18 June, 2018 08:10

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, June 18, 2018, which is Autistic Pride Day, Go Fishing Day, International Picnic Day, and National Splurge Day.

Today in History:

· 1812: The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

· 1815: At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.

· 1983: From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. Aboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally Ride, who as a mission specialist became the first American woman to travel into space. During the six-day mission, Ride, an astrophysicist from Stanford University, operated the shuttle’s robot arm, which she had helped design. Her historic journey was preceded almost 20 years to the day by cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, who on June 16, 1963, became the first woman ever to travel into space.

· 1966: Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. military commander in Vietnam, sends a new troop request to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Westmoreland stated that he needed 542,588 troops for the war in Vietnam in 1967–an increase of 111,588 men to the number already serving there. In the end, President Johnson acceded to Westmoreland’s wishes and dispatched the additional troops to South Vietnam, but the increases were done in an incremental fashion. The highest number of U.S. troops in South Vietnam was 543,500, which was reached in 1969.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· AP: Looming war games suspension raises concern in Seoul

· The Hill: Judge again blocks transgender military ban from taking effect

· Washington Examiner: Jim Mattis: Putin seeks to ‘compromise our belief in our ideals’

· ArsTechnica: Today’s veterans are gradually returning to a new civilian-life op—Hollywood

· Military Times: This week in Congress: A new commander in Afghanistan

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AP:Looming war games suspension raises concern in Seoul

By: Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press | 16 hours ago

SEOUL, South Korea — After being blindsided by President Donald Trump’s decision to shelve major U.S. military exercises in South Korea, Seoul appears to be going along with it.

A senior South Korean presidential official said Friday that Washington and Seoul have begun discussions on temporarily suspending the massive “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” exercises that usually take place in August and possibly other joint drills while nuclear diplomacy with North Korea continues. Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Defense Minister Song Young-moo held “deep” discussions about the drills with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in a telephone conversation Thursday evening.

The presidential official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules, said an official announcement on the drills is “coming soon, within the next few days” and it seems almost certain the exercises will be halted.

The official spoke a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, holding a National Security Council meeting for the first time since a North Korean long-range missile test in November, said the allies can be flexible about their military pressure on the North. But that’s only as long as North Korea, which launched a diplomatic initiative in 2018, remains sincerely engaged in negotiations on its nuclear disarmament, Moon said.

Moon’s assessment highlights the big “if.” There are lingering questions over whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will ever agree to fully relinquish a hard-won nuclear arsenal he may see as a stronger guarantee of his survival than whatever security assurances the United States could provide. Those doubts only increased after Tuesday’s summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore, where they issued an aspirational vow to seek the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.

The joint drills and the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea have been the core of the alliance between the two countries.

Trump’s decision to suspend the exercises, coupled with the vague joint statement issued after his summit with Kim, have reinforced fears in South Korea that the North is attempting to take advantage of a U.S. president who appears to care less about the traditional alliance than his predecessors.

Such concerns are shared in Japan, the region’s other major U.S. ally. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodra told reporters Friday that the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are “important pillars in maintaining regional peace and stability.”

Not everyone thinks suspending the war games is a bad idea. Some analysts say putting off the drills is a necessary trust-building step with North Korea following nearly 70 years of hostility and would allow the allies to push the process forward more easily.

But others are decidedly more critical, saying Trump wasted critical leverage against North Korea, which has yet to take material steps toward denuclearization.

“We will know whether it was a good move or not in a month or two,” said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “If the North responds by providing evidence of its claimed closure of a missile engine test site and also freezes and shuts down some of its nuclear facilities, then the suspension of the drills can be chalked up as a success. If the North doesn’t take quick steps toward denuclearization, then we gave up the drills for nothing.”

Kim Jae-yeop, a professor of defense strategy at South Korea’s Hannam University, said the suspension of the drills was likely the one clear move the allies had to lure North Korea into a denuclearization process.

He said it would have been a colossal mistake to pre-emptively lift the heavy economic sanctions against North Korea, and that Washington couldn’t unilaterally remove the most stringent measures anyway because they were passed by the U.N. Security Council.

Washington and Seoul tried to entice North Korea with a possible declaration to formally end the Korean War, which halted 65 years ago with an armistice, not a peace treaty, but apparently that wasn’t enough for Kim Jong Un.

“Unlike sanctions, the allies can just snap their military exercises back on if it becomes clear North Korea won’t be delivering on their end,” said Kim, the professor, who said the allies would be able to maintain operational readiness with routine and lower-level drills.

He also noted that the allies have used the war games as a bargaining chip before. To entice North Korea to sign on to a non-nuclear agreement, Seoul and Washington called off the now-defunct “Team Spirit” drills in 1992. But, annoyed with North Korea’s refusal to allow nuclear inspections, they revived the exercises the following year.

This year, the allies delayed their springtime drills for weeks to encourage North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The U.S. and South Korea hold major joint exercises every spring and summer in South Korea. The spring one — actually a pair of overlapping exercises called “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” — includes live-fire drills with tanks, aircraft and warships, and usually involves about 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops.

The summer Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise consists mainly of computer simulations to hone joint decision making and planning. Some 17,500 American and 50,000 South Korean troops participated last year.

North Korea has always reacted to the exercises with belligerence and often its own demonstrations of military capability.

During last year’s Ulchi exercises, North Korea fired a powerful new intermediate range missile over Japan in what its state media described as a “muscle-flexing” countermeasure to the drills. North Korean leader Kim then called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, a U.S. military hub. North Korea did not carry out a threat to lob missiles toward Guam.

During the Ulchi drills in 2016, North Korea successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, a critical military breakthrough that raised alarm in South Korea and Japan. Shortly after the drills, the North carried out its fifth nuclear test.

The suspension of the drills could allow more diplomatic space for Washington and Seoul to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea. But for Seoul, the way Trump announced the decision is also a cause for concern, some experts say.

In addition to not consulting with South Korea before saying the war games should be stopped, Trump called the exercises “very provocative,” contradicting countless previous declarations by Washington and Seoul over the years that the drills are routine and defensive in nature. Trump also complained that the drills “cost a fortune” and said he would eventually want to bring home all U.S. troops from South Korea.

Nam Sung-wook, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Korea University, said Trump’s comments indicate he considers the stoppage of the drills and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea as a goal, rather than a concession to be granted to North Korea if it takes irreversible and verifiable steps to relinquish its nuclear weapons, facilities and materials.

“What has become clear is that the security provided by the U.S.-South Korea alliance has likely reached its limit,” said Nam, a former analyst for South Korea’s spy agency. “South Korea has to start thinking about new defense strategies so that it could maintain security against North Korea on its own.”

An editorial published Friday in the conservative Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, echoed Nam’s concern, saying the U.S.-South Korean alliance is being substantially undermined while the prospects for disarming the North are getting murky.

“Now everyone is concerned about the security of the North Korean regime, but who’s looking after the safety and security of South Korean people?” the newspaper said.

The Hill: Judge again blocks transgender military ban from taking effect

BY REBECCA KHEEL | 06/15/18 | 04:45 PM EDT

A federal court on Friday again said the Trump administration cannot implement its ban on most transgender military service while a lawsuit against it proceeds.

“The status quo shall remain ‘steady as she goes,’ and the preliminary injunction shall remain in full force and effect nationwide,” Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington wrote Friday.

In doing so, Pechman quoted the top Navy admiral, who told a Senate panel in April that it’s been “steady as she goes” since transgender people have been allowed to serve openly.

Pechman is one of four federal judges to have issued a preliminary injunction preventing President Trump from banning transgender military service while lawsuits against the ban work their way through court.

In April, Pechman ruled the lawsuit would go to trial and the injunction would stay in place after the Pentagon issued a memo outlining a policy that would ban most transgender people from serving. In that ruling, Pechman said the memo did not represent a new policy, but rather an implementation of the ban Trump announced on Twitter in July 2017.

The Trump administration appealed Pechman’s April ruling and then asked her for a stay on her injunction pending the appeal. The administration argued a stay was necessary to “prevent irreparable harm to military interests.”

Pechman’s ruling on Friday goes against the administration’s request for a stay.

In her ruling, Pechman wrote that the Trump administration made no arguments she had not already rejected and noted that there would be no demonstrable harm in keeping the injunction in place.

Underscoring her argument, Pechman propped up Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s “steady as she goes” testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s testimony to the Senate panel that there have been “precisely zero” reports of problems with unit cohesion, discipline and morale.

The lawsuit was brought in Seattle by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN and joined by the state of Washington on behalf of six troops that are currently serving, three people seeking to enlist and three LGBT rights groups.

“Yet again, the Trump administration has tried to implement and expedite discrimination, and yet again, the court has said no,” Lambda Legal senior attorney Peter Renn said in a statement.

“You would think the administration would get tired of all the losing, and more importantly, would read the writing on the wall and abandon this discriminatory and harmful scheme to prevent brave and qualified transgender people from serving their country.”

Washington Examiner: Jim Mattis: Putin seeks to ‘compromise our belief in our ideals’

By Jamie McIntyre | June 15, 2018 | 1:21 PM

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday of working to undermine American values and destroy the Western alliance that has acted as a counterweight to the Kremlin since the end of the Cold War.

“Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority,” Mattis said in an address to graduates at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

“His actions are designed not to challenge our arms, at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.”

Mattis said as the military power closest to the United States in terms of nuclear parity, Russia remains the biggest threat because it has “proven willing to use conventional and irregular power in violation of international norms.”

“For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine, while pursuing veto authority over their neighbors’ diplomatic, economic, and security decisions,” he said.

It was Russia’s unchecked aggression in Ukraine that got it expelled from the G-8 in 2014.

But President Trump Friday again expressed a desire to let Russia back in what is now the G-7 and said he’ll probably meet with Putin this summer.

“I think it’s better to have Russia in than to have Russia out, because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it’s much better if we get along with them, than if we don’t,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.

In his advice to the graduates of the Naval War College, Mattis told them to not shy away from “hard problems and tougher solutions.”

“Keep your wits about you. Keep your grace under fire, your civility with subordinates, inspiring those you lead with humility and intellectual rigor in reconciling war’s grim realities with your political leaders’ aspirations,” Mattis said.

ArsTechnica: Today’s veterans are gradually returning to a new civilian-life op—Hollywood

By NATHAN MATTISE | 6/17/2018 | 7:15 AM

AUSTIN, Texas — If you ask Graham Yost — prolific TV producer with a resume including Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and Justified — accuracy in on-screen military portrayals is a relatively new phenomenon, similar to how tech ranging from the latest hacker tools to futuristic autonomous bots have recently become increasingly grounded in reality. Ground zero for this idea won’t surprise any fans of this particular entertainment genre.

"In some historical military films, there have been some training of actors, but I think a lot of this really starts with Dale Dye and [Saving] Private Ryan [1998]," Yost says during ATX TV Festival’s panel on modern military television. "That set a template for people, and we wouldn’t have done Band without it. In fact, when the cast of Band gets together every year, the day they pick for their reunion is the first day of boot camp. That’s when they felt they came together as a unit."

Of course, even projects like Band and Saving Private Ryan ran up against limits to realism despite lauded end-products. Even if Yost and others could set up months-long boot camps for actors and get prop and VFX teams to recreate gear and tactics as accurately as possible, historical wars inherently had the sad hurdle of firsthand accounts increasingly being inaccessible. Donnie Wahlberg (Carwood Lipton in Band) was uniquely fortunate that he could connect with his real-life inspiration, Yost recalls. But the same approach to research and accuracy couldn’t happen for The Pacific, and it gets increasingly difficult for any newly proposed period projects as 20th-century wars and veterans from WWII to Vietnam and Korea age.

Military projects on TV in general feel less frequent today — "We had a huge boom in military drama to now almost everything being cancelled," says Mikka Alanne, showrunner of NatGeo’s new Iraq War miniseries, The Long Road Home. "But it ends up being cyclical, and I think it’ll come back. There will always be a place for these stories."

But current projects appear to have a distinct advantage. Not only has there been a swell of new series focused on more recent military happenings (meaning more vets to tap as research resources), but these shows have started enlisting veterans to be more than just fountains of knowledge — they’re increasingly becoming technical advisors, producers, directors, and even actors.

"I’ve got two SEALs and two former Army operations vets as three producers and an advisor," says Tyler Grey, a former Army ranger working as an actor and producer on CBS’ new SEAL Team. "We hired 150 [veterans] over the course of a season between stunts, acting, and other various roles. Whenever I can push for a veteran to get these roles, can they do it? Are they good? Let’s do it."

More than technique

Getting veterans involved directly with TV and film projects comes with a multitude of benefits according to the panel; increased accuracy merely represents the most obvious one. As just one example, the CW’s Valor focuses on a female pilot in Army special ops according to executive producer Anna Fricke. While the show did snag two female veterans for its team — April Fitzsimmons and Shamar S. White — originally, the CW had a former SEAL in mind to act as the show’s technical advisor. But then Fricke started having conversations with Grey, given the veteran has a reputation as a go-to contact in Hollywood for military projects.

"[The show’]s about 160th Special Ops helicopters, but you were going to use a SEAL," Grey recalls. "I said, ‘Let me get you the guy… I need a 160th guy. I don’t need a guy, I need the guy."

"And Dan Laguna was definitely the guy," Fricke recalls, speaking about the veteran formerly of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment. "The man who wrote the pilot had a brother who was a Ranger, so we wanted to be respectful and tell this story and why they did what they believed in as accurately as possible."

For the vets themselves, that sometimes subtle-on-screen dedication to the truth feels important. Poor portrayals of war and military life can at best lead to veteran viewers being taken out of the story and at worst can perpetuate misinformation or inaccurate stereotypes. And even if budget restraints or network concerns prevent a project from being a 100-percent accurate depiction, having a veteran around for production ensures a level of authenticity that avoids such pitfalls.

"I ask vets all the time, what do you think about the way military is portrayed? ‘It’s horrible, it’s wrong.’ OK, so how do you think it’s going to change? If we’re not there, will it magically fix itself?" Grey says. "’Is it real?’ I say no, it’s a TV show. It’s not meant to be real, but it’s meant to feel authentic. We focus on the story, making it feel as authentic as possible. And then I address every detail I can — cause if someone’s helmet is on backwards, I’m out of it now. You had me, but the helmet’s backwards, you lost me. You have to balance your time, but you don’t want to pull a vet, service member out of it."

Off-screen, veteran participation serves another important role —t hat of healing, of therapy. Eric Bourquin now serves as a consultant for The Long Road Home, but the project didn’t immediately interest him. This 1st Cavalry Division vet lived this particular story, after all. Why go through it all again?

"Eric was reluctant to get involved — the material is traumatic, harrowing, and certain difficult to relive," Alanne admits. "But he appreciated our desire to make it as authentic as possible, so I asked for an interview. He said ‘I don’t know, let’s do lunch…’ Then we had lunch. Next, it was, ‘OK, I’ll do it, but I can’t promise my wife will do an interview.’ Then I went to their house and spent a day with them. Eric took me to Ft. Hood to see how they trained, and it started the journey for Eric to become an advisor with his friend Aaron [Fowler, Bourquin’s fellow vet of the 1st]."

The two vets worked with the prop teams on everything from how the Kevlar looked to the way radios were configured, Alanne says. They also helped with actors’ boot camp and worked constantly on set to help the actors understand the psychological burden of war.

"I can’t say enough about the selflessness to constantly reopen the wounds of that day so we can share that story with the world," Alanne says.

"When you share your story, it becomes more real and more people can experience it," Bourquin replies. "And that’s healing, because it becomes a shared experience."

Going forward, those in attendance all shared a similar goal — to see this trend not only continue but to see it expand beyond vets largely acting as tech advisors and research resources. Grey, for instance, started appearing on screen in SEAL Team. That’s both a newer opportunity for veterans and it can lead to increased technical detail since, when the time comes for a character to clear a room, for instance, Grey can do it quickly and correctly while star David Boreanaz can follow with the other actors to then handle the drama. "They can focus on really portraying the emotions and playing to the camera, and I can sell the technique," Grey says. "Everyone can specialize — it’s movie magic."

Alanne even notes military veterans should be looked to as a resource for TV and film projects beyond this specific genre. After all, time in the military places a person in many unique situations — active battles, imminent horror, dealing with loss or injuries, working as a highly efficient team, etc. — that seem applicable within more frequent project premises.

"Vets have had experiences that just a small fraction of people have had — I’m always struck by stories of what the act of killing is like and how it changes you, or what the consequences of war are," the showrunner says. "During night shoots talking with Eric, we’d discover we both loved horror, and we’d talk about aliens and various sci-fi. It’s clear [veterans] can offer so much more. They have experience others haven’t, and it’s our obligations to give them more opportunities."

Military Times: This week in Congress: A new commander in Afghanistan

By: Leo Shane III | 8 hours ago

WASHINGTON — After the Senate votes on advancing the annual defense authorization bill on Monday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will turn its attention to Afghanistan a day later with the nomination hearing for the new military commander there.

Lt. Gen. Austin Miller will testify before the committee Tuesday in hopes of taking over command of the 17-year war. Miller has spent the past two years leading Joint Special Operations Command, and is expected to face an easy confirmation vote.

But the confirmation hearing may be more contentious. Miller is expected to face questions from Democrats and Republicans skeptical of President Donald Trump’s strategy for the region, including how long the U.S. military presence in the country will continue.

Meanwhile, the committee’s House counterpart has four oversight hearings scheduled for this week, including the second in seven days dealing with aviation problems in the armed forces.

Tuesday, June 19

Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — Dirksen G-50
Nominations
Committee members will consider the nomination of Lt. Gen. Austin Miller to serve as the new commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan

Senate Appropriations — 10 a.m. — Dirksen 124
Homeland security appropriations
The subcommittee on homeland security will mark-up its draft of that department’s fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation.

Senate Appropriations — 3 p.m. — Dirksen 138
State Department appropriations
The subcommittee on foreign relations will mark-up its draft of the State Department’s fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation.

Wednesday, June 20

House Foreign Affairs — 10 a.m. — Rayburn 2172
Afghanistan
State Department officials will testify before the committee on recent changes in U.S. policy towards Afghanistan.

Senate Foreign Relations — 10:15 a.m. — Dirksen 419
USAID resources
Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, will testify before the committee on planned reforms at his agency.

House Oversight — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2154
Cuba
Outside experts will testify before the committee on U.S. relations with Cuba and actions against U.S. federal workers stationed there.

House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2172
North Korea summit
Outside experts will testify before the committee on the recent U.S. summit with North Korea and oversight responsibilities for Congress.

House Foreign Affairs — 2:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2200
Sri Lanka
The subcommittee on global human rights will hear from outside experts on rights’ issues in Sri Lanka.

House Armed Services — 3:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2118
Military health system
Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, and other military health officials will testify on pain management and opioid use in the military.

Thursday, June 21

House Armed Services — 10 a.m. — Rayburn 2118
Military technology transfer
Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research, and other Defense Department officials will testify before the committee on technology transfer challenges.

House Veterans’ Affairs — 10:30 a.m. — Cannon 334
VA hiring authorities
Department officials will testify on current VA hiring authorities and challenges with recruiting and retention efforts.

Senate Appropriations — 10:30 a.m. — Dirksen 106
Appropriations mark-up
The full committee will consider final mark-up of the fiscal 2019 homeland security and State Department proposals.

House Foreign Affairs — 2 p.m. — Rayburn 2172
Nuclear arsenals
Outside experts will testify before the committee on the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals.

House Armed Services — 3:30 p.m. — Rayburn 2212
Aviation mishaps
Aviation officials from all four service officials will testify about recent problems with aircraft mishaps and possible solutions for the future.

Friday, June 22

House Armed Services — 9 a.m. — Rayburn 2118
Space
The subcommittee on strategic forces will hear from defense officials on space situational awareness and proposed reforms to military space programs.

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