Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, April 25, 2019 which is DNA Day, National Plumbers Day, Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and East Meets West Day.
This Day in History:
· April 25, 1976: During a Major League baseball game between Chicago and Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, two protesters run onto the field and attempt to set a U.S. flag on fire. Cubs centerfielder and former American Legion Baseball standout Rick Monday rushes to rescue the flag and prevents it from being burned. ESPN later describes Monday’s act that day as one of the top 100 plays in Major League Baseball history. Monday, who played 19 seasons of Major League Baseball, would in 2006 join The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance to testify on Capitol Hill in support of a constitutional amendment to protect the flag from deliberate desecration. Before he entered professional baseball, Monday played American Legion ball for Santa Monica Bay Cities Post 123 in California.
[Editor’s Note: There will be no clips tomorrow as everyone who does them is on assignment or paid time off. I’ll be back on Monday, enjoy the weekend.]
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
· Military Times: Trump makes new threat to send US troops to Mexican border
· Military.com: DoD Officials Make Case for Keeping the Draft, Women Included
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Military Times: Trump makes new threat to send US troops to Mexican border
By: Joe Gould 18 hours ago
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a new threat Wednesday to send armed soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump tweeted that “Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border,” but he didn’t offer any support for the drug-smuggling claim.
He tweeted: "Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!"
U.S. troops are already at the border to help reduce illegal crossings. The Pentagon has acknowledged more than 5,000 military personnel have been deployed to the southern border, at a cost of $235 million in fiscal 2018 and an estimated $448 million in fiscal 2019.
The Pentagon and U.S. Northern Command did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Associated Press quoted White House adviser Kellyanne Conway saying that Trump "is just making clear, as he always has, that he has many different actions at his disposal" to try to stop what the administration calls a humanitarian crisis at the border.
The tweet came after two U.S. soldiers in a remote area of Texas on April 13 were confronted by five or six Mexican soldiers who thought the Americans had crossed into Mexico. The Mexican troops reportedly removed a weapon from one of the American soldiers, who were traveling in an unmarked vehicle.
The U.S. soldiers were north of the border but south of a border fence, according to U.S. Northern Command, which said, “the U.S. soldiers were appropriately in U.S. territory,” and “followed all established procedures and protocols.”
While Trump suggested future U.S. troops at the border would be armed, the incident showed that at least some of the U.S. troops at the border are already carrying weapons, said Christopher Wilson, of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute.
“While the incident shows that mistakes can and do happen, rather than increasing tensions between the two militaries it emphasizes the importance of ongoing bilateral cooperation and communication more than anything else,” Wilson said, adding that, “communication between the troops from both countries led to a rapid de-escalation of what could have been a much more grave incident.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised at a Wednesday news conference to investigate the border incident.
"We are going to analyze this incident, we are going to take account of what he (Trump) is indicating and will act in conformity with the law, within the framework of our sovereignty," Obrador said.
He added: "We are not going to fight with the government of the United States. The most important thing is that we want a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation for development."
Trump recently backed off his threat to seal the entire border, citing Mexican cooperation.
By: Leo Shane III 20 hours ago
The Supreme Court this week granted a 30-day extension to Department of Justice officials contemplating an appeal of a lower court ruling in January which extended presumptive benefits to tens of thousands of Navy veterans who have claimed exposure to toxic chemical defoliants during the Vietnam War.
But advocates say they are not concerned by the move, calling it a typical legal maneuver and not a serious threat to getting benefits to the group of so-called “blue water” veterans.
“This just seems to be going through the motions,” said John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director Military-Veterans Advocacy, which has lobbied on the issue for years. “It’s not a setback for us. Veterans Affairs Secretary (Robert) Wilkie has told us this was not initiated by his department.”
In January, a federal court ruled that VA officials for years has used faulty reasoning to deny disability benefits to veterans who served in ships off the waters of Vietnam.
VA officials had argued that for years that existing law established only that troops who served on the ground on on ships close to shore were entitled to the presumption of exposure to chemical defoliants like Agent Orange, speeding the process for their disability benefits.
Sailors on ships further out to sea were not, even though many contracted the same rare cancers and respiratory illnesses that their land-based counterparts did. They have been required to provide proof of chemical exposure during their combat tours, a near-impossible prospect given the decades that have passed and lack of environmental monitoring at the time.
Until the court ruling in January, VA officials had also argued that extending presumptive benefits to the estimated 90,000 blue water veterans would cost as much as $5 billion over 10 years, a figure that advocates have disputed.
But since the ruling, Wilkie has said publicly he will work with veterans groups and Congress on a path ahead for awarding the benefits. He also advised Justice officials against appealing the federal court ruling.
Department of Justice officials had until next week to raise that objection, but instead asked for a 30-day extension. In their court request, lawyers for the department did not indicate they intend to fight the decision, but needed more time to research the potential impact of the ruling on other pending court cases.
Wells said he would not be surprised if the department requested another extension next month too. He said the move does not affect congressional work to draft an implementation plan for the benefits, and has not stopped the Board of Veterans Appeals from starting to accept some veterans’ benefits cases based on the federal court ruling.
Several bills are pending in the House and Senate to address the issue, including bipartisan legislation announced last week from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Steve Daines, R-Mont. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is scheduled to discuss a proposal from Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., during a hearing next Wednesday.
24 Apr 2019
Military.com | By Patricia Kime
The Selective Service System is an "inexpensive insurance policy" against a national emergency and should be modified to include women, a senior Defense Department official implied Wednesday during a hearing on the future of draft registration in the U.S.
Asked whether requiring women to register for a potential draft would "result in a more lethal military," Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs James Stewart avoided answering the question directly, instead pointing out that all military occupations are now open to men and women and the military basically looks "for standards."
"As long as those individuals meet standards, we are open to them," Stewart said.
But when Jeanette James, a member of a federal commission studying the future of the draft and a former professional House Armed Services Committee staff member, pressed Stewart, pointedly asking, "So am I hearing, ‘Yes, it would lead to increased lethality in the military?’" Stewart replied without hesitation: "It is, already."
Until now, the Defense Department has stayed silent on the proceedings of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, which is conducting a three-year review of public service in America, considering whether the U.S. needs the Selective Service System and if women should be required to register.
The group also is weighing the options for youth volunteerism and national service in America, reviewing all public service alternatives, including the armed forces, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and federal employment.
As part of its review, the panel has held public hearings with subject-matter experts and those who have a vested interest in the issues, including military and government officials, educators, national security analysts, veterans, peace activists, theologians and more.
On Wednesday, the panel heard from DoD officials and defense experts on the potential need for a mass mobilization of military forces. Members were told that the Selective Service System not only provides a means to support a military draft, it demonstrates the country’s commitment to sovereignty and serves as a deterrent to potential adversaries.
Pointing out that China and Russia are investing heavily in military expansion, the officials said the potential for global conflict exists and the Selective Service System would provide a valuable tool for an unimaginable national emergency.
"At $23 million a year, it’s an inexpensive insurance policy," Stewart said.
"While the present Selective Service System is hardly the robust deterrent it is meant to be, potential adversaries would take notice if the U.S. declares the prospect of an expansive national mobilization unlikely or too hard," Loren DeJonge Schulman, deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, told panel members. "That we cannot predict the event that would demand a draft is no reason to discard it altogether."
Earlier this year, the commission released an interim report explaining its processes and providing insight into its focus, which includes providing incentives for students to enter public and civil service, making recommendations for improving civic education and promoting a culture of service in the U.S.
Its main mission, however, is to examine the Selective Service System, whether it’s needed and if all Americans should be required to register.
Pentagon officials on Wednesday defended its existence, saying it provides a "mobilization option to address any threat" but adding that it provides a number of intangibles.
According to Stewart, Selective Service registration serves as a reminder of the importance of military and public service and, since it is overseen by a government agency independent of the Defense Department, it "reinforces the public’s perception of the integrity of the draft process."
It also provides the U.S. military information on potential recruits, providing 75,000 to 80,000 recruiting leads a year, Stewart said.
Yet the system is not perfect, they added. Schulman said changes in warfare, how the U.S. conducts war and its needs in a future conflict may not be met by a draft basically geared to providing basic labor and unskilled manpower to the military in the event of an emergency.
"Americans might reasonably ask why it is necessary to reform or replace a conscription system for a government that has not first done its homework or even engaged the American people on what threats and scenarios keep the government up all night," Schulman said.
Several panelists argued that even though the U.S. has not conducted a draft in more than 40 years, the system should be maintained and improved, given China and Russia”s pursuit of military superiority.
According to Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Technology and National Security Program, China is aggressively pursuing military excellence, to include improving education for its officers, developing technology, building bases overseas and emphasizing defense education among its student population.
China and its citizens, she said, are invested in developing the nation as a superpower — a unified front that drills down to individual citizens through exercises and mobilization plans.
Like China, she added, the U.S. should encourage its youth to serve, either in the military or through public service, to build a nation invested in its future.
"The full and equal participation of women throughout the military, including the selective service system, should be recognized as an imperative," Kania said. "[And] the ongoing implementation of a ban excluding, even discharging, transgender service members not only is wrong, it wrongly deprives the U.S. military of their talent and dedication to service."
The commission’s meetings come as the Trump administration continues to fight a legal challenge from two men who sued the federal government for what they say is a system that discriminates against men.
The Justice Department on Monday appealed a Texas judge’s ruling that the country’s male-only draft registration system is unconstitutional. Houston-based Judge Gray Miller ruled in February that the U.S. government’s requirement that only male citizens register is discriminatory under the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection clause.
The commission will meet again Thursday at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., to hear testimony from those opposed to expansion of the Selective Service System. The hearing will be livestreamed on the commission’s web page.
By Zack Budryk – 04/24/19 09:21 AM EDT 104
A new United Nations report said that Afghan and U.S. forces killed more civilians in Afghanistan than the Taliban and other insurgents did in the first quarter of 2019.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its quarterly report that for the first time since it began tracking civilian casualties in Afghanistan a decade ago, pro-government forces were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths, attributing 53 percent of deaths to them.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31, UNAMA tracked 305 civilian deaths and 303 injuries attributed to pro-government forces, a 39 percent spike from the first quarter of 2018. Of overall casualties, 17 percent were at the hands of Afghan national security forces, 13 percent were international military forces, 2 percent were pro-government militias and two percent were “multiple Pro-Government Forces.”
“Continuing trends observed in 2018, UNAMA documented increased harm to civilians from aerial and search operations, with the highest number of civilian casualties recorded from each of these tactic types in the first quarter of any year since UNAMA began systematic documentation,” the report states. Pro-government forces carried out 43 aerial operations in the first quarter that killed 145 and injured 83, according to the report. Half of aerial civilian casualties were women and children, according to the report, including a March 23 airstrike on Kunduz that killed 13 civilians, including 10 children and two women.
But insurgent forces remained responsible for the majority of overall civilian casualties, at 54 percent, according to the report. Suicide bombings were down compared to this point in 2018, according to the report, but civilian casualties from non-suicide improvised explosive device (IED) attacks spiked 21 percent, with 53 deaths and 269 injuries, according to the report.
“The overall reduction of civilian casualties was driven by a decrease in civilian casualties by suicide [IED] attacks,” the report states. “UNAMA notes the particularly harsh winter conditions during the first three months of the year, which may have contributed to this trend. It is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict.”