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Posts Tagged ‘Defense’
December 2nd, 2014 at 6:33 pm
Obama’s New Defense Secretary Looks Like a Yes-Man

There’s no requirement that the Defense Secretary have actual military experience, but the selection of Ashton “Ash” Carter as the nominee to replace Chuck Hagel says a lot about what President Barack Obama wants from his next Pentagon chief.

“In addition to a broad understanding of the Pentagon bureaucracy, Carter is seen as a master of managing large budgets, a premium in the present era of continued belt tightening on Capitol Hill, as well as an expert on weapons acquisitions,” reports CNN.

“He also has a firm grasp on understanding the trends and technology of warfare in the future.”

Previously, Carter served as Deputy Defense Secretary – the Pentagon’s number two position – under Hagel and Leon Panetta. He’s bounced between academia and government with great success. Carter is apparently respected by the top military brass and is expected not to generate much controversy from Republicans when formally announced.

Yet for all the operational strengths Carter brings to the table – which appear to be considerable and surely appreciated on a day-to-day basis – missing from CNN’s bio piece is any mention of whether Carter as SecDef will have strong principles to guide his recommendations to President Obama regarding military strategy or foreign policy.

And maybe that’s the point.

From the looks of it, Ash Carter is a hardworking, intelligent man who knows how to get things done within a hugely important bureaucracy. Missing from his portfolio, though, is any indicator that he will be much more than yes-man.

Then again, maybe that’s the point.

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:57 pm
Thanks to United Airlines, Navy-Air Force Football Game Back On

It took United Airlines offering to bailout the Pentagon, but it looks like the privately funded Navy-Air Force college football game will be played as scheduled this Saturday.

On Tuesday, Obama administration officials at the Department of Defense had suspended all athletic contests at the three service academies because of the government shutdown.

But after an outcry over the cravenly political move, United Airlines offered to fly the entire Air Force football team for free to Annapolis. That, apparently, shamed Pentagon officials into letting the game go on as scheduled.

It’s good to see that college kids training to defend our nation won’t be used as pawns by liberals trying to score political points over the funding impasse. But it’s still distasteful that this disgusting strategy was used in the first place.

October 2nd, 2013 at 6:12 pm
Obama Admin Cancels Privately Funded Service Academy Athletic Events

First the Obama administration barricaded veterans from visiting the open-air World War II monument.

Then it ordered the forced closure of a privately-funded colonial farm.

Now comes word that the Department of Defense is ordering the service academies to suspend all intercollegiate athletic events during the government shutdown because of “optics.”

On Tuesday, a soccer game between the Naval Academy and Howard University was postponed indefinitely due to an order from DOD.

Up next may be the nationally televised football game between Navy and the Air Force Academy scheduled for Saturday.

“The potential revenue loss to the Naval Academy Athletic Association would likely exceed $4 million,” a Naval Academy spokesman told the Capital Gazette. “That money comes from ticket sales, sponsorship, parking and concession revenue. The largest revenue stream is the payout NAA receives from CBS Sports Television.”

The worst part about this – The athletic program at Navy is completely funded by private donors. Air Force could make the trip without using any government money as well.

In other words, all expenses for Saturday’s game could be held without congressionally appropriated funding, yet the political officials running the military won’t allow it to happen.

When asked for DOD’s rationale, Navy’s Athletic Director said he was told it was about “optics.” “It’s a perception thing. Apparently it doesn’t resonate with all the other government agencies that have been shut down,” he said.

This isn’t politics. It is ugliness pure and simple.

H/T: National Review Online

June 19th, 2013 at 4:33 pm
Obama Admin at War over Syria

Jeffrey Goldberg says debate is white-hot inside the Obama administration over whether to use U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria’s airbases.

According to Goldberg’s sources, Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for immediate and sustained airstrikes to punish Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons against rebels. Earlier, President Barack Obama had said that such use would justify an increased American response to the rising number of deaths in the war.

But Kerry’s airstrikes idea was shot down in a tense Situation Room exchange by Army General Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon estimates that at least 700 sorties would be needed to effectively destroy the airfields. That increases the probability an American pilot would be shot down, killed or taken as a prisoner of war.

The dilemma on Syria is this: No one wants the conflict to turn into another occasion of genocide like Rwanda or Darfur, but no one is eager to get involved in a fight where the choice of ally is either the Hezbollah-aligned regime or the al-Qaeda-aligned rebels.

So far, the Defense Department is winning the argument. The absence of a clear definition of victory means the Obama administration likely won’t do much else than send small arms and ammo to the rebels – a symbolic gesture that won’t do much to change the course of the war.

Considering the information available, that’s probably the best move to make.

May 14th, 2013 at 5:10 pm
DeMint Supports Defense

Newly installed Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, former senator from South Carolina and favorite of conservatives just about everywhere, was in Mobile, AL last week to give  a speech for the superb Alabama Policy Institute. I wrote about it here.

But one part of my interview I did not write about last week (because it didn’t fit the main theme I was writing about) should give pause to those so-called conservatives, mostly younger ones, who seem blithely unconcerned (or at least only marginally concerned) with the continuing cutbacks in the U.S. defense budget.

I asked DeMint if he was more or less satisfied with how the battle over the budget “sequester” had played out. Frankly, I was not even thinking about defense, even though I have written that Republicans should have moved heaven and earth to protect defense from most of the effects of sequestration. When I asked the question, my assumption was that he would say he was largely satisfied with this interim step in the ongoing budget battles; my idea was to ask a follow-up question, based on the details of his response, about the bigger pictures of the larger, long-term budget problem.

I give that context only to show that I did not prompt DeMint in the slightest about defense. But here’s what he said, with his first words in response to my question:

“No, I’m not happy because so much was taken out of defense.” Then, after about three sentences to say he also didn’t think sequestration did enough to restrain spending on matters other than defense, he returned to his original point: “We do need to go back and figure out if we have enough money for modernization of our defense forces. I don’t think we do.”

This is significant. DeMint is well-known as a spending cutter, a hero to small-government advocates, a budget balancer extraordinaire. Yet, given the chance to crow about how Republicans had won a political skirmish against Obama with regard to sequestration, DeMint’s first thought instead turned toward protecting our nation from foreign threats. Tea Partiers, younger conservatives, and the increasing strain of conservatives who tend toward isolationism all should pay heed.

The fact of the matter, as Frederick W. Kagan wrote in the May 6 National Review (and as the good folks at The Weekly Standard have repeatedly argued in theme if not in the following specific examples), the sequester directly has caused “the cancellation of scheduled deployments of eight U.S. Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier destined for the Persian Gulf, and the grounding of 17 U.S. Air Force squadrons,” resulting in “a devastating blow to American global credibility just when our enemies and friends are watching most closely.” We thus have “created a window in 2013 during which the United States will have no aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf,” thus leading the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publication Mashregh to exult that this move gives the lie to any perceived threat of American military force (if Iran suddenly brings to full fruition a nuclear weapons program).

Kagan described plenty of other dangerous effects on our defense forces as a result of sequestration, and explained why it is that President Obama has far less ability to move funds among Pentagon accounts (and thus to avoid some of these ill effects) than is widely assumed.

Kagan is correct, as is DeMint. It’s long past time for conservatives to start again recalling, and acting on, those once-prominent parts of our beliefs, growing from our Goldwater-Reagan roots, that always have placed a strong national defense posture front and center among public-policy imperatives.

February 14th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Republicans to Filibuster Hagel?

It looks like Quin’s prediction that Senate Republicans would filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Defense Secretary was right on.

Politico and Fox News are reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t have 60 votes necessary to shut down a threatened Republican filibuster, so it looks like Hagel will be in confirmation limbo until at least February 25th.

The reasons given revolve mainly around trying to pressure the White House to turn over documents detailing the Obama Administration’s response during and after the terrorist attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  So far, there have been only cursory remarks by Republican Senators that a vote on Hagel is being delayed because of problems raised by his past policy statements and inconsistent testimony two weeks ago.

Right now, it looks like the GOP, as the minority party in the Senate, is trying to assert itself any way it can.  But there is a risk the move could backfire, if over the next week or two President Obama successfully frames the filibuster as over a dispute about an issue unrelated to Hagel’s fitness to run the Pentagon.  To avoid that, Republicans should be prepared to make a compelling case against Hagel on the merits, in every forum possible.

January 31st, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Hagel Flunks Confirmation Hearing; Still Might Pass Senate

Looks like Quin might get his wish on Chuck Hagel’s nomination.  President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee misstated the Administration’s policy on containment of Iran twice; once when Hagel said he supported Obama’s policy of containment, then when he said there was no policy.  It took Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) to remind Hagel that, actually, “We (i.e. America) do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment.”

Hagel also said during his confirmation hearing today that he doesn’t know enough about military programs and technology, but promised that as Defense Secretary he would do the necessary cramming to get up to speed.

Overall, Hagel did himself no favors with the senators who oppose his nomination, and may have given fence-sitters enough wiggle room to justify abandoning him.  My guess, however, is that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will work the phones and twist the arms necessary to save the Administration from a humiliating No vote on confirmation.

January 17th, 2013 at 8:02 pm
Questions for Hagel

George Will has some excellent questions that should be put to Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel in the latter’s upcoming confirmation hearings.  Here are my three favorites:

●Do you agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s judgment that cuts under sequestration would “hollow out the force”? Can you give examples of procurements or deployments that justify your description of the Defense Department as “bloated”?

●Congress’s power to declare war has atrophied since it was last exercised (against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on June 5, 1942). Should Congress authorize America’s wars?

●Speaking of the imperial presidency, do you believe that the use of drones to target specific individuals means presidents have an unreviewable power to kill whomever they define as enemies? Do you favor “signature strikes,” wherein drones attack not identifiable individuals but groups of young males whose characteristics match the “signature” of terrorists?

Read the whole list here.

January 8th, 2013 at 8:10 pm
Quin is Wrong on Procedure, Right on Substance

In light of the volleys exchanged, let’s review how a senatorial hold works.

From the U.S. Senate’s reference page on chamber rules:

hold - An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.

Note the part stating, “The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.”

What’s a filibuster?

filibuster - Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.

Bear in mind that the majority leader, i.e. Harry Reid (D-NV), “need not follow the senator’s wishes…”  Recall also Reid’s musings that he’d like to enact the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to remove the usual supermajority requirement for overcoming a filibuster, and replace it with a simple majority.  So, if the Senate Democratic caucus wants to, they can 1) refuse to honor any hold requests on Hagel, and 2) change Senate rules on filibusters to shut down the opposition.  With several news outlets reporting that President Barack Obama is ready to pick a fight over Hagel, I think Reid does both if Republicans try to kill Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary with obstructionist procedural tactics.

Maybe if Hagel was nominated for some second tier Cabinet office Republicans could get away with relying on informal procedures to block his next career move.  But with Obama riding high after the fiscal cliff negotiations – Quin’s optimism notwithstanding – I think Republicans will lose, and lose big, with the public if they try to kill Obama’s top Pentagon pick on procedure rather than substance.

It should be said that I don’t disagree with any of Quin’s criticisms of Hagel.  Instead, my point of departure is with Quin’s reliance on procedural obstruction rather than tough questioning and reasoned argument.  Conservatives have one of the most intellectually articulate groups of senators in living memory with the likes of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others.  Let them and military stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham make a coordinated, sustained case against Hagel and his views on foreign policy.  In the process, they might even discover a countervailing vision that convinces the American people.

January 8th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Hagel Should Get the Opportunity to Go Through a Tough Confirmation Process

To start, I’ll take as a compliment Quin’s assertion that “Ashton seems to accept with some equanimity the idea that Chuck Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense” since equanimity is a virtue I’m trying to achieve.

That said, I don’t think there’s a Republican United States Senator willing to take Quin’s suggestion and put a permanent hold on Hagel’s nomination.

It’s one thing for Ted Cruz (R-TX) to make waves on cable television by (rightly) blasting the Obama Administration over Hagel, the fiscal cliff, and gun control, but it is quite another for Cruz to use his senatorial prerogative of “holding” up the President’s nomination for one of the top three Cabinet posts (State and Treasury being the other two); especially since Cruz is in his first full week as a Senator.

Moreover, from the tone of opposition coming from other top Republicans like John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others, I don’t get the sense defeating the Hagel nomination through an obscure “hold” is the proverbial hill upon which any Republican Senator wants to die this session.

Instead, I think Hagel will go through the confirmation process with the kind of probing scrutiny Supreme Court justices get.  It may very well be that, as Quin writes, “The man [Hagel], appears to many to be an anti-Semite.  Opponents make quite a case that he should never set foot in the top office at the Pentagon.”

Well, let Senate Republicans, not just political pundits, make that case on the record.

In the confirmation hearings, during floor debate, and in an actual speaking filibuster if it comes to that, Senate Republicans will have many instances to make precisely the case Quin alludes to, and any other substantive policy criticisms about Hagel they think will defeat his confirmation.  But let’s have the argument in public, through the normal process of a presidential nomination.

U.S. Senators like to think they work within “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”  Let them prove it with a robust examination of Chuck Hagel’s fitness to be the next Secretary of Defense.

January 7th, 2013 at 12:16 pm
Sizing Up the Hagel Nomination

Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is poised to be nominated as the next Defense Secretary.  Politico’s Josh Gerstein has an interesting round-up of the five constituencies most likely to oppose Hagel, but I want to see how President Barack Obama’s pick articulates his position on military spending cuts.

After the fiscal cliff mess, Republicans are aiming to reform entitlements, while Democrats would prefer to ax the Pentagon.  If Hagel can give a reasoned defense for eliminating some unnecessary programs – such as projects that serve to stimulate local economic development rather than national security – then a way could be opened for responsible spending reductions over a wider array of budget areas.  Unlike the automatic spending sequester scheduled to reappear at the end of February, a Hagelian contribution like the one I’m imagining could go a long way to getting on the table real cuts that the broader public can accept.

We’ll see if Hagel makes good on the opportunity.

April 13th, 2012 at 1:43 pm
How Demographics Affect Defense Spending

The Daily Caller profiles a new book, Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics, that explains why aging and shrinking populations in China, Japan, and Europe will dramatically alter American foreign policy.

Some of the book’s findings are startling:

  • By the end of this decade India will surpass China as the most populous nation.
  • Japan will lose 1 million people a year by 2060, contracting from 127 million to less than 87 million.
  • Europe’s expensive social welfare model and aging populations will increasingly spur governments to scale back military spending in order to fund burgeoning entitlement program.
  • Even though America’s current rate of replacing itself gives it a demographic advantage, unless serious reforms are instituted to entitlement spending, it too will continue to cut military expenditures to pay for rapidly expanding benefits for the elderly.

India surpassing China means that democracy – not a communist-controlled autocracy – will be the government adopted by the most populous country on Earth.  It may also encourage the United States and India to forge a closer strategic partnership around shared values to check China’s ambitions.

And of course, we’ve already seen how the European model of heavy on services, light on defense is making the region – though not a few individual countries – increasingly irrelevant when it comes to making the world safe.

In his budgets, President Barack Obama has chosen to increase spending on entitlements and gut defense, arguing like a European that multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and NATO can accomplish more than any one nation.

Paul Ryan highlighted this danger in his latest budget proposal, “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal.”  In it, he faults President Obama for cutting $500 billion from the Defense Department instead of making the changes needed to entitlements so that Americans can be protected both at home and abroad.

Americans need not accept decline through badly prioritized budgets.  Instead, using innovative entitlement reforms like the ones in Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, we can have sustainable entitlement programs and a robust defense.

We’ve got the people.  Now we need to implement the right policies.

August 1st, 2011 at 1:50 pm
Grudging Acceptance, Perhaps, of a Smelly Deal

Here was my take on things, this morning, at The American Spectator.

Short version: I think the debt deal DOES, in effect, protect pretty well against tax hikes, but it does not protect enough against defense cuts of an unwisely large size.  But the ultimate fate of defense, and indeed of all of this, will depend on the 2012 elections — and in the meantime, the change in direction of government spending will probably be noticeably helpful. Conservatives have every right to grumble about this result. But wise conservatives will certainly not reject it out of hand. In short, it’s a close call that probably will attract slightly more conservative votes than it will repel.

June 3rd, 2011 at 5:12 pm
Ryan Rethinking Presidential Run?

Columnist Michael Barone thinks that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) may be reconsidering his decision not to run for president in 2012.  How else to explain Ryan’s recent pro-American Exceptionalism foreign policy speech?  Paraphrasing Barone, how often do committee chairmen weigh in on issues outside of their jurisdiction?

Here’s an excerpt from the concluding section of Ryan’s speech:

A more prosperous economy enables us to afford a modernized military that is properly sized for the breadth of the challenges we face. Such a military must also be an efficient and responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in order to maintain the confidence of the American people. The House-passed budget recognizes this, which is why it includes the $78 billion in defense efficiency savings identified by Secretary Gates.

By contrast, President Obama has announced $400 billion in new defense cuts, saying in effect he’ll figure out what those cuts mean for America’s security later. Indiscriminate cuts that are budget-driven and not strategy-driven are dangerous to America and America’s interests in the world. Secretary Gates put it well: “that’s math, not strategy.”

I’ll close on a final thought: Britain’s premature decline was triggered by a crisis of confidence among its political leadership. Once they concluded that they should manage Britain’s decline, it mattered little what Britain was objectively capable of achieving on the world stage. This crisis of self-perception was fatal to Britain’s global leadership.

Today, some in this country relish the idea of America’s retreat from our role in the world. They say that it’s about time for other nations to take over; that we should turn inward; that we should reduce ourselves to membership on a long list of mediocre has-beens.

This view applies moral relativism on a global scale. Western civilization and its founding moral principles might be good for the West, but who are we to suggest that other systems are any worse? – or so the thinking goes.

Instead of heeding these calls to surrender, we must renew our commitment to the idea that America is the greatest force for human freedom the world has ever seen; a country whose devotion to free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty than any economic system ever designed; and a nation whose best days still lie ahead of us, if we make the necessary choices today.

Thank you.

Thank you, Sir.  Now, how about running for president to see those choices made?

March 25th, 2011 at 5:20 pm
CFIF to Defense Secretary Gates: American Interests Come First, Not Brazil’s
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

A troubling trend seems to be emerging in the defense industry—outsourcing national security to foreign companies.

We recently learned that two defense companies are competing for a proposed American attack aircraft contract: Hawker Beechcraft of Wichita, Kansas, and a Brazilian company named Embraer.  One particularly disturbing fact is that Embraer receives subsidies from the Brazilian government, which has publicly opposed the War on Terror and American efforts against Iran and Venezuela, but now seeks to profit from that same U.S. commitment to military strength.  Another troubling item is an unconventional clause in the potential Embraer contract known as the “Golden Share” clause.  Under that provision, the Brazilian government would be empowered to shut down the operation at any time during the production or maintenance of the aircraft.  Alarmingly, the United States would have no means for recourse on the matter.  That’s not very “golden” for American interests.

Additionally, awarding the contract to Hawker Beechcraft would sustain an estimated 1,400 domestic jobs, whereas Brazil’s Embraer would offer only 50 final assembly positions.  Moreover, the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 is based upon an aircraft already in wide use by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and other American allies.  Consequently, that familiarity and logistical infrastructure advantage would allow for substantial cost savings over the new aircraft’s life cycle.  This is particularly important at a time when the Defense Department seeks cost control measures.

For these reasons, CFIF has written Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to carefully consider these issues.

Americans just witnessed a similar episode between Boeing and foreign company EADS, and outsourcing defense to foreign companies is simply bad policy.  America cannot afford to jeopardize domestic jobs or our national security.