Over the last several days, the fight led by the Iraqi Army to liberate Mosul and drive the Islamic State from the city is cause for some optimism. The spine of the Iraqi military is finally stiffening and with the help of U.S. and coalition forces, the liberation of Mosul now appears to an achievable objective.
No matter the outcome, the reality is that the fight for Mosul is just the start of what will be a long and arduous campaign to defeat the Islamic State through military means. The radical ideology motivating the Islamic State will persist, as it will throughout other parts of the Middle East, and the Islamic State fighters not killed in the coming and days and weeks will regroup and their presence in Iraq will continue. Though hopefully, not in Mosul.
President Obama acknowledged this week the significance of victory in Mosul, stating “this will be a key milestone in what I committed to doing when [ISIL] first emerged.” He’s right on what victory in Mosul will mean to the people and government of Iraq, as well as to the coalition of forces in support, but his self-proclaimed commitment is still nothing more than a head fake to distract from the fact that a plan to defeat the Islamic State is still non-existent.
It’s certainly not an indictment of the U.S. military under a more than ready and capable Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and leadership team. If unleashed and it’s power harnessed, America’s military force could show the world without condition that the Islamic State—absent an Air Force or surface Navy, for instance—is truly a Junior Varsity squad, as the President stated.
Instead, the Islamic State has been emboldened by America’s inaction and even with Mosul is in the crosshairs at the moment, neither the President nor the Pentagon can articulate what will need to happen next. And it’s not because it’s some closely guarded secret to protect operational planning.
By now, it’s obvious that there is no clear end state for Iraq at large. The president is satisfied with an American presence alone, even if mostly reduced to airpower over Iraqi skies. Unfortunately, as our military leaders understand, presence alone will never win a war or defeat an enemy’s will to fight.
The president can take the lessons learned from Anbar Province when U.S. Marines altered the state of the entire Iraq war in 2005. Similarly, it will take a better understanding of the Islamic State’s strengths and weaknesses, including its tactical vulnerabilities. To be effective is less about immediately attacking the Islamic State at its center of gravity, such as its financing or public relations arm, but rather what’s allowing its fighters to communicate and move freely on the battlefield.
Disrupt this command and control capability and the center of gravity will become more imbalanced and vulnerable. Still, the Islamic State will need to be knocked off its operational planning cycle—far beyond any temporary success that Mosul might yield.
This too must coincide with a broader commitment to confront the enemy at the strategic level. So far, there’s been no concerted planning to defeat the Islamic State at the strategic and operational levels—and it shows.
The effort to liberate Mosul mustn’t be misunderstood as a potential death blow to the Islamic State in Iraq. It’s not. What it symbolizes, beyond a much needed military victory, is an opportunity for President Obama and his administration to finally realize the importance and necessity of developing a long-term plan of attack that will actually allow for the isolation and defeat of the Islamic State.
With the right strategy, the fight against the Islamic State is definitely winnable.Read More
For the better part of the last three decades, commercial space launch was a specialty of the Russians and the Europeans while the United States lagged far behind. In 2011 and 2012, the United States was responsible for just two of 38 commercial launches while the next largest and most ambitious competitor in the market was identified as China — not the United States.
What a difference a few years have made, thanks to the revolutionary innovation within a surging domestic base for commercial space launch led by SpaceX — an all-American company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk. And ever since the company first came online in 2002, the commercial space market has been turned on its head as newer and more groundbreaking technology has been developed, tested and certified.
None of these advancements have been without risk, however. On September 1, a SpaceX launch vehicle, the Falcon 9, and a commercial satellite set to launch a few days later were destroyed in an explosion. The incident, while still under investigation, is more proof that endeavors in space remain a hazardous and risky business.
SpaceX’s direct competitor, United Launch Alliance (ULA), is now drawing attention to the mishap. As the only two certified launch providers, SpaceX and ULA are amid a healthy competition to secure a stronghold on launch services in both the commercial and national security spheres.
ULA, as it should, has its sights set on the next GPS III competition — scheduled for award early next year for a launch that won’t occur until 2018 or 2019. And ULA is citing the rocket mishap to undercut the appeal of SpaceX’s affordability given that cost is what drove ULA out of the last round of competition.
In addition to asking for a delay in the next round of bids for sensitive national security space launches, ULA is making a point that cost should be de-emphasized in the source selection criteria for contract awards. Doing so would be far more catastrophic to the future success of American space launch than the loss of a single Falcon 9 rocket and commercial satellite. The requests should be rejected.
Nobody was hurt in the SpaceX mishap, thankfully, making the Falcon 9 rocket that was being prepped to launch the most significant casualty of the day. It’s a rocket that has launched 27 times successfully, including nine times since last December, and it’s the only system of its kind capable of rocket booster reuse. On six separate occasions over the last two years, the Falcon 9 has successfully entered space, deployed a payload and returned to a landing pad or landing site at sea.
The concept and development of a reusable rocket booster is a critical component to ensuring America’s assured access to space. Beyond significantly lowering the costs of operating in space while increasing frequency, the Falcon 9 is at the forefront of a revitalized manufacturing base that is essential not only to American job growth and industrial strength, but also important to enhancing U.S. national security. Any interest to exclude cost from the equation, as ULA prefers, will be disruptive to both. More importantly, it would stifle both innovation and competition.
ULA is no less a leader in the effort to advance U.S. space access, but if there’s one shortcoming for ULA, it’s that it relies exclusively on a Russian-made rocket motor — inciting concern of overreliance on a Russian government that’s increasingly provocative and adversarial.
Both ULA and SpaceX have critical partnerships with the Department of Defense and like any competitors, they are challenging each other to make greater technological leaps. Furthermore, when considering the importance of inhibiting any type of delay in maintaining the nation’s assured access to space, it is imperative to continue funding for the development, testing and delivery of U.S.-designed and built rocket booster engines in order to put an end to America’s dependence on foreign engine suppliers.
For instance, U.S. rocket engine developer Aerojet Rocketdyne is capable of providing its affordable AR1 for use in current launch systems as early as 2019, eliminating the need for the Russian-made RD180 rocket booster.
It’s a good thing for the U.S. government and taxpayers, but there are bound to be temporary setbacks given the trickery of launching any vehicle into space, especially if that vehicle is intended to land itself back on earth and be available for reuse. A mishap by either SpaceX or ULA should never be grounds for politicization. More, it’s an opportunity to create efficiencies and stronger competition.
The Falcon 9 explosion is not an indictment on Space X or its technology, nor should it suggest in any way that we should shun the risk associated with developing the space access systems of the future. It’s also by no means an indictment on ULA for not necessarily pushing its short game the same way SpaceX has.
The Falcon 9 incident also puts in plain perspective the complications and dangers associated with accessing space. Taking risks will continue to be necessary, just as guaranteeing access to space now and into the future is in the national interest.
How well these priorities are balanced will determine just how much sooner and for how long the United States will be the unmatched global leader in a frontier with so much economic and security implication.
There will always be inherent risk with pioneering new technology. SpaceX and companies like it shouldn’t be punished for innovation and the challenges that come with it.
This is certainly one instance where risk — whether taken by SpaceX or ULA — will be very much worth the reward.Read More
The US Army is a lethal force that can target and kill America’s enemies anywhere in the world. The capability harnessed by the Army is a testament to fearless leadership, tough training and a strong working relationship with innovative industry partners.
In so many areas where new technology meshes with the warfighter, the Army has gotten things right. The basic soldier has weapon systems that are in a class by themselves and the gadgetry only gets better for most elite operators.
The Army understands the wants and needs of its soldiers, but its own acquisition system has its limitations. Nowhere is this more evident than in in the area of enterprise software development and procurement.
Software is not a vehicle, tank or helicopter, and requires a special level of talent and adaptability that is unique in places like Silicon Valley—not the Pentagon. It’s not all the fault of the Army, but more an indictment on an acquisition system that is incapable of keeping pace with the outside world.
The Army’s Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) is proof of this fact. For the better part of the last decade, the Army has struggled to build DCGS from the ground up as the primary intelligence tool for soldiers on the battlefield. As an overarching enterprise, DCGS is a legitimate and worthwhile endeavor, intended to compute and store massive amounts of data and deliver information in real time.
What the Army has created, although well-intentioned, is a sluggish system that is difficult to use, layered with complications and unable to sustain the constant demands of intelligence analysts and soldiers in combat. The cost to taxpayers has been approximated at $4 billion. But for soldiers that depend on reliable intelligence and information sharing, the cost of system with such significant deficiencies is incalculable.
Because of these shortcomings, various commands and soldiers have requested alternative off-the-shelf commercial products to fill existing gaps in capability. The most sought-after technology to fill those gaps is provided by Palantir Technologies—a Silicon Valley company at the leading edge of software development. One thing Palantir’s technology does especially well is roadside detection and prediction, making it a platform in high demand for soldiers in Afghanistan.
Since the introduction of DCGS, the Army has resisted incorporating Palantir into its intelligence enterprise. So when the Army issued its proposal for the next installment of DCGS, attempting to build on the lessons learned, Palantir took the Army to task in federal court, as any contractor with a reasonable complaint would, and what’s been revealed so far—as fact—is absolutely astounding.
In legal testimony, an Army official acknowledged giving a reporter a “negative” and “not scientific” document about Palantir’s capabilities that was written by a staff member but formatted to appear like a report from the International Security Assistance Force. That same official stated that the document was not based on scientific data. That same document was also circulated on Capitol Hill along with other false and misleading information used to perpetuate a negative perception of Palantir.
Also circulated was a memorable Venn diagram, claiming that Palantir could not match DCGS in performance. Army testimony stated this information presented to Congress was “dated.”
Further, the Army stated emphatically that Palantir could only perform eight to ten percent of functions compared to DCGS. The evaluations needed to make that determination never occurred.
These incidents represent only a snapshot of misleading statements and information that originated within the Army to solidify opposition to an emergent company with technology that was preferred by soldiers on the battlefield. Congress, soldiers and the public were consistently misinformed and the high degree of dysfunction within the Army was allowed to continue for too long. At least now there is verification—through Army admittance—of the true dysfunction within the program.
How the lawsuit concludes is uncertain, but at the very least these revelations and other facts likely to be revealed must be taken seriously by Congress and Army leaders committed to understanding software acquisition and the necessity for honest and open leadership. Thankfully, the Army now has the right leaders in Gen. Mark Milley and Secretary Eric Fanning, and they recognize the shortcomings of DCGS at the tactical level and the need to make system-wide improvements. They are quality leaders and if there’s anybody that can get things right, it’s these two.
But through the course of the ongoing lawsuit, the Army and the rest of government should take note of the fact that the military acquisition system is incapable of conforming to the lightning pace and development targets that are necessary for software. This should be an important lesson learned and cause the Army—especially in light of repeated misleading statements and falsehoods—to rethink its entire approach on DCGS and how it incorporates software for the Army of the future.
The Army has quality leaders in Milley and Fanning, who finally understand the problem. Now the Army needs a software acquisition system and strategy to match.Read More
The Cold War might be over, but the U.S. and Russia are once again in direct competition in the race to gain access to the Arctic and project force from the polar region. This reality has raised the stakes and accelerated the clock for the development and production of a modernized U.S. icebreaker fleet… or just a single ship.
An icebreaker is among the greatest acquisition priorities of the U.S. government, wedged between the interests of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. The existing fleet of icebreakers operated by the Coast Guard is anemic, with only two that can be fielded, and the ships themselves are on borrowed time, even surpassing the age of other military relics that have since been upgraded or replaced.
Russia has the clear advantage, given its geography and an already strong Arctic presence that the U.S. has yet to match. Right now, Russia is reported to have over 40 ships with more in production and development. As for the two icebreakers operated by the Coast Guard, the more reliable of the two is one engine failure away from catastrophe and the second is essentially a floating research lab. Things have gotten so bad for the crews that they have started cannibalizing other assets and even resorted to ordering parts over the internet.
That is no way to execute a national strategy, let alone a ship program with only two operational hulls. In large part, inadequate investment has been a contributing factor, both for the existing icebreakers and future development, but there’s also the fact that building even just a single icebreaker has ranked very low on the priority list for at least the past decade. This is slowly changing, prompted by Russia’s gamesmanship and global expansion, as well as the reality that for too long the U.S. failed to build new icebreakers and is now paying the price.
That cost is in the form of an icebreaker gap. Projections identify a new icebreaker as a ten-year acquisition project and only until this year has the Obama Administration gotten serious, requesting $150 billion for the initial phase of development. The U.S. Senate just upped the ante, allocating $1 billion for the full cost of an icebreaker. This funding is still uncertain due to the inner-workings of Congress and other funding confrontations expected during the President’s last term. Nevertheless, it is funding that is long overdue.
Even with full funding, a single icebreaker will still take approximately 10 years from start to finish. That does nothing to close the gap in capability that has been created. So what to do in the meantime? The options are limited to refurbishing existing ships or entering into leases, both of which must be examined and factored into the overall cost of operating in the Arctic. Even so, this must not distract from the pressing objective of completing a vessel as speedily and efficiently as possible.
Another opportunity is presented to not limit icebreaker acquisition to one ship. The Senate was right to prioritize icebreaker production with a $1 billion allocation, but with that funding within reach, why limit ourselves to one? With that funding, Congress can consider buying a single ship, as the Senate has, or reallocate available funding for two ships that can be acquired as part of a block buy — a more optimal scenario that better reflects U.S. interests. Beyond this, there’s an opportunity to build in the upfront cost of combined materials for two ships while production commences on the first — helping to maximize savings. Ron O’Rourke, a Congressional Research Service specialist in this area, has stated that a block buy would reduce overall costs by 5 percent — amounting to $100 million in savings for a two-ship acquisition. There are even additional cost savings available to the Navy at the margins, depending on which shipyard might receive the contract for production.
So why not apply the funding more intelligently with the aim of maximizing efficiency and reducing costs that are sure to be incurred over time? It makes perfect sense but it will take Congress — to include the authorizing and appropriations committees — the Coast Guard and the Navy to be on the same page.
In this same regard, a persistent problem is that the Navy views icebreaking as an asset to enhance capability, while the Coast Guard, despite its Arctic mission, views an icebreaker as an operational asset. Neither has been enthusiastic about absorbing the costs even though both the Coast Guard and Navy have a mutual interest in icebreaking —from new production to leases. Closing the capability gap will take an all-of-government approach, something the administration, the services and Congress must realize.
The time to make decisions is right now, otherwise there is a risk of higher costs and lost opportunity in the long-run. The U.S. cannot afford either. In this case, there is too much to lose and even more for Russia to gain.Read More
The Jones Act—which requires that U.S. built and crewed shipping vessels move goods between U.S. ports--has always been a target for Wall Street and corporatists. No surprise there. What does come as a surprise, however, is how quick some conservatives are to side with corporate interests in the assault on the Jones Act, ignoring its contribution to the economy and U.S. security. All of it in the name of profits.
This week’s op-ed entitled “Are Jones Act ships really 'made in the USA'? Well, sort of” unfairly misconstrues the essential benefits of the Jones Act. The author would have one believe that the U.S. Shipbuilding industry maintains very little capacity to build ships on its own and that there is no benefit in the Jones Act and the maritime industry it supports. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s true that certain naval parts are acquired from abroad, but what the author fails to mention is the heavy-industrial infrastructure and significant skill sets based in our country, and the obvious risk of further outsourcing both. American shipyards, naval architects, welders, engineers and mariners who work to build and crew Jones Act ships can certainly attest to this.
As for the benefits of the Jones Act, which are misrepresented by dubious claims of higher costs and stifled completion, the American Maritime Industry contributes $100 billion dollars in economic benefits and half million jobs to the U.S. economy.
And as strong as the economic arguments are, the national security arguments are just as compelling—if not more. The Jones Act helps ensure we will have the necessary industrial infrastructure, and skilled labor pool of welders, fitters and sailors needed to rapidly mobilize in times of war. We must never rely on another country for this type of labor or to support U.S. force projection.
Don’t just take my word for it. General Paul Selva, former TRANSCOM Commander and current Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated last year, “ I can stand before any group as a military leader and say without the contribution that the Jones Act brings to the support of our industry there is a direct threat to national defense, and I will not be bashful about saying it and I will not be silent.” Many others in the national security community share his views.
This week, as part of the larger discussion on addressing Puerto Rico’s finances, opponents of the Jones Act will likely attempt their worn-out efforts to weaken the Jones Act. The law’s opponents claim that relieving Puerto Rico of Jones Act requirements will strengthen Puerto Rico’s economy and boost competition. The reality is that Puerto Rico’s economic challenges are not driven by the Jones Act and there is already robust competition—with nearly two-thirds of the vessels calling on Puerto Rico being foreign flagged.
All that eliminating the Jones Act for Puerto Rico will do is degrade our national security and undermine the American Maritime Industry, along with the thousands of jobs it supports.Read More
For nearly a century, the Jones Act has been a reliable safeguard against American and global corporatists wanting to make higher profits at the expense of U.S. national security and jobs. Thanks to the Jones Act, shipping vessels that operate in U.S. waters must be American crewed, American owned and American built. All of this makes perfect sense, except to Wall Street and businesses that only account for their own self-interests — and they're trying to fool everyone into thinking the Jones Act is antiquated and onerous.
Some in Congress are following their lead, citing the same worn-out and less than compelling argument that the Jones Act is a relic of the past. How wrong they are. Their latest endeavor involves infringing on the Jones Act through legislation addressing the Puerto Rico debt crisis, even though Puerto Rico has benefited from Jones Act protections over time.
With or without such an effort, it's imperative not to conflate the unrelated issues of Puerto Rico's debt and the Jones Act, and to fully grasp the importance of ensuring the safe transport of goods between American ports. There must also be acknowledgment of the dire consequences of exposing ports and waterways to foreign seafarers.
Today, especially with terrorism and illegal immigration matters of concern to so many Americans, the security that the domestic maritime industry provides to the United States and its territories is essential. While the current border security discussions have centered on the complexity of securing our land borders, just imagine the difficulty of the Coast Guard trying to manage inland waterways, lakes and coastlines filled with foreign seafarers. Moreover, diverting already strained Coast Guard resources to monitor and manage foreign seafarers in domestic trade would undermine other vital Coast Guard missions.
A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found there are approximately 5 million maritime crew entries into the United States each year, and "the overwhelming majority of seafarers entering U.S. ports are aliens." Citing the potential for terrorism, the GAO said "the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers the illegal entry of an alien through a U.S. seaport by exploitation of maritime industry practices to be a key concern." The State Department similarly calls the issue of foreign seamen security a "national security concern."
The security response to this risk involves procedures overseen by a battery of federal agencies like the Coast Guard, the State Department, and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Despite massive federal efforts, the GAO noted, the percentage of absconders (foreign crew members who depart the vessel despite being told by CBP to remain) and deserters (foreign crew members who lawfully leave the vessel but don't return) continues to grow.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft agreed, addressing the dangers of having foreign vessels in U.S. waters: "If we have foreign-flag vessels doing coastalized trade, what are the safety standards, what is the maritime pollution standards, how are they in compliance with the same standards that we apply to our U.S. fleet?"
Unlike foreign seafarers, who generally enter the United States through carefully defined ports of entry, American seafarers can move freely throughout our nation — navigating the waterways of over the vast majority of our states and all coastlines. They deliver cargo and people throughout our communities, near our schools, past sports arenas, and under major highways. By one estimate, there are more miles of inland waterways in our nation than our land borders with Mexico and Canada combined. It would be impossible to monitor thousands of foreign vessels with foreign crews in our waters. Fortunately, we don't have to because of the Jones Act.
Contrast this with foreign crews for which, as the GAO stated, "the U.S. government has no control over foreign seafarer credentialing practices," all Jones Act mariners are subject to intensive background checks, credentialing, and training.
As Congress works to address the Puerto Rican debt situation or any other policy matter, our guiding principle should always be to first do no harm, particularly when homeland and national security are involved. The brave men and women who operate every day in our domestic waters and between U.S. ports are the eyes and ears of our nation at a time when threats to the homeland remain consistent and strong.Read More
For Congress, there’s a lot on the agenda—budgets, authorizations and program reforms. Most of these issues are the focus of national attention, inciting news reports and headlines and prompting editorialized commentary. These issues are a constant in the political arena and regularly discussed in our communities, and with a national election months away, there’s added enthusiasm and interest among voters. Such excitement is great for American politics.
Amid the back and forth, I also have directed attention and energy to other causes that don’t always attract the national spotlight—but have deep significance in many ways. Throughout my career in Congress, I have taken what have been traditionally identified as personnel cases within the armed forces and exposed the broader policy implications unique to each situation, all while striving to achieve resolution for the individuals involved.
Army SFC Charles Martland
One of my biggest accomplishments involved the case of Army Sergeant First Class and Green Beret Charles Martland. As a Special Forces operator in Afghanistan, Charles was recognized for valor numerous times. He was even rated second among 400 Special Forces instructors, making him an obvious asset to the U.S. Army.
Charles' biggest test occurred in 2011, when an Afghan woman, visibly bruised, approached U.S. forces with her son who had been raped by a corrupt and U.S. supported Local Police Commander. He and another Green Beret confronted the commander, and the commander admitted to repeatedly raping the boy and then laughed it off. Having dealt with another rape incident near his outpost and an honor killing—two severe human rights violations—Charles forcibly removed the commander and instructed him never to come back. For doing that, the Army relieved Charles and years later attempted to expel him from the service.
The issue was brought to my attention—and I immediately connected with Charles and other Green Berets. A mix of letters and media followed, including this article in the New York Times, and I made several television appearances with Charles’ teammate, Captain Danny Quinn (watch one here). Ultimately, I identified deficiencies in the Army’s review process and a decision was recently made, after three extensions during consideration of the case, to retain Charles. In his only public statement after the decision, Charles said:
"I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve," said Martland when reached on the telephone by Fox News. "I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper did for me."
I was honored for the opportunity to fight for Charles, but the greatest honor came from Charles himself more recently, when he notified me that he’ll be naming one of his expected twin boys, Duncan Hunter Martland. Read about it here. From the beginning, Charles has inspired me and I know he’ll be no less inspirational to his sons. He’s a superb role model and an excellent dad already. His twin boys, just like his family now, can always be proud of their father, knowing that he stood up to a corrupt commander in Afghanistan. He did what was right, even at the risk of his own career.
And as a result of this intervention, the Defense Department Inspector General is now reviewing U.S. policies regarding the prevalence of rape in Afghanistan—and I also introduced legislation to state it is the policy of the U.S. government that child rape or human rights violations will not be permitted or tolerated on U.S. bases or outposts. The measure is under discussion and receiving support from my colleagues.
As a parent, a former Marine who served three tours in combat, and a Member of Congress sitting on the Armed Services Committee, I am relieved that Charles will be retained and I am truly grateful for his confidence throughout this process. America needs soldiers like Charles in the fight and he’ll soon rejoin his brothers to “free the oppressed (the motto of Special Forces),” —which is all he wanted.
LT COL Jason Amerine
Jason was a Green Beret who was among the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Jason and I were working to change U.S. hostage policy after several public beheadings by the Islamic State and U.S. government failures in those cases, as well as failures in the effort to recover Bowe Bergdahl. We were successful, but the Army and the FBI tried to stop our coordination. Amerine was accused of sharing sensitive information but was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
MAJ Matt Golsteyn
Matt was another Green Beret awarded the Distinguished Services Cross for bravery in Afghanistan. After a bomb maker killed three Marines in Afghanistan, the Army alleged that Matt killed the bomb maker outside the rules of engagement (ROE). Matt was later cleared of any ROE violation, but his case prompted a lengthy discussion on the rules for targeting the enemy. And because his valor award was stripped, it also prompted a discussion regarding the awards process and the proper authority of a Service Secretary.
Three Air Force instructor pilots were required to unlock their personal cell phones for an investigation into other individuals suspected of having an unprofessional relationship. After doing so, investigators discovered personal texts among friends that, without any context, implied illegal drug use. However, the pilots submitted to tests and searches, proving they were not taking drugs, but the pilots were still grounded, their wings were revoked, and the Air Force began a lengthy disciplinary process that would have destroyed their careers. After my intervention, the pilots were absolved of any real wrongdoing, their wings restored and their names cleared. The case prompted a renewed focus on personal privacy rights, specifically the rights of service personnel on active duty, which is still ongoing.
CAPT Will Swenson
Will was nominated for the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan. What transpired will leave you shocked. Read it for yourself here, courtesy of the Daily Beast. All of it true.
SGT 1st Class Earl Plumlee
Earl was also nominated for the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan, but despite having the support of the entire military command, Army bureaucrats in the Pentagon downgraded him to a Sliver Star—two awards below the Medal of Honor. I requested an investigation by the Inspector General, which is underway. Clearly, as Earl’s case demonstrates, the awards process has been politicized to the disadvantage of the American heroes it’s intended to recognize. It’s more evidence of an overreaching bureaucracy.
As you can see, each case has major policy implications, which signifies a transformation from how things are typically treated by the military services and Congress. And the fact that each effort has been successful reinforces the need for even stronger oversight.
So, as Congress continues its broader work—and look for me to be right in the center of those fights too—I’ll remain a fierce advocate for our military men and women, far beyond the routine work that is typical of Washington DC politics. It’s a duty I take seriously and I am proud to stand up, even against the odds, for anyone ever willing to risk his or her life for us.Read More
There is nothing funny about combat. Anyone who has ever been in the fight will tell you that war is not a joke or a subject for a punchline.
This was the case last week when the liberal media and several late night talk shows made light of an amendment I proposed to an annual defense bill to force a debate on the merits of integrating women in the infantry and special operations and therefore requiring they register for the draft. It was branded as a “joke amendment,” by one late night show host. Another called it a “sarcastic” exercise.
Clearly it struck a nerve.
Good, I say. It is about time that liberals take an interest in our military, even if for just a moment to defend the social experimentation that is being imposed on the services. In doing so, however, they egregiously misrepresented the basic substance of the argument on whether women should or should not be required to submit for draft registration.
Women have long been exempt from the draft—and for right reason. In 1981, a challenge to the exception was heard by the Supreme Court, which determined that the practice of registering men only for the draft was constitutional. The rationale was that since women were excluded from ground combat, they should not have to register. Congress agreed and subsequently reaffirmed the exception.
More than 30 years later, the Obama administration turned things upside down when it demanded that women be integrated into all combat specialties, including infantry and special operations. The Marine Corps resisted, arguing that all specialties can be opened with the exception of the infantry, which is assigned the duty of finding and killing the enemy, often through close-quarter combat. The Marine Corps even produced an independent and peer-reviewed report to make their case. The report was ignored.
Not long after, during a Senate hearing in February, both the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Army Chief of Staff endorsed the idea of women registering for the draft. They conveyed a point similar to what the Supreme Court concluded decades earlier. If women are in fact integrated in combat roles, then they should eligible for the draft. The Secretaries of the Army and Navy said the issue should be discussed.
The time to have that discussion is now.
The services have already begun integration and it will take up to three years until it is final. Before Congress decides whether to permit full integration to go forward in this time, it must also consider every issue—good or bad—that comes with the Obama Administration’s desire to fully integrate infantry units and special operations.
Having served in ground combat as a Marine Corps officer, including a tour in Fallujah, Iraq, I am more than willing to be the person to force the conversation, because if I do not, who will? Will the late night talk shows do it? Not a chance. How about liberal talking heads in the media? Keep dreaming.
When I proposed my amendment, I even did so with the intention of voting against it. It passed by a vote of 32-30, with Democrats on the Armed Services Committee uniting in support. They are now on the record as upholding draft registration for women—I am not, along with 29 others who voted no.
Let me be clear: I don’t support women in the infantry or special operations, nor do I support women registering for the draft.
One of my Democratic colleagues even referred to the amendment as a “gotcha” effort. That was hardly the case. The issue of integrating women in combat specialties is far too serious to ignore. So are the consequences of opening these specialties and the draft is one of those consequences--like it or not.
Liberals have even suggested there was some grand strategy in order and the amendment backfired. Not even close to true. The strategy, if one existed, was to force members to go on the record and state a position, rather than hide. In Congress, we are asked to make tough decisions all the time and we must embrace that responsibility. Though it is far from certain what will happens to the provision. In all likelihood, it will be removed from the bill through the floor process or during House-Senate negotiations.
Worth noting also, Representative Charlie Rangel once voted against legislation of his own that reinstated the draft during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His legislation was strongly opposed in a floor vote. To his credit, he succeeded in forcing a debate that was worth the time and attention of the American people.
It is a fact that women have been placed in combat situations through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that is much different than serving in the infantry or with a special operations unit—especially in a conventional setting, which is unlike the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions of the last 15 years. Of course, there are surely some women that can meet or exceed the standards, though Congress will need to consider whether that should necessitate accommodating such a shift in military culture and mission effectiveness.
Something tells me that the late night hosts and liberal media pundits who have found humor in this issue have never served a day in their lives—or even given the idea thought. The military is not for everyone. But they do a great disservice to all of our military men and women by trying to ignore the effects of the Obama Administration’s decision making.
Count me as one Marine Corps veteran in Congress who won’t let that happen.Read More
Border security and illegal immigration are a central theme of voter agitation on the side of Republicans and many independents, largely because leaders in government have been all talk and no action for too long.
Voters are now expressing their frustration on these and other issues, and it’s showcased in the form of the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.
There’s much appeal around rhetoric that promotes not just the enforcement of America’s borders, but also the enforcement of immigration laws. And while the idea of deporting 11 million people is not within the scope of possibility, it’s what such a pronouncement signals that’s the true magnet.
What voters have been desperate to hear and believe is a commitment from a national leading candidate that every effort will be made to enforce America’s immigration laws evenly and consistently. Further, a majority of Americans despise the idea that sanctuary cities exist, and states so openly defy and circumvent federal immigration laws, yet nothing has been done to stop them.
Voters are also aware that the most effective way to deal with the large population of illegal immigrants in the U.S. is through the jobs they seek. Enforce the law, deny the jobs enticement, and the number of illegal immigrants residing in the country will decline
The frustration also applies to what happens to violent criminal aliens. States and cities shouldn’t decide whether to report arrests or selectively determine which arrests warrant a phone call to the federal government. This played out last summer, when San Francisco released a violent criminal who killed a young woman with a bright future.
So when a candidate like Donald Trump raises the prospect of building a wall on the border, or deporting 11 million people, millions of Americans are not necessarily voting for those things specifically. Rather, they’re voting for a commitment to do what the past two administrations have failed to do. They’re voting for the idea that finally somebody is willing to enforce the law to the extent that the law requires.
That’s something Americans are right to demand.Read More
Finally there is an issue on which hardline conservatives and coffeehouse liberals can agree. Neither group truly supports the idea of sending America’s daughters and sisters into direct ground combat, and neither adores the idea that women should be compelled to register for the draft.
The last time Americans experienced a military draft, whereby vacancies in the armed forces are involuntarily filled, was the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War was near its end. A draft has not occurred since, and the U.S. military has remained an all-volunteer force, profiting on the patriotism and selflessness of young individuals inspired to serve.
At 18 years of age, young men are still required by law to register for the Selective Service, but in the age of the all-volunteer force there’s been no realistic potential for a draft. This, however, does not negate the importance and necessity of registration. In the event large numbers of personnel are needed, and fast, a draft is the primary mechanism to build and strengthen the armed forces.
Until recently, as a result of the Obama administration's decision to open all combat specialties to women, it was considered settled that only men are eligible for the draft and therefore required to register. No longer. The question of exactly who should register for the draft has been turned on its head.
Should women be required to register for the draft now that they, too, can serve in the infantry and other combat specialties? When accounting for the administration’s push for fairness and equality in the area of combat arms, it makes sense, especially given that they have not had to before because these specialties were not integrated.
At least that is the message from the Army and Marine Corps’ top uniformed leaders, even as the rest of the administration — to include the president himself — has been mostly silent on the issue. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently offered some perspective of his own, but his public statement stopped short on whether women should register for the draft.
For the Army and Marine Corps, a registration requirement for men and women is an appropriate next course of action in the march toward full integration. Not because it would suddenly give the services a deeper bench from which it could select talent, but rather it is consistent with the administration’s dictate to open all specialties without exception.
If only the administration’s loudest and most influential voices applied the same logic and common sense, even as consideration was given to opening specialties in the first place, but what else can be expected when judgments are based less on rationale and more on politics. If the opposite were true, the secretary of the Navy would not have openly discredited the Marine Corps’ independent study and subsequent recommendations before a final decision was made. The same goes for the special operations community, which returned its disapproval to integration through surveys and focus groups. Their input was evidently cast aside.
To modern generations, the prospect that Americans could be drafted to fight in wartime is a foreign concept, with unrealistic potential. Whether that day ever comes, the administration has stirred a new national debate, whether intended or not. My view is that the administration walked away from its obligation to make a proposal of its own, in the hope Congress would be too skittish to address the issue.
To begin this discussion and signal its significance, I introduced legislation, with the support of U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke, to require that women register for the draft. The bill is titled The Draft America’s Daughters Act — a title intended to be provocative. We have both served our nation — me as an artillery officer in the Marine Corps and Zinke as a Navy SEAL commander — and we are well-aware of what such a change could mean.
The idea that 18- to 20-year-old women could be drafted, filling positions tasked with finding and destroying the enemy, sometimes in quarters so close that fighting is reduced to the use of hands, knives and even helmets, is surely unsettling and should not be taken lightly. It is likely the administration either overlooked or ignored the issue in the politically ambitious move to open combat specialties, but now Congress has a responsibility to avoid committing the same error.
Truthfully, it is quite possible that I vote against my own legislation, as might others in Congress with military experience. At the same time, if the administration is refusing to take the advice and recommendations of the Marine Corps and special operations community into account, and pursue its plan to integrate all specialties without exception or care for impact, then it is possible that many votes — including my own — could change.
This is yet another dilemma created by the administration. In this case, it will have a direct impact on every American, not just those who serve. And it is absolutely necessary that the issue of Selective Service eligibility be exhaustively considered for the purpose of determining whether the American people truly want to send their daughters and sisters into harm’s way.Read More
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Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Duncan D. Hunter represents California’s 50th Congressional District consisting of East and Northern County San Diego. In 2008, Hunter was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives, succeeding his father, Duncan L. Hunter, who retired after serving 14 consecutive terms in Congress.
Hunter is a native of San Diego. He graduated from Granite Hills High School in El Cajon and earned a degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University. Hunter worked to pay for his education by creating websites and programming databases and ecommerce systems for high-tech companies. Immediately after graduation, he went to work full time in San Diego as a Business Analyst.
Soon after our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, Hunter quit his job and joined the United States Marine Corps. Hunter entered active service as a Lieutenant in 2002 and excelled in the area of field artillery, much like his grandfather, Robert O. Hunter, who was a Marine Corps artillery officer in World War II.
Over the course of his service career, Hunter served three combat tours overseas: two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In 2003, Hunter deployed to Iraq with the 1st Marine Division. Hunter completed his second tour in 2004, where he and his fellow Marines were at the center of combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.
In September 2005, four years after he quit his job and joined the Marine Corps, Hunter was honorably discharged from active military service and started a successful residential development company. Still a Marine Reservist, he was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2006, and to the rank of Major in 2012.
Less than two years before Hunter was elected, he was recalled to active duty and deployed to Afghanistan. Hunter returned home after more than six months on the front lines and, with the support of the San Diego community, became the first Marine combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan elected to Congress.
Hunter is a strong conservative who is committed to strengthening national security, enforcing our borders, creating opportunities for American workers and protecting the interests of taxpayers. He is also a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, protecting traditional marriage and the rights of the unborn.
Congressman Hunter and his wife live in Alpine, California. They are the proud parents of three children: Duncan, Elizabeth and Sarah.
Another example of government overreach. Excerpt from today’s WSJ: The FDA has clarified its position in a letter responding to a query
My FOX News op-ed today... So what's next after Mosul? It's a question the White House can't answer--since there's no strategic plan in place.
This look like "historic lows" to you?
Here’s a report of classic Pentagon contracting gone bad—and why the argument that the military should only get what it asks for is not always