Archive for the ‘Defense Department’ Category

First Hearing in Congress on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pentagon’s Future Under Obama

January 27, 2009

The messenger from the Pentagon to Congress for the new president will be the same messenger used by the old preident: Robert Gates.

Gates goes to the Congress today to discuss the future of the new President’s plan for Iraq, Afghanistan and probably some on the new defense budget….

*****

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is arguing that Afghanistan now is America’s “greatest military challenge.”

In a national security assessment that he will give to Congress later Tuesday, Gates also says the international effort to fight Afghanistan’s growing violence has been “less than stellar” so far.

In a copy of the testimony obtained by The Associated Press, Gates says it will take a long and difficult fight to rout insurgents and help develop an Afghanistan that rejects the Taliban and backs its elected….

Related:
How To Pay For 21st Century Military

Obama Team Wants Pentagon Budget Focused More on Current War, Less on Future Programs

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200901
27/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/congress_gates_4

Geithner, An Exception to a Rule, To Issue New Lobbying Rules; President Already Wants Exception To That?

January 27, 2009

“Here we are making an exception to the rule and I, for one, think it’s not the time to make an exception.”

Those words were spoken by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga, about the new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Four senators aligned with the Democrats voted against Geithner. “He made some serious failures in judgment,” said Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin. “I bode him no ill will personally . . . but how can Mr. Geithner speak with any credibility or authority?”

Now Mr. Timothy Geithner will order new rules to prevent lobbyists from doing certain things in the U.S. government.

But President Obama has already asked for an exception to his own rules on lobbyists with his appointment of William Lynn to the number two post at the pentagon….

Related (On William Lynn)…

On Transparency, Lobbyists, So Far President Obama Is “All Talk”

Obama Nominee For Pentagon Job Violates His Own Anti-Lobbyists Rule

This is an undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of ... 
This is an undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense of William J. Lynn then Under Secretary of Defense. President-elect Barack Obama appointed William J. Lynn III, a defense contractor’s lobbyist, Thursday Jan. 8, 2009 to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, a choice that appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm’s length. Lynn, former Raytheon lobbyist nominated to be deputy defense secretary despite President Barack Obama’s ban on hiring lobbyists, will sell his stock in the military contracting firm.(AP Photo/DOD, File)

******************

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer

Under orders to move quickly on the faltering economy, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to unveil new rules Tuesday to limit special-interest influence involving the $700 billion financial rescue program.

The new rules are designed to crack down on lobbyist influence over the rescue program, according to an administration official with knowledge of the changes.

This official, who spoke to The Associated Press on grounds of anonymity because the new rules had not yet been announced, said that they went farther than restrictions the Bush administration imposed.

The new rules will restrict the contact officials can have with lobbyists….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090127/ap_o
n_go_ca_st_pe/treasury_secretary

Obama Plans Moves to Counter China in Space

January 2, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.

Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.

The potential change comes as Pentagon concerns are rising over China’s space ambitions because of what is perceived as an eventual threat to U.S. defense satellites, the lofty battlefield eyes of the military.

The launch of Change 1, Xichang Satellite Center, China.jpg
Above: A China space launch

“The Obama administration will have all those issues on the table,” said Neal Lane, who served as President Bill Clinton’s science adviser and wrote recently that Obama must make early decisions critical to retaining U.S. space dominance. “The foreign affairs and national security implications have to be considered.”

China, which destroyed one of its aging satellites in a surprise missile test in 2007, is making strides in its spaceflight program. The military-run effort carried out a first spacewalk in September and aims to land a robotic rover on the moon in 2012, with a human mission several years later.

Read the rest from Bloomberg:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/new
s?pid=20601087&sid=aOvrNO0OJ41g
&refer=worldwide

Pentagon’s Overarching Influence Is Bad For America, World

December 21, 2008

We no longer have a civilian-led government. It is hard for a lifelong Republican and son of a retired Air Force colonel to say this, but the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration is the encroachment of the Department of Defense into a striking number of aspects of civilian government. Our Constitution is at risk. 

By Thomas A. Schweich
Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008; Page B01

President-elect Barack Obama‘s selections of James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine general, to be his national security adviser and, it appears, retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair to be his director of national intelligence present the incoming administration with an important opportunity — and a major risk. These appointments could pave the way for these respected military officers to reverse the current trend of Pentagon encroachment upon civilian government functions, or they could complete the silent military coup d’etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media.

While serving the State Department in several senior capacities over the past four years, I witnessed firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the U.S. government. The first assault on civilian government occurred in faraway places — Iraq and Afghanistan — and was, in theory, justified by the exigencies of war.

The White House, which basically let the Defense Department call the budgetary shots, vastly underfunded efforts by the State Department, the Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to train civilian police forces, build functioning judicial systems and provide basic development services to those war-torn countries. For example, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Justice Department and the State Department said that they needed at least 6,000 police trainers in the country. Pentagon officials told some of my former staffers that they doubted so many would be needed. The civilians’ recommendation “was quickly reduced to 1,500 [trainers] by powers-that-be above our pay grade,” Gerald F. Burke, a retired major in the Massachusetts State Police who trained Iraqi cops from 2003 to 2006, told Congress last April. Just a few hundred trainers ultimately wound up being fielded, according to Burke’s testimony.

Until this year, the State Department received an average of about $40 million a year for rule-of-law programs in Afghanistan, according to the department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs — in stark contrast to the billions that the Pentagon got to train the Afghan army. Under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Defense Department failed to provide even basic security for the meager force of civilian police mentors, rule-of-law advisers and aid workers from other U.S. agencies operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, driving policymakers to turn to such contracting firms as Blackwater Worldwide. After having set the rest of the U.S. government up for failure, military authorities then declared that the other agencies’ unsuccessful police-training efforts required military leadership and took them over — after brutal interagency battles at the White House.

The result of letting the Pentagon take such thorough charge of the programs to create local police forces is that these units, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, have been unnecessarily militarized — producing police officers who look more like militia members than ordinary beat cops. These forces now risk becoming paramilitary groups, well armed with U.S. equipment, that could run roughshod over Iraq and Afghanistan’s nascent democracies once we leave.

Or consider another problem with the rising influence of the Pentagon: the failure to address the ongoing plague of poppy farming and heroin production in Afghanistan. This fiasco was in large part the result of the work of non-expert military personnel, who discounted the corrosive effects of the Afghan heroin trade on our efforts to rebuild the country and failed to support civilian-run….

Related:
Condoleezza Rice takes responsibility for Iraq
occupation woes; absolves Rumsfeld

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/
2008/12/19/AR2008121902748.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Disaster

December 14, 2008

An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.
The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.

By By JAMES GLANZ and T. CHRISTIAN MILLER
The New York Times

In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ”

Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.

The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/world/mi
ddleeast/14reconstruct.html?_r=1&hp

U.S. Helps African States Fend Off Militants

December 13, 2008

Thousands of miles from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, another side of America’s fight against terrorism is unfolding in this remote corner of West Africa. American Green Berets are training African armies to guard their borders and patrol vast desolate expanses against infiltration by Al Qaeda’s militants, so the United States does not have to.

By Eric Schmitt
The New York Times

In an exercise last month near Bamako, Mali, American troops helped soldiers from Mali and Senegal in West Africa learn to guard their borders against infiltration by Islamic militants.  Photo: Michael Kamber for The New York Times

A recent exercise by the United States military here was part of a wide-ranging plan, developed after the Sept. 11 attacks, to take counterterrorism training and assistance to places outside the Middle East, like the Philippines and Indonesia. In Africa, a five-year, $500 million partnership between the State and Defense Departments includes Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, and Libya is on the verge of joining.

American efforts to fight terrorism in the region also include nonmilitary programs, like instruction for teachers and job training for young Muslim men who could be singled out by militants’ recruiting campaigns.

One goal of the program is to act quickly in these countries before terrorism becomes as entrenched as it is in Somalia, an East African nation where there is a heightened militant threat. And unlike Somalia, Mali is willing and able to have dozens of American and European military trainers conduct exercises here, and its leaders are plainly worried about militants who have taken refuge in its vast Saharan north.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/13/w
orld/africa/13mali.html?_r=1&hp

Mumbai Terror Survivor Bought Cheap and Promised Pay “Dead or Alive” By Pakistan Handlers

December 3, 2008

The only gunman captured during the terror attack on Mumbai says he was promised that his impoverished family would get $1,250 if he died fighting for militant Islam, security officials said Wednesday.

The captive, 21-year-old Ajmal Amir Kasab, is from Faridkot village in the Punjab region of Pakistan, according to the two Indian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details gleaned during a week of interrogation.

By RAMOLA TALWAR BADAM, Associated Press Writer

FILE  INDIA OUT. CREDIT MANDATORY  ...

Kasab was arrested hours after the three-day rampage began the night of Nov. 26. Photographs of the young man walking calmly through Mumbai‘s main train station — assault rifle in hand — have made him a symbol of the attacks that killed 171 people, including 26 foreigners.

India has blamed the banned Pakistan-based extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the carnage. But in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, expressed skepticism that the man in custody is a Pakistani citizen.

According to the Indian security officials, Kasab was a day laborer, like one of his brothers, before joining Lashkar. He recounted being told that if he was “shaheed” — or “martyred” — his family would receive 100,000 Pakistani rupees, or about $1,250, they said.

Kasab said that he and the nine gunmen killed during the attack were hand-picked for the Mumbai rampage after intensive Lashkar training, the officials said.

Related:
What We Know About Mumbai Terrorists: Mad Dogs Off The Leash

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081203/ap_on_re_as
/as_india_shooting_gunman

*******

A former Defense Department official said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan’s Army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers.

From The New York Times
By ERIC SCHMITT and SOMINI SENGUPTA

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no specific links had been uncovered yet between the terrorists and the Pakistani government.

His disclosure came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held meetings with Indian leaders in New Delhi and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with their Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad, in a two-pronged effort to pressure Pakistan to cooperate fully in the effort to track down those responsible for the bloody attacks in Mumbai last week.

Also on Wednesday, a “fully functional” bomb was found and defused at a major Mumbai train station that had reopened days earlier, the Mumbai authorities announced. The discovery raised terrifying questions about why the authorities had failed to find it all this time.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people marched through Mumbai, both mourning the at least 173 dead and protesting the failures of Indian politicians and security services to protect citizens.

Ms. Rice strove to balance demands on both countries. She said that Pakistan had a “special responsibility” to cooperate with India and help prevent attacks in the future, here and elsewhere. At the same time, she warned India against hasty reaction that would yield what she called “unintended consequences.”

“The response of the Pakistani government should be one of cooperation and of action,” she said at an evening news conference in New Delhi with her Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee. “Any response needs to be judged by its effectiveness in prevention and also by not creating other unintended consequences or difficulties.”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/world/asia/04india.html?_r=1&hp

This image taken from NDTV shows a man wearing a T-shirt with ... 
This image taken from NDTV shows a man wearing a T-shirt with a “Versace” logo carrying an automatic weapon as he enters a train station in Mumbai, late November 26. The man, Ajmal Amir Kamal, 21, is being interrogated in a safe house in Mumbai, reports said.(AFP/NDTV/File)