State of Play
Executive: IAEA inspectors recently left Iran after a disappointing two-day visit in which they were denied access to a suspected weapons testing facility at Parchin, a military complex outside of Tehran. The failed visit comes at a point of heightened tensions between Iran and the West as Israel is openly considering striking some or all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and policy makers at the White House are fretting over what role the United States would play should Israel decide to strike.
The United States is close to finalizing an agreement with Afghanistan to allow U.S. troops to remain in the country past 2014. In order to complete the agreement, the U.S. has jettisoned to separate negotiations the contentious issue of allowing Americans to conduct night raids in Afghanistan. And Secretary Panetta has told Senate Appropriations Chair, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), that half of the 8,000 Marines slated to leave Okinawa will be redeployed to Hawaii while the remaining corpsmen will be transferred to Guam and Australia.
Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno has requested, and received, permission to extend by one year the five-year timeline for reducing the service’s ground forces. Under the revised plan, the Army will have until 2017 to reduce its end strength by fourteen percent to 490,000 troops. Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller told reporters this week that the administration would be renewing its call for Congress to approve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which lawmakers declined to ratify in 1999.
Legislative: The Secretary of Defense and service chiefs continue to take heat on the Hill from lawmakers upset over a myriad of proposed policy changes contained in the administration’s FY13 budget request. Armed Services Committee members have not relented in attacking Pentagon officials for failing to budget for sequestration. The service chiefs repeated the refrain that they have been directed by OMB not to consider sequestration. However, CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert told lawmakers this week that if they don’t see significant action to address sequestration by the end of the summer, then the services would begin considering a “strategy” to confront the automatic cuts.
Thirty-four GOP members, led by HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), have written the White House expressing strong opposition to significant reductions in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, and urging the administration to include Congress in its deliberations.
Foreign Policy: Rotting From the Inside Out
Michael Cohen writes “Any discussion of American national security that focuses solely on the issue of U.S. power vis-à-vis other countries -- and ignores domestic inputs -- is decidedly incomplete,” while making the argument that the United States must address overlooked domestic priorities in order to remain “indispensable” on the world stage. (2/21/12)
AOL Defense: Which Pentagon Budget Numbers Are Real? You Decide!
Winslow Wheeler discusses the billions of Congressionally-appropriated national security dollars that are not included in the Department of Defense’s base budget. (2/17/12)
Project on Government Oversight: Fear and Loathing in the Pentagon Budget
Ben Freeman responds to a recent AIA press release claiming that 350,000 defense sector jobs will be lost as a result of the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 request. (2/17/12)
Other News and Commentary
Project on Government Oversight: Draft Report: Investigators Prematurely Closed Military Whistleblower Reprisal Cases
POGO and USA Today have obtained a draft GAO report, which shows that the Pentagon takes too long to complete whistleblower-reported investigations and only provides relief to fifteen percent of troops with substantiated claims of retribution. (2/22/12)
Navy Times: Navy Looks to Rein in Carrier Program Costs
The Navy has delayed by two years the construction of the next Ford-class supercarrier, the John F. Kennedy, in an attempt to avoid the same design problems and cost overruns currently being experienced in production of the USS Gerald Ford. (2/22/12)
Early Warning Blog: Congress And Administration Should Delay Sequestration For A Year
Because election year politics make deficit reduction difficult, Dr. Daniel Goure wants Congress and the White House to delay sequestration cuts by one year. However, he urges the Pentagon to be proactive and “take steps to find alternative ways of saving an equivalent amount of money to that required to be cut.” (2/21/12)
Women’s Action for New Directions: Helping the Pentagon to Fitness
Comparing the Pentagon’s budget to the popular TV series The Biggest Loser, Kathy Crandall Robinson writes that “our nation’s economic health is burdened with uncontrollable deficit spending. Without changes, this won’t end well: our economic security is the foundation of our national security and our bloated defense budget is on track to threaten both.” (2/21/12)
Army Times: Earlier Drawdowns Give Idea of What’s to Come
Using the post-Cold War drawdown as an historic example, the Army has several tools to help it reduce end strength following the conclusion of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, including separation incentives, early retirement benefits, and prohibitions on re-enlistment. (2/19/12)
Associated Press: Boldest Nuclear Cutters Recently? It’s been GOP
Recently released data shows that the most significant reductions to the U.S. nuclear stockpile – reductions as high as fifty percent - have occurred under Republican administrations. However, GOP opposition to further cuts in the stockpile may imperil Obama Administration efforts at additional reductions. (2/18/12)
Military.com: Army Leaders Defend Plan to Shutdown M1 Tank Production
In an attempt to save $2.8 billion, the Army will be shutting down M1 tank production for three to four years until the service begins modernizing its M1A2 SEP tanks. Lawmakers worry that the service will not have enough tanks to confront China or North Korea in the event of a conflict there. The service is also looking to foreign buyers to help sustain the manufacturing base until the modernization upgrades are needed. (2/17/12)
Congressional Research Service: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program (2/16/12)
Congressional Research Service: NATO Common Funds Burdensharing: Background and Current Issues (2/15/12)
Congressional Research Service: Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons (2/14/12)
Congressional Research Service: Defense: FY2012 Budget Request, Authorization and Appropriations (2/13/12)