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The Army’s Future in Cyberspace
By Lt. Col. James Jay Carafano, U.S. Army retired

There is a good deal of energy and a fair amount of chaos in the Army’s approach to developing the resources needed for seizing the high ground in cyber warfare. That’s a good thing. What the military needs to succeed in this effort is even more energy and more chaos. That’s because it is currently operating within a very large void.

In 2013, The Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington, D.C., began a unique research project: developing an independent, objective measure of U.S. military power that would enable analysts to assess the strength of the armed forces relative to threats and mission. The first edition of the Index of U.S. Military Strength comes out this year. Subsequent editions, published annually, will track year-to-year changes in strength, threats and mission, allowing us to mark whether the relative power of the armed forces rises or falls.

Unlike episodic assessments of military capabilities such as the Quadrennial Defense Review and National Defense Panels, the index uses consistent metrics to evaluate forces, threats and the operational environment. Further, in contrast to indices such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ The Military Balance, The Heritage Foundation’s index includes both standardized quantitative and qualitative assessments that incorporate more than just the numbers of planes, ships and people. It provides context for determining the force structure’s relevance to military requirements.
 
 
V.A. Secretary Apologizes for Embellishing Military Record
Robert A. McDonald, the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, apologized on Monday for falsely claiming last month that he had served in the Special Forces.
Mr. McDonald, a 1975 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, where he completed jungle, arctic, desert warfare and Ranger training, according to his official biography.

But his assertion to a homeless veteran in Los Angeles that he was in the Special Forces — captured on camera for a CBS News report — was false, he acknowledged on Monday. His initial claim was first reported by The Huffington Post.

Mr. McDonald said in a statement that his claim “was inaccurate, and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.”
“I have great respect for those who have served our nation in Special Forces,” Mr. McDonald said. “They, and all veterans, deserve a Department of Veterans Affairs that provides them the care and benefits they have earned.”

He said he would “remain committed” to improving veterans’ services and overhauling the department.
White House officials said they accepted Mr. McDonald’s explanation.

“Secretary McDonald has apologized for the misstatement and noted that he never intended to misrepresent his military service,” the White House said. “We take him at his word and expect that this will not impact the important work he’s doing to promote the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans.”

 
Continued U.S. military presence in southern Afghanistan
In the first official sign that the Pentagon plans to keep a U.S. military presence in southern Afghanistan after this year, the Army is sending the 7th Infantry Division headquarters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord on a year-long deployment to Kandahar Province this spring.

The deployment follows Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s weekend visit to Kandahar, where he acknowledged in a meeting with soldiers that the Obama administration was reconsidering the pace of its planned withdrawal of the 10,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan.

The deployment is small, fewer than 100 soldiers. But it’s significant because it shows that the U.S. military wants to maintain a presence in Afghanistan’s Pashtun heartland while continuing to reduce its footprint in the 14-year-old war.

The division’s deployment has been an open secret at the base for months. The Pentagon in December announced that it was adding staff to the headquarters to help it reach a deployable strength.

This month, the Army sent the division command team to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana, where it is carrying out an exercise to prepare for the mission. The Army has published photos from the exercise to its own social media accounts.

And, this week, the Army set up an interview with McClatchy’s News-Tribune newspaper to discuss the deployment. Late Tuesday, just before the interview, however, the Army canceled after officials in Washington, D.C. determined they had not given proper notification about the mission to Congress. The deployment is still going forward, officials said.
 
U.S. Army Medicine Leads In Infectious Disease Research
In 2004, U.S. Army Col. Jerome Kim, an infectious disease physician, flew to Bangkok to oversee a massive HIV vaccine study.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime-and the stakes were high. If successful, it could be the first vaccine to show even moderate protection against HIV infection—a  critical milestone in the fight against HIV.

Sponsored by the U.S. Army in partnership with the government of Thailand, the Phase III clinical trial known as RV144 followed 16,000 Thai volunteers. The results announced in 2009 "showed an efficacy rate of 31.2 percent in vaccine recipients," said Dr. Kim, now the Deputy Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).

"This achievement paved the way for us to learn more about the HIV virus, refine the vaccine and boost the immune response so the next generation of the vaccines will be more effective," he said.
 
DoD audit readiness
A bill proposed by four Senators would impose penalties on the Department of Defense if the department does not meet its goal of being audit ready by the end of 2017.

The Audit the Pentagon Act of 2015 (S. 327) was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) last week.

In a press release, Sen. Manchin said “it is simply unacceptable that the Department of Defense is the only major federal agency that has not completed a financial audit. Our bill will help to solve that problem.” Noting that DoD has consistently expressed its commitment to achieving a full audit, Manchin said “Congress should hold them to that.” A similar press release was issued by Sen. Wyden.

Both Manchin and Wyden expressed frustration that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) continues to label “the Department of Defense “High Risk” for waste, fraud abuse and mismanagement due to the agency’s inability to adequately manage its funds.”

Under the proposed bill, if DoD does not meet its audit goal in 2017, congress will increase its oversight every year thereafter leading to the termination of reprogramming a transfer authority of funds. However, If DoD achieves an unqualified audit “which analyzes both the internal systems of control and the details in the agency’s financial records,” the department will get additional transfer authority to use in the following year.
 
 
Army Materiel Command Leadership Team Assesses Logistics Role in Pacific

A leadership team from the U.S. Army Materiel Command, or AMC, recently assessed the organization's role in South Korea, a country where the United States has sustained a 60-plus year alliance touted as one of history's most successful partnerships.

AMC Commander Gen. Dennis L. Via led a team there in early February that included the organization's highest ranking civilian, most senior enlisted leader, and top logistician. The team evaluated the capabilities and requirements of the command to respond to the needs of commanders and forces in the Pacific region.

In his third command visit to South Korea as AMC commander, Via said he was impressed with recent modernizations and praised cost-sharing efforts that are providing support for labor, supplies, services and construction.

The United States invests about a $1 billion annually to station U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula, while South Korea contributed about $867 million to the effort in 2014, following a recent agreement spanning to 2018. That share stimulates the economy through salaries to host-nation workers and supply and service contracts.

Read more.. .

 
Ashton Carter sworn in as secretary of defense
Ashton Carter was sworn in Tuesday as President Barack Obama's fourth secretary of defense.

The 25th defense chief was sworn in at the White House by Vice President Joe Biden. He replaces Chuck Hagel.

Biden called Carter a "profoundly capable manager" who has the "universal respect and affection" from the people he works with.

"If anyone is made for this job, if there's a job description that fit a person, this is the guy that fits the job description," Biden said.

Carter said the position is the "highest calling" and he wanted to make three commitments to the department, the Obama administration and the country's citizens.

He said he wants to "help our president make the best possible decisions about our security and the security of the world" and "make sure our department executes our decisions."

Carter said he's also committed to protecting the men and women of the Department of Defense, and "building a force for our future."

 Read more...

 
Department of Defense holds public meeting to discuss budget cuts

In lieu of budget cuts, the Department of Defense has been tasked to cut the nation's defenses across the world, and Fort Benning will be affected.

The Department of Defense is conducting listening sessions all across the country to discuss how these potential cuts could impact the regions where U.S. military bases are located. 

Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Sanford Bishop, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and a host of other heavy hitters attended the meeting to discuss just how big of an impact downsizing Fort Benning will be to this community.

Both the private and public sectors in the Greater Columbus region have invested about $3.6 billion just to meet the needs of the soldiers on Fort Benning.

That includes, among other things, the building of new homes, new schools, and new infrastructure.

Now, the Army has to cut almost 14,000 jobs; that's military personnel, civilians, and contractors. So if those jobs leave the region, it could potentially reduce our population by about 27,000 people and according the Chamber of Commerce that could mean a loss of about $1.3 billion in total wages, retail sales, and tax collections.

Read more...

 
Proposal would make it more difficult to discharge transgender soldiers

The decision to discharge transgender soldiers from the U.S. Army would be made by a top, senior civilian official under a plan outlined in a draft document obtained by USA Today.

 The newly discovered directive, obtained by USA Today, does not eliminate the rule that allows transgender soldiers to be discharged for their gender identity, but the proposal would make it more difficult to remove such troops from service.

Instead of being made by lower-level Army officers, the memorandum says, the decision to discharge transgender soldiers would be made by the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel.

Currently, transgender troops can be automatically dismissed from service on medical grounds once they are identified.

Read more...

 
Army releases verdicts of January courts-martial

The following January courts-martial results were released last week by the Army:

First Judicial Circuit

  • On Jan. 7 at a general-court martial convened at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., 2nd Lt. Eric J. Wilson was convicted by a military judge of one specification of absence without leave and one specification of disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer. The military judge sentenced the accused to be reprimanded and to forfeit $2,000 pay per month for two months.
  • On Jan. 14 at a special court-martial convened at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Spc. Anthony D. Vallone was acquitted by a military panel composed of officer members of one specification of the wrongful use of marijuana.
  • On Jan. 21 at a general court-martial convened at Fort Drum, New York, Spc. Gerald M. Kinloch was convicted by a military judge of three specifications of misappropriation of more than $500 and three specifications of impersonation with intent to defraud. The military judge sentenced the accused to be reduced to E-1, to be confined for 18 months and to a bad conduct discharge.
  • On Jan. 22 at a general court-martial convened at Fort Campbell, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah D. Austin was convicted by a military judge, pursuant to his pleas, of one specification of sexual abuse of a child. Contrary to his pleas, the military judge convicted the accused of one specification of aggravated sexual contact with a child, four specifications of sexual abuse of a child, one specification of indecent acts with a child and one specification of an indecent act. The military judge sentenced the accused to be reduced to the grade of E-1, to be confined for 10 years and to a dishonorable discharge.
 
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