Monday, November 24, 2008

Pentagon Defers F-22 Funding Decision to Next Administration

Pentagon Defers F-22 Funding Decision to Next Administration
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - November 24, 2008: To avoid unnecessary taxpayer spending, Defense Department officials here are only partially funding the expansion of F-22 Raptor aircraft production, leaving the decision for further expansion to the incoming presidential administration.
John J. Young Jr., the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told members of the air and land forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee in a Nov. 19 hearing that he has approved $50 million for advance procurement for four F-22s.
DOD officials will include the purchase of these four aircraft in the second fiscal 2009 supplemental budget request, he said.
The decision on whether to use the rest of the $140 million allocated in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act for advance procurement for up to 16 more F-22s will be up to the President-elect Barack Obama administration in January, Mr. Young said. Procurement of the four F-22s provides a bridge to give the new administration every option with the program. "The department is acting responsibly, consistent with (Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates') commitment and congressional direction, seeking to ensure that each tax dollar is used carefully and efficiently," he said.
DOD officials are delaying the advance procurement on the remaining 16 aircraft to save taxpayer money should the President-elect Obama administration decide not to purchase the aircraft, Mr. Young said. However, he acknowledged, if the new administration delays its decision on the F-22s past January, it could face higher costs from the manufacturers.
The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes advance procurement for the F-22s until March, and if the decision on the remaining aircraft doesn't come until then, there is a very real chance the cost for the planes could go up, Mr. Young said. However, he cautioned that the estimates for those higher prices are based on industry estimates that haven't been negotiated. "I'm not ignoring the industry estimates, but I'm also not granting them credibility, and so ... if we do nothing until March, I could face -- and that's what I was told by industry -- a cost, which I would seek to negotiate away on behalf of the government," Mr. Young said.
Countering committee members' claims that he was acting in defiance of Congress by not funding all 20 aircraft, Mr. Young said the law doesn't require him to buy the planes all at once, and his goal is to save the taxpayers’ money.
"Can I buy that advance procurement as four plus 16, instead of 20, and impose no additional cost on the taxpayer and preserve the total flexibility and option of the next administration to come and discuss with the Congress whether they want to buy the airplanes behind the advance procurement? And that is the option, having convinced myself that that is possible, we sought to execute," he said.
DOD officials have done a legitimate analysis of the F-22 program, and though some Air Force officials may disagree, Secretary Gates said he believes the department is on its way to the right mix of aircraft, Mr. Young said.
"From Secretary Gates down, there has been a hard look at that analysis and a view that it is a higher priority to do other things in the Defense Department than buy additional F-22s at this time," he said.

Polish AF Crews Complete C-130E Training

Polish AF Crews Complete C-130E Training
(NSI News Source Info) November 24, 2008: Poland’s first two C-130E Hercules aircrews recently completed 11 weeks of C-130E flight training in the United States, and will soon return to Poland.
The flight training was conducted in Nashville by the 118th Airlift Wing, a unit of the Tennessee Air National Guard. Classroom and flight simulator training as well as maintenance training was also conducted at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.
Poland will receive 5 refurbished and upgraded C-130E Hercules aircraft, with the aircraft and training being financed by $98.5 million dollars in grant money under the Foreign Military Financing program.
The aircraft will be based at Powidz Air Base as part of the 3rd Air Transport Brigade. Each C-130E is operated by a crew of 5 Airmen; Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Flight Engineer, and Loadmaster.
The C-130E can carry up to 6 pallets of equipment or 92 combat troops. The first Polish C-130E is scheduled to arrive in December and all 5 are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2009.

Pakistan Army on the offensive against Taliban/al Qaeda

Pakistan Army on the offensive against Taliban/al Qaeda (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD - November 24, 2008: Pakistan's eight-month-old civilian government has disbanded the political wing of the military intelligence agency ISI to concentrate its focus on counter-terrorism, the foreign minister said on Sunday. The support and cooperation of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate is regarded as vital to the West in fighting the threat of al Qaeda globally, and defeating the Taliban insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan. But critics call it a "state within a state", and Pakistan's civilian leaders have regularly accused its political wing of involvement in the overthrow of their governments. Neighbouring Afghanistan and India view the ISI with great distrust. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the ISI's political wing had been disbanded, and described it as a "positive development". "ISI is a precious national institution and it wants to focus fully on counter-terrorism activities," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan quoted him as saying.
Soldiers of the Pakistan army seen in Pakistan's troubled tribal area of Mohmand, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Pakistani forces have killed 25 suspected militants in a two-week operation to secure the frontier city of Peshawar, which sits on a key supply route for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, an official said Monday Pakistan Army soldiers take a vantage position overlooking Pakistan's tribal area of Mohmand, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008
A Pakistani army soldier stands near ammunition and gadgets army claimed they confiscated from militants in Ishra Banda in Pakistan's tribal area of Mohmand, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008
Pakistan army soldiers show ammunition and gadgets, they claimed they confiscated from militants, to the media in Ishra Banda in Pakistan's tribal area of Mohmand, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008
The report did not say when the decision was taken.
The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half its history since 1947. Consequently, issues related to the military are closely watched in the region as well as by nuclear-armed Pakistan's Western allies.
The latest chapter of military rule ended with the defeat of parties loyal to former army chief Pervez Musharraf in polls in February, and Musharraf's resignation as president in August.
His successor as president, Asif Ali Zardari, and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani signalled their intention to exert more control over the ISI in July, but backtracked from an attempt to bring it under the ambit of the Interior Ministry.
Senior officials say army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who himself served as ISI head, has been supportive of Pakistan's return to civilian-led democracy while insisting that the army must look after its own affairs.
Since becoming army chief in November last year, Kayani has taken several steps to take the army out of politics, including ordering all officers out of civilian posts and barring them from meeting politicians.
He appointed a new ISI chief in September and replaced several senior officers.
The political wing was established by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's first popularly elected prime minister, in the 1970s.
Bhutto was toppled and hanged by the military in the late 1970s. His daughter Benazir Bhutto had also accused ISI officials of conspiring to destabilise her two governments in the 1990s.
She was assassinated in December last year campaigning for election, but her husband, Zardari, led her Pakistan Peoples Party to victory.
Security analysts said the decision was good for the ISI.
"The involvement of ISI in politics has been a major controversy in Pakistan. This decision will help it in earning respect in the eyes of people of Pakistan, particularly at a time when it is facing the major challenge of terrorism," former army general-turned-analyst Talat Masood said.
The ISI is known to have wielded great influence on foreign and security policies, especially towards India and Afghanistan.
It played a key role in distributing arms and money, covertly supplied by the United States and Saudi Arabia, to Islamist guerrilla groups for a jihad, or holy war, against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Critics say the ISI was also instrumental in creating the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Pakistan officially stopped backing the Taliban after becoming a U.S. ally in 2001, and the ISI has helped the United States eliminate hundreds of al Qaeda fighters since then.
But the agency, or at least agents within it, are often accused of playing a double game and treating the Afghan Taliban and some jihadi groups as assets rather than enemies.
Some members of Pakistan's security apparatus regard these militants groups as tools to gain leverage in Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir in the long term, according to analysts.
The United States is believed to have privately urged the new government to rein in the ISI, particularly in the wake of a suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul last July.
Washington demanded that Pakistan investigate Indian and Afghan accusations that the ISI was involved in the attack, which Pakistan denied.

Karzai: Obama promises Afghanistan more aid

Karzai: Obama promises Afghanistan more aid
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan - November 24, 2008: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said President-elect Barack Obama assured him Saturday that the United States would send more aid and pay more attention to his war-torn country, according to Karzai's office, but Obama aides declined to confirm the call had included specific promises. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says Barack Obama has promised Afghanistan more aid. Obama and Karzai spoke by phone Saturday. Karzai's office said Obama told him the United States was committed to helping the people of Afghanistan and bringing peace and stability to the country. The Afghan president said he again congratulated Obama on his election and told him that he hoped his presidency would lead to prosperity for the American people, his office said. Two aides in Obama's transition office declined to go into details about what, if anything, the president-elect had pledged to Karzai. Obama told Karzai he "looked forward to working together on Afghan security after January 20," according to one aide, but the incoming president stressed that "until then, there is one president, and it is President Bush." Obama takes office January 20. The incoming administration has been careful to show it is not stepping on the White House's toes or making any promises to world leaders. The transition aide also noted that Obama was returning a congratulatory call from Karzai, so the incoming president did not initiate the conversation. Obama made Afghanistan a key focus of his foreign policy during the campaign, saying that he would make it the central front in the war on terror if elected. In an interview with CNN last July, Obama criticized Karzai's government, saying it "has not gotten out of the bunker and helped organize Afghanistan and [the] government, the judiciary, police forces in ways that would give people confidence." A week after that interview, Obama met with Karzai in Kabul.