Tag Archives: Good Leaders

No Protection for IC Whistle Blower Contractors

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(Photo: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

“POGO”

“The restoration of Intelligence Community (IC) contractor whistle blower rights would help safeguard billions of taxpayer dollars in government contracts, grants, and reimbursements annually.

“Snowden:  “I had read the laws. I knew that there were no whistle blower protections.”

Snowden’s disclosure to the media is a perfect example of why intelligence contractors need a mechanism to safely disclose suspected waste, fraud, and abuse.

Three years after Edward Snowden’s leaks, it appears that everyone has an opinion about him—traitor, hero, or somewhere in between. However, there is one undeniable fact surrounding Snowden’s circumstances that has been misreported by Congress and the Executive Branch far too many times: the Intelligence Community (IC) contractor would have had almost no protections had he come forward through proper channels.

Sure, Snowden could have gone to his supervisors and disclosed his concerns. However, had that supervisor retaliated against Snowden by firing him or demoting him, he would have had no protections because he was an IC contractor. In the absence of adequate protections, IC contractors have only two alternatives to almost certain retaliation: 1) remain silent observers of wrongdoing, or 2) make anonymous leaks.

This has not always been the case though. In fact, IC contractors enjoyed the gold standard of whistleblower protections for four years, between 2008 and 2012.

The NDAA for fiscal year 2008 contained temporary provisions that allowed all Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, including those at the National Security Agency (NSA), to enforce their whistleblower rights through district court jury trials. Additionally, in 2009, comprehensive whistleblower protections were enacted for all government contract employees paid with stimulus funds, including other IC agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency. Contrary to predictions that contractor whistleblowers would flood the courts, only 25 cases were filed from 2008 through 2012 under the DoD contractor provision (including from the intelligence community).

This whistleblower shield was so successful in deterring contractor waste and abuse that the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency proposed a permanent expansion for all government contractors. In 2012, McCaskill introduced a whistleblower protection amendment for all government contractors that won bipartisan Senate approval in the fiscal year 2013 NDAA.

However, during that NDAA’s closing conference committee negotiations, whistleblower rights were extended only to contractors outside of the intelligence community. Preexisting rights for IC contractors were also removed, despite a proven track record that the law was working as intended and no evidence that the law had any adverse impacts on national security during its five-year lifespan.

To better protect taxpayer dollars, our country and Americans’ privacy, Congress must restore whistleblower protections for intelligence contractors and stop feeding the false narrative that such protections exist.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/09/protect-whistleblowers-ic-contractors.html

 

 

Fed Year-End Spending Spree Needs to Change

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EDITOR’S NOTE:  We have often discussed the inefficient one year budget cycle of the US Government and recommend changes.   The One Year Budget Cycle Must Go.  Robert F. Hale  was comptroller and chief financial officer at the Defense Department from 2009 until 2014. As you will see in his opinion below, he heartily agrees.

Robert Hale

Robert Hale


“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“WHY DOD’s YEAR-END SPENDING NEEDS TO CHANGE”

“As the end of the fiscal year approaches at the Department of Defense (DoD), organizations are working hard to spend all the funds which are available for use only during the current fiscal year.

The pithy rationale for these actions: “Use it or lose it.”

We need to find practical ways to apply the brakes to year-end spending so that DoD funds only its highest-priority needs.

DoD spending spikes sharply during the final week of the fiscal year.  (To be technically correct, by “spending” I am referring to entering into contracts or otherwise obligating funds.) In a 2010 report researchers from Harvard and Stanford Universities showed that, based on data for the years 2004 to 2009, final-week spending at DoD was more than four times higher than the average weekly spending during the rest of the year.  Similar trends occurred at other federal agencies.

The spike doesn’t necessarily mean that year-end funds are wasted.  Many year-end funds buy construction-related goods and services, office equipment, and IT equipment and services. These items are needed, but they do not directly support the most critical DoD mission needs, such as training and military readiness.  Moreover, research on federal IT spending suggests that final-week purchases are of lower quality than those made during the rest of the year, and I suspect the same finding applies to other categories of spending.  The surge in spending may also lead overworked contracting officers to push out lower-quality contracts.

Making operating funds available only for one year works against good resource allocation in another way. Resource managers must estimate forthcoming bills for services in the final month of the fiscal year (for example, final bills for electricity and water) and obligate the funds before year’s end. They have to estimate on the high side because, if their estimate is low, they risk violating the federal anti-deficiency laws. High estimates for routine services leave fewer funds available for mission-critical activities such as training and readiness.

Year-end spending worries federal employees, and it should worry taxpayers too.  For several years the Obama Administration conducted a SAVE campaign (Securing Americans’ Value and Efficiency), which asked federal employees to suggest ways to make government more efficient. In my role as DoD comptroller, I reviewed suggestions related to DoD. I was struck by how many employees urged that year-end spending be reduced. A 2007 survey of DoD financial management and contracting professionals showed the same result. Almost all respondents expressed concerns about year-end spending.

The law already has some provisions designed to avoid year-end spending spikes.  For example, only 20 percent of major operating budgets are supposed to be spent during the final two months of the fiscal year. But this provision still leaves room for final-week spikes.

Congress could help by passing DoD appropriations on time – that is, by October 1.  Late appropriations push even more spending toward the end of the year and may exacerbate year-end spending. Unfortunately, Congress has not provided DoD with an on-time appropriation during any of the Obama years, and it will apparently not do so again this year.

But Congress can help by permitting DoD to carry over a small percentage of its operating budgets (perhaps 5 percent) into the next fiscal year. This flexibility would not increase the total funds available to DoD. However, for funds eligible for carry over, managers could decide whether to buy that office furniture for the headquarters at the end of the year or wait and let other needs compete for the funds next year. There is some evidence that carry-over authority helps. Our Harvard and Stanford researchers found that, at one federal agency that had such authority (the Department of Justice), final-week spending spikes were much smaller.

While serving as DoD’s comptroller, I tried to persuade Congress to permit the Department to carry over small amounts of its operating funding into the next fiscal year.  I made a few converts, but not enough to make it happen.

The next administration should try again to secure carry-over authority.”

Why DoD’s Year-End Spending Needs to Change

 

 

 

A Different Path to War

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“WAR ON THE ROCKS”

“Americans today enjoy a measure of safety that our ancestors would envy and that our contemporaries do envy.

We generally do not need to wage war to keep it that way.

On the contrary, some recent wars have degraded the U.S. military and undermined our security. Policymakers should therefore be extremely reluctant to risk American lives abroad.

The U.S. military is the finest fighting force in the world; it comprises dedicated professionals who are willing and able to fight almost anywhere, practically on a moment’s notice. Any military large enough to defend our vital national security interests will always be capable of intervening in distant disputes. But that does not mean that it should. Policymakers have an obligation to carefully weigh the most momentous decision that they are ever asked to make. These criteria can help.

Any nation with vast power will be tempted to use it. In this respect, the United States is exceptional because its power is so immense. Small, weak countries avoid fighting in distant disputes; the risk that troops, ships, or planes sent elsewhere will be unavailable for defense of the homeland generally keeps these nations focused on more proximate dangers. The U.S. government, by contrast, doesn’t have to worry that deploying U.S. forces abroad might leave America vulnerable to attack by powerful adversaries.

There is another factor that explains the United States’ propensity to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy: Americans are a generous people, and we like helping others. We have often responded favorably when others appeal to us for assistance. Many Americans look back proudly on the moments in the middle and latter half of the 20th century when the U.S. military provided the crucial margin of victory over Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.

But, in recent years, Americans have grown more reluctant to send U.S. troops hither and yon. There is a growing appreciation of the fact that Washington’s willingness to intervene abroad – from Somalia and the Balkans in the 1990s, to Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, to Libya and Yemen in the present decades – has often undermined U.S. security. We have become embroiled in disputes that we don’t understand and rarely can control. Thus, public anxiety about becoming sucked into another Middle Eastern civil war effectively blocked overt U.S. intervention in Syria in 2013, notwithstanding President Obama’s ill-considered red line warning to Bashar al Assad.

But while the American people are unenthusiastic about armed intervention, especially when it might involve U.S. ground troops, most Washington-based policy elites retain their activist instincts. They believe that U.S. military intervention generally advances global security and that the absence of U.S. leadership invites chaos. The essays in this series, “Course Correction,” have documented the many reasons why these assumptions might not be true. The authors have urged policymakers to consider other ways for the United States to remain engaged globally – ways that do not obligate the American people to bear all the costs and that do not obligate U.S. troops to bear all the risks.

But the authors do not presume that the United States must never wage war. There are indeed times when it should. Policymakers should, however, keep five specific guidelines in mind before supporting military intervention, especially the use of ground troops. Doing so would discipline our choices, would clearly signal when the U.S. military is likely to be deployed abroad, and could empower others to act when the United States does not.

Vital U.S. National Security Interest at Stake

The United States should not send U.S. troops into harm’s way unless a vital U.S. national security interest is at stake. Unfortunately, the consensus in Washington defines U.S. national security interests too broadly. Protecting the physical security of the territory of the United States and ensuring the safety of its people are vital national security interests. Advancing U.S. prosperity is an important goal, but it is best achieved by peaceful means, most importantly through trade and other forms of voluntary exchange. Similarly, the U.S. military should generally not be used to spread U.S. values, such as liberal democracy and human rights. It should be focused on defending this country from physical threats. The military should be poised to deter attacks and to fight and win the nation’s wars if deterrence fails.

The criterion offered here is more stringent, for example, than the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine, which held that U.S. troops should not be sent overseas “unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest or that of our allies.” By effectively equating U.S. national interests with those of our allies, it allowed for a range of interventions that would not be considered automatically valid under the guidelines spelled out here.  Policymakers should not risk the lives of U.S. troops to protect others’ interests as though those interests were our own.

Clear National Consensus

The American people must understand why they are being asked to risk blood and treasure and, crucially, they must have a say in whether to do so. The U.S. military should not be engaged in combat operations overseas unless there is a clear national consensus behind the mission.

Although modern technology allows constituents to communicate their policy preferences easily, traditional methods are just as effective in ascertaining whether the American people support the use of force. We should rely on the tool written into the Constitution: the stipulation that Congress alone, not the president, possesses the power to take the country to war.

As Gene Healy notes in this series, Congress has regularly evaded its obligations. Although the U.S. military has been in a continuous state of war over the past 15 years, few in Congress have ever weighed in publicly on the wisdom or folly of any particular foreign conflict. Some now interpret Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty or United Nations Security Council resolutions as obligating the United States to wage war without explicit authorization from Congress. This is unacceptable. The president may repel attacks against the United States, but the authority to deploy U.S. forces abroad, and to engage in preemptive or preventative wars of choice, resides with Congress — and by extension the people — of the United States.

Understanding of the Costs—and How to Pay Them

We must also understand the costs of war and know how we will pay them before we choose to go down that path. We cannot accurately gauge popular support for a given military intervention overseas if the case for war is built on unrealistic expectations and best-case scenarios. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is certainly no such thing as a free war.

Deficit spending allows the federal government to pretend otherwise. Politicians make promises, with bills coming due long after they’ve left office. But we should expect more when it comes to the use of force. Advocates for a military intervention should be forced to frame their solution in relation to costs and benefits. The debit side of the ledger includes the long-term costs of care for the veterans of the conflict. Hawks must also explain what government expenditures should be cut – or taxes increased – to pay for their war. The American people should have the final say in choosing whether additional military spending to prosecute minor, distant conflicts is worth the cost, including the opportunity costs: the crucial domestic priorities that must be forgone or future taxes paid.

Clear and Obtainable Military Objectives

We cannot compare the costs or wisdom of going to war if we do not know what our troops will be asked to do. The U.S. military should never be sent into harm’s way without a set of clear and obtainable military objectives.

Such considerations do not apply when a country’s survival is at stake. But wars of choice — the types of wars that the United States has fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere — are different. Advocates for such wars must demonstrate not only that the fight is necessary to secure vital U.S. interests, that it has public support, and that it has funding, but also that the military’s mission is defined and attainable.

Military victory is rarely sufficient, however, as our recent wars and interventions demonstrate. In the case of regime-change wars, ensuring that a successful transition to a stable, friendly government occurs can take a considerable amount of time and resources. Whatever replaces the defeated forces must represent a marked improvement in order for the war to advance U.S. vital interests. U.S. leaders, therefore, must not only define the military objective, but also detail what the resultant peace will look like, and how we will know the mission is complete.

It is easy for Washington to start wars, but we cannot leave U.S. troops on the hook for ending them. Policymakers must account for the tendency of war to drag on for years or more, and they must plan for an acceptable exit strategy before committing troops.

Use of Force as a Last Resort

The four criteria above are not enough to establish a war’s legitimacy, or the wisdom of waging it. After all, modern nation-states have the ability to wreak unimaginable horror on a massive scale. That obviously doesn’t imply that they should. Thus, the fifth and final rule concerning military intervention is force should be used only as a last resort, after we have exhausted other means for resolving a foreign policy challenge that threatens vital U.S. national security interests.

This point is informed by centuries-old concepts of justice. Civilized societies abhor war, even those waged for the right reasons while adhering to widely respected norms, such as proportionality and reasonable protections for noncombatants. War, given its uncertainty and destructiveness, should never be entered into lightly or for trivial reasons.

America has an exceptional capacity for waging war. U.S. policymakers therefore have a particular obligation to remember that war is a last resort. Precisely because no one else is likely to constrain them, they must constrain themselves.

Conclusion

U.S. foreign policy should contain a built-in presumption against the use of force. That does not mean that war is never the answer, but rather that it is rarely the best answer. Americans today enjoy a measure of safety that our ancestors would envy and that our contemporaries do envy. We generally do not need to wage war to keep it that way. On the contrary, some recent wars have degraded the U.S. military and undermined our security. Policymakers should therefore be extremely reluctant to risk American lives abroad.

The U.S. military is the finest fighting force in the world; it comprises dedicated professionals who are willing and able to fight almost anywhere, practically on a moment’s notice. Any military large enough to defend our vital national security interests will always be capable of intervening in distant disputes. But that does not mean that it should.”

New Rules for U.S. Military Intervention

Military Tech Matchmaker Getting Ready to Open Wallet

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Image: mayoradler.com

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUX  DIUx connects smallish companies with potential customers inside the Defense Department. It has plans to fund another 22 projects to the tune of $65 million.

For every dollar DIUx puts toward a new  company, a  military branch contributes $3.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act charged “outreach is proceeding without sufficient attention being paid to breaking down the barriers that have traditionally prevented nontraditional contractors from supporting defense needs, like lengthy contracting processes and the inability to transition technologies.”

Folks close to [Defense Secretary] Carter have said that he remains deeply, personally committed to the effort, and would open a DIUx cell in every city in America if he could.

“I created DIUx last year because one of my core goals as secretary of defense has been to build, and in some cases rebuild, the bridges between our national security endeavor at the Pentagon and America’s wonderfully innovative and open technology community,” Carter said.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/09/militarys-tech-matchmaker-getting-ready-open-its-wallet/131554/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

 

 

Uncle Sam Wants You

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“BREAKING DEFENSE”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a skeptical tech community.

It’s part of an all-out effort by the military’s civilian leader to get the technologically best and brightest to work with or even for the often-hidebound Pentagon.

Carter has created the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX) and the Defense Digital Service, both of which report directly to him.

The outbound lane on Carter’s new bridge is the DIUX, the much-publicized project to put Pentagon reps in Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin and (soon) other high-tech hotspots around the country. The inbound lane is the Defense Digital Service, which brings civilian techies into the Pentagon.

“A SWAT Team Of Nerds”

The Defense Digital Service is “a SWAT team of nerds,” said Chris Lynch, the DDS director. They spend a year or more at the Defense Department helping with particularly knotty and important problems. “On this particular trip,” explained to reporters on Secretary Carter’s plane en route to the TechCrunch conference, “we’re going to meet with some high-profile engineers to try to convince them to come out for at least a year to serve their country.”

To ease that transition, Lynch’s outfit is consciously counter-cultural. He’s made a point of wearing jeans and sneakers from day one. His team call themselves and any friends they find in the bureaucracy “the Rebel Alliance.”

The “service” is also awfully small. “We have about 18 people today,” Lynch said, and they are working on half-a-dozen projects.

“Our goal is to stay small and be very selective about the projects that we’re engaged in,” Lynch said. Defense agencies, services, and commands come to him to pitch their projects, but which ones DDS ultimately takes on is in large part guided by the personal interests, expertise, and passion of the individuals who join the service. The service doesn’t try replace the people already working on a problem for the Defense Department. Instead, DDS aims to help defense insiders over crucial hurdles with a well-timed infusion of outsider knowledge, then move on.

But how can less than 20 people make an impact on the two million-strong Department of Defense? “This model has been proven out many, many times over history, in particular at DoD,” Lynch said. “Small, highly empowered teams can actually make history and can change things.”

“The Department of Defense got to pull off the first ever federal bug bounty,” Lynch said. “It’s probably the last place that a lot of people would have thought it would have happened.”

Now the effects are “cascading “across the federal government, , said D.J. Patil, the Chief Data Scientist at the White House, speaking alongside Lynch. Just as the Defense Digital Service was the catalyst to get the Defense Department to move, the Defense Department’s example is the catalyst getting other agencies to move.

“Since the Department of Defense launched this first-ever Hack the Pentagon bug bounty program, we have seen a number of other departments who have said, ‘oh, that was really good, we’re going to go do that too,’” said Patil.

Marijuana? Maybe. Treason? No.

The audience at TechCrunch seemed more than a little skeptical of Carter’s pitch. Their questions ranged from the National Security Agency to digital privacy, Edward Snowden — a traitor to many in the Pentagon but a hero to many here — and even drug use.

What if a really good engineer went to Burning Man and decided to “partake in some goodies,” the moderator asked. Would that disqualify them from working for the Pentagon?

“Times change,” Carter said. “The laws change respecting marijuana…. Yes, we can be flexible in that regard.”

The call to serve their country “animates a lot of people,” the secretary said, “but they want to know if it can be done in a way that’s consistent with their lifestyle, their values, with everything else that’s important in their lives.” The Pentagon needs to meet them halfway.

But some things cannot change. Asked if the president should pardon Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who illegally disclosed vast archives of highly classified material, Carter refused to comment on individual cases but came down emphatically against leaks.

“All of us who enjoy the public trust and handle classified information have the responsibility” to safeguard it, Carter said. That does not mean we have the right to tell the world secrets that we personally feel uncomfortable keeping. “To arrogate to oneself the authority to (disclose) something that’s been trusted to you,” he said, “that is something we can’t condone.”

The cultural divide is very real. The day after his talk at TechCrunch, Carter went to Austin to announce a new DIUX outpost to be hosted by the Capital Factory there. A poster on the wall quoted Buckminster Fuller on the need to “reorient world production away from weaponry,” and a local reporter asked whether techies working with DIUX should be worried their technology would be “militarized” or “misused.”

“We’re actually looking to reach out and build bridges to people who have not worked with us before — and yes, that includes people who have reservations,” Carter replied, “because I think when they get to know us, they’ll learn two things. The first is the United States military conducts itself in a way that I think makes people proud,” Carter said. “We’re extremely careful in what we do that we don’t harm civilians. No other military is as scrupulous.”

“The other thing they’ll discover,” Carter continued, “is the great satisfaction that comes from knowing, when you go to bed at night, that you spent your day doing something that contributes to the security of the country and a better world.”

SecDef Carter Wants YOU For The Defense Digital Service

 

 

Military Victory is Dead

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“MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”

“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.

We’ve reached the end of victory’s road, and at this juncture it’s time to embrace other terms, a less-loaded lexicon, like “strategic advantage,” “relative gain,” and “sustainable marginalization.”

A few weeks back, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker triumphantly announced the peace deal between the government of Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). While positive, this declaration rings hollow as the exception that proves the rule – a tentative treaty, however, at the end, roughly 7,000 guerrillas held a country of 50 million hostage over 50 years at a cost of some 220,000 lives. Churchill would be aghast: Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

One reason this occasion merited a more somber statement: military victory is dead. And it was killed by a bunch of cheap stuff.

The term “victory” is loaded, so let’s stipulate it means unambiguous, unchallenged, and unquestioned strategic success – something more than a “win,” because, while one might “eke out a win,” no one “ekes out a victory.” Wins are represented by a mere letter (“w”); victory is a tickertape with tanks.

Which is something I’ll never see in my military career; I should explain. When a government has a political goal that cannot be obtained other than by force, the military gets involved and selects some objective designed to obtain said goal. Those military objectives can be classified broadly, as Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz did, into either a limited aim (i.e. “occupy some…frontier-districts” to use “for bargaining”), or a larger aim to completely disarm the enemy, “render[ing] him politically helpless or military impotent.” Lo, we’ve arrived at the problem: War has become so inexpensive that anyone can afford the traditional military means of strategic significance – so we can never fully disarm the enemy. And a perpetually armed enemy means no more parades (particularly in Nice).

Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

It’s a buyer’s market in war, and the baseline capabilities (shoot, move, and communicate) are at snake-belly prices. Tactical weaponry, like AK-47s are plentiful, rented, and shipped from battlefield to battlefield, and the most lethal weapon U.S. forces encountered at the height of the Iraq War, the improvised explosive device, could be had for as little as $265. Moving is cost-effective too in the “pickup truck era of warfare,” and reports on foreign fighters in Syria remind us that cheap, global travel makes it possible for nearly anyone on the planet to rapidly arrive in an active war zone with money to spare. Also, while the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba shut down the megacity Mumbai in 2008 for less than what many traveling youth soccer teams spend in a season, using unprotected social media networks, communication has gotten even easier for the emerging warrior with today’s widely available unhackable phones and apps. These low and no-cost commo systems are the glue that binds single wolves into coordinated wolf-packs with guns, exponentially greater than the sum of their parts. The good news: Ukraine can crowdfund aerial surveillance against Russian incursions. The less-good news: strikes, like 9/11, cost less than three seconds of a single Super Bowl ad. With prices so low, why would anyone ever give up their fire, maneuver, and control platforms?

All of which explains why military victory has gone away. Consider the Middle East, and the recent comment by a Hezbollah leader, “This can go on for a hundred years,” and his comrade’s complementary analysis, that “as long as we are there, nobody will win.” With such a modestly priced war stock on offer, it’s no wonder Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees with the insurgents, recently concluding, of the four wars currently burning across the region, the U.S. has “no prospect” of strategic victory in any. Or that Modern War Institute scholar Andrew Bacevich assesses bluntly, “If winning implies achieving stated political objectives, U.S. forces don’t win.” This is what happens when David’s slingshot is always full.

The guerrillas know what many don’t: It’s the era, stupid. This is the nature of the age, as Joshua Cooper Ramos describes, “a nightmare reality in which we must fight adaptive microthreats and ideas, both of which appear to be impossible to destroy even with the most expensive weapons.” Largely correct, one point merits minor amendment – it’s meaningless to destroy when it’s so cheap to get back in the game, a hallmark of a time in which Wolverine-like regeneration is regular.

This theme even extends to more civilized conflicts. Take the Gawker case: begrudged hedge fund giant Peter Thiel funded former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the journalistic insurrectionists at Gawker Media, which forced the website’s writers to lay down their keyboards. However, as author Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out – Gawker’s leader, Nick Denton, can literally walk across the street, with a few dollars, and start right over. Another journalist opined, “Mr. Thiel’s victory was a hollow one – you might even say he lost. While he may have killed Gawker, its sensibility and influence on the rest of the news business survive.” Perhaps Thiel should have waited 50 more years, as Columbia had to, to write his “victory” op-ed? He may come to regret the essay as his own “Mission Accomplished” moment.

True with websites, so it goes with warfare. We live in the cheap war era, where the attacker has the advantage and the violent veto is always possible. Political leaders can speak and say tough stuff, promise ruthless revenge – it doesn’t matter, ultimately, because if you can’t disarm the enemy, you can’t parade the tanks.”

Military Victory is Dead

 

National Security Risks In the “Internet of Things”(IoT)

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“By 2020, there will be anywhere from 20 billion to 50 billion internet-connected devices.

For the Justice Department, it’s 50 billion potential problems.

“In our division, we’ve just started a group looking at nothing but the Internet of Things.” John P. Carlin, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security, told the Intelligence and National Security Alliance on Thursday at the group’s annual Summit.

“There isn’t a set number of participants for the team and we are going to pursue this initiative within our existing appropriation and budget,” Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi toldDefense One.

Carlin framed the issue as directly related to next-generation terrorism. “Look at the terrorist attack in Nice,” he said. “If our trucks are running in an automated fashion — great efficiencies, great safety, on the one hand — but if we don’t think about how terrorists could exploit that on the front end, and not after they take a truck and run it through a crowd of civilians, we’ll regret it.”

“We made that mistake once when we moved all of our data, when we digitally connected it,  and didn’t focus on how … terrorists and spies could exploit it,” he said, referring broadly to the growing abilities of state and non-state actors to steal data and put it to nefarious use. “We’re playing catch-up,” he said. “We can’t do that again when it comes to the Internet of Things, actual missiles, trucks and cars.”

But there are already thousands of vulnerable vehicles on today’s roads. Computer researchers Chris Valazek and Charlie Miller have been demonstrating how to hack various car models for years, including a famous 2013 Today Show segment, and a 2015 demonstration in which they took control of a Jeep traveling along a highway at 70 mph with WIRED writer Andy Greenberg inside. Miller has calculated that as many as 471,000 existing vehicles have some exploitable computer vulnerability.

Of course, Justice isn’t the only government agency sweating over the Internet of Things. In 2012, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, launched a program called the High Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS, to fix vulnerabilities that could pervade future Internet of Things devices. Two years later, Dawn Meyerriecks, the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s directorate of science and technology, noted that “smart refrigerators have been used in distributed denial of service attacks,” and cited smart fluorescent LEDs that “are communicating that they need to be replaced but are also being hijacked for other things.”

The NSA, too, is looking to the Internet of Things…for completely different reasons. When Defense One sat down with Rick Ledgett, the Deputy Director of the NSA back in June and asked him if the Internet of Things presented “a security nightmare or a signals intelligence bonanza,” he answered simply, “Both.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/09/how-will-terrorists-use-internet-things-justice-department-trying-figure-out/131381/?oref=d_brief_nl

 

How the Pentagon Became Walmart

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(Photo By USAf/Getty Images)

“FOREIGN POLICY”

“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military.

Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.

Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: As we face novel security threats from novel quarters — emanating from nonstate terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks. But viewing more and more threats as “war” brings more and more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights.

Meanwhile, asking the military to take on more and more new tasks requires higher military budgets, forcing us to look for savings elsewhere, so we freeze or cut spending on civilian diplomacy and development programs. As budget cuts cripple civilian agencies, their capabilities dwindle, and we look to the military to pick up the slack, further expanding its role.

“If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The old adage applies here as well. If your only functioning government institution is the military, everything looks like a war, and “war rules” appear to apply everywhere, displacing peacetime laws and norms. When everything looks like war, everything looks like a military mission, displacing civilian institutions and undermining their credibility while overloading the military.

More is at stake than most of us realize. Recall Shakespeare’s Henry V:

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage 

In war, we expect warriors to act in ways that would be immoral and illegal in peacetime. But when the boundaries around war and the military expand and blur, we lose our ability to determine which actions should be praised and which should be condemned.

For precisely this reason, humans have sought throughout history to draw sharp lines between war and peace — and between the role of the warrior and the role of the civilian. Until less than a century ago, for instance, most Western societies maintained that wars should be formally declared, take place upon clearly delineated battlefields, and be fought by uniformed soldiers operating within specialized, hierarchical military organizations. In different societies and earlier times, humans developed other rituals to delineate war’s boundaries, from war drums and war sorcery to war paint and complex initiation rites for warriors.

Like a thousand other human tribes before us, we modern Americans also engage in elaborate rituals to distinguish between warriors and civilians: Our soldiers shear off their hair, display special symbols on their chests, engage in carefully choreographed drill ceremonies, and name their weapons for fearsome spirits and totem animals (the Hornet, the Black Hawk, the Reaper). And despite the changes ushered in by the 9/11 attacks, most of us view war as a distinct and separate sphere, one that shouldn’t intrude into our everyday world of offices, shopping malls, schools, and soccer games. Likewise, we relegate war to the military, a distinct social institution that we simultaneously lionize and ignore. War, we like to think, is an easily recognizable exception to the normal state of affairs and the military an institution that can be easily, if tautologically, defined by its specialized, war-related functions.

But in a world rife with transnational terrorist networks, cyberwarriors, and disruptive nonstate actors, this is no longer true. Our traditional categories — war and peace, military and civilian — are becoming almost useless.

In a cyberwar or a war on terrorism, there can be no boundaries in time or space: We can’t point to the battlefield on a map or articulate circumstances in which such a war might end. We’re no longer sure what counts as a weapon, either: A hijacked passenger plane? A line of computer code? We can’t even define the enemy: Though the United States has been dropping bombs in Syria for almost two years, for instance, no one seems sure if our enemy is a terrorist organization, an insurgent group, a loose-knit collection of individuals, a Russian or Iranian proxy army, or perhaps just chaos itself.

We’ve also lost any coherent basis for distinguishing between combatants and civilians: Is a Chinese hacker a combatant? What about a financier for Somalia’s al-Shabab, or a Pakistani teen who shares extremist propaganda on Facebook, or a Russian engineer paid by the Islamic State to maintain captured Syrian oil fields?

When there’s a war, the law of war applies, and states and their agents have great latitude in using lethal force and other forms of coercion. Peacetime law is the opposite, emphasizing individual rights, due process, and accountability.

When we lose the ability to draw clear, consistent distinctions between war and not-war, we lose any principled basis for making the most vital decisions a democracy can make: Which matters, if any, should be beyond the scope of judicial review? When can a government have “secret laws”? When can the state monitor its citizens’ phone calls and email? Who can be imprisoned and with what degree, if any, of due process? Where, when, and against whom can lethal force be used? Should we consider U.S. drone strikes in Yemen or Libya the lawful wartime targeting of enemy combatants or nothing more than simple murder?

When we heedlessly expand what we label “war,” we also lose our ability to make sound decisions about which tasks we should assign to the military and which should be left to civilians.

Today, American military personnel operate in nearly every country on Earth — and do nearly every job on the planet. They launch raids and agricultural reform projects, plan airstrikes and small-business development initiatives, train parliamentarians and produce TV soap operas. They patrol for pirates, vaccinate cows, monitor global email communications, and design programs to prevent human trafficking.

Many years ago, when I was in law school, I applied for a management consulting job at McKinsey & Co. During one of the interviews, I was given a hypothetical business scenario: “Imagine you run a small family-owned general store. Business is good, but one day you learn that Walmart is about to open a store a block away. What do you do?”

“Roll over and die,” I said immediately.

The interviewer’s pursed lips suggested that this was the wrong answer, and no doubt a plucky mom-and-pop operation wouldn’t go down without a fight: They’d look for a niche, appeal to neighborhood sentiment, or maybe get artisanal and start serving hand-roasted chicory soy lattes. But we all know the odds would be against them: When Walmart shows up, the writing is on the wall.

Like Walmart, today’s military can marshal vast resources and exploit economies of scale in ways impossible for small mom-and-pop operations. And like Walmart, the tempting one-stop-shopping convenience it offers has a devastating effect on smaller, more traditional enterprises — in this case, the State Department and other U.S. civilian foreign-policy agencies, which are steadily shrinking into irrelevance in our ever-more militarized world. The Pentagon isn’t as good at promoting agricultural or economic reform as the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development — but unlike our civilian government agencies, the Pentagon has millions of employees willing to work insane hours in terrible conditions, and it’s open 24/7.

It’s fashionable to despise Walmart — for its cheap, tawdry goods, for its sheer vastness and mindless ubiquity, and for the human pain we suspect lies at the heart of the enterprise. Most of the time, we prefer not to see it and use zoning laws to exile its big-box stores to the commercial hinterlands away from the center of town. But as much as we resent Walmart, most of us would be hard-pressed to live without it.

As the U.S. military struggles to define its role and mission, it evokes similarly contradictory emotions in the civilian population. Civilian government officials want a military that costs less but provides more, a military that stays deferentially out of strategy discussions but remains eternally available to ride to the rescue. We want a military that will prosecute our ever-expanding wars but never ask us to face the difficult moral and legal questions created by the eroding boundaries between war and peace.

We want a military that can solve every global problem but is content to remain safely quarantined on isolated bases, separated from the rest of us by barbed wire fences, anachronistic rituals, and acres of cultural misunderstanding. Indeed, even as the boundaries around war have blurred and the military’s activities have expanded, the U.S. military itself — as a human institution — has grown more and more sharply delineated from the broader society it is charged with protecting, leaving fewer and fewer civilians with the knowledge or confidence to raise questions about how we define war or how the military operates.

It’s not too late to change all this.

No divine power proclaimed that calling something “war” should free us from the constraints of morality or common sense or that only certain tasks should be the proper province of those wearing uniforms. We came up with the concepts, definitions, laws, and institutions that now trap and confound us — and they’re no more eternal than the rituals and categories used by any of the human tribes that have gone before us.

We don’t have to accept a world full of boundary-less wars that can never end, in which the military has lost any coherent sense of purpose or limits. If the moral and legal ambiguity of U.S.-targeted killings bothers us, or we worry about government secrecy or indefinite detention, we can mandate new checks and balances that transcend the traditional distinctions between war and peace. If we don’t like the simultaneous isolation and Walmartization of our military, we can change the way we recruit, train, deploy, and treat those who serve, change the way we define the military’s role, and reinvigorate our civilian foreign-policy institutions.

After all, few generals actually want to preside over the military’s remorseless Walmartization: They too fear that, in the end, the nation’s over-reliance on an expanding military risks destroying not only the civilian competition but the military itself. They worry that the armed services, under constant pressure to be all things to all people, could eventually find themselves able to offer little of enduring value to anyone.

Ultimately, they fear that the U.S. military could come to resemble a Walmart on the day after a Black Friday sale: stripped almost bare by a society both greedy for what it can provide and resentful of its dominance, with nothing left behind but demoralized employees and some shoddy mass-produced items strewn haphazardly around the aisles.”

How the Pentagon Became Walmart

 

Will There Ever Be a Right Time to Leave Afghanistan?

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afganistan war logic cartoon

“DEFENSE ONE”

“After providing nearly $70 billion in security assistance, Washington is still looking at an Afghanistan that cannot sustain itself or defend itself.

Its national economy is so weak that it depends on the international community to pay for its army and police, to the tune of $5 billion per year through 2020.

On July 25, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released its latest quarterly report on civilian casualties from the war. Afghanistan was already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a civilian, but the findings of the investigation were even worse than observers and U.S. officials expected: between January 1, 2016 to June of this year, the fighting killed 1,601 civilians and injured another 3,565.

“This represents an increase of four percent in the total number of casualties compared to the first six months of 2015,” the head of the U.N. mission said, “and is the highest half-year total since 2009.”

The dismal figures from the U.N. are just the most recent in a stack of reports from the U.N. Secretary General and the U.S.government that describe an extremely dire security situation in the country, nearly 15 years since the U.S. and its NATO allies embarked on a mission that has dragged on for over a decade. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s own assessment of the war to the Security Council is a good summation of what many Americans and Europeans have long suspected: insurgent violence is up, the Afghan government is still riven by factional disputes and an exceedingly slow process of appointing and confirming ministers, the Afghan army and police force is getting beaten up in the field, and chunks of rural Afghanistan are either administered or influenced by anti-government elements.

“In the first four months of 2016,” Ban wrote, “reports indicated rising casualties among the security forces. The sustainability of the forces remains a challenge in the light of high attrition rates. Even though recruitment was on target, re-enlistment rates remained particularly low and needed to be increased to compensate for other losses.”

The result of this attrition? A 5 percent decrease in the amount of territory the Afghan government controls, from 70.5 percent to 65.6 percent. Over one-third of the country’s districts are either under insurgent control or “at risk” of being captured or challenged by the Taliban.

The Obama administration has taken these statistics seriously, responding to the situation as they have done throughout the past seven-and-one-half years: escalating the amount of force the U.S.military is allowed to use and slowing the scheduled withdrawal ofU.S. troops. For all of the GOP’s complaints about President Obama handcuffing of the military and his resistance to providing the generals running the war with more resources, money, firepower, and support, the fact is that Obama has been quite deferential to military leaders and the Pentagon. His original plan to withdraw all U.S. trainers and advisers from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 has been delayed repeatedly — first in March 2015, when Obama decided to provide President Ashraf Ghani with the full force of 9,800 troops through 2015 and again in October, when he extended the same force level through most of 2016.

The administration seems muddled about how to ensure that U.S.gains in Afghanistan are kept and built upon. Recognizing that Afghan security forces are struggling against the Taliban and continuing to take unsustainable casualties, Washington again has decided that being more aggressive is the right answer. Rather than stick with its goal of withdrawing to 5,500 U.S. troops into the next administration, the White House will now keep 8,400into next year. U.S. pilots have been granted more authority to not only defend Afghan units in the field who are attacked, but aid those same forces when they engage in offensive operations against the Taliban. In some cases, American advisers will also be permitted to embed with their Afghan counterparts during those operations.

As in the U.S. troop surge from 2010-12, putting more American boots on the ground will produce positive results on the battlefield in the short-term. No fighting force in the world can compete with the U.S. soldier, so more of them will naturally help the Afghan security forces reclaim districts in remote areas. But as with the surge, security and stability in Afghanistan will likely deteriorate as soon as those U.S. assets and authorities are taken away. This assessment is borne out by the facts: less than four years after U.S. surge forces were withdrawn, the Taliban hold more territory than they have since the war began in October 2001.

According to U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, “This is the wrong time to walk away from Afghanistan.” But this begs the question: will there ever be a right time to leave Afghanistan? And if the answer is no, is maintaining thousands of troops on the ground and pumping another $70 billion into Afghanistan’s army the best way to keep the U.S. and Europe safe from another terrorist attack? Or are there other ways to do the same thing, but without a multi-decade military commitment?

One hopes that the next President will ask these important questions before continuing with the status quo.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016/08/afghanistan-its-only-getting-worse/130615/?oref=d-skybox

 

Congress’s Female Combat Vets Speaking Up On Military Issues

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Women Combat Vets

“THE WASHINGTON POST”

“There are now four female combat veterans in Congress.

And they have something to say about the changing face of the Armed Forces, which is officially open to women joining combat units across the board.

They are a diverse group: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) served in the military police in Kuwait. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) flew A-10s for the Air Force, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) served in the Iowa National Guard.

But they are speaking together in Congress just as the Pentagon is implementing sweeping changes to the face of the military. And as they raise their voices, their colleagues are listening to them on issues such as sexual harassment in the military, expanding family leave and planning options for soldiers, and – most recently – whether women should be eligible for the draft.

“There’s still a lot of misperception that exists and a lot of misinformation, though by and large most people are sincerely interested in learning more and hearing more from us” about women in combat roles, Gabbard said in an interview. “We’re coming at this as a continuation of the service to our country.”

The foursome is hardly a sisterhood-in-arms – they are divided ideologically, and their interactions outside of the Armed Services committee rooms are relatively infrequent, although Gabbard and McSally belong to the same morning workout group.

But in a short period of time, the women have become go-to authorities in a legislative arena traditionally dominated by men – and especially male veterans. And their experience in the male-dominated military has taught them important lessons about how to survive in Washington.

“I mean, it [Congress] is a male-dominated institution … so it felt very, um, ‘familiar’ is probably the right word,” McSally said in an interview, laughing. “But I learned a lot along the way in the military on how to figure out how to be credible, respected and effective in that environment, when you are potentially the only woman at the table.”

Of the 102 veterans serving in Congress, these four are the only women.

Each is fiercely proud of her military service and looks back fondly on the bulk of her interactions with fellow soldiers, commanders and underlings in the military. But each also has distinct memories of how being a woman in uniform meant being treated differently.

“There were different missions I had volunteered for, along with other females in our unit, and we were told we weren’t allowed to participate in those missions simply because we were female,” Gabbard recalled of her time as a military police platoon leader in Kuwait.

“When I was overseas, I had two senior officers from another battalion who were not good to deal with,” Ernst said, alluding to overt harassment during her deployment with the Iowa National Guard. “Sexual harassment certainly exists.”

For McSally and Duckworth, the differences were palpable before they even left basic training.

McSally wanted to be an Air Force doctor, but “the reason I decided to be a fighter pilot,” she explained, “is because they said that I couldn’t.”

“It motivated me to just say, you know, this is wrong, and I’m going to be a part of proving that it’s wrong,” she said.

For the female Republican veterans especially, issues pertaining to women in combat can put them at odds with their party leadership. But change from within the system, they say, is part of the job.

“I joke that I believe part of my calling in life is to create cognitive dissonance in people. First it was ‘women warriors,’ and now it’s ‘feminist Republican,’ ” McSally said. “But just to clash people’s stereotypes and make them have to choose.”

“We have very few people that actually have backgrounds in national security,” she continued. “So when I speak on a variety of issues, hopefully they take that into consideration.”

Duckworth has a similar story: She entered the Army speaking four languages and thinking she would become a linguist. But when her superiors told her, as the only woman in her graduating class of ROTC cadets, that she didn’t have to consider combat roles like her male colleagues, she changed her mind.

“It’s why I became a helicopter pilot,” Duckworth said. “And what I love about the military is if you can do the job, then you’re part of that group – at the end of the day, it’s the ultimate meritocracy.”

But as lawmakers, getting people to hear their arguments about women in the military can be hard. Often, the female veterans find themselves repeating the same points to colleague after colleague, person after person, trying to change minds one by one.

The latest issue requiring a sustained persuasion campaign is the debate about whether women should be subject to the draft – something all four female combat veterans favor, even though none of them believe a draft is still necessary.

“It’s about equality,” said Duckworth, a former Army pilot whose Black Hawk helicopter and was shot down over Iraq in 2004.

“If we’re going to have a draft, then everyone should register,” she said.

Male veterans in Congress started the debate as a way of challenging President Obama’s recent decision to open all U.S. military combat roles to women.

But the effort to shock lawmakers into repudiating the new policy backfired when a majority of House and Senate Armed Services committee members supported the change to have women ages 18 to 25 register for the Selective Service.

GOP leaders have tried to stamp out the issue, stripping the draft language from the House’s defense policy bill and releasing a convention party platform opposing women in combat. The question will ultimately be resolved later this year when Congress finalizes a defense policy bill.

But in the meantime, the four women have been pushing back against the most common emotional arguments surrounding the draft — that is, no one would want their own wife, sister or daughter risking her life on the front lines.

“It’s a ‘gotcha’ — because ‘women shouldn’t be in combat. … I’m going to make your daughter sign up,’ ” Duckworth said, shrugging. “Great. I’ll go register her right now, she’s 18 months old.”

Said Ernst: “I believe we all need skin in the game, and my daughter will turn 18 here in a little over a year. And certainly — do I think she should sign up? Yes, I do. So it is personal to me.”

The issue of women in the draft is just one of many traditionally driven by male veterans on topics such as wars, weapons systems and persistent reports of sexual assault in the military.

Congress’s female veterans rarely agree unanimously on any major military issue other than the role of women in combat, now playing out in the debate over the draft.

All favor instituting standards and policies that would help recruit and retain more female troops.

But they differ over how to address the scourge of sexual harassment in the services, and the extent to which the government should shoulder the cost of more parental-leave and fertility-assistance options for enlisted soldiers.

On the question of fertility assistance, Duckworth, Gabbard and McSally support a new Pentagon pilot program to help service members continue to have children even if injured in combat. But Ernst says it’s not always feasible to pay for such measures — desirable as they may be — while the Defense Department is in a budget squeeze.

They are also divided on how to respond to sexual assault in the military, an issue of heated debate in the Senate, where Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) – neither of whom served in the military – have been driving the standoff over whether cases should be prosecuted outside the chain of command.

Democrats Duckworth and Gabbard support Gillibrand’s approach to take such cases out of the chain of command and hand them over to a military prosecutor. Gabbard has led that legislative effort in the House.

But Republicans McSally and Ernst who has dealt with a situation in which a soldier under her command was accused of rape – both said they are seeing enough progress to allow commanders to consider the issue.

Still, both took deep breaths before answering this question, adding that they reserved the right to change their minds if the military does not continue to significantly improve in this area.

The four have, however, found common cause in less politically divisive initiatives, such as McSally’s bid to secure burial rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery, a bill that became law this spring.

As for the draft and women serving in combat roles, all four are united in advising their colleagues against typecasting.

Some of the four would also like to use their influence to shed light on lower-profile issues affecting women in the military.

Elements of basic procurement may have to change, Duckworth said, recalling how the cut of her flight suit made the prospect of going to the bathroom while on mission a near-impossibility. As women move into new combat roles, the Pentagon and defense contractors will have to make changes to accommodate women’s bodies.

Establishing achievable but fair performance standards for women is more complicated than it seems, Ernst warned.

Even haircut policies can cause a problem, McSally said. Letting women evade the traditional buzz cut “can add to resentment” or allegations of special treatment for women, she said.

Some things, the female veterans argue, will just be worked out in time as the military matures to accept and promote more women, such as Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, who in May became the military’s first female combatant commander.

“As we get more women from my generation who served in combat roles and who actually saw real combat move up … you’re going to see some of the problems get more attention and be resolved,” McSally said.

But generational changes come slowly. And so all four are committing themselves to a long road ahead.

“I’ve lived through this nonsense for 26 years,” McSally said, referring to stereotypes about women in the military. “It’s a part of my journey in service. If you’ve got to change people’s minds one at a time, then you need to do it.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/08/02/congresss-four-female-combat-veterans-are-speaking-up-on-military-issues/?utm_campaign=Defense%20EBB%2008-03-16&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Sailthru