On Wednesday, the Center for Defense Studies hosted an event on the international relief effort in Haiti, with a focus on the U.S. military’s mission there. Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph provided keynote remarks, while Robert Perito of USIP and Johanna Mendelson-Forman of CSIS joined Roger Noriega, Tim Sullivan, and Tom Donnelly of AEI for a panel discussion on the state of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, the capabilities of the Haitian National Police, and the scope of the U.S. military’s efforts in the country.
Watch the video from the event HERE.
I wrote in this space last week about the administration’s disappointing decision not to include F-16s in the arms package for Taiwan. Fortunately, it turns out that the sale of F-16s in the near future is not out of the question. Bill Gertz writes in yesterday”s Washington Times:
Included in the Obama administration’s latest arms package for Taiwan will be authorization for a joint U.S.-Taiwan feasibility study on bolstering air power against the threats to the island posed by Chinese missiles and aircraft, according to U.S. officials.
The administration put off actual sales of newer F-16s, but if the study, which will be conducted rapidly, determines that the jets are needed, they will be authorized in the coming months, said officials familiar with the arms deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
So all hope is not lost. Though given the extent to which this administration has gone to coddle China over the past year, I won’t be holding my breath. Here’s to hoping the president proves me wrong.
Two reports last week raise disturbing questions about the progress of the Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz revealed that testing and acquisition of the F-35 would slow down from its “ambitious” schedule, in order to insure a problem-free full production process by the end of the decade. That, of course, will raise the price of the program, causing the General to state that he did not believe the slow-down would inflate costs enough to trigger the Nunn-McCurdy amendment’s requirement that programs surpassing their original program estimate by 25% be terminated (absent a exemption request by the Secretary of Defense based on the national security necessity of the program).
However, the Pentagon’s Office of Test and Evaluation’s annual report on the JSF noted shortfalls in the program’s development and concluded that the program faces “substantial risk” over the next two years without an increase in flight testing, noting that just 16 of 168 planned flight test sorties were completed in FY09.
All new programs face delays, rethinking of schedules, and cost overruns, but the latest news on the F-35 is worrisome for two reasons, among others. First, it was development and acquisition delays that pushed up the unit price of the F-22 Raptor, eventually leading to Pentagon and Congressional cuts in the buy rate. That led to a death spiral, pushing costs up further, dropping the program farther back, and giving ammunition to those who wanted to end the program altogether. The result was a drop in the buy of the F-22 from an original planned purchase of 750 planes to the final buy of just 187. If the same dynamic kicks in win the F-35, it will be difficult to maintain the projected buy of 2,443 units of all three variants (conventional, carrier-based, and short take-off and landing).
Last Friday, the United States and the United Nations formalized an agreement with respect to the division of labor among international forces in Haiti. Peacekeepers and police officers from the UN’s MINUSTAH mission, with assistance from the Haitian National Police, will remain in the lead in providing security and keeping order among the Haitian population as the international relief mission proceeds. American forces, meanwhile, will be responsible primarily for securing and repairing critical infrastructure and transport routes. The new security agreement reportedly reflects the terms of the communiqué signed by the U.S. and Haitian government last week.
As the mission in Haiti moves from rescue and emergency relief to recovery and reconstruction, the new security agreement provides some insight as to the scope and likely duration of the U.S. military’s role in the country. Given the extent of the devastation in the wake of the earthquake and the limited infrastructure that existed in Haiti in the first place, the process of repair and development will likely be a lengthy one. (See the SOUTHCOM slides below for engineering updates and an overview of key entry points). The restoration of the capital’s seaport is already underway-with the help of divers and engineers from the USNS Grasp salvage ship-but the effort is not expected to bear significant fruit until mid-February. Assessments by special operations forces of other smaller ports and airfields — like those at Les Cayes, Hinche, and Port Salut — will continue in the days ahead.
Even as the military tackles these tasks, it will no doubt find itself taking on others. Apart from the continuing distribution of aid and medical care, U.S. forces have been assisting in laying the groundwork for an employment program, for instance. And while MINUSTAH forces, under the command of Major General Floriano Peixoto of Brazil, remain ostensibly in the lead in maintaining security — and will soon be receiving reinforcements from Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere — their facilities and equipment were badly damaged in the quake, and there have been varying reports about the extent of their presence and visibility in Port au Prince within the last week. Likewise, the Haitian National Police force lost roughly half of its personnel in the capital. It’s not surprising, then, that the U.S.-UN security agreement allows for American intervention in security situations on the request of the Haitian government.
Amid the flurry of reporting last week on Google’s defiance of the Chinese government, another more ominous occurrence in China slipped quietly beneath the attention of the West. On January 11, China tested its first-ever ground-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, successfully intercepting a missile during midcourse flight. China’s ability to achieve such a sophisticated capability in so short a period should give pause to U.S. analysts and scholars who continue to ignore or downplay the extent of the Chinese military’s extensive modernization program. Additionally, China’s current BMD capabilities are likely to have a significant impact upon the regional military balance, particularly against countries, such as India, which possess more limited arsenals of ballistic missiles. Most notable, however, is the light that this development sheds on the Chinese government’s two-pronged strategy of employing a diplomatic offensive to frustrate the development of key U.S. military programs while furtively pursuing those very capabilities.
It is also worth noting that even as China was busy developing this capability, it concurrently voiced vociferous opposition to U.S. plans to deploy a BMD system, criticizing Washington for engaging in irresponsible and destabilizing behavior. Beginning in 1999, for instance, Chinese Ambassador Sha Zhukang led a joint Chinese-Russian political offensive against the United States, charging that the U.S. pursuit of a BMD capability would not only undermine the regional security balance and erode China’s nuclear deterrent but also lead to a “nuclear arms race ris[ing] again from the ashes.” This two-pronged strategy, a diplomatic campaign to claim the moral high ground all the while surreptitiously engaging in the very behavior it condemned, appears to be China’s modus operandi. Indeed, Beijing engaged in almost identical behavior during the development of its anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. For years, the Chinese government criticized the United States for “militarizing space” even as it was secretly developing its own ASAT weaponry.
Few details have emerged regarding China’s test, except for the fact that the ballistic missile was destroyed during its midcourse phase, most likely by a direct-ascent kinetic kill vehicle, not unlike the one used in its January 2007 ASAT test. The missile itself, which would have traveled at speeds of up to 7 kilometers a second, was equally, if not more, challenging to intercept than the weather satellite that the Chinese military destroyed two years ago. That it has taken China just a decade to field an advanced BMD capability — it took the United States nearly four times as long to develop its own system — is undoubtedly due in part to the technologies it has acquired from the United States and other Western European countries. As Chris Griffin and I previously wrote, many of the key technical requirements behind China’s ASAT system benefited tremendously from the dual-use technology transfers during the decades of cooperation between China and the West on “civilian” space projects.
If China maintains its current pace of BMD and ASAT capability development, the U.S. defense community ought to expect both systems to mature rapidly in the coming years as technological advancements in one piggyback off of progress in the other. In the coming months, it is also likely that U.S. policymakers will receive another earful of Beijing’s protests and criticism when the results of the Nuclear Posture Review, now expected to be completed on March 1, are announced. When this occurs — and it most certainly will — it would be wise for U.S. policymakers to bear in mind the actual intent behind China’s accusations.
Joseph E. Lin, a former defense consultant in Washington, DC, is a doctoral student in political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Washington Times is reporting that the Obama administration has apparently moved forward with a decision to ratchet down intelligence collection against China, moving the PRC from a top-tier priority target for the intelligence community to a second-level collection concern. Top-tier collection targets include Iran, North Korea and al Qaeda, whereas second-tier targets typically reflect a host of matters, ranging from tensions between Pakistan and India, Russian pressures on its neighbors, drug cartels and climate change. The change in priority ultimately has an impact on how limited collection and analytic intelligence community resources are parceled out. Again, according to the Times, this change was pushed by the Obama NSC and over the objections of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, and CIA Director, Leon E. Panetta.
This is not the first time such a move has been made. When I worked in the Reagan White House, a similar effort was made to change how we gauged China as an intelligence priority — probably for a similar reason. At the time, many in the administration believed that China would be a necessary asset for balancing against the Soviet Union. The thought was that by changing the priority given China for intelligence collection we would be signaling them that we no longer saw them as an adversary. Obviously, today we don’t need the PRC for countering the Soviet Union — if we ever did. However, the Obama team seems convinced it needs China’s assistance on a host of problems and is in the business of reassuring Beijing that we have no intention of preventing their rise and, again, wants to signal that change by altering how we see them vis-a-vis our intelligence effort.
The recent announcement that the United States will sell PAC-3s to Taiwan was good news for Taipei. Taiwan continues to face an ever-growing ballistic missile threat from the mainland and the PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile system is an important component of Taiwan’s air defenses. Though the Obama administration should be applauded for including PAC-3 batteries in upcoming arms sales to the island, the arms sales package is not as robust as it should be.
In particular, F-16s, which Taiwan has requested, are missing from the mix. It is not only with missiles that China poses a threat to Taiwan, but with fighter aircraft as well. According to DOD’s 2009 report to Congress on China’s military power, Taiwan no longer enjoys the ability to achieve air dominance over the Taiwan Strait, as it did at the beginning of this century.
Faced with the dual threat of growing numbers of SRBMs and increasingly sophisticated fighter aircraft, Taiwan risks becoming more susceptible to coercion by force even as it tightens ties to the mainland. The Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself; in order to fulfill that legal obligation, the administration should authorize the sale of F-16s to Taiwan.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Haitians have been calling not simply for a greater international aid and security presence Port-au-Prince, but for assistance from one particular group of American warfighters:
“We’re all scared. We need the United Nations and we need the United States Marines.” Indeed, all over Port-au-Prince, signs begging for help from the Marines have been sprouting. In front of one crushed office building, a typical sign read: “Welcome the U.S. Marine. We need some help. Dead bodies inside.” Another read: “U.S. Marines SOS. We need help.”
Well, the Marines have arrived.
Early on Monday, the USS Bataan amphibious readiness group (ARG), carrying roughly 2,200 Marines from the 22nd MEU, arrived in Port-au-Prince bay and dispatched helicopters to survey suitable landing zones for the ARG’s LCAC hovercrafts. By Tuesday morning, roughly 120 Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, were being shuttled in CH-53s from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 to the town of Leogane, 18 miles west of Port-au-Prince (closer to the epicenter of the quake), on the north shore of the country’s southern peninsula. After establishing a beachhead, they secured a landing zone, set up a water-distribution hub, and connected with UN officials. (See overview map of the town below).
With the brunt of the aid effort thus far focused on Port-au-Prince, Leogane had yet to see a substantial humanitarian presence; before today there was only a small contingent of the Spanish Red Cross and an Argentine medical team in the town. But the Marines have set about to change that. In the days ahead, they will continue ferrying humanitarian supplies — including two water purification systems and sixteen generators, along with water tanks, fuel tanks, tents and medicine — to the town and others around it.
Later, the Marines will reportedly partner with UN peacekeepers from Sri Lanka to conduct patrols further west into the towns of Grand Gove and Petit Gove. The Marines’ AO was likely selected not only because Haiti’s southern peninsula had heretofore received little relief, but also in part because the roads connecting the Leogane to Port-au-Prince and the southern city of Jacmel (Highways 2 and 214, respectively) are only partially obstructed. With the announcement earlier today that a new airfield would soon be established at Jacmel, the coming days will likely see the beginning of more effective cross-country and trans-regional coordination.