Current News – Early Bird (April 1, 2013)

Use of these news items does not reflect official endorsement.


1. Hagel Warns Of Big Squeeze At The Pentagon
(New York Times)…Thom Shanker
Ending his first month as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel invited six young enlisted personnel for lunch in his private Pentagon office. Without military or civilian aides, Mr. Hagel himself took extensive notes as the sergeants and petty officers poured out their concerns about pay, benefits, training and sexual assault — issues that would decide whether they make the military a way of life or just a way station in life.


2. U.S. Ups Its Show Of Force In Korea
(Wall Street Journal)…Julian E. Barnes
The U.S. flew F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea Sunday for joint exercises, a further demonstration of advanced military capabilities meant to deter provocations from Pyongyang.
3. North Korea Vows To Keep Nuclear Arms And Fix Economy
(New York Times)…Choe Sang-Hun
North Korea’s leader on Sunday announced a “new strategic line” that defied warnings from Washington, saying that his country was determined to rebuild its economy in the face of international sanctions while simultaneously expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, which the ruling party called “the nation’s life.”
4. N. Korea Bomb Test Was Unusual
(Washington Post)…Joby Warrick
U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested in February, fueling suspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core.
5. North Korea Eclipses Iran As Nuclear-Arms Threat
(Wall Street Journal)…Jay Solomon
The twin nuclear crises the Obama administration faces in Asia and the Middle East underline a harsh reality for U.S. strategists: North Korea’s weapons capabilities are far more advanced than Iran’s.
6. N. Korea’s Parliament Meets Amid Nuclear Tension
(…Foster Klug and Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press
After weeks of warlike rhetoric, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gathered legislators Monday for an annual spring parliamentary session that followed a ruling party declaration that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy were the nation’s top priorities.
7. N. Korea Says U.S. Military Bases In Japan Subject To Attack In War
(Kyodo News)…Kyodo
North Korea said Sunday that U.S. military bases in Japan would be subject to attack if a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.


8. Karzai Seeks Qatar’s Help On Peace Talks With Taliban
(Wall Street Journal)…Nathan Hodge
… Although the Kabul government initially billed the two-day weekend trip as a step toward boosting bilateral ties and attracting Qatari investment, efforts to bring the Taliban into direct negotiations with Mr. Karzai’s administration were at the top of the agenda, officials said.
9. Top General Warns Of Dangerous Troop Cuts In Afghanistan Mission
(The Independent (UK))…Kim Sengupta
Cutting the numbers of British troops this summer in Afghanistan would be “unforgivable” and “endanger” hard-won progress at a highly critical time, the most senior UK commander in the country, Lieutenant-General Nick Carter, has stressed.
10. After 12 Grinding Years, Marines Find Reason For Optimism In Country They Leave Behind
(The Guardian (UK))…Nick Hopkins
British prepare to depart with qualified confidence that progress will continue.
11. US Says Kit Removal From Afghanistan To Cost $5-6 Bn
(Agence France-Presse)…Agence France-Presse
The US operation to remove military hardware and vehicles from Afghanistan as troops withdraw after 12 years of war will cost between five and six billion dollars, officials said Sunday.
12. Afghanistan To Destroy 15,000 Hectares Of Poppy: Officials
(Agence France-Presse)…Agence France-Presse
Afghanistan plans to destroy 15,000 hectares (37,050 acres) of poppy fields this year in its latest efforts to control the heroin trade that fuels endemic violence and corruption, officials said Sunday.
13. Painful Payment For Afghan Debt: A Daughter, 6
(New York Times)…Alissa J. Rubin
… But it is also a story of the way the war has eroded the social bonds and community safety nets that underpinned hundreds of thousands of rural Afghans’ lives. Women and girls have been among the chief victims — not least because the Afghan government makes little attempt in the camps to enforce laws protecting women and children, said advocates for the camp residents.


14. Odierno To Top Leaders: Expect Tougher Evals
(Army Times)…Michelle Tan
Battalion and brigade commanders will soon receive 360-degree evaluations as part of the Army’s continuing push to rid the ranks of toxic leaders. The plan, spearheaded by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, will begin as a pilot program this summer and be fully implemented by the fall.
15. Women Soldiers Breaking New Ground In Combat Roles In Army And On Fort Bragg
(Fayetteville (NC) Observer)…Drew Brooks
The question of whether women can serve in Army roles previously restricted to men is being answered on Fort Bragg, where the male-only world of artillery has opened to female soldiers.


16. Commandant Sets Up Diversity Task Force
(Marine Corps Times)…Hope Hodge
A new white paper issued by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos outlines an aggressive campaign to make the senior officers’ ranks more diverse in race and gender.


17. Bonus Windfall
(Navy Times)…Mark D. Faram
To a fleet wracked with deployment and funding uncertainties, the Navy’s top officer has a message: We want to keep you.
18. Exiting The Budget ‘Fog’
(Navy Times)…Sam Fellman
… But the service, still short billions of dollars, will not be able to fully restore all of its accounts; it will fall to the CNO and other top leaders to decide things such as which ships will deploy and which will be repaired — choices certain to ripple beyond the next six months.


19. Lackland Instructor’s Victim Speaks Of Trauma, Fear
(San Antonio Express-News)…Sig Christenson
Airman Basic Virginia Messick walked into the office of a vacant dormitory one day in April 2011 but couldn’t see the person who had called her to the room. The door closed behind her.


20. Officially Complete, BRAC Continues To Change Local Area
(Capital Business)…Marjorie Censer
… This round of base realignment — the Pentagon’s fifth — was the largest, most complex and most expensive, according to the Government Accountability Office. The process is still expected to save the Pentagon billions in the coming years, just not as much as once was projected.


21. Pentagon’s Budget Fears Fall On Deaf Ears
(Washington Times)…Rowan Scarborough
… Still, Pentagon overspending has become a hot topic for reporters, analysts say. “The press corps finally realized that the ‘back office’ is the problem,” said Gordon Adams, a White House budget official in the Clinton administration. The “back office” consists of the myriad infrastructures that make up the military’s “tail” to support war fighters, or the “tooth.”
22. Federal Overtime Cuts Taking Toll On Workers, Services
(Washington Post)…Steve Vogel
With no official tracking of the pay, impact of trims is debated.
23. Budget Cut Pain Won’t Be Uniform
(Los Angeles Times)…Jim Puzzanghera
Federal reductions will hurt California, but not as much as other states that rely more on U.S. money.


24. NATO Eyes Missile Shield Progress With Russia After U.S. Move
(…Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters
NATO hopes a U.S. change to global missile defenses will dispel Russian concern and foster cooperation on an issue that has long strained relations, alliance Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said in an interview.


25. China Says 2 Pilots Killed In Su-27 Fighter Crash
(…Associated Press
China’s Defense Ministry says two air force pilots were killed when their Russian-made Su-27 fighter crashed during a training mission.
26. S. Korean Military To Prepare With U.S. For Cyber Warfare Scenarios
(Yonhap News Agency)…Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap
In light of the massive attacks on the websites of major broadcasters and banks, South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday it will increase cyber warfare forces and develop various deterrence scenarios in cooperation with the United States to better deal with emerging threats.


27. ‘Please Help Save This Baby’s Life’
(Albuquerque Journal)…Charles D. Brunt
Rescuer, war orphan reunite 40 years later.


28. BAE Prods Congress For Bradley Funding Unwanted By Army
(Washington Post)…Nick Taborek, Bloomberg Government
BAE Systems is trying to squeeze more money out of Congress for its Cold War-era Bradley Fighting Vehicle, an attempt to thwart the U.S. Army’s plan to halt production for at least three years.
29. Contractors Taking Diversification Seriously As Defense Spending Shrinks
(Capital Business)…Marjorie Censer
… As contractors encounter shrinking federal budgets, they are increasingly seeking to bolster their presences in the international and commercial markets. Companies have long been promising this diversification, but there are now more signs this effort is fully underway.


30. Reaching Out To Pyongyang
(Los Angeles Times)…Donald Gregg
President Obama’s recent Middle East trip showed what good things can result from thoughtful, direct presidential involvement. The president addressed young Israelis, reassured allies in the region and brokered an Israeli apology to Turkey for a deadly raid on a flotilla attempting to take supplies to Gaza. The president should employ that same sort of diplomacy toward North Korea.
31. At The U.N., Iran Is A Powerhouse, Not A Pariah
(Wall Street Journal)…Claudia Rosett
President Obama likes to describes Iran as “isolated.” But there is nothing lonely about Iran’s berth at the United Nations, where in the corridors and on the boards of powerful agencies, the Islamic Republic has been cultivating its own mini-empire.
32. Iran’s Diplomatic Discipline
(Washington Post)…Ray Takeyh
… To successfully negotiate with Tehran, the P5+1 must demonstrate the same type of steadfastness that guardians of the Islamic Republic have shown. The best means of disarming Iran is to insist on a simple and basic red line: Iran must adhere to all the Security Council resolutions pertaining to its nuclear infractions.
33. Lessons From Iraq
(Washington Post)…Jackson Diehl
… and why that war shouldn’t stop us from aiding Syria.
34. Israel: Shields Raised
(Financial Times)…John Reed
Iron Dome missile batteries are the pride of the country’s defences but doubts remain over their efficacy.
35. Kim’s War Games
(New York Post)…Editorial
… We don’t believe Kim means war, at least not yet. But with South Korea threatening to respond, and nerves in the region frayed, America’s immediate interest lies in preventing the North from doing something stupid that would see events spiral out of control.
New York Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 4

Hagel Warns Of Big Squeeze At The Pentagon

By Thom Shanker
WASHINGTON — Ending his first month as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel invited six young enlisted personnel for lunch in his private Pentagon office. Without military or civilian aides, Mr. Hagel himself took extensive notes as the sergeants and petty officers poured out their concerns about pay, benefits, training and sexual assault — issues that would decide whether they make the military a way of life or just a way station in life. At the end of the 90-minute session, which was held on Thursday, Mr. Hagel, a former enlisted soldier who was wounded twice in Vietnam, surprised them with a promise. “Remember, you always have a friend in the secretary of defense,” one of those present quoted him as saying. Even so, Mr. Hagel did not hide the quiet storm that is gathering, one that will test his empathy with the enlisted ranks as he begins to make tough calls over coming weeks about further shrinking the Pentagon after more than a decade of war and free spending. Even more, as President Obama — who has placed some of the military’s long-favored weapons programs in his sights — continues to negotiate with Congress over a spending and revenue deal, Pentagon officials acknowledge they are bracing for a protracted period in which they may have to manage even larger budget reductions than anticipated. “There will be changes, some significant changes,” Mr. Hagel warned at a news conference last week. “There’s no way around it.” Senior military commanders know the meaning of those words from Mr. Hagel: the former soldier may have to fire more soldiers and reduce or reject more weapons programs. Mr. Hagel is expected to begin outlining those changes in a major speech this week that will differ in tone and substance from the dire warnings about budget cuts heard before his arrival. The message is that while the leadership hopes to dampen the impact of across-the-board spending cuts, there is a new Pentagon reality, and everyone must deal with it. Mr. Hagel, whose acceptance of the need to shrink the Pentagon is in step with Mr. Obama’s self-declared strategy to avoid large overseas land wars, will start to outline a rethinking of military policy to fit smaller budgets. Already, Mr. Hagel directed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ashton B. Carter, the deputy defense secretary, to conduct a sweeping “Strategic Choices and Management Review” due by the end of May. Their challenge is to trim the Pentagon while also assuring that the military continues to attract high-quality personnel and can maintain American and allied security around the world. That lesson was made violently obvious on Mr. Hagel’s first overseas trip, when he went directly to Afghanistan, rejecting the comfortable stops in allied nations that are usually tacked on to war-zone travels. He chose a consciously understated public demeanor as he kept a grueling schedule that was interrupted by suicide bombings and caustic comments from a complex ally, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. It was only after the trip ended that aides disclosed that Mr. Hagel had made a high-stakes gamble: He asked to halt a bilateral session at Mr. Karzai’s palace to hold an unscheduled one-on-one meeting with the Afghan president. A contentious problem was the hand-over of a detention facility at Bagram, which for the Afghans had become a touchstone of sovereignty and pride — but for the NATO alliance carried risks of letting dedicated enemies back into the fight. The detention issue roiled relations between Washington and Kabul for the next weeks, a time in which Mr. Hagel and Mr. Karzai spoke by phone three times. But only two of those calls have been disclosed, and even those were distilled down to diplomatic pablum. Although the heavy daily duty of negotiating with the Afghans was carried out by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the top NATO commander, and the American ambassador, James B. Cunningham, senior alliance officials now say that it was the secret call between Mr. Hagel and Mr. Karzai that broke a deadlock that had become less about security than policy and personalities. “The office of the secretary of defense and higher were asked to resolve the remaining issues because we felt they were clearly policy issues,” said a senior NATO official in Kabul, speaking on diplomatic ground rules of anonymity to describe negotiations. General Dunford, the official said, “elevated key policy decisions on what the U.S. was willing to accept to Hagel and the National Security Council for resolution.” That behind-the-scenes effort by Mr. Hagel, and Mr. Obama’s national security principals, “pushed it over the goal line,” the NATO official said. The transfer-of-authority deal was announced in Washington, not in Kabul, after a final Hagel-Karzai call on March 23. Senior Pentagon officials say that Mr. Hagel’s public air of understatement during his first days in office — which appeared as caution or even uncertainty — can be attributed less to his bumpy road to confirmation than to the time needed to find his stride in a world of complicated issues that have changed even since he left the Senate in 2009. “I did not know him well before the nomination, and then the things that I had heard about him, well, I was somewhat apprehensive,” said Representative Howard P. McKeon, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Then I watched as he went through the process. And some of my concerns were even strengthened.” Mr. McKeon said he feared Mr. Hagel was halfhearted in his support for Israel — an issue on both sides of the aisle in Congress — and soft in his support for missile defense, a litmus issue for conservative Republicans. The two have spoken several times since, including when their visits to Kabul overlapped. Mr. McKeon said he has come around on Mr. Hagel, swayed in part by the defense secretary’s announcement that reversed an Obama administration decision that had canceled an expansion of missile defenses. Mr. Hagel instead ordered the Pentagon to spend $1 billion to deploy more interceptors along the Pacific Coast to counter the growing reach of North Korea’s weapons. And Pentagon officials have disclosed that Mr. Hagel’s next foreign trip will open with an alliance-building visit to Israel. “I’m feeling pretty good about where he is heading now,” Mr. McKeon said. Though the brutal confirmation hearing has not been forgotten, it has receded at least to the point where it is a safe subject for anecdote. Mr. Hagel and aides had gathered to watch the Senate confirmation vote on television. When the total — 58 to 41 — was announced, the staff members clapped, but nervously, several recalled; it was the least supportive tally in the history of defense secretary confirmations. Mr. Hagel took it all in and deadpanned, “Just the way we planned it.”
Wall Street Journal April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

U.S. Ups Its Show Of Force In Korea

By Julian E. Barnes
The U.S. flew F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea Sunday for joint exercises, a further demonstration of advanced military capabilities meant to deter provocations from Pyongyang. The deployment comes amid an intensifying back-and-forth between Pyongyang and Washington, with North Korea issuing ever-more-pointed threats and the U.S. responding with its own tough language and displays of sophisticated hardware. In recent days, Kim Jong Eun, the young and outspoken leader of North Korea, has posed in front of maps portraying missile strikes on Hawaii and the mainland U.S. and has threatened to launch rockets at the U.S. and its bases in the Pacific. North Korea has said it is trying to place nuclear warheads on its missiles, but it isn’t clear how far they have advanced in this effort. Mr. Kim’s behavior and the U.S. response, which come after a new government has just taken office in the South, amount to the Korean peninsula’s tensest state in years. It drew a reference Sunday from Pope Francis, who in his first Easter message called for a spirit of reconciliation on the peninsula. The arrival of the F-22 fighters follows U.S. displays of air power last week that included B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers. The F-22s are ordinarily stationed in Japan at Kadena Air Base but flew to Osan Air Base in South Korea for the continuing exercises. The F-22s, among the most expensive and advanced weapons in the Air Force’s arsenal, are capable of evading radar and air-defense systems. The U.S. hasn’t used them in combat but has deployed them in the United Arab Emirates and Japan as a deterrent against Iran and North Korea. In a conflict with North Korea, F-22s would likely be the first aircraft used. The hard-to-detect fighters could be sent in to take out air defense missiles and radars in advance of bombers aimed at missile launch sites or other targets. They also could be used to escort nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, should these be used in a strike. The use of F-22s in the training exercise with South Korea, which the military calls the Republic of Korea or ROK, is a signal the U.S. is eager to showcase its most potent weaponry to North Korea. “Despite challenges with fiscal constraints, training opportunities remain important to ensure U.S. forces are battle-ready and trained to employ airpower to deter aggression, defend the ROK and defeat any attack against the alliance,” the U.S. military command in South Korea said in a statement. Earlier, U.S. defense officials had pledged further demonstrations of American military capability in the face of continuing threats from North Korea to attack the U.S., South Korea and allies in the Pacific. The annual military exercises with South Korea have angered North Korea, particularly as the U.S. has put its most advanced capabilities on display. The B-2 stealth bomber flights over South Korea last week demonstrated the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from bases in the U.S. Senior North Korean leaders are meeting this week, and U.S. officials are watching closely to see whether the North continues its threats to strike at American bases in the Pacific. On Friday, North Korean state-run television announced Mr. Kim had signed off on war plans to attack the U.S. The government also appears to have organized a large protest in Pyongyang, where North Koreans held anti-American placards including ones that read “Death to the US imperialists.” North Korea on Saturday referred to entering a “state of war” with South Korea. Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council, called the tough statements out of Pyongyang “unconstructive.” She said the U.S. remains prepared to defend its allies and is taking additional measures against the threat from North Korea. “We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies,” she said. “But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats.” The authoritarian regime’s Supreme People’s Assembly is set to convene for a single day on Monday to rubber-stamp budget and personnel decisions. Observers will study the personnel moves for indications of who the rising and falling stars are and how their profiles might indicate shifting influences on policy. U.S. officials have said long-range North Korean missiles are capable of hitting Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who heads the House Homeland Security Committee and sits on the intelligence panel, said Sunday the greatest threat remains an attack by the North on South Korea or U.S. bases in the Pacific. He said Mr. Kim could be trapped by his own rhetoric into thinking he needs to attempt a strike. “I think the real threat is to what North Korea might be boxing itself into,” Mr. King said in an ABC News interview.” He added: “Kim Jong Eun is trying to establish himself. He’s trying to be the tough guy.” U.S. defense officials believe North Korea is following similar patterns as in the past, ratcheting up tensions in a ploy to begin direct bilateral talks with Washington or win more international aid. But Seoul has signaled it could respond more forcefully than in the past to any new North Korean military provocation. Mr. King opposed direct talks with North Korea, saying he didn’t “see any purpose” in them. “This is not even a government,” he said. “It’s sort of like an organized-crime family running a territory. He’s brutal, his father is brutal, his grandfather was brutal.” The Pentagon has been following a strategy based on a belief that muscular shows of military strength are necessary to deter North Korea from further military provocations. In addition to the bombers and fighters, the U.S. has said it would expand the number of ground-based interceptors it has deployed to counter long-range North Korean rockets. The U.S. also is speeding deployment of additional advanced-warning radar in Japan and has drafted an extensive framework of possible responses for South Korea should its neighbor mount an attack or provocation. Some administration officials have voiced reservations about the deployments of advanced U.S. bombers and fighters, arguing they risk further escalating the situation. But the South Korean government, U.S. officials have said, has asked for demonstrations of America’s nuclear deterrence. The current U.S.-South Korean exercises, known as Foal Eagle, are scheduled to continue for several more weeks.
New York Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 6

North Korea Vows To Keep Nuclear Arms And Fix Economy

By Choe Sang-Hun
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader on Sunday announced a “new strategic line” that defied warnings from Washington, saying that his country was determined to rebuild its economy in the face of international sanctions while simultaneously expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal, which the ruling party called “the nation’s life.” The North’s nuclear weapons “are neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported, citing remarks from the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, which adopted new guidelines for the country. The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, presided over the meeting, which South Korean news media said was convened for the first time since 1993. The rare event came a day before the planned gathering of the North’s rubber-stamp Parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, which was expected to follow up on the new guidelines adopted by the party. The party meeting took place against the backdrop of joint military exercises in South Korea involving American and South Korean forces. On Sunday, American F-22 stealth fighter jets were flown from a base in Japan to South Korea to join the exercises, according to an American military statement. In past weeks, B-52 and B-2 bombers offered a demonstration of American air power as part of the exercises. American and South Korean officials still hope they can persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons through sanctions and diplomacy, especially if China agrees to use its economic leverage with the North. Many regional analysts and officials have suggested that the North’s recent strident language, including threats to attack the United States and South Korea with nuclear weapons, is intended not only to solidify Mr. Kim’s military credentials at home but also to draw the United States back to the negotiating table. But a growing number of analysts also say that North Korea seems to have no intention of giving up its nuclear arms. “The enemies are using both blackmail, telling us that we cannot achieve economic development unless we give up nuclear weapons, and appeasement, saying that they will help us live well if we choose a different path,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying during the meeting on Sunday. But he said his country must expand its nuclear arsenal both “in quality and quantity, as long as the United States’s nuclear threat continues.” The North’s stance has appeared to harden in recent years. Last April, it identified itself as a nuclear power when it revised its Constitution. After the United Nations Security Council imposed more sanctions to punish it for its launching of a long-range rocket in December and its third nuclear test in February, it said it would no longer attend talks on dismantling its nuclear program. On March 17, the North’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s nuclear weapons were not a bargaining chip. On Sunday, officials at the plenary meeting made that stance formal, adopting a statement calling the North’s nuclear weapons a “treasure” that will not be traded for “billions of dollars,” because they “represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth.” Both President Obama and his national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, have recently urged Mr. Kim to learn from Myanmar, where changes initiated by new leaders have resulted in billions in debt forgiveness, large-scale development assistance and an influx of foreign investment. It North Korea continues on its current path, they said, it will face more sanctions and deeper isolation. President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has also warned that the only way for Mr. Kim’s government to ensure its survival is to give up its nuclear weapons. She has often said that nuclear weapons did not save the Soviet Union from collapsing. On Sunday, North Korea said economic development and an expansion of the nuclear program could take place “simultaneously” because a growing nuclear deterrent could allow the North to limit military spending and put more resources into the agricultural sector and light industries to improve people’s lives. In what appeared to be related move, officials at the party meeting appointed Pak Pong-ju, a minister in charge of light industries who has supported economic policy changes in the past, to the Politburo.
Washington Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

N. Korea Bomb Test Was Unusual

Analyses suggest effort at secrecy; Lack of physical traces could point to advances

By Joby Warrick
U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested in February, fueling suspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core. At least two separate analyses of the Feb. 12 detonation confirmed that the effects of the blast were remarkably well contained, with few radioactive traces escaping into the atmosphere — where they could be detected — according to U.S. officials and weapons experts who have studied the data. U.S. officials anticipated the test and monitored it closely for clues about the composition of the bomb, which was the third detonated by North Korea since 2006. The first two devices were thought to have used plutonium extracted from a dwindling stockpile of the fissile material that North Korea developed in the late 1990s. A successful test of a uranium-based bomb would confirm that Pyongyang has achieved a second pathway to nuclear weapons, using its plentiful supply of natural uranium and new enrichment technology. A device based on highly enriched uranium, HEU, also would deepen concerns about cooperation between the hermetic regime and Iran. North Korea’s belligerent threats in recent weeks have increased concerns among American and South Korean officials and ratcheted up worries about the level of progress made on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons by Pyongyang. Plutonium and uranium There are two paths to a nuclear weapon. The bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 used HEU as its core, and the one dropped three days later on Nagasaki was a plutonium device. North Korea has long possessed plutonium, but its enrichment of uranium is a more recent development. Iran has been concentrating on uranium enrichment, which it says is for civilian purposes. Although North Korea and Iran have cooperated on missile technology, U.S. officials said there is no direct evidence of nuclear cooperation. “We’re worried about it, but we haven’t seen it,” said a former senior Obama administration official, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments. “They cooperate in many areas, especially missiles. Why it hasn’t yet extended to the nuclear program is frankly a mystery.” The prospect of a third nuclear test prompted heightened scrutiny of the Korean Peninsula by intelligence agencies from the United States and other countries. Despite the intense focus, U. S. analysts acknowledged that they did not pick up enough physical evidence to draw firm conclusions about the fissile material used in the device. In the days following the detonation, U.S. and South Korean sensors failed to detect even a trace of the usual radioactive gases in any of the 120 monitoring stations along the border and downwind from the test site, the officials said. A Japanese aircraft recorded a brief spike of one radioactive isotope, xenon-133, but it was seen as inconclusive, the analysts said. Xenon-133 is released during nuclear weapons tests but also given off by nuclear power plants. The absence of physical data could suggest a deliberate attempt by North Korea to prevent the release of telltale gases, presumably by burying the test chamber deep underground and taking additional steps to prevent any radioactive leakage, according to two U. S. analysts briefed on assessments of the tests. “There’s very little information, which suggests that the North Koreans are doing a good job of containing it,” one of the officials said. The second analyst familiar with the data said it appeared that North Korea “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.” The second analyst added that North Korea also appears to be worried about the reaction from China, its most important ally, in the event that radioactivity drifts across the border and causes panic among residents. Officials and analysts said North Korea’s second nuclear test, which occurred in 2009, also left no detectable traces. Some experts pointed out that finding evidence of a nuclear blast is often a matter of luck because of the dependence on air currents and geological features at the test site. Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability, said a third U.S. official with access to classified data on the tests. “Any country conducting a nuclear test works hard to contain it,” the official said. U.S. intelligence agencies had positioned special aircraft in the region in hopes of picking up two or more types of radioactive isotopes from the blast. Comparing ratios of isotopes can help determine the material used in the device. Seismology readings confirmed that the explosion occurred under a mountain near North Korea’s border with China. The readings indicated it was roughly as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Statements released by U.S. intelligence agencies have described the Feb. 12 event as a “probable” nuclear test. North Korea’s state-run news agencies said the country had “diversified” its nuclear stockpile with the new test. The declaration underscored concerns that the North had mastered a design that uses the country’s ample supply of uranium. North Korea’s plutonium stockpile consists of only a few dozen pounds of the gray metal, enough to build a handful of bombs. But recent visits to North Korea by U. S. nuclear experts confirmed that Pyongyang operates at least one uraniumenrichment factory, described by visitors as large, sophisticated and fully operational. Ties with Iran The United States was already concerned about an agreement between North Korea and Iran pledging technical and scientific cooperation. The pact was signed in Tehran in September at a ceremony attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program. Representing the North Koreans at the signing was Kim Yong Nam, the country’s secondhighest-ranking official. A decade earlier, Kim had signed a similar pact with the government of Syria, an agreement that U. S. officials think led to the construction of a secret plutonium-production reactor near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. The nearly finished reactor was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in 2007. Although Iran and North Korea have signed technical pacts before, the September accord was seen as particularly worrisome because it appeared to imply nuclear cooperation. In the past, North Korea and Iran assisted each other in missile development, sharing parts and data and perhaps even conducting surrogate tests for each other at times when either nation was under international pressure, said Leonard Spector, a former Energy Department official who has studied technical ties between the two countries. Further, both countries bought black-market enrichment technology from A.Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist accused of selling nuclear secrets to foreign governments. The two countries would almost certainly benefit from exchanging data on nuclear subjects such as centrifuge design and uranium metallurgy, said Spector, deputy director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Unlike sharing missile technology, which would require the movement of actual hardware, Olli Heinonen, a former senior U.N. nuclear official who inspected the programs of both countries, said the sharing of enrichment know-how would be harder to spot. “It would be meetings between individuals, with very little hard evidence,” said Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center.
Wall Street Journal April 1, 2013 Pg. 8

North Korea Eclipses Iran As Nuclear-Arms Threat

By Jay Solomon
WASHINGTON—The twin nuclear crises the Obama administration faces in Asia and the Middle East underline a harsh reality for U.S. strategists: North Korea’s weapons capabilities are far more advanced than Iran’s. Pyongyang, as a result of decades of covert atomic work, is close to mastering the technology to mount one of its estimated dozen nuclear warheads atop medium-range missiles that are capable of striking U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, American officials and international nuclear experts believe. Iran, by comparison, has no atomic bombs in its military arsenal, nor the ability to deliver them, say U.S. and United Nations experts. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, although the Obama administration has charged Tehran with trying to develop nuclear weapons. “By many estimates, North Korea will have the ability to deliver nuclear weapons using long-range ballistic missiles to distant targets within four to five years,” said Evans Revere, a former senior State Department official who follows Korean affairs at the Brookings Institution. “This will drastically change the security environment in Asia.” North Korea also is able to produce dozens more nuclear bombs by employing two separate programs to create weapons-grade fuel—plutonium and highly enriched uranium, said U.S. and U.N. officials. Iran has so far only developed uranium-enrichment technology. The U.N. is concerned, though, that Tehran could begin separating plutonium from spent fuel produced by a nuclear reactor Iran is building in Arak. This gap between North Korea and Iran, which is widely recognized in Washington, is exposing what many Western diplomats and security analysts believe has been the U.S.’s muted response to Pyongyang’s nuclear advances in recent years, as compared with Iran’s. The Obama administration has been reluctant to engage diplomatically with North Korea because Pyongyang has backed out of previous disarmament deals and because it wants to avoid a direct confrontation with North Korean ally China, officials say. Congress has also been more aggressive against Iran, partly in response to Israel’s concerns. But these officials said the U.S. position risked signaling to Tehran that Washington will take a tougher line on countries that are developing nuclear weapons capabilities, rather than those that have actually acquired them. “Everything we fear Iran will do in the future, North Korea largely already has done,” said David Asher, who led efforts in the George W. Bush administration to counter Pyongyang’s financial and proliferation networks. “If we applied one-third of the pressure on North Korea that we do on Iran, there would be huge strategic consequences.” However, in recent months, the White House has changed tack by enacting new economic sanctions against North Korea, both bilaterally and through the U.N., in response to nuclear and long-range missiles tests it conducted since December. In recent days, the Pentagon has also deployed advanced bombers and stealth fighter jets over the Korean peninsula in a bid to dissuade Pyongyang from threats to strike U.S., South Korean and allied targets in Asia. U.S. defense officials said these deployments were a signal to North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun that Washington maintained the ability to deliver its nuclear weapons in Asia, even though there are none stationed in South Korea. “It is very important, for the sake of stability, to send a clear message on our capabilities and our clear commitment to extended deterrence,” said a senior U.S. defense official. Still, the Obama administration has displayed much greater and more sustained diplomatic and military muscle in combating Iran’s nuclear program since taking office in 2009, said these diplomats and analysts. During this time, the U.S. has led a global coalition to choke off Iran’s finances, including orchestrating a growing ban on Tehran’s oil exports. President Barack Obama has also threatened to use military force against Iran if it doesn’t curb its nuclear program through diplomacy. Neither the Obama nor Bush administrations have ever overtly threatened to strike North Korea’s nuclear facilities, despite Pyongyang’s testing of three nuclear devices since 2006. The Bush administration, during its final years in office, reduced U.S. leverage over Pyongyang as it pursued disarmament talks with it, according to current and former U.S. officials. The State Department removed North Korea from the U.S.’s list of state sponsors of terrorism during Mr. Bush’s second term and released funds frozen in Chinese banks that were believed to be controlled by Mr. Kim’s family. North Korea’s nuclear program began in the 1960s, roughly a decade before Iran’s, and it benefited from major technical and financial support from the former Soviet Union. Moscow trained North Korean scientists and helped build the Yongbyon nuclear reactor complex north of Pyongyang, which produced the plutonium used in building the North’s atomic bombs. The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also believes that China and Pakistan have shared nuclear technologies with Pyongyang. Iran has collaborated with Russian and Pakistani scientists in developing Tehran’s nuclear program, according to IAEA experts, but not on the scale of North Korea. Tehran maintains a cooperation agreement with the IAEA, which allows the U.N. agency to regularly visit Iran’s nuclear-fuel production sites. North Korea, conversely, expelled IAEA inspectors from the Yongbyon complex in 2002. At that time, U.S. officials believe, Pyongyang significantly increased its extraction of plutonium from the facility and began expanding a uranium-enrichment program. North Korea has also been at the forefront among developing countries in building medium- and long-range missile systems. U.S. and IAEA officials believe that North Korean missile components and designs have been sold to a wide range of Middle East governments, including Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen. U.S. and Israeli officials are now concerned Pyongyang could share with Tehran the technologies it has developed to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and affix it to a medium-range missile. The IAEA has said it believed Tehran was experimenting with developing these technologies in the early 2000s, but may have suspended the work in 2003. Last September, however, Iran and North Korea signed a scientific cooperation accord in Tehran, which is raising fears about possible cooperation in nuclear arms. “Any ‘scientific cooperation’ between Iran and North Korea is potentially a source of real concern to us, and we’ll have to follow it closely,” said a senior U.S. official.
RETURN TO TOP April 1, 2013

N. Korea’s Parliament Meets Amid Nuclear Tension

By Foster Klug and Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea — After weeks of warlike rhetoric, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gathered legislators Monday for an annual spring parliamentary session that followed a ruling party declaration that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy were the nation’s top priorities. The meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly follows near-daily threats from Pyongyang, including vows of nuclear strikes on South Korea and the U.S. The United States, meanwhile, sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to participate in annual war games with South Korea, and the new South Korean president, who has a policy meant to re-engage Pyongyang with talks and aid, told her top military leaders to set aside political considerations and respond strongly should North Korea attack. Despite the continuing hostility on the peninsula, there has been a noticeable shift in North Korea’s rhetoric to a message that seeks to balance efforts to turn around a moribund economy with nuclear development. “There was a danger that this was getting to the point … of a permanent war footing,” said John Delury, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “In the midst of this tension and militant rhetoric and posturing, Kim Jong Un is saying, Look, we’re still focused on the economy, but we’re doing it with our nuclear deterrent intact.” Pyongyang has reacted with anger over routine U.S.-South Korean military drills and a new round of U.N. and U.S. sanctions that followed its Feb. 12 underground nuclear test, the country’s third. Analysts see a full-scale North Korean attack as unlikely and say the threats are more likely efforts to provoke softer policies toward Pyongyang from a new government in Seoul, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and to solidify the young North Korean leader’s military credentials at home. On Sunday, Kim and top party officials adopted a declaration calling nuclear weapons the “the nation’s life” and an important component of its defense, an asset that wouldn’t be traded even for “billions of dollars.” Pyongyang cites the U.S. military presence in South Korea as a main reason behind its drive to build missiles and atomic weapons. The U.S. has stationed tens of thousands of troops in South Korea since the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953. While analysts call North Korea’s threats largely brinkmanship, there is some fear that a localized skirmish might escalate. Seoul has vowed to respond harshly should North Korea provoke its military. Naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters off the Korean coast have led to bloody battles several times over the years. Attacks blamed on Pyongyang in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans. Deputies to North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly gathered in Pyongyang on Monday, although the session’s schedule was unclear. Under late leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea had typically held a parliamentary meeting once a year. But Kim Jong Un held an unusual second session last September in a sign that he is trying to run the country differently from his father, who died in late 2011. Parliament sessions, which usually are held to approve personnel changes and budget and fiscal plans, are scrutinized by the outside world for signs of key changes in policy and leadership. At a session last April, Kim was made first chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission, the body’s top post. On Sunday, Kim presided over a separate plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, a top decision-making body tasked with organizing and guiding the party’s major projects. The meeting set a “new strategic line” calling for building both a stronger economy and nuclear arsenal. North Korea’s “nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth,” according to a statement issued by state media after the meeting. Sunday marked the first time for Kim to preside over the committee meeting. The last plenary session was held in 2010, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, and before that in 1993. The plenary statement also called for strengthening the economy, which Kim has put an emphasis on in his public statements since taking power. The U.N. says two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people face regular food shortages. The decision means North Korea believes it can rebuild the economy while not neglecting its military because it now has nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at South Korea’s Sejong Institute. “It’s like chasing two hares at once,” he said. The North also named former Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju as a member of the party central committee’s powerful Political Bureau, a sign that he could again play a key role in the North’s economic policymaking process. Pak reportedly was sacked as premier in 2007 after proposing a wage system seen as too similar to U.S.-style capitalism. “Pak Pong Ju is the face of economic reform, such as it exists — reform with North Korean characteristics as they say,” Delury said. Economic changes won’t be radical, Delury said, and, for the time being, they’re mostly aspirational. One change could entail a shift of part of the country’s massive military spending into the economy as a whole. South Korea now faces a major decision. If President Park Geun-hye and her advisers react as her hard-line predecessor did, “then they’re stuck in the same place, where North Korea limps along, but with regime stability,” Delury said. If so, then “the risk of a conflict is like a dark cloud over the next five years of the Park Geun-hye administration. It’s not such an appealing path for her.”
Kyodo News March 31, 2013

N. Korea Says U.S. Military Bases In Japan Subject To Attack In War

By Kyodo
BEIJING — North Korea said Sunday that U.S. military bases in Japan would be subject to attack if a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula. The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, cited U.S. bases in Misawa in Aomori Prefecture, Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, and in Okinawa Prefecture. The threat came a day after North Korea said it had entered a “state of war” with South Korea, warning of an “all-out war” and a “nuclear war” if the South and the United States were to engage in military activities against the North. In Japan, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga criticized the article in the North Korean newspaper. “North Korea’s aggressive provocation simply cannot be forgiven,” Suga told a Kyodo News reporter. The chief Cabinet secretary said the Japanese government will closely watch North Korea by cooperating with “the United States, South Korea, China and Russia,” which are the other members of the long-stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang has been stepping up its rhetoric against Tokyo, which, along with Seoul and Washington, condemned the North over its long-range rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test in February. On March 17, the Rodong Sinmun said North Korea “will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to protect the supreme interests of the country if the U.S. ignites a nuclear war,” and warned, “Japan will never be an exception.”
Wall Street Journal April 1, 2013 Pg. 9

Karzai Seeks Qatar’s Help On Peace Talks With Taliban

By Nathan Hodge
KABUL—Afghan President Hamid Karzai traveled to Qatar in a bid to revive Afghanistan’s faltering peace process and patch up relations with the wealthy Gulf emirate where the Taliban are establishing their main negotiating headquarters. Although the Kabul government initially billed the two-day weekend trip as a step toward boosting bilateral ties and attracting Qatari investment, efforts to bring the Taliban into direct negotiations with Mr. Karzai’s administration were at the top of the agenda, officials said. Qatar’s state news agency said Sunday’s meeting between Mr. Karzai and the Qatari emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, focused on developing relations and “prospects of peace in Afghanistan.” In a meeting with Afghans living in Qatar, Mr. Karzai set a tone of reconciliation. “We will do what we can to achieve peace in the country,” he said, according to a statement released by the presidential palace in Kabul. “The Afghan government wants the Taliban to come home to their land—and to free themselves from foreign hands.” In a related development, Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, established by Mr. Karzai to facilitate negotiations, on Sunday urged the insurgents to join the political process ahead of next year’s presidential elections. “Afghans expect the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to understand their responsibilities,” the HPC statement said. It isn’t clear whether such messages will resonate with the insurgent leadership, which last year began setting up a representative office in Qatar to facilitate talks with the U.S. and Afghan politicians. The Taliban high command has so far refused direct talks with Kabul and the HPC. The movement’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said earlier that Mr. Karzai wouldn’t meet with Taliban representatives in Qatar. Mr. Karzai’s relations with Qatar haven’t always been smooth. The emirate’s efforts to facilitate the peace process in Afghanistan hit a snag in late 2011, when Mr. Karzai withdrew Afghanistan’s ambassador to Doha, demanding an apology from the Qataris for having direct contacts with the Taliban leadership. Following that diplomatic row, the U.S. assured Mr. Karzai that it would insist on including the Afghan government in any talks with the Taliban. Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad, has vast regional ambitions that are funded by the tiny emirate’s giant natural-gas wealth and reinforced by Qatar’s satellite-television network, Al Jazeera. He has bankrolled the Islamist factions in Libya’s uprising against Moammar Gadhafi, is funding and arming Syrian rebels, particularly those with an Islamist bent, and has long been a major benefactor of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip. The Taliban are a Sunni Islamist movement that originated in Afghanistan’s religiously conservative Pashtun heartland, and that long counted on support and donations from the oil-rich Gulf monarchies. While some other Gulf governments, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have long been friendly to Mr. Karzai, even contributing troops to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, Qatar has always maintained its distance and didn’t open an embassy in Kabul. A senior Western official described Mr. Karzai’s visit to Doha as an “act of statesmanship” that put his weight behind the Qatari track of peace talks with the Taliban. Still, the official added: “I don’t think he feels like he owns the process.” The Afghan government says it should take the lead in any talks with the Taliban, who have fought the Kabul government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Syed Mohammed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander who says he is in contact with Taliban negotiators, said Mr. Karzai failed to reach out with a goodwill gesture in advance of his trip. “If he was expecting to meet some Taliban representatives in Qatar, he would have released some Taliban prisoners,” Mr. Agha said. Mr. Agha, a cousin of Tayeb Agha, the Taliban’s main negotiator in Qatar, noted that the U.S. recently handed over its detention facility in Afghanistan to the Kabul government’s control, a move he described as little more than symbolic. That handover was one of a series of concessions Mr. Karzai has managed to wrest from his U.S. allies in recent weeks. On Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition said it had completed the withdrawal of its forces from Nerkh, a restive district in Wardak province where locals alleged torture and killings by U.S. special-operations forces and their Afghan auxiliaries. The U.S. denied those allegations. Mr. Karzai demanded the withdrawal, but infuriated his allies with increasingly confrontational rhetoric. A visit to Kabul by Secretary of State John Kerry helped patch up U.S. ties with Mr. Karzai, but Afghan officials also began directing accusations at neighboring Pakistan, saying Islamabad had become an obstacle to peace. Idrees Zaman, an independent analyst with Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a Kabul-based think tank, said the Afghan president’s visit to Qatar was a bid to assert his relevance after clashing with the U.S. and Pakistan. “The last few days have shown him to be in a state of panic and paranoia, and he understands that nobody takes him seriously,” Mr. Zaman said. Late last year, authorized representatives of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the key leaders of the Northern Alliance, which fought a losing war against the Taliban before 2001, met in France, an unprecedented step for the historic rivals. While the Taliban broke off contacts with the U.S. last year, after negotiations collapsed over swapping Taliban detainees for a U.S. soldier held captive by the Taliban, Mr. Karzai has accused Western countries of conducting secret talks with the Taliban behind his back. Wahid Muzhda, a former official in the Taliban regime’s foreign ministry who has been involved in mediating between the Taliban and Northern Alliance politicians, said he was skeptical Mr. Karzai could manage to reach out to the Taliban. “It’s impossible,” he said. “They have not recognized Hamid Karzai as a legitimate president.” Mr. Muzhda said Taliban representatives are free to talk to their Northern Alliance adversaries, but still consider Mr. Karzai—who was initially an early supporter of the Taliban when they came to power in the mid-1990s—a Western-backed puppet. “There is a lot of experience with Hamid Karzai,” he said. “They know Hamid Karzai very well. We worked with him at one time and we know who that man is.” –Ziaulhaq Sultani and Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
The Independent (UK) April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

Top General Warns Of Dangerous Troop Cuts In Afghanistan Mission

Commander says slashing British forces too soon could jeopardise progress ahead of critical summer of fighting

By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent
Cutting the numbers of British troops this summer in Afghanistan would be “unforgivable” and “endanger” hard-won progress at a highly critical time, the most senior UK commander in the country, Lieutenant-General Nick Carter, has stressed. The deputy chief of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said that overall the transition to Afghan control was going very well. But any attempt to thin out British forces on the ground as the coming fighting season approaches would have damaging consequences. Lt-Gen Carter spoke to The Independent as the Afghan government prepares to take over security responsibility for the country and British and Western forces look to depart from the 12-year-old war. He told The Independent: “It would be unforgivable if we allowed the gains of the last three years to be lost because we were not able to provide the Afghans with the support to take this through into 2014. “Our judgement is we have to manage this in a way that retains confidence. Precipitating withdrawal that is not in line with the current plan will damage Afghan confidence.” The forces of President Hamid Karzai are carrying out their first major operation without Western help, fighting an alliance of heavily armed drug smugglers and the Taliban in Badakhshan in a battle which has resulted in more than 100 killed on each side, twice that number injured and residents caught in the crossfire abandoning their villages. After initial success the Afghan troops and police sought to ask for Isaf air strikes – but the logistical means for doing so were not available. The clashes continued with mounting loss of lives and the insurgents able, using their knowledge of the terrain, to keep themselves supplied and the government forces pinned down. Air strikes were eventually called in, leading to the killing of 30 of the most hardened fighters and a feared leader, Maulvi Hamza, claimed the district governor Daulat Mohamed – enabling the security forces to drive off the insurgents. Jan Agha Mohamed, a police major who took part in combat at Wardaj district of Badakhshan, described what he and his men were facing. “The dushman [rebels] knew the ground well, so they could set up traps for us. We lost many men due to this,” he said. “We had a lot of difficulties moving out the injured – it would have been good to move them out by air. They put in a lot of IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. We dealt with most of them but a few were very difficult and caused casualties. “We are not afraid to fight for our country. My men and I were under fire in one position for two days: three were injured and two died. No one left their post. But we still need some help from our foreign friends in situations like this. We need the time to prepare ourselves properly. We are not talking about a long time, but it is an important time.” The size of the British force currently stands at 8,000, a reduction of almost 2,000 as part of the schedule for withdrawal with further cuts to 5,200 by the end of the year. Most, however, are now confined to their bases as Afghan forces do the majority of the fighting. There is apprehension in Afghanistan that this image of troops is seemingly not needed and headlines which have appeared back in the UK that “the war is over” put the Cameron government, beset by economic travails, under great pressure to reduce troop numbers further than envisaged. Soldiers point out that the reality for them is that the war is far from over – as was illustrated by the death last week of Lance Corporal Jamie Webb of the 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) in a suicide bombing at a patrol base in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand, which injured half a dozen of his comrades. Such attacks are likely to continue against both international and Afghan forces and are likely to escalate at what is being viewed as a “defining time” in the handover process. When pressed on the cost of the mission, Lt-Gen Carter acknowledged “a great deal of money is being saved with the plan to reduce the number of troops by the end of this year and it has to be a consideration at a time of economic hardship”. But this coming summer, he continued, “will be a genuine test of the capability and confidence of the Afghan forces, a test of the determination of the Afghan people to be with their government and a test of how much will remains in the insurgency. “In an ideal world we would be sitting behind the wire, providing training and advice teams to Afghan patrols; the large weight of our combat power hopefully won’t be required. “We want the Afghans to be doing it, but, if the Afghans get into trouble, or if the fighting season proves to be very difficult, we would be able to put our power back into the field to support and sustain them.” The political future of Afghanistan is in the balance, maintained Lt-Gen Carter. “Our assessment is that the centre of gravity for the campaign at the moment is to build the confidence of those bits of the population that really matter. There will be a lot happening here in the next 18 months to two years: transition between international and Afghan forces; political transition when President [Hamid] Karzai hands over to his successor. “These will have an effect on the economy and they’ll have an effect on the political situation. Precipitate withdrawal that is not in line with the current plan will damage Afghan confidence.” Focusing on the Afghan troops in Helmand, where the British force is based, he said: “The 215 corps is the youngest corps in the Afghan army. It’s still having its capacity developed and its confidence developed: we don’t want completely to let go of it yet. It’s a very delicate balance because you’ve got to use tough love: you’ve got to push them to take charge, but then be around in case there are problems.”
The Guardian (UK) April 1, 2013 Pg. 11

After 12 Grinding Years, Marines Find Reason For Optimism In Country They Leave Behind

British prepare to depart with qualified confidence that progress will continue

By Nick Hopkins, Lashkar Gah
The Royal Marines don’t intend to make a fuss when they leave Afghanistan in the next few days; there will be a low key ceremony at their headquarters in Helmand, and a lowering of the white ensign that has flown at their camp since last September. But the veterans among them will pause for reflection. After six tours in 12 years, and the deaths of 62 commandos in some of the fiercest fighting seen out here, the marines will not be coming back. Their time is over. “We have taken a significant number of casualties over the years, as many as any cap badge,” Lieutenant Colonel Matt Jackson, the commander of 40 Commando, reflects. Foremost in his mind now is getting the memorial to those who fell in Sangin in 2009 and 2010 back to the UK. “The brass plates with the names of everyone who died have been taken off. It’s difficult to take the stones with us, but we’d like to make a replica of the memorial back home.” It is a significant moment in the journey British forces have taken in Helmand, marking the first of a number of “lasts” in the next 18 months, as the UK’s military and civilian involvement in the province winds down, and their teams become ever more diminished. Evidence of drawdown is everywhere – the British had 80 military bases in Helmand this time last year, now they have 12. The British embassy in Kabul is sending people home, as is Helmand’s provincial reconstruction team (PRT), which has been behind multi-million-pound efforts to rebuild schools, hospitals and roads. Last year, the team had 220 people across Helmand, this year it has 140. By Christmas, only 50 will be left. It has one big project to complete on Route 611, the main road from Sangin to Kajaki. But in Kabul and Helmand, they are deeply wary of a narrative which suggests the job is done. The phased drawdown is happening on the eve of the most important fighting season of the conflict so far – the first in which the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be entirely in charge, with Nato providing only a safety net. It seems an uncomfortable juxtaposition, especially with so much at stake, but commanders knew this moment would come, even if it has done so earlier than the military had hoped. The UK’s acting ambassador in Kabul, Nic Hailey, said the next few months could define whether the country will be able cope with the tumultuous events of next year, when Nato will be a rump force and an election to replace President Hamid Karzai takes place. Militarily, politically and economically, Afghanistan’s future was coming into focus, he said. “We all talk about 2014 as the flagship date but actually by end of 2013 we will know quite a lot about what 2014 will look like. We will know who might be candidates for the elections, we will know what kind of framework the elections will be held in and we will know whether Afghanistan and Pakistan can make progress. We will know how the ANSF has coped.” Lieutenant General Nick Carter, the overall commander of British forces in Afghanistan, and the deputy commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), added: “Afghan confidence is our centre of gravity at every level. If the Afghans can look back over the summer and say ‘we managed that’ with only limited help from Isaf, then I think that will give them a really good platform for managing the political transition that has to follow in 2014.” It is a big if. Of the 26 ANSF brigades, only five have reached a standard where they are deemed fully independent of Isaf help. Another 16 are almost there, and five still need considerable support. Within weeks, these brigades, and Afghanistan’s police, will take charge of security across the country – a significant step up and, in some contested areas, a step into the unknown. Carter believes the 21,000 ANSF soldiers in Helmand will be able to manage whatever the Taliban throw at them, but he qualifies the endorsement, saying people should not be surprised if Isaf has to ride to the rescue on occasions. “We do still need to be prepared to support them in the event of this fighting season becoming very intensive. And that is why it is important that we still have combat power available. We don’t want to use it and the Afghans don’t want to call on it, but both parties recognise that it is a necessary stabiliser.” To this end, the British will have Quick Reaction Force and Brigade Reconnaissance Force units on standby throughout the summer, while preparing to withdraw up to 3,000 troops from Helmand by the end of the year. Jackson, 41, is also bullish that the ANSF will be able to handle security in the three districts that remain the British “area of operations”, but he said it had taken time, and a few awkward snubs, for the Afghans to realise they could do it on their own. “We have all suspected they are good enough. But whilst we were prepared to give our help, they were prepared to accept it. So we had to stop being asked. One day we just said, ‘right, we aren’t going out today, so you need to go and do it’. “Afghans are very good at fighting. Firefighting with the Taliban, they enjoy that. But they do find the logistics a bit boring.” In this area of Helmand at least, where Isaf and the ANSF have made securing the towns a priority, Jackson believes the Afghans can protect and hold. “The Taliban appear to be in disarray at the moment,” he said. “They are finding it difficult to re-infiltrate [the towns]. To say that it will be eventless over the summer is a little naïve, but I just don’t see what kind of activity the insurgents are going to be able to undertake.” It may be different elsewhere, particularly in places such as Maidan Wardak province, near Kabul, where the insurgency is still strong, and any governance is resisted. “There will be parts of Afghanistan that are not within ANSF control in 2014 and I think that is inevitable,” said Hailey. “But you don’t need to have a perfect Afghanistan where there is no single insurgent to have a gradual spread of Afghan government control.” If the Taliban formally came into the political process, then the security situation would be very different, but nobody in the diplomatic community expects that to happen this side of next April’s presidential election. The best hope is that the Taliban prefer not to disrupt the process, and then negotiate with the new president once Nato has all but disappeared. On the civilian side, reconstruction chiefs such as Catriona Laing, head of the PRT mission, are similarly eager to see whether the work they have done will take root or wither as the UK leaves. Much will depend on security – and whether money will flow from Kabul to sustain the province. The new governor, Naeem Baloch, has ambitions to make Helmand a democratic testbed. Somewhat against expectations, Afghans in central Helmand have developed a taste for local elections, voting for councillors in seven districts as a way of keeping officials in line. More than 6,000 people registered to vote in a recent election in Narwar district, compared with fewer than 400 who took part three years ago. Baloch wants to extend the initiative to areas in north Helmand – an idea that would have been unthinkable until recently because of the violence. Helmand is the only province to hold district community council (DCC) elections, but two others have said they want to start them too. “The councillors have become the voice of the people, part of the checks and balances system,” said Laing, “They are the eyes and ears. People do not want the Taliban here. We have seen a huge drop off in support for them. Only 18 months ago there were still about 22% of people here who said they were interested in seeing the Taliban back in government – that is down to 8%.” But with the PRT drawing down, it is up to the Afghans to decide whether to persist with schemes such as these, and which of the many schools and health clinics provided by the British will remain open. The UK built far too much in Helmand as it tried to win the trust of the people – 168 miles of new road; 55 health centres; 26 new schools (and another 86 refurbished and reopened). But there isn’t enough money for all of them, so difficult decisions will have to be made – but not by the British. “It has to be an Afghan lead,” said Laing, who will step down in September. “It’s about what the people want. It’s not about us any more. We are leaving a little faster than I anticipated, but I think setting an end date is a positive thing. It does force people to think about what matters more than if you were just drifting along. “Obviously the money has to flow from Kabul. And there is a risk if it doesn’t come. But if the money keeps flowing I don’t see any reason why things should slide. I’m not naive about this, but I don’t see how the Taliban offer can land in Helmand, and if it can’t land in Helmand then it cannot land easily anywhere.” None of the senior British military and civilian officers will be here to see whether their optimism is misplaced. After 12 grinding years in Afghanistan, and seven in Helmand, the UK has begun its long march home. Carter concedes there are important lessons to be learned from the conflict, paramount among them the need for the military to be “clearer about the risks and the challenges of what is possible”. “I think the generation that has lived through this period has a pretty good understanding now of what needs to be done in the future,” he said. For Royal Marine officers such as Major Karl Gray, 38, who is on his fourth tour, and whose friends are among the 441 British servicemen who have died, leaving for the last time will allow him the chance to reflect properly on what has been achieved, and what has not. “We all mourn in our own way, and that’s what we will do,” he said. “We are never going to see a perfect Afghanistan. But it is working, and that is the best we can hope for. I can say, with hand on heart, having been here several times, and seen the progress from those early days, that those lives have not been lost in vain. It is small consolation to the families but at least it is some consolation.”
Agence France-Presse March 31, 2013

US Says Kit Removal From Afghanistan To Cost $5-6 Bn

By Agence France-Presse
The US operation to remove military hardware and vehicles from Afghanistan as troops withdraw after 12 years of war will cost between five and six billion dollars, officials said Sunday. Among statistics released by the military about the process known as a “retrograde” was that 25,000 vehicles have been shipped out of Afghanistan in the last year and another 25,000 remain in the country. About 100,000 containers are also still in Afghanistan, and will be used to remove mountains of equipment ranging from fighting gear to fitness machines, furniture and computers. “The retrograde from Afghanistan is one of the most challenging military transportation operations in history in terms of scale and complexity,” Brigadier General Steven Shapiro said in an email. “Our number of vehicles in Afghanistan has dropped by nearly half in the past year.” Shapiro, the commanding general of 1st Theater Sustainment Command, said decisions were being made on what equipment was left for the Afghan army and police to take on the fight against Taliban insurgents. “Ground commanders are able to nominate this equipment as they assess the needs and maintenance capabilities of their Afghan partners and numbers will vary,” he said. “The figures of five to six billion dollars corresponds to the total cost of retrograde from 2012 through 2014, and they’re constantly being reevaluated.” Most of the hardware will be flown out of land-locked Afghanistan or taken by road to the Pakistani port of Karachi, though the route has been hit by militant attacks and was temporarily closed by spats between Washington and Islamabad.
Agence France-Presse March 31, 2013

Afghanistan To Destroy 15,000 Hectares Of Poppy: Officials

By Agence France-Presse
Afghanistan plans to destroy 15,000 hectares (37,050 acres) of poppy fields this year in its latest efforts to control the heroin trade that fuels endemic violence and corruption, officials said Sunday. Poppy crops will be ploughed up by tractor or flattened by teams of men wielding sticks as part of the programme starting in the southern and western provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Nimroz. The target is 50 percent higher than 2012 but already 24 police officers and seven soldiers have died in this year’s eradication campaign, the ministry of counter-narcotics said in a press conference. Many of those killed have been blown up by mines planted in fields or shot by insurgents keen to protect the lucrative crop, which is grown in some of Afghanistan’s most violent regions. “Our goal is to destroy 15,000 hectares of poppy fields this year,” ministry spokesman Abdul Qayum Saamer told reporters as the annual poppy harvest begins. “Last year 10,000 hectares were destroyed successfully.” Saamer said the overall area of poppy cultivation was up slightly on last year and only 10 percent of the total crop would be destroyed by the programme. Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the world’s opium and in 2012 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that opium cultivation in the country had increased by 18 percent. “Since the campaign started a month ago, around 3,400 hectares of poppy lands have been already destroyed,” said Hamayun Faizad, a provincial counter-narcotics official. “So far this year 24 police, 7 army soldiers and 73 insurgents have been killed during the eradication. The enemy are using land mines and even snipers to target our personnel.” Poppy farmers are taxed by Taliban militants who use the cash to help fund their insurgency against the government and NATO forces, according to the UNODC. The poppies, which provide huge profits in one of the world’s poorest countries, also play a large part in the corruption that plagues Afghan life at every level from district to national government.
New York Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

Painful Payment For Afghan Debt: A Daughter, 6

By Alissa J. Rubin
KABUL, Afghanistan — As the shadows lengthened around her family’s hut here in one of Kabul’s sprawling refugee camps, a slight 6-year-old girl ran in to where her father huddled with a group of elders near a rusty wood stove. Her father, Taj Mohammad, looked away, his face glum. “She does not know what is going to happen,” he said softly. If, as seems likely, Mr. Mohammad cannot repay his debt to a fellow camp resident a year from now, his daughter Naghma, a smiling, slender child with a tiny gold stud in her nose, will be forced to leave her family’s home forever to be married to the lender’s 17-year-old son. The arrangement effectively values her life at $2,500. That is the amount Mr. Mohammad borrowed over the course of a year to pay for hospital treatment for his wife and medical care for some of his nine children — including Janan, 3, who later froze to death in bitter winter weather because the family could not afford enough firewood to stay warm. “They said, ‘Pay back our money,’ and I didn’t have any money, so I had to give my girl,” Mr. Mohammad said. “I was thankful to them at the time, so it was my decision, but the elders also demanded that I do this.” The story of how Mr. Mohammad, a refugee from the fighting in Helmand Province who in better days made a living as a singer and a musician, came to trade his daughter is in part a saga of terrible choices faced by some of the poorest Afghan families. But it is also a story of the way the war has eroded the social bonds and community safety nets that underpinned hundreds of thousands of rural Afghans’ lives. Women and girls have been among the chief victims — not least because the Afghan government makes little attempt in the camps to enforce laws protecting women and children, said advocates for the camp residents. Aid groups have been able to provide a few programs for women and children in the ever-growing camps, including schooling that for many girls here is a first. But those programs are being cut as international aid has dwindled here ahead of the Western military withdrawal. And the Afghan government has not offered much support, in part because most officials hope the refugees will leave Kabul and return home. Most of the refugees in this camp are from rural southern Afghanistan, and they remain bound by the tribal codes and elder councils, known as jirgas, that resolved disputes in their home villages. Few, however, still have the support of a broader network of kinsmen to fall back on in hard times as they would have at home. Out of context, the already rigid Pashtun codes have become something even harsher. “This kind of thing never happened at home in Helmand,” said Mr. Mohammad’s mother as she sat in the back of the smoky room. Watching her granddaughter, as she laughed and smiled with her teacher, Najibullah, who also acts as a camp social worker and was visiting the family, she added, “I never remember a girl being given away to pay for a loan.” From the point of view of those who participated in the jirga, the resolution was a good one, said Tawous Khan, an elder who led it and is one of the two main camp representatives. “You see, Taj Mohammad had to give his daughter. There was no other way,” he said. “And, it solved the problem.” Some Afghan women’s advocates who heard about the little girl’s plight from news media reports were outraged and said they had asked the Interior Ministry to intervene, since child marriage is a violation of Afghan law and it is also unlawful to sell a woman. But nothing happened, said Wazhma Frogh, the executive director of the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security. “There has to be some sort of intervention,” Ms. Frogh said, “otherwise others will think this behavior is all right and it will increase.” The camps The dark, cramped room where Mr. Mohammad lives with his wife and his eight children is typical of the shelters in the Charahi Qambar camp, which houses 900 refugee families from war-torn areas, mostly in southern Afghanistan. The camp is the largest in the capital area, but just one of 52 such “informal settlements” in the province, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Abjectly poor, the people in the camps came with little more than a handful of household belongings. Seeking safety and aid, they instead found themselves unwelcome in a city already overcrowded with returning refugees from Pakistan and Iran. For years Charahi Qambar did not even have wells for water because the government was reluctant to let aid groups dig them, said Mohammad Yousef, an engineer and the director of Aschiana, an Afghan aid group that works in nine camps around the country as well as with street children. The refugees’ skills as farmers and small village workmen were of little use here since they had neither land nor houses. Penniless, they gravitated to others from the same area, and the camps grew up. Mr. Mohammad, like most men in the camps, looks for work almost every morning as an unskilled laborer, which pays about $6 a day — not even enough to buy the staples that his family subsists on: green tea, bread and, when they can afford them, potatoes. Meat and sugar are the rarest of luxuries. Many days, no one hires the camp men at all, put off by their tattered clothes, blanketlike wraps and full beards. “People know where we are from and think we are Taliban,” Mr. Mohammad said. After four years in the camp, he is thinking now of going back to Helmand as a migrant laborer for the opium poppy harvest so that he can earn enough to feed his family and save a little for next winter’s firewood. “It is too cold, and we wish we had more to eat,” said Rahmatullah, one of 18 deputy camp representatives and one of the few who spoke against the jirga’s decision to have Mr. Mohammad give his daughter to pay off the debt. Rahmatullah, who uses just one name, did note a positive difference in camp life, however, adding, “We do have one thing here — we have education.” Education was unheard-of for most camp residents at home in Helmand, and Rahmatullah, like many camp residents, said that at first he was suspicious of it. Shortly after arriving in the camp four years ago, he was shocked to see young girls walking on the street. He was even more amazed when another camp resident explained that the girls were going to school. “I did not know that girls could go to school, because in my village only a very few girls were taught anything and it was always at home,” he said. “I thought, ‘Maybe these are the daughters of a general,’ because where I come from women do not leave their homes, not even to bring water.” “I talked to my wife, and we allowed our girls to go to the camp school, and now they are in the regular Kabul school,” he said. His daughters were lucky. The schools in the camp were run by Aschiana, which gives a healthful lunch to every child enrolled — 800 in the Charahi Qambar camp alone. They try to bring the children up to a level where they can keep up in the regular Kabul schools. However, that program has just ended because the European Union, amid financial woes, is not renewing its programs for social protection. Instead, it is focusing its aid spending on the Afghan government’s priorities, ratified at last year’s international aid meeting in Tokyo, which do not include child protection, Alfred Grannas, the European Union’s chargé d’affaires in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail. The world of women Like most dwellings in the camp, Mr. Mohammad’s hut has a tarpaulin roof, lightly reinforced with wood, an unheated entry room, and an inner room with a stove. A small, grimy window lets in a faint patch of light, and piled around the room’s edges are the family’s few possessions: blankets, old clothes, a few battered pots and pans, and 10 bird cages for the quails he trains to sing in hopes of selling them for extra money. For his wife, a beautiful young woman who sat huddled in the shadows, a black veil drawn across her face as her husband discussed their daughter’s fate, there is little to look forward to day to day. Back in their village in Helmand, even poor families have walled compounds and sometimes land where a woman can go outdoors. In the camps, though, the huts are crammed together, with narrow mud pathways barely more than foot wide between them. “There’s no privacy in the camps, and for women it is like they are in a prison,” said Mr. Yousef, the Aschiana director. “They are constantly under emotional stress.” Like many Afghan women, Mr. Mohammad’s wife, Guldasta, let her husband speak for her — at first. He explained that she was too upset about what was happening to her daughter to talk about the situation. But then in a quiet moment, she turned, lifting her veil to reveal part of her face and said clearly: “I am not happy with this decision; it was not what I wanted for her.” “I would have been happy to let her grow up with us,” she said. The family’s case is a kind of dark distortion of the Afghan tradition of the groom’s family paying a “bride price” to the family of the wife-to-be. The practice is common particularly in Pashtun areas, but it exists among other ethnic groups as well and can involve thousands of dollars. In this case, the boy who is receiving Naghma as a wife, instead of paying for her, will get her in exchange for the debt’s forgiveness. Because Naghma, whose name means melody, was not chosen by the groom, she will most likely be treated more like a family servant than a spouse — and at worst as a captive slave. Her presence may help the groom attract a more desirable second wife because the family, although poor, will have someone working for it, insulating the chosen wife from some of the hardest tasks. Anthropologists say this kind of use of women as property intensified after the fall of the Taliban, said Deniz Kandiyoti, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. The most recent anthropological studies of the phenomenon were of indebted drug traffickers who sold their daughters or sisters to settle debts, she said. These are essentially distress sales. And unlike the norm for marriage exchanges before the past three decades of war, the women in some cases have become salable property — stripped of the traditional forms of status and respect, she said. Regrets Almost from the moment he agreed to the deal, Mr. Mohammad began to regret it and think about all that could go wrong. “If, God forbid, they mistreat my daughter, then I would have to kill someone in their family,” he said as he stood at the edge of the camp in a muddy lot in the cold winter dusk. “You know she is very little, we call her ‘Peshaka,’ ” he said, using the Pashto word for kitten. “She is a very lovely girl. Everybody in our family loves her, and even if she fights with her older brothers, we don’t say anything, we give her all possible happiness.” He added: “I believe that when she goes to that house, she will die soon. She will not receive all the love she receives from us, and I am afraid she will lose her life. A 6-year-old girl doesn’t know about having a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, or having a husband or being a wife,” he said. Adding to their fears, the mother of the boy that Naghma will marry came to Mr. Mohammad’s home to ask his wife to stop sending the girl to school, he said. “You know, my daughter loves going to school, and she wants to study more and more. But the boy she is marrying, he sent his mother yesterday to tell my wife, ‘Look, this is dishonoring us to have my son’s future wife go to school,’ ” he said. “I cannot tell them what to do,” he added, looking down at his boots. “This is their wife, their property.”
Army Times April 8, 2013 Pg. 12

Cover story

Odierno To Top Leaders: Expect Tougher Evals

New plan casts an eye to booting toxic commanders

By Michelle Tan
Battalion and brigade commanders will soon receive 360-degree evaluations as part of the Army’s continuing push to rid the ranks of toxic leaders. The plan, spearheaded by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, will begin as a pilot program this summer and be fully implemented by the fall. “I’m looking at what is the best way to implement a 360 process at the battalion and brigade levels that will help us to identify concerns to the individual, and also to those who are with him, so they can try to correct that behavior,” Odierno said during an exclusive interview March 27 with Army Times. “If the behavior is not corrected, we’ll take whatever action is appropriate.” The 360-degree evaluation Odierno and a team of experts are working on will be similar to the Army’s existing 360 Multi-Source Assessment and Feedback, which is now required of all officers from the time they are lieutenants. But unlike the current system, the evaluation for battalion and brigade commanders will not allow the officer being evaluated to choose who participates and provides feedback, Odierno said. “There are different opinions out there about how do you do this in such a way where people can tell the truth and be honest, and how do you get the right feedback to the person so they can act on it,” Odierno said. “I haven’t come to my conclusions yet. I expect in the next 60 days or so I’ll get some feedback, and I hope to implement this sometime next fall.” The Army also is reviewing its 360-degree evaluations for general officers, Odierno said. “We’re now reviewing that to make sure it has what I think is necessary for us to assess general officers,” he said. These evaluations, combined with command climate surveys and sensing sessions, will give leaders a developmental tool and help weed out toxic leaders, Odierno said. Odierno met with Army Times during the weeklong Army Strategic Leadership Development Program basic course, designed for colonels selected for promotion to brigadier general and junior one-stars. The goal is to help these officers transition into the general officer corps, and it allows Odierno and his team of senior generals to provide these officers with a “perspective they may not have,” he said. “I talk about the things you’ll face as a general officer and strategic issues, and my wife will give a perspective for the spouses,” said Odierno, who has served in general officer assignments for 16 years. The program, which is structured and directed by the chief of staff, also includes speakers from the civilian and corporate worlds. This session included discussions with Tom Coughlin, head football coach for the New York Giants; Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps; deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter; and Frank Bisingnano, chief operating officer for global financial services firm JP Morgan Chase. “It is different being a general officer than being a colonel,” Odierno said. The program tries “to give them an initial baseline to then go out and execute their jobs,” he said. On March 27, midway through the program, the 110 officers spent the afternoon discussing leader development and moral and ethical behavior. Eighty-three spouses participated in separate events. “It’s important for them not only to understand their responsibilities to themselves, but one of my expectations is they will help us to ensure… that we sustain a culture of high moral and ethical behavior.” “Whether you’re a lieutenant, whether you’re a captain, whether you’re a four-star general, you have to constantly earn (soldiers’) trust, and they don’t ask for a whole lot,” he said. “What they want you to do is be true to your word. They want to know you’ll fight for them when necessary. They want to know you’ll make the hard, tough decisions when necessary, whether it be combat or not. That’s what they expect from you.” Recent commander wrongdoing In recent months, the Army has dealt with several high-profile cases of misconduct by its senior officers. Gen. William “Kip” Ward, former commander of Africa Command, was stripped of a star and ordered to repay about $82,000 for abusing his travel privileges and expense accounts. This year, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly received a letter of reprimand and retired after a Defense Department inspector general’s investigation found he regularly yelled and screamed at subordinates, demeaned and belittled employees, and behaved in such a way as to result in the departure of at least six senior staff members from the Missile Defense Agency when he was its director. At Fort Bragg, N.C., Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, former deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, faces court-martial on charges that include forcible sodomy. “I believe the basis of our moral and ethical behavior is OK, but, as you said, there have been some high-profile cases that have brought some attention to it, so it’s important for us to address it and talk about it and the impact it can have,” Odierno said. Army officers must be held to a higher standard, he said. “The military profession is given responsibilities unlike any other profession,” he said. “We are given the responsibility to save lives. We are also given the responsibility sometimes to take lives. So it is incumbent on us to ensure that the culture we develop has high standards.” Amid these cases, the Army also has battled the perception among the ranks that senior officers receive preferential treatment compared with enlisted soldiers. Odierno said it comes down to accountability. “We have to make sure that people understand that everyone is held responsible for their actions, and we have to maintain the standards that are expected of us,” he said. “We will take whatever action is appropriate based on the event that occurs.” It’s also important for the Army to hold itself accountable. “We shouldn’t expect others to come in and have to hold us accountable,” he said. “We should hold ourselves accountable and be responsible for what we do.” ‘We are relieving people’ The Army doesn’t publicly announce when a commander is relieved of command, but it is happening, Odierno said. Over the past four years, according to Odierno’s office, 50 officers have been relieved. Eleven have been colonels, and 39 have been lieutenant colonels. Reasons for relief included job performance, command climate, misconduct, and inappropriate relationships and/or sexual harassment. None of the 50 officers relieved received “favorable” career-enhancing assignments after being removed from command, according to the Army. In fact, the reliefs are likely career killers because the officer receives a relief-for-cause Officer Evaluation Report and his next assignment is handled by Army senior leadership. “We are relieving people, battalion and brigade commanders for toxic leadership, and we will continue to do that,” he said. “The units know, and to me, that’s what it’s about. We’re taking action against commanders who are creating environments that are not acceptable.” For commanders, it’s critical that they see themselves and their organization, Odierno said. “That goes for all ranks,” he said. “My guess is a captain doesn’t start out as a toxic leader. He’s probably witnessed that somewhere, and for some reason, he picks that up as a way to be successful. It’s really about the lieutenant colonel and colonel levels that I feel we have to focus on.” Commanders should take advantage of command climate surveys, sensing sessions and 360-degree evaluations, he said, especially because toxic leadership can be difficult to define or manifest itself in many ways. A toxic leader might abuse his subordinates, or is unable to empower his subordinates, Odierno said. It also could be a leader who is unwilling to make decisions or makes decisions for his own benefit and not the benefit of the organization, he said. Commanders should not be afraid to assess their units and get honest feedback, Odierno said. “It’s OK, no unit is perfect,” he said. “How you deal with those [problems] is really what the issue is. If you choose not to deal with it, that’s the problem.” The Army spends a lot of time discussing leadership in its command courses, Odierno said. “We are changing our leader development, and it starts from the time you’re a cadet at West Point or an ROTC cadet for officers that goes through all of our professional military courses. We talk a lot about reinforcing our ethics, [and] we do that at every level now.” The Army also mirrors that training in its noncommissioned officer courses, Odierno said. “We’re assessing where do we have to change, where do we have to adjust,” he said. “What leadership skills do we have to spend more time on? What are the fundamentals you need to be a leader?” And the learning doesn’t stop when an officer becomes a general, Odierno said. For example, in addition to the Army Strategic Leadership Development Program basic course, general officers, as they move up the ranks, also attend intermediate and advanced versions of the course. “You have to constantly learn,” Odierno said. “The real world is so much more complex now… so how do we train? We talk a lot about resilience and readiness in our force, the physical, mental, emotional. We’re trying to build better physical fitness, better mental fitness, better emotional fitness.” The Army is proud of its ability to develop leaders, Odierno said. “When we go around the world, whether it’s our NATO allies or in Asia Pacific or Iraq or Afghanistan, the one thing people want to emulate from us is how we develop our leaders, how we develop our noncommissioned officers, how we develop our officers,” he said. “This is something we want to continue to ensure we have an advantage on, so we want to make it better and better.” As soldiers operate in an increasingly complex environment, the Army has to adjust how it grows its leaders, but the core of being a leader is simple, he said. “It’s about standards,” he said. “It’s about understanding standards, establishing them and enforcing standards, and holding people accountable. That’s what we expect leaders to do.” Odierno also emphasized that a large majority of Army leaders do great work. “We have incredible commanders,” he said. “You’re talking about the 10 percentile, not the 90 percentile. We have leaders who have performed incredibly well in combat. We have to now ensure that we sustain that capability and competence while continuing to grow our leaders to ensure they understand the moral and ethical obligations we expect out of them.” Leadership programs The Army Strategic Leadership Development Program trains and educates general officers as they take on their new — and increasing — responsibilities. The program, led by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, offers four levels of courses — basic, intermediate, advanced and senior. Basic course — The weeklong course takes place once a year, typically in the Washington, D.C., area, and is designed for colonels selected for promotion, as well as junior one-star generals. It covers a wide array of topics and speakers, ranging from military leaders and members of Congress to high-profile business professionals and instructors from universities. The officers discuss issues such as the Army profession, ethics, leadership and strategic thinking. Intermediate course — This five-day course at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is attended by officers who have been generals for about 18 months. It covers topics such as strategic leadership, planning and execution, leader development and self-assessment. Attendees receive a 360-degree evaluation and get feedback from members of their command. The course typically takes place four times a year, with about 25 generals per course, but budget constraints have canceled it for the rest of the fiscal year. Advanced course — This course takes place about twice a year, with about 25 officers in each class. The course is geared toward officers who have been selected for or promoted to major general. During this four-day program, the generals visit two Fortune 500 companies and talk to their leaders about strategic leadership, talent management and other issues in their organizations. The officers also discuss topics Odierno wants to emphasize, such as readiness and training management. The advanced course is also on hold. Senior course — This is for officers who have been confirmed as lieutenant generals. They visit the Pentagon and spend a couple of days with the various Army staff sections. They also meet with the inspector general and judge advocate general and have one-on-one sessions with the chief of staff and secretary of the Army.
Fayetteville (NC) Observer April 1, 2013

Women Soldiers Breaking New Ground In Combat Roles In Army And On Fort Bragg

By Drew Brooks, Staff writer
The question of whether women can serve in Army roles previously restricted to men is being answered on Fort Bragg, where the male-only world of artillery has opened to female soldiers. Last summer, the 18th Fires Brigade began a pilot program aimed at introducing female officers to what were once all-male units. The program began even before then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the repeal of rules against women serving in male-only positions. Nearly a year later, the brigade is preparing to break ground again when it receives the first female-enlisted soldiers in an artillery unit in May. Five women officers now serve in the 18th Fires Brigade. One, 1st Lt. Shannon Syphus, said she fell in love with artillery while at officer candidate school more than three years ago. At the time, Syphus said, she did not know she was barred from commanding a cannon platoon. But that changed with the 18th Fires Brigade. Syphus took leadership of 1st Platoon, C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, in November. “I didn’t know prior that it wasn’t open,” Syphus said. “But I just fell in love. I can get on the radio and call for fire and something explodes. I love the technical aspects – the math and the precision. You can’t find that with any other job in the Army.” Since joining the unit, Syphus said, she has been treated with nothing but respect. Artillerymen have to be strong enough to lift a 100-pound, 155 mm round. They also have to know physics, math and meteorology to make the calculations necessary to put a round on target from miles away. Sgt. Justin Clawson, a gun chief in Syphus’ platoon, was convinced she would not be able to cut it. “This is an all-male world,” Clawson said. “I really felt a female couldn’t do what we do. But she changed the entire battery’s mind. “I know she can lead us.” Capt. Rusty Varnado, a brigade spokesman, said Syphus and the other female officers are treated no different than their male counterparts. “She is in the same position I was when I was a lieutenant,” he said. “The soldiers just see a lieutenant, and the women do just as well, if not better, than the guys.” Lt. Col. Joe Bookard, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, said Syphus is a role model to female soldiers. “We expect her to know her job,” Bookard said. “It’s a tough certification process. She performs very, very well.” Bookard said there was little concern that problems would arise from having a woman take command of 40 male soldiers used to living in the male-only artillery world. “In my business, we don’t work off gut feelings. We work off facts,” he said. The brigade commander, Col. Robert Morschauser, agreed. “There were some integration issues people said we may have, but we’ve had no issues whatsoever,” he said. “They’ve done very well.” Morschauser, who saw women pulling more than their own weight when called to do so in combat situations in Iraq, said he wants the best soldiers, no matter their gender. “I’m looking for the best unit,” he said. “I don’t care what you look like.” Syphus is fit, articulate and smart, officials said. She’s also no stranger to being surrounded by males. One of eight children, the native of Pasadena, Calif., has seven brothers. She was one of only three women to graduate in her 150-person class at the field artillery basic officer leadership course. “Being around the guys is no big deal,” she said. “As long as we don’t pay attention to the fact that we’re different, the guys don’t care.” Syphus credited her command for helping her realize one of her career goals, and she looks forward to having other female soldiers realize they can do anything they want. “I see the artillery world opening up,” she said. “Not only artillery, but the Army world.”
Marine Corps Times April 8, 2013 Pg. 15

Commandant Sets Up Diversity Task Force

By Hope Hodge
A new white paper issued by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos outlines an aggressive campaign to make the senior officers’ ranks more diverse in race and gender. In the paper, released March 26, Amos said the Marine Corps has failed, despite the creation of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission in 2009, to reflect the diversity of the Marine Corps enlisted force, or the country as a whole, among its senior officers. “I have concluded it is imperative that the Corps take a fresh approach to diversity, one that reflects our reputation for performance and leadership,” Amos wrote. To that end, he called for the creation of four task force groups: two focused on attracting and retaining minority and female officers; one on leadership, accountability and mentoring; and one on culture and leading change. Amos didn’t provide a timeline for the activation of the task forces or define their size, but said they will be small and comprise officers from all Marine communities. Officers not selected for the effort and senior enlisted Marines will be able to participate through online surveys specific to each task force, according to the White Letter. “We are looking at diversity in terms of strategic, not tactical gains,” Amos said. Amos seemed to eschew a statistics-driven approach to the diversity effort. “True achievement in this endeavor will come from our ability to maximize the performance of the Marine Corps by leveraging the strengths of all Marines,” he wrote. According to a June 2012 Marine Corps Community Services demographic survey of the Corps, roughly one in three Marines is part of an ethnic minority, with 11.9 percent of the Corps identifying as Hispanic, 10.3 percent African-American, and 7.3 percent other racial minorities. According to 2012 Pentagon data provided to the New York Times, only 6 percent of Marine officers are black, though the Corps leads the other services in percentage of Hispanic officers. Just more than 7 percent of Marines are women, fewer than any other service. A 2011 survey by the Defense Manpower Data Center showed that just 5.8 percent of Marine officers were women. The White Letter marks the most recent in a series of efforts to diversify the Marine officer corps. In 2012, the Corps launched a multimedia advertising campaign aimed at attracting minorities and women, and ramped up efforts to award Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships to predominantly black schools.
Navy Times April 8, 2013 Pg. 16

Cover story

Bonus Windfall

Greenert: ‘I want to hold onto people’; $134M in cash budgeted

By Mark D. Faram
To a fleet wracked with deployment and funding uncertainties, the Navy’s top officer has a message: We want to keep you. “I want to bring people in and I want to hold onto people,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert, who added he was concerned that sailors would be discouraged by the budget woes and decide to leave. “We are hiring, and I will do everything I can to take care of them.” In an exclusive interview with Navy Times, Greenert emphasized that the service is sweetening many re-up bonuses to keep talented sailors in and aims to enlist 3,000 more sailors. “I am about 3,000 below where I want to be and we have the valve pretty wide open, so if there is a message here, we are hiring,” Greenert said in the March 26 interview. Despite the budget woes in Washington, the Navy is actually offering the largest increases in re­enlistment bonuses since 2009. Officials are also considering bringing back enlistment bonuses to entice new recruits to enlist in critical skills. Ten years of cuts took the Navy on a 60,000-sailor slide from a force of more than 380,000 in 2003, to 317,464 as of March 28. The current strength numbers are 5,236 below the fiscal 2013 authorized end strength of 322,700. Already this year, the Navy has increased its initial fiscal year recruiting goal of 35,000 by 2,650. The service is planning to target 15 ratings that are in need of junior-level sailors. These ratings were underrecruited in past years because they were overmanned. Now the Navy is making up for an increased need, explained Lt. Haylee Sims, spokeswoman for the chief of naval personnel. She said the service plans to target 14 ratings that need these most junior-level sailors. In the past, enlistment bonuses for new recruits have hit $20,000. For those already in the ranks, Greenert is breathing new life into the selective re-enlistment bonus program — a monetary perk that had been significantly cut during the last few years of the drawdown. “I am underobligating, and that is not what I want to do,” Greenert said of the manning shortfall in an exclusive interview with Navy Times on March 26. “I want to bring people in and I want to hold onto people.” The SRB update, released that same day, is the first since the service announced its initial fiscal 2013 award levels last September. The Navy is planning to spend $134 million for new re-up bonuses this fiscal year — $39 million more than the $95 million the service spent in fiscal 2012. And it’ll probably need every penny of that plus-up as the service has 127 separate skill and re­enlistment zone combinations that rate some level of bonus, that max out at $90,000. With this update, 18 new skill and zone combinations have been added to the list, while increasing 42 others. Fifty-nine skill and zone combinations will remain the same. On the downside, eight combinations will see reductions and another seven skills are being eliminated. Increased bonus levels go into effect immediately. Sailors have until April 25 to re-up under the previous program. Here’s a zone-by-zone look at what’s hot and not: *Zone A (sailors with up to six years of service). There are 54 rating and skill combinations that qualify for a bonus. Thirty of those won’t see any change, while 15 will increase and two will decrease. New this update are the seven combinations, including all three aviation boatswain’s mate ratings, aviation structural mechanic and aviation ordnanceman, as well as boatswain’s mate and electrician mate. All these editions are open to the whole rating, instead of specific Navy enlisted classifications. On the losing end are three ratings that won’t qualify anymore; helicopter rescue swimmer; all cryptologic technicians (collections); and cryptologic technicians (maintenance) with the 9225 ship’s signals Navy enlisted classification. *Zone B (more than six years of service, but less than 10). Fifty-three rating and skill combinations qualify in this zone. Twenty-two won’t change, 19 combinations increase and four were dropped. New arrivals are naval aircrewman (operator); surface engineers in damage controlman, gas turbine (mechanical), hull maintenance technician and machinery repairman specialities; intelligence specialist submarine qualified weapons machinist’s mates; and interior communications electricians. Just two Zone B ratings will disappear: CTMs with the 9225 ship’s signals NEC and Navy divers with the first class diver 5342 NEC. *Zone C (sailors with more than 10 years of service, but less than 14). Right now, 20 rating and skill combinations qualify for bonuses. Seven of those ratings will not see any changes while eight will see increases. Two will decrease. The three additions in this zone are aviation boatswain’s mates (aircraft handling); cryptologic technicians (technical) with the 9135 Navy enlisted classification; and intelligence specialists with the 3913 NEC. Only one combination was eliminated: special warfare operators with the 5392 NEC. Greenert on TA Sailors are still waiting for the Navy to officially announce new rules for tuition assistance. Congress has compelled all services that dropped the college benefit to reinstate it. The Navy was the lone service to keep it in place, despite budget pressures. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert views this as an important program. “I looked hard at it, and I said I do not want to reduce my tuition assistance program,” Greenert told Navy Times. “I think it is a pretty good program when properly managed and I want educated sailors. So as our budget was getting tighter and tighter I said, ‘OK maybe for us a 75/25, — we pay 75 [percent], the sailor pays 25 [percent]. I would propose that we would grandfather kids that are already signed up in the program. Not all of a sudden come in and say, ‘Hey Jimmy, you need to come up with 25 in a program they are already in.’ ” Staff writer Sam Fellman contributed to this story.
Navy Times April 8, 2013 Pg. 12

Exiting The Budget ‘Fog’

With FY ’13 cuts final, CNO details action plan for next 6 months

By Sam Fellman
Nixing overhauls. Ships in limbo. Aircrews bracing for a slowdown. Even the possibility, at one point, that two carrier strike groups would be stuck on cruise — indefinitely. “We have reconciled that,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said of the last possibility, one of the many drastic measures considered during the months-long budget crisis that the Navy only began to emerge from in late March, when lawmakers passed a spending bill. During the crunch, the Navy canceled seven cruises — often days before they were to leave — ordered one deployed frigate back to its home port and idled nine ships pierside. The last-minute shifts and what-ifs wore down sailors and their families. After sputtering through this “fog bank,” as Greenert called it in a March 26 interview at Navy Times headquarters in Springfield, Va., the Navy’s now charting its course through the rest of the fiscal year. But the service, still short billions of dollars, will not be able to fully restore all of its accounts; it will fall to the CNO and other top leaders to decide things such as which ships will deploy and which will be repaired — choices certain to ripple beyond the next six months. Back in the air Greenert’s focus starts with meeting global demands for naval forces and with restoring the fleet’s training after the slowdown. That begins with getting squadrons flying. Some had been held to the minimum number of flights required to safely maintain pilots’ proficiency, a status known as tactical hard deck. “There are those that we have been holding in tactical hard deck. We want to now move those into the [fleet response training plan] cycle and get them into their routine so that those air wings are ready to deploy in [fiscal year] ’14,” Greenert said in the interview. “For ships, we want to get our nondeployed out to at least 16, 18 days a quarter.” The budget cuts have also imperiled a crucial stage of the fleet’s readiness: overhaul. As many as 22 ship overhauls set for the rest of the fiscal year have been on the chopping block. Greenert said it is his mission to restore as many of those overhauls as is feasible. But that process remains uncertain. The new spending legislation keeps the more than $10 billion in cuts triggered by sequestration in place — including $4 billion for operations and maintenance — but allows the Navy more flexibility in how to manage them. The cuts will shrink the Navy’s coffers by as much as 9 percent over the next six months, Greenert said. “It is causing us to make choices and prioritize anywhere from our operations to our maintenance to our investment accounts,” Greenert said, labeling this an “undeliberate” process that presents a host of challenges, including the across-the-board spending cuts that officials abhor. Officials are now poring through the new law. The now-canceled cruises do not appear to be coming back, but the Navy plans to get the nine idled ships steaming again: the cruisers Cowpens, Chosin, Port Royal, Gettysburg, Hue City, Anzio and Vicksburg, and the dock landing ships Tortuga and Whidbey Island. “Because we have a spending bill, that $9 billion shortfall has been cut in half, so we still have a little bit of a shortfall in operations and also in our investment accounts because of sequestration, but we’re in much better shape,” Greenert said in a video released March 29. “For the next couple of weeks, we here in Washington will be coordinating with your leadership out there in the fleet to do the right thing with the money that we have.” He added: “For our sailors out there, what it means is your pay will be stable as it has been, our manpower accounts have been stable throughout this whole turmoil that we’ve gone through and they will remain the same. “We’re going to retain our family readiness programs as they have been. [Permanent change of stations] will remain stable throughout all this, so moves should continue apace. Tuition assistance is still at 100 percent and I’m working to keep it at that level.” Operating forward The fleet is central to President Obama’s latest defense strategy, whose epicenter shifts to the bustling and contentious Pacific theater. Ships will continue to patrol 7th Fleet’s waters and be ready to respond to crises, whether a devastating tsunami, North Korean warmongering, or flaring tensions over disputed islands. With so many ships needed there, officials are assessing how to get more presence bang for their deployment buck. One option is Japan. Eighteen ships are currently homeported there, between Yokosuka, near Tokyo, and Sasebo, the amphib and minesweeper base on the country’s western tip. Greenert said he was “looking hard” at ways to boost the number of ships based there. “We get a ton of presence out of … the destroyers in Japan and so [we’re] looking for more of those opportunities,” he said, explaining that it takes at least four ships based stateside to support one forward-deployed because the others are in various stages of transit, maintenance or standdown. Another possibility is sea swap. That involves crews rotating duty on a forward-deployed ship, effectively cutting out that transit time to and from the region. This is a routine process in a few parts of the fleet, such as ballistic- and guided-missile submarine crews who swap the same sub back and forth, and minesweeper crews, who rotate through all the hulls. Greenert said he believes this concept should be tried again on other ship types, like the joint high-speed vessels and the mobile landing platform, which have hybrid crews of sailors and civilian mariners. But destroyers and attack subs are not feasible, Greenert added. “One Arleigh Burke is not exactly like another Arleigh Burke,” Greenert said of the ship class, which is known for the variance in Aegis combat system suites between ships. “SSNs,” he continued, “we have looked at that: Very complicated and hard to do and not really cost-effective.” In recent weeks, Navy officials have finally managed to reduce the strain on the fleet. It came by dropping the 5th Fleet carrier requirement from two to one, a long-sought reduction that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta OK’d in February, citing budget concerns. Should sequestration vanish in October or later, it remains unknown whether the requirement will return to two carriers. In the meantime, Greenert said he’s focusing on ways to improve sailors’ quality of life, including examining steps to make deployment schedules more certain, reducing stress on sailors and families. “We are pursuing a more predictable approach to op tempo,” Greenert said, “if we can get that.”
San Antonio Express-News April 1, 2013

Lackland Instructor’s Victim Speaks Of Trauma, Fear

By Sig Christenson, Staff writer
Airman Basic Virginia Messick walked into the office of a vacant dormitory one day in April 2011 but couldn’t see the person who had called her to the room. The door closed behind her. Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, her basic training instructor at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, grabbed her and threatened to destroy her career after ordering her into the empty dorm, Messick said. A few weeks earlier, he stuck a hand down her shirt and kissed her when they were alone in his office, so she said she knew what he wanted. Alone, she said, she had no way out. There were no other recruits nearby to cry out to and no security cameras to monitor the area. “He just looked at me, and he grabbed me and pulled me next to the bed and started taking my top off and he pulled his pants down” and indicated he wanted her to perform oral sex, she said. “And I just looked at him, and he just said, ‘I told you what you are going to do, so you’d better do it.’” Walker is serving 20 years in prison for raping another recruit and having illicit relationships with 10 women in basic training. Messick and prosecutors said at his trial in July that the dormitory encounter was consensual, but she now calls it rape and accuses Air Force investigators of botching her interrogation. The Air Force said Messick never alleged during the investigation that she was raped or that nonconsensual sex took place. Later, at trial, defense attorneys pointed out that Messick had said in the statement, “It wasn’t sexual assault. I engaged willingly.” She says she was too scared at the time to tell the truth. Nearly two years after the incident, Messick says she is talking with the media for one reason: to persuade other victims to report their crimes and get psychological help. She says she suffers emotional trauma that resembles post-traumatic stress disorder in combat troops. Hyper-vigilant, she keeps the blinds closed at her home in Marysville, Calif., and carries a knife in her purse. If someone knocks on the door, she won’t answer. At 21, Messick doesn’t have a job and isn’t sure she could keep one. On medications to cope with anxiety and stress, Messick says she screams at people, cries for no apparent reason, struggles to sleep and has nightmares — one so bad she punched her husband in the face. There are days she can’t get out of bed. Like virtually every other victim in a scandal that has seen 33 basic training instructors fall under investigation for allegations of misconduct with 63 recruits and technical training students, she didn’t report the incident. When confronted by investigators, Messick said she feared for her career and didn’t tell them she was raped. She said the interrogation turned contentious, with a male agent slamming a document on the table and telling her that if she would sign it, they would leave. She did, offering a vague recollection of a tryst, not rape. “How do you want to talk about what happened to you when you have two strangers come into a room and one of them is getting hostile with you? And in whose right mind would you want to say, ‘This is what happened to me?’” Messick said. Walker got the harshest sentence of 11 instructors who have gone to trial in the past year. He was sentenced July 21 on charges that included rape, adultery, obstruction of justice, attempted aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault. Messick grew up in Crestview, Fla., a rural town in the state’s Panhandle area, not far from Alabama. She got a new name during boost camp: “Country.” A few weeks into training, Walker let her use a computer in his office to send messages to a onetime boyfriend in Afghanistan via a Defense Department network. One day, he grabbed one side of her chair, ran a hand down her shirt and kissed her. “When he did it, I kind of like went blank because I went, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!’ And it took me a minute to grasp reality and then I pushed him off, and I was like, ‘Don’t ever, ever touch me again,’” Messick said. He apologized and she thought it was over. But in the fifth week of basic training, while in the laundry with another airman, Walker’s voice cut through the air. “’Hey, Country! I need you to go upstairs.’” Her flight had cleaned the second-floor dorm bay but left some dirty towels. He wanted her to get them so they could be washed, but gave an odd order: Go up to the dorm about five minutes after he went there. Walker told her he didn’t want people seeing both of them go into the dorm together. Messick complied. She entered the dorm, got the towels and saw a light on in the office. Thinking he had left it on, she headed to the room to turn it off when she heard Walker. “Country, come in here a minute,” he said. When it was over, there were no soft words. “After he had gotten done with me, I picked up my pants real fast and he threw my top at me and said, ‘Now you stupid bitch, go back downstairs and take a … shower,” Messick said. “I didn’t think about it,” Messick said, when asked how she coped. “I completely pushed it away. For a long time, I couldn’t even recall what happened to me even after I got out of basic because I just, I didn’t even think about it. I tried to move on with my life.” Messick is angry all the time. No matter how long Walker is in jail, she believes that he will insist he is innocent, that he has no sympathy for the women he was supposed to lead through basic training but abused. She’d like him to feel her torment, but doubts he will because he is incapable of remorse. “I’m going to be angry until the day that man’s dead,” she said. “The day he’s dead is when I’ll probably quit being angry. Probably not even then.”
Capital Business April 1, 2013

Officially Complete, BRAC Continues To Change Local Area

By Marjorie Censer
When the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency building in Springfield was being built, Dilly’s Deli & Grill, a Korean and American restaurant in a squat strip mall, saw plenty of new business as a steady stream of construction workers stopped in for meals. But once the building opened and thousands of agency employees moved in, business at the deli slowed to its previous pace, owner In Mun said. Mun’s experience is just one reflection of the mixed effects of the Pentagon’s massive base realignment and closure initiative. It’s been about a year and a half since the initiative, better known as BRAC, officially ended, bringing big changes locally at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Fort Meade in Anne Arundel and the Mark Center in Alexandria. Yet many businesses and workers are still sorting out its impact. Local authorities continue to grapple with major traffic improvements, apartment and office complexes are rising around the bases and areas hurt by vacancies are still plotting recoveries. This round of base realignment — the Pentagon’s fifth — was the largest, most complex and most expensive, according to the Government Accountability Office. The process is still expected to save the Pentagon billions in the coming years, just not as much as once was projected. BRAC in Virginia In and around Fairfax County, more than 21,000 employees moved to new sites in connection with the relocation process, said Laura Miller, Fairfax County’s BRAC coordinator. Fort Belvoir’s main post gained about 3,400 people (even taking into account operations that shifted elsewhere), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency moved into a new office in Springfield that is now home to about 8,500 and more than 6,000 more employees moved into a new Mark Center building, Miller said. More than 3,000 employees moved to a new defense health headquarters — built on the site of a former Raytheon building — near the Capital Beltway’s intersection with Route 50, she said. The county did plenty to prepare for the changes, but Miller said traffic improvements have yet to catch up. Perhaps the most noticeable are improvements at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax. The Federal Highway Administration is preparing to select a contractor to widen Route 1 through Fort Belvoir, moving it from four to six lanes, Miller said. That project is slated for completion in mid-2016. Under way now is work on a ramp from Interstate 95’s high-occupancy vehicle lanes into the NGA site and construction of Mulligan Road, which will serve as a north-south connector through Fort Belvoir. BRAC in Maryland On the other side of the river, Fort Meade gained the Defense Information Systems Agency — which brought nearly 4,300 employees and contractors — as well as other defense agencies, swelling the site by about 5,700. Still, the growth at Fort Meade is not all BRAC-related; the number of people working on the post has soared from about 33,500 in 2005 to more than 52,000 today, after the base became headquarters for the U.S. Cyber Command, according to Fort Meade officials. That’s more than double the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 employees who work at the Pentagon. “BRAC just really slapped us in the face and made us realize what was really going on at Fort Meade quietly under the radar,” said Robert C. Leib, special assistant for BRAC and education in Anne Arundel County. The county is still trying to make road improvements to ease traffic on nearby Route 175; Leib said those are ongoing. Perhaps the most striking change that BRAC, and Fort Meade more broadly, has brought to the area is booming office and residential development. The National Business Park, a nearby office complex with a who’s who list of contractors from Boeing to Booz Allen Hamilton to General Dynamics, continues to add buildings. Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust owns about 186 acres at the office complex. About 3.2 million square feet of office space is 98 percent leased; COPT has about 262,000 more square feet under construction in two buildings. COPT is also developing offices at the nearby Arundel Preserve, a 300-acre mixed-use community. The company already has one building — which is fully leased — in service and could build as much as another 1.15 million square feet of office space at the site. New apartments have also sprung up in nearby Odenton, including the Flats 170 at Academy Yard. Based on his conversations with realtors and economic development officials, Leib attributed much of the nearby development to the base. “A good 50 percent of this growth is because of DOD at Fort Meade,” he said. Many expected that employees of the relocated agencies would face the most upheaval. At DISA, which moved from Arlington to Fort Meade, the agency has eased the transition through a telework program, according to Paul Berry, chief of the agency’s quality of work life office. He said about 1,600 DISA employees at Fort Meade take advantage of the agency’s telework program, which allows employees to work from home up to three days a week but no more than five days in a two-week pay period. Berry himself commutes from Hagerstown, a demanding commute that at one point made him consider seeking a new job. “What keeps me going, and what has invigorated my work life, is being able to be a part of the telework program,” he said. The downside of BRAC Still, the moves haven’t been as rosy for everyone. Small-business owners nearby, for instance, report that the new employees are not necessarily becoming customers. At the Cleaners at Mark Center, owner Daniel Lee said he originally supported the plan to build the Mark Center, expecting it to bring new business to his nearly three-decade-old establishment. Instead, he said, he’s seen few new customers and his existing customers complain about the traffic generated by Mark Center employees. Mun, whose Springfield deli has also not seen a boom in business, holds out hope that more customers may be on the way. COPT is building Patriot Ridge, an office complex that could include as much as 1 million square feet, just next door. The first building now has General Dynamics’ logo on it — along with a big sign advertising leasing opportunities. For those hoping for significant cost savings, BRAC is expected to offer a smaller amount than projected but still hit close to $4 billion annually in cost savings, according to a GAO report released last year. The estimated implementation cost was $21 billion — the previous four BRAC rounds together had cost about $25 billion — but the total expense eventually soared to $35.1 billion, the GAO found. Military construction costs grew about 86 percent — at the NGA, for instance, construction costs increased by about $726 million. As a result, the Pentagon’s annual recurring savings have decreased nearly 10 percent to about $3.8 billion, according to the GAO. While much of the focus has been on the communities grappling with more workers and residents, Arlington County is dealing with office vacancy rates that have grown as government facilities departed areas such as Crystal City and Rosslyn. Arlington estimated it would lose about 4.2 million square feet of office space as a result of BRAC — and still has about 1 million square feet left to go, said Andrea Y. Morris, the county’s BRAC director. Much of the space is unoccupied, but the Pentagon still has leases that will linger through 2017, said Morris. Already, the vacancy rate in Crystal City is over 20 percent, while it’s at 17 percent in Rosslyn, she said. “We’re still seeing the impacts of [BRAC], and it’s hard to plan … because we’re not certain what the feds are going to do with that space,” she said.
Washington Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

Pentagon’s Budget Fears Fall On Deaf Ears

Media see opportunity to cut fat

By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times
The Pentagon’s intense public relations campaign is designed to sell Congress and the public on how the first year of “sequester” budget cuts is leaving the U.S. military unable to train or deploy overseas. Public warnings from the top brass generally have garnered media sympathy as air shows, ship cruises and college tuition fall victim to $46 billion in cuts targeted at day-to-day operations and maintenance. But there have been signs in recent weeks of a backlash from the Washington press corps. It is not the kind of saturation coverage like that of the Reagan administration’s $2.5 trillion military buildup of the 1980s, when an overpriced toilet seat made the front page. Still, Pentagon overspending has become a hot topic for reporters, analysts say. “The press corps finally realized that the ‘back office’ is the problem,” said Gordon Adams, a White House budget official in the Clinton administration. The “back office” consists of the myriad infrastructures that make up the military’s “tail” to support war fighters, or the “tooth.” “The way they’re going to have to deal with sequester is by becoming a lot more efficient than they’ve been. They’ve got to beat the bloat now,” Mr. Adams told The Washington Times. “You can’t pay for it anymore by getting our budget increased. You’ve got to pay for it now by becoming a lot more managerial agile. You’re going to have to cut back on the size of the back office.” Said Winslow Wheeler, a Center for Defense Information analyst who has long accused the Pentagon of wasteful spending: “Nothing has changed except the press becoming aware of it. Department of Defense excess parading as military capability is certainly nothing new.” The press focusing anew on Pentagon spending habits “would not surprise me,” said James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. “This assuages people’s guilt about gutting the military.” While the Pentagon ramped up the public relations campaign in January and February to warn of “devastating cuts,” Bloomberg News service produced a series of stories about the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons systems — their flaws and growing costs. DoD Buzz focused on the missile defense system that the Pentagon does not want but that Congress keeps funding, and on a botched contract to buy aircraft for the Afghan National Security Forces. Once spending cuts began March 1 and the military services announced a series of cancellations, news organizations stepped up stories about Defense Department mismanagement. “Defense Cut Damage Viewed as Overblown,” said the Boston Globe. “Pentagon Spends Nearly $1 Billion a Year on Unemployment,” said the Associated Press. “Pentagon Urged to Stop Stalling, Start Planning Defense Cuts,” blared The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune reported that the Army stockpiled nearly $1 billion in spare parts for Stryker armored vehicles, with “much of the gear becoming outdated even as the military continued to order more equipment.” The New York Times spun a frontpage story saying the automatic budget reductions were good for the Pentagon. “Cuts Give Obama Path to Create Leaner Military,” it said. The debt crisis and the Pentagon’s alarm bells also have spurred the press to refocus coverage on the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an iconic symbol of cost overruns and technical glitches. The Washington Times reported that the top brass are second-guessing the entire procurement plan. A former chief of naval operations believes the Air Force’s F-35 model should be scuttled in favor of the Navy’s variant. Retired Air Force generals say the Pentagon should cancel the Marine Corps’ version, saying it is too expensive and not operationally practical. Several studies over the years have urged the Defense Department to cut duplication and waste in its “tail” infrastructure and personnel. For example, the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board has called on the military to reduce the civilian workforce as well as the “tail,” which private industry refers to as overhead. “Given the Department’s inability to reduce its overhead over the very periods in which U.S. and global businesses have made such great strides in efficiency, it became apparent to the [business board] that the current management tools applied by DoD are increasingly ineffective in managing the ‘tail,’” the report said. Mr. Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting at the Clinton White House, said part of the reason the press is losing sympathy for the military’s plight is that the Pentagon refused to let military units prepare for sequestration until late 2012, even though it knew for more than a year that such cuts might come. “So all the services merrily went along at the burn rate on operational accounts,” he said. Waste is not highlighted only by the liberal press, or “mainstream media”; some conservative groups argue that the debt crisis demands a more efficient Defense Department. In a Feb. 26 open letter to President Obama and Congress, such conservative groups as Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union joined left-leaning groups such as the Project on Government Oversight in making that case. “The time has come to reduce wasteful and ineffective Pentagon spending to make us safer,” the groups said. “There has been a great deal of doomsday rhetoric about the effects of sequestration. Our organizations believe that sequester might not be the best way to reshape Pentagon spending, but that should not serve as an excuse to avoid fundamental reforms.”
Washington Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 11

Federal Overtime Cuts Taking Toll On Workers, Services

With no official tracking of the pay, impact of trims is debated

By Steve Vogel
Along with planning for furloughs, federal agencies are cutting overtime pay with measures that will save money in the short term, but critics say will harm efficiency, compromise public safety and unfairly penalize federal law enforcement agents. Overtime cuts by U.S. Customs and Border Protection have left some airports clogged with long lines of travelers, including about 1,000 people who missed flights because of four-hour waits in customs recently at Miami International Airport. Employee advocates warn of other scenarios, including Navy jets facing reduced readiness and Border Patrol agents being forced to break off pursuits of smugglers. Those agents are among the federal workers who count overtime as part of their regular income and see the cuts, combined with furloughs, as a double hardship. Budget hawks, however, view overtime as padding government payrolls. And the $85 billion in forced overtime cuts across the government have exposed unexpected fault lines. “People hear overtime and they just distort it,” said Shawn Moran, a senior patrol agent based in San Diego who serves as vice president of the National Border Patrol Council. Between furloughs and overtime reductions, agents face a 35 percent cut in their paychecks, more than other federal workers, according to union representatives. “That’s just kicking a person when they’re down,” Moran said. Another wrinkle is that while the government pays billions of dollars in overtime each year, White House officials and congressional oversight committees don’t track it enough to know how much is used, or what percentage it is of the federal payroll. Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy for the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union, expressed surprise and disappointment at the lack of oversight. “We don’t have to second-guess every agency on their overtime decisions, but there’s a value at looking at the collected data to see if there are patterns for further evaluation or cost savings,” he said. “Who knows how much it could be?” Like private-sector employees, many federal workers are entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act to receive overtime pay at a time-and-a-half rate for work beyond a 40-hour workweek. Others, including many federal law enforcement agents, draw “straight time” pay at the regular hourly rate for what is called administratively uncontrollable overtime, for duties that keep them on the job. Each federal agency can establish work schedules and allow the use of overtime to meet mission requirements. Agencies are not required to report on their overtime use to either the Office of Personnel Management or the Office of Management and Budget, and officials at the agencies say they do not collect the information. “Overtime is a management tool,” said John Palguta, vice president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. “I’m not going to suggest it’s never been abused.” But overtime ultimately saves the government money, Palguta said, enabling agencies to handle busy periods with existing staff “rather than hiring extra people who hang around doing nothing when it’s slow.” Some federal agencies, boosted by Congress’s new short-term funding plan, have reduced or eliminated furloughs. The Defense Department cut its projected 22 furlough days to 14. The Agriculture Department’s meat inspectors got a full reprieve, as did federal prison staff at the Justice Department. Workers at Customs and Border Protection also are hoping for relief, but barring any changes, the department expects to save $248 million in overtime by reducing hours and changing the eligibility of some employees. Overtime reductions at airports and ports of entry began March 2. Agency warnings about increased wait times for international arrivals have materialized, particularly at the Miami airport, the nation’s busiest for international flights, where 200 travelers spent the night of March 16 sleeping on cots in the auditorium after missing flights. “There were a lot of upset passengers,” said airport spokesman Greg Chin, who added that international travelers should brace for similar waits during peak times. Waits were significantly shorter the following weekend. “Some days are better than others,” he said. Domestic flights at some airports may also be affected. The Transportation Security Administration plans to implement a hiring freeze that it says will mean 1,000 vacancies by Memorial Day and up to 2,600 vacancies by September. Planned cuts in overtime mean the shortages will not be fully covered, the TSA said. Overtime cuts are set to begin April 7 for Border Patrol agents. “When they are hired, agents are informed that they will almost never work a regular eight-hour shift,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing the agents. The agents often work 10-hour days or longer, especially when shifts end during law enforcement operations, officials said. “If we’re tracking a person, are we supposed to break off the chase?” asked Moran, the senior Border Patrol agent. “It will cause problems with shift changes, our busiest times, and the illegals try to exploit that.” Many agencies have become more reliant on overtime because of limited hiring, according to George J. Smith, national vice president of the Federal Managers Association, which represents nearly 200,000 managers. “A lot of agencies have been unable to hire for some time,” he said. Smith is a manager with the Naval Air System Command’s Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla., which helps maintain and modernize naval aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and the P-3 Orion. The center’s workload fluctuates based on the Navy’s needs. Smith’s staff is frozen at about 200 workers, he said. “In the past, we would augment the workforce with contractors,” he added. But budget cuts have reduced contractor numbers, “so therefore our overtime increased.” With no hiring, reduced contractor support and less overtime, Smith said, flying hours and training will be reduced. “There’s no doubt we’re putting war fighters at risk,” he said. The Social Security Administration says it has cut overtime by 64 percent as a result of sequestration. The agency had already begun closing field offices 30 minutes earlier each day and at noon every Wednesday in recent months to avoid paying overtime, warning that visitors will wait longer for service — 30 minutes on average — and in some locations, two hours or more. The additional overtime cuts will worsen service, the agency said. Applicants for disability benefits will wait on average two weeks longer for a decision on their claim. “We also will be forced to curtail cost-effective program integrity work such as reviewing the cases of current disability recipients to ensure they are still eligible for payments,” agency spokesman Jim Courtney said. The Federal Aviation Administration will use overtime on a limited basis, even while furloughing every controller for 11 days between April 21 and Sept. 30. “We’re at a loss to understand this,” said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which says overtime money should be used to reduce furlough days. Laura Brown, spokeswoman for the FAA, says the agency has cut overtime “significantly” and will use it only in limited circumstances, including for severe weather events. “Eliminating overtime entirely would not eliminate the need for employee furloughs and could have severe operational impacts,” she said. But Church said “the potential for widespread delays” exists under the FAA’s plan. “No one is sure how it will play out.”
Los Angeles Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 1

Budget Cut Pain Won’t Be Uniform

Federal reductions will hurt California, but not as much as other states that rely more on U.S. money.

By Jim Puzzanghera
With the Pentagon set to whack its share of $85 billion in automatic federal budget cuts last month, it didn’t take long for Velma Searcy to feel the pain. The owner of a Palmdale maker of military aircraft parts saw two contracts quickly evaporate as defense firms pulled back. Southern California’s aerospace industry is expected to be hit hard by the so-called sequester. Still, the state generally should be able to weather the cuts without major economic damage, experts said. That’s because California’s economy has become more diverse over the past quarter-century, making it much less dependent on cash flowing from Washington, said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. “We’re still a $2-trillion economy that’s going to sustain a $9-billion-or-so reduction in spending. That’s very, very small,” he said of the effect of the federal budget cuts in California. “It’s going to slow the recovery, but not turn the recovery into a recession.” A study by the Pew Center on the States found that California ranked below the national average in various categories of federal dependence. For example, 4% of the state’s economic output in 2010 came from federal spending on contracts and salaries, compared with the nationwide average of 5.3%. On the other hand, 19.7% of the 2010 economic output of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. — combined because of the large number of commuters — came from federal spending, partly reflecting government stimulus efforts during and after the Great Recession. That percentage was the highest in the nation, followed by Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico and Kentucky. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected the cuts — the first of $1.2 trillion in cuts over the coming decade — would lower the nation’s economic output by about 0.5 percentage point this year and cause the loss of about 750,000 jobs. The effect, however, won’t be uniform across the country. “It varies regionally,” said Bart Van Ark, chief economist at the Conference Board. “The Northeast is not very dependent on federal employees. Neither is California.” California’s economy is much different than it was 25 years ago when it was dotted with more military bases and the defense-dependent aerospace industry was a much more significant driver of the greater Los Angeles-area economy. The biggest loss of aerospace jobs came in the recession of the early 1990s, which hit the state much harder and longer than it did in the rest of the nation. In 1990, Levy estimated, California had about 250,000 civilians working on military bases and about 450,000 people in aerospace and private military-related jobs. Now, there are about 64,000 civilian military base employees in the state and about 162,000 private aerospace and defense workers. “We’re not the defense monolith we were for many years,” Levy said. Technology and Asian-based trade and tourism have become much larger components of the state’s economy, helping reduce its dependence on Washington. About 2.8% of the state’s total economic output in 2010 came from federal military spending, below the 3.5% national average, according to the Pew study. A good chunk of that spending is in the Antelope Valley. Large aerospace firms such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. have facilities in Palmdale, as do smaller subcontractors such as Searcy’s Aerowire Technical Services Inc. “Everything revolves around aerospace around here,” Searcy said. Last year, Aerowire doubled its workforce to 12 employees. Searcy said her staff was poised to double again this year — at least until the federal budget cuts hit. Two military-related contracts, totaling about $1.5 million, failed to materialize because of worries over the federal spending cuts. Now she’s looking at possible layoffs. “I don’t see myself closing down, but [I do] see myself having to be really slim,” she said. “We were headed in a good direction, and now, unless someone comes through on my commercial side, it’s going to be tough for a while.” Virginia, Maryland and Washington benefited for years from growth in federal spending and now are poised to be hurt worse than any other region. In the Washington suburb of Tysons Corner, Va., for instance, Ed Jesson’s information technology services company, OBXtek Inc., may be forced to lay off as many as 15 employees from its 178-member workforce. Because Jesson is a disabled Army veteran, the company he founded in 2009 qualified for special federal contracts. The company’s revenue grew to nearly $30 million last year from about $6 million four years ago, and it added 84 employees last year. Now, as layoffs loom, he said he sees the dependence both he and the state have had on federal contracts as a “vulnerability.” He won’t know for sure how much business his firm will lose until federal agencies announce their decisions. In the meantime, he’s holding back. “We’re very judicious on the supplies we buy,” he said, “and we’re basically just not spending money on things we could use that aren’t an inherent need to our operations.”
RETURN TO TOP March 31, 2013

NATO Eyes Missile Shield Progress With Russia After U.S. Move

By Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters
MOSCOW–NATO hopes a U.S. change to global missile defenses will dispel Russian concern and foster cooperation on an issue that has long strained relations, alliance Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said in an interview. Russia has said U.S. missile shield plans could erode its nuclear deterrent. It has softened criticism since Washington announced on March 16 that it would station 14 missile interceptors in Alaska in response to North Korean nuclear threats and at the same time forgo a new type of interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe. However, Moscow has said it wants a series of consultations on the new shield set-up and U.S. and Russian defense officials are expected to hold talks on that in the coming weeks. Moscow has long been at odds with the West over anti-missile defenses it has begun to establish in Europe, which both the United States and NATO say are aimed at preventing any attack from Iran and pose no threat to old Cold War foe Russia. “The change in the U.S. plans … just simply makes the situation much less ambiguous,” Vershbow told Reuters. “There is now no reason for concern that the system going into Europe will have any effect whatever on Russia’s strategic deterrent. “We think there is a real window of opportunity and we hope that the Russians seize it,” said Vershbow, who has held talks with senior officials from the Russian foreign and defense ministries as well as President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. The skipped interceptors were meant to be able to target long-range missiles, sparking concern in Moscow that they could be used against its intercontinental ballistic missiles. “On both the NATO-Russia and U.S.-Russia tracks, we hope the dialogue will pick up speed so that we can get at least closer to some kind of a deal on missile defense cooperation,” said Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. “To the extent we are able to make some progress on missile defense, it might also facilitate renewed dialogue on nuclear arms reductions both at the strategic level and the non-strategic level.” He said broader NATO-Russia ties would get “a shot in the arm” if progress was made on missile shields. Moscow has frequently said it is unlikely to go for further cuts in its nuclear arsenal unless Washington satisfactorily addresses its concerns about the defense system Washington has started to deploy in Europe in cooperation with NATO partners. Russia is also pushing to host a meeting of defense ministers of NATO and Russia in Moscow in May and some in Russia have expressed hope for progress by then. But Moscow is sticking to its demand for legally binding guarantees that the shield will not be aimed at Russia, a request rejected by NATO and the United States. Any significant progress may be difficult because of Russian concern that developing NATO infrastructure in central and eastern Europe is tipping the post-Cold War balance of power. “There are broader political questions that still could remain difficult to resolve,” Vershbow said. “NATO has been very clear that legal guarantees will not be possible but I’m sure we could develop some kind of political framework that would give the Russians the predictability that they are seeking through legally binding guarantees.”
RETURN TO TOP April 1, 2013

China Says 2 Pilots Killed In Su-27 Fighter Crash

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Defense Ministry says two air force pilots were killed when their Russian-made Su-27 fighter crashed during a training mission. The ministry said in a news release Monday that the plane went down on a beach near the coastal city of Rongcheng in the northern province of Shandong. It did not offer any reason for Sunday afternoon’s crash and said there were no reports of damage or injuries to people on the ground. China began purchasing Su-27s in the early 1990s and many of the planes are near the end of their expected lifespans. China also manufactured a copy of the plane. The secretive People’s Liberation Army and its air force have overhauled their training in recent years to make exercises more realistic, and details about accidents are rarely released.
Yonhap News Agency April 1, 2013

S. Korean Military To Prepare With U.S. For Cyber Warfare Scenarios

By Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap
SEOUL — In light of the massive attacks on the websites of major broadcasters and banks, South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday it will increase cyber warfare forces and develop various deterrence scenarios in cooperation with the United States to better deal with emerging threats. The ministry briefed President Park Geun-hye on the 2013 policy plan along with other security goals and assessments of North Korea’s threats. Tensions on the peninsula have come to a boiling point in the wake of Pyongyang’s saber-rattling over joint military drills held in the South. The ministry said it will develop deterrence methods in response to various cyber attacks to enhance preparedness against an unprovoked attack both in times of war and peace. Calls to step up cyber warfare forces have risen, as recent attacks on broadcasters and banks — the largest attack in two years — brought fresh attention to potential cyber attacks in South Korea. The identity of the person or group behind the attacks is still under investigation, but military officials had speculated about possible links with North Korea, as it has repeatedly threatened to launch various attacks on Seoul in light of annual joint drills with the U.S. and new sanctions for its nuclear test. “We will cooperate with the U.S. to prepare measures in cyber policy, technology and information,” a senior ministry official said. South Korea has about 400 personnel under the Cyber Command, a special unit launched in early 2010. The North is known to be running a cyber warfare unit composed of 3,000 elite hackers who are trained to break into other computer networks for information and spread computer viruses. With the rising threat posed by the communist country, South Korean and U.S. forces will draft a customized deterrence strategy as early as July to test and review during the next joint drills, which kick off in late August. Militaries of the two nations will sign the plan in October, when their defense chiefs have an annual meeting called a Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) scheduled in October in Seoul, officials said. Bilateral consultations have been underway to come up with a strengthened nuclear deterrence plan since last year, but Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February has brought new urgency to prepare a tailored strategy to counter the defiant communist state under its young leader Kim Jong-un. South Korean military leaders had said they were considering destroying the North’s nuclear facilities in advance in case of an imminent nuclear attack against South Korea. The ministry also reaffirmed its commitment to develop an alternative joint operation structure to replace the Combined Forces Command, which is expected to be dissolved when Seoul regains its wartime operational command (OPCON) at the end of 2015. “The ministry will prepare the OPCON transition to meet the December 2015 deadline and establish a new joint operation body,” the ministry said in a statement. The two sides will sign an alternative operation body in a meeting of military chiefs slated to meet in Washington next month, which will be finalized in the SCM. In addition, the ministry vowed to speed up its planned deployment of ballistic missiles as well as an advanced missile interception system — the so-called “kill chain” — which is designed to detect, target and destroy missiles. South Korea has been putting forth efforts to develop longer-range missiles after Seoul and Washington in October of last year agreed to nearly triple its missile range to 800 kilometers to better deter North Korean threats. In addition, the military will push to adopt military spy satellites to keep closer tabs on the communist country and integrate its own missile defense shield program, dubbed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD). South Korea currently operates Arirang-3, a multipurpose satellite, which provides geographical information on the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s missile and nuclear test sites. However, it still relies on the U.S. for much of its intelligence due to the commercial satellite’s limited vision and longer rotation period. With adding reconnaissance satellites to its monitoring capabilities, the military hopes to increase its surveillance of major North Korean military facilities to better anticipate aggressive actions by the communist state. While negotiations are currently underway, the Defense Acquisition and Procurement Agency (DAPA) will push to designate the contractor for the multi-billion-dollar fighter jet project within the first half of this year to replace the aging fleet of old combat jets. Multinational defense group EADS have been bidding for the 8.3 trillion won (US$7.3 billion) deal set in the previous year to sell 60 advanced aircrafts to the South Korean Air Force. The Navy said it will complete the ongoing project to build a naval base in the southern resort island of Jeju by 2015 to hold up to 20 warships simultaneously, along with two 150,000-ton cruise ships. About one third of the construction has been completed as of the end of 2012 since it has been launched in early 2010, according to the Navy. The two Koreas are still technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
Albuquerque Journal March 29, 2013 Pg. 1

‘Please Help Save This Baby’s Life’

Rescuer, war orphan reunite 40 years later

By Charles D. Brunt, Journal Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Today, which lawmakers and the governor have deemed Vietnam Veterans Day in New Mexico, an improbable reunion will take place at the Vietnam American Association of New Mexico office here. This is the story of how that reunion came about. Though 40 years has passed, Bao Tran still remembers his commanding officer yelling at him to get off the bridge because they were ready to blow it to smithereens. But Tran knew he had to help the staggering old man carrying his cone-shaped straw hat to the safe side of the My Chanh Bridge before it was overrun by the fast-approaching Viet Cong. Sitting in a folding chair at the Vietnamese American Association of New Mexico’s office Wednesday evening, Tran, a slight man with piercing dark eyes, says he now thinks of the old man as an angel sent to guard the tiny treasure wrapped inside his non la, the tattered straw hat he clung to so tightly. “I can’t go on, so I give you this baby,” the exhausted man told Tran, a second lieutenant in the Vietnamese Marines. Tran’s orders were to help refugees fleeing the city of Quang Tri to the relative safety of Hue, and to blow up the bridge before the advancing Viet Cong could cross. “Please help save this baby’s life,” the man implored, handing the baby girl to a mystified Tran. As the convoy moved out, the man told Tran he had seen the baby’s mother on the side of the road, and that the baby was trying to nurse from her breast. When he realized that the woman was dead, he took the baby, knowing she could not survive on her own. As the trucks rolled along, Tran, only 22 at the time, stuck his finger in water and let the baby suck it from his finger. “That was all I could think of to keep her from crying,” Tran, who speaks little English, said through interpreter Troy Gilchrist. “I could tell she was very hungry.” Uncertain what to do with an orphaned infant amid the chaos of war, Tran was soon directed to get the baby to an orphanage. A female soldier accompanying Tran told him it was his responsibility to give the baby a name before he turned her over to the orphanage. He named her Tran Thi Ngoc Bich, giving the baby his surname and a first name that began with the letter B, just as his does. The name, the interpreter said, loosely translates to “precious pearl.” Tran carried the baby to Sacred Heart Orphanage in Hue, where he left his tiny ward with caring nuns. Because the orphanage was being overwhelmed with displaced children, the nuns assigned each child an identification number. Tran’s tiny “pearl” became Baby 899. “It was a heartbreaking scene,” Tran recalled. “My mission as a soldier was to rescue my fellow countrymen, so I felt I did that. I was still very young. I did not know a lot about babies and children. But I realized this was just a baby, and I needed to save her.” When Tran left the baby in May 1972, North Vietnamese forces had turned the war to their favor and were advancing ever southward. Tran had hoped to visit the orphanage soon to check on the baby, but in the chaotic final months of he war, he was never able to do so. “I just lost touch completely with her,” he said. After the last U.S. troops left in January 1973, South Vietnam’s resistance crumbled, though its remaining forces battled to the end. In 1975, Tran was imprisoned in one of the Communist regime’s “re-education” camps, where he remained for six years. Like most former South Vietnamese soldiers, Tran was prevented from working legally, so he became a pedal-cart driver in Saigon, eking out a meager living with his wife and growing family. In 1994, he and his family were allowed to emigrate to the United States and settled in among Albuquerque’s close-knit Vietnamese community. But, he said, he always wondered what happened to his “precious pearl.” A military brat grows up Haunted by the destruction he witnessed while serving in Vietnam, Air Force Tech Sgt. James L. Mitchell and his grade-school teacher wife, Lucy, adopted a Vietnamese baby in 1972, naming her Kim Mitchell. James Mitchell spent 23 years in the Air Force, serving briefly at Cannon Air Force Base. When he retired in 1979, the family moved to a farm in northern Wisconsin, where Kim and her adopted younger brother, Paul, grew up. Her father often hinted that the Air Force might be a career path Kim should consider. “Ever since third grade, my dad would mention things that he thought I might be interested in,” Kim said by phone Thursday from a business trip in California. “But in third grade, I was just sort of, ‘OK that’s good.’ ” Having developed an affinity for military life, Kim attended the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., before being accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Just days before she was scheduled to start at Annapolis in 1991, her father was killed by a lightning strike at the farm. Kim delayed going to the Academy for a year to be with her mother, but grew even more determined to follow her father’s footsteps into a military career. She graduated from the Academy in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering and became a surface warfare officer, serving aboard various naval warships and completing numerous assignments from Washington, D.C., to Bahrain. Her last active duty assignment was as deputy director for the Office of Warrior and Family Support in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Kim retired after 17 years in the Navy and is now deputy director of the Staff Sgt. Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, a Washington-based agency that helps military personnel, veterans and their families obtain needed services and resources as they transition back to civilian life. Like most adopted kids, Kim sometimes wondered about her past. “The only thing I really knew prior to the past few months, was that I was adopted from the orphanage in Da Nang that was run by the nuns, and then brought to the states,” she said. She also knew her Vietnamese name, because it was printed on her passport when she was adopted and brought to the United States. “I’d always felt that I needed to go to Vietnam and see it for myself, because it is part of my past,” Kim said. “I needed to meet the people and to see the country.” Back to Da Nang In August 2011, she did exactly that, accompanied by three close friends. “They knew I was interested in Vietnam, and for my 40th birthday, we went,” she said. The group spent five days in Vietnam, splitting their time in Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang. Her friends secretly arranged a visit to the orphanage, which had moved from Hue to Da Nang, and had learned that one of the nuns who had been there in 1972, known as Sister Mary, was still there. The group met Sister Mary and Sister Theresa, who checked the orphanage records during their visit. The record had been painstakingly reconstructed by the nuns after the Communist government had destroyed them. Sister Theresa found the name Tran Thi Ngoc Bich in the books, though in slightly different order that Kim remembered them. “That was the first time that I had ever had proof that I had been there,” Kim said. “It was a watershed moment for me.” The group later visited the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, where a public affairs officer wrote a news release about Kim. Several news outlets picked up and expanded the story, which in August found its way to a Vietnamese-language magazine — and into Bao Tran’s hands. “In the article it said her name was Kimberly Mitchell, but it also said her Vietnamese name was Ngoc Bich, and that she did not know who had named her,” Tran said at Wednesday’s interview. “I realized that that was the very girl I had named,” he said. “I knew it was her.” Knowing the baby girl was probably born in early 1972 or late 1971, Kim’s adoption date also matched. Tran enlisted the help of local insurance agent Le Dam Sharpe to find Kim Mitchell. Using the Internet and other sources — including her brother-in-law in the Navy — Sharpe finally connected with Kim last August. The two exchanged emails for months, connecting the dots and ensuring to everyone’s satisfaction that Kim and Tran’s precious pearl were one and the same. “I was very moved, and very happy to hear that she made it to America and that she has had a good life,” Tran said. “I really, really wanted to meet her.” Today, he will. Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Mitchell and former Vietnamese Marine 2nd Lt. Bao Tran will be reunited in a special ceremony at the Vietnamese American Association of New Mexico on Central SE. “I’m very excited,” Kim said as she prepared for the overnight flight to Albuquerque. “The whole point is that, during a very stressful time in his life, he took the time to save the life of a child,” she said. That child, she noted, served her country in the military and continues to serve by helping veterans and military families. In a brief recounting of the story Tran wrote for the occasion, he said this to Kim: “I hope with all my heart that I have helped bring to an end your long search and longing to find your Vietnamese roots.” *** Joyful Reunion (March 30, Pg. 1) Amid tears, laughter and much Vietnamese-English translation, former South Vietnamese Marine 2nd Lt. Bao Tran was reunited Friday with retired U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kim Mitchell — the orphaned baby girl he saved in 1972 during the Vietnam War. Dozens of members of Albuquerque’s Vietnamese community warmly greeted Mitchell, who was adopted by an American family and went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Speaking in Vietnamese, Bao shared the story of how he was handed an orphaned baby girl by a fleeing soldier, the Catholic orphanage he gave her to, and how Friday’s reunion was a dream come true. It took place at the Vietnamese American Association of New Mexico community center on Central SE.
Washington Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 10

BAE Prods Congress For Bradley Funding Unwanted By Army

Miltary wants to pause the vehicle’s production, but company resists

By Nick Taborek, Bloomberg Government
BAE Systems is trying to squeeze more money out of Congress for its Cold War-era Bradley Fighting Vehicle, an attempt to thwart the U.S. Army’s plan to halt production for at least three years. The Army says it doesn’t need the line to remain open from 2014 until at least 2017, putting at risk 1,200 jobs at the company’s plant in York, Pa., said Mark Signorelli, the contractor’s general manager of vehicle systems. BAE is lobbying lawmakers as the Pentagon is winding down from two wars and cutting its budget. Although the military doesn’t want more Bradley funds, Congress added $140 million to the program above what the Pentagon requested for this year. “We are going to see a lot of this as the budget comes down,’’ said Gordon Adams, a professor at American University and former White House budget official during the Clinton administration. “There will forever be a fight in Congress about the procurement budget, whether the services think they need something or not.’’ The move by BAE, a London firm whose U.S. subsidiary is based in Arlington, mirrors General Dynamics’ effort to protect the M1 Abrams tank, also against the Army’s wishes. The service is seeking to stop work on the tanks for three years beginning in 2015 and then redesign the vehicle entirely. “The conundrum we have is that we don’t need the tanks,’’ Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told a congressional panel last year. Lawmakers responded by budgeting $255 million for the program in the year ending Sept. 30, more than triple the amount the Defense Department had requested. In the past, BAE hasn’t been as aggressive as General Dynamics in lobbying for continued funding, according to a House Armed Services Committee aide who is not authorized to discuss the program publicly. The company recently stepped up its efforts, the aide said. The aide cautioned that Congress’s decision to add money this year shouldn’t be taken as a sign it will do the same next year. The Army’s plan includes no funding for the program from fiscal 2014 through 2016. The Pentagon is grappling with automatic budget cuts known as sequestration that would total $500 billion over nine years. Those reductions are on top of $487 billion in alreadyplanned defense cuts over a decade. Postwar spending cuts The U.S. military has cut spending on ground vehicles after withdrawing from Iraq and planning to pull most U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. BAE’s defense contracts dropped 62 percent to $6.11 billion in fiscal 2012 from $16.3 billion in fiscal 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. BAE estimatesit would cost as much as $750 million to shut the Bradley line in York and restart production in 2017, when the Army plans more upgrades. The Army would save money by funding some Bradley work in York through 2017 and increasing BAE’s activities on other vehicles, according to the company. BAE is still under contract to repair Bradley vehicles damaged in Iraq, a job that is scheduled to be completed by mid-2014. The Army handles more comprehensive Bradley overhauls at its own maintenance facility near Texarkana, Tex. Under the military’s plan, Bradley work isn’t guaranteed to return to the York plant after the break in production. A decision on the site for the 2017 upgrades hasn’t been made, Ashley Givens, an Army spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. As many as 7,000 subcontractor jobs may disappear if the Army discontinues production next year, Signorelli said. “If they lose a program like Bradley, many of them have said that they either will go out of business or they will exit the defense market — and they will not be likely to return,” he said. BAE is bringing some of more than 580 Bradley suppliers to Washington on April 23-24 to urge lawmakers to block the shutdown, Stephanie Serkhoshian, a BAE spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The military says it’s sticking to its plan. The Army’s Bradley needs should be met by June 2014, Matthew Bourke, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. Programs such as the M88 tank “will provide work for the BAE York facility after Bradley production ends,’’ Bourke said. The Army has enough Bradley Fighting Vehicles and doesn’t need to quickly produce new versions, said James Hasik, an Austin-based defense industry consultant who has worked on ground vehicle programs. “They’re in a world of hurt,’’ Hasik said of BAE. “They’re just making the wrong product at the moment.’’ Still, there are signs that BAE is gaining support for the program. The spending bill that Congress passed last week raised funding for Bradley upgrades this year to $288 million. Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, Patrick J. Toomey (R) and Robert P. Casey Jr. (D), also pushed a measure that requires the Army to study the impacts of shutting down BAE’s York operation. Rep. Scott Perry (R), whose district includes York, said he hopes the Army and BAE agree to continue production in a way that meets the service’s needs. He said the Army and BAE don’t necessarily have to be at odds. “Siding with the nation’s defense doesn’t mean siding against jobs in your district, and vice versa,’’ he said in a phone interview.
Capital Business April 1, 2013 Pg. 12

Contractors Taking Diversification Seriously As Defense Spending Shrinks

By Marjorie Censer
Bethesda-based contracting giant Lockheed Martin earlier this year received a patent for Perforene, a material used to make water potable by removing sodium, chlorine and other ions. It was a personal victory for John B. Stetson Jr., a Lockheed senior technical fellow who came up with the idea more than three years ago, but it was also a significant step for a defense contractor that has been primarily focused on the government market. As contractors encounter shrinking federal budgets, they are increasingly seeking to bolster their presences in the international and commercial markets. Companies have long been promising this diversification, but there are now more signs this effort is fully underway. “The bottom line is if their government customer continues to have less money for purchasing goods and services, then the companies really don’t have a choice but to diversify,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant. Stetson came up with the idea for Perforene while at a conference in Houston. He was intrigued by the material graphene, which is composed of pure carbon. “This stuff is so thin and so strong,” he recalled thinking. “If we could just poke holes in it that are the right size, we could filter the salt out of water.” Essentially, that’s how Perforene works — but on a scale that’s almost difficult to imagine. The holes are the size of a nanometer, which Stetson said is just a fraction of the width of a human hair. The technology is in its early stages; Stetson said Lockheed is still working on how to scale production and the company said it is seeking commercialization partners. Lockheed is hardly alone in scouting commercial opportunities. Even Falls Church-based General Dynamics, which has long had a robust commercial business, is pursuing expansion. The company earlier this year announced a strategic partnership with Samsung to incorporate GD technology into Samsung Galaxy devices. BAE Systems’ Arlington-based U.S. unit, too, is seeking sources of revenue to help make up for shortfalls in the U.S. defense business. Today, commercial business represents just under 10 percent of BAE’s work, but the company is seeking growth in commercial avionics and shipbuilding work, among other areas, said Thomas A. Arseneault, executive vice president of BAE’s product sectors. The company has long been translating its experience providing flight and engine controls for military aircraft into the same kind of work for commercial airplane manufacturers. But Arseneault said BAE is expanding beyond its traditional customers such as General Electric and Boeing to now work with Embraer and Bombardier. In 2010, BAE bought Atlantic Marine, which has helped it expand from its experience in naval ship repair to commercial shipbuilding. Last year, it completed construction of the American Phoenix, a chemical tanker that BAE said is operating in the Gulf of Mexico. BAE is under contract to build nine more vessels for the oil and petroleum industry. “We took something we were good at … and translated that,” Arseneault said. Still, there remains skepticism about defense contractors’ ability to move into commercial work. Many companies have struggled to handle the pace of the market. Thompson said the difficulty typically isn’t about technology or skills, but simply about culture. In BAE’s case, Arseneault said some of its focus industries aren’t so different than the government market. For instance, in the aerospace and the shipbuilding sectors, there are a limited number of customers and high barriers to entry. “It’s hard to take that [government contracting] business model and just flip it on its head,” he said of this shift into more traditional consumer markets. “But there are places in between.”
Los Angeles Times April 1, 2013 Pg. 11

Reaching Out To Pyongyang

By Donald Gregg
President Obama’s recent Middle East trip showed what good things can result from thoughtful, direct presidential involvement. The president addressed young Israelis, reassured allies in the region and brokered an Israeli apology to Turkey for a deadly raid on a flotilla attempting to take supplies to Gaza. The president should employ that same sort of diplomacy toward North Korea. An increasingly dangerous confrontation is building between the United States and North Korea. The outrageous rhetoric pouring out of Pyongyang makes it difficult to do anything more than dismiss North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. But abandoning diplomacy would be extremely dangerous. The North Koreans are convinced that nuclear weapons are the only thing keeping them safe from a U.S. attack, and recent flights of nuclear-capable U.S. warplanes over the Korean peninsula only hardened that conviction. As distasteful as it may seem, we need to talk directly with the North Koreans. They will not give up their nuclear weapons at this juncture, and for the United States to demand that they do so as a precondition for talks will only lead to greater tension, including the possibility of a military explosion. Would it not be better to negotiate a peace treaty? The George W. Bush administration took the position that engagement with Pyongyang would reward bad behavior, and that seems to be the approach of the Obama administration too. But though the North Koreans often sound like belligerent lunatics, there are certainly many reasons to engage, particularly on a peace treaty, an idea Kim Jong Un might well embrace. I have been dealing with Korean issues for 40 years, since I arrived as the CIA’s chief of station in Seoul. Later, from 1989 to 1993, I served as ambassador to South Korea. And time and again I saw diplomacy work where confrontation would have failed. In August 1973, U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib learned that opposition leader Kim Dae-jung had been kidnapped in Tokyo and was on a small boat about to be thrown into the sea. It was widely assumed (and later confirmed) that South Korea’s intelligence service, the KCIA, was responsible. But Habib did not jump into his sedan and confront autocratic President Park Chung-hee with an accusation. Habib first wrote Park a letter, giving him time to construct a response that kept Kim alive and enabled Park to deflect responsibility for the kidnapping. In December 1980, I witnessed close up a confrontation that failed. Kim Dae-jung had, at that point, been sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of treason. Outgoing President Jimmy Carter sent Defense Secretary Harold Brown and me to Seoul to confront South Korea’s president, Chun Doo-hwan, on the matter. Our instructions were to tell him, essentially, to release Kim “or else.” This approach failed utterly, and Kim was on the verge of execution. The incoming Reagan administration, led by Richard V. Allen, was astute enough to offer Chun a visit to the White House to keep Kim alive. In order to see Reagan, Chun released Kim, who went on to become South Korea’s president and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Granted, these experiences were in South Korea, a place very different from its northern neighbor. But diplomacy works around the world. We can’t simply order Kim Jong Un to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Dialogue is needed, and Obama should reach out to those who have negotiated successfully with North Korea to help craft an approach. Next month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit Washington to meet with Obama. I was in Seoul in 1974 when a North Korean agent trying to kill her father, President Park Chung-hee, fired and missed, killing her mother instead. Still, Park Geun-hye visited Pyongyang in 2001 and met with then-President Kim Jong Il. When I congratulated her for doing so, her response was: “We must look to the future with hope, not to the past with bitterness.” Park calls her policy toward North Korea “trustpolitik,” and she would undoubtedly be pleased to find thinking compatible with that policy in the White House, as would China’s new president, Xi Jinping, who has already called Park, offering to help ease tension between the two Koreas. The alternative to diplomacy is escalating conflict, and that would be a terrible mistake on the Korean peninsula. Negotiating a lasting peace is the only sensible approach. Donald Gregg, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993, was CIA station chief in that country from 1973 to 1975. He served as national security advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush from 1982 to 1988.
Wall Street Journal April 1, 2013 Pg. 13

At The U.N., Iran Is A Powerhouse, Not A Pariah

The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism heads the General Assembly’s second-largest voting bloc.

By Claudia Rosett
President Obama likes to describes Iran as “isolated.” But there is nothing lonely about Iran’s berth at the United Nations, where in the corridors and on the boards of powerful agencies, the Islamic Republic has been cultivating its own mini-empire. How can that be? Iran is in mocking violation of four U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions demanding an end to its illicit nuclear activities. The General Assembly has passed a series of resolutions condemning Iran’s atrocious human-rights record (albeit with almost as many abstentions as “yes” votes). The U.N.’s main host country, the United States, lists Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Yet Iran is no pariah at the U.N., where there are no in-house penalties for being under sanctions or for violating them. Among the 193 member states, terror-sponsoring, uranium-enriching rogue regimes enjoy the same access, privileges and immunities as Canada or Japan—and at far less expense in U.N. dues. Monstrous human-rights records don’t interfere with acquiring plum seats, either. The U.N. has always made room for murderous governments—from the U.N.’s charter seat on the Security Council for Stalin’s Soviet Union to Syria’s current post on the human-rights committee of the U.N. Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization. Few have exploited this setup as adroitly as Iran. While the U.S. pays for roughly one-quarter of the U.N.’s $30 billion-plus systemwide annual budget, Iran chips in about $9 million in core dues. Whatever additional resources Iran’s regime might allocate for its U.N.-related labors, they appear to be spent mainly on fielding big missions to U.N. offices in places such as New York and Vienna, horse-trading behind the scenes, and buttering up the U.N. bureaucracy. Iran currently heads the second-largest voting bloc in the U.N. General Assembly, the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (which isn’t an official U.N. body but a caucus with a rotating secretariat hosted by whichever country holds the three-year chairmanship). The movement’s members wield considerable voting power at the U.N., but most are reluctant to pony up the resources to take the lead. After oil-rich Iran snapped up the job, it was rewarded last year with a movement summit in Tehran attended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. These days, when Iran’s diplomats speak at U.N. meetings, they often double as the voice of a nonaligned bloc that includes more than half the U.N.’s member countries. Since coming under U.N. sanctions in 2006, Iran has also won seats on the governing boards of many major U.N. agencies. Some of these agencies handle billions every year in funds donated chiefly by Western nations, especially the U.S. This year, Iran won a three-year seat on the 36-member executive board of the U.N.’s flagship agency, the U.N. Development Program, which operates billion-dollar budgets across more than 170 countries. Along with its seat on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (naturally), Iran also sits on the 36-member executive board of the U.N.’s children’s agency, Unicef—a neat trick for a country that leads the world in executions of juveniles. Iran also sits on the boards of the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Office for Project Services (which deals with procurement and U.N. contracts). Then there is Tehran’s presence on the governing councils of the Nairobi-based U.N. Environment Program and UN-Habitat, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, the Geneva-based U.N. Refugee Agency, the Spain-based U.N. World Tourism Organization, and the Program and Budget Committee of the Vienna-based U.N. Industrial Development Organization. For 2011, Iran was also elected to be one of the 21 vice-presidents of the U.N. General Assembly. How does Iran do it? The answer isn’t related to the annual burlesque of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visits to New York since 2005. Better explanations lie in the U.N. practice of allocating board seats by quota to five geographic groups, which nominate regional candidates for election. Iran falls into the Asia-Pacific group, which these days includes most of its oil customers. In these opaque deals, there is plenty of room to factor in a swap of Iranian oil for support at the U.N. Iran populates its U.N. missions with smooth diplomats, some educated in the U.S. Its ambassadors tend to stay in their posts longer than do their U.S. counterparts, hosting parties and cultivating connections. Iran’s current envoy to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee, studied at Virginia’s George Mason University, served from 1998-2002 as Iran’s representative to the board of the World Bank, and has served as ambassador to the U.N. since 2007. He is fluent in English and versed in finance. When U.S. federal prosecutors described him in 2009 court documents as having secretly overseen the multimillion-dollar operations of an alleged Iranian government front operation on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the Alavi Foundation, Mr. Khazaee—draped in U.N. immunity—ignored the case and carried on accumulating seats for his country on U.N. boards. A year later, when the State Department approved 80 visas for Mr. Ahmadinejad and his entourage to attend a U.N. conference in New York and denied only one, Mr. Khazaee diligently complained to the U.N. about the lone denial. In Vienna, home to a big U.N. complex that includes the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh is an influential presence. Trained as a nuclear physicist and posted previously as Iran’s representative to the IAEA in the 1980s, Mr. Soltanieh presides over an Iranian mission that occupies most of a large city block. For 2011, he was elected head of the Vienna chapter of the Group of 77, which now includes 132 members—the largest voting bloc in the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Soltanieh has a reputation among IAEA staffers for throwing good parties. Many of Iran’s doings at the U.N. are more hidden from view. In 2010, after the passage of the fourth round of sanctions on Iran, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice made a loaded remark to reporters. She said that the sanctions were a particular blow to Iran given “the effort, the time, the money” that Iran had employed trying to stop them. The next day, I sent a query to the U.S. Mission: “What money, exactly, was she referring to?” The American diplomats said they’d look into the facts behind Ambassador Rice’s remarks. There has been no answer. Unlike in the case of Iraq—where the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein exposed troves of financial records that helped explain how Baghdad persuaded the U.N. to ignore its own sanctions against Iraq—there is no access right now to Iran’s internal records. Perhaps with time, more will become clear. Ms. Rosett is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where she heads the Investigative Reporting Project.
Washington Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 13

Iran’s Diplomatic Discipline

By Ray Takeyh
Optimism and progress are words seldom associated with diplomatic encounters involving Iran. But Tehran’s seeming interest in negotiations during the recent talks in Kazakhstan has led to hope in Western capitals that perhaps economic sanctions have finally produced a reliable Iranian interlocutor. As the great powers contemplate a solution to the Iranian nuclear conundrum, they would be prudent to appreciate how Tehran uses diplomacy to complement its quest for nuclear arms. The Islamic Republic’s path to the bomb is contingent on its ability to produce vast quantities of low-enriched uranium while introducing a new generation of high-velocity centrifuges. Both are being produced at an unimpeded pace at the Natanz enrichment plant. Tehran insists that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) gives it the right to construct an industrial-size nuclear infrastructure involving substantial depositories of uranium enriched to 5 percent and cascades of advanced centrifuges. The developments in Natanz, even more so than the hardened, underground Fordow facility, are likely to pave the way for an Iranian bomb. Should the Natanz plant reach its optimal production capacity, the Islamic Republic would be well on its way to manufacturing a nuclear arsenal. The lax nature of the NPT’s basic inspection regime makes it an unreliable guide to detecting persistent diversion of small quantities of fuel from an industrial-size installation. Meanwhile, Iran’s mastery of advanced centrifuges will give it the ability to build secret installations that can quickly enrich uranium to weaponsgrade quality. The speed and efficiency of these machines means that only a limited number would be required, so the facilities housing them are likely to be small enough to escape exposure. Iran’s nuclear weapons strategy does not necessarily require either the Fordow facility or continued production of uranium enriched to a medium level, or 20 percent. Iran’s problem all along has been that its illicit nuclear activities were detected before it could assemble such a surge capacity. Tehran knows that as it incrementally builds its nuclear apparatus, it risks the possibility of a military strike. To mitigate this danger, Iranian diplomats insist that the “P5 + 1” — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States), plus Germany — recognize its right to enrich. The purpose of such an acknowledgment is to give Iran’s nuclear apparatus legal cover. Today, Iran’s nuclear program exists outside the parameters of international law, as numerous U.N. resolutions have insisted that Tehran suspend its program and come to terms with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding weaponization activities. Should the great powers formally acquiesce to Iran’s right to enrich, the bar for a military strike would be set at a much higher level. It is more justifiable for the United States or Israel to bomb illegal Iranian installations than those legitimized by all the permanent members of the Security Council. Iran’s insistence on recognition of its enrichment rights is a ploy designed to provide its nuclear weapons ambitions with a veneer of legality. To entice such concessions from the West, Iranian officials cleverly dangle the possibility of addressing an issue that is not essential to Tehran’s nuclear weapons objectives: the production of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Iran’s medium-grade enrichment is a dangerous escalation of the crisis, as it brings the material much closer to weaponsgrade quality. Western powers would be judicious to focus on stopping it. But prolonged negotiations over this narrow issue and any concessions on Iran’s “right to enrich” in order to obtain that suspension would fall into Tehran’s trap of hampering a U.S. or Israeli military option. Over the past decade of diplomatic efforts, the Islamic Republic has adhered with discipline and determination to its claim that it is entitled to an elaborate nuclear apparatus. The great powers, on the other hand, have periodically revisited their prohibitions, adjusted their objectives and limited their scope. While Iran has often seemed comfortable with an impasse in talks, the Western states have treated such lulls as unacceptable and have pressed for a resumption of the diplomatic track, usually by reconsidering some aspect of their “red lines.” To successfully negotiate with Tehran, the P5+1 must demonstrate the same type of steadfastness that guardians of the Islamic Republic have shown. The best means of disarming Iran is to insist on a simple and basic red line: Iran must adhere to all the Security Council resolutions pertaining to its nuclear infractions. This implies establishing serious curbs on its activities in Natanz and not just being preoccupied with Fordow. To suggest or behave otherwise will only whet the appetite of strongwilled clerics sensitive to subtle shifts in their adversaries’ posture and power. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Washington Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 13

Lessons From Iraq

… and why that war shouldn’t stop us from aiding Syria

By Jackson Diehl
The 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has prompted plenty of analysis of the mistakes made there, along with a few tendentious claims that “the same people” who supported war in Iraq are now pressing for U.S. intervention in Syria. I’m one of those people. So, to paraphrase the polemicists: Did I learn nothing from the last decade? Do I want to repeat the Iraq “fiasco”? Let’s start with the second question. Iraq was unquestionably costly and painful to the United States — in dollars, in political comity and, above all, in lives, both of Iraqis and Americans. It hasn’t turned out, so far, as we war supporters hoped. Yet in the absence of U.S. intervention, Syria is looking like it could produce a much worse humanitarian disaster and a far more serious strategic reverse for the United States. Iraq and Syria are similar in many respects. Both are unnatural creations, drawn on a map by British and French diplomats in 1916. Both contain a potentially volatile mix of ethnic groups and sects, including Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians. Both were held together through the 20th century by merciless dictators who, representing a minority sect, used repression, militarism, Arab nationalism and, when necessary, genocide to hold their states together. Both Saddam Hussein and the Assad regime in Syria courted terrorists and stockpiled weapons of mass destruction — but the Assads, unlike Saddam, never had to give up their chemical and biological arsenal. It was inevitable that, with the exhaustion of their ideologies and economic models, these states would unravel — and that Iraq’s repressed Shiite majority, like Syria’s downtrodden Sunni majority, would demand redress. The difference is that the U.S. military triggered the transformation of Iraq, quickly disposing of the old regime and buffering the subsequent sectarian struggle. In Syria it has leaned back, providing humanitarian aid and prodding the opposition to unify but otherwise refusing to intervene. The results? No U.S. soldiers have been killed or wounded in Syria, and the cost is in the hundreds of millions rather than the hundreds of billions. But so far, the larger humanitarian price of Syria has been far greater. With 70,000 killed in just two years, Syria is producing fatalities at twice the rate of Iraq after the U.S. invasion; with 1.1 million people having fled to neighboring countries and 3 million expected by the end of this year. Syria is on course to produce 50 percent more refugees than Iraq after 2003. In Iraq, the United States faced down al-Qaeda and eventually dealt it a decisive defeat. In Syria, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is steadily gaining strength — and prompting, across the border, a revival of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The Obama administration’s hands-off approach offers no means for checking this menace or for preventing al-Qaeda from eventually gaining control over chemical and biological weapons. The Iraq war prompted low-level meddling by Iran, Syria and other neighbors but otherwise left the surrounding region unscathed, thanks to the U.S. presence. Syria’s unchecked carnage is spilling over into Lebanon and Iraq, and it threatens U.S. allies Israel, Turkey and Jordan. Iran, Persian Gulf states and other neighbors are pouring in weapons and, in some cases, fighting units. Iraq prompted a temporary souring of relations between the United States and France and Germany, and Arab Sunni monarchies never fully accepted the Shiite-led government that democracy produced. But U.S. influence in the Middle East remained strong. Now it is plummeting: Not just Britain and France but every neighbor of Syria has been shocked and awed by the failure of U.S. leadership. If it continues, Syria — not Iraq — will prove to be the turning point when America ceases to be regarded as what Bill Clinton called the “indispensable nation.” Does all this mean that the United States should be dispatching hundreds of thousands of troops to Syria? Of course not. The tragedy of the post-Iraq logic embraced by President Obama is that it has ruled out not just George W. Bushstyle invasions but also the more modest intervention used by the Clinton administration to prevent humanitarian catastrophes and protect U.S. interests in the 1990s. As in the Balkans — or Libya — the limited use of U.S. airpower and collaboration with forces on the ground could have quickly put an end to the Assad regime 18 months ago, preventing 60,000 deaths and rise of al-Qaeda. It could still save the larger region from ruin. The problem here is not that advocates of the Iraq invasion have failed to learn its lessons. It is that opponents of that war, starting with Obama, have learned the wrong ones.
Financial Times April 1, 2013


Israel: Shields Raised

Iron Dome missile batteries are the pride of the country’s defences but doubts remain over their efficacy

By John Reed
As soon as US President Barack Obama disembarked from Air Force One on his first visit to Israel last month, an Iron Dome battery was ready for his inspection at Ben Gurion airport. There could have been few clearer signs of the importance attached to the missile batteries that are the pride of the nation’s defences. If one product has come to define the high-tech military apparatus of Israel Inc, it is the Iron Dome. The anti-missile defence system shielded the country from a barrage of Qassam and Grad rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas during the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defence in November. Israel’s defence ministry says Iron Dome had a success rate of more than 80 per cent during the operation, in which about 170 Gazan Palestinians and six Israelis died. Designed to intercept short-range rockets, Iron Dome is the smallest and best-known component of a multilayer anti-missile defence system Israel is building to shoot down ordnance fired from as far away as Iran. However, Iron Dome’s folk-hero status in Israel is under threat. Questions are now being raised about its cost-effectiveness and accuracy. Such doubts carry broader implications for the soundness of Israel’s defence policy and the safety of its public as it seeks to defend itself in a volatile region riven by popular revolts. For now, the doubts are being voiced by a small number of dissenters, mostly outside Israel. The country’s defence establishment is standing by the effectiveness of the Iron Dome and the nation’s broader strategy of aerial defences. But if the controversy deepens, it could also damage the Iron Dome’s appeal as a lucrative export. The US, which has contributed more than $200m to building Iron Dome batteries and is budgeting another $680m for it until the end of 2015, is one potential customer. South Korea, India, Singapore and Poland are among the others that have looked at it or are considering buying it. The state-owned company that makes the Iron Dome, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, takes pride in its efficiency. Visitors are ushered into an atrium where about a dozen formidable missiles and reconnaissance pods are ranged. Yossi Horowitz, the company’s head of business development and marketing, shows off the Tamir interceptor missile used in Iron Dome, clicking back and forth one of the six wing fins on its front that help it close in on an incoming rocket. It then “kills” it by detonating the warhead. Rafael parades not only the system’s efficacy but its cost-effectiveness. It sourced the electric motors used to power the fins from the US toy retailer Toys R Us. “They’re cheap and this is enough,” Mr Horowitz says with a smile. It is a rare moment of levity. Defence from incoming ordnance is usually no laughing matter in a company located near Haifa, half an hour from the Lebanese border, in an area that was attacked with rockets during Israel’s 2006 war with Hizbollah. Many staff are active military personnel, and some have sons or daughters serving in the Israel Defence Forces. Israel’s government fast-tracked Iron Dome after its border cities and towns faced bombardment by small rockets and missiles in the Lebanon war in 2006 and from the Islamist group Hamas after it took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Rafael is also working on more distant threats. Near the Tamir missile exhibited in Rafael’s lobby stands the Stunner, to be used in David’s Sling, an anti-missile system that the company is developing with US defence group Raytheon. Due to be deployed by late 2014, David’s Sling will be designed to intercept the medium-range missiles that might in future be fired by Hizbollah or – conceivably – one of the warring parties in Syria. In February, Israel tested what will be the most advanced component of its anti-missile shield: Arrow 3, intended to intercept any longer-range missiles that might be aimed at the country from thousands of kilometres away, hitting them before they enter the atmosphere. “While Israel’s hand is always extended in peace, we are prepared for other possibilities as well,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after what Israel described as a successful test. The immediate focus of the critics lies on the short-range defences of the Iron Dome. Missile experts have pored over amateur-video footage taken during Pillar of Defence and publicly available information from southern Israel. They calculate that Iron Dome’s success rate was much lower than the level of more than 80 per cent that the country is claiming. Tesla Laboratories, a US defence contracting company, did a warhead lethality study on Iron Dome’s engagements with rockets fired from Gaza last November and estimates that the system intercepted only about 30-40 per cent of those that it targeted. George Stejic, president of the company – which says it wants to work with Rafael or Raytheon to improve the technology – says that while it “can be highly militarily useful in defending high-value targets”, the system needs work. “The best thing that Iron Dome has going for it right now is the poor performance of the Qassam rocket.” Ted Postol, a professor of science, technology and international security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied vapour trails from Iron Dome’s missiles and believes that most of them engaged rockets fired from Gaza from behind or sideways, rather than head-on, which he says they would have needed to in order to detonate the warhead. He also analysed publicly available information about damage reported in cities in southern Israel, and concluded that the system had just a 5-10 per cent “kill rate”, as defined by destruction of the incoming rocket’s warhead. Israel’s defence ministry dismisses criticism of Iron Dome’s accuracy as unsubstantiated and ill-informed. It notes that the system’s critics are small in number and based much of their analysis on amateur YouTube videos, many of them uploaded from footage shot on mobile phones. Critics of the system’s effectiveness, the ministry says, do not have access to militarily sensitive information on how Iron Dome works. “The state of Israel is the first country in the world to have a system which intercepts short-term rockets,” the ministry says. “The security establishment is more than content with the system’s impressive results and will continue to acquire more ‘Iron Dome’ batteries.” However, the sceptics are equally adamant in defending their doubts about the system. They point out that the claims made about the accuracy of the Patriot missiles fired at Iraq’s Scuds targeting Israel during the first Gulf war in 1991 were later found wanting, and revised downwards. In addition to the billions of dollars of Israeli and US taxpayer money on the line, they say, lives are at stake. “If Netanyahu goes out and provokes a war with Iran, Israel is going to be under rocket attack, not only from Gaza, but from the north as well from Hizbollah,” says Mr Postol. “If they’re telling people this system is protecting them, there will be a number of people not taking shelter and the number of casualties will increase.” One of the Israelis killed last November, he points out, failed to take cover during a rocket attack because he wanted to photograph Iron Dome intercepting an incoming missile from the porch of his building in the city of Kiryat Malakhi. According to the newspaper Haaretz, the man’s mother and a neighbour were also killed because the missile hit the building while they were trying to get him to take shelter. Missile defence has a long history and Israel began talking to the Americans about co-developing Arrow in the late 1980s. The idea at the time, says one Israeli defence industry official, was “to try to shoot a bullet with a bullet”. The US government and Congress now support Arrow with about $150m of aid a year. But some analysts believe that a system such as Iron Dome is needlessly expensive because its uses a missile to down a missile. They argue that rival laser defences, like the Adam system that Lockheed Martin is developing, can blast incoming missiles out of the sky more cheaply. “A challenge for Israel – and thus the US, which has been funding it all – is that its interceptors are multiple times more pricey than what’s incoming,” says Peter Singer, a security and defence specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. So the fear is not just that you get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of missiles, but that you get overwhelmed by the very costs of trying to defend against them.” Rafael will not discuss the cost of its systems in detail but says that each of the Tamirs used in Iron Dome costs less than $100,000. To avoid wasting missiles, Iron Dome is designed to intercept only rockets that it calculates will hit populated areas, ignoring those heading for open fields or the sea. After winning the tender to build Iron Dome in 2007, Rafael built it under “design to cost” constraints imposed by the ministry of defence, its client. In addition to the cheap motors sourced from Toys R Us, it took other cost-paring measures such as building the missiles’ main motor from aluminium, and designing the radar to engage only during the final “endgame” when it intercepts an enemy rocket. Uzi Rubin, a defence industry consultant who oversaw Israel’s development of Arrow, says that Iron Dome is criticised by what he calls “laser weapons enthusiasts”. He says that Mr Postol’s analysis is “behind the times” and is based on how the less-advanced Patriot system works. “What is not public is the nature of how Iron Dome kills a target: the combination of how it does the endgame and kills it,” he says. “This is highly classified because if we spell it out – even the principles – we offer the other side a key to overcoming it.” Israeli defence officials point out that the country is working on a laser defence system but needs to protect itself in the meantime with what it sees as the best anti-missile shield available. “There is a future for high-energy laser,” a senior official in the ministry says. “Until then, Iron Dome is the best and only thing we have.” Rafael declines to comment on the doubts raised over Iron Dome, referring to the remarks made by the ministry of defence. However, one industry official notes that of the roughly 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel last November, about 500 targeted cities. “If the success rate was only 5 to 10 per cent, where did the other missiles go?” he asks. Iron Dome’s advocates and critics agree on one thing: for Israel, the stakes of the missile shield’s success could not be higher. As Mr Rubin puts it: “Anyone who makes the decision to go to war with Iran will conclude it won’t be a milk run.”
New York Post April 1, 2013 Pg. 26

Kim’s War Games

Not many people took Dennis Rodman’s recent jaunt to Pyongyang seriously. But it appears that one important person did: North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un. Certainly Rodman’s visit would help explain Kim’s newfound approach to diplomacy: trash talk. Kim says he’s at war with South Korea, and that “the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.” The state media on Friday said he ordered the military to begin preparing for missile strikes on the US and South Korea. And though few experts believe he now has the capability, nobody doubts that Kim — like his father and grandfather before him — is serious about weapons of mass destruction. North Korea already has detonated a nuclear device and is well on its way toward building an effective intercontinental ballistic missile. For the Communist state has only been encouraged by the fecklessness of the world community, including the US, in response to its many broken promises. For example, it began violating almost from Day One the “deal” brokered back in the ’90s by the Clinton administration to check its nuclear ambitions. Later, the North Koreans reneged on a similar deal with the Bush administration to come clean about its nuclear program. We don’t believe Kim means war, at least not yet. But with South Korea threatening to respond, and nerves in the region frayed, America’s immediate interest lies in preventing the North from doing something stupid that would see events spiral out of control. And the long­term interest? To avoid the kind of talks that reward Kim’s belligerence — and to take actions that make Kim realize his threats will be met with responses that make his own rule more precarious.