Air Force ignored memos about rising seas – including those from island where they’re building

Click to enlargeRob Griffith/AP

❝ The U.S. Air Force is spending nearly $1 billion to build a radar installation that will help keep astronauts and satellites safe by tracking pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. That is, if global warming doesn’t get in the way.

❝ The Space Fence is being constructed on a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands that scientists say could be regularly swamped by rising seas within a couple of decades as a result of climate change. The salt water could play havoc with the equipment…

The Associated Press found that neither the military nor its contractor, Lockheed Martin, gave serious consideration to that threat when designing the installation and choosing a site, despite warnings from the island nation’s environmental agency.

“The future “does not look good for a lot of these islands,” said Curt Storlazzi, an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey who is leading a study at Kwajalein Atoll, where the Space Fence complex is being built.

Dana Whalley, a civilian who is managing the Space Fence program, said that the radar installation has a projected lifespan of 25 years and that he doesn’t expect sea levels to rise enough over that period to cause a problem. But if necessary, he said, the base could take steps to improve its seawalls.

Still, because of budget pressures, military equipment is often used well beyond its projected lifespan. In fact, a key part of the radar tracking system that the Space Fence replaces was built during the dawn of the space age and was badly outdated by the time it was shut down 50 years later in 2013…

❝ The military chose the Marshall Islands because the Space Fence works best near the equator. But it means the installation is being built just 10 feet above sea level…

RTFA for details and some truly disingenuous excuses from assorted bureaucrats.

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

Launch officers sign letter: “Trump should not have his finger on the button”

❝ Ten former nuclear launch control officers who once held the keys needed to fire on the president’s order have signed an open letter saying they think Donald Trump should not be entrusted with the nation’s nuclear codes.

The letter, issued Thursday, says the decision to use nuclear weapons requires “composure, judgment, restraint and diplomatic skill” — all qualities that the former Air Force officers who signed it said Trump lacks.

“On the contrary, he has shown himself time and again to be easily baited and quick to lash out, dismissive of expert consultation and ill-informed of even basic military and international affairs — including, most especially, nuclear weapons,” the letter says. “Donald Trump should not be the nation’s commander-in-chief. He should not be entrusted with the nuclear launch codes. He should not have his finger on the button.”

You can read the full letter here.

❝ The former missileers who signed Thursday’s letter served at the nation’s four underground launch centers in the Great Plains from as long ago as the 1960s to, most recently, 2013. They do not endorse Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, or even mention her name, in the letter.

“No one who signed the letter wanted to disclose a position who they would vote for,” said Bruce Blair, who organized the letter and said he is a Democrat who will vote for Clinton but has no idea which candidate the others support. “The letter is focused entirely on Trump.”

The most positive aspect of letters like this one is — I’m pleased to see military officers with a background in mission critical understanding demonstrate a great deal more common sense than I fear American voters may have.

Do Not Resist!

Craig Atkinson’s documentary about police militarization, Do Not Resist, is filled with unsettling scenes like the one where a Swat team destroys a family’s home during a drug raid that nets small amounts of loose marijuana. But the most disturbing scene transpires during the relative placidity of a seminar when a hugely successful lecturer tells a room full of police officers: “We are at war and you are the frontline.

“What do you fight violence with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. Violence is your tool … You are men and women of violence.”

The speaker, Dave Grossman, is a retired army lieutenant colonel with a packed national speaking schedule. In the film, Grossman also promulgates the notion that one perk of violent encounters is that police often say that afterwards they have the best sex of their lives, which Atkinson, in an interview, sees as parallel to promising virgins to a suicide bomber.

Been part of my whole life, folks. Decades stepping forward from a factory town in New England, through every day of the civil rights movement, opposition to imperial war, confronting the greedy bastards who always, always, place profits before people.

Don’t get used to it. Hate it. Condemn it. Fight with every fiber of your being against those who are willing and ready to use a police state to shut down our freedom to think, to speak.

Wall-E changed his name to MUTT, he is in the Marines, and he is packing a .50 cal machine gun

Click to enlargeLance Cpl Julien Rodarte

The Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) is the Marines’ new best friend and it speaks fluent Ma Deuce. Moreover, it has a buddy with a Mini-Gun.

Developed by General Dynamics Land Systems, the MUTT is lightweight for a vehicle, weighing in at just 750-pounds. It is amphibious. It can use either tracks or low-pressure wheels to get through surf, sand and swamp. It can be loaded aboard most Marine aviation assets such as the MV-22 Osprey.

And best yet, it can carry up to 600-pounds of gear so Marines don’t have to, making it the 21st Century pack mule of a rifle squad. Plus, the MUTT can transpo large crew-served weapons such as the M2HB it is shown with. Currently being fielded by the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is testing the MUTT’s use in the July RIMPAC exercise…

As noted in the article, no word on whether or not the Dallas PD has any on order. Yet.

Indoors or outdoors – but especially indoors – the Pentagon’s newest scout is an autonomous drone

❝ There is little detail in the $1 million contract..The award, from the Army, but through the Pentagon’s brand-new tech-focused “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” DIUx, is for a nine-month “prototype project in the area of Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones.” Two other salient features stand out in the little, obligatory blurb attached to the notice. The contract comes from the Naval Special Warfare Command, which mostly oversees Navy SEALs, and the contract was awarded to Shield AI.

❝ What, exactly, will the “Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones” do? Judging by video from Shield AI, it looks like they’ll fly into unknown airspace, inside of buildings…

❝ The quadcopters, which appear to be modified commercial models with extra sensors attached, are exploring buildings, mapping the insides of spaces, and then transmitting that information back to humans who may soon need to go into that building. That’s useful for fighting in a building, which is a staple task of special warfare units.

And no one in the building, presumably, will notice this critter flying around, eh?

Senators try to block Billion$ U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Four U.S. senators introduced a joint resolution on Thursday seeking to block the U.S. sale of $1.15 billion of Abrams tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, citing issues including the conflict in Yemen.

The measure was introduced by Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee and Democrats Chris Murphy and Al Franken, the latest indication of strong disapproval of the deal among some U.S. lawmakers.

The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which implements foreign arms sales, said that General Dynamics would be the principal contractor for the sale…

“Thousands of civilians are being killed, and terrorist groups inside the country, like al Qaeda and ISIS, are getting stronger. Until the Saudis’ conduct changes, the U.S. should put a pause on further arms sales,” Senator Murphy said in a statement.

And in case you hadn’t noticed…

U.S. President Barack Obama has offered a record US$115 billion in arms, weapons, military equipment and training to Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the Center for International Policy…

The report, due to be released publicly today, said that since Obama started his presidency in 2009, the arms offers were made in 42 separate deals including small arms, ammunition, tanks, missiles and ships.

It did not mention how many deals were accepted by Saudi Arabia, with the majority of equipment not being delivered [yet]. The deal amounts to biggest deal to the Saudi’s of any U.S. administration…

A joint letter signed by 64 members of Congress called for a delay in a controversial tank deal and called “the actions of the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen are as reprehensible as they are illegal. The multiple, repeated airstrikes on civilians look like war crimes.”…

The Saudi-led bombing is also believed to be using U.S. cluster munitions, which 119 countries have signed a treaty against their use. The United States and Saudi Arabia have not signed the treaty.

One more example of the historic differences between Republican and Democrat administrations ain’t worth a whole boatload when it comes to foreign policy.

Army has reached $1 billion in energy-saving projects

Click to enlargeUS Army Corps of Engineers

In less than five years, the Army has engaged in 127 energy-saving projects with the private sector that now exceed $1 billion in investments, announced Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning…

The president challenged all federal agencies in December 2011 to partner with companies to save energy. It was called the Energy Savings and Performance-Based Contracting Investments Initiative and the president wanted all of government to execute $4 billion in projects by the end of 2016.

The Army’s projects alone represent 33 percent of all the federal government’s current contributions to meeting the president’s goal…

On our installations, and wherever we maintain and train our force, the Army is focused on finding the sweet spot between energy efficiency and energy security,” he said. The 127 projects have been undertaken at 52 installations.

“This is a case where public policy has worked well,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

These contracts are important to the Army, she said. Federal agencies like the Army can leverage their utility budgets and take the steps essential to enhancing resiliency, achieving cost savings, and improving operations and maintenance, with no upfront costs to the government, she explained.

The costs of the projects are paid back over time as the Army realizes savings from the improvements…

RTFA for beaucoup details. Especially pleasant – and surprising – to see a chunk of the Pentagon come through with savings of any kind projected over time.

Pentagon research in artificial intelligence moves us closer to robot wars

Human-robot strike teams, autonomous land mines, and covert swarms of minuscule robotic spies: the US Department of Defense’s idea of the future of war seems like a sci-fi movie.

In a report that dreams of new ways to destroy adversaries and protect American assets in equal portions, the DOD’s science research division cements the idea that artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic systems will be a crucial part of the nation’s ongoing defense strategy.

US military already uses a host of robotic systems in the battlefield, from reconnaissance and attack drones to bomb disposal robots. However, these are all remotely-piloted systems, meaning a human has a high level of control over the machine’s actions at all times.

The new DOD report sees tactical advantages from humans and purely self-driven machines working together in the field. In one scenario, a swarm of autonomous drones would flock above a combat zone to jam enemy communications, provide real-time surveillance of the area, and autonomously fire against the enemy.

Might be satisfying to some to presume our robots are only killing their robots. Kind of like believing that hacker techniques are only used by the NSA, FBI, etc., to spy on other folks in other countries.

Wishful thinking.