Metro-East News

Roger That: Defense budget item for NGA site mirrors Scott Air Force Base land

The Department of Defense has put $801,000 as a line item in the 2017 defense budget to purchase 182 acres of land for the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency complex — a description that matches the site set aside by St. Clair County next to Scott Air Force Base.

According to news reports, the line item does not mention St. Clair County specifically, and neither local nor NGA officials would confirm that the money is specifically earmarked for the Scott Air Force Base site. A spokeswoman for the agency said that NGA Director Robert Cardillo hasn’t made a decision yet, and that the budget line item is just a “placeholder.”

A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said the city of St. Louis is still very much in the running for the new NGA West. Cardillo is scheduled to meet with top elected officials in Illinois Friday afternoon, and with Slay at another time and location.

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The military services are already beginning to recruit women for combat jobs, including as Navy SEALs, and could see them serving in previously male-only Army and Marine Corps infantry units by this fall, according to new plans endorsed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and obtained by The Associated Press.

Some of the services predict that only small numbers of women will volunteer or get through training courses, details of the plans show. The Marine Corps estimates 200 women a year will move into ground combat jobs. And U.S. Special Operations Command said it anticipates a “small number” of volunteers for its commando jobs.

The Navy said it is already collecting submission packages from prospective SEAL candidates and could see women in entry-level enlisted and officer training in September and October. The Navy started collecting the packages last month.

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Two judges and three attorneys for Department of Veterans Affairs who handle appeals of benefits claims were found to have repeatedly sent racist and sexist emails, the department announced Wednesday, according to a story on the Military.com website.

All five worked for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where veterans can appeal decisions to deny claims for benefits.

According to a news release, the VA is conducting a review of appeals handled by the attorneys and judges but has yet to find any indication any appeals decisions were “unjustly influenced” by the conduct.

VA did not name the accused, but said it had proposed disciplinary action against the lawyers and filed a complaint against the judges with the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is solely responsible for discipline against judges.

VA officials declined to specify the disciplinary action proposed.

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The U.S. military already tests the security of its networks, but it doesn’t feel that’s enough in an era when cyber attacks are a constant reality. It’s starting up an experimental competition, Hack the Pentagon, that invites private citizens (carefully screened, of course) to hack public Department of Defense websites. While the government is keeping sensitive systems off-limits, this will hopefully identify vulnerabilities that in-house experts wouldn’t catch, according to Endgadget.

The project is still rough around the edges, even though it’s due to begin in April. Officials haven’t finished defining the rules, and they’re not sure whether or not there will be cash rewards for those who break in. If it’s successful, though, it could prevent hacks that could lead to everything from public humiliation to data breaches.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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