Tag Archives: Pentagon

US delivers anti-mortar radars to Ukraine: Pentagon

The US military has delivered three radars to Ukraine designed to detect incoming mortar fire, the Pentagon said Friday, amid appeals from Kiev for Washington to send weapons to help fight pro-Russian rebels.

The counter-mortar radar systems were flown to Ukraine in a C-17 cargo plane that accompanied US Vice President Joe Biden, who paid a visit to Kiev on the first anniversary of protests that unleashed a year of upheaval.

A total of 20 counter-mortar radar systems were due to be delivered over the next several weeks, and Ukrainian troops would undergo training on the radars starting in mid-December, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.

The radars detect incoming mortar rounds and then calculate the origin of the mortar fire. The systems can be hooked up to mortar or artillery batteries which then return fire.

“It will be up to the Ukrainians how, when and where they deploy these systems,” Warren said.

President Barack Obama has so far ruled out providing weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, and instead approved the delivery of “non-lethal” assistance such as radars, night vision goggles, radios, rations, body armor and other items.

But at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this week, Tony Blinken, who is nominated for a senior diplomatic post, said the United States should consider providing Ukraine with “defensive” weapons.

“I think it is something that we should be looking at,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian leaders and some US lawmakers have repeatedly urged Obama to send arms to the Kiev government but the Pentagon said there had been no change in the current approach.

“To my knowledge, there is no new policy decision to announce,” Warren told reporters.

Russia, which denies Western accusations it is supplying and advising rebels in eastern Ukraine, has warned the Americans against arming Ukrainian government troops.

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Frontrunners emerge for top Pentagon job

A pair of frontrunners have emerged to take charge at the Pentagon after President Barack Obama announced the departure of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

If former under-secretary Michele Flournoy gets the nod, she would be the first woman to hold the role, and neither she nor former deputy secretary Ashton Carter have served in uniform.

Now working as policy academics, Flournoy and Carter have been mentioned for years as possible Pentagon leaders.

Both have served under Democratic presidents going back to the 1990s, and both received support from both sides of Congress after Obama announced Hagel’s resignation.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which would vet the nominees, said in a tweet that both Flournoy and Ashton are “solid choices.”

Policy wonk
Flournoy, 53, has been a face in and around the Department of Defense for decades, a civilian woman make headway in an agency filled with men and military veterans.

“She has really had a fine career and is an excellent candidate for this job,” said Kathy Crandall Robinson, a senior director at nonprofit Women’s Action for New Directions in Washington.

Robinson said women have led in foreign policy for years, but breaking the gender divide in defense has been difficult.

“There have been a number of women coming up, but in the actual Defense Department it’s breaking new ground so that would be really exciting,” she said on Flournoy’s potential nomination.

First serving in defense in Democrat Bill Clinton’s administration, Flournoy has made a name for herself in bipartisan defense circles as a policy wonk and strategist in Washington’s think tank world.

She worked at the government’s National Defense University, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies before co-founding the Center for a New American Security in 2007.

CNAS is seen as the DC think tank closest to President Barack Obama’s administration, and Flournoy and her colleagues have used it as a launching pad for top administration positions.

Staff at CNAS fashioned themselves as experts on the currents of strategy from the nation’s two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2009, Flournoy left the think tank and made waves when she took a top tier defense department post as undersecretary of defense for policy, the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon’s history.

In her position she was central in fashioning the country’s plan for a surge of forces in Afghanistan to try to bring a form of conclusion to a war that has stumbled on for more than a decade.

The counterinsurgency-focused plan had mixed results and increased casualty rates among US forces.

Since leaving the defense department in 2012, Flournoy has worked at the Boston Consulting Group.

Flournoy signaled her interest in reentering the political world this year when she returned to CNAS as its chief executive in May.

Nuclear policy
Also rumored to being considered for the Pentagon’s top spot is former defense hand and physicist Ashton Carter.

The 60-year-old has served twice in Obama’s administration, first as technology and acquisition undersecretary from 2009 to 2011 and then as the Pentagon number two, deputy secretary of defense.

A Yale graduate with a degree in physics, Carter served in the Clinton administration and assumed a role crafting the country’s nuclear weapons policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Carter is an academic policy expert with deep knowledge of the Defense Department’s workings, particularly in science and technology and in budget issues during recent military cutbacks.

He is known for expediting procurement for the military in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Carter directed the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in the early 90s, taught physics at Oxford and has various fellowships and board positions based on his defense and science credentials.

Carter lives in Washington and holds a non-resident position at Harvard.

Also reportedly under consideration for secretary of defense is current Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work. Work is a military veteran who is a policy and budget expert.

Previously Work was undersecretary of the navy and in 2008 he worked on Obama’s defense transition team.

US Senator from Rhode Island and military veteran Jack Reed has distanced himself from the competition for the post after early reports that he was under consideration.

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Pentagon spy agency trimmed after lawmakers voice concern

By on Monday, November 3rd, 2014

A Pentagon plan to create an overseas intelligence agency is being trimmed after lawmakers voiced concern with its price and purpose, The Washington Post reported.

The new Defense Clandestine Service, announced by the Pentagon more than two years ago, is to use existing agents, authorities and assets and work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency to track emerging threats.

But a report by the Post late Saturday said that the US military’s Defense Intelligence Agency would train and deploy at most only 500 undercover officers, approximately half of what was initially planned.

Cutbacks also include a scaled-down training schedule and steering most of those involved towards more traditional DIA roles.

Although case officers from the DIA already secretly gather intelligence outside of conventional battle zones, the Defense Clandestine Service, or DCS, is meant to further cement cooperation between the military and the CIA.

But Congress, including members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee in particular, voiced concern that the Pentagon would be picking up the tab for CIA duties, the Post said.

“We did reevaluate the DCS program after initial discussions with Congress,” Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost said in the Post.

The former head of the DIA, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, was pushed out of his post earlier this year, according to the Post, after disagreements with other senior figures and amid efforts to speed up the plan to deploy more spies.

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US agrees deal to buy 43 more F-35 fighters: Pentagon

The Pentagon will buy another 43 F-35 fighter jets worth roughly $4 billion from aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, officials said Tuesday, four months after it was briefly grounded following an engine fire.

Although final details have to be worked out, the “handshake agreement” will mean the price of each plane will drop slightly within America’s most expensive weapons program, said Kyra Hawn, spokeswoman for the Joint Strike Fighter office.

The price per aircraft will be “approximately 3.6 percent lower than the previous contract,” Hawn said. That would put the price of the plane at roughly around $100 million, according to some estimates, though the cost varies for each of the three variants of the jet.

The radar-evading F-35 has been portrayed as the future backbone of the military’s fighter fleet, supposed to preserve US dominance in the skies. But the program has struggled with technical problems, budget overruns and repeated delays.

The latest headache came in June when a mysterious engine fire led commanders to ground the fleet briefly until the problem could be resolved. As a result, officials had to cancel plans to send the F-35 to fly at Britain’s prestigious Farnborough air show in July because of safety precautions.

Technicians are now carrying out repairs in the test fleet to ensure the plane’s engines are sound, according to Pentagon officials.

The latest deal calls for manufacturing an additional 29 jets for the United States, as well as the first two F-35s for Israel and the first four of the aircraft for Japan.

In addition, the agreement will deliver two F-35s each for Italy and Norway and four fighters for Britain.

There are three versions of the aircraft, a standard model for the US Air Force, one designed for short take-off and vertical landings for the US Marine Corps and another outfitted to land on an aircraft carrier for the Navy.

Despite being years behind schedule, the F-35 enjoys strong support in Congress, and contractor Lockheed Martin has spread the work for the plane across 45 US states.

The Pentagon plans to spend $391.2 billion on a total of 2,443 aircraft.

When taking into account the cost of flying and maintaining the F-35 over the course of its life, the program could cost more than a trillion dollars, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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Pentagon: Russia Intensifies Efforts Inside Ukraine

Russia continues to build up along its border with Ukraine and has moved sophisticated weapons systems into the country, the Pentagon press secretary said here today.

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Russian military forces are part of those movements. Russian forces are, “facilitating the movement and then helping the separatists use the systems, if not using it themselves in support of separatists,” he said.

NATO has released surveillance photos showing these assets inside Ukraine. Kirby tied the Russian movements to the success that Ukraine has had against Russian-backed separatists in the country. “We believe that that has helped foster Moscow’s intention to intensify these efforts,” he said.

Kirby called Russian actions an “intensification” of the behaviors the Kremlin has exhibited for months.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” he said. “We continue to look for ways to support the Ukrainian armed forces and the border guards. We continue to look for ways to reassure our NATO allies and partners, and we continue to call for Russia to pull its forces back and to stop escalating the tension there.”

President Barack Obama addressed the issue yesterday during a White House news conference. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the president said. He called on nations of the world to impose new sanctions against Russia.

“As a result of the actions Russia has already taken and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the president said.

Obama said he would reaffirm U.S. commitment to the defense of NATO allies and said he would speak with fellow NATO leaders at the summit in the United Kingdom next week.

“We’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the alliance remains prepared for any challenge,” he said.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, but the United States does “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them,” the president said.

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Iraq Must Do Its Heavy Lifting, Pentagon Official Says

Though the United States must protect its people and is helping Iraq to face the threat posed by the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, it is up to Iraq to do the heavy lifting, a senior Defense Department official said today.

Elissa Slotkin, performing the duties of the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States has a vital national security interest to ensure Iraq and other countries don’t become safe havens for terrorists who could threaten the U.S. homeland, its citizens or interests abroad, or its partners and allies.

The immediate goals are to protect American people and property in Iraq, gain a better understanding of how the United States might train, advise and assist Iraqi security forces as necessary, and expand the nation’s understanding of ISIL intelligence, Slotkin said.

All three factors are critical, she said, to any future U.S. strategy involving Iraq, and the nation has three measures in the strategy:

  • The United States added forces to protect its people in Iraq. “The safety of U.S. citizens and personnel throughout Iraq is our highest priority,” Slotkin said, adding that DoD is meeting all requests from the State Department for extra security for the U.S. Embassy and the airport.
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the amphibious transport ship USS Mesa Verde into the Arabian Gulf. “Its presence adds to the other naval ships there, such as the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and provides the president with additional options to protect American citizens and interests,” she said.
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets are part of the U.S. ramping-up effort. “We’ve significantly surged ISR capabilities into Iraq, [to] over 50 sorties a day, compared to one a month in previous months,” Slotkin added.

“We are now capable of around-the-clock coverage of Iraq, and have been focusing particularly on ISIL-controlled territory and around Baghdad,” she said.

The small teams of 300 U.S. military advisors in Iraq are assessing and evaluating how the United States might potentially help Iraqi security forces, Slotkin said.

Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, received the draft assessment from U.S. Central Command last week, she told the panel.

“Department leaders are taking a deliberate approach and reviewing this lengthy assessment,” Slotkin said, adding that the assessments will be used to make recommendations to the president.

“Additional assessment work continues in and around Baghdad with respect to the developing situation on the ground,” she added.

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Pentagon temporarily grounds F-35 fighter jets

The US military temporarily grounded its entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet fleet at the weekend after an apparent engine oil leak, the latest glitch for the much-vaunted program.

Joint Strike Fighter program officials described Friday’s move as “prudent action” and most the F-35s were back on line the next day after inspections, the latest in a series of technical problems and delays that have bogged down the costliest weapons program in Pentagon history.

It came after a pilot was alerted to an engine oil problem while in flight on Tuesday and landed safely at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.

Out of all 97 fighter jets currently available, most have been inspected and cleared, according to a program official. Three did not pass the tests.

“Upon inspection, the engines found with fittings in acceptable condition will be returned to service,” the F-35 Joint Program Office said in a statement.

“Aircraft with questionable fittings will remain off the flight schedule until corrected.”

The inspections come less than a month before the F-35B makes its international debut.

Engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp., said that it took about 90 minutes to inspect each engine and “nearly all” jets had been inspected and cleared to resume flights by late Saturday.

Pratt & Whitney spokesman Matthew Bates stressed that the F135 engine has successfully completed nearly 32,000 hours of combined ground and flight testing, including more than 16,000 hours of operational flight.

The F-35 has been touted as the ultimate stealth-attack plane able to evade radar detection.

But it has suffered one setback after another, putting the project seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget.

The Pentagon has estimated it would spend $391.2 billion on 2,443 aircraft, with each plane costing a staggering $160 million. But additional delays could raise costs even further.

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