Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, August 21, 2019 which is National Brazilian Blowout Day (a hair treatment I’ll never have to worry about), Poet’s Day, National Senior Citizens Day and National Spumoni Day.
REMINDER: In the American Legion World Series, Idaho Falls Post 56 and Fargo Post 2 were rained out and the game will be continued today at 10am on ESPNU.
This Day in History:
- 1831: Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, an enslaved man and educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. With seven followers, he slaughtered Joseph Travis, his owner, and Travis’ family, and then set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of enslaved people to his insurrection en route to Jerusalem.
- 1971: Antiwar protestors associated with the Catholic Left raid draft offices in Buffalo, New York, and Camden, New Jersey, to confiscate and destroy draft records. The FBI and local police arrested 25 protestors.
- 1863: The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas and precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans.
- 1944: On August 21, 1944, representatives from the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China meet in the Dumbarton Oaks estate at Georgetown, Washington, D.C., to formulate the formal principles of an organization that will provide collective security on a worldwide basis—an organization that will become the United Nations.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Military Times: Former VA medical official charged in deaths of three patients
- Military Times: Trump promises continued US presence in Afghanistan amid withdrawal talks
- The Hill: Trump asserts he could win Afghanistan war ‘in a week’ without ‘using nuclear’
- Stripes: Space Command to relaunch this month, officials say
- Forbes Opinion: How Budget Games In Congress Endanger The Lives Of U.S. Troops
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Military Times: Former VA medical official charged in deaths of three patients
By: Leo Shane III 14 hours ago
Federal prosecutors from Arkansas charged a former Veterans Affairs pathologist with three counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of former patients whose medical reports he mishandled due to his own substance abuse problems.
The criminal case against Robert Morris Levy also includes numerous charges of fraud and lying to investigators. His arrest comes after more than a year of investigation by the US Attorney’s Office with help from the VA Inspector General’s office.
“These charges send a clear signal that anyone entrusted with the care of veterans will be held accountable for placing them at risk by working while impaired or through other misconduct,” VA Inspector General Mike Missal said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the veterans and their families affected by Dr. Levy’s actions.”
Levy served as the chief of pathology and laboratory medical services for the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks from 2005 to 2018, when VA officials fired him.
According to federal prosecutors, Levy has been under investigation for drinking alcohol while on duty as far back as 2015. In 2016, he entered a three-month in-patient treatment program program, and was reinstated by department and state medical officials on the condition that he remain sober.
But prosecutors allege Levy cheated drug tests and falsified records to cover up his relapses. As a result, he continued reviewing sensitive patient medical information while intoxicated, potentially issuing incorrect or dangerous diagnoses for thousands of veterans.
In at least three cases, investigators believe that directly resulted in patient’s deaths. On two of those occasions, the indictment says, Levy doctored medical records to make it appear that other pathologists agreed with his mistaken work.
Duane Kees, U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas, said in a statement that the indictment “should remind us all that this country has a responsibility to care for those who have served us honorably. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”
Earlier this year, officials from the Fayetteville VA hospital said as many as 12 patient deaths may be connected to Levy’s crimes. KFSM reported that nearly 34,000 medical cases that Levy handled during his tenure had been reviewed for mistakes after his firing, with nearly 10 percent showing errors.
Members of Congress have been monitoring the investigation and were informed of the coming indictment last weekend, a Hill staffer said.
Military Times: Trump promises continued US presence in Afghanistan amid withdrawal talks
By: Leo Shane III 15 hours ago
President Donald Trump vowed he will bring home some — but not all — of the U.S. military force currently deployed to Afghanistan, amid reports of ongoing negotiations with Taliban leaders on an end to the nearly 18-year-old war.
“We’ll always have intelligence and we’ll always have someone there,” Trump said during an unscheduled press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday. “That does seem to be the Harvard University of terrorism. So we’ll always have someone there.”
Amid questions from reporters, Trump confirmed reports that U.S. officials are discussing withdrawal plans with both the Taliban and Afghanistan government officials. About 14,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed in the country.
Trump signaled that his preference would be a full withdrawal of American personnel from the country, but “it’s a dangerous place, and we have to keep an eye on it.” But he also called the open-ended U.S. military mission there “ridiculous” and said changes must be made.
“We’re not really fighting, we’re more of a police force … and we’re not supposed to be a police force,” he said.
“As I’ve said several times, not using nuclear, we could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it. But I’m not looking to kill 10 million people. I’m not looking to kill 10 million Afghans, because that’s what would happen.”
Asked if Taliban negotiators will honor any agreement, the U.S. president responded “nobody can be trusted” but added that “the Taliban would like to stop fighting us” because of the casualties they have suffered.
“The Taliban does not respect the Afghan government,” he said. “They haven’t been exactly getting along for a long time. But we’ve been a peacekeeper there for 19 years, and at a certain point you have to say ‘That’s long enough.’
“I go to Walter Reed and I see young men that stepped on a bomb, they lose their legs or lose their arms, and in some cases they lose both and their face on top of it. And they’re living.”
Trump made similar pledges to end the military mission in Afghanistan during his presidential campaign but increased the number of troops deployed there after taking office on the advice of Pentagon officials. He has also said that Defense Department leaders have opposed his plans to bring more troops home.
Earlier in the week, in response to concerns from critics that the president may adopt too aggressive a withdrawal schedule, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the goal of the talks is to find “a comprehensive peace agreement, including a reduction in violence and a ceasefire, ensuring that Afghan soil is never again used to threaten the United States or her allies.”
BY REBECCA KHEEL – 08/20/19 04:08 PM EDT 819
President Trump on Tuesday reiterated his claim that he could win the Afghanistan war "in a week" while maintaining that such a plan would not involve the use of nuclear weapons.
Trump made the comments while speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office during a meeting with the Romanian president.
“As I’ve said, and I’ll say it any number of times — and this is not using nuclear — we could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it, but I’m not looking to kill 10 million people,” Trump said.
“I’m not looking to kill 10 million Afghans, because that’s what would have to happen, and I’m not looking to do that.”
The president did not elaborate on how he would go about bringing a quick end to the conflict in Afghanistan, which has spanned 18 years.
The remarks followed similar comments Trump made in July when he asserted that he could bring an end to the war "in a week," drawing speculation about how he would go about such a plan.
“I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people,” Trump said during a meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister at the time.
“If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. … It would be over in — literally, in 10 days.”
Those comments left many scratching their heads and questioning whether Trump was referring to using a nuclear weapon.
Afghans were alarmed and infuriated, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month seeking “clarification” on Trump’s comments through diplomatic channels.
On Friday, Trump was briefed by his national security team on efforts to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan.
The United States has about 14,000 troops in America’s longest war on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
Special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has been negotiating with the Taliban for months on a deal that would see the United States withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for assurances from the insurgents that they would not allow terrorists to launch attacks against the United States from Afghanistan.
The State Department announced Tuesday that Khalilzad is traveling to Qatar for another round of talks with the Taliban, followed by a trip to Afghanistan.
Finalization of a deal has been stymied by the Taliban’s refusal of inter-Afghan talks that the United States has been pushing for. The Taliban considers the Afghan government illegitimate.
Further underscoring the difficulties of ending the war, ISIS’s Afghanistan branch has claimed responsibility for a Saturday attack on a wedding in Kabul that killed 63 people, a stark reminder that violence is likely to continue even if the Taliban agrees to stop.
On Tuesday, Trump played down expectations for reaching a deal, saying of the ongoing talks with the Taliban, “I don’t know whether or not that plan’s going to be acceptable to me.”
“Maybe it’s not going to be acceptable to them, but we are talking, we have good talks going, and we’ll see what happens,” he added.
Still, he said, the Taliban “would like to stop fighting us.”
Trump also said it’s “ridiculous” that the United States has been in Afghanistan for 18 years, reiterating his belief that U.S. troops are acting as a “police force.”
Still, he said Afghanistan is a “dangerous place” and indicated he’s open to leaving a residual force in a place he said “does seem to be the Harvard University of terrorism.”
“It’s a dangerous place and we have to always keep an eye on it,” he said. “We are bringing some of our troops back, but we have to have a presence.”
“We’ll always have intelligence, and we’ll always have somebody there,” he added.
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 21, 2019
U.S. Space Command, the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command and the first new one in 10 years, will stand up at a ceremony on Aug. 29, according to the U.S. military’s highest-ranking officer.
“We will immediately assign 87 units under a single combatant commander” after the ceremony, Gen. Joe Dunford, the outgoing commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday at the sixth National Space Council meeting in northern Virginia.
Gen. John W. Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is expected to take command of the Space Command, Vice President Mike Pence said at the meeting.
The new command’s capabilities will include missile warning, satellite operations, space control and space support, Dunford said.
“The direction is clear, we understand it and we’re moving out,” Dunford said.
No location for the new headquarters has been announced.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last year establishing U.S. Space Command. The last combatant command created was U.S. Africa Command in 2009.
The Pentagon is actually bringing back U.S. Space Command: it was active from 1985 to 2002, based in Colorado Springs.
Combatant commands provide command and control of military forces. Pence has said U.S. Space Command will serve alongside other functional commands like Strategic Command and Special Operations Command.
Its mission will be to integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, developing space doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures, Pence said last year at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, when the administration announced plans for a new Space Command and separate Space Force.
The Space Force would be a sixth branch of the armed forces and would require Congressional approval.
The White House is still working with Congress to stand up the Space Force, which would become the lead military service for space operations, Pence said Tuesday at the National Space Council meeting.
“As the President has said and we all recognize — it’s been frankly true for decades — in his words, space is a warfighting domain,” Pence said.
Separately, Pence said the U.S. intends to return to the moon by 2024. The “next man and first woman on the moon will be American astronauts,” he said.
Forbes Opinion: How Budget Games In Congress Endanger The Lives Of U.S. Troops
Loren ThompsonSenior Contributor
Aerospace & Defense
I write about national security, especially its business dimensions.
America’s military faces a rising tide of threats to its survival in future conflicts. Robotic drones. Hypersonic missiles. Cyber attacks. Suicide bombers. Pentagon planners are struggling to train and equip the force for a rapidly expanding spectrum of dangers.
But there is one homegrown threat for which the military has no solution. It’s the U.S. Congress, which seems constitutionally incapable of completing budgets in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year.
Congress hasn’t delivered a complete federal budget in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1 even once in this century. The last time it accomplished that seemingly routine function, my twins hadn’t been born yet. They graduated from college this year.
The reason Congress doesn’t get its budget work done on time is because there are almost no political penalties for delaying. Maybe the government closes for a few days, but critical functions are exempted from shutdown and several days of pain for federal workers has become a rite of Autumn in our political system.
What members of Congress and the general public don’t notice is the devastating impact budget delays can have on military readiness and modernization. The longer delays last, the more damage is done to training schedules, equipment maintenance, munitions purchases and other vital activities.
The delays are so frequent that it is reasonable to ask whether military accidents and equipment failures might not be linked to lack of timely funding. If pilots can’t get in their flying hours or warships are not inducted into maintenance centers as planned, that obviously has the potential to degrade the performance of the force.
The mechanism that Congress uses to keep things running when it fails to complete new budgets on time is called a “continuing resolution.” Basically, both chambers of Congress resolve to continue prior-year spending levels in each military account until a new budget is passed—which may be many months into the new year.
How bad can that be? Well think about this. Because the law prohibits entering into financial obligations for which no funding has been enacted and planners can’t be certain how much money each account will ultimately receive, training exercises have to be deferred. Replenishment of depleted supplies is delayed. New programs can’t be started, and old programs can’t be expanded. Recruitment and hiring are put off.
Consider the Army’s efforts to modernize equipment in response to growing challenges from China and Russia. If Congress fails to agree on funding levels for fiscal 2020 and a “CR” goes into effect for several weeks, six new procurement programs for items like navigation equipment can’t start; increased production of 13 programs such as the Black Hawk helicopter and Stryker fighting vehicle can’t commence; and 11 research programs developing next-generation weapons can’t ramp up.
If the continuing resolution stretches many months into the fiscal year, it eventually impacts nearly 30 new procurement programs, impedes purchases of basic warfighting items like Hellfire missiles, and delays over 30 research efforts focused on game-changing technology like hypersonic weapons. At some point, it becomes impossible to recover all the ground that has been lost, and the whole modernization program gets delayed, maybe by years.
These problems don’t occur in China and Russia, where budget approvals for military spending are largely a formality. Those countries have been investing continuously in new military systems like hypersonics and space weapons for two decades, during most of which time the U.S. military was bogged down fighting rag-tag terrorists in Southwest Asia.
Military budgeting in Washington is a much more disjointed, baroque process. First the House and Senate have to agree on budget levels for the coming fiscal year. Then authorizing committees have to agree on program and policy priorities. Then appropriators have to agree on actual spending levels. Then the President has to sign the appropriations into law. There are a dozen steps in this process where funding can get detoured or delayed.
For instance, even if the President gets an appropriations bill on time, he might object to the absence of requested money for a wall on the southern border, so he vetoes the bill. Then it has to return to Congress for further consideration. Obviously, having different parties in control of each legislative chamber complicates deliberations. So defense analyst Byron Callan got it right recently when he observed, “There may have been a bit too much comfort over the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which raised budget caps for defense” over the next two fiscal years.
No doubt about it, we are probably headed for another continuing resolution—or maybe four, as occurred in preparing the 2018 budget. CRs only extend prior-year spending levels for fixed timespans, and Congress often underestimates how long it will take to reach agreement on a new budget. Funding for the military managed to escape that trap in the current fiscal year, and as a result major progress was made in sustaining training, maintenance and modernization at desired levels.
But that was probably an anomaly. We look headed for yet another CR on October 1, of uncertain duration. Which means Air Force pilots will not be flying training exercises as frequently as they should be, soldiers will be operating equipment more prone to breakdown due to deferred maintenance, and sailors will be stuck in port rather than preparing for Pacific challenges.
Pentagon managers often complain about the colossal waste of money that results from budgeting in this fashion. Billions of dollars are burned up through the resulting inefficiency most years. But maybe what Washington should be focusing on is the lives that might be wasted because troops didn’t get the training they needed, or the munitions they needed, or the repaired weapons they needed, when they needed them.
Military emergencies often arise without warning. That’s why readiness is the Pentagon’s top goal. Unfortunately, with the way budgets get put together in Washington, Congress may be the biggest threat to the readiness of the joint force.