Defense Bill May Not Include Provision on Drafting Women

drafting women

By Debbie Gregory.

House and Senate negotiators plan to shelve the provision requiring women to register for the draft in favor of ordering up a study of the issue.

Last year at this time, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the combat exclusionary rule for women and opened up all military jobs to women in the military who qualify. The Senate Armed Services Committee then said that Carter’s action had removed any justification for limiting draft registration to men.

A few months later, Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Ryan Zinke, opposed to Carter’s action, introduced a bill titled the “Draft America’s Daughters Act of 2016” that would require women to register with the Selective Service System.

Both Hunter and Zinke said they were opposed to their own bill, but argued that a debate in Congress was necessary on lifting the combat exclusion rule for women.

Carter, the service secretaries, and the service chiefs have made clear that requiring women to register for the draft was up to Congress, and they have yet to voice any opposition to such a move.

President Obama supports requiring women to register for Selective Service when they turn 18. He is the first president to endorse universal draft registration since Jimmy Carter.

Obama believes adding women to the draft would serve two purposes: showing a commitment to gender equality throughout the armed services, and fostering a sense of public service that comes from requiring draft registration as a ritual of adulthood.

“As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports — as a logical next step — women registering for the Selective Service,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council.

But the timing of Obama’s support makes it mostly symbolic, coming in the final weeks of his presidency.

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Should Women be Required to Register for Selective Service?


By Debbie Gregory.

Selective Service law, as it’s written now, refers specifically to “male persons” in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with Selective Service, Congress would have to amend the law.And that may happen sooner rather than later.

Now, for the first time in American history, a provision that would require women to register for the military draft was included as part of the massive 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate with an 85-13 vote.

The new requirement would apply to any woman who turns 18 on or after January 1, 2018.

The United States first conscripted soldiers during the Civil War, and did so again for both World Wars I and II. All three times, the draft ended when the wars ended. It wasn’t until the Cold War that the draft became a peacetime fixture, remaining in effect until the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force in 1973.

Registration returned in 1980 when Russia invaded Afghanistan, and President Carter felt it prudent to do so.

Men who are 18-25 that fail to register with the Selective Service could lose eligibility for student financial aid, job training and government jobs. Immigrant men could lose their eligibility for U.S. citizenship.

The language requiring the draft for women has created quite a bit of controversy.

It comes as the military services welcome women into previously closed ground combat units in keeping with a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter given late last year.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment that would have removed the draft language from the bill, but it was unsuccessful.

The House and Senate must now reconcile their versions of the NDAA in conference before final passage.

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Pentagon to Spend $180 Million to Boost Base Security

base security

By Debbie Gregory.

In a move to boost security and further protect U.S. military bases from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has pledged $180 million in spending over the next three years.

The money will be spent on items such as door reinforcement, improved exits and procedures, improved alarms and access controls, and an “early warning” system to communicate threats and incidents to military personnel within 20 miles of a military facility in 10 minutes or less.

This improves upon the current system which issues a lockdown alert when there is an active shooter situation, but that alert is limited to one facility.

Junaid Hussain, the ISIS figure who released the personal details of more than 1,000 U.S. military members and “who sought to inspire wannabe jihadists to conduct attacks against the DOD”  was killed in a strike last year. Carter said that Hussain was  a central figure in recruiting ISIL sympathizers to carry out lone-wolf attacks in the West.

Carter said, “As we learned from the tragedy in Chattanooga last summer, ISIL has demonstrated a clear intent to target U.S. service members and facilities, or at least to inspire others to do so.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old resident of Hixson, TN went on a murderous rampage at two military facilities in Tennessee, killing four US Marines and injuring several others. He sprayed bullets at a Chattanooga military recruiting center and Navy-Marine training facility, just seven miles apart.

Providing greater force protection for men and women serving today is one way we honor those service members who lost their lives last summer,” Carter said.

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Thornberry’s Bill Would Increase Troop Size


By Debbie Gregory.

Rep. Mac Thornberry has introduced a defense bill that would increase, rather than decrease, the size of the U.S. Army.

Thornberry has floated a brash plan to get around spending limits on the military. His defense budget dramatically boosts spending by $16 billion, pumping that money into the Army and troop pay as well as training, equipment and facilities.

The money would not only stop the Army from drawing down 15,000 soldiers in the coming year, it would add another 5,000.

His bill also aims to add an additional 15,000 troops to the National Guard, bringing the count up to 350,000, and 10,000 to the Reserves, for a total Reserve strength of 205,000. The bill would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the plan is “deeply troubling and flawed” and that Thornberry is gambling with money for troops on the battlefield during a time of war.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders who have said that it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” according to the bill’s summary.

Thornberry said the military is already suffering due to a lack of spending and it is “fundamentally wrong to send servicemembers out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported.”

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In Solidarity With Belgium, Obama Wants ISIS Defeated by End of His Term


By Debbie Gregory.

Even before the horrendous terrorist attacks on Brussels which killed at least 34 people and injured about 170, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that President Obama wants the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) defeated by the end of his term.

Carter said that the president called for the process to be accelerated last fall — about a year after the U.S. first began its counter-ISIS campaign.

President Obama does not want to leave the defeat of ISIS to his successor, and Carter said he’s optimistic.

“I’m confident that we’ll do it. And we have an operational plan now,” Carter said.

Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command gave a more cautious assessment as to when the coalition could take back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS’s respective strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

“I’m not going to put a timeline on it other than to say, you know, we are going to work with our partners on the ground, and the coalition to move as fast as possible,” Ryder said.

The president said that the U.S. will do whatever it can to assist Belgium in bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks, and he urged international unity in defeating ISIS.

The attacks followed the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, an organizer of the November terror attacks in Paris that targeted cafes, restaurants, a concert hall and stadium, killing 130 people and injuring more than 350.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told the media that at the time of his capture, Abdeslam was “ready to restart something in Brussels,” and that he’d established a new network of people around him, and that a large weapons cache had been found.

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Calling All Computer Hackers


By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon is looking for a few good computer hackers. But it may not be what you think.

In an effort to test the security of its web pages and networks, the cyber bug bounty program is aimed at finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will be “inviting responsible hackers to test our cybersecurity,” adding that he believes the program will “strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security.”

According to the Pentagon, this is the first time the federal government has undertaken a program with outsiders attempting to breach the networks. Large companies have done similar things.

Called “Hack the Pentagon,” the program is slated to begin in April. Hackers will target a predetermined system that’s not part of the Department of Defense’s critical operations.

According to Defense Digital Service (DDS) Director Chris Lynch, “Bringing in the best talent, technology and processes from the private sector not only helps us deliver comprehensive, more secure solutions to the DoD, but it also helps us better protect our country.”

The DDS is a Department of Defense unit that was launched last fall as part of the White House’s U.S. Digital Service.

According to officials, Defense Department systems get probed and attacked millions of times each and every day.

“We’re trying to adopt what is a best practice,” Carter said. “It’s a way of crowdsourcing the expertise and having access to good people. … You’d much rather find the vulnerabilities in your networks in that way.”

The new program is being led by the Defense Digital Service, which was created by Carter last November.

Carter said the hackers would get some kind of reward, beyond the distinction of having beached the world’s greatest military’s systems. But he didn’t provide details.

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Military Looking at 1.6% Pay Increase for Troops in 2017


By Debbie Gregory.

Five evolving challenges drive the Pentagon’s planning for the 2017 defense budget request, including Russian aggression in Europe, the rise of China in the Asia Pacific, North Korea, Iran, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, especially the Islamic.

The annual budget request the Pentagon sends to Congress will include a 1.6 percent pay raise for troops in 2017, aimed at reducing military personnel costs, according to defense officials.

The 1.6 percent pay raise will be half of the projected increase in private-sector wages, which is likely to be 3.2 percent.

If approved by Congress, the modest pay increase would mark the fourth consecutive year that military basic pay has not kept pace with the growth in most civilian wages,.

The budget request also includes efforts to ratchet up Tricare health care fees for military families.

Overall personnel costs have begun to decline, partly because of the continued troop drawdown. The current active-duty force is down about 7 percent, standing at 1.33 million, down from 1.43 million in 2011.

Defense officials say that reducing personnel costs is vital in order to ensure funding for high-tech research, weapons modernization and training.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said investments in new technologies include advanced navigation, swarming autonomous vehicles, self-driving networked boats, gun-based missile defense, and an arsenal plane that turns one of the department’s older planes into a flying launch pad for a range of conventional payloads.

Carter added that the Pentagon is investing to build the force of the future, highlighting opening all remaining combat positions to women and strengthening support to military families to improve their quality of life. Monies will also be spent on cyber training, tools and infrastructure, and in space to identify, attribute and negate all threatening actions.

“With so many commercial space endeavors, he added, “we want this domain to be just like the oceans and the Internet: free and safe for all.”

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Fighting a “Social Media” Enemy


By Debbie Gregory.

While social media can be a tool of liberation and freedom, it can also be used for the rapid dissemination of harmful information.

Such is the case with homegrown terrorists who support the Islamic State, commonly referred to as IS, ISIS, and ISIL. According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in some cases, they are “just losers with a keyboard.”

Rather than calling followers to the front lines, ISIS’s social media strategy cultivates them at home in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the result can be devastating, as demonstrated by the violent attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California.

Carter called ISIS the United States’ first “social media enemy.” But, the United States will defeat them, he said.

“We have to be ingenious, and that’s why I’m committed to thinking and working and adapting so that we change our techniques and our avenues of attack so they don’t know we’re taking them by surprise, and we’re doing new things to defeat them,” he said. “We’re going to keep doing that until they’re defeated, which they will be.”

Dismantling a website or Twitter feed is a temporary solution, since it’s so easy to create a new one. But in a step to control abuse, Twitter has clarified its definition of abusive behavior that will result in deleted accounts, banning “hateful conduct” that promotes violence against specific groups.

“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease,” according to the revised rules.

The social media company disclosed the changes in a blog post, following rising criticism it was not doing enough to thwart ISIS’ use of the site for propaganda and recruitment.

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Marine General Tapped as Top Military Adviser

eric smith

By Debbie Gregory.

Although not yet officially announced, it appears that Defense Secretary Ash Carter has selected Brig. Gen. Eric M. Smith, to be his senior military adviser.

Smith, currently the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, is a one-star Marine Corps general who will be replacing Army Lt. Gen. Ronald A. Lewis, the Army three-star who was abruptly fired last month over allegations of an “improper relationship.”

The senior military adviser to the secretary of state is a highly influential military officer, the Pentagon chief’s top military aide, who provides the Defense Department’s civilian leader with key military advice on all matters of policy and strategy.

Carter abruptly fired Lewis on November 13th, and asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate allegations of misconduct.

Carter previously worked with Smith when Carter was the Defense Department’s deputy secretary of defense in 2013 and Smith was senior military adviser to that position.

Brigadier General Smith is from Plano, Texas and entered the Marine Corps in 1987 through the NROTC program at Texas A&M University. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and participated in Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Following a tour as an Officer Selection Officer, he attended the Amphibious Warfare School and then reported to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines for duty as Commanding Officer of Weapons and E Companies. During this tour he participated in Operation Assured Response in Monrovia, Liberia. After a tour as a Marine Officer Instructor at Texas A&M University, he attended the United States Army Command and General Staff Course. From 2001- 2003, he served as the Naval Section Chief at the U.S. Military Group in Caracas, Venezuela.

From 2003 until 2006, he served in the First Marine Division as the Division Operations Officer; Executive Officer of Regimental Combat Team 1; Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; and Assistant Chief of Staff G3. During this time he completed two deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Subsequent assignments included Senior Aide to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Director of the Fires and Maneuver Integration Division at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. From 2009 until 2012 service included tours in the 2nd Marine Division as the Assistant Chief of Staff G3 and Commanding Officer of 8th Marine Regiment; completing a one year deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In June of 2012 he reported for duty as the Director of Capability Development, and in May of 2013 he was assigned as the Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. He assumed duties as Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South on June 29, 2015.

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