The 5 Biggest Threats Facing The US Military, A Year Into Trump’s Presidency

Analysis
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's (CJTF-HOA) East African Response Force (EARF), fire M240 weapons systems and practice bounding movements on Nov. 1, 2017, in Djibouti, Africa.
U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Erin Piazza

Welcome to THREAT WEEK, a series exploring the most complex challenges facing the U.S. military at home and abroad — and at least one wrinkle you probably haven’t considered — through the eyes of experts we trust to distinguish signal from noise. We'll be running a new assessment every day leading up to President Trump's first State of the Union on Jan. 30.


President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy document, released by the administration in the closing weeks of 2017, is a straightforward approach to national defense. The document boils down to four basic pillars: “protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world.” It’s those pillars that the president will likely embrace once again during his first State of the Union address to both houses of Congress on Jan. 30.

While these may be relatively simple goals, the threats they’re meant to mitigate are anything but. On top of regular threats from terrorists and rogue states, the United States is contending with “great power competition” from the likes of Russia and China. And the immediate strategic objectives — annihilating the threat of Islamic extremism, protecting against weapons of mass destruction, “keeping America safe in the cyber era,” strengthening the border, and taking down transnational criminal organizations — will require the U.S. military to retain “the combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success and to ensure that America’s sons and daughters will never be in a fair fight.”

These obstacles aren’t just foes that can be wiped off the map, but broad, structural challenges that bear down from all sides. Rapid technological advancements by foreign adversaries, the changing nature of modern warfare, and the rising threat of non-state actors have created a security situation where “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” as the National Defense Strategy puts it — all while the DoD’s ability to keep American citizens safe faces domestic challenges, from eroding readiness to Congress’s perpetual budget drama.

Making America Great Again, at home and abroad, is going to be one hell of a fight — and after a turbulent 2017, there are some seriously complicated challenges ahead for the Pentagon to consider as it barrels into another year of ongoing war. And while everyone with cable news and an internet connection can pretend to be a would-be natsec pro, most of the solutions for America’s biggest problems are percolating in the brainpans in a handful of subject matter experts.

To that end, Task & Purpose reached out to consult some of the smartest thinkers on national security we know (and trust) on some of the biggest issues facing the United States in 2018, and we’re publishing their analysis (with a hint of our own) everyday this week in the run-up to President Trump’s first State of the Union address on Jan. 30.

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"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

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(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

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The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

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"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

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Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

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