December 4, 2017

News Briefs – December 4, 2017

Smoked pot and want to enlist? Army issuing more waivers

Smoked pot? Want to go to war? No problem.

As more states lessen or eliminate marijuana penalties, the Army is granting hundreds of waivers to enlist people who used the drug in their youth — as long as they realize they can’t do so again in the military.

The number of waivers granted by the active-duty Army for marijuana use jumped to more than 500 this year from 191 in 2016. Three years ago, no such waivers were granted.

The big increase is just one way officials are dealing with orders to expand the Army’s size.

The marijuana use exclusions represent about one-quarter of the total misconduct waivers the Army granted in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. AP

Navy commander gets 18 months in massive corruption scandal

A U.S. Navy commander was sentenced Dec. 1 to 18 months in prison for his role in a fraud and bribery scheme that cost the government about $35 million.

Cmdr. Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Virginia, was the latest person to be sentenced in connection with a decade-long scam linked to a Singapore defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” Francis.

Francis bribed Navy officials to help him overbill the Navy for fuel, food and other services his company provided to ships docked in Asian ports, according to prosecutors. The bribes allegedly ranged from cash and prostitutes to Cuban cigars and Spanish suckling pigs.

Pitts pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges that alleged he tried to obstruct a federal investigation while in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore.

In handing down the sentence against Pitts, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino told him that he had “betrayed the Navy and betrayed the country,” prosecutors said in a news release.

“Pitts deliberately and methodically undermined government operations and in doing so, diverted his allegiance from his country and colleagues to a foreign defense contractor, and for that, he is paying a high price,” said Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego.

In addition to his prison sentence, Pitts was also ordered to pay $22,500 in fines and restitution. AP

Mattis signals military shift in Syria to reflect IS defeat

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the U.S. military is shifting its stance in Syria as the program to arm the Kurdish opposition comes to a close and is replaced by increased support to local police and security forces.

Mattis says the Pentagon is changing the composition of U.S. forces in Syria to reflect the collapse of the Islamic State group there and a renewed emphasis on finding a diplomatic path to peace. He says the shift in American forces will support the diplomatic process.

Mattis spoke Dec. 1 to reporters on his plane at the start of a five-day trip to the Middle East. His comments came on the heels of the announcement last week that the U.S. would stop actively providing arms to Syrian Kurds. AP

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