|Issue of the Day Archive for the ‘Defense’ Category|
Over the past two years, rising protectionism, recent declines in global trade and foreign direct investment, and rising inflation in once cheap locations has become a subject of much business analysis. All leading to what the Financial Times called earlier this year “Deglobalisation: ugly word, scary idea and now painful reality.” Examples include the US Container Security Initiative (CSI), which has stagnated or stopped trade into the US for some companies, regionalization of the supply chain, and insourcing, the return of jobs to the original country.
For the US part, it employs the global reaching Container Security Initiative, which has been in all US ports and 47 foreign ports, with funding of $140 billion in 2007. Also, the installment of the Employ American Workers Act, affecting hiring companies that are recipients of bailout funds, is forcing some to jobs in the US, which is good for the US. Other foreign governments have adopted protections. Russia has introduced a temporary import tariffs on laundry equipment. Australia launched a “local jobs first” program as part of its stimulus package. Brazil introduced tariffs on steel products.
White House Proposes Increase Spending for Cyber Security
Published Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
It has been known for a while now that the future of war or conflict will involve information or cyber warfare. A non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit studied the cyber tactics used against the country of Georgia during its military conflict with Russia last year. Cyber attacks in August 2008 shut down the web sites of critical Georgian government agencies, the media and banks. The US-CCU expects this model to be used again in future conflicts. The report suggests that an international organization be created to provide risk advisories and international cyber-response forces to assistance member states in the form of advice and setting up permanent operations, plus cyber-response exercises to thwart future attacks.
Overall, spending for Defense as a percentage of the federal budget has trended upwards since 2002 at a rate of 0.7 percentage points a year to 21.7%. For cyber security, President Obama called for $355 million in spending for the DHS intelligence and warning mission area, up from the $294 million fiscal 2009 budget. As of 2008, there were increases in a majority of mission areas except Domestic Terrorism and Catastrophic Threats.
This week, President Obama is holding talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev regarding the further reduction of nuclear stockpiles. In a press briefing, both presidents expressed a desire to “reset” their relationship and work together on global issues that Russia called their “special responsibility.” One of the more pressing issues is the deadline for the START I treaty, which is to expire on December 5. Both Presidents signed a joint understanding that called for a legally binding treaty. The provisions call for the US and Russia to reduce their respective strategic warheads to a range of 1,000 to 1,675 — down from 2,200 — and their delivery vehicles to a range of 500 to 1,100. The previous START I treaty allowed for a maximum of 2,200 warheads and 1,600 vehicles.
Russia and the United States are the leading repositories of active and inactive nuclear warheads, topping out at 16,000 and 9960 respectively, followed far behind by France and the United Kingdom at around 200 warheads. The US campaign for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has taken a more active role in reducing weapons as spending for the Defense program doubled from $874 million to $1,726 million in 2007. Plus, what the US does have in warheads is maintained by $5 billion in test and analysis each year to ensure they are still viable weapons; reports for Russian spending for maintaining their stockpile is not available.
Trial Aims to Deal with Guantanamo Detainees and Terrorism
Published Wednesday, June 10th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
As a test case for the Obama Administration, Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani has been transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York to await trial in federal court. He faces 286 separate criminal charges from his alleged role in the August 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, including conspiring with al-Qaeda to kill Americans and 244 separate charges of murder for the many killed. Much has been said about bring terrorism detainees to the US for trial, but according to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 216 inmates with connections to international terrorism and 139 with connections to domestic terrorism in the federal prison system. The Obama administration argues that the Southern District of New York has a long, successful history of prosecuting terror cases and that this case should just be another.
There are many more international incidents of terrorism than domestic. In 2008, there were approximately 11,800 international terrorist attacks against noncombatants in various countries, in over 54,000 deaths, injuries and kidnappings. 2008 numbers were down from those in 2007, with an 18% or 2,700 decrease in incidents of terrorism and a 30% or 6,700 decrease in deaths associated with the attacks.
US Elected to UN Human Rights Council After 3 Year Absence
Published Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
For the first time since the election reforms of the new United Nations Human Rights Council (previously known as the U.N. Human Rights Commission), the United States has been elected to sit on the 47 member council. The US had initially opposed the creation of the Council and refused to stand for election three years ago along with Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Initially, the Bush Administration agreed to fund the council and be an observer, but this was withdrawn. The Obama Administration reversed the Bush position and was elected along with 17 other countries such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
US and UN relations have been strained in other aspects of administration, especially in regards to contributions. The United States has, since 1992, sought a U.N. General Assembly reduction of the US peacekeeping assessment (budget contribution) to 25%, which would have increased other countries’ assessments. Despite the General Assembly’s refusal, the US has since Fiscal Year 1995 set its own assessment level of 25%. In 2001, the UN agreed to progressively reduce the US assessment levels; those levels have shrunk from the 28.15% in 2001 to 26% in 2007. However in 2005, despite Senator Biden’s efforts to set the cap at 27.1%, Congress chose to keep the US assessment at 25%. According to the UN, the efforts to cap its assessment have lead to an accumulation of debt by the US for its UN peacekeeping accounts at $1.3 billion, as well as a General Budget debt of 846 million.
After 11 months in the theater, Army General David McKiernan has been replaced by the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This move signifies the second time a civilian has fired a wartime commander since President Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur in 1951. This change comes as President Obama signaled a need to focus on Afghanistan as the central fight on the war on terror. Gates has called for “new thinking”, which McKiernan’s replacement, Army Lieut. General Stanley McChrystal, has employed in Iraq with great success. Gates idea of “new thinking” consists of the use of intelligence to create a greater impact in the theater. Contributing to the decision, recent news suggests that errant drones and bombing in Afghanistan have reportedly killed 70 to 100 civilians and the Afghan Parliament has called for laws to restrict foreign troops to curb civilian deaths.
McCrystal contributed to the current success of the Iraqi mission by creating a better relationship between the Joint Special Operations Command—of which he was Commander—and the overall command in Iraq. Iraqi death toll for military personnel during his tour dropped significantly from a sustained 822-904 death toll during 2004-2007 to 314 deaths in 2008. Military casualties in Afghanistan has experienced an increase from 57 coalition deaths reported in 2003 to 294 coalition deaths in 2008. The number of civilian deaths as a result of military actions cannot accurately be reported due to the difficulties in the field and ongoing investigations.
Secretary Gates is expected to target several major conventional warfare programs in favor of spending on technologies more useful to the ‘asymmetrical’ wars in which the US is embroiled. Projects will be cut: the Army’s $150 billion Future Combat Systems, which proposes to sync manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, the Air Force’s demands for more F-22 stealth fighter jets, 11 of the Navy’s aircraft carriers and a new $20 billion satellite. The President has even suggested that upgrades to Marine One will be delayed. The Pentagon has stated that this is a shift in direction and not cuts to the bottom line.
The Obama administration has pledged to integrate the war supplemental requests into the Department of Defense’s base budget. This will, of course, reduce future supplemental budgets but will increase the department’s base budgets. After 8 years of war, the budget for the Department of Defense (DOD) has nearly doubled from $387 billion in 2000 to $709 billion in 2008. However, the fiscal year 2009 total DOD budget is $687 billion, which includes the war supplement of $144 billion, a reduction of $50 billion from the 2008 fiscal year war supplement total of $194 billion.
The new Afghanistan war strategy that President Obama announced will send a surge of 4,000 troops, bringing U.S. troop levels to 60,000. Their focus will not be on battling Taliban insurgents face-to-face, but on improving security in villages by winning the trust of the local population. The idea is to make the Taliban irrelevant in the everyday lives of the villagers, who to this point have come to depend on or fear the insurgence. After seven years of war, the coalition has a steep road to climb. This strategy comes from the hard earned lesson learned in Iraq where the tide is turning in favor of the coalition and Iraqi government. Furthermore, the President’s plan calls for doubling the size of the Afghan security forces by 2011 and increasing diplomatic cooperation from regional countries.
Before the change in strategy, the number of casualties in Iraq hit a steady range of 822-904 deaths per year from 2004-2007. After, the improvement can be seen in the dramatic drop from 2007 to 2008 of 314 deaths. Also, of those wounded in this global war on terror, the numbers reflect the Iraqi change in stratagy as those wounded reduced from 6107 in 2007 to 2046 in 2008. The number of casualties in Afghanistan since 2004 has climbed steadily to 294 last year. Currently, as of March 2009, there have been 78 deaths in Afghanistan; that is nearly double what the count was last year at this time.
Army Use of Discharged Soldiers a Thing of the Past
Published Monday, March 23rd, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Department of Defense, there are about 13,000 former soldiers who are still on the list of reserves for the Army, available to call up whenever they are needed by the state. They are a part of the stop loss program developed by the Department of Defense after the Vietnam War, in which the army transitioned from the draft to an all-volunteer force. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that he hopes to cut the number in half by June 2010 and down to ‘not thousands but scores’ by March 2011. The army intends to award the stop loss soldiers a $500 per month bonus, with the payments retroactive to soldiers serving involuntarily as of October 1, 2008.
At the height of the Vietnam War, the troop levels worldwide were topping around 3.5 million troops. After, the troop levels decreased to approximately 2.2 Million troops. By the end of the Reagan era and into the 1990s, the troop levels started to decrease again to a low of 1.45 million troops, even during the first Gulf War. Only until after the September 2001 attacks did the levels actually go up to 1.49 million. This range is the lowest since 1950, five years after the end of World War II where the troop levels totalled 16 million+ during the four years of the conflict in which we participated. With or without the stop loss program, the current troop levels are well below any modern war we have fought in the last 100 years; they are actually at very low peace time levels.
During his tenure under Former President George W. Bush, Secretary Gates advocated for what is called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. He argued that the nations warheads, built in the 1970’s and 80’s, are in danger of losing the destructive power they once possessed. The heart of the weapon is a plutonium pit which is susceptible to radioactive decay and a buildup of impurities; thus, the warhead will eventually lose its ability to ignite properly or at all. The idea is that replacing the aging warheads would ensure greater predictability without field testing, which the US has banned since 1992. There are opponents who believe that beginning a new batch of nuclear warheads will incite a new arms race as it will be seen as a move for US nuclear supremacy, and there are proponents who believe keeping our nuclear stockpiles up-to-date will ensure an effective deterrent. However, others believe that our priority should be securing what we and others do have, due to the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Currently, we are spending $5 billion a year to run analysis and computer tests on the existing nuclear stockpile’s health; Gates new plan will set the budget back some $100 billion. Spending on U.S. Nuclear Weapons-Related Appropriations for FY 2008 has reached an estimated at $52.4 billion. This number includes $29.093 billion for nuclear forces and support, $8.299 billion for deferred environmental and health cost, $9.189 billion for missile defense, $5.165 billion in nuclear threat reduction, and $0.700 billion for nuclear incident management.