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Why Its Time to Stop Starving the Safety of our Military !

I learned this morning that yesterday a C-2 aircraft off the U.S.  Ronald Reagan crashed with 11 service members aboard. Fortunately 8 passengers have been rescued and are safely aboard the carrier. This of course does not decrease our concern for the 3 still missing or their families. Unfortunately this is not the only incident to hit our military this year, things have been especially bad for our Navy, and in the Pacific.

As a nation we ask for more from our military than from any other group. The very least we owe them in return, is to provide them with the resources to do their jobs effectively and safely.  This simply is not happening !

The cause of the latest crash is still under investigation, and that investigation needs to be complete and deliberate, not fast. However if you look at such incidents they nearly always come down to two things. Maintenance and Readiness.

 

Maintenance: One of the biggest challenges here is the ridiculous age of the Navy’s capital ships and planes. Granted the Reagan is a newer carriers. Yet the plane may well not be.  Even if both were among the newest we have, they still have to be maintained. Doing so requires both spare parts and trained personnel. Both require money, there is no substitute !

Readiness: For our military to do the job we ask, the way we ask, they must train,train, train. This requires fuel, ammunition and other consumable items in very large quantities. This again requires money.

The counter arguments,

We spend more than other countries already: Partly true and partly not. Yes in dollars and cents we spend way more. However if you look at it from a perspective of how many more people, and how many more places around the world we protect we do not. We spend more, because we are responsible for more.

Why can’t we just cut waste in the existing Defense Budget ?   Fair question. In fact the defense budget is too large and too complicated for me to argue that there is not waste there somewhere. Neither can we just reallocate money from elsewhere in the budget, and here’s why. The proposed fiscal 2018 Defense Budget is for a total of about $574 billion. Out of that $223.3 billion goes for Operations and Maintenance. Maintenance is one of the issues we are discussing. Operations includes not only keeping us safe, but fuel, ammunition, etc. required to maintain readiness, our other concern.

Another $141.6 billion goes directly to personnel (both military and civilian.) Many in the 7th Fleet where most of this year’s incidents occurred, do not possess the proper certifications for the jobs they are being asked to do. This alone is unsafe. A large reason this is happening is military personnel have been reduced since sequestration. Watch standers at too many posts are have been working longer than normal shifts. This naturally and predictably leaves less time for the qualification/certification process. Today’s Navy requires a higher degree of skill than ever before. Maintaining ships and aircraft that are serving well beyond their designed lifetime, requires mechanics with the training and experience to keep them serving safely. Spare parts must be quickly available when and where they are needed, or readiness goes down hill. All of which requires many times more money than simply “scrubbing” the current defense budget will provide.

Sequestration is one of the worst things to happen to our military, especially the Navy in our lifetime. We as a nation at war must do better. The safety of those we call on to defend us demands it !

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Are Missiles North Korea’s Greatest Threat ?

Earlier today North Korea launched a missile across northern Japan. this was the second time they took this very provocative action in recent weeks. This launch has understandably led to a high degree of concern among the U.S. and our allies. The U.N. Security Council has been called into emergency session to deal with this latest development.

Such a missile launch from one of the most rogue nations in the world is understandably alarming. However missiles even as they get better are not North Korea’s only threat, and not necessarily their worse threat. we must at least consider the possibility that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is more of an expensive diversion than their greatest threat. While the threat from their missiles is very real, we cannot allow ourselves to be so distracted that we ignore other very real threats.

So what else should we be concerned about ?

 

North Korea’s Leadership– For three generations of North Korean dictators things have gone like this. North Korea goes publically ambitious with its nuclear program. The international community “gasps.” Then things go back and forth for awhile. then the international community in a sort of diplomatic blackmail provides humanitarian relief and things calm down for a bit. The current problem is that this has allowed the North Korean program to get better than the international community can tolerate. What makes this worse is the North Korean leadership has routinely demonstrated that they have no interest in rules set by the rest of the world. The international community’s treatment of North Korea throughout its history has left it acting like a spoiled brat trying to figure out what to do when it finally has to act like an adult. North Korea’s leadership seldom shows any signs of being able to grasp logic or common sense. In fact if North Korea were a person not a country it probably would be declared mentally incompetent.

 

Terrorism- It is well known and has been for years that North Korea is  major state sponsor of terrorism. They not only have contacts with a wide range of terrorist groups all over the world, but these contacts and groups owe them  a lot of favors. One of the key vulnerabilities of this factor is they have access to a large pool of operatives who do not look Asian. This can make tracking their operatives problematic. Another aspect of this vulnerability is that terrorists are cheaper than missiles, and they may be able to leverage off operatives of their terrorist partners than could well be already in the United States !

 

Cyber-Attack–  You could easily argue that cyber-attack is just another form of terrorism. For instance cyber-attack like terrorism is cheaper than missiles. From North Korea’s perspective it also has some of the same “hands off” advantages they get from terrorism. However the advanced state of modern cyber-warfare leads me to consider it as a separate threat. Much of our nation infrastructure depends on electronic control and monitoring circuits collectively referred to as SCADA. Under normal circumstances these circuits make things easier and even safer. Such sensors etc. allow non-stop monitoring of what is going on in even the most remote locations. Unfortunately that makes it easier for North Korea or anybody else to remotely attack our utilities and other infrastructure, even in the most far off locations. Even worse the entire attack can be carried out from anywhere in the world. Not that SCADA cannot be protected, it can be and is. Still it is a vulnerability that bears watching on a constant basis !

 

This is not a time for panic, but for vigilance. Nothing I have outlined here is beyond being countered. The threat from north Korea has not been greater since the 1950’s ! However if we pay attention to our surroundings, and what is going on in the world we can get through this.

 

ROBERT A. CRUTCHFIELD  is an internationally known bi-vocational minister based in Katy, Texas. In 1986 the governor of Texas awarded him the rank of Admiral, Texas Navy. He served in the Military Police Corps-Texas State Guard, and in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary before becoming a Board Member with the U.S. Selective Service System. Following 9/11 he was named to the Homeland Security/National defense Task Force of the Republican Party of Harris County. The RPHC is one of the largest county Republican party’s in the nation. He later served as Chaplain of the Katy Fire and EMS Department.

Why The Trump Administration Must Reverse Dangerous Coast Guard Cuts

Word has been rampant this week that the Office of Management and Budget is considering massive cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard’s already anemic budget. This is one of the worst ideas any administration from either party has come up with in decades, and there are several reasons why. In fact the idea is so bad, that word barely broke before a group of 23 U.S. Senators ( almost 25%) signed a letter asking that the cuts be reversed. Such a step by so many senators so early in the process is almost unheard of ! In their letter they stated in part,

““We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment,”

Some of the specific reasons this is such a bad idea include,

The Coast Guard is a vital cost effective multi mission agency. The Coast Guard has 11 statutory missions mandated by Congress, This missions span National Defense, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security. The fact is most of the time these missions are conducted by the same people facilities and equipment simultaneously. It is the Coast Guard’s ability to multi-task vital missions which makes it so cost effective. It also helps explain why further cuts would be so disastrous.

The Coast Guard’s capital ships and planes are rusting away. The Coast Guard’s Acquisition Budget alone has already been cut 40% between 2010 and 2015. Much like its much larger cousin the U.S. Navy too many of its ships are already serving past the end of their service life even after maintenance designed to extend their service life. This endangers the life of every Coast guard member that we ask to serve us in these outdated ships and even buildings. In their letter the group of 23 senators even point out that these cuts will likely lead to an expansion of the “ice breaker gap.” In others words there will be an eeven longer period of years where the U.S. will have NO large ice breaking capability. The need for this function is increasing with the reduction in the polar ice cap, not reducing and certainly not going away.

Moves us backward on Immigration Control Our current president campaigned hard on reducing illegal immigration. In fact part of the supposed rational behind these cuts is to finance the wall at the U.S. Mexico border. However these cuts show a severe lack of understanding, or commitment on the issue of immigration. The Coast Guard including the port Security Teams etc. have a leading role in preventing illegal immigration.  Hardening the target against illegal immigration by building a wall at the U.S./Mexico border will force those involved to attempt to find another way in. This makes the Coast guard’s contributions in the area of immigration control more vital than ever, not less so. In fact a strong argument can be made that the border wall, and Coast guard anti-immigration efforts are and must be part of the same strategy and must both be funded accordingly.

Puts Drugs on the Streets. The Coast guard is thought of as a sea going service, and for good reason. However there is not a street in America it does not protect. The service’s drug interdiction efforts alone take tons of drugs of American streets every year. Cut the funding and those drugs will go straight back on our streets. The link between the international drug cartels and funding international terrorism also cannot be ignored. By cutting the Coast Guard’s budget not only do we put drugs on our streets, but bring better funding to groups around the world who would bring violence to our door steps !

The Coast Guard is an easy target for budget cuts because most Americans give it little thought. That is partly intentional. The better the Coast Guard performs its 11 statutory missions the less we should have to thing about it. However because of the reasons above an others we need to defend OUR Coast Guard against those who would slash its budget after it has already been slashed so much, so many times.

 

Robert A. Crutchfield was granted the rank of Admiral, Texas Navy by the Governor of Texas in 1986 at the age of 24. He served as a staff officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary from 1990-1995.  He has also served as Chairman of the Republican Party of the Sixth State Senate District of Texas. Later he was a local board member with the U.S. Selective Service System. He also is a Life Member of the Navy League of the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith-Based Organizations Host Disaster Recovery Volunteers

Check out this article from our sister blog about how Faith Based Organizations are assisting long term disaster recovery in Alaska.

Faith That Inspires Action

ANCHORAGE, AK (FEMA) – Faith-based organizations in Anchorage and Fairbanks are welcoming hundreds of volunteers with open arms, providing them food, transportation and shelter as they prepare for the final leg of a journey to help rebuild communities hit by last year’s flooding and ice jams along the Yukon River. Armed with a wide range of construction skills, men and women from across the country began arriving in Fairbanks on the first of June and more arrived in Anchorage starting the first of July.

The host groups are partnering with the State of Alaska and Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure the volunteers have a local base where they receive training and orientation before heading out to the affected communities. Many are returning to continue the repair efforts they supported last summer.

“I feel really good about the volunteers coming in,” said FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison Susie Calvert. “The churches…

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10th Annual Church Security Conference

Check out this interesting article from our sister blog Faith That Inspires Action !

Faith That Inspires Action

FRISCO, Texas, May 27, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The National Organization of Church Security & Safety Management (NOCSSM™) will present its Tenth Annual Church Security Conference to be held at New Life Church in Colorado Springs on August 8-9, 2014.

Session highlights:
“Initial Responder™” Tactics (What to do until SWAT gets there?), Pastoral Protection, Close Quarters Combat, Active Shooters, Armed Security Teams, Control and restraint techniques, Childcare Security, Mission Trip Security — these are all buzzwords that every church is dealing with. Church leaders are asking, “What are the liabilities? What are other churches doing to address these issues?” and “What is legal in my state?”

“Each year we try to have new speakers and new subject matter to add to our attendee’s security skill set.” says Chuck Chadwick (President of NOCSSM),”This year is no different. It is hard for me to believe that we have been helping to protect our church…

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Man Federally Charged w/ Pointing Laser at LASD Helicopter

Los Angeles – A Los Angeles man has been arraigned in federal court on charges that allege he pointed the beam of a laser at a law enforcement helicopter, announced Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and AndréBirotteJr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles. 


George Sam Elali, 31, of the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles, was named in a grand jury indictment filed on February 14. Elali is charged with one count of aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft, a felony offense that carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. 

On the evening of November 17, 2013, tactical flight deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were conducting patrol when their helicopter was struck with the beam of a laser, according to investigators. The pilots reported that their aircraft was struck multiple times with a green laser that illuminated the helicopter’s cockpit. Following the alleged laser attacks, the deputies successfully tracked the source of the laser to a suspect located in the backyard of a residence in Los Angeles. Police on the ground responded to the residence and took Elali into custody on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft. Elali subsequently posted bail and was released from local custody while a federal investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continued. That investigation resulted in the indictment issued by a grand jury. The state charges against Elali have been dismissed. 

Elali was arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. 

In addition to a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, Elali is also subject to civil penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. Elali is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. 

Reports of laser attacks have increased dramatically in recent years as laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. In addition, technology has advanced the effectiveness of laser devices, with a resulting increase in the potential safety hazards for pilots operating aircraft and their passengers and crew. Such safety hazards include temporary distraction and impaired vision, which is particularly dangerous during the critical takeoff or landing phase of flight. In addition, pilots have reported the need to abort landings or relinquish control of the aircraft to another pilot as a result of laser attacks. California consistently leads the nation in reports of laser attacks. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, which compiles statistics on the number of laser strikes in the United States, 3,960 laser attacks were reported nationwide in 2013.

The Houston Fire Department Urges Citizens to use Safety when using Heating Devices and Driving

According to the National Weather Service the City can expect to see quickly falling temperatures mixed with precipitation today into Friday. The Houston Fire Department urges citizens to be careful and follow some simple safety tips when using space heaters, fireplaces and other supplemental heating sources; as well as driving on possible icy roads.

Citizens should always keep in mind that: Space Heaters Need Space. The Houston Fire Department recommends the following safety tips when using supplemental heating sources:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm.
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater – Children knock over space heaters especially if they are placed on top of wobbly tables or stools and near where the children play. Children may also stick paper or toys in the grates of the space heaters especially gas space heaters.
  • Keep all combustible materials, including yourself at least 3 feet from the heater
  • Open face heaters should have a screen
  • Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Vented Gas / Fired Heating Appliances Tips – Central heating units, floor furnaces, recessed wall heaters, and vented space heaters.

Inspect annually by a qualified service technician.

  • Do not use these type units without a proper vent pipe. Vent pipes must exhaust to the outside!
  • If your flame is not blue, it is not burning properly. It is producing Carbon Monoxide,which can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. Turn it off.
  • Use flexible metal tubing with threaded ends to connect the heater to the gas valve. There should be a cutoff valve for the heater at the wall. Never use a rubber hose to connect a space heater to the gas valve!
  • Use soapy water to check all connections and valves for leaks. NEVER use a match to test for a gas leak!
  • Look for the American Gas Association label and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper usage.

Electric Heaters Tips

  • Never overload outlets or breakers
  • Don’t use extension cords for the heater. If the cord is hot to the touch, turn off the heater and unplug it!
  • Electric heaters permanently installed in the wall or ceiling should have lint and dust removed regularly. Lint and dust will burn!
  • Fireplace safety from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA)

According to the NFPA While fireplaces often conjure up images of warmth and comfort, they also represent a source of home heating fires. Creosote – a sticky, oily, combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely – rises into the chimney as a liquid and deposits on the chimney walls, and plays a role in nearly one-fourth (23%) of all home heating fires each year.

Just like a space heater, keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, and create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires.

  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room
  • Never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly when children are present.
  • Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, and kept at a safe distance from your home.

With this cold and possibly wet weather, the ground will be cold enough for that rain and snow mix to freeze once it hits the ground. This will especially be the case on elevated roadways, overpasses and bridges as these concrete and steel structures tend to become colder than the ground. If you do not need to be traveling during this period, please remain inside until the weather warms up. The City of Houston asks residents to remain alert to changing weather conditions and to be vigilant of dangerous driving conditions.  If you see City streets with ice on them, please call Houston 311 to report it so that we can send out appropriate crews.

If you have to drive:

  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  • Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

Additional Protective Actions

  • It’s important to remember to protect people, pets, pipes, and plants. Information on how to do this is available at houstontx.gov/emergency.
  • If you do have to drive, be incredibly cautious. Black ice can form on roads, and cause you to lose control very quickly.
  • Exposed pipes can freeze and cause your home to flood, so please insulate them to ensure they are protected from the cold. Do not leave faucets running to try to keep them from freezing, this can cause low water pressure across the system needed for basic services and fire suppression.