Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Submarine Spy Couple

A federal judge denied a plea deal for an Annapolis, Md., couple charged with attempting to sell submarine secrets to a foreign country. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe each face a charge of conspiracy to communicate restricted data and two counts of communicating restricted data, USNI News previously reported. They had each accepted a plea deal […]

Sailors attached to the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Montana (SSN-794) man the boat during a commissioning ceremony in Norfolk, Va., on June 25, 2022. US Navy Photo

A federal judge denied a plea deal for an Annapolis, Md., couple charged with attempting to sell submarine secrets to a foreign country.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe each face a charge of conspiracy to communicate restricted data and two counts of communicating restricted data, USNI News previously reported. They had each accepted a plea deal to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to communicate restricted data in exchange for lighter sentences.

Jonathan Toebbe faced between 12.5 and 17.5 years in prison as part of the deal, while Diana Toebbe faced three years.

However, on Tuesday, Judge Gina Groh, who presides over the U.S. District Court for Northern West Virginia, declined the plea agreement, saying the sentences were too lenient, according to The Washington Post.

A judge has the right to decline plea agreements and the sentences associated with them. In turn, both Toebbes have the right to withdraw their guilty pleas, which they did.

Both the defense attorneys for the Toebbes and the assistant U.S. attorney for the prosecution argued for the prison terms agreed to in the plea deals, The Washington Post reported.

Groh has raised issues with plea deals in the past, although she has honored ones where the sentences were lighter than she wanted, according to The Washington Post report.

“I find the sentencing options available to me to be strikingly deficient,” Groh said during the hearing, according to the article.

The judge said she had concerns about Jonathan Toebbe getting out of prison early due to good behavior and attempts to sell submarine secrets again.

Both Toebbes could face life imprisonment due to their charges now that the plea deal failed. A court trial has been set for January, although another plea deal is possible.

Jonathan Toebbe is a former Navy employee who served as a nuclear engineer with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, USNI News previously reported.

From October 2020 until April 2021, Toebbe attempted to sell classified documents about the Virginia-class submarine to another country, which was not named in the court documents. The country in question is allegedly Brazil, according to reporting from The New York Times.

Toebbe made several dead drops, hiding flash drives in items such as a peanut butter sandwich and a gum package. His wife would stand watch while he left the flash drives.

The flash drives contained messages for how to pay Toebbe and how to access the restricted information once making the payment.

Toebbe had initially reached out to Brazil offering the submarine secrets. Brazil alerted the U.S. about the proposal. The FBI then set up a sting operation in order to watch Toebbe make the drops and see what information he possessed.

As part of the plea, Toebbe was supposed to help the FBI recover the $100,000 in cryptocurrency paid to him in order to access his classified information. He was also supposed to allow the government to search all of his electronic devices and accounts while helping the FBI find the documents he stole.

It is unclear if the FBI has recovered any of the documents or the money.

BREAKING: Navy Training Jet Crashes in Texas, Pilot Safely Ejects

This post will be updated with additional information. A Navy training aircraft crashed as it was approaching Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, the service announced Tuesday. A T-45 Goshawk crashed around noon local time, NAS Kingsville said in a Facebook post. The pilot ejected and no injuries were reported. The aircraft crashed into an empty […]

A T-45 Goshawk, assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, prepares to land on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) on Jan. 20, 2020. US Navy Photo

This post will be updated with additional information.

A Navy training aircraft crashed as it was approaching Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, the service announced Tuesday.

A T-45 Goshawk crashed around noon local time, NAS Kingsville said in a Facebook post. The pilot ejected and no injuries were reported.

The aircraft crashed into an empty field north of Kingsville’s airfield.

Emergency personnel were on site as of two hours ago.

Navy Wants to Decommission 39 Warships in 2023

The Navy wants to shed 39 ships in Fiscal Year 2023, with the first ship set to depart on Halloween. The list, which includes five guided-missile cruisers and nine Littoral Combat Ships, was released Friday as an administrative message. However, the composition of the final list is far from a done deal. Included on the […]

USS Vicksburg (CG-69) getting repaired at BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, Va., on April 8, 2022. Christopher P. Cavas Photo used with permission

The Navy wants to shed 39 ships in Fiscal Year 2023, with the first ship set to depart on Halloween.

The list, which includes five guided-missile cruisers and nine Littoral Combat Ships, was released Friday as an administrative message. However, the composition of the final list is far from a done deal. Included on the inactivation list are several ships that could be saved from decommissioning by provisions in the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, as well as the House version of the Appropriations Bill.

The inactivation schedule starts with the decommissioning of USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300)), USNS Fisher (T-AKR-301) and USNS Walter S Diehl (T-AO-193) on Oct. 31, 2022. The last ships scheduled for decommissioning are USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) and USS St. Louis (LCS-19).

Gunston Hall is one of the four dock landing ships included on the inactivation schedule. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA forbids the Navy from decommissioning any of the four Whidbey Island-class ships — Gunston Hall, USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and USS Ashland (LSD-48). While the committee passed its version of the bill, it has not yet been voted on by the full Senate.

Tortuga is currently being modernized to extend its life in the fleet, USNI News reported.

Of the 39 ships included on the Navy’s list, the House or Senate has provisions to save 16 of them. The final list of what ships will be saved will be worked out once the two chambers conference the NDAA.

The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA prevents the decommissioning of 13 ships, including the four landing dock ships.

The SASC version would also stop the Navy from decommissioning five of the nine littoral combat ships on the list, while the House Appropriations Committee would prevent four from being decommissioned.

An amendment to the House’s version of the NDAA, submitted by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), prohibits the disposal of littoral combat ships unless sold to an ally’s military. The Navy would place all LCS out of commission and in reserve status upon decommissioning, according to the NAVADMIN.

The House Armed Service Committee also included provisions in its version of the NDAA that would prevent the dock landing ships from being decommissioned as well as limits the sea service to four cruiser decommissions. There are currently five on the list.

The both armed services committees had provisions in their NDAA versions that prevents the Navy from inactivating USS Vicksburg (CG-69). The ship, which is almost finished a $200 million modernization effort, would be decommissioned on June 30, according to the Navy’s plan.

The modernization repairs currently being completed on Vicksburg could keep the ship in the fleet until 2030, USNI News previously reported. Work has been ongoing since 2020.

The Navy plans to inactivate the 22 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers over the next five years, which would include Vicksburg, USNI News reported. Already, the Navy recevied permissioned to decommission USS Monterey (CG-61), USS Hué City (CG-66), USS Anzio (CG-68), USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) and USS Port Royal (CG-73) in Fiscal Year 2022.

The Navy decommissioned Vella Gulf — the first of ships — Aug. 4, USNI News reported.

The following is the complete list of ships the Navy is set to decommission in Fiscal Year 2023.

Ships Decomission Date Disposition
USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300) 10/31/2022 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Fisher (T-AKR-301) 10/31/2022 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO-193) 10/31/2022 Dismantle
USNS Shugart (T-AKR-193) 01/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Yano (T-AKR-295) 01/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Brittin (T-AKR-297) 01/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USS Chicago (SSN-721) 02/08/2023 Recycle
USS Key West (SSN-722) 2/28/2023 Recycle
USS San Jacinto (CG-56) 01/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Vicksburg (CG-69) 06/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Detroit (LCS-7) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Sioux City (LCS-11) 06/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Witchita (LCS-13) 06/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Billings (LCS-15) 06/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) 09/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS St. Louis (LCS-19) 09/30/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Germantown (LSD-42) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) 09/29/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Tortuga (LSD-46) 03/27/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Ashland (LSD-48) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USNS Montford Point (T-ESD-1) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USNS John Glenn (T-ESD-2) 03/31/2023 Legislative Consideration
USS Hurricane (PC-3) 02/28/2023 Foreign Military Sale
USS Monsoon (PC-4) 03/21/2023 Foreign Military Sale
USS Sirocco (PC-6) 03/07/2023 Foreign Military Sale
USS Chinhook (PC-9) 03/14/2023 Foreign Military Sale
USS Thunderbolt (PC-12) 02/21/2023 Foreign Military Sale
USNS Gordon (T-AKR-296) 03/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Gilliland (T-AKR-298) 03/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak (T-AK-3005) 04/30/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS Maj. Stephen W. Pless (T-AK-3007) 04/30/2023 Transfer to MARAD
USNS John Lenthall (T-AO-189) 07/31/2023 OSIR
USNS PFC Eugene A. Obregon (T-AK-3006) 07/31/2023 Transfer to MARAD

Navy to Put $14.9 Million Toward Hawaii Watershed Protection After Red Hill Leak

The Navy plans to put $14.9 million toward helping the Pearl Harbor Aquifer, the most recent effort in the sea service’s steps to regain the trust of the Hawaiian people after a leak at the Red Hill Fuel Facility polluted drinking water. The service will put the $14.9 million toward the Department of Defense Readiness […]

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 plans to put $14.9 million toward helping the Pearl Harbor Aquifer, the most recent effort in the sea service’s steps to regain the trust of the Hawaiian people after a leak at the Red Hill Fuel Facility polluted drinking water.

The service will put the $14.9 million toward the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program Challenge funding, as per an agreement between the Navy and Hawaii, according to a Thursday Navy news release.

The funds will go toward creating watershed protection and restoring native forests. The goal is to address the drinking water supplies at Joint Base Pearl Harbor, according to the release. The money help protect the 7,155 acres of forest above Joint Base Pearl Harbor.

“These native forests protect the source of drinking water for JBPHH and the surrounding local community, provide a buffer from major storm events that cause erosion and flooding, and subsequently minimize impacts to mission operations,” according to the release.

The Office of Naval Research also provided the University of Hawaii with a grant for hydrology research, according to the release.

The grant is part of a March memorandum of understanding between the university and the Navy to work together on water and energy resilience.

“The Navy sees itself as part of the community, and with that role comes a responsibility to protect and preserve the land, water, and other natural resources which Hawaii’s people have honored and depended upon,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment Meredith Berger said in the release. “Oahu’s water sources provide potable water across the island, and we expect these water quality improvements will benefit every resident of Oahu.”

The announcement of the funding comes just over a month after the Navy released its Red Hill report, first leaked by the Hawaii Department of Health. In the report, the Navy said the fuel leak, which led to the contamination of drinking water, was the result of human error.

Hawaii’s Department of Health rejected the defueling plan in late July, saying it was not specific enough, according to Hawaii News Now. The Navy has until September to submit another plan.

The Navy at the time also released its plan to defuel the facility no earlier than December 2024 in July, USNI News reported. The Navy has not yet said to which facilities it will send the fuel.

The Navy plans to move 12.4 million gallons of marine ship diesel fuel and 63 million gallons of aviation jet fuel to another storage facility on Hawaii via a commercial tanker or pipeline, USNI News reported.

Another 30 million gallons of aviation jet fuel will go to the West Coast.

The Navy is currently in its second phase of the defueling plan, which includes identifying the necessary actions for defueling. That is supposed to wrap up this month.

The third phase has a start date of September 2022 and is expected to last until January 2024.

During this phase, the Navy will hire contractors to complete work at Red Hill and make infrastructure repairs required for defueling.

Navy Rolls Out Retention Programs for Submarine Commanders, Senior Enlisted Sailors

A new Navy program will offer $20,000 per year to members of the submarine community in a bid to increase retention. Submarine commanding officers with no less than 19 years but no more than 25 years of service are eligible to receive annual payments of $20,000 if they stay in the Navy for another three […]

Tugboats guide USS Minnesota (SSN-783) to the pier as the Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine returns to Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., in 2021. US Navy Photo

A new Navy program will offer $20,000 per year to members of the submarine community in a bid to increase retention.

Submarine commanding officers with no less than 19 years but no more than 25 years of service are eligible to receive annual payments of $20,000 if they stay in the Navy for another three to five years, according to NAVADMIN 177, released Aug. 5.

Officers who apply for the retention bonus must be active duty, be serving in a commanding officer special mission billet and be at a O-5 or O-6 paygrade, according to the NAVADMIN.

Being promoted to an O-7 pay grade will make an officer ineligible and will result in unearned portions of the bonus being recouped by the Navy.

Qualifying officers must also have the 1120 designator and have nuclear training. The 1120 designator is “Unrestricted Line Officer billet requiring Submarine Warfare qualification or afloat billets leading to such qualification,” according to Navy HR.

Those who have a continuation bonus already under the nuclear officer incentive pay are not eligible.

If accepted for the retention bonus, officers will be given a service obligation between three to five years, according to the NAVADMIN. The bonus will be distributed yearly, with no option for a lump sum.

The new retaining bonus could be evidence of the Navy’s focus on retention as it faces a challenging recruiting environment. Already, the Navy has offered recruiting bonuses, with up to $50,000 for certain billets.

The Navy has been successful in meeting its retention goals, although they focus on sailors with up to 14 years of service, whereas the new program targets those with at least 19 years.

For nuclear submarine platforms, the Navy is aiming to keep 67 percent of sailors with up to six years, 77 for those with six to 10 years and 87 percent of those with 10 to 14 years, according to a NAVADMIN from January.

The Navy was on target to meet its goals and had already exceeded them for the sailors with up to six years, USNI News previously reported.

However, the Navy is also aiming to target specific billets, introducing the DMAP system to keep sailors at sea longer, USNI News previously reported. The Navy launched the pilot in March with four billets: aviation boatswain’s mate fuel, aviation boatswain’s mate – aircraft handling, gas turbine system technician – mechanical and culinary specialist.

Now the Navy is targeting senior enlisted positions with a new pilot program, according to NAVADMIN 178 published Friday.

Under the pilot program, the Navy is aiming to fill senior leadership sea billets. It will start with positions available in the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and on USS George Washington (CVN-73).

George Washington is currently in maintenance and experienced a string of deaths by suicide, prompting the Navy to investigate manning, USNI News previously reported.

In May, the ship was 80 percent crewed, with 60 percent of its chief petty officers and 95 percent of junior sailors assigned to the ship on duty.

The SEA2P pilot program is available to eligible active-duty sailors who are not in the nuclear or special warfare communities. The pilot is limited to E8 or E9 billets considered critical, according to the NAVADMIN.

The sailors selected for the program will serve 36 months in the SEA2P billet.

The Navy is accepting sailors in two waves. The deadline for the first is Aug. 31, with sailors finding out if they will be part of the program between Sept. 26-30.

The deadline for the second wave is Oct. 17 with results released Nov. 14-18.

A list of the SEA2P billets is available on the MyNavyHR website.

George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Deploys, Set to Relieve Harry S. Truman Strike Group in Europe

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Wednesday afternoon and likely headed to Europe as part of the ongoing presence operations as the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its six-month. The strike group consists of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) and destroyers USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun […]

Sailor kisses loved one at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., as USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) departs on Aug. 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Wednesday afternoon and likely headed to Europe as part of the ongoing presence operations as the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its six-month.

The strike group consists of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) and destroyers USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun (DDG-103) and USS Farragut (DDG-99). Delbert D. BlackTruxton and Farragut are part of Destroyer Squadron 26 and homeported at Naval Station Mayport, according to the service.

Leyte Gulf‘s homeport is Naval Station Norfolk.

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

“We bring the full-range of U.S. and allied maritime power in support of national security and defense objectives wherever we sail,” Rear Adm. Dennis Velez, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in the release. “Throughout our deployment we will continue to operate with and reassure our allies, maintain open sea lanes for trade and increased prosperity, and deter – or if necessary – destroy our adversaries.”

George H.W. Bush completed its graduation exercise last month that included transferring command from U.S. 2nd Fleet to Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) out of Portugal. The carrier completed an extended 30-month maintenance period last year.

The Bush Carrier Strike Group is likely heading to the Mediterranean Sea where it will relieve the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, which has been in the area since December, USNI News previously reported. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin extended the Harry S. Truman CSG as part of the United States’ response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

During its time in the Mediterranean, Harry S. Truman went under NATO control twice, the first ship to do so since the Cold War. The embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 flew 60 to 90 daily sorties along NATO’s eastern front, USNI News reported following a visit to the carrier in March.

Delbert D. Black already departed Mayport, Fla., for its maiden deployment, USNI News previously reported. The destroyer, named after the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, commissioned in 2020.

VIDEO: First Black Four-Star Marine Takes Charge of AFRICOM

The first Black four-star Marine general assumed command of the U.S. Africa Command during a Tuesday ceremony in Germany. Gen. Michael Langley is now the sixth commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which was formed in 2008, according to a statement. The Senate confirmed his nomination at the beginning of the month, USNI News previously […]

U.S. Africa Command change of command held in Stuttgart, Germany, on Aug. 9, 2022. AFRICOM Photo

The first Black four-star Marine general assumed command of the U.S. Africa Command during a Tuesday ceremony in Germany.

Gen. Michael Langley is now the sixth commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which was formed in 2008, according to a statement. The Senate confirmed his nomination at the beginning of the month, USNI News previously reported.

“I look forward to taking on the mantle of leading these talented professionals here at AFRICOM and across our component as we work shoulder to shoulder with our allies and our partners to advance peace and prosperity for both Africa and American homeland,” Langley said during the change of command ceremony.

Langley grew up in a military home and followed in his Air Force father’s footsteps, commissioning in 1985. He previously served as the deputy commander for Marine Forces Command and Marine Force Northern Command, as well as commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa, according to the press release.

“This one’s for you, Dad,” Langley said.

As the leader of AFRICOM, Langley plans to build strategic partnerships through a whole of government approach, he said.

Langley takes over the position from Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who is retiring after four decades in the service.

“No assignment of the past 40 years has given me greater professional challenge and fulfillment for more personal growth and leading the men and women of USAFRICOM,” Townsend said during the ceremony.

Leading a command for a continent much larger than the continental United States meant a new trial every day, he said. The African continent cannot be ignored by America, and Townsend said that he was confident that the military was not after hearing sentiments by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, both of whom were present at the ceremony.

“Africa’s future will have global impact,” Townsend said. “We must continue to work shoulder to shoulder with our allies, with our partners across the continent to secure enduring peace and prosperity for Africa and for America. America’s future security, and I believe our prosperity, depends on a more secure and more prosperous Africa.”

Townsend will leave his position confident that Langley will be able to take up the helm, Townsend said.

Austin, who nominated Langley for the position, said he was proud to oversee the ceremony, especially given its historic nature.

“You are supremely qualified to take on this challenge. And you will bring to bear your tremendous experience—from commands in Okinawa and Afghanistan to serving as J5 director at CENTCOM and many, many other vital assignments,” Austin said in his remarks. “And I know that AFRICOM will benefit from your superb credentials and your outstanding leadership.”

Austin highlighted the challenges facing Africa, including the Al-Shabaab and recent work in Somalia to combat it. Despite AFRICOM being a younger command, it is an important one, Austin said.

“The continent is on the front lines of many of this century’s most pressing threats—from mass migration to food insecurity, from COVID-19 to the climate crisis, from the drumbeat of autocracy to the dangers of terrorism,” he said. “These challenges threaten us all together. And so we must tackle them all together. And that’s just what AFRICOM does.”

Fisherman Dead After Collision With Coast Guard Cutter Near Puerto Rico

A fisherman is dead after a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a fishing boat crashed outside of Puerto Rico Monday. Carlos Rosario and his brother, Samuel Beltrán were fishing on their commercial fishing boat, Deskata, when it collided with cutter Winslow Griesser approximately 4 nautical miles outside of Dorado, Puerto Rico. The cause of the collision, which killed […]

USCGC Winslow Griesser, homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, transits toward the pier in Bridgetown, Barbados, June 7, 2017. US Coast Guard Photo

A fisherman is dead after a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a fishing boat crashed outside of Puerto Rico Monday.

Carlos Rosario and his brother, Samuel Beltrán were fishing on their commercial fishing boat, Deskata, when it collided with cutter Winslow Griesser approximately 4 nautical miles outside of Dorado, Puerto Rico. The cause of the collision, which killed Rosario, is under investigation, according to a press release from the Coast Guard.

Beltrán survived the crash but was injured, according to the release. The Coast Guard referred questions about the crash to National Transportation Safety Board, which could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

The crew of Winslow Griesser took Beltrán and Rosario to Coast Guard Base San Juan, in Puerto Rico, where emergency medical services took Beltrán to the Centro Medico hospital. Rosario’s body will be taken to the Forensics Science Institute.

“We sincerely mourn the passing of Carlos Rosario following the collision between a Coast Guard cutter and the fishing vessel Desakata this afternoon,” Capt. José E. Díaz, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan, said in the release. “We send our most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and loved ones, and pray they find strength during this most difficult time. A thorough investigation will be completed to determine the causal factors that led to this collision so that we can prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation.

U.S. Will Continue Taiwan Strait Transits, FONOPs in Western Pacific Despite Growing Tension with China

U.S. warships will continue to make Taiwan Strait transits and perform freedom of navigation operations in the Indo-Pacific despite the recent Chinese live fire drills, the undersecretary of defense for policy told reporters Monday. The U.S. Navy is expected to conduct some freedom of navigation operations in the region in the coming days, Colin Kahl, […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) on June 24, 2022

U.S. warships will continue to make Taiwan Strait transits and perform freedom of navigation operations in the Indo-Pacific despite the recent Chinese live fire drills, the undersecretary of defense for policy told reporters Monday.
The U.S. Navy is expected to conduct some freedom of navigation operations in the region in the coming days, Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a press briefing. It is important for Beijing to understand that the United States will continue to sail in international waters where it is allowed.

“We will continue to stand by our allies and partners. So even as China tries to kind of chip away at the status quo, our policy is to maintain the status quo with [a] free and open Indo-Pacific which frankly, is when I think most of the countries in the region would prefer,” Kahl said.

China is continuing to drill near Taiwan, with another series announced Monday, according to The New York Times. There were nearly 13 Chinese warships near Taiwan, the country’s defense ministry said. The defense ministry also reported approximately 40 sorties near the island.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) have been in the area since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan, sparking the tension between China and the U.S., USNI News previously reported. Both ships are currently in the Philippine Sea, according to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker.

The drills last week started shortly after Pelosi left Taiwan. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan caused tension between Beijing and Washington after China expressed ire over the visit.

“Legislatures from around the world go to Taiwan. Our Congress is an independent body of our government. Nothing about the visit and visit change one iota of the U.S. government’s policy toward Taiwan or towards China,” he said.
“Clearly, the PRC is trying to coerce Taiwan… Clearly they’re trying to coerce the international community. And all I’ll say is, we’re not going to take the bait, and it’s not going to work. So it’s a manufactured crisis, but that doesn’t mean we have to play into that.”

Senate Questions How Pentagon Uses ‘Controlled Unclassified Information’ Label

The Senate is raising questions about how the Pentagon uses a label for unclassified information that some officials say makes it more difficult to access public information. In its version of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to better define how the Defense Department can use the […]

NASA Photo

The Senate is raising questions about how the Pentagon uses a label for unclassified information that some officials say makes it more difficult to access public information.

In its version of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to better define how the Defense Department can use the controlled unclassified information (CUI) designation.

CUI was intended to speed the disclosure of information to other agencies and the public, but the Defense Department has used the designation to keep the information from public view, several congressional sources and defense officials have told USNI News.

Since the new CUI regime came to the Pentagon in late 2021 – replacing the old “for official use only,” or FOUO label – officials have put the designation on a government phone directory, an “any questions?” slide in a PowerPoint presentation and an invitation to a ship tour, USNI News has learned.

The designation has been in the wider federal government for more than a decade as part of an Obama administration initiative to streamline the handling of non-secret government information like personal data, in-progress law enforcement investigations and confidential business information.

The promise of CUI was to refine rules from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to the Fish and Fish and Wildlife Service and make them into a simple standard across the government.

“This inefficient, confusing patchwork has resulted in inconsistent marking and safeguarding of documents, led to unclear or unnecessarily restrictive dissemination policies, and created impediments to authorized information sharing,” reads the 2010 executive order outlining the policy.

The best-known example to date is the annual Pentagon weapons report. Federal law says the DoD director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) must deliver two annual reports on the health of acquisition programs to Congress – a classified and unclassified version.

In February, the public report came out with CUI printed on it. By publishing the DOT&E report under CUI, the Department of Defense prevented members of Congress and the general public from being able to see what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called “key information” in a letter asking for the release of the full version.

It also highlighted the inconsistent ways in which the Pentagon uses CUI, staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s minority and majority told USNI News.

While there is guidance on how to use it, published as recently as 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in the report accompanying its version of the NDAA about inconsistent use of the designation.

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“As noted elsewhere in this Act, the committee is concerned with the uneven application of controlled unclassified information (CUI) document marking within the Department of Defense (DOD). While the committee understands the need to protect sensitive unclassified information, we remain concerned that a clear, systematic process and corresponding guidance from the Department for applying the CUI marking guidance is lacking,” according to the committee report.

The SASC NDAA version contains two different sections set to address CUI, including one section that calls for more oversight and training.

Section 874 in the Senate Armed Services Committee version calls for a process to use controlled unclassified information in a consistent way, with the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security and the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering creating a process to monitor CUI to ensure it’s used correctly.

It also includes training on CUI, with the deadline to complete the process of refining guidelines and education by the beginning of 2029.

In the section, senators also called for a Department of Defense inspector general review of controlled unclassified information.

The other section addresses the director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) assessment. Under the SASC version, if the director releases a classified version or a version marked CUI, there must also be an unclassified version.

Committee members have dealt with CUI on other documents, chalking it up to minor annoyances, a Senate aide said. But seeing CUI on the DOT&E report affected their ability to provide oversight for the Pentagon.

It turned their attention to the inconsistent use of CUI by the Department of Defense, the aide said, resulting in the inclusion in the SASC NDAA.

CUI can make documents difficult to share, the senate aide told USNI News.

In response, SASC included the provision on guidance and training in the NDAA. Right now, the guidance available is overly broad, the aide said.

“And I will say, just from my own perspective, […] having worked in industry, I ran into the same problems that there was inconsistent guidance, or, in some cases, no guidance beyond the very high-level instruction and marking guides that are out there,” the aide said.

It’s not that SASC wants to get rid of CUI, which does have a use, the aide said. The committee wants better parameters so that those determining whether to mark a document with the CUI label are consistent, the aide said.

The aide referenced similar guidance on classified documents, in which the individuals determining if a document should be classified follow strict, defined rules.

“So you have classification guides that sort of are very explicit about […] what is included at different levels of classification to give you that specificity when you’re applying it to other documents,” the aide said.

Republicans on SASC also want a clearer definition for CUI, a SASC Republican spokesperson told USNI News.

“Broadly throughout the bill, it’s clear the Committee has concerns about the proper classification of information to allow everyone, including Congress and industry, to do their jobs well while protecting sensitive national security information,” the SASC Republican spokesperson said.