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Author: TriSec    Date: 12/08/2015 11:07:49

Good Morning.

I've got an awful lot of ground to cover today...but I suppose that you may have actually heard of most of it this week - a lot has been in the news recently.

But we'll start on the home front, right here in Waltham. This Saturday, there is a funeral procession through town for Sergeant Robert Dakin. Mr. Dakin's remains have spent the last 65 years MIA in Korea; he was recently recovered and is coming home. As your citywide Scouting coordinator, I was asked to get all the scouts in town to turn out and line the route. Unfortunately, I can't attend myself...but we've got a good commitment from all the units I'm associated with.

So on to the news at hand. Since the President was talking about it recently, let's think about airstrikes. This should be an easy thing; fly over target, drop explosives on it, go home. Except we're actually running out of bombs. It's unclear from the story if they mean the actual explosive casings, but my read is that it's more about the guidance packages that make them 'smart'. Either way, what about all that money we're spending on this stuff?

The US military says its 15-month bombing campaign on the Islamic State is depleting its munitions supply and that additional money and other support is “critical” for “the long fight.”

"We're expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Friday. “We need the funding in place to ensure we're prepared for the long fight. This is a critical need."

The Air Force has reportedly fired more than 20,000 bombs and missiles in Syria in the fight to dismantle the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Air Force officials say they have enough munitions right now but project a shortage and want more long-term planning and funding to meet future needs.

“B-1s have dropped bombs in record numbers,” Welsh also said. “We are able to manage inventories to sustain operations against ISIL at this time. We do need funding in place and the ability to forecast for production to be ready for the long fight ... We continue to work on a longer term funding strategy which is absolutely required."

Russia and France have over just the past few weeks began bombing ISIS targets in Syria. And Great Britain earlier this week decided to join the US-led bombing coalition, following a recent series of ISIS terror attacks outside of the Middle East. Russia is not part of the coalition.

The Air Force now has an estimated 142,000 "smart bombs," or guided munitions, and 2,300 Hellfire missiles, used in drone strikes to kill terrorists.

Staying right there, our old friend England has stepped up their role in the fight. Only I hear about them hitting infrastructure, oil fields, and the things that make the terrorists go. What are we bombing again?

British warplanes hit oil fields that help finance the activities of the Islamic State in Britain’s first airstrikes following a vote in Parliament that authorized military action in Syria, its defense secretary said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC that the Omar fields in eastern Syria were targeted to strike “a very real blow at the oil and the revenue” on which ISIS depends. The strikes came within hours of Parliament’s vote to attack the terror group.

Fallon confirmed that eight more jets were on the way to Britain’s base in Cyprus to join attacks and warned that military action against ISIS should be expected to continue for years to come.

Four Royal Air Force Tornadoes took off from a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, shortly after the 397-223 vote by lawmakers in the House of Commons. The RAF has been launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq since 2014.

The decision to expand the campaign to Syria came after an emotional 10 1/2-hour debate in which Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain must strike the militants in their heartland and not "sit back and wait for them to attack us."

Opponents argued that Britain's entry into Syria's crowded airspace would make little difference, and said Cameron's military plan was based on wishful thinking that overlooked the messy reality of the Syrian civil war.

Cameron has long wanted to target ISIS in Syria, but had been unsure of getting majority support in the House of Commons until now. He suffered an embarrassing defeat in 2013 when lawmakers rejected a motion backing attacks on the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Let's take a brief hop over to Afghanistan. Remember my question above about where our military money is going? It's literally a drop in the bucket, but I bet $150m might buy a few more splody things. Instead we're living large in Kandahar. And not our actual troops - it's the Hessians mercenaries we've sent there on Uncle Sam's dime.

A Pentagon task force established in 2006 to help lure private businesses first to Iraq and then Afghanistan allegedly blew as much as $150 million on lavish villas in Afghanistan for a few lucky members of its staff—instead of lodging them cheaply, or for free, at the U.S. embassy or any one of numerous large American military bases in the war-torn country.

The alleged waste by the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, first described in a five-page Nov. 25 letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter from John Sopko, from the military’s special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, should come as no surprise. TFBSO, as it’s known inside the Pentagon, has long attracted criticism for apparently wasteful spending and other abuses.

As Sopko notes in his letter to Carter, TFBSO—which burned through nearly $1 billion between its arrival in Afghanistan in 2009 and its disbandment in March—once dropped $43 million on a gas station in Afghanistan that Sopko claimed should have cost $500,000. TFBSO also pumped $282 million into Afghanistan’s minerals and petroleum industry without devising a long-term plan for the investment, Sopko noted.

The villas were only the most recent blemishes on the business task force’s record. “Based on allegations we have received from former TFBSO employees and others, today I am writing to request information concerning TFBSO’s decision to spend nearly $150 million, amounting to nearly 20 percent of its budget, on private housing and private security guards for its U.S. government employees in Afghanistan, rather than live on U.S. military bases,” Sopko wrote to Carter.

Mercenaries from no fewer than three companies—Triple Canopy, Defense Group Incorporated, and Muscogee Nation Business Enterprise—protected villa residents and drove them around Afghanistan. Life at the villas included “queen size beds in certain rooms, a flat screen T.V. in each room that was 27 inches or larger, a DVD player in each room [and] a mini refrigerator in each room,” according to Sopko. The SIGAR chief described meals at the villas as “three-star.”

TFBSO also kept an “investor villa” that Sopko explained had “upgraded furniture” and “Western-style hotel accommodations.”

“It is unclear what benefit the U.S. received as the result of TFBSO’s decision to rent private housing and hire private security contractors, rather than living on DOD military bases,” Sopko stated, using an acronym for the Department of Defense. TFBSO has an office in the Pentagon. But the office’s phone number was not readily available, and no one answered a call to the Pentagon’s main press desk.

Sopko explained that he tried to get an explanation about the villas from Paul Brinkley, a former Silicon Valley executive whom then-president George W. Bush had appointed as deputy undersecretary of defense and who was TFBSO’s first director starting in 2006, when the task force was in Baghdad, trying to convince foreign companies to do business in Iraq at the height of the country’s insurgency and occupation. In 2007, former TFBSO employees accused Brinkley of public drunkenness, sexual harassment and mismanaging government funds.

Brinkley resigned from TFBSO in 2011 after the task force had set up shop in Afghanistan and begun lodging as many as 10 of its senior employees in the private villas. “Although SIGAR has contacted Mr. Brinkley in connection with this inquiry, he is no longer a U.S. government employee and has not cooperated with our requests for information,” Sopko wrote to Carter.

Heading for the home front, let's talk about uniforms for a minute. You know my lifelong volunteering with a youth service organization. Sometimes, we're asked to lead the pledge of allegiance or perform other patriotic ceremonial duties for public functions. My organization has specific rules around that, particularly on the political front. I could, for example, lead a uniformed brigade of Boy Scouts onto the dais at a Trump Rally to present the colors and lead the Pledge. But we can't stick around - once our duties are done, we have to leave. Or, if I choose to stay, I need to be out of uniform for the remainder of the event. I can't speak for the armed services, but maybe you heard about the Marine that went to a Trump Rally in his Dress Blues? Yeah, he's in a little trouble now.

A Marine who recently performed the national anthem at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally has been told to cease further uniformed campaign activities.

Cpl. Jason Perkins, a reservist with Combat Logistics Battalion 451 out of Charlotte, North Carolina, awed crowds at a Nov. 21 campaign rally for the Republican candidate in Birmingham, Alabama, with a booming rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which he performed in his dress blue uniform.

But when a video of the performance began circulating online, members of the military quickly pointed out that he was in violation of regulations prohibiting troops from wearing their uniforms to political events.

Marine Forces Reserve spokesman Capt. Andrew Chrestman said the command had reached out to Perkins after his campaign performance.

"Cpl. Perkins is now aware that his conduct violated long-standing DoD policy," Chrestman said in an email. "[He] has been informed of the appropriate ways to participate in the political process as a member of the Marine Corps."

The Defense Department allows troops to participate in political and campaign activities as private citizens, but does not allow them to represent the military or associate the Pentagon with any specific candidate, issue or cause. Participation in political activities in uniform is prohibited.

Reached by Military.com, Perkins referred all comment to Marine Forces Reserve.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for command.

Speaking of Trump, he seems to have answered a rhetorical question I asked some weeks ago. Why yes, he would re-open Tule Lake!

Finally, set your alarm clocks...Ask A Vet (and yours truly) will be making their debut this evening with Mr. Kenny Pick and "Turn up the Night" this evening at around 7:30 pm (Eastern). Hope you can tune in!

22 comments (Latest Comment: 12/08/2015 21:52:03 by wickedpam)
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