NEWS

The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

The Defense Department's budget request for 2019 released Feb. 12 called for a 2.6 percent military pay raise, a modest increase in the end strengths of the services, and major rebuilding programs aimed at retaining the U.S. edge over China and Russia.


Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist said the 2.6 percent pay increase proposal for fiscal 2019 would boost the pay of a staff sergeant by $1,169 next year.

The 2.6 percent increase would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase for 2018 authorized in December by President Donald Trump by executive order.

In addition, the DoD "expects moderate and manageable increases in pay will continue in the near term and will match the growth in private-sector wages," the budget documents said.

There was some initial confusion on the proposed increases in the end strengths of the services because of the congressional delays in the approval of funding, but it appeared that the Pentagon was recommending an overall boost in the size of the force of more than 17,000 — almost all of it for active-duty personnel.

The Air Force would increase by 4,000 active-duty personnel to boost the overall force to 329,100 airmen; the Army would gain 4,000 active-duty personnel to increase the force level to 487,500; the Navy would gain 7,500 active duty to increase to 335,400 overall; the Marine Corps would gain 1,100 personnel to grow to 186,100.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense of Indonesia Ryamizard Ryacudu during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 23, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Reserve and National Guard forces would see only modest increases. Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserves would add 800 forces total; and the Army and Air National Guard would add 500 troops apiece.

If approved by Congress and the White House, the Pentagon's $716 billion budget request for 2019 would provide funding to build 10 Navy ships, including three guided missile destroyers, two Virginia class submarines, and one Littoral Combat Ship.

It also would fund more than 400 new aircraft, including 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters, 60 AH-64 Apache helicopters and 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The $716 billion in proposed defense spending for FY2019 would amount to about a 10 percent increase over military spending in 2017.

Congress finally moved past a series of continuing resolutions and reached agreement on a two-year budget deal that called for nearly $700 billion in defense funding for FY2018 and $716 billion for FY2019.

Technically, the action taken by Congress produced another continuing resolution until March 23 to allow the 12 appropriations committees in Congress time to allocate the money going to government operations, but congressional leaders and the White House said the agreement reached was a done deal.

The total of $1.4 trillion in military funding over two years will be directed more to building the lethality and capabilities of the force rather than the end strengths of the services, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Feb. 11 while traveling to Europe for a week-long series of security meetings.

"I am very confident that what the Congress has now done, and the president is going to allocate to us in the budget, is what we need to bring us back to a position of primacy" among the world's militaries, Mattis said.

"We will be standing up some new elements, cyber is one example, and we will be recruiting more mechanics in the Air Force and recruiting more soldiers and sailors," Mattis said.

Also Read: Mattis had a simple request for the new defense budget

In addition, "we'll be buying more stuff" to bolster depleted inventories, particularly on munitions, Mattis said ahead of the release Feb. 12 of the Defense Department's overview of the fiscal 2019 budget request, and the individual requests of the services.

However, the end result of the massive infusion of money will be a military that's "not a lot bigger, organizationally. It's built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up," Mattis said ahead of the release of the budget request.

At a Pentagon briefing, Norquest said the budget was shaped by Mattis' National Defense Strategy which concluded that "Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity."

"The U.S. seeks cooperation with our competitors from a position of strength," Norquist said but "the U.S. must be prepared to compete, deter war, and if necessary, fight and win."

The $716 billion represented about a $74 billion increase over current defense spending, Pentagon officials said.

About $30 billion for the Department of Energy and other agencies that contribute to national defense was included in the $716 billion, reducing the DoD's share to about $686 billion. About $617 billion of the $686 billion was slotted for the Pentagon's base budget and about $69 billion for the so-called "war budget," or Overseas Contingency Operations fund mostly for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The OCO funding would allot 46.3 billion for Afghanistan operations, $15.3 billion for Iraq and Syria, $6.5 billion for the European Defense Initiative to bolster NATO, and about $900 million for security cooperation agreements with a range of countries, Norquist said.

A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest fires the M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle as part of the combat marksmanship program at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2018. Task Force Southwest is continually working on combat marksmanship to ensure proper sustainment of basic Marine combat skills, so they can better train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Conner Robbins)

In arriving at the budget request, the DoD also bowed to political realities and eliminated any request to close excess bases and facilities, which the Pentagon had long sought to cut costs through establishment of another Base Re-Alignment and Closure Commission. "There is not a request for another BRAC round in this budget," Norquist said.

The defense budget request was part of the overall $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 proposed budget for all government spending put forward Feb. 12 by Trump and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Trump budget would boost spending for infrastructure and border security along with the military while proposing politically difficult cuts to entitlement programs.

His proposed budget "provides resources to enhance missile defense and to build the planes, tanks, warships, and cyber tools that the brave men and women who defend us need to deter aggression and, when necessary, to fight and win," Trump said at the White House.

"Most importantly, the budget provides funds to increase the size of our armed forces and to give our men and women in uniform a well-earned pay raise," he said.

Trump said that when he told Mattis the amount of the military's share of the budget, Mattis replied: "Wow — I can't believe we got everything we wanted."

NEWS
Rosie Perper

Russia wants America's spot on the Human Rights Council

Russia wants a spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) following the US's withdrawal on June 19, 2018.

Russia quickly swooped in on the empty seat and put forward its candidacy for a three-year term starting in 2021.

"The UNHRC operates on the basis of the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation. It is a UN body that, like the entire UN system, is called upon to serve all Member States, not just one country or group of countries," Russia's UN mission said in a statement. "Unfortunately, our colleagues in Washington do not understand this or do not recognize it."

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Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

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GEAR & TECH
Dave Smith

This video of a drone with a flamethrower will haunt your dreams

Watch the video in the tweet below. Are you experiencing both amazement and fear? You're not alone.

This video has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, but it was actually filmed a little over a year ago. According to Gizmodo, an electric-power maintenance company in Xiangyang, China, had been using these flame-throwing drones to burn off garbage and debris from electrical wires.

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Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

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Gaming

How you can use your military skills in survival games

Military leaders loves to take their troops into the backwoods for a quick impromptu land navigation class. Even when troops should be gearing up for combat in desert environments, they still teach them how to survive in forests. There is a lot of cross-over things to consider, regardless of where you're at — like seeking shelter, finding water and food, how to create warmth, and survive the elements.

While it's great to have these skills in your hip pocket, it can also make you way too intense when you go camping with your civilian friends. They will, however, make you just the right amount of intense when you play a survival game.

All the fun of surviving in a zombie-infested hellscape without actually having to survive in a zombie-infested hellscape!(DayZ by Bohemia Interactive)

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Veterans
Debbie Aragon

This veteran found his lifeline at the end of a leash

After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.

Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.

Kaono's wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.

"You see a look in their eyes that they're suffering but you don't know what you can do to help them. It's a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD," she said.

Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.

After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.

Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes his service dog Romeo for a walk around the building.(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

"I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment," Kaono said.

After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.

"When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn't work for me," the Hawaii-native said, "so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California."

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Dogs had always played a part in Kaono's life from when, as a toddler, his family's old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.

"I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better," he said.

Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.

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5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

The Space Force is presumed to be exactly like our current military. Over-the-top recruitment videos will only lead to utter disappointment, just like any other branch. "You'll get to see the world," the recruiter will promise, but we all know you'll probably just be seeing it from a desk back on Earth. Even in many years when the need for space infantrymen comes up, it'll still be filled with all the same BS that happens down here.

Think about it. There will still be NCOs and officers who will still need to bide their time until closeout formation. The only difference will be that it'll take place 254 miles above the Earth's surface. And how will latrines work? Who will clean them?!

You know the answer.

1. Literally cleaning the ship absolutely spotlessly

Remember those novelty "space pens" that you can find at souvenir shops? The joke on the back is that America spent a butt load of cash trying to get a pen that could write upside-down and with zero-G's but those crafty Russians just used a pencil. Hate to burst that bubble but no one uses pencils in space for a very specific reason.

Any bit of dust or flakes caused by just regular everyday things, like pencil shavings, could mess with electrical systems while it's floating around in space.

That's just from man-made stuff... then you have to worry about the stardust

(NASA)

2. Vacuuming all that stardust

Of course no one down here can see it, but space is actually pretty filthy. There's plenty of dust on the outside the atmosphere from when the universe was formed and we can't go around with an unclean space ship. Most of it is microscopic but NASA astronauts regularly have to clean the dust or else it gets everywhere.

Any spacewalk done will suck in plenty of that minuscule specs of dust whenever the bay-doors open. When the astronaut comes back into the oxygen-filled area, the dust will follow. And some poor space private will have to vacuum all that up.

You can't honestly expect lieutenants to clean up after themselves when there are privates available, now can you?

3. Police calling space debris

All of this is just to clean up the inside of ship — there's also the outside. Satellites and other man-made debris deteriorate eventually and even a 1cm paint flake could zoom low orbit faster than a bullet. Those flakes can rupture panels and cause all sorts of hell on the ship.

This problem is magnified with even larger pieces of debris, like a baseball sized scrap of metal hitting anything at 4.76 miles per second. To prevent Newton's Second Law (force is equal to the mass times acceleration) from obliterating everyone on board, it's up to the space privates to handle it.

I want this globe spotless or no one is being released.

(NASA)

4. Container organizing... but in zero G's

At first, it seems like this would be so much easier in space. You wouldn't have to lift heavy things because it's near weightless now. And astronauts are notorious about taking only what they need into space. But that's the silver-lining. Trying to tie things down and organizing things to take up as little space as possible is the real problem.

A space private's Tetris skills will be checked as there isn't any room for open space.

Good luck finding that ONE serial number for the change of command layout.

(NASA)

5. Repairing the exterior of the ship

There is a diminishing return on enjoyment. The first time you go on a space walk, it'll be beyond your wildest expectations. Your 1,348th time going on a space walk to scrub the stardust off the window because the Colonel is coming won't be as great.

Even more high-stress would be making repairs on the spaceship. Any minor mistake and either you die alone or everyone gets sucked into the vacuum of space.

Imagine losing a wrench and sending it soaring into Earth's atmosphere.

(NASA)

GEAR & TECH
Christopher Woody

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

The Air Force and Boeing have reached agreement on delivery of the long delayed KC-46 Pegasus tanker, with the two sides expecting the first aircraft to arrive in October 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Boeing's original deadline to deliver 18 planes and additional materials was August 2017, but the $44 billion program has been hit by numerous delays and setbacks, and the Air Force said this spring it expected Boeing to miss its deadline to deliver the planes by October 2018, with the first KC-46 not arriving until the end of 2018 and all 18 planes by spring 2019.

The delivery of the first KC-46 by October 2018 is two months earlier than the Air Force anticipated. Matthew Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg the timeline was "aggressive but achievable." Under the new schedule, the other 17 planes will arrive by April 2019.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the KC-46. Once it begins receiving them, the service will start phasing out its older KC-10 tankers. It will hold on to 300 of its KC-135 tankers, which average 55 years old. That would expand the tanker fleet to 479 KC-135s and KC-46s from the current 455 KC-135s and KC-10s.

A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt, July 15, 2016.(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

Under their contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force's $4.82 billion commitment. But delays in delivery could mean the Air Force will have to keep 19 KC-135s in service through 2023 at a cost of up to $10 million a plane annually.

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The most serious problem facing the tanker has been the risk of its refueling boom scraping the surface of planes receiving fuel, which can damage stealth aircraft and potentially ground the tanker.

Other issues include the operation of the remote vision system, which is used to guide the boom; problems with the unexpected disconnection of its centerline drogue system, which is used to refuel aircraft; and concerns about the plane's high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the plane to broadcast. The latter two issues were downgraded to category-two deficiencies early 2018.

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