Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Afghan War Briefing:US Helicopter Crashes;Australian Troops Withdraw

A Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed about 4pm Tuesday local time in Zabul Province,Afghanistan,killing six US troops and injuring the sole survivor,defence and local officials said.Preliminary indications are that the chopper experienced mechanical difficulties before crashing.*
The Shojae District of Zabul is mountainous,forested,and frequented by the enemy,according to Ghulam Jilani Khan,Provincial Security Chief.The survivor was rescued by a US/Afghan quick reaction force.Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the crash,as is their custom regardless of the facts.Although they have brought down some US helicopters,the main cause of such mishaps throughout the Afghan War has overwhemingly been mechanical or weather-related.The crash is under investigation,and brings the ISAF death toll for 2013 to 139,including 109 US soldiers.Last year,the toll was 394,and 297 of them were American.The improvement is because ISAF turned over security operations to Afghan forces last summer,with coalition troops assuming an advise and assist role.*
Meanwhile,Australia has withdrawn its last combat troops from the ISAF Tarin Kowt Base,their headquarters in Uruzgan Province,where they were providing security training to an Afghan National Army brigade and police.Australia was the leading contributor of non-NATO forces to the war effort,sending about 1550 troops to the conflict,40 of whom were killed.About 400 Australian soldiers will remain through 2014 as trainers in Kabul and Kandahar.*
About 43,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan.They are to withdraw by the end of 2014.According to a deal approved by the Afghan national council,the Loya Jirga,10,000 US soldiers will remain for 10 years after that in an advisory and special operations role.Afgahnistan's mercurial President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the pact because he says the US is applying "colonial pressure" to him.He wants his successor,who is to be elected in April 2014,to sign the pact.
Nonetheless,Ambassador James Dobbins,US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,said the US is nowhere near deciding to withdraw completely.Afghan Defence Minister Bismillan Khan assured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on 7 December that the deal will be signed in a timely manner.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Capitol Hill Deals Bode Well for Military,Industry

Two major legislative compromises on Capitol Hill offer significant relief to the armed forces and defence industry.First,the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders announced that a compromise had been reached on the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill.This bill authorises the budget committees to appropriate 14.5 billion dollars for defence needs.
We've worked across party lines,said Congressman Buck McKeon,R-California,chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.We found common ground on Guantanamo Bay and sexual assault issues.We are where we are.We owe the men and women in uniform to complete this bill.*
Senator Carl Levin,D-Michigan,chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,said the bill extends authority to fund harsh duty and combat pay;enables the President to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to third countries,and forbids their transfer to the US for detention and trial;and makes Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice more of a grand jury process.It also funds the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile,and for the government of Jordan to secure its border.
It is a bill by consent,abandoning many ammendments.We reached agreement on a bill that at least has a chance of getting passed by both houses.Our troops are in harms way;there a number of authorities that will expire,a whole list of them,including combat pay-about 30 of them.*
Senator James Inhofe,R-Oklahoma,ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,said it has to be done in December.Things are gonna expire on December 31,such as hazard pay;re-enlistment bonuses;impact aid for the school system and major construction projects such as the new Strategic Command headquarters,which is halfway through;and CVN 78,the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford.We'd be wasting billions of dollars if we don't do this.We have a good product and we're gonna do our best to get it passed.*
When we consider our men and women in uniform,the answer is yes.We have the bill.We're ready to move forward,Congressman McKeon added.*
Retaliation is made a crime in the revised UCMJ.Commanders are held accountable for the climate inside their units.They cannot reverse the finding for a court marshal.If there's a sexual assault claim that is filed that doesn't reach a court marshal,it must go to a senior official,a high-ranking officer or service secretary,Senator Levin explained.*
Soon afterward,Congressman Paul Ryan,R-Wisconsin,and Senator Patty Murray,D-Washington,chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees,announced a budget compromise that would allocate a trillion dollars over two years,avoiding further government shutdowns and saving defence spending from draconian cuts under sequestration.The deal puts 63 billion back into defence,infrastrucure and medical research spending for two years,blunting seqestration in critical areas.*
Neither side is getting everything it wants,the two Members of Congress on opposite sides of the aisle emphasised,praising one another for their collaborative efforts.
The deals are to be voted on in the House of Representatives this week,before the House goes into recess December 13.
Update:The Pentagon heaved a sigh of relief as the House passed both the budget and defence authorisation bills by a wide majority Thursday.The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to follow suit.The most draconian cuts under sequestration have been nullified and there will now be stability in defence spending for the next two years.Basically,it means we stay at about current spending levels-not ideal,but avoiding the blatant damage to national security that would have occurred had the compromise not passed.
Under sequestration,the Pentagon would have been faced with a decline to 498 billion dollars in 2014 from the current level of 518 billion.The bills just passed grant the Pentagon 520 billion-a slight increase from 2013.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Navy Deploys New P8-A Aircraft to Tense Region

The US Navy has made the first deployment of its new P-8A Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft,or MMA,to Kadena Air Base,Okinawa,Japan.Two of the large,combat-ready reconaissance warplanes took off from Norfolk,Virginia recently,headed into a very tense East Asian theatre of operations.In light of China's new Air Defence Identification Zone over the East China Sea,the aircraft are now most welcome by Japan,a country that almost kicked the US out of Okinawa a few years ago.*
The Navy took delivery of the 12th P8-A on 31 October.It is a modified Boeing 737-800 ERX,featuring a fully connected,state of the art open architecture mission system that,combined with the next generation sensors and highly reliable airframe will dramatically improve Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare capabilties.The nine-person crew will have at its disposal an internal,five-station weapons bay;4 wing pylons and 2 centerline pylons;a rotary reloadable,pneumatically controlled sonobuoy launcher;and a Net Ready suite of Link-11/Link-16,Internet Protocol,Common Data Link(CDL) that is FORCEnet compliant.*
The P8-A is armed with joint attack munitions;cruise missiles;mines;and torpedoes.The Open Mission System Architecture is a reconfigurable and expandable system facilitating easier,more affordable upgrades.*
The P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft secures the Navy's future in long-range maritime patrol capability.It provides more combat capability from a smaller force and less infrastructure,while focusing on worldwide responsiveness and interoperability with both traditional manned forces and evolving unmanned sensors.*
The P-8 is a true multi-mission platform,according to Rear Admiral Matt Carter,Patrol and Reconaissance commander.The number of submarines in the world is increasing rapidly.Other countries are either building or purchasing advanced,quiet and extremely hard to find submarines and we need to be able to match that technology to be able to detect them.*