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Pentagon Bans Sale Of Certain Smartphones On Bases Amid Foreign Hacking Fears

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:22 PM PDT

The Pentagon has ordered retail stores on its bases around the world to cease selling all smartphones and devices made by two Chinese companies, citing security concerns.

It marked the latest salvo by the federal administration against Chinese or Russian companies that sell technology that could pose a national security risk or leave people using it vulnerable to hacking.

A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. David W. Eastburn, said all smartphones, modems, personal WiFi hotspots and other devices made by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. had been removed from stores at military facilities.

"Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to department's personnel, information and mission," Eastburn said.

He declined to specify how the devices might be compromised: "For security reasons, I can't get into the technical aspects of potential threats."

The largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, Guangdong-based Huawei, vies with Apple Inc. to be the world's second-largest smartphone maker, trailing only South Korea's Samsung. Huawei was founded in the late 1980s by a former engineer from the People's Liberation Army.

The second firm, ZTE, also based in Guangdong province, makes smartphones, tablets, and telecommunications equipment. In 2017, the company admitted shipping telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea and agreed to pay$1.19 billion in fines as part of an investigation into whether it violated trade sanctions. In March, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed a seven-year ban on ZTE buying technology from U.S. suppliers, including chips considered essential to some of its products.

Both companies have come under scrutiny on Capitol Hill, where Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced a bill in February that would bar the U.S. government from contracting with any company that uses equipment or services from Huawei or ZTE. A similar bill was introduced in the House.

Rubio and Cotton are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and privy to classified information.

"I'm pleased with the Pentagon's decision," Cotton said. "We should continue working toward zero use of Huawei and ZTE products in the U.S., but this a good step"

Soldiers view live-stream full-motion video from unmanned aerial vehicles via a smartphone at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on March 3, 2017

Rubio tweeted nearly two weeks ago that if either of the two Chinese companies were to receive a request from China's intelligence services to use their cellular networks for espionage, they would have little option.

"They have no choice but to comply," Rubio said. "This is a dangerous national security threat to U.S."

Neither Huawei nor ZTE responded immediately for request to comment.

While the Pentagon's action will have negligible impact on the two companies, it does mark a growing effort by the Trump administration to thwart efforts by China, and to a lesser extent by Russia, to hamper competition in the high-tech arena or gain tools for possible use in espionage.

Military exchanges worldwide sold 2,400 devices from Huawei and ZTE last year, Eastburn said, amounting to sales of about $112,500 for Huawei and $65,000 for ZTE.

Related: Your Favorite Fitness Apps Are Leaving US Military Bases Abroad Exposed »

A U.S.-based analyst of U.S.-China military relations, Maochun Yu, said the ban is part of a broader sea change in the way U.S. officials view China under the Trump administration.

"The ban itself may not be all that significant but it's part of a seismic change," Yu said, one in which U.S. policymakers view every aspect of the bilateral relationship through a national security lens, no longer accepting, for example, the shift of American manufacturing ability to China as merely an economic matter.

"Actually, it's America's loss of (control of) the defense supply chain, and that's very deadly," Yu said. "No defense official responsible for national defense would take that matter lightly."

Earlier this year, the U.S. branch of Huawei said the company is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market." It said it was "committed to openness and transparency in everything we do."

The Trump administration has gone beyond simply barring sales of a product or service.

In March, a national security panel that can halt corporate mergers blocked a Singapore-based chipmaker, Broadcom, from its $117 billion bid to buy Qualcomm, a major U.S. semiconductor maker out of concern it would hinder U.S. competition with China in high-tech development, specifically the drive to build high-capacity 5G wireless networks.

In a blow to a major Russian internet company, the Department of Homeland Security last September barred federal agencies from using antivirus software made by AO Kaspersky Lab, apparently out of concern it might make hard drives vulnerable to monitoring by Russian intelligence.

———

©2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The post Pentagon Bans Sale Of Certain Smartphones On Bases Amid Foreign Hacking Fears appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Marine Corps Commandant: ‘We’re The Mujahideen’ In Afghanistan

Posted: 02 May 2018 03:52 PM PDT

Back in the 1980s, the United States considered the Mujahideen the "good guys" because they were waging a guerilla war against the Soviets Union in Afghanistan. Fast forward to the present and the Afghan Mujahideen are now widely viewed as the Islamic fundamentalists who eventually begat the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other folks who will hopefully meet their end at the business end of a MOAB.

Yet for some reason, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller awkwardly invoked the 80s image of Afghan freedom fighters while trying to strip away the Taliban and ISIS' pretense of representing Islam in the middle of a May 2 press briefing on the state of the Navy of the Navy Department.

"The terrorists call themselves the freedom fighters, the Mujahideen – they're not," Neller added when asked about status of the Marines tasked with advising Afghan troops and police. "They're criminals. They're apostates. They hide behind Islam. They sell drugs. They kill innocent people. That's not what Islam is."

Neller lambasted Taliban leaders for continually ordering young men to their deaths while living safely outside Afghanistan – leaders who, in his view, do not deserve the noble moniker of 'Mujahideen.'

"The Afghan army and the Americans, we're the Mujahideen," Neller said. "We're the Mujahideen. That's the message. Maybe they'll get tired of this and they'll decide that there's a better way, and then we can move on to something else."

Neller may want to reconsider the title given the last four decades of evolving conflict in the Afghanistan. After all, ost of the weapons that the U.S. covertly supplied to the Mujahideen as part of Operation Cyclone during the Cold War ended up in the hands Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was not exactly a Pashtun version of Thomas Jefferson (but hey, 'Rambo III' was still awesome).

But after decades, the local combatants fighting for the future of Afghanistan have not tired, nor have they found a better way to resolve their problems. And while the United States has not been able to move on from Afghanistan since 2001, perhaps the term 'Mujahideen' should be relegated to the dustbin of history, along with 'Rambo III.'

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The post Marine Corps Commandant: 'We're The Mujahideen' In Afghanistan appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Mystery Lasers Are Messing With US Pilots Near A Critical Overseas Base

Posted: 02 May 2018 01:34 PM PDT

The skies above a crucial U.S. military base in Africa are reportedly doing their best impression of a Pink Floyd laser show at your local planetarium — and that may end up causing major problems at a strategic chokepoint that's increasingly subject to aggressive competition between global military powers.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) on May 2 warning aviators about "unauthorized laser activity" and "multiple lazing events involving high power laser [sic]" at coordinates just over a half-mile northwest from a Chinese military installation in Djibouti. The FAA had issued an almost-identical warning the previous week, urging U.S. military personnel to "use extreme caution when transiting near this area."

Chinese military analysts dismissed the implication of that nation's involvement as "[made] up rumors" about the newly established base in Djibouti. China is a signatory to the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons that prohibits the use of blinding weapons against living, breathing human beings, but the People's Liberation Army has publicly pursued blinding laser weapons since at least 2015 and demonstrated laser weapons powerful enough to neutralize small unmanned aerial vehicles.

Whatever the lasers' origins, the sudden disruption of aviation operations may prove worrying to the Pentagon. Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military installation on the entire African continent, is a key nerve center for U.S counterterrorism operations conducted by Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. With ISIS routed in Iraq and Syria but gaining strength in countries like Niger and Mali (and neighboring terror hotspots in Yemen and Somalia), Lemonnier is an essential organ of the Global War on Terror, second only to Al Udeid Air Base, U.S. Central Command's forward operating base in Qatar.

But the laser incidents could also underscore the growing competition for a foothold in Djibouti as a major strategic hub, beyond counterterrorism ops. According to the National Interest, Djibouti's location on the key Gulf of Aden-Suez Canal trade routes has made it particularly appealing to great powers in search of burgeoning new economies to dominate.

China's new base in Djibouti is intended to "better serve Chinese troops when they escort ships in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast, perform humanitarian rescue, and carry out other international obligations," state-run news agency Xinhua explained in July 2017, adding that the base "will be conducive to driving Djibouti’s economic and social development and assist China’s contribution to peace and stability both in Africa and worldwide."

djibouti china military base laser attacksJared Keller

This photo taken on August 1, 2017 shows Chinese People’s Liberation Army personnel attending the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti.

Those economic opportunities have fueled strategic ones: As early as 2015, Russia was exploring basing opportunities in Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia announced its intent to establish a military base following the unveiling of China's brand new garrison there.

"Waterfront property in the African countries along the Red Sea seems to be an increasingly hot commodity," as Congressional Research Service Africa expert Lauren Ploch Blanchard told Task & Purpose in January. "The U.S. and France have had military facilities in Djibouti for over a decade, but the country is getting increasingly crowded. China just opened a base and Saudi Arabia is in talks for one."

Related: The Pentagon Is Woefully Unprepared For The Global War On Terror's African Front »

Increasing competition for military footholds will only mean more activity in the skies about Djibouti — and more chances that even a cursory lazing could have potentially fatal consequences. The Pentagon in 2013 relocated a sprawling drone fleet from Camp Lemonnier following a series of alarming drone crashes that worsened the DoD's relationship with local security forces, per the Washington Post. A 2015 follow-up by the newspaper detailed that skies about Djibouti "have become chronically dangerous, with pilots forced to rely on local air-traffic controllers who fall asleep on the job, commit errors at astronomical rates and are hostile to Americans."

At the moment, the source of the lazings of aircraft in the skies over Djibouti remains a mystery. But should they continue and, God forbid, trigger a tragic aviation mishap, that laser may be the spark that sets an increasingly militarized and crowded zone aflame.

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The post Mystery Lasers Are Messing With US Pilots Near A Critical Overseas Base appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Did Israel Really Spoof US Warplanes To Strike Iranian Targets In Syria?

Posted: 02 May 2018 10:06 AM PDT

As the U.S. gets more deeply embroiled in the Syrian Civil War and considers pulling out of its nuclear agreement with Iran, the Middle East is being roiled by news that the Israeli air force bombed Iranian-connected military sites in Syria… possibly by masking Israeli aircraft to identify as U.S. warplanes in contested airspace. All this is happening as Israel reportedly prepares for a larger military conflict with Iran.

Here’s what we know so far.

Syrian Munitions Explosion IsraelTwitter

Syrian Munitions Explosion

  • Syria and Iran accused Israel of executing the strike, which destroyed 200 missiles and killed at least a dozen Iranians.
  • Rumors began circulating that Israel masked their attack by flying through Jordan and Iraq and using U.S. "identification friend or foe" (IFF) codes to conceal their aircrafts' identities.

  • Another unconfirmed rumor states that this was Israel's first downrange use of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which could theoretically be able to penetrate Syrian airspace directly due to its stealth features.
IsraelDept of Defense

Israeli F-35 on display

  • For Israel to pull off a a strike using spoofed transponders, they would have to fool ground radars from Iraq and Jordan, as well as U.S. E-3C Sentry aircraft, who would likely have an established order of battle and tasking list to consult if several F-15s appeared from the direction of the Mediterranean.
  • Also the use of U.S. transponder codes, which are encrypted, would either mean that the Israeli air force has access to or was given U.S. IFF codes. This means it is very unlikely that the Israeli air force could have pulled off such an operation without U.S. support.
  • To date, Israel has lost one F-16I due to Syrian air defenses, despite conducting numerous strikes inside the country. It is likely that Israel utilized traditional airstrikes against the munitions facility with F-15Is or F-16Is. Iran has vowed to retaliate for the Israeli strikes.

This post is part of BULLET POINTS, our running SITREP of the military stories you need to read now. Sign up for more updates in your inbox here.

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The post Did Israel Really Spoof US Warplanes To Strike Iranian Targets In Syria? appeared first on Task & Purpose.

5 People Kiled When Air Force WC-130 Crashes in Savannah, Georgia

Posted: 02 May 2018 09:46 AM PDT

Five people were killed when an Air National Guard WC-130 with the 156th Airlift Wing from Puerto Rico crashed on Wednesday in Savannah, Georgia,  officials told Task & Purpose.

Pictures from the scene show the plane’s wreckage and plumes of gray smoke billowing into the sky.

It was not immediately known what military branches all of the five service members were from. Their names are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

The National Guard said emergency personnel were on scene and that a board of officers will investigate the case of the crash.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: This story was updated after it was confirmed that five people were killed in the crash.

The post 5 People Kiled When Air Force WC-130 Crashes in Savannah, Georgia appeared first on Task & Purpose.

George Marshall On A World War I RIP/TOA Some 100 Years Ago

Posted: 02 May 2018 07:00 AM PDT

By the spring of 1918, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and several others had already been bloodied during rotations into generally quiet sectors to gain experience, or in support roles with the British Army as the latter sought to contain the Imperial German Army's Michael offensives.  In the last week of April, the 1st Division made the move into the sector that would in a month's time earn the division national acclaim: Picardy, in northern France, in which province stood the village of Cantigny.  The Battle of Cantigny is regarded as the first distinctly American victory of the war.

1919, France - Col George C. MarshallPublic domain

1919, France – Col George C. Marshall

A concerned Colonel George Marshall recorded that:

"We commenced the relief of the French units on the night of April 24th, and by the 26th the First Division was established in front of the enemy.  There were no trenches, the men being distributed in individual pits or "foxholes", and the Headquarters located in any convenient cave or cellar.  This lack of covered communications and the continuous violence of the artillery fire made it almost impossible to circulate in the sector during daylight hours.  Our casualties made a formidable daily list, considering the fact that there was no advance by the infantry on either side. The losses in officers were particularly heavy, as it was necessary for them to move about to oversee their men.  The captains of the machine gun companies, whose personnel was more scattered than others, had a particularly trying task, and most of them were killed or wounded during the first ten days. After the machine-gunners, the field officers suffered most, and we had two Lieutenant Colonels killed and two others wounded in a very short time." (Excerpted from Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918.)

Takeaways:

–The communications scheme under which you train may not be the same one you are able to employ when you enter a new area of operations.  Anticipate this and be flexible.

–Leaders will be excited when their first action is imminent.  That is normal and indeed a good sign, but it must be tempered with a sense of caution.  No one benefits when a large number of key leaders are knocked out on the eve of battle.

–Likewise, the junior leaders of combat support units (machinegun companies in this case) are often more vulnerable, less situationally-aware, and may be less experienced when it comes to operating within the big picture.  Be aware of and sensitive to that, and when possible devote some additional time or resources to help them do their job so that their units can subsequently provide you with the best possible support.

John Throckmorton is a business executive who lives with his family north of Atlanta.  He served for 20 years as an infantry officer with assignments at Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, and in Iraq.  His great-grandfather was a machinegun officer with the U.S. 35th Infantry Division (and ironically saw the start of the next war while serving as a senior staff officer with the U.S. Army's Hawaiian Department on December 7th, 1941).  His World War I reading list can be found here:  https://taskandpurpose.com/american-expeditionary-force-books/

The post George Marshall On A World War I RIP/TOA Some 100 Years Ago appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Army Veteran To Dodge Death Penalty For 2017 Mass Shooting At Fort Lauderdale Airport

Posted: 02 May 2018 06:00 AM PDT

After a secret review of his fate, a military veteran charged with fatally shooting five people and wounding six others at the Fort Lauderdale airport last year will plead guilty in exchange for receiving a life sentence under an agreement disclosed Tuesday in Miami federal court.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they reached the plea agreement as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in on the death penalty question in the murder case of 28-year-old Esteban Santiago. Sessions, who had final say, received input from both sides in South Florida as well as a panel of experts at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors said Sessions signed off on the plea agreement, which was proposed by Santiago's defense lawyers as a deadline loomed this week on the death penalty issue. They also said the shooting victims' family members were also on board with the proposed life sentence.

"That was something taken into account in the attorney general's decision" on whether to pursue the death penalty, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ricardo Del Toro said in court.

Santiago is accused of flying on a one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January of last year to carry out the shootings of mostly elderly travelers — one of three mass firearm killings in Florida since 2016.

Santiago, a former Army reservist who suffers from mental health problems, is expected to change his plea to guilty on May 23 after undergoing a psychiatric competency evaluation ordered by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom. She said she wanted to be certain Santiago has the "capacity" to make the decision to plead guilty.

On Tuesday, Bloom asked the defendant if he discussed the plea agreement with his lawyers in the federal public defender's office, and Santiago said: "Yes, your honor." The judge also asked Santiago, who was wearing a ponytail and full beard, if he had any other questions, and he said: "No, your honor."

One of his lawyers, Eric Cohen, told the judge that Santiago is "remorseful and willing to accept responsibility" for the mass shooting on Jan. 6, 2017.

While most murder cases unfold in state court, Santiago is charged federally because the mass shooting took place at an international airport. Federal authorities, unlike their counterparts in the state system, rarely pursue the death penalty, mainly because there are so few capital cases in the U.S. district court. And even when the Justice Department opts for death over life as punishment, an execution by lethal injection is extremely rare in the federal system.

Santiago, who grew up in Puerto Rico, packed his gun in a case that he had declared on the Anchorage-Fort Lauderdale flight, retrieved the weapon, loaded it in an airport bathroom and then calmly opened fire in a baggage claim area before encountering a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy while exiting. He surrendered immediately.

Santiago's mental health history, along with a stint in the Iraq War, played a significant factor in the attorney general's decision on whether to seek the death penalty. Santiago was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric care in November 2016 — two months before the airport shooting — after he had gone to the FBI office in Anchorage and told agents that he was hearing voices urging him to support the Islamic State terrorist group and that the CIA was pressuring him to watch training videos. Agents referred Santiago to Anchorage police, who took his handgun from him while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation for a few days and then gave the firearm back to him that December.

Santiago is accused of using that same weapon, a Walther 9 mm, in the deadly attack at the airport. After Santiago surrendered, he told FBI agents in South Florida that he had been "programmed" by the government and also was inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.

However, FBI agents and prosecutors Del Toro and Lawrence LaVecchio said they found no actual links between Santiago and the Islamic State and therefore did not charge him with providing support to the terrorist organization in the 22-count indictment.

Ever since his arrest, Santiago has been taking medication to treat his diagnosis of schizophrenia. He has repeatedly told Bloom that he understands what is happening in his case, and his defense lawyers have said he is legally competent to stand trial.

———

©2018 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The post Army Veteran To Dodge Death Penalty For 2017 Mass Shooting At Fort Lauderdale Airport appeared first on Task & Purpose.

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Sweet, Sweet Alcohol Is Coming To A Commissary Near You

Posted: 02 May 2018 05:30 AM PDT

Rejoice, overworked service members of the world: the Department of Defense plans on putting beer and wine on the shelves of local commissaries at some point in the next 90 days, according to a DoD memo signed by the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness Robert Wilkie and obtained by Military Times.

  • The decision was a no-brainer: making beer and wine available at commissaries “will increase customer satisfaction and convenience, and align with common commercial grocery store practices," according to the April 27 memo.
  • While spirits are excluded from the menu for fairly obvious reasons (see: Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), Military Times reports that the prices will at least remain comparable to those libations available at the military exchanges — although it’s worth noting that prices at commissaries tend to fluctuate on a weekly basis.
  • The big question: Plenty of scientific research suggests that making even tobacco available at military commissaries is a challenge to short-term readiness. Wouldn’t that logic apply to the specter of chronic binge-drinking that’s proven an ongoing problem among various service branches?

According to Military Times, commissary officials will dispense beer and wine along the same rules and regulations as military exchanges, including  “responsible use.” Still, nothing beat slamming down a cold one after a long day of standing by to stand by.

This post is part of BULLET POINTS, our running SITREP of the military stories you need to read now. Sign up for more updates in your inbox here.

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The post Sweet, Sweet Alcohol Is Coming To A Commissary Near You appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Thousands Of Sailors Are Spending Way More Time Away From Home Than The Navy Wants

Posted: 02 May 2018 05:00 AM PDT

About 18,000 sailors spent more than 60 percent of the year away from home during fiscal 2016, exceeding the Navy's own guidelines for keeping its crews well-rested and reducing strains on sailors' personal lives, according to a Congressional watchdog report. And the Navy says the actual figure is likely even higher.

The Navy has had a goal of limiting sailors' time away from home to 220 days per year or 400 days every two years since 2014. But a Government Accountability Office report released in late April shows that mark is routinely flouted because of heavy operational demands that include lengthy deployments and requisite time away from home to train for them. Like other military branches, the Navy wants to limit sailors' time away from home as a way to improve readiness.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Navy deployments typically lasted about six months. But as demand for forces around the world grew in conjunction with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other conflicts, deployments began to inch upward to as much as nine or 10 months. That figure doesn't include time sailors spend underway to prepare for those deployments, either.

Related: Shipboard Service Is Harsh. The Navy Isn't Preparing Recruits For This Reality »

Under a plan by Norfolk-based U.S. Fleet Forces Command, the Navy is working to make seven-month deployments the new standard. The USS Harry S. Truman was supposed to be the first aircraft carrier to deploy under the seven-month plan in 2016, but even that deployment was extended by a month.

While the GAO relied on information from the Defense Manpower Data Center to come up with its estimate, the Navy said that figure is likely an undercount. The Navy estimated 31,000 sailors were away from home for more than 220 days during the 2016 fiscal year, but couldn't explain the discrepancy, according to the report.

Inaccurate data recording could mean "there will be a lack of valid data to improve readiness of the Fleet and Health of the Force," Navy Personnel Command spokeswoman Katie Suich said in an email.

In 1999, Congress required the Pentagon to begin tracking how much time service members spent away from home, including for deployments, training and exercises. The Defense Department calls that time "perstempo," which is short for personnel tempo and includes deployments that are part of the more commonly used phrase of operational tempo.

But the Defense Department hasn't defined a perstempo threshold that encompasses events outside of deployment, nor has it directed the individual services to do so, according to the report. Only the Navy and Special Operations Command had established measurable limits.

navy long deployments lengthU.S Navy/Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric

Sailors relax in their bunks aboard USS John C. Stennis in November 2003.

As a result, the GAO said, the Pentagon can't adequately track just how long service members are spending away from home – data that is important "in monitoring and gauging the stress on the force," as well as associated effects on readiness.

Defense Manpower Data Center analyzed by the GAO showed at least 51,000 active duty troops were gone at least seven months in fiscal 2016, a number it called "conservative" because of incomplete data. Records were also missing for at least 145,000 personnel who deployed between fiscal 2014 and 2016.

"DOD has simply not made this a priority," John Pendleton, the GAO's director of defense capabilities and management, said in a podcast posted to the office's website along with the report.

The report recommended that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, along with individual service branch leaders, clarify perstempo thresholds, while moving to collect complete data. The Pentagon agreed with both recommendations.

"Until they answer these questions by setting clear policy and gathering reliable data, I think they'll be challenged to keep their commitment to take care of service members and their families," Pendleton said.

Read the full GAO report:

———

©2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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The post Thousands Of Sailors Are Spending Way More Time Away From Home Than The Navy Wants appeared first on Task & Purpose.

How Can the US Military Do Its Best If It Isn’t Given a Clear Mission?

Posted: 02 May 2018 04:00 AM PDT

The current Authorization for Use of Military Force pre-dates my commission by 5 years, and is still the same one that remains in effect in my 12th year of service. A 17-year-old authorization being stretched to justify military action is not what I would really argue constitutes a well-defined strategy or mission for servicemembers. This will be even more true in a couple short years when force is being carried out by those not even born when the authorization was signed.

The very first squadron commander I had as a young Air Force lieutenant had a message he liked to deliver regularly: "Do the very best, at everything you do, every single day … and everything else will fall into line."  

It was a training squadron, and so he had regular occasion to deliver it with a captive audience of fresh faced officers.  The first time I heard it I thought it was the greatest advice I had ever been given. The next few times I began to finish the phrase in my head before he did, and by the end of my time there I wondered if he had any other wisdom to impart and if this was just a saying that sounded good to a room of military types.

Almost 5 years later I was in the dining facility of a deployed location, zoning out and enjoying my powdered eggs when I heard a voice behind me: "Are you doing the very best at everything you do, every single day out here?" I stood up to see that same commander, now an O-6, sticking his hand out to shake mine. "It's good to see you, Jason." We talked for quite a while, catching up and discussing the current mission.  There wasn't a doubt in my mind he 100% meant every word of his advice. It had been 5 years since I last saw him, but he still had the same message and was living it out.

It seems like an easy ethos for a U.S. servicemember to live by, doesn't it? Always do your best, and you'll have nothing to worry about.  There was something he always added to his refrain though. He always followed it up with something to the extent of "Your job is to become tactical experts and learn your craft.  Your leadership will provide you the equipment, the training, and a well-defined mission.  You just worry about doing your best."

12 years into my career, I now offer up my own variation of that commander's advice, but the follow-up point is always a sticking point for me.  

Make no mistake, my view is not a challenge to what our policies are or should be.  Our job is not to make the policy, just to do our role in carrying it out dutifully. We want to know we have the proper authorization, support, and backing of the United States, and we want to know what our mission is.  There isn't an organization on the planet that can give you better results with a well-defined mission.

Saying that a new AUMF is required does not mean I think we shouldn't be under taking the actions that have been authorized with it. We will always stand ready to protect our security and interests. It just means I'd like to make sure our strategy is clearly defined and understood, there is proper funding, and that our civilian leaders have proper oversight.  

Because someday I hope to be that trusted and respected leader who gives his people a well-defined mission, provides them the means to do it, and simply asks them to do the very best, at everything they do, every single day.

Jason Baker is a Major in the United States Air Force. He is currently enrolled as a Master's candidate at American University's School of International Service and holds a bachelor's in political science from the University of Illinois.  His views here are strictly his own, and do not reflect those of the United States Air Force or Department of Defense. On Twitter: @JasonBakerJB

The post How Can the US Military Do Its Best If It Isn't Given a Clear Mission? appeared first on Task & Purpose.