Metro-East News

Roger That: Air Force tells airmen to promote F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

In an eight-page document marked “not for public release,” the U.S. Air Force commands its airmen to say positive things about Lockheed Martin’s problem-prone F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to the War Is Boring blog.

“Articulate the capabilities of the aircraft and explain it is a capability warfighters must have (explain why we need the F-35),” the self-described public affairs “guidance” demands.

The document is circulating at a critical time for the 20-year, $400-billion effort to develop and build as many as 2,400 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plus hundreds more for foreign air arms.

In late July, War Is Boring published a scathing internal Air Force memo detailing the complex, overweight F-35’s repeated defeats in mock dogfights with a much older F-16, one of the planes the JSF is supposed to replace.

Withdrawal made from ‘Doomsday’ vault

Syria's civil war has prompted the first withdrawal of seeds from a “doomsday’ vault built in an Arctic mountainside to safeguard global food supplies, officials said on Monday, according to Reuters.

The seeds, including samples of wheat, barley and grasses suited to dry regions, have been requested by researchers elsewhere in the Middle East to replace seeds in a gene bank near the Syrian city of Aleppo that has been damaged by the war.

“Protecting the world's biodiversity in this manner is precisely the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” said Brian Lainoff, a spokesman for the Crop Trust, which runs the underground storage on a Norwegian island 800 miles from the North Pole.

Report: Overhaul veterans health-care system

A new comprehensive report on Veterans Affairs Department health care calls for a complete overhaul of the system, noting that without change, the department's problems will continue and veterans will be denied the treatment they deserve, according to Military Times.

The assessment, out of an independent review mandated last year by Congress, found a system plagued by bureaucracy and leadership challenges that is following an “unsustainable trajectory of capital costs.”

It also affirms what many veterans have long maintained — that the VA medical system is difficult to navigate and the quality of care can vary significantly depending on where former troops get their treatment.

Outrate continues over sex abuse allegations

The fall-out continued Tuesday over allegations that top U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan had ordered their troops to ignore Afghan Army officers’ repeated sexual abuse of young boys on American military bases.

The outrage began Sunday, when the New York Times published an in-depth story about how several American soldiers had been punished by their commanders for trying to protect young boys who were being sexually abused by powerful Afghan military leaders. The story went on to charge that American forces had long looked the other way as powerful Afghans raped boys with impunity — an issue that long plagued the war effort in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon, in its defense, insisted that it never ordered troops to ignore any kind of rights abuse. But among American military personnel and civilians who served in Afghanistan, it was well known that many wealthy and prominent Afghans rape boys, often making them dress up as women and dance at gatherings during which they are assaulted — and that Western officials often turned a blind eye to the practice for fear of alienating allies.

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan pushed back against the New York Times story with a strongly worded statement issued Tuesday.

“I personally have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and am absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander,” wrote Gen. John Campbell.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000