TIME Military

Obama’s Awkward Farewell to Hagel

President Obama Attends Armed Forces Farewell Tribute To Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the defense chief's formal farewell ceremony Wednesday. Win McNamee / Getty Images

The President pushed his Pentagon chief, then praised him.

Wednesday afternoon marked another one of those painful spectacles, where someone being forced out of the national spotlight was forced to grin and bear it as the person responsible for forcing him out publicly sang his praises. This time it featured President Obama hailing the brief, two-year tenure of Chuck Hagel, his third defense secretary.

Hagel—who will hang around the Pentagon for weeks until his successor, Ashton Carter, is confirmed—has spent recent days prowling the bowels of the Pentagon, thanking the unseen and unheralded for their work.

Hagel has been saying goodbye to Pentagon workers in recent days. DoD photo

While the two men haven’t spelled out precisely what went wrong, disagreements over policies involving Syria and the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are often cited. And Hagel’s body language since the White House shoved him out Nov. 24, made Wednesday’s formal sendoff in an Army hall not far from the Pentagon particularly awkward.

Obama: In October of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to a military base in New Mexico to review a top secret weapons program. And he went down to the White Sands Missile Range and out to the testing grounds. There, out in the desert, the president watched as soldiers demonstrated what would later become the famed Stinger Missile. And one of those soldiers was a 21-year old private from Nebraska named Charles Timothy Hagel. Now, the Secret Service does not usually let me get too close to an active weapons system. It makes them nervous…And let me assure you that I checked with the Secret Service, and Chuck will not be demonstrating any missile launches today…

Thanks to Secretary Hagel’s guiding hand, this institution is better positioned for the future. But Chuck, I want to suggest today that perhaps your greatest impact, a legacy that will be felt for decades to come, has been your own example. It’s not simply that you’ve been the first enlisted combat veteran and first Vietnam veteran to serve as secretary of defense, it’s how your life experience: being down in the mud, feeling the bullets fly overhead, has allowed you to connect with our troops like no other secretary before you.

At least some observers found Obama’s “joke” about Stingers off-key, given the fragging that went on in Vietnam. Hagel, who declined to attend the White House ceremony at which Obama announced Carter as his successor, however, dutifully took the podium and was gracious.

Hagel: Mr. President…thank you for being here today… I will soon leave this job that I have cherished… The opportunity to have been a part of all this is something I could not have imagined when I joined the Army 48 years ago… We’ve made mistakes. We will make more mistakes… One last point. Of all the opportunities my life has given me, and I have been blessed with so many, I am most proud of having once been a soldier.

In the end, everyone was glad it was over.

TIME Military

Military Chiefs ‘Prep the Battlefield’ for Biggest Pentagon Budget Request Ever

Leaders of US military branches testify on military budgets before Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington
General Raymond Odierno (Army), Admiral Jonathan Greenert (Navy), General Mark Welsh (Air Force), and General Joseph Dunford (Marines) warned a Senate panel Wednesday of the dangers they see if their services' budgets are cut. Gary Cameron / Reuters

They're seeking more than a half a trillion dollars

The White House will be seeking $534 billion to run the Pentagon next year when it sends its 2016 budget request to Congress on Monday.

That would be—despite the cries we keep hearing from assorted generals—the largest Pentagon budget in history.

That’s because President Obama is ignoring the budget caps imposed by the legislative legerdemain known as sequestration: he will ask Congress (which, along with the President, imposed those caps in 2011) for $34 billion more than sequestration allows (there’s another $51 billion in the request, exempt from the caps, for waging ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria).

The Pentagon finds itself on the horns of a dilemma: a growing number of congressional Republicans have been more eager to tame spending than fund the military. If the military can’t succeed in loosening sequestration’s grip on the Pentagon’s coffers, across-the-board cuts in personnel, procurement and training are certain.

For four years, the Pentagon and its allies in Congress have fought the budget caps. Their inaction has kept the Defense Department from learning to live within them, and the retooling and reforms such an acknowledgement would require. Their fight continues, which is why the service chiefs trekked to Capitol Hill Wednesday for the umpteenth time to plead with the Senate Armed Services Committee to relax sequestration’s strictures.

The guys on the ground say they’re losing the edge. “The number one thing that keeps me up at night is that if we’re asked to respond to an unknown contingency, I will send soldiers to that contingency not properly trained and ready,” Army General Ray Odierno said. “We simply are not used to doing that.” His Marine counterpart concurred. “I think I probably speak for all the chiefs, none of us want to be part of, on our last tour on active duty, want to be a part of returning back to those days in the 1970s when we did have in fact a hollow force,” General Joseph Dunford said.

The guys on the water and in the sky—where technology pays its biggest dividends—warned the bad guys are catching up. “We’re slipping behind,” Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, said. “Our advantage is shrinking very fast.”

“We currently have 12 fleets of airplanes that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia,” General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said. “The capability gap is closing…the people trying to catch up with us technologically…have momentum. If [they] get too close, we won’t be able to recover before they pass us.”

But the chiefs were preaching to the wrong audience: the armed services committee, packed with lawmakers with major defense installations or factories back home, has long been a bastion of pro-Pentagon lawmakers.

How draconian are sequestration’s budget cuts? It’s tough keeping track of how much the U.S. spends on its military, in part because there are several yardsticks to keep track. If you want to boost spending, you use one yardstick; if you want to cut it, you use another.

The U.S. military budget has been creeping steadily upward since World War II, even after the fall of the Soviet Union. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

For example, simply using dollars (adjusted for inflation) shows U.S. military spending jumped by 61% from 1998 to 2010. U.S. defense spending in 2010 eclipsed the peak of the Reagan-era defense buildup, designed to defeat the Soviet Union. Military spending has fallen 12% from 2010’s crest. And when you fold in the added funding the Pentagon got to wage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the drop is a steeper 21%.

This is a problem of the Pentagon’s own making. It routinely took defense dollars that were supposed to be used to fight the wars and used them to buy new hardware and for other, non-war-related expenses. Like any addict, it got used to this easy access to spending euphoria.

That makes withdrawal from such easy money all the tougher: if war funding had been only used for wars, ending the wars would end the need for that money. But seeing as much of the funding bought what should have been paid for by the Pentagon’s so-called “base” budget, weaning itself from its war-fattened budgets is proving painful.

Then there’s another way to measure Pentagon spending: what share of the national economy is dedicated to defense? Since World War II, the nation has spent about a nickel of every dollar created by the U.S. economy on its military, or 5%. It’s now down to about 3.5%. If sequestration remains the law, the Pentagon’s share of the national economic pie will fall to 2.5% by 2019, the smallest slice since the end of World War II.

The share of the nation’s economy dedicated to national defense has been on the decline since World War II. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Those who want to spend more on the Pentagon cite this decline as proof the nation is starving the military. That’s only true, of course, if one assumes the enemy is the Gross Domestic Product.

Many Pentagon advocates would like to earmark a fixed percentage of the GDP for the military—4% is often cited— even though the economy has boomed since World War II and there is no link between GDP and the threats facing the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The challenge for the U.S. military is obvious. The lawmakers, obligated “to raise and support Armies” under the Constitution, are concerned with global instability and terrorism.

But the 13 years, nearly 7,000 American lives and three trillion American dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq weigh heavily on their minds. It’s obvious most of them don’t feel that more military money is the answer.

TIME celebrities

Bradley Cooper Says American Sniper Role Was Life-Changing

Actor bulked up to play former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle

Actor Bradley Cooper says in a new interview with People that playing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in American Sniper was a life-changing experience.

Cooper, who has been visiting veterans nationwide, admits he has always respected military men and women but never fully realized the toll it can take on their families. He called playing Kyle “life-changing,” and says he’s gratified that people are responding well to the film.

“People were willing to express themselves in a format that they would never do normally,” Cooper adds. “But because they saw Chris’s story, they were willing to say, ‘Thank you for putting a guy I can relate to up there and have it be something right away that I know is accurate.'”

Read more at PEOPLE.

TIME Military

Why the Pentagon Is Honoring the Late Saudi King

CJCS visits Saudi Arabia
Then-Crown Prince—and now king—Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets Dempsey in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last June. DoD photo / D. Myles Cullen

What an essay contest reveals about Washington's relationship with Riyadh

You can get whiplash inside the Pentagon. The last time the Defense Department achieved notoriety as a platform for views on Saudi Arabia was in 2002, between the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s when a Rand Corp. analyst told a high-level panel behind closed doors that the kingdom was “active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader.” Washington, he said, should declare the Saudis the enemy and threaten to take over the oil wells if they didn’t do more to combat Islamist terrorists (the briefing was 10 months after the 9/11 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi).

The Pentagon quickly distanced itself from Laurent Murawiec’s presentation to the Defense Policy Board. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Saudi Foreign Minister to apologize. Murawiec, who made the presentation on his own time, resigned from Rand several weeks later.

On Monday, the top U.S. military leader, Army General Martin Dempsey, announced the Pentagon would be conducting a “research and essay competition” to honor Saudi King Abdullah, who died Jan. 23 at 90, as “a man of remarkable character and courage.”

Critics pounced.

“I wonder if Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for postings critical of Islam and the House of Saud is eligible to enter?” one posted on Dempsey’s Facebook page. “That’s an essay that might be worth reading.”

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died at age 90
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz in Cairo, Egypt, last June. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Foreign-policy experts questioned Abdullah’s reputation as a King who pushed for change in Saudi society. “There were persistent stories alleging that Abdullah was a reformer, but no one could ever articulate for me what he actually stood for and wanted. It seemed to me that he wanted what everyone in the Saudi royal family wants — stability and business as usual,” Steven A. Cook, an Arab expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote Monday. “There is no denying that the Saudis under Abdullah had an extremism problem about which they were apparently in abject denial until terrorists started targeting them in 2003. More recently, Abdullah oversaw the beheading of eighty-seven individuals in 2014, mostly poor guest workers that no one cares about. So far this year, which is only twenty-six days old, Saudi executioners have separated ten more people from their heads.”

And you don’t have to rely on ivory-tower scholars. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a secret 2009 memo that Saudi Arabia is an ATM for terrorism. “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she wrote, adding that the King and his government had been reluctant to shut down such cash pipelines.

This is the challenge of the 21st century world. With the end of the Cold War, forces have been unleashed that have toppled dictators along an arc of crisis from Libya to Egypt to Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is the key to U.S. policy in the region, and it, too, is a non-democracy that hardly squares with U.S. ideals.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship boils down to quid-pro-petroleum: We need their oil, and they need U.S. military protection. The Saudi military’s F-15 fighters, AWACS aircraft, Patriot missiles, M-1 tanks, Bradley fighting Vehicles and AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships are all U.S.-built and maintained. Absent continued U.S. support — spare parts, upgrades, software — for such an arsenal, Saudi Arabia would find itself defenseless in a matter of months. Shi’ite Iran’s growing clout in the region, just across the Persian Gulf from the kingdom, unnerves the Sunni Saudis.

Dempsey was stationed in Riyadh, a month after earning his first star as a brigadier general, when Murawiec gave his infamous Pentagon briefing. He was overseeing 350 U.S. troops and civilians, and more than 1,000 contractors, as chief of the Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program. The commander of the Saudi Arabia National Guard: none other than Abdullah, who would become King two years after Dempsey left Saudi Arabia.

“In my job to train and advise his military forces, and in our relationship since, I found the King to be a man of remarkable character and courage,” Dempsey posted on his Facebook page Friday. “He will be truly missed and his loss will be felt by his country and ours.”

But don’t confuse the Saudi Arabia National Guard run by the future King, and trained by Dempsey, with the U.S. military’s National Guard.

“Saudi Arabia really has two different armies,” the senior U.S. enlisted man assigned to SANG from 2006 to 2008 wrote in 2009. Then-U.S. Army Sergeant Major James E. Wafe Jr. added:

The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) is not like the U.S. National Guard. It is a tribal force forged out of those tribal elements loyal to the Saudi family. The SANG’s mission is to protect the royal family from internal rebellion and the other Saudi army should the need arise.”

That other, “official” army’s rule, Wafe continued, is “to protect the country from external threats, and to serve as a balance against SANG, should the royal family decide to eliminate some clan hostile to the King’s rule.”

Plainly, Dempsey and his troops had their hands full training the Saudi national guard, and balancing its capabilities against those of the Royal Saudi Land Forces.

Wafe wrote of the challenges associated with training SANG’s non-commissioned officers — the sergeants and others that are the backbone of the U.S. military — to fight:

The Western Region really wanted their NCOs to be as strong as our NCO Corp, but the lack of knowledge made them not confident in them and also they thought they couldn’t be taught. We had sergeants that held the same rank and position for years, such as a LAV (Light Armor Vehicle) driver. A lot of times, they made the NCOs serve tea and coffee for the generals. We knew we couldn’t teach the NCOs everything, because of time restraints, so we mainly focused on the basic skills to protect and serve his King. These basic skills consisted of marksmanship with their individual assigned weapons and crew serve weapons, Physical Fitness, Night Vision Goggles, and map reading. Their duty hours were only six hours a day, ranging from 0600-1200; this didn’t give us much time to train … The trend that I observed about the SANG Soldiers is that once they return from their Security Mission, they tend to forget everything and we are re-teaching the same skills over again. This becomes a long drawn-out process and a lot times it feels like we only move the SANG Anny inches and this is a plus when it comes to training …

The Omar bin Kattab Brigade (OKE) is stationed in Taif … The NCOs within this Brigade were even worse than the Western Region. The NCOs here did not have any education and they did not know how to read or write. A lot of our training here was hands-on and that took a while to conduct. The equipment they had there were old and they were lacking tools to keep up the maintenance. The Brigade Commanders did have unit money to spend on equipment, but many of them bought furniture for their office and home, instead of taking care of their equipment. Some of the soldiers did not want to replace their periscopes on their vehicle because it was a battle wound from Desert Storm and they wanted to show off their treasured badge of courage. Overall these NCOs and soldiers wanted to learn, but no support was enforced by their higher command …

The SANG Army took on the U.S. tactical and gunnery manuals, but it takes us a while to translate it into Arabic. One major issue we did realize is that an Arabic word doesn’t really mean the same in English. When the [interpreters] are translating the English version to Arabic, sometimes they have to find the word that means the closest to the English word. This can cause a big problem when it comes to gunneries because when it comes to bullets and safety, we have to be very specific. In Arabic, there can be a lot of gray areas which creates the opening for an unsafe act to happen …

The mentality the Saudi officers is if I am the only one in the organization who knows how to … Then I am important and people have to come to me. If others know what I know … then I have lost my power and importance. So U.S. advisors need to know that training the trainers does not always work … the knowledge is not passed down because ‘Information is Power.’

Wafe, who as an enlisted soldier was more likely than an officer to call ’em the way he saw them, issued guidelines for those U.S. troops who would follow in his footsteps to train SANG forces:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 5.05.19 PM

O.K., so the Saudi monarchy is an archaic autocracy with a U.S.-supplied military dedicated to keeping it in power. Bottom line, as Donald Rumsfeld might have said: You defend your oil with the army you have, not the one you wish you had.

TIME Military

The U.S. Needs a New Yardstick for a New Kind of War

IRAQ-CONFLICT
Buildings burn Saturday during a military operation launched by the Iraqi army to retake positions held by Islamic State outside the village Sharween, north of Baghdad. YOUNIS AL-BAYATI / AFP / Getty Images

America keeps measuring progress on a battlefield that no longer exists

Body counts are never a good a yardstick for measuring progress in a war of ideas. That’s why the Pentagon freaked out Thursday when Stuart Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Al Arabiya News Channel that America and its allies “have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The first counter-fire came, within hours, from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day,” the outgoing defense chief, who served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, said in one of his most pungent observations in his two years on the job. “And we lost that war.”

Hagel’s spokesman piled on Friday. “It’s not a metric that we’re going to hang our hat on when it comes to talking to the success of this strategy,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said of the Pentagon’s internal body-count estimate. “This is not a uniformed army with identification cards and recruiting posters.”

While Ambassador Jones added that the 6,000 number was “not so important” in the overall scheme of things, the catnip was out of the bag. That’s because Americans, impatient over wars that drag on (like Hagel’s Vietnam and George W. Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq), crave measurements that suggest progress.

Unfortunately, that metric mindset has little utility in wars against ideology. “I don’t know whether 6,000 [ISIS] people have been killed or not,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “But that is not going to do it.”

That’s because conflicts like the one now underway against the Islamist fundamentalism represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are not constrained by national boundaries, or the national pressure points that have traditionally been the trigger of wars (and the foundation of ending them) among states.

Without the trappings of formal government—a capital, commerce, standing armies—non-state actors like ISIS or al-Qaeda deny military powers like the U.S. the kinds of targets they prefer. Their allegiance to ideology—be it theology or something else—takes away the fulcrum that victors used to leverage to bring wars to an end.

Industrial powers created industrial militaries, where rear-echelon bean-counters could tote up tanks, ball-bearing factories and troops destroyed—and thereby chart progress, or the lack thereof. But ideological war isn’t industrial in scope. Instead, it’s more like information warfare, where ideas, shared online, create alliances that ripple across borders and oceans.

It took a Detroit to build an industrial arsenal of democracy, with each weapon requiring dollars and sweat to assemble. Today, it merely takes a keyboard to build an ideological alliance, each member a low-cost addition requiring little more than fervor and an Internet connection.

The Administration of George W. Bush concluded the way to prevail after the 9/11 attacks was to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Following wars that eventually will cost $3 trillion or more, and at least 6,845 American lives, his successor has decided not to tag along. Instead, President Barack Obama has told the nations involved—those with the most at risk—to step up to the plate to do the fighting, with the U.S. filling the role of best supporting actor.

Some see such a policy as too timid. “The U.S. efforts have always been halfhearted, half-resourced and focused on exit strategies rather than on success,” says David Sedney, who ran the Pentagon office responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia from 2009 to 2013. “We always want to have an exit, and the problem with real life is there’s no exit.” He argues that the U.S. needs to launch nation-building strategies in failed states that currently serve as incubators for ISIS and other groups.

Politicians aren’t calling for such radical action. But some believe the U.S. needs to step up the fight. “We need more boots on the ground,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS on Sunday. “I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.”

The U.S., McCain said, can’t simply direct wars against ISIS and similar foes from relative safety behind the front lines. “For [the Administration] to say, ‘we expect [Iraq and Yemen] to do it on their own,’ they’re not doing it on their own,” he said. “And they are losing.”

The last clear victory scored by the U.S. military was against Iraq in 1991, led by President George H.W. Bush, a Cold War commander-in-chief. It was a bespoke war tailor-made for the Pentagon: Iraq’s massive army stormed into Kuwait, occupied it, and waited for the U.S. and its allies to drive it out.

The world watched that conflict and decided, given Washington’s overwhelming advantages in that kind of war, not to fight it again. Unfortunately, too many Americans seem unaware that the rules have changed. So they continue to want to measure progress in today’s conflicts with yesterday’s yardsticks.

But such yearnings are doomed. Persistence and will, not body bags, are the keys to winning these kinds of wars.

TIME politics

Why the United States Controls Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay
US Marines raising the American Flag over Guantanamo Bay in 1898 US Marine Corps—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

President Obama promised to close the prison there on Jan. 22, 2009

It was six years ago, on Jan. 22, 2009, two days after he became President, that Barack Obama issued an executive order designed to “promptly close detention facilities at Guantanamo.” The closing of that prison at the U.S. naval base at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay would, he said, take place no less than a year from that date.

Five years after the 2010 deadline passed — and even as relations between the U.S. and Cuba begin to thaw — the detention facilities remain in use. More than 100 prisoners remain there, even though that number is declining and officials have said that Obama would still like to achieve the closure before he leaves office.

But how did the U.S. end up with such a facility in Cuba in the first place?

MORE New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Planning Trade Mission to Cuba

The story of Guantanamo goes back more than a century, to the time of the Spanish-American War. And, during that time, it’s been, as it is now, a source of controversy.

Until 1898, Cuba had belonged to Spain; as the Spanish empire diminished, Cubans fought for their independence. The U.S. joined in to help its neighbor and, though the Spanish-American War ended up focused mainly on the Spanish presence in the Philippines, Cuba was the site of the sinking of the USS Maine, the event that precipitated American military involvement. (Remember “Remember the Maine“? That’s this.) When the war ended, Spain gave the U.S. control of Cuba — among other territories, like Puerto Rico — and, about three years later, Cuba became an independent nation.

MORE With Cuba, Nothing Can Be Simple

However, that independence was not without a catch: as part of the Platt Amendment, the document that governed the end of the occupation, the new Cuban government was required to lease or sell certain territory to the United States. Here’s how TIME later summarized (with numbers accurate for 1960) what happened next:

The U.S. rights in Guantanamo are clear and indisputable. By a treaty signed in 1903 and reaffirmed in 1934, the U.S. recognized Cuba’s “ultimate sovereignty” over the 45-sq.-mi. enclave in Oriente province near the island’s southeast end. In return, Cuba yielded the U.S. “complete jurisdiction and control” through a perpetual lease that can be voided only by mutual agreement.

For a low rental ($3,386.25 annually), the U.S. Navy gets its best natural harbor south of Charleston, S.C., plus 19,621 acres of land, enough for a complex of 1,400 buildings and two airfields, one of them capable of handling entire squadrons of the Navy’s hottest jets, e.g., 1,000-m.p.h. F8U Crusaders, 700-m.p.h. A4D Skyhawks. In terms of global strategy, Guantanamo has only marginal value. It served as an antisubmarine center in World War II, and could be one again. But its greatest worth is as an isolated, warm-water training base for the fleet. With an anchorage capable of handling 50 warships at once, it is the Navy’s top base for shakedown cruises and refresher training for both sailors and airmen. What Cuba gets out of the deal is 3,700 jobs for the technicians and laborers who help maintain the base, a payroll of $7,000,000 annually for hard-pressed Oriente.

When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba the 1950s, there was briefly a period during which the fate of Guantanamo seemed in question. As TIME reported in the Sept. 12, 1960, issue, Castro threatened to kick the Navy out if the U.S. continued to interfere with the Cuban economy; however, he also said that he knew that, if he did so, the U.S. could take it as a pretext to attack and get rid of him. Castro would continue to bring up his displeasure at the U.S. presence in Cuba — in 1964, he cut off the water supply, to which the Navy responded by building its own water and power plants — but the lease stayed, as did the military families based there.

MORE When Fidel Castro Canceled Santa Claus

Guantanamo returned to the news in the 1990s when it got a new set of residents. In 1991, in the wake of a coup d’état in Haiti, thousands of Haitians fled by sea for the United States. In December of that year, Guantanamo Bay became the site of a refugee camp built to house those who sought asylum while the Bush administration figured out what to do with them. Throughout the years that followed, the camp became home to thousands of native Cubans, too, who had also attempted to flee to the U.S. for political asylum. In the summer of 1994 alone, TIME wrote the following May, “more than 20,000 Haitians and 30,000 Cubans were intercepted at sea and delivered to hastily erected camps in Guantanamo.” In 1999, during conflict in the Balkans (and after the Haitian and Cuban refugees had been sent home or on to the States), the U.S. agreed to put up 20,000 new refugees at Guantanamo, but that plan ended up scrapped for being too far from their European homelands.

The decision to house al-Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo was reached shortly after 9/11 — and, nearly as immediately, the world began to wonder just what their status would be.

A former Pentagon official told TIME’s Mark Thompson last month that some would like the Guantanamo Bay facility to be closed entirely, although that’s very unlikely to happen. If the long history of Guantanamo Bay proves anything, it’s that, though regimes and requirements may change, the U.S. Navy is likely to stay.

Read next: Why the U.S.-Cuba Thaw Doesn’t Mean Guantanamo Bay Is Closing

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME movies

The Naval Carrier From Top Gun Is About to Be Broken Up for Scrap

An officer guides a Crusader aircraft at launch on USS Ranger's deck, Pacific Ocean
An officer guides a Crusader aircraft at launch on USS Ranger's deck, Pacific Ocean Wilbur E. Garrett—National Geographic/Getty Images

Previous attempts to preserve it have failed through lack of funding

A last-ditch online campaign has been launched to try and save a naval carrier that appeared in the movie Top Gun.

The supercarrier U.S.S. Ranger was decommissioned in 1993 after 35 years of service, USA Today reports.

Now a California-based company has set up a social-media campaign and online petition to try to persuade the navy against scrapping the carrier.

Top Gun Super Carrier of Long Beach Inc. wants to acquire the ship, and moor it in Long Beach harbor as a museum and event space.

“If you think about what we can bring to it, an economic boon to the city of Long Beach, it’s a no-brainer,” said project manager Mike Shanahan.

A naval spokesman told USA Today that the navy would like to see the ship preserved but previous efforts to turn the Ranger into a museum have failed, and the carrier was sold to International Shipbreaking last year.

[USA Today]

TIME Japan

Japan Cabinet Okays Record Military Budget With Eye on China

Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, stands in front of a mock-up of the F-35 fighter jet during the annual Self-Defense Forces Commencement of Air Review at Hyakuri Air Base, north of Tokyo, on Oct. 26, 2014 Eugene Hoshiko—AP

Some $42 billion will be spent on defense

(TOKYO) — Japan’s Cabinet approved the country’s largest ever defense budget on Wednesday, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China’s rising assertiveness in the region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet endorsed a nearly 5 trillion yen ($42 billion) defense budget for the year beginning in April as part of a record 96.3 trillion yen ($814 billion) total budget.

The budget must still be approved by parliament, but Abe’s coalition holds majorities in both houses.

The 2 percent rise in defense spending is the third annual increase under Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 11 straight years of defense budget cuts.

The increase mainly covers new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and amphibious vehicles for a new unit similar to the U.S. Marine Corps. The aim is to boost Japan’s capacity to defend uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that it controls but which are also claimed by China.

The 2015 budget also covers the cost of purchasing parts of “Global Hawk” drones, planned for deployment in 2019, two Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and missile defense system development with Washington.

Abe favors a stronger role for Japan’s military, despite a commitment to pacifism enshrined in the U.S.-inspired constitution drawn up after the country’s defeat in World War II. Japan’s defense guidelines were revised in December 2013 as tensions rose over the East China Sea islands.

Chinese patrol boats often visit waters near the islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan and as the Diaoyu islands in China.

The defense budget is designed to achieve “seamless and mobile” defense capability that can respond to various contingencies, the ministry said in the Cabinet-approved budget plan. It will provide effective deterrence and contribute to stability in the Asia-Pacific region and improvement of the global security environment, the ministry said.

Abe’s government must tread a fine line between spending enough to support economic growth and defense and slowing the rise in Japan’s debt, which is the highest, proportionately, among industrialized countries.

As Japan’s population quickly ages, welfare costs are soaring. Social security spending will account for about a third of the budget. The economy is in recession but the government has forecast growth at 1.5 percent this year, after an estimated 0.5 percent contraction in 2014.

To balance his conflicting priorities, Abe is increasing outlays targeting families and other households that are struggling as wages lag behind price increases. But he also intends to cut corporate income taxes by 2.5 percentage points in the fiscal year that begins April 1, to 32.11 percent. Further cuts are planned.

The government is also tweaking tax rules to encourage elderly Japanese, who hold about 60 percent of the country’s 1.6 quadrillion yen ($13.6 trillion) in private savings, to spend more on their children and grandchildren.

TIME Military

2 Members of the Tuskegee Airmen Die on the Same Day

Tuskegee airmen in Alabama in 1942.
A group of Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama in 1942. Gabriel Benzur&—LIFE/Getty

Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey enlisted in 1942

Two members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black Air Force squad that flew during World War II, died recently. They were both 91 and they both died on Jan. 5, their families said Sunday.

Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey were lifelong friends who enlisted together in 1942, the Associated Press reports. They worked as mechanics on the combat planes. After the war, Huntley became a skycap at airports in Burbank and Los Angeles, and Shambrey worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Both men died in their homes in Los Angeles.

TIME Military

Muslim Navy Man Sues U.S. Over Beard Restrictions

Jonathan Berts wishes to return to active duty

A Muslim sailor is suing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top U.S. military officials after he was denied a religious waiver to keep a beard four years ago.

The former boot camp instructor, Jonathan Berts, wishes to return to active duty and believes his case is strengthened by a January 2014 Pentagon decree that relaxed rulings for religious dress and grooming. His lawyers filed the lawsuit on Dec. 22, the Navy Times reports.

After his waiver was denied in 2011, Berts, who served in the Navy for nine years, filed an appeal. Berts was then assigned to stand watch at “an empty, cockroach-infested barracks” and later received an honorable discharge that made him ineligible to reenlist, according to the report. Berts claims that his application was rejected and record dismissed in part for making too much “noise” about the process.

[Navy Times]

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