Saturday, March 11, 2017

Proposed Budget Slashes Billions from Coast Guard to Fund Border Wall

The current administration is considering major cuts to the Coast Guard budget in order to fund it's plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall and to crack down on illegal immigration. In the draft budget proposal, the already over-stretched Coast Guard will have its funding cut by 14% from $9.1 billion to about $7.8 billion.

The taxpayer-funded border wall is notionally intended to protect the less than 2,000 mile southern border with Mexico. Notably, illegal crossings of the southern border are already at a 40 year low. The wall would come at the expense of the Coast Guard's protection of the nation's 12,000 mile coast. The shoreline itself, including bays, rivers and capes is over 85,000 miles long. 

In addition to saving mariners' lives, the Coast Guard plays a critical role in coastal security, drug interdiction, and environmental protection. As reported by Politico:

In fiscal 2016, the Coast Guard intercepted 6,346 undocumented migrants, patrolled 3.4 million square nautical miles and removed 201 metric tons of cocaine and 52,613 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $5.9 billion, spokeswoman Lt. Amy Midgett said. It also responded to 35 oil and 17 hazardous substance incidents, analyzed and investigated more than 13,000 and 1,800 cyber events, respectively, and conducted 139 airborne intercept missions over the Washington area at the request of the Department of Defense.

In addition, the demand for Coast Guard assets to train Central American forces in interdiction efforts has increased 320 percent this year, Midgett said.

Most of the cuts would hit funding for new equipment, which would fall by 65 percent to $670 million under the proposed budget plan. The proposal would save $500 million by canceling the contract for a new national security cutter, and it also proposes delaying acquisition of the C-27J Medium Range Surveillance Aircraft for one year.



Original Page: http://www.oldsaltblog.com/2017/03/proposed-budget-slashes-billions-coast-guard-fund-border-wall/



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Just How Useless Was the Bayonet in the Great War?


Fix Bayonets
Rob Engen

The soldier should not be taught to shrink from the bayonet attack, but to seek it. If the infantry is deprived of the arme blanche, if the impossibility of bayonet fighting is preached, and the soldier is never given an opportunity in time of peace of defending himself, man to man, with his weapon in bayonet fencing, an infantry will be developed, which is unsuitable for attack and which, moreover, lacks a most essential quality, viz., the moral power to reach the enemy's position. 

Colonel William Balck, Tactics: Introduction and Formal Tactics of Infantry, 1911


Looking into the obsolescence of the bayonet during the First World War is a complicated issue. As a direct killing weapon the bayonet was certainly past its prime, though it is debatable whether or not it ever had history. At best, a fraction of a percentage of total casualties were inflicted by the bayonet during the Great War, though unfortunately we will never know the true account for many deaths on any battlefield in modern numbers.

Bayonet Practice

Simple statistics, however, belie the true uses of the bayonet before and during the fighting. As discussed in this paper, bayonet assault doctrine was the result not of wistful nostalgia among the high commands—though it would have satisfied traditionalists—but of deliberate strategic decisions made to overcome existing difficulties. The problem of moving men forward through the fire-swept zone dominated tactical thinking at the turn of the 19th century, and after the Russo-Japanese War it was sincerely believed that such problems could be overcome by morale and the mass bayonet charge. During the war itself, the bayonet found use as a psychological tool, capitalizing on a natural human revulsion at the thought of being stabbed to both frighten the enemy and carry soldiers wielding it forward. Allied units with a reputation for closing with the enemy and engaging in hand-to-hand killing, such as the "savage" non-white colonial troops, were feared by the Germans out of all proportion to their success in the line.

So while doubt can (and should) be cast on the bayonet's efficacy as a killing weapon, it was never intended as an anachronistic substitute for firepower, but rather as a solution to defensive fire. Given the theoretical difficulty of integrating fire and movement in the doctrines of the time, the bayonet charge was a rational—if not entirely successful—solution in overcoming it in infantry doctrine. Even when the coude à coude (elbow to elbow) formations failed, though, the "offensive spirit" engendered by the bayonet was held in high regard by commanders and military theorists during the war, and it saw frequent use as a morale booster and component of the war's many infantry advances. Given all of this, a serious reassessment needs to be made of how the bayonet is portrayed and demonized in the histories of the Great War, and the bolstering of the moral power of soldiers in pitting steel against fire demands broader acknowledgment in the literature.

The rarity of bayonet fights does not prove the uselessness of the bayonet, but shows that opponents will rarely be found who are equally capable of making use of it. Indeed, the bayonet cannot be abolished for the reason, if for no other, that it is the sole and exclusive embodiment of that will power which alone, both in war and in every-day life, attains its objective, whereas reason only tends to facilitate the attainment of the object

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill 

in War and Society, 2009)


Source: Over the Top, September 2009


Original Page: http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2017/03/just-how-useless-was-bayonet-in-great.html



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Royal Caribbean starts construction of new PortMiami Terminal A

Royal Caribbean International has started construction of the new Terminal A facility at PortMiami, US to facilitate handling of its new Symphony of the Seas cruise ship, in partnership with Miami-Dade County.

Symphony of the Seas is scheduled for delivery next year and is set to be the largest cruise ship in the world.

It is planned to join its Oasis-class sister ship Allure of the Seas for cruising in the European and Caribbean region.

The 170,000ft² terminal designed to be capable of handling Symphony of the Seas and other 1,300ft long ships is expected to be completed by October next year.

The terminal is expected to generate $500m in revenue and add 4,000 jobs to the Miami-Dade County.

"This is an exciting collaboration with Miami-Dade County and PortMiami to create not just another cruise terminal, but an iconic state-of-the-art facility."

Royal Caribbean Cruises chairman and CEO Richard Fain said: "This is an exciting collaboration with Miami-Dade County and PortMiami to create not just another cruise terminal, but an iconic state-of-the-art facility.

"Terminal A reinforces our unwavering commitment to our hometown, the city where our company first started nearly 50 years ago."

The company also noted that the Symphony of the Seas will be equipped with 28 more staterooms than its newest sister ship Harmony of the Seas, and will feature a capacity of 230,000t.  

The vessel will feature an imaginative and sophisticated dining concept, Bionic Bar robot bartenders powered by MakrShakr, a waterfront AquaTheater and other innovative elements.

Image: Rendering of Royal Caribbean's under construction terminal at PortMiami, US. Photo: courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.



Original Page: http://www.ship-technology.com/news/newsroyal-caribbean-starts-construction-of-new-portmiami-terminal-a-5760502



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US Navy, JMSDF Complete MultiSail 17

 Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) completed the annual bilateral training exercise MultiSail 17, March 10.  

The six-day exercise consisted of surface action group maneuvers, anti-submarine training, and various other events which tested warfighting capabilities of each participant. 

The MultiSail 17 participants included forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Barry (DDG 52), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Stethem (DDG 63), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), and USS Mustin (DDG 89); JMSDF surface units JS Ikazuchi (DD 107) and JS Hatakaze (DD 171); and helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51.

Capt. Jeffrey A. Bennett, commander, DESRON 15, led the exercise and was embarked aboard Mustin for the duration of the exercise.

"MultiSail is a great opportunity to conduct complex operations at sea between our ships in DESRON 15, CTF (Commander, Task Force) 70 fixed and rotary wing aviation squadrons, CTF 72 maritime patrol aircraft, JMSDF partners, and U.S. Air Force aircraft," said Capt. Jeff Bennett, commander, DESRON 15. "Being able to work bilaterally with the JMSDF not only strengthens our ties with Japan but it gives us an advantage in our tactics, capability and develops regional capabilities that provide a full range of options to succeed in defense everyone's interests."

During the six-day exercise, U.S. Navy and JMSDF units improved interoperability skills through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and underwater in response to a range of mission areas. 

Unlike previous MultiSail exercises, MultiSail 17 included in-port and at-sea training by personnel from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (NSMWDC).

"MultiSail 17 provided a great opportunity to improve our tactical abilities with the help of Warfare Tactics Instructors from SMWDC," said Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, McCampbell's commanding officer. "The exercise also helped us improve our interoperability skills through our interactions with JMSDF counterparts."

The U.S. Navy conducts similar exercises with the JMSDF throughout the year. The lessons learned from exercises like MultiSail 17 will assist the U.S. Navy and JMSDF to develop regional capabilities that provide a full range of options in defense of their interests and those of their allies and partners around the world.



Original Page: http://www.marinelink.com/news/multisail-complete-jmsdf423043



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Countdown to the second world war - in pictures



Original Page: https://www.theguardian.com/society/gallery/2017/mar/10/countdown-to-the-second-world-war-in-pictures



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Furusato taxes reach record high, continuing to rise since Onaga administration

February 26, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Donations to Okinawa Prefecture's "Chura Yuimaru Donation," part of the Furusato Tax Program, which allows residents to divert part of their residence and income tax to a local government of their choice, are increasing. In the fiscal year 2016, as of the end of December last year, the tax payment amounted to 79,344,980 yen, which was about 1.75 times the 2015 total (about 34.08-million-yen increase), and a new record. According to the Prefectural Tax Department, donations have increased since Governor Takeshi Onaga, who opposes the construction of the new Henoko base, was inaugurated. There was also a significant donation of over one million yen in the fiscal year of 2016.

Competitions of returning goods occur nationwide to collect donations of the Furusato Tax. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is considering corrective measures. Okinawa Prefecture stopped giving away locally produced goods in return since January 2016. Despite that, donations are still increasing. The Tax Division noted rising awareness of the program and stated that pure donations without an aim for return is much appreciated.

As of the end of December 2016, the number of donations decreased by 313 from the fiscal year of 2015 to 541 cases. Among them, individual donations dropped by 314 cases, to 537 cases. However, the amount increased by 1.72 times (about 3,232 million yen increase) to 77,232,177 yen. The number of companies rose to 4, about 5.93 times (about 1.76 million yen increase), 2,112,803 yen.

There were five significant donations in the fiscal year of 2015, but nine by the end of December 2016. Details of donors are not disclosed, however, 97% donate from outside of the prefecture, and some donate twice or more. Donors who agree with Governor Onaga's political stance enclose messages such as "Please protect the sea," "For peace activities," "Use it to improve child poverty."

The Furusato tax payment gets incorporated into general revenue that the prefecture can use freely. As of the end of December 2016 it was expected to exceed 56,279,000 yen, which is the amount of budget assigned to the Henoko New Base Construction problem countermeasure project planned for the fiscal year of 2017.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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Original Page: http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2017/03/09/26589/



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Sanshin Day: citizens perform traditional music and dance in front of Henoko gate, as protesters resolve to use the power of culture to stop new US base

Sanshin Day: citizens perform traditional music and dance in front of Henoko gate, as protesters resolve to use the power of culture to stop new US base

Citizens protesting against the construction of the new U.S. base performed Kagiyade-fu dance to the sounds of the sanshin around 8:00 a.m. on March 4 in front of the gate of Camp Schwab at Henoko, Nago.


March 4, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa Henoko New base construction Sanshin Day

On the morning of March 4, Sanshin Day, an Okinawan musical instrument concert was held in front of gate of Camp Schwab at Henoko, Nago, where citizen groups have been staging a sit-in-protest against construction of the new U.S. base.

The concert started with a Kagiyade-fu dance accompanied by 20 performers sanshin and koto. More than one hundred citizens sang the folk song "Tinsagu nu hana" in chorus and did the Okinawan Kachashi dance with enthusiasm.

Young people performed songs and arts, and sanshin players took part in the Sanshin Day event held at noon across the Ryukyu Islands.  

Sculptor Minoru Kinjo jumped into the event and performed Geta (wooden clogs) Odori dance in accordance with sanshin song Tachiutushi.

Kinjo said, "Ryukyuan people, who were not allowed to have swords, had geta to defend themselves from the high-handedness of officers sent by the Satsuma warlord. We've created a culture to defend ourselves, not to attack others." In 1609, the Ryukyu Kingdom was invaded by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma.

Hiroshi Ashitomi, co-representative of the Helicopter Base Objection Association, said, "This is the third year we have held the Sanshin Day event in front of the gate. Okinawa has the power of culture. We will hold [the sanshin concert] until the Japanese government gives up the new base construction, no matter what interference may occur."

As of 10:30 a.m., there were no construction vehicles entering and exiting the base and about 150 citizens gathered along the road in front of the gate.

Citizens aboard two protest ships and 10 canoes monitored construction on the sea, but there was no move to do further work.

(English translation by T&CT)

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Original Page: http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2017/03/09/26583/



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Pointing out the contradiction of deploying Ground Self-Defense Forces

Pointing out the contradiction of deploying Ground Self-Defense Forces

Citizen group members pointing out issues regarding the deployment of Ground Self-Defense Forces to the Nansei Islands to government representatives (towards the front of the picture) at 2:15 p.m. on February 28 at the office building of the House of Councilors.


February 28, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

On February 28 at the Diet, a citizens group that opposes the Ground Self-Defense Force being deployed to the Nansei Islands held negotiations with the government requesting that the troops be removed. The citizens group pointed out the government's contradiction. The government claims that the troops are stationed there in the case that a post is created to establish a legal position and as a deterrent, and yet they work with the U.S. to push forward with exercises to reclaim the island(s). The citizens group stressed the importance of coming up with evacuation plans. The government implied that coming up with evacuation plans is the local government's responsibility and avoided giving a definite answer. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism gave their explanations. Overall, the government avoided giving definite answers to many of the citizens' questions.

On whether the international legal position of the Ground Self-Defense Force post would be considered a military target, the representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "Ordinarily, it is not a military target." The representative thereby repeatedly stressed the government's long-standing opinion and avoided giving a definite answer regarding the dangers of it. City council member Kaori Ishimine and others who had traveled from Miyakojima pointed out, "If that is the case, then does that mean that Japan currently does not have any military targets? (We) would like (you) to be more specific."

A representative from the citizen's side pointed out, "If we can establish a deterring force, then there is no need for plans to reclaim the island(s)." People questioned whether the government would utilize the Self-Defense Force Law and has plans to conscript citizens based on the type of work they are engaged in. The representative from the Ministry of Defense said, "We are not in that situation right now, so we cannot answer" and did not give a definite answer.

It was the Miyakojima City Council, Nansei Islands Peace Net, Yaima Ufuji Association, and Create a Peaceful Future for Children of Tidanufa Islands Association that held negotiations with the government.

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)

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Original Page: http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2017/03/09/26580/



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GAO-17-358, Department of Defense: Medical Conditions and Care for End-of-Service Military Working Dogs, March 10, 2017

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) uses three systems to track information about Military Working Dogs (MWDs), including information related to their removal from service at which time they can be put up for adoption, transferred to a law enforcement agency, or euthanized for health or behavioral reasons. According to an Air Force official, the number of MWDs adopted or transferred over the past 5 years (2011 through 2015) varied based on changes in deployment needs. The number of euthanized MWDs varied to a lesser extent.

Number of Military Working Dogs (MWDs) Adopted, Transferred, or Euthanized from 2011 through 2015

Number of Military Working Dogs (MWDs) Adopted, Transferred, or Euthanized from 2011 through 2015

Based on medical data available for 421 of 772 MWDs adopted during 2014 and 2015, GAO found that the most prevalent medical conditions included skin and dental issues. An Army veterinarian told GAO that these medical conditions are unlikely to result in MWDs' removal from service as these conditions generally can be treated or resolved. Other prevalent medical conditions, such as arthritis, are associated with musculoskeletal issues, which are more likely to result in MWDs' removal from service. The veterinarian told us these types of musculoskeletal issues are common in breeds maintained by the MWD program, which include Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherd dogs.

While owners of adopted MWDs are responsible for the costs of veterinary care, some assistance with these costs is available through nonprofit organizations, such as the U.S. War Dogs Association. Individuals with access to DOD medical care—such as active-duty servicemembers and their dependents—may also purchase care for their adopted MWDs at veterinary clinics located at military installations. However, the types of veterinary services vary by installation, and some installations do not offer any veterinary services.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has used MWDs since World War II to assist and protect servicemembers at installations within the United States and at deployment sites worldwide. As of October 2016, about 1,800 MWDs were in service. The Air Force is responsible for procuring and assigning all MWDs for the military. The Army is responsible for the medical care of all military animals, including MWDs. Questions have been raised as to whether MWDs' experiences during deployment may result in conditions that pose future health challenges. Based on those questions, a House Report accompanying the proposed version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to assess end-of-service veterinary care for MWDs.

This report examines (1) how DOD tracks information about MWDs, and how many MWDs were adopted, transferred, or euthanized over the past 5 years (2011-2015); (2) prevalent medical conditions of adopted MWDs for 2014 and 2015; and (3) what assistance is available for individuals who adopt MWDs.

GAO obtained and analyzed data from the three systems used to track information on MWDs, observed system demonstrations, interviewed Air Force and Army officials, and reviewed related documentation. GAO also interviewed relevant nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to individuals who adopt MWDs.

DOD concurred with the report and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.

For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or draperd@gao.gov.



Original Page: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-358?source=ra



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100 Years on, USA's Million War Horses Honored

Read more: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/03/11/usa-million-war-horses-honored-ww1/#ixzz4ayx001Sj 
Reuse: Interested in sharing with your readers? You are welcome to use three or four paragraphs, with a link back to the article on Horsetalk.  
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The USA’s World War One Centennial Commission has made Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign an official Centennial Partner, recognizing the contribution of America’s horses and mules to the war effort.

This year the United States will commemorate the 100th anniversary of its entry into one of bloodiest wars of the century.

The Commission was established by the US Congress under the World War I Centennial Commission Act. The role of the Commission is, among other things, to develop programs to commemorate the historic event and to encourage and facilitate the activities of private, state, and local organizations which are commemorating the centennial. President Obama signed the Act, and Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are Honorary Chairs of the Commission.

“The Commission believes that Horse Heroes will further the Commission’s goals of educating the American people about the causes, courses and consequences of  WW1, commemorating US involvement in that war, and honoring the service and sacrifice of American servicemen and women in the war.”

The role of Horse Heroes will be to remember the nearly one million American horses and mules who served alongside their brave soldiers, by raising $1 million to improve equine welfare around the world.

Brooke USA Chairman Dr David Jones said the organisation was honored to be named as a partner alongside several highly esteemed organizations. “We’re also grateful for the privilege of bringing the immeasurable impact that American horses and mules had on the war to the public’s attention.”

Brooke International Chairman Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, a retired senior British Army officer and a military historian, spoke of the enormous impact that American horses and mules had on the war effort.

“As best we can determine, nearly two-thirds of the animals used by England in France and other theaters of war were from North America, so we are glad for the opportunity that the Commission has given Brooke USA to remember those animals.”

Horses and mules carried men to battle and wounded men to safety.  They transported food, water, medical supplies, guns, ammunition, and artillery to the front lines through appalling weather, over unforgiving terrain, in horrifying situations, and surrounded by dead and dying men and animals.  Yet they continued to do their part, in spite of being terrified and often while sick and wounded themselves, and they worked until they were annihilated by guns or poison gas, or simply died in their harnesses from exposure and sheer exhaustion.

Of the one million American equines who went to Europe, only 200 returned. In total, eight million horses and mules died in WW1.

“Their contributions were enormous, but so were their mortality rates and their suffering,” Sir Evelyn said.

“Neither the men nor the horses wanted to be there, but nevertheless these forgotten equine heroes devoted themselves wholeheartedly, day and night, as true partners to the men who needed them. The American horses and mules provided immense support to the British, French, and American armies, and without their sacrifices, the war’s outcome – and now the world – would be very different.”

Dorothy Brooke in the yard of the SPCA in Cairo with some of the war horses she rescued in the 1930s. © The Brooke
Dorothy Brooke in the yard of the SPCA in Cairo with some of the war horses she rescued in the 1930s. © The Brooke

Brooke has its roots in WWI, as its founder, Dorothy Brooke, rescued 5000 former war horses and mules who had been abandoned by their armies after the war.  Today, the charity that still operates in her name, Brooke, has become the world’s largest international equine welfare charity.

“While horses no longer serve the military in the massive numbers of former years, today there are more than 100 million equines who are carrying out many of the same jobs as they did 100 years ago while they work for the poorest people on earth,” Sir Evelyn said.

“They are also suffering similar hardships leading to chronic suffering and high mortality as their military forebears, while working to support 600 million people in the developing world.”

It is estimated that 80% of those working equines are suffering from preventable problems such as exhaustion, dehydration, lameness, heat stress, diseases and injuries.

Last year alone, Brooke reached two million horses, donkeys, and mules in the developing world with programs to improve their welfare.

By providing scientifically proven, practical and sustainable programs, Brooke teaches owners how to improve the welfare of their animals.  They also provide free veterinary care for many of them.

A World War 1 Infantry horse.
A World War 1 Infantry horse. © Brooke USA

Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign will seek to raise one million dollars – one dollar in memory of each American equine war hero – to support equine welfare programs which will also benefit the people who depend on those animals.

Brooke USA Chairman Dr David Jones said: “We believe that the best way to honor yesterday’s war horses and mules is by helping today’s working equines. Brooke is equipped and positioned to do a great deal to improve the welfare of these important animals through our Horse Heroes campaign. We’re asking anyone who appreciates the contributions that American horses and mules made to the war effort to respond by donating in memory of those animals – just one dollar for each animal who suffered and died in service to our country and our allies in World War One.”

To learn more about the US WWI Centennial Commission, go to www.WorldWar1Centennial.org. To learn more about the Horse Heroes campaign, visit www.HorseHeroes.org.


d, and is now available. Healthcare Inspection – Consult Delays and Management Concerns, VA Montana Healthcare System, Fort Harrison, Montana


OIG conducted a healthcare inspection at the request of Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines to assess whether patients experienced delays in obtaining consults, and the impact of any consult delays on patient outcomes, at the VA Montana Health Care System (system), Fort Harrison, MT. We also evaluated the adequacy of internal feedback mechanisms related to consults. For consults ordered in fiscal year (FY) 2015, we found apparent delays for: 11,073 of 26,293 patients (42 percent) with at least one in-house consult; 11,863 of 21,221 patients (56 percent) with at least one non-VA care consult; and, 2,683 of 4,427 patients (61 percent) with at least one Choice consult. Among the VA facilities reviewed for comparison, the system had the lowest or among the lowest percentage of patients with delayed in-house and Choice consults and the highest percentage of patients with delayed non-VA care consults. We found that delays among consults ordered in FY 2015 may have harmed four patients. In July 2015, system leadership initiated a focused effort to identify and resolve factors contributing to consult delays. Despite this effort, we found evidence of persistent issues with completing consults timely in FY 2016. System leadership initiated ongoing reviews to determine if patient harm occurred due to delays in care. We found the system had several mechanisms in place for staff to communicate concerns about consult delays to system leadership. Despite available mechanisms, staff expressed concerns about communication with system leadership. We recommended the System Director ensure the care of the potentially harmed patients be reviewed by an external source, confer with the Office of Chief Counsel as necessary regarding the potentially harmed patients and take action as appropriate, and continue efforts to improve consult timeliness.

Healthcare Inspection – Improper Consult and Appointment Management Practices, False Documentation, and Document Scanning Errors, Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, Augusta, Georgia

OIG conducted an inspection to evaluate allegations involving improper completion of consults, false documentation, inappropriate scheduling practices, and Non-VA Care Coordination (NVCC) document scanning errors at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center (facility), Augusta, GA. We did not substantiate that senior managers instructed clerks to delete consults for all clinics. We substantiated a physician was completing consults prior to seeing patients and a supervisor instructed some employees to improperly complete NVCC consults and document, “Services provided or patient refused services.” We also substantiated that a clinic scheduler manipulated patients’ desired appointment dates in an effort to correct scheduling errors and that managers directed a clerk not to schedule new patients if they could not be scheduled within 14 days [of desired date]. We found the facility identified 3,776 “errors” that prevented uploading of NVCC documentation because a software option had not been enabled. OIG learned that the employees who had been instructed to improperly close consults had completed an additional 1,212 NVCC consults. In support of an OIG criminal investigation, we reviewed all 2,726 consults. The false documentation aspect of this review was under criminal investigation for more than 18 months, and OIG delayed publication of this report pending completion of the investigation. We recommended the Interim Under Secretary for Health ensure that VA facilities certify the use of appropriate DocManager™ software settings, the VISN Director review the circumstances surrounding improperly completed consults and managers’ failures to promptly and fully evaluate the improperly completed urology consults, and confer with appropriate VA offices to determine the need for administrative action, if any. We also recommended that the Facility Director clinically evaluate the improperly completed urology consults, monitor the status of the improperly completed NVCC consults, and ensure that all clinic schedulers are trained on correct scheduling practices.

Healthcare Inspection – Follow-Up of Scheduling, Staffing, and Quality of Care Concerns at the Alaska VA Healthcare System, Anchorage, Alaska


03/08/2017 07:00 PM EST

OIG conducted a healthcare inspection at the request of Senator Lisa Murkowski to follow up on recommendations made in a previous report, Scheduling, Staffing, and Quality of Care Concerns at the Alaska VA Healthcare System Anchorage, Alaska, (Report No. 14-04077-405, July 7, 2015). We evaluated selected aspects of the progress the Alaska VA Healthcare System (system) made in implementing the action plans and reviewed access to care data for patients at all system community based outpatient clinics (CBOCs). We found that a permanent provider had been in place at the Mat-Su VA CBOC since September 2014 and system leaders had developed a recruitment and retention plan. Improvements were made to contingency plans for ensuring continuity of and access to appropriate primary care during periods of inadequate resources, extended staff absences, staff turnover, understaffing, and nature-related events. Training requirements regarding care coordination were implemented in all CBOCs and primary care settings. We determined overall access to care throughout the system met Veterans Health Administration (VHA) performance measure targets based on data maintained by VHA and provider recommendations for new and established primary care patients. The system made improvements to the peer review process and completed planned actions for the patient cases identified in the 2015 report. We found that managers continued to monitor provider evaluations and implement enhancements needed for committee reporting. System leaders continued to implement actions to improve culture and morale throughout the system. Based on actions already implemented, recommendations 3 and 6 from the 2015 report are considered closed. The remaining seven recommendations will remain open for continued monitoring of actions by OIG Follow-Up Staff. We made no new recommendations. OIG Update: We received updated information in May 2016 and determined the planned actions have been completed for the remaining seven recommendations and consider all nine original recommendations closed.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Inmarsat Reports Earnings Rise, Says Outlook Unclear

Illustration credit: Inmarsat
Illustration credit: Inmarsat

ReutersBy Paul Sandle

LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) – British satellite company Inmarsat said strong demand from governments and aviation customers in the final quarter of 2016 helped core earnings for the year to rise 9.5 percent to $795 million, sending its shares to a two-month high.

Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said a large part of the group's outperformance in the final quarter was down to a one-off contract from the U.S government.

"It shows that governments are using us for operation deployments, and in particular they like GX," he said, referring to the company's new global satellite network.

He said demand from airlines boosted revenue at the end of the year, helping to offset continued weakness from maritime customers, which has long been the largest part of its business.

Inmarsat is building a network with Deutsche Telekom in Europe that will provide high-speed broadband to passengers on short-haul flights.

The satellite company said on Wednesday that BA and Iberia owner International Airlines Group would be the launch customer for the network, which it aims to have in place later this year.

IAG planned to connect more than 300 of its aircraft to the network, allowing customers to browse the internet and stream video, and have 90 percent of its short-haul fleet equipped by early 2019, Inmarsat said.

The satellite group said it expected growth to come from its new networks, but it warned that its markets "continued to be challenging, with sustained pressure on customer expenditure, increasing competition and the arrival of new satellite capacity."

It said the outlook for the next two years was difficult to predict, though it said it expected revenue of $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion this year, in line with market expectations.

In 2018, it sees revenue increasing to $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion next, an up to 10 percent downgrade to its previous expectations, although the new numbers are in line with analysts' forecasts.

Chief Financial Officer Tony Bates said the guidance had been lowered because of satellite launch delays and uncertainty over the timing of some airline deals.

Revenue in 2016 rose 4.3 percent to $1.33 billion, the company said.

Shares in Inmarsat were trading up 6.5 percent at 729 pence at 1142 GMT.

(Editing by David Clarke and Jane Merriman)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.



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World’s First Ship Tunnel to Bypass Norway’s Most Dangerous Waters

An illustration of the Stad Ship Tunnel. Image credit: Norwegian Coastal Administration
An illustration of the Stad Ship Tunnel. Image credit: Norwegian Coastal Administration

Norwegian officials have given the green light to fully finance what is set to become the world's first full-scale ship tunnel, bypassing one of the most dangerous areas for vessels along the Norwegian coast.

The Stad Ship Tunnel will be blasted through 1.7 miles of rock at the narrowest point of the Stad Peninsula, allowing ships the size of Hurtigruten's coastal steamers to navigate it.

What's fascinating is that the tunnel isn't expected to shave much time off the normal route, rather it is intended to allow ships to navigate more safely through the Stadhavet Sea where the North and Norwegian seas. The Stadhavet Sea is considered one of the most exposed and dangerous areas for vessels along the coast of Norway, with sometimes more than 100 storm days per year and a dangerous combination of wind, currents, and waves.

According to reports, 33 people have lost their lives in the area since the end of WWII.

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Location of the Stad Ship Tunnel (in yellow). Credit: Norwegian Coastal Administration

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK reports that the Norwegian government approved the full NOK 2.7 billion in funds needed for the project on March 2. The funding will be provided in two phases beginning in 2018 and lasting until 2029, according to NRK.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration, which is responsible for the project, says construction will involve conventional blasting using underground drilling rigs and pallet rigs, which will be used to remove approximately 3 million cubic meters of solid rock from the mountainside. 

The idea for a bypass route through Stad has been kicked around in Norway for decades, but has picked up steam in the recent years following studies pinpointing the best route. In 2013, the Norwegian Parliament earmarked NOK 1 billion for the project in the final period of the National Transport Plan 2014-2023.

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Credit: Norwegian Coastal Administration

The dimensions of the Stad Ship Tunnel will be 1.7 kilometers long, 37 meters high and 26.5 meters wide.

Construction time is estimated to be approximately 3 to 4 years, but overall the project could span more than a decade from its potential start after 2018.

In addition to providing a safer route for sailors, the tunnel is also expected to serve as a popular tourist attraction with the potential for an overhead bridge that will be open to the public. 

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