14 August, 2019 06:32

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, August 12, 2019 which is Baseball Fans Day, National Middle Child Day, National Sewing Machine Day and VJ (or Victory) Day.
This Past Weekend in Legion History:

  • Aug. 14, 1951: President Truman dedicates a 39,000-square-foot, seven-floor building at 1608 K Street in Washington, D.C., as the new American Legion National Headquarters in the nation’s capital. Attached to the building’s façade is a statue the national media called the “Sentinel of Freedom,” which is a composite of a World War I doughboy and World War II GI. World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hulon B. Whittington was the model for the statue, which was sculpted in Bedford, Ind., transported and installed in Washington at a total cost of $5,200. Whittington, who as a platoon sergeant, led a courageous and death-defying defense against a German tank attack in France, was later commissioned as an officer and was a major in 1960 when he was assigned to Vietnam as an adviser to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He died at age 47 and is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today in History:

  • 1784: On Kodiak Island, Grigory Shelikhov, a Russian fur trader, founds Three Saints Bay, the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska.
  • 1994: Terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, long known as Carlos the Jackal, is captured in Khartoum, Sudan, by French intelligence agents. Since there was no extradition treaty with Sudan, the French agents sedated and kidnapped Carlos. The Sudanese government, claiming that it had assisted in the arrest, requested that the United States remove their country from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.
  • An official announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies is made public to the Japanese people on August 14, 1945.


The Hill: Pentagon watchdog says it is reviewing $10B ‘war cloud’ contract over misconduct allegations
Marine Corps Times: Pentagon walks back enemy fire statement as mystery still surrounds death of Marine Raider in Iraq
Chicago Tribune: Man charged with weapons offense a day after shooting at VA hospital in Chicago
Defense News: An explosion. A radiation spike. Evacuations planned and canceled. What’s happening in Russia?
Military.com: This New VA Hiring Program Is Hunting for Military Spouses
Stripes: Afghans lack training for airdrops and accurate airstrikes, IG reports

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The Hill: Pentagon watchdog says it is reviewing $10B ‘war cloud’ contract over misconduct allegations

By Emily Birnbaum – 08/13/19 11:00 AM EDT
The Pentagon’s internal watchdog on Tuesday said that it is investigating potential ethics concerns around the $10 billion "war cloud" contract at the center of an ongoing tug-of-war among lawmakers and the White House.
The Pentagon Inspector General said it is reviewing aspects of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, including allegations of possible misconduct in the contract awarding process.
It was previously known that the Pentagon inspector general’s office was reviewing ethical concerns around JEDI, but the inspector general’s statement on Tuesday marks detailed insight into an official probe.
“We are reviewing the DoD’s handing of the JEDI cloud acquisition, including the development of requirements and the request for proposal process,” spokeswoman Dwrena Allen said in a statement.
She added "a multidisciplinary team" is investigating concerns around JEDI “referred to us by Members of Congress and through the DoD Hotline. In addition, we are investigating whether current or former DoD officials committed misconduct relating to the JEDI acquisition, such as whether any had any conflicts of interest related to their involvement in the acquisition process.”
The JEDI contract, which is set to be awarded to either Amazon or Microsoft, would allow one company to develop cloud-computing infrastructure for the Pentagon. The contract could last for up to 10 years, though it begins at only two, and is valued at up to $10 billion.
"Our review is ongoing and our team is making substantial progress," Allen said. "We recognize the importance and time-sensitive nature of the issues, and we intend to complete our review as expeditiously as possible."
The contract was previously expected to be awarded this summer, but DOD officials told reporters in a briefing last week that it will likely be delayed.
The watchdog review of JEDI is happening alongside an internal review of JEDI ordered earlier this month by new Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Esper ordered the review shortly after President Trump said he would ask his administration to investigate whether the JEDI contract is biased towards Amazon.
Amazon is largely favored to win the lucrative cloud-computing contract, as experts have noted the company’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services, is the best-equipped to handle the troves of classified and top-secret data involved.
Republican lawmakers over the past two months have issued a series of dueling letters over the contract as well, as some — including several members of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the DOD — have urged the Pentagon to award the contract quickly, while others have said the process should be stalled amid bias allegations.
Since the JEDI program was announced two years ago, it has been the subject of significant and expensive lobbying efforts by some of the country’s top cloud-computing companies, including Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle.
Oracle has acted as the prime JEDI antagonist, taking the DOD to court over claims that the cloud-computing procurement process was unfair and biased.
A federal judge dismissed Oracle’s claims, saying the company did not provide proper evidence. And multiple government investigations have cleared the DOD of wrongdoing.
The Pentagon inspector general’s office said it will report its findings to Esper and Congress.
“We will also consider publicly releasing the results, consistent with our standard processes," the spokeswoman said.
The Pentagon’s chief information officer told reporters during a briefing last week that Esper’s review will involve "a series of education programs that allow him to get a deep understanding" of the program.
"He obviously has a role to weigh into the overall direction of this program," Deasey said. "For him to be able to do that, he needs to first go through a series of deep education sessions."

Marine Corps Times: Pentagon walks back enemy fire statement as mystery still surrounds death of Marine Raider in Iraq
By: Shawn Snow   12 hours ago
The Pentagon has walked back its statement that a Marine Raider who lost his life while on a mission with Iraqi forces was killed by enemy fire.
A military official told Marine Corps Times Tuesday that all possibilities are being considered in the death of the Marine commando.
Marine Raider Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer was killed Saturday while while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces in Ninewah province, Iraq.
On Sunday the Pentagon announced the 35-year-old Raider was killed after being engaged by enemy small arms fire.
But on Tuesday the Pentagon updated its press release to say Koppenhafer died “after suffering fatal wounds while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.”
The incident is currently under investigation.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that military officials were investigating the possibility that Koppenhafer was killed in a friendly fire incident.
Koppenhafer was assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at the time of his death, and was supporting the American led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
Officials with the Marine Raiders described Koppenhafer as a “highly revered” operator who was selected as the Raider’s 2018 Critical Skills Operator of the Year.
Koppenhafer earned two Bronze Stars for heroism in Afghanistan and combating ISIS militants in the Middle East during his ten year stint with the Marine Raiders.
He joined the Marine Corps in 2005, and before becoming a Raider he served as a sniper and machine gunner.
ISIS fighters have slowly been making comeback in Syria as U.S. forces drawdown in the region, according to a Defense Department report. ISIS’ resurgence in Syria could have major impacts on Iraq.

Chicago Tribune: Man charged with weapons offense a day after shooting at VA hospital in Chicago
By Madeline Buckley
Chicago Tribune
Aug 13, 2019 | 6:41 PM
A 40-year-old man is facing a federal gun charge after prosecutors said he fired several shots outside a Veterans Affairs hospital on Chicago’s Near West Side before walking into the building with the rifle, sending patients and staff frantically running for cover.
Bernard Harvey, of Indianapolis, was charged with one count of illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, one day after the chaotic scene unfolded at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center at 820 S. Damen Ave.
Harvey appeared at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon and will remain jailed at least until a detention hearing Friday.
No one was injured in the shooting.
Chicago police officers first began receiving 911 calls just before 2:30 p.m. Monday reporting that a man was shooting a firearm near the southeast corner of the hospital, according to the criminal complaint.
A witness told police he saw the man, later identified as Harvey, walking west on Taylor Street firing the rifle, the complaint said. The witness saw Harvey walk into the hospital after someone in a car unsuccessfully tried to stop him.
Video surveillance showed Harvey enter the hospital at the Taylor Street entrance, according to the complaint.
Veterans Affairs police officers stationed at the hospital quickly responded and found Harvey walking around a clinic area of the hospital holding the butt of his rifle in the air and its muzzle pointed to the floor, the complaint said.
The officers ordered him to drop the rifle, according to the charges. He complied and then dropped to the floor himself on orders of the officers, the complaint said. He was then placed under arrest. Officers seized the rifle, which was reported stolen last month in Indiana.
“We avoided tragedy here in the city of Chicago today,” Jeffrey Sallet, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, told reporters after the incident Monday.
Officers found six casings outside the hospital near the Taylor Street entrance as well as two bullet holes in the building, one in the ceiling and the other in the entrance door, the complaint said.
Inside the hospital, people were running and screaming, some taking shelter in bathrooms, witnesses told reporters Monday. The building was evacuated as police began investigating.
“I was trying to get out the way,” Army veteran Aaron Cannon Jr. told the Tribune on Monday. “I didn’t want to be in the line of fire. I already experienced that.”
The area is also home to Stroger Hospital and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s medical school.
Federal agents took custody of Harvey from Chicago police officers Monday evening, and he was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, according to a federal prosecutor.
At Harvey’s initial appearance Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox questioned if Harvey was able to understand the proceedings as she read him his rights.
At one point, the judge asked Harvey to confirm his name and birth date, but Harvey, speaking softly, was unable to give his age.
“Do either of you have any doubts about Mr. Harvey’s competency this afternoon?” Cox asked the prosecutor and Harvey’s court-appointed attorney.
His attorney, Santino Coleman, an assistant federal defender, said he had been trying to reach Harvey’s family and planned to look into his mental health.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Rubenstein said reports from the Illinois Department of Corrections indicate Harvey had spent time in psychiatric care but said it was “too early to weigh in on (mental) competency.”
Harvey faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
He was previously sentenced to four years in prison for a 2005 felony conviction in Cook County for being a felon in possession of a handgun, records show. He also served time in prison for a felony drug conviction in 2000.
The gun incident is at least the second at the hospital. In 2009, a man fired a shot in the VA hospital and barricaded himself there during a seven-hour standoff after police said he killed his parents at their West Side home.
Nine months ago, a shooting at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center left dead three people in addition to the gunman.
Defense News: An explosion. A radiation spike. Evacuations planned and canceled. What’s happening in Russia?
By: Matthew Bodner
August 13 at 2:05 PM
Update: An Aug. 13 report by Russian news agency Tass suggests an evacuation of Nyonoksa will no longer take place.
MOSCOW — At around 6 a.m. GMT on Aug. 8, seismic and acoustic sensors in Sweden, Finland and Norway detected an explosion. The sensors are operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, and on Monday the group — which monitors the globe for prohibited nuclear tests — said four stations identified an event “coinciding” with an explosion in Nyonoksa, Russia.
The organization did not share any data about the size and nature of the explosion. And though little is known about what happened on Russia’s northern frontier last week, it seems safe to say there was no detonation of a nuclear weapon.
But that does not make the Nyonoksa incident any less concerning.
In the wake of the explosion, the city government of Severodvinsk — a major military shipbuilding town about 40 kilometers from the explosion — said local monitors detected a brief spike in radiation levels. The military was quick to deny, asserting no harmful materials were released into the air. Pharmacies in Severodvinsk reportedly saw a run on iodine tablets.
A statement issued Sunday by the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, an outfit that spends a lot of its time standing watch for undisclosed Russian radiation hazards, said Norwegian monitoring stations detected no such increase. Neither did European or Russian stations to which the agency has access.
Initial reports in the Russian press were confusing and contradictory, and at least some of them were perhaps deliberate fakes. At first, the precise location of the explosion was unclear. Did it happen at sea, as the Tass news agency reported? Or perhaps at the Russian Navy’s missile test range at Nyonoksa, as other, more reputable outlets reported?
Whatever was detected in Severodvinsk was highly localized. Or perhaps never happened all. The city administration quietly withdrew its claim of a brief radiation spike over the weekend. This has only heightened concerns that the military is covering something up.
Unconfirmed reports Tuesday suggested Nyonoksa residents were being prepared for evacuation. However, Tass published a story later quoting the head of the village as saying he got a call from the test range commander, who said all of their planned activities have been canceled. The head of the town then said there’s no need for an evacuation and that residents should proceed as usual.
Unconfirmed videos showing medical personnel responding to the incident in hazmat suits surfaced on social media on Aug. 8. As did videos showing ambulances shielded with plastic tarps transporting the wounded to a Moscow hospital to be treated for radiation burns. In Russia and in the West, concerns quickly grew of a small-scale Chernobyl incident.
The Russian military, for its part, was not helpful. In an Aug. 8 statement, the military said the explosion took place at a military testing ground. As for what exploded, it only referenced a test of a liquid-fuel propulsion system.
Initial speculation within the Russian press suggested several possibilities based on what little evidence was available. One of those included a failed test of a missile already in service with the Russian Navy, perhaps something using a highly toxic fuel known as heptyl. Another story, based on unidentified sources, claimed it was Russia’s new Tsirkon anti-ship hypersonic missile.
But the detection of elevated radiation levels in Severodvinsk has been hard to ignore, and consensus has settled on a third theory: a failed test of one of President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear vengeance weapons announced in a saber-rattling speech last year. Specifically, the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, known to NATO as SSC-X-9 Skyfall.
A failed test of Burevestnik would explain the radiation spike, the apparent secrecy, the hazmat response team and the extension on Aug. 8 of a sea lane closure in the region around the Russian military’s Nyonoksa missile test range. Western experts have since compiled additional, compelling evidence that the device in question was indeed Burevestnik.
In a thread on Twitter, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies laid out the case for Burevestnik: Commercial satellite imagery of the Nyonoksa range suggests the site has been modified to resemble a remote range at Novaya Zemlya where Western experts believe earlier Burevestnik tests were conducted.
In the same photo of the Nyonoksa, taken by Planet Labs on Aug. 8, Lewis and his team identified a nuclear fuel-carrying ship that has shown up in suspected Burevestnik tests at Novaya Zemlya. A report by The New York Times on Monday featured other Western experts and officials signing on to the Burevestnik theory.
But the simple fact is that almost nothing is known about Burevestnik. And it is entirely possible the entire program, perhaps a real budget item, is doomed to fail. Its real purpose is likely to coax the U.S. into talks on future arms control treaties that limit its missile defense ambitions.
The entire point of Burevestnik is unlimited range to maneuver around missile defenses. Over the past year, a basic understanding of the Burevestnik design has been adopted by observers, essentially by default. The U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s experimented with a nuclear ramjet engine called Project Pluto. The entire concept was scrapped, both for being a bad idea and for being too large to fit into a cruise missile design.
The assumption has been that Burevestnik is a nuclear ramjet. But such a concept does not square nicely with official descriptions of the device in question issued over the weekend by Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear concern.
On Saturday, an official statement from Rosatom confirmed five of its specialists died in the blast, and identified them as employees of the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF, by its Russian acronym). This institute is Russia’s equivalent of the United States’ Los Alamos National Lab, and it’s Russia’s premier nuclear research facility where the Soviet atomic bomb was born.
VNIIEF was also identified last year by newspaper Kommersant as the design house for the Burevestnik propulsion system.
In its statement, Rosatom explained that the explosion took place during the test of an “isotopic power source” within or mounted to a “liquid propulsion system,” depending on how you interpret the Russian-language phrasing. Either way, this is not the description of a ramjet system — which would work by a nuclear reactor heating air as it passes through an intake.
On Sunday, the scientific director of VNIIEF, Vyacheslav Solovyov, issued a statement on camera in which he described work on miniature nuclear power devices, such as new kinds of radioisotope thermoelectric generators or small nuclear reactors like NASA’s Kilopower project. The implication was that this is what the specialists were working on.
Neither Rosatom nor Solovyov gave any other indication that a missile was involved.
Taken at face value, the Rosatom statements suggest at least two possibilities: The Burevestnik uses some other form of nuclear propulsion other than a nuclear ramjet, or that the Nyonoksa incident involved something other than the Burevestnik. And given the scope of current Russian nuclear efforts, this possibility should be seriously entertained.
If Burevestnik is not powered by a ramjet, then perhaps the vague descriptions issued by Rosatom point to a different — perhaps even more risky — form of propulsion. This could be a nuclear thermal rocket, which sees liquid fuel pushed through a reactor. But why, then, would testing be moved from Novaya Zemlya, as Lewis claims, and closer to population centers?
A likely candidate for an alternate explanation would be Poseidon, announced by Putin last year alongside Burevestnik. Poseidon is an underwater drone packed with a large nuclear bomb. It is intended to crawl up to a coastline and detonate, causing massive damage. An another possible explanation is an underwater atomic battery for Russian seafloor infrastructure.
Another scenario, according to Russian aerospace analyst Pavel Luzin, is that the test involved — as Rosatom suggested — a of new kind of radioisotope thermoelectric generator or a small reactor for use in spacecraft. Luzin speculates that Russia may have been testing the impact of rocket engine vibrations on the new power source.
Ultimately, the problem with the Nyonoksa incident is that it’s unclear what anyone, on any side, is actually talking about. And attempts to connect the dots between certain observations and vague official statements can lead one to reasonably argue several plausible scenarios.
If the evacuation were still on, it would have at least suggested the Russian government was ready to continue testing whatever exploded last week.

Military.com: This New VA Hiring Program Is Hunting for Military Spouses

12 Aug 2019
Military.com | By T. T. Robinson
The Department of Veterans Affair recognizes that military spouses not only have a passion for serving, they also have a talent for it. Recently, they announced a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program to champion military spouse hiring.
As military spouses, we have firsthand knowledge of the importance — and meaning — of service. While debate after debate dissects whether or not spouses serve, there is no question that we intimately know what it means to sacrifice.
Most of the time, that understanding is something we witness through the eyes and the commitment of our service member. We send them off to war, knowing the magnitude of the circumstances, feeling the pride that comes with our unique call of supporting something bigger than ourselves.
But what if we could serve outside of our service member? What if we, as military spouses, had the opportunity to directly contribute to "the cause?"
While many military couples both serve on active duty, most spouses find themselves unable or unwilling to sign on a line that may leave both parents deployed at the same time or risking separate orders that divide families across oceans. And yet, so many spouses feel this call to give; it’s apparent in our high volunteer rates.
Couple that with the fact that our unemployment rate is 4x the national average of our civilian counterparts, and the VA is seeing not just an opportunity, but a responsibility. It’s why, when well-known consulting firm, Grant Thornton, approached the VA with this data, and suggested that the VA spearhead an initiative aimed at capitalizing on the military spouse talent pool, the VA was immediately receptive.
Sharif Ambrose, a partner at Grant Thornton who helps lead Grant Thornton Veterans and Allies Business Resource Group said in an email, "Grant Thornton believes that there is a place for military spouses in federal service — either as a public servant or as a contractor. We recognize the mobile reality of active duty families and in order to retain top military spouse talent it is necessary to create opportunities and leverage flexible policies that will continue to best serve our clients."
To better leverage the military spouse talent pool, the VA is launching a Military Spouse Network to create a pipeline of military spouse talent. Their goal, they said in a release, is not just to hire military spouses, but to retain them throughout the course of their moves and to develop them throughout their career.
Finding the Talent

VA officials said they are committed to creating communication strategies to educate internally and externally. From within, they’ll create materials that educate their teams on why military spouses are excellent hires, they said. Outside of their walls, they’ll conduct outreach to ensure their target population — military spouses — are aware of their initiative. They’ve also committed to conducting research on best practices within public-private partnerships to benchmark what others are doing, learning from their mistakes and leveraging what works.
Hiring the Talent

The Military Spouse Network knows how to find military spouses. Often, our resumes are full of gaps that preclude us from even getting in the proverbial door of a hiring software. While automated processes might not recognize the incredible life experience that comes from moving every two years, the Network will.
From project management to logistics, military spouses can do it all, whether or not their career history reflects it.
Keeping the Talent

One of the best ways to retain talent is through cultivating understanding. By conducting live and in person events for the military spouses in government, VA officials said they hope to share the message that military spouses are wanted, needed, and not alone in their quest to serve.
"This type of intergovernmental collaboration to promote the hiring and retention of military spouses, is important not only for current servicemen and women and their families, but also for Veterans and their families," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press release. "Military spouses bring a unique perspective to the federal workplace, and I am proud that VA is leading the charge in this area."

Stripes: Afghans lack training for airdrops and accurate airstrikes, IG reports
Published: August 13, 2019
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan forces trained by U.S. and coalition advisers aren’t capable of coordinating airdrops and may not receive adequate training to prevent them from killing civilians and friendly forces during airstrikes, a Defense Department report said.
Afghan forces were supposed to be able to coordinate daytime airdrops with three army corps simultaneously by January this year, a DOD Inspector General report released Monday said.
Airdrops are important for delivering critical supplies to Afghan units operating in areas without airfields or helicopter landing zones, many of which are in rural regions the Taliban contest.
But NATO advisers decided not to train the Afghans on coordinating airdrops, although airdrop training was in the curriculum, the report said.
Officials at NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Kabul were unable to comment on why the training wasn’t provided. But in a response included in the report, the alliance said it would teach airdrop coordination to Afghan tactical air controllers in the future.
Meanwhile, NATO’s Train Advise Assist Command-Air, tasked with building Afghanistan’s air force, was also criticized in the report for not having a detailed training curriculum for the air liaison officers who help plan airstrikes.
It warned that an ad hoc program of instruction “increases the risk that graduating air liaison officers are not fully or consistently trained on target development, fratricide avoidance and civilian casualty mitigation procedures.”
TAAC-Air collected data on Afghan airstrikes but didn’t share it with advisers, which prevented them from evaluating the strikes, the report said.
TAAC-Air was not available for comment.
The findings were announced just weeks after the United Nations said pro-government forces were to blame for more civilian war deaths in Afghanistan than insurgents were for the second successive quarter, largely due to airstrikes. Attacks from the air on ground targets were the leading cause of civilian deaths throughout the first half of the year, the U.N. said.
The Afghan air force remains far from self-sufficient, despite roughly $8 billion invested by the U.S. alone to develop and strengthen the service.
The U.S. and the Taliban have been in cease-fire negotiations periodically for months, with the expectation that the number of foreign forces in Afghanistan will shrink as part of a proposed deal.
The negotiations leave plans to further train Afghanistan’s air force unclear, along with other existing security agreements.

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