Posts filed under ‘Washington’

WASHINGTON: Pentagon Opens All Combat Roles to Women in All Services

Historic Decision.

Capt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot at their Army Ranger course graduation. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Capt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot at their Army Ranger course graduation.
(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Back in August we wrote about two female soldiers who were the first women to graduate from the Army’s grueling Ranger course. At the same time, we noted that Army Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver could not apply for a job with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The elite unit has a separate selection process, which wasn’t open to women.

Well, on Thursday (December 3) that all changed.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that he is opening all jobs in U.S. combat units from the infantry to Special Operations Forces to all “who can meet operationally relevant and gender neutral standards.” That policy change will open all jobs to female soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen — including positions in elite units like the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS — if they meet physical and other standards.

Carter’s decision caps of trend that began in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was dropping a longtime ban on women serving directly in ground combat units. Since then the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps launched studies of the potential impact of gender integrated combat units. “Both the Army and Marine Corps studies found that women participating in ground combat training sustained injuries in higher  rates than men, particularly in occupational fields requiring load-bearing,” said Carter’s guidance memorandum on implementing the change.

The Marine Corps was the only service to seek exemptions from the rule change, asking to continue excluding women from certain combat jobs. But that idea was strongly criticized by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has authority over the Marine Corps. And Carter’s decision negated the Marines request for exemptions. The top Marine officer who sought the exemptions was General Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Washington Post. Dunford did not attend the Pentagon press conference where Carter revealed and explained the new policy. But in a statement issued by his office, the Post reported, Dunford said. “In the wake of the Secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented. Moving forward my focus is to lead the full integration of women in a manner that maintains our joint warfighting capability, ensures the health and welfare of our people, and optimizes how we leverage talent across the Joint Force.”

Members of the female engagement team assigned to 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment teach a hygiene class to children at a village medical outreach in Boldak, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2010.   (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Marionne T. Mangrum)

Members of the female engagement team assigned to 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, teach a hygiene class to children at a village medical outreach in Boldak, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2010.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Marionne T. Mangrum)

The services and Special Operations Command have until January 1 to submit their final, detailed implementation plans to Pentagon officials. They are all required to begin executing their individual plans no later than April 1, 2016.

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December 3, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: U.S. to Deploy More Special Ops in Fight Against ISIS

Expeditionary Targeting Force.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq. (Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq.
(Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The Obama administration is sending more Special Operations Forces (SOF) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing Tuesday (December 1) that the Pentagon was deploying “a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces and put “even more pressure” on the leadership of the so-called Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Eventually, Carter said, special operators will be able to “conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”

Carter did not detail how many SOF troops would be sent to the region or where they would be deployed. But Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to several news organizations, said this new force was expected to be based in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq. The number of SOF operators could be between 150 and 200, it was reported by USA Today, the Washington Post and Reuters.

President Obama has already sent 3,500 troops to Iraq and the surrounding region to advise and support — but not fight alongside —  Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In October Obama authorized the deployment of  50 special ops troops to advise and train Arab and Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Syria.

Before that, Obama was — and remains — reluctant to commit U.S. ground forces to fight ISIS, preferring to rely on U.S. led airstrikes on ISIS targets in support of Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamist terror organization, which has captured chunks of Iraq and Syria.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War. (Click to enlarge)

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the the air campaign has intensified against ISIS’s main revenue stream: oil exports. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  also at the hearing, said the air attacks had disrupted 43 percent of ISIS oil production. But under sometimes testy questioning, Dunford conceded that “we have not contained” ISIS.

“We are at war,” Carter told the hearing, adding that he meant “this is a serious business … it has that kind of gravity.” ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, and a string of attacks in Paris last month that left 130 dead.

Carter said  the new SOF presence in Iraq will raise uncertainty among ISIS leaders. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window,” he added.

December 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: The First “Official” Thanksgiving, In the Midst of War

Lincoln’s Proclamation.

Mr. LincolnIf you’re reading this, you’re probably stuffed after a meal of turkey with all the trimmings. You’re also probably done with watching football, The Godfather or X-Men. Maybe you’ve read or heard some of the annual Thanksgiving Day news pieces about the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts or the equally ubiquitous stories about what they really ate at that first thanksgiving meal and who was or wasn’t there or how President Franklin Roosevelt was persuaded to move the holiday up a week in 1939 to extend the Christmas shopping season — and bolster the economic recovery from the Great Depression

But here at 4GWAR, we’re mindful that the first official national day of Thanksgiving came in the midst of a terrible Civil War that had cost thousands of lives and was still far from over. It seems strange remarkable (what I shouldda wrote) to think President Abraham Lincoln decided the country needed to pause and consider what it did have to be thankful for despite all the carnage.

Well here is what Mr. Lincoln had to say about all that more than 150 years ago.

 

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

To read more about the story of Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation, click here or here or here, where Lincoln issued a second Thanksgiving proclamation a year later — while the war still raged.

Thanksgiving Day 1863 as envisioned in Harper's Weekly.

Thanksgiving Day 1863 as envisioned in Harper’s Weekly.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

November 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: USAF Picks Northrop Grumman Bid for New Long Range Bomber

Next Generation Bomber.

Northrop Grumman has won the competition to build the next Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) for the U.S. Air Force, officials announced Tuesday (October 27) at the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials announce winner of Long Range Strike Bomber competition. Left to right: Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Pentagon officials announce winner of Long Range Strike Bomber competition. Left to right: Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh
(U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

The contract award —  calls for Northrop Grumman to produce 21 aircraft costing up to $550 million apiece(in 2010 dollars) — which translates to $606 million in today’s dollars. The Air Force plans to buy 100 aircraft in all, but later aircraft are expected to cost less under a as full rate production gets underway. The Air Force picked Northrop Grumman’s offering over one by a team consisting of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

B-52 Stratofortress (U.S. Air Force photo via wikipedia)

B-52 Stratofortress
(U.S. Air Force photo via wikipedia)

The LRS-B is designed to replace two of the Air Force’s aging bomber fleets — the Cold War era B-52 Stratofortresses, which are all over 50 years old and the supersonic B-1 Lancer bombers now over 30 years old. The B-2 Spirit stealthy bomber will still be flying into mid century.

According to the Air Force, the LRS-B provides the strategic agility to launch from the United States and strike any target, any time around the globe. The Air Force has said the aircraft could be optionally manned and the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, called it a “dual capable bomber.”

The Air Force hopes to begin deploying the new bombers in the mid-2020s, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said. Originally, the Air Force thought it would have deployable bombers by 2018 but then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates halted the program in 2009 because of skyrocketing costs driven by new and unproven technology, according to Defense One.

B-1B Lancer bomber (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

B-1B Lancer bomber
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

 

“A bid protest [by the losing team] seems inevitable,” says Defense News “given that LRS-B is the first major military aircraft acquisition program since the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] award in 2001, and likely the last until the sixth-generation fighter [in the] next decade.” A lengthy protest period could delay the program’s start.

No Photos

“As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber,” said Wes Bush, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is playing it close to the vest  when it comes to disclosing details — how big, how much payload will it carry, how fast does it fly, even little ones like what the new aircraft is going to be called — besides the B-3. Officials did not release any photos of what the new bomber looks like — or may look like.

Back in 2012, Smithsonian Air & Space magazine asked your 4GWAR editor to imagine what the new aircraft might look like for a stand-alone, special edition. You can see what we — along with some aviation experts and illustrator Paul DiMare — envisioned the bomber of the future might look like.

You can see that image by clicking here.

Who knows, maybe in a year or so we might be seeing the LRSB itself and have a chance to see what we got wrong — or right.

October 28, 2015 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

DEFENSE/PEACEKEEPING: Big Week Coming

Two Big Conferences.

Calendar14GWAR was lying low last week after a busy conference season — Air & Space — Modern Day Marine — Military Reporters and Editors and one of the biggest, the Association of the U.S. Army.

But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.

UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.

It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

For more information, click here.

ISOA SUMMIT

The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).

ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”

We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.

Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.

October 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: Modern Day Marine Conference

Monster “Trucks”

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VIRGINIA — We went south of Washington this week for a first-time visit to the Modern Day Marine (MDM) expo and confrence.

Photo courtesy of Modern Day Marine Military Exposition

Photo courtesy of Modern Day Marine Military Exposition

Unlike massive military and industry conferences like the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space in April and the Association of the U.S. Army gathering next month in Washington, Modern Day Marine is held outdoors (in large air conditioned tents) instead of in a huge convention center. Even the panel discussions conducted by Marine Corps brass are held in a very big tent with folding chairs on temporary flooring.

At the first panel discussion, several generals and a couple of colonels talked about the importance of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), pronounced MAGTAF. It’s the Corps’ basic expeditionary force that can put Marines ashore via landing craft, helicopters —  or both — as part of a rapid response to a crisis. We’ll discuss this more over the weekend.

But we want to get to the four monster amphibious vehicles on display facing each other in one of the expo’s big tents.

For years the Marine Corps has been looking for a replacement for its aging Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV), a tracked landing craft that has been around since the 1970s. Five companies are competing for the contract to build the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) to replace the AAV.

The original planned replacement vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), was cancelled in 2011 by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates for being too expensive and behind schedule.

Now the Marines are looking for a big vehicle that can carry at least 10 Marines (beside an operating crew of three), get them to the beach from a ship as much as 12 nautical miles off shore, at a speed of at least 6 knots. The ACV will have to be as rugged and protective as a tank but be able to carry troops far inland quickly, if necessary.

Lockheed Martin's entry n ACV competition. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin’s entry in the ACV competition.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin unveiled its offering for the first time on Tuesday (September 22). Like all of the others on display, it is an 8×8 behemoth. The desert tan vehicle can carry as many as 13 Marines as well as a three-person crew.

BAE Systems, which makes the current AAV, is hoping to replace it with its entry displayed in forest camouflage colors.

BAE Systems ACV entry. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

BAE Systems ACV entry.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Science Applications International Corporation, better known as SAIC, had its gray Terrex 2 vehicle on display. The Terrex can carry 11 passengers plus a crew of three.

SAIC ACV on display at Modern Day Marine. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

SAIC ACV on display at Modern Day Marine.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Last but not least was a solid green 8X8 from General Dynamics.

The General Dynamics entry in the Marines' ACV competition. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The General Dynamics entry in the Marines’ ACV competition.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Also in the hunt for the ACV program — but not at MDM — is a team consisting of of Advanced Defense Vehicle Systems and St Kinetics, a Singapore company.

The Marines are expected to select two vehicles from the five offerings in November. Each company will then provide 16 vehicles to be tested in all types of climes and conditions.

[More on Modern Day Marine this weekend. Stay tuned.]

September 25, 2015 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Rainforest Battle; U.S.-Brazil Relations

Fighting Illegal Amazon Logging.

Amazon Basin. The yellow line encloses Amazon Basin as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. National boundaries are shown in black. (Image by NASA, boundaries by Pfly, via wikipedia.)

Amazon Basin. The yellow line encloses Amazon Basin as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. National boundaries are shown in black.
(Image by NASA, boundaries by Pfly, via wikipedia.)

Government officials in Brazil say fighting illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest is like battling illegal narcotics operations elsewhere.

Maria Luisa de Sousa has been co-ordinating a month-long operation to halt illegal logging in northern and eastern Mato Grosso state by the government-funded institute responsible for environmental protection. She says the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organized crime. “You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting,” she tells the BBC in a piece today (July 9) on the battle to save the rainforest.

De Sousa’s organization, Ibama, uses helicopters to spot timber poachers from the air. But in the future, unmanned aircraft are expected to join the fight to preserve the Amazon region — which represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and has been called the Lungs of the World. Last May in Atlanta, at the huge annual robotics conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), several unmanned aircraft manufacturers told 4GWAR that they expected the need to persistent aerial surveillance in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil will heat up the Latin American market for drones  — large and small. We’ll be writing more about this at 4GWAR in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, according to the BBC report by ew monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year. Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.

Back in 2010, Brazil announced a new strategic defense plan calling for increased military presence in the Amazon region to link national defense with national development by protecting and leveraging Brazil’s large water, agricultural and energy resources. That plan called for building up Air Force, Army and Navy capabilities including five new submarines and supplying its own satellite imagery — rather than but it from other countries.

Even though President Dilma Rousseff has cut government spending as the country staggers through a contracting economy, Brazil is still among the top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2014, according to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

*** *** ***

Brazil-U.S. Relations.

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington in late June and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And that seemed to signal that after two years of acrimony, the two countries were moving to reset their relations, according to an article in the World Politics Review.

Bilateral relations cooled significantly after revelations in 2013 by rogue National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials — including Rousseff. The Brazilian president cancelled her state visit scheduled for that October, after the scandal broke.

In the intervening years, Russia has sought closer ties with Brazil — particularly in defense technology sales. Brazil is set to buy Russian Pantsir air defense systems in early 2016.

Last Fall, Brazil announced it was buying its next generation fighter jets from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab. Brazile will pay $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter airplanes.

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

 

 

July 9, 2015 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

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