Friday, February 28, 2014

The Enduring Relevance of the Aircraft Carrier

The Enduring Relevance of the Aircraft Carrier

Predictions about the end of the aircraft carrier are a lot like those we hear about the decline of American power – they occur often, continue to be incorrect, and provide a great opportunity for spirited debate. A new discussion about the decline of the carrier fleet has ensued this winter as rumors made their way around Washington that the Pentagon and White House are negotiating a reduction of the nuclear-power aircraft carrier (CVN) fleet from 11 to 10. While the Pentagon now insists a decision on the USS George Washington’s future will be put off until next year, if it’s budget does not actually provide funding for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) for the ship, then the decision to scrap the “GW” is already well on its way to being made. Given the ongoing debate about the future of our carrier force, I thought I would take the chance to offer my own thoughts on our nation’s carrier fleet and its enduring utility to U.S. foreign and defense policy (Rear Admiral Michael Manazir offers another excellent defense here). I want to thank Ryan Evans and War on the Rocks for the opportunity to write in this forum and I look forward to any responses this piece may generate.

I understand that some will dismiss me and my arguments right out of the gate. They will say I am from Virginia, where they don’t just build aircraft carriers, but also homeport several at Norfolk Naval Station, so of course I would line up to defend the carrier. Indeed, I was born and raised in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where our nation has constructed carriers and been proud to homeport them for the better part of the last eighty years. However, I am not a carrier supporter simply because I am a Virginian; I am a supporter of a robust, forward-deployed defense for the United States because I believe that is the only assured way to defend our homeland and our interests abroad.  I believe aircraft carriers play an enduring role in providing this capability to our country. Just as I support the carrier because it can provide our Commander-in-Chief with truly global presence and reach, I am also a steadfast supporter of other forms of American power-projection, like our Air Force’s long-range strike and heavy-lift assets, as well as our Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities.

Carrier skeptics submit a set of arguments focused on cost, utility, and the size of today’s fleet to bolster their case. I hear everything from CVNs are too expensive, to they are vulnerable and outdated, to suggestions that the Pentagon’s shrinking budget demands we make do with one, two, or even three fewer in our Navy’s current fleet. I build my argument for the carrier as our front-line power-projection tool by addressing the prevailing criticisms levied against it.

First, cost appears to be the most difficult question to respond to. A carrier costs billions of dollars to construct and billions more to operate. Building and maintaining a carrier fleet is no small decision for any nation to make, even one of the size and economic stature as the United States. Yet when you consider the contributions a carrier can have relative to this cost, I believe it is a national investment worth making. Indeed, both Republican and Democratic Presidents have continued to build, maintain, and call on carriers since the USS Langley became our country’s first dedicated aircraft carrier nearly a century ago. When it comes to calculating a return on investment, carriers give the United States 50 years of service. Think about that – that is a half-century of providing U.S. policymakers with unparalleled global reach. In an unpredictable and competitive international system, America’s 11-carrier fleet gives it the capacity to deploy two or three CVNs to the Pacific and Indian Oceans and keep them continuously forward and present where and when the President chooses, while still retaining surge capabilities to meet a crisis. This provides the nation with a visible symbol of diplomatic strength to project America’s intentions to both friends and competitors during, for example, missile tests on the Korean Peninsula, tensions in the Straits of Hormuz or South China Sea, or an election in Taiwan. The carrier’s mobility and striking power make it both an unrivaled means by which to demonstrate diplomatic resolve and a powerful tool of military coercion. No other country has been able to field such a powerful and ready carrier fleet, the end result of which has been the continued ability to manage a peaceful, prosperous international order.

Second, critics argue that the carrier has lost its utility because today’s modern threat environment has made it increasingly vulnerable. Even if a carrier can provide so much capability, the investment comes at too great a risk, according to this line of thinking. It is well known that the People’s Republic of China is developing the means to harness the power of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) to target naval assets at ranges up to 950 nm from its coasts. Analysts have called this development a “game changer” for U.S. defense policy in the Indo-Pacific region. Yes, this technological development has introduced new risks for the surface Navy. However, the offense-defense technological competition is no different today than in the past when Soviet submarines, mines, bombers, missiles, and nuclear weapons were labeled potential “carrier killers.” The right technological or doctrinal changes can once again help the carrier face down these new threats. In a similar example, the Air Force has not stopped investing in tactical fighters because China has a large, modern ballistic missile force that can hold their bases at risk across the Indo-Pacific. Instead, it is adjusting its posture and considering a mix of hardening, dispersal, and missile defenses to continue to operate its assets across the East Asian littoral, despite Chinese missile investments.

The true ability of the carrier to overcome the current challenges rests with its modularity. A carrier is really just an advanced floating airfield that can adapt what capabilities are on its deck to the emerging threat environment. This modularity was on display a year ago when I attended the inactivation ceremony for the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), a storied ship that served our nation for over 50 years. Thanks to the Enterprise’s ability to support new strike-fighter innovations, it remained a front-line power-projection tool for a half-century. Today the F/A-18 and F-35C, while offering their own unique set of capabilities, lack the combat range to allow a carrier to operate from outside China’s or Iran’s area-denial network. Our response shouldn’t be to abandon the carrier, but to preserve its utility by investing in new platforms for the Carrier Air Wing with greater range and strike power. An effective 21st century sea-based power projection capability requires a future carrier-based unmanned combat air system that is stealthy, capable of automated aerial refueling, and has integrated surveillance and strike functionality. This would transform today’s carrier fleet from a capability with short tactical reach to a global naval strike and reconnaissance platform. A new dawn in naval aviation stands to preserve the indispensability of the carrier well into this century.

The final argument weighed against the carrier is about the size of our current fleet. I may have convinced you up to this point that we need the carrier and a new unmanned platform to extend its power-projection range, but just why are 11 carriers essential? To begin, there is enduring bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers. Last year the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to maintain a statutory requirement to retain 11 operational aircraft carriers by a vote of 318 to 106. More technically, the size of the Navy’s carrier fleet is determined by a complex relationship between requirements (both peacetime presence and war plan fulfillment), maintenance cycles, resources, and how we choose to employ it. Rotational naval forces have for decades maintained traditional six-month deployments. Today, the minimum deployment length is seven months, and 9-10 month deployments have become routine. According to Admiral Gortney, Commander of Fleet Forces Command, “Just a single ship really matters in our ability…to generate the forward presence that we need.” If the carrier fleet were reduced to 10 “we will go back to nine and 10 months deployments.” A smaller fleet will only lengthen deployments, increasing maintenance demands and placing a greater burden on our sailors. A global power committed to maintaining its interests throughout the international maritime domain and intent on using the seas as a maneuver space for projecting power ashore when necessary requires no less than 11 carriers.

For a nation dedicated to sustaining its international maritime posture, an enduring investment in American Seapower is the best insurance policy. With its mobility, modular striking power, and unique ability to telegraph diplomatic intentions, the carrier remains the true “capital ship” of the U.S. Navy and the most valuable chess piece in the Commander-in-Chief’s tool box. Working to sustain the 11 carrier fleet, including investing in a next-generation Carrier Air Wing, should be the primary task of defense planners in the years ahead.

Rep. Forbes is Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee. He is currently co-leading a bipartisan Asia-Pacific Security Series for the House Armed Services Committee.

Panel addresses Anti-Access/Area Denial at AUSA | Article | The United States Army

Panel addresses Anti-Access/Area Denial at AUSA | Article | The United States Army

Anti-Access/Area Denial, or A2AD, sounds like it could be a new football zone defense. But, in fact, A2AD was fleshed out by a five-member panel, including Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Commander, Feb. 27, 2014, at the AUSA Winter Symposium and Exposition, in Huntsville's Von Braun Center.

From the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, or AMCOM perspective, logisticians are heavily dependent on networks and mission-command information systems to perform the "science of control" for providing sustainment to deployed forces. That is, logisticians rely on space-based communications to facilitate the transmittal of all kinds of logistical data and actions.

In terms of Anti-Access/Area Denial, enemies can be expected to use strategies and tactics - Air Defense Systems, Cruise Missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-satellite missiles/lasers, minefields, submarines, suicide boats, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - to keep friendlies away from areas where they wish to go.

"We at AMCOM permit the operational commands to be successful," Collyar said. "As the Life Cycle Management Command, we are part of the weapon systems that will, ultimately, transfer to the Army. So, we work together with the program executive officers and their project managers through the design, fielding and sustainment phases. What's really important here is that the reliability and capability of those systems relies on logisticians."

Foreign Military Sales, or FMS, aspects are also a key focus area.

"FMS keeps our costs downs and prepares us to be able to upgrade systems," Collyar said. "The Army is the biggest user of space-based assets; about 60 percent is the actual measure for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and other mission command functions."

Being prepared is crucial.

Key readiness drivers for supported systems need to be in place when needed.

"Put simply, we have to be able to push supplies forward through an Anti-Access/Area Denial system," Collyar said. "Therefore, we continue to pre-position supplies and stocks around the world, so that we can continue to have valid, prioritized requirements in place."

Even in peacetime, AMCOM requires all of its customers to have access to the systems the command manages.

"We rely on our shared networks for a product to be purchased and a service to be provided," Collyar said. "We have to be able to work through - and in - an Anti-Access/Area Denial area."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Syria War Stirs New U.S. Debate on Cyberattacks -

Syria War Stirs New U.S. Debate on Cyberattacks - The Obama administration has been engaged in a largely secret debate about whether cyberarms should be used like ordinary weapons, whether they should be rarely used covert tools or whether they ought to be reserved for extraordinarily rare use against the most sophisticated, hard-to-reach targets. And looming over the issue is the question of retaliation: whether such an attack on Syria’s air power, its electric grid or its leadership would prompt Syrian, Iranian or Russian retaliation in the United States.

It is a question Mr. Obama has never spoken about publicly. Because he has put the use of such weapons largely into the hands of the N.S.A., which operates under the laws guiding covert action, there is little of the public discussion that accompanied the arguments over nuclear weapons in the 1950s and ’60s or the kind of roiling argument over the use of drones, another classified program that Mr. Obama has begun to discuss publicly only in the past 18 months.

But to many inside the administration, who insisted on anonymity when speaking about discussions over one of America’s most highly classified abilities, Syria puts the issue back on the table. Mr. Obama’s National Security Council met Thursday to explore what one official called “old and new options.”

Wary Stance From Obama on Ukraine -

Wary Stance From Obama on Ukraine -

Rather than an opportunity to spread freedom in a part of the world long plagued by corruption and oppression, Mr. Obama sees Ukraine’s crisis as a problem to be managed, ideally with a minimum of violence or geopolitical upheaval. While certainly sympathetic to the pro-Western protesters who pushed out President Viktor F. Yanukovych and hopeful that they can establish a representatively elected government, Mr. Obama has not made global aspirations of democracy the animating force of his presidency.
“I just think this president is not going to lean forward on his skis with regard to democracy promotion,” said John Lewis Gaddis, a Yale University historian who advised the Bush White House as speechwriters worked on the former president’s January 2005 inaugural address promising to combat tyranny abroad. “If anything, he’s going to lean back and let natural forces take us there, if they do.”
Mr. Obama’s handling of Ukraine reflects a broader “policy of restraint,” as Mr. Gaddis termed it, keeping the United States out of crises like Syria, minimizing its involvement in places like Libya, and getting out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It reflects, he said, not only fundamental differences between the presidents but an underlying weariness on the part of the American public after more than a dozen years of war.
Turned off by what he saw as Mr. Bush’s crusading streak and seared by the dashed hopes of the Arab Spring, Mr. Obama, aides said, was wary of being proactive in trying to change other societies, convinced that being too public would make the United States the issue and risk provoking a backlash. The difference, aides said, was not the goal but the methods of achieving it.
“These democratic movements will be more sustainable if they are seen as not an extension of America or any other country, but coming from within these societies,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “For the longer term, it is better to let the people within the country be the strongest voice while also ensuring that at the appropriate times you are weighing in publicly and privately.”
To some critics, though, that justifies a policy of passivity that undercuts core American values.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shyu outlines strategy for modernization at AUSA | Article | The United States Army

Shyu outlines strategy for modernization at AUSA | Article | The United States Army

To prepare the Army for tomorrow, the seeds must be planted today, according to Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

"We're navigating a very challenging period for our Army - the drawdown forces are occurring during a period of dramatic fiscal constraint and budget pressure," Shyu said. "We're leveraging this period to make the best investments possible, planting the seeds that will secure the Army of the future. Our predecessors faced similar challenges following previous conflicts. It's now our time. Our goal is to provide our Soldiers the best capability possible. They deserve nothing less."

Shyu addressed attendees of the Association of the United States Army's Winter Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Feb. 19, on the topic of Army modernization in a constrained fiscal environment, which included the "strategy on leveraging the current drawdown to plant the seeds for the Army of the future."

Shyu likened the Army's strategy to a five-layer pyramid, starting with divestment as the base, followed by reset and sustainment, modernization of existing platforms, development of new capabilities and science and technology, a "focus on the development of next generation breakthrough technologies that define the Army of the future."

Finding the right way to allocate dollars to that strategy will be a challenge for Army leaders. Historically, defense spending increases during wartime, as evidenced by the Vietnam era when it peaked at 49 percent of the federal budget, and 30 percent during the Cold War. In correlation, as wartime draws down, so does the defense budget. Falling 51 percent following the Korean War, according to Shyu, and 25 percent after the Vietnam War, by 1999, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and successful completion of Desert Storm, defense spending accounted for only 17 percent of the federal budget.

"As we drawdown in Afghanistan, we can expect our budget to continue to decline," Shyu said.

Within Research, Development and Acquisition, that decline translates to a budget loss of $10 billion for this fiscal year, Shyu said. Of all the portfolios that comprise RDA, three account for more than half of the budget -- aviation, mission command and ground systems.

"Budget pressures mean that the squeeze will be felt harder in these larger portfolios. We have had to make difficult decisions about our priorities," Shyu said.

But while the budget declines -- since the height of fiscal year 2010 it has already seen a 21 percent drop -- Army readiness must not, Shyu said.

Pointing to the end of the Vietnam era as an example, Shyu referenced the Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk utility helicopter and Apache attack helicopter, which all saw an initial investment following the Vietnam War during a similar time of budget decline. All became key to the Army's victory during Operation Desert Storm years later.

"There's a saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago," Shyu said. "The second best time is today. Come to the next contingency, we realized that the best time for us to have planted our seed was at the end of the last conflict, and that's exactly where we are today, at the tail end of conflict. We're in a period of planting seeds that will sprout for the next contingency, wherever it may be."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Test Flight of the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly on the AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter

Test Flight of the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly on the AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter: Team Apache Sensors, including the U.S. Army Apache Attack Helicopter Project Management Office, the U.S. Army Aviation Flight Test Directorate and Lockheed Martin, conducted a test flight of the Apache AH-64E Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) during an event at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., yesterday.

The test flight demonstrated the maturity of M-DSA and the enhanced capabilities it brings to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS), the precision targeting and pilotage system for the AH-64D/E Apache helicopter.

"We are looking forward to the reliability and maintainability improvements that this laser will bring to the M-TADS system," said Lt. Col. Steven Van Riper, U.S. Army Apache Sensors Product Manager. "This system will help to further reduce the burden on our aircrews, and they will be able to reap the benefits of the performance improvements."

M-DSA increases M-TADS/PNVS designation and ranging capabilities to fully accommodate current weapons and those planned for the future. The upgraded sensor enables Apache pilots to see high-resolution, high-definition near infrared and color imagery on cockpit displays.

An additional field of view allows image blending with the M-TADS forward-looking infrared, and enables pilots to see civilian and military lighting on a single display more clearly.

US Navy Tests Infrared Search and Track on Boeing Super Hornet

US Navy Tests Infrared Search and Track on Boeing Super Hornet: The U.S. Navy recently tested, for the first time on a Boeing [NYSE: BA] F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft, the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor that will find hard-to-detect targets over long distances.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are developing and integrating IRST, an essential upgrade to the combat capability of the Navy's Super Hornets.

"Adding an advanced infrared sensor to the Super Hornet broadens the Navy's warfighting ability," Navy F/A-18 Program Manager Capt. Frank Morley said.

"Combined with the Super Hornet's advanced radar and the Growler's electronic attack radar jamming ability, IRST will allow the fleet to dominate the skies in all threat environments."

"We continually evolve the aircraft to outpace future adversaries," says Tim Adrian, IRST F/A-18 program manager.

"When radar isn't an option, this upgrade allows operators to locate targets and deploy the best weapon for the mission."

Raytheon demonstrates Griffin Block III missile

Raytheon demonstrates Griffin Block III missile: Raytheon demonstrated its latest variant of the combat-proven Griffin missile, the Griffin Block III, throughout a series of test shots culminating in several direct hits against a variety of static and moving targets.

"The Griffin is already well known for its ability to destroy targets with pin-point accuracy using an advanced GPS and semi-active laser guidance. The Griffin Block III introduces an improved semi-active laser seeker and a new Multi-Effects Warhead System that maximizes the weapon's lethality against a variety of targets," said Mike Jarrett, vice president of Air Warfare Systems with Raytheon Missile Systems.

"Block III's enhancements will improve the warfighter's ability to engage a broad set of static and fast-moving targets with assured confidence and greater performance."

The Griffin missile's new seeker adds enhanced electronics and signal processing to improve performance in the most challenging scenarios and expands the employment footprint. Production of the Griffin Block III missile is currently underway and the company expects it to serve as the core weapon for current and future Griffin users.

Scalable Agile Beam Radar Brings Advanced Capabilities to Global F-16 Fleets

Scalable Agile Beam Radar Brings Advanced Capabilities to Global F-16 Fleets

Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will help bring advanced capabilities to existing global F-16 fleets, keeping them formidable beyond 2025, according to the head of the company's Combat Avionics Systems business unit.

Northrop Grumman Vice President Jeff Leavitt provided a detailed SABR update to reporters in a briefing at the Singapore Air Show. This included the radar's development progress, along with information about successful flight demonstrations and the upgraded capabilities SABR brings to the F-16.Northrop Grumman was chosen by prime contractor Lockheed Martin as the radar provider for the U.S. Air Force and Taiwan F-16 radar modernization and upgrade programs, which aim to keep the F-16 viable in future threat environments and to improve system reliability, maintainability and affordability.Since the SABR active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar was selected for the U.S. Air Force and Taiwan modernization and upgrade programs this past July, the system has completed three major development and design reviews. Several engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) systems are now in production, with the first to be delivered to Lockheed Martin before the end of 2014.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Outside View: Presidents' Day -- Remembering two presidents

Outside View: Presidents' Day -- Remembering two presidents

Presidents' Day is set aside to recognize the February birthdays of two of our greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. As we honor them this year, it might be interesting to reflect upon the influence one book -- with its very unique perspective -- had upon the latter, written eight years after his birth.

Additionally, it gives us pause to wonder, had the book been written earlier so as to be read by the former, would it have had similar effect.Powerful books, read by those later succeeding to national leadership roles, can impact on history. The reader's personal interpretation of such a book ultimately determines whether the effect will be positive or negative. Fortunately, the lesson Lincoln extracted from his book motivated him to undertake action as president that had a very positive impact on the lives of millions.Lincoln credits three books he read for forging his political thought. Two were religiously oriented -- the Bible and "The Pilgrim's Progress," the latter a Christian allegory written in 1678. Interestingly, neither of these books has ever gone out of print, suggesting their strong influence remains to this day.But it is the third, non-religious book that generates keen interest as to its impact. Entitled "Sufferings in Africa," it is the true story about slaves in Morocco, written by James Riley. But the master-slave relationship the book details isn't the one typically perceived by Western readers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

New BRAC round would save money, increase Army readiness

As the budget shrinks and as the active Army draws down to 490,000, elimination of excess infrastructure is needed, say leaders from Army Installations, Housing & Partnerships.

There are a lot of spaces and facilities at installations throughout the U.S. that are not being utilized or are just partially utilized, said Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary for Installations, Housing & Partnerships, or IHP.

Yet by law, he said, the Army is required to maintain those facilities.

So the Army's recommendation to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, known as OSD, and Congress is that a new round of BRAC -- base realignment and closure -- is needed for 2017, he said.

The Army is finalizing its database on infrastructure status and will give its findings to OSD, he said. In turn, OSD will present the Army's recommendations -- along with those of other services to Congress in the form of draft legislation, most likely by April.

IHP provides policy, programing and oversight of the secretary of the Army's Title 10 responsibilities in real estate, military construction, housing, engineering and BRAC. The agency reports to Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

If Congress authorizes another BRAC round, the Army would develop a long-term force structure plan, said Andy Napoli, assistant for BRAC, IHP. For the last round of BRAC, in 2005, the Army provided a 20-year plan, he said.

While there's a lot of talk about Army end strength going down even further than 490,000 and with the budget in a state of flux, Napoli said the Army can nonetheless provide an accurate forecast model by plugging in any force structure figures, dollar amounts and infrastructure status.

"You have to know where you're at first, in order to know where you want to be," he said, describing the process they're now finalizing.


Napoli said IEE wants for every Army installation to be used at 100 percent. A new BRAC round should not be done in piecemeal, shaving infrastructure from every single installation to balance the reductions. Rather, it would be more prudent in terms of management and readiness to close underutilized installations and consolidate the remainder.

Napoli explained that reducing the infrastructure and manpower of an installation by, say, 20 percent, would not benefit the community outside the gate. That 20 percent reduction would have a ripple effect in the community, with losses in revenues for hotels, fast food, real estate and so on.

If a community doesn't subscribe to a BRAC closure, they'd be locking themselves in to that 20 percent or whatever cut is made, he said, and they wouldn't have a say in how the land or structures are reutilized.

On the other hand, if a facility were slated to close under BRAC, the community would, by law, have a say in how the land and facilities are reutilized, he continued.

"We think there's an argument to be made that there's goodness for all communities to be in on the BRAC talks process," Napoli said.

Cramer said there are examples of communities "that fought BRAC 2005 and now say it was the best thing that happened" to them.

He cited a number of installations including Port San Antonio, Texas; Fort Ord, Calif.; and Fort Monmouth, N.J., that were turned over to the community which redeveloped the land and structures commercially with subsequent benefits in employment and tax revenue.

Napoli added that the Reserve Component, particularly the National Guard, has expressed some interest in a future round of BRAC.

In BRAC 2005, he said, a limited number of states decided to come onboard. As a result, they found cost savings and other efficiencies by consolidating smaller armories into larger ones near population centers.

States not participating in BRAC 2005 saw that and now they too want to get in on the benefits, he said.


The proposed BRAC 2017 would not resemble the BRAC 2005 round, Napoli said. For one, BRAC 2005 was more expensive than other rounds before it because force structure at the time was increasing due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Secondly, installations in Korea and Germany were being turned over to the host countries and tens of thousands of Soldiers were returning to the U.S. and more spaces were needed for them.

Third, BRAC 2005 was also used as a tool to convert the Army from a Cold War legacy force to a modern, more easily deployable modular brigade combat team structure.

Even with those cost increases, Napoli said the Army is realizing more than a billion dollars of savings a year as a result of BRAC 2005. "That's not an insignificant return on investment."

Napoli and Cramer both said BRAC 2017 won't have those three variables in play and that even greater cost savings and efficiencies could be realized.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U.S. officials accuse Iran of aiding al-Qaida in Syria

U.S. officials accuse Iran of aiding al-Qaida in Syria: U.S. officials allege Iranian intelligence is actively helping al-Qaida fighters in Syria, even though the jihadists are battling to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad, Tehran's key Arab ally.

At first glance, this would seem to fly in the face of a high-profile effort by U.S. President Barack Obama to achieve detente with Iran, America's longtime adversary, which -- if it comes off -- would dramatically alter the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

At a deeper level, analysts say it makes sense, inasmuch as Tehran helping al-Qaida reinforce jihadist fighters engaged in vicious infighting with other Syrian rebel forces, including Islamists, means the divided insurgents are weakening themselves and not Assad's beleaguered regime in Damascus.

The U.S. Treasury Department, targeting a diverse group of entities and individuals for allegedly evading international sanctions against Iran, aiding missile proliferation and supporting terrorism, said last week Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, or MOIS, was working with al-Qaida operatives directing jihadists to Syria.

Treasury has made this claim before. In February 2012, it cited the MOIS, Iran's principal intelligence service, for supporting terrorist groups, "including al-Qaida and al-Qaida in Iraq ... again exposing the extent of Iran's sponsorship of terrorism as a matter of Iranian state policy."

Iraq seeks U.S. air traffic control system as air force grows

Iraq seeks U.S. air traffic control system as air force grows: The U.S. Defense Department is seeking congressional approval to sell the nascent Iraqi air force air traffic control and landing systems for four bases, emphasizing Baghdad's drive to establish a fully operational air force within the next few years.

Iraq's air force, the most powerful in the Arab world during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, is being rebuilt from the ground up and is based on a planned force of up to 96 Lockheed Martin F-16IQ Block 52 fighters.

The first two planes of an initial order of 18 - 12 F-16C and six F-16D aircraft -- are scheduled to arrive at Balad air base north of Baghdad in September, with at least two more arriving every month thereafter.

Full delivery of a second batch of 18 Fighting Falcons is expected to be wrapped up by the end of 2015.

The two contracts are valued at nearly $7 billion.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said Feb. 4 it had notified Congress of the possible sale of the air base equipment worth an estimated $700 million.

The Arab media recently quoted Iraq's Parliamentary Commission of Security and Defense as saying Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been pressing the United States for "accelerated F-16 delivery" since 2013.

The commission says Baghdad wants at least six fighter squadrons operational over the next few years. These will presumably all be equipped with F-16s.

Karzai will not sign security agreement: US spy chief

Karzai will not sign security agreement: US spy chief: The US intelligence chief said Tuesday he does not expect Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a security agreement with the United States that would allow American troops to stay after 2014.

Washington has repeatedly appealed to Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) negotiated last year but James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said he had given up hope that the Afghan president would endorse the deal.

"Well, obviously, it takes two to sign this," Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"And it's my own view, not necessarily company policy, ...I don't believe President Karzai is going to sign it," he said.

His comments were the most explicit yet by a senior US official acknowledging the bleak prospects of Karzai backing the agreement.

NATO gets first US destroyer for missile shield

NATO gets first US destroyer for missile shield

The first of four US high-tech destroyers arrived in Spain Tuesday to form a key part of a ballistic missile shield for Europe which Russia says directly threatens its security.

The USS Donald Cook took up station in the southern port of Rota from where it will operate as an anti-missile platform and take part in other tasks such as maritime security and NATO deployments, a statement said."For the first time, a ship of the United States Navy equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile-defence system is permanently based in Europe" NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "The arrival of the USS Donald Cook marks a step forward for NATO, for European security, and for transatlantic cooperation," Rasmussen said.Three other Aegis destroyers will be deployed over the next two years as the missile shield takes form after NATO agreed its deployment at a summit in 2010.The system is designed to "protect all NATO European populations and territory," the statement said.