FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 19 through 22, 2017

New Sanctions for North Korea

I’ve stated before here in FOD, I don’t believe sanctions against North Korea will have the desired effect of divesting their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Un has consistently pursued a path of acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them in spite of the world’s desires for diminish his resolve to the point of allowing millions of his own people to die of starvation.  Lack of cash however, might have the effect of at least slowing North Korea’s efforts. China’s banks in particular have been willing to launder Kim Jong Un’s money for years.  Only recently, the Department of  the Treasury took actions against the Bank of Dandong over concerns that it was participating in illicit financial activities with North Korea — an early signal to Chinese financial institutions of U.S. willingness to increase pressure on entities that do business with Pyongyang.  On 21 September 2017, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had signed an executive order authorizing additional sanctions against North Korea by targeting individuals, companies and financial institutions that do business with what he called “this criminal rogue regime.”  Speaking before a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said his goal is the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea and added that the nation led by Kim Jong Un posed a “grave threat to peace and security in our world.”  Trump noted that he’d signed the executive order just as China’s central bank “has told their other banks … to immediately stop doing business with North Korea.” The president praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for the “very bold move.”  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (photo right) confirmed that he did call the People’s Bank of China early Thursday morning to alert them to this coming action, but skirted the question when asked if these sanctions were specifically aimed at China.  “This action is directed at everyone,” Mnuchin said, calling the executive order a significant expansion of Treasury’s power to target the Kim regime and those financial entities and individuals who seek to do business with it. The executive order is “forward looking,” meaning Treasury will consider new designations on a “rolling basis” from Thursday on.  So far, the administration has sought to pressure Pyonyang largely through forceful economic steps, including Thursday’s latest action and U.N. Security Council sanctions earlier this month. The President has this right.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 8th through 13th 2017

US Navy Ships Delivering Food and Water to Irma Victims

Positioned off the coast of Florida, helicopters from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) are now delivering food and water to Florida as part of the Hurricane Irma relief effort.  As part of the ongoing recovery in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Navy and Coast Guard USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and USS New York (LPD 21) are expected to join the relief effort Tuesday.  As part of the ongoing recovery in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Navy and Coast Guard helicopters and ships are continuing to evacuate people and shuttle food, water, and supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands and south Florida.  Near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Military Sealift Command’s dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE 12) started providing supplies to the USS Wasp (LHD-1), USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), along with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Federal Emergency Management Agency staff, which started providing humanitarian aid and medical airlifts Friday. William McLean pumped 620,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 40,000 gallons of jet fuel, and delivered 40 pallets of supplies to Navy units, according to the Navy.  USNS Wright (T-AVB 3), aviation logistics support ship, is expected to leave Philadelphia Tuesday to support relief efforts in near the Virgin Islands. Wright is assigned to the Military Sealift Command Prepositioning Program and carries aviation maintenance equipment to support U.S. Marine Corps fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 3rd through 7th 2017

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Invest in People and Not Just Platforms

As the US Naval investigations of the two broadside collisions with much slower commercial vessels, resulting in the death of 17 sailors, Congressional inquirers are also ramping up.   Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., (below left) the chairman of the House Armed Services’ Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee,

traveled to Japan to visit the fleet and speak with Navy leaders and sailors about what Congress can do to help get the service back on track. This subcommittee was scheduled to conduct hearings on September 7th looking at Navy readiness and what it calls “underlying problems associated with the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain.”  Questions will be asked as to whether the Navy is stretched with more demands to patrol not only the Asia-Pacific region but to provide security for the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf as well as European-Atlantic areas.  “They’re having to do more with less,” said Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and Bush administrations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Since the Cold War, he said, “the fleet size has been decreasing the whole time while commitments have been increasing.”  And while new technology may be helpful, these are basic seamanship issues.  Some basic questions need to be addressed: do we have enough people aboard our ships?  Are they receiving adequate training?  Are they operating as they were trained?  Are our ships being maintained in a manner as to be fully ready for any encounter?  We know our aircraft maintenance programs lack the time and funding to improve readiness and it’s well known the nation’s shipyards are overworked and struggling to get ships through maintenance cycles.  How can we move forward with additional investment in ships and planes when we can’t take care of the one’s we have?  And the same can be said for our sailors who have been asked repeatedly to do more with less.  There are limits.  Have we reached them?  The more advanced the technology introduced into the fleet and into the hands of potential adversaries, the greater the demand on the men and women in the Navy.  Not only must they be able to operate more advanced systems, they also must not forget how to operate without them.  The ancient art of celestial navigation is just one of the most obvious ways the Navy has sought to ensure operational integrity regardless of how well technology is working.  When you drive a car these days, it is easy to become reliant on a screen shot provided by a camera, but that doesn’t mean you should not also glance in the rearview mirror or look out the window. The same principle applies to the high-tech U.S. Navy.  The service needs to maintain a high level of technical proficiency while retaining the ability to operate in a potential environment of technical denial.  We need to invest in our people and not just our platforms.  That’s the Fireball opinion for the day.  Comments?

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 3rd through 7th 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 1st and 2nd 2017

Happy Labor Day

Well here it is Labor Day already.  The long weekend holiday is the unofficial end of summer (hate that thought), the beginning of school (hated that), the time for expansion of the baseball rosters (hate that – 40 man rosters change the game too much going into the playoffs), and it’s time to save 50% or more on your next mattress set with no payments for at least two years (don’t need a new mattress).  But it is also the beginning of college football (Go Navy), the start of professional football (that’s good, but they only play once a week), a great weekend to grill some steaks (love that), International Bacon Day (love that – you can look it up), catch some of those Atlantic salmon that made good their escape and now need to be caught (love that), NASCAR’s  Southern 500 NASCAR auto race has been held on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina from 1950 to 2003 and since 2015 (like it as it’s usually a good short track race), ride your bike (gotta love that), at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the National Hot Rod Association holds their finals of the NHRA U.S. Nationals (some great names and cars show up for this one), and of course it’s the last day it’s considered acceptable to wear white or  seersucker (who knew – OK fashion folk like Friend of FOD Mr. Fuzzy have this marked on their calendars to go along with the opening day of elk season).  Labor Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.  Photo below right shows first Labor Day Parade in NYC in 1882.  I was pretty much against labor unions until I joined Northwest Airlines.  There was a snap back clause in the contract under which I was hired providing for a pay raise of the lesser of 3% or the average pay increase of the seven major airlines in business at the time.  The math clearly pointed to the 3% option as all those airlines had received increased wages as airlines were making money.  Imagine then our surprise when our paychecks in mid-September only included a 1.4% pay increase.  When management was queried as to this decision, the reply was, “we think that’s what it should be.”  Eight months later and utilizing binding arbitration, it took less than fifteen minutes for the pilot’s to prevail.  The back pay was returned over a two month period and we each received a note from management in our company mailbox stating, that as the company didn’t have to pay back interest on the monies withheld over that time period, it shouldn’t be taken as a personal matter as it was only a prudent company business decision.  They had an eight month interest free $84M loan paid for by the pilots.  That’s why pilots have unions (but I’m not bitter – well just a little – no a lot – OK, I’ll let it go – someday).

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 15 through 18 August 2017

Strategic & Policy Forum and Manufacturing Council Disbanded

“You CEOs on my Strategic & Policy Forum and my Manufacturing Council who think you can quit; you can’t quit; you’re fired.” “And you’re all a bunch of grandstanders.”  CEOs began announcing their resignations after Trump’s first comments about the violence last Saturday in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counter-protesters. The resignations accelerated after he re-emphasized his earlier remarks and on Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the series of events that led to the death of a 32-year-old Charlottesville woman.   These CEOs are not grandstanding, they simply no longer want to be associated with this President who has now revealed what his true values are.  Traditionally corporate leaders have been willing to join these apolitical forums so as to ensure their corporations at least have a seat at the table where policy decisions are formulated that effect corporate taxes, employment and trade policies.  There were comments that the President went rogue on Wednesday – How can we believe in a President of United States who goes rogue? Your comments appreciated.  Someone must have an opinion they’d be willing to express out there in FOD-land.

 

Steve Bannon – You’re Fired Too

What’s the half life of a White House advisor these days?  White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced today 18 August 2017, Steve Bannon has agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement to reporters. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”  Bannon’s departure caps a rocky tenure in the West Wing in which he was a central figure in a power struggle to influence the often unpredictable president. He clashed with many of Trump’s other top aides including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, and rumors of his waning influence and imminent departure had been circulating Washington for months.  He will walk away from the White House as a key force behind Trump’s impulses to make racially divisive remarks and fan nationalist and ethnic tensions, most recently Trump’s comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. As recently as this week, Bannon gave interviews seeming to embrace the racial turmoil Trump encouraged by comparing white nationalists and the protesters opposing them in Charlottesville.  Don’t worry about how Bannon will make his next two dimes.  Just hours after his exit became official, the newsroom where he first rose to prominence in far-right political circles, Breitbart News, announced he’d be returning as its executive chairman.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day 15 through 18 August 2017”