Federal Grants Brought the Equipment of the War on Terror Home to American Police Departments

“Today, police departments across the country are using more than $1 billion in surplus military equipment handed out since 9/11. A study released last year by Brown University’s Costs of War project found that the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which offers free surplus military equipment to police departments, has transferred at least $1.6 billion worth of equipment to departments across the country since 9/11, compared to just $27 million before the attacks.

That equipment includes mine-resistant, armored-protective vehicles, or MRAPs—armored personnel carriers designed to survive bomb blasts on the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found 1,114 MRAPs currently in the possession of American police departments.

And the 1033 program is dwarfed by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants to cities and states. Bloomberg reported last year that states and metro areas have received $24.3 billion since 2003 from two DHS programs, the State Homeland Security Program and the Urban Areas Security Initiative.”

The Mystery of Afghanistan’s Missing Military Leaders

“As Afghanistan’s rural districts, and then its cities, fell in quick succession to the Taliban, official U.S. talking points settled on a common refrain: Afghanistan’s security forces had all the people and equipment they needed to battle the Taliban, and all that was missing was leadership. President Joe Biden has been saying this since mid-July.”

“”They have modern equipment. They have organizational structure. They have the benefit of the training that we have provided them over 20 years. They have the material, the physical, the tangible advantages; it’s time now to use those advantages … as I’ve said from the beginning, we want to see the will and the political leadership, the military leadership that’s required in the field.”

The following day, the United States began evacuating its embassy in Kabul in preparation for the fall of the country’s last and most important city.”

“So where was the Afghan leadership that U.S. officials kept saying was the key to stemming the Taliban’s advance? The answer is that it didn’t exist. For years, commanders of the Afghan National Army and National Police — the elements most critical to securing the country — failed to lead, often stealing the salaries and fuel that their forces needed to be effective, and more recently failing to even provide their forces with edible food.

What’s more, the United States government has known — and publicly stated—this fact for years. In an official 2008 assessment of the war, the Pentagon stated that Afghanistan’s government “is hampered by … a lack of sufficient leadership and human capital.” Fast forward to 2020, when the DOD’s most recent assessment acknowledged that “improving the quality of leadership at all echelons remains the most challenging issue” for the country’s security forces.”

“the U.S. military’s preferred approach to advising foreign militaries centers on rapport, coaching and mentorship. While this focus on developing specific people has produced some impressive individual leaders — such as General Sami Sadat, whom former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani put in charge of the defense of Kabul before fleeing the country — it failed to reliably produce the quantity of high-quality leaders that the Afghan army and police needed to defend the country.

To do that, the United States and its partners would have had to recognize that the absence of leadership in the Afghan security forces was a symptom. The root cause was the lack of sufficient and effective institutions, especially those required for education, training, and the recruitment and management of human capital. Had we invested in these institutions, the army and police would have had the ability to accrue, develop, and retain good leaders. Unfortunately, as DOD’s own budgeting documents and internal assessments of the war revealed, efforts to develop these institutions were under-prioritized and under-resourced relative to investments in tangible items like helicopters and armored vehicles.”

The generational grief of colonization

“Guam has been a US territory since 1898, and today, the Department of Defense occupies roughly 30 percent of its land — a share that’s only growing.

Most recently, the Pentagon decided to relocate roughly 5,000 Marines from Japan to Guam as part of a larger realignment of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, the ongoing construction of the newest US Marine base, Camp Blaz, is nearing completion, despite major opposition from the island’s local residents. Further aggravating Guam’s native Chamorro people, military officials last summer found human remains and cultural artifacts dating back to the island’s pre-colonial Latte period during the excavation of the land, as they seemingly broke ground on ancient villages.

Guam’s pristine northern coastline has also recently been impacted by the construction of a massive firing range complex, which is an extension of the Marine base. It not only sits atop numerous historical sites, but it’s also dangerously near the island’s primary source of drinking water and would gravely damage the island’s natural resources and biodiversity — including more than 1,000 acres of native limestone forest and species, such as Guam’s slender-toed gecko.

On top of this, and in concert with a pandemic that’s taken the lives of hundreds of native Pacific Islanders, Aguon’s book comes at a time when Indigenous Chamorro people face growing erasure. Many Americans still don’t know that people born on the island are US citizens — citizens who enlist in and die serving the military at a higher rate per capita than anyone in the country yet cannot vote in US elections.”

11 legal experts agree: There’s no good reason for DOJ to drop the Michael Flynn case

“The decision to toss out Flynn’s case is, to put it mildly, controversial. The DOJ is saying, implicitly, that they can’t prove that Flynn committed the crime he already confessed to, or that it’s simply not worth prosecuting even though he already pled guilty. Either scenario is, well, odd.

On the surface, there’s only one reason to drop this case: politics. Trump, and his Attorney General Bill Barr, think the Russia investigation was bogus to begin with. Flynn’s lawyers, for their part, have insisted that the FBI mishandled the investigation and entrapped him.”

“I reached out to eleven legal experts. While there wasn’t a perfect consensus, every expert agreed that the DOJ’s decision was highly unusual at best and an attack on the rule of law at worst.”

Trump Slowly Enlisting More Agencies in ‘Whole of Government’ Response to Virus

““We need the federal government to play its role,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Monday. “The federal government has tremendous capacity.”

Much of that capacity is untapped. Hospital ships are at port. The Department of Veterans Affairs, legally designated as the backup health care system in national emergencies, awaits requests for help. The veterans department has a surplus of beds in many of its 172 hospital centers and a robust number of special rooms for patients with breathing disorders.

The sprawling system of emergency doctors and nurses ready to be deployed by the Department of Health and Human Services — known as the National Disaster Medical System — is also still waiting for orders, other than to staff locations where passengers offloaded from cruise ships are being quarantined.

And the Defense Department, home to 1.3 million active-duty troops and a civilian and military infrastructure that has made planning for national emergencies almost an art form, has yet to be deployed to its fullest capabilities. Senior Pentagon officials say they are ready to assist in any way that is ordered, but they also caution that much of the military’s emergency medical care is designed for combat trauma or natural disasters, and not mass quarantine for infections.

The last time a big infectious disease epidemic emerged, President Barack Obama dispatched nearly 3,000 American troops to Liberia to build hospitals and treatment centers to help fight Ebola. The Pentagon opened a joint command operation at a hotel in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, to coordinate the international effort to combat the disease, and the American military provided engineers to help construct additional treatment facilities and sent people to train health care workers in West Africa to deal with the crisis.”

“Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Tuesday that the Pentagon will make available to the Department of Health and Human Services up to 5 million N95 masks, which can be used to help protect health workers and vulnerable people against the virus. The first 1 million, he said, would be available immediately.

The Pentagon is also making available 2,000 ventilators for hospitals, a number that would likely fall far short of the expected need. “When you look at how many people who may need it”

“Field hospitals and the hospital ships Comfort and Mercy are designed for trauma wounds, not viruses, and doctors would have to be assigned from elsewhere to staff them. The ships, each with a 1,000-bed capacity, have helped in natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, not quarantines.

Defense Department officials said that one possibility for the Comfort would be to station in New York Harbor and absorb non-coronavirus patients in New York, which could free up hospital beds in Manhattan to attend to infectious cases.”

“Oregon sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on March 3 asking for 400,000 N95 masks. For days, it got no response, and only by March 14 received its first shipment, of 36,800 masks. But there was a problem. Most of the equipment they got was well past the expiration date and so “wouldn’t be suitable for surgical settings,” the state said.

New York City also put in a request for more than 2 million masks and only received 76,000; all were expired, said Deanne Criswell, New York City’s emergency management commissioner. The city is also requesting additional beds for intensive care units and medical teams to staff a convention center that may be turned into a temporary medical facility.”

“FEMA officials said the Department of Health and Human Services remains in charge of the federal response, and it too is waiting for orders from the agency before it moves to ramp up assistance.”

“In previous national emergencies, FEMA would be responsible for finding out where to obtain masks, ventilators, hospital beds and tents from either the military or the private sector and ensuring the supplies are delivered to states, according to Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush who oversaw the response to Hurricane Katrina.

“They have relationships and know where to look for things,’ Mr. Chertoff said. “Without that it’s not clear to me who would be doing the coordination and facilitation function.””

Amazon wants Trump, Esper to testify in lawsuit against Pentagon

“For months, Amazon has accused the president of meddling in the process after he publicly weighed in on the contest last year.

As far back as 2016, when he was running for president, Trump pledged that Amazon was “going to have such problems” if he was elected. Last year, Trump contended he would personally look into the contract, claiming other bidders for the deal at the time — including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle — were complaining the process was unfair and favored Amazon.

“The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends,” the Amazon spokesperson said.”