Saturday, March 28, 2009

US and Iran open Afghanistan peace talks

As Obama unveiled his new strategy on Afghanistan, his officials attended a historic meeting with an old enemy - Iran.

Senator seeks to ratify nuclear test ban pact

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, said on Friday he had begun laying the groundwork for Senate ratification of a global pact banning nuclear tests;_ylt=AlSEbn.WKUIy3BVLqjC4fjayFz4D

F22 Raptor $350 million per copy

$64.5 billion has bought a grand total of 184 aircraft.  Do the arithmetic: $64.540/184 = $350.1.  Total program unit price for one F-22, what approximates the "sticker price," is $350 million per copy.

GAO: Army Fut. Combat Sys FCS Immature, untested, over budget

GAO says FCS technology has not yet reached appropriate levels of maturity, that not enough product testing has been demonstrated and that the program is over budget.

Harvard defense expert aims to fight Pentagon cost overruns

President Barack Obama's nominee to fix Pentagon purchasing problems vowed Thursday to root out cost overruns in major arms programs, fearing the $150 billion arms-procurement budget may be on its way to becoming unaffordable.

"Job One" - weapons and services programs that are failing troops because they are too costly or unnecessary.

Ashton Carter, President Obama's pick to be the official in charge of the Pentagon's $400 billion acquisition process, said at a confirmation hearing today that "Job One" would be to "get under control" the department's many weapons and services programs that are failing troops because they are too costly or unnecessary.

U.S. Army can't afford to pay for its current size and the Future Combat Systems program

"For the Army, the fundamental choice appears to be keeping the new, larger Army we have today, or pursuing the massive list of Army acquisition programs" including the $159 billion Future Combat Systems, Abercrombie, a Hawai'i Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's panel on air and land forces, said yesterday.

Obama administration to take aim at trouble-plagued US Navy surface ship programs?

The Obama administration, looking for potential budget cuts, may take aim at the trouble-plagued US Navy surface ship programs.

Obama Afghan strategy not just about bullets, bombs

The new Afghan war strategy unveiled Friday by US President Barack Obama goes beyond "bullets and bombs" to a plan to overhaul international aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Dismissing past aid efforts as ill-organized and underfunded, it calls for a civilian surge in Afghanistan to match the military one as well as for a 7.5 billion dollar development plan and special economic zones for Pakistan.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Progress on Cluster Bombs
President Barack Obama signed the omnibus spending bill, he also made strict rules on cluster munitions exports permanent.

International leaders urge Obama to back nuke ban

President Barack Obama's first meeting next week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is a historic opportunity to set a course for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, a group of some 100 international leaders said Thursday.

Obama and Medvedev, who will meet in London on the eve of a summit on the world economic crisis, should begin by agreeing on dramatic reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the Global Zero group said in a letter delivered to the White House.

The group includes former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., former U.S. negotiator Richard Burt, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Barack Obama's pledges in peril as Blue Dogs take a bite at budget

President Obama was huddled in talks yesterday with congressional Democrats over proposals that would pare his $3.6 trillion budget, raising question marks over how he would fund promises on healthcare, climate change and tax cuts.

Although the President was braced for ferocious opposition from Republicans, who warn that his spending plans will bankrupt America, he also faces growing hostility from a group of fiscally conservative Democrats alarmed by forecasts of a $9.3 trillion (£6.3 trillion) deficit over ten years.

House Budget Committee Cuts Obama Foreign Affairs Budget Request

The House Budget Committee is marking up today a recommended budget resolution for FY 2010 that would cut 5.35 b. from the Obama Administration's international affairs budget request of $53.8 b. Chairman John Spratt's (D-NC) "mark" for the International Affairs budget does not describe any details related to that cut, which provides a budget nearly 10% below what the President had asked for.

The Administration's FY 2009 International Affairs appropriation, including supplemental funding, was $42.7 b., making the Budget Committee's FY 2010 funding level an increase over FY 2009 of $5.8 b., or 13.6%.

Senators Raise Concerns about Defense Cuts in Letter to Gates

Today, 14 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates raising concerns about cuts in the defense budget (see the full letter after the jump). Although Obama's baseline budget seems to reflect an increase from Bush's, the senators point out that with changes in supplemental funding taken into account, the fact is programs will be cut. In the March 9 issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Tom Donnelly crunched the numbers:

In 2009, the Bush administration's baseline budget was $513 billion, and the plan was to spend $523 billion in 2010. The Obama administration announced this week that it would "boost" the 2010 figure to $533 billion. So the Obama budget is bigger than the Bush budget, right?

Liberals want more defense spending left behind

President Obama is facing mounting pressure from his party's left flank to cut defense spending so more money can be spent on social programs.

A letter obtained by The Hill shows that liberal advocacy groups and lawmakers want Obama to seize a moment when Democrats control both Congress and the White House and scrap costly weapons programs they say have drained domestic coffers.

F-22 Fighter Jet Crashes on Test Flight in California

An Air Force F-22 Raptor, the service's most advanced and expensive fighter, crashed Wednesday morning in the desert near Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, killing the pilot.

The pilot, David Cooley, 49, worked for Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane's manufacturer. He was a 21-year veteran of the Air Force and had been with Lockheed since 2003. The cause of the crash is being investigated by the Air Force.

Contractors Defend Their Programs as Pentagon Cuts Loom

Missile defense went on the offensive yesterday, as two major contractors set out to justify their costly programs in anticipation of budget cuts from the Pentagon.

It's a sharp turnaround from recent years of plenty for Boeing and Northrop Grumman, which have joined other big defense companies in benefiting from increased defense spending and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Obama administration has promised new priorities in spending, spurring the companies to try to protect their major programs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

******The potential catastrophe that global climate change could unleash on America makes every other foreign policy crisis pale in comparison.
Scott Ritter:  The potential catastrophe that global climate change could unleash on America makes every other foreign policy crisis pale in comparison. Recognizing the importance of proactive, as opposed to reactive, policy to head off these looming problems, President Obama has crafted a national policy designed to address the principal underlying cause of global climate change: greenhouse gas emissions.

Insight: How do you dissuade Iran?

But anticipation also hovers over another policy realm - nuclear security and the chance of a thaw in US-Iranian relations.

The focus is on President Barack Obama and the policy review he has ordered. Although Tehran insists its nuclear aims are peaceful, the US and its partners suspect a secret plan to develop nuclear weapons - with the potential to shake the Middle East and reawaken a global nuclear arms race.

Lawmakers, officials see cuts to U.S. missile defense
U.S. lawmakers and top military officers on Monday predicted cuts in missile defense spending, now running at nearly $10 billion a year, and said the focus would shift increasingly to cooperative efforts with other nations and networking current weapons.

Marine Corps General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscored the importance of linking existing missile-warning systems, and said Washington could no longer afford weapons designed to address a single threat.

Snowe, Collins champion destroyer
Less than a week after a Defense Department spokesman said that job losses would not be taken into consideration as the Pentagon makes cuts in its 2010 budget, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins wrote a letter to President Obama urging continued funding for the DDG-1000 destroyer.

Monday, March 23, 2009

***Gates has the credentials to lead the battle against entrenched interests of the military-industrial complex.
EVER SINCE President Eisenhower's farewell warning about the unaccountable "military-industrial complex," America has been caught in a web of extravagant spending, woven by defense contractors, lobbyists, retired generals, and legislators seeking to protect jobs and businesses in their districts. Today, that extravagance is no longer affordable, if it ever was. Confronted with soaring deficits, the country cannot go on lavishing money on advanced weapons systems with little utility, or on foreign military bases dating from a Cold War that ended 20 years ago.

Start L. has been quite ill - slowing the rate of posting. Health returning. Rate of posts should improve now.

The War Supplemental is Coming Soon

During his campaign, President Barack Obama promised to end funding national security programs, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, through emergency budget requests. He was especially critical of supplemental requests for programs and activities unrelated to Iraq or Afghanistan or that clearly belonged in the regular defense and foreign affairs budgets.

With Obama's first emergency supplemental budget request coming later this week, now is the time to see whether he'll keep his promise. We clearly need such discipline. For the past eight years, both the Defense Department and the State Department have abused the emergency supplemental budget process to add to their base budgets. Supplementals, you see, don't receive the same scrutiny the appropriators in Congress normally give the basic agency budgets. As a result, by fiscal year 2009, roughly one-quarter of Defense's total budget and one-fifth of State's total budget came through emergency supplemental funds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Russian Defense Cuts Could Affect Space

A reduction in defense spending being considered under a revised federal budget plan threatens key Russian launcher and satellite navigation projects, even though space budgets are not expected to be impacted by the new plan.

President Vladimir Putin has assured government and industry space officials that the revised 2009 draft budget, intended to take into account the worsening economic downturn, contemplates no reduction in allotments for the development of new space projects. Almost 82 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) is to be allocated for three programs, Putin said, without saying which ones. However, he said the new Angara launcher would be among the priority programs, along with communication, navigation and remote Earth sensing spacecraft development.

National Missile Defense: A Status Report
Since the election of President Barack Obama, however, the future of anti-missile defense has grown less certain (Arms Control Association). The Obama administration has framed its national missile defense strategy with the caveat that continued support will be contingent on pragmatic and cost-effective technological advances and will "not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public." Missile defense experts interpret these statements to suggest the pace of development will slow, since the technologies have repeatedly failed in field tests.

Why America’s defence industry is in for some lean years
So far this year the S&P 500 index has fallen by 14%, but defence shares have fallen by 22%. The cloud hanging over the industry is the gloomy conviction that after eight years of George Bush, during which the Pentagon's budget more than doubled to $666 billion, Barack Obama is determined to change things.

The reduction in spending is not exactly imminent. The budget for 2010, which will be announced next month, was largely set by the outgoing administration and will be close to 2009's $654 billion. Because of the winding down of operations in Iraq, the Office of Management and Budget currently expects a 4% increase in base funding over 2009—not exactly short rations. It is what will happen in the subsequent years that is worrying the industry.