China announces biggest overhaul of military in 60+ years

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Xi Jinping, President & head of PLA

Citing China’s official Xinhua News Agency, Bloomberg News reports on Nov. 26, 2015 that at the end of a three-day meeting in Beijing attended by about 200 top Chinese military officials, President Xi Jinping Xi announced a major overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest army, to make it more combat ready (“an elite combat force”) and better equipped to project force beyond China’s borders by 2020.

Upon taking power in 2012, Xi also became chairman of the Central Military Commission. He is directly managing the overhaul.

“This is the biggest military overhaul since the 1950s,” said Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the PLA’s General Staff Department. “The reform shakes the very foundations of China’s Soviet Union-style military system and transferring to a U.S. style joint command structure will transform China’s PLA into a specialized armed force that could pack more of a punch in the world.”

The overhaul of the PLA will include:

  1. All branches of the PLA would come under a joint military or forces command. In its annual report to the U.S. Congress in May, the Pentagon said creating joint-command entities “would be the most significant changes to the PLA’s command organization since 1949.”
  2. China’s seven military regions may be merged into four. (The PLA’s last major overhaul — carried out under Deng Xiaoping in 1985 — had reduced the number of military regions to 7 from 11.)
  3. The PLA will be leaner by shedding 300,000 troops. (The reform of 1985 reduced the PLA by some 1 million soldiers.)
  4. Stronger top leader: Yue said “The reform enhanced the power of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and its chairman [Xi Jinping] . . . as the former CMC chairman had little real power over the armed forces.” Xi Jinping has made the military one of the targets of his anti-corruption campaign as he consolidates his power over the PLA. Two former CMC vice-chairman were both expelled from the party since Xi took power in 2012, as were dozens of generals accused of everything from embezzling public funds to selling ranks.
  5. Strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on the military by building a new disciplinary structure and a new legal and political committee to make sure the army is under “the rule of law”.

Under Xi, China has been more assertive over territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea, raising tensions with neighbors such as Japan and the Philippines, as well as with the United States. In the South China Sea, the PLA is constructing artificial islands with military installations.  Xi’s policy marks a shift from China’s previous approach under Deng Xiaoping of keeping a low profile and not attracting attention on the world stage.

The overhaul of the Chinese military into “an elite combat force” also includes armed attack robots.

PLA armed attack robotAs reported by Neil Connor for The Telegraph, Nov. 26, 2015, “armed attack” robots that carry rifles and grenade launchers were recently unveiled at the 2015 World Robot Conference in Beijing. China’s state media called the robots the latest line of defense in the fight against “global terror”.

Xinhua news agency said the toy-sized attacker is one of a trio of new “anti-terror” machines that “can coordinate with each other on the battlefield.”

The first model is known as a “reconnaissance” robot, which scouts for poisonous gases, dangerous chemicals and explosives before transmitting its findings back to base. If this initial investigation detects a simple bomb is the source of danger, the second robot model – a small explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) machine – would be sent in to diffuse it.

But with other, more complicated threats, an attacker robot would start its mission, armed with “minor-caliber weapons, recoilless rifles and grenade launchers”. Xinhua said, “With a sighting telescope, a trigger and a safe installed, the attacker can hit its target from a long distance.

The local police force in Beijing was reported to be among the buyers for the three robots, which are priced at 1.5 million yuan (£156,000) for the set by manufacturers HIT Robot Group, based in the northern city of Harbin. The company’s sales manager Chen Deqiang said, “Apart from anti-terror operations, they can also be applied in fire fighting, public security, forestry and agriculture.”


Most U.S. troops, vets would steer kids away from service


In just 7 years, Obama has thoroughly corrupted the greatest military in the world — by purging officers, driving Christians away, using the military as a playground for sex and gender social engineering, and cuts in military budget and benefits. The latter is not about the economy or the national debt. If it were, Obama wouldn’t be throwing open our country’s doors to illegals across our southern border, and to Muslim “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East.

See also:

Originally posted on Fellowship of the Minds:

soldier hugs flag

Washington Examiner: Less than half of those polled in an annual survey of troops, veterans and military families would encourage their children to join the military, according to a report released Thursday.

The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey polled almost 6,300 people earlier this year to find the biggest issues facing military families. Between increasing uncertainty about benefits, expensive moves and difficulty finding employment for spouses and vets, only 45 percent of respondents said they would recommend military service to their own child.

“Military families are increasingly doubting if they’d like to wish this same life on their children,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It’s an awareness of how hard it can be.” A higher number — 57 percent — would recommend military service to a young person close to them who is not their own child.

Brad Carson, appointed by Obama Brad Carson, appointed…

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50+ U.S. intelligence analysts accuse Pentagon of altering their reports to present distorted rosy view of war against ISIS

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Centcom

Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef report for The Daily Beast, Sept 9, 2015, that more than 50 intelligence analysts of the U.S. military’s Central Command (Centcom) formally complained that their reports on ISIS/Islamic State and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being altered by senior officials to present the terrorist groups as weaker than the analysts had portrayed.

The analysts are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. Assigned to work at Centcom and the U.S. military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, they are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Ironically, the DIA was created to be immune from the pressures and biases of the officers leading the war, but the agency is supervised by officers at Centcom.

The analysts’ complaints prompted the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence.

The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command, charged with the war against the Islamic State, assesses intelligence. One defense official called it a “cancer…within the senior level of the intelligence command.”

In July 2015, two senior analysts at Centcom signed a written complaint to the Defense Department inspector general alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by Centcom higher-ups to adhere to the Obama administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

In recent months, members of the Obama administration have sought to paint the fight against ISIS in rosy hues—despite the latter’s seizure of major cities like Mosul and Fallujah. As examples:

  • In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” the Obama administration’s preferred acronym for the group.
  • Obama said in May, “No, I don’t think we’re losing.”
  • In July, John Allen, the retired Marine general charged with coordinating the ISIS campaign, outright declared, “ISIS is losing.”

The written complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, who are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples. Some of the analysts had complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The allegations echoed previous charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals. The analysts accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions. The complaints also accuse some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating a “Stalinist” unprofessional work environment. Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Reports by analysts which were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back down the chain of the command or not shared up the chain. Others, aware of “the climate around them,” censored themselves so that their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.

Two of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said that analysts began airing their complaints last October in an effort to address the issue internally and only went to the inspector general when that effort failed. Some of those who complained were urged to retire; some agreed to leave.

Yet a growing group of intelligence analysts persisted with their complaints. For some, who have served at CENTCOM for more than a decade, scars remained from the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, when poorly written intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when it did not, formed the basis of the George W. Bush administration’s case for war.

According to a report by the New York Times on Sept. 15, 2015, it is highly unusual that an investigation would be opened about the intelligence conclusions in an ongoing war.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is focusing on senior intelligence officials who supervise dozens of military and civilian analysts at Centcom, which oversees American military operations against ISIS. Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s inspector general, said in an email, “The investigation will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as examine any “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

Russian intelligence says ISIS and Taliban amassing on Afghan border for invasion of Central Asia

ISIS to invade Central Asia

Nick Gutteridge reports for the UK Express, that Russian intelligence claims that huge numbers of Islamist fighters — ISIS and Taliban — are massing on Afghanistan’s northern border, ready for an invasion of central Asia.

Speaking at a meeting of special services from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Moscow’s spy chief Alexander Bortnikov warned that heavily-armed Taliban fighters, many of whom have pledged allegiance to ISIS or the Islamic State, are prepared to pass through porous border controls.

Bortnikov said:

“The international community has now hit a new geopolitical challenge, an international criminal group in the name of the Islamic State. This project, which grew out of the ‘Arab Spring,’ has gained momentum thanks to the double standards of certain world regional powers by using ‘a terrorist battering ram’ to reach their own strategic goals in Asia and Africa.

According to our estimates, citizens from more than 100 countries are currently fighting in the ranks of terrorist structures and the recruits constitute up to 40 percent of their forces.

The escalation in tensions in Afghanistan has brought on serious dangers. There are numerous criminal groups included in the Taliban movement on the northern borders of this country right now. Some of them have also begun operating under the Islamic State flag, which has led to a sharp rise in the threat of terrorists invading Central Asia.

After being pegged back in Syria by Russian airstrikes, with its economy is ailing and its command structure close to collapse, the Islamic State could be trying to open up a new front to the north of its territories by invading the former Soviet states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in Central Asia, which are still beholden to Moscow. The jihadists would also secure control of lucrative drug trafficking routes taking raw opium from Afghanistan to be sold as heroin on the streets of Russia and Europe.

ISIS has been looking to grow its presence in Asia and has active cells in India, Pakistan and Malaysia. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month called the situation in Afghanistan “close to critical” and called on other ex-Soviet nations to be prepared to act together to repel a possible attack by ISIS. 

H/t Joseph F.


U.S. repeatedly loses in Pentagon war games against Russia

On Sept. 29, 2015, an op/ed by reporter Benny Avni in the New York Post proclaimed Vladimir Putin’s Russia as “the world’s new sole superpower.” Avni wrote:

The baton was officially transferred Monday to the world’s new sole superpower — and Vladimir Putin willingly picked it up.

Putin’s deployment of forces in Syria and arming of Assad create facts on the ground. They have also propelled him to the top by taking initiative on today’s most consequential world fight….That’s how Putin seized leadership from America….

And it’s bad for America. Because sooner or later, after more bloodshed and under even worse conditions than now, our next president will be called upon to retake the leadership baton from Putin. And that could prove tricky.

Avni’s proclamation isn’t that far-fetched given the fact that the Pentagon’s own war games show that the U.S. would lose in a Baltic war against Russia.

Julia Ioffe writes for Foreign Policy, Sept. 18, 2015, that the Pentagon continuously generates contingency plans for every possible scenario — anything from armed confrontation with North Korea to zombie attacks.

For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, the U.S. Department of Defense is reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia, to reflect a new, post-Crimea-annexation geopolitical reality in which Russia is no longer a potential partner, but a potential threat.

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, explains that “Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine made the U.S. dust off its contingency plans. They were pretty out of date.” Flournoy says the new plans have two tracks:

  • One focuses on what the United States can do as part of NATO if Russia attacks one of NATO’s member states.
  • The other track considers American action outside the NATO umbrella.

Both versions of the updated contingency plans focus on Russian incursions into the Baltics, a scenario seen as the most likely front for new Russian aggression. They are also increasingly focusing not on traditional warfare, but on the hybrid tactics Russia used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: “little green men,” manufactured protests, and cyberwarfare. Julie Smith, who until recently served as Vice President Joe Biden’s deputy national security advisor, says: “They are trying to figure out in what circumstances [the U.S. Defense Department] would respond to a cyberattack. There’s a lively debate on that going on right now.”

It was in February 2014 that Putin caught the Obama administration off guard by sending little green men into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. David Ochmanek, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, said, “We didn’t plan for it because we didn’t think Russia would change the borders in Europe.” Crimea was a “surprise.”

In June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked Ochmanek for advice on Russia. At the same time, the Army had approached one of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings.

“Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?,” Ochmanek recalls.

The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and U.S. pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the NATO team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery.

After eight hours of gaming out various scenarios, “the conclusion,” Ochmanek says, “was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.

Ochmanek decided to run the game on a second day. The teams played the game again, this time working on the assumption that the United States and NATO had already started making positive changes to their force posture in Europe. Would anything be different? The conclusion was slightly more upbeat, but not by much. “We can defend the capitals, we can present Russia with problems, and we can take away the prospect of a coup de main,” Ochmanek says. “But the dynamic remains the same.” Even without taking into account the recent U.S. defense cuts, due to sequestration, and the Pentagon’s plan to downsize the Army by 40,000 troops, the logistics of distance were still daunting. U.S. battalions would still take anywhere from one to two months to mobilize and make it across the Atlantic, and the Russians, Ochmanek notes, “can do a lot of damage in that time.

Ochmanek has run the two-day table-top exercise eight times now, including at the Pentagon and at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, with active-duty military officers. “We played it 16 different times with eight different teams,” Ochmanek says, “always with the same conclusion.

When asked about Ochmanek’s conclusions, a Defense Department official expressed confidence that, eventually, NATO would claw the territory back. “In the end, I have no doubt that NATO will prevail and that we will restore the territorial integrity of any NATO member,” the official said. “I cannot guarantee that it will be easy or without great risk. My job is to ensure that we can reduce that risk.”

That is, the Pentagon does not envision a scenario in which Russia doesn’t manage to grab some Baltic territory first. The goal is to deter — Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced this summer that the United States would be sending dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, and howitzers to the Baltics and Eastern Europe — and, if that fails, to painstakingly regain NATO territory.

The Pentagon is also chewing on various hybrid warfare scenarios, and even a nuclear one. The senior defense official says, “As you look at published Russian doctrine, I do believe people are thinking about use of tactical nuclear weapons in a way that hadn’t been thought about for many years . . . . The doctrine clearly talks about it, so it would be irresponsible . . . to at least not be thinking through those issues. Any time there is nuclear saber rattling, it is always a concern, no matter where it comes from.”

B61-12-nuclear-bombNote: German public television ZDF reports on Sept. 22, 2015, that the U.S. will station 20 new atomic weapons, B61-12, in Germany. Each B61-12 has four times the destructive power of the one that was used on Hiroshima in 1945. “With the new bombs the boundaries blur between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons,” Hans Kristensen, the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told ZDF.

There is a strong element of disappointment among senior foreign-policy and security officials in these discussions, of disbelief that we ended up here after all those good years in America’s relations with Russia.

The State Department official says: “A lot of people at the Pentagon are unhappy about the confrontation. They were very happy with the military-to-military cooperation with Russia.” Some think that Russia is a distraction from the real threat — China. Others think that working with Russia on arms control is more important than protecting Ukrainian sovereignty. Not only would they rather not have to think about Moscow as an enemy, but many are also miffed that even making these plans plays right into Putin’s paranoid fantasies about a showdown between Russia and NATO or between Russia and the United States — which makes those fantasies, de facto, a reality. In the U.S. planning for confrontation with Russia, says the Senate staffer, Putin “is getting the thing he always wanted.”

In his July confirmation hearing to ascend to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford said that Russia posed an “existential threat” to the United States and that America must do more to prepare itself for hybrid warfare of the type Russia deployed in Ukraine. Dunford’s statement angered the Obama White House, which saw it as potentially provocative to Moscow.

The fact that U.S. repeatedly lost in the Pentagon’s own war games against Russia could explain why, according to a Sept. 25, 2015 article on the Russian news site, SvetKolemnas.Info, a “summary report of the Russian Ministry of Defense for the internal needs of the Kremlin” states that within three weeks after President Putin orders a “first strike” against America and its NATO allies, the military forces of the Russian Federation will achieve “a total defeat” of U.S. military forces, including:

  • The destruction of all 18 US aircraft carriers and ships capable of carrying aircraft, and of all US and NATO military satellites.
  • The strategic takeover of heavy weapons.
  • The “erasing” of all US bases in the UK.
  • The total loss of US and NATO troops of over 35,000 (dead, wounded, captured and missing), and material losses of at least 15 trillion dollars (ships, aircraft, weapons, etc.)

The report envisions that after Russia achieved tactical superiority over US and NATO forces during the first 24 hours of the war, Moscow would issue a demand for the removal of all US forces, nuclear weapons and equipment from Europe, in exchange for a cessation of hostilities.

If the demand is met, Russian forces would then withdraw from the conquered territories. If the request is rejected, the forces of the Russian Federation would deploy tactical nuclear weapons against US military bases and NATO in Europe, as well as EMP/electronic weapons against the United States and Canada. Russia would also be prepared to use intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Fearing total global nuclear war, the US and the EU would immediately lose the political will to fight.

The Russian Ministry of Defense report also states that tens of millions of American Christians could very well act as a “fifth column” in support of the Russian Federation, given that those Christians have had “to defend against their own ‘demonic’ leaders destroying America.” American Christians would side with the Christian forces of the Russian Federation who only seek to liberate the United States, Europe and the rest of the world from those demonic leaders’ “satanic design.”

In this manner, with the “fifth column” of Christian Americans supporting Christian Russia, a global nuclear disaster would be averted, and the United States under a new Christian leadership could then return to a peaceful way of life and “cease terrorizing the world.”

This image is in the SvetKolemnas.Info article

The report notes that, according to CNN, the readiness of the US military is now at a historic low, with half of U.S. Marine Corps units at below the level of military preparedness. The report further sites a U.S. blog, Fellowship of the Minds, on the mass exodus of Christians from the US military. All of which has rendered a once-fearsome military increasingly dysfunctional because of the Obama regime’s sex/gender experimentation, including American cadets being forced to march in high heels as part of their education, and Obama’s appointment of “Erica [sic] K. Fanning, an open homosexual, as Commander of the US Army.”

Note: Last month, Obama nominated Eric Fanning, an admitted homosexual, to be Army Secretary. (See “Obama names open homosexual to be Secretary of U.S. Army“)

The report estimates that if the de-Christianized and demoralized U.S. military were to face the Christian forces of the Russian Federation, it would take only 3 weeks for the U.S. military to be drained of all their “will to fight”.

Referring to, “one of the most popular U.S. magazines,” now “openly supporting” sex between an adult and a child, pedophilia being just another sexual lifestyle, the SvetKolemnas.Info article cryptically concluded that “After all, things of hell belong to hell … maybe it’s time to make this monster go back where they belong.”

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Chinese military joins Russia in Syria

“The board is set . . . the pieces are moving.” -Gandalf, Lord the Rings: The Return of the King

According to The New York Times and FT, in addition to nine T-90 tanks and more than 500 marines for possible ground attacks, Russia is building up its air base near the port city of Latakia in Syria with some of its most advanced ground attack planes and fighter jets, and 2,000 troops as the “first phase” of its mission to shore up the Assad government. The planes are protected by at least two or possibly three SA-22 surface-to-air, antiaircraft systems, and unarmed Predator-like surveillance drones are being used to fly reconnaissance missions.

Russian air base near Latakia, Syria

Now, China is entering the fray.

The pro-Assad Al-Masdar (The Arab Source) reports on Sept. 23, 2015:

[T]he Russians appear to have a contingency that involves another world power that was absent from the U.S. led Anti-ISIS Coalition: China.

On Tuesday morning, a Chinese naval vessel reportedly traveled through Egypt’s Suez Canal to enter the Mediterranean Sea; its destination was not confirmed.

However, according to a senior officer in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) that is stationed inside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, Chinese military personnel and aerial assets are scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks (6 weeks) to the port-city of Tartous – he could not provide anymore detail.

Russia has made it abundantly clear that they are taking an active role in this conflict, but the news of the Chinese military to Syria provides more insight into their contingency.

It appears that Russia is not going to combat ISIS alone: the plan is similar to the U.S.’ idea of a “coalition” of air forces, but far more involved on the ground; this is something the U.S. and their allies have avoided since the inception of their war against ISIS.

Despite all of this, Russia and the U.S. appear to be at it again; however, this is no space or arms race, they are actively flexing their muscles through their proxies (U.S.: rebels and Russia: Syrian Army).

Map of Syria - Latakia and Tartus

ZeroHedge reminds us that it is not as if China had not given sufficient warning: “This comes two years after China warned that turmoil in Syria could have negative implications for the global economy and 18 months after Beijing, along with Moscow, used their security council vetoes to undercut a UN resolution calling for the crisis in Syria to be referred to the Hague.”

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports on Sept. 21 that “Russia and Iran have stepped up coordination inside Syria as they move to safeguard President Bashar al-Assad’s control over his coastal stronghold, according to officials in the U.S. and Middle East, creating a new complication for Washington’s diplomatic goals.”


Obama names open homosexual to be Secretary of U.S. Army

If the Senate approves, the U. S. military will soon have its first openly homosexual Secretary of the Army.

Eric FanningGreg Jaffe reports for The Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2015, that in a historic first for the Pentagon, Obama has chosen to nominate Eric Fanning, 47, to lead the Army. “Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a statement.

Fanning has been a trusted ally of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter who tapped Fanning last year to oversee his transition team as he moved into the Pentagon’s top job. He also served briefly as acting Air Force secretary, a deputy undersecretary of the Navy and has been acting undersecretary of the Army since June 2015. Defense officials said that he might be the only person in the Pentagon’s history to serve at senior levels in all three of the services. “He understands how the Pentagon works and how to get things done in the Pentagon,” said Rudy de Leon, who was deputy defense secretary in the Clinton administration. “He knows what works and what doesn’t work.”

Fanning has been a specialist on national security issues for more than two decades and has played a key role overseeing some of the Pentagon’s biggest shipbuilding and fighter jet weapons programs. Now he will oversee an Army that has been battered by the longest stretch of continuous combat in American history and is facing potentially severe budget cuts.

As Army secretary, Fanning will be teamed with Gen. Mark Milley, who took over as the Army’s top general in August. Together the two men will assume responsibility for the Pentagon’s largest and most troubled service.

The Army, which swelled to about 570,000 active duty troops during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has shed about 80,000 soldiers from its ranks in recent years and plans to cut 40,000 more over the next few years. Those planned cuts would shrink the service to its smallest size of the post-World War II era.

Battered by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has had to deal with a spike in suicides as the wars drew to an end and. Recently, the Army’s outgoing top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, said that tight budgets and the ongoing strain of 14 years of war had badly degraded the Army’s readiness to fight and that only one-third of its brigades were prepared to deploy to a war zone, the lowest readiness rate in decades.

Fanning’s sexual orientation seemed a non-issue among Republicans and Democrats in Congress who were far more worried about the state of the Army. Joe Kasper, the chief of staff to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), said, “There is a real crisis in morale and retention that has developed for the Army over the last several years. The Army needs a leader who will stand up for soldiers, who recognizes war can get ugly and who won’t shy away from the tough issues. If Fanning is that type of person he’ll be embraced.”

Fanning’s historic appointment didn’t seem to cause a stir in the Army, either.

Phil Carter, an Iraq veteran and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said, “My sense is that the Army is over this and has been over it for some time. The Army Cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight. The biggest problem the Army faces is finding its mission, relevance and purpose after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All of the services face it but the Army faces it most acutely.”

Fanning’s role as Army secretary would give him influence over the selection over the next generation of generals who will rebuild the service after the wars.

One big question for the Army is whether, in an era of tight budgets, it will return primarily to preparing for heavy combat missions against a big conventional military, like the Russians, or experiment with new formations that are better suited to training and working alongside indigenous partners. Since 2000, the Army has been forced to cancel virtually all of its major new weapons programs because they ran over budget or didn’t perform as expected. New battlefield equipment for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like special armored vehicles designed to resist blasts from roadside bombs, had to be developed outside of the Army’s traditional procurement channels. The net result is that many of the Army’s most sophisticated helicopters, tanks and artillery cannons were developed more than 30 years ago.

“The Army is still living off equipment from the Reagan years” deLeon said. With budgets tight, Fanning’s challenge will be to upgrade and modernize the aging fleet using modern information technology.

See also: