October 4, 2023

Nat’l Cemeteries Open Memorial Weekend

Original Fort wall at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, MO. (Photo by George Gonzalez US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District – MVS 05.21.2021)

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All Veterans Affairs national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk, with no limits on entry for visitors. The openings follow two Memorial Days of limited attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers in recent days took the first steps in ensuring that veterans receive a cost-of-living boost in their federal benefits later this year, reports Military Times. Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Troy Nehls (R-TX) and Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced legislation that would guarantee the veterans’ checks see the same increase as Social Security payouts, as described by Federal Times. The four called the proposal critical to bolstering veteran’s finances.

The Taliban will sign an agreement with the United Arab Emirates on operating airports in Afghanistan, the group’s acting deputy prime minister said on Tuesday, after months of talks with the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar. Reuters reports it’s not immediately clear whether the agreement went beyond existing arrangements or if it included airport security, a sensitive issue for the Taliban who fought for decades against US-led NATO troops and say they do not want the return of international forces.

China and Russia on Tuesday held their first joint military exercise since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, sending bombers over the seas in northeast Asia in an apparent show of force as President Biden was visiting the region, according to American, South Korean, and Japanese officials, reports The New York Times. (Paywall.)

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has lost his legal appeal against a new nine-year prison sentence that he and his allies condemn as politically motivated, reports Al Jazeera. Navalny is already serving two and a half years in a prison about 60 miles east of Moscow for violating parole on an old fraud charge.

Some 20 countries in the US-led Ukraine Contact Group agreed to contribute new military aid packages to help Ukrainian troops fight the Russian forces attacking their country for the last three months, DefSec Lloyd Austin announced Monday. Stars and Stripes reports some of the new aid packages, including from Italy, Greece, Norway, and Ireland, will contain “critically needed artillery systems and ammunition, coastal defense systems, tanks, and other armored vehicles,” he said.

After the Ukraine Contract Group meeting, Austin announced that Ukraine is to get Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark to protect its coasts, amid the Russian Black Sea blockade, reports Military Times. JCS GEN Mark Milley said Ukraine, a major producer of grain, hasn’t been able to use Odessa as a transit point for 90 days because of Russia’s fleet, but that the US would not be intervening more directly. Russia’s blockade of Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port on the Black Sea, is threatening global food supplies.

Ukrainian troops are training with US electronic jamming kits, reports C4ISRNET. No details were provided on the electronic warfare instruction or the gear itself. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have either completed or are undergoing training on Western artillery, air defense radar systems, loitering drones armed with explosives, and more, Defense News reported May 9, citing Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

Executions were up 20% globally in 2021, while the number of death sentences handed down increased by 40%, Al Jazeera reports on Amnesty International’s annual report, Death Sentences and Executions. At least 579 people were killed by states that retain capital punishment while at least 2,052 had a death sentence passed against them. The surge was driven by Iran, from at least 246 in 2020 to at least 314 in 2021, a 28% increase, the highest figure on record since 2017. The report attributed 132 executions to drug-related convictions, which represented 42% of the total and constituted a more than five-fold rise from 2020.

Congress and the Pentagon seek to shore up a strategic mineral stockpile now dominated by China, reports Defense News. Congress has repeatedly authorized multimillion-dollar sell-offs of the US strategic minerals stockpile over the past several decades, but increased anxiety over Chinese domination of these critical military resources has prompted lawmakers to reverse course and shore up the reserve. The House Armed Services Committee will seek to bolster the National Defense Stockpile of rare earth minerals in the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill.

Traders are struggling to find buyers for a record amount of Russia’s flagship Urals crude oil — 62 million barrels — sitting in vessels at sea, reports Reuters. The United States and other countries have banned imports of Russian crude and oil products over its invasion of Ukraine, and others have avoided acquiring cargoes out of fear of future sanctions. The European Commission is considering an embargo of Russian oil.



Air Cav is back in vogue — new units, class wait lists, and more, reports Army Times. Featured notably in Vietnam movies, the helicopters were involved in deep reconnaissance missions and raids. Not so involved during the Global War on Terror. But the Army is preparing its air cavalry for a potential large-scale conflict with an adversary like Russia, China, or Iran. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also demonstrated the potential utility of deep penetration by helicopter-borne forces.

The US warns companies of “reputational risks” of doing business with state-owned enterprises and military-controlled firms in Sudan, reports Military Times. The US State Department issued an advisory Monday. “These risks arise from, among other things, recent actions undertaken by Sudan’s Sovereign Council and security forces under the military’s command, including and especially serious human rights abuse against protesters,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Last October, the USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted feature on the ocean floor while submerged in a poorly surveyed area in international waters. A command investigation determined the grounding of the submarine in the South China Sea was preventable, reports USNI. An accumulation of errors and omissions in navigation planning, watchteam execution, and risk management far below US Navy standards were found. Prudent decision making and adherence to required procedures in any of these three areas could have prevented the grounding.

Tens of thousands of pounds of baby formula have been delivered by a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III to Plainfield, IN, and more is on the way, reports Task & Purpose. The shipment delivered Sunday, which weighed over 78,000 pounds, was enough formula for half a million baby bottles.

An accidental discharge of a weapon put a US Marine Corps training center in the Southern California desert on lockdown for several hours Monday, reports Stars and Stripes. No injuries were reported in the incident at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, 125 miles east of Los Angeles.

The US Army terminates its strategic long-range cannon science and technology effort, reports Military Times. Congress directed the Army to stop funding the long-range cannon in its fiscal 2022 appropriations act.

More than 110,000 people lined the sidewalks for the Friendship Festival, a two-day open house at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo on hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Stars and Stripes (Paywall.) The air hub opened its gates Saturday and Sunday, which was capped off this year with the arrival of President Joe Biden aboard Air Force One on Sunday afternoon.

Three Air Force Academy cadets may have sacrificed their military careers and have to repay the US government $200,000 for their education after refusing to get vaccinated for the novel coronavirus, reports Task & Purpose. The cadets will receive bachelor’s degrees when they graduate from the Air Force Academy on Wednesday; they will not be commissioned as long as they remain unvaccinated.

The Pfizer COVID shot is 80% effective in younger kids, according to early data. The Washington Post reports, Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech say their three-dose coronavirus vaccine regimen triggered a strong immune response, 80% effective, at preventing symptomatic infections in children 6 months to 4 years old. The Food and Drug Administration, in an announcement a few hours later, said the agency’s outside experts are scheduled to meet June 15 to discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and another shot for the youngest children from the biotechnology company Moderna.


Cherokee CRC LLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma, was awarded a firm-fixed-price and indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (HQ0034-22-D-0017) in the amount of $45,010,000. The contract includes a three-year base period, three subsequent two-year option periods, and a final one-year option period. The total amount of the contract if all options are exercised is $150,000,000. The purpose of this contract is to provide an ordering vehicle for future design-build and design-bid-build construction contracts in the National Capital Region (NCR). Work will be performed at locations to be determined throughout the NCR. No funds are being obligated at the time of the award. If all options are exercised, the expected completion date is May 23, 2032. Washington Headquarters Services, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity.

Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Tysons Corner, Virginia, was awarded a $302,242,000 contract for the design and construction of two new buildings. Bids were solicited via the internet with seven received. Work will be performed at Fort Meade, Maryland, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 20, 2026. Fiscal 2022 military construction, defense-wide in the amount of $79,134,210 were obligated at the time of the award. US Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W912DR-22-C-0018).

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