Navy Used 16-Year-Old Law Made to Boost Army Recruiting to Raise Enlistment Age for Sailors

The Navy will now allow men and women up to age 41 to enlist in the service, a new change in policy for which it has the Army to thank. Under the change, made by Navy Recruiting Command this month, the new maximum age for Navy recruits is 41, as long as the person enlisting […]

Recruits with the 64th Annual Recruit Cardinal Division stand at attention during a pass-in-review graduation ceremony inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command, Nov. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy will now allow men and women up to age 41 to enlist in the service, a new change in policy for which it has the Army to thank.

Under the change, made by Navy Recruiting Command this month, the new maximum age for Navy recruits is 41, as long as the person enlisting can report to training before their 42nd birthday, according to the new policy.

The service made the change to increase the potential enlistment pool, Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesperson for Navy Recruiting Command, said in an email.

“As we continue to navigate a challenging recruiting environment, raising the enlistment age allows us to widen the pool of potential recruits, creating opportunities for personnel who wish to serve, but were previously unable due to age,” Benham said in the email.
While the overall enlistment age is now two years older, certain positions in the Navy have their own age cutoffs, Benham said.

The Navy will now be the service with the oldest enlisted recruits –the service already accepted commissioned officer recruits until 42. The cutoff age for the Army is 39, although waivers will be accepted for people up to 45 years old. The Air Force and Space Force also accept enlisted recruits up to age 39, while the Marine Corps stops at 28 years old.

While the Navy will now have the oldest recruits, the Army was the first branch to up its age limit to 42.

Each service sets its age for accepting recruits, but the minimum and maximum ages for the military are set by Congress, which now does it through the National Defense Authorization Act.
Congress initially set the recruiting age limits in 1968, with men no younger than 17 years old and no older than 35 years old allowed to join the services, although they needed parental permission if younger than 18. Women were able to join if they were 18, but they needed parental permission if younger than 21, according to the Public Law 90-235 that added the age restrictions to the U.S. Code.

In 1974, Congress amended the U.S. Code to make age limits uniform between men and women, according to the Veterans Insurance Act of 1974.

In 2006, at the behest of the Army and the Pentagon, Congress changed the maximum age for enlisted recruits to 42 in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.
The Army pushed for the age increase to 42, and in June 2005, the Pentagon filed paperwork with Congress asking to increase the maximum age for all branches, according to a 2005 report in the Chicago Tribune article.

The Pentagon asked for 42 to be the maximum age because it would bring enlisted age limits in line with those set for commissioned officers, according to the Tribune article. Joining the military at 42 would allow a person to serve 20 years before the mandatory retirement age of 62, although there are some exceptions.

The reason for increasing the age in 2006 is the same as the one 16 years later. Increasing the age limit increases the pool of eligible recruits.

By September 2006, there were some new recruits in the Army who were over 40, according to a Christian Science Monitor article. There were 11 recruits over 40, while there were 405 over 35.

The Army reverted its age limit back to 35 on April 1, 2011.

U.S. and Japan Prepare for Joint Exercise; U.S. Wraps up Drills with Allies in South China Sea

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today. Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according […]

U.S. Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 prepare to off-load ammunition from a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Resolute Dragon 22 on Camp Betsukai, Hokkaido, Japan, Oct. 8, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today.

Exercise Keen Sword will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a Friday news release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Ministry of Defense.

The exercise will take place from Nov. 10-19 at Japan Self-Defense Force and U.S. Forces Japan facilities, the waters and airspace of Japan, on Tsutara Island, which lies west of Nagasaki, and on the southern islands of Amami Oshima and Tokonushima. It will include live-fire drills and focus on a wide-range of operations, including amphibious, ground, maritime, air and working within the space and cyber domains.

The exercise is aimed at improving interoperability between Japan and the U.S. Japan will send 26,000 personnel, 20 ships and 250 aircraft from across the JSDF, while the U.S. will send 10,000 personnel, 10 ships and 120 aircraft from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units in the Indo-Pacific and Japan, in addition to personnel from Space Force.

Canada will participate with two ships – HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) – that have been operating in the region since participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise and an aircraft.

Both ships are deployed to the Indo-Pacific under Operation Projection, the Canadian Armed Forces presence operations in the region, with Vancouver also tasked to sail around Japan under Operation Neon, which covers Canada’s contribution to maritime and aerial surveillance operations to enforce United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Australia will participate with a single ship and a single aircraft, while the United Kingdom will send either offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar (P233) or HMS Spey (P234), both of which are deployed in the region. Observers from Australia, Canada, France, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, the United Kingdom and NATO have been invited to the exercise.

Keen Sword follows an extensive series of activities between the U.S. and its partners in the region, with the United States Marine Corps recently wrapping up bilateral exercise Kamandag 6 in the Philippines and Resolute Dragon 22 in Japan. The multilateral exercise known as Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Samasama Lumbas in the Sulu Sea – hosted by the Philippines, Australia and United States – concluded on Tuesday.

U.S. Navy Sailors with Naval Beach Unit Seven park a landing craft, utility during a rehearsal for a bilateral amphibious landing at Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command in Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

“Participating units included USS Benfold, USNS Dahl (T-AKR-312) and USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 11, Patrol Squadron 45, Helicopter Maritime Squadron-51, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), and approximately 1,600 Marines and Sailors from across III MEF including forces from 3d Marine Division, 12th Marines, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and 3d Marine Logistics Group partnered with 1,400 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel from the Northern Army, 2nd Division, during Resolute Dragon 22,” the Navy said in a news release.

During Resolute Dragon 22, Benfold worked with both the U.S. Marine Corps high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles, according to the release.

Kamandag 6 included participation from 1,900 U.S. Marines, 530 Philippine Marines and 100 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines, who together with 30 personnel from the JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade participated in some portions of the exercise.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, MV-22B Ospreys, AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters and KC-130J Super Hercules cargo aircraft all participated in the drills. Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) and expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) also jointed for the exercise. Tripoli and New Orleans have 31st Marine Expeditionary Units embarked.

Sailors handle a phone and distance line aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during a replenishment-at- sea (RAS) with USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) Oct. 16, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

On Tuesday, MTA Samasama Lumbas, which began on Oct. 11, concluded its at-sea phase. The exercise was formerly two separate bilateral exercises – exercise Samasama between the Philippine Navy and the U.S. Navy and exercise Lumbas between the Philippine Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The two exercises were held simultaneously together this year for the first time.

Aircraft involved in the subject matter expert exchange engagement phase included Philippine Navy Beechcraft C-90, French Navy Falcon 2000 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force US-2 seaplane and a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The JMSDF US-2 forms the 3rd Air Unit of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22). The French Navy Falcon 2000 is now operating at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, until early November, conducting maritime surveillance operations in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea, according to a Japan Ministry of Defense statement.

The sea phase included two interoperability iterations, with the first phase focused on search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief operations with the Philippine Navy, JMSDF, the United Kingdom Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, with embarked observers from the U.K. Royal Navy, Royal Brunei Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Malaysian Navy. Ships involved in this phase included Philippine Navy frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), RN OPV HMS Spey (P234), RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39) and replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304), while aircraft participation featured the Philippine Navy C90 and JMSDF US-2.

The Philippine Navy also performed a replenishment at sea between Jose Rizal and Stalwart, in which 30,000 liters of fuel were transferred to Jose Rizal. The Philippine Navy said it had not conducted an underway replenishment in a long time.

The second phase, carried out on Tuesday, involved the Philippine Navy, RAN and U.S. Navy in warfighting interoperability exercises, with destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) joining Jose Rizal, Hobart and Stalwart. During the anti-submarine warfare portion of the exercise, Hobart released an Expendable Mobile Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Training Target (EMATT) that served as a submerged target for participating ships to identify and locate.

Kirisame is the second surface unit of IPD22. The first unit, which includes helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), completed its part of IPD22 when it returned to Japan on Oct. 5. Kirisame is expected to return to Japan later this month.

Prior to Samasama Lumbas, Kirisame conducted the Noble Mist 22 exercise from Oct. 4-8 in the South China Sea with U.S. Navy destroyers Milius and USS Higgins (DDG-76), RAN destroyer Hobart, frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship Stalwart, RCN frigate HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) and U.S Coast Guard cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL-757). The activities between the U.S, Australia, Canada and Japan in the South China Sea appeared to be a continuous series of engagements until Monday, when the U.S. Navy said it finished the drills.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts a trilateral training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Murusame-class destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), the Royal Australian Navy Supply-class auxiliary replenishment oiler HMAS Stalwart (A304), and the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) while operating in the South China Sea, Oct. 07. U.S. Navy Photo

“This exercise builds on the previous bilateral and trilateral exercises from recent months conducted in the South China Sea. Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted integrated operations designed to increase the allies’ collective ability to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency. Integrated events included surface, subsurface, and air defense exercises that included Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) from several participating nations,” U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Hobart, Arunta and Stalwart are currently double-tasked on a regional presence deployment for Australia and form part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 (IPE22), Australia’s annual regional engagement deployment. The main task group of IPE22 includes landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01) and frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150), which left Darwin on Oct. 13 and are now headed to Sri Lanka to begin their first IPE22 engagement.

In other developments, New Zealand Navy replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa is headed to Busan, Republic of Korea after concluding a visit at RMN Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Aotearoa will replenish partner nation ships during her passage to Busan, which included replenishing Milius and Midgett in the South China Sea on Oct. 11 and more recently amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) on Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The following is the Oct. 14, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. […]

The following is the Oct. 14, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

The Pentagon’s FY2023 budget request for hypersonic research is $4.7 billion—up from $3.8 billion in the FY2022 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $225.5 million for hypersonic defense. At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not have approved either mission requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Principal Director for Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.

As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and arms control. Potential questions include the following:

  • What mission(s) will hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-effective means of executing these potential missions? How will they be incorporated into joint operational doctrine and concepts?
  • Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible?
  • How, if at all, will the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
  • Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building activities?

Download the document here.

Navy Plans To Defuel Red Hill By End of 2024, Leak Result of Human Error

The Navy will not finish defueling Red Hill until Dec. 31, 2024, at the earliest, according to the Navy’s defueling plan for the Hawaii fuel storage facility. The defueling plan, as well as the Navy’s investigation into leaks at Red Hill – which led to decontamination of the drinking water used by Hawaii residents and […]

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro is shown some of the items highlighted in the third-party assessment of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii on June 13, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy will not finish defueling Red Hill until Dec. 31, 2024, at the earliest, according to the Navy’s defueling plan for the Hawaii fuel storage facility.
The defueling plan, as well as the Navy’s investigation into leaks at Red Hill – which led to decontamination of the drinking water used by Hawaii residents and the Navy community – were released Thursday night by the Hawaii Department of Health. The documents were embargoed by the Navy until Friday morning.

“We are releasing these documents in the interest of transparency,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in a news release. “Red Hill needs to be shut down as quickly as possible and we fully expect that the Navy will marshal all possible available resources to defuel and decommission the facility. However, with the extensive repairs needed and the Navy’s history of spills from unsafe pipelines, our first priority continues to be ensuring that all defueling activities are performed safely for the sake of the people and environment of Hawai‘i.”

While the Navy’s defueling plan sets Dec. 31, 2024 as the earliest date that the defueling process will finish, it mentions that there are potential delays that could cause it to take longer. It will take four to eight months to defuel the storage facility, according to the Navy’s defueling plan.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who ordered the defueling, has called for the creation of a Joint Task Force Red Hill to oversee the defueling process. A senior Navy official, who has not yet been announced, will lead the process.

The Navy will conduct the plan in five phases, with the first phase already completed and second expected to be finished by the end of August. The first phase was the review of the third-party assessment followed by identification of actions necessary for defueling. The Navy will then implement necessary actions for making Red Hill safe to defuel with executing actions for final preparedness as the fourth step.

In defueling Red Hill, the Navy will first have to repair some of the pipes it will later use. This requires the removal of 1,159,000 gallons of fuel from those lines. That fuel will be stored in a surge tank, according to the plan.

The longest phase is the third one, which is slated to start in September 2022 and finish in January 2024. This phase includes hiring contractors to complete work at Red Hill as well as the infrastructure repairs necessary to defuel the facility.

The last step is the defueling and relocation of the fuel. The Navy needs to remove fuel from 20 tanks, four surge tanks and any relative pipes.

It is not clear where the fuel is expected to go. Adm. John Aquilino, who leads U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, declined to tell reporters where the fuel will be distributed, citing classification during a Thursday roundtable.

“I can tell you that those facilities, around the globe and at sea, that fuel exists,” Aquilino said. “It’s being also monitored and maintained and supported by either commercial activities, through the requirements as are determined by the regulators, and all those facilities have specific requirements for maintenance and for storage and those will be met as we always do.”

There are currently 57 Navy defense fueling support points, Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, told reporters. The Navy has been examining each of them to make sure there is not another Red Hill incident, he said.

The marine ship diesel fuel, which is about 12.5 million gallons, and 63 million gallons of aviation jet fuel, will be used on Hawaii, according to the defueling plan. It will be moved using a commercial tanker or pipeline.

The remaining 30 million gallons of aviation jet fuel will head to the West Coast. Planning is also underway for alternative or supplemental storage sights, including floating storage.
The Navy’s plan is slated to change, with the sea service predicting an updated version in September.

“DoD is focused on the safe and expeditious defueling of Red Hill. DoD’s commitment to protect the population of Hawaii, the environment, and the security of the nation will guide all of our actions in implementing this defueling plan,” according to the plan.

Human Error

The Navy is taking responsibility for the May 6, 2021 and Nov. 20, 2021, spills that led to water contamination, Paparo said during the roundtable with reporters.

“As members of this community, we have a solemn obligation to be good stewards of the environment and good neighbors to one another,” Paparo said. “The contamination of the Navy water systems severely disrupted their lives, their livelihood and their well being and the well being of our workforce, our families and our communities.”

The spills were the result of human error, poor system knowledge and inadequate maintenance practices, Paparo said.

The initial spill on May 6 was handled incorrectly, leading to 20,000 gallons of fuel being held in an overhead fire suppression system retention line, which was not known at the time. Workers at Red Hill used incorrect assumptions and believed they had accounted for all of the fuel from the spill.

In November, the retention line, sagging under the weight of the fuel, was struck, resulting in a leak. It was initially reported as a water leak because workers did not know there was fuel in the retention line, Paparo said.

The responders were not trained to stop the fuel leak. While personnel checked to make sure that the above ground well was not contaminated, a lack of understanding led them to not realize that fuel could reach below ground wells, Paparo said.

The contaminated water was discovered on Nov. 28 after a report of a chemical smell.

The Navy declined to tell reporters how many people were reassigned due to loss of confidence as a result of the Red Hill fuel leak. The Navy is looking at administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

Vet Coalition Aims to Get Veterans, Family Members to Sign Up As Poll Workers

A veterans-led coalition launched a national campaign Tuesday to recruit 100,000 veterans and military family members to sign up as election poll workers in their communities. The Vet The Vote coalition’s campaign is intended to help address a “critical” shortage of poll workers across the country ahead of the fall 2022 national and local elections, […]

Spc. Grace Hayes, an intelligence analyst assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, reads a Federal Voting Assistance Program brochure at Fort Stewart, Georgia, May 31, 2022. U.S. Army Photo

A veterans-led coalition launched a national campaign Tuesday to recruit 100,000 veterans and military family members to sign up as election poll workers in their communities.

The Vet The Vote coalition’s campaign is intended to help address a “critical” shortage of poll workers across the country ahead of the fall 2022 national and local elections, according to organizers. Shortages have prompted some states and counties to shutter polling sites due to lack of staffing. In 2020, Wisconsin’s and New Jersey’s governors ordered the activation of their state national guard members.

“Election boards across the country have struggled to recruit enough volunteers to efficiently and effectively run elections. America needs to recruit more than one million volunteers annually to administer election polling sites,” the coalition said in a news release announcing the nonpartisan, pro-democracy effort organized by We the Veterans. “We believe our community is up to the task and ideally positioned to help solve this national shortage of poll workers,” it added.

Organizers say they hope to encourage some of the more than 17 million military veterans, along with millions more military family members, to sign up and help at the polls.

“We think it’s a great way for the veteran to connect with their community,” Joe Plenzler, retired Marine officer, combat veteran and board member of We the Veterans Society for American Democracy, told USNI News. “It supports democracy, down to the deckplates, below the level of politics.”

“Whatever we can do, we’re going to try to help,” Plenzler said. “It’s part of being a citizen-soldier,” he added.

The group set up a website – https://vetthe.vote/ – where veterans and family members can sign up to be a poll worker. The job is typically one paid hourly or by stipend, depending on the jurisdiction, although in some places, workers may be unpaid volunteers. The online application process is done through a web-enabled infrastructure developed by the nonpartisan Power the Polls, a coalition partner.

“America is facing a looming poll worker crisis for the 2022 midterms. We must act on this challenge now or risk a vicious cycle of decreasing confidence in our democracy,” We the Veterans said on its website. “There are more than 17 million veterans and millions of military family members committed to serving the country who can help break that cycle. We the Veterans is working with veteran and military family service organizations and other partners to mobilize our community.”

We the Veterans Foundation – a nonpartisan, 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization formed in 2021 to “empower the veteran and military family community to strengthen American democracy” – is part of the coalition of 20 organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, National Military Family Association, Military Officers Association of America, Student Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America and PsychArmor. The National Football League and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are also part of the coalition.

National elections are decentralized, with each state’s election offices having their system and processes to run polling stations responsible for local and national elections, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But many states and communities have reported having too few people applying to staff polling places, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing into the upcoming midterm elections this fall. Increasing reports of intimidation and threats against poll workers are believed to be dampening interest from people to commit their time to help support elections.

“What we know is that veterans and our community are really well-dispersed across the country, and we are hoping that by doing a national push, we can engage as many veterans as possible,” said Ellen Gustafson, a Navy spouse and cofounder of We the Veterans, Military.com reported. “But then if we do need to get more local in terms of areas where the need is exceptionally great, we hope that through incredible partner organizations, we can target some of those communities.”

China Launches Third Aircraft Carrier as U.S. Wraps Major Pacific Exercise

China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday, as the United States wrapped up its Valiant Shield 2022 exercise. Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian ships have been operating around Japanese waters this week, the Japan Ministry of Defense said in news releases. On Friday morning, China launched its third aircraft carrier, named Fujian (18), carrying hull […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Fujian on June 17, 2022. Xinhua Photo

China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday, as the United States wrapped up its Valiant Shield 2022 exercise.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian ships have been operating around Japanese waters this week, the Japan Ministry of Defense said in news releases.

On Friday morning, China launched its third aircraft carrier, named Fujian (18), carrying hull number 18, at Jiangnan Shipyard of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in Shanghai, reported the People’s Liberation Army’s official media channel, China Military Online.

The 80,000-ton carrier is China’s first flat deck carrier and uses Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)-powered catapults to launch its aircraft, in contrast to the ski jump of its other two carriers. The EMALS system can launch heavier aircraft, such as the J-35 fighter and airborne early warning aircraft, to operate off its flight deck.

Fujian is named after the closest Chinese province to Taiwan, which lies east of the province and is separated by the Taiwan Strait. China has been steadily building its carrier capabilities, with carrier CNS Liaoning (16) conducting an extensive training period in May that lasted more than two weeks in the Pacific Ocean. Fujian, once fully operational, with its greater capacity and capabilities, will further enhance the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) power capabilities and allow the PLAN to field a total of three carrier strike groups, matching the normal two to three U.S. CSG presence in the Asia Pacific. The PLAN is expected to build additional carriers for service as well.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that two PLAN destroyers, along with a replenishment ship, were sighted 200 kilometers west of Fukue Island, Nagasaki Prefecture at noon on Monday at noon. Hull numbers and images in the release correspond to destroyers CNS Lhasa (102) and CNS Chengdu (120) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902). The three ships then proceeded northeast, through the Tsushima Strait, and sailed into the Sea of Japan. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) multipurpose support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303), fast attack crafts JS Hayabusa (PG-824) and JS Shirataka (PG-829), along with a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, monitored the passage of the PLAN ships, according to the release.

Dongpinghu, together with a Dongdiao-class surveillance ship carrying the hull number 794, were sighted sailing northeast in the waters about 130 kilometers south-west of Tappizaki, Aomori Prefecture at 9 a.m. on Thursday, a JSO release said. The two ships subsequently sailed through the Tsugaru Strait and were the same ones sighted earlier on Monday and Sunday respectively, the release added. JMSDF multipurpose support ship JS Suo (AMS-4302) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA from Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base monitored the PLAN ships.

The JSO issued a second news release on Thursday that said seven Russian Navy ships were sighted 280 kilometers southeast of Cape Nedelin (Hokkaido) at noon on Wednesday. The Japanese government identified the ships by hull numbers and class types corresponding to destroyers RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543) and RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548); corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335), RFS Gremyashchiy (337); RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) and missile range instrumentation ship RFS Marshal Krylov. The ships were then 180 kilometers southeast of Inubosaki, Chiba Prefecture at 9 a.m. on Thursday. JMSDF destroyers JS Yudachi (DD-103) and JS Kongo (DDG-173) monitored the Russian ships, the news release said.

The Russian ships are all assigned to the Russian Pacific Fleet and the Russian Ministry of Defense has previously announced that the Russian Pacific Fleet would conduct a large-scale exercise, starting June 3, involving more than 40 ships and about 20 aircraft in the Pacific Ocean and the waters around the Kuril Islands.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces on Friday completed the 12-day Valiant Shield 2022 exercise, which included joint operations across the sea, land, air and cyber domains sea, according to a Defense Department news release. The biennial exercise included drills throughout the Joint Region Marianas in Guam, with some parts of the exercise happening on the Northern Mariana Islands.

“This exercise was the perfect opportunity to conduct integrated deterrence, which was the cornerstone of our approach,” Rear Adm. Robb Chadwick, the Valiant Shield 22 Joint Exercise Control Group Director, said in the news release. “We combined our efforts across all warfighting domains and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the United States, alongside our allies and partners, could dissuade or defeat aggression in any form or domain.”

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, sits aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on June 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups, along with amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) participating in Valiant Shield, USNI News previously reported.

The exercise included the U.S. Marine Corps’ Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which conducted a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HI-RAIN) with a C-130 Hercules from the Air Force National Guard, according to the Pentagon news release.

“The inclusion of the HI-RAIN mission significantly increases the lethality of precision fires and survivability of the HIMARS launcher, crew, and aircraft due to the reduced exposure to hostile fires,” the release said.

The drills culminated with a sinking exericse, or SINKEX, with the ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG-48).

“SINKEX participants included Carrier Air Wing 5 embarked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), who conducted long-range maritime strikes from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Seventh Fleet, embarked aboard the USS Tripoli (LHA 7), directed the task forces in the execution of a complete live-fire process,” the news release reads. “USS Benfold (DDG 65) launched a targeted surface-to-surface missile, which was a significant impact in the sinking of the Vandegrift. USS Key West (SSN 722), along with B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, and F-18s & F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA-533 and VMFA-121) also participated in the SINKEX.”

A number of non-U.S. naval ships have arrived in Guam to rest and replenish before continuing their voyage to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise, set to begin in Hawaii on June 29 and continue through Aug. 4. The ships include Indian Navy frigate INS Satpura (F48), Philippine Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) and Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (FSG26).

GAO’s 2022 Weapons Systems Annual Assessment

The following is the June 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Challenges to Fielding Capabilities Faster Persist. From the report What GAO Found For over 20 years, GAO has assessed the Department of Defense’s (DOD) weapon programs and noted significant changes in its acquisition policies and practices. GAO’s first assessment in […]

The following is the June 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Challenges to Fielding Capabilities Faster Persist.

From the report

What GAO Found

For over 20 years, GAO has assessed the Department of Defense’s (DOD)
weapon programs and noted significant changes in its acquisition policies and
practices. GAO’s first assessment in 2003 highlighted challenges, such as
committing billions of taxpayer dollars before obtaining key information, including
reliable cost estimates and proven designs. Yet these challenges still hinder
many programs. And they slow the department’s current emphasis on delivering
capabilities to the warfighter faster.

This year’s report analyzed 63 of DOD’s costliest weapon system acquisition
programs. These programs include:

  • 40 major defense acquisition programs (MDAP);
  • four future major weapon acquisitions; and
  • 19 programs using the middle tier of acquisition (MTA) pathway, used for
    rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts.

GAO found that MDAPs continue to struggle with schedule delays. Over half of
the 29 MDAPs that GAO reviewed that had yet to deliver capability reported
delays during the past year (see figure). The lack of future year funding data in
the fiscal year 2022 budget request precluded GAO from assessing the MDAP
portfolio’s cost performance this year.

GAO observed a correlation between programs that obtained certain knowledge
at key points and better cost and schedule outcomes. Knowledge-based
acquisitions attain crucial information about topics such as technology maturity
before proceeding beyond key points. But the majority of MDAPs GAO reviewed
continue to not fully achieve knowledge that informs key investment decisions.
This finding is consistent with GAO’s reporting over the last 20 years.

DOD continues to leverage MTA rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts, with
the aim of delivering capabilities faster. MTA programs do not have comparable
milestones to facilitate consistent schedule analysis. However, three MTA
programs GAO reviewed reported challenges that may threaten the planned
program completion dates. These challenges may also hinder the programs’
ability to rapidly deliver capabilities as initially envisioned.

Further, MTA programs’ approaches to obtaining knowledge pose potential risks.
DOD is increasing its use of the MTA pathway. Yet, GAO observed that these
programs generally do not plan to attain sufficient product knowledge before
starting follow-on efforts, falling short of leading acquisition practices. This
approach increases the risk that these follow-on efforts may encounter cost,
schedule, or technical challenges during development or production.

Additionally, GAO’s past work has emphasized the importance of modernizing
DOD’s software development efforts. The department built on ongoing
modernization initiatives over the past year. For example, DOD leadership has
emphasized key practices, such as iterative development. However, most of the
39 programs that reported using a modern software development approach
deliver working software for user feedback more slowly than recommended by
industry’s Agile practices, which call for rapid, frequent delivery of software and
fast feedback cycles (see figure). As a result, these programs may lose out on
some of the benefits of using a modern approach.

Download the document here.

Marine Corps Pursuing Partial Solutions to Quickly Meet New Cyber Challenges

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Seeking to meet new challenges in the space and cyber domain, the Marine Corps is pursuing partial solutions to move the ball forward, the service’s senior officer for cyber and space said this week. “We’re not taking years to re-write doctrine” to meet the problems these domains present, said Maj. Gen. […]

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Kiriden Benny, left, and Staff Sgt. Travis Nichols, Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Internal Defensive Measures, 6th Communication Battalion, compete to capture flags, earning points based off of varying levels of difficulty during the Marine Corps “Capture the Flag” Cyber Games 2021 at Fort Meade, Maryland, Nov. 5, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Seeking to meet new challenges in the space and cyber domain, the Marine Corps is pursuing partial solutions to move the ball forward, the service’s senior officer for cyber and space said this week.
“We’re not taking years to re-write doctrine” to meet the problems these domains present, said Maj. Gen. Ryan Heritage, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command.

Speaking at the 2022 Sea AirSpace conference, Heritage added, “it’s a constant feedback loop” from the schoolhouse to the field covering all ranks as to what is needed from kill chain speed to logistics. This constant feedback will take on added importance as the Defense Department launches its Joint All Domain Command and Control, know as JADC2, data-driven platform.

He said the Marine Corps has already added military occupational specialties in cyber and space to address the need for specialized skills and developed career paths for enlisted Marines and officers.

He said this drive to modernize organization and operations comes from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s initial guidance to revamp the service for conflict in 2030 and also the stand-in forces concept, which will need require data to flow both to and from Marines as the situation changes.

“If we wait [for] the acquisition system to work through [what’s needed for JADC2], we’re probably too late,” Angel Smith, director of Microsoft’s Mission 360, said. She added “open source” technology for imagery and more are moving rapidly forward and the Defense Department must take that into account as it advances JADC2.

Smith, a Marine Corps veteran, said the approach in industry to using advanced technologies, especially software, is “how can we make it easy, what are you trying to accomplish” that can be applied to the military or national security needs “from the tactical level to the strategic level.”

“We need to be smarter about how we move [data] around,” so “only the most important information” is transmitting to the recipient, she said. In the commercial sector, there is an emphasis on “constantly looking at ways to do [things] more efficiently,” which the military can use to its advantage. That flexibility and questioning allows for coming up “with solutions not thought of before.”

Gregg Bell, vice president of electro mechanical systems at Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions, said the military can learn from industry the value of bundling, which is applicable to artificial intelligence and machine learning; product standardization and also grasping the speed at which 3D printing can address specific needs.

But industry also can learn from the armed services, Heritage said. Lessons applicable to the commercial sector are resiliency in systems and software and being platform agnostic. Looking to industry, he said, “we [in the armed forces] need something that supports all warfighting functions” under extremely tough conditions.

Cmdr. Damon Melidossian with the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency said, “we need to stay competitive in a national security environment,” and that means having industry constantly innovating the capabilities of its low-orbit small satellites.

One aspect of this low-orbit satellite constellation will be tracking and destroying hypersonic weapons. He said by 2025 the agency would have 28 satellites positioned to track hypersonic or other advanced missiles “right of launch” and “knock it out of the sky before it can hit” a target “on any body of water or land.”

The agency will also place 128 “transport satellites” to feed data across the services and combatant commands, Melidossian said.

“Every two years we will be putting up satellites through the end of the decade” to meet those missions, and the agency is looking for improvements in capabilities with each launch tranche. For industry, “resiliency is key” when working on national security issues, Melidossian added.

Bell said industry has much to learn from the military about survivability and the value of interoperability across all sectors.

Heritage said that is apparent in the need for “zero trust” in both military and civil uses – like weather data, and commercial networks where state actors, gangsters, terrorists or hackers can wreak havoc and not only on the supply chain..

Smith said the example of what happened to the Colonial Pipeline operations sending energy to the Midwest and East Coast demonstrated how vulnerable key infrastructure is to disruption.

“Our adversaries have absolutely muddied the waters. Unfortunately, the enemy gets a vote” in how to do it, she said.

Pentagon Acquisition Chief Nominee Argues Navy Needs Larger, More Survivable Fleet

The nominee for the Pentagon’s top acquisition post told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the Navy needs a larger and more survivable fleet. “We need more numbers” when it comes to Navy fleet size and “we want survivable; we want strike” for the future,” William LaPlante, a former assistant secretary of the Air […]

USS Princeton (CG-59) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG-97) and USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53) steam in formation during a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX) on May 12, 2020. US Navy Photo

The nominee for the Pentagon’s top acquisition post told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the Navy needs a larger and more survivable fleet.
“We need more numbers” when it comes to Navy fleet size and “we want survivable; we want strike” for the future,” William LaPlante, a former assistant secretary of the Air Force, said in his opening statement before the panel on Tuesday. If confirmed to the post, LaPlante said his focus “must be laser-like on [acquiring] speed and scale” through software.

Erik Raven, a long-time Senate Appropriations Committee staffer and the nominee to service as the Navy’s under secretary, said in opening remarks that modernization “means identifying the capabilities that are needed, setting a plan for acquiring them, and working with partners in industry to deliver them efficiently.”

He added later, “the 30-year shipbuilding plan is a signal to industry” of what to expect from the Navy in the way of contracts and mix of ships. But “the force structure assessment is another key element” in determining fleet size. He added the latest assessment is to be “completed in the near future.”

Current Navy fleet size requirement is set at 355 ships; there are 298 ships in the fleet now, according to the service.

The federal budget for Fiscal Year 2023 is slated for release on Monday.

“We learned the lesson from Ford and thankfully we learned the lesson from F-35 … that you have to have mature technology” and realistic cost estimates in big-ticket platforms with hosts of new software, LaPlante said of the Ford-class aircraft carrier program and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

In written comments, LaPlante added, “my understanding is that there are clear sustainment challenges facing the F-35 program in terms of both readiness and affordability,” with the goal of reducing the high sustainability costs.

He said a good model going forward in these programs would be to look to the Air Force’s B-21 bomber. That program used “open systems that we can upgrade very fast.” The key idea is “we’ve got to these capabilities into those weapons systems” that are in place as quickly as possible for future use.

“We’ve known about modular systems for 20 years” that would allow constant upgrading; they should “always be part of the acquisition process,” LaPlante said.

He later said that ensuring cyber security measures are in place three to four levels down among subcontractors on big-ticket platforms like ships and aircraft is critically important for their survivability in combat.

“Don’t back cyber in,” he said.

Several times Raven was asked about the importance of shipyard infrastructure and its role in readiness. Pointing to the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP), he said “this is [a] once in a century bill” that promotes operational and industry readiness.

In written remarks LaPlante said that ‘’understanding the constraints in the supply chain, workforce, capacity and capability of the nation’s ship repair infrastructure is critical to planning effective improvements.”

Both Raven and LaPlante told the committee that COVID-19 has had an impact on shipbuilding and repair schedules in the last two years.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) pressed Raven on expanding sealift capacity, noting the Chinese have 5,500 ships in its merchant fleet while the United States has 85. Sealift is “key to our warfighting capabilities.” Raven said he would examine adding more ships to American sealift by buying more commercial vessels.

In prepared answers, Raven noted his role in developing a pilot program in the Pacific for Navy work to be done in private yards, which will be expanded to the Atlantic this year. “This pilot program seeks to increase the transparency and flexibility of ship depot maintenance efforts.” Raven added later that one of his goals, if confirmed, “is to build key partnerships” in the joint force, on Capitol Hill, with industry and the communities supporting Navy and Marine Corps installations and activities.

“The need to modernize applies not only to major platforms and breakthrough technologies like hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence. It also applies to the facilities and infrastructure,” Raven said in his opening remarks.

On those breakthrough technologies, like hypersonics, LaPlante said the Air Force made a mistake in backing away from glide vehicles after two failures more than a decade ago. Several senators noted the service should have continued testing, as the Russian and Chinese did following failures in their hypersonic glide vehicle program.

LaPlante added the Pentagon needed to work more closely with “emerging tech eco-systems” across the country, as those eco-systems have “strong ties to academia.”

In his prepared answers, Raven said, “I believe initiatives and networks such as these are critical in identifying new technologies to the warfighter.”

During the hearing, LaPlante added the Pentagon, however, must “show you there is hope” that the new technology can move from early phases of defense spending into full production.

Naval Health Research Center Study Indicates U.S. Troops Who Saw Combat More Likely to Experience Mental Health Issues

For the past 20 years – and longer before that – service members have returned from deployment talking about mental health concerns and illness they believed were linked to their time in the military, with many of their concerns backed by a variety of studies. Now, a study that has been following military personnel, both […]

A humvee filled with Marines conducting a mounted combat patrol cruises through the desert of Iraq during the setting sun near Al Asad, Iraq, in 2006. US Marine Corps Photo

For the past 20 years – and longer before that – service members have returned from deployment talking about mental health concerns and illness they believed were linked to their time in the military, with many of their concerns backed by a variety of studies.

Now, a study that has been following military personnel, both active-duty and veterans, for 20 years supports the theory that experiencing combat can lead to adverse physical and health effects.


Researchers at the Naval Health Research Center and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound have studied service members across all branches for the past 20 years, using surveys to determine what outcomes time in the military might have on mental and physical health as part of the Millennium Cohort study.

Researchers working on the study have written articles about their work since it began, but they recently published a literature review in the journal Annals of Epidemiology, which means the authors analyzed the previously published material to identify larger trends over the years.

Although the study, which is sponsored by the Department of Defense, included 260,000 service members from all branches, it did not break down results by branch. The Army had the most participants, making up 40 percent of those enrolled, said Rudy Rull, a senior epidemiologist at the Naval Health Research Center.

Of those enrolled, two-thirds were active-duty and the remaining one-third were reserve or National Guard. Of the people surveyed, 60 percent are now no longer in the military, Rull said.

The Millennium Cohort study is a prospective study, which has continued to enroll participants over the years. It was originally slated to stop in 2022, but the study was extended until 2068, with the most recent participants enrolled between September 2020 and August 2021.

The most recent enrollment period resulted in 50,000 more participants, including some from the Space Force.

Cpl. Corey D. Stewart, from Greenville, Ohio, a vehicle commander with 4th squad, Security Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, provides security during a seven-day long convoy from Al Asad, to Sahl Sinjar and Al Taqaddum, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2009. US Marine Corps Photo

One of the reasons for the study is that members of the military community noticed health issues among service members and veterans, but it was difficult to look at causes through retrospective studies, said Dr. Margaret Ryan, ​​regional medical director of the Defense Health Agency Immunizations Office. Ryan was one of the people involved in the early days of the study.

The cohort study was born out of the need for prospective studies, Ryan said, adding that it was based on other ones, like the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, which look at women’s health.

“And the Millennium Cohort was conceived in that vein, by a senior epidemiologist who said, ‘if we had this cohort study, we could answer so many questions so much better than we ever had before,’” Ryan said.

One of the most consistent findings in the literature review was that combat increases the likelihood of experiencing adverse mental health, with post-traumatic stress disorder the most common outcome. Service members who experienced combat while deployed were three times more likely to report PTSD symptoms or a diagnosis compared to those that did not deploy. Depression was also higher among those who saw combat while deployed.

The risk of post-deployment PTSD was also higher for those who had been physically or sexually assaulted before deploying, had poor baseline mental health, were severely injured during combat or deployed multiple times, according to the study.

At the same time, there were many who did not experience PTSD. Of the sampled service members who deployed and did not experience combat, 90 percent had low levels of PTSD symptoms. Of those who did see combat while deployed, 80 percent had low levels of PTSD.

The study also looked at suicide research done with the Millennium Cohort and found that there was no direct relationship between deploying and risk of suicide. Instead, it found that risk factors were being male, having bipolar or depression disorders, or having problems with alcohol use. Another study the literature review examined found that experiencing high combat severity or particular incidents, like killing a civilian, were associated with suicide attempts, although mental disorders were a confounding factor.

Overall, with physical health, deployment was not necessarily harmful, although specific exposures from deploying were associated with poorer health. The literature review looked at respiratory health, autoimmune conditions and cardiometabolic health, but did not look at cancers.

In particular, the study looked at the effects of burn pits on autoimmune and respiratory illnesses, according to the study. A recent episode of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” examined burn pits, which some veterans have associated with an array of health issues, including cancers. President Joe Biden also referred to the concerns around burn pits during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, saying they may have affected his son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct convoy operations in northeastern Syria Sept. 27, 2020. US Army Photo

The study is based on surveys, which means it comes with the unavoidable survey bias, which is when people answer surveys based on what they think surveyors want to see. In order to combat this bias, the researchers also used Department of Defense medical records to compare surveys, Rull said.

The partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, has also allowed the researchers to access those files, Rull said.

When it comes to mismatches between medical records and surveys, typically the researchers found that a person would not deny that they had a condition, said one of the founding investigators, Dr. Edward Boyko, a staff physician at the VA Puget Sound.

However, people would say they had conditions not listed on the records, Boyko said. That did not mean they did not have the condition, just that the records may not reflect it.

Other limitations include recall and selection, Ryan said.

And, because it is a longitudinal study, there are challenges with keeping participants engaged, Rull noted.

As the researchers will continue the study for more than 40 years, they said there are more findings to come.

One finding will likely be the effect of COVID-19 on service members, as the last panel enrolled before the pandemic began.

It is interesting that the first and last enrollment periods happened during life-changing events, Ryan said.

“​​We had this … world event that happened on Sept. 11, [2001] right as we were in the middle of enrolling that first panel in the cohort,” she said.” And … it changed things a bit, just as the pandemic has. And yet the study team itself is resilient and figures it out.”