Looking over my saved stories for today, I've got two that are rather leaping out at me. We'll start first with our apparent lack of preparation for deployment and war. It's recently come out that up to 50,000 US Army soldiers are "unprepared to deploy".
It's for a variety of reasons - and all seem to be administrative.
The U.S. Army's top enlisted soldier said the number-one readiness problem facing the service is that the active component -- the most deployable force -- has 50,000 soldiers who can't deploy.
That figure represents the largest number of non-deployable soldiers in all three components of the service. The National Guard has 28,000 non-deployable soldiers and the Reserve component has 25,000, according to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey's office.
Having 50,000 non-deployable, active soldiers is comparable to three of the Army's 10 active combat divisions, Dailey told a group of sergeants recently at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to an Army press release.
"That's huge. That's three out of the 10 divisions," he said. "If you will not or cannot fight and win, then there's no place for you in the Army. We have to become unemotional about this. We have a job to do."
Dailey's comments come at a time when President Barack Obama is under enormous pressure to commit some type of ground force to the Middle East to fight extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Just days after ISIS attacked multiple civilian targets in Paris, Republican Sen. John McCain and GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham made a renewed push for committing thousands of U.S. ground forces to lead a ground war against ISIS forces occupying large portions of Iraq and Syria.
The active Army is on a path to reduce its size from 490,000 to 450,000 by fiscal 2018.
In total, the Army's active, Guard and Reserve force 102,499 soldiers from all ranks that were non-deployable for medical, legal, or other administrative reasons as of mid-August, according to Master Sgt. Michelle Johnson, spokeswoman for Dailey, adding that that number is about 10 percent of the total force, Johnson said.
This group of non-deployable soldiers does not include soldiers who are transients between duty stations, trainees or students who make up approximately another 10 percent of the force, Johnson said.
Total Army non-deployable numbers have been steadily declining over the past five years. In September 2013, approximately 14 percent of the then-total Army was non-deployable, Johnson said.
But curiously enough, days after that story came out, there was another one - this time with US Senators calling for the deployment of "up to 20,000 troops"
for ground combat against DAESH. Now it seems to me that the math isn't quite adding up. We've got 50,000 that can't go, but the call is for 20,000. Where are they going to come from?
Two senior U.S. senators called on Sunday for Washington to nearly triple military force levels in Iraq to 10,000 and send an equal number of troops to Syria as part of a multinational ground force to counter Islamic State in both countries.
Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham criticized President Barack Obama's incremental Islamic State strategy, which relies on air strikes and modest support to local ground forces in Iraq and Syria, and said the need for greater U.S. involvement was underlined by this month's Paris attacks.
"The only way you can destroy the caliphate is with a ground component," said Graham who is seeking his party's presidential nomination. "The aerial campaign is not turning the tide of battle."
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently proposed intervention in Syria by a European and Arab ground force backed by 10,000 U.S. military advisers and trainers.
On Sunday he and Graham told reporters during a visit to Baghdad that U.S. personnel could provide logistical and intelligence support to a proposed 100,000-strong force from Sunni Arab countries like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Graham said special forces would also be included.
Obama last month ordered the deployment of dozens of special operations troops to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in their fight against Islamic State, adding to an increasingly volatile conflict in Syria.
Russia and Iran have ramped up their military support for President Bashar al-Assad's fight against rebels in Syria's four-and-a-half year civil war, while the Paris attacks showed how Islamic State has extended its reach to Western cities.
U.S. counter-terrorism experts have warned that deploying ground troops risks backfiring by feeding Islamic State's apocalyptic narrative that it is defending Islam against an assault by the West and its authoritarian Arab allies.
The U.S.-led coalition which has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq for more than a year relies heavily on American resources despite including some 60 nations.
McCain said it would be possible but not easy to rally Arab allies to contribute to the proposed ground force in Syria.
"The question... is being asked all over the capitals of the West right now," he said. "(Arab) countries for a long time have not seen what's happening as a direct threat to them. Now I believe that they do."
The senators said removing Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, was key to getting Arab Sunni states to back the proposed ground force.
We'll shift gears quickly - maybe you've seen the next story starting to get some traction around the ol' intertubes. Almost a year ago now, US Navy veteran Philip Williams of West Hempstead, NY traveled to Florida to live with a friend while he recuperated from knee replacement surgery. As it turns out, he experienced some complications, and was there for far longer than he intended. When he returned to his homestead, all he found was an empty lot.
The town drove a bulldozer through his house and destroyed all his worldly possessions while he was away.
WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- When a U.S. Navy veteran traveled from Long Island to Florida for a knee replacement, his house was the last thing on his mind. But now his memory of it is all he can think about.
Philip Williams' home was demolished in the spring by town officials while he spent about six months recuperating from surgical complications in Fort Lauderdale. Back in New York, officials in the Town of Hempstead deemed his modest two-story home unfit for habitation and knocked it down.
The 69-year-old has now waged a legal battle against the suburban New York town. He wants reimbursement -- for the house and all the belongings inside.
"I'm angry and I'm upset. It's just wrong on so many levels," he said. "My mortgage was up to date, my property taxes were up to date ... everything was current and fine."
Williams went to Florida in December 2014 for the procedure, so a friend could help with his recovery. But he developed infections that forced further surgery and heart complications, leaving him hospitalized until doctors deemed him medically able to return home in August.
When Williams pulled up to what should have been a two-story cream-colored cottage with a red door in West Hempstead, there was just an empty lot.
"My first thought was there was a fire or something," Williams said.
But there was no fire. According to town officials, neighbors had been complaining the house was in disrepair and a blight on the community. Hempstead officials, responding to those complaints, sent inspectors and determined the house was a "dilapidated dwelling" unfit for habitation. So they knocked it down.
"The house was in terrible condition for a long time," next door neighbor Keylin Escobar said. "Nobody really lived in the house; the house was abandoned. Everyone who came over to visit, people always say, 'What's going on with this house?' "
Kathleen Keicher, who has lived across the street from Williams for 12 years, said notices tacked to the front door of the home began piling up and the house had holes in the side and appeared unkempt.
"I feel terrible. When we knew a house was coming down, it was sad," she said. "We thought the house was coming down, someone would buy the land, a new house would come up, a new family would move in. ... We don't want anyone to lose their home."
Williams says he was never contacted and believes town officials thought his house was a so-called "zombie home" -- a dwelling abandoned after foreclosure proceedings begin, but one not yet seized by the bank -- and rushed to demolish it.
"The town basically took everything from me," said Williams, who is now staying with a friend in Florida and has only two suitcases of belongings. "The town does not have a right to take all of my property, all of my possessions."
Williams had lived in the house since he was 6 months old. He said many of the items in the home had been in his family since he was a newborn or had sentimental value, like his late wife's engagement ring, photos of his six children growing up and a model train set he had since he was a child. He lost all of his clothing, a bicycle he'd just purchased, dishes, silverware and other housewares.
Town officials say they tried to contact Williams and provided The Associated Press copies of letters they said they mailed to the home and to banks. They also held a public hearing before going forward with the demolition. But Williams contends he never received any of the notices and said he couldn't figure out why the letters were mailed to four separate banks where he never had accounts.
"I have no idea who those banks are," Williams said. "But they never contacted me in any way, shape or form."
And that's why his attorney believes that town's actions were illegal.
"Under the law, it should not happen," his attorney, Bradley Siegel said. "It's un-American. It just doesn't seem believable."
Finally this morning, an update on the Cost of War
, which we find passing through: $ 1, 654, 801, 050, 000 .00
While it hasn't been on my radar much (it's a stealth ship, hardy-har!) there is a new whipping post apparently coming down the seaways. Maybe you've heard of the USS Zumwalt? It's the first of an entirely new class of stealthy destroyers. As it turns out, $4.4 billion dollars into the project and they're now worried about the inherent seaworthiness of the design.
And more money goes down the drain.
BATH, Maine -- The largest destroyer built for the U.S. Navy cuts an imposing figure: massive, with an angular shape, hidden weapons and antennas, and electric-drive propulsion. But underneath the stealthy exterior resides a style of hull that fell out of favor a century ago in part because it can be unstable.
The Navy will soon learn how this modern take on the "tumblehome" hull holds up when the first-in-class Zumwalt heads out to sea in December for builder trials in the rough-and-tumble North Atlantic.
Amy Lent, of the Maine Maritime Museum, which works closely with the shipyard, said taxpayers needn't worry because the Navy and shipbuilder Bath Iron Works have "tested the hell out of it."
"This is an enormous investment. There's so much at stake. They're not slapping something together and sending it out to sea," she said. "I think they're pretty confident. They know what they're doing."
Designers chose the hull style associated with pre-dreadnought battleships, but this warship looks nothing like one from President Theodore Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet."
The inverse bow juts forward to slice through the waves. A composite deckhouse hides radar and antennas, giving it a clean look. Sharp angles deflect radar signals.
Typical of tumblehomes, though, the hull slopes inward above the waterline, giving the Zumwalt something of a pyramid shape. The shape can cause problems in certain conditions, critics say.
Concerns have been voiced in the ship-design and shipbuilding communities about the warship's overall stability -- and any instability could be exacerbated if there's battle damage, said Matthew Werner, dean at the Webb Institute, which teaches naval architecture and marine engineering in Glen Cove, New York.
But the hull's sloping sides contribute to the Navy's goal of stealth. The Navy contends the 600-foot-long, 15,000-ton behemoth will look like a small fishing boat on enemy radar.
"It's a true engineering challenge. They're trying to make a ship with stealth characteristics that requires certain shapes. To do that they have to compromise," Werner said.