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September 29 2012

October 1, 2012



The Path to War With Iran

The United States, Iran are on a collision course, and neither side is blinking.

National Journal

By James Kitfield

Updated: September 25, 2012 | 11:29 a.m. 
September 24, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.

In an endless campaign season filled with forgettable speeches and debates, few Americans will recall March 4, 2012, as particularly noteworthy. On that Sunday afternoon, President Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where he was expected to give a boilerplate talk about close U.S.-Israeli ties. Instead, Obama announced a new policy that put the United States and Iran on a collision course from which neither side has veered.

Declaring that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be intolerable to Israel and run counter to U.S. security, Obama offered Tehran a stark choice: The regime could abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program and “choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end,” said Obama, who then went further than any U.S. president had in describing what lay at the end of that road. “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

In a stroke, Obama took off the table the policy of “containment” and deterrence of a new nuclear power that the United States adopted in response to the Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea all crossing the nuclear threshold. Either Tehran would have to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, or the president was all but pledging a preventive war to destroy it. Seemingly disparate headlines of recent weeks—increasingly frenetic shuttle diplomacy to try and restart stalled talks with Iran over its nuclear program; an unusually public spat between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over “red lines”; the deployment of the largest U.S. naval armada to the Persian Gulf in years, to include two aircraft carrier battle groups—are all indications that Iran continues to hurtle down that dead end.

On Friday evening, the Senate passed a resolution, cosponsored by more than three-fourths of the chamber, ruling out a strategy of containment in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

Dennis Ross was a former special adviser to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Iran from 2009 to 2011. “Once President Obama made the decision that his objective was preventing Iran from getting a bomb, that put us in a different place diplomatically, because once diplomacy fails you really have no choice but to act,” Ross said on Friday in a conference at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Obama doesn’t make impulsive decisions. There was a debate within the administration over prevention versus containment, and he made a very well-thought-through decision to adopt prevention. And as someone who has watched him in action in the national-security arena, I take his decision very seriously. There’s no question President Obama wants to give diplomacy every chance of working, but there is also no doubt in my mind that if diplomacy fails he is prepared to use force.”

The problem is that the diplomacy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program is failing, despite international isolation and crippling sanctions that have caused the Iranian currency to plummet in value. That failure was evident in a late August report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at an underground facility protected from airborne attack, and had blocked the agency from inspecting a site where previous weapons-development work is suspected.

Last week, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Iran’s head nuclear negotiator to try and restart stalled talks, and to express serious concern that Iran is accelerating its suspected nuclear weapons program. Ashton is expected to deliver her findings to the P-5 Plus One (the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany) this week at the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent outburst against the Obama administration reveals the sense of urgency Israel feels as Iran continues to bury more centrifuges deeper underground, entering a “zone of immunity” from Israeli airstrikes. “The world tells Israel: ‘Wait, there is still time.’ Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have the moral right to place a red line before Israel.”

After Netanyahu’s comments caused a diplomatic dustup, he held an hour-long, private phone conversation with Obama that Ross characterized as very serious. Both sides narrowed differences, he said, over how long diplomacy should be given to work, whether some sort of ultimatum should be delivered to Iran to bring talks to a head, and at what point Iran’s program crosses a “red line” that might prompt Israel or the United States to strike.

An Iranian nuclear weapon is seen as an existential threat by Israeli leaders, none of whom believe “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran is feasible, said David Makovsky, an Israel expert and senior fellow at the Washington Institute. Hard-wired into the Israeli DNA is an ethos of self-reliance, he noted, and an instinctive suspicion of security guarantees given by the international community, or for that matter by the United States.

“The debate in Israel at the elite policy level is not about American capabilities, but about American resolve if diplomacy and sanctions fail,” he said. “It’s no secret that Israel would prefer if the United States was involved in a military strike, not only because it would be more effective, but also because Washington would be critical in maintaining sanctions on Iran even after a strike.”

As Washington and Jerusalem try and synchronize their timeline for action, Israel will be under intense pressure by the Obama administration to stay its hand and give diplomacy time to work. The Obama administration, or for that matter a Mitt Romney administration, will be under intense pressure from Israel to either green light an Israeli strike that would almost certainly draw U.S. forces into the conflict, or else specify as clearly as possible what “red line” would prompt the United States to fulfill Obama’s pledge and launch its own strike.

“Israel and the Obama administration are already deeply involved in a wide-ranging campaign of cyberattacks and sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program,” said Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert and director of research at the Washington Institute. Coming up with a final offer that gives Iran what it says it wants in terms of a civilian nuclear program might be useful in clarifying the situation, he said, “because right now we are headed towards war.”   


Iran: U.S. bases fair game if Israel attacks

By Ali Akbar Dareini – The Associated Press

Posted : Sunday Sep 23, 2012 11:58:00 EDT

TEHRAN, Iran — A senior commander in Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned that Iran will target U.S. bases in the region in the event of war with Israel, raising the prospect of a broader conflict that would force other countries to get involved, Iranian state television reported Sunday.

The comments by Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guard’s aerospace division, came amid tension over Iran’s nuclear program and Israel’s suggestion that it might unilaterally strike Iranian nuclear facilities to scuttle what the United States and its allies believe are efforts to build a bomb. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Hajizadeh said no Israeli attack can happen without the support of its most important ally, the United States, making all U.S. military bases a legitimate target.

“For this reason, we will enter a confrontation with both parties and will definitely be at war with American bases should a war break out,” Hajizadeh said in remarks that were posted on the website of Iran’s state Al-Alam TV. U.S. facilities in Bahrain, Qatar and Afghanistan would be targeted, he said.

“There will be no neutral country in the region,” Hajizadeh said. “To us, these bases are equal to U.S. soil.”

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain and the U.S. has a heavy military presence in Afghanistan.


Despite Israeli hints of a military strike, Iran’s military commanders believe Israel is unlikely to take unilateral action against Iran. The Guard’s top commander, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said last week that Iran believes the United States won’t attack Iran because its military bases in the Middle East are within the range of Iran’s missiles.

Iran has also warned that oil shipments through the strategic Strait of Hormuz will be in jeopardy if a war breaks out between Iran and the United States. Iranian officials had previously threatened to close the waterway, the route for a fifth of the world’s oil, if there is war.

Israel believes that any attack on Iran would likely unleash retaliation in the form of Iranian missiles as well as rocket attacks by Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas on its northern and southern borders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel says international diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions against Iran have failed to deter its nuclear ambitions, and he has urged President Obama to declare “red lines” that would trigger an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, coupling his appeals with veiled threats of an Israeli attack.

Obama has rejected these calls, saying diplomacy and U.S.-led sanctions must be given more time and that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. American officials have pressed Israel not to attack Iran unilaterally, a move that could set off regional mayhem just ahead of the November election.




Wind Sprints to the Cliff

NY Times

September 22, 2012, 1:00 PM3 Comments



The wind industry’s main trade association is predicting that new installations will fall to zero without a renewal of the production tax credit, which applies only to projects finished by New Year’s Eve. Since renewal is iffy, some wind machine factories are already shutting down, as my colleague Diane Cardwell reported on Friday.

From another perspective, this is the moment for the feast before the famine: the impending deadline means that a surge of projects are approaching completion.

On Saturday, officials will cut the ribbon on what some people say is the largest onshore wind farm in the United States, Shepherds Flat in north-central Oregon. (We will defer to whatever the Guinness Book of World Records decides; the title of biggest depends on whether the Alta Wind Energy Center in the Tehachapi Mountains in California is counted as one project or five.)

The Energy Department puts the capacity of Shepherds Flat at 909 megawatts, although, like most wind farms, it will operate most of the time at a lower output. Its 338 turbines are spread over 32,000 acres just south of the Columbia River, in an area that has already drawn so many wind machines that it often referred to as a “wind ghetto.”

It is a huge project with huge subsidies. The $1.9 billion project was financed with a $1.3 billion loan partly guaranteed by the Energy Department. Prospects for repayment are considered good; the farm has long-term power sale agreements with Southern California Edison.

Google put $100 million into the project. Other major investors include theSumitomo Corporation and General Electric, which provided the turbines, each of which makes 2.5 megawatts when the wind is strong enough. Running at full tilt, each turbine could meet the average needs of about 2,500 suburban houses.

A study released last year by the Energy Information Administration about federal subsidies for electricity production per unit of energy found that during the fiscal year studied, 2007, wind was one of the largest recipients, at $23.37 per megawatt-hour, compared with coal at 44 cents per megawatt-hour, natural gas at 25 cents and nuclear at $1.59.

The American Wind Energy Association said the study was flawed because it failed to look at the cumulative effect of decades of subsidies to incumbent technologies like coal.

The direction of future subsidies is uncertain. But Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who is likely to be the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee if the Democrats remain in the majority in that chamber in the next session — or the ranking minority member if they do not — decided to seize on the occasion to signal his support for wind.

In remarks prepared for the ribbon-cutting (but prevented from being delivered live because the Senate stayed in session into Saturday), he said that officials who favor reducing subsidies “want to limit America’s energy options.”

“They want to surrender America’s opportunity to compete in a global market for energy technologies,” he said. “They want to deny rural America the opportunity to grow and prosper by harnessing the one natural resource that is in unlimited supply — wind.”

And American turbine manufacturers like G.E. could not prosper without an American market, he said.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has come out squarely against continuing the production tax credit. But the issue divides the Republicans, with some from America’s windy, rural middle favoring the subsidy.

Congress did not act to extend the subsidy before it adjourned and its members left Washington to campaign for re-election. They will return in a lame-duck session right after election day, but prospects for wind then are uncertain as well.


Senate passes slew of bills, resolutions before adjourning

By Ramsey Cox     – 09/22/12 01:16 PM ET


At 3:30 a.m. Saturday the Senate passed more than 40 bills and resolutions by unanimous consent and voice vote before adjourning for the November elections.

The legislation ranged in issues from foreign policy in Burma to Federal Drug Administration user fees. A complete list of bills and resolutions passed follows:


S.1956, to prohibit operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the Europeans Union’s emissions trading scheme, as amended.


H.R.4850, the Enabling Energy Saving Innovations Act, as amended.

H.R.915, the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act, as amended.


H.R.6215, Trademark Dilution correction bill.


H.R.2706, to prohibit the sale of Billfish.


S.Res. 466, a resolution calling for the release from prison of former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko, as amended.


S.Con.Res.50, a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived.


S.3486, Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act, as amended.


S.3193, Barona Band of Mission Indians Land Transfer Clarification Act of 2012, as amended.


H.R.6431, to provide flexibility with respect to United States support for assistance provided by international financial institutions for Burma, and for other purposes.


H.R.2453, the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, as amended.


H.R.6433, to make corrections with respect to Food and Drug Administration user fees.


H.R.4158, to confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts’ space missions.


H.R.4223, SAFE Doses Act.


H.R.6375, VA Major Construction Authorization and Expiring Authorities Extension Act of 2012.


S.3315, the GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2012, as amended.


Concurred in the House message to S.300, the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.


Concurred in the House message to S.710, the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act.


H.R.2838, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, as amended.


S.3341, Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Act of 2012.


H.R.5512, the Divisional Realignment Act.


H.R.6189, Reporting Efficiency Improvement Act.


H.R.1272, to provide for the use and distribution of the funds awarded to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, et al, by the United States Court of Federal Claims in Docket Numbers 19 and 188, and for other purposes.


H.R.2240, Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act of 2012.


H.R.2606, New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act, as amended.


H.R.2139, to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the establishment of Lion Clubs International.


S.3624, The Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012.


S.3625, a bill to change the effective date for the Internet publication of certain information to prevent harm to the national security or endangering the military officers and civilian employees to whom the publication requirement applies, and for other purposes.


S.Res.448: recognizing the 100th anniversary of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.


S.Res.472, designating October 7, 2012, as “Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans Day,” as amended.


S.Res.558, a resolution congratulating the athletes from Nevada and throughout the United States who participated in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as members of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Teams.


S.Res.555, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of “National Retirement Week”, including raising public awareness of the various tax-preferred retirement vehicles and increasing personal financial literacy.


S.Res.561, a resolution recognizing National Native American Heritage Month and celebrating the heritages and cultures of Native Americans and the contributions of Native Americans to the United States.


S.Res.576, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Act.


S.Res.577, honoring the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II.


S.Res.578, supporting the goals and ideals of Red Ribbon Week, 2012.


S.Res.579, designating the week of Sept. 24 through Sept. 28, 2012, as “National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.”


S.Res.580, designating Oct. 14, 2012, as “National Wildlife Refuge Week.”


S.Res.581, designating Oct. 26, 2012, as “Day of the Deployed.”


S.Res.582, recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrating the heritage and culture of Latinos in the United States and immense contributions of Latinos to the United States.


S.Res.583, designating September 2012, as “National Preparedness Month.”


S.Res.584, designating Oct. 4, 2012, as “Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day.”


S.Res.585, recognizing the extraordinary history and heritage of the State of New Mexico, and honoring and commending the State of New Mexico and its people on its centennial anniversary.


S.Res.586, expressing support for the goals and ideals of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month of 2012.


S.Res.587, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of “Lights On Afterschool,” a national celebration of afterschool programs held on Oct. 18, 2012.


S.Res.588, Commending the four American public servants who died in Benghazi, Libya, United States Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for their tireless efforts on behalf of the American people, and condemning the violent attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi.


S.Res.589, designating Nov. 24, 2012, as “Small Business Saturday” and supporting efforts to increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses.


The Senate also designated the names of several courthouses and confirmed military and agency nominations.



Sept. 22, 2012 – 12:21 p.m.

Federal Bench Braces for the Blow

By John Gramlich, CQ Staff


In early September, James F. Holderman, the chief judge of a federal district court in Chicago, sounded an alarm in an unusual letter to bar associations, law firms and other legal groups around Illinois. “The enforcement of the laws and the delivery of justice in the United States courts is in peril,” he wrote. “I write for your assistance.”

The veteran judge, named to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, announced that he was considering closing the busy U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for one day each week between January and September 2013. The proposal is just one step Holderman is weighing to meet the automatic spending “sequester” dictated by the debt-reduction deal that Congress passed last year and President Obama signed into law.

Criminal and civil trials also would be suspended each Wednesday, and court staff would be furloughed. Court supervision of defendants and those on probation would be “severely limited,” Holderman wrote, urging recipients of his letter to respond in writing about how such steps would affect their own work.

The courts, of course, aren’t alone in this. In January, almost every federal agency will share in more than $100 billion of immediate, across-the-board cuts from the sequester knife. Concerned stakeholders ranging from local government officials to defense contractors are protesting about the potential adverse consequences for an array of programs and services, as well as the broader economy.


Most lawmakers view the sequester as harmful, and it was, in fact, designed to be a Draconian threat to force Congress to make tough, long-term fiscal policy choices. But negotiations to replace the sequester with alternative savings have been put off until after the November elections. And there are no signs that an alternative might be found before the sequester kicks in.

Unlike those in the executive and legislative branches of government, federal judges and other court officials have no seat at the negotiating table. Moreover, unlike lawmakers and the president, judges have no bully pulpit from which to condemn actions taken by the other branches of government. Judges generally do all they can to preserve their independence and avoid weighing in on most aspects of public policy outside of the courtroom.

In spite of those limitations, judges responsible for the administration of the federal courts are going public with detailed warnings on what they contend will be serious damage to the judiciary and to the cause of justice. Federal judges are warning of possible breaches in constitutional principles and are working to rally powerful interests — lawyers, businesses, prosecutors, social advocates and other groups that rely on the courts — to help shield the judicial branch from the sequester.

“Everything we do is related to our constitutional or statutory functions,” says Judge Julia Smith Gibbons of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. “We do not have whole programs or activities that we can stop doing,” says Gibbons, who serves as budget committee chairwoman for the Judicial Conference, the policy-setting body for the federal courts.

The swift response to Holderman’s letter provides a view of how effective one judge’s effort can be. The Illinois State Bar Association said business interests would be harmed because a weekly court closure would disrupt “the normal flow of commerce in one of the nation’s most populous court districts.” The chief U.S. pretrial services officer for the Northern District of Illinois estimated that three in 10 sex offenders, as well as those with drug and alcohol addictions and mental health problems, would no longer receive treatment due to the reduced amount of court supervision. The Chicago Council of Lawyers warned broadly of a “highly deleterious impact on the quality of justice in our community.”

The details revealed in Holderman’s letter are likely to mirror the kind of cost-cutting measures that other federal judges face. Chief judges in each of the 94 federal trial courts and in the 13 appeals courts are developing similar plans ahead of January, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

“I feel uncomfortable because it is not the typical way that a judge, even a chief judge, has to spend his or her time: trying to convince Congress that its actions will actually have a detrimental effect on the delivery of justice,” Holderman says.

Obama heralded the courts as the “guarantors of civil justice, social order and public safety” in his national “Law Day” declaration in May that celebrated the country’s legal system.

“The courthouse doors must be open, and the necessary services must be in place to allow all litigants, judges and juries to operate efficiently. Likewise, we must ensure that access to justice is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment that delivers the promise of counsel and assistance for all who seek it,” read the president’s proclamation.

Despite the words, there is trepidation among judges and lawyers about whether those commitments can be met if the sequester is allowed to take effect.

The budget for the federal judiciary is about $7 billion a year, a figure that has remained little changed for the last three years, even as the caseload of the federal courts has increased. Under the sequester, the federal judiciary’s budget would be cut by $555 million, or roughly 8 percent, in fiscal 2013 according to a Sept. 14 report by the Office of Management and Budget. A cut of that magnitude would bring court spending about level with fiscal 2009 spending, according to the Administrative Office, and directly affect the number of court personnel, since most of the judicial budget goes for salaries.


About a quarter of all court employees — roughly 5,400 people — might be fired or furloughed if the automatic cuts take effect, the Federal Bar Association cautioned in a letter to congressional leaders two weeks ago. That would come on top of 1,100 positions already eliminated over the past year as the courts contended with constrained appropriations, the association said.

Besides furloughs and firings, the courts are likely to suspend civil jury trials because of insufficient money to pay jurors and skip payments to lawyers who provide defense counsel under the Criminal Justice Act. That law requires free legal representation to indigent defendants. Court clerk’s offices might be required to reduce their hours and other officials might have to pare back the number of security personnel.

Even the mechanics of imposing the spending cuts pose some unique challenges for the courts. U.S. attorneys are financed under a separate budget for the Justice Department, as are U.S. Marshals, who provide security at federal courthouses. This means the courts will need to coordinate with the executive branch in determining how, exactly, to find the required savings. “It’s a tricky, tricky issue,” says David Sellers, a spokesman for the Administrative Office.


Constitutional Concerns

One special consideration that the sequester raises for the judiciary is whether some cost-cutting steps can hold up to constitutional challenges. The Bill of Rights specifically guarantees defendants the right to counsel, the right to a speedy trial and the right to a jury trial. The definition of “speedy” may come under new scrutiny if the sequester causes the courts to pare back their workload and delay some trials.

Some cuts that judges are discussing have encountered legal problems in the past. In 1986, for example, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 7th Amendment guarantee that “the right of trial by jury shall be preserved” had been violated by a lengthy suspension of civil jury trials by federal district courts in Alaska and California.

“The availability of constitutional rights does not vary with the rise and fall of account balances in the Treasury,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority in that case, Armster v. United States. “The constitutional mandate that federal courts provide civil litigants with a system of civil jury trials is clear. There is no price tag on the continued existence of that system, or on any other constitutionally provided right.”

Missed payments to federal defense lawyers or to private lawyers who assist when federal defenders cannot handle a case may raise constitutional questions about whether defendants are being provided effective counsel.

In some cases, defendants might not receive counsel at all, which, in turn, might help the defendants avoid trial, but at the same time — at least theoretically — pose a concern for public safety. “Dismissal of criminal trials may have to occur as many sole practitioners may be unable to accept appointments without compensation,” the Federal Bar Association said in its letter to Congress.

An inherent problem with across-the-board automatic spending cuts for the judiciary is the conflict of interest that might arise if judges are asked to weigh in on the constitutionality of such spending reductions on the delivery of justice.

“I hope I don’t have to face that issue,” Holderman says.


Competing With the Debt

Some legal groups, including the Chicago Bar Association in its response to Holderman’s letter, argue that the courts — as a separate branch of government — ought to be exempt from the sequester. Privately, some judges agree. But lawmakers may have other ideas, even if they are fundamentally sympathetic to the plight of the courts.

Jo Ann Emerson, the Missouri Republican who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for judiciary spending, has always been a strong supporter of the courts, says Sellers of the Administrative Office. But Emerson has made clear that deficit reduction is a top priority for her.

“We will try to ensure that you have the resources needed to accomplish your important mission,” Emerson told appellate Judge Gibbons during an appropriations hearing in March. But regardless, Emerson said, the growing, $16 trillion federal debt compels Congress “to reduce spending, and I’m committed to bringing down the deficit.”

All sides agree it’s anyone’s guess how the postelection negotiations will turn out, and how the courts will fare.

“It’s going to be highly political and it’s going to be a very intense negotiation,” says one House Republican aide. The courts’ unique concerns are understandable, but also part of a much larger battle as officials in the executive and legislative branches are “jockeying for position,” according to the aide.



Bipartisan Group of Senators Sound the Sequester Alarm

National Journal

By Elahe Izadi

September 24, 2012 | 3:59 p.m. | 

Lawmakers may have left town, but some are already readying the groundwork for lame duck sequester negotiations.

A bipartisan group of six senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that a sequestration alternative has to be decided upon before January, and calling for any bipartisan proposals to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation by November. 

The letter, addressed Sept. 21, was signed by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., John McCain, R-Ariz.,Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. They stress the need to pass a bipartisan, long-term deficit reduction plan to avoid the sequestration and “provide as much certainty as possible for businesses and consumers.”

The letter highlights looming cuts such as those to the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to federal education funding.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell:

We face a critical challenge in the next few months:  balancing the need to reduce the deficit with the need to safeguard important priorities, particularly protecting our national security, vital domestic programs, and our economic recovery.  We believe it is imperative to enact a bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid the severe economic damage that would result from the implementation of sequestration. Any deficit reduction package should be long term and should provide as much certainty as possible for businesses and consumers.  

The Congressional Budget Office has already warned sequestration in combination with the expiration of current tax policy could send our fragile economy back into a recession and raise unemployment above 9 percent, and the administration agrees that sequestration “would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”  Failure to act to address the debt would result in sequestration taking effect in January 2013 with significant detrimental impact on our fragile economic recovery.  According to a report done for the Aerospace Industries Association, if sequestration is allowed to occur in January, the nation will lose approximately 1 million jobs because of defense budget cuts and 1 million jobs because of domestic cuts in 2013.

Make no mistake about the devastating impact of sequestration.  According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sequestration would leave our nation with its smallest ground force since 1940, smallest number of ships since 1915, and smallest Air Force in its history, and “would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.”  The indiscriminate across-the-board defense cuts scheduled to start this January would result in a 9.4 percent reduction to defense discretionary funding and a 10 percent reduction to defense mandatory spending programs.  The administration reports that “sequestration would result in a reduction in readiness of many non-deployed units, delays in investments in new equipment and facilities, cutbacks in equipment repairs, declines in military research and development efforts, and reductions in base services for military families.” Specifically, the Army would see a $7 billion reduction in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding, and the Navy and Air Force would lose another $4.3 billion each in their O&M accounts.

In addition, sequestration’s impact will be felt beyond the Department of Defense.  On the non-defense spending side, the administration reports that sequestration would “undermine investments vital to economic growth, threaten the safety and security of the American people, and cause severe harm to programs that benefit the middle-class, seniors and children.”  The National Institutes of Health would face a $2.5 billion cut and “would have to halt or curtail scientific research, including needed research into cancer and childhood diseases.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would see a $464 million cut, and states and local communities would lose billions in federal education funding for Title I, special education State grants, and other programs.  

Based on this, we are committed to working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security, important domestic priorities, and our economy.  

Sequestration will endanger the lives of America’s service members, threaten our national security, and impact vital domestic programs and services.  Meeting this challenge will require real compromise, and we do not believe that Congress and the president can afford to wait until January to begin to develop a short term or long term sequestration alternative.  All ideas should be put on the table and considered.  Accordingly, we urge you to press between now and November the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score any bipartisan proposals forwarded to them so that Congress may evaluate these plans. 

We believe it is important to send a strong signal of our bipartisan determination to avoid or delay sequestration and the resulting major damage to our national security, vital domestic priorities, and our economy.  

Carl Levin
John McCain
Jeanne Shaheen
Lindsey Graham
Sheldon Whitehouse
Kelly Ayotte


Report Recommends Cost-Effective Plan to Strengthen U.S. Defense Against Ballistic Missile Attacks; Serious

WASHINGTON – To more effectively defend against ballistic missile attacks, the U.S. should concentrate on defense systems that intercept enemy missiles in midcourse and stop spending money on boost-phase defense systems of any kind, concludes a new, congressionally mandated report from a committee of the National Research Council.

The committee was asked to assess the feasibility, practicality, and affordability of U.S. boost-phase missile defenses and compare them with other alternatives for countering limited nuclear or conventional ballistic missile attacks by regional actors such as Iran or North Korea.

Boost-phase defense systems are intended to shoot down enemy missiles immediately following launch while the rocket engine is still firing. While these systems are theoretically possible, they are not “practical or feasible” because they would have only a few minutes in which to intercept enemy missiles during the boost phase and air- or ground-based systems generally cannot be located close enough to potential threats to be effective. Space-based boost-phase interceptors would require hundreds of satellites and cost as much as $500 billion to acquire and operate over a 20-year span — at least 10 times as much as any other approach, the committee estimated.    

Any practical missile defense system, the committee concluded, must rely primarily on intercepting enemy missiles in midcourse, which can and should provide the most effective ballistic missile defense of the U.S. homeland. Midcourse defense provides more battle space for multiple opportunities to identify and shoot down targets. Currently, the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which deploys 30 ground-based midcourse interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, provides an “early but fragile” U.S. homeland defense capability for a potential threat from North Korea, the report says. However, the GMD has “shortcomings” and limited ability to defend the U.S. from missiles launched by countries other than North Korea, and the Missile Defense Agency’s currently planned improvements will not adequately address these.

To overcome these shortcomings, the committee recommended adding a third interceptor site to the U.S. northeast and several technical fixes to make the GMD both more effective and less expensive. These fixes include developing smaller, but more capable interceptor missiles using tested technologies and employing a suite of proven X-band radar components at five existing early-warning radar sites. These radars, combined with infrared sensors aboard the interceptors, would provide much more time and data for identifying enemy missiles and employing a “shoot-look-shoot” strategy, which allows multiple successive shots at the target if necessary. The recommended GMD improvements could be implemented within the current $45 billion budget requested by DOD for fiscal years 2010 through 2016 provided other unnecessary missile defense programs are eliminated.

The first three phases of the “Phased Adaptive Approach,” under way in Europe since 2009, deploy improved interceptors and radars to protect U.S. forces and NATO allies against an Iranian attack. These phases, if properly implemented, should provide an effective defense of Europe, the report says. However, if the report’s recommended improvements are made to the U.S. GMD, then the final phase of the program in Europe — aimed at preventing long-range missiles launched in Iran from reaching the U.S. — should be canceled because it would be unnecessary for European defense and less than optimal for U.S. protection.

The U.S. should stop all efforts to develop a costly space-based sensor system known as the Precision Tracking and Surveillance System, the report says. The current Space-Based Infrared System, combined with the proposed suite of X-Band radars and interceptor sensors, will provide information that is just as reliable at a much lower cost. The Missile Defense Agency should also reinstitute aggressive research and development to improve abilities to identify actual warheads amid potential countermeasures.

The Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. military should continue improving non-boost systems critical for theater missile defense plans such as the Aegis ship-based interceptors, Terminal High-Altitude Defense, and Patriot-based missile defense. These technologies can also provide adequate protection for our Asian allies.

“For too long, the U.S. has been committed to expensive missile defense strategies without sufficient consideration of the costs and real utility,” said L. David Montague, committee co-chair and retired president of the missile system division at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space. “As the primary agency in charge, the Missile Defense Agency must strengthen its system analysis and engineering capabilities so that it can better evaluate new initiatives before
significant funding is committed.”


“Our recommended approach should provide the most effective missile defense capabilities — particularly for homeland defense — while taking into account the surrounding operational, technical, and cost issues,” said Walter B. Slocombe, former undersecretary of defense for policy and the other co-chair of the study.

The study was funded by the Missile Defense Agency. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit A committee roster follows.


William Skane, Executive Director

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail


Pre-publication copies of Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


Sequestration and What it Might Mean for American Military Power, Asia, and the Flashpoint of Korea

Time Magazine

By Peter Singer


Article | September 23, 2012


Editor’s Note: In a five-part series for Time Magazine’s Battleland blog, Peter W. Singer attempts to dive deeper into the issue of sequestration and what it might really mean for U.S. military spending and power projection across the globe.

PART I: The Sequestration Situation

In recent months, concerns over sequestration and its impact on the US military have reached a fever pitch in Washington.

Sequestration “would destroy the military” and cause an “inability to defend the nation” argued Senator John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee.[1]“Cuts of this magnitude would be catastrophic to the military,” testified General Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the US Army, to Congress.  “From a pure national security perspective, the gap between the U.S. military and our closest rivals will collapse with sequestration,” wrote the Washington Times[2] And it would create a US military akin to a “paper tiger…unable to keep up with potential adversaries.” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “In effect, it invites aggression.”[3]

There is no doubt that sequestration would be a terrible mistake. If Congress is unable to reach a compromise on how to solve America’s debt dilemma, almost half a trillion dollars in mandatory cuts to the defense budget over the next decade would initiate in January (meaning roughly $55 billion in the first year). It is un-strategic to hack away at the defense budget in a generalized manner, cutting the good and the bad by the same percentage, like a butcher with a piece of meat.

Unfortunately, in the effort to fight this scenario with hyperbole, we may be doing a different kind of disservice to US security. While the screams of outrage over sequestration are directed at a domestic American audience, they resonate around the world. Words do matter, especially those said in the capital of the free world about how it sees its own ability to maintain that role. We do know that America’s allies are certainly listening to these statements. For example, at an August 2012 engagement with high level South Korean defense leaders and experts, organized by Brookings and KIDA, the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis, a senior Korean leader said “We hear these statements and have deep, deep concern about what it means for us.” In turn, we don’t know how such predictions of doom and gloom by American leaders are received in capitals like Pyongyang. But one can reasonably conclude that if you don’t want to “invite aggression” then the best tactic is not to go about screaming to the world that you expect to be weak and “toothless.” 

So what we have today is the combination of high stakes, hysteria and the kind of complex issue that too often only policy wonks love to dive into. Indeed, the very word “sequestration” itself seems almost designed to make it hard to understand (it actually comes from an old Latin term meaning to seize the property of someone for the benefit of paying off their debtors or the state).

The following article is an attempt to deep diver into these fears and demystify what sequestration might really mean for US military spending and power. Instead of the typical Washington, DC discussion of sequestration, which has so far largely been focused on questions of jobs and elections, it tries to take the long view. First, we will look at the background of how we got here and the actual drivers behind the looming budget cuts. Then, we’ll place it all into context, looking at what sequestration might mean to the US military spending compared to the world in general. Then, we’ll explore a bit deeper its potential impact on East Asian military spending levels, checking out what it means for one of the most important regions in the world and the new area of American military “pivot.” And finally, we’ll examine just how sequestration might play out in an area where there is perhaps the deepest concern about the potential impact of potential sequestration, the flashpoint of the Korean peninsula.

Segye Choigang is a common term in Korean used to describe the U.S. military.  It means “second to none” or “best in the world.” What readers, both in the US but also places like Korea, want to know is whether that remain the case, if sequestration really were to occur?

Trillion as in T: How we Got Here and What It Means for the Budget

No discussion of sequestration can begin without first looking at the financial situation that got America into this predicament. In the words of leaders who range from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the Secretary of State, the United States faces a “national security crisis” when it comes to our economic security situation. The US debt presently stands at $16 trillion and growing.

What makes the problem worse is the poor track record that both parties have at shrinking this debt. Over the last 50 years, the US has only run a budget surplus five total years.




This figure is all the more alarming given that the national debt now exceeds America’s gross domestic product. If action is not taken to rein it in, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that in 2050 the U.S. gross debt could reach over three times the size of our GDP, which means the US balance sheet looks less like a superpower and more like Greece.

Sixteen TRILLION dollars. Sixteen million million. 16,000,000,000,000. The scale of such numbers dominate any budget discussion not only today, but for the next decade at least. Indeed, the numbers are so astronomical that they lose their meaning. A trillion might as well be a gagazillion or a bodonkajillion. So, perhaps it is useful to imagine what could be bought if somehow the US was to receive a $16 trillion check in the mail. What could America roughly buy with the amount it now owes in debt?

America’s Debt Now Could Buy:

  • 16 Marshall Plans.
  • 32 New Deals.
  • NATO’s military budget for 16 years.
  • The rent for every American renter for 48 years.
  • The mortgage for every American homeowner for 18 years, or
  • 176 weeks of vacation for every American worker

    The good news of the recent political crisis over debt and sequestration is that America’s political leaders are finally taking seriously the degree of this problem. For too long, the building mountain of American debt was put in the category of those many problems to deal with “in the long run,” which meant we didn’t deal with it. For prior generations, it was a problem for their grandchildren, then their children’s problem, etc. Now that $16 trillion of debt is our inheritance, we can pass it on no further. 

    The bad news is how politicians have dealt with this problem, almost exclusively focusing on budget cuts rather than the fundamental drivers of debt growth.

    First came the self-inflicted wound of Congress delaying on extending the debt ceiling in Fall 2011, which prompted a downgrading of the US’s bond rating. When they finally did extend it, the literally last minute deal came with conditions, what is known the Budget Control Act of 2011, that created the current sequestration predicament. This law entailed a first wave of over $400 billion in cuts to US security spending and the creation of a “super-committee” of representatives from both parties in Congress that was tasked with finding a set of reforms that would reverse the debt growth. If no agreement could be reached, the mandatory cuts of sequestration would then kick in at the start of 2013, lopping off 1.2 trillion dollars more in cuts, split between national security and domestic programs. The concept was that the threat of the mandatory cuts would force the two sides to find a way to compromise over the coming year and put together a package of both entitlement and tax reform that poll after poll has found the majority of the American people support.

    Unfortunately, the super-committee proved anything but and failed to come to any agreement. Thus, with the clocking ticking away, the only thing standing between the budget and the swinging axe of sequestration is the slim chance that the rest of the Congress will show the maturity and ability to compromise that its designated representatives on the super-committee lacked.

    The hyper-partisan climate, the diminished power of political party leaders over their constituencies, and the context of an election year makes the challenge of Congress coming together all the more difficult. Hopefully, Congress will buck expectations and come to an agreement. Many believe that this will most likely occur during the “lame duck” session after the fall election. This is a dangerous gamble, as it sets a weighty decision for the last minute and puts the goal of reaching cooperation immediately in the wake of an uncertain election outcome.  So, while sequestration is certainly not a positive outcome, it is a potential contingency whose impact should be evaluated.

    What many commentators ignore, however, is that the potential scenarios for the future are not either sequestration or zero additional cuts. Indeed, it is highly possible and even probable that the hoped for compromise deal that averts sequestration still will have additional defense cuts of significant scale included in them.  For instance, the proposed deals that the super-committee were debating, but unable to execute on, would likely be the starting point of any “lame duck” discussions. These negotiations had additional defense cuts contemplated in the $200 to $300 billion range.

    The essential point here is that the US defense budget is most likely headed for cuts of significant scale. This likelihood is not just a matter of sequestration, but again reflects the overall debt problem (indeed, sequestration will only reach a fraction of the debt reduction needed, another reason to avoid it, as it doesn’t solve the problem and instead would have to be returned to again and again). It also reflects the historic pattern US defense budgets have followed for some 60 years.

    Department of Defense Annual Budget Authority, FY 1948-2016 
    (Measures in Billions of 2012 dollars)


    What is notable about looking at the historic defense budget is that it shows both the significance and novelty of defense cuts to the current generation, who have seen only growth for the last decade. But it also shows the limits of the various looming cuts scenarios, as compared to past post-war drawdowns. The reductions even under the worst case situation of sequestration scenario would take US defense spending not to the bottom of the historic trough but the rough average of overall spending.

    Where these cuts become more significant perhaps, however, is putting them in comparison to the broader American economy. In the past context of both a Cold War and a smaller US economy, a greater percentage of the GDP was spent on defense than now.

    U.S. National Defense Historical Spending as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product


    PART II: Context Matters: Sequestration and America’s Military Spending Compared to the World

    In the last part, we saw how a massive and growing debt (as well as a dose of bad politics) has set America on a path towards sequestration, or, at the very least ,the potential of serious levels of defense cuts. But to understand the actual impact that these cuts might have, including weighing the predictions that such a scenario would “destroy the US military” or mean the US would be “unable to keep up with potential adversaries,” it is useful to pull back and examine where the US defense budget stands in relation to the rest of the world. 

    The US is the only global superpower, with capabilities and responsibilities that dwarf any and every other state in the world. And, as the below charts show, the US defense budget reflects that reality, outspending all other nations by a significant amount. What is notable about the scale of the US budget is not just its relative size to other nations, but also how many other of the major players (albeit an order of magnitude smaller) are close US allies, like the UK or Japan, or unlikely foes, like India or Brazil. Only two of the top ten, China and Russia could be put in the category of potential adversaries.


    Another way to visualize this is to combine all the world’s military spending together. At the height of the Iraq war, US spending was above half of all the world’s military spending, but is now down to slightly above 40% of all military spending. Sequestration would take it down by about 2% more of the pie, roughly 38% of all global military spending, excluding any likely contingency or war spending.



    Indeed, it is only on percent of GDP where the US is not ahead, in second place to Saudi Arabia. But here again, sequestration doesn’t change the overall ranking.


    As a side note, one of the fascinating disconnects in American politics today is between the above data and public perceptions of defense spending, which many unfortunately are quick to exploit in our “post truth” era of politics. Only 58% of voters are aware that the US spends more on defense than any other country in the world. And just 33% recognize that America spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.[13]

    PART III: The Sequestration Story in East Asia

    The US may have global power and responsibilities, but in recent years, a strategic shift has occurred. China’s military has risen in conjunction with its driving economy, which has prompted a refocus on Asia and a “pivot” or “rebalance” in American grand strategy. Thus, while we explored in previous sections the drivers of sequestration and what it might do to the US defense budget in comparison to world military spending, that would miss a major part of the story. One should also put US military spending not just a global context but regional one.

    Within Asia, China is a dominant defense spender, both in its official budget and its more realistic overall unofficial budget. North Korea, which we’ll look at in more detail in the next part, equally has a disconnect between its official budget of $1billion and the more likely estimates of $9 billion. [14]



    However, here again, the numbers take on a far different interpretation when you include the true Asian superpower, the United States, in the context.


    If sequestration were to occur, the US slice of the pie goes down, but is still a dominant slice, even more so if one includes its allies in the weighting.


    Of course, the US has global responsibilities, and so these figures should not be taken as the end of the story. Akin to the German naval position versus the British prior to World War I, a rising regional power like China might present a larger threat than any straight comparison of their relative numbers. A global power like the British back then or the US today can be spread too thin, while the regional power’s resources are all focused (so the British during this period used variations on the “two power standard” as their guide to naval force size, ensuring a fleet larger than the two next powers combined). Of course, in turn, the global power can still bring these other resources to bear in regional scenarios whenever the situation grows important, and that regional power is also counterbalanced by the other allies within the region, who sees its growth as a threat.

    Military spending as compared to GDP shows similar weights. Other than North Korea, which has the dark combination of being a garrison state with a withered economy, the US percentages still rank high regardless of the scenario. Even in the worst scenario of sequestration, the US is still at 3.45% of GDP, a full point higher than China at 2.36% of its smaller but rapidly growing economy.


    Part IV: Sequestration and the Korea Peninsula

    One can easily see how South Korean leaders might be concerned when they hear American leaders say that sequestration would be “catastrophic” for the US military and that “the gap between the U.S. military and our closest rivals will collapse with sequestration.” They share a border with North Korea, a rival that still considers itself to be in a state of war with the US, and in the past has reacted to what it perceived to be weakness with violent acts of aggression. Many, in fact, believe that the original Korean War back in 1950 was started when the North Koreans perceived US weakness and withering alliance ties.

    But as we saw from the prior parts, by any financial measure, the US defense budget would be far from a “paper tiger” that is “unable to keep up” with an adversary like North Korea. Even under sequestration, the US budget is not merely 60% larger than North Korea, but 60 times larger.

    To only compare defense budget numbers, though, would be a mistake. These dollars only matter as far as they translate into the capabilities of the militaries.

    The challenge of exploring sequestration’s impact on US and allied capabilities in Korea is the huge amount of uncertainty that surrounds it. We don’t know yet if sequestration will even happen and, in turn, how it would be implemented if so. While the law calls for across the board cuts, there have been different signals as to what level of specificity these would enact at, and what buckets might be excluded. In September 2012, the White House signaled that its plan for sequestration would be 9.4% to 10% cuts on almost all programs, excluding areas like healthcare and military pay. This may not be the final way it is executed, both because Congress could legislate alternative approaches to soften the blow or the executive branch might interpret the finding more flexibly in execution (many believe that the White House believed that specifying its plans for sequestration now would muddy the waters for the hoped for compromise to avoid it). Already, leaders are discussing ways to give the Pentagon “wiggle room.”[20]

    But if we’re going to weigh whether sequestration would really invite “aggression” or mean that he US military “will no longer be a super power” as claimed by some, we should look at the worst case scenarios.[21]

    The most immediate impact of sequestration in Asia would be lowered spending by the Pentagon on its activities there.  If sequestration’s approximate 10% across the board cuts went into effect, direct American military spending in South Korea in 2013 would decline by roughly $112 million, instead of going down by just $4 million as currently planned.  For all of East Asia, America’s military spending after sequestration would go down by $115 million, instead of the planned increase of $234 million.


    How this lowered spending would immediately translate in real terms would likely be various delays or stops to planned repairs, upgrades, and new construction at American bases and facilities. These planned upgrades might not only affect issues like quality of life (older barracks not being repaired or replaced), but even some areas of effectiveness (the delay of building a new cyberwarfare facility as an illustration). It might even lead to some of the major troop movements planned as part of America’s realignment in Asia being delayed or stopped. Much like sequestration’s cuts back home, this lowered spending then wouldn’t just impact the US troops and families on those bases, but also have a knock-on effect to the local economy that surrounds these bases.

    Of deeper concern, however, may be how the cuts affect various operations accounts, leading to reduced training time, wargames, and exercises. Senior American military officers with worry that fewer exercises with allies in the region won’t just hamper their level of readiness, but also hinder confidence in each other.

    A more direct way to look at how the budget cuts might translate is through reduced capability. The caveat here is that most experts think it unlikely that sequestration will entail military personnel cuts. The White House has said military personnel will be exempt, but it does retain the ability to reassess.[23]

    In either case, it is still useful to examine this scenario, not only as a potential contingency, but also as a proxy for what a generalized 10% loss in capability to US forces in terms of personnel on hand in Korea for day one of any war might look like.

    The below chart shows the combined numbers of US forces in East Asia and their South Korean forces, broken down by services.


    This is how these forces stand in comparison to the North Korean military:


    If US forces were to experience 10% cuts on top of the already expected cuts to service end-strengths, these are how the numbers change.


    Of course, comparing raw numbers of personnel is not the only or even best measure of force capability. Another is to compare the weapons systems they utilize. Below are the American weapons systems based inside South Korea.


    To explore the impact of sequestration then on these forces, we looked at it in two different but harsh scenarios. The first is a scenario in which there are 10% across the board cuts in the systems that are available to US forces in Korea. Of course, again, this is not how the cuts would likely be executed, but it provides a tough scenario to explore what deep cuts would translate into.

    The other is a nightmare version of a more likely scenario. Many believe that if sequestration were to occur,   instead of across the board cuts of 10%, a deal may be worked out whereby the DoD may still be given the flexibility to target more fungible areas within its overall budget, as long as it cuts the whole by 10%. That is, if we follow the pattern of what has happened in the past, deeper cuts would be made to operations, depot maintenance accounts, and civilian workers, in order to spare other less flexible or political sensitive parts of the budget (i.e. military personnel, contingency operations in places like Afghanistan, and the first quarter of FY13). In this scenario, the budget may be cut by 10%, but the Bipartisan Policy Center, for instance, has projected the potential for this to translate into a 30% loss to force readiness from actual FY13 requests.[28]

    It is difficult to project exactly how this might affect the actual forces available in Korea. The raw numbers of weapons in the field would roughly stay the same, but many fear this would create a type of “hollow military.” That is, in an echo back to the post-Vietnam military, because of delayed repairs and maintenance, a significant portion would not actually be ready for use. For this scenario, the 30% force readiness loss is explored. That is, if maintenance is cut by 30%, it is reasonable that a range of some 30% more systems might now be in disrepair or out of service in some way (the actual tables of how maintenance spending translates to readiness are deeply disputed; the goal here was to give a usable range). [29]


    As the above table illustrates, the irony is that cuts from more fungible accounts could potentially create a much worse outcome for allied forces. This is why senior US officers tend to prefer a smaller, more capable force to a large hollow one.

    It is important to add here that a key variable to keep an eye on in such force availability is the effect that sequestration might have on the US aircraft carrier fleet. A significant part of the multirole air numbers come from carrier air groups bundled together on a ship. Currently, Carrier Strike Group Five in Japan and Carrier Strike Group Nine in the Western Pacific are those immediately available to support US ground forces in Korea and supply a bulk of the strike aviation assets. Over time, sequestration could reduce total number of carrier strike groups to as low 8 instead of the current 11. This might happen through sequestration leading to delayed construction, early retirement, and maintenance and refit delays (for example if funding for work on the USS Abraham Lincoln’s nuclear reactor get slashed). Any lower overall numbers of carriers would hamper the Navy’s target of 6 carrier strike groups deployed or ready to deploy, as a smaller number of ships would be spread further apart. It is likely, however, that the Navy would mitigate this by focusing its smaller number of carriers on deployments in Asia at the detriment of other regions (the withdrawal of a carrier strike force from the Mediterranean is an example already).

    Yet, while the numbers of forces available obviously are worse in either a scenario of 10% or even 30% cuts to the US forces, it’s still hard to see any connection to the nightmarish visions being painted of a “destroyed” military that “invites aggression.” And, again, these numbers only reflect what is available in East Asia on the first day of a conflict with North Korea, not forces that might be flowed in from other regions or deployed into action from the continental US (such as long range strike planes and fighter jets based in the US that would flow in by the literal hundreds after a conflict began).

    Another way to answer as to whether sequestration might invite aggression on the Korean peninsula is to look at how these numbers stand in comparison to North Korean assets. This is how a North Korea planner might evaluate the situation, conducting a net assessment of the balance of forces to see if there is a window of opportunity opened up by US cuts.


    Here again, the forces available to the allies grow worse with each scenario, but not fundamentally so. North Korea certainly has not been the most logical country when it comes to its politics. But it’s hard to see how Pyongyang’s net assessment of its foes would draw a completely different conclusion when it has 612 fewer fighters versus just 526 fewer. Or, in turn, how North Korea would see itself gaining a gamechanging advantage as it goes from having 9882 more artillery to 9913 more.

    To make a historic comparison, none of the scenarios is even close to the situation of 1950 that is perhaps the best modern case of American weakness “inviting aggression.” The post-World War II US had a drastically reduced forces in Asia, which combined with diplomatic miscalculation, signaled an opportunity for North Korean aggression. To make matters worse, then the US was only able initially to send the makeshift Task Force Smith to stem the invasion, at which it failed with tragic loss.

    But dig any deeper and none of the parallels hold true. Task Force Smith was just 406 troops. Moreover, Task Force Smith was not just massively outnumbered, it was poorly trained and lightly armed, being made up of infantry facing off against North Korean tank units. Even worse, many of Task Force Smith’s weapons were a generation behind its contemporary foes (The Americans’ antitank rockets, for instance, could not penetrate the newer Soviet-provided tanks that the North Koreans used in 1950). None of this is even in the same range today. This is not just the matter of comparing a makeshift unit of 400 troops with no tanks against a modern fighting force of tens of thousands, armed with everything from tanks to Apache helicopters. There is also the fact that when comparing allied versus adversary weapons today, numbers lie. One does not equal one. For instance, the most common fighter jet in the North Korean inventory today is the MiG-21. It was already becoming outdated by the time of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, and is certainly no comparison to the updated versions of the F-15K used in Korea. Such qualitative differences are important not just in comparing airpower but also how it affects other weapons comparisons. For instance, North Korean’s edge in the number of tanks isn’t just balanced by how much more capable the more modern allied forces’ tanks are, but also by the fact that most of North Korea’s wouldn’t even make it close enough into the fight to engage in tank-on-tank battles. They would instead be taken out well behind the DMZ by allied air strikes (as in Iraq, where most enemy tanks were taken out not by ground fire, but air power).

    Obviously, the long-term shrinking of US spending on research and development would degrade these technologic advantages, but it is still important to remember that overall US military R&D spending is not just bigger than any other nations’ R&D spending in the world, but actually bigger than all but one nation’s overall military spending.

    Part V: Conclusions: Sequestration would be Stupid, but the Sky is not Falling

    There is an immense amount of concern over sequestration, not just inside DC, but also among our allies. Fortunately, for them and for US security, the rhetoric does not match the reality.

    By looking at the actual numbers in their context and even in a few worst case scenarios, we can see that the “gap between the U.S. military and our closest rivals” will not “collapse.” [32]The gap will close, which should worry us, but these rivals still have a long way to go. Nor will cuts “destroy” the US military upon which our allies’ security also depends. As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations captured so well, “It is implausible that the entire U.S. military would be unable to function with just under $500 billion.”[33] Indeed, far from being in a situation of “utter failure,” the US forces available globally as well as in East Asia might be lessened, but would still be quite potent.  And finally, it is hard to square how sequestration would “invite aggression.” A weaker US force would be available to deter and fight foes, but by no means fundamentally changed. Indeed, such a “paper tiger” would actually be supported by spending levels equivalent to the 2007 US military budget.

    But no one reading this should misinterpret it as support for this outcome. Sequestration would be a terribly stupid thing to do. It not only wouldn’t solve the core problems driving the US debt crisis, but it would also cut the defense budget in an incredibly un-strategic manner, cutting both the good and the bad by the same portions with no planning. Ironically, what would play out would be a repeat of what happened during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis that led to the sequestration option becoming law in the first place. In that case, politicians’ inability to compromise led to a needless, self-inflicted wound that harmed the US economy and lowered America’s bond rating. If sequestration is allowed to happen, it would similarly inflict a need-less, self-inflicted wound to the US Defense Department and the people and firms that support it. But just as what happened with the economy, harming is not the same as “destroying.” Shooting yourself in the foot is stupid, but doesn’t have to kill you.

    The point here, instead, is that bad ideas should not be fought with bad analysis. Many believe that hype and hysteria are the only way to force action in the broken American political climate of today. The problem is this political tactic of brinksmanship carries a serious risk of backfire. On the domestic side, drawing false conclusions, stoking fears, and turning them into a partisan wedge has made the very compromise needed to avoid sequestration less likely in the end.

    On the international side, the same hype intended for domestic ears is being taken seriously abroad. And, likewise, the danger is that it causes the very opposite of their intent. It is creating needless fear among our allies and even risks emboldening our foes, who might misinterpret domestic exaggerations of vulnerability as actual opportunity.

    The intent of this deeper dive into sequestration is to dispel this confusion, especially within one of the most dangerous locales for miscalculation and aggression. Sequestration is an outcome that would be quite negative for the US, and hopefully Congress will show the maturity to avoid it. But, whether it happens or not, both America’s allies and potential adversaries, especially on the Korean peninsula, should rest assured that the core powers and capabilities of the US military will still remain second to none.[34]



    [1] “McCain, Graham to Newsmax: Sequestration Will Cause ‘Inability to Defend Nation'”, August 3, 2012.

    [2] Gregory P. Keeley, “Perils of Sequestration,” Washington Times, 8 June 2012.

    [3] As quoted in Micah Zenko, “Top Twelve Defense Sequestration Scare Tactics” August 23, 2012 

    [4] Figure from Congressional Budget Office

    [5] Ibid.

    [6] Ibid.

    [7] Source: U.S. Air Force,  March 17, 2012. Totals include all war and enacted supplemental funding and do not include Department of Energy national security spending. 

    [8] Brownfield, Mike.  “In Pictures: Defense Spending Plummets under Obama’s Budget.”  The Heritage Foundation.  2 May 2012.

    [9] The sources used to assemble this chart include:

    “OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (P. L. 112–155),” Office of Management and Budget, 14 September  2012.

    “Long Term Implications of the 2013 Future Years Defense Program,” Congressional Budget Office,  July 2012.

    International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012, London: Routledge, 2012.

    “DOD Releases Fiscal 2013 Budget Proposal,” U.S. Department of Defense, 13 Feb. 2012.

    Keith B. Richburg, “China military spending to top $100 billion in 2012, alarming neighbors,”The Washington Post, 4 March 2012.

    Pierre Tran, “French Defense Ministry Faces Budget , Staff Cuts,” DefenseNews, 29 June 2012.

    Pierre Tran, “French Budget Holds Defense Spending Flat,” DefenseNews, 2 Aug. 2012.

    Paul Kallender-Umezu, “Japan Strives to Overcome Defense Industrial Base ‘Crisis’,”DefenseNews, 24 June 2012.

    “Highlights: Japan’s 2012/13 budget meets targets with sleight of hand,” Reuters, 23 Dec. 2011.

    “Defence budget (Russian Federation), Defence Budget,” Jane’s Sentinal Security Assessment, 12 March 2012.

    Robert Barlin, “Defence Export Unit: Gulf Region Marketing Opportunities,” Department of Defence, Australian Government,

    Albrecht Muller, “Germany To Boost Defense Budget by 133M Euros,” DefenseNews, 7 Sept. 2011.

    Laxman K. Behera, “India’s Defence Budget 2012-2013, 20 March 2012.

    “Natural resources rich Brazil plans to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP,”MercoPress, 31 May 2012.

    “World Economic Outlook Database.”  International Monetary Fund.  April 2012.

    [10] Ibid.

    [11] Ibid.

    [12] Ibid.

    [13] Rasmussen, Scott.  “Ready to Cut Military Spending.”  Oct 2012. 

    [14] International Institute for Strategic Studies.  “The Conventional Military Balance on the Korean Peninsula.” Based on estimates of 25-33% of total GDP, which is currently projected at approximately $40 billion.

    [15] Sources for figures used in chart include:

    “OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 (P. L. 112–155),” Office of Management and Budget, 14 September  2012.

    Keith B. Richburg, “China military spending to top $100 billion in 2012, alarming neighbors,”The Washington Post, 4 March 2012.

    “China military budget tops $100bn,” BBC News, 4 March 2012.

    Paul Kallender-Umezu, “Japan Strives to Overcome Defense Industrial Base ‘Crisis’,”DefenseNews, 24 June 2012.

    “Defence budget (Malaysia), Defence budget,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, 3 July 2012.

    “The Conventional Military Balance on the Korean Peninsula,” Institute for International Strategic Studies,” 2012.

    “Taiwan Budget 2012,” Finance: Maps of World, 10 Feb. 2012.

    “Singapore raises defense spending by 4.3%,” AsiaOne, 17 Feb. 2012.

    “S Korean defense budget sees 5.6% increase in 2012,” 27 Sept. 2011.

    “Vietnam Announces a 2012 Defence Budget of VND70 trillion (3.3 billion USD),” Defence Studies, 23 Nov. 2011.

    Daisuke Furuta, “Myanmar slashes military spending,” The Asahi Shimbun, 7 Feb. 2012.

    “Indonesia and Philippines to Increase Spending on Defense in 2013,” Defense Studies, 25 July 2012.

    “Long Term Implications of the 2013 Future Years Defense Program,” Congressional Budget Office,  July 2012.

    [16] Ibid.

    [17] Ibid.

    [18] Ibid.

    [19] Ibid.

    [20] Jonathan Allen, “Hill Talks Wiggle Room for DoD on Cuts,” Politico Pro, September 20, 2012.

    [21] Mackenzie Eaglen, As quoted at Politico Pro Defense event, Washington DC, September 20, 2012.

    [22] “Operation and Maintenance Overview: Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Estimates,” Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Feb. 2012.


    [24] Sources for figures used in chart include: 

    “U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2012.

    “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country,” Defense Manpower Data Center, 31 Dec. 2011.

    International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012, London: Routledge, 2012.

    [25] Ibid.

    [26] Ibid.

    [27] Ibid.

    [28] “Indefensible: The Sequester’s Mechanics and Adverse Effects on National Economic Security.”  Bipartisan Policy Center.  June 2012.


    [30] “U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2012.

    International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012, London: Routledge, 2012.

    [31] Ibid.

    [32] Gregory P. Keeley, “Perils of Sequestration,” Washington Times, 8 June 2012.

    [33] Micah Zenko, “Top Twelve Defense Sequestration Scare Tactics” August 23, 2012 



    General Moore: Rising costs a challenge as Air Force maintains, buys aircraft

    Dayton Daily News

    By Barrie Barber

    Staff Writer


    Ever-rising costs to maintain a fleet of aging aircraft could squeeze the Air Force’s capability to buy and field new aircraft and systems, a top service leader said Monday.

    Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II, commander of the Wright-Patterson-headquartered Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, outlined challenges facing the new center to an audience of the Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association. The three-star general said the center will focus on affordability and cost effectiveness amid pending defense budget cuts and operational demands.

    The Life Cycle Management Center, home to 26,000 military and civilian employees from the Middle East to the Pacific, manages the “cradle to grave” acquisition and support of aircraft, engines, electronics, and munitions, among other responsibilities.

    Among the most important priorities is how to “address those (rising operational) costs so we’re not trading off modernization and future capability just to keep hardware operating,” he said. “There’s a balance there because if your weapon systems support costs are going up 6,7,8 percent per year, you will start squeezing out the best new capabilities of new platforms and you don’t want to do that.”

    The Air Force Materiel Command has estimated the average age of an aircraft in the inventory has reached 25 years old, the oldest in the service’s history.

    The Air Force has bet part of its modernization future on the cost-spiraling Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Boeing KC-46 aerial tanker, both programs managed at Wright-Patterson.

    AFMC realigned into five major centers from 12 across the nation this summer, creating the Life Cycle Management Center. The changes eliminated 1,000 jobs and saved $109 million, according to Air Force figures.

    Moore said his command has knocked down communication barriers and appointed a single representative accountable for answering questions about weapon systems, among other changes to improve teamwork, efficiency and cut costs.

    In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, he declined to speculate on how defense budget sequestration might impact his command or area defense contractors. “I’ll go back to what our senior leaders have said that it would be very difficult going into a sequestration environment just given the way that the bill has been written now and how it would be applied,” he said.

    Under a budget sequester, the Pentagon will have to contend with $500 billion in across-the-board budget cuts next January over the next decade unless Congress and the White House reach a deal to avoid the reductions. Senior defense leaders have warned the cuts would be devastating. The cuts are in addition to the $487 billion the Pentagon has already agreed to accept over 10 years.

    The potential for massive cuts has worried both area defense contractors and the military. “When they take an across-the-board cut, it’s going to be very difficult to apportion that cut on a weapon system,” said Dale J. Kirby, president of Dayton Defense. “The workload just figuring out the choices is going to paralyze the system.”


    Intel Rethinks The Radio

    September 25, 2012

    RF Global Net

    By Ron Grunsby


    While computer chips keep getting smaller, faster, and more energy efficient, radio communications devices have not kept pace. Because RF components are analog-based, shrinking them compromises their performance. Intel is trying to solve this problem by creating an all-digital radio.

    At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco earlier this month, Intel CTO Justin Rattner discussed Rosepoint, a “Moore’s Law Radio” that can be made smaller without losing signal strength. The all-digital radio follows Moore’s Law by scaling in area and energy efficiency with digital chip processes.


    Rosepoint is an experimental 32 nm system on a chip (SoC) with a Wi-Fi transceiver and two Intel Atom cores on the same die. To create a digital radio, Intel had to reinvent ways to build parts such as digital phase modulators, power amplifiers, and frequency synthesizers. The synthesizer cancels interference, which allows Intel to combine the Wi-Fi radio with the Atom cores in Rosepoint. Traditionally, Wi-Fi radios have been housed on separate connectivity chips.

    Rattner said Rosepoint is the result of 10 years of research in an attempt to combine digital processing with analog radio signals. At an Intel Developer Forum in 2002, Intel’s Pat Gelsinger envisioned a future where all chips would include integrated communications.

    “In the future, if it computes, it connects,” Rattner said. “From the simplest embedded sensors to the most advanced cloud datacenters, we’re looking at techniques to allow all of them to connect without wires.” No timetable has been revealed as to when Rosepoint will be included in actual products, such as smartphones and tablet computers.


    SOURCES: Phys.Org, ZDNet



    Report: Americans Too Fat for War

    By Laura Spadanuta

    09/26/2012 –

    A group of retired generals and admirals are arguing that Americans are too fat to fight in the military. The group Mission Readiness released the report “Too Fat to Fight?” to argue that junk food should be taken out of schools.

    The report states that “being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service.” More than 27 percent of Americans age 17 to 24 are too heavy to join the military if they want to, according to statistics cited in the report. And the military discharges about 1,200 first-term enlistees before their contracts are up because of weight problems.

    According to CNN:

    Kids on average consume 130 “empty” calories a day from candy, cookies and chips, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mission: Readiness has been working to get rid of junk food in schools since 2010, when it supported the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The act requires the USDA to update nutrition standards in schools.

    The report notes a study conducted in Philadelphia which exposed schoolchildren to healthier food and resulted in a decrease in overweight children as evidence that tactics like replacing junk food in schools can be effective.

    The report calls on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation that would take junk food out of schools, support funding that would improve nutritional quality of food served in schools, and provide children access to more programs to fight obesity.


    7 More Top Universities Offer Free Cyber Courses

    HS Today. Us

    By: Terence Chea, Associated Press

    09/26/2012 ( 9:17am)

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Seventeen leading universities in the U.S. and abroad will start offering free cyber courses through the online education platform Coursera, Mountain View-based Coursera announced.

    The announcement underscores the rapid expansion of so-called MOOCs, or massive open online courses, that are reshaping the higher education landscape.

    Coursera, a for-profit company started by two computer science professors at Stanford University, will now offer more than 200 courses from 33 institutions that are open to anyone with Internet access. Officials said the website has registered 1.3 million students around the world.

    The new Coursera partners include Brown, Columbia, Emory, Vanderbilt and Wesleyan universities, as well as Berklee College of Music and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

    The foreign universities added are Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of British Columbia, University of London, University of Melbourne, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Coursera said.

    The new additions include five public institutions: Ohio State University, the University of Florida, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland and University of California, Irvine.

    “As boundaries and limitations begin to disappear in the world of higher education, Coursera is clearly an up-and-coming player on the global stage and we look forward to partnering with them,” University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in a statement.

    EdX, a competing online platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced this month that it will start giving students the option of taking proctored final exams, which will allow them to earn independently validated certificates to show potential employers or educational institutions.

    In a report issued last week, Moody’s Investors Service said the growth of the online courses could help participating universities generate new revenue, increase brand recognition and become more efficient.

    However, the Moody’s authors warned that such courses, which can reach an unlimited number of students worldwide, could hurt for-profit education companies and less selective nonprofit colleges that could see reduced student demand.


    The Next BRAC: When Hell Freezes Over


    By Tom Shoop

    September 27, 2012

    The Pentagon is facing nearly $500 billion in budget cuts over the next decade — and that’s assuming Congress gets its act together at some point and averts even deeper cuts that would automatically go into effect under a budget sequester.

    Defense Department officials from Secretary Leon Panetta on down think there isn’t much chance of reaching those targets without serious reductions in the department’s infrastructure footprint. That’s why, as Amanda Palleschi reports in the September issue of Government Executive, Defense remains committed to further rounds of the military base realignment and closure process. In fact, the Pentagon requested two more BRAC rounds in its fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

    But Defense executives are realistic about their chances of getting approval for such a move  — that is to say they recognize they’re slim and none. At a Government Executive briefing this week, Defense Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale characterized the response to the BRAC budget proposal among members of Congress as “emphatic distaste.” 

    Part of the problem, Hale admitted, was that the Pentagon didn’t have either projected savings or upfront costs for BRAC in its budget  proposal, leaving members of Congress in the dark about the real financial impact of extending the base-closing process. Not only is the BRAC process typically messy and long, it requires upfront investments to reap any potential savings down the road.

    If Pentagon officials decide to go back up to Capitol Hill with another version of a BRAC proposal, Hale said, they’ll have to do their cost-benefit homework first.

    They also may need to stock up on flame-retardant suits.



    Defense budget chief: Sequester would have serious impact on civilians


    By Tom Shoop

    September 25, 2012

    Civilian personnel in the Defense Department will be “seriously affected” if a budget sequester takes effect next year, the Pentagon’s top budget official said Tuesday.

    There will be a “high probability” of both a hiring freeze and furloughs of current employees should Congress allow the sequestration process to go forward, said Robert Hale, undersecretary of Defense and chief financial officer. Hale spoke at a Government Executive event in Arlington, Va.

    A hiring freeze and furloughs “probably can’t be avoided” in a sequester scenario, Hale said. He said the department “probably won’t look at reductions-in-force” to achieve savings as part of sequestration because they cost too much money. He also said he couldn’t give any specific numbers on possible furloughs.

    “There’s a long process with furloughs,” Hale said. “It will adversely affect our missions, mot to mention the people involved.”

    Benefits could be affected as well, Hale said. For example, under a sequester, the Pentagon wouldn’t have enough money to pay all of its bills under TRICARE, Defense’s health care system. And Defense would have to cut back on family housing maintenance. 

    “We need to stop this because it’s not good policy and we need to avoid it,” Hale said of the looming cutbacks.

    He said the Defense Department had yet to do detailed planning for a potential sequester. “We don’t have a specific timetable” for such planning, he added, “but I’m mindful that we’re going to have to figure one out fairly soon.” The department is consulting with the Office of Management and Budget on the planning process.

    “I know this frustrates people, but we don’t have a detailed plan,” he said.

    Hale said that in the absence of a sequester, Defense would, on the whole, be able to operate normally under a six-month continuing resolution that Congress approved on Saturday. But he said even that would present significant management and budgetary challenges. For example, the CR does not give the department the authority to start new weapons programs, or to increase production rates. “It’s inefficient and unfortunate,” Hale said of stop-and-start budgeting. “We need Congress to return to an orderly budget process.”


    DoD on smartphones: You can’t have it your way


    By Andrew Tilghman – Staff writer

    Posted : Thursday Sep 27, 2012 14:04:08 EDT

    The day when troops are allowed to use their personal smartphones for military business may still be a long way off, a top Pentagon official said.

    “We haven’t cracked the code on mobile device management and the policies that go with them,” said Robert Carey, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer.

    The military’s top tech experts have spent years working on developing standards to allow troops to use off-the-shelf commercial smartphones in their everyday business.

    But clearing the way for classified and operational data to flow onto the hand-held devices has proven extraordinarily difficult. While many military officials are eager to tap the potential convenience of smartphones, they also fear that the devices can make the military’s networks vulnerable to security breaches or cyber attacks.

    Earlier this year, the Pentagon issued a sweeping information technology “roadmap,” but it included few specifics on how to integrate the smartphones already used by millions of troops into the Defense Department’s vast data network.

    For now, it’s likely that sensitive information will be permitted only on government-approved phones so military tech officials can have centralized control over the data.

    “I’m not going to give you your [information technology] the Burger King way. Not everyone can have it their own way, their own style, to their own tastes,” Carey told a crowd of several hundred technology experts at a Washington conference sponsored by Telework Exchange, a telecommunications advocacy group.

    One issue: Given the risk of phones getting lost or stolen, military technology experts want to be able to confirm users’ identities, similar to the way a Common Access Card is used on desktop computers.

    “I’m going to give you access to your data based on who you are. Now, I’m not going to trust you to say who you are. I’m going to give you something that [can be] verified,” Carey said.


    Carey also said phones using military data should have settings that allow a central administrator to delete or wipe out data if an individual phone is compromised. Central administrators might also want the power to limit some phone features such as cameras, screen grabs or geographical identifiers to protect data.


    The services have begun to explore the use of smartphones under pilot programs. For example, the Army this year is issuing smartphone-like devices to eight brigade combat teams for use in communicating with and tracking friendly troop.

    The Navy is also testing a system that uses smartphones to track sailors as they move around large ships, but that program is limited to Navy-issued phones; and sailors cannot use their personal devices.

    Current rules allow troops to use Blackberry phones made by Research in Motion and Android phones made by Dell, but they are mainly limited to military-specific models and require additional security measures beyond those typically available to civilian consumers, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA

    Apple iPhones are not widely approved for use on Defense Department networks, but military technology officials can approve specific pilot programs, according to DISA.


    Microsoft: Lack of tech workers approaching ‘genuine crisis’

    The Hill

    By Brendan Sasso – 09/27/12 02:00 PM ET


    Microsoft unveiled a lobbying push on Thursday to produce more applicants with the skills to fill technology and engineering jobs.

    The proposal would boost visas for high-skilled foreign workers and invest millions of dollars in federal funding for education.

    Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president, said at a press briefing that the lack of qualified job applicants is “approaching the dimensions of a genuine crisis” for tech companies.

    He said Microsoft has 3,400 open jobs for researchers, developers and engineers — an increase of 34 percent over last year.

    “We fear jobs will start to migrate to other countries,” Smith said, adding that other countries are putting a higher priority than the United States on preparing students for high-skill jobs.

    Microsoft will push Congress to pass legislation to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to improve education in science, technology, engineering and math, fields collectively known as STEM.

    The funding would boost training for teachers, offer more computer science courses for high school students and invest in community colleges and four year universities.

    The company proposes paying for the education spending by adding an additional 20,000 H1B visas to allow high-skill foreign nationals to work in the United States. Employers would have to pay $10,000 for each employee that receives one of the visas.

    The proposal would also reallocate 20,000 unused green cards for high-skilled immigrants. Employers would have to spend $15,000 to hire an employee under this program.

    He insisted that even small start-ups would be willing to spend the thousands of dollars to hire qualified foreign workers. He also said Microsoft does not pay workers differently based on their nationality.

    “The skill gap is one of the biggest problems Microsoft faces,” Smith said. He added that he went to both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions last month to discuss the issue with lawmakers. 

    Smith said he is optimistic Congress will take up the proposal next year.

    Although there is some bipartisan support in Congress for boosting high-skill visas, House Democrats voted down a GOP bill this month because the Republicans also sought to eliminate a diversity visa program.

    Anti-immigration groups also question whether more high-skill visas would mean fewer job prospects for American-born workers.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEE), which represents technology workers, said it supports Microsoft’s proposal to add green cards but said Congress should not expand the H1B program, which does not grant workers permanent immigrant status.

    “It is absolutely critical that their new immigrant employees will be free to change employers and seek higher pay or better working conditions,” said Keith Grzelak, the group’s vice president of government affairs.

    —Updated at 3:01 p.m.


    Netanyahu Demands ‘Red Line’ on Iran .

    Updated September 27, 2012, 10:54 p.m. ET



    UNITED NATIONS—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was on track to build an atomic bomb by summer of 2013 and exhorted the U.S. and other global powers to set a strict limit on Tehran’s nuclear fuel production as the clear “red line” that would trigger military strikes.

    The speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday marked Mr. Netanyahu’s latest public challenge to President Barack Obama to more aggressively confront Tehran.

    But Mr. Netanyahu also implied that Israel wouldn’t consider attacking Iran at least until the spring. By then, he argued, Iran will have amassed enough medium-enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a nuclear bomb in a matter of weeks or months.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by next summer and urged the world the draw a clear “red line” to stop it in its tracks. Eduardo Kaplan has details on The News Hub. (Photo: AP)

    Standing before world leaders, the Israeli leader held a drawing of a round bomb with a lighted fuse and, with a thick red marker, drew a line he said Iran shouldn’t be permitted to cross.

    “I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

    The Israeli leader’s comments damped fears among some Western and Arab officials that Israel might strike Iran’s nuclear facilities before the U.S. presidential election in November. These officials said they believed that any possible military action has been put off until at least next year.

    “I don’t believe any longer that we will see an attack before November,” said a senior Arab official. “This wasn’t the case a few weeks ago.”

    The comments were seen similarly by Israeli analysts. “The pressure was focused on the possibility that Israel might attack before the elections,” said Shlomo Brom, a fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies and a former brigadier general in the Israeli military. “Now it seems like it’s off the table.”


    Tehran denies it is trying to build nuclear weapons, and late Thursday called Mr. Netanyahu’s accusations “entirely baseless.”

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking in New York this week, said he didn’t take Israeli threats seriously—and said any strike on his country would be seen as a joint Israeli-U.S. operation.

    “The Islamic Republic of Iran is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack,” Tehran’s mission to the U.N. said in a statement Thursday night.

    Mr. Netanyahu in recent months has repeatedly threatened military strikes against Iran, while asking Mr. Obama to lay down his own red line, including during a phone conversation earlier this month, according to U.S. officials.

    Mr. Obama and his aides have rebuffed the Israeli leader’s demands, saying such a pronouncement could constrict Washington’s ability to use diplomacy to contain Iran’s nuclear threat. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on Thursday with representatives of the global powers seeking to contain Iran’s nuclear program through talks with Tehran, which U.S. officials said they expected would resume in the coming months.

    Mrs. Clinton met one-on-one with Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday evening for 75 minutes to discuss Iran. They agreed to continue “close consultation” on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, a senior State Department official said.

    White House officials on Thursday played down any differences between Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu. “As the prime minister said, the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

    Israel’s prime minister sought and failed to secure a meeting with Mr. Obama in New York this week. The White House cited scheduling differences, and Mr. Obama had no one-on-one meetings with world leaders at the U.N. The two men plan to speak by telephone on Friday, White House officials said.

    The U.S. and Israel continue to follow different timelines for when they believe Iran might be able to develop a nuclear weapon. They also differ in their assessments of the impact of international sanctions on Tehran.

    U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hasn’t made the political decision to build an atomic weapon. Should he make such a decision, according to U.S. intelligence, it still could take a year to 18 months for Iran to develop a crude nuclear bomb, a longer timeline than that outlined by Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday.

    The Obama administration also is confident that sanctions are significantly weakening Iran’s economy. Treasury officials say the sanctions are costing Tehran $15 billion a quarter in lost oil revenue and that Iran’s energy sales have dropped by a million barrels a day.

    Mr. Netanyahu said on Thursday that sanctions are having an impact, but stressed that he didn’t believe sanctions alone would be enough to make Iran give up its nuclear program—implying the country’s rulers won’t make rational decisions.

    Iran could produce enough of 20%-enriched uranium by next spring or early summer, Mr. Netanyahu estimated, adding it would be just “a few months, possibly a few weeks” before it could develop a crude nuclear device.

    The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, estimated last month Iran had amassed 190 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20% purity. Of this, 71 kilograms have been converted into fuel rods for Iran’s research reactor in Tehran, according to the IAEA.

    Nuclear experts believe Iran would need 250 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20% to make one crude bomb. Iran would need to reprocess the fuel to 90% purity to have the fissile material for a nuclear bomb.


    U.S. officials believe that any effort by Tehran to begin producing the most highly enriched uranium would be detected by IAEA monitors based at Iran’s nuclear facilities in the cities of Natanz and Qom.

    Mr. Netanyahu, however, stressed Thursday that he didn’t believe Western intelligence was good enough to run the risk of allowing Iran to push forward with its enrichment efforts. Israel is also concerned that Iran is moving more fuel production to an underground facility seen as impervious to attack.

    “No one appreciates our intelligence agencies more than the prime minister of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “But they are not foolproof.”

    The debate between the U.S. and Israel over red lines has fed into the U.S. presidential election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has repeatedly called Mr. Obama soft on Iran, though Mr. Romney hasn’t specified what Iranian actions would prompt him to strike.

    On Thursday, Mr. Romney said he agreed with Mr. Netanyahu, although he didn’t specifically endorse the Israeli leader’s recommendation for a red line.

    “I join in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for a Middle East of progress and peace. And I join his urgent call to prevent the gravest threat to that vision—a nuclear-armed Iran,” Mr. Romney said.

    The Israeli leader’s comments about Iran overshadowed discussions at the U.N. of Mideast peace talks. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the U.N.

    Mr. Abbas said he remained open to negotiations with Israel aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state. But he said that lower-level talks between the two sides in recent months have been fruitless.

    Mr. Netanyahu dedicated little of his speech to the Palestinian issue, but said his government remains open to negotiations.



    McDonald’s asks, TV with those french fries?


    September 26, 2012

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — The question of the moment at 700 pioneering McDonald’s restaurants: You want TV with those fries?

    Not just any television, but the custom-made M Channel, formulated and tested with the same attention to detail that made Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets cultural icons.

    The channel’s aim is to offer exclusive content to entertain customers. More ambitiously, it also intends to create promotional and sales opportunities for record companies and others who want to dive into McDonald’s vast customer pool.

    Lee Edmondson, who has spent more than eight years developing the concept for McDonald’s and years beforehand pondering it, said the fast-food chain is thinking way outside the TV box.

    “It is a vision that is more than television,” more than the “passive relationship” that viewers have with gas station or supermarket TV feeds, said Edmondson, who comes from a venture-capital background.


    The M channel is akin to a broadcast network with its own news, entertainment and sportscasts localized for cities and even neighborhoods, he said. But there’s more: It will supersize the experience by directing viewers online for shopping or other opportunities.

    Get details on a featured electronic toy or be among the first to download a music video discovered via M Channel. Want to get close to artists you heard on your coffee break? Enter to win backstage concert passes or maybe lunch with them (just a guess, but the location may not be optional).

    M Channel’s goal is to target different audiences at different times of day and be so area-specific that a restaurant could show high school football game highlights to hometown fans, Edmondson said. News reports are taped by local station anchors for the channel.

    Among those who have enlisted as content providers are producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” ”The Voice”), ReelzChannel and broadcast stations. A range of advertisers, minus other restaurants and perhaps alcoholic beverages, will be welcome, Edmondson said.
    For now, the programming is in its infancy. At a McDonald’s in Costa Mesa, south of Los Angeles, a flat-screen TV tucked in a corner showed an hour-long loop that included weather; a trivia quiz that promoted “Jeopardy!”; features on windsurfing in Maui and auto racing, and a Hollywood movie report packaged by ReelzChannel.

    A mom grabbing a meal with her two children briefly glanced at a tech segment on back-to-school products including computers and smartphones before exiting.

    Other diners sitting close to the TV were buried in their laptops, phones or magazines, the screen showing the distinctive arched “M” logo merely providing wallpaper.

    Ruby Lua of Santa Ana, who works at a nearby supermarket, took a break from texting to say she preferred the satellite feed the restaurant used to show. How about if the channel offered music and related downloads?

    “That would be more interesting,” said the 18-year-old Lua, perking up.

    That opening is just what Edmondson wants to exploit.

    “If you see a piece of content that connects with you immediately, we’ve provided you a value,” he said. “If we can do it consistently, we become a trusted source of information … and a great way for content providers to engage with consumers.”

    Major music companies are intrigued.

    “Interscope values a new way of communicating to customers where our content is positioned front and center to a massive audience,” said Jennifer Frommer, the company’s head of brand partnerships. “The channel provides a platform to market music in ways that have never been done before.”

    The pilot project, which began testing in scattered Western outlets two years ago, recently completed expansion to all McDonald’s California outlets from San Diego north to Bakersfield. All told, the eateries get nearly 15 million monthly visits from adult customers alone.

    M Channel could expand to the roughly 14,000 McDonald’s nationwide within 18 months of getting the “go” from the company and franchisees, Edmondson said. He declined to predict when the green light could come for the project that has advanced with caution, the giant chain’s approach to making changes.

    The end game Edmondson foresees: Versions of the channel in McDonald’s worldwide, and perhaps the birth of a template for other industries. So far, the investor-funded Channel M has consumed tens of millions of dollars and it “will be that again to pull it off,” he said, declining to give an exact figure.

    The M channel is “a smart thing to do,” said Valerie Folkes, a marketing professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.


    TV sets, which originally sprouted in auto service shops and elsewhere to keep customers distracted while cooling their heels, have new potential in a splintered media market.

    “Advertisers face difficulties not only in reaching the right people but also in capturing their attention,” Folkes said. “Here they have people who they know are customers and who are more inclined to listen to their message.”


    How will McDonald’s Corp. judge M Channel’s value?

    “Ad revenues are important, but the channel must be positively received by our customers in order to be viewed as a success,” said Brad Hunter, senior marketing director for McDonald’s USA.

    Philip Palumbo, who owns 11 McDonald’s in San Diego County and is the marketing co-op head for the county’s outlets, has seen an immediate benefit from the pilot project: No more complaints to workers about the network fare his customers saw via satellite.

    “The content was not necessarily appropriate,” Palumbo said. “The big things were politics. Others were violence, usually on the news, or medical stuff like showing surgery.”

    As Folkes of USC put it, “You can imagine a news story about ‘pink slime’ is not going to make a McDonald’s customer eager to eat that Big Mac.”


    Pentagon: Employees can read SEAL book — carefully

    By Al Kamen,

    Published: September 26

    The Washington Post

    There has been much consternation at the Pentagon over how to deal with former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette‘s new book, “No Easy Day,” which recounts SEAL Team 6’s elimination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

    The Defense Department is most unhappy, saying the book reveals classified information — though it hasn’t said what that information is. (Publisher Dutton Books has said there’s nothing classified in it.)

    The Pentagon has taken no formal action against the author but did notify him on Aug. 30 that he was “in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements he’d signed,” and that he never submitted the manuscript for a security review. It warned him the government was considering “all [legal] remedies.”

    But the book has been a runaway bestseller, and folks at the Defense Department want to read it if it’s okay to do so.

    Well, we’re happy to say that you can buy it and read it, though you must be careful.

    According to a Sept. 20 memo we got from Defense Department security director Timothy Davis, department spokesman George Little said recently that the book “contains classified and sensitive unclassified information.”

    So “in response to requests for guidance,” Davis wrote a memo providing official guidance about “No Easy Day,” or “NED.”

    According to the memo, Defense Department personnel:

    ●”are free to purchase NED.”

    ●”are not required to store NED in [secure] containers . . . unless classified statements in the book have been identified.”

    ●”shall not discuss potentially classified and sensitive unclassified information with persons who do not have an official need to know and an appropriate security clearance.”

    ●”who possess either firsthand knowledge of, or suspect information within NED to be classified or sensitive, shall not publicly speculate or discuss potentially classified or sensitive unclassified information outside official . . . channels.”

    ●”are prohibited from using unclassified government computer systems to discuss potentially classified or sensitive contents of NED, and [no] online discussions via social networking or media sites” about classified stuff “that may be contained in NED.”

    Hard to say what the “potentially” classified stuff is. So until they tell you what the bad stuff is, it’s safe to buy the book and even read it, but no underlining and no discussing — beyond “cool book,” “great cover,” stuff like that.


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