News Briefs – December 13, 2017


Military fails to disclose criminal convictions to FBI

A recent lapse by the U.S. Army to disclose a Texas veteran’s criminal record to the FBI is the latest example of the military failing to document criminal convictions, according to a newspaper’s review.

Former Army 1st Sgt. Gregory McQueen pleaded guilty two years ago to more than a dozen military charges for attempting to run a prostitution ring in Fort Hood. But the conviction didn’t show up in a state background check when a foster-care agency hired McQueen in March to care for abused and neglected children, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The Army later acknowledged it failed to submit information about McQueen’s criminal record to an FBI database widely used for background checks. State officials said McQueen’s record should have kept him out of the foster-care program.

Dozens of Texas agencies rely on FBI criminal history data when hiring for skilled occupations such as police officers, lawyers, doctors and even foster-care parents.

“Background checks are important tools to help screen for potential issues,” said Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. “When it comes to vetting potential foster parents, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that criminal databases contain the most complete, accurate and up-to-date information.”

The military’s reporting failures recently drew attention after former airman Devin Kelley fatally shot more than a dozen people in Sutherland Springs. The Air Force admitted to not disclosing his 2012 domestic violence conviction, which should have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms.

Civilian law enforcement and court agencies upload criminal convictions to two criminal databases kept by the federal government. One database is used by gun sellers. The second database is called the National Crime Information and is widely used for workplace licensing and background checks.

The Army said McQueen’s conviction showed up in the database used by gun sellers but not the workplace database. The contractor that hired McQueen “delisted” him three months after discovering his convictions.

McQueen could not be reached for comment. AP

Russian military hosts UN officials at anti-mine center

The Russian military has hosted a delegation of United Nations officials at its main anti-mine facility.

The United Nations’ delegation was led by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, a French diplomat who serves as the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations.

The Russian Defense Ministry said they discussed prospects for cooperation and joint action with the U.N. during the Dec. 11 visit.

Lacroix hailed the Russian expertise in mine clearing operations. He noted that the U.N. expects to develop cooperation with Russia in the area of peacekeeping.

Col. Igor Mikhailik, the head of the anti-mine center outside Moscow, briefed the U.N. delegation on the Russian field engineers in Syria, where they cleared more than 16,000 acres of land and more than 17,000 buildings from mines. AP

Swedish think tank: South Korea’s arms sales record high

South Korea’s arms sales hit record levels last year, pushed by the continuous military threat from North Korea, complicated relations with China and a government decision to increase domestic arms production, a Swedish think tank said Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, reported that arms sales by South Korean companies included in its latest study of the world’s 100 largest arms producers stood at $8.4 billion in 2016, up 21 percent from the previous year. The figure covers only those South Korean companies ranked in the study, not the country’s entire defense industry.

SIPRI researcher Aude Fleurant said Seoul has been developing its own arms production since the 1970s to reduce dependency on foreign suppliers because of “threat perception in the region,” and the results are now being seen.

She said South Korean weapons producers have seen a steady sales increase over the past few years, supported also by the Asian country’s economic growth.

“The South Korean ministry of defense now procures its weapons from domestic producers, instead of importing them from foreign suppliers,” noted Fleurant, director for SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure program.

SIPRI’s report, published Dec. 11, said the world’s 100 biggest armaments groups sold weapons and weapons systems worth $375 billion in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015.

The vast bulk of these companies derive from the United States, Russia and Western Europe. SIPRI counts China as a top arms manufacturer, too, but it’s excluded in the statistics as no reliable data is available. AP

Russia’s Putin stops at Russian military base in Syria

The Tass news agency says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived at a Russian military air base in Syria.

Tass said that Putin’s plane landed at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, the heartland of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Alawite minority. The visit marks Putin’s first trip to Syria and comes as Assad’s forces have retaken control over most of Syria under the Russian air cover.

The air base has served as the main foothold for the air campaign Russia has waged since September 2015 in support of Assad. AP

Qatar buys 24 Typhoon fighters as part of $8 billion deal

British aerospace company BAE Systems has agreed to sell 24 Typhoon fighter planes to Qatar as part of a $8 billion deal with European defense contractors.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the deal after contracts were signed Dec. 10 in Doha, the Qatari capital.

The agreement also includes the sale of Brimstone and Meteor missiles made by MBDA Missile Systems, as well as Raytheon Paveway IV guided bombs manufactured in Britain.

BAE Systems put the value of the Typhoon contract, which includes training and support, at 5 billion pounds. Qatar is the ninth country to purchase the aircraft.

Williamson says the deal is the biggest export agreement for the Typhoon in a decade and “will boost the Qatari military’s mission to tackle the challenges we both share in the Middle East.” AP

Boeing raises dividend 20 Percent

The Boeing board of directors Dec. 11 declared the company’s quarterly dividend will increase 20 percent to $1.71 per share.

The board also replaced the existing share repurchase program with a new $18 billion authorization.

“Boeing’s strong and growing cash flow allows us to deepen our commitment to provide competitive returns to our shareholders, while continuing to invest in our people, innovation and growth,” said Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg. “To support our balanced cash deployment strategy, our team remains focused on improving operating performance as we deliver on our substantial order backlog and work to capture a larger share of the growing aerospace market.”

With the latest increase to the dividend, Boeing has raised its quarterly dividend more than 250 percent over the past five years. The company has consistently paid dividends to shareholders each quarter for more than 75 years. The new dividend will be payable March 2, 2018, to shareholders of record as of February 9, 2018.

The company this year has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares from the $14 billion authorization approved in December 2016. The new repurchase program replaces the existing one, bringing the total authorization to $18 billion.

The timing and volume of repurchases are at the discretion of Boeing management, however it is expected that repurchases under the new share authorization will be made over the next 24 to 30 months.