Posts filed under ‘Washington’

ARCTIC: Ex-Coast Guard Chief Named U.S. Special Arctic Envoy

Getting Serious.

Arctic ice in Greenland. NASA photo by xxxxxxxx

Arctic ice in Greenland. (NASA photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.

The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples.  The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.

Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy.  She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

July 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (April 6-April 12, 1814)

Bad News from Europe

Napoleon's retreat from Moscow (via Wikipedia)

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow
(via Wikipedia)

 Despite naval victories on Lake Erie and in head-to-head battles at sea, the war is not going well for the United States. Numerous attempts to invade Canada across the Niagara and St. Lawrence frontiers in New York and Vermont have failed – usually because of poor communication and inept leadership.

The frigate USS Essex has been taken by the British off the coast of South America. Another, the USS United States, is bottled up by the British Navy in Connecticut’s Thames River along with two other vessels – the Macedonian and the Hornet. Yet another frigate, the USS Constellation, is trapped at Norfolk, Virginia by the widening British naval blockade of U.S. ports.

Though disappointed by the setbacks, President James Madison is still hopeful the British will come to the negotiating table to rid themselves of a military distraction while still battling Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe.

But the emperor’s ambitions have met with defeat and setbacks following his ruinous invasion of Russia in 1812-1813. A coalition of Austria, Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sweden and several smaller German states has pushed Napoleon’s armies out of Germany and Spain. On March 31, Paris falls to the allies. French lawmakers and a growing number of generals refuse withdraw their support for Napoleon and within days the emperor is forced to abdicate. On April 11, 1814 the Treaty of Fontainebleau is signed by representatives of France, Austria, Russia and Prussia – ending Bonaparte’s reign as Emperor of the French.

Napoleon bids farewell to the Old Guard (via Wikipedia)

Napoleon bids farewell to the Old Guard
(via Wikipedia)

On the same day in London, The Times notes that reinforcements for British troops in North America “all sailed last week,” according to George C. Daughan, in his history “1812 The Navy’s War.” The troops, many of them veterans of Wellington’s campaign against the French in Spain, are headed to Bermuda and then to Quebec. Plans are being drawn up to attack the U.S. capital, Washington, and New Orleans. The number of British regulars opposing the Americans will swell to about 35,000 troops by the end of 1814.

 

April 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm 1 comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Special Ops Command Seeks $7.7 billion for 2015

By the Numbers UPDATE

UPDATES with new spending numbers and McRaven testimony

The Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015) seeks $7.7 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, including $1.52 billion for procuring weapons, equipment and supplies.

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

That procurement figure includes $112.2 million for rotary wing upgrades and sustainment, $25.6 million for modifications to CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, $25.5 million for underwater systems, $144.3 million for ordnance, $81 million for communications equipment and electronics, $63 million for tactical ground vehicles and $38 million for “global video surveillance activities.”

The total defense budget request – capped at $496 billion by a congressional budget deal in December – is actually $495.6 billion. But the Pentagon has yet to specify what it will seek for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, for short) to pay for the war in Afghanistan and unforseen costs like disaster relief missions after earthquakes and typhoons.

But the Obama administration is seeking an additional $26.4 billion in defense funding from Congress through what it terms the Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative (OGS). The White House claims there will be mandatory spending cuts and tax loophole closings to offset the additional spending. The administration’s budget documents maintain OGS will be “fully paid-for,” but many critics are skeptical.

With that extra money, the Pentagon has laid out what it would be used for, including: $300 million for an increase at SOCOM in training, readiness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); $100 million for SOCOM recapitalizing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence activities.

Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they were willing to cut other parts of the military – including weapons programs and the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – to protect “key capability areas” like special operations and counter terrorism from the budget ax.

Unlike the rest of the military, Special Operations Command won’t be seeing a reduction in its current force of approximately 66,000 in fiscal 2015. In fact, the Pentagon is seeking to add 3,700 personnel. That’s still below the 72,000 end strength planned just a few years ago, but Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, told the emerging threats panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (March 11) the lower number will mean “we’ll have to prioritize our efforts globally.”

Noting that SOCOM has about 7,000 people deployed in 84 countries now, McRaven said the challenge would be “making sure we can continue to meet priority demands globally,” which he said he could do with 69,700 instead of 72,000.

March 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

DEFENSE: Budgeteering at 4GWAR

2015 Defense Budget

Defense Department officials brief reporters on the 2015 budget at the Pentagon. (Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

Defense Department officials brief reporters on the 2015 budget at the Pentagon.
(Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

President Obama’s budget request for the 2015 Fiscal Year starting in October came out Tuesday (March 4) and your 4GWAR editor was very busy at the Pentagon yesterday picking up information and writing — for other people.

To see what we wrote about for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (the droids, drones and ‘bots people)  click here:

To see what we did for Aviation Week’s website  on Army programs in the 2015 budget, click here. The Av Week site has a whole page dedicated to 2015 defense budget information.

Here at 4GWAR, we’ll be addressing the budget and what it means for counter terrorism efforts at the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies (including the Department of Homeland Security) on Monday.

March 5, 2014 at 11:29 am 1 comment

DEFENSE: Good News for Special Ops, Bad News for Warthogs

Pentagon’s 2015 Budget: Dropping the First Shoe

Updates with Sen. Ayotte comments

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today (February 24) outlined the painful cuts to programs and reductions in the armed services imposed by Congressional budget cutters.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
(Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Under the Bi-Partisan Budget Act passed by Congress in December, defense spending is capped at roughly $496 billion for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 – forcing the Pentagon to come up with more than $75 billion in cuts over the two-year period, Hagel said.

He noted those cuts come on top of “the $37 billion cut we took last year and the Budget Control Act’s 10-year reductions of $487 billion.” If sequestration-level cuts remain the law for Fiscal Year 2016 and beyond, more cuts will have to be made, Pentagon officials said.

Starting in Fiscal 2015 [October 1, 2014-September 30, 2015], the Army will see a large reduction in size over five years – down to pre-World War II numbers, 440,000 to 450,000 – and the Navy can expect to see the number of cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) drop. The Air Force is dropping some of its tactical aircraft inventory, including its 40-year-old A-10 close air support jets and U-2 spy planes as cost savings measures.

But the Pentagon continues to see a need for increasing the size of Special Operations Forces. In the 2015 budget request to Congress, Defense Department leaders are choosing to reduce troop strength and force structure in all of the military services, “in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority” and to “protect critical capabilities like Special Operations Forces and cyber sources,” Hagel said.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The 2015 budget seeks to increase the number of personnel serving in Special Operations Command by 3,700 to 69,700, Hagel said, to protect “capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future” counter terrorism and crisis response. That’s more than double the 33,000 SOF complement in 2001.

To protect “higher priorities” like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, new aerial refueling tanker and long range strike bomber programs in this era of fiscal austerity, the Air Force plans to eliminate the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet. Called the “Warthog” for its stubby appearance, punishment-taking air frame and lethal armament, the 1970s era A-10 is best known for effective close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, said Hagel. The move would also speed up Air Force plans to replace the A-10s with the F-35 in the early 2020s.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande)

Hagel said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10, which can fly low and slow to provide covering fire for ground troops “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel said. And the Pentagon believes the advent of precision munitions means there are more types of aircraft to provide effective close air support – a point A-10 advocates and several members of Congress dispute.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, was quick to criticize the move.

“The Pentagon’s decision to recommend the early retirement of the A-10 before a viable replacement achieves full operational capabability is a serious mistake based on poor analyses and bad assumptions,” said Ayotte, who has been battling Pentagon efforts to ground the Warthogs. “Instead of cutting its best and least expensive close air support aircraft in an attempt to save money, the Air Force could achieve similar savings elsewhere in its budget without putting our troops at increased risk,” she added.

In addition to the A-10, the Air Force also plans to retire the 50-year-old U-2 high altitude spy plane in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system. But the Air Force is also slowing the growth of its unmanned aircraft inventory. “While effective against insurgents and terrorists,” UAVs “cannot operate in the face of enemy aircraft and modern air defenses,” Hagel said.

The actual budget numbers for each service and program – the other shoe, if you will – will drop next week (March 4) when the White House releases the president’s full budget request. And then the “fun” will begin when Congress weighs in.

February 24, 2014 at 8:49 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (February 2-February 8

Small War

Map courtesy of U.S. Army Office of Chief of Military History

Map courtesy of U.S. Army Office of Chief of Military History

While Andrew Jackson, major general of the Tennessee volunteers, drills his green troops constantly in preparation for an all-out assault on the Creek Indian stronghold at Horsehoe Bend in what is now Alabama, the British and Americans trade raids back and forth across the Canadian border. The military activity takes place on the Niagara Frontier and along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario between Ogdensburg and Oswego, New York. Most raids aim to destroy or capture the enemy’s supplies.

One raid, this week by a small group of Royal Marines and Canadian militia strikes at Madrid, New York just south of the Saint Lawrence River in far northern New York.

Also in February, President James Madision officially appoints five commissioners to negotiate directly with the British in Gothenburg, Sweden. Among the commissioners are Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay, leader of the “Warhawks” faction in Congress that pressed for war with Britain, and John Quincy Adams, U.S. minister to Russia and future 6th U.S. president. The others are former Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, former Delaware Sen. James Bayard and Jonathan Russell, U.S. minister to Sweden. Later in the year, the talks will be transferred to Ghent, Belgium.

February 2, 2014 at 9:18 pm 1 comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Facing Continued Terrorist, Overseas Stability Threats

Security Challenges

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community
(ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and other leaders of the U.S. Intelligence community, known in Washington as the IC, were up on Capitol Hill this week to present their assessment of the global and regional threats facing the country.

But Clapper’s less-than-honest testimony before Congress last year about cell phone data collection seemed to gather most – but not all – of the news media attention – along with his continuing concerns about the disclosures of rogue National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

So 4GWAR would like to focus on the range of threats the IC – which includes the Office of National Intelligence, the NSA, CIA, FBI, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center – believes are facing the United States as of January 15, 2014 (when their assessment report was completed).

Global threats listed by the 31-page public report include cyber attacks by hostile nations like Iran and North Korea, terrorist organizations and criminals; homegrown and international terrorist plots by groups like al-Qaeda branches like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; transnational organized criminal groups like the Mexican drug cartels that are expanding their influence across the Atlantic Ocean to West and North Africa.

“Competition for and secure access to natural resources (like food, water and energy) are growing security threats,” the report states. Risks to freshwater supplies are a growing threat to economic development in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and that could have a destabilizing effect not only on local economies but on governments and political institutions in many places where democracy is fragile or non-existent.

As polar ice recedes in the Arctic, “economic and security concerns will increase competition over access to sea routes and natural resources,” according to the report. Vast deposits of oil and natural gas – as much as 15 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum and 30 percent of its natural gas may lie beneath Arctic waters where the ice is receding more and more each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report predicts Sub-Saharan Africa will “almost certainly see political and related security turmoil in 2014.” The continent has become “a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups,” threatening governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

National Operations Center (Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

National Operations Center
(Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

The report also notes the attacks in Somalia and East Africa by the extremist Islamic al-Shabaab movement as well as sharp ethnic/religious/economic divides that are causing death, destruction, starvation and and mass migration in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4GWAR will have more on this report this weekend.

January 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

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