FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 27 through 30, 2017

Friends of FOD

Some additions to previous stories and some new FOD to pick up. Comments appreciated.

 

USNS Comfort (T-AH20) Proceeding To Puerto Rico and Other Puerto Rico Events/Opinions

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) is proceeding toward Puerto Rico to aid in relief efforts on the storm damaged island.  The USNS prefix identifies the Comfort as a non-commissioned ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command (MSC). A uniformed naval hospital staff and naval support staff is embarked when Comfort is deployed, said staffs consisting primarily of naval officers from the Navy’s Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and naval enlisted personnel from the Hospital Corpsman rating and various administrative and technical support ratings (e.g., Yeoman, Personnel Specialist, Information Systems Technician, Religious Program Specialist, etc.).  Criticism has surfaced in the last few days implying Comfort should have already been positioned there.  Former Senator Hilary Clinton sought headlines and attempted to crush some additional sour grapes into whine on the issue.  The facts are the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responsible for coordinating efforts of all participating agencies as part of that agency’s charter and the agency provides state and local government support for disaster relief, until September 28, when the US  Army has appointed BGen Richard Kim to oversee every facet of the massive mission and coordinate the National Guard, FEMA and Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s office.  Generally it is FEMS’s responsibility to request DoD and other assets as necessitated by the events.  Since then, the US military is conducting round-the-clock missions to send aircraft, troops, food, water, medical supplies and communications equipment and power generation equipment to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  The humanitarian and rescue efforts must necessarily precede the rebuilding efforts and emphasis is being given to search and rescue efforts, distribution of supplies and bringing power back to hospitals, airports, ports and other such facilities.  The totality of the destruction on Puerto Rico is so vast as to have limited any analysis of what’s needed and where.  The power grid and hence everything run by electrical power generators; cell phone sites, gas station pumps, water pumps, etc. are all out.  Puerto Rico has traditionally been hampered by inefficient and corrupt local and territorial government officials and organizational apparatus that now finds itself incapable of handling the immense efforts required to both evaluate and distribute aid on a large scale.  It’s like New Orleans post Katrina times 1000.  On September 28, Congress and the President, at the request of Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló have temporarily waived the Jones Merchant Marine Act allowing foreign ships to deliver items to the island.  The Fireball opinion is this is a finger pointing exercise regarding relief supplies and is a familiar argument used by Puerto Rico officials to draw attention away from the island’s debt crisis.  I see the news coverage shows thousands of containers of relief supplies and other commodities already off loaded on San Juan docks.  Power at the docks is being supplied by diesel generators.  But drivers aren’t available because they don’t have the fuel for their personal vehicles and/or the communication chain to get them to work coupled with the lack of fuel for the truck needs to move and/or refrigerate their contents.  Drivers and security personnel are now being flown in.  If you’re a store, it’s hard to take delivery of goods when your store has no roof, no power for cash registers and your employees can’t get to work.  Without electricity the banking system is paralyzed as well.  According to the latest from Washington on 29 September, President Trump is making no specific promise to rebuild what was already a much antiquated infrastructure (including the electrical grid).  Later Friday, during a speech on tax policy, Trump said, “Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort…will be funded.” Trump said the effort “will end up being one of the biggest ever” and noted that Puerto Rico already had “a tremendous amount of debt.”  Fine, but let’s help our American citizens who are critical need of water, food and medical support.  Currently only 5% of the islands electrical service has been restored a full 10 days after Hurricane Maria.  We should be doing better.  Alec Baldwin did a great Trump on the kickoff of ‘SNL.’  As an aside, the Jones Act regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Jones Act deals with cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.  It has been instrumental in maintaining a merchant marine capable of supporting our national defense and our national security despite what Arizona Sen. John McCain says with regard to the law.  It has sustained a ship building critical to our nation and decreases the adverse consequences of exposing ports and waterways to foreign seafarers.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 23 through 26, 2017

Friends of FOD

A lot of FOD to pick up.  Comments welcomed of course.

 

Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts

We’re just beginning to grasp the scope of the devastation to Puerto Rico.  This American territory has been holding on by a thread for years and has been on the verge of bankruptcy several times.  Its infrastructure was already substandard and in need of major overhaul prior to Maria.  Military Times is reporting, two U.S. Navy ships, National Guard, Air National Guard, Reserve troops and Army helicopters are providing aid to Puerto Rico. But questions are mounting over whether the U.S. is doing enough for its territory and people, who are American citizens.  To date, the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and dock landing ship Oak Hill have “conducted eight medical evacuations, 148 airlifts and delivered 44,177 [pounds] of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” U.S. Northern Command said in a statement.  U.S. forces have also restored a mobile communications tower at St. Thomas International Airport to enable the airport to receive additional aircraft to evacuate residents.  The amphibious assault ship Wasp has been conducting similar rescues in Dominica, but that ship will be departing the region to head to the Pacific, where it will eventually relieve the Bonhomme Richard, a Navy official said.  Approximately 2,600 U.S. military personnel and National Guard members are currently involved in Hurricane Maria relief efforts, the Pentagon said.  Currently, more than 700 Air National Guard airmen are deployed to Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to support relief efforts.  Most of Puerto Rico has no electricity or cell phone capabilities because of Hurricane Maria’s damage to the electrical grid and cell towers. There are long lines for food and water.  Likely we’ll need to do more and the more is likely to continue for years.

 

 

 

USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain Take Another Top Officer

The Commander of the  U.S. Pacific Fleet is retiring after learning there’s no possibility of him being promoted out of his current job, he said in a statement to NBC News on Monday. Admiral Scott H. Swift was in charge of the Pacific Fleet during the period this summer when two different ships, USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sustained collisions at sea that left 17 sailors dead.  Swift said the Chief of Naval Operations  Admiral John M. Richardson told him that he would not be nominated for the United States Pacific Command post, which is senior to Pacific Fleet.  In a statement, he said he was retiring “with great appreciation and gratitude for the honor of having served so many Sailors and their families for what will be 40 years in January.”

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 23rd through 27th 2017

Friends of FOD

OK I got busy and haven’t published in more than a few days.  What can I say?  Maybe I’m suffering from Solar Eclipse Overload Syndrome.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many folks who have lost their homes and personal possessions as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

 

US Navy 7th  Fleet Relieved

Following a collision between the Seventh Fleet destroyer USS John S. McCain with the merchant ship Alnic MC in the the Strait of Malacca in the South China Sea, which left 10 navy sailors missing and five sailors injured on August 21, 2017, off the coast of Singapore it was confirmed the commander of the United States Seventh Fleet has been relieved of command.  Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin (below right) was relieved of his command on 23 August 2017 due to “loss of confidence in his ability to command.”  He was just weeks away from retirement.  The Wall Street Journal first reported the planned move Tuesday.  RADM  Phillip G. Sawyer has now assumed command of Seventh Fleet.  While I was a bit glib in earlier editions of FOD regarding the need for a band, etc. it is unfortunate to see the careers of fine officers ended in such a manner.  That being said, the Navy reposes special trust and responsibility for the safety and well-being of the ship and those who sail within her and thus commanding officers are held to the highest standards of accountability.  The U.S. Navy announced on 24 August 2017 that it would be suspending search-and-rescue efforts to focus on recovery efforts of the missing sailors.  Divers have recovered the bodies of all 10 sailors missing.   The Navy previously identified eight crew members who were missing as Charles Nathan Findley, Abraham Lopez, Kevin Sayer Bushell, Jacob Daniel Drake, Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., Corey George Ingram, John Henry Hoagland III and Logan Stephen Palmer.  The bodies of Kenneth Aaron Smith and Dustin Louis Doyon were previously recovered.  There has been at least a rumor out there McCain may have suffered a steering causality or a loss of steering control shortly before the accident, but that doesn’t add much to the discussion at this point.  My experience aboard aircraft carriers was that after-steering (the manual backup steering control room) and all other steering backup systems were always fully manned during a transit of the Strait of Malacca.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 25 through 27 2017

Friends of FOD

Hey, I’m getting tired of talking to myself here.  I need your comments to make this worthwhile to me and to others.  I’m sure you Friends of FOD have some opinions.  Let’s hear/see something from you.  And if you have suggestions or personal contributions surrounding an event or a interesting tidbit from around the dates of a particular edition.  I’d really like to hear from you active duty Friends of FOD.

 

Trump Verses Transgender Service Members

The big news across the military today is President Trump’s tweet from July 26th saying transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the US military.  This announcement came as a shock to Pentagon leaders who had no idea such a policy change was coming.  In fact Secretary of Defense  James Mattis (left) is on personal leave this week and newly confirmed Deputy SECDEF Patrick M. Shanahan (below right) is holding down the fort.  Previously, the policy allowing the enlistment of transgender recruits into the military was put on hold pending a six-month review of all military policies.  That review did not cover transgender individuals already serving openly.  There are many unknowns here and more questions than answers.  Does a tweet make policy, or does it need to be codified before a change in policy can be enacted?  What happened to the requirement to be published in the Federal Register?  What guidance should be provided to unit-level commanders regarding men and women under their command?  And more importantly, what does a change in policy mean to thousands of men and women who have identified themselves in the months since the Obama administration’s policy allowed and welcomed them to serve openly?  I think it’s a bit too late for such a radical change of policy.  That horse has left the barn!  The military, rightly or wrongly has been THE organization where social changes have been codified ahead of societal norms in the civilian population.   I was going to mention this in FOD anyway, but Executive Order 9981 was an executive order issued on July 26, 1948, by President Harry S. Truman. It abolished racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services long before segregation was dealt with by the civilian sector.  In January 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued an order to end the policy of “no women in units that are tasked with direct combat”, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join certain direct combat roles, but changes are occurring.  Women are now in leadership roles across all commands, demonstrating there are no glass ceilings if you have good leadership and management abilities.  And women in the military are paid equally for their service, something women are fighting for today in the nearly all civilian sector jobs.  Just to conclude, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender service members could be forcibly separated because the Defense Department cannot, “… be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”   Military Times pointed out, the Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.  So the expense for transgender troops will never fly in Congress. And Military Times also reported Top defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill quickly blasted President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban Wednesday, calling the policy change short-sighted and potentially dangerous.  Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., called the surprise news “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.” He said Trump’s statements on the issue were unclear and confusing.  “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” he said. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military, regardless of their gender identity.”  Expect to see legal actions filed soon.  Your comments appreciated.

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 20 through 25, 2017

Friends of FOD

A bit delayed on this edition.  I’ve been moving the last few days.  It’s a pain in the butt.  And it doesn’t get easier with age or with the number of moves made in my lifetime.  Suffice it to say I’ve traded a great lake view for a great mountain view.   So things have gotten a bit behind.  Plus I had to wait until today to get my internet installed.  I know – excuses will be listened to, but not tolerated!

 

US Companies Providing Russians with Security Source Code

We have known for quite some time the Russians are employing every possible cyber tactic to undermine US computer systems, establish hacker networks and steal millions of dollars on a recurring basis.  So where are they getting some of the most critical product security secrets you might ask?  From the very companies developing the software.  Cisco, IBM and SAP have all acknowledged and acceded to the demands by Russia to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting these products to be imported to and sold in Russia.  This, according to Reuters, has been going on for quite some time and those requests have increased since 2014.  Supposedly these requests are done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden and “backdoors” that would allow them to borrow into Russian computer systems.  But in doing so Russian inspectors have the opportunity to find vulnerabilities in products’ source code and instructions that control both basic and advanced operations of computer equipment.  While a number of U.S. firms say they are playing ball to preserve their entree to Russia’s huge tech market, at least one U.S. firm, Symantec, told Reuters it has stopped cooperating with the source code reviews over security concerns. That halt has not been previously reported.  Symantec said one of the labs inspecting its products was not independent enough from the Russian government.  U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products’ source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions.  (photo above left is the Russian Security Service Building).  From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market. The companies say they only allow Russia to review their source code in secure facilities that prevent code from being copied or altered.  I wish I were making this up.  My recommendation – don’t sell them anything – let ’em rot.

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