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Budget Spats Hurt Families Of The Fallen The Most
Whenever Congress and the White House play a game of chicken that results in a government shutdown, the losers are the families of U.S. troops killed in combat and training exercises.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Saturday when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed in California. Normally, each of their families would receive $100,000 death gratuities, but the fatal accident occurred during the government shut down.
“Under the government shutdown, DOD has no authority to pay death benefits to the families of these pilots or anyone else,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White. “Congress needs to pass budget and support our troops and their families.”
Congress appeared close to passing a temporary spending measure on Monday that would reopen the government for a little while, but there is no guarantee that families of fallen and deceased troops won’t have to go through the same ordeal again if the government shuts down later this year.
“I think it’s time that we guaranteed that death benefits will be paid to these families, regardless of the circumstance,” said Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House, a nonprofit for veterans and families in need. “I think that maybe it’s time to enact legislation that guarantees that death benefits be paid, even in the event of a government shutdown.
“No family going through what these families are going through should ever have to wonder whether or not that’s going to happen.”
As of early Monday afternoon, Fisher House had offered to cover death gratuities until the government reopens and is waiting to hear back from the Defense Department, Fisher told Task & Purpose.
During the 2013 shutdown, Fisher House paid a total of 30 families $25,000 each, Fisher said.
Due to privacy issues, the Defense Department did not allow Fisher House to pay the full $100,000 death gratuities to the affected families, said Fisher; he did not know if those issues have been rectified since.
Lawmakers have yet to come together to ensure death benefits be paid to families in the event of another shutdown.
Rep. Betty McCollum has introduced legislation that would prevent the interruption in death gratuities from recurring.
“My bill ensures that our military will get paid and that death benefits will be provided during this and any potential future government shutdown this fiscal year,” McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, told Task & Purpose on Monday. “I hope that House Republicans will bring up this bill quickly and provide our service members and their families with certainty that they will be paid.”
But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry accused Democrats of holding defense spending “hostage” to other issues, such as immigration.
“The military is not a political football,” Thornberry, a Texas Republican, said on Monday. “All around the world they risk their lives for us unconditionally. Our support for them should be unconditional, as well.”
Other groups are also ready to step in during government shutdowns. For bereaved families in need of immediate help, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers 24/7 assistance, said Jen Harlow, TAPS director of casework support services.
“We are here to provide resources for the family, education on what benefits may be affected, support if someone is needing emergency assistance, and – because of the government shutdown – if their benefits aren’t readily available, then we’re able to fill that gap and connect resources for them,” Harlow told Task & Purpose on Monday.
For years, the nonprofit group has helped families of troops who have died in combat, training exercises and suicide. During the shutdown, TAPS will continue to provide families with travel and funeral assistance so they can have a proper service for their loved ones, Harlow said.
TAPS’ 24/7 helpline 1-800-959-8277 is available both to newly bereaved families who need assistance and those who lost a loved one before the shutdown and still need assistance, she said.
“We would recommend any families who have concerns or are very anxious about the government shutdown and how it will affect their benefits or commissary privileges to contact TAPS any time,” Harlow said. “We can walk them through their specific, unique benefits situation to determine how they are affected and the short-term, long-term plan.”
The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.
"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'
"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"
This 400-pound feral hog is one of more than 1,200 that have invaded a Texas Air Force base since 2016
At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.
A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.
In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."
A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.
In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.
Constant deployments broke the Air Force's B-1 fleet. Now the service is facing a major bomber shortfall
On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.