Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, February 21, 2019 which is National Grain-Free Day, National Sticky-Bun Day, Single Tasking Day and International Mother Language Day.
This Day in History:
- 1865: In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
- 1885: The Washington Monument, built in honor of America’s revolutionary hero and first president, is dedicated in Washington, D.C. The 555-foot-high marble obelisk was first proposed in 1783, and Pierre L’Enfant left room for it in his designs for the new U.S. capital. After George Washington’s death in 1799, plans for a memorial for the “father of the country” were discussed, but none were adopted until 1832–the centennial of Washington’s birth. Architect Robert Mills’ hollow Egyptian obelisk design was accepted for the monument, and on July 4, 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Work on the project was interrupted by political quarreling in the 1850s, and construction ceased entirely during the American Civil War. Finally, in 1876, Congress, inspired by the American centennial, passed legislation appropriating $200,000 for completion of the monument.
- 1972: President Richard Nixon visits the People’s Republic of China. After arriving in Beijing, the president announced that his breakthrough visit to China is “The week that changed the world.” In meeting with Nixon, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai urged early peace in Vietnam, but did not endorse North Vietnam’s political demands. North Vietnamese officials and peace negotiators took a dim view of Nixon’s trip, fearing that China and the United States would make a deal behind their backs. Nixon’s promise to reduce the U.S. military presence on Taiwan seemed to confirm North Vietnam’s fears of a Chinese-American sellout-trading U.S. military reduction in Taiwan for peace in Vietnam. Despite Hanoi’s fears, China continued to supply North Vietnam levels of aid that had increased significantly in late 1971. This aid permitted the North Vietnamese to launch a major new offensive in March 1972.
- On February 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, is published in London by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet–arguably the most influential in history–proclaimed that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and that the inevitable victory of the proletariat, or working class, would put an end to class society forever. Originally published in German as Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (“Manifesto of the Communist Party”), the work had little immediate impact. Its ideas, however, reverberated with increasing force into the 20th century, and by 1950 nearly half the world’s population lived under Marxist governments.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreign Policy: Does Anyone Want to Be Secretary of Defense?
Navy Times: Prosecutors: Coast Guard officer plotted to ‘murder innocent civilians’
Military Times: Wave of elderly veterans creates financial worries for VA’s nursing home services
Stripes: Navy linguist killed in Syria to be honored on memorial to code-makers and code-breakers
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Foreign Policy: Does Anyone Want to Be Secretary of Defense?
White House struggles to fill the top Pentagon job.
By Lara Seligman
| February 20, 2019, 1:33 PM
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to visit with families of fallen soldiers as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, and acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, right, follow at Dover Air Force base in Delaware on Jan. 19. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
The search for a permanent replacement for former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis—a candidate who will satisfy both the president and the Senate—is not going well.
In recent months, at least four potential candidates approached about the job have demurred, according to several current and former U.S. officials. The list includes Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Tom Cotton, and former Sen. Jon Kyl, all Republicans.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane, who served as vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, has also taken himself out of consideration.
Their reasons are bound up in part with the hardships of the job, sources say. But they also appear to be tied to the personality of the person the defense secretary currently serves.
“The sacrifices associated with becoming secretary of defense deter most qualified candidates,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute think tank, noting the position’s low pay and uncertain longevity. “The president’s mercurial personality has simply exacerbated the drawbacks.”
President Donald Trump’s first choice for the job is Patrick Shanahan, the officials told Foreign Policy. Shanahan served as Mattis’s deputy and is currently filling the role as acting secretary of defense.
The sources said Shanahan possesses the qualities most important to the president and his top advisors, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: loyalty and compliance.
“Pompeo, Bolton, [acting chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney like Shanahan, because he has no policy experience and won’t challenge them,” said one former senior U.S. administration official. “The White House is happy to keep Shanahan as acting. With him at the helm, there is no chance of any resistance from DoD.”
“They are not looking for another Jim Mattis,” added a former U.S. government official.
But the sources said a Shanahan nomination for the permanent position, which must be confirmed by the Senate, would likely get pushback from Capitol Hill.
Patrick Shanahan’s record of deference to the U.S. president could be a reason for the White House to install him permanently as defense secretary.
Patrick Shanahan, a former executive for the aerospace giant, is poised to take over for Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
critical of Shanahan during last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, according to the former senior administration official. When Shanahan confirmed to Graham that he was going to move ahead with the plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria—a decision that prompted Mattis to resign—Graham responded: “I was a supporter. Now I’m an adversary.”
During the conference, Graham told some attendees that he was going to try once more to persuade Keane to take the job, the former senior administration official said.
This is not the first time lawmakers have criticized Shanahan. Republican Sen. John McCain, who served as the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee until his death last year,ridiculed the ex-Boeing executive and nearly blocked his confirmation to be Mattis’s deputy.
“In the few instances where he has gone up to brief the Hill, it hasn’t really gone well,” said the former U.S. government official. “The perception was that this guy is in over his head.”
Ahead of the Munich Security Conference, McCain’s successor atop the committee, Sen. James Inhofe, criticized Shanahan as lacking the humility of his predecessor and indicated he does not believe the president will nominate him for the permanent cabinet role. (He later walked back the comments.)
“We need to have a secretary of defense, and I anticipate we will,” Inhofe told reporters during a roundtable event on Capitol Hill on Feb 12. “If you’re an acting, you don’t have the force you need in the office. … I think [Trump] is going to nominate somebody.”
Shanahan does seem to want the job—which sets him apart from other would-be candidates. During a recent trip to the Middle East and Europe, his first overseas travel in his new role, he told reporters he is “happy to serve the country in any capacity the president asks me to.”
The sources speculated that Trump may keep the acting secretary in the job as long as possible before nominating him.
“If I were Trump, who now thinks he is smarter than his generals and the secretary of defense, he’s got the perfect setup here,” said a former congressional staffer. “He’s got a guy who is not going to confront him, he’s got a guy who has got no allies.”
According to two former officials, Dan Coats, the current director of national intelligence, has also turned down the job. One of the former officials has known Coats for decades and another—the first former senior administration official—is close to a senior member of his staff.
Coats recently clashed with the president after contradicting Trump before Congress on the threats emanating from North Korea, Iran, and the Islamic State. Privately, Coats disagrees with the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, the former senior administration official said. Several news outlets have reported in recent days that Trump is souring on Coats.
An Office of the Director of National Intelligence spokesperson pushed back strongly on the notion that Coats had been offered the defense secretary job.
“The White House has not discussed this position with the DNI,” the spokesperson said.
The other contenders had their own reasons for rejecting the offer. Cotton does not want to give up his powerful Senate seat, according to Thompson, particularly to serve a president who may not win a second term. The Arkansas senator also may feel that taking the job could interfere with his presidential ambitions.
“Because Cotton is such a star within the GOP, it is likely he is thinking about one day making a bid for the White House,” Thompson said. “Going to the Defense Department would be a detour rather than a plus in his career plans.”
A spokesperson for Cotton did not respond to a request for comment.
Kyl served as a senator for Arizona from 1995 to 2013 and then again from September to December 2018 after being appointed to succeed McCain. In an email to FP, he declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Graham said the South Carolina senator likes being in Congress and has “repeatedly, publicly said he has ZERO interest in any Administration job.”
Aside from Shanahan, one other top official does seem to want the job. U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson appeared to throw her hat in the ring last week in an interview with Politico’s Women Rule podcast.
Some people in the administration are pushing for Wilson as the choice for Pentagon chief because it “changes the narrative on Trump.” Wilson also has excellent relationships in Congress as a former Republican congresswoman and would be easily confirmed, the former senior U.S. administration official said. Wilson would be the first female defense secretary.
One current U.S. administration official said Wilson is in contention, but other sources expressed skepticism that she would ultimately get the nod.
“Heather Wilson would bring extraordinary qualifications to the job of defense secretary,” said Thompson, of the Lexington Institute. “However, Wilson is not close to the president, and he values personal chemistry highly in selecting his appointees.”
Still, Wilson could benefit from her close friendship with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the search for a permanent secretary of defense. The two have known each other since their days in the House of Representatives.
“Secretary Wilson remains focused on building a more lethal and ready Air Force and advancing other important Air Force priorities,” said Air Force spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas.
Another contender mentioned in the past but largely overlooked by the media is David McCormick, the co-CEO of the global macro investment firm Bridgewater Associates. McCormick is married to Dina Powell, Trump’s former deputy national security advisor for strategy and one of the candidates to replace former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Both McCormick and Powell are deeply entrenched in Trumpland, running in the same social circles as Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
The administration source said Trump would likely favor McCormick if Shanahan is blocked.
But when all the options are taken into account, Shanahan might have the best chances of getting the appointment.
“When you look at the relatively small number of people who might want to take the job, and those who the White House might want to see in it, it seems to lead back to Shanahan as the most likely permanent secretary,” said Thompson, noting that the president “has a high regard” for his acting secretary of defense.
Navy Times: Prosecutors: Coast Guard officer plotted to ‘murder innocent civilians’
By: Geoff Ziezulewicz 11 hours ago
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A U.S. Coast Guard officer is a self-proclaimed white supremacist who drafted a hit list of prominent Democrats and media personalities, part of a plot to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing this week.
Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested Feb. 15 on firearm and opioid possession charges, but a filing Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland warns that those alleged violations “are the proverbial tip of the iceberg.”
“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life,” prosecutors wrote.
Hasson, an acquisitions officer for the service’s National Security Cutter program, previously served in the Marine Corps and Army National Guard from 1988 to 1993, according a filing that seeks to keep him behind bars until his criminal trial concludes.
A resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, Hasson, 49, has been in custody since his arrest last week and a detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday, according to Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Coast Guard officials declined to comment on Hasson’s duties or current status Wednesday, citing the ongoing federal investigation.
In an email to Navy Times, Coast Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane said that Hasson was the target of an ongoing probe by the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
An earlier filing in Hasson’s case indicates that he filled out an SF-86 form in 2016, when he began working at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. That’s a questionnaire required for everyone who seeks national security clearance but the court documents don’t state which level of clearance he held.
A federal magistrate assigned a public defender to Hasson’s case on Feb. 15. Calls to the office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Marylandwere not returned by deadline Wednesday.
Hasson conducted online searches for pro-Russian, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi literature between 2017 and 2019, and took inspiration from the manifesto of Anders Breivik, a far right-wing domestic terrorist who killed 77 people — mostly children — in two coordinated attacks in Norway in 2011, according to the filing.
Breivik’s manifesto provides “a blueprint for future single cell or ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorist operations,” the filing states.
Prosecutors, however, did not specify a date for when Hasson allegedly planned to kick off the massacre.
Consistent with Breivik’s manifesto, Hasson “began the process of targeting specific victims, including current and former elected officials” in January, according to the filing.
Hasson’s online activity since January 2017 showed him condutcing internet searches for phrases such as, “most liberal senators,” “where do most senators live in dc,” “do senators have ss [secret service] protection” and “are supreme court justices protected,” the filing states.
He also searched for MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough “after viewing a headline claiming that Scarborough referred to the President as ‘the worst ever,’” according to the filing.
“After further searches, the defendant found Scarborough’s prior home, and then proceeded to scroll in and out on the location for approximately 35 seconds,” the filing states.
Prosecutors contend that on Jan. 17, Hasson also “compiled a list of prominent Democratic Congressional leaders, activists, political organizations, and MSNBC and CNN media personalities,” according to the filing.
Hasson’s hit allegedly included “gillibran” — prosecutors say it’s presumably U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — as well as “poca warren,” perhaps Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, plus “Sen blumen jew,” a slur for Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, among others, according to the filing.
Gillibrand and Warren are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Hasson allegedly "developed this list in the above spreadsheet while reviewing the MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News websites…from his work computer,” the filing states.
The same day he made the list, prosecutors say Hasson used the search engine Google for the following phases:
- “what if trump illegally impeached”
- “best place in dc to see congress people”
- “where in dc to (sic) congress live”
- “civil war if trump impeached.”
Hasson regularly perused the manifesto from early 2017 until his arrest this month, focusing on the sections offering advice on amassing guns, food, disguises and survival supplies, the filing states.
Law enforcement searched his “cramped basement apartment" in Maryland this month and found 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of mixed ammunition, according to the filing.
He bought guns, ammo, smoke grenades, magazines and other supplies from vendors across the United States, prosecutors allege in the court filing, and he’s “espoused extremist views for years.”
In a June 2017 draft email, he allegedly wrote about “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” the filing states: “Interesting idea the other day. Start with biological attacks followed by attack on food supply…Have to research this.”
Prosecutors allege that Hasson noted the need to enlist the “unwitting help of another power/country,” and wondered “Who and how to provoke??”
Hasson wrote that “liberalist/globalist ideology” was destroying “traditional peoples” and warned that “much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch,” prosecutors wrote.
According to the court filing, he added, “For some no amount of blood will be enough” because they "will die as will the traitors who actively work toward our demise. Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west’s liberalism.”
Hasson was initially charged with possession of the opioid Tramadol, and he allegedly spoke in his draft email of coming off the drug to “clear my head,” the filing states.
He cited the writings of Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph and pondered becoming a sheriff, city manager, mayor or other position that would get him leading a community, prosecutors allege.
Hasson also wrote of aping tactics from Ukraine’s civil war and attacking people on both sides of a partisan divide to stoke tension and escalate violence, according to the filing.
He also plotted attacks on food and fuel supplies and masquerading as a police officer to gun down looters and protesters, prosecutors say.
“I can’t just strike to wound I must find a way to deliver a blow that cannot be shaken off,” he wrote, according to the filing. “Maybe many blows that will cause the needed turmoil.”
In another letter allegedly drafted to a known American neo-Nazi leader a few months later, Hasson identified himself as a man who had been a white nationalist for more than three decades and advocated establishing a “white homeland” in the Pacific Northwest, according to the court filing.
“You can make change with a little focused violence. How long we can hold out there and prevent niggerization of the Northwest until whites wake up on their own or are forcibly made to make a decision whether to roll over and die or stand up remains to be seen," he allegedly wrote.
Breivik’s manifesto extolled the virtues of taking steroids to prep for attacks, and authorities allegedly found more than 30 bottles labeled as human growth hormone in Hasson’s apartment, prosecutors say.
Hasson had been buying the opioid Tramadol from an unidentified person online since at least 2016 and evidence emerged suggesting he was a chronic user of the drug, according to the filing.
Prosecutors wrote that Hasson also allegedly bought synthetic urine and clean kits “in the event he was randomly selected for a drug screening, which occasionally happened in his profession.”
The filing was first uncovered by Seamus Hughes, the Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Military Times: Wave of elderly veterans creates financial worries for VA’s nursing home services
By:Leo Shane III 20 hours ago
WASHINGTON — More than one million veterans will be eligible for taxpayer-funded nursing home serviceswithin the next five years, according to the latest estimates from federal administrators trying to balance the costs of institutional care with alternative options allowing those individuals to stay in their homes.
Already, the annual costs of nursing home care have risen to almost $6 billion, Veterans Affairs officials told lawmakers at a congressional hearing last week. By 2024, that number could top $10 billion, a significant portion of the department’s overall budget.
“As veterans age, approximately 80 percent will develop the need for some long-term services and support,” Dr. Teresa Boyd, assistant deputy undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, told lawmakers. “The aging of the veteran population has been more rapid and represents a greater proportion of the VA patient population than in other healthcare systems.”
By law, VA officials must provide nursing home care for veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 70 percent or more. The department currently maintains 156 state homes across all 50 states.
But a study by USA Today and the Boston Globe last fall found that about two-thirds of those facilities scored worse than private-sector nursing homes in a series of quality indicators last year.
And VA officials acknowledge that many veterans are seeking options to remain at their own homes or with family caregivers rather than enter the institutions, a shift in cultural preferences in recent years.
“There’s an urgent need to accelerate the increase and the availability of the services since most veterans prefer to receive care at home,” Boyd said. “And VA can improve quality at a lower cost.”
Dr. Scotte Hartonft, acting director of VA’s Office of Geriatrics & Extended Care, said programs like adult day care, home-based primary care and tele-health options have been extended significantly in recent years. He called those programs a win for both veterans and the department.
“It provides (veterans a) choice, but it also is much less expensive than nursing home care,” he said.
Two years ago, VA officials launched the Choose Home Initiative to promote and expand more home care initiatives. Hartonft said five VA medical centers are running pilot programs related to that goal, with an eye towards expansion in coming years.
Lawmakers said that work is critical, not only for today’s elderly veterans population but for the long-term issues facing the Iraq and Afghanistan war generation.
“Looking forward to 2035, the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq will be middle aged, they’ll have health issues much like the Vietnam veterans experience today,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. “They have the co-morbidities of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, palliative traumas. How is VA going to address this?”
More information on VA long-term and geriatric care is available at the VA web site.
By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 21, 2019
A black granite wall inside the National Security Agency lists 176 military and civilian cryptologists — the code-makers and code-breakers that protect U.S. communications and crack adversaries’ systems — who’ve been killed in the line of duty since World War II.
Of those, 174 have been publicly named. Only two of them are women.
Next week, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent will become the third, when her name is unveiled as the 177th entry on the National Cryptologic Memorial.
A ceremony honoring her at the spy agency’s headquarters complex at Fort Meade, Md., is slated for Feb. 28 and is expected to include family members, an NSA spokesman said this week. She will be the sixth sailor and the first Navy linguist named on the wall since the Cold War.
An Arabic linguist with Fort Meade’s Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, Kent was among the four Americans and more than a dozen others killed in a suicide bombing in the Syrian town of Manbij on Jan. 16. Her death has brought attention to the work female servicemembers have been doing alongside elite front line units, and has prompted changes to a flawed Navy commissioning and waiver process that led to her deployment in lieu of attending a doctoral program.
Typically, NSA unveils newly added names in a wreath-laying ceremony at the 8-by-12 monument around Memorial Day weekend each year. The names of 23 servicemembers have been added to the wall since the 2001 ceremony, when NSA began a tradition of declassifying and sharing their stories. Kent’s name will be the first etched into the polished stone wall since May 2015.
The wall is housed inside a secure area not generally open to the media or the public, but a replica is displayed at the National Cryptologic Museum, located near the NSA headquarters complex at the Maryland base.
Along with the names and the NSA seal, engraved into polished stone are the words, “They served in silence,” reflecting their secretive duties. But Kent’s death, less than two months into her fifth combat deployment, has highlighted the role of women like her supporting elite outfits on hushed front line missions against insurgents and terrorists.
Kent was killed while doing intelligence legwork to aid larger efforts to track remnants of ISIS, her husband, a retired Green Beret warrant officer, told Stars and Stripes. The 35-year-old mother of two and cancer survivor, who spoke seven languages and was considered a “badass” by many of her peers, spent much of her career working alongside special operations troops, family and friends have said.
Like her, at least four of the five Navy cryptologic technicians named on the NSA’s memorial wall since 2001 — all men — were killed while supporting Navy SEALs and other elite units.
In May 2006, the spy agency added the first female servicemember’s name, Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson, 21, of Lemay, Mo., who was one of two soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) killed in Tikrit, Iraq, when a mortar round exploded near the division’s headquarters in March of that year. She was the first female signals intelligence analyst killed in combat, according to the Army.
In May 2008, South Plainfield, N.J.-native Sgt. Trista L. Moretti, 27, an Army signals intelligence analyst with the 25th Infantry Division who was killed in a June 2007 mortar attack in Nasir Lafitah, Iraq, became the second woman named on the wall.
A native of Pine Plains, N.Y., whose state police officer father and firefighter uncle had responded to the World Trade Center attack in New York City, Kent was motivated to join the Navy in late 2003 in part by the 9/11 attacks. She’d studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., graduating in 2005.
“She is remembered fondly by her teachers,” said Natela Cutter, a spokeswoman for the language school, in an emailed statement last month. “She will be greatly missed.”
Prior to Kent, the last Navy linguists to have their names inscribed on the wall were third class petty officers Patrick R. Price and Craig R. Rudolf, who died in the Mediterranean Sea when the EA-3B Skywarrior they were aboard crashed while trying make a night landing on the USS Nimitz on Jan. 25, 1987, killing all seven crew members aboard. They were the last Cold War fatalities in the Navy’s aerial reconnaissance program, according to the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation.
Kent became the first female U.S. servicemember killed in Syria since U.S. forces began fighting there as part of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group that began in late 2014. She is slated to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next week.