5 December, 2018 07:11

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, December 5, 2018 which is International Ninja Day, International Volunteer Day, Bathtub Party Day and Repeal Day.
This Day in History:

  • 1945: At 2:10 p.m., five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 take off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three-hour training mission. Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base. They never returned
  • 1933: The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32 p.m. EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day.
  • 1978: In an effort to prop up an unpopular pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union signs a “friendship treaty” with the Afghan government agreeing to provide economic and military assistance. The treaty moved the Russians another step closer to their disastrous involvement in the Afghan civil war between the Soviet-supported communist government and the Muslim rebels, the Mujahideen, which officially began in 1979.
  • 1970: A North Vietnamese newspaper declares that the country will not be intimidated by U.S. bombing threats. Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had warned that the U.S. would initiate new bombing raids on North Vietnam if the communists continued to fire on unarmed reconnaissance aircraft flying over their air space. Responding to Laird’s threats, North Vietnamese officials declared that any U.S. reconnaissance planes that flew over North Vietnam would be fired upon. This declaration implied that North Vietnam would not be forced into concessions, and was prepared to continue the war regardless of the cost.


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Washington Examiner: US reconfigures border troops in response to shifting caravan routes
by Anna Giaritelli
| December 05, 2018 12:00 AM
The Trump administration is reconfiguring and slightly scaling back the deployment of U.S. troops and personnel at the border in response to the shifting position of migrants trying to cross into the U.S., according to several Homeland Security and Defense officials.
Supplementary DOD and DHS forces have declined about 10 and 20 percent, respectively, in the last week. Remaining support is being moved to areas where caravans have settled in across the border from western Arizona and west form there toward San Diego.
“We are moving hundreds of additional CBP personnel into place to ensure our ability to safely address multiple potential contingencies, at and between the Southern California ports of entry," a CBP spokesperson wrote in an email to the Washington Examiner Tuesday.
The first caravan group that left northern Central America in October did not travel the shortest route from southern Mexico to the U.S., which is 1,100 miles from the Guatemala-Mexico border to South Texas, near McAllen and Brownsville. Instead, they traveled up into Mexico City then went west to Tijuana, a total of about 2,500 miles.
U.S. Border Patrol is comprised of nearly 20,000 agents based at the Canadian and Mexican borders. In November, it pulled 870 agents from other parts of the country to help at areas of concern along the southern border it believed needed reinforcing ahead of the caravan’s arrival last month.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the patrol’s parent agency, sent 560 officers as reinforcements to the front lines, which were already stretched thin from illegal immigration levels that have skyrocketed from 16,000 apprehensions per month in April 2017 to more than 50,000 in October.
Those 1,430 combined CBP forces sent to Southern California and Arizona have dropped, according to figures provided Tuesday evening.
Of the 870 Border Patrol agents originally deployed, 460 remain in the field. However, CBP sent an additional 90 personnel on top of the 560 already at the border.
The Pentagon has also pulled back approximately 500 active-duty troops — nearly 10 percent of the 5,900 total that had been reported deployed last week.
As of Tuesday, 5,400 troops are stationed at the border, including 1,600 in Texas, 600 at the operation’s Texas headquarters, 1,400 in Arizona, and 1,800 in California, according to a spokesperson for U.S. Army North’s Joint Forces Land Component Command.
About 300 of the California troops were recently moved from Texas and Arizona to California because 6,000 members of the caravan have temporarily settled in Tijuana, just over the border from the Golden State.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday approved extending the deployment of active-duty troops from Dec. 15 through the end of January.
The total number of people migrating as part of multiple caravans from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has fluctuated in recent weeks as more than 3,200 dropped off to apply for asylum in Mexico instead of going onto the U.S.
Following President Trump’s order to bar the group from illegally entering the country, the Pentagon in October approved a DHS request to deploy additional troops to the southern border.
Defense News: Mattis, GOP hawks warn Trump against defense cuts at White House meeting
By:Joe Gould 13 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and two top Republican lawmakers met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday to argue against a $33 billion budget cut he’s considering for the military. Their strategy was to link budget problems to Trump’s sometime-foil, President Barack Obama.
Mattis, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry held the meeting to discuss the administration’s 2020 budget submission. News of the plans to meet were first reported by The Washington Post.
“I had a frank and productive conversation about our national security goals with the President," Inhofe said in a statement. "We share a commitment to undoing the damage left behind by President Obama and to rebuilding our military to achieve the National Defense Strategy.
"I am confident from the meeting that the President is determined to keep our nation strong and the military adequately funded. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump and Vice President Pence to achieve these shared goals.”
A HASC aide said similarly that participants in Tuesday’s meeting, "reviewed the damage done to the military during the Obama Administration. President Trump has been keeping his promise to repair that damage and restore our strength. The participants believe we continue to make progress and are still on track to rebuild the military.”
The meeting appeared to be an end-run around the White House Office of Management and Budget. Pro-defense Republicans have been lobbying the president since the budget office ordered the Pentagon to create a $700 billion defense budget (in addition to a $733 billion budget it had previously planned) as part of plans for all departments across the federal government to cut their planned budgets by 5 percent.
The lawmakers appealed to Trump by suggesting Obama was responsible for suboptimal defense budgets, though its a complicated claim because Obama was constrained by the bipartisan 2011 Budget Control Act’s caps on discretionary spending, and the chain of last-minute budget deals the BCA has spawned.
Cutting the military could look like a reversal for Trump, who accused Obama of leaving the military “depleted,” campaigned to “rebuild the military” and championed hard-won defense spending increases for 2018 and 2019. Trump seemed to double downon a cut for FY20 with an ambiguous tweet Monday that called the $716 billion defense budget he signed for 2018, “Crazy!”
Last week, Inhofe and Thornberry argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that a smaller defense budget won’t have a major impact on fixing the national deficit but will have a crippling effect on military equipment purchases and end-strength.
On Saturday, Mattis told the audience at the Reagan National Defense Forum that major budget cuts “would be a dangerous disservice to our troops and the American people they serve and protect" — and signaled he would by lobbying the president.
“I would just tell you that the issue is in play, and I’ll give my advice to the president. I owe him the courtesy of that in private before I speak about it in public," Mattis said.
“It’s up to me to make the logical argument about what the president’s submission should look like to the Office of Management and Budget, to the Congress … at that point, the Congress will take our input on board."
In the era of budget caps, defense hawks in Congress have had to navigate GOP fiscal hawks and Democrats seeking parity between defense and non-defense spending. They will have an uphill battle as HASC ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. — who has argued for cutting defense spending — is expected to replace Thornberry as chairman next year.
Asked earlier in the day about the planned White House huddle, Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a senior appropriator, said the defense budget cannot be discussed in isolation. That’s because easing BCA caps have required high-level negotiations between the president and congressional leaders from both parties.
“There has to be a broader conversation about the whole budget, simply from the standpoint of national security, not just defense,” said Reed, of Rhode Island. “It’s the State Department, the FBI. Until there’s a conversation between leadership and the White House about the top-line for everything, we’re not being efficient and effective.”
Military Times: Crowds honor Bush for long service, from war to White House
By: Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press , Laurie Kellman, The Associated Press , and Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press   10 hours ago

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WASHINGTON — Soldiers, citizens in wheelchairs and long lines of others on foot wound through the hushed Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to view George H.W. Bush’s casket and remember a president whose legacy included World War II military service and a landmark law affirming the rights of the disabled. Bob Dole, a compatriot in war, peace and political struggle, steadied himself out of his wheelchair and saluted his old friend and one-time rival.
As at notable moments in his life, Bush brought together Republicans and Democrats in his death, and not only the VIPs.
Members of the public who never voted for the man waited in the same long lines as the rest, attesting that Bush possessed the dignity and grace that deserved to be remembered by their presence on a cold overcast day in the capital.
"I’m just here to pay my respects," said Jane Hernandez, a retired physician in the heavily Democratic city and suburbs. "I wasn’t the biggest fan of his presidency, but all in all he was a good sincere guy doing a really hard job as best he could."
Bush’s service dog, Sully, was brought to the viewing, too — his main service these last months since Barbara Bush’s death in April being to rest his head on her husband’s lap. Service dogs are trained to do that.
The CIA also honored Bush, the only spy chief to become president, as three agency directors past and present joined the public in the viewing.
In the midst of the period of mourning, first lady Melania Trump gave Laura Bush, one of her predecessors, a tour of holiday decorations at the White House, a "sweet visit during this somber week," as Mrs. Bush’s Instagram account put it. And the Trumps visited members of the Bush family at the Blair House presidential guesthouse, where they are staying. Former President George W. Bush and his wife greeted the Trumps outside before everyone went in for the private, 20-minute visit.
Although President Donald Trump will attend Bush’s national funeral service Wednesday, he is not among the eulogists announced by the Bush family, a list that includes George W. Bush. The others are Alan Simpson, the former senator and acerbic wit from Wyoming; Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister who also gave a eulogy for Ronald Reagan; and presidential historian Jon Meacham.
People lined up before dawn to pay respects to the 41st president, a son and father of privilege now celebrated by everyday citizens for his common courtesies and depth of experience.
"He was so qualified, and I think he was just a decent man," said Sharon Terry, touring Washington with friends from an Indianapolis garden club. Said her friend Sue Miller, also in line for the viewing: "I actually think I underestimated him when he was in office. My opinion of him went up seeing how he conducted himself as a statesman afterward."
Fred Curry, one of the few African-Americans in line, is a registered Democrat from Hyattsville, Maryland, who voted for Bush in 1988, the election won by the one-term president. “Honestly, I just liked him,” he said. “He seemed like a sincere and decent man and you couldn’t argue with his qualifications.”
Inside the Capitol, Sully, the 2-year-old Labrador retriever assigned to Bush, sat by the casket in the company of people who came to commemorate Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 law that, among its many provisions, required businesses that prohibit pets to give access to service dogs.
"After Mrs. Bush’s death, general companionship was a big part of Sully’s job," John Miller, president and CEO of America’s VetDogs, said in a phone interview. "One of the things that I think was important to the president was the rest command, where Sully would rest his head on the president’s lap."
The law was just one point of intersection for Bush and Dole, now 95, who was one of its leading advocates in the Senate.
They were fellow World War II veterans, Republican Party leaders, fierce rivals for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination won by Bush ("Stop lying about my record," Dole snapped at Bush) and skilled negotiators. Dole, an Army veteran hit by German machine gunfire in Italy, has gone through life with a disabled right arm. Bush, a Navy pilot, survived a bail-out from his stricken aircraft over the Pacific and an earlier crash landing.
On Tuesday Dole was helped out of his wheelchair by an aide, slowly steadied himself and saluted Bush with his left hand, his chin quivering.
Dignitaries had come forward on Monday, too, to honor the Texan whose service to his country extended three quarters of a century, from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster. Bush, 94, died Friday.
Trump’s relationship with the Bush family has been tense. The current president has mocked the elder Bush for his "thousand points of light" call to volunteerism, challenged his son’s legacy as president and trounced "low-energy" Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential primaries en route to office. The late President Bush called Trump a "blowhard."
Those insults have been set aside, but the list of funeral service speakers marked the first time since Lyndon Johnson’s death in 1973 that a sitting president was not tapped to eulogize a late president. (Bill Clinton did so for Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush eulogized Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.)
In an invocation opening Monday evening‘s ceremony, the U.S. House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J Conroy, praised Bush’s commitment to public service, from Navy pilot to congressman, U.N. ambassador, envoy to China and then CIA director before being elected vice president and then president.
"Here lies a great man," said Rep. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and "a gentle soul. … His legacy is grace perfected."
After services in Washington, Bush’s remains will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.
Trump has ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
Bush’s death reduces membership in the ex-presidents’ club to four: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Stripes: Frustration with Afghanistan stalemate boils over in congressional hearing

By CLAUDIA GRISALES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2018

WASHINGTON — Echoing recent remarks from a top U.S. general, several senators expressed frustration Tuesday that the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year, remains a stalemate for U.S. forces.

“We’ve been at it 17 years, 17 years is a long time,” a visibly frustrated Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “What are we doing differently when it comes to the Afghan security forces that we haven’t done for 17 years while being focused on this?”

The comments were part of a hearing for nominees to lead Central Command and Special Operations Command, which recently suffered a rash of servicemember deaths. Last week, two Green Berets and an Air Force combat controller died in a blast that struck a convoy of U.S. and Afghan forces in central Afghanistan. On Sunday, an Army infantryman died of his wounds from that same explosion in a hospital in Germany.

Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, the nominee for the SOCOM job, said the Taliban have 60,000 fighters, a much higher number than has been estimated by the military in the past. Clarke initially had testified the Taliban was 20,000 strong and corrected himself during Tuesday’s hearing.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience last month during a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that Afghanistan’s status has not changed much from last year, when it was at a “stalemate.” The concerns come more than a year into President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy to boost U.S. forces there.

“The stalemate is disappointing,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was at the Halifax meeting.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the nominee for the CENTCOM job, agreed Tuesday with Dunford’s consensus that Afghanistan remains at a stalemate, but contends new efforts are now in play.

In response to Peters’ question, McKenzie noted he and his son, Kenneth Ray McKenzie, a Naval Academy graduate who served as a Marine Corps infantry officer and now works in the private sector, both were deployed twice to Afghanistan.

Senator, I understand your frustration,” he said. “We are doing things significantly different with the Afghan Security Forces. They are doing the fighting. Americans are still at risk and, as we saw tragically last week, Americans are still going to go into harm’s way and some of them may die. But we are no longer doing the fighting. They are doing the fighting. They are doing it imperfectly, but they are doing it with our assistance.”

McKenzie said a political settlement that could entail peace talks with the Taliban is a key, new strategy in Afghanistan. He also warned the U.S. should not withdraw from the country precipitously — as it has done before — because the Afghan Security Forces are not yet able to defend themselves. And it’s not clear when that will happen, either, McKenzie said.

“I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “I do know that we’re working it very hard. I do know that they are making improvements. I do know that today it would be very difficult for them to survive without our and our coalition partners’ assistance. And we should remember that NATO and other nations are with us on the ground in Afghanistan.”

McKenzie, who would replace departing Army Gen. Joseph Votel at CENTCOM, acknowledged the recent deaths of several soldiers in Afghanistan and the passing of Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, who was found dead in his quarters Saturday in Bahrain. No foul play is suspected in the death of Stearney, who was commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the 5th Fleet.

“CENTCOM remains a dangerous, dangerous theater of war and we have seen the cost as recently as last week,” McKenzie said. “I am certainly mindful of the burden we have borne in the past and unfortunately, we will continue to bear.”

SOCOM nominee Clarke echoed McKenzie’s remarks Tuesday, detailing the global threats that remain a concern for the U.S. military. Clarke is slated to replace departing Army Gen. Raymond Thomas.

“Our world continues to evolve and increase in complexity while violent extremism persists, challenging regional stability and threatening our interests,” Clarke said. This as “near-peer competitors grow in capability and intent to contest our vital national interests.”

Stars and Stripes reporters Corey Dickstein and Chad Garland contributed to this report.

Twitter: @cgrisales

The Hill: Armed Services chairmen meet with Trump on potential cuts to Defense
By Juliegrace Brufke and Rebecca Kheel – 12/04/18 05:58 PM EST59

The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees met with President Trump on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to sway the commander in chief against making dramatic cuts to the Defense budget.
The meeting with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) comes as the president has been weighing cutting $33 billion from the $733 billion sought by the Pentagon for the national security budget for 2020. Trump called for a 5 percent cut from every agency’s budget, including the Department of Defense, earlier this year.
“I had a frank and productive conversation about our national security goals with the President. We share a commitment to undoing the damage left behind by President Obama and to rebuilding our military to achieve the National Defense Strategy,” Inhofe said in a statement.
“I am confident from the meeting that the President is determined to keep our nation strong and the military adequately funded. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump and Vice President Pence to achieve these shared goals.”
Defense hawks argue that a cut to the defense budget after two years of increases would reverse progress made to address a so-called readiness crisis.
In an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal last week, the chairmen argued reducing funding would hinder Republican efforts to modernize and build the military. The lawmakers said that while there are places where money could be saved, cuts to defense spending would not play a significant role in closing the deficit and could put the country’s safety at risk.

“The participants reviewed the damage done to the military during the Obama Administration. President Trump has been keeping his promise to repair that damage and restore our strength,” a House committee aide told The Hill in a statement. “The participants believe we continue to make progress and are still on track to rebuild the military.”
A source familiar with the meeting said the president’s initial request of $733 billion is making the president’s push for cuts difficult during the negotiation process.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has also recently argued against cuts to the defense budget, similarly arguing that it would not close the deficit while hindering the military.
“Cutting defense will not close the deficit, and I would suggest doing so would be disservice to troops and the American people they serve and protect, because we all know here today that America can afford survival,” he said at this weekend’s Reagan National Defense Forum, where he also commended Inhofe and Thornberry’s op-ed.
While Thornberry was at the table Tuesday, he will relinquish the House Armed Services gavel in January when Democrats take control of the chamber. His likely successor, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), has said trimming the defense budget will be one of his priorities.

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