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Pentagon management turns “Development Fund for Iraq” into misnomer August 5, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Uncategorized.
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Eight former officials of the Defense Department or Coalition Provisional Authority currently are in federal prison for bribery, fraud, and money laundering in association with $96.6 million in Development Funds for Iraq that went missing in 2005.  Last week the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported that the Pentagon cannot account for another $7.73 billion of these development funds, bringing the total to $8.7 billion.

Fully 96% of this total fund ($9.1B) was lost somewhere in Pentagon accounting.  And this wasn’t even the Pentagon’s money – the Development Fund for Iraq held export revenues from Iraq’s oil and gas fields, along with surpluses from the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program, and was operated by the Pentagon under management delegated by the interim Iraqi government.

The Defense Department confesses that it is “one of a very few cabinet level agencies without a ‘clean’ financial audit opinion.” Abstract as that sounds, it is a critical obstacle to our success overseas.

There was no mysterious purpose for the Development Fund for Iraq – it was meant to fund development in Iraq.  There is no way to know if anything of the sort happened with this money, but it is clear that a number of other things did.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was delegated between $2.1 – $2.3 billion, for instance, and it kept the money.  According to last week’s report, USACE treated it as “advance payments for reconstruction work they were planning.”

This flies in the face of development practice – subsidizing USACE does nothing to build local capacity; locals have no authority over USACE decisions; and money was hemorrhaged on costly American salaries instead of maximized on the local economy.  Added on top, we broke the newborn government of Iraq’s trust.  It was their money, after all, and the best that we can tell them is that it disappeared through inefficiency, outright loss, and – occasionally – crime.

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U.S. must reject impossibly broad defense missions August 3, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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This post originally appeared in The Hill’s Congress Blog, and is reprinted here.

“Your mission, should you decide to accept it” famously prefaced each of the mind-boggling tasks given to the Mission Impossible hero Jim Phelps. He, of course, always succeeded in his barely-possible work. Not to be outdone, a panel of defense experts will use a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday to assign the Pentagon a truly impossible mission set without even giving the American people a choice about accepting it.

This independent panel was chartered to critique the Pentagon’s February 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review but instead compounded the document’s undisciplined ambition, its biggest shortcoming. That review retained classic missions like major theater war, deterrence, and patrolling the sea lanes, added on top new missions like countering unnamed insurgencies, aiding security force worldwide, and rebuilding failed states, and then said that the American people must fund them all with equal urgency. (Photo: HASC hearing with William Perry and Stephen Hadley, co-chairs of the QDR Independent Panel report).

Rather than resisting the Pentagon’s attempt to be all things to all people, the independent review panel will tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military should aim to do that and more. New equipment and training is needed all around, it determined, and the overall size of the force should grow substantially. Most of that growth comes in the panel’s recommendation for a naval fleet ten percent bigger than the Navy thinks it needs.

The Pentagon is a bureaucracy just like any other federal department, so it should come at no surprise that it competes aggressively with other departments for authority and resources. More objectivity should be expected from an outside panel, though. It should have a clear vision of the possible and, at minimum, avoid suggesting impossible missions to the Pentagon or imposing them on the country.

Two ideas drive the panel’s adventurism. It correctly identifies a gap between expansively-defined U.S. interest overseas and the military resources that support those interests. Incorrect, however, is its conclusion that America has no choice but to stridently press ahead. Not only do we have a choice, Congress and the administration have a sacred responsibility to use that discretion to spare our troops and our taxpayers from real-life missions impossible. (more…)

Silence isn’t Golden: State needs to weigh in on security assistance August 2, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Sections of the recently released QDR independent review panel report sound an awful lot like what you might hear from the pinstriped crowd at Foggy Bottom:

  • A “comprehensive approach” is needed to address the today’s challenges;
  • “USG efforts should also include those of our allies and partners, NGOS, and provide voluntary organizations, international organizations”;
  • “Broader reforms to expand the scope and flexibility of our security assistance programs are essential.”

The stark difference, however, is that the panel concludes that the Pentagon, not the civilian agencies, should be taking the lead in security assistance. Entirely lost in the mix is the reality that these are neither the Pentagon’s prerogatives nor decisions.

The military’s fundamental role is in support of civilian-defined objectives.  The military most certainly should provide advice, input, and skill into foreign assistance decisions and execution.  It should not, however, get to decide based on military missions alone where, for what purposes, and under what guidelines, it should be provided. As cautioned in Spring 2009 by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an imbalance in the civil-military relationship results in the militarization of US foreign policy, resulting in “doing things that we had not planned on doing, had not trained to do.”

The Pentagon’s QDR and the independent review panel report both assert that DOD should play a central and increased role in US security assistance.  In general, this type of aid provides foreign militaries with US training and equipment that bolsters the capacity of their forces to address security concerns, so that the US will not have to deploy its own military.

DOD has always had an important role in US security and related foreign assistance.  For decades the Department has provided immediate transport, logistics, and aid in response to humanitarian disasters and is the primary implementer of traditional security assistance.

Within the last ten years, however, DOD has taken on a much greater role in planning, budgeting, and implementation of security and foreign assistance programs, a trend accelerated in particular by Iraq, Afghanistan, and global counterterrorism operations.  These additional tasks are on top of traditional military missions, including, among others, defending US sovereignty, major combat operations, durance and assurance. (more…)

McChrystal-izing a Problem: The Militarization of American Statecraft June 23, 2010

Posted by Gordon Adams in Analysis.
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by Gordon Adams

General Stanley McChrystal’s candid disrespect for civilian leadership is being treated as an issue of bad judgment and personality.  But this episode reveals a much deeper dilemma for American statecraft, one that has long roots but has reached near crisis proportions over the past ten years: the gradual erosion of civilian leadership and the militarization of our foreign and security policy.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen warned  about this trend in remarks to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University last year, but it has been under way for years.  Its manifestations include:

  • DOD and the military now define what America’s national security strategy will be.  The DOD strategic document – the Quadrennial Defense Review – was for many months the only definitive description of our strategy; the National Security Strategy followed, and is significantly less informative or clear.  DOD has for years done our only real national strategy planning, well ahead of any White House guidance.
  • DOD and the military have determined that our most important engagement abroad will be to fight terrorist and insurgents, despite the fact that terrorist tactics hardly threaten our existence and, outside of insurgents in Afghanistan (and in decline in Iraq) it is not clear either that there are a lot of insurgencies for us to fight or that other countries will welcome a major US military presence to deal with those that do exist.
  • The regional combatant commanders are a more prominent US forward presence in most regions of the world than our ambassadors or regional Assistant Secretaries of State.
  • These same regional combatant commanders seek to become the “hub” around which all US government agencies engage the world.  Adm. James Stavrides, as COCOM for Latin America described that command as a “velcro cube” to which other civilian agencies could attach.  AFRICOM was deliberately created to be such a command, despite the absence of any formal civilian role or authority in the operations of such a command.
  • The Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) was designed and implemented as a development assistance program entirely under the authority of the local commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In funding, it is as large as thecivilian Millennium Challenge Corporation and nearly as large as USAID’s development assistance (DA) funds.  During the Bush administration, DOD sought to make CERP a global development assistance program and Carl Schramm’s article in the latest Foreign Affairs proposes that the military be given responsibility for all US bilateral development assistance.

Central and South Asia: A FMF – Section 1206 Comparison June 18, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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Refugees flocking into Uzbekistan after fleeing ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan have arrived with a surprising story.  The first ethnic Uzbeks to arrive cited marauding bands of ethnic Kyrgyz as their persecutors, but those that followed later recount coming under fire by mutinous soldiers moving in official armored personnel carriers.  This comes less than two years since the U.S. Defense Department delivered “5-ton troop/cargo carriers” to Kyrgyzstan under its Section 1206 global train and equip authority.

Other than in the Middle East, U.S. security assistance is at its most realpolitik in Central Asia.  It’s written all over the Defense Department’s Section 1206 security assistance, as well as the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing.  Winning the war in Afghanistan, including getting to it logistically, define the region’s Section 1206 and FMF assistance packages.

Professionals think logistics: Accessing Afghanistan IS our Central Asia policy

The Defense Department lives by the words of former Marine Gen. Robert Barrow: “Amateurs think about tactics; professionals think about logistics.”  Logistically, there are three ways into land-locked Afghanistan: through Iran, through Pakistan, or through the former Soviet states of Central Asia.  Failing to choose at least one of these three options means not getting to Afghanistan.

Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations struggled with this choice.  We very adamantly mean to be in Afghanistan, and are willing to make the logistical tradeoffs necessary to get there.  Détente with Iran is not one of them, and transit capacity through Pakistan alone is insufficient.  So Central Asia it is – and Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport has provided the only U.S. air transit point in former Soviet Central Asia since our 2005 eviction from Uzbekistan’s Karshi-Khanabad air base.

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Africa: A FMF – Section 1206 Comparison June 11, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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Last Saturday night, Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte went to New York’s Kennedy airport with the intent of traveling to Mogadishu to join Al Shabaab, an Islamist militia fighting to establish Somalia as a launching point for global terrorism.  The FBI had other plans, and they were arrested.  Neither Alessa or Almonte are of Somali background, but their case harkened back to the 20 young men from Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community that succeeded in joining Al Shabaab between late 2007 – late 2009.

This is the lens through which the Defense Department looks at Africa.  Across the continent is a ready supply of collapsed states hosting and attracting frustrated, young populations – fertile ground for organizations with terrorist ambitions.  Having been squeezed out of Afghanistan and stressed in Pakistan, Al Qaeda’s demand for safe haven exceeds even that ready supply.

The Defense Department thinks that supply and demand will connect in Africa. It’s putting its money where its mouth is, using its Section 1206 Train and Equip authority.  Sometimes, but not always, the State Department comes along in the form of Foreign military Financing (FMF).  Taken together, the U.S. national security policy for Africa that emerges appears schizophrenic.

Top-Level Security Assistance Picture: FMF and Section 1206 Combined

Two operations define U.S. security assistance in Africa: Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans-Sahara (OEF-TS) and Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).  84% of aggregated FMF and Section 1206 spending between fiscal years 2006 – 2009 ($224M out of $268M) went to eleven of the states under these operations’ remit.

Meaningful security assistance is not going to the failing states on which OEF-TS and CJTF-HOA focus, though.  Somalia, the crux of CJTF-HOA, is not a state and thus receives no assistance.  Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad are only marginally better.  Together, and along with Algeria, they drive OEF-TS but receive only 4% ($11.3M) of this security assistance.  Instead, 77% of aggregated FMF and Section 1206 spending between fiscal years 2006 – 2009 ($207M) went to six states (Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya) that border those in the OEF-TS and CJTF-HOA focus.  To the extent that there is a strategy, it seems containment is the order of the day.

Strategy schizophrenia: FMF and Section 1206 in detail

The reappearance of containment aside, considering FMF and Section 1206 individually reveals that U.S. security assistance strategy in Africa is conflicted.  The Defense Department’s Section 1206 authority to set security assistance policy is supposed to be a rare exception from the norm of State Department leadership in this area.  Yet the exception dominates the rule in Africa.  Section 1206 nearly doubles FMF assistance (62% and 38%, respectively).

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Europe: A FMF and Section 1206 Comparison May 28, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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NATO will update its strategic concept at its upcoming Lisbon Summit for the first time since 1999.  Last week, a group of experts convened by the Alliance made a series recommendations for this new strategic concept.  Foremost among them is renewed commitment to a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

The U.S. more than shares this policy – we originated it, and have enshrined it in our foreign policy ever since.  Security assistance to new and aspiring members is one of the most prominent expressions of this policy, including the State Departments Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program and the Defense Department’s Section 1206 train and equip authority.

Top-Level Security Assistance Picture: FMF and Section 1206 Combined


Turkey is the only pre-1999 NATO member to receive any of the $507 million in FMF or 1206 assistance ($37M; 7%) offered to European states between FY2006-09.  Another $60 million (12%) went to seven states contributing a total of 160 troops in Afghanistan and either uninterested in NATO membership (Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova) or far from achieving it (Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia).

81% of FMF and Section 1206 spending, however, went to NATO’s twelve most recent members and the three partners (Macedonia, Ukraine, Georgia) closest to membership.  Budgets strongly reflect U.S.-NATO policy in this instance, helping to tie European states into a meaningful whole.

Understanding the Strategy: FMF and Section 1206 in Detail

That European whole is premised on peace, an immediate and empirical goal, and democratic freedom, which develops and is maintained over the longer term.  Section 1206 and FMF assistance can be distinguished in similar ways. Focused on training and equipping foreign forces to control their territory and contribute to coalition counterterrorism operations, Section 1206 aligns closely with U.S. policy of European peace.  Just as that peace then is institutionalized through democratic freedom, Section 1206 assistance needs more deliberate FMF packages to be sustained.

U.S. spending patterns on FMF and Section 1206 assistance to Europe reflect this complementary nature.  More so than any other region, Section 1206 assistance is spent strategically in Europe.  95% ($45M) of it is spent in the four states (Albania, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine) struggling most mightily to institutionalize durable peace, meet NATO interoperability standards, and contribute troops in Afghanistan.  Only one of these – Albania – is a NATO member, and it acceded just last year.  Sustainment is a goal but more for the long term, represented by the fact that they each receive FMF assistance, but only 22% ($99M) of the region’s total.

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Nuclear Balancing Act—A Worthy Cost May 18, 2010

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Barry M. Blechman is the co-founder of the Stimson Center and co-editor, with Alex Bollfrass, of two recent books on how to overcome the obstacles to nuclear disarmament: Unblocking the Road to Zero is the series title and they are available through the Stimson website.

by Barry M. Blechman

President Obama’s nuclear spring offensive is cresting.  Last week he submitted the U.S.-Russia nuclear reductions treaty (START) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. efforts are ongoing in New York to ensure a favorable outcome to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.  Hoping to guarantee that this “offensive” climaxes in tangible victory – Senate ratification of the START agreement this summer – the President has undertaken a delicate balancing act.

On the one hand, President Obama clearly puts a high priority, both policy-wise and personally, on reducing nuclear dangers and eventually eliminating them totally. He articulates these goals often and frequently corrals world leaders in events that draw attention to nuclear dangers and reiterate their commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.  The special U.N. Security Council summit in September and the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April are just two examples.

These positions are not mere rhetoric.  Rather, the Administration is living its values through policy.

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), released in April, lists “preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism” and “reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy” as the first two objectives of the nation’s nuclear policy.  Even the traditional primary goal of “strategic deterrence” is now listed third as, “maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels.”  Soon thereafter, the new START agreement cut U.S. and Russian strategic force levels by close to one-third from the levels permitted by the treaty it replaces.  Other steps, such as declassifying the number of weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and retiring nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles, have also contributed to the disarmament side of the scale.

On the other hand, while his ultimate goals might be idealistic, pursuing them realistically has allowed President Obama to succeed in the political side of this balancing act.  In the nuclear realm, the President faces two obstacles. At home, he must avoid being painted as “weak on defense,” a caricature often used to smear Democrat presidents.  Abroad, he must both persuade other nuclear weapon states to take disarmament seriously, and also reassure allies that the U.S. will not desert them during the lengthy transition to a nuclear-weapons-free world.

As a result, Administration officials stress repeatedly that so long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, reliable, and effective nuclear arsenal.  These statements are backed up, moreover, by requests for spending increases that have cut the ground out from under many potential critics.

The most prominent spending request has been a ten percent increase in funds for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapon programs ($7 billion in 2011); the increases will continue in future years and the program will cost a total of $80 billion over ten years.  The Administration justifies this increase as necessary to ensure the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons by strengthening the people and facilities that support them and replacing components of several existing weapons.

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Hoof Steps in the Night: Anonymous defense spending earmarks May 17, 2010

Posted by Matthew Leatherman in Analysis.
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by Matt Leatherman and Mariah Quinn

Citizens Against Government Waste recently issued its FY10 summary of earmark abuses, called the Pig Book.  Remarkably, $6 billion of the $6.5 billion in anonymous earmarks were made within the defense appropriation.  And with the war supplemental pending, more surely is on the way.

Congressional rules require members to disclose all earmarks online.  Rules, though, were made to be broken.  Garden-variety violators – those that remain anonymous because of the weirdness or embarrassment of their spending – are less remarkable because they have no greater meaning.  The member requesting $1.8M for food allergy research in the defense bill provides a great example.  Yet two other types connect far more significantly to planning and strategy.

Wilbur goes to the ball

House Republicans profiled their fiscal responsibility by pledging to offer no earmarks for the entire FY2011 budget cycle.  Far less PR was done for the caveat memo circulated by the House Armed Services Committee Minority staff.  In it, HASC Republicans determined that “committee level national security policy decisions” did not constitute earmarks and, as a consequence, can continue.

Two particular committee level national security policy decisions were cited as examples: procurement of additional C-17 cargo jets and development of an alternative second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  The Pentagon has very prominently rejected these purchases, and excluded them from its strategy and recent budgets – hence the ‘need’ for earmarks.

Taken together, earmarks for just these two purchases ($2.97 billion) totaled 49% of the anonymous requests in the defense appropriation, and 29% of all defense requests.  This lays to rest any ambiguity about the meaning of House Republican’s earmark ban as it pertains to defense.  “Committee level national security decisions” may accessorize that pig for a masquerade ball, but behind that mask is still an undisciplined mass of pork.

When pigs drive (and sail)

House Republicans certainly aren’t the only ones leaving unclaimed BBQ stains on the defense bill, though.  Indeed, the Pentagon’s clumsy fingerprints are strikingly visible.

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Secretary Gates and Discipline at DOD May 11, 2010

Posted by Gordon Adams in Analysis.
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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a major speech last week about the future of US defense capabilities and the military budget.  It was generally greeted as a voice of realism, bringing the military services up short to realize that the fiscal “gusher,” that has doubled US defense spending over the past decade, “has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time.”

It was nothing of the sort.  While he talked about saving more than $300 billion in hardware cuts over the past two budgets, he said nothing about the billions his budget decisions added to replace the systems he ostensibly cut – more current generation destroyers replacing the ‘cancelled’ new ones, and the extension of the vehicle program in the ostensibly cut Future Combat System, just to name two.

The key to understanding what Gates was really saying lies in the Secretary’s statement that the current state of the world justifies “sustaining the current military force structure.”   And in his assertion that the defense budget must grow roughly two-to-three percent above inflation to sustain that force structure.  And in his argument that any savings that result from his plan should be retained at DOD to provide that rich budget the current force requires.

Rather than playing on the margins of fiscal restraint, the Secretary and the Department would do well to prepare for two tsunamis that are bearing down on them, not just the one that the Secretary noted.  Gates acknowledged that historic levels of deficits and US debt were putting the nation at fiscal risk, which would lead to slower federal spending in the coming years.  The European fiscal crisis of the past month is a warning of the risks we face in not dealing with this looming crisis.  US debt is projected to reach 80-100% of US Gross Domestic Product in the coming decade; continued borrowing to fund that debt will raise interest costs and put in jeopardy the stellar rating US Treasury notes have had historically.

Secretary Gates is less prepared for the second tsunami, however:  the departure of the US military from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The US is certain to be largely withdrawn from Iraq over the next year, and equally likely to be largely withdrawn from Afghanistan in the next three years.  Coupled with concerns about deficits and debt, a shrinking presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will pull the rug out from under public support for what has been an undisciplined military budget.

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