I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about.
I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town’s Memorial Day parade.
I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.
A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.
“Here comes Mema,” my father shouted.
Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn’t need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud’s name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family’s war hero.
And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: “Gold Star Mother.”
I hid behind the tree so I wouldn’t have to meet her gaze. It wasn’t because I didn’t love her or appreciate her. She’d taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade.
What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?
I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.
The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema’s house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen.
Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair.
There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I’d never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.
Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud.
I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: “Lloyd ‘Bud’ Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero.” Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?
The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.
I almost hid the photo because I didn’t want to listen to the same stories I’d heard year after year: “Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn’t go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.
“Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He’d say, ‘Mama, someday I’m going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.’ There wasn’t a better boy in the world!”
Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he’d only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn’t reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.
Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.
“Mema,” I asked, “what’s a hero?” Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.
She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed.
“These are Bud’s things,” she said. “They sent them to us after he died.” She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. “The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy.”
Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn’t know what I would have done if I’d gotten a telegram like that.
“Here’s Bud’s wallet,” she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud’s driver’s license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver’s license I had just received.
A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt.
There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.
I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.
“Who’s this?” I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.
“Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home.” A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.
Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud’s commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema’s house.
“Why’s this here?” I asked.
“Because Bud bought this house for me.” She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.
“He kept his promise all right,” Mema said in a quiet voice I’d never heard before.
For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.
If he’d lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by.
As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.
“I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed,” I said carefully.
“Yes, child,” Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. “Don’t ever forget that.”
I haven’t. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin.
I want them to remember that life isn’t just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that’s what I think when I see the parade pass by now.
And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.
A few years back, the Pentagon committed to an important upgrade of our military’s heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-47F Chinook. That was a smart decision as it kept costs under control while upgrading – in impressive ways – a proven and battle-tested workhorse.
While the helicopter’s distinctive look on the outside hasn’t changed, it is so much more advanced on the inside, with a list of new systems and capabilities that will keep it relevant for the next 40 years.
As the most capable heavy-lift helicopter on the planet, special operators who fly the most dangerous and demanding missions in the Army swear by the Chinook and trust their lives in it.
But over the years, the United States military has developed important weapons systems needed by our warfighters that are heavier than the old Chinook’s lift capacity. These new systems and equipment may need to be lifted into, or out of, battle space – one of the helicopter’s primary duties – so an updated version was planned and engineered.
The result was an effectively brand-new helicopter that will be able to do it all. It can fly farther, faster, higher and in more adverse weather all while lifting more than ever before (10 tons of supplies and equipment) — all at a comparatively low cost.
Simply stated, these upgrades cost a fraction of starting over and developing a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch and they give the U.S. military a new Chinook that can serve its needs for decades to come.
While the special operations variant is being updated, the Army’s variant also needs the same support.
If we don’t update the Army’s Chinook fleet, the military won’t be able to rapidly deploy new equipment to our warfighters and they will have to operate with lower ceilings and lower lift capacity.
Imagine being pinned down and needing support and not being able to get the tools you need because we chose not to update and upgrade our heavy lift helicopter. It makes no sense to tie the hands of future battle commanders or to endanger the lives of soldiers on the front lines by skipping this upgrade.
Yet, it appears that is precisely what the Pentagon is planning to do. Despite having planned to update the Chinook and having a path that is both financially supportable and makes the helicopter an impressive tool for another four decades, the Pentagon has zeroed out the Chinook upgrade program and appears poised to just use the aging fleet for another 40 years. That isn’t practical, realistic or wise.
Our fighting men and women deserve better than this and the American taxpayers deserve better as well. It also is dangerous to simply shut down the production of a platform that will be needed for the next 40 years.
Not only will thousands of high paying high tech manufacturing jobs be killed in the process, but the taxpayer will pay through the nose when the problems created by this shortsighted decision eventually need to be resolved.
Simply put, if the Pentagon opts to start over and develop a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch, the military could have another budget busting project on its hands that doesn’t outperform the upgraded Chinook.
On top of that, it would leave our troops in a real fix for another decade or longer while that development takes place.
Furthermore, if the military eventually opts to re-start the production of the Chinook and fire-up the production lines after having closed them down, it will have needlessly delayed the upgrades to our warfighters and added substantial costs to the taxpayer. Perhaps the Pentagon is trying to save a few bucks in the near term, but that will most likely guarantee significant costs down the road on a future fix for this temporary, shortsighted policy.
Congress has typically been very supportive of the Pentagon’s Chinook upgrade plans and is actually demonstrating rare bipartisan support for continuing the modernization program. For now, it appears it will take legislative action to make sure that the Chinook gets the planned upgrades that our warfighters need and that the American taxpayer deserves, absent any change in policy from the Pentagon.
Historically, the U.S. is almost always wrong in predicting where the next conflict will be. Our military needs a helicopter that can effectively operate across the spectrum of battlefield requirements now – not 10 or 15 years from now.
With China acting increasingly provocative, and Russia attempting to regain its prior military status, now is not the time to skip on upgrading America’s heavy lift helicopter. The Army needs to make the rational, reasonable, and cost-effective decision.
In this highly divided era, it is worth noting that missile defense enjoys strong bipartisan support not only in the halls of Congress but also among the American people. The reason is clear — the world is a dangerous place, and our enemies are pursuing missiles with greater range, greater speed, and greater maneuverability. Iran, North Korea, China, and other nations are developing weapons designed to avoid interception, deploy better decoys, and jam defensive technologies. Missile defense is what stands between those efforts and devastating attacks and destruction, and America’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a highly capable defensive system against intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missile attack.
But because our enemies are constantly trying to improve their ability to attack us, we must constantly improve our ability to defend ourselves. The current GMD system is quite impressive, but if left unimproved, it would become outdated over time and leave us vulnerable to attack. Thankfully, the Department of Defense (DoD) has continued to be as committed to improving GMD as our adversaries are to improving their offensive missile systems.
Unfortunately, the DoD is considering a strategic mistake that may undermine its commitment to missile defense: taking over the engineering, development, and integration of the GMD program from private industry. This would reverse decades of successful American innovation, replace private sector innovation with government bureaucracy, and put our nation and allies at risk.
Historically, the DoD has defined the goals and objectives of various defensive weapon systems — whether it is fighter jets, bombers, missile systems, high tech radars, or the GMD program. But the DoD has not actually done the engineering, development or integration of those technologies. Instead, DoD has harnessed the innovation and know how of America’s best and brightest engineers and rocket scientists to do the actual work of developing, designing, and integrating.
This is the approach that NASA used to go to the moon and bring our astronauts safely home again — something that even 50 years later, no other nation has done. This is the approach that the DoD has used to build the world’s best fighter jets and bombers, the world’s most capable naval ships and submarines, and virtually every other impressive and complex technology that our warfighters use to keep our nation and our allies safe.
DoD’s proposed change would put the government in the position of being the primary engine of innovation. Government is important and performs many crucial functions to our civil society, but innovation is not typically its strong suit. The government has overcome its innovation deficit by harnessing the innovative expertise of America’s best and brightest engineering minds. There is a lot of complex engineering and a great deal of innovative energy that integrates the various component parts of missile defense. There are multiple stage rockets, multiple radars, other tracking systems, and a highly complex “kill vehicle” that includes very precise tracking technology as well as rocket technology to steer the vehicle to the exact spot that will vaporize the incoming warhead. This is no small feat as our system hits and destroys the incoming missile at a closing speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour.
The DoD cannot do this job nearly as well as Boeing, which has been innovating GMD since the program’s inception. Boeing has been primarily responsible for GMD system-level performance and integration, which includes development, fielding, testing, systems engineering, integration, manufacturing, training, operations, and sustainment. The DoD should not willingly undercut and lose that experience and expertise.
To be blunt, if DoD takes over this role, we can almost certainly count on a less robust, less effective missile defense system. The DoD didn’t design and build the planes that won World War II or the nuclear deterrent that has protected America since the 1960s. The DoD didn’t build and design the radars that protect our troops or the ships and submarines that protect our nation. Many private firms responding to the DoD’s request for innovative approaches did all of that. And we didn’t land on the moon because NASA designed and built the Saturn V rocket or the lunar module, or the Apollo space capsule. Again, a large number of private firms did that at the request of NASA and with government defining the mission and goals.
Our national defense strategy has historically combined the goals of government with the innovation of the private sector, and the results have been the world’s most robust and capable defensive system. There is no good reason to abandon what works and replace it with the national defense equivalent of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. With missile threats growing, we can’t make careless mistakes that put millions at risk.
The Pentagon is wisely examining future risks of missile attack and making plans to prevent them. These plans will take at least 10 years to develop — maybe even longer, as everything often does not go as planned. In the meantime, we have our current generation Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) protecting America. While waiting for the next generation missile defense to be developed, we must keep our current generation defenses up-to-date and fully capable.
This is where there is troubling news. To afford the next generation system, the Pentagon is planning to use the funding for updates and improvements to our current GMD system to pay for the development of a future system — effectively limiting our defenses and placing America a greater risk over the next 10 years.
Our enemies are pursuing more capable missiles — greater range, greater speed, greater maneuverability to avoid interception, the ability to deploy better decoys and the ability to jam defensive technologies to effectively blind them. So it is very risky to forgo improvements to our current defenses while we work on a future system that won’t be ready for at least 10 years!
I wholeheartedly endorse the need to develop a next generation missile defense system. But the idea of leaving us exposed to a devastating missile attack in just a few short years and then leaving us even more exposed for the balance of the next decade is completely insane. The Pentagon is effectively saying that it will trust in the goodwill of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and in the kindness of the Communist Chinese dictator, Xi Jinping — who actively hid the truth from the rest of the world and lied about COVID, making the pandemic more deadly and the economic impact devastating. Imagine the insanity of trusting in the goodwill of the Iranian Mullahs? Even Russia, while no longer our chief geopolitical rival, still poses a significant risk.
We must always outpace the evolving threats. Thomas Jefferson wisely warned Americans that the price of liberty is “eternal vigilance.” And George Washington counseled that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” These words should ring loudly in our ears. To fail to be vigilant on something as important as nuclear missile attack is worse than stupid, it is suicidal!
Our layered missile defense includes elements that protect our troops around the globe wherever they may be, and the vast American homeland. GMD defends America’s vast homeland. Patriot, Aegis and THAAD are designed to protect American warfighters, bases and ships from missile attack. Their coverage zone is far too small to effectively protect the vast US homeland.
For example, Aegis as impressive as it is, defends an area that is 14 times smaller than GMD, based on material recently presented by VADM Jon Hill, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. And THAAD’s area defended is less than half that of Aegis and neither gives a second shot intercept opportunity.
To defend the vast American homeland, we have GMD. And that is the system the Pentagon wants to significantly upgrade in about 10 years. Eventually, the plan is for GMD to employ the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). But neglecting our current GMD system — killing off all upgrades, zeroing out all improvements, and refusing to increase the number of interceptors we have available will only benefit our enemies and place Americans at risk until the day the new system is available — at least 10 years from now.
Without the ability to test the system and keep our defenses sharp, we would simply be hoping for good results. Hope isn’t a serious strategy when it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
To be blunt, leaving the current system without incremental upgrades for the next 10 years while announcing a major system upgrade that will hopefully be ready in 10 years, sounds like an invitation to attack before the new system is in place and while the current system has grown outdated and less capable. We shouldn’t be sending that sort of invitation to the world’s dictators.
The President and many in Congress on both sides of the aisle want to upgrade our current defenses and also develop the needed next generation defense. Americans of all political stripes should want to prevent America from suffering a devastating nuclear missile attack.
We need Congress to provide sufficient funding for missile defense so that we can keep our current defenses strong, and so that we can develop even better future defenses to meet the growing risks. To do less than this is reckless and courting disaster. And those who are willing to recklessly court disaster should never again be trusted to serve the American people.
There are certain incidents, indelibly etched on the memory of the American people, that have done much to shape our national character. Some, like 9/11, are still fresh in our minds. Others, like December 7th, 1941, are slipping away into the mists of time as the number of those who heard the dramatic news bulletins or experienced the attacks dwindles towards its inevitable destination.
Further in the past, events like Lexington and Concord, Washington crossing the Delaware, and the Battle of Yorktown have become the thing of myths. No one alive and no one who knew anyone alive at the time they occurred stills walks among us. We must rely on the historical record, embellished though it may at times be, to teach us what happened there.
Why these events are important though is a matter left to our judgment. Things change over time, as can be witnessed in the ongoing struggle to interpret — and reinterpret — the justifications for the American Civil War and the reasons men on both sides chose to fight.
It remains a divisive point in our history. At its end some were led out of bondage and into a form of freedom while others were to a degree subjugated as punishment for having been on the losing side. This was not what history tells us Abraham Lincoln wanted.
The vision of our martyr-president, laid out so eloquently by him in so many manuscripts and speeches still with us, was of a nation where all men and women were free and equal. He wanted a gentle peace, one that brought the people of the Union together once again as brothers and sisters. He made this clear many times, but perhaps best at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers fallen in around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The battle itself is regarded as the turning point of the war. It was certainly a time of heroics, from Chamberlain’s Mainers surge down Little Round Top, out of ammunition and bayonets affixed, to Pickett’s Charge and beyond. It was three horrific days of brother fighting brother yet, less than 100 years later, veterans of the North and veterans of the South came together again in this same place as one, in memory of fallen comrades and looking ahead to a nation once again knitted together by the toil and sweat and allegiance to the same Constitution.
Let us remember this on Memorial Day as we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and of the freedoms for which it stands as a bright light, signaling the preeminence of liberty on our shores to all the world.
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT, A NEW NATION, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY, AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
NOW WE ARE ENGAGED IN A GREAT CIVIL WAR, TESTING WHETHER THAT NATION, OR ANY NATION SO CONCEIVED AND SO DEDICATED, CAN LONG ENDURE. WE ARE MET ON A GREAT BATTLE-FIELD OF THAT WAR. WE HAVE COME TO DEDICATE A PORTION OF THAT FIELD, AS A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO HERE GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THAT NATION MIGHT LIVE. IT IS ALTOGETHER FITTING AND PROPER THAT WE SHOULD DO THIS.
BUT, IN A LARGER SENSE, WE CAN NOT DEDICATE — WE CAN NOT CONSECRATE — WE CAN NOT HALLOW — THIS GROUND. THE BRAVE MEN, LIVING AND DEAD, WHO STRUGGLED HERE, HAVE CONSECRATED IT, FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT. THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE, NOR LONG REMEMBER WHAT WE SAY HERE, BUT IT CAN NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID HERE. IT IS FOR US THE LIVING, RATHER, TO BE DEDICATED HERE TO THE UNFINISHED WORK WHICH THEY WHO FOUGHT HERE HAVE THUS FAR SO NOBLY ADVANCED. IT IS RATHER FOR US TO BE HERE DEDICATED TO THE GREAT TASK REMAINING BEFORE US — THAT FROM THESE HONORED DEAD WE TAKE INCREASED DEVOTION TO THAT CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION — THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN — THAT THIS NATION, UNDER GOD, SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM — AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH.
NOVEMBER 19, 1863
December 7 is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and in our nation’s history. This year marked the 78th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when our nation entered a World War with a devastated naval fleet. After Pearl Harbor, and facing a grave threat, our country came together to rebuild the fleet, which ultimately helped win the war. And just as it has throughout history, the Navy continues to defy the odds and innovate in order to remain the most powerful force on the world’s seas.
More than ever, we need to build for the future and invest in new technologies that will support our warfighters, maximize value for taxpayer dollars, and maintain our nation’s global competitive edge. Equipping our troops and sailors with the best, most advanced capabilities to defend our national interests should always be our objective.
It is in this spirit that the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), was christened on December 7. This is a huge step forward for naval aviation technology and for moving the Navy into the 21st century. Following tradition, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the ship’s namesake and its sponsor, will break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. The ship is a testament to ingenuity and a symbol of American force, but it’s what lies under the hull that truly sets it apart.
The Ford-class carriers are both the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft carriers ever developed. The Ford-class will save the Navy billions over its lifetime thanks to new technologies and efficiencies. One such technology is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is replacing steam catapults on carriers. EMALS is a critical technology leap in modernizing the Fleet to address evolving threats while also meeting the needs of the Navy of the future.
Currently, decades-old steam technology limits the capabilities of our Fleet in terms of which types of aircraft it can launch, and with respect to the integration of future weapons systems. EMALS allows the launch of the full range of aircraft in current and future air wings. Critically, this also includes the ability to launch drones – something our current carriers cannot do, and which could make a life or death difference to troops in harm’s way.
In addition to expanding the types of aircraft that can be launched, EMALS significantly improves the launch rate. With EMALS integrated, the Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will have a sortie generation rate (the number of aircraft able to be launched per day) improved by a full 33 percent over our existing carriers. In other words, EMALS allows our Navy to launch more aircraft more efficiently.
The new technology on Ford-class carriers isn’t just theoretical. It works. These and other critical new technologies on the Ford-class will help the Navy stay ahead of our competition. As China and Russia continue to invest in their militaries, naval technology is at the forefront of their development. In fact, China is currently in the process of building a carrier using its own electromagnetic aircraft launch technology. We cannot afford to fall behind.
India and France have also shown an interest in these technologies. Adoption of EMALS by our allies will provide greater opportunity for coordination and interoperability between our navies in training exercises, disaster relief, humanitarian aid and military missions.
As we wrap up 2019 by remembering Pearl Harbor and celebrating the christening of the Kennedy, we must also ensure our nation’s leaders remain focused on equipping our military forces with the best technologies and capabilities possible for the years and decades ahead. The costs of not doing so are too great. Instead of trying to keep pace with our adversaries, the focus should be on remaining ahead of the curve and the envy of militaries across the world. Let’s put the future in the hands of the men and women who fight for our freedom every day.
It is typical for pundits to criticize the Jones Act claiming that it harms American consumers or benefits others — some even outlandishly claim it benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin. These hypercritical pundits all seem to either overlook or completely ignore a number of critically important facts. In a fact free world, one can come to any conclusion — even silly ones. But when facts and sound reasoning matter, the conclusions must stand up to scrutiny.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act) was passed in the aftermath of World War I to ensure that America had a viable merchant marine that could provide support to our navy and military in times of war or national emergency. It was also intended to ensure that we had a viable ship-building and ship repairing capability — again to support our military. In a world where many foreign nations heavily subsidize their shipping industries as well as their ship building and repairing industries, we must not allow ourselves to become dependent upon other nations to maintain our naval strength.
Contrary to the view that the Jones Act is favored by despots like Vladimir Putin, the act has significant national security benefits for the U.S. Consider the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, who said, “I am an ardent Supporter of the Jones Act. It supports a viable ship building industry, cuts costs and produces 2,500 qualified mariners. Why would I tamper with that?” Likewise, Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zunkunft has said, “You take the Jones Act away, the first thing to go is these shipyards and then the mariners… If we don’t have a U.S. fleet or U.S. shipyard to constitute that fleet how do we prevail?” The military understands that the Jones Act is critically important to our national security.
History teaches an important lesson. In 1812, Napoleon left France with an army of about 700,000 soldiers. Napoleon’s army easily pushed through western Russia and made it all the way to Moscow. But as Napoleon’s supply lines became attenuated, his army lacked the ability to feed and supply itself. Napoleon, despite having the world’s greatest army, was defeated because he couldn’t supply his troops. When he returned to France six months later, his army had only 27,000 soldiers who could defend France and the balance of power in Europe was radically altered for a century.
The lesson we must learn from this is obvious — we may have the best technology and the best trained military on the planet, but if we cannot properly supply them, we too could meet with disaster. The Jones Act is an important part of our military’s ability to supply itself.
In a world in which China and Russia are expanding their naval capabilities, the need for the Jones Act is all the greater. Putin would like a weaker America, not a strong America – with a functioning domestic shipping industry to support our nation’s military strength.
The Jones Act also has a significant impact on homeland security. It limits foreign flagged ships and foreign crewed ships from sailing around America’s inland waterways. Dr. Joan Mileski, head of the Maritime Administration Department at Texas A&M, said, “If we totally lifted the Jones Act, any foreign-flagged ship — with an entirely unknown crew — could go anywhere on our waterways, including up the Mississippi River.” Obviously, this would make our defenses very porous.
Since 9/11/2001, our homeland security approach has been to place most of our security resources and assets at our coasts and at the ports that have the most traffic. But few assets and resources are used along the more than 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the United States. There we rely upon the Jones Act to provide security. American flagged and American crewed ships are trained and keep a watchful eye for signs of terrorism and are thus an important part of our nation’s homeland security layered defense.
Our southern border is 1,989 miles long. The U.S. has more than 25,000 miles of navigable waters. Without the Jones Act, we’ve just made both sides of every river a possible entry point. Michael Herbert, Chief of the Customs & Border Protection’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement has said: “We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall. Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign flagged vessels.”
The truth is the Jones Act is more important today than even when it was first passed. Today, it not only provides America with trained and skilled mariners and a viable ship building and ship repairing capability to support our military and Navy, but it also protects us from terrorists and other nefarious international bad actors.
Imagine if Chinese government owned ships could operate freely up and down the Mississippi River and remain there throughout the year. They would use that access to spy and intercept even civilian communications.
Adam Smith, the father of free market economics, in his seminal work — The Wealth of Nations — strongly supported and defended the British Navigation Act, which was a cabotage law much like America’s Merchant Marine Act. His rationale included, “The defense of Great Britain, for example, depends very much on the number of its sailors and shipping.”
The Jones Act protects America. This is a verifiable fact. Any alleged costs are amorphous and difficult to verify or prove. But what is not difficult to prove is that America’s security is benefited and protected by the Jones Act. The world is a dangerous place, filled with adversaries that will be all too happy if the Jones Act is weakened. It is time tested and proven.
By John Heubusch • The National Review
President Trump made headlines last week by walking out of his Hanoi summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The move came as a surprise, and many news outlets around the world have decried the summit. But Trump’s move recalled Ronald Reagan’s decision to walk out of an even higher-stakes summit, his 1986 Reykjavik meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev.
The two summits bear some similarities. Both were second rounds of negotiations with a foreign power to mitigate that power’s nuclear threat. Both presidents faced a Communist leader abroad and pressure for a deal back home. And both presidents made the right call in walking out to preserve their position of strength.
During the Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev pressed Reagan to scrap research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The initiative was a crucial point for Reagan. It served as the genesis of the effort that to this day provides some limited capability for the United States to protect itself from foreign ballistic-missile attack. The program had been allowed under previous treaties, and so Reagan refused Gorbachev’s demand, ending the summit. Afterward, Reagan explained his thinking to the American people: “I went to Reykjavik determined that everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future.” SDI was an integral part of that future, so Reagan stood firm.
Similarly, Kim Jong-un pressed Trump to lessen sanctions on North Korea as a precondition for any denuclearization. The United Nations–implemented sanctions had been key to pushing North Korea to the negotiating table in the first place, and Trump rightly recognized that they were his key source of leverage. Without a firm, enforceable process in place for denuclearization, history proves there can be no assurance that North Korea will stay true to its word. Weakening or scrapping the sanctions before that process has begun would be an enormous misstep. So Trump walked.
The pre-Trump policy of continuous sanctions with no communication or negotiation is no longer an option, because Trump has given Kim legitimacy by opening negotiations in a way Reagan likely never would have. But times and circumstances have changed. Despite leaving the negotiating table, Trump has maintained a cordial tone toward Chairman Kim in the days since the summit. He is clearly interested in cultivating a relationship for the future. And in the coming months, Trump would do well to continue drawing from the Reagan playbook.
To that end, his most pressing order of business is making goals and possible outcomes clear to Kim. Reagan laid out his goals in lengthy correspondence with Gorbachev. His “zero option” meant the elimination of intermediate-range missiles in Europe. He also refused to concede “our freedom and our future,” which to him included SDI. Trump needs to make his goals just as clear to Kim: Our future safety is not on the table, and denuclearization is a nonnegotiable first step to easing relations between North Korea and the rest of the world. While Trump touts his negotiating skills, he must have clear aims and be extensively prepared before any further summits occur.
Second, Trump must play hardball. Reagan imposed tough sanctions on the U.S.S.R. and commenced a massive military buildup, both for national-defense purposes and to further pressure the Russian economy and government. The mounting financial and political strain contributed both to Gorbachev’s willingness to negotiate and to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse. Trump should increase sanctions and work hard to bring China and Russia on board with them for the same reasons. If it causes Kim to negotiate toward denuclearization, great. If it causes the regime to collapse, even better.
Finally, Reagan was willing to return to the negotiating table, even if he’d previously walked away without a deal. After Reykjavik, he said “we prefer no agreement than to bring home a bad agreement to the United States.” That’s why he was able to negotiate directly with Gorbachev three times after the summit collapsed and still win significant concessions. Trump, his top negotiators, and our legislators should likewise remain open to future talks. As long as America maintains its position of strength and is willing to walk away from a bad deal, we are unlikely to lose.
Trump’s talks with Pyongyang present a historic opportunity, but they are not without risk. If the president can maintain a Reaganesque resolve and continue to apply maximum pressure on the Kim regime, he may still be able to ensure a more prosperous future for North Korea and improved security for the people of the United States.
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Chinese military forces have deployed multiple units armed with anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles that can destroy scores of American satellites, according to a Pentagon intelligence report.
The new report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, known as NASIC, revealed that People’s Liberation Army units have begun training with the satellite-killing missiles.
The report warns that China, along with Russia, has developed an array of space arms designed to challenge U.S. space superiority. The report was made public last month.
The report for first time reveals that Chinese military units already are conducting training for space attacks with anti-satellites missiles. Russia also is developing a new anti-satellite missile the report said. Continue reading
The U.S. Air Force just changed the game when it comes to global air mobility by signing off on first delivery for Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker. The first KC-46 Pegasus Tankers will begin arriving at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas in the coming weeks, where Airmen will begin training for their future mission.
The success and safety of our military forces responding to constantly evolving threats and crises around the world relies on our Air Force’s global reach, giving us the ability to hit targets and deliver troops and supplies anywhere in the world. Our global reach and that of our allies would not be possible without America’s superior air refueling capability — a capability that is limited and jeopardized by our current fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers.
The aerial refueling tankers our Air Force operates now are mostly KC-135s that date back a half-century. The fleet’s last real update was the KC-10 procurement over thirty years ago. These aircraft face serious limitations in responding to modern threats. Continue reading
By Patrick Tucker • Defense One
LAS VEGAS — The Russian military is inside hundreds of thousands of routers owned by Americans and others around the world, a top U.S. cybersecurity official said on Friday. The presence of Russian malware on the routers, first revealed in May, could enable the Kremlin to steal individuals’ data or enlist their devices in a massive attack intended to disrupt global economic activity or target institutions.
On May 27, Justice Department officials asked Americans to reboot their routers to stop the attack. Afterwards, the world largely forgot about it. That’s a mistake, said Rob Joyce, senior advisor to the director of the National Security Agency and the former White House cybersecurity coordinator.
“The Russian malware is still there,” said Joyce.
On May 8, cybersecurity company Talos observed a spike in mostly Ukrainian victims of a new malware attack. Dubbed VPN Filter, the malware used code similar to the BlackEnergy tool that Russian forces have used (in modified form) to attack Ukrainian infrastructure. The U.S. intelligence community believes the culprits are the hackers known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, Russian military operatives who were behind information attacks against Continue reading
By Conor Beck • Washington Free Beacon
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii Wednesday night to mark the arrival of what is expected to be the remains of 55 American service members who died during the Korean War.
“We are gathered here at this honorable ceremony to receive 55 flag-draped cases which we trust include the remains of American heroes who fell in the Korean War,” Pence said at the beginning of his remarks. “Some have called the Korean War the forgotten War, but today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today our boys are coming home.”
The North Korean government claims the remains of 55 fallen service members were returned, but the U.S. will now begin the work of identifying the remains. The gesture comes after the historic summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. After the summit, Trump announced North Korea would return the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers from the Korean War back to the United States.
The U.S. Air Force is closing in on awarding a contract for its new two-seat jet trainer. The average age of the existing trainer fleet is more than 50 years old. So this upgrade is none too soon. The new trainer, dubbed the T-X, must meet a long list of requirements to help prepare American pilots for a wide variety of complex missions over the next 50 years — including preparing our pilots to fly cutting edge jet fighters like the F-18 Super Hornet, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II.
Two of the three major competitors are foreign firms — from Italy and South Korea. They have partnered with two different American companies to bump up their ties to America.
The one American firm, Boeing, is America’s most well-known aerospace company, and has designed and built from the ground up a new jet to specifically meet all of the Air Force’s training requirements and insure that costs — especially operational costs over the life of the jet — are low. Continue reading
By Peggy Grande • Fox News
Now that his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is back on for June 12 in Singapore, President Trump will benefit from some important lessons he appears to have learned by studying the success of President Reagan in dealing with the Soviet Union’s final leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
This should give all Americans comfort.
Few predicted Ronald Reagan would win the Cold War without firing a shot. In the same way, few imagined that Donald Trump – who, like Reagan, entered the White House with little foreign affairs experience – would bring North Korea to the negotiating table to discuss the elimination of its nuclear arsenal and future nuclear capabilities.
We know President Reagan succeeded. We hope President Trump will as well.
As he prepares for his summit with Kim Jong Un, President Trump should heed the Russian proverb that President Reagan embraced in his nuclear disarmament negotiations with Gorbachev: “Doveryai, no proveryai,” which means “trust, but verify.”
Just as promises made by the Soviet leader were meaningless without verification, the same is true with North Korea. Kim Jong Un, along with his father and grandfather who ruled North Korea before him, has a long record of broken promises.
President Trump knows from his extensive career in business that without binding agreements, clear penalties for violations and established methods for verification, the words of the North Korean leader are worthless.
President Trump is also wisely continuing President Reagan’s belief in “peace through strength” – both in military capability and in economic capacity. President Trump knows the sanctions have been working to apply pressure to a fragile and failing North Korean economy, which puts him in a position of strength at the negotiating table.
In fact, the seal of the president of the United States has an eagle in the center clutching the olive branch of peace in one talon – and the arrows of war in the other. President Reagan in the 1980s and President Trump now extends an olive branch of peace first, with the hope that the arrows of war will not be needed. Yet both presidents have been unafraid to make their counterparts aware that America has the capacity, and the will, to defend itself if provoked.
At the Reykjavick, Iceland summit on nuclear disarmament, President Reagan eventually walked away from the negotiating table because Gorbachev wanted America to put an end to its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – the missile defense program some dubbed as “Star Wars.”
Stating that SDI was non-negotiable for the U.S., President Reagan refused further discussion and got up and walked out. While the summit was deemed a failure by many in the media because no agreement was reached on that day, President Reagan’s strong stance moved talks forward to a point where they could be resumed a short time later.
The groundwork was laid at the summit for much of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed in 1987 by Reagan and Gorbachev, eliminating an entire class of nuclear weapons.
President Reagan was committed to putting America’s interests first and would rather have no deal than a bad deal that weakened the United States. With his America First foreign policy, President Trump clearly is taking a similar position.
President Reagan knew the importance and effectiveness of face-to-face diplomacy and believed there was nothing that couldn’t be resolved if two leaders sat down across the table from each other to discuss their differences, as well as their shared goals. President Trump is committed to having a face-to-face conversation with Kim Jong Un, which will be a diplomatic milestone with global importance.
History is judging Ronald Reagan as one of our greatest presidents, while Donald Trump is still writing the record of his presidency by which history will ultimately judge him. But by looking to the diplomatic and negotiating success of President Reagan and following in his footsteps, President Trump has wisely chosen an outstanding leader to emulate.
Americans understand the importance of arming our military with the best equipment and information. Whether it is a fighter jet, armored vehicle or an information platform, Americans want the brave men and women who defend our nation and our freedom to have every possible advantage in any conflict they may face.
Information technology is finally getting the attention it deserves. The Defense Department is working on an important effort to update and modernize its cloud information capabilities. The program, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is designed, for example, to make sure that when our special forces raid a compound, they can receive and transmit updated information in real time. They could get almost immediate translations of documents that are found in the compound which could warn them of immediate dangers and save lives because of the speed with which they would receive vital information and analysis.
JEDI holds tremendous potential to give our war fighters real time access to not only data but high tech analytics. Just as we want our soldiers to have the best equipment, we also want them Continue reading