya was not.

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation,” Trump said. “We went in there to beat him.”

The US and other nations agreed with Libya in 2003 to remove the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s nascent nuclear weapons program and his chemical weapons.

Gaddafi gained international acceptance as a result, and he ruled for eight more years until a popular uprising plunged his country into civil war.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Muammar Gaddafi

The US, along with NATO allies, then backed the uprising against him, and attacked Gaddafi’s forces, but did not kill Gaddafi.

Though the US strikes were effective, they were focused and did not “decimate” the country in the way that, say, US bombers pounded North Korea in the Korean War.

Gaddafi died within six months of the US intervention, but it was his own people who killed him after finding his hideout and dragging him through the streets.

Bolton’s original comments about a Libya model appeared to address the disarmament in 2003, while Trump on May 17, 2018, appeared to address Gaddafi’s death in 2011, something North Korea has picked up on and responded to.

A model involving national devastation for the country “would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” Trump said. “But if we make a deal,” he continued, “I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”

Return to fire and fury

On May 14, 2018, the US and North Korea were going into their fourth month of warming relations, preparing for a summit for Trump and Kim to discuss peace and possible denuclearization.

On May 15, 2018, North Korea threatened to back out of the talks, spewed vitriolic anti-US rhetoric, and reasserted itself as a nuclear power.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon Un.

By May 17, 2018, Trump was back to talking about decimation and framing North Korea’s future as a choice between death or denuclearization.

Both Trump and Kim have incentives to keep the summit and peace push on track. But as Trump’s comments on May 17, 2018, show, despite the hand-holding and peace talks, almost nothing has changed in North Korea, or with Trump.

Experts warn that a Trump-Kim summit carries huge risk. If the summit fails to achieve peace and agreement, the highest cards in both countries’ diplomatic decks have been played, and all that remains is confrontation.

So far, 2018 has been almost clear of nuclear brinkmanship between Trump and Kim, but May 17, 2018, should remind us that as long as North Korea has nuclear weapons, the US stands a hair’s breadth from war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Jericho Hill

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while studying at Shoreline Community College just north of Seattle, bonding over their military experiences.


VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
From left to right: Steve Schneider (U.S. Army), McClain Potter (U.S. Navy).

In 2014, Steve and McClain invited friends to play with them, including singer Malcolm Williams, drummer Adam Birchman, and bassist Nick Skinnell, officially creating Jericho Hill, a reference from “The Dark Tower,” a book McClain read during deployment. The band is united by the military, whether they themselves wore the uniform or a family member.

They found that music was not only healing for them, but a way to share stories with others. The military was a strong influencer for their music, which has evolved to bring awareness to issues like suicide, trauma, and depression.

One of the traditions of Jericho Hill is to play an as-yet unrecorded song “Great Day to be Alive” during their shows as a tribute to the friends they have lost. They also work hard to connect with other veterans and musicians, demonstrating how music can help vets readjust to civilian life.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Articles

This is how the Roman Empire structured its military

The Roman Empire had one of the best militaries of ancient times. It steamrolled over the Carthaginians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, more than held their own against many other forces for centuries.


So, how did the world’s most powerful government organize its deadly legions? Well, it started with a group of eight men known as a contubernium – which was a little smaller than a typical infantry squad (usually nine personnel). Ten contuberniums, plus the command staff, formed a century of 85 men.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide
Some of the specialist roles that were usually filled by auxiliaries. (Youtube Screenshot)

Six centuries – about 540 men – made up a cohort. This unit was roughly the size of a present-day infantry battalion. Ten cohorts, plus attachments including a force of cavalry, made a legion of about 6,000 men, roughly the size of a brigade.

The legions were the largest force in the Roman military. Only citizens could serve in the legions but the Roman military also had cohorts of auxiliaries which allowed non-citzens to serve in the Roman army.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

These auxiliaries were usually slingers, archers, and additional cavalry. Many Roman citizens, who had to provide their own equipment, served as infantry.

After 25 years of service in the Roman army, legionnaires and auxiliaries could look forward to a generous retirement. Those who weren’t citizens gained Roman citizenship and all that meant, plus a plot of land and a generous retirement bonus.

ISO Design, YouTube

Articles

Satellites show N. Korea is amping up nuke program

In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.


According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.

The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.

“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.

It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.

“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”

The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Related: US pushes ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach to North Korea

According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.

However, the North’s submarine fleet remains limited in range as it is undergoing a modernization revamp, and would currently be easily detectable by superior U.S., South Korean, and Japanese anti-submarine warfare technology.

Experts say any scenario involving an attempted firing of a Pukguksong-1 from the Sea of Japan by submarine would effectively be a suicide mission for the North.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress takes action to deter Russian threats

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.

The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.

The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).


The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.

VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.

If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.

The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.

It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.

The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the President is supposed to do during the Army-Navy Game

While the annual Army-Navy Game might be one of the U.S. military’s oldest ongoing traditions, it’s an event that has not always included the Commander-In-Chief. Only ten U.S. Presidents have attended the game at one time or another, but if the nation’s chief executive decides to come, there are traditions for that office to follow when Army plays Navy.


President Trump has attended the game for nearly every year he’s been in office, including attending as President-Elect. While there is no precedent that says he has to attend the game, the very fact that he goes every year could set a new precedent, all the same, creating a tradition for future Commanders-In-Chief to follow throughout their administrations. Woodrow Wilson did something similar when he attended the game, creating a tradition that carries on to this day when the POTUS is in the house.

Although Wilson wasn’t the first American President to attend (that was, of course, the most athletic and all-around competitive President, Theodore Roosevelt), Wilson started the tradition of switching sides during the middle of the game, walking across the field at halftime in order to show no favoritism toward Army or Navy as the game continued. Presidents in attendance from Calvin Coolidge through President Trump have walked across the field ever since.

For many years following the Coolidge Administration, the President did not attend the game. Watching a raucous football game in the middle of the Great Depression and the Second World War might have sent a bad message. But once the economy turned around and the Axis was defeated, President Harry Truman returned to the game for much of his administration. But it wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy helped throw out the pregame coin toss that another Presidential tradition was born. His immediate successors did not attend, but Navy veteran Gerald Ford sure did. The next President to attend would be Bill Clinton, however. And ever since, Presidents have attended at least one Army-Navy Game during their administration.

One presidential event that didn’t catch on was when George W. Bush gave the Naval Academy Midshipmen a pregame speech and a pep talk to the Army Black Knights before the Army-Navy Game as American troops were fighting to avenge the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – a special consideration for a wartime President.

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