Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is this a threat on the President?

Inside the Afghan Special Forces

Inside the Afghan Special Forces

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Californians Unhappy With Congress - myMotherLode.com

Californians Unhappy With Congress - myMotherLode.com: "Sacramento, CA -- The latest Field Poll shows that Congress has a 12 percent approval rating among California voters.

12 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, around 80 percent disapprove and approximately eight percent are undecided.

President Obama's approval rating among Californians has fallen to 52 percent, down from a high of 65 percent last year.

45 percent say they approve of the way President Obama is handling the healthcare issue. That is up from 39 percent in January."

[bth: people are giving up on Washington]

IED attacks in Afghanistan more lethal - USATODAY.com

IED attacks in Afghanistan more lethal - USATODAY.com: ..."Oates cited several advantages Afghan insurgents had over U.S. forces:

• Reliance on fertilizer-based explosives that lack metal components frustrates attempts to detect buried bombs.

• U.S. forces traveling in heavy vehicles are forced to travel on the few improved roads in Afghanistan, making them easier targets. 'This facilitates a successful enemy tactic of emplacing large explosive charges buried in the middle of the road or in culverts,' Oates said.

• The counterinsurgency strategy pushed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal stresses protecting Afghan civilians and requires troops to be in close contact with them. The downside, Oates said, is that 'separated from the protection of an armored vehicle, they are also more vulnerable to casualty from an IED.'

Oates, in a USA TODAY interview, said winning the trust of Afghans will ultimately provide the best protection for U.S. troops. Afghans will identify insurgents and provide tips on where they have planted bombs.

Oates said the military will focus on fielding new all-terrain Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles designed specifically to protect troops in Afghanistan. Surveillance aircraft will monitor roads, troops will be trained to find and defuse bombs, and the networks that produce IEDs will be attacked. 'There is no silver bullet,' he said."

[bth: 3500 people and $17 billion and no clear answers to Afghanistan from JIEDDO. Perhaps it is time to end this organization.]

Soaring IED attacks in Afghanistan stymie U.S. counteroffensive - washingtonpost.com

Soaring IED attacks in Afghanistan stymie U.S. counteroffensive - washingtonpost.com: ..."'Technology is not going to solve this problem,' said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, director of the military's Joint IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO. 'I don't think you can defeat the IED as a weapon system. It is too easy to use.'

U.S. military officials said they expected the number of IED attacks to climb further this year as 40,000 U.S. and NATO reinforcements pour into Afghanistan.

Oates said technological advances have enabled the military to save lives by providing better armor and other forms of protection for troops. But he said the high-tech approach -- despite billions of dollars in research -- has failed to produce an effective way to detect IEDs in the field. About four-fifths of the devices that are found before they explode are detected the old-fashioned way: by troops who notice telltale signs, such as a recently disturbed patch of dirt that might be covering up a bomb.

Despite the insurgents' crude approach, the explosive power of their IEDs is growing. Each bombing in Afghanistan, on average, causes 50 percent more casualties than it did three years ago, Oates said Wednesday at a House committee hearing. U.S. officials say even armored troop-transport vehicles that were designed to protect against roadside bombs are now vulnerable.

All told, the U.S. military recorded 8,159 IED incidents in Afghanistan in 2009, compared with 3,867 in 2008 and 2,677 the year before.

Last month, 721 IEDs blew up or were defused in Afghanistan, slowing a major Marine-led offensive in Helmand province and killing 28 U.S. and allied troops. These bombs are the leading cause of U.S. casualties by a large margin."...

[bth: nonmetallic containers and fertilizer bombs have ground the army and marine advance to a slow crawl. Flintstones beat Jetsons?]

IED attack levels

Pakistan: Spy service using captives to create new Taliban links - Adnkronos Security

Pakistan: Spy service using captives to create new Taliban links - Adnkronos Security: "Islamabad, 16 March (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Top Afghan Taliban commanders arrested in Pakistan last month are living in comfortable safe houses run by the country's top intelligence service, or ISI, as they are considered the main avenue for reconciliation with Taliban leaders. Sources in the Pakistani security agencies believe they are the key to the Taliban leaders and since they are Pakistani hands, the process has to be conducted through Pakistan and secure the country's strategic interests after international forces leave Afghanistan.

Pakistan changed its strategic position concerning the Taliban after several encounters between US officials and senior Pakistani military officials, held from November 2009 to January 2010.

Pakistani army chief general Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has become one of the most powerful people in the history of Pakistan's armed forces.

He had a frank discussion with his US counterpart Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in which Kayani set the rules of the game for Pakistan's cooperation in eliminating Al-Qaeda and setting up a line of communication with top Taliban leaders.

At the top of the list was a demand from Pakistan to shut out India from playing any role in Afghanistan.

The Americans accepted the demand and India was suddenly removed from any strategic dialogue.

American leaders are now continuing an exclusive strategic dialogue with Pakistan which will culminate in the upcoming Pak-US Strategic Dialogue scheduled to take place in Washington from 24 to 26 March.

Pakistan arrested the supreme Taliban commander Mullah Bradar, Moulvi Abdul Kabeer, a member of the Taliban command council, Mullah Abdul Salam one of the pioneer members of the Taliban movement, Mullah Mir Mohammad and Mullah Mustasim Jan Agha who is one of the most trusted aides of Mullah Omar.

The recent arrest of these high profile Taliban figures was jointly conducted by Pakistani and US intelligence services.

Both organisations conducted a joint interrogation, however, once that was finished, Pakistani exclusively placed those Taliban commanders in the ISI's most comfortable safe houses in Islamabad.

'They are treated as VIPs there and are not the subject of any grilling or interrogation,' a senior security official told Adnkronos International (AKI) on condition of anonymity.

'They are the guests now and they have to play a important role in the next phase of reconciliatory talks with the top Taliban leadership.'

Mullah Bradar, the supreme commander of Taliban in Afghanistan, had been a main source of communication between Mullah Omar and Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, a Saudi intelligence chief.

Sources have told AKI that Muqrin was talking to Omar through Bradar on behalf of the Americans."...

[bth: so several things appear to be explained. The Pakistanis are indeed shaping the negotiations between the Taliban, US and Afghans. Also it appears the UN and India are cut out of the process as a result. Take a look at the posting that follow and one begins to get a bigger picture of what is going on behind the scenes.]

CIA director says secret attacks in Pakistan have hobbled al-Qaeda - washingtonpost.com

CIA director says secret attacks in Pakistan have hobbled al-Qaeda - washingtonpost.com: ..."So profound is al-Qaeda's disarray that one of its lieutenants, in a recently intercepted message, pleaded with bin Laden to come to the group's rescue and provide some leadership, Panetta said. He credited improved coordination with Pakistan's government and what he called 'the most aggressive operation that CIA has been involved in in our history,' offering a near-acknowledgment of what is officially a secret war.

'Those operations are seriously disrupting al-Qaeda,' Panetta said. 'It's pretty clear from all the intelligence we are getting that they are having a very difficult time putting together any kind of command and control, that they are scrambling. And that we really do have them on the run.'"...

[bth: interesting. Is it possible to separate Taliban from al-Qaeda? Perhaps it is. Note that the CIA is taking credit the alleged successes though we cannot point to senior al Qaeda leadership or Omar for that matter. CIA is simply asserting the profound disarray. How can we confirm it independently?]

BBC News - Pakistan arrests halt secret UN contacts with Taliban

BBC News - Pakistan arrests halt secret UN contacts with Taliban: "The UN's former envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has strongly criticised Pakistan's recent arrest of high-ranking Taliban leaders.

Mr Eide told the BBC the arrests had completely stopped a channel of secret communications with the UN.

Pakistani officials insist the arrests were not an attempt to spoil talks.

Mr Eide confirmed publicly for the first time that his secret contacts with senior Taliban members had begun a year ago."...

A senior Afghan adviser to President Karzai recently told me that their contacts with the Taliban had also accelerated in recent months. He also said the arrests had affected this process.

There has been intense speculation about why Pakistan moved against what are believed to be about a dozen leading members of the Taliban movement in recent weeks.

"The effect of [the arrests], in total, certainly, was negative on our possibilities to continue the political process that we saw as so necessary at that particular juncture," Mr Eide said.

"The Pakistanis did not play the role that they should have played.... They must have known who they were, what kind of role they were playing, and you see the result today."

In an interview this week, Pakistan's military spokesman, Gen Athar Abbas, denied Pakistan had moved against these Taliban to stop any talks.

US officials have recently praised what they called a new co-operation by Pakistan. ...

[bth: so Pakistan's capture of Taliban is to control advancing discussions between Karzai and the Afghan Taliban. Curious]

Pakistan again using mafia links for terror strikes - India - The Times of India

Pakistan again using mafia links for terror strikes - India - The Times of India: "MUMBAI: Saturday's arrests of the two terror suspects in Mumbai who wanted to set fires at three locations across the city shows that Pakistani planners are now returning to their old ally, the underworld, to plot terrorist acts.

In the recent case, Abdul Latif Rashid alias Guddu, 29, and Riyaz Ali Imtiaz alias Rehan, 22, were arrested for conspiring to set fires at the ONGC office in Bandra (East), Mangaldas Market in Kalbadevi and Thakkar Mall in Borivli. Latif's uncle, Abdul Bashir Khan, is an absconding accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, which was plotted and executed by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who is now living in Karachi. Khan is currently living with Dawood in the latter's Karachi flat and works as his assistant.

The security establishment in India has been claiming that the D-gang is hand-in-glove with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) in the execution of conspiracies in India.

In the 11/7 Mumbai train blasts case, the police arrested a doctor, two engineers and a sotware programmer who did not have any prior criminal record. However, the recent case points to the in-depth involvement of the D-gang. 'The two accused were in touch with a D-gang member who had asked them to identify youths for terror training in Pakistan,' said the source.

Officials in the security forces said terror bosses may have returned to the underworld because the police have mentally de-linked the underworld from terror. 'The police seem to have formed an opinion that gangsterism is entirely different from terrorism and they do not pay heed to gangsters when it comes to probing terror cases nowadays. This could be one of the reasons why the Pakistani terror handlers are focusing on the use of the underworld,' the security source said."...

[bth: interesting article. Is the use of criminal mafia a result of a bureaucratic mentality of law enforcement and counter terror officials that delineate between criminal activity and terrorism as this article implies?]

F-35 cost estimate grows up to nearly 90%

F-35 cost estimate grows up to nearly 90%: "The US Department of Defense today confirmed the cost estimate for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter procurement has leaped between 57% and 89% since contract award eight years ago.

The new estimate raises the average cost of the latest Lockheed Martin stealth fighter from $59 million to between $93 million and $112 million, the DOD says. If adjusted for inflation over the programme's 30-year production plan, the average cost per aircraft grows to $114 million to $135 million.

The average cost is based on the DOD's plan to buy 2,443 operational F-35s through 2035.

The data confirms prior statements indicating the F-35 could breach a cost ceiling mandated under the Nunn-McCurdy Law, which triggers an automatic review of the programme."...

American military forced into huge clean-up as it leaves Iraq - The National Newspaper

American military forced into huge clean-up as it leaves Iraq - The National Newspaper: "US BASE SPEICHER // In his five deployments to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, Lt Col Richard Manhart, a combat support officer, has faced Republican Guards, roadside bombs, 22-hour days and all the other difficulties that come with equipping a large US force in Iraq.

Now, however, the biggest challenge he faces is getting that equipment out.

“It’s the biggest logistical undertaking since probably the Korean War” more than 40 years ago, Lt Col Manhart said. “It’s a monumental operation.”

Under a timetable set by the US president, Barack Obama, all US combat forces will be out of Iraq by September 1, 2011. And that means the massive amounts of equipment the US military has accumulated over seven years of deployment will also be leaving the country."...

[bth: keep in mind that about 50,000 will remain and that many of the troops will simply be called something other than 'combat troops'.]

Wonk Room » Sadrists’ Strong Showing Means We’re Getting Out Of Iraq

Wonk Room » Sadrists’ Strong Showing Means We’re Getting Out Of Iraq: ..."Though the movement has certainly had its ups and downs, it’s long been clear that the Sadrists are the most deeply-rooted political movement among Iraq’s Shiites — and probably in all of Iraq. Many Western journalists, looking at Iraq through the lens of the U.S.’s war there, tended to conflate the Sadrists with the Mahdi Army, the Sadrist militia, which was a real mistake. Drawing their support from Iraq’s Shia underclass, the Sadrists’ boast a popular base that has only been growing with the central government’s inability to deliver basic services and effectively clamp down on corruption, and with the continuing problem of internally displaced persons.

It’s always a bad idea to make solid predictions about the future of Iraqi politics, but I tend to agree with Spencer Ackerman that the stronger Sadrist presence “will almost certainly constrain Maliki from any impulse he might feel to renegotiate the SOFA,” and request the U.S. to delay its military drawdown. We should remember that Maliki’s adoption of a demand for a withdrawal timetable for the SOFA (which the Iraqis call the “withdrawal agreement”) represented an effective co-optation of one of the Sadrists’ key positions. Now they’ll have the opportunity to hold him to it.

As I wrote in my review of Patrick Cockburn’s book on Muqtada al-Sadr, the Sadrists have always represented the Iraq reality that greeted and dashed the neocons’ Iraq fantasies. It’s fitting then that, even as the neocons continue to struggle in the hope of wringing out some eleventh-hour concession that will enable something resembling the substantial long term U.S. military presence they’ve always had in mind for Iraq, the Sadrists appear well-positioned to dash that fantasy, too."

Alaskans Monitored by Military Intelligence Division | APRN

Alaskans Monitored by Military Intelligence Division | APRN: "A group of Alaskans were surprised recently to learn that their organization-Alaskans for Peace and Justice- was monitored for a time in the fall of 2005 by a military intelligence division that deals with tracking organizations affiliated with foreign terrorism groups. The information was made public after the cyber civil rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained numerous documents from the Pentagon through a Freedom of Information Act or FOIA request."...

General David Petraeus tipped as Republican 2012 presidential candidate - Telegraph

General David Petraeus tipped as Republican 2012 presidential candidate - Telegraph: "The shrewd and articulate military commander, credited with turning around the Iraq war, will deliver a speech at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire next week, a traditional staging post in the state where the first presidential primaries are held every four years. Each of the last eight presidents has spoken at the college on their way to victory.

It will be the latest in a series of speaking engagements where the head of the US Central Command region, which covers the Middle East and Central Asia, has veered well into foreign policy discussion and often faced questions about his political ambition."

His stock response is the same as any potential aspirant at this early stage - a flat no. But for someone who professes to have no interest in running for president he has a way of talking about it even when he hasn't been asked directly.

In a recent appearance at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia Gen Petraeus turned a question about whether or not he planned to write a book upon retiring into an opportunity to deny he had political ambitions. On other occasions he has laughed off the notion of a White House bid in a slightly disingenuous manner.

Colleagues have begun to semi-seriously joke about the issue. At the annual Washington Alfalfa black tie dinner in late January Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, was heard to remark that Gen Petraeus couldn't make it because "he had an engagement in Iowa", where the first caucuses are held. ...

Timing is also against him for 2012. For a serious bid, he would have to leave his command late this year while the Afghan war was still blazing and then try and run against his former boss, the president.

Some associates think 2016 is a safer bet, or the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the pinnacle of any military career. There is also conjecture that Mr Obama, who is an admirer, may line him up for a top job if he wins a second four-year term.

[bth: and so it begins]

US military pushed for closure of CIA-Saudi website: report | Raw Story

US military pushed for closure of CIA-Saudi website: report | Raw Story: "The US military in 2008 shut down a website set up by the CIA and Saudi Arabia to expose terror plots, angering both parties, who saw the site as a vital intelligence tool, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Despite objections from the Central Intelligence Agency, US military computer experts dismantled the online forum after commanders raised concerns that extremists in Iraq were using the site to plan attacks on American forces, the Post wrote, citing unnamed former US officials.

The online forum had been created several years earlier as a 'honey pot,' allowing intelligence agencies to track and identify militants in Saudi Arabia.

The closure of the site inadvertently disrupted more than 300 servers in Saudi Arabia, Germany and Texas, forcing Washington to apologize to the Saudi and German governments, it said.

'There was a lot of bowing and scraping,' one official told the paper."....

The CIA "understood that intelligence would be lost, and it was; that relationships with cooperating intelligence services would be damaged, and they were; and that the terrorists would migrate to other sites, and they did," one former official was quoted as saying....

[bth: does this make any sense at all?]

Dodd Calls For Probe Into Lehman Accounting

Dodd Calls For Probe Into Lehman Accounting: ..."According to the Report of the U.S. Trustee-appointed Examiner Anton R. Valukas, Lehman presented a misleading picture of its financial condition to the public by using extensive repurchase agreements known as Repo 105 transactions. The Examiner found that 'Lehman did not disclose its use - or the significant magnitude of its use - of Repo 105 to the Government, to the rating agencies, to its investors, or to its own Board of Directors.' The result was to conceal its holdings of bad assets and to temporarily remove approximately $50 billion of assets from its balance sheet at the end of the first and second quarters of 2008. The Examiner found that Lehman used Repo 105 transactions for no other articulated purpose than to shrink its balance sheet at the quarter-end, in a manner that deceived investors and creditors about its true financial state and misleading others.

We must work tirelessly to reduce the incidence of financial fraud in order to restore trust and confidence in the financial markets. A task force investigation and taking appropriate Federal actions in these matters will contribute to these goals.

Sincerely,


Christopher J. Dodd
Chairman"

[bth: now we are going to get down to it, "to reduce the incidence of financial fraud in order to restore trust and confidence in the financial markets... and taking appropriate Federal action in these matters...]

More Saudi Oil Goes to China Than to U.S. - NYTimes.com

More Saudi Oil Goes to China Than to U.S. - NYTimes.com: ..."“Oil flows are shifting from West to East, and Saudi supplies that used to go to Europe and the United States are now headed for Asia,” said Jean-Jacques Mosconi, the senior vice president for strategy at Total of France.

Brad Bourland, a former State Department official who heads research at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Arabia used to be very much an American story, but those days are gone forever. That’s just a reflection of a globalized world and the rise of Asia. They now see their relationship with China as very strategic, and very long term.”

Some energy and security experts have pointed out that the Saudi government is keen on displacing Iranian oil sales to China to persuade Beijing authorities to back tougher sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, a position that has the support of the United States.

“We know the Saudis and others have delivered the message to the Chinese that instability in the gulf is not in their interest,” Douglas C. Hengel, the deputy assistant secretary for energy, sanctions and commodities at the State Department, said last week during a conference in Houston.

But Jon B. Alterman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the falling dependence of the United States on Saudi oil could turn into a problem for the Saudis, because the United States guarantees their security in the Persian Gulf."...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Unemployment soars in U.S. metropolitan areas | Reuters

Unemployment soars in U.S. metropolitan areas | Reuters: "Nearly 200 metropolitan areas reported jobless rates of at least 10 percent in January, showing that unemployment problems persist at the local level.

California has been especially hard hit during the recession that began in late 2007, and the Labor Department data showed the state's jobs situation continues to deteriorate, with an overall unemployment rate of 12.5 percent in January."...

War

RAF Bigger than the USAF? « New Wars

RAF Bigger than the USAF? « New Wars:... "The Royal Air Force has committed to buying 232 Typhoon Eurofighters at a cost of £20 billion. This number will reduce but surely here is an area where we can take a risk. The missions that the RAF have conducted over the last 25 years have hardly ever involved more than a dozen aircraft. We are contracted to buy more aircraft than we really need."...


If we have to take the numbers we have committed to, then we should mothball or sell many Typhoons thus saving running costs, aircrew training and flying costs. A number of air stations could also be closed…

The RAF does however need increased numbers of helicopters, UAVs and transport/support aircraft. They would be expensive but nothing like the cost of 232 Typhoons.


Many of those “support aircraft” might also be close support planes like the Brazilian Super Tucano, or even BAE Hawk jets, home built in the UK. Once again you have the army calling for an increase in the size of a sister service, in order to prepare for the uncertain future. Instead of the last century aerial onslaughts fought over the Central Front as planned for in the Cold War, there are the myriad threats all over the world. A group of superfighters concentrated at home are distracting from these worldwide threats, causing the Royal Air Force to sink under the weight of its own bloated budget.

I think at least 50 might suffice, if you consider only 4 fighters are helping prevent another South Atlantic Conflict as we speak. Certainly no more than 75-100 of the amazing Typhoons are needed in service at a time. These can be supported by 200-300 light fighters, and numerous UAVs, including land strike and maritime patrol versions. More helos of course, and numerous more cargo planes, like C-130s and C-17s.

[bth: this makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.]

DoD Buzz | Pressure Builds for More Hornets; Multi-Year OK Likely

DoD Buzz | Pressure Builds for More Hornets; Multi-Year OK Likely: "Congressional pressure on the Pentagon to buy more F/A-18 E/Fs and use multi-year authority continues to build, with Sen. Kit Bond being the latest to leap on the bandwagon at today’s Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.

Bond sent a St. Patrick’s Day letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging use of the multi-year authority and he pressed the Navy’s top leaders on the need for more Hornets. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy believes Boeing’s February proposal for a multi-year deal meets the “threshold” for multi-year savings. The numbers are being reviewed by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s CAPE and Mabus told me a decision should be forthcoming in a few weeks, “sometime in April.”

The debate is sure to grow more heated with the news last week that the Navy and Marines were forced to red stripe — ground — 104 Hornets of models A through D. While it isn’t clear yet whether some of these planes will be pulled off the line there are already flight restrictions on the fleet of older Hornets. And that, a congressional aide noted, means the service life extension programs being considered for the Hornet may have to be scaled back."...

[bth: this makes a lot more sense than more costly alternatives.]

Boeing Completes Design of Shipboard Superlaser | Danger Room | Wired.com

Boeing Completes Design of Shipboard Superlaser | Danger Room | Wired.com: "The U.S. military is bankrolling all kinds of projects to harness the power of directed energy, from laser-equipped aircraft that can shoot down ballistic missiles to smaller beam weapons mounted on Humvees that could zap mortars or artillery shells. The Navy is no exception: It wants a shipboard laser that is powerful enough to destroy anti-ship missiles.

Defense giant Boeing now says it has completed the preliminary design of one such weapon, the Free Electron Laser, or FEL. In a news release today, the company said it had presented its FEL design, which will operate by forcing a stream of high-energy electrons through a series of magnetic fields, creating a weapons-grade blast of laser light.

If it works, it would be the holy grail of military lasers. For starters, it would able to blast though the atmosphere without losing too much strength (see explanation here). And it would have an unlimited magazine: As long as the ship provided enough electrical power, it could keep on zapping"...

[bth: it sure makes sense to me to put this kind of weapon on a ship vs a humvee. Weight and power would favor the ship and there isn't much in the way of near range targets a humvee could deal with that couldn't be handled by a missile or a projectile.]

US Navy request raises issue about aluminum ships | Reuters

US Navy request raises issue about aluminum ships | Reuters: ..."'We already have a level of confidence in how to work with aluminum. The Office of Naval Research is trying to expand the knowledge base and build on what we already know,' he said.

But congressional sources and defense analyst said the solicitation raised questions about the depth of the Navy's knowledge about the new shipbuilding material just months before it could pick the Austal design for over 55 warships.

Aluminum is often used to build high-speed ferries and similar vessels, but it is a new material for the Navy, which has long relied on steel-hulled ships.

'It's hard to understand how the Navy could consider selecting a design that it says it doesn't understand very well,' said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

Austal's three-hulled aluminum warship is competing with Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) more traditional steel mono-hull ship, for over $5 billion in orders for 10 more additional LCS ships. Bids are due on April 12, and the Navy is expected to pick a single winner by July.

Lockheed and Austal, teamed with General Dynamics Corp (GD.N: Quote, Profile, Research), have already delivered one ship of each design to the Navy, and both companies are working on a second ship.

'It's surprising that they would say at this point in the evolution of the program that they don't understand how aluminum might operate under certain difficult conditions,' Thompson said.

Lockheed has argued that its steel monohull design would be easier to build and repair at shipyards around the world, which are not as well versed in working with aluminum."...

[bth: so we are about to buy a series of multi-billion dollar warships with aluminum hulls. One should note that aluminum is probably just fine for ferries and such, but lest we forget the Brits lost ships in the battle of the Falklands to Exocet missiles because the aluminum hulls melted around the bulk heads when the missiles fuel tanks caused large fires on impact. Warships have to plan for fires. Aluminum melts easily. Firewalls of aluminum melt which is not a good thing. Instead of a new study, how about somebody read a history book or an old issue of the Naval Proceedings.]

The Navy’s Perennial Conundrum: Cost Overruns Interfere with Fleet Sizing « Budget Insight

The Navy’s Perennial Conundrum: Cost Overruns Interfere with Fleet Sizing « Budget Insight: ..."Support for a 313 ship fleet is missing, however, from the Pentagon’s future plans. These plans anticipate constructing 50 ships in the next five fiscal years. Such a construction rate, extrapolated over a normal 30-year lifespan for a naval vessel, would allow the Navy to maintain a fleet of approximately 300 ships. This is still consistent with the QDR decision and closer to the Navy’s goal. Yet Pentagon plans mask an important obstacle.

The average real cost of Navy ships have increased at an alarming rate, outpacing Pentagon projections and growing from $1.2 billion during the 1980’s to at least $2.5 billion in 2009. Shipbuilding resources, on the other hand, are projected to remain fixed between FY2011-15. The Navy thus finds itself in a conundrum: projections of a fixed, $14 billion annual shipbuilding budget conflict with CBO’s projection that a 313 ship fleet will cost $20 billion or more annually.

CBO estimates that staying within budget will yield a fleet of between 170 and 240 ships. Getting to 313 within the context of existing plans, it seems, would require rebalancing in other areas of Navy procurement. Some in the Department of the Navy hope that the Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) program will be transferred out of their hands and into Defense-Wide procurement. This approach was used for missile defense – another expensive, strategic procurement objective. More than enough room for a 313 ship fleet would be created should Congress approve the Navy’s efforts to offload costs for 12 new SSBMs, estimated by the service to be $80 billion (CBO estimate = $85 billion). At minimum, this approach would provide a scapegoat – Congress – should the Navy fail to reach 313.

Budgetary tactics aside, however, a main cause of this disconnect the Navy’s inability to discipline procurement costs. Every recent major Navy ship purchase has been over budget, with programs such as the Littoral Combat Ship more than doubling in cost. A strong push to force the Pentagon and the Navy to make hard choices about what programs are important may put necessary downward pressure on costs. Absent hard choices and disciplined management, though, the Navy will find this goal routinely beyond its grasp."

US, Russia clash over startup of Iran nuke plant

US, Russia clash over startup of Iran nuke plant: ..."At a news conference with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after talks on a wide range of issues, Clinton told reporters that Iran, while entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, must reassure the world that it is not trying to build a nuclear weapon.

'In the absence of those reassurances, we think it would be premature to go forward with any project at this time, because we want to send an unequivocal message to the Iranians,' she said.

Lavrov forcefully asserted that, whatever the U.S. concerns, his country will finish its work on the Bushehr nuclear power plant shortly.

'The project will be completed,' Lavrov said. 'We are now in the final stage, and this nuclear power plant will be launched. It will be put into operation, it will be functioning, producing power.' He added that the plant will operate under strict compliance with requirements of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency."...

[bth: presumably the Russian ruling hierarchy is getting a kickback on the nuke contracts with Iran. It needs to be explained to them that there will be accounts receivable problems if the start up of nukes in Iran is done without improved assurances that bombs are not being or going to be made.]

EDITORIAL: Obama surrenders gulf oil to Moscow - Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Obama surrenders gulf oil to Moscow - Washington Times: "The Obama administration is poised to ban offshore oil drilling on the outer continental shelf until 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, Russia is making a bold strategic leap to begin drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. While the United States attempts to shift gears to alternative fuels to battle the purported evils of carbon emissions, Russia will erect oil derricks off the Cuban coast.

Offshore oil production makes economic sense. It creates jobs and helps fulfill America's vast energy needs. It contributes to the gross domestic product and does not increase the trade deficit. Higher oil supply helps keep a lid on rising prices, and greater American production gives the United States more influence over the global market.

Drilling is also wildly popular with the public. A Pew Research Center poll from February showed 63 percent support for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Americans understand the fundamental points: The oil is there, and we need it. If we don't drill it out, we have to buy it from other countries. Last year, the U.S. government even helped Brazil underwrite offshore drilling in the Tupi oil field near Rio de Janeiro. The current price of oil makes drilling economically feasible, so why not let the private sector go ahead and get our oil?"...

[bth: I believe this is necessary.]

War Is Boring: How to Turn Drones into Dogfighters

War Is Boring: How to Turn Drones into Dogfighters: "What comes next for the U.S. Air Force’s air-superiority fighter force, currently dominated by the ’70s-vintage F-15? According to the Pentagon’s first 30-year aviation plan, published this month, the next dogfighter could be a robot. “In the far term, the Air Force will retire its fourth-generation fighter/attack fleet,” the report reads. “In evaluating replacement options, it will consider both manned and unmanned options.”

So what would it take to turn today’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles into F-15-class dogfighters? Making today’s 100-miles-per-hour drones faster is not a huge challenge. Adding radars and air-to-air missiles shouldn’t be a show-stopper, either. ‘Bots have great potential for being even more maneuverable than today’s manned fighters. The big problem is visual situational awareness."...

[bth: a short article worth reading in full]

Blair's fight to keep his oil cash secret: Former PM's deals are revealed as his earnings since 2007 reach £20million | Mail Online

Blair's fight to keep his oil cash secret: Former PM's deals are revealed as his earnings since 2007 reach £20million | Mail Online: "Tony Blair waged an extraordinary two-year battle to keep secret a lucrative deal with a multinational oil giant which has extensive interests in Iraq.

The former Prime Minister tried to keep the public in the dark over his dealings with South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation.

Mr Blair - who has made at least £20million since leaving Downing Street in June 2007 - also went to great efforts to keep hidden a £1million deal advising the ruling royal family in Iraq's neighbour Kuwait.

In an unprecedented move, he persuaded the committee which vets the jobs of former ministers to keep details of both deals from the public for 20 months, claiming it was commercially sensitive. The deals emerged yesterday when the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments finally lost patience with Mr Blair and decided to ignore his objections and publish the details."...

Monday, March 15, 2010

To Speed Recruits, U.S. Cuts Afghan Police Training To Six Weeks

To Speed Recruits, U.S. Cuts Afghan Police Training To Six Weeks: "The U.S. government's plan to rapidly grow the ranks of Afghan police officers has run into a shortage of instructors and training camps, prompting U.S. and NATO officials to cut basic training for Afghan recruits from eight weeks to six.

The schedule change--which crams the same hours of training into fewer weeks--underscores the pressures that the Pentagon faces as it tries to transform the police into an effective counterinsurgency force with a higher level of military skills. Afghan police have long been seen as the weak link in that nation's security forces, suffering a disproportionate number of deadly attacks by the insurgents.

U.S. military officials in Kabul confirmed that the change took effect Saturday. They said the Afghan recruits, most of whom cannot read, write or count, would work longer days to make up for the compressed schedule.

The Afghan police training, contracted to DynCorp International, is now half as long as the 12-week program that DynCorp used to train Iraqi police recruits. DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner said the company was told of the change in training regimen in the past week."...

[bth: given the cost effectiveness of hiring and training Afghans vs. fielding a US soldier in that country and the relative ineffectiveness of NATO allies as combat troops, why aren't we using NATO forces to train policemen and Afghan soldiers instead of turning the work over to overpaid DynCorp and Xe? You'd think someone in Congress would ask Sec. Gates this obvious question but they don't seem to. Further while these guys can't read, we can't speak the language. Which is worse at a check point? And by the way, why isn't there a draft in Afghanistan? There are after all over 30 million people there.]

AIPAC Lashes Out At Obama Administration Over Israel Statements

AIPAC Lashes Out At Obama Administration Over Israel Statements: "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group, released a statement over the weekend lacing into President Obama for what it calls 'escalated rhetoric' on the part of the administration in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's push for new housing units in East Jerusalem.

'The Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State,' according to the statement. 'The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests.'"...

[bth: tail wags dog]

Does Meaningful Financial Reform Have Any Chance? « The Baseline Scenario

Does Meaningful Financial Reform Have Any Chance? « The Baseline Scenario: "Senator Dodd’s financial reform bill will be introduced in the Senate Banking Committee today. Unfortunately, on the major issue – too big to fail financial institutions that caused the 2008-09 crisis and that will likely trigger the next meltdown – there is nothing meaningful in the proposed legislation.

The lobbyists did their job a long time ago."...

[bth: people are on the verge of giving up on DC]

Why Bibi Humiliated Biden - Page 1 - The Daily Beast

Why Bibi Humiliated Biden - Page 1 - The Daily Beast:... "But three developments seem to have emboldened Netanyahu. First, Obama lost the Israeli public by convincing them—through his Cairo speech and customary cool—that he wanted to distance the United States from Israel in order to curry favor with the Arab World. For the first time, Netanyahu found himself in the unusual position of being more popular at home than the U.S. president (Clinton and Bush enjoyed 70-80 percent public approval ratings in Israel).

Second, the Republicans have started making a comeback in Washington, raising the possibility of using Congress to constrain the president. That was something Netanyahu deployed to considerable advantage once Clinton lost control of the House to the Israelis' close friend Newt Gingrich. He probably savors the opportunity to do it again.

Third, Obama purposely delinked the peace process from Iran, making clear to Netanyahu that, despite their deep differences over settlement activity, they would be completely coordinated on the strategic issue of curbing Iran's nuclear program."...

Paper: Defense official ran private spy operation | Raw Story

Paper: Defense official ran private spy operation | Raw Story: "A US official identified as Michael Furlong organized a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the purpose of finding and killing suspected Islamic militants, The New York Times reported Monday.

Citing unnamed military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States, the newspaper said Furlong, who works for the Defense Department, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and Special Forces members.

These people gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected Islamic militants and the location of insurgent camps, the report said.

After that, the information was sent to military units and intelligence officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan for use in possible strikes, the paper said.

Some US officials said they were concerned that Furlong could be running an unofficial spy operation, adding they were not sure who condoned and supervised his work, The Times said"...

Saturday Night Live - Weekend Getaway (Prius Commercial) - Video - NBC.com

Saturday Night Live - Weekend Getaway (Prius Commercial) - Video - NBC.com

SNL Takes On Eric Massa (VIDEO)

SNL Takes On Eric Massa (VIDEO)