The Man Behind U.S. Space Operations

Gen. Buck

Gen. David J. Buck

When the U.S. military needs satellite connectivity for any of its operations, it turns to Lt. General David Buck, Commander of both the 14th Air Force of the Air Force Space Command and the Joint Functional Component Command (JFCC) for Space under the U.S. Strategic Command.

The 14th Air Force is the service’s operational space component to the U.S. Strategic Command. As the 14th Air Force’s Commander, Gen. Buck leads more than 19,500 men and women responsible for providing strategic missile warning; nuclear command, control and communication; the Global Positioning System; space situational awareness; satellite operations; space launch; and range operations.

Wearing his other hat, Gen. Buck also directs all assigned and attached USSTRATCOM space forces as the Commander, JFCC for Space. Gen. Buck’s office provides tailored, responsive, and synchronized theater and global space support of national security and combatant commander objectives. His operation is also responsible for protecting and defending critical U.S. and allied space capabilities.

Overseeing two large military organizations is no easy feat, but Gen. Buck brings a wealth of experience to his roles. He received his commission in 1986 as a distinguished graduate of Officer Training School. In addition to a variety of command, test and evaluation, and staff assignments, Gen. Buck’s operational experience includes missile operations, space launch and range operations, satellite command and control, space force enhancement, and space control. Prior to assuming his current position, Gen. Buck was first the Director of Operations, then Vice Commander, Air Force Space Command.

As a result of holding these two commands, Gen. Buck is “in position of not only organizing, training, and equipping space forces, but also being a main point-person for the space part of any military operations,” Space News said in a recent article.

When a military unit needs space support, it submits the request to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC).

“Typically, we will get those space support requests and say ‘how can we best support this campaign?’” Gen. Buck said at a breakfast in April hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “Typically, in a campaign like this, notionally, it would involve optimizing the precision, navigation, and timing constellation – GPS – and also making sure that our satellite communications systems are queued and ready to support.”

In addition to overseeing day to day operations, Gen. Buck is thinking strategically about the U.S. military’s future space capabilities. For instance, the JFCC for Space is tasked with assessing the Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) project. The CIC is a pilot program to determine how information sharing and collaboration between the Department of Defense and commercial satellite operators can be improved.

According to our own Tim Turk, who was involved with the program on behalf of Intelsat General, the project “laid the groundwork for sustained, combined operations, and clearly paved the way for an enduring relationship as true mission partners.” As the program continues, the JFCC for Space is establishing a framework for further collaboration.

Gen. Buck is also strategizing the best way to beef up the organizations’ intelligence capabilities. “To me, intelligence drives operations, and we have to get ahead of adversary actions,” Gen. Buck said at the breakfast. “Just like every other domain, I need domain awareness: knowledge of who, what, where, when, and why.”

To this end, Gen. Buck is working with the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson. Together, they are trying to determine the best way to attract intel personnel to space career fields.

Gen. Buck’s efforts to collaborate with commercial satellite partners and achieve an intelligence advantage illustrate his long-range view of the importance of space in military operations. We’re excited to continue collaborating with the military in the future within the CIC and support the 14th Air Force and JFCC for Space under Gen. Buck’s leadership.

GeekWire: ‘Microsoft unveils Azure Government Secret to help U.S. agencies handle classified data’

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. (DoD Photo)

More and more government agencies are realizing the benefits of cloud computing, and Microsoft is poised to unveil several new updates to its cloud services for government customers Tuesday at its Government Cloud Forum.

Microsoft currently operates six cloud computing regions dedicated specifically to government customers, and supports the U.S. Department of Defense with two of those regions. Working with the government requires satisfying a host of security requirements, and a new service called Azure Government Secret will allow other agencies with strict protocols for the handling of classified information to use Azure services, said Tom Keane, head of global infrastructure for Microsoft Azure.

Azure Government Secret builds on the announcement earlier this year that Azure was cleared to serve agencies at Impact Level 5 of the Defense Information System Agency’s cloud security requirements, the second-highest level of classification. But the DoD is not the only government agency that handles sensitive information, and the new service will allow agencies working on topics classified as “Secret” in fields like energy research or law enforcement greater access to cloud computing services like artificial intelligence and translation, Keane said.

The different levels of security authorizations granted to cloud computing providers, as compiled by the Defense Information Systems Agency. (DISA Image)

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of government-backed hacking going on around the world at the moment. Even some of the lesser-known Cabinet-level government agencies have secret data that they’d like to keep within the country, and their budgets don’t always allow them to hire the best infrastructure and security talent, which is where a cloud provider like Microsoft comes in.

The new service will allow those agencies to take advantage of Azure services even when handling classified data. “Customers of Azure Government Secret will gain access to new technologies at scale and pace of innovation they’d experience in a commercial environment,” Keane said.

Microsoft also plans to make a version of its blockchain technology available for government agencies to use, after several agencies expressed interest in evaluating the blockchain — which allows two parties to conduct secure internet transactions via a shared ledger, without the need for a hackable database — in some of their efforts.

Keane thinks government customers might use blockchain technology for licensing services, voter records, of tax management. One specific example: the U.S. Department of State has expressed interest in using blockchain technology as part of helping with recovery efforts around the world, he said.

In 2011, all government agencies were ordered by the Obama administration to think cloud-first when upgrading their technology infrastructure, and despite its fondness for rolling back various initiatives of its predecessor, the policy seems to have continued in the Trump administration.

This has been a boon for cloud infrastructure and software providers, who have all rushed to build services tailored for the unique needs of government customers despite the byzantine process that often accompanies government contracts. Microsoft has been aggressive here thanks to long-standing business (and legal) relationships with government agencies, but Amazon Web Services built a cloud service for the Central Intelligence Agency and says over 2,000 government agencies are using some of its services.

Microsoft also plans to announce a few other new services for government customers at the event, held, of course, in Washington, D.C.

  • Microsoft 365, the new package of Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobilty and Security software introduced at Inspire in June, will be generally available for government users early next year. Microsoft Teams will also be available for government users around that time.
  • Agencies interested in high-performance computing cloud services will be able to take advantage of Azure’s H-series virtual machines.
  • Citrix’s VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) will now be available for Azure Government customers.

Announcing new Azure Government capabilities for classified mission-critical workloads

Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Government in the journey to the cloud, providing both infrastructure (IaaS) and platform (PaaS) offerings to enable digital transformation. Our government customers are responsible for the most sensitive data and the most critical applications in the country. We are committed to delivering the broadest array of services to meet government regulatory requirements and security needs. Azure Government is the mission-critical cloud, providing more than 7,000 Federal, State, and local customers the exclusivity, highest compliance and security, hybrid flexibility, and commercial-grade innovation they need to better meet citizen expectations.

Today at Microsoft Government Cloud Forum in Washington D.C., we’re announcing a number of important advances for Azure Government, the dedicated cloud for our U.S. Government customers and their partners. We’re expanding our support for highly-classified workloads, delivering advanced technologies like Blockchain and support for High Performance Computing, and increasing our available security capabilities with Azure Security Center. In addition, we’re launching Citrix VDI on Azure Government to help our government customers deliver user workloads from the cloud.

Introducing Azure Government Secret

At last year’s Government Cloud Forum Azure Government was the first government-only cloud to be awarded Information Impact Level 5 DoD Provisional Authorization by the Defense Information Systems Agency. On our anniversary, we’re proud to be the only provider to deliver a physically isolated cloud that is DoD Impact Level 5-ready for infrastructure, platform, and productivity services serving every branch of the military and the defense agencies the greatest number L5 services in the market.

Taking the next step forward in meeting the mission-critical and data needs of our U.S. Government customers, we are announcing expansion plans to make Azure Government Secret available to support government agencies and partners who have Secret classified data. Azure Government Secret will deliver multi-tenant cloud infrastructure and cloud capabilities to U.S. Federal Civilian, Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and U.S. Government partners working within Secret enclaves. Customers with Secret requirements can expect to gain access to new technologies at scale, including services such as cognitive capabilities, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics.

Blockchain for Azure Government

We view blockchain as a major technological advancement with the potential for significant impact in many industries, including the public sector, through its ability to enable verifiable and immutable cross-party computation. At its core, a blockchain is a data structure that’s used to create a digital transaction ledger that, instead of resting with a single provider, is shared among a distributed network of computers. Blockchain technologies deployed on Azure are applicable to many complex problems facing government today, including distribution of funds after natural disasters, registration of property ownership, and other issues involving tracking ownership of funds or assets through multiple transactions. Today we’re launching Blockchain for Azure Government, which will support a wide array of our Azure blockchain and distributed ledger marketplace solutions. These solutions automate the deployment and configuration of blockchain infrastructure across multiple organizations, allowing our customers to focus on government transformation and application development.

Unified security management with Azure Security Center

While cyber threats affect every organization and every individual, governments face unique challenges. The recent Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Infrastructure, represents a key example of the increasing pressure on government agencies to increase their efforts around protecting highly sensitive data and systems. To help our customers address their security challenges, we’re bringing Azure Security Center to Azure Government. Security Center offers unified security management and advanced threat protection for hybrid cloud workloads, enabling government agencies to take on evolving security threats. Learn more about Security Center.

Expanding High Performance Computing in Azure Government

In today’s data-driven government, High Performance Computing (HPC) is increasingly being mainstreamed to apply to a broader range of problems. To address this demand, we’re extending our existing public sector HPC offerings, including the NC-series and Azure Batch, to include the H-series virtual machines. Azure H-series virtual machines, with InfiniBand and Linux RDMA technology, are designed to deliver cutting-edge performance for complex engineering and scientific workloads such as weather prediction and climate modeling, trajectory modeling, and other memory-intensive projects. By the end of the year, customers will be able to take advantage of this expanded offering in Azure Government.

New Virtual Desktop Infrastructure options in the cloud

The public sector is under a mandate to be more efficient and run fewer datacenters. To reduce on-premises infrastructure, many government customers are considering moving their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to the cloud. Today, we’re announcing new options with Azure Government, giving customers more flexibility in handling VDI requirements. With Citrix VDI on Azure Government, customers can now extend existing Citrix environments and deploy Windows 10 desktops into Azure Government from Citrix Cloud. Learn more about new VDI options.

We’re excited about all the new capabilities coming to Azure for the U.S. Government. To find out more about technology innovation and security for government customers, check out Azure Government. And for ongoing updates, follow the Azure Government blog.

Air Force Squadron in Louisiana Serves as 'Sentinels of the Gulf'

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La., Oct. 17, 2017 — The 26th Operational Weather Squadron here operates day and night to track the weather and watch for possible weather threats in the Southeast, a region that includes 13 states and 151 military installations.

“Prepare, provide, protect,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Kehoe, 26th OWS commander. “We prepare our airmen to go anywhere in the world and support Air Force and Army operations, [with] 30-hour airfield forecasts, as well as weather watches, warnings, and advisories, and we protect people and military assets in our AOR.”

Their area comprises Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. That includes not only a geographical hurricane area, but parts of Tornado Alley as well, along with winter storms in the Midwest. While the 26th OWS writes forecasts only for the Southeast, the squadron also keeps watch on weather in Central America and the Caribbean to monitor developments.

Specialized Briefings

While the squadron sends weather forecasts and warnings to military instillations in the Southeast, the unit also can brief an installation commander when high-threat situations such as hurricanes are expected to occur.

“We give our recommendations and weather forecasts to each base, and then it’s the discretion of the installation commander on what to do,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Norris, 26th OWS noncommissioned officer in charge of theater weather operations. “We give them the intel. They make the decision.”

Tracking Hurricanes

Four hurricanes have struck the South in recent months: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. The squadron tracked all four of the storms and sent threat assessments to the military installations in their paths. The 26th OWS coordinates with the National Hurricane Center to make sure their information is accurate and up to date.

“Weather is not a set thing, so things happen when you aren’t expecting it to,” said Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Morrison, 26th OWS flight weather briefer. “Hurricane Harvey was in the Yucatan when it disappeared, and we thought we were done with it. Later, all of a sudden it started and we didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was. Then two days before it hit the Texas coast, we realized it was going to be a bad one.”

With an entire region under their watch, the squadron provides timely and accurate weather information so military assets and personnel are safe from harmful weather.

Face of Defense: Airman Earns Senior-Rated Parachutist Badge

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga., Oct. 17, 2017 — A member of the 820th Base Defense Group here earned his senior-rated parachutist badge, joining the ranks of the Air Force’s experienced jumpmasters Oct. 3, at the Lee Fulp drop zone in Tifton, Georgia.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joe Ostrum, 820th Combat Operations Squadron personal parachute program manager, completed the final requirement to obtain a senior rating by fulfilling jumpmaster duties during a static-line jump.

“Senior and master-rated jumpmasters bring an experience level that reduces risks,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. David Brown, 823rd Base Defense Squadron operations superintendent and senior–rated parachutist. “You want those guys on the aircraft overseeing things.”

To earn the star that designates a senior-rated parachutist, airmen must conduct 30 jumps, including two during darkness, 15 with operational equipment, one night jump as the primary jumpmaster and seven total jumpmaster duties.

“You can’t always tell a brand-new jumpmaster from any other jumper because the badge is the same,” Brown said. “If you’re a commander, you may sit back and say, ‘Well, OK, I trust you. Let’s see what you’ve got.’ But if they’re senior-rated, you may feel more comfortable because the person has more experience and gives a little more confidence that they have the expertise to give the best recommendation.”


So not only does the senior-rating badge display experience at home station, but also in joint operations. Brown added that within the Army, credibility is worn on the uniform in the form of badges signifying qualifications.

“I went to Afghanistan and we were doing outside-the-wire missions,” Ostrum said. “The Army owned the battle space, and they looked at us and said, ‘Why’s the Air Force going outside the wire?’ So they started canceling our missions. So I made a brief for [their commander] about what schools are offered to the 820th [Base Defense Group] — what schools we’ve graduated and use on a daily basis.

“I told him I had been through basic Airborne, and that I was a jumpmaster and a few other courses and right then, his attitude changed,” he continued. “It’s just one of those things that helps us conduct the mission in a joint environment and builds the credibility.”

In addition to strengthening cohesiveness within the joint environment, the senior rating assists in putting newer jumpers at ease.

Minimizing Risk

“Jumping out of an aircraft is inherently scary for many people, but it’s a risk because people can be seriously hurt,” Brown said. “So, we owe it to the taxpayers to minimize risk, and we do that with experience and rules. We scrutinize the program and have experienced personnel who [manage] the risky program.”

Ostrum echoed the fact that while he may be the one wearing the badge, what it signifies is for everyone else, too.

“There are a lot of people who looked out for me,” he said. “It’s for my mentors, and it just kind of instills the confidence in all the jumpers and makes everybody else calmer.”

While this accomplishment earned him the badge and credibility to join the ranks of more experienced jumpmasters, Ostrum said he still looks to work toward becoming a master-rated jumpmaster. To earn the master-rated parachutist badge, he will need to conduct 65 jumps, including four during darkness, 25 jumps with operational equipment, two night jumps as the primary jumpmaster and 15 total jumpmaster duties.

Iraq: People Displaced by Hawijah Offensive Still Vulnerable in Kirkuk

The Hawijah military offensive launched by Iraqi forces to oust the Islamic State group from its last major urban stronghold has forcibly displaced nearly 14,000 people to towns in neighboring districts of Kirkuk governorate. They are arriving in vulnerable condition and in urgent need of care, according to the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

People arriving at so-called entry points around 15 miles north and 25 miles east of Hawijah’s center are in urgent need of shelter, medical care, and food.  From the start of the offensive on September 21 to October 5, an estimated 14,000 internally displaced people have arrived at Debis checkpoint, Daquq camps for displaced people, and Maktab Khalid entry point.

Over the course of the offensive, MSF teams in Kirkuk governorate have provided 3,201 medical consultations for people arriving from Hawijah. Patients included six war-wounded people, among them an 8-year-old boy, all suffering from blast injuries due to air strikes and land mines.

Tatiana Kotova, MSF Kirkuk Project Coordinator said: “By the time people decide to flee Hawijah, most are already incredibly vulnerable, and then you add to that the physical and mental drain of the journey. We receive patients in really critical condition.”

A 37-year-old-man who fled from the south of Hawijah described the harrowing journey. “Fleeing Hawijah was so dangerous that people call it the road of death,” he said. “We had to pass a narrow road between a mountain and a valley. Many people died on this road. Some of them fell in the valley. It took us 15–16 hours to escape the besieged town.”  

Daquq camp is currently the only camp in Kirkuk governorate receiving people who fled the Hawijah offensive, explained Kotova. “It hosts around 11,000 people who fled Hawijah district since October 2016. The MSF team in the camp has been providing medical care since January 2017, through an outpatient department for general medical consultations, treatment for non-communicable diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and mental health,” she said. 

People living in the district have been living under siege for almost three years. They have been deprived of basic services like medical care, as local infrastructure and facilities in the district were not functioning properly and humanitarian aid was not available.

 “Due to the siege, MSF teams have not been able to enter the district,” said Kotova. “But we positioned our activities as close as possible to the front lines to provide health care services to those who need it, including urgent medical [aid] for the war-wounded.”

Since the start of the offensive, MSF teams in Qayyarah hospital have received a total of 56 people with war wounds. MSF medical teams in Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Qayyarah remain on standby with a triage and stabilization point ready for deployment if needed.

“The health situation in Hawijah is terrible,” said a 40-year-old man from the district. “We couldn’t find medicine, or it’s incredibly expensive and we couldn’t afford it. My mother suffers from high blood pressure, we couldn’t find her medicine and we decided to leave.”

Through mobile clinics, MSF teams are providing medical and trauma care at Debis screening site and Maktab Khalid entry point to people arriving from Hawijah.

Teams started providing medical assistance at these locations in November 2016, mainly through the outpatient department. Teams also provided support for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

During the months leading up to the offensive, MSF began supporting the emergency rooms in the two main Kirkuk hospitals with supplies and training to doctors and nurses working with the Iraqi Department of Health to help prepare them to manage war-wounded trauma cases. In Qayyarah hospital, MSF is also providing surgical and emergency medical care to war-wounded arriving from Hawijah. The facility has 62 medical beds, including an intermediate care unit, observational beds, and two resuscitation beds. The teams assigned to the Qayyarah camps are visiting the camps for displaced people to monitor the nutrition status of new arrivals from Hawijah and assess the need for a possible intervention.

To the south of Hawijah, MSF launched medical activities through medical mobile clinics in Salah al-Din governorate in August 2016. Currently primary health care services are available in Al Alam camp, where 9,000 people displaced from Hawijah and Shirwat are living.

Meeting the mission to serve citizens better with the Microsoft Government Cloud

Government agencies must fulfill a tall order in today’s world: modernizing their technology to better serve citizens and help government leaders meet their missions, while reducing costs, protecting data from evolving threats and meeting government compliance regulations. That’s why hundreds of CIOs and top decision-makers from every federal agency as well as senior state and local government IT leaders are joining us at today’s sixth annual Microsoft Government Cloud Forum. Their positive feedback is clear: Microsoft is on the right track in empowering the public sector to achieve more.  

Delivering innovation

Government organizations across the United States increasingly are turning to our powerful cloud offerings to modernize and become more productive, collaborative and efficient. A great example of this is using Azure machine learning and big-data analytics to gain valuable insights from huge amounts of agency information. By turning data into insights, agencies can more quickly take action to address important issues, whether they be on the battlefield or helping veterans, on city streets or managing statewide and local elections or fighting the opioid crisis. Our government customers rely on Azure and Azure Government cloud platforms, Office 365, Power BI and other leading-edge Microsoft solutions to digitally transform, protect sensitive data and privacy, and support streamlined operations.

The drive to the cloud is accelerating at the same pace as our efforts to deliver greater innovation, security and compliance. Today, we are pleased to announce several advances across our landscape of comprehensive cloud solutions, demonstrating our commitment to government customers and further differentiating our offerings:  

Azure Government:

Azure Government Secret Cloud becomes the first and only cloud offering to support secret-level classified information and workloads. My colleague Tom Keane shares details of this groundbreaking news in this blog, and provides many more updates about Azure Government’s services and advanced capabilities, comprehensive compliance, world-class security, intelligence and hybrid flexibility. For example, the new Blockchain for Azure Government will enable transformations into government processes that are shared with suppliers, customers and partners.  


In the first half of 2018, Microsoft 365 will be made generally available for U.S. government environments, providing agencies with a modern environment for collaboration and teamwork, enabling employees to be more productive and secure, and helping attract and retain a new generation of talent. Microsoft Teams, which is core to our vision for intelligent communications, also will be made available for U.S. government environments next year, along with Planner, PowerApps and Flow. As always, we’ve incorporated digital accessibility into these capabilities to help government customers create greater inclusiveness amongst employees and with citizens. Learn more in Ron Markezich’s blog, which also describes how the Small Business Administration is using Office 365 U.S. Government. “SBA uses Office 365 in the Government Community Cloud to enable intelligent productivity and secure collaboration while adhering to federal data requirements, such as FedRAMP,” said Maria Roat, SBA CIO. “SBA is planning to adopt all of Microsoft 365 to drive cost savings across mobility, security and collaboration tool sets, while delivering a consistent and modern experience across SBA’s geographically dispersed employee base. The use of technology empowers SBA to achieve its core mission: to help Americans start, build and grow businesses.”  

Dynamics 365 Government:

We’re pleased to announce that Microsoft Dynamics 365 Government is on track to become the first business application services offering to achieve FedRAMP High certification, providing federal agencies the safeguards to protect their highest impact workloads from loss of confidentiality, integrity or availability. Microsoft also is establishing Dynamics 365 capabilities for the Department of Defense (DoD) to meet Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Impact Level 4. In an Impact Level 4-compliant environment, our DoD and defense industry customers will have more options for sharing data and connecting teams and departments.

Continued diligence in government security and compliance

Our government customers are enthusiastic about these announcements, reinforcing that they trust Microsoft for fresh, modern capabilities and continued diligence on security and compliance. We are honored by the strong response to our cloud offerings, which serve nearly 10 million government cloud users across more than 7,000 federal, state and local government entities. These customers recognize that Microsoft is the only cloud provider to achieve:

Our Microsoft public-sector team has a profound sense of commitment to support our government customers with the most complete, trusted and secure cloud. We will continue to invest and innovate in our cloud offerings to help customers modernize, meet new challenges, exceed their goals and make government work better for everyone.

Follow us at #govcloud17 and learn more at:

Strikes Continue in Effort to Defeat ISIS in Syria, Iraq

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Oct. 17, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, conducting three strikes consisting of three engagements in recent days, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strike in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted one strike consisting of one engagement Oct. 15 near Dayr Az Zawr, engaging an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two fighting positions.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq yesterday, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Rahwa, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an improvised explosive device weapons facility.

— Near Qaim, a strike destroyed a vehicle-borne-IED factory.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Coalition Monitors Military Movements Near Kirkuk, Pentagon Spokesman Says

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2017 — Coalition military officials are monitoring military movements near Kirkuk, Iraq, following reports of an incident, Pentagon Director of Press Operations Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters today.

“The coalition is monitoring movements of military vehicles and personnel in the vicinity of Kirkuk, he said. “These movements of military vehicles so far have been coordinated movements, not attacks.”

Coalition forces and advisers are not supporting the activities of Iraqi government or Kurdistan Regional Government forces near Kirkuk, Manning said. “We are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire during the predawn hours [today], and we believe this to have been an isolated incident,” he said of media reports of fighting between Iraqi and Kurdish fighters.

“We have not seen levels of violence suggested in some media reports,” he said, adding that the coalition strongly urges all sides to avoid additional escalatory actions, opposes violence from any party, and urges against destabilizing actions that distract from the fight against ISIS and undermine Iraq’s stability.

Support for Unified Iraq

The United States continues to support a unified Iraq, Manning said.

“Despite the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unfortunate decision to pursue a unilateral referendum, dialogue remains the best option to diffuse ongoing tensions and long-standing issues,” he noted.

The Defense Department remains focused on the fight against ISIS, a terrorist organization that threatens the states in the region and the international community, Manning said.

“We call on all actions in the region to focus on this common threat, and avoid stoking tensions among the Iraqi people. We remain focused on destroying ISIS,” he said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

Democratic Republic of the Congo Travel Warning

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) because of ongoing instability and sporadic violence in many parts of the country.  Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the DRC, and poor security conditions in the Eastern Congo and Kasais, make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 29, 2017.

Armed groups operate in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Lomami, and the Kasai region. These groups have been known to kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, and carry out operations in which civilians may be indiscriminately targeted. 

Congolese military and United Nations forces continue to operate throughout North and South Kivu, Tanganyika, Ituri, and near the DRC’s borders with the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park and the Kasai regions. Travelers in these regions may encounter troop movements, rebel groups, or militias. Kidnapping for ransom is also common, particularly in North and South Kivu.

For further information: