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Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled Tuesday his proposal to update a landmark 30-year-old law that reorganized the Pentagon and set the chain of command it still follows today.
Under Carter’s proposals, the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be clarified, the number of four-star generals would be whittled down and service chiefs would have a greater role in the acquisition process, among other changes.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley cautioned Thursday that although there is progress in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is not winning yet.
"There is progress. But progress is not yet winning. No one should think this is over. It is not. There's a lot of work to be done," he said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"The caliphate has to be destroyed. ISIS has to be destroyed. And they've also chosen to displace some of their forces in Libya and elsewhere, and they've counterattacked into Europe. This is a tough fight, and it's by no means over yet, and no one should be dancing in the end zone yet. There's a long way to go here," he continued.
Still, Milley said "things are moving in the right direction" -- a change from when he visited Iraq last September.
"The enemy had strategic momentum," he said.
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The Navy will christen its newest Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), Saturday, April 2, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The ship will be christened by the ship sponsor, Georgeanne McRaven. The Honorable Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition will deliver the principal address.
"The christening of the future USS Ralph Johnson represents yet another example of how our Navy's partnership with the highly-skilled shipbuilders of our nation continues to help us grow our fleet," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "Because of the hard work of these men and women, the name Ralph Johnson, and the heroism this name embodies, will live on for years to come in the steel of this great warship and the deeds of the sailors and Marines who sail aboard her."
The future Ralph Johnson is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The ship will commission in 2017 and will be homeported in Everett, Washington.
The ship is named for Marine Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Johnson used his body to shield two fellow Marines from a grenade, absorbing the blast and dying instantly in March 1968.
Destroyers are warships capable of operating independently, or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups. The DDG 51 class provides outstanding combat capability and survivability characteristics while minimizing procurement and lifetime support costs, due to the program's maturity. DDG 114 and follow on Arleigh Burke destroyers are being built with Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) capability.
Nearly 340,000 service members sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) between 2000 and 2015 with 82.5 percent of these classified as mild TBI, also known as concussion (Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 2016). Mathias & Alvaro (2012) showed that as many as 50 percent of people who sustained a concussion suffered from a sleep disturbance. Additionally, in a 2008 Department of Defense survey of Operation Iraqi Freedom service members, 92.9 percent of those surveyed with a TBI history endorsed fatigue (Hoge et al., 2008). Sleep disturbances and fatigue can lead to worsening symptoms such as decreased cognition, pain, irritability and ultimately affect return to work. Click here for full story & to sign-up for Webinar.
Congress is set for another packed week as lawmakers prepare to grill Pentagon officials about the administration's fiscal 2017 budget request.
The Pentagon has proposed a $582.7 billion budget, but defense hawks assert that figure should be higher. Threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an aggressive Russia and an increasingly nuclear-minded North Korea, among others, warrant more money, they argue.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has already taken the hot seat, telling the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee the budget request meets the Pentagon's needs.
In the coming week, top brass from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines will take turns defending their requests to the subcommittee.
The Navy and Marines are up first Tuesday, followed by the Air Force on Wednesday and the Army on Thursday.
Navy and Marine officials will also testify before the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. And Marine Corps leaders will appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Air Force leaders will also testify about the budget before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Lawmakers won't limit their questions to the budget alone -- they'll also take the opportunity to press Pentagon leaders on any number of hot-button defense issues, such as the administration's recently announced plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba or the continuing fight against ISIS.
Those hearings only cap what will be a busy week for lawmakers.
Here's a look at other Marine Corpsdefense-related hearings on tap:
The House Armed Services Committee holds "Member Day" for non-committee House members to testify on their defense priorities for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Tuesday 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2212.
House Armed Services holds a hearing on special operations forces, Tuesday 3 p.m. at Rayburn 2118.
The House Appropriations Committee reviews the Marine Corps and Navy's 2017 budget requests, Tuesday 10 a.m. at the Capitol H-140.
House Armed Services looks at worldwide threats on Wednesday, 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2118.
The same committee looks at ground force modernization Wednesday, 1 p.m. at Rayburn 2212.
House Armed Services has a hearing on the Marine Corps's budget request and readiness scheduled for Thursday, 10:30 a.m. at Rayburn 2118.
Defense health officials say they are making inroads in improving beneficiaries’ access to health care and services and proposed changes to military health care in the fiscal 2017 budget should enhance those efforts.
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and Defense Health Agency director Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono told Congress this week that the Defense Department must ensure the readiness of its military hospitals and clinics as "full-service platforms” to make sure medical personnel preserve their trauma, disease and non-battlefield-injury treatment capabilities.
In 2014, there were 269 deaths by suicide among active duty service members - compared to 259 in 2013. There were 169 deaths in the selected reserve component, 80 in the Reserves & 89 in the National Guard. click here for the full report
The Marine Corps used its limited funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget request to protect the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar acquisition programs, taking cuts instead in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program that was already going to be somewhat delayed by a protest over the contract award, the head of the service told USNI News on Thursday.
The Marines received $23.4 billion in total spending in the FY 2017 budget request, which was released on Tuesday. In the budget, the Marines ask for $159 million for ACV and $124 million for G/ATOR. Due to last-minute budget alterations, the Marines had to make some cuts in the budget, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the service made a decision to concentrate those cuts in the JLTV program rather than risk harming other programs.
The Marine Corps originally intended to buy 269 vehicles but decided to cut 77 vehicles, leaving them with 192 in FY 2017. The requirement for 5,500 vehicles total has not changed, and the Marines will likely buy those 77 vehicles later in the program.
"There were bills. We had to make some decisions," he said Thursday after speaking at the Atlantic Council.
"So one of the decisions we made was to buy fewer of these vehicles. Because of the protest on that vehicle, that's mitigated somewhat. It wasn't a choice we had to make, but there were some things that we needed to protect, and one of them was Amphibious Combat Vehicle, and the radars, and things like that. So there was no way that we weren't going to take some reductions ... so that was just a conscious decision. Not one we wanted to make, and we're hoping that there will be other - somewhere over the course of the fiscal years other monies become available and we'll be able to put that back in."
The Marine Corps has committed to buying 5,500 JLTVs in a massive contract with the Army, which is buying more than 49,000 vehicles. The services awarded a low-rate initial production contract to Oshkosh Defense in August 2015, but Lockheed Martin protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office. GAO declined to extend the hearing period despite new evidence coming to light late in the process, and it ultimately ruled against Lockheed Martin. So the company brought the issue to the Court of Federal Claims.
Neller told USNI News that "I think the judge has decided, but they haven't published the decision, as I understand it. Hopefully that will happen and then we'll start to see these vehicles start showing up."
Though Neller said the decision to cut the JLTV program by 29 percent instead of spreading out the financial hit among multiple programs made the most sense, given the circumstances, "we want to get the JLTV as fast as we can.
"We're driving Humvees that have been around a little bit," he said. "There's nothing like having a new vehicle that's still under warranty, a lot more reliable, and it's more survivable too."
The Marines have tried to improve their existing fleets of Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), Humvees and Abrams tanks, and reset them after more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but among the effects of congressional spending caps in recent years has been insufficient funding for depot maintenance. The Marine Corps has reset 77 percent of its ground equipment and returned 50 percent of it to operations, according to the Navy's FY 2017 budget material. However, the FY 2017 budget request only funds 79 percent of the Marines' depot maintenance needs, including both base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
"As a force in readiness, it's critical to our identity that we are ready," Neller said during his speech at the Atlantic Council.
"We're mandated by Congress to serve as our nation's force in readiness, meaning that our bags are always packed, Marines are ready to go and our gear is prepared, and we have to be able to fight when we get where we get."
Yet, spending caps in recent years have made maintaining that high level of readiness a challenge. Neller said the service would have to continue its recent trend of prioritizing only deployed and next-to-deploy forces, leaving the "bench" back at home without the proper resources to train or maintain equipment.
Neller noted readiness challenges within Marine Corps aviation as well. As the service transitions to new type/model/series, transitioning squadrons will not be ready for tasking for as long as two years, putting more of a strain on the remaining squadrons. The number of total squadrons has dropped since a decade ago, Neller said, further adding pressure to the aviation community.
According to Navy budget documents, in FY 2017 "the Marine Corps invests heavily in rotary wing aircraft, accelerating the procurement of the final 78 AH-1Z/UH-1Y helicopters, and procures 24 MV-22 Ospreys." The service will increase its aircraft count, going from 976 primary authorized aircraft in 2015 to 1,227 in 2017 as the new helicopters and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter deliver.
However, "the FY 2017 budget fiscally stretches the Marine Corps to maintain current readiness and conduct modernization required to keep pace with constantly evolving and capable adversaries," the document notes.
The budget also includes $47 million for the Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S), $80 million for four RQ-21 unmanned aerial systems and $159 million to buy 32 Amphibious Combat Vehicles for testing in the engineering and manufacturing development phase. More than half the Marine Corps procurement budget, $780 million, goes to the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), command post systems and other various communications and electrical equipment.
The book Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is encouraging all his troops to read isn't Lao Tzu's "The Art of War" or the age-old reading list classic "A Message to Garcia."
It's "Ghost Fleet," a futuristic "Novel of the Next World War" published last year by think tankers August Cole and P.W. Singer.
As the Marine Corps expands its cyber warfare and information warfare communities and looks for opportunities to embrace cutting-edge technologies, the lines between science fiction and future warfare quickly blur.
To underscore the point, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab hosted a "Science Fiction Futures" workshop Feb. 3, featuring Cole, Singer and other sci-fi authors who met and discussed concepts and ideas with a group of 17 Marines and sailors selected from a pool of applicants.
In a town hall meeting on Feb. 12 with Marines at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia, Neller suggested that even seemingly far-fetched future warfighting concepts, like exo-suits and fighting surrogates from the 2009 blockbuster movie Avatar, could pose dilemmas for troops in the near future.
"All the stuff with the brain and the body, it's kind of crazy," he said. "There's ethical and moral issues there that might slow us down, but I'm not sure it's going to slow down our adversaries."
New technology has healing potential, too, Neller said. He discussed a recent visit to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's research agency, in which he had seen troops using prosthetic arms with sensors that allowed the brain to control and move an artificial limb. With advances in 3-D printing, he suggested, wounded troopsmay spend much less time out of commission.
"[You could have] a 3-D printer on the battlefield and if you have surgery, we print you a new arm or a new leg right there," Neller said. "I don't know if it's feasible, but the potential is there."
He encouraged Marines to look at commercially available new technology -- including the robotic camera-equipped quadcopter drones for sale at the local base exchange -- and imagine ways they could improve unit operational effectiveness.
"Why doesn't every rifle squad have one of those?" he said. "If it crashes, who cares? It's $500. There's a lot of stuff going on and we're going to go there."
--Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
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