American Legion Daily News Clips 4/25/18

From: Seavey, Mark C. [mailto:mseavey@legion.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 4:50 AM

Subject: American Legion Daily News Clips 4/25/18

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, April 25, 2018 which is Administrative Professionals Day, International Guide Dog Day, National Mani-Pedi Day and World Penguin Day.

This Day in History:

· On this day in 1781, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis retreats to Wilmington, North Carolina, after being defeated at Guilford Courthouse by 4,500 Continental Army soldiers and militia under the command of American Major General Nathanael Greene.

· 1864: For the second time in a week, a Confederate force captures a Union wagon train trying to supply the Federal force at Camden, Arkansas. This time, the loss forced Union General Frederick Steele to withdraw back to Little Rock.

· On April 25, 1915, a week after Anglo-French naval attacks on the Dardanelles end in dismal failure, the Allies launch a large-scale land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula, the Turkish-controlled land mass bordering the northern side of the Dardanelles.

· 1859: At Port Said, Egypt, ground is broken for the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway intended to stretch 101 miles across the isthmus of Suez and connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who organized the colossal undertaking, delivered the pickax blow that inaugurated construction.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military Times: VA secretary nomination in doubt as allegations of misbehavior emerge

· AP: His nomination in peril, Jackson fights for VA post

· WaPo: Trump rallies behind VA nominee after suggesting he drop out because of ‘ugly’ process

· Military Times: US-led coalition: ISIS may be resurgent on Russia’s turf, but not ours

· Stripes: Army leaders cut some mandatory training and other ‘burdensome’ requirements

· Washington Examiner: Senators want more military cooperation with Taiwan

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Military Times: VA secretary nomination in doubt as allegations of misbehavior emerge

By: Leo Shane III   20 hours ago

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WASHINGTON — White House officials on Tuesday defended Veterans Affairs secretary nominee Ronny Jackson as Senate officials signaled serious concerns about whether to ever allow him a confirmation hearing for the post.

Jackson, whose surprise nomination has been shrouded in questions about his lack of experience with the massive veterans bureaucracy, was scheduled to appear before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday before an abrupt postponement on Monday night.

In a letter to the White House Tuesday morning, committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., requested the administration turn over all documents related to Jackson’s work at the White House medical office and during his Navy career, including allegations of misconduct and poor leadership against him.

In a statement to the press, the two senators said they had postponed the hearing “in light of new information presented to the committee.”

They declined to specify what the allegations are against Jackson, a 23-year naval officer who deployed to Iraq as a combat surgeon.

“We take very seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee sent to the Senate for confirmation,” the senators said. “We will continue looking into these serious allegations and have requested additional information from the White House to enable the committee to conduct a full review.”

Rumors of concerns about Jackson’s handling of pain medications have been circulating on Capitol Hill for the last week, since the White House formally submitted Jackson’s nomination to the Senate. In addition, other news reports have raised questions of improper alcohol use and lack of professionalism in the White House medical office under Jackson’s leadership there.

But in a statement Tuesday morning, White House officials said they stand by Jackson.

“Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

“He’s served as the physician to three presidents — Republican and Democrat — and been praised by them all. Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they deserve.”

Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and who currently serves as the White House physician, was tapped for the VA post last month after President Donald Trump fired then-Secretary David Shulkin over Twitter amid ethics concerns and department infighting.

But Jackson’s lack of experience with VA — or managing any other large health care system — drew immediate concerns from veterans groups and lawmakers.

Individuals involved in the process also raised questions about how thoroughly Jackson was vetted before being asked to take over the 375,000-employee VA bureaucracy. In the weeks before Shulkin’s firing, Jackson was interviewed as a potential VA under secretary for health but rejected because the White House pulled him back.

After the committee announcement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., took to the Senate floor to blast the Trump administration for it’s “poor record” of handling nominees over the last year, and questioned the “troubling allegations” against Jackson.

“How did he get through the process with all of these allegations, not even being made public?” Schumer said. “My guess, not proper vetting. I wasn’t there, but it’s speculative that maybe one day that the president, who we know acts on impulse, had this nominee in the room, his doctor, and said, ‘Hey, let’s put you up without any vetting.’”

Senators did not announce a new date for Jackson’s confirmation hearing, raising doubts about whether one will happen at all.

Shulkin’s firing was the second time in less than four years the department lost its leader in disgrace, and the Trump administration for the last year has had difficulty filling a host of high-profile VA jobs. Now, with Jackson’s confirmation delay, the department faces an uncertain timetable for when its critical leadership posts will be filled.

Trump appointed Defense Department Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Robert Wilkie to take over as acting secretary after Shulkin’s dismissal, with an eye toward him filling that role only for a few weeks or months. In doing so, they bypassed Deputy VA Secretary Thomas Bowman, a move that several veterans groups insist may have violated federal law.

AP: His nomination in peril, Jackson fights for VA post

By: Hope Yen, The Associated Press , Zeke Miller , and Ken Thomas, The Associated Press   13 hours ago

WASHINGTON — His nomination in peril, Veterans Affairs nominee Ronny Jackson fought Tuesday to convince lawmakers of his leadership abilities as more details emerged over his alleged misconduct, ranging from repeated drunkenness to a toxic work environment, as he served as a top White House doctor.

President Donald Trump sent mixed signals about his choice to lead the sprawling veterans’ agency, suggesting during a White House news conference that Jackson may want to withdraw because of unfair scrutiny. But the president privately urged his nominee to keep fighting to win Senate confirmation, and Jackson showed few signs of backing down.

A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by The Associated Press found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited “unprofessional behaviors” as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. The six-page report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”

“There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells,‘” the assessment found.

The inspector general report reviewed by The AP included no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of alcohol, separate allegations revealed by a Senate committee.

The audit appeared to contradict public statements from Jackson, who declined Tuesday to answer reporters’ questions about the allegations. He gave no indication he would withdraw and denied the existence of any inspector general report detailing troubling behavior.

After the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee abruptly postponed his confirmation hearing, which had been set for Wednesday, Jackson visited lawmakers to assure them he was fit to lead the VA.

“I’m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody’s questions,” he said in video captured by MSNBC, referring to his hearing.

During a White House news conference, Trump insisted he would stand behind Jackson, calling the White House doctor “one of the finest people that I have met.” But he questioned why Jackson would want to put himself through the confirmation fight, which he characterized as unfair.

“I wouldn’t do it,” Trump said in the East Room, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“What does he need it for? What do you need this for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country?” Trump asked.

Trump said Jackson, who has been a White House physician since 2006, would make a decision soon. Jackson met privately with Trump Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office and the president urged him to keep fighting to win confirmation, according to a White House official briefed on the meeting. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said Jackson denied the allegations.

Digging in, the White House released handwritten reports from Trump and former President Barack Obama praising Jackson’s leadership and medical care, and recommending him for promotion.

Obama wrote in one report, “Promote to Rear Admiral now.” Trump wrote last year that Jackson is “A GREAT DOCTOR + LEADER – ‘2 STAR MATERIAL.’”

The White House also disputed allegations that Jackson improperly administered medication, saying the medical unit passed regular audits by the Controlled Substance Inventory Board.

A doomed VA nomination would be a political blow to the White House, which has faced criticism for sloppy vetting of Cabinet nominees and tough confirmation battles in a Senate where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority.

Prior to Jackson’s nomination, Trump had told aides and outside advisers that he was fond of Jackson personally and was said to be particularly impressed with Jackson’s performance at the White House press room podium in January, when he offered a glowing report on the president’s physical and mental well-being.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the American people were the losers in a shaky nomination effort. The Trump Cabinet, he said, “is turning into a sad game of musical chairs.”

Trump tapped Jackson last month after firing former Obama administration official David Shulkin following an ethics scandal and mounting rebellion within the agency. But Jackson has faced numerous questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as veterans groups, about whether he has the experience to manage the massive department of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.

Allegations began surfacing late last week involving Jackson’s workplace practices, including claims of inappropriate behavior and over-prescribing prescription drugs, according to two aides granted anonymity to discuss the situation. The complaints the White House heard include that he oversaw a poor work environment and that he had drunk alcohol on the job, according to an administration official who demanded anonymity to speak on a sensitive personnel matter.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said it would postpone indefinitely Jackson’s hearing to give it more time to sort through the allegations.

Detailing the allegations to NPR, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the committee’s top Democrat, said more than 20 current and retired military personnel had made complaints to the committee about Jackson. They included claims that Jackson was “repeatedly drunk” while on travel with Obama and that on overseas trips he excessively handed out prescription drugs to help travelers sleep and wake up.

Tester later told CNN that Jackson was known inside the White House as “the candy man,” because he would hand out prescription drugs “like candy.”

Jackson is also accused of creating a “toxic work environment,” Tester said on NPR.

“He is the physician for the president, and in the previous administration we were told the stories he was repeatedly drunk while on duty, where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That’s not acceptable,” Tester said.

Asked if Jackson’s nomination is still viable, the committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., responded, “We’ll see.”

The two lawmakers sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday requesting additional information about Jackson. It demands any communication between the Pentagon and the White House for the last 12 years regarding “allegations or incidents” involving him.

The 2012 assessment reviewed by the AP suggested the White House consider replacing Jackson or Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman — or both. Kuhlman was the physician to Obama at the time, and had previously held the role occupied by Jackson: director of the White House medical unit.

According to the report, Jackson admitted he had failed to shield the White House medical unit from the leadership drama. He is quoted saying he was willing to do what was necessary to straighten out the command, even if it “meant finding a new position in Navy Medicine.”

The report stated that the “vast majority” of those interviewed said Kuhlman had “irrevocably damaged his ability to effectively lead.” It added that “many also believe that CAPT Jackson has exhibited poor leadership,” but attributed those failures to the relationship with Kuhlman.

The report quoted unnamed members of the White House medical unit who, while participating in a focus group, used phrases like “Worst command ever,” ″No one trusts anyone” and “The leaders are child-like.” Jackson was named physician to the President in 2013, after Kuhlman left the unit entirely.

Still, a follow-up assessment was done in 2013, and found that the climate in the office had improved a great deal, according to an official familiar with the report. At that point, Jackson was still in the office, but Kuhlman had left.

WaPo: Trump rallies behind VA nominee after suggesting he drop out because of ‘ugly’ process

The Fix’s Amber Phillips takes a look at the hurdles facing Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

by Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and John Wagner by Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and John Wagner Email the author

Politics

April 24 at 9:45 PM Email the author

The White House rallied around Ronny L. Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs late Tuesday as the president’s doctor was besieged by accusations that he improperly dispensed drugs, created a hostile workplace and became intoxicated on duty.

The administration’s decision to fight on in defense of the nomination came hours after President Trump publicly suggested that Jackson should consider pulling out because of the “abuse” he was facing. But by late afternoon, Trump had huddled with Jackson, and White House aides vowed to fight the charges.

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Trump had said earlier when asked about Jackson’s nomination during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “It’s too ugly, and it’s too disgusting.”

Trump added: “I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians? . . . If I was him . . . I wouldn’t do it.”

Jackson’s worsening problems flared into public view Tuesday when lawmakers nixed his confirmation hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The hearing was officially postponed by Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.), the Republican chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), the ranking Democrat.

Later Tuesday, Tester said during an interview with NPR that the committee had heard complaints from more than 20 current and former military members that Jackson had improperly dispensed drugs, become intoxicated on professional trips and belittled staff members.

President Trump’s nominee to be the next veterans affairs secretary, Ronny Jackson, was on Capitol Hill April 24 as senators questioned his vetting. (Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)

“We were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty, where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world,” Tester said. “That’s not acceptable.”

Tester said concerns about the allegations were “bipartisan in nature,” including from Isakson.

A spokeswoman for Isakson said the senator remained undecided about the nomination but continued to harbor serious concerns.

Hours after the president’s news conference, more allegations emerged about Jackson, including a 2012 government report that said he exhibited “unprofessional behavior” and should be removed from his post.

“There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on ‘eggshells,’ ” the report found. It described morale under his leadership as in the doldrums and said the office was beset by fighting between Jackson and Jeffrey Kuhlman, President Barack Obama’s doctor at the time.

It was another episode where a previously respected figure was lifted to prominence in Trump’s orbit — only to have their sheen and reputation tarnished. Jackson had been widely hailed by three presidents and their aides as competent, charming and fiercely protective before Trump stunned Washington last month by picking the doctor to run the country’s second-largest federal agency.

Jackson declined to comment on the accusations, and senior aides said he showed no willingness to drop out Tuesday afternoon as he trudged through meetings with senators on Capitol Hill. Privately, he dismissed some of the charges to senior aides, according to administration officials, and said he was being unfairly attacked.

“No, I’m looking forward to the hearing,” Jackson said. “I was looking forward to doing it tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering all the questions.”

White House officials said they were aware of accusations that Jackson dispensed medicine to aides or others, including reporters, without rigorous scrutiny. But several senior officials said the drugs were usually nonnarcotic ones, such as Ambien. They also said that Jackson was never intoxicated or drinking while working in the White House near Trump, but may have had too much to drink on occasion while taking overseas trips.

The White House released several other reports that were laudatory regarding Jackson late Tuesday, including his performance reviews for the past four years.

“Ronny does a great job — genuine enthusiasm, poised under pressure, incredible work ethic and follow through. Ronny continues to inspire confidence with the care he provides to me, my family and my team. Continue to promote ahead of peers,” a 2016 note from Obama read.

In a private meeting with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on Capitol Hill, Jackson denied any wrongdoing, according to the senator. During that meeting, the White House doctor also specifically denied ever drinking on duty, according to a spokesman for the senator.

“He does deny that he’s done anything wrong in his service to the country and particularly his time at the White House as a physician in the medical unit,” Moran said, adding that Jackson “indicated that he knows of nothing that would prohibit him from being qualified, capable and the right person to be secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Two senior officials said that Jackson’s nomination had been handled “disastrously,” in the words of one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and that it had been overshadowed by fights over secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo and CIA director nominee Gina Haspel. In the future, one of these people said, more attention will be put on Jackson.

Senior White House officials said Trump was convinced by a coterie of aides, and Jackson, that the accusations were overblown. In the meeting Tuesday afternoon, Jackson offered to withdraw, a senior administration official said, but said he would prefer to push forward. Others present in the meeting included White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, an administration official said.

Jackson said the accusations were unfair “and just not true,” a senior administration official said, describing the meeting.

Trump later told aides he had already taken a lot of flak for an un­or­tho­dox pick — and didn’t want to give in.

“The president gave us the full green light to push back hard,” the official said.

Jackson’s nomination also marked the shattering of another norm in Trump’s Washington: VA secretaries have historically been approved unanimously, even sometimes by a voice vote. The president nominated David Shulkin, who had led VA’s health system under Obama, in the tradition of having a bipartisan Cabinet. But he soured on Shulkin and removed him after an inspector’s general report showed that Shulkin took exorbitantly costly trips and misled others about them.

There was uncertain congressional support for Jackson, a longtime presidential physician with little management experience, even before questions were raised about his conduct.

It was unclear why White House aides had not reviewed the allegations before Jackson was nominated last month. He was picked seemingly on a whim by Trump, who fondly calls him “the Doc” and did not formally interview him before nominating him — and ousting Shulkin — by tweet.

Concerns about Jackson were bipartisan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remained uncommitted to supporting the nominee, and a number of senior GOP aides on Capitol Hill estimated that his chances of confirmation were slim.

Isakson had called Kelly twice in recent days to express concerns about new information, spokeswoman Amanda Maddox said.

Isakson and Tester wrote to Trump on Tuesday morning, asking the White House to provide all documents related to Jackson’s service in the White House medical unit as well as all communications between the Pentagon and the White House military office since 2006 that involve allegations or incidents connected to the physician. The senators also requested information the White House has about any allegations involving Jackson that were never relayed to the Pentagon.

In addition to Jackson’s lack of management experience at a large organization, the physician had come under fire for his glowing appraisal of Trump’s health after the president had his annual physical in January. Jackson declared that the president might live to the age of 200 with a healthier diet.

Isakson said the confirmation hearing is being delayed because the committee needs “some time to get more information.”

“I’m concerned that the press is making up far too many stories that aren’t true before we even get a chance to have a meeting,” Isakson said after meeting privately with Tester on Tuesday morning. “So I think Mr. Jackson and myself and Senator Tester and everybody in Congress need to take a deep breath.”

A leading veterans group said Tuesday that it was important for the Senate to fully vet a nominee to lead the department, which has had seven secretaries since the start of the war in Afghanistan.

“On this critical leadership position at this turbulent time, [the United States] cannot afford a misfire by the White House,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “IAVA members nationwide are calling on the Senate to do its job at this defining time and ensure that any nominee for VA Secretary will live up to this awesome responsibility.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said Trump didn’t take the time to send over a fully vetted nominee.

“It is sloppy, it is disrespectful to our veterans, and it is wrong,” Murray said.

Military Times: US-led coalition: ISIS may be resurgent on Russia’s turf, but not ours

By: Kyle Rempfer   15 hours ago

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The Islamic State is almost “completely defeated” on the east side of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, extending into Iraq, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.

However, that same optimism wasn’t reflected on the west side of the river valley, commonly called the MERV, which was “liberated by pro-Syrian regime forces, backed by their Russian counterparts,” Dillon added.

“There has been absolutely zero land reclaimed by ISIS on the east side of the Euphrates River,” he said. “We have put obstacles in place … to contain ISIS in two areas … Al Dashisha, along the Iraq-Syria border, and north of Abu Kamal on the eastern side of the river, in a town called Hajin.”

Dillon said Al Dashisha andHajin are the only places where ISIS fighters exist in numbers larger than four or five. Elsewhere, the insurgents only manage to gather in “onesies and twosies,” he said.

“We are looking to rip apart any type of networks they still have,” Dillon added, pointing to the work done in dismantling ISIS’ ability to recruit, finance, plan external attacks and build drones.

One such dent in ISIS’ network was the capture of Mohammad Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German national linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, who reportedly planned to recruit new ISIS fighters.

Zammar was captured by U.S.-backed fighters while trying to cross out of Syria.

Although ISIS’ networks are “almost non-existent at the moment,” they retain some lethality, such as their ability to still manufacture vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, according to Dillon.

There have also been concerns regarding other insurgent groups, one of which is the White Flags, which Dillon characterized as an ISIS offshoot in the mountain areas outside Kirkuk, Iraq. Still, Iraqi security forces have spotted those groups, and are “aggressively pursuing them,” he said.

Part of deterring ISIS offshoots rests on the coalition’s mission to stabilize the areas liberated from ISIS.

To that end, in the former ISIS capital of Raqqa, internal security forces and a civil council are being empowered and resourced by the coalition, Dillon said. “One such initiative is the restoration of the region’s canal system, restoring water to tens of thousands of northeast Syrians … supplying hundreds of wheat farms throughout the region,” he added.

As for the remaining two spots under ISIS control, liberation has been on hold until more of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, return to fight ISIS.

Earlier this year, SDF fighters went north to fight Turkish forces attempting to take Afrin, Syria, from Kurdish militia, an ethnic group which makes up a large part of the SDF. Around that time, the coalition announced an “operational pause,” while still urging the SDF to remain focused and return to the anti-ISIS offensive.

That pause appears to be nearing an end, as SDF partners are spotted returning to the MERV.

“I will not go into details about how many and when there will be a raid,” Dillon said. “But there are some encouraging signs that more combat power is returning to the Middle Euphrates River Valley to really turn it up on the ISIS element in those two locations [where] they remain.”

As for how much longer the coalition plans to stay in Iraq and Syria, Dillon wouldn’t address rumors that negotiations were under way to replace western troops with those from the United States’ Arab allies.

“I will keep those discussions that happen between commanders on the ground, between those commanders,” Dillon said.

Stripes: Army leaders cut some mandatory training and other ‘burdensome’ requirements

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 24, 2018

The Army is eliminating online training programs and a leave planning requirement as part of a broader push to reduce tasks that take away from time spent on combat readiness.

Army Secretary Mark Esper ended three online mandates this month: media awareness, combatting trafficking in persons and the accident avoidance course. He also lifted several requirements related to unit safety programs and inspections.

Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in an April 13 memo that mandatory training cannot be available only in online formats and that web-based instruction is not a substitute for training conducted by leaders.

Commanders are free to make “prudent risk-informed decisions” to cut tasks that don’t involve combat, the first of four related memos said.

The memos eliminated some headquarters-level requirements, such as the use of the Travel Risk Planning System, or TRiPS.

Esper and Milley cited TRiPS as a “burdensome requirement” that “unnecessarily weighs down our Army from focusing on its core mission.” A leave form and safety briefing should be sufficient, they said.

TRiPS travel risk assessments were among the documents many soldiers had to submit when requesting leave, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brent Ely, a helicopter pilot trainer deployed to Kandahar Air Field told Stars and Stripes earlier this year.

In all, eight documents were required to take leave in the States, four times the paperwork he had to file to fly missions over the largely Taliban-controlled Kandahar province.

The streamlining is an “encouraging development,” said Leonard Wong, a professor at the Army War College and a retired Army officer. Wong co-authored a 2015 study that found a widespread trend of Army officers “fudging” or “pencil whipping” tasks or reports, often because they had too many requirements and insufficient time to complete them.

Senior leaders seem to now be pushing back against a bureaucracy that has gradually expanded at the expense of military professionalism, Wong said.

“What we’re seeing now is a concerted effort to restore a correct balance,” he said via email Tuesday. “We’re shifting away from trusting checklists and charts and going back to trusting leaders and leadership.”

The Army directives also called on commands to nix any requirement for subordinates to generate reports related to soldier records and proficiencies. Instead, it said commands would rely on existing Army data systems.

Esper and Milley also called on commands to make leaders aware of earlier policy changes meant to reduce the burdens many units face.

The changes were greeted cautiously by soldiers and veterans on the online forum Reddit, where some users identifying themselves as soldiers mentioned forging training certificates in the past. Others ranted about time-consuming difficulties with computer-based training systems.

“Less mandatory training and reports for your commander, more time spent doing the rooty-tooty point and shooty,” said one Reddit user named ColonelError, summarizing the Army directives.

Some worried the burden would simply shift to the tasks of recording training or wrestling with the electronic systems.

Wong was more optimistic.

“With these signals coming from the highest levels of leadership in the Army, subordinate leaders will hopefully feel empowered to use their judgment in taking prudent risk and exercising disciplined initiative,” he said.

Formal policy regulations will soon be issued, according to Army documents.

Washington Examiner: Senators want more military cooperation with Taiwan

by Joel Gehrke

| April 25, 2018 12:24 AM

President Trump should enhance military cooperation with Taiwan as part of an effort to counter Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific, according to a newly unveiled proposal from four senators.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., wants Trump to authorize “regular arms sales to Taiwan” and expand the U.S. Navy’s presence in the region, where China has made a series of aggressive assertions of sovereignty over key shipping lanes. Those security proposals contribute to one plank of a broader package known as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which lawmakers hope will guide the administration in maintaining the U.S. alliance system around a rising China.

“This initiative is a generational approach that will put American interests first by reassuring our allies, deterring our adversaries, and securing U.S. leadership in the region for future generations,” Gardner, who has a chaired a series of Foreign Relations subcommittee hearings on U.S.-China policy, said Tuesday.

The Colorado Republican introduced the bill just days after China and Taiwan held a sequence of military drills in the Straits of Taiwan. The war games were a live-fire reminder of China’s ambition to regain control of the island, which it has regarded as a breakaway province ever since the Communist regime overthrew the previous government of China.

“Simply put, the main goal of the drill is to make any Chinese communist military mission to invade Taiwan fail," a spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry told reporters. "It simulates this year’s situation and we are taking into consideration China’s air and naval movements in the region.”

The legislation also calls for additional naval operations in the South China Sea, one of the world’s primary shipping lanes. The Chinese government, claiming sovereignty over much of the sea, has built a series of artificial islands replete with military installations in recent years.

“The rules-based international order – absolutely fundamental to global peace and security – faces significant challenges in Asia, arguably the most consequential region for the United States,” Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, Gardner’s Democratic counterpart on the subcommittee for East Asia, said Tuesday. “This legislation reflects the region’s importance by addressing key challenges, including the peaceful denuclearization of North Korea, prioritizing reasonable and effective nonproliferation policies, promoting the freedom of navigation and overflight in maritime Asia, and defending human rights and the respect for democratic values.”

The legislation is also co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, who was the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee for much of the last three years. “With China’s increasingly assertive rise, it is critical that the United States reaffirm our commitment to securing a free and open Indo-Pacific region through enhanced cooperation with our democratic partners," Rubio said.

The bill has an economic component as well, perhaps most notably by “authoriz[ing] bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations with Indo-Pacific nations,” as a background paper on the legislation puts it.

“U.S. relations with our Asian allies, partners, and adversaries will dominate the 21st century, and we need a clear set of strategic policies to bolster our national security and economic interests, framed in the values that define who we are – democratic principles, human rights, and the rule of law," Cardin said in his statement accompanying the bill’s release. "I’m pleased this legislation places such a high premium on those priorities."

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That seems to push Trump back toward the conventional idea of trade agreements as a lever of strategic power, after the president opted to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership shortly after taking office. Former President Barack Obama’s administration worked to negotiate the deal, at least in part out of a desire to make national security gains from an economic pact with 11 Pacific Rim countries.

“We believe that with this bipartisan vision for our Asia policy, the Administration and Congress can be united on implementing a long-term strategy that will benefit American national security interests, promote American businesses and create jobs through trade opportunities, and project American values of respect for the human rights and freedom that have made the America the shining city upon a hill,” Gardner said.

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