With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
Military veterans are getting unlimited access to college assistance under legislation President Donald Trump has signed into law.
The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately. The measure increases financial assistance for National Guard and Reserve members, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state, public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.
Purple Heart recipients forced to leave the service due to injury are eligible for benefits, as are dependents of service members who are killed in the line of duty.
Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology, and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare them for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes mid-semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.
“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting education,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a briefing after Trump signed the measure at his New Jersey golf club following two nights at his home at New York’s Trump Tower.
Trump is staying at the New Jersey club on a working vacation. Journalists were not permitted to see the president sign the bill, as the White House has done for other veterans’ legislation he has turned into law. That includes a measure Trump signed at the club August 12 to provide nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for a temporary veterans health care program.
The August 16 signing came the day after Trump was rebuked for continuing to insist that “both sides” were culpable for an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. One woman was killed.
Also, two Virginia state troopers died in the crash of their helicopter. They were monitoring the rally.
A wide range of veterans groups supported the education measure. The Veterans of Foreign Wars says hundreds of thousands stand to benefit.
Student Veterans of America says that only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.
ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.
The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.
“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”
A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.
(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)
Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.
Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.
Unique camouflage requirements
“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.
The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.
“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”
ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.
“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”
With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.
“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”
As the US ramps up its response to the spread of COVID-19, the Health and Human Services Department was hit with a cyberattack, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
The cyberattack reportedly aimed to slow down HHS computer systems Sunday night, but was unsuccessful in doing so. The attack attempted to flood HHS servers with millions of requests over the course of several hours.
An HHS spokesperson confirmed in a statement to Business Insider that it is investigating a “significant increase in activity” on its cyber infrastructure Sunday night, adding that its systems have remained fully operational.
“HHS has an IT infrastructure with risk-based security controls continuously monitored in order to detect and address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley told Business Insider. “Early on while preparing and responding to COVID-19, HHS put extra protections in place. We are coordinating with federal law enforcement and remain vigilant and focused on ensuring the integrity of our IT infrastructure.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during a White House press briefing Monday afternoon that HHS did not yet know the source of the cyber attack.
“The source of this enhanced activity remains under investigation so I wouldn’t want to speculate on the source of it,” Azar said. “But there was no data breach and no degradation of our function to be able to serve our core mission.”
Following the attempted intrusion, federal officials reportedly became aware that false information was being circulated. The false-information campaigns were related to the hack, but no data was reportedly stolen from HHS systems.
The National Security Council tweeted Sunday night that there were false rumors circulating about a national quarantine, calling the rumors “FAKE.”
No one wants to be a buzz kill. That’s the soft social put down we use to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation or even harder — a self-reflection about alcohol. A topic that has a longstanding relationship with the military community in both good ways and bad.
In InDependent’s bold new series “Wellness Unfiltered” they’re going there, into the harder to uncomfortable spaces military wellness typically shies away from in hopes to support the community and stand together to face tough topics.
Justine Evirs, a social entrepreneur, Navy veteran and Navy spouse is not what you would picture as the face of someone struggling with alcohol. In fact, that’s exactly the reason Evirs decided to step up. “There’s no representation here, not as a veteran, as a woman or minority,” she said candidly. “I’m not homeless. I am a mother, a recognized leader and for a long time didn’t see myself as having any issue until I became more familiar with the four stages of alcoholism,” Evirs said, who in the series breaks down the four stages through her own story and provides educational resources and facts.
On the other microphone is Kimberly Bacso of InDependent who explains the goal of the four-part series is to, “present a non-victimizing approach to give the community the tools we need to both destigmatize and recognize what this looks like.”
“Through this exposure we can now be there for each other, even in simple ways like providing attractive non-alcoholic options at gatherings,” Bacso said. InDependent’s approach to wellness as a wider, holistic standpoint really lends itself to tackling and supporting spouses in this space.
Not having a true picture of what healthy drinking looks like was one component of the larger issue for Evirs, who explained she spent years in stages one and two. “There are different stages and different types of alcoholics. With this conversation, my hope is that we can start asking ourselves why we’re drinking — is it to manage stress? And further, to look at our current drinking relationship from a longevity standpoint — will this be ok in five to 10 years?”
In case you’re curious, the lines between stages are not DUIs, arrests or an unmanageable life. The changes are subtle, and depending on the social company you keep, can go unrecognized or become “normalized” through a skewed perception.
Fear was definitely an inhibitor for Evirs, who admits she feared not only the stigma of this label for herself but the impact it may have on her husband’s career also. “Addiction leads to loneliness, something we already have enough of as military spouses,” Evirs said.
To make recognition worse, Evirs explains that the disease remains largely self-diagnosed. Fear, shame and an unhealthy media portrayal of healthy drinking patterns have shrouded this taboo topic for far too long.
What we love about the series is how it comes across as authentic and is hosted within the safe space of InDependent’s blog and Facebook community. “The series is embedded with links where anyone can find resources as well as the entire four-part conversation well after we’ve streamed them live,” Bacso said.
So, what’s the takeaway here no matter where you identify at any stage of the spectrum? Empowerment and the forward motion of the entire military community. “Even if this is not you, I’m willing to bet you know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” Evirs said.
Here’s to an informed and healthy future. In part two, Evirs explains how perspective has changed how she views the “bonding” that is associated with drinking. Are we really connecting over our talents and who we are as people, or is it the drinks?
We’re looking forward to connecting to a changing culture, no matter what is in your hands.
This week’s Borne the Battle features Wayne Hanson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Wreaths Across America (WAA).
WAA is a national campaign that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at over 1,700 national cemeteries, culminating at Arlington National Cemetery. The three-fold purpose of WAA aims to remember fallen U.S Veterans, honor those who currently serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Here, Hanson explains WAA’s humble beginnings and its rise into the national organization that it is today.
In this episode, Hanson discusses his time in the Army and the socio-political atmosphere of when he returned from Vietnam. He talks about transition and his gradual involvement at WAA. Lastly, he shares the four words from a stranger that kept him motivated to work even to this day.
For more information on Wreaths Across America, or for info on how to volunteer, visit the WAA website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Being in the infantry is a tough gig. Despite that, many of us chose to hold an MOS that requires us to serve in what’s considered the backbone of the U.S. military. Now, you would think, having been around for a few hundred years now, that our military would have things all figured out, right?
Wrong. Many of the ground pounders have had the same gripes and complaints throughout the years.
The Marine Corps is the most underfunded branch of the military as they fall under the Department of the Navy — which is also expensive to maintain. Since the Navy sure doesn’t split their government funds down the middle, only a very small percentage of grunts get new gear.
So, to save money, many infantryman commonly receive what the Army doesn’t use anymore. Bummer.
Being at the armory in general
Many of the troops at the armory have plenty sh*tty schedules. They’ve gotta be around when infantrymen need to check out weapons and they’ve gotta be around when it’s time to check them back in. In general, there’s not a whole lot of excitement going on. So, armorers like to f*ck with the infantryman. How? By not accepting their clean rifles on the first few attempts.
On top of all that, the armorers are rarely on time to the weapons facility in the first place. So, it’s time again to hurry up and wait.
Hey boys and girls, this is what “hurry up and wait” looks like in the military.
(Photo by Jim Veneman)
Hurrying up and waiting
For a country that can deploy to a war zone at a moment’s notice, it’s pretty surprising how inefficient the logistics can be on a smaller scale. Many of the lower enlisted troops know how it feels to “hurry up and wait” just to get word of what’s going to happen for the day.
Nobody likes to wait around to get a table at a restaurant let alone to figure out what they need to get done for the work day.
How important it is to wear black socks over white ones
Outside of it being officially part of the uniform, we couldn’t find a single reason why grunts are required to black socks. In reality, black socks are pretty rough on an infantryman’s feet for a few reasons:
Reportedly, the black dye in socks isn’t as healthy for sweaty feet. Conversely, white socks, for the most part, lack artificial coloring.
Black socks attract more heat, which makes feet sweaty and, eventually, soggy. This can cause ailments, like athlete’s foot, down the line.
Some commands get pissed when they see their troops wearing the offensive white socks on a hot day. Why?
They PT until there’s something else to do. Then, they PT some more.
All the time wasted in the field
Grunts love to blow sh*t up. The idea of rigging an object to explode is written somewhere in the infantryman’s DNA. It can be freakin’ fun to shoot some well-dialed-in rifles and launch grenades at a static target, but first… you need to hurry up and wait some more.
When grunts get out into the field, they sometimes end up doing nothing as they wait for the officers to show up.
The launch, the fourth in a matter of only a few days, followed statements by President Donald Trump claiming that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is starting to respect the US and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserting that North Korea has shown “restraint” by halting its missile tests. America’s lead diplomat even suggested that there might be a path to dialogue.
Evidence indicates that Trump and Tillerson may have misread North Korea’s behavior. “This is not the action of a country that is interested in showing restraint or in creating a glide-path to dialogue, at least not on our terms,” James Schoff, an East Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Washington Post.
Not only is North Korea apparently frustrated with the activities of the US and its allies, but it may also be determined to set a precedent for new missile testing.
The US and South Korea began the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises Aug. 21. The North perceives joint military exercises as a precursor to an armed invasion of North Korean territory.
“This is a clear indication of the attempt to mount a preemptive attack on the North,” a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, argued Aug. 27. North Korea is particularly concerned with the preemptive strike elements of Operation Plan 5015, which the North claims is a key part of this year’s exercises.
“The warmongers at home and abroad are working hard to master and perfect the performance procedures and the actual maneuverability of the “beheading operation” and “secret operation” under OPLAN 5015,” the North Korean state media report explained.
“The DPRK will continue to strengthen its defensive capability with nuclear force, as long as US … does not stop military drills on the doorstep of the DPRK,” North Korean ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song explained Aug. 29. “US pressure and provocative acts only justify the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities.”
North Korea is also irritated with the regular high-level meetings between senior US military officials and their South Korean counterparts.
“It is a very ill-boding development that timed to coincide with the exercises, the US Pacific Command chief, the US Strategic Command head, the Missile Defense Agency director, and other US high-ranking military officers flew into South Korea to hold confabs on the DPRK,” North Korean state media explained.
Furthermore, the North is aware of allied efforts to boost their offensive and defensive capabilities in response to the growing North Korean threat. South Korea conducted its own missile tests last week, testing weaponry designed to penetrate North Korea’s underground and hardened facilities, and Japan just deployed a collection of new missile interceptors.
There is also a strong possibility, as this has long been a strategic objective, that North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the US and its allies in Asia.
The latest missile launch may also clear the way for a more realistic weapons testing program, helping North Korea develop combat-capable missiles to boost its deterrence capabilities.
“There is a technical imperative for conducting this test,” Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told WaPo. “They want to be able to look at reentry dynamics and how it performs on a more normal trajectory.” North Korea will need to ultimately move ships into the area to get telemetry data, but this is a first step.
If the consequences for North Korea’s actions are limited, Pyongyang may assume that the benefits are worth the risks and conduct additional tests of this nature in the future, possibly for its new intercontinental ballistic missile.
“In a way, it’s kind of a trial balloon,” Elleman said. “If we overfly Japan, what happens? If the blowback isn’t too significant, they will feel more comfortable with launching a Hwasong-14 to a good distance to validate its performance on a normal trajectory.”
North Korea typically tests its missiles by lofting them, and then analysts calculate their theoretical range were the missiles to be fired along a normal trajectory. North Korea needs more reliable data if it intends to field a viable nuclear deterrent. When North Korea threatened to fire missiles into waters around Guam earlier this month, some observers suspected that North Korea might be trying to set a precedent for launches over Japan.
“This sets a new dangerous precedent of overflying Japan and launching into the western Pacific,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, posted on Twitter after North Korea’s threats.
While the North may have deescalated earlier, it does not appear to have backed down. The country appears as committed to its strategic ambitions as ever.
Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac are a couple of modern bad asses in their own right. Greg is a C-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and Eli just shredded the 2018 San Diego Supercross. I hate to go all Top Gun on you, but these guys obviously have a need for speed.
“Motocross and Supercross, you’re just in it. We race in rain or shine. The noise from the four-stroke, and you’re in the dirt — it pushes you in every area, whether it’s physically or mentally, it’s the real deal.”
In 2010, Eli was the first rider in history to win his professional debut — since then, he’s continued to prove himself to be one of the fastest riders in the sport. In early 2018, he won his first Monster Energy Supercross, and his brother Greg was there to watch.
“I’m here to support Eli. If it’s a good day or a bad day, the overall goal is to just be a big brother to the guy in the track.”
Greg pointed out the connection between a pilot in his aircraft or a rider on the bike — they’re both about a man and his machine, but neither can do it alone. Pilots and riders require a crew to get their machines going.
“I’m out there as an entertainer [but with] the military…you can’t just go into work and say ‘Oh I’m tired, I’m not gonna ride today.’ You gotta get it done no matter what if you’re in the military so that’s something that I’ll never know…and that’s where I have the utmost respect for everyone that’s in, and that’s for my brother as well.”
Check out the video above to watch Monster’s coverage of Eli’s victory and hear the brothers talk about how they support each other.
The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.
In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.
“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.
In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.
At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.
“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.
In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”
In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”
Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.
Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.
However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.
“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”
Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.
In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.
On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.
“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.
“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan vowed a new wave of helicopter strikes by the Afghan National Security Forces on Taliban insurgents after the delivery of dozens of UH-60 black hawk helicopters, in a joint Saturday appearance with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Gen. John Nicholson pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” after the delivery of the helicopters, adding defiantly “terrorists will not triumph here.” The delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters aligns with President Donald Trump’s renewed push to settle the war in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis previewed the strategy before Congress Wednesday noting that U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan would be adjusted in the months to come that allow airstrikes on Taliban militants anywhere in the country. Former President Barack Obama restricted U.S. strikes to targeting Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking U.S. or Afghan Security Forces. This allowed militants to maintain safe havens throughout the country, knowing they were free of danger of U.S. warplanes.
Rules of engagement are only a small part of the overall change to U.S. posture in the country. Trump pledged in an Aug. 21 address to leave U.S. troops in the country until conditions on the ground justified a reduction and allowed Mattis to deploy an additional 3,000 troops to the country. Mattis deployed the additional 3,000 troops under the guise of a broader U.S. strategy he called “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain,” in Wednesday testimony before Congress.
The first three R’s emphasize the regional approach the administration intends to take, providing additional U.S. military advisers at lower levels of the Afghan National Security Forces, and pledging to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Mattis deployed an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan shortly after Trump’s address to carry out this mission.
The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”
The defence supremos of the U.S. and China had a face-off in Singapore at the weekend.
Both sides came for a compare-and-contrast contest conducted as a rhetorical rumble. The two biggest players in the game exchanged stares, plus plenty of jabs and a few kicks. The handshakes were less convincing than the glares.
The event was the 18th annual Shangri-La Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, drawing defence ministers and military chiefs from ’38 countries across Asia, Australia, North America and Europe’.
In the opening keynote address, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the most important bilateral relationship in the world is beset by ‘tensions and frictions’ that’ll define the international environment for years to come.
Americans now talk openly of containing China, and to do so soon before it is too late — the way they used to talk about the USSR and the Soviet bloc. This negative view of China has permeated the U.S. establishment … In China, views are hardening too. There are those who see the U.S. as trying to thwart China’s legitimate ambitions, convinced that no matter what they do or concede on individual issues, the U.S. will never be satisfied … The fundamental problem between the U.S. and China is a mutual lack of strategic trust. This bodes ill for any compromise or peaceful accommodation.
So the stage was set for the showdown that framed the conference. As is traditional, the first session on June 1, 2019, was devoted to a speech by the U.S. defence secretary and questions from the audience.
Then came the novelty. The first session on June 2, 2019, was a mirror version, devoted to a speech by China’s defence minister, followed by questions. It’s only the second time China’s minister has come to Shangri-La. The previous visit was in 2011; that seems like an era long ago in calmer, happier times.
The U.S. acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, laid out the charge sheet against China and the terms of the U.S. challenge in the workmanlike manner to be expected from an engineer who spent 30 years at Boeing.
China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, performed with the discipline of an artillery officer who joined the People’s Liberation Army at 16 and has risen to the Central Military Commission (a salute at the end of his speech, another at the end of questions). The PLA came ready to rumble, sending a delegation of 54 people, including 11 generals.
One of the best moments in Shanahan’s performance was his response to the final question of his session (posed by a Chinese major general) about how his Boeing experience would shape his Pentagon role.
‘China was our biggest customer and our biggest competitor; you have to understand how to live in that duality’, Shanahan replied. ‘We can develop a constructive relationship and we can understand how to compete in a constructive way.’
The duality dynamic was illustrated by a bit of simultaneous dual theatre from the Americans. As Shanahan rose to speak, the U.S. also released its Indo-Pacific strategy report.
The report reprised and amplified America’s critique of China as a revisionist power: ‘As China continues its economic and military ascendance, it seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately global preeminence in the long-term.’ (The Russia headline was as sharp, calling Russia ‘a revitalized malign actor’.)
In response, Wei described security issues as ‘daunting and complex’ but said military relations with the U.S. were ‘generally stable, despite twists and difficulties’.
Chinese defense minister criticizes U.S. on trade war, Taiwan
‘As for the recent trade friction started by the U.S., if the U.S. wants to talk, we will keep the door open. If they want to fight, we will fight till the end’, Wei said.
‘As the general public of China says these days, “A talk? Welcome. A fight? We’re ready. Bully us? No way”.’
The general’s speech was Beijing boilerplate. Then came questions and Wei tackled almost everything tossed at him — around 20 questions delivered in two tranches. About the only question he didn’t touch was one on whether China is still a communist state.
On the militarisation of the South China Sea, Wei used the same line several times. China was merely responding to all those foreign naval vessels: ‘In the face of heavily armed warships and military aircraft, how can we not deploy any defence facilities?’
To a question about ‘concentration camps’ in Xinjiang (see ASPI’s mapping of the ‘re-education camps’), Wei replied that there’d been no terrorist attacks there in two years and China’s policy was to deradicalise and reintegrate people.
On this year’s 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Wei answered: ‘How can we say China didn’t handle the Tiananmen incident properly? That incident was political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy. Because of that handling of the Chinese government, China has enjoyed stability and development.’
The result of the face-off? It was, of course, inconclusive. Not a draw. Just one round in a contest with many more rounds to come.
President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.
Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.
“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”
President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.
But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.
Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.
The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.
There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.
“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.
US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.
(US Air Force)
While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.
“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.
“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”
Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.
That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.
Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”
“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.
The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.
(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)
Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.
Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.
In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.
Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”
“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”
Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.
“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”
“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.