The military doesn’t always get things straight and sometimes it takes a little nudge to right a wrong. In Daniel Crowley’s case, the military took 76 years to get his records straight. And the nudge was thanks to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS). But the 98-year old Connecticut citizen was there to be finally recognized.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, Crowley was awarded his long-overdue sergeant’s chevrons, his Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), and his Prisoner of War Medal.
The ceremony was held at the Bradley International Airport/Air National Guard hanger in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, which is home to the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing. Gregory Slavonic, the acting undersecretary of the Navy presided over the ceremony. He was assisted by his Executive Assistant G. J. Leland, a former commanding officer of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The two worked with the secretary of the Army to research and confirm all the awards and promotions that Mr. Crowley had earned during World War II, including his promotion to sergeant which he was never made aware of.
Crowley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1940. He said that he was hoping to see the world at the government’s expense. In March 1941, he was assigned to Nichols Field, in Manila in the Philippines. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they bombed the Americans in the Philippines as well, destroying the airfield and the aircraft stationed there. The Americans were shuttled over to the Bataan Peninsula.
Crowley served on Bataan, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941, as a member of the Army Air Corps. When those units were turned into the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan, he fought there until the Americans, out of food, ammunition, and medicine, surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.
But Crowley wasn’t done fighting. He and several other troops refused to surrender. They hid among the rocks along the shore, and by doing so, missed the horrific Bataan Death March. At night, they swam the treacherous, shark-infested waters for three miles over to the Corregidor bastion that was still fighting the Japanese. There, he fought with the 4th Marines against the Japanese until they too surrendered about a month later. Read Next: New Leaders, New Direction: Reinvented MIA Agency Impresses
The Japanese brought the prisoners back to Manila and forced them to march through the streets in what was characterized as the walk of shame. Then they were shuttled off to Camp Cabanatuan. Conditions at Cabanatuan were horrific. To escape that, Crowley and others volunteered to work to help build a Japanese airfield on Palawan Island. There, they build an airstrip using only hand tools.
Coincidentally, the remaining POWs in Cabanatuan were rescued in one of the most daring and successful Special Operations raids in our history. In January 1945, before the Japanese could execute the POWs, members of the 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of Henry Mucci raided the camp and rescued them.
In March 1944, after Crowley and the other soldiers had finished working on the airstrip, they were shipped off to Japan to provide slave labor in a copper mine.
Crowley was released from hellish captivity on September 4, 1945. He returned to his Connecticut home and family. In April 1946, he was honorably discharged from the Army at Ft. Devens, MA.
The ADBC-MS is the leading voice for Pacific War veterans and their families. It promotes education and scholarship about the POW experience in the Pacific. It supports programs of reconciliation and understanding and advocates for a Congressional Gold Medal for the POWs of Japan.
Of the 26,000 American POWs who were prisoners of the Japanese, more than 11,000 (over 40 percent), died or were murdered in captivity. By comparison, only 1.5 percent of the POWs captured by the Germans died in captivity.
In honor of Mr. Crowley and the other POWs, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has proclaimed January 4, Pacific War Heroes Day.
We would like to thank Mindy Kolter from ADBC-MS, who furnished SOFREP with the details of Mr. Crowley’s story. You can watch a video on Mr. Crowley below.
Iran says it is continuing to acquire uranium and is close to finishing a plant where it can build more centrifuges to enrich uranium.
The announcement on July 18, 2018, comes a day after Iran filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull his country out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring its obligations under the landmark deal with world powers after Trump’s decision.
Under the terms of the 2015 agreement — which also was signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The other signatories have said they will remain a part of the deal. Iran has demanded financial concessions from Europe to compensate for losses caused by Washington’s renewed sanctions.
Khamenei in June 2018 announced his country was preparing to increase uranium-enrichment capacity at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran will continue adhering to the nuclear deal and that the country’s stepped-up nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.
A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters that the organization was aware of Iran’s announcement but had no comment.
Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, while Washington has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
That gives scientists a chance to complete the mission’s main goal: to map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravitational fields.
This work is done by flying Juno over Jupiter’s cloud tops at speeds roughly 75 times as fast as a bullet. These flybys, called perijoves, happen once every 53.5 days. The most recent one (Juno’s 14th perijove) occurred on July 16, 2018, and the prior flyby was on May 24, 2018.
The high-speed trips have allowed NASA to document the gas giant like never before. An optical camera called JunoCam captures beautiful images of Jupiter each time, and the space agency uploads the raw photo data to its websites. Then people around the world can download that data and process it into stunning color pictures.
Here are 13 mesmerizing images from the latest perijove, along with a few highlights from past flybys.
This high-contrast photo was processed by NASA software engineer Kevin M. Gill, who processes raw data from each perijove soon after it becomes available. You can find more of his work on Twitter or Flickr.
A 3D illustration of Jupiter’s stormy north pole made using infrared photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot looks like a leering ruddy-red eye in this processed image from Juno’s 12th perijove.
Doran also made this mysterious portrait of the planet, in which you can see the twinkle of myriad stars in the background.
You can see more of Doran’s work on his Twitter or Flickr pages, and he also sells some of his Jupiter images as posters through the platform Redbubble.
An illustration of NASA’s Juno probe flying over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot superstorm.
Half of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa as seen via images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.
Jupiter as seen by the Juno probe during its 10th perijove.
For the next three years, though, we’ll continue to get new batches of incredible images from the farthest solar-powered spacecraft ever launched from Earth.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”
If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.
Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.
Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.
If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.
“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.
“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”
Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.
Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:
For the first time, U.S. and Libyan officials have confirmed that U.S. Special Operations were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.
Due to the fact that the mission was not yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.
Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.
This decision from the Pentagon comes on the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Postreports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.
In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the U.S.’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.
“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.
Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.
Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.
For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.
Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.
Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.
The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.
According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.
“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”
The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.
Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”
A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.
One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.
TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”
Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.
Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.
In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.
Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.
Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.
(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.
In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.
One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.
In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.
But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.
The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.
Senator John McCain.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.
The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.
The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.
Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.
Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.
Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.
Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.
John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.
“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.
Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.
(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)
After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.
Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.
The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.
The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.
The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.
TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.
The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.
“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”
The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.
“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”
Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.
“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”
The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.
But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.
TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.
In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”
Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”
McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”
But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.
McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”
McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.
“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”
The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.
The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.
That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.
“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”
Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.
This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.
This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @ProPublica on Twitter.
In November 2017, Oh Chung Sung, a defected North Korean soldier, plowed through a Korean People’s (North Korean) Army checkpoint attempting to cross the DMZ. KPA soldiers fired on him and his vehicle. When his vehicle crashed, troops closed in and shot him several times. Republic of Korea (South Korean) Army troopers discovered the wounded defector and dragged him to safety.
Not many details are known, since North Korea’s state news isn’t the most reputable source and, as it turns out, Oh may have been pretty drunk through most of it.
Due to the multiple gunshot wounds, pneumonia, and 10-inch parasites living inside him, he has only had the strength to endure around an hour of questioning per day by South Korean intelligence agencies. Rumors started circulating that Oh was involved in a murder in North Korea before fleeing the country. These rumors are still being investigated but, as it turns out, what he may have been hiding was the fact that he was severely intoxicated during his escape, and was trying to avoid getting a DUI.
Reports show that he was trying to impress a friend by driving into Panmunjom village, the site of the 1953 Armistice signing. It’s not known if or how long he had been planning to defect, but he admits the actual escape wasn’t planned.
South Korea has a policy to aid and resettle North Korean defectors, but Oh’s story is one of the most high profile cases. He openly embraced South Korea and had a flag hung in his hospital room to reassure him that his escape was successful.
Another benefit of escaping a dictatorship on a drunken bender was being able to ask for a Choco Pie, a South Korean snack similar to the American MoonPie. He told officials that he loved the treats and that Kim Jong Un had banned them in the North since they represent the evils of capitalism. After he told them about the “Choco Pie Black Market,” the manufacturer of the snacks, Orion, swore to give Oh a lifetime supply of Choco Pies as long as he remains in South Korea.
When we left off, you were hanging from a pull-up bar trying to get your knees to your chest for the first time since Basic.
Max, in his wisdom, started you out in the gym, which is full of many helpful things, like dumbbells and molecules of air. He wanted you to develop a little stoutness at your center, because he knows what’s coming and you, silly wittle baby, do not. You’re wet behind the ears, is what he’s saying. And that’s not even 5% wet enough to pass the Max Your Body, Season 1 final exam.
Today, you’re either going to sink or survive.
Because it’s all well and good to be fit with both feet planted on firm ground, unbound and wearing comfy, civilian shoes. It’s been years since you were a fetus, so you’ve forgotten what it’s like when there’s water on all sides of you, it’s dark and murky, and it’s up to you to figure out where your next lungful of sweet, sweet air is coming from.
Today, Max would like to remind you of the primordial fluid from whence you swam. And to make it extra memorable, he’s going to bind your feet at the ankles and your hands behind your back.
If you haven’t tapped out at this point, it’s advisable that you tap a buddy to be in charge of Operation You Not Drowning. Everything all nice and secure? Excellent! In you go.
Your mission — and it’s too late to opt out — is to suppress your rational panic and concentrate on using all this handy fitness you’ve been developing to go Full Amphibian while the water rises around you. You. Can. Do. This. For nine months, this was your everything. You used to be the Chuck Norris of tadpoles. Time to make your mother proud.
And if you do start getting the urge to have a big baby meltdown, just remember, there’s a benefit to plunging in with Max.
The benefit is you’ve lost the illusion of control. There’s no turning back. And the alternative to rising to this most fetal of challenges is sinking to the most fatal of depths.
Death, at whatever depth, is dumb. So it’s your choice, baby.
Watch as Max takes your fear and drowns it in a municipal pool, in the video embedded at the top.
The new weapons would render NATO’s US-led missile defense “useless,” and is a testament to the international community’s failure to contain Russia’s military development, the Associated Press reported Putin as saying.
I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened. You have failed to contain Russia.
The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.
“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.
“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.
The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.
In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.
In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.
Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”
While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.
The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.
China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.
Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In support of on-going efforts to make command posts more resilient, mobile, and survivable, the Army is pushing to get secure Wi-Fi to the field to help gain an operational edge against potential peer and near-peer adversaries.
Following the relocation of a command post on the battlefield, referred to as a “jump,” secure Wi-Fi enables critical network and mission command systems to come up online in minutes, versus waiting many hours for Soldiers to wire a command post for network connectivity.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division successfully piloted this secure Wi-Fi capability for a second time during decisive action training at the National Training Center, or NTC, on Fort Irwin, California, which concluded in November 2017. During this realistic combat training event, the unit fought against a capable adversary and used secure Wi-Fi extensively throughout its brigade command post to speed maneuver, provide continuity of mission command and remain a step ahead of enemy forces.
“The key benefit provided by secure Wi-Fi is the velocity that it brings to [the set up of] my mission command systems,” said Col. Michael Adams, commander of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “Near-peer adversaries are much more capable than enemies we trained against previously. In a decisive action training environment, [armed with secure Wi-Fi], we are much faster and more mobile, and that equates to survivability.”
The unit successfully used secure Wi-Fi to provide untethered network connections to enable secure wireless voice, video, and data exchange on more than 60 unclassified computers and 100 classified computers and mission command systems, such as Command Post Of the Future. At any given point during this event, there were at least 60 active secure Wi-Fi users inside the brigade main command post, known as the Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, Adams said. The only wired systems that were not allowed to be wired were those Army mission command systems that were waiting to receive Army authority to operate on secure Wi-Fi.
“The win was that once the Wi-Fi system was up, I could get everyone up at the same time across the entire staff,” Adams said. “It’s a colloquialism; many hands make light work, but it’s also an ability to fuse the actions of the entire brigade combat team across all warfighting functions.”
Similar to the Wi-Fi used in most homes, the Army’s National Security Agency-accredited solution provides wireless network connectivity inside the command post, with added layers of security. secure Wi-Fi is managed by the Army’s Product Manager Network Modernization, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network.
Without wireless capability, establishing a network in a typical brigade command post takes many hours and requires dozens of boxes of expensive CAT 5 network cable that weigh hundreds of pounds. Every time a command post is jumped, the cables have to be cut, laid out, configured and plugged in, and often replaced because of damage and continual wear and tear. Protective flooring has to be laid over the wiring, making it difficult to troubleshoot network issues. Secure Wi-Fi can eliminate these hurdles since its small remote access points provide quick and easy network connections throughout the entire command post within minutes.
“Secure Wi-Fi also speeds our mission military decision-making process,” Adams said. “If I know that something is going on and I can get ahead of the enemy commander, then I can set the conditions so that he is fighting from a position of disadvantage. With secure Wi-Fi, I gain an exponential increase in velocity, and the deeper the Wi-Fi capabilities in the formation, the more we are able to do.”
To outmaneuver its near-peer adversary at the NTC, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division had to jump its brigade TOC several times during the realistic field exercise. These massive relocation efforts in the harsh terrain of the Mojave Desert were sometimes conducted in the dark of night, and because of mock threats of chemical and biological warfare, Soldiers were required to wear protective gear, making it more difficult to set up and wire a large brigade command post. Secure Wi-Fi made it much easier and faster to set up the network (from hours to minutes) under these extreme conditions, and users were able to connect to the network and use their mission command systems earlier and stay connected longer prior to the next jump, Adams said.
“Without Wi-Fi, users were often waiting (depending on position or rank) for wire to be run,” said Maj. Michael Donegan, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division communications officer (S6). “This proves wildly inefficient, as everyone on a TOC floor has an immediate and uniquely important job to accomplish. The ability to rapidly collaborate in planning is critical in order to defeat a near-peer threat. With the introduction of Wi-Fi, you don’t have to choose or prioritize which users get access first.”
Secure Wi-Fi decreased the brigade’s TOC relocation time dramatically, with the unit able to be up on all Army mission command system services simultaneously much sooner after arriving on site. It also enabled the commander to set up the TOC in different configurations to support new locations or mission requirements without having to cut new lengths of wire, Donegan said.
“The ability to have a mobile command post and exercise mission command with secure Wi-Fi continues to be a force multiplier,” Donegan said.
Adams said he is looking forward to seeing secure Wi-Fi eventually implemented at battalion-level command posts as well, to further increase his brigade’s speed of maneuver. The Army has recently developed a smaller version that reduces the footprint of the server stacks by 60 percent, to support smaller echelon command posts requiring fewer users. The Army plans to demonstrate this small form factor secure Wi-Fi capability during a risk reduction event in spring 2018 as a rapid acquisition initiative.
The Army continues to use Soldier feedback from pilots, user juries, and training events such as NTC rotations to continuously improve and provide the best capability possible, as part of an iterative process where lessons are always being learned and technology continuously is adapted to the way the Army needs to fight.
In December 2017, the Army issued a Command Post Directed Requirement, intended to enable experimentation and rapid prototyping to better inform command post requirements. The directed requirement is closely nested with the draft Command Post Integrated Infrastructure, or CPI2, capability development document, which would create a new program of record to provide mobile command post solutions to Corps, Division, and Brigade Combat Teams.
The directed requirement calls for the Army to leverage wireless technology capabilities to facilitate rapid connectivity and displacement. Secure Wi-Fi is proving to be a vital element in the Army’s acquisition of new integrated expeditionary command posts solutions, said Lt. Col. Mark Henderson, the Product Manager for Network Modernization who manages secure Wi-Fi for the Army. Henderson is a member of Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T.
“Lack of mobility and agility are amongst the biggest factors making today’s large command posts vulnerable in near-peer threat environments,” Henderson said.” Secure Wi-Fi increases mobility and operational flexibility, and better enables mission command so commanders can do what they do best — fight and win!”
The government of Montenegro has defended its contribution to peace in response to a comment from the U.S. President Donald Trump, who said in July 2018 that the tiny Balkan state’s “aggressive” people were capable of triggering “World War III.”
In a July 19, 2018 statement, the Montenegrin government said, “We are proud of our history, our friendship and alliance with USA is strong and permanent.”
“[Montenegro] was the first [country] in Europe to resist fascism, and today as a new NATO member and a candidate for EU membership it contributes to peace and stability not only on the European continent but worldwide, and along with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The statement also stressed that while building friendly relations with other countries, Montenegro was ready “to boldly and defensively protect and defend our own national interests.”
U.S. President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“In today’s world, it does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity, and democracy. Therefore, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the United States of America is strong and permanent,” the statement concluded.
In his interview to Fox News television aired on July 17, 2018, Trump said Montenegrins were strong, “very aggressive” people and suggested he feared NATO’s newest member could drag the alliance into World War III.
Trump then acknowledged that under Article 5, which enshrines the principal of collective defense, NATO would have to defend Montenegro if it is attacked because “that’s the way it was set up.”
Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member in June 2017, marking a historic geopolitical turn toward the transatlantic alliance amid opposition from Russia.
Russia has long opposed any further NATO enlargement and has bitterly criticized Podgorica’s accession to the alliance.
The names of the 13 US service members killed in Kabul on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, were scrawled on a GBU-31 JDAM bomb in a picture circulated on social media this weekend. Picture from Facebook.
Pictures posted in a popular Air Force Facebook group appear to show the names of the 13 Americans killed on Thursday, Aug. 26, in Kabul scrawled on the side of a combat-ready bomb.
The pictures, posted Sunday, show a Joint Direct Attack Munition-equipped bomb, loaded in a bomber, with the service members’ names handwritten on the side in black ink.
No operational information was provided, including the airframe.
Opinions about the aircraft pictured varied among former Air Force munitions troops contacted by Coffee or Die Magazine and on social media, though most agreed it was the interior of a B-1 or B-52, both of which often carry the munitions and have participated in combat operations widely in Afghanistan.
The bomb is almost certainly not one used in drone strikes over the weekend that targeted ISIS-K planners believed to be responsible for the Abbey Gate bombing, nor a second one Saturday, Aug. 28, that targeted a suicide vehicle that officials say was headed toward the airport. US officials said both of those strikes were carried out by drones, which do not carry large bombs internally, and the strike on the planners used an AGM-114 Hellfire missile.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die Magazine. Follow them on Twitter @CoffeeorDieMag