H.R. McMaster Says Kim Jong-un “Should Not Be Sleeping Well” At Night

I tend to think that Kim Jong-un is probably sleeping very well considering he is nearing his strategic goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon with a reliable delivery system.  Once this goal is achieved he pretty much guarantees himself the ability to prevent outside regime change.  Additionally the whole world is not against North Korea, they have enough partners internationally that they continue to bring in enough revenue and components to advance their nuclear and weapons programs:

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster

McMaster told MSNBC in an interview, “I think he should not be [sleeping well] because he has the whole world against him… He’s isolated on this.”

He described North Korea’s missiles as a “grave threat” but declined to confirm that the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile the North tested recently can reach New York. “I’m not going to confirm it,” McMaster said. “But as I mentioned, really, whether it could reach San Francisco or Pittsburgh or Washington — how much does that matter, right? It’s a grave threat.”

He added it is intolerable for North Korea have nuclear weapons that could threaten the U.S., and all options including a military option should be on the table.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters the previous day that the U.S. is willing to hold talks with the regime and added, “We do not seek regime change.”

But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal the same day, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence ruled out direct talks. The U.S.’ strategy doesn’t involve “engaging North Korea directly,” he said.

The shambolic Trump administration has frequently made it difficult to discern any clear line in the fog of obfuscation and braggadocio that emerges from it.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, is seen by some in the U.S. mainstream media as the most rational in the national security team and is thought to stand his ground against President Donald Trump if necessary.  [Chosun Ilbo]

By the way the past week has had a lot of White House intrigue involving H.R. McMaster.  Factions in the White House are unhappy that McMaster has been cleaning house in the National Security Council.  He even fired a staffer named Ezra Cohen-Watnick that an article last month in the Atlantic proclaimed him as,  ‘The Man McMaster Couldn’t Fire.’

Now right wing elements want President Trump to fire McMaster because of his house cleaning.  However, President Trump has come out and supported McMaster today.

Trump Announces Changes to National Security Council, Bannon out; Joint Chiefs Chairman Back In

That didn’t take long for LTG McMaster to shakeup the National Security Council and oust Bannon:

Steve Bannon

President Donald Trump reorganized his National Security Council on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and downgrading the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, according to a person familiar with the decision and a regulatory filing.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was given responsibility for setting the agenda for meetings of the NSC or the Homeland Security Council, and was authorized to delegate that authority to Bossert, at his discretion, according to the filing.

Under the move, the national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, are again “regular attendees” of the NSC’s principals committee. [Bloomberg]

You can read more at the link.

Camp Humphreys Commander Concerned About Government Hiring Freeze

I know a few people that have been impacted by this government hiring freeze.  It will be interesting to see how long it lasts:

Col. Joseph Holland, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, says the federal hiring freeze is having a big impact on military operations in South Korea, despite exemptions.

 The Trump administration’s hiring freeze has left key jobs vacant and could jeopardize readiness at this U.S. base, the commander said Wednesday.

“The hiring freeze that we’re under right now … is having a big impact on us in Korea writ large,” Col. Joseph Holland, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, said in an interview in his office.

President Donald Trump ordered a government-wide hiring freeze on Jan. 23, just three days after taking office. He excluded the military and allowed the Office of Personnel Management to grant exemptions elsewhere.  [Stars & Stripes]

Here is an example of some of the impacts the hiring freeze is having on Camp Humphreys:

For example, the air field, which is active around-the-clock, is relying on an acting manager because officials were unable to push through a final offer to fill the role on a permanent basis before the Feb. 22 cutoff date, Holland said.

“We have a final offer given to a gentleman coming from the United States, but he can’t come here because of the hiring freeze. He fell outside of the window,” he added.

Holland said other vacancies stranded by the hiring freeze included directors for the Army’s substance-abuse program and the community service program, as well as the garrison sexual-assault response coordinator and victim advocate.

You can read more at the link.

Many US Government Employees In South Korea Face Pay Cut

If you are a US government civilian employee working outside of the Seoul area you are about to get a cut in pay.  According to the below article those losing their differential pay could lose around $300 a month:

Kim Yong-Sik, then a U.S. Forces Korea employee, checks boiler room machinery at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2010. The U.S. recently eliminated a hardship differential allowance leading to a loss of income for nearly 3,000 Korea-based civilian employees.

In an unusual move, the U.S. has eliminated the post hardship differential allowance for some 2,800 Korea-based civilian government employees stationed outside the Seoul metropolitan area, according to a memo obtained by Stars and Stripes.

U.S. Forces Korea informed the employees about the pay reduction over the weekend in a letter dated April 15 and signed by chief of staff Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal. Vandal told the employees he was “very concerned about the effect this will have on you and your families” and promised to address the issue as quickly as possible.

The State Department determines the hardship differential – distributed for extremely difficult or unhealthy conditions or physical hardship – based on a questionnaire that is supposed to be administered by local installations. It has been 5 percent of basic compensation for most locations outside Seoul for the past several years.

“However, as a result of the latest (Department of State) review, the rate was reduced to 0 percent for all U.S. government civilians in Korea” as of April 3, according to the memo, which also said eligible employees will see start seeing the loss in paychecks this week.

Civilian employees in the Seoul metropolitan area were not affected since they did not receive the differential.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Why Do Veterans Have A High Attrition Rate In the US Government Work Force?

It would be interesting to see what the leading causes for veterans leaving government jobs is since the article does not really provide one.  I think it could be the difference in culture where in the military you have a team and can do attitude that maybe is not replicated in the government sector.  Does anyone else have any theories on the high attrition rate?:

us flag image

The share of federal jobs going to veterans is at its highest level in five years, new data shows, with former servicemembers comprising almost half of full-time hires in the last fiscal year.

One in three people in government is now a veteran, proof that the White House’s six-year push to give those who served in the military a leg up in the long hiring queue for federal jobs is working.

The bad news is that once veterans get into government, they don’t stay long. They’re more likely to leave their jobs within two years than non-veterans, the Office of Personnel Management reports, even if they’ve transferred from other federal agencies.

The Small Business Administration had the most trouble keeping veterans in fiscal 2014, with just 62 percent staying two years or more, compared to 88 percent of non-veterans. Former service members left the Commerce Department at similar rates, with 68 percent staying two years or more compared to 82 percent for non-veterans.

Even the Department of Veterans Affairs, traditionally a draw for former troops, lost a little more than a quarter of its veterans within two years, compared to 20 percent of its non-veterans.

The only agencies that kept more veterans than non-veterans on board were the Defense and State Departments, the report released last month shows.

The growing presence in government of men and women with military backgrounds is the most visible federal effort to reward military service since the draft ended in the 1970s. President Barack Obama pushed agencies to increase hiring of veterans starting in 2009, in response to the bleak employment prospects many service members faced after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The initiative has fueled tensions in federal offices, though, as longtime civil servants and former troops on the other side of the cubicle question each other’s competence and qualifications.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

How Disturbed Man was Able to Breach White House Security

The Secret Service is lucky this nut was not a suicide bomber because he could have blew up the White House considering how deep in the building he got:

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service response to an armed intruder who jumped the fence and raced into the White House was complicated by muted alarms and radios, thick bushes on the lawn, unlocked doors and an officer inside who was physically too small to tackle the intruder and fumbled with her equipment, according to the Homeland Security Department review of the case.
A summary of the government’s investigation, released Thursday night, revealed sensational new details about the Sept. 19 break-in at the White House by a disturbed Army veteran carrying a knife.
The government determined that lack of training, poor staffing decisions and communication problems contributed to the embarrassing failure that ultimately led to the resignation of the head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson. The report disclosed Thursday did not specify any disciplinary actions. (Stars and Stripes)

You can read the rest at the link, but there was general buffoonery by both male and female agents stationed at the White House. It just makes me wonder what the standards are to be an agent now a days?

How Chinese Protectionism is Destroying the U.S. Economy

Interesting article in Forbes that explains why the U.S. economy has passed the point of no return:

Chinese leader Xi Jinping knows something Barack Obama doesn’t: America is finished. The U.S. economy is an ocean liner holed below the waterline. In the stateroom, the band plays on – but, on the bridge, the outcome is clear.

With the arguable exception of the late-era Soviet Union, America is sinking faster than any Great Power in history.

As a proportion of national output, America’s foreign debts are already larger than those of any Great Power since the rotten-to-the-core Ottoman empire a century ago. For those who need reminding, the Ottoman empire, which had flourished for more than six centuries, was then within a decade of final collapse.

Because every dollar of current-account deficit (the current account is the largest and most meaningful measure of trade) represents an extra dollar that has to be funded from abroad, America’s foreign indebtedness is now accumulating at a rate of more than $1 billion a day.

There is no way America can export itself back to national solvency. As Xi Jiping knows only too well, this is a matter of technology. As soon as American corporations come up with a more efficient new production technology, they ship it to China or elsewhere overseas where it will boost the productivity of foreign workers. Any corporation that wants to sell in China must not only manufacture there but bring its best technology. Then it is expected to export back to the United States. All this means that the American economy has passed the tipping point. It is now simply too hollowed out to make a recovery. Even apparently solid U.S. manufacturers like Boeing, Caterpillar, and Corning Glass have long since sourced many of their most advanced components and materials from Japan, Korea, Germany, and other manufacturing-focused nations. (For a closer look at Boeing, click here and here. Much of Boeing’s most valuable technology has long since been transferred to East Asia, not least its avionics and its incomparable wing technology.)

In proceeding full steam ahead towards national bankruptcy, the United States is world history’s ultimate example of the triumph of ideology over commonsense. Beginning in the Eisenhower era, succeeding Washington administrations have bet the farm on ever-freer trade. Supposedly this would strengthen American economic leadership. To say the least, the powers that be in Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei, as well as in Bonn, Frankfurt, and West Berlin, discreetly laughed at such epochal naïveté.

No nation has understood the stupidity of America’s trade policy more clearly than post-Mao China. On the one hand, American leaders have thrown the U.S. market wide open to Chinese exports. On the other, they have ignored Beijing’s in-your-face blocking of virtually all advanced American exports to China. The United States has been by far the most serious victim of Chinese protectionism. ( Forbes)

You can read more at the link, but the article goes on to explain how American corruption is worse than in China and how South Korea gets more goods through the Chinese wall of protectionism than the U.S. does.

So are we watching slow motion national suicide?

US & South Korea Officially Delay OPCON Transfer Probably Forever

Is anyone that has been paying attention to this issue surprised by this announcement?:

korea us flag image

The United States on Thursday agreed to maintain wartime control of South Korean troops in the event of an attack by North Korea for the foreseeable future, delaying the transfer of authority to Seoul that had been scheduled for 2015.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that delaying the handoff “will ensure that when the transfer does occur, Korean forces have the necessary defensive capabilities to address an intensifying North Korean threat.”

The agreement to delay the transfer has been discussed for more than a year and comes at the request of the Seoul government. There is no longer a deadline for the transfer; instead, it will be based on the progress of the South Korean military and the ongoing situation there, including tensions with North Korea and its ongoing nuclear ambitions.  [Associated Press via a reader tip]

You can read more at the link, but the only thing I am surprised about is that it took this long to reach this conclusion.  One down side I see with this is that the ROKs now have less incentive now to purchase equipment to replace capabilities the US is providing for them.  Anyway this whole OPCON issue had little to do with military strategy and more to do with being a reactionary response to Korean nationalism.  I had reach way back in the archives, but ROK Heads can read how this whole issue began from this 2005 posting.