Monthly Archives: May 2014

Indonesia Plans to Open Maintenance Centre for Russia-Made Helicopters

30 Mei 2014

Russia-made helicopters of the Indonesian Army Aviation (photo : Kaskus Militer)

BANGKOK./ITAR-TASS/. Indonesia, a country in Southeast Asia, plans to open a maintenance centre to service Russia-made helicopters. Four civil helicopters Mil Mi-171 were delivered to Indonesia in early May, the Russian embassy in that country told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday.

Helicopters will be used by several Indonesian agencies and companies, including the National Agency of Emergency Situations. “Creation of a maintenance centre to service this type of Russian aircrafts is on agenda. Its delivery is planned to enlarge to Indonesia,” the Russian diplomatic mission noted.

Meanwhile, supplies of one more type of Russian machinery began to Indonesia in early May. Four trucks KAMAZ were delivered to the country on the order from Indonesian company Tehnika Ina to pass certification. Certification of Russian vehicles is expected to be finalized in September.

“Russia hopes for further successful implementation of joint projects with Indonesian partners on a broad range of trends, including construction of a road infrastructure, reprocessing of mineral resources, civil aviation and others,” the Russian embassy noted.

(Itar Tass)

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Cyprus settlement ‘worth 20 billion euros’

A Cyprus reunification deal would generate a 20-billion-euro ($27.2 billion) peace dividend for the recession-hit island, according to a study released Thursday.

The study predicts an elusive UN-brokered peace deal would raise per capita incomes by approximately 12,000 euros, expand the size of the economy by around 20 billion euros and add an average 2.8 percentage points to real GDP growth every year for 20 years.

A deal would almost eliminate the per-capita income disparity between Turkish Cypriots and relatively more well off Greek Cypriots, said the study by local economists.

“In the past, the tendency has been to see the costs and benefits of a solution in a static way: There was an appreciation of the immediate costs, but there was little understanding of the dynamic benefits,” said the “Cyprus Peace Dividend Revisited” report.

It was compiled by Cyprus-based economists Fiona Mullen, Alexander Apostolides and Mustafa Besim, and funded by Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The research is based on agreement being achieved in 2016 for a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as outlined in a February 2014 joint declaration.

“Both sides of the island would benefit from a ‘peace dividend’ that will come from two sources: recurring benefits from opening up the Turkish market of 74 million people to Greek Cypriots and the European Union market of 500 million people to Turkish Cypriots.”

The economists estimate that the all-island GDP at constant 2012 prices would rise from just under 20 billion euros in 2016 to just under 45 billion by 2035, compared with around 25 billion without a solution.

In their study, annual average growth rate is set at 4.5 percent over 20 years, compared with just 1.6 percent without a solution.

The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and seized its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia to unite Cyprus with Greece.

Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders vowed to seek an end to the island’s four-decade division “as soon as possible,” relaunching peace talks in February after a nearly two-year hiatus.

Washington is keen to see an end to the island’s 40-year split, highlighted by last week’svisit by US Vice President Joe Biden.

The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus is still reeling from the eurozone debt crisis, which forced it to secure an international bailout in March 2013 that exacerbated an already severe recession.

Biden highlighted the potential role Cyprus could play in the region, especially with its offshore gas reserves, whose exploitation for export to Europe has been hampered by the division.

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New method discovered to protect against chemical weapons

By on Friday, May 30th, 2014

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents such as the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that may make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing.

The use of polyoxoniobates for this purpose had never before been demonstrated, scientists said, and the discovery could have important implications for both military and civilian protection. A United Nations report last year concluded that sarin gas was used in the conflict in Syria.

Some other compounds exist that can decontaminate nerve gases, researchers said, but they are organic, unstable, degraded by sunlight and have other characteristics that make them undesirable for protective clothing – or they are inorganic, but cannot be used on fabrics or surfaces.

By contrast, the polyoxoniobates are inorganic, do not degrade in normal environmental conditions, dissolve easily and it should be able to incorporate them onto surfaces, fabrics and other material.

“This is a fundamental new understanding of what these compounds can do,” said May Nyman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “As stable, inorganic compounds they have an important potential to decontaminate and protect against these deadly nerve gases.”

As a chemical group, polyoxoniobates have been known of since the mid-1900s, Nyman said, but a detailed investigation of their complex chemistry has revealed this new potential. Besides protection against nerve gas, she said, their chemistry might allow them to function as a catalyst that could absorb carbon dioxide and find use in carbon sequestration at fossil-fuel power plants – but little has been done yet to explore that potential.

A new method to protect against nerve agents could be significant. These organofluorophosphate compounds can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and in military use are considered weapons of mass destruction. They can be lethal even at very small levels of exposure.

“In continued work we hope to incorporate the protective compounds onto surfaces or fabrics and explore their function,” Nyman said. “They could form the basis for an improved type of gas mask or other protection. We would also need to test the material’s ability to withstand very arid environments, extreme heat or other conditions.”

A goal will be materials that are durable, high performing and retain a high level of protection against nerve agents such as sarin and soman gas even in harsh environmental conditions, researchers said.

The OSU research demonstrated the ability of polyoxoniobates to neutralize both actual and simulated nerve agents. Testing against actual nerve agents was done at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, a U.S. Army facility designed for that purpose.

OSU has collaborated on this research with Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Army. The work at Edgewood was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense.

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Army preps for first audit ever, says top finance leader

Getting audited is something most taxpayers admit they dread. But those same citizens might be heartened to know that government agencies that receive their tax dollars are audited just the same, to ensure that money is properly spent.

The Army and the rest of the Defense Department are on notice from Congress that they will be audited soon.

Robert M. Speer, acting assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, said the impending review is something the services should be looking forward to.

Speer spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army’s “Sustaining Force 2025″ seminar here, May 20.

“We’ve got to be able to be audited on the appropriations we receive and where we’re obligating those funds by 2015,” he said, during one of the panel discussions. And, “we’ll have to do a full-financial statement audit, much like private industry does, by 2018.”

The deadlines for meeting those reporting requirements are “closing on us fast,” Speer said.

The primary reason for having an audit, he said, is “not just because it’s the law, but because we owe it to our stakeholders,” the American people.

And, he added, there are a lot of benefits for the Army as well. As the overall funding has dwindled at a rapid pace over the last few years, the Army needs to be able to see where its resources are going “at a moment’s notice, across the enterprise.”

Also, the legwork involved in preparing for an audit will reveal whether or not resources are being procured and used in a mission-essential, cost-effective manner, he added.

By resources, Speer said that means everything the Army has, from beans, bullets and bandages to personnel systems and logistics programs.

Speer said that on a recent trip to Capitol Hill, he spoke with someone who said he was “dumbfounded” that DOD was the only federal agency that has never been audited, although audits in government have been around since Congress passed the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950.

Although the entire Army hasn’t ever been audited at once, Speer did say that portions of the Army have been audited at various times. Once such example of that is Arlington National Cemetery.

Speer said an internal audit fixed problems that had been developing for a number of years at the cemetery, namely, troubled management procedures.

After putting new controls and procedures into place, along with being audited, ANC is now a more efficient, effective and transparent organization that the Army can be proud of, he said. “Imagine that across the entire Army.”

Speer said he suspects there could be similar problems elsewhere in the Army that could be addressed through preparing for an audit.

PREPPING FOR AUDIT
The Government Accountability Office, known as the GAO, “will tell you that to get to a successful audit, you need to have committed leadership, great governance and accountability over resources and systems, and well-defined business architecture,” Speer said. “It’s not just about the auditor and the accountants.”

The GAO is the congressional agency that oversees an audit.

Business and systems architecture have to integrate together, he said, and one has to see how and where the funding flow travels.

Top Army leaders are now discussing the coming audit with commanders worldwide, he said. They’re looking at things like internal controls, accountability, where resources and documentation supports the funding and how well training is going.

Better training includes understanding and properly using the General Fund Enterprise Business System, or GFEBS, he said.

GFEBS is a web-enabled financial, asset and accounting management system that standardizes, streamlines and shares critical data across all of the Army components.

GFEBS efforts are now directed at analyzing business processes, systems and training, reviewing cost estimates to right-size sustainment, he added.

Besides GFEBS, another enterprise resource planning tool being fielded across the Army and the other services to monitor finance, accounting, manufacturing, sales, service and customer relationships is the Global Combat Support System.

The tools are in place to prepare for a successful audit and leadership is directing commanders to implement procedures. Speer said he’s confident the Army will see the audit’s benefits in the years ahead.

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China’s decision to replace IBM servers with domestic equivalents may boost national security

The use of home-made servers in Beijing’s national banks may prevent inclusion of hidden backdoors that facilitate intelligence gathering by the US National Security Agency, according to expert in the US-China relations, RIA Novosti reports.

Chinese government institutions, including the People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Finance, are reviewing domestic commercial banks’ reliance on IBM servers in an attempt to single out threats to the country’s financial security, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

“The US government was the first to raise the alarm that hidden “backdoor” could be put on servers to intercept communications to and from the user. A It turned out that servers made by American based multinational companies did have such back doors to facilitate intelligence gathering by the NSA,” expert in the US-China relations and CEO of International Strategic Alliances George Koo said.

Speaking about Beijing’s decision to replace IBM with domestic equivalents and the negative impact thereof on China or IBM, Koo said that “the use of domestically made servers would presumably prevent inclusion of hidden backdoor and the main fallout is loss of business for IBM.”

Beijing ordered state-owned enterprises to cut ties with the US consulting companies, including McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, which it accused of feeding commercial secrets to Washington. When asked whether this move meant we were seeing the worsening of the US-China relations, Koo said that “the bilateral relations are not getting any better.’”

“I suppose hot and cold diplomacy can be explained as a way to keep China off balance but it sure is not the way to build mutual trust,” the expert said, noting that to really get along the US needs to stop regarding China as an adversary.

“Ideally, the US and China should work together to resolve the major challenges facing the world Right now, the needed mutual trust and confidence is not there,” Koo explained.

Reuters reported Beijing’s move on Monday, saying it targeted US companies with large operations in China and came days after the US Justice Department charged a number of Chinese government officials with cyber espionage.

Beijing earlier warned that it would retaliate if Washington pressed ahead with allegations that Chinese military officers had hacked into US corporations including Alcoa, US Steel and Westinghouse.

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Should Europe Rebuild Tank Forces?

Russia’s recent adventurism in Europe, most notably the massing of armor and mechanized units along the border with Ukraine, has prompted defense officials in Europe and the United States to do something they haven’t done in nearly twenty years: assess the balance of military power on the continent. While most public discussions of the changing balance of forces between East and West have focused on the shrinkage that has occurred in nuclear capabilities, the most dramatic reduction in military power has been in conventional forces.

Just take the heart of modern land warfare, the main battle tank. At the end of the Cold War, Russia had nearly 60,000 tanks in its fleet. The majority of these were in Eastern Europe and the Western military districts. The Warsaw Pact countries possessed nearly 20,000 more. On the other side of the line that divided Europe down the middle, NATO possessed some 30,000 tanks, although a substantial fraction of these were deployed in Southern Europe and Turkey. Germany alone had 3,000 tanks. The U.S. immediate military commitment to NATO consisted of two heavy corps with several thousand tanks. In addition, the United Kingdom had the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) centered on three armored divisions with some 600 main battle tanks.

Today the armies in Europe are a faint shadow of their Cold War heritage. Russia now deploys around 3,000 tanks, with another 18,000 in storage. Germany’s tank fleet today is a little over 10 percent of its Cold War size. The U.S. ground combat presence in Europe has been reduced to two light brigade combat teams with virtually no tanks. The British Army has a little over 200 tanks total and the number on the continent will drop to zero when the BAOR returns home in 2015. Other NATO allies such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have essentially exited the armored warfare business entirely. The largest tank forces in NATO now reside in some of the former Warsaw Pact countries. Poland has a tank fleet three times that of Germany.

Ironically, despite having gone through the collapse of the Soviet Union and nearly two decades of Spartan defense budgets, the Russian military today compares relatively well to its erstwhile NATO adversary particularly with respect to ground forces. Over the past five years it has reorganized and modernized its ground forces. Virtually all its tanks are more modern T-72s and T-80s.

Without question, NATO still holds the advantage in the quality of its tanks. The M-1 Abrams is the world’s best tank. Enhancements added over the past decade have made it even more capable. The British Army’s Challenger tank and German Leopard are also quite good. The trouble is that most of these are not in Europe.

There is no better symbol of the demilitarization of Europe than the decline in its armored ground forces. Given the long history of warfare on the continent, this seemed like a good thing. However, now that Russia is reverting to old patterns of behavior, the balance of conventional military power on the continent is again important. The West may yet come to regret its decision to disband most of what had been the most capable conventional land force the word had ever seen.

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US To Keep Nearly 10,000 Troops In Afghanistan In 2015

President Barack Obama today announced the United States plans to keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan next year — a level largely in line with what U.S. commanders had requested — and that nearly all U.S. forces will leave the country by the end of 2016, bringing to an end a U.S. military mission that began in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“The bottom line is it’s time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Obama said in a televised address from the White House Rose Garden.

In laying out his military plan for Afghanistan once the U.S.-led NATO mission there ends in December, Obama said keeping 9,800 American troops in the country to train Afghan forces and to support counterterrorism operations will be contingent upon Afghanistan’s next president signing a bilateral security agreement with the United States, something outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to do.

“The two final Afghan candidates in the runoff election for president have each indicated they would sign this agreement promptly after taking office, so I’m hopeful we can get this done,” Obama said, emphasizing the growing and increasing competence of the Afghan security forces as well as the success of April’s first round of presidential elections — despite threats by the Taliban to disrupt them — as key to the timing of today’s announcement.

“This transition has allowed us to steadily draw down our own forces from a peak of 100,000 U.S. troops to roughly 32,000 today,” the president said. “Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he strongly supports Obama’s decision. In a statement issued after the president spoke, Hagel said the proposed U.S. troop presence “will help us sustain the significant progress we have made in training and equipping the Afghan national security forces.”

As the nation brings an end to its longest war, “all Americans are grateful for the sacrifice and service of the men and women who deployed there over the past 13 years,” the secretary said.

For months, U.S. officials have been deliberating over post-2014 U.S. troop levels and had even raised the prospect of a complete pullout of all U.S. forces if the Afghan government refused to sign the bilateral security agreement, a move that would have triggered an end to billions of dollars in foreign aid, upon which the government in Kabul relies heavily.

The post-2014 U.S. troop levels would be in addition to contributions from NATO countries, and a senior administration official said discussion about NATO commitments will continue during an alliance defense ministers conference in Brussels next week. But in his address today, Obama made clear that beginning next year, Afghanistan’s security will be fully in the hands of Afghans while U.S. troop levels in the country will continue to be reduced, with those remaining consolidated at Kabul and at Bagram Airfield.

“We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” he said. “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”

By the end of 2016, Obama said, the U.S. military presence in the country will be pared back even further, to a level required to maintain security at the U.S. embassy, along with a security assistance component, similar to current U.S. force levels in Iraq.

Obama’s announcement about the way forward in Afghanistan comes two days after he made a brief, unannounced visit to U.S. commanders and troops in the country but did not meet with Karzai, whose relations with the United States have grown increasingly tense. White House officials told reporters the trip was meant to be a visit with troops. Obama and Karzai did speak by phone.

And today’s address comes a day before Obama is set to deliver the commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., during which he will outline his foreign policy and national security agenda for the remainder of his second term, including redirecting some of the resources saved by ending the war to “respond more nimbly to the changing threat of terrorism while addressing a broader set of priorities.”

“I’m confident that if we carry out this approach, we can not only responsibly end our war in Afghanistan and achieve the objectives that took us to war in the first place, we’ll also be able to begin a new chapter in the story of American leadership around the world,” he said.

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