China may be looking to cozy up to its Middle East ally, Pakistan, now that the U.S. has vowed to cut security aid and other assistance to the country.
Historically, China and Pakistan have maintained close ties. Pakistan first recognized the People’s Republic of China fewer than two years after it was established. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has hailed China as his country’s “best and most trusted friend,” and the two nations remain close strategic trade partners.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman was quick to defend Pakistan on January 2, just hours after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, first announced it would continue to hold back $255 million in aid to the country. “Pakistan has made enormous efforts and sacrifice for the fight against terrorism and has made very outstanding contributions to the global cause of counter-terrorism.”
“China and Pakistan are all-weather partners. We stand ready to promote and deepen our all-round cooperation so as to bring benefits to the two sides,” the spokesman added.
On Wednesday, the central bank of Pakistan announced it would begin using Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade and investment activities, saying that it “foresees that CNY denominated trade with China will increase significantly going forward; and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.”
McCarthy explained that Pakistan is strategic to China expanding its own power, and serves as a crucial entry-point for the southern end of China’s One Belt One Road development initiative, which cuts through Pakistan. Moreover, Chinese developments continue the flow of Chinese labor and supply into Pakistan, which provides China with an economic boost.
Pakistan also plans to reap the benefits from closer ties to China.
McCarthy said Pakistan uses its alliance with China as a “counterbalance” to the U.S. and its main foe, India. And while China doesn’t provide huge amounts of aid to Pakistan, it does provide “solid economic assistance” in the form of projects and infrastructure.
More importantly, China has Pakistan’s back, according to McCarthy: “Unlike the U.S., China doesn’t comment on human rights, and has no particular stance on Pakistan’s human rights issues.”
The U.S. has strongly condemned Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani militants, who are aligned with the Afghan Taliban.
Still, McCarthy believes that while Pakistan and China’s relationship will grow stronger as a byproduct of cuts in U.S. aid, the U.S. still plays an important role to Pakistan, despite major strains.
“There’s no doubt that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is not that healthy at the moment. At the end of the day, Pakistan still needs some relationship with the U.S. because they’re not going to get everything they need from China.”
Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello is warning his party that United States Marines are going to be coming for Venezuela soon. This declaration comes after aircraft from the two countries were involved in an airborne confrontation where a Venezuelan fighter shadowed a U.S. Navy plane in international airspace.
“Their problem will be getting out of Venezuela,” the political leader also said.
A week after a Russian-made Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker fighter “aggressively” shadowed a U.S. Navy plane at an unsafe distance on July 9, 2019, Venezuelan and leftist politicians from around Central and South America met at the Sao Paulo Forum. It was there that Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello issued the baseless warning to the gathered crowd that United States Marines were on their way to his country and would be entering soon.
Most Western governments, including the United States, don’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s regime as the rightful rulers of Venezuela. Instead, they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is in control of the country’s National Assembly. While the Trump Administration isn’t ruling out military action, it has so far preferred diplomacy and sanctions as a means to deal with Maduro.
Cabello is the leader of an alternative legislative body, one not recognized by the National Assembly, loyal to Nicolas Maduro’s government. Cabello is believed to be the second most powerful person in the South American nation.
“We are few, a small country, we are very humble, and here it is likely that the U.S. Marines enter. It is likely that they enter,” he said.
The U.S. Navy plane shadowed by the Flanker fighter was a manned intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft, conducting a routine patrol of the region in international waters, though Venezuela claims the craft violated its airspace. the Lockheed EP-3 operated by the Navy was “performing a multi-nationally recognized approved mission in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea.”
It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.
To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.
Two Kurdish peshmerga troops were killed in the attack, and two French special operators were also seriously wounded. One is still in critical condition. Both were whisked away back to France immediately.
Due to the rapid proliferation of drone technology and the fact that component prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, militant groups are quickly adopting drones as a new weapon.
And yet, the use of drones with explosives, much less against Western forces, is uncommon. In many cases, ISIS simply uses drones for surveillance footage to use in propaganda films.
U.S. forces in Iraq now carry the equipment to bring down these kinds of drones, such as a Battelle DroneDefender, which actually doesn’t even use bullets. Rather, the technology works by disrupting the communication line between the drone and its operator.
It’s unclear if France possesses the same counter-drone technology in the field.
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The USS Little Rock looks like it was designed by a committee of 12-year-old Transformers enthusiasts, that is, like a sports car speedboat battleship with guns that go pew pew pew. It cost the United States about $440 million and is part of a new category of ultra-versatile warship known as the littoral class: “a fast, agile, mission-focused- platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.”
What the Little Rock does not do is fly. This ugly-as-sin future-boat is, ultimately, still just a boat. It was built at a shipyard in Wisconsin and spent the summer of 2017 in trials on Lake Michigan. It was commissioned last month in Buffalo, New York. From there, it’s next stop was to be its home port in Florida. As it turns out, the Little Rock will be a few months late. Because winter.
As reported by the Washington Post, the Little Rock is currently docked in Montreal. It’s stuck. The Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes’ outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, is frozen over.
USS Little Rock enters Buffalo prior to being commissioned. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While colder-than-average temperatures in the Northeast haven’t helped, this is actually normal. The freshwater Seaway (and the Great Lakes shipping system, generally) normally closes to shipping between December and March because of ice.
In any case, this winter stopover for the USS Little Rock wasn’t planned. Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify, offered a statement from the Navy.
The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.
There are some ships actually designed for this. Ice-ready ships usually aren’t even what we’d normally think of icebreakers. These are just normal boats built for cold climates.
Ships with this capability are rated according to “ice class,” a loose classification system corresponding to how much extra strengthening a ship’s hull has. Ice class ships range from Scandinavian ferry boats to Russia’s “polar corvette” take on littoral battleships. Indeed there’s anxiety among military types in the US about an “icebreaker gap” between the US and Russia. That is, we don’t really have fast battleships that can fight in the Arctic, while Russia does.
We’re assured that the 70 person crew is making the most of their time in port, working on training and certifications and other assorted boat stuff. And, as far as places to be stuck in the winter, they’re probably better off in Montreal than, say, Buffalo. There’s nothing like a steaming pile of poutine on a cold-ass day.
Three years after the first prototype for the Black Hawk aircrew trainer was set up and implemented as a training aid at Fort Bliss, Texas, that technology has been enhanced.
A team from System Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile, also known as AMRDEC, has developed the Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment. Crew chiefs and gunners can train in a realistic setting where they see and hear the same things simultaneously.
Because there was no funding, Joseph P. Creekmore Jr., S3I aviation trainer branch chief and BAT Project director, said BAT team members used borrowed or discarded materials to work on the CAPE during breaks between scheduled projects.
It paid off.
“Design began over a year ago at a somewhat frustratingly slow pace for the BAT Team but, week by week and part by part, the CAPE device took shape and became the device we have today,” Creekmore said.
Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment.
(Photo by Evelyn Colster)
The singular focus of the Army’s modernization strategy is making sure the warfighter and their units are ready to fight, win, and come home safely. As the head of the BAT Project, Creekmore said he believes the Army needs the CAPE to contribute to and ensure readiness in aircrews.
“Because we are a nation that has been continuously at war since 9/11, all the BAT Projects’ Army aviators have experienced combat overseas,” Creekmore said. “They all went into combat as part of a trained team.
“They all survived combat because they fought as a team. All the BAT Project’s former and retired Army aviators know to their very core that, to fight and win America’s wars, the Army must train as it fights and that includes training as a full aircrew,” Creekmore explained. “So, from Day 1, the BAT Project dreamed and planned for an opportunity to demonstrate an excellent whole-crew trainer that would contribute to the readiness of all U.S. Army Air Warriors.”
CAPE and BAT are linked using an ethernet connection. Creekmore said the nine locations with fielded BAT devices only need a tethered CAPE to provide Army aviation units with a way to train a complete UH-60 aircrew.
Manuel Medina, S3I assimilated integration technician, said he was blown away when he was first introduced to this technology. “Back when I was in, we didn’t even have anything like this… If we had the flight hours and the maintenance money to train, we would.”
According to Jarrod Wright, S3I lead integrator who built the BAT, many aircraft incidents are a result of some type of aircrew miscommunication.
Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment that is tethered to the Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer.
(Photo by Evelyn Colster)
“What we’re trying to do here is … teach that crew coordination to allow pilots and crew chiefs to train like they would in combat with two devices tethered to each other,” said Wright, who spent more than eight years as a crew chief.
“In combat, no UH-60 breaks ground without its full complement of two rated aviators, a non-rated crew chief/door gunner and a second door gunner,” Creekmore explained. He said this type of equipment and training is necessary to maintain the high performance level and proficiency that exists in our Warfighters.
“This environment allows you, not only to train, but to evaluate potential crew chiefs and door gunners,” Wright posited. “You’re not throwing someone in there and saying, ‘I hope he gets it’.”
Medina, also a former gunner and crew chief, said this technology can benefit the Army in many ways. Not only can maintenance costs, flight hours, fuel, and training dollars be reduced, but the BAT and CAPE systems focus on considerations like spatial orientation or disorientation, response to changes in gravity, and susceptibility to airsickness. These devices mimic conditions crews see in flight and can identify adverse reactions while minimizing inherent risks.
The BAT Project team has high hopes for the CAPE.
“It is my hope that … the Army invests in further development of the CAPE and then fields it as BAT mission equipment so we can get this critical training capability in the hands of UH-60 aircrews throughout the Army,” Creekmore said.
Wright said the potential exists to use this technology to train complete crews in rescue hoisting and cargo sling load — any scenario they might encounter in any type of combat or rescue situation. He even sees the possibility for the BAT and CAPE to be used as preparation for hurricane relief or similar missions.
The Aviation Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
After a chaotic week of unforced errors courtesy of President Donald Trump, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats calmly explained that Russia’s efforts “to undermine our basic values,” “divide us from our allies,” and “wreak havoc with our election process” are “undeniable,” grimly concluding: “We’re under attack.” Noting that “the very pillar…of democracy is the ability to have confidence in your elected officials—that they were elected legitimately,” Coats added, “We have to take every effort to ensure that happens in this upcoming election and future elections.”
Before discussing some of the efforts the U.S. might take in response to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, it’s worth recapping what Moscow has been doing.
Using cyber-technologies, social media, and false-front organizations, Russia has carried out strategic-influence operations targeting political-electoral systems in 27 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and several other NATO allies.
Freedom House reports that Russia has “deepened its interference in elections in established democracies through…theft and publication of the internal documents of mainstream parties and candidates, and the aggressive dissemination of fake news and propaganda.” Kristofer Harrison, who worked in the State Department and Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush, points to examples at Bloomberg, Reuters, the New York Times and other reputable news organizations.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Fountain Hills, Arizona, before the March 22, 2016 primary.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Moscow’s goal in these actions, according to a U.S. intelligence report, is to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.” Moscow may be succeeding.
A plurality of Americans (45 percent) believe Russia leaked hacked material to impact the 2016 election, and 68 percent of Americans express concern that Russia will interfere in future elections. Beyond the U.S., just glance at recent headlines: “Russian hackers are targeting Macron,” blares a France24 report. “Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote,” reads a headline from The Times of London. “Merkel warns of Russian cyberattacks in German elections,” Deutsche Welle adds.
Add it all up, and both the evidence of Russian interference and the worry regarding future interference serves to undermine democratic institutions all across the West.
In this light, NSC-68, the pivotal national-security document penned in 1950 that provided a roadmap for waging the Cold War, seems strangely relevant. NSC-68 noted that Moscow’s “preferred technique is to subvert by infiltration and intimidation,” that “every institution of our society is an instrument which it is sought to stultify and turn against our purposes,” that institutions “that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets,” that Moscow’s objective is to prevent those institutions “from serving our ends and thus to make them sources of confusion in our economy, our culture and our body politic.”
Yes, NSC-68 was a response to the communist Soviet Union. However, it pays to recall that post-Soviet, post-communist Russia is led by a former KGB intelligence officer who was trained in the dark arts of disinformation and influence manipulation. His intelligence agencies and cyber-soldiers have triggered a cascade of scandals that are paralyzing our government, sowing confusion and undermining public confidence in our institutions.
Consider: Russia’s hacking into U.S. political campaigns, manipulation of social media and use of weaponized leaks first eroded support for the Clinton campaign; then undermined the legitimacy of the Trump administration; and finally, as former CIA official Mark Kelton concludes, helped “advance Putin’s over-arching goals of degrading American power, denigrating American ideals, and driving a wedge between President Trump and the U.S. intelligence community.”
President Barack Obama’s too little, too late and toothless “cut it out” warning to Putin as well as Trump’s obsequious echo of Putin’s promise that “it’s not Russia…I don’t see any reason why it would be” have failed to address this threat. Both leaders have overlooked a basic truth in dealing with dictators: All that matters when interacting with Putin, and his kind are actions — theirs and ours. What Churchill said of his Russian counterparts remains true of Putin and his puppets. “There is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness.”
Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin outside Moscow, Russia on July 7, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Here are some pathways policymakers could take to change Putin’s calculus and raise the costs of his malign actions.
1. Defend the Homefront against Foreign Intrigue
In his farewell address, Washington warned about the “insidious wiles of foreign influence” and the “mischiefs of foreign intrigue,” urging his countrymen “to be constantly awake” to such dangers.
The good news amidst all the troubling news is that key institutions—Congress, federal and state agencies, and the press—have been awakened to the dangers posed by Russia’s strategic-influence operations. Day by day, these institutions are exploring and exposing Russian intrusion into the U.S. political system.
Several Senate and House committees are investigating Russia’s reach, which is altogether appropriate. But to restore and preserve the integrity of America’s institutions, Congress should create a joint committee of seasoned members—with fact-finding and legislative authority—dedicated to a) monitoring, investigating and exposing attempts by Russia and other foreign entities to interfere in the U.S. political-electoral system; b) identifying individuals and entities in the U.S. that collaborate with or work on behalf of hostile governments like Russia; and c) securing necessary, sustained funding to help state and county election agencies shield themselves from foreign intrusion.
That last point highlights the genius of America’s decentralized election system. Its highly diffuse nature—with the electoral process governed not by some national agency, but rather by 50 states and 3,141 counties—makes it difficult for a foreign power to manipulate outcomes. Even so, evidence of Russian efforts to penetratelocal election systems and acquire firms that handle voter-registration data are raising flags. Federal resources can help expose these efforts and harden these targets.
2. Take the Fight to Russia
Even as they stand up their new committee—call it the Joint Select Committee on Election Integrity—congressional leaders should reopen the U.S. Information Agency, which was shut down in 1999, after decades of countering Moscow’s Cold War propaganda. Former DNI James Clapper proposes “a USIA on steroids to fight this information war a lot more aggressively than we’re doing right now.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper.
Likewise, NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti urges Washington to “bring the information aspects of our national power more fully to bear on Russia.” He recommends strengthening and unleashing the Russian Information Group (a joint effort of U.S European Command and the State Department) and the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (a project charged with countering foreign disinformation).
Further up the ladder, the United States could respond in kind to Putin’s assault on the West’s political systems. It’s not difficult to imagine the U.S. executing a cyber-operation that turns Putin’s stage-managed elections into a full-blown farce: returns showing Leonid Brezhnev finishing second or Czar Nicholas II winning a few oblasts or no one at all winning. Putin would get the message.
3. Shore up the Infrastructure
Arguing that democracy “needs cultivating,” President Ronald Reagan helped create the National Endowment for Democracy “to foster the infrastructure of democracy.”
Similarly, perhaps it’s time for the world’s foremost groupings of democratic nations—the G-7, European Union, NATO and its partners in Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia—to create a pool of resources to reinforce and rebuild the infrastructure of liberal democracy, monitor and expose Moscow’s cyber-siege of the West, and help those countries under information-warfare assault preserve the integrity of their democratic institutions.
4. Deploy Additional Instruments of National Power
Finally, the United States should offer moral support to democracy inside Russia and along Russia’s periphery. “A little less détente,” as Reagan argued, “and more encouragement to the dissenters might be worth a lot of armored divisions.”
Toward that end, Washington should provide a sturdy platform to human-rights activists, journalists and political dissidents from Russia; use high-profile settings to highlight Russia’s democracy deficit; and draw attention—relentlessly and repeatedly—to Putin’s assaults on human rights, civil society, religious liberty and political pluralism.
To his credit, Trump took this very tack vis-à-vis North Korea during his 2018 State of the Union address. It’s time to use the bully pulpit in the same way against Putin. If the president is unable or unwilling to do so, leaders in Congress and at relevant agencies must fill the vacuum, as Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray recently have.
Hard-power tools can serve as an exclamation point to these words: More defensive weaponry could flow to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s fragile democracy; rotational deployments in the Baltics and Poland could be made permanent to reassure NATO’s easternmost members; NATO could stand up an Allied Command-Arctic to checkmate Putin’s next landgrab; the U.S. could deploy its vast energy reserves, in Gen. Martin Dempsey’s words, “as an instrument of national power” to make Russia’s oligarchs feel the consequences of Putin’s actions.
Revelations of Russian interference are troubling. But they are also clarifying. In light of its actions, there should be no question as to whether Putin’s Russia is a friend, no illusions that Putin can be mollified by promises of “resets” or post-election “flexibility,” no doubts about Moscow’s motives, no debate over the threat posed by a revisionist Russia.
The task ahead is to fully expose Russia’s reach into our political system, strengthen our institutions to harden them against another wave of foreign influence, and defend liberal democracy at home and abroad.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan March 16, President Donald J. Trump asked for a defense budget increase of $30 billion for the Defense Department in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, to rebuild the armed forces and accelerate the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The fiscal 2017 budget amendment provides $24.9 billion in base funds for urgent warfighting readiness needs and to begin a sustained effort to rebuild the armed forces, according to the president’s letter.
“The request seeks to address critical budget shortfalls in personnel, training, maintenance, equipment, munitions, modernization and infrastructure investment. It represents a critical first step in investing in a larger, more ready and more capable military force,” Trump wrote.
The request includes $5.1 billion in overseas contingency operations funds so the department can accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIS and support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, he said, noting that the request would enable DoD to pursue a comprehensive strategy to end the threat ISIS poses to the United States.
At the Pentagon this afternoon, senior defense officials briefed reporters on the on the fiscal 2017 budget amendment. The speakers were John P. Roth, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense-comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, director of force structure, resources and assessment on the Joint Staff.
“Our request to Congress is that they pass a full-year defense appropriations bill,” and that the bill includes the additional $30 billion, Roth said.
“We are now approaching the end of our sixth month under a continuing resolution,” he added, “one of the longest periods that we have ever been under a continuing resolution.”
The continuing resolution run for the rest of the fiscal year, Pentagon officials “would find that extremely harmful to the defense program,” Roth said.
“We are essentially kind of muddling along right now in terms of … borrowing resources against third- and fourth-quarter kinds of finances in order to keep things going,” he said. “But that game gets to be increasingly difficult as we go deeper into the fiscal year.”
Under a continuing resolution, the department has to operate under a fiscal 2016 mandate, creating a large mismatch between operations funds and procurement funds, Roth explained. The department can’t spend procurement dollars because there’s a restriction on new starts and on increasing production, he said, “but we have crying needs in terms of training, readiness, maintenance … and in the operation and maintenance account.”
The continuing resolution expires April 28, “so before then, we would want a full appropriation and, of course, a full appropriation with this additional $30 billion,” he said.
Roth said much of the money in the fiscal 2017 request is funding for operations and maintenance.
“We’re asking for additional equipment maintenance funding, additional facilities maintenance, spare parts, additional training events, peacetime flying hours, ship operations, munitions and those kinds of things,” he told reporters. “This is the essence of what keeps this department running on a day-to-day basis. It keeps us up and allows us to get ready for whatever the next challenge is.”
The officials said full support from Congress is key to improving warfighter readiness, providing the most capable modern force, and increasing the 2011 Budget Control Act funding cap for defense.
A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.
The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.
Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.
The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.
Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.
“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.
In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.
“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.
While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.
The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.
“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.
“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”
The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.
This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.
Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.
On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.
According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.
Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.
When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.
Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.
“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.
As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.
The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”
In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.
The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.
“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.
Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.
In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.
“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.
“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”
Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”
“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”
But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.
Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”
The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”
Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.
“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.
“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”
With a sprinkle of holy water and a protester condemning the late Mikhail Kalashnikov as a “manufacturer of death,” Russian authorities have unveiled a monument to the designer of the widely used AK-47 assault rifle.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and the head of state-run military-industrial conglomerate Rostec were on hand for the dedication of the monument to Kalashnikov on the Garden Ring road in central Moscow on September 19.
The statue — not far from monuments to renowned poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin — was unveiled by Kalashnikov’s daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova.
Minutes before the ceremony began, a man unfurled a sign saying, “the manufacturer of weapons is a manufacturer of death.” He was quickly detained by police and taken away from the site.
The weapon Kalashnikov invented is the most widely used assault rifle in the world and has been fired in nearly every conflict around the globe for the last 50 years.
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov is an embodiment of the best features of a Russian person — extraordinary natural giftedness, simplicity, honesty, organizational talent,” Medinsky said, adding that “the Kalashnikov assault rifle is truly…a cultural brand of Russia.”
The head of Russia’s Udmurtia region, Aleksandr Brechalov, spoke at the ceremony, praising Kalashnikov for his contribution to “Russia’s glory and defense.”
Kalashnikov lived and worked for many years in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are still made.
A Russian Orthodox priest then prayed for Kalashnikov and sprinkled the monument with water sanctified by the church.
But Kalashnikov — who was born into a peasant family during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and died in 2013 at the age of 94 — voiced mixed feelings about his achievements and his legacy late in life.
Several months before his death, he wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he said: “The pain in my soul is unbearable.
“I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I…am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov Group’s headquarters in Izhevsk.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historical Society — which is chaired by Medinsky — and by Rostec, whose CEO is Putin ally Sergei Chemezov. Rostec is the majority owner of Kalashnikov.
The monument was unveiled on a state-mandated professional holiday honoring Russian arms makers going back to tsarist times.
Kremlin critics say that Putin, who has involved Russia in wars in Syria and Ukraine and touts Soviet and imperial-era battlefield achievements to promote patriotism, focuses on military affairs to draw attention away from domestic troubles.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.
Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.
“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”
Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.
“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.
“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.
“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”
“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”
In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.
Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.
The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.
Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”
The 2018 Invictus Games started Oct. 20, 2018, and competitors, staff members, family and friends are excited for the fourth iteration of this international competition. With a record 18 allied nations participating, the Invictus Games has grown immensely in popularity and stature since its inaugural event in London in 2014. It has become the pinnacle event for many wounded, ill and injured service members around the world who compete in adaptive sports.
“Being here in Sydney and at the Invictus Games is such a different level,” said retired Maj. Christina Truesdale, who is among those competing at the Invictus Games for the first time this year. “The human connection is unreal. Everyone is so friendly and it’s all hugs, love and respect for each other.”
Truesdale discovered adaptive sports in the fall of 2017 while recovering from a tethered spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia. She has since made huge strides in her adaptive sports journey. After competing at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado and in multiple cycling races, this will be Truesdale’s first taste of international competition.
“I’ve trained with expectations and I hope I win a medal, but I have to remember, I’m here in Sydney at the Invictus Games with so many other awesome athletes. It’s a great experience and it’s important to live in and enjoy the moment,” she added.
U.S. Army Maj. Christina Truesdale pushes through the second of three grueling laps on the cycling course before gutting out a bronze medal in her upright classification during the cycling event June 6, 2018, at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games. She is competing in the Invictus Games, happening Oct. 20-27, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Robert Whetstone)
Another first time Invictus Games participant is U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, who recovered at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas after suffering a hip labrum tear and back injuries. She competed at both the 2017 and 2018 DOD Warrior Games and is also excited to have reached the next level, achieving her goal of representing Team USA and checking a visit to Australia off her bucket list.
“It’s an honor and privilege to represent my country and compete alongside the different services [instead of against them at Warrior Games],” Kendrick said. “Competing at the Invictus Games is a way for me to show what I’ve learned and showcase what the coaches have taught me and what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
One of the most exciting elements of the Invictus Games, according to both women and many other competitors, is getting to know wounded, ill and injured service members from other countries. “I’ve been making it a point to meet people from the other teams and learn about them, hear about their countries, experiences, and build bonds with others across the world,” Kendrick said.
Truesdale added, “It’s interesting to interact with others you know are on a similar journey as you. They may not speak the same language, but we all identify with each other because we’ve all served and been through something.”
For the 500-plus athletes competing in the games, each of them is ready for their opportunity to show the world their unconquered spirit — but for Kendrick, just having that chance is what it is all about.
“I’m going to love every microsecond of the Invictus Games experience. I’ve worked hard to get here and whether I win a medal or not, it’s already mission accomplished.”
On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.
This is the work of Homes for our Troops.
HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.
After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.
“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”
Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to pursue a career in real estate.
“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT. “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”
Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.
Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors. Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.
“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”
For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.