Forty-one service members have contracted Zika since the Pentagon began tracking infections earlier this year, including one who is expecting a baby, according to Defense Department surveillance records, according to Military Times.
The cases, which include active-duty, National Guard and reserve personnel, all were acquired outside of the continental United States, but the Defense Department continues to monitor U.S. military installations at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Benjamin Sakrisson confirmed Wednesday.
“(We are actively testing mosquitoes) as part of our ongoing integrated vector control and surveillance programs at bases and installations,” Sakrisson said.
The U.S. Air Force has declared its F-35A Lightning II fighter jet “combat-ready,” marking a major milestone for the controversial aircraft, according to Fox News.
The stealth fighter, which has been beset by cost overruns and delays, has a $110 million price tag. The $379 billion weapon program is the most expensive in America’s military history.
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the Air Combat Command, announced the aircraft’s combat readiness Tuesday. “I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” he said, in a statement. “The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield.”
Carlisle said that the aircraft had met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability. Airmen have been trained, manned and equipped “to conduct basic close air support, interdiction and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12-24 aircraft,” according to the Air Force’s statement.
As the U.S. launches Operation Odyssey Lightning against the Islamic State group in Libya, a fourth front in the war against the brutal militant group, U.S. commanders are casting a wary eye on a possible fifth front: the Asia-Pacific, according to Navy Times.
The U.S. is launching strikes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, but military leaders and strategists are alarmed by waves of violence and signs that countries with large Muslim populations like the Philippines and Bangladesh could be ISIS’s next global stronghold.
In a July 27 speech to the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Harry Harris said the region would need to work together to stop ISIS from metastasizing into what the U.S. military calls the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Bloomberg is reporting that U.S. officials are weighing whether to designate elections as national critical infrastructure after recent hacking attacks on political groups, a move that would open up federal assistance to election officers around the country, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.
“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “There’s a vital national interest in our election process.”
The debate comes after hackers infiltrated the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in what cybersecurity experts call a broad operation by Russian operatives to infiltrate U.S. political organizations. Hillary Clinton’s campaign said hackers also breached one of its data programs, adding that cybersecurity efforts found “no evidence” that internal systems were compromised.
The attacks, which the FBI is investigating, have spurred speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is trying to meddle in and influence U.S. elections, an assertion that officials in Moscow have repeatedly denied.
The breaches also revive a lingering debate over whether electronic voting systems, which have replaced paper ballots in many jurisdictions, could be hacked to manipulate the results. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said this week that he’s “afraid the election’s going to be rigged,” although Republicans have focused mostly on potential fraud by ineligible voters.