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May 30 2015

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Special Report U.S. military and civilians are increasingly divided


By David Zucchino and David S. Cloud contact the reporters


Jovano Graves’ parents begged him not to join the Army right out of high school in 2003, when U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan..


But their son refused his parents’ pleas to try college. He followed them both into the Army instead.


Last June, 11 years later, Staff Sgt. Jovano Graves returned home from Afghanistan, joining his mother, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sonia Graves-Rivers, for duty here at Ft. Bragg.


“My family, going way, way back, has always felt so proud to be Americans,” said Graves-Rivers, who comes from a family in which military service spans six generations, starting with her great-great-grandfather, Pfc. Marion Peeples, who served in a segregated black unit during World War I.


Her father, Cpl. Harvey Lee Peeples, fought in the Vietnam War. Her uncle, Henry Jones, was career Air Force. Another uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Graves, spent 22 years in the Army. Her sister, Janice, served 24 years.


A military-civilian divide


Multi-generational military families like the Graveses form the heart of the all-volunteer Army, which increasingly is drawing its ranks from the relatively small pool of Americans with historic family, cultural or geographic connections to military service.


While the U.S. waged a war in Vietnam 50 years ago with 2.7 million men conscripted from every segment of society, less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population is in the armed services today — the lowest rate since World War II. America’s recent wars are authorized by a U.S. Congress whose members have the lowest rate of military service in history, led by three successive commanders in chief who never served on active duty.


Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them.


The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states — California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.


The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class, many analysts say, that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting.


As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant, the Pew Research Center concluded after a broad 2012 study of both service members and civilians.


Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors.


Today’s military enjoys a lifestyle that in many ways exceeds that of much of the rest of the country: regular pay raises and lavish reenlistment bonuses, free healthcare, subsidized housing and, after 20 years of service, generous retirement benefits unavailable to many other Americans.


Senior officers live in large houses, travel on their own planes and oversee whole continents with little direction from Washington. Special-operations teams carry out kill missions and drone strikes — some even targeting U.S. citizens — that most civilians never even hear about.


Now, as the military winds down its 14-year-war in Afghanistan and the Army cuts 18,000 troops from its ranks, military officials are stepping up efforts to bridge the gap between veterans and the civilian world they are preparing to rejoin.


“The last decade of war has affected the relationship between our society and the military,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a commentary in 2013. “As a nation, we’ve learned to separate the warrior from the war. But we still have much to learn about how to connect the warrior to the citizen…. We can’t allow a sense of separation to grow between us.”


Dempsey’s comments reflect a growing concern in the military that reintegrating service members into communities whose understanding of war is gleaned largely from television may be as difficult as fighting the war.


“I am well-aware that many Americans, especially our elite classes, consider the military a bit like a guard dog,” said Lt. Col. Remi M. Hajjar, a professor of behavioral sciences and leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


“They are very thankful for our protection, but they probably wouldn’t want to have it as a neighbor,” he said. “And they certainly are not going to influence or inspire their own kids to join that pack of Rottweilers to protect America.”

As she awaited her husband’s Ft. Bragg homecoming recently, Amanda Schade gave her twin baby sons pacifiers printed with “I love Daddy.” She checked her makeup, then held up two small American flags the Army had supplied.


Amanda spotted Spc. Aaron Schade among paratroopers standing at attention before a huge American flag at Pope Field. She whispered to her 3-month-old sons, Bruce and Ben: “That’s your daddy. He’s a hero.” It would be the first meeting for the father and his sons.


Amanda rushed forward, a twin tucked into the crook of each arm. Aaron swept up all three. “I love you,” he said. He cupped Amanda’s face in both hands for a long, passionate kiss. She broke down and sobbed as the band played “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”


These scenes play out across America as the troops flock home, but they happen behind the locked gates of military bases, largely unseen by the civilian world.


Increasingly, those bases have become fortresses. Base closures have consolidated troop populations onto a dozen large “joint” bases and other huge installations like Ft. Bragg, home to 55,000 soldiers and their 74,000 dependents.


Bases often feature their own shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants and ball fields. Troops board planes for distant conflicts on their airfields and return wounded to their hospitals. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the bases are largely off-limits to civilians.


“Military bases are our most exclusive gated communities,” said Phillip Carter, an Iraq veteran who directs the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.


The Schades, like two-thirds of Ft. Bragg families, live outside the base. But most of their neighbors are military or ex-military.


The Army’s influence in Fayetteville is so pervasive — as in many towns near big military bases in America — that it’s often hard to tell where the military ends and the civilian world begins.


A helicopter crash or deadly roadside bomb in Iraq or Afghanistan can bring Fayetteville to a dead stop. The news races across town in phone calls, text messages and tweets: Was it one of ours?


People mark their calendars with deployment departures and arrivals. There is a baby boom nine months after every big battalion or brigade arrives home. In the schools, graduation ceremonies are live-streamed to parents deployed overseas.


Yet only a 65-mile drive north of Ft. Bragg, in the college town of Carrboro near Durham, the military is a universe away. Many there have no connection save for the brief moment of gratitude and embarrassment they feel when they see a man in uniform at the airport, missing a leg.


“We glorify the military in this country in a way that’s really weird,” said Eric Harmeling, 21, a Carrboro-area resident who often argues with his father, a politically conservative minister, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s like the Roman legions…. It’s like we’re being told to kneel down and worship our heroes.”


Jerstin Crosby, a former graduate student at the University of North Carolina who now works as a computer artist, said the only direct encounter with the military he can remember was when he taught a Middle Eastern art course to airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C.



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He respected the airmen’s knowledge of Iraq — some seemed to know it better than he did, for all his education — but was also sometimes baffled by them. Why, he wondered, did everyone on base stop their cars at 5 p.m. and stand at attention? Only later did he learn it was a daily show of respect as the nation’s flag was lowered.


“I thought it was some kind of prank they were playing on me,” he said.


George Baroff, enjoying an outdoor lunch at an organic food co-op in Carrboro one recent afternoon, said he understood the military quite well: He served three years as a draftee during World War II before eventually becoming a psychology professor in nearby Chapel Hill.


Baroff, 90, finds himself startled when people learn of his war record and say, as Americans often do to soldiers these days, “Thank you for your service.”


“You never, ever heard that in World War II. And the reason is, everybody served,” he said.

In Baroff’s view, today’s all-volunteer military has been robbed of the sense of shared sacrifice and national purpose that his generation enjoyed six decades ago. Today’s soldiers carry a heavier burden, he said, because the public has been disconnected from the universal responsibility and personal commitment required to fight and win wars.


“For us, the war was over in a few years. The enemy surrendered and were no longer a threat,” he said. “For soldiers today, the war is never over; the enemy is never defeated.” The result, he added, is “a state of perpetual anxiety that the rest of the country doesn’t experience.”

Increasingly, America’s warrior class is defined by geography.


Southern states consistently provide the biggest proportion of recruits. California had the highest number of enlistments in 2013 — a total of 18,987 — but the state supplies a relatively low percentage of its 18- to 24-year-olds, the age group that fills the military rolls every year.


The highest-rate contributors were Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Virginia and South Carolina. The District of Columbia was last.

The military-civilian divide is not marked by particular animosity or resentment on the civilian side. In airports and restaurants, civilians thank men and women in uniform for their service. They cheer veterans at ballgames and car races.


What most don’t realize is how frequently such gestures ring hollow.


“So many people give you lip service and offer fake sympathy. Their sons and daughters aren’t in the military, so it’s not their war. It’s something that happens to other people,” said Phillip Ruiz, 46, a former Army staff sergeant in Tennessee who was wounded twice during three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Douglas Pearce, a former Army lieutenant who fought in Afghanistan and is now a marriage and family counselor in Nashville, said civilians seem to think they “can assuage their guilt with five seconds in the airport.”


“What they’re saying is, ‘I’m glad you served so that I didn’t have to, and my kids won’t have to.'”


Opinion polls consistently find that the military is the most trusted American institution. A Gallup poll last June found that 74% of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military — versus 58% in 1975, at the close of the Vietnam era.


Yet a 2011 Pew Research Center study titled “The Military-Civilian Gap” found that only a quarter of civilians who had no family ties to the military followed war news closely. Half said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made little difference in their lives, and half said they were not worth fighting.

“We’ve disconnected the consequences of war from the American public. As a result, that young man or woman putting on the uniform is much less likely to be your son or daughter, or even your neighbor or classmate,” said Mike Haynie, director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in upstate New York. “That is a dangerous place to be.”


For decades, young cadets in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, were able to rub shoulders with civilians on America’s college campuses. During the height of the defense buildup under President Reagan, there were 420 Army ROTC units. Today, there are only 275 ROTC programs.


At Stanford University, Kaitlyn Benitez-Strine, a 21-year-old senior, was scribbling notes in the back row of her modern Japanese history class recently, listening as her professor cataloged the misdeeds of the American military in occupied postwar Japan.


“People became increasingly resentful of the U.S. military presence,” the professor said. “There were crimes by U.S. Army personnel — rapes and murders.”


For Benitez-Strine, due to be commissioned as a U.S. Army lieutenant this summer, it was an uncomfortable moment. Her sister, a Marine, is stationed in Okinawa. Her parents were Army officers, as were many other relatives. She grew up in a military community near West Point. But she rarely discusses her background with other students.


Stanford, one of the nation’s elite universities, has more than 6,000 undergraduates. Benitez-Strine is one of only 11 in ROTC.


She sometimes feels uncomfortable wearing her uniform on campus, as ROTC requires two days a week. Students “might think I’m a cop or something,” she said. “Or they see me as a badass who can kill them at any time.”


A 2013 survey by three West Point professors found that the estrangement between the military and civilian worlds is especially pronounced among young people. Many civilians born between 1980 and 2000 “want no part of military life and want it separate from civilian life,” according to sociologist Morten G. Ender, one of the study’s authors.


On the other side, military recruits in that age range had become “anti-civilian in some ways,” the survey found.


“I am irritated by the apathy, lack of patriotic fervor, and generally anti-military and anti-American sentiment” of other students, an unidentified 20-year-old ROTC cadet told the authors. “I often wonder if my forefathers were as filled with disgust and anger when they thought of the people they were fighting to protect as I am.”


Benitez-Strine is not as critical of her fellow students. Indeed, the more time she spends in ROTC, the less certain she is about a career in the military.


As part of her training, she spent a month following a captain, the commander of an Army maintenance unit at Ramstein Air Base. She was not prepared for the sometimes mind-numbing routine of Army life and the restrictions on her freedom.


Her unit was confined to base after a radio went missing, forcing her to cancel a sightseeing trip. And when a male enlisted soldier friended her on Facebook, he was disciplined and she was warned against fraternizing with lower ranks.


“I realized being in the Army is a lifestyle, not just a job,” she said. Benitez-Strine recently decided to join the Reserves, rather than go on active duty, when she graduates.


The previous school year was a grim one here in Fayetteville, where the Cumberland County school district serves the communities outside Ft. Bragg. Between the beginning of the term in September 2013 and the following spring, six students committed suicide.


Five of them — four boys and a girl — were from Army families, with a parent deployed overseas. Two shot themselves with military weapons.


School Supt. Frank Till, who has been an educator for three decades, is more than familiar with adolescent anguish. But it wasn’t until he came here in 2009 that he experienced the helplessness of trying to truly understand — and help — students and staff members who live under the spell of violent events on the other side of the globe.


“You can only imagine the trauma families go through,” said Till. Teachers in his district have been pulled from class to be told that a husband had been killed in Afghanistan. He has consoled students who dissolved in tears because a parent had just departed for Iraq or Afghanistan.


“There’s just incredible tension here,” he said.


Yet the civilian community has been overwhelmingly supportive. Local churches and other religious communities pitched in to provide support for families devastated by the deaths.


It wasn’t a one-time gesture: Church prayers here are routinely offered for the living — soldiers in harm’s way thousands of miles away, or just back from the war and in the next pew.

“The only people we pray for by name in church are deployed soldiers,” said Jean Moore, 52, who was born and raised in Fayetteville.


“Mothers and fathers across the country — they give their children to us to serve in the military and defend our country,” said Tony Chavonne, 60, a former mayor of Fayetteville. “We have an obligation in the community to support that.”


“War is not a political word around here,” agreed his wife, Joanne, 54. “It’s where our friends and neighbors go.”



Chinese military sets course to expand global reach as ‘national interests’ grow


By Simon Denyer May 26 at 11:46 AM 



BEIJING — China said Tuesday that it plans to extend its military’s global reach to safeguard its economic and maritime interests while declaring that it does not seek confrontation with its neighbors despite their “provocative actions” over disputed islands and “meddling” by the United States.


A policy document issued by the State Council, or cabinet, setting out China’s military strategy underlined the growth of the country’s defense ambitions in tandem with its dramatic economic rise.


Beijing insisted in the document that its military is dedicated to “international security cooperation” and peaceful development. But it also said that the navy would expand its focus from “offshore waters defense” to a greater emphasis on “open seas protection” as China aims to establish itself as a maritime power. The air force, meanwhile, would shift its focus from “territorial air defense to both defense and offense.”


Patrick Cronin, director of the Asia Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, called the white paper “a blueprint for achieving slow motion regional hegemony.”


“It asserts a confidence backed by growing capability on land and increasingly at sea,” he said. “While it calls for balancing China’s territorial ‘rights’ with ‘stability,’ there should be little doubt on the part of its neighbors that China is building a maritime force to assert the former.”



China’s officially disclosed defense budget expanded by just over 10 percent this year to $141 billion, marking two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit growth. The navy is reported to be building a second aircraft carrier and has also invested heavily in submarines and warships.


According to a Pentagon report released this month, China is also developing a range of missiles designed to extend its operational reach and “push adversary forces — including the United States — farther from potential regional conflicts.”


The military’s main goal remains to prepare for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, the Pentagon said, but added that it is also investing to prepare for “contingencies” in the East China Sea and South China Sea, where it is engaged in a number of maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors.


Chinese officials say that China’s declared defense spending, which is less than a quarter the U.S. defense budget, is significantly below the global average when compared to the size of the Chinese economy.


In a move welcomed by other nations, China sent a 700-strong peacekeeping force in December to South Sudan, where it has extensive oil interests, marking the first time it has sent an infantry battalion on a U.N. mission.


China also is negotiating with the strategic port of Djibouti to open a military base there to support anti-piracy naval escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported this month. The United States and France already have a military presence in the tiny Horn of Africa nation.


“With the growth of China’s national interests, the security of our overseas energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication and the safety of our overseas institutions, personnel and assets have become prominent issues,” Senior Col. Zhang Yuguo told a news conference Tuesday.


He added, however, a note of outreach apparently aimed at the United States and other countries closely watching China’s military growth.


“China will never seek hegemony or divide up spheres of power, nor will it engage in military alliances or expansion,” he said.


China’s expanding military power has rattled its neighbors and set it on a possible collision course with Washington.


This year in particular, Washington has repeatedly condemned a rapid program of land reclamation and construction on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea. A U.S. surveillance plane was warned to leave the area by the Chinese navy last week, while Beijing lodged a formal diplomatic complaint.


Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Yang Yujun on Tuesday likened China’s construction activities on the islands to “everyday actions” like building houses, roads and bridges. But he acknowledged that the facilities being built, including an airstrip and radar stations, will have both military and civilian uses.


He said that the Chinese military was responding to increasingly frequent surveillance flights in a “legal and professional manner” but that the issue was being hyped up to “throw mud” at China.


“There’s no ruling out the possibility that some country is seeking an excuse for its potential action in the future,” he said. “I don’t think this is a new trick. It’s an old trick.”


On Monday, the state-owned tabloid the Global Times warned that war is inevitable” if the United States tries to prevent China from finishing its land reclamation and construction work. It said the risks would be “still under control” if Washington accepts China’s peaceful rise.


While not necessarily fully reflecting official thinking, the editorial reflects China’s determination to continue its projects in the South China Sea.


Yang said Sino-U.S. relations were generally good and noted that both militaries have signed agreements to govern air and maritime encounters and prevent crises.


But the policy paper expressed concern about the United States’ “rebalancing strategy,” which has seen it enhance its military presence and strengthen military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as concern over more assertive military and security policies in Japan. It accused China’s neighbors of provocative actions by reinforcing their military presence on “China’s reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied.”


“Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs,” it said, adding in a clear reference to the United States: “A tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.”


Philippines President Benigno Aquino was quoted as saying on Monday that his nation would continue flying over disputed islands in the South China Sea, while Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin said he was seeking a “stronger commitment” from the United States to help its ally, according to news agency reports.


China responded angrily.


“I would like to remind the Philippines that China will not bully small countries, but small countries must not ceaselessly and willfully make trouble,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference. “We hope the Philippines can cease its instigation and provocation, and return to the correct path of resolving the problem through negotiation and consultation.”


On Tuesday, state media reported that China had hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses on the disputed Spratly Islands, a move that Hua said was meant to fulfill China’s international obligations but that is unlikely to ease concerns about Beijing’s expanding influence.


The military strategy paper also outlined threats emanating from instability on the Korean Peninsula, from separatist forces in its western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang and from forces attempting to instigate a “color revolution” to overthrow the Communist Party.


It also noted growing threats in outer space and cyberspace.



CSC Split Has Defense Implications


By Andrew Clevenger 11:08 a.m. EDT May 24, 2015


WASHINGTON — As expected, Falls Church, Virginia-based CSC announced last week that it is splitting its business into two halves, a reflection of growing competition and high barriers to entry for companies trying to provide information technology (IT) services to the US government.


The split — into CSC Global Commercial and CSC U.S. Public Sector — is the best way to position the business that began as Computer Sciences Corporation for long-term growth, CEO Mike Lawrie said in a prepared statement.


“Our analysis shows significant benefits of going with a pure-play strategy,” Lawrie said. “We expect this change to enable both businesses to enhance innovation and improve delivery, in ways that are consistent with the rate and pace of the markets they serve.”


Dakin Smoyer, a research analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in analysis for investors that the split can work out for both companies if they specialize deep and fast.


“As an almost pure-play enterprise IT company in the public sector, the US-only government business will need to expand its consulting capabilities in order to offset steep price competition on more commoditized IT services work,” Smoyer said. “While it is a stretch to think CSC can immediately ramp up to that level of consulting, this split and the necessary evolution of CSC is an example of how specialization is required to avoid falling victim to commoditized enterprise IT price structures impacting some of CSC’s peers.”


Large defense primes are also feeling the pressure to streamline costs to compete for IT contracts, noted Timothy Wickham and Timothy Garnett, managing directors at Avascent, in a white paper published earlier this month.


They point to factors such as reduced federal spending under the Budget Control Act, a preference for fewer but larger contracting vehicles, and the implementation of Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) contracting as reasons for the tightening IT market.


“The result is twofold: diversified primes will likely carry a much smaller and focused services line of business in the future, and the creation of even more large and lean services-focused businesses due to divestiture activity by the primes would further reshape the market’s competitive dynamics,” they wrote.


This makes the sale or spin-out of underperforming IT businesses increasingly likely, Wickham and Garnett concluded.


“It’s much harder for a company that’s diversified, like the primes, to continue investing in a business that’s declining,” Wickham told Defense News. “They’re going to protect their core.”


Wickham compared today’s IT environment to the 1990s, when then-Defense Secretary William Perry urged large defense firms to consolidate during a dinner sometimes called “the last supper.”


“The government has sent equally clear signals [on IT], but not as dramatic,” he said. After years of providing shareholder value through dividends and share buybacks, the primes are facing increasing pressure to demonstrate value in other ways. They’ve got to show a growth story at some point.”


Not all large defense contractors have the same organization, cautioned Dale Meyerrose, a retired Air Force general who, as ssociate director of national intelligence, served as the intelligence community’s chief information officer.


“CSC has come to the realization that other companies have come to — that lumping private-sector and public-sector things together sometimes has problems,” and there’s not as much synergy between the two, particularly in IT, Meyerrose said. “Capital investment in each is different, with different timelines.”


Companies working in the public sector have to keep the pipeline filled, with an eye towards business in ways that private-sector companies do not, he said.


Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president, public sector at the Information Technology Alliance, said many companies opt not to compete for government IT contracts rather than deal with the government’s compliance requirements.


“It’s very daunting to anybody in any tier, and a lot of companies are deciding to walk away,” he said.


Because of their familiarity with meeting the military’s contract demands, defense contractors should continue to play a role in IT, even if it involves teaming with a smaller firm, Hodgkins said.


“The government’s always going to ask for some things in a government way,” he said. “That mentality still runs through the buying activities of the federal government. There will always be a need to take what is available in the commercial world and transform it for a government customer.”


Ultimately, the business model for government IT contractors is evolving, Hodgkins said.


“I think that it is something worth watching,” he said. “Some companies are going to make some decisions about their business models, to hone in and be more specific about what they’re offering, how they offer it. They have to remain competitive.”






Budget cuts impact US ability to fight the enemy, Air Force general warns


By Jennifer Griffin

·Published May 26, 2015



In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Gen. Mark Welsh, the head of the U.S. Air Force, warns that severe defense budget cuts will impact U.S. air superiority against enemies that the nation may not be thinking about right now.


“China and Russia are two good examples of countries who will be fielding capability in the next three to five years; if they stay on track, that is better than what we currently have in many areas,” Welsh said during a three-day visit to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.


“Fighter aircraft in the next three to five years that have more capability than what we currently have sitting on the ramp. The F-35 will stay a generation ahead of them. F-22 will, too. Everything else we have will not stay ahead. The gap has closed.”


Until the first night of the air war against ISIS in Syria last October, the F-22 had never been used in combat. It’s stealth, flies nearly twice the speed of sound and Fox News has since learned the F-22 has led nearly every air combat mission over Syria since.


“I think we saw a lot of what the F-22 can do, but you certainly didn’t see all it can do,” Welsh said.

Welsh, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976, is concerned about the future.


“By 8 to 10 years from now, we could be facing as many as 50 countries who use Russian and Chinese top-end fighters today,” Welsh said. When asked how much of Russia and China’s innovations in fighter jet technology is based on stolen U.S. technology, Welsh just smiled.


“When you look at pictures you go, ‘man — that looks familiar,'” Welsh said during the interview with Fox.


And budget cuts have trimmed more than planes.


“We are 200,000 people fewer in the active component. That’s 40 percent less than we were during the first Gulf War. It’s a dramatically different Air Force,” Welsh explained.



“It’s a dramatically different Air Force.”


“We have to stop this drawdown and build a red line right now in the size of the active force.”


On his recent visit to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va. — the brain center of the U.S. Air Force — Gen. Welsh met with young airmen serving in the fastest-growing intelligence and surveillance hub in the Air Force.


The airmen pore over drone feeds from all over the world, in pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. It is at Langley, home to Air Combat Command, where these members of the 363rd and 480th Air Wings, 18- and 20-year-old airmen, scour endless hours of drone feeds from around the world, choosing strike targets at their computers.


This intelligence is used by Predator and Reaper pilots sitting in the desert outside Las Vegas at Creech Air Force Base, striking targets halfway around the world. The Air Force has been losing more drone pilots than they can train, which has Gen. Welsh concerned and which has forced him to order a stop-loss.


“It’s a serious problem if we can’t fix it,” Welsh said. “The problem we have is the requirement has grown dramatically since 2008.”


“About 2008 is when we hit what we thought was the requirement, 21 orbits. Well, now we are at 60 and we are actually flying 10 more than we are manned for,” Welsh said. “Since 2008, they have been operating on 6 days, on 2 days, 12-hour days — driving 45 minutes away and then when they surge they go to 7 days on, one day off and that schedule is just wearing them down.”


Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of U.S. Air Command, was the first to draw attention to the crisis in a memo to the chief that leaked in March.


“I just felt like we needed to say we are at that breaking point if we don’t do something to normalize the system,” Carlisle said. “We’ve been in constant surge mode. We’re burning them out.”


And that’s not all that is burned out. The aging fleet of fighter jets — other than the stealth F-22 — could soon be overtaken by Russian, Chinese and French warplanes.


“The gap,” Welsh reminds us, “has closed.”





The Pentagon Is Rethinking a $475 Million Cyber Defense Proposal


May 25, 2015 By Aliya Sternstein Nextgov



Cyber Command has called off a sweeping solicitation that would have outsourced support for cyberspying and network attacks against foreigners, as well as the defense of military networks.


As of Friday afternoon, there were few details on why the five-year-old command, which is racing to staff up, revoked an April 30 request for proposals from contractors. The jobs were worth up to $475 million over five years.


Drawing major assistance from industry was supposed to help deploy the so-called Cyber National Mission Force, according to the original solicitation. The purpose of the venture was “to streamline USCYBERCOM’s acquisition of cyber mission support capabilities and services, information technology services, and cyber professional services” across multiple disciplines “under a centralized structure.”


But now the Pentagon is rethinking the whole investment.


A new notice states that the solicitation: “is cancelled in its entirety, effective May 21, 2015. The government has determined it is necessary to reassess the needs of USCYBERCOM and to consider whether another acquisition strategy could better meet those needs.”



It is unclear what prompted CYBERCOM to change its mind about going forward with the contracting plan. Nextgov has reached out to Defense Department contracting officials for more details.


A week ago, the command had extended the deadline for submissions to June 19. Contracting officers, at the time, said the extension would allow the government to respond to vendor questions.


On April 30, the Pentagon inspector general announced it had conducted a classified audit of operations to expand the command, titled, “U.S. Cyber Command and Military Services Need to Reassess Processes for fielding Cyber Mission Force Teams.”



Senators: Pentagon needs to improve training for RPA pilots



By Brian Everstine, Staff writer 4:50 p.m. EDT May 27, 2015


The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee are calling on the Pentagon to standardize training for all remotely piloted aircraft operators following a Government Accountability Office report that found Air Force and Army pilots have trouble finishing their training before operating drones.


Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., on Wednesday sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter calling for improvements to alleviate stress in the RPA pilot career fields and to ensure the pilots meet high standards.


“We are disturbed that the Department of Defense has no standardized training program for [unmanned aerial system] pilots and personnel,” the senators wrote. “The continued lack of consistent and uniform training standards is simply unacceptable. In addition to collecting critical intelligence, the department’s UAS programs carry out sensitive strike missions that should require high standards and specialized training.”


The Government Accountability Office on May 14 released a report on pilot training for RPA systems that urged the Pentagon to take corrective actions to improve how operators are trained. The GAO found that Air Force and Army pilots have faced challenges in completing their training.


Air Force records for seven units show that just 35 percent of the pilots had completed training for all their required missions, the GAO wrote. Pilots in all of the focus groups said they could not finish their training because of a manning shortage requiring them to fly operational missions. These issues were also highlighted in a 2014 GAO report, and the Air Force has not fully implemented any of the recommendations, according to the agency.


The Army, meanwhile, “does not know the full extent to which pilots been trained and are therefore ready to be deployed” because Army unit status reports do not require pilot training information, the GAO wrote.


The Air Force has a shortfall of 400 MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper pilots to sustain a service requirement of 1,200 pilots.


“That ‘shortfall’ may in fact be somewhat misleading as there is a distinct possibility the Air Force requirement may be understated,” the senators wrote in their letter. “These pilot shortages have constrained training and place extreme strain on the existing community of pilots and sensor operators.”


The senators urge Carter to focus senior leaders on the issue and develop a coherent strategy to ensure the operators are “highly trained and proficient” in their missions.


The Air Force has repeatedly acknowledged this shortfall, and put in place multiple efforts to retain and gain more RPA pilots, including increasing the use of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen and using more bonuses to keep pilots flying remotely piloted aircraft.




Welsh: Enlisted airmen might fly drones — and manned aircraft


By Jeff Schogol, Staff writer 5:19 p.m. EDT May 27, 2015



Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh will make a decision in November on whether enlisted airmen can fly remotely piloted aircraft, commonly known as drones.


What’s more, Welsh opened the door to considering enlisted pilots in manned aircraft as well.


“It’s time to look at how we use this talent pool in a different way,” Welsh said. “And one of the ways we could use it is not just in the RPA force. RPA would just be the first piece, we have to look at the pilot force in general.”


Welsh made his remarks at a May 21 virtual town hall. While he said he has no doubt that enlisted airmen are able to fly drones, the Air Force needs to consider some possible issues that might come up if enlisted airmen flew alongside officers.


“You could create situations, if you’re not careful, where you’ve got really weird student-instructor relationships,” Welsh said at the town hall, which has been posted on YouTube.


The Air Force is losing more drone pilots than it trains, and one possible solution being considered would be to allow enlisted airmen to become drone pilots. Currently, enlisted airmen serve as sensor operators for drones. All the pilots are commissioned officers.


Welsh said he has also asked for a review of whether enlisted airmen who fly drones may resent the fact that they would be earning less money than officers, who are doing the same job.


“For example, you might be really excited about being an RPA pilot and going into it and getting an aviation bonus and all that as a staff or a tech [sergeant], and when you make master, you’re still really excited about it, but now you’re flying right next to this major or a lieutenant colonel who is making a heck of a lot more money than you are, and they’re the commander and you’re listening to them,” Welsh said.


“When you first start, you’re probably OK then, but after you’ve been in the business for 15 years, you’re probably not going to be as happy about putting up with that because you’re going to know an awful lot about the business — more — than that new commander does and they’re making a lot more money.”


Welsh said the timeline for making a decision is the Corona meeting this fall. “I’ve asked them to come back with specific details about things like what exactly would the composition be of a test class, if we started a test class about [a] year from now. How many of what types of specialties would we consider, should it mostly be RPA sensor operators in that test group or should we make it broader than that.”


Enlisted airmen could begin to learn how to fly drones on Oct. 1, 2016, he said.


“Should it be mostly RPA sensor operators in that test group, or should we make it a little broader than that and not just take people who are already very familiar with the mission and bring in, maybe, half RPA sensor operators, who want to become a pilot, and half airmen, who are just strong performers everywhere else and have no aviation background — and give them the same kind of tests we give when we recruit people for this career fields as officers?” Welsh said.


Welsh will also receive an analysis of how much money the Air Force would save if “25 or 50 or 75 or more percent” of drone pilots were enlisted airmen, he said. “Because the life cycle cost of a tech or a master [sergeant] is much different than the life cycle cost of a lieutenant colonel or colonel.”



Air Force Developing Swarms of Mini-Drones May 27, 2015 | by Kris Osborn


The Air Force is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones designed to overwhelm and confuse enemy radar systems or blanket an area with multiple sensors at the same time, service officials said.


While still primarily in the laboratory stage, the concept is gaining traction with Air Force scientists who are making progress developing algorithms for swarms of small unmanned aircraft vehicles, or UAVs, said Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist.


“It is built on the biological concept of say a swarm of bees, for example, where you can see a lot of them fly as a group but they do not run into each other. They manage some type of coordinated activity between them in order to be able to navigate successfully,” Endsley told Military?.com. “In the laboratory – we have developed algorithms that allow small UAVs to be able to operate that way so that they can work in conjunction without running into each other.”


Endsley added that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.


Swarms of drones would be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force officials said.


“You might want to set the task for five or six UAVs to go and cover a particular area where they work in conjunction with each other. Maybe one has one type of sensor and the other has another type of sensor — so they could cue each other,” Endsley said.


“If one picked up an object of interest, it could cue another one to go examine it with maybe a different kind of sensor that might a higher resolution. They would be working together to accomplish a particular mission.”


Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses, Endsley acknowledged.


“This has the ability to provide so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once,” said Phillip Finnegan, UAV expert at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.


“This is an important area of research because it offers the potential to provide new ways of attacking an adversary at lower cost. It is also important to understand that an adversary might wish to use swarms against the United States — so this has an offensive and defensive character,” Finnegan added.


In addition, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Cost is an important element of the mini-drone swarming concept, Finnegan added.


“From a cost perspective, it is important to figure out how to do this in a low cost way. If you start using expensive munitions, it is prohibitively expensive,” he said.


Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in an upcoming paper called “autonomous horizons.” The new Air Force strategy, to be released next month, also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s.


The Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.


“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said.


The demonstration will take place from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.


U.S. Air Force confirms Boeing’s electromagnetic pulse weapon

By Lulu Chang — May 26, 2015

For the last few years, the creative minds of Hollywood had seemingly outpaced the reality of technological and scientific advances in the weapons field. But no longer. Stepping out of the realm of science fiction and into reality is the joint U.S. Air Force and Boeing electromagnetic pulse weapon, capable of targeting and destroying electrical systems without the collateral damage often associated with traditional firepower. As Don Cheadle noted in the ever-relevant Ocean’s 11, this new weapon “is a bomb — but without the bomb.”

Known as the “CHAMP,” or Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, the American military project is an attempt to develop a device with all the power of a nuclear weapon but without the death and destruction to people and infrastructure that such a weapon causes. Theoretically, the new missile system would pinpoint buildings and knock out their electrical grids, plunging the target into darkness and general disconnectedness.

The project has been in the works for a few years now, and has met with significant success in preliminary trials. In 2012, it was reported that a CHAMP mission in Utah managed to hit and subsequently disable seven separate targets in one mission, demonstrating its accuracy and precision. Indeed, it is this capacity to target individual buildings and not cities at large that makes the new weapon so effective, as it would allow military members to cut off electricity supplies to enemy parties while keeping civilians out of the melee.

According to Air Force Research Laboratory commander Major General Tom Masiello, CHAMP is “an operational system already in our tactical air force.” While it appears that the Laboratory has only commissioned five such devices with Boeing, with the Air Force’s recent confirmation of the weapon’s existence, there may be more in the works in the future.

Military forces have been actively developing next-generation weapons that take warfare well beyond the guns and rockets that populate modern arsenals. Lasers have been a key area of advancement: Lockheed Martin test fired a laser weapon in March that took out a truck engine from a mile away, while the Navy deployed a Laser Weapon System (LaWS for short) on a vessel in the Persian Gulf in December.

Next stop, railguns, right?


What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Several of the biggest issues facing the nation are in court or on their way there, with many voters hoping judges will do what their elected representatives won’t do.

President Obama’s plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation ran into more legal trouble this week when a federal appeals court refused to let it move forward. That’s okay with voters who’ve opposed the president’s executive action from the start.  The next stop is likely to be the U.S. Supreme Court.

You might be surprised, however, how many voters now think illegal immigrants should be allowed to vote.

Can Obama change Obamacare without Congress’ okay? That’s the question at the heart of a federal court hearing this past week on a lawsuit filed by the House of Representatives. It’s the first ever lawsuit by the full House against a sitting president.

Voters still tend to think the new national health care law isn’t working and expect things to get even worse.

Most voters want to make major changes in the health care law or dump it completely.  But they strongly believe that that’s something the president and Congress should do together.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the next month on a lawsuit challenging the subsidies provided for some Americans to purchase health insurance under the health care law. It will be a serious setback for the law if the court upholds the challenge. Voters continue to believe the Supreme Court is politically biased.

The U.S. Senate is returning for a highly unusual special Sunday session to decide whether to extend the controversial Patriot Act, including its provisions allowing the National Security Agency to spy on millions of innocent Americans. How important do voters consider their privacy rights when national security is at stake?

A federal appeals court recently ruled that the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records is illegal, but voters are actually now more supportive of the agency’s actions.

Perhaps in part, that’s because just 34% think the United States is safer today than it was before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the lowest level of confidence in five years.

Voters are a little more willing to spend money on national security these days,  but generally speaking, they prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes.

But 41% say their state government is now too big. Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters in states run mostly by Democrats feel that way. 

Most voters also say their state’s budget picture hasn’t improved, even though they’re much more likely to be paying higher rather than lower state taxes these days.

But then again how much do voters really know? They complain that they don’t have enough say over who gets elected to lead them.

But just 11% think most Americans are informed voters.

Voters still turn to TV over the Internet when it comes to political news, but the gap is narrowing. Most voters, however, doubt the accuracy of political news coverage and think most reporters will slant their coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign.

In other surveys last week:

Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction.

The president’s daily job approval ratings remain in the mid- to high negative teens.

— Higher education has long been a booming business in the United States, but with record student debt and a difficult jobs picture, many are wondering if they are getting their money’s worth from college these days.

Most Americans consider Memorial Day an important U.S. holiday. Forty-one percent (41%) say they have a close friend or relative who gave their life while serving in the U.S. military.


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