Category: Homeland Security

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Israeli military investigating Palestinian's death in West Bank confrontation

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian man died after a confrontation with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority condemned as a “cold-blooded execution”.

The Israeli military said the man had attempted to attack troops and that it was investigating the incident.

In security camera footage posted on social media and carried by Israeli news sites, soldiers could be seen kicking and striking a man, identified by Palestinian officials as Yassin Omar Serda, after detaining him in the town of Jericho.

In a statement, the military said the man was armed with an iron rod and ran toward the soldiers in an attempt to strike them. The troops, it said, were on a raid to arrest “suspects” in the town.

“In response to the immediate threat, the troops fired toward the assailant and confronted him from close range and were able to stop him,” the military said.

“A knife was also found in his possession. Troops evacuated him to a hospital to receive medical treatment. His death was later announced. The incident is being reviewed.”

The Palestinian Information Ministry said about 20 soldiers had administered a “heavy beating” to Serda, especially on his stomach and back.

“The Information Ministry views (his) martyrdom … shortly after his arrest a cold-blooded execution,” it said.

Serda’s family said it was seeking to have an autopsy performed.

Israeli troops frequently mount raids in the West Bank to detain suspected militants. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

An Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, was sentenced last February to 18 months imprisonment for killing a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the West Bank town of Hebron in 2015. He was convicted of manslaughter, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

His trial was one of the most divisive in Israeli history. Supporters argued he was justified in shooting a Palestinian whom they said had intended to kill Israelis. The military said he violated standing orders and that his conduct was unbecoming of an Israeli soldier.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Ori Lewis, Mustafa Abu Ganayeh and Ali Sawafta; Editing by Janet Lawrence

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
0

US, S. Korea Military Exercises Could End Outreach to Nuclear North

SEOUL — 

The resumption of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, which were postponed until after the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics end in late March, could also mark the end of the current diplomatic outreach to North Korea.

The annual joint exercises include the Key Resolve strategic simulation drill, where U.S. and South Korean troops and military assets are deployed to respond to potential North Korean threats, and field exercises called Foal Eagle. Past drills involved nearly 20,000 American troops, 300,000 South Korean forces, and an array of bomber aircrafts, fighter jets and warships.

Needed deterrence

Military leaders deem these conventional exercises to be essential to maintain defense readiness and deterrence against the growing North Korean nuclear threat. It is also standard practice for every country in the world to conduct ongoing training for soldiers that are continually being drafted or deployed.

“All militaries train. The Korean People’s Army in North Korea trains. The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) trains in China. That’s what militaries do,” said North Korea security analyst Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations with Troy University in Seoul

North Korea has called these joint exercises threatening rehearsals for invasion.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in negotiated a delay in this year’s exercises to ensure the safety of the winter Olympics games being held close to the inter-Korean border. North Korea’s participation in the Olympics has also been accompanied by a pause in its missile launches and nuclear tests. In the year prior, Pyongyang conducted numerous provocative tests, after publicly setting the goal to develop a functional nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam as Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, looks on.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam as Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, looks on.

In response, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has led an international effort to impose harsh sanctions on the North that cut off much of its income, including banning its lucrative coal and mineral exports.

Freeze for freeze

Moon’s diplomatic outreach has enacted what is basically a temporary “freeze for freeze” proposal, suspending both the U.S.-South Korea joint drills and North Korean provocations that China and Russia have been advocating to reduce regional tensions.

Washington has so far rejected any proposals to further suspend conventional military exercises that it argues are defense oriented and legal under international law, while it says North Korea’s nuclear program threatens its neighbors and the world.

There is, however, speculation that Washington and Seoul may try to reduce the size and scope of the exercises to make them less threatening to the North, perhaps by eliminating decapitation simulations that practice targeting leadership in Pyongyang, or excluding U.S. nuclear capable bombers from participating in the drills.

“The question is what level of the exercises is adequate for military preparedness and for robust deterrence purposes, and how do you calibrate it in a way that is nonthreatening,” said Pinkston.

In this Nov. 12, 2017 photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, three U.S. aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, left top, USS Ronald Reagan, left center, and USS Theodore Roosevelt, left bottom, participate with other U.S. and South Korean navy ships.
In this Nov. 12, 2017 photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, three U.S. aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, left top, USS Ronald Reagan, left center, and USS Theodore Roosevelt, left bottom, participate with other U.S. and South Korean navy ships.

But Pyongyang has warned it would respond to the resumption of the joint drills, possibly by resuming provocative nuclear and missile tests, even if it means triggering further sanctions.

“The North Korean authority must do its own calculation about gains and losses about such an action in protest to the resumption of the military exercises. So it is all up to Kim Jong on government,” said Bong Young-shik, a political analyst with the Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Olympic engagement

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency on Monday said restarting the drills would be a “provocative act” that would undermine Pyongyang’s recent efforts to “defuse tension and create a peaceful environment.”

Moon’s Olympic engagement efforts with the North, including marching together at the opening ceremony and fielding a unified women’s hockey team, has reduced inter-Korean tensions and brought about an invitation from the North Korean leader to host the South Korean president in Pyongyang for a leaders summit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the high-level delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which visited South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the high-level delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which visited South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics.

By participating in the Olympics, Pyongyang also embarked on what critics called a “charm offensive,” meant to improve its threatening image and weaken support for economic sanctions imposed for its continued nuclear violations.

Moon’s diplomatic outreach, however, has so far been unable to bring Washington and Pyongyang into direct talks to resolve the nuclear standoff. The U.S. will not engage in official negotiations until the North agrees to give up its nuclear program, which Pyongyang refuses to do, insisting that its nuclear weapons are needed to prevent a U.S. invasion.

“History does not give me much confidence that this will lead anywhere, especially when the bargaining position of the U.S. side is that the North does have to give up its weapon nuclear weapons and parts of its missile program,” said regional security analyst Grant Newsham with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

The Trump administration recently indicated a willingness to support Moon’s efforts and engage in exploratory talks. U.S. officials on Tuesday said Vice President Mike Pence, who led the U.S. Olympic delegation at the Olympics opening ceremony, was planning to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the North Korean leader at the games, but North Korea canceled the meeting at the last minute.

However the vice president also clarified that the U.S. “maximum pressure” approach, which includes increasing economic sanctions and maintaining the credible threat of military force as well, would remain in place until the Kim government agrees to give up its nuclear weapons.

Lee Yoon-jee in Seoul contributed to this report.

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NCOs without joes: What it's like to serve in the Army's new adviser …

But in 2017, for the first time, the service announced that it would stand up an all-volunteer brigade[1] for noncommissioned officers and post-command officers to spend two or three years training and deploying[2] for that mission only.

The Army offered a handful of cash and administrative incentives, but for many, the chance to share and sharpen their skills — and deploy — was motivation enough.

“My personal interest and loves are culture and language,” Capt. Christopher Hawkins, the executive officer of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, told Army Times on Jan. 18. “The way this was pitched is, this is a way to marry that tactical experience with language and culture, to a bigger extent than you would in a typical deployment.”

The plan resembled a handful of forebears, like the Security Force Advisory and Assistance Teams and the Military Transition Teams of earlier years, temporary solutions that gave many soldiers a taste of combat advising as a job.

“This is the type of mission that I do believe in, I’ve enjoyed it in the past,” said C Company commander Maj. Jason Moncuse. “And you can actually see changes, and that’s what I like about it.”

And a solid organizational structure means that his higher-ups are invested in the work that he’s doing, because it’s their main objective as well.

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“The way it was before, you were just kind of an isolated team. What I like about this concept is, now you have higher echelons to report to,” Moncuse added. “In the past, you would just go out, you would do your thing, you would send a report — you didn’t really have interaction with higher, you didn’t have that support network to reach out to.”

The hope is SFABs[4] will give the Army a chance to make a lasting impact on developing militaries while conserving its readiness for its own brigade combat teams, who have been sending their headquarters elements downrange for the advising mission while the rest of the formation kicked around back home.

“The struggle then was maintaining continuity,” B Company, 3rd Battalion commander Capt. Justin Shaw said of his previous combat deployment. “We’d go out once a week, maybe very two weeks. So it was hard to establish that rapport from persistent advising.”

Others wanted to come back and finish what they’d started all those years ago in Afghanistan and Iraq, a time punctuated by pain and loss.

“It wasn’t all for nothing,” said Capt. Daniel Jansen, an engineer construction team leader. “Part of the SFAB, in my mind, and the reason that I wanted to go here was to contribute to that unfinished business.”

Capt. Kristopher Farrar, an infantryman assigned to the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, advises his simulated partner on maneuvering through the wood line to reach their objective during a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, La. (Sgt. Arjenis Nunez/Army)

Capt. Kristopher Farrar, an infantryman assigned to the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, advises his simulated partner on maneuvering through the wood line to reach their objective during a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, La. (Sgt. Arjenis Nunez/Army)

Capt. Kristopher Farrar, an infantryman assigned to the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, advises his simulated partner on maneuvering through the wood line to reach their objective during a Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, La. (Sgt. Arjenis Nunez/Army)

The right stuff

Members of the SFAB are required to have completed the key leadership positions for their ranks, which means that everyone has already been a battalion commander, a company commander, a team or a squad leader.

For many, the next tick on their career timeline would have been an instructor job or related broadening opportunity.

And for them, joining the SFAB was a way to stay in the fight.

“Once your platoon sergeant time is over, they’re not really in a hurry to send you back out to be a platoon sergeant, because there are other people who need it,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Mayzik, C Company, 3rd Battalion team NCO-in-charge.

“I could go back out, be with soldiers, be in the field, do all the fun stuff that I signed up to do,” he added.

For some younger NCOs, it was time to branch out.

“It was a point in time in my career when I was ready to move into something new and this was it,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Senn, a cavalry scout and adviser. “This is one of the only opportunities to broaden yourself and still be a deploying part of the Army.”

For others, working in a smaller, more elite unit has already sharpened their skills.

“We get to go to a lot of courses that are not normally open to us,” said combat medic Staff Sgt. Jarrid Lovenburg, who completed the Tactical Combat Medical Care course. “Unless you’re an actual treatment NCO working at Role 1 [like a battalion aid station] or higher, you normally don’t get to go to that.”

Like any brigade combat team, members of the SFAB are predominantly male. Women have only been allowed to serve in infantry and cavalry units — two of the biggest sources of SFAB soldiers — since 2016.

But in addition to small teams of 11Bs and 19Ds, the SFAB also has the full complement of gender-integrated support staff, from medical to personnel to supply.

Spc. John Ellis, an explosive ordnance specialist with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, helps an Afghan National Army role player learn to deactivate an improvised explosive device during a simulated scenario at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. (Pfc. Zoe Garbarino/Army)

Spc. John Ellis, an explosive ordnance specialist with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, helps an Afghan National Army role player learn to deactivate an improvised explosive device during a simulated scenario at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. (Pfc. Zoe Garbarino/Army)

Spc. John Ellis, an explosive ordnance specialist with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, helps an Afghan National Army role player learn to deactivate an improvised explosive device during a simulated scenario at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. (Pfc. Zoe Garbarino/Army)

To fill some of these positions, the Army reached down into its records to find the best people in their skill areas to bring to Afghanistan.

One of them is Sgt. Diego Gantivar, a wheeled vehicle mechanic who has never been in combat, but had 20 years as a civilian mechanic before he enlisted.

Earlier in 2017, his sergeant major called him in to tell him he’d come up on a list of good candidates for combat advising.

“I probably consider myself one of the most qualified mechanics in the United States Army,” he said.

He’ll be tasked with teaching Afghan troops to repair and maintain their vehicles, starting with problem one: An unreliable supply chain.

“When I went to selection, they already had notified me that was one of their problems,” he said. “On my CAT team, our clerk, he’s usually the one that gets the part in your regular motor pool. With him and I, we’re going to try to find, where’s that missed connection? Why are they not getting their parts?”

Sweeping, hauling, stacking

Everyone in the SFAB is an E-5 and above. Thanks to the Army’s promotion incentive, specialists who sign up are awarded full promotion points and an automatic bump once they finish the Military Training Adviser Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia.

This has its good and bad points, members told Army Times.

“In this type of unit, it doesn’t matter — officer, enlisted, NCO — everybody is a high-quality individual,” Moncuse said. “No one needs extra attention.”

This is rare in any formation, let alone combat arms. Multiple leaders expressed delight in commanding a unit where you tell a subordinate to do something once, and it’s done.

Having a brigade full of above-average PT performers, who have experience tying up every loose end before a deployment, brings down the time the units have to spend on administrative noise.

“That has given us maximum time to focus on the mission at hand,” Moncuse said. “It allowed us to go from zero to where we are now in a matter of months.”

From a senior leader perspective, there are positives and negatives, 3rd Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ian Palmer told Army Times.

“The advantages are that the overall maturity of the organization is a lot higher,” he said. “There are things that you don’t have to say to an organization like this — they automatically know.”

The downside, Palmer said, is that you don’t get the same mentoring relationship that leaders have with their junior soldiers.

There’s also a noticeable lack of readily available labor.

You see it everywhere at FOB Warrior, where the teams plan events and eat two hot meals together every day.

After breakfast, a sergeant first class folds chairs and puts them up on tables.

“And if you want to see two captains, a sergeant first class and a sergeant sweeping the motor pool — I’ve carried more tough boxes in the last six months than I imagined I would in my entire life,” Hawkins said.

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Mattis faces deadline today on the military's transgender policy

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis faced a Wednesday deadline[1] to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, as news reports surfaced revealing that the president initiated the ban last summer without consulting his top general.

“Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits[2] challenging Trump’s ban.

“When President Trump issued his official memorandum[3] [in August of 2017] he ordered Mattis in that memo to provide the president with a written plan on how to implement the plan by Feb 21. So we’ve all been waiting, It’s obviously an important recommendation on exactly how the plan would be implemented.”

Mattis was directed to have the Pentagon study whether transgender personnel negatively impacted readiness and provide the White House guidance on whether Trump’s July ban should be reversed.

“The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo.
[4]

As of midday Wednesday the Pentagon had not issued guidance, said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. David Eastburn.

“The secretary has his recommendation for the President but has not provided it yet. When he’s ready to provide it, he will,” Eastburn said.

The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times.

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It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be.

In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban.
[6]

The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

On Wednesday BuzzFeed reported on emails it obtained that it said showed that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford was not consulted and caught off guard by the tweet, In subsequent memos to service members and in Congressional testimony Dunford has repeatedly said[7] “any individual who meets the physical and mental standards … should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve.”

Dunford spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder would not confirm whether the emails BuzzFeed obtained were authentic, stating that “because there is ongoing litigation regarding DoD policy on transgender accessions, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time on questions related to actual or alleged internal DoD correspondence.”

Meanwhile, the first new transgender recruits are getting closer to enlisting, Minter said. Nicolas Talbott,[8] 24, is one of the plaintiffs Minter is representing. Talbott has completed all of the medical paperwork necessary, including verification that he has had 18 months of stability after transitioning to a male.

“Next step is to schedule the MEPS,” Minter said.

References

  1. ^ Wednesday deadline (www.militarytimes.com)
  2. ^ in two of the four federal lawsuits (www.militarytimes.com)
  3. ^ official memorandum (www.militarytimes.com)
  4. ^ Trump said in the August 2017 memo. (www.whitehouse.gov)
  5. ^ This young man is transgender, and ready to enlist Jan. 1 (www.militarytimes.com)
  6. ^ Mattis directed last August, (www.militarytimes.com)
  7. ^ Dunford has repeatedly said (www.militarytimes.com)
  8. ^ Nicolas Talbott, (www.militarytimes.com)
0

Mattis faces deadline today on the military's transgender policy

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis faced a Wednesday deadline[1] to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, as news reports surfaced revealing that the president initiated the ban last summer without consulting his top general.

“Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits[2] challenging Trump’s ban.

“When President Trump issued his official memorandum[3] [in August of 2017] he ordered Mattis in that memo to provide the president with a written plan on how to implement the plan by Feb 21. So we’ve all been waiting, It’s obviously an important recommendation on exactly how the plan would be implemented.”

Mattis was directed to have the Pentagon study whether transgender personnel negatively impacted readiness and provide the White House guidance on whether Trump’s July ban should be reversed.

“The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo.
[4]

As of midday Wednesday the Pentagon had not issued guidance, said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. David Eastburn.

“The secretary has his recommendation for the President but has not provided it yet. When he’s ready to provide it, he will,” Eastburn said.

The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times.

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It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be.

In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban.
[6]

The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

On Wednesday BuzzFeed reported on emails it obtained that it said showed that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford was not consulted and caught off guard by the tweet, In subsequent memos to service members and in Congressional testimony Dunford has repeatedly said[7] “any individual who meets the physical and mental standards … should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve.”

Dunford spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder would not confirm whether the emails BuzzFeed obtained were authentic, stating that “because there is ongoing litigation regarding DoD policy on transgender accessions, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time on questions related to actual or alleged internal DoD correspondence.”

Meanwhile, the first new transgender recruits are getting closer to enlisting, Minter said. Nicolas Talbott,[8] 24, is one of the plaintiffs Minter is representing. Talbott has completed all of the medical paperwork necessary, including verification that he has had 18 months of stability after transitioning to a male.

“Next step is to schedule the MEPS,” Minter said.

References

  1. ^ Wednesday deadline (www.militarytimes.com)
  2. ^ in two of the four federal lawsuits (www.militarytimes.com)
  3. ^ official memorandum (www.militarytimes.com)
  4. ^ Trump said in the August 2017 memo. (www.whitehouse.gov)
  5. ^ This young man is transgender, and ready to enlist Jan. 1 (www.militarytimes.com)
  6. ^ Mattis directed last August, (www.militarytimes.com)
  7. ^ Dunford has repeatedly said (www.militarytimes.com)
  8. ^ Nicolas Talbott, (www.militarytimes.com)
0

Mattis faces deadline today on the military's transgender policy

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis faced a Wednesday deadline[1] to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, as news reports surfaced revealing that the president initiated the ban last summer without consulting his top general.

“Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits[2] challenging Trump’s ban.

“When President Trump issued his official memorandum[3] [in August of 2017] he ordered Mattis in that memo to provide the president with a written plan on how to implement the plan by Feb 21. So we’ve all been waiting, It’s obviously an important recommendation on exactly how the plan would be implemented.”

Mattis was directed to have the Pentagon study whether transgender personnel negatively impacted readiness and provide the White House guidance on whether Trump’s July ban should be reversed.

“The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo.
[4]

As of midday Wednesday the Pentagon had not issued guidance, said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. David Eastburn.

“The secretary has his recommendation for the President but has not provided it yet. When he’s ready to provide it, he will,” Eastburn said.

The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times.

Sign up for the Good News
All positive stories about the military
Thanks for signing up!

It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be.

In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban.
[6]

The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

In this July 29, 2017, photo, transgender U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Sims lifts her uniform during an interview with The Associated Press in Beratzhausen, near Regensburg, Germany. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

On Wednesday BuzzFeed reported on emails it obtained that it said showed that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford was not consulted and caught off guard by the tweet, In subsequent memos to service members and in Congressional testimony Dunford has repeatedly said[7] “any individual who meets the physical and mental standards … should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve.”

Dunford spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder would not confirm whether the emails BuzzFeed obtained were authentic, stating that “because there is ongoing litigation regarding DoD policy on transgender accessions, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time on questions related to actual or alleged internal DoD correspondence.”

Meanwhile, the first new transgender recruits are getting closer to enlisting, Minter said. Nicolas Talbott,[8] 24, is one of the plaintiffs Minter is representing. Talbott has completed all of the medical paperwork necessary, including verification that he has had 18 months of stability after transitioning to a male.

“Next step is to schedule the MEPS,” Minter said.

References

  1. ^ Wednesday deadline (www.militarytimes.com)
  2. ^ in two of the four federal lawsuits (www.militarytimes.com)
  3. ^ official memorandum (www.militarytimes.com)
  4. ^ Trump said in the August 2017 memo. (www.whitehouse.gov)
  5. ^ This young man is transgender, and ready to enlist Jan. 1 (www.militarytimes.com)
  6. ^ Mattis directed last August, (www.militarytimes.com)
  7. ^ Dunford has repeatedly said (www.militarytimes.com)
  8. ^ Nicolas Talbott, (www.militarytimes.com)
0

$500000 found during traffic stop, Homeland Security investigating

YORK COUNTY – Nearly half a million dollars smeared with yellow mustard was discovered during a traffic stop in York County, leading to a Homeland Security investigation.

The York County Sheriff’s Office said a deputy pulled over an eastbound vehicle near Mile Marker 348 on Feb. 18.

The deputy felt something was suspicious during the stop, and asked the driver to search the car. Permission was granted, and a suitcase full of wrapped money smeared with yellow mustard was discovered. The total currency found is estimated at $490,000.

After seizing the money, a K9 indicated the cash had a strong odor of drugs.

The York County Sheriff’s Office said the case is now being investigated by Homeland Security, and the money was most likely headed to the Chicago area.

The suspect’s name is not being released.

0

Giving troops a pay raise might be hurting the military

The 2019 budget proposal, if enacted, would give service members their biggest pay raise in eight years, a 2.4 percent increase in pay. But despite how good it sounds in the headlines, an across-the-board pay raise may not be what the military needs right now.

The military already saw a 2.1 percent pay increase request for 2018, and as military personnel costs are rising, some experts in military personnel are asking if across-the-board pay raises are the right approach to better the force.

Jim Perkins, former executive director of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum and an Army reservist, says military pay is outpacing the inflation rate and civilians doing the same job, education and experience as troops are only paid 83 percent to 90 percent what service members are paid.

A 2013 Center for New American Security (CNAS) study[1] suggests the same thing.

“One of the largest contributors to the trend of rising military personnel costs is the growth in cash compensation. Military personnel cash compensation increased by 52 percent between 2002 and 2010, adjusted for inflation. Over the past 12 years, pay increases for military personnel have grown much faster than both inflation and private sector compensation,” the study stated.

Service members are at an even bigger financial advantage because of housing and food subsidies through basic allowance for housing (BAH) and commissaries.

The study stated the Defense Department could save $25 billion over 10 years if Congress issued more reasonable pay increases.

A Feb. 5 Congressional Budget Office report[2] stated personnel costs have increased 46 percent since 2000. A total of 42 percent of that growth is from BAH and basic pay.

The study stated that personnel costs were $142.3 billion in 2014.

Perkins thinks the across-the-board raises are harmful to the military’s search for talented individuals, while keeping less motivated individuals in the service.

“As much as I want to say paying the military more is great. It’s not necessarily,” Perkins said. “Throwing money at this problem is not going to solve it or not in the way that we want it to be solved.”

Perkins used a personal example to explain. An officer he knew was laid off from the Army after being passed over for promotion from captain to major. He left the military and couldn’t find equivalent compensation in the civilian sector based on his experience. He ended up joining the reserves and became an activated reservist for a year. He was promoted to major in the reserves.

“Now he is doing the same job as an active-duty captain, but getting paid more to do it as a major. A role for which he was previously deemed not qualified and the whole reason he was doing this was the fact that he couldn’t be paid as well if he wasn’t in the military,” Perkins said. “This epitomizes the fact that for the low performers in the military, if they stay in the military they may be staying because they’re afraid of losing this wonderful paycheck and benefits package.”

On the other hand, high-performing service members feel their effort is not being compensated; instead they are getting the same treatment as a low-performer for doing more work.

High performers “are seeing their hard work and talent is not being rewarded and differently than the lazy shirker who is sitting next to them,” Perkins said.

Those high performers can easily find jobs in the private sector that will pay them the equivalent compensation and benefits or much higher.

Perkins added that in the few exit surveys the military conducts, troops say pay is not the reason they are leaving, but rather the rigidity of military life.

Perkins suggested more flexibility in how Congress pays people in the military.

“We need to be able to compensate and reward people for taking on different roles that are more highly demanded or places that are bigger hardships. We need to have more flexibility in how we retain very specific skill sets,” Perkins said. “Raising pay across the board doesn’t necessarily do anything to solve the specific problems of a pilot shortage.”

The military is catching on to this as it watches some of the most needed employees like pilots, cyber experts and people trained in nuclear skills.

The military is offering modest bonuses to pilots and other occupations and creating some programs to make the work-life balance more flexible.

But, not many have caught on or are still in the pilot phase.

Meanwhile, the military is missing out on talented individuals it needs.

“Propensity to serve is declining, and each of the services, as well as the civilian sector, are vying for the same limited talent pool. We are clearly in a war for talent. Current forecasts based on leading economic indicators suggest difficult times ahead,” Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the deputy chief of Naval Operations of Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 14.

Military pay may be one of the issues hurting the effort.

Paying the military more across the board “is reflective of the divide and the guilt that exists between the civilians and the military. They don’t need to be paid more for what they’re doing and throwing money at this problem is not the way to solve it. Don’t say ‘Thank you for your service’ and then not realize we are sending troops to Niger. Don’t throw more money at the problem, get involved in the process,” Perkins said.

References

  1. ^ study (www.files.ethz.ch)
  2. ^ report (www.cbo.gov)
0

China Shows Off Air Force in Direct Challenge to India Military Power in Asia

The Chinese military has published photos of recent air force drills that at least one expert quoted in ruling party media identified Tuesday as a direct message to neighboring India.

Tensions between the two Asian powers have once again risen after they threatened to come to blows[1] over a border dispute last summer. Officials have swapped provocative words in recent months, reigniting a potential crisis as rhetoric turned into military preparations. In the latest move, China’s armed forces, known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published Friday rare images of Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 fighter jets landing in Tibet, the western region that borders India, after exercises that Chinese military expert and commentator Song Zhongping linked to recent escalations.

Related: Russia and China could soon become more powerful than the U.S., and Valentine’s Day is to blame[2]

Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now[3]

“Strengthening the 3.5-generation fighter jets or even stationing more advanced fighters in the Western Theater Command has been urgent for the PLA,” Song told Chinese Communist Party organ The Global Times[4] in an article then posted to the official China Military Online[5].

“With India importing new jets, China will continue strengthening its fighter jets in the Western Theater Command,” he added.

ChinaJ10Tibet

A Chengdu J-10 fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the People’s Liberation Army Western Theater Command taxies on the runway during an aerial combat training exercise in western China on February 13. Chen Qingshun/China Military Online

Song noted that such upgrades to China’s defenses have often been first implemented in its southern and eastern commands. The western command, however, has received more attention as the rivalry with India heated up.

China and India have long quarreled over stretches of territory along their shared border and this even exploded into a war between the two in the early 1960s. One region, known as Doklam or Donglang, which borders India’s Sikkim State, Chinese Tibet and the Ha Valley of the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, revived hostilities last summer[6]. India argued that Chinese construction near the trilateral border area last June threatened Bhutan’s claim to the region and deployed troops to confront the Chinese military in the area.

The standoff lasted nearly a month and a half and was believed to have resolved after both sides withdrew. Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen shaking hands with his Indian counterpart Nehru Modi on the sidelines of the September 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China. This detente, however, has been undermined by recent statements from both sides claiming they won last summer’s dispute and could take on the other in a future fight.

During a regular press[7] conference[8] Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang criticized a visit earlier that day by Modu to the nearby disputed Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claimed as part of southern Tibet. Geng said China was “firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the disputed area” and would “lodge stern representations with the Indian side.”

ChinaSpringFestivalSoldiers

Soldiers assigned to a brigade of the People’s Liberation Army 78th Group Army conduct a combat readiness training exercise in full battle gear during the 2018 spring festival holiday, in northeastern China, on February 15. China and India have long quarreled over stretches of territory along their shared border. Liu Yishan/China Military Online

The Chinese military has also used recent remarks from Indian generals to justify its own urgent transformation into a force fully prepared to fight a war between states[9]. Xi’s ongoing, massive bid to revolutionize his armed forces had the dual purpose of modernizing China’s military power and streamlining it to make it capable of protecting not only Chinese borders but also Chinese interests abroad[10]. Xi has also sought tight ties with Pakistan[11], a crucial Chinese economic ally—and India’s longtime foe.

Following last week’s air force drills in Tibet, the Chinese military continued training through the week-long Chinese New Year, or spring festival, holiday. The Chinese navy and army were also pictured conducting maneuvers aimed toward realizing Xi’s goal of preparing his armed forces to handle any external threat.

References

  1. ^ threatened to come to blows (www.newsweek.com)
  2. ^ Russia and China could soon become more powerful than the U.S., and Valentine’s Day is to blame (www.newsweek.com)
  3. ^ Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now (subscription.newsweek.com)
  4. ^ The Global Times (www.globaltimes.cn)
  5. ^ China Military Online (english.chinamil.com.cn)
  6. ^ revived hostilities last summer (www.newsweek.com)
  7. ^ a regular press (www.fmprc.gov.cn)
  8. ^ conference (www.fmprc.gov.cn)
  9. ^ prepared to fight a war between states (www.newsweek.com)
  10. ^ Chinese interests abroad (www.newsweek.com)
  11. ^ tight ties with Pakistan (www.newsweek.com)