The continued decline in weekly jobless claims data exhibits its longest trend since 1970. Strong business confidence is likely to aid the enterprises in recruiting more manpower.
The NYPD ranks at number 36 in the world for budget and is considered quite formidable.
Via MauldinEconomics.com, Last month, Bain & Company issued a magnum opus report called “Labor 2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation and Inequality.” The bad news is that Bain thinks automation will eliminate up to 25% of US jobs by 2030, with the lower-wage tiers getting hit the hardest and earliest. That will be devastating, and it’s not that far away. On a positive note, Bain predicts that the manpower needed to build out the technology will keep us all working until 2030. The Bain team is way more optimistic than I am. But they have their reasons. Why Is This Happening? The answer is demographics and automation. Employers increasingly turn to automation as they can’t find enough workers with the skills they need. The Baby Boom generation is leaving the workforce - although many Boomers are putting off their retirement as long as they can. The additional labor that came from one-time factors like China’s opening up has mostly run its course. At the same time, technology is getting better and less expensive. Source: Bain Macro Trends Group Much of the job automation so far has been mild. It has mostly replaced dangerous factory work or other repetitive, unpleasant manual labor. Often, automation makes human workers more productive instead of replacing them. But that’s about to change as artificial intelligence technology improves. Machines will be able to perform cognitive tasks that once required highly trained, experienced humans. Automation Will Hurt Everyone This trend might look like a good thing to employers. Invest in machines, lay off people, mint more profits. But that’s short-sighted because someone has to buy your products. The laid-off workers won’t spend as much unless they get new jobs. In theory, automation will enable lower prices, which will raise demand and create more jobs. Bain does not think it will happen that way. They foresee up to 40 million permanent job losses in the US. Source: Bain Macro Trends Group Projected Data Implies an Unemployment Rate of 25% In the next 10–12 years, the US economy will swing from a labor shortage to a huge labor surplus. With the labor force presently around 160 million, this implies an unemployment rate around 25%. I find it hard to see how we could call that an economic boom. Bain’s report also points out that wages will go down long before workers get replaced by machines. The mere existence of the new technologies will cap wages as the price of automating vs. employing humans falls. This will increase inequality and curb consumption. The best case is that reduced demand will result in decades of flat or mild growth. The worst? Economic dislocation and inequality lead to social breakdown and more calls for government intervention, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more generous welfare programs. None of those outcomes would be good, but it’s not clear to me how we’ll avoid them. Wealth Tax Is Coming There is a 50-50 chance that a left-wing populist movement will arise in the coming decade. And those odds mean higher taxes. And larger government and more government controls. And a wealth tax. Not an income tax, mind you, but a tax on all your wealth. Now imagine having to “donate” 1% or 2% of your net worth to the IRS every year. It could happen, and if it does, it will make it that much harder to keep your assets growing against other headwinds. I know that many of us think this outcome would be a terrible thing for the country. But it is quite possible that many more voters in this country will disagree with us, and things will change. Remember that the significant majority of Millennials, who will be voting in greater numbers, think that socialism is superior to free-market capitalism. For investors, a wealth tax would mean that merely keeping your wealth, let alone growing it, may get a lot harder in the next decade. * * * Join hundreds of thousands of other readers of Thoughts from the Frontline Sharp macroeconomic analysis, big market calls, and shrewd predictions are all in a week’s work for visionary thinker and acclaimed financial expert John Mauldin. Since 2001, investors have turned to his Thoughts from the Frontline to be informed about what’s really going on in the economy. Join hundreds of thousands of readers, and get it free in your inbox every week.
Manpower Group, Papa John???s and Adobe Systems as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day
Millions of Americans are seeking to capitalize the opportunity by enthusiastically filling in the brackets that could lead to handsome returns from the stocks to be wagered on.
For the first time ever, US corporations have begun reporting pay ratio data. And a movement is building to crack down on companies that don’t share the wealth The CEO of Marathon Petroleum, Gary Heminger, took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than his typical employee in 2017. In other words, one of Marathon’s gas station workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as Heminger grabbed in just one year. Employees of at least five other US firms would have to work even longer – more than a millennium – to catch up with their top bosses. These companies include the auto parts maker Aptiv (CEO-worker pay ratio: 2,526 to 1), the temp agency Manpower (2,483 to 1), amusement park owner Six Flags (1,920 to 1), Del Monte Produce (1,465 to 1), and apparel maker VF (1,353 to 1). Continue reading...
Task and Purpose, James LaPorta, Jared Keller Security, North America Washington, we have a recruting problem. The Marine Forces Reserve can’t keep enough prior-service Marines to stay in to fill reserve billets for the first time in recent years, an unexpected recruiting failure that is rankling the service’s manpower bosses, Task & Purpose has learned. Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the commanding general for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters, Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. last month asking to slash its prior service recruiting (PSR) goal down to 3,200 Marines from its original target of 3,655, according to several sources with knowledge of the correspondence. In an email to Task & Purpose, MCRC spokesman Lt. Col. John Caldwell explained that while the command was on track to meet its target goals for new recruits, officials had identified a projected PSR shortfall due to “an imminent and uncharacteristically high” turnover rate of 46% among the command’s 81 PSR recruiters, well above what one senior military official described as a typical turnover rate of between 33% and 40%. Though that official characterized the request for mission reduction as “not exactly national news,” Kennedy’s letter detailing the shortfall is reportedly making waves within Manpower and Reserve Affairs as a “cultural” rather than operational problem: Why don’t more Marines want to stick with the Corps? “It’s a small story outside the building, but it’s a big story in it,” the official told Task & Purpose under the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the topic. “Marine Corps Recruiting Command formally asking for a mission reduction is basically unheard of.” So far, “the recommended solutions are in staffing and a final decision by M&RA has not been made,” Caldwell told Task & Purpose. But, he added, the service’s overall reserve retention rates “may allow for a mission reduction that will ensure Marine Reserve end-strength requirements are met for [fiscal year] 18.” Read full article
Authored by Carey Wedler via TheAntiMedia.org, Amid the fallout from the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, FL, that left 17 dead, the FBI and local law enforcement received widespread criticism for their inability to prevent the shooting despite multiple warning signs and opportunities. On Tuesday, the FBI admitted these failures to the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing focused on how the bureau handled tips about Nikolas Cruz prior to the massacre. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich met with members of the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, acknowledging that, as the House Judiciary Committee’s press release put it, “opportunities were missed.” That release summarized the takeaways, which have already been highlighted in media reports: “In September 2017, the FBI received an Internet tip from a video blogger about a threatening comment posted to a YouTube video the blogger had posted. The comment stated, ‘I am going to be a professional school shooter,’ and was posted under the username ‘nikolas cruz.’” According to the hearing, an FBI office in Mississippi received that tip, but after officials investigated it, they closed the case because “it lacked personal identifiable information on the user who posted the threatening comment” (the username “nikolas cruz” was evidently not enough for the agents to go on). Apparently, however, the agents could have done more: “The agents tasked with the case could have requested assistance from YouTube to attempt to identify the user who left the comment, but determined that the United States Attorney’s Office in that region was unlikely to agree to such a request.” On another occasion, a friend of the Cruz family called the FBI tip line and, according to Bowdich, provided sufficient information for the bureau to follow up. But as the press release noted, “the call taker did not ask any standard investigative probing questions during the call” despite the caller saying she worried Cruz “going to explode” and that she feared him “getting into a school and just shooting the place up.” The agent who took the call spoke to their supervisor, but that conversation was not documented. Worse, as the press release summarized: “At the time, the call taker was able to connect information about Nikolas Cruz to the September 2017 tip about the threatening YouTube comment. Despite these connected dots, the call taker and supervisor decided to not pursue the matter further and the case was closed.” They also declined to contact local authorities even though the caller told them Parkland police were also aware of the threat Cruz posed. “Better information sharing between federal and local law enforcement may have prevented the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” the summary of the hearing noted. Bowdich admitted “there were failures and that corrective actions will be taken,” including conducting separate reviews of the two above instances and providing better training for call takers working the tip line. Though the FBI is often glorified in entertainment and has received increased support in recent months thanks to its its pursuit of potential corruption within the Trump administration, the government agency has a long history of nefariousness. Though it is successful in using informants to instigate potential terror attacks, then foiling them and taking credit for keeping the public safe, it appears that despite its tip line, widespread surveillance methods, and immense manpower, the agency continues to fail to live up to its reputation.
Warfare History Network Security, A remarkable Second World War story. Remarkably, Onoda was not the last Japanese soldier to come in from World War II. In December 1974, a holdout named Nakamura Teruo was captured on the Indonesian island of Morotai. He was not Japanese, but a Taiwanese conscript more afraid of his Japanese masters than he was of the Indonesians. Consequently, he did not receive a hero’s welcome in Japan, but returned quietly to Taiwan where his arrival highlighted the wartime activities of the so-called Takasago Volunteers. The Japanese empire was a fine place for young Hiro Onoda. In 1939, at age 17, he hired on with a lacquerware company that posted him to Hankow (Wuhan) in Japanese-occupied China. There, he visited suppliers by day and danced the night away with obliging Chinese women. His idyllic world, along with that of countless others, came to an abrupt end in December 1941. Recommended: Stealth vs. North Korea’s Air Defenses: Who Wins? Recommended: America’s Battleships Went to War Against North Korea Recommended: 5 Places World War III Could Start in 2018 Japan opened up a new front in her war against the rest of the world. The Army desperately needed manpower. Onoda was called up in May 1942, and after basic training he was accepted into officer’s candidate school. Upon graduation, he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and selected for special training in a pacification squad, a type of commando unit. Read full article
War is a staple of human history. But which nation had the single most powerful military? It's not an easy question to answer.
steven moore for hbr On February 13, 2018, the New York Times reported that Uber is planning an IPO. Uber’s value is estimated between $48 and $70 billion, despite reporting losses over the last two years. Twitter reported a loss of $79 million before its IPO, yet it commanded a valuation of $24 billion on its IPO date in 2013. For the next four years, it continued to report losses. Similarly, Microsoft paid $26 billion for loss-making LinkedIn in 2016, and Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp in 2014 when it had no revenues or profits. In contrast, industrial giant GE’s stock price has declined by 44% over the last year, as news emerged about its first losses in last 50 years. Why do investors react negatively to financial statement losses for an industrial firm but disregard such losses for a digital firm? In the 2016 book The End of Accounting, NYU Stern Professor Baruch Lev claimed that over the last 100 years or so, financial reports have become less useful in capital market decisions. Recent research lets us make an even bolder claim: accounting earnings are practically irrelevant for digital companies. Our current financial accounting model cannot capture the principle value creator for digital companies: increasing return to scale on intangible investments. This becomes clear when you look at a company’s two most important financial statements: the balance sheet and the income statement. For an industrial company dealing with physical assets and goods, the balance sheet presents a reasonable picture of productive assets and the income statement provides a reasonable approximation of expenses required to create shareholder value. But these statements have little salience for a digital company. Let’s first look at the balance sheet. Assets reported on a balance sheet have to be physical in nature, have to be owned by the company, and be within the company’s confines. However, digital companies often have assets that are intangible in nature, and many have ecosystems that extend beyond the company’s boundaries. Consider Amazon’s Buttons and Alexa powered Echo, Uber’ cars, and Airbnb’s residential properties, for example. Many digital companies have no physical products and have no inventory to report. Therefore, the balance sheets of physical and digital companies present entirely different pictures. Contrast Walmart’ $160 billion of hard assets for its $300 billion valuation against Facebook’s $9 billion dollars of hard assets for its $500 billion valuation. The building blocks for a digital company are research and development, brands, organizational strategy, peer and supplier networks, customer and social relationships, computerized data and software, and human capital. The economic purpose of these intangible investments is no different than that of an industrial company’s factories and buildings. Yet, for the digital company, investments in its building blocks are not capitalized as assets; they are treated as expenses in calculation of profits. So the more a digital company invests in building its future, the higher its reported losses. Investors thus have no choice but to disregard earnings in their investment decisions. Our research has found that intangible investments have surpassed property, plant, and equipment as the main avenue of capital creation for U.S. companies – which further suggests that the balance sheets has become an artifact of regulatory compliance, with little or no utility to investors. The balance sheet has also become less useful for banks’ lending decisions because banks rely on asset coverage to calculate their security. Curiously, companies are allowed to report purchased brands and intangibles as assets on balance sheet, creating distortions between earnings and assets of digital companies that rely on organic growth versus acquisitions. As digital companies become more prominent in the economy, and physical companies become more digital in their operations, income statements too become less meaningful in investors’ decisions. In another study, we show that earnings explains only 2.4% of variation in stock returns for a 21st century company — which means that almost 98% of the variation in companies’ annual stock returns are not explained by their annual earnings. Earnings also seem to matter less for CEO pay: companies are reducing profits-based cash bonuses and shifting toward stock-based CEO compensation, partly to keep opportunistic managers from cutting back on valuable investments as a way to report higher profits. The current financial accounting model fails today’s companies in yet another respect. In a previous HBR article, we argued that, in contrast to physical assets that depreciate with use, intangible assets might enhance with use. Consider Facebook: its value increases as more people use its product because the benefits accrue to an existing user with the arrival of each new user. Its value growth is powered by the network in place, not by increments of operating costs. Therefore the most important aim for digital companies is to achieve market leadership, create network effects, and command a “winner-take-all” profit structure. Facebook’s gross margin of 76% on its 2017 revenues of $46.5 billion illustrates this reaping of rewards—every additional dollar of revenue creates almost equivalent value for shareholders. (You can contrast this to Twitter’s and Yelp’s 2017 revenues of $2.4 billion and $0.8 billion, respectively, as both companies have yet to reach the winner-take-all profit stage.) Yet there is no place in financial accounting for the concept of network effects, or the increase in the value of a resource with its use. This actually implies negative depreciation expense in accounting parlance. So the fundamental idea behind the success of digital companies (the increasing returns to scale) goes against a basic tenet of financial accounting (assets depreciate with use). It’s important to note that companies like professional services firms are also built on intangible assets like human capital. But accounting challenges for modern, digital companies are more severe, as they have increasing returns to scale on their idea-based platforms. For example, Google can service billions more clients with the same office just by adding to its server capacity. But for an audit firm to drastically increase clients, it would likely need more manpower and office space. Furthermore, costs of services for professional services firms, mainly wages, are matched to current revenues. So their income statements accurately reflect surplus created in that period, similar to industrial companies. But for digital companies, the bulk of the cost of building an idea-based platform is reported as an expense in its initial years, when they have little revenue. In later years, when they actually earn revenues on an established platform, they have fewer expenses to report. In both phases, the calculation of earnings does not reflect the true costs of revenues. This brings us to another question: If earnings are so meaningless, then why do investors react positively to rumors concerning a digital company turning profitable? For example, when Twitter reported its first profits, its share prices jumped 20%. The same thing happened to Yelp. One plausible reason could be that this news has an important signaling effect – that the company might have crossed its initial investment phase, that it might now break even, or that it might catapult into a trajectory where it can reap winner-takes-all rewards. This conjecture challenges our overall argument that earnings have no information; another challenge could be that initial losses of digital firms convey risks involved in purchasing their stocks. As balance sheets increasingly fail to reflect the value of the company’s resources and the income statements increasingly fail to capture the value created by the company, CEOs are now wondering what to do. They often ask us: What does preparing and auditing accrual-based financial statements achieve? Wouldn’t digital companies be better off by simply reporting a summary of their cash transactions? What can digital companies do to enhance the informativeness of their financial statements? The answers are not yet clear. It is unlikely that accounting standards will change in the near future to allow digital companies to capitalize their intangible investments. (And even if digital firms capitalized their intangibles, the recalculated profits or assets would come nowhere close to justifying their current market values.) But there are things companies can do to convey their real worth to investors. Our work has found that investors look for certain cues about the success of a company’s business model, such as acquisition of major customers, introduction of new products and services, technology, marketing, and distribution alliances, new subscriber counts, revenue per subscriber numbers, customer dropouts, and geographical distribution of customers. Companies can disclose these items in the Management discussion and analysis section of their annual report. (For example, see Item 7 of Facebook’s annual report.) Any significant, value-relevant development must be immediately disclosed rather than waiting for the annual report. We have demonstrated in other research that disclosures on network advantages, such as web traffic and strategic alliances, are considered highly value-relevant by investors. When combined with these nonfinancial indicators, financial performance measures become more value relevant. In addition, companies can provide detailed information on intangible investments made by the company — even if that information is not vetted by the auditors — by reporting these investments in three categories: customer relationship and marketing, information technology and databases, and talent acquisition and training. To summarize all this, as firms become more digital and spend more on intangible investments, and as digital companies come to represent the new face of corporate America, they will also have to dramatically alter the manner and ways by which they convey their value to outside investors.
Kyle Mizokami Security, In the last seventy years, the Republic of Korea Army (ROK Army) has evolved from a constabulary force into one of the largest, most powerful, technologically advanced armies in the world. The Republic of Korea Army is a large, powerful land force capable defending the border from North Korean invasion. It’s no accident that the North Korean military has evolved asymmetric means such as long range border artillery, light infantry, infiltration forces, and chemical and radiological units to counter the South’s increasing technological superiority. The ROK Army has deterred war for the last seventy years, a benchmark of success for any peacetime army. In the last seventy years, the Republic of Korea Army (ROK Army) has evolved from a constabulary force into one of the largest, most powerful, technologically advanced armies in the world. This remarkable evolution is entirely due to the original 1950–53 invasion and war by neighboring North Korea. This existential threat has never truly gone away, with North Korea consistently threatening—and preparing for—a second, successful invasion. The Republic of Korea Army was established in 1945 by U.S. forces occupying the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. By 1946 the ROK Army had nine “national security regiments,” lightly armed infantry regiments with a total manpower of 25,000 troops. As U.S./Soviet relations worsened, this was increased to 50,000 troops. The invasion of North Korea in June 1950 caught the fledgling ROK Army ill-prepared for a conventional invasion. In particular, the army lacked the anti-tank firepower necessary to deal with the Korean People’s Army’s 105th Armored Brigade, which fielded approximately 120 Soviet-made T-34/85 tanks and SU-76 self-propelled guns. Although a small armored force by World War II standards, the ROK had virtually nothing to counter it with and was rapidly pushed south towards the port town of Busan. What a War Between NATO and Russia Would Look Like. Read full article
Authored by Tom Luongo, That’s exactly what Congressional Democratic Leadership wants done. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have redefined chutzpah to the point of insanity. Not three days after the FBI’s gross malfeasance and incompetence in their mishandling of the Parkland Florida massacre, these cretins have the unmitigated gall to publicly ask for another $300 million to add to the FBI’s budget. But, is that $300 million to deal with real domestic threats to the lives and safety of Americans? No. It’s to combat Russian Trolls. Seriously, I kid you not. This is a classic example of these people having a narrative prepped and scheduled to wrest control of the news cycle regardless of the optics. The goal is to create layer upon layer of fake news replete with fake (read: paid by George Soros) outrage — that’s what RussiaGate is all about. Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian individuals and entities in connection with election tampering is a joke. And not even a good one by Washington D.C. standards. This is the kind of joke that hits the audience like a lead zeppelin and the production crew has to foley in a laugh track for the Netflix special. It’s cruel and disgusting display of lawlessness masquerading as investigation. Schumer and Pelosi need a wedge issue for the mid-terms elections. And absent anything else to wield against Trump - the economy is good, tax cuts are popular, gun control is going nowhere - Russophobia is it. And they will run with this all the way to a crushing defeat at the ballot box. No one in the right mind believes there is anything between Trump, his staff and the Russians. At best all they can conjure up is guilt by association and alternative facts. What is there was the beginnings of contacts designed to open lines of communications between the U.S. and Russian leadership that would fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge to improve relations with Russia. Something that we elected him to do, if you can remember back to 2016. And that is now treason in the minds of grand-standing, hyper-partisan Baby-Boomers like Pelosi and Schumer. The Real Reason This is the modus operandi in all statist politics. If there is government failure it’s not because of incompetence. It’s because the taxpayer is too cheap to give them the right tools for the job. So, give us more money because we are government and have the moral high ground. Deflect blame back onto the taxpayer while using the taxpayer’s money to inculcate their children into believing this tripe. If there is anything this sordid period of U.S. history should teach the average person it is that these people work for themselves and not for us. We elected Trump and the FBI took it upon themselves to doctor evidence, harass and indict his staff, and collude with members of the executive branch and a private organization (DNC, Fusion GPS) to overturn that election. Instead of expanding the FBI’s budget by $300 million, it should immediately be cut by $300 million and everyone involved fired and indicted. If found guilty they should be publicly hung or shot for treason. If Pelosi and Schumer had an ounce of shame in their family tree going back three generations (because both their parents and grandparents share responsibility in their fecklessness) they would sit down and shut up. But, they can’t. Winning in Washington is all that matters, no matter the cost, no matter the optics. Our government is the single biggest organization ever to stride this planet in terms of manpower, real power and consumption of resources. It employs more than 20% of the U.S. workforce, consumes around 25% of GDP (which shouldn’t be added to the calculation in the first place) and makes a mess of everything it touches. So, why would we give an obviously corrupt and politicized FBI another $300 million to combat 80 Russians armed with Tweetdeck and Photoshop? The number is so outrageous it must have a different purpose. The most obvious purpose is to expand surveillance and curtailment of political activities of Americans, not Russians. This is about us, not them. Their real enemy is anyone with enough brain power left to see through their lies. Another scenario is even worse. This $300 million could be spent to intervene overseas through inter-agency operations, allowing the FBI to pay the CIA to expand operations in Russia. Neat trick to get around Trump’s proposed agency budget cuts, no? It also would obfuscate the money path by sticking it behind the wall of ‘current operations’ to stifle FOIA requests. Mr. President, Tear Down this Blue Wall No, what needs to be done here is a clean sweep of all of these departments. What needs to happen is election reform to ensure that Schumer, Pelosi and their backers don’t steal twenty House seats in November through more blatant ballot stuffing like what occurred in Alabama in December. Trump needs to go on the offensive about election fraud, FBI malfeasance and Department of Justice corruption now. He has the opportunity, politically, in 2018 to crush the Democrats and, by extension, parts of the Deep State and Shadow Government into bits. Mueller’s investigation is nothing more than a headline generator to assist a broke and busted DNC fund raise for the mid-terms. Why do you think they’re already floating names like Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney for 2020? This is to give Progressives hope. But you know what hope is right? Hope is the thing you have when you have nothing else. With this latest blatant shill for more taxpayer-funded political witch-hunting, the Democrats expose just how little they have. * * * Sign up for my Patreon Page to support content like this and get the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter every month.
War is a staple of human existence, and typically, the country with the most firepower wins. If a large war broke out today, who has the advantage?
It's been barely a week since Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled indictments of 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities - including one close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin - and already Democrats are asking Congress for exorbitant sums of money to stop Russia's army of internet trolls from "sowing discord" ahead of the US election - even though anybody who reads the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal is by now no doubt well-acquainted with the reality that these suspected trolls aren't really all that interested in US politics. According to Reuters, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are asking Congress for $300 million for the FBI to combat purported Russian disinformation campaigns ahead of the 2018 midterms in November. The big ask comes about a week after leaders of the US intelligence community testified to a Senate committee about the serious of the purported threat. Democrats are asking that the money be included in the next continuing resolution, which must be signed into law before the March 23 deadline to avert another government shutdown. Republican leaders have been noncommittal. Of course, the Reuters story fails to point out that $300 million is 3,000 times more than the Russian agents allegedly spent on Facebook ads ahead of (and after) the November 2016 vote. Citing warnings from intelligence agencies that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming vote, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that the additional funds be included in a bill to fund the government which Congress aims to pass by March 23. "This additional funding should be targeted to ensure the resources and manpower to counter the influence of hostile foreign actors operating in the U.S., especially Russian operatives operating on our social media platforms," Schumer, Pelosi and the top Democrats on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees wrote in a letter. They sent the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Republican aides said the proposal, along with many others, would be considered as the spending legislation is written. Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned a Senate committee last week that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, when control of Congress is up for grabs, much as it did during the 2016 U.S. campaign. And on Friday, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and 13 Russian companies with conspiracy to tamper with the 2016 race. Moscow has repeatedly denied meddling in US politics, calling Mueller's indictments absurd. In addition to this $300 million, Democrats also want a "substantial" increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission to upgrade state election systems, which somebody (maybe the Russians?) tried to infiltrate. Meanwhile, Schumer is also demanding that the White House write its own report on how Russia might try to interfere in the upcoming vote - because apparently a special counsel and three concommitant Congressional investigations isnt' enough. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said on a conference call with reporters that she would back $386 million for states. Members of Congress have repeatedly decried what they see as federal officials’ failure to do more to work with states to protect the election system. Homeland Security said last year that 21 states had experienced initial probing of their systems from Russian hackers and a small number of networks were compromised. But three U.S. intelligence officials said protecting sources of information about the use of cyberspace to meddle in elections are a major obstacle to closer cooperation with state officials because much of the intelligence is so classified that it cannot be shared with anyone who does not have a high-level security clearance. Schumer also said Democrats want Trump administration officials to issue a public report detailing how Russia might interfere in the 2018 U.S. vote. They also want a classified report for state officials and relevant congressional committees. Given the FBI's recent track record of stopping major crimes, we imagine this $300 million - assuming it makes it into the final appropriation - will be put to good use. What do you think?
Authored by Major Danny Sjursen via TimDispatch.com, Think of it as the chicken-or-the-egg question for the ages: Do very real threats to the United States inadvertently benefit the military-industrial complex or does the national security state, by its very nature, conjure up inflated threats to feed that defense machine? Back in 2008, some of us placed our faith, naively enough, in the hands of mainstream Democrats -- specifically, those of a young senator named Barack Obama. He would reverse the war policies of George W. Bush, deescalate the unbridled Global War on Terror, and right the ship of state. How’d that turn out? In retrospect, though couched in a far more sophisticated and peaceable rhetoric than Bush’s, his moves would prove largely cosmetic when it came to this country’s forever wars: a significant reduction in the use of conventional ground troops, but more drones, more commandos, and yet more acts of ill-advised regime change. Don’t get me wrong: as a veteran of two of Washington’s wars, I was glad when “no-drama” Obama decreased the number of boots on the ground in the Middle East. It’s now obvious, however, that he left the basic infrastructure of eternal war firmly in place. Enter The Donald. For all his half-baked tweets, insults, and boasts, as well as his refusal to read anything of substance on issues of war and peace, some of candidate Trump’s foreign policy ideas seemed far saner than those of just about any other politician around or the previous two presidents. I mean, the Iraq War was dumb, and maybe it wasn’t the craziest idea for America’s allies to start thinking about defending themselves, and maybe Washington ought to put some time and diplomatic effort into avoiding a possibly catastrophic clash or set of clashes with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Unfortunately, the White House version of all this proved oh-so-familiar. President Trump’s decision, for instance, to double down on a losing bet in Afghanistan in spite of his “instincts” (and on similar bets in Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere) and his recently published National Defense Strategy (NDS) leave little doubt that he’s surrendered to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, the mainstream interventionists in his administration. In truth, no one should be surprised. A hyper-interventionist, highly militarized foreign policy has defined Washington since at least the days of President Harry Truman -- the first in a long line of hawks to take the White House. In this context, an ever-expanding national security state has always put special effort into meeting the imagined needs (or rather desires) of its various component parts. The result: bloated budgets for which exaggerated threats, if not actual war, remain a necessity. Without the threat of communism in the previous century and terrorism (as well as once again ascendant great powers) in this one, such bloated budgets would be hard to explain. And then, how would the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines get all the weaponized toys they desired? How would Congressional representatives in a post-industrial economy get all those attractive “defense” jobs for their districts and how would the weapons makers get the government cash they crave? The 2-2-1 Threat Picture With that in mind, let’s take a look at the newly released National Defense Strategy document. It offers a striking sense of how, magically enough, the Pentagon’s vision of future global policy manages to provide something for each of its services and their corporate backers. Start with this: the NDS is to government documents what A Nightmare on Elm Street is to family films; it’s meant, that is, to scare the hell out of the casual reader. It makes the claim, for instance, that the global “security environment” has become “more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory.” In other words, be afraid, very afraid. But is it true? Is the world really more volatile now than it was when two nuclear superpowers with enough missiles to destroy the planet several times over faced off in a not-so-Cold War? Admittedly, the NDS does list and elaborate some awesome threats -- and I think I know just where that list came from, too. When I went through the document, I realized that I had heard it all before. Back in 2015, when I taught history at West Point, a prominent departmental alumni -- a lieutenant general by the name of H.R. McMaster who, today, just happens to be President Trump’s national security advisor -- used to drop by occasionally. Back then, he commanded the Army Capabilities Integration Center, which was basically a future-planning outfit that, in its own words, “develops concepts, learns, and integrates capabilities to improve our Army.” In 2015, McMaster gave us history instructors a memorable, impromptu sermon about the threats we’d face when we returned to the regular Army. He referred, if memory serves, to what he labeled the two big threats, two medium threats, and one persistent threat that will continue to haunt our all-American world. In translation: that’s China and Russia, Iran and North Korea, and last but not necessarily least Islamist terrorism. And honestly, if that isn’t a lineup that could get you anything you ever dreamed of in the way of weapons systems and the like, what is? So can we be surprised that, in the age of McMaster and Mattis, the new NDS just happens to lay out the very same lineup of perils? The Two Bigs: “Revisionist Powers” The document kicks off with a pivot of sorts: forget (but not forever!) the ongoing war on terror. The U.S. military is on to even more fearsome things. “Inter-state strategic competition [which, in Pentagonese, means China and Russia], not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” the document insists. Those two countries are -- the Pentagon’s most recent phrase of eternal damnation -- “revisionist powers” that “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.” In other words, they have the staggering audacity to actually want to assert global influence (the very definition of evil in any power other than you-know-who). This section of the NDS reads like a piece of grim nostalgia, a plunge back into the pugnacious language of the long-gone Cold War. It’s meant to be scary reading. It’s not that Russian irredentism or Chinese bellicosity in the South China Sea aren’t matters for concern -- they are -- but do they really add up to a new Cold War? Let’s begin, as the document does, with China, an East Asian menace “pursuing” that most terrifying of all goals, “military modernization” (as, of course, are we), and seeking as well “Indo-Pacific Regional hegemony” (as, of course, has... well, you know which other country). The National Defense Straregy isn’t, however, keen on nuance. It prefers to style China unambiguously as a 10-foot-tall military behemoth. After all, countering a resurgent China in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea ensures a prominent role for the Navy and its own air force of carrier-based naval aviators. In fact, the military’s latest “AirSea Battle” doctrine hinges on a potential conflict in a place that bears a suspicious similarity to the Taiwan Straits (and thanks to the catchy name, the Air Force gets in on the action as well). Consider all of this a formula for more blue-water ships, more advanced fighter planes, and maybe even some extra amphibious Marine Corps brigades. But what about the poor Army? Well, that’s where that other revisionist power, Russia, comes in. After all, Putin’s government is now seeking to “shatter” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. No point, naturally, in reminding anyone that Washington was the country that expanded what was, by definition, an anti-Russian military alliance right up to Russia’s borders, despite promises made as the Soviet Union was collapsing. But this is no time to split hairs, so bottom line: the Russian threat ensures that the Army must send more combat troops to Europe. It may even have to dust off all those old Abrams tanks in order to “deter” Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Ka-ching! (Consider this, by the way, a form of collusion with Russia that Robert Mueller isn’t investigating.) If you look at the Pentagon’s 11 “defense objectives” included in the National Defense Strategy document, you get a sense of just how expansive the one great non-revisionist power on the planet actually is. Yes, the first of those sounds reasonable enough: “defending the homeland from attack.” Skip down to number five, though -- “Maintaining favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere” -- and you’re offered a vision of what an expansionist attitude really is. Although the NDS claims this country is threatened by the rise of Russia or China in just two of these areas (the Indo-Pacific and Europe), it asserts the need for favorable “balances of power” just about everywhere! By definition, that’s an urge for hegemony, not defense! Imagine if China or Russia staked out such claims. An unbiased look at that set of objectives should make anyone (other than a general or an admiral) wonder which is really the “rogue regime” on this planet. The Two Mediums: “Rogue States” Now, on to the next group of threats, Uncle Sam’s favorite bad boys, North Korea and Iran. North Korea, we’re told, is a land of “outlaw actions” and “reckless rhetoric” (never to be compared to the statesmanlike “fire and fury” comments of President Donald Trump). And indeed, Kim Jong-Un’s brutal regime and the nuclear weapons program that goes with it are cause for concern -- but they also turn out to be deeply useful if you want to provide plenty of incentive for the funding of the Air Force’s and the Navy’s trillion dollar nuclear “modernization” effort (that already looks like it may actually cost more like $1.7 trillion). In other words, more nuclear subs, heavy bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, not to speak of the immense cost of recent investments in such missile defense systems as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). In this way, “rogue states” couldn’t be more helpful. Take Iran, which, according to the NDS, “remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.” Hmmm. It’s hard not to wonder why ISIS, Bashar al-Assad’s rump Syria, Saudi terror bombing in Yemen, even old-fashioned al-Qaeda (and its new-fashioned affiliates) don’t give Iran at least a run for its money when it comes to being the clearest-and-presentest danger to the region and to the United States. (And that’s assuming that, in the Middle East, the U.S. hasn’t been the greatest danger to itself. Exhibition one being the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.) No matter. Anti-Iranian hysteria sells fabulously in Washington, so who wouldn’t want to run with it? In fact, the alleged Iranian threat to us is the gift that just keeps giving inside the Beltway. Iran’s nuclear threat -- though there’s no evidence that the Iranians have cheated on the nuclear deal President Obama signed with them in 2015 and that President Trump is so eager to abrogate -- guarantees yet another windfall for all the services. The Army’s air defense programs, for example, should get a long-needed shot in the arm; the Navy will clamor for more Aegis cruisers (with anti-ballistic systems on board); and the Air Force will certainly need yet more bombers for the potential preemptive strike against the nuclear threat that isn’t there. Everyone wins (except perhaps the Iranian people)! One “Persistent Condition”: Terrorism And then, of course, there’s terrorism or, to be more exact, Islamist terrorism, that surefire funder of the twenty-first century. It may no longer officially be the military’s top priority, but the National Defense Strategy assures us that it “remains a persistent condition” as long as terrorists “continue to murder the innocent.” The proper question, though, is: How big of a threat is it? As it turns out, not very big, not for Americans anyway. Any of us are so much more likely to choke to death or die in a bicycle or car accident than lose our lives at the hands of a foreign-born terrorist. And here’s another relevant question: Is the U.S. military actually the correct tool with which to combat persistent terrorism? The answer, it seems, is no. Though U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 75% of the world’s countries in 2017, the number of Islamist threat groups has only risen in certain areas like Africa thickest with those special operators. It turns out that all the advising and assisting, all the training and coaching, has only made matters worse. As for those overstretched forces, relentless deployments are evidently breaking them down as reports indicate that rates of mental distress and suicide are again on the rise among them. Still, here’s the positive part of the NDS’s continuing emphasis on “degrading” terrorist groups and “countering extremism”: it ensures a financial and manpower bonanza for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). In the Obama years, that “elite” set of forces already experienced a leap in numbers to almost 70,000. (By the way, at what point in the escalation game do such troops stop being so “special”?) Since SOCOM, a joint command that’s home to personnel from all the services, hadn’t yet been dealt into this NDS version of largesse, it’s lucky that terrorism and the war on it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which means that SOCOM will never want for funds or stop growing. Guns Versus Butter In 1953, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, a West Point graduate and retired five-star general, gave a speech that couldn’t have been more unexpected from a career military man. He reminded Americans that defense and social spending were always in conflict and that the “guns” versus “butter” tradeoff couldn’t be a more perilous one. Speaking of the growth of the defense budget in that tense Cold War moment, he asserted that: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” Those words still seem salient today. As Americans experience acute income inequality, the rising cost of a college education, and ongoing deindustrialization in the heartland, the country’s runaway spending continues to rise precipitously. The planned 2019 Pentagon budget is now expected to hit a staggering $716 billion -- more than much of the rest of the world’s defense spending combined. The battle between “guns and butter” is still raging in the United States and, if the new NDS is any indicator, the guns are winning. * * * Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast Fortress on a Hill, co-hosted with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henrikson. [Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]
Task and Purpose, Jared Keller Security, North America A few billion here, a few billion there—pretty soon, we’ll be talking about a working aircraft carrier. At the current reliability, Ford’s cats only have “a 9 percent chance of completing the 4-day surge and a 70 percent chance of completing a day of sustained operations as defined in the design reference mission without a critical failure.” That’s on a good day, with a deck full of trained-up sailors; the Ford class was designed to reduce manning requirements but is “sensitive to manpower fluctuations” simply because the next-generation technologies it embraces “are not well understood,” the report states The Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2019 budget includes a hefty chunk of cash for a fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, but the Navy may have to wait a little bit longer to see its dreams of an 11-carrier fleet truly realized. Among the slew of vessels included in the Navy portion of President Donald Trump’s planned boost to the U.S. armed forces budget are three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, and the “first year of full funding” for the now-unnamed CVN 81 aircraft carrier, a younger sibling to the brand-new $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which the Navy (and Trump) commissioned last July. Read full article
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