The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently passed its version of the fiscal 2010 intelligence authorization bill for the U.S. intelligence community. (The House intelligence committee passed its bill back in late February.) Putting aside the question of why a bill intended to govern activities for a fiscal year that will end in six weeks is just now coming before the full Senate, the most interesting feature of the proposed measure is greatly expanded reporting and accountability requirements the committee has laid on the intelligence community. Among other things, the committee’s bill would, if passed:
• Expand the responsibilities for the inspector general (IG) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI’s IG would have power to investigate and do oversight of the whole U.S. intelligence community.
• Make the IG at the Central Intelligence Agency more independent.
• Create IG positions for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Security Agency.
• Require more congressional notifications and reporting with respect to covert action programs and other intelligence activities that potentially entail significant risk or cost.
• Require better record-keeping by the administration of briefings given to members of the House and Senate leadership.
• Make the DNI report on how the intelligence community complies with laws and executive orders on detention and interrogation activities.
• Require increased reporting on major intelligence community acquisition programs.
• Establish new oversight and privacy protections for the government’s cyber-security work.
• Require written annual certification by the heads of the various intelligence agencies that they are in full compliance with any and all notification requirements to the congressional committees.
The bill also requires reports on the attempted Christmas bombing, the remaining detainees at Guantanamo, terrorist recidivism among released detainees, biological weapons, community use of contractors, health risks among Desert Storm veterans, dirty bombs, and so on.
News reports out of Germany and Afghanistan indicate that the German government has okayed the creation of two, 600-man German battalions to go “on the offensive” against Taliban elements in northern Afghanistan. Partnering with Afghan Army units, the German forces will attempt to turn back the gains made by the Taliban over the past few years in this once quiet area of Afghanistan.
This decision will of course be good news to Germany’s NATO allies in Afghanistan, who have often looked at the several thousand troops Germany had deployed to the north (but kept largely under wraps) as an aggravating and wasting asset while others (such as the British, the Canadians, the Danes and the French) did the heavy combat lifting. It will also be good news to German troops who, almost to a man, are embarrassed by the caveats imposed from Berlin on what they could and (mostly) could not do when it came to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan.
The fact is, since a decision in 1994 by Germany’s federal constitutional court that said it was okay for German forces to be deployed outside Germany’s borders, the German military has been involved in multiple international military operations, including the war in Kosovo in 1999. Yet, wearing the country’s history on its sleeves, consecutive German governments did little to match this increased use of the military abroad with a rhetoric that would have led the German public to appreciate the possibility that the use of military force might at times not only be necessary but also that it could serve to bring greater peace and security. For German politicians and the German public, more often than not, “peacekeeping” had little to do with the armed forces actually undertaking operations designed to “keep the peace.”
However, since October of last year, when Chancellor Merkel was reelected, the German defense ministry has been headed by Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU)—by many lights, the most dynamic and popular politician in Germany. Guttenberg, it appears, is a German politician of a different strip, willing to break through some long-standing taboos when it comes to German defense and foreign policy. For Afghanistan, and the NATO-led ISAF mission there, the apparent decision to free German forces to take on the Taliban directly could not come at a better time given the fight at hand and the need for the U.S. and its allies to show progress in Afghanistan before the Obama administration’s December review of the Afghan campaign.
Ronald O’Rourke over at the Congressional Research Service has published an updated version of CRS’ periodic report on China’s continuous efforts at modernizing its naval forces. Among other issues, O’Rourke writes that China’s military modernization program is increasingly focused on goals other than the Taiwan issue, such as:
1. asserting or defending China’s maritime territorial claims – including in particular its claim to most of the South China Sea;
2. asserting or defending China’s interpretation of international laws relating to freedom of navigation in exclusive economic zones, or EEZs – an interpretation at odds with the interpretation held by the United States and most other countries;
3. protecting China’s sea lines of communications, including those to the Persian Gulf, on which China relies for some of its energy imports;
4. displacing U.S. influence in the Pacific; and
5. asserting China’s status as a major world power.
Mindful of the expanding scope of China’s military planning, the updated study highlights five potential implications for the U.S. Navy, if it is to counter a modernized Chinese military:
1. developing and procuring highly capable ships, aircraft, weapons, and supporting C4ISR systems for defeating Chinese anti-access systems;
2. assigning a large percentage of the Navy to the Pacific Fleet (and, as a result, a smaller percentage to the Atlantic Fleet);
3. homeporting more of the Pacific Fleet’s ships at forward locations such as Hawaii, Guam, and Japan;
4. increasing training and exercises in operations relating to countering Chinese maritime anti-access forces, such as antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations;
5. increasing activities for monitoring and understanding developments in China’s navy, as well as activities for measuring and better understanding operating conditions in the Western Pacific.
You can read the full report HERE.
(Photo: flickr/U.S. Navy and Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy ships underway off the coast of Indonesia)
The Obama administration is expected to formally notify Congress next month of a $30 billion, 10-year arms package for Saudi Arabia. The deal includes three items: the export of an additional 84 F-15 “S” model attack aircraft to supplement the Saudis’ current inventory of 71 F-15 “S” models, the refurbishing of 70 aircraft across the whole F-15 fleet, and the delivery of an additional 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. (The Saudis currently have 154 F-15s of several variants in their inventory. The 84 F-15 “S” models will not be equipped with long-range weapons systems, among other components, due to Israeli concerns.) If the deal is finalized, the new jets could be delivered as soon as 2015. If it comes through, this arms package will strengthen the bilateral U.S.-Saudi relationship, improve the Kingdom’s relations with other U.S. allies in the Gulf, and provide a boon to the U.S. defense industry.
Most importantly, this contract will boost U.S.-Saudi ties. The export of defense equipment is a strong display of U.S.-Saudi solidarity. Moreover, a Foreign Military Sale of this magnitude will certainly attract much attention and bring dozens of high level officials from both sides to the table. Saudi Arabia’s air bases are strategically located to secure the border on its western shores of the Red Sea, north of Bahrain on the Persian Gulf, and just north of the Saudi-Yemen border. Saudi airpower was last seen in action in January in the south, supporting campaigns against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. While these jets will likely continue to aid in counterterrorism operations, strengthening Saudi airpower in the eastern region of the Kingdom could support a future U.S. containment strategy vis-a-vis Iran. With an influx of technologically advanced aircraft, the Saudis will be able to contribute to a Western-backed shield on the west bank of the Persian Gulf.
Listening to Defense Secretary Robert Gates announce his plan to improve Pentagon business practices, it makes you wonder whether he’s part of the Obama Administration. Over the past year or so, Gates has “curtailed or cancelled” about 20 programs, “programs that if pursued to completion would have cost more than $300 billion.” This latest round of reform proposals includes the closing of U.S Joint Forces Command, one of the 10 combatant commands that are the crown jewels of America’s globe-girdling military power.
Is any other federal agency doing anything remotely similar?
In his testimony to the House Budget Committee this spring, Education Secretary Arne Duncan boasted that his department added “400,000 jobs overall, including more than 300,000 education jobs.” He went on to talk about billions more in various “award” programs to states and individual school districts. When the Obama cabinet gathers, other secretaries exchange ideas on how to spend money. Gates reports on his latest plans to cut.
And which cabinet department is embroiled in two wars?
Nonetheless, Gates’ actions are overwhelmingly well-taken. Joint Forces Command was an idea that had come and gone – as, indeed, is the all-for-one, lowest-common-denominator concept of jointness. Some of the command’s war-related work, such as the human terrain teams, may be salvageable, but JFCOM never realized its promise and was always the services’ lowest priority for assigning talent. Even better is the halt that’s been called in the “in-sourcing” of contract work. Contractors at least could be fired; federal workers can’t. Gates rightly observed that “when you take the money away,” the contractors go away, too.
Most of all, Gates is making a bet that if the Pentagon is seen to be serious about eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse,” that the department will be able to avoid the budget axe now swinging dangerously overhead. He prefaced his remarks to us think-tank-types by fretting about the growing bipartisan enthusiasm that defense spending be “on the table” when deficit reduction plans are hatched. Gates even made an offhand comment about his need to talk to the Erskine Bowles-Alan Simpson deficit reduction commission. Gates is correct to worry about placing the nation’s security in the hands of empowered accountants.
But this ploy is a little like drawing to an inside straight: a pretty long shot that reflects an inherently weak hand. To begin with, the gap between potential savings from reforms and what’s needed to refurbish the force is much greater than the $10 to $15 billion Gates is hoping for. More profoundly, the Obama budgets, which even at 1 to 2 percent “real” growth will mean more program and force cuts, are simply an inadequate response to an increasingly dangerous world.
It would be better if the secretary – or the commander in chief – talked about the value that Americans get from what remains, relatively, a very small investment. For less than 5 cents on the dollar, the U.S. military provides a remarkably durable, global security architecture that is the framework for unprecedented economic prosperity and political liberty. Does the Pentagon need better business practices? Yes; of course. Will Gates’ reforms make us safer? Only marginally.
(DoD photo by R. D. Ward/Released)
According to a report emanating from Taipei, the U.S. is going to sell to Taiwan two Perry-class frigates that are soon to be retired from the U.S. Navy. Neither Washington nor Taipei has yet confirmed the sale, but it would align with what appears to be a new administration tack on China policy. The United States has recently adopted a tougher stance toward China, with the Obama administration practicing “a distinctly American realism” in its dealings with Beijing, as my CDS colleague Dan Blumenthal has been arguing. This is good for America and good for Taiwan. Could F-16 sales be next?
(Photo: flickr/Taiwan frigate)
Later this month, a government-appointed panel will present Prime Minister Kan with a set of recommendations for Japan’s National Defense Guidelines Program (NDGP), offering the first glimpse into what the Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) security and defense policies will look like for the next five years. The panel calls for Japan to take a more proactive role in maintaining regional stability and to fashion a more robust deterrent capability. Driving these changes is Tokyo’s view that Beijing is demonstrating its will to become the dominant Pacific power, while the U.S. military in the Pacific is perceived to be in relative decline vis-à-vis China’s growing military assertiveness.
The panel recommends scrapping the existing defense plan which evenly deploys elements of Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF) throughout the country, in order to concentrate them in the southwest region, near the Nansei (Ryukyu) Islands. The Nansei Islands are of strategic importance because they encompass the “first island chain,” spanning from Okinawa to Taiwan and the Philippines, defining China’s strategic defense lines as well as the closest access point to and from the Japanese mainland. By concentrating troops in this region, Japan will be better positioned to deal with multiple contingencies and small-scale invasions on the Korean Peninsula as well as in the Taiwan Straits. The shift will also allow Japan to better monitor and respond to Chinese naval activity in the area. Earlier this year, two Chinese submarines and eight destroyers, the largest number of People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) vessels yet, entered Japanese waters unannounced, an unprecedented move that exhibited China’s will, and capability, to conduct naval operations beyond its maritime periphery. Concentrating SDF troops in the southwest takes Japan’s 2005 NDGP one step further by not only identifying China as a threat, but enabling Japan to better answer it.
In a recent testimony before the Chilcot Commission, Britain’s inquiry into former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003, retired general Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the British Army from 2006 to 2009, claimed that the service he used to command came close to “seizing up” in Iraq in 2006. Dannatt, who only just ended his brief stint as a defense policy advisor to Britain’s new conservative Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, told the commission that Blair’s decision to commit the British Army to Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2006, while involved still in Iraq, amounted to a “perfect storm”:
You can run hot when you are in balance and there is enough oil sloshing around the engine to keep it going. When the oil is thin, or not in sufficient quantity, the engine runs the risk of seizing up. I think we were getting quite close to a seizing-up moment in 2006. […] We could see that perfect storm coming to fruition in about the middle of 2006 and I would contend that it did.
A look at U.K. force deployment levels shows that, in 2006, Britain had deployed a little over 12,000 troops to Iraq and Afghanistan: 7,000 to Iraq and about 5,000 to Afghanistan. If Dannatt is correct, then, Britain had reached the limits of its expeditionary capacity with the simultaneous deployment to two overseas theaters of less than the equivalent of four U.S. Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs). (Army BCTs typically consist of 3,500 troops.)
DefenseNews reports that the Marine Corps is in the process of examining the future force structure requirements of a post-Afghanistan Corps. According to Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work, a Force Structure Review Group (FSRG) at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, supported by the Marine Corps staffs as well as the outgoing and incoming Marine Corps commandants, will spearhead the study. The Corps’ future requirements study, Undersecretary Work said, will be informed by the conclusions of this year’s primary U.S. defense policy reviews, such as the Quadrennial Defense Review, and distill the Corps’ major lessons-learned over several years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Initial changes to the Corps’ force structure could come into sharper focus as early as next year when the Pentagon issues its Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for 2013. Specifically, Undersecretary Work and his team at the Pentagon are looking at six areas that will come to define the force structure of the future Marine Corps:
First, a renewed emphasis will be put on the Corps’ “naval character.” First created in 1775 as a naval infantry force, Iraq and Afghanistan have compelled the Corps to perfect the art of continuous land warfare with the unintended consequence of temporarily disconnecting the Marines from their sea-borne heritage. Therefore, the FSRG, pursuant to the expressed desire spelled out in the guidance documents of three successive Marine Corps commandants to return the Corps to its maritime roots, will likely result in a “tighter linkage” with the U.S. Navy. This mission to return the Corps to its roots will be aided by the commissioning of several new maritime platforms over the coming years, namely Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship and the Joint High Speed Vessel. In addition to a review of its tactical aviation plans – the arrival of the vertical take-off and landing variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be one critical component in this planned review – the Corps will be reconfigured to deploy and operate in smaller force packages equipped with a broader array of fighting capabilities.