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Veterans Benefits Information

Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Hearing: Modernizing Health Records for Servicemembers and Veterans: The Contractor Perspective

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On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Technology Modernization will hold an oversight hearing entitled, " Modernizing Health Records for Servicemembers and Veterans: The Contractor Perspective." 

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Putin makes Arctic push

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Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has announced plans to use his country’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers to dramatically expand the amount of shipping flowing through the Arctic -- and thus strengthen Russia’s hand in the resource-rich region.

“We need to make the northern sea route safe and commercially feasible,” he says. But there’s much more at stake here than commerce and shipping. As former Defense Secretary James Mattis observed, “The Arctic is key strategic terrain” -- especially for the United States and its NATO allies.


There’s no mystery as to why Putin is interested in the Arctic.

First, the fabled Northwest Passage, once frozen most of the year, is thawing for longer stretches of time. This cuts some 4,000 nautical miles off a trip from Europe to Asia, which means Putin is positioned to tap into a lucrative new shipping lane.

Second, Putin is eyeing the Arctic’s vast resource riches. The Arctic holds upwards of $30 trillion in oil, natural gas, minerals and other natural resources. Indeed, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic holds 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 90 billion barrels of oil, equaling 30 percent of technically recoverable global reserves of oil and 13 percent of gas. (About a third of the oil is in Alaskan territory.)

In 2015, as AP reports, Russia submitted a dubious claim to the United Nations for more than 463,000 square miles of Arctic sea shelf. In fact, Russia lays claim to half the Arctic Circle.

Russia’s Arctic claims are dubious because they are based on a questionable interpretation of an underwater ridge linking to the Russian landmass. Russia argues this ridge is an extension of its own continental shelf. Other Arctic nations disagree. In 2010, as the United States and Canada began a joint expedition to collect data on the extended continental shelf, the U.S. government emphasized that America has "an inherent national interest in knowing, and declaring to others with specificity, the extent of our sovereign rights with regard to the U.S. extended continental shelf. Certainty and international recognition are important in establishing the necessary stability for development, conservation and protection of these areas.”

More troublesome than Russia’s outsized Arctic claims is how Putin is backing up those claims: In 2008, a Russian general revealed plans to train “troops that could be engaged in Arctic combat,” ominously adding, “Wars these days are won and lost well before they are launched.” By 2016, Russia had stood up six new bases above the Arctic Circle, opened 16 ports and 13 airfields in the region, and deployed sophisticated surface-to-air missile batteries in the Arctic.

Russia recently resurrected a military base on Kotelny Island, well inside the Arctic Circle. Russia has conducted airborne-assault exercises, amphibious landings and large-scale wargames across the Arctic. A 2015 Russian exercise in the Arctic, for instance, involved 80,000 troops, 220 aircraft, 41 ships and 15 submarines.

As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg concluded during his recent address to Congress, Russia is engaged in “a massive military buildup from the Arctic to the Mediterranean.”

Add it all up, and Russia appears to be employing a strategy by which claims will justify possession, and possession will justify claims.

“It looks eerily familiar to what we’re seeing in the East and South China Sea,” former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warns.

Speaking of China, Beijing wants a slice of the Arctic, too. China has unveiled plans for a “Polar Silk Road development initiative.” Chinese vessels have begun transiting Arctic passageways. And China is building heavy-duty icebreakers. Beijing justifies its unwelcome appearance in the region by calling itself a “near Arctic state.” (By that logic, the United States is a near Asian state.) In any event, it doesn’t take a Kissinger to conclude that Beijing and Moscow are coordinating their efforts to maximize their Arctic reach.


The good news is the United States isn’t standing still. The Trump administration is drafting a new Arctic defense strategy, which will outline America’s long-term goals in the Arctic. “The Arctic region has strategic and economic importance,” President Donald Trump has observed.

“The strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has reemerged, and USNORTHCOM and NORAD are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, to track, and defeat potential threats in this region,” reports Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and NORTHCOM.

Toward that end, the Air Force is preparing for an “increased emphasis on joint operations” throughout its Arctic footprint. By 2022, Alaska will house more F-22s and F-35s -- America’s most-advanced fighter-bombers -- than anywhere on the planet, as Air Force officials reported in January.

Navy officials are planning to send surface ships into the Arctic this year and are mulling proposals to stand up “a strategic port up in the Bering,” according to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. Last fall, Washington dispatched USS Harry S. Truman into the Arctic Circle, the first deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle since 1991.

The Army is sending Ranger regiments through cold weather operations training to prepare them for Arctic warfare.

Centered around the sprawling Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Exercise Northern Edge regularly involves thousands of soldiers, hundreds of aircraft, and scores of Navy warships and Coast Guard cutters.

Bordering the Arctic, a complex of eight caves deep inside a Norwegian mountain range holds American M1A1 tanks, armored vehicles, generators, fuel, water production systems, shelters, cranes and deicing equipment. As DefenseNews reports, the caves can support an expeditionary brigade of roughly 15,000 U.S. Marines, with enough supplies to operate for 30 days.

Even so, the United States is not yet well postured to defend its Arctic interests. “America has got to up its game in the Arctic,” according to Mattis.


The Pentagon recognizes what too many Americans have forgotten: The United States is “an Arctic nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic,” as the Obama administration’s Arctic policy explained. After all, a large swath of our 49th state lies inside the Arctic Circle; some 27,000 troops are based in Alaska; U.S. troops man a key military base above the Arctic Circle (Thule Air Base in Greenland); and close allies Canada, Denmark, Iceland and Norway are Arctic nations.

Those nations share one other important common denominator: NATO membership. And that points the way toward a response to Russia’s attempted Arctic landgrab. If the United States and its Arctic allies can agree on a common approach to Arctic security, combine their capabilities and play niche security roles in the Arctic, they can deal with Moscow from a posture of strength and deter aggression.

Interestingly, NATO leaders have been talking about Russia’s threat to Arctic security for more than a decade.

Noting that “the Arctic is extremely important” and that there’s “an increased Russian presence with modern military capabilities in the Arctic,” Stoltenberg reports that “NATO is adapting our military posture” in the region.

His predecessor, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, declared in 2014 that NATO members “bordering the Arctic region ... would expect that NATO’s Article 5 applies to all NATO territories, including a NATO territory in the Arctic region.” Article 5 is NATO’s all-for-one collective defense clause.

In early 2009, NATO officials envisioned a “military presence” in the Arctic and pointedly declared the Arctic a region of “strategic interest to the alliance.”

Spurred by Russia’s actions, several NATO allies are putting muscle behind these words-- and getting serious about defending the Arctic from Russian poaching.

In March and April, hundreds of troops from Canada, France, Norway, and non-NATO members Finland and Sweden participated in Arctic exercises in northern Canada focused on logistics and carving landing strips out of the ice. Last fall, 50,000 troops, 10,000 ground vehicles, 250 warplanes and 65 warships from NATO and partner countries participated in a cold-weather exercise known as Trident Juncture, which spanned parts of Norway, the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.

Norway has moved its military headquarters above the Arctic Circle, transferred a "substantial" part of its operational forces to the north and based its largest active army unit above the Arctic Circle, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Denmark has stood up an Arctic military command, strengthened its military presence in Greenland (a Danish possession) and deployed an Arctic Response Force.

As part of its “High North initiative,” Britain is expanding its role in the Arctic, ordering new maritime patrol aircraft to counter Russian submarine activity in and around the Arctic, and conducting annual training operations in Norway. “As part of the new Arctic strategy, the (Royal) Marines’ training will become joint with Norway on a long-term basis and integrated into Norway’s defense plan,” British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson recently reported.

Sweden has hosted U.S. Special Operations units for Arctic training and has reintroduced military conscription.

All the ingredients for a coordinated NATO approach to Arctic security are here. As they learned during the Cold War, NATO and its partners can achieve more by pooling their assets, identifying and pursuing common interests, and coordinating plans and deployments than they can by going it alone.

There are many paths the alliance could take to begin coordinating its actions in the Arctic. For example, the alliance could form a working group or committee dedicated to Arctic issues, along the lines of its Nuclear Planning Group. Another possibility is the partnership model that NATO has successfully used to coordinate responses to regional challenges. Yet another option is a center focused on Arctic issues, perhaps modeled after NATO’s Joint Training Center or Cooperative Cyber Defense Center. NATO could even stand up a full-fledged Allied Command-Arctic.

When dealing with Putin, what matters is actions -- his and ours. America and its allies can use NATO as a venue to forge a coordinated response to Putin’s Arctic gambit, play to their strengths, block another Putin landgrab, and ensure that the Arctic’s bounty is developed in a transparent manner governed by the rule of law and sound trade practices. Or they can allow Putin quite literally to divide and conquer.

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100 potential interview questions

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While there are as many different possible interview questions as there are interviewers, it always helps to be ready for anything. So we've prepared a list of 100 potential interview questions. Will you face them all? We pray no interviewer would be that cruel. Will you face a few? Probably. Will you be well-served by being ready even if you're not asked these exact questions? Absolutely.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. What are your strengths?

3. What are your weaknesses?

4. Who was your favorite manager and why?

5. What kind of personality do you work best with and why?

6. Why do you want this job?

7. Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?

8. Tell me about your proudest achievement.

9. If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?

10. If I were to give you the salary you requested but let you write your job description for the next year, what would it say?

11. Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?

12. How would you quickly establish credibility with a team?

13. There's no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

14. How would you feel about working for someone who knows less than you?

15. Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?

16. What's your ideal company?

17. What attracted you to this company?

18. What are you most proud of?

19. What are you looking for in terms of career development?

20. What do you look for in terms of culture -- structured or entrepreneurial?

21. What do you like to do?

22. Give examples of ideas you've had or implemented.

23. What are your lifelong dreams?

24. What do you ultimately want to become?

25. How would you describe your work style?

26. What kind of car do you drive?

27. Tell me about a time where you had to deal with conflict on the job.

28. What's the last book you read?

29. What magazines do you subscribe to?

30. What would be your ideal working situation?

31. Why should we hire you?

32. What did you like least about your last job?

33. What do you think of your previous boss?

34. How do you think I rate as an interviewer?

35. Do you have any questions for me?

36. When were you most satisfied in your job?

37. What can you do for us that other candidates can't?

38. What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?

39. What negative thing would your last boss say about you?

40. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

41. What salary are you seeking?

42. What's your salary history?

43. Do you have plans to have children in the near future?

44. What were the responsibilities of your last position?

45. What do you know about this industry?

46. What do you know about our company?

47. How long will it take for you to make a significant contribution?

48. Are you willing to relocate?

49. What was the last project you headed up, and what was its outcome?

50. What kind of goals would you have in mind if you got this job?

51. Give me an example of a time that you felt you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

52. What would you do if you won the lottery?

53. Can you describe a time when your work was criticized?

54. Have you ever been on a team where someone was not pulling their own weight? How did you handle it?

55. What is your personal mission statement?

56. Tell me about a time when you had to give someone difficult feedback. How did you handle it?

57. What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?

58. What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?

59. What is your greatest fear?

60. Who has impacted you most in your career, and how?

61. What do you see yourself doing within the first 30 days of this job?

62. What's the most important thing you've learned in school?

63. What three character traits would your friends use to describe you?

64. What will you miss about your present/last job?

65. If you were interviewing someone for this position, what traits would you look for?

66. List five words that describe your character.

67. What is your greatest achievement outside of work?

68. Sell me this pencil.

69. If I were your supervisor and asked you to do something that you disagreed with, what would you do?

70. Do you think a leader should be feared or liked?

71. What's the most difficult decision you've made in the last two years?

72. What do you like to do for fun?

73. Why are you leaving your present job?

74. What do you do in your spare time?

75. How do you feel about taking no for an answer?

76. What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?

77. What is your favorite memory from childhood?

78. Give me an example of a time you did something wrong. How did you handle it?

79. Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn't want me to know.

80. Tell me the difference between good and exceptional.

81. Why did your choose your major?

82. What are the qualities of a good leader? A bad leader?

83. What is your biggest regret, and why?

84. What are three positive character traits you don't have?

85. What irritates you about other people, and how do you deal with it?

86. If you found out your company was doing something against the law, like fraud, what would you do?

87. How many times do a clock's hands overlap in a day?

88. How would you weigh a plane without scales?

89. What assignment was too difficult for you, and how did you resolve the issue?

90. If I were to ask your last supervisor to provide you additional training or exposure, what would she suggest?

91. If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?

92. What's the best movie you've seen in the last year?

93. Describe how you would handle a situation if you were required to finish multiple tasks by the end of the day, and there was no conceivable way that you could finish them.

94. What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?

95. If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of, and why?

96. With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.

97. if you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?

98. If selected for this position, can you describe your strategy for the first 90 days?

99. Who are your heroes?

100. Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.

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75 Years After D-Day, Planes Fly Off for ‘Never Seen Before’ World War II Commemoration

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The historic aircraft are part of the “D-Day Squadron” that left Sunday for a weeklong, trans-Atlantic flight in preparation for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

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Study the 10 most common interview questions

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No two interviews are ever the same. Every hiring manager will ask different questions and conduct the interview in different ways. But, some questions are nearly ubiquitous to the interview process. To help prepare, Alison Doyle has compiled a list of the 10 most common interview questions which we've collected for you below. All servicemembers know the importance of planning, and job interviews are no different – know the questions, practice your answers, and you'll be more likely to succeed.

What is your greatest strength?

This might seem like a no-brainer question to answer, but be careful. Don't use this as an opportunity to soapbox about how wonderful you are; pick a specific ability or skill that relates to the job you're applying for and talk about it. This is one of the easiest times during an interview to sell yourself, so hit the sweet spot of playing up your strengths without boasting. Describe what your greatest skill is, and then pick two or three examples that depict it in action.

What is your greatest weakness?

This question can trip up a lot of people, but not for the reason you might think. While it's never a good idea to let your heart bleed out as you describe your greatest failings in life, this also isn't the time to practice Orwellian doublespeak. The trick is to talk about a genuine work-related weakness, then explain how you handled it. Don't say that your greatest weakness is perfectionism or being too early – those are strengths, and the interviewer won't be impressed. What really stands out is the ability to accurately self-analyze and change accordingly. It shows maturity, insight, and translates well in your work.

How do you handle stress and pressure?

Stress and pressure are ubiquitous in the working world. No matter how easy-going your workplace might be, there are always problems, snags, and emergencies that interrupt plans. They key to answering this question is acknowledging how you overcome personal feelings and solve problems. Whether your first response is to take 60 seconds to breathe and clear your head or write down solutions on a scrap of paper, emphasize your ability to focus on solutions, self-motivate through adversity, and sidestep panic.

Describe a difficult work situation or project and how you overcame it.

Similar to answering "how do you handle stress and pressure," this is an opportunity to talk about your problem-solving abilities. This question is best answered with a focus on a single example since that's what the question is asking for. Start by setting up the situation, then talk about how you solved it. Cap off your answer with a short and sweet explanation of your thought process, goals, and problem-solving method.

How do you evaluate success?

Your answer to this question will tell employers whether or not you fit the office culture and if you would be a motivated employee. It's a broad, nebulous question, but don't let that scare you. Pick a few measures of success that relate to the job you're applying for; success can mean fostering good communication, completing projects ahead of schedule, or finding innovative solutions to certain problems.

Why are you leaving or have left your job?

If you left on unfriendly terms with your previous employer, your gut reaction might to be to pick apart every single thing that was wrong with them. Do not, at any time for any reason, do this. Unless you were laid off, focus on your inspired need to find new opportunities. You might want to focus on a different kind of work, or perhaps there wasn't any room to grow at your old company. Whatever the reason, the best answers to this question will focus on personal and professional growth.

Why do you want this job?

The answer to this question will be similar to the one above, except instead of explaining why you want to grow, target your answer to the job and company you're applying for. Talk about opportunities the prospective employer will give you and how you will benefit them as a company. No matter the type of job or pay, communicate your interest with specific examples and short plugs about your abilities.

Why should we hire you?

Don't just answer this question by saying, "because I'm awesome," or a wordy, detailed version thereof. This is an opportunity to talk about what makes you the right candidate for the position. This requires knowing what the employer is looking for, and then matching your skills and experience to it.

What are your goals for the future?

This question hones in on your ambition: an interviewer who asks this wants to know what you're attempting to achieve. Discuss your plans for the future so that your personal ambition benefits the company.

Tell me about yourself.

Arguably, this is the broadest possible question an interviewer can ask, so it's important to be prepared. If you're not good at coming up with answers on the fly, then you may begin to ramble and trail off into personal anecdotes. Answer this question by talking about your professional self: what you can do, and what you've accomplished. This is an opportunity to create a well-defined snapshot that will give the employer a good impression.

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