Monday, April 11, 2011

U.S. Cost of Libya War at $608 Million: Pentagon

WASHINGTON - The cost of the air war in Libya for the U.S. military has reached $608 million, a U.S. defense official said April 11.
The cost estimate covers the period from the start of international air strikes in Libya on March 19 to April 4, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
U.S. officials previously had said the operation had cost $550 million through March 28.
The Pentagon has estimated the air campaign will cost the United States about $40 million a month, even after NATO allies took the lead in the U.N.-mandated operation designed to protect civilians against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
For the U.S. Air Force alone, the war costs about $4 million a day, the top civilian in the service told reporters last week. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said he expected that figure to come down with European allies carrying out bombing raids while U.S. aircraft play a support role.

South Africa Exporting Arms to Repressive Regimes: Report

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has exported millions of dollars' worth of arms to some of the world's most repressive regimes, a weekly newspaper said Sunday, citing a classified government weapons report.
Africa's largest arms exporter has sold weapons to five of the 10 least democratic states on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index and 10 of the 25 worst performers on the Global Peace Index, which ranks nations by their peacefulness, according to The Sunday Independent.
The paper cites Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burundi, China, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen as countries with questionable democracy and human rights records that have received South African weapons.
The government last year approved the sale of 35 billion rand ($5.3 billion, 3.6 billion euros) in arms to 78 countries, the Independent said, citing the annual report of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, which officials have kept under wraps.
Of that total, the paper identified more than one billion rand in sales to repressive regimes.
South Africa's arms sales have been under the spotlight since opposition politicians accused the government of selling weapons to Libya, which they said leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces may now be using against civilians in the country's deepening conflict.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who chairs the arms control committee, told parliament South Africa had exported 81 million rand ($12 million, eight million euros) in weapons to Libya from 2003 to 2009, but said at the time there was no indication the arms would be used on civilians.
South Africa's arms control act requires the committee to vet exports by the country's $2.6-billion defense industry to ensure they will not be used for anything but "legitimate defense and security needs".
South Africa developed a home-grown defense industry during the apartheid era, when the white-minority regime was under a U.N. arms embargo.
The industry lost much of its government funding after the first democratic elections in 1994, turning to overseas sales to fill the gap.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, South Africa was the world's 15th largest arms exporter from 2006 to 2010.

Arab League To Ask U.N. for No-Fly Zone in Gaza: Chief

CAIRO - Arab League chief Amr Mussa said April 10 the organization will ask the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza, which Israel has pounded with air strikes in response to rocket fire.
Mussa told an emergency meeting of Arab League ambassadors that "the Arab bloc in the United Nations has been directed to ask for the convention of the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and impose a no-fly zone."
Israeli and Palestinian officials were floating a ceasefire on April 10 to end fighting in the coastal strip where Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 people since April 7.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of an even stronger response if more rockets are fired from the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.
The flare-up came after an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an Israeli school bus on April 7, wounding two people, one of them critically.
Even if Arab representatives at the United Nations succeed in convening a Security Council meeting, the United States, a close ally of Israel, is likely to veto it.
The Arab League request for a no-fly zone over Gaza may have been inspired by a U.N.-sanctioned aerial blockade for Libya to halt forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi harming civilians.
Arab League backing for that no-fly zone was seen as crucially important by the United States when it pressed for a U.N. resolution that authorized it and other countries to keep Libyan planes grounded.

NATO Strikes 25 Libyan Tanks Near Ajdabiya, Misrata: General

BRUSSELS - NATO warplanes destroyed 11 regime tanks on the road to the eastern Libyan town of Ajdabiya and another 14 tanks near Misrata in the west on April 10, the operation's commander said.
"The situation in Ajdabiya, and Misratah in particular, is desperate for those Libyans who are being brutally shelled by the (Moammar Gadhafi) regime," said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, the NATO operation's commander.
"To help protect these civilians we continue to strike these forces hard, with 11 tanks destroyed today as they approached Ajdabiya, and 14 tanks destroyed earlier this morning in the outskirts of Misrata," he said.
A NATO official told AFP earlier that the air strikes would continue throughout the day and evening.
"Clearly the situation in Ajdabiya is desperate and Gadhafi forces are attacking the town with heavy weapons," the official said.
NATO has also been hitting ammunition bunkers and lines of communication to cut off Gadhafi forces from their supplies, the alliance said.
"We are hitting the regime logistics facilities as well as their heavy weapons because we know Gadhafi is finding it hard to sustain his attacks on civilians," Bouchard said in a statement from his headquarters in Naples, Italy.
"One recent strike cratered the road leading to Ajdabiya, west of Brega, where his fuel and ammunition is being moved forward on large trucks. Further west we hit two more storage bunkers where the ammunition is coming from," the Canadian general said.
Loud explosions rocked the battleground town of Ajdabiya for a second day April 10, as rebel fighters advanced cautiously after suffering a major reverse at the hands of loyalists.
Meanwhile, rebels said regime forces killed at least 11 people over the weekend in Misrata, besieged by Gadhafi's forces for more than a month.
Prior to airstrikes on April 10, NATO had already taken out 15 tanks near Misrata on April 8 and 9, bringing to 29 the total number of tanks destroyed around Libya's third largest city in the past three days.
Western strikes against Gadhafi forces began on March 19 under a U.N. mandate to protect the population after Gadhafi unleashed his security forces to violently put down pro-democracy protests.
The United States handed control of the operation to NATO on March 31.
Libyan rebels have criticized NATO in recent days, accusing the alliance of failing to protect the population in Misrata.
But NATO says it is picking up the pace of air strikes.
NATO has accused Gadhafi forces were trying to thwart NATO strikes by using women and children as human shields.
"We have observed horrific examples of regime forces deliberately placing their weapons systems close to civilians, their homes and even their places of worship," Bouchard said on April 9.
"Troops have also been observed hiding behind women and children. This type of behavior violates the principles of international law and will not be tolerated," he said.

Ship, Sub Building Efforts Back on Track: U. S. Navy Undersecretary

The U.S. Navy's major shipbuilding and aviation programs are largely setting into stability, but questions are rising about the strategic outlook for the Navy and Marine Corps and the forces they will need in the future, all in the context of a declining defense budget.
Undesecretary of the U.S. Navy Robert Work recently sat down with Defense News for a wide-ranging interview. (U.S. Navy)
Navy Undersecretary Robert Work is in the center of the effort to define the Navy Department's direction and map out its future roles.
Q. How are you going to cut the budget for 2013?
A. First of all, we have not received fiscal guidance yet for POM 13 [Program Objective Memorandum]. We expect it momentarily. The way that this will work is the Navy and the Marines have been working on an expected top line which was based on last year's submission, the POM 12 submission, and that is due into the Department of the Navy on the 2nd of May. Then we will have three months to prepare the budget and turn it over to the Department of Defense, and then we'll go through the budget review throughout the rest of the year like we normally do. So we're expecting to get top level guidance here within the next week.
The Navy and the Marine Corps will refine their plans based on the guidance and will continually refine them until the 30th of July or so when it is due to the secretary of defense. So I'm expecting the numbers will change slightly, over time depending on how the budget negotiations go on the Hill, and we'll just adjust accordingly.
Q. Arguably, you haven't taken a major swipe at cutting your budget yet.
A. No, we're still operating under the fiscal guidance that's in right now. Of course if we get a year-long continuing resolution or if we get a bill for 2011, then we'll have to see what the impacts will be on '12 and make adjustments there. It's extremely fluid and flexible. I can't recall a time where we've been so deep in the fiscal year without a budget. And Congress hasn't even turned its attention to the 2012 budget, which under normal rules would be passed around the October time frame. We're in such an uncertain environment right now that talking about the budget really is not fruitful.
Q. Japan is still dealing with fallout from the earthquake and tsunami, and concerns about radiation from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactors recently caused the U.S. to send the Yokosuka-based aircraft carrier George Washington to sea, right in the middle of an overhaul. Has a decision been made about where the ship's going to go? Will the disasters affect the future of the Navy's Forward-Deployed Naval Forces in Japan?
A. We believe the FDNF will remain and that we will have a strong presence in Japan after this terrible disaster. We are getting more and more of our experts into Japan to help on the remediation. As far as I know, there has been no indication at all, and no discussion at all on the future of FDNF. It's to be assumed it will remain. [The question of where the George Washington will go hasn't] been resolved yet. A lot is going to depend on the mediation of the nuclear plants. Everyone's taking a look at this problem and trying to determine the best way to resolve it.
Q. The Marines are thinking ahead to where they're going to be post-Afghanistan. How do you see the shape of the Corps ten years from now?
A. The Corps structure review group that was set up by Commandant Gen. James Amos has finished. It was a bottom-up review to look at all the different things they were told to in the most recent quadrennial defense review and defense planning guidance. They come up with the 186,800 person Marine Corps. Now, they're a force of readiness. That's their key role. And the Secretary of Defense endorsed that role.
The plan is, depending on resources of course, to be manned very close to 100 percent as possible. They would have an entirely modernized and upgraded ground mobility portfolio based on two new systems - the Marine Corps personnel carrier and the new amphibious vehicle. Our hope is that we can get have eight battalions of the new amphibious vehicle and four battalions of the Marine personnel carrier.
The Marines have already dropped the total number of vehicles in their Marine Air-Ground Task Force, forcewide, from 42,000 to about 32,500, and they did that by essentially matching butts to seats. And they said how do we keep mobility in the ground force? They are looking at their joint light tactical fleet, what's the best way forward, should it be the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle or should there be some other option? They've looked at their medium truck fleet. I think they're in real good shape.
Aviation looks very bright. The secretary, the commandant and I are very confident that the engineering problems on the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter are going to be resolved. The Marines have made a decision to put five F-35C [carrier variant] squadrons aboard carriers, so they have lined up about 21 active squadrons, five of them C's, the remainder of them B's.
[Development of] the CH-53K [heavy-lift helicopter] is moving right along, and we're extremely happy with the AH-1Z [attack helicopters] and the UH-1Y [utility helicopter].
So when we take a look at a force in readiness, able to come from the sea, the plan is in place for a thoroughly modernized Marine Corps and thoroughly ready Marine Corps, going back to its naval roots and its amphibious heritage.
Q. Is naval fire support something in need of a solution or is the current capability acceptable?
A. In '13, we hope to take a look again at the 5-inch guided round, but the 6-inch guided round, the 155mm is going well. It's already met its threshold in range. The plans are to have three DDG 1000 destroyers carrying six of those systems.
We have an awful lot of 5-inch cannons in the fleet and if we can solve the 5-inch round problem, then the combination of the 6-inch rounds, 5-inch rounds and air-delivered ordnance is going to be plenty for any foreseeable contingencies.
Q. Production of LPD 17 San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships is continuing, with half the class is already in service and the sixth ship to be delivered this summer. Every previous ship has had problems to varying degrees. Shipbuilder Huntington-Ingalls Industries (HII) would really like to deliver a good ship, but they haven't done so yet. Do you see anything on this next ship that gives you hope?
A. We've had an awful lot of problems with the class, but the most recent ships are coming in in much better shape. We're still working with HII, we still want to see quality improve. As quality improves we expect scheduling and costs to improve.
But we're very satisfied with the basic design of the ship. Workmanship is getting better. We just awarded LPD 26 to HII, LPD 27 is a 2012 ship, and we'll start to worry about that once the budget is settled.
Sailors and Marines can't say enough about [the ships]. [U.S. Fleet Forces commander] Adm. John Harvey spends an awful lot of time trying to get that ship and the wellness of that class right and I think we've made great strides in doing so.
Q. Huntington Ingalls now has been set up as an independent entity, separated from Northrop Grumman. Are you happy with what you've seen so far with HII? What are you looking for from them in the future?
A. We're very happy that we have two yards that build surface combatant ships and two builders that build submarines. We think that's very healthy for the nation and for the Navy. We want to move for competition whenever possible.
We're extremely happy on the spin out. We spent a lot of time trying to determine if HII was going to be viable and I think, as it's been explained, we have the base case and the stress case. We put HII under an awful lot of stress. We assumed that almost all of the ships from '11, all five of the ships under construction, would have marginal performance at the same time, and that we would take the carrier to maximum speed. We stressed everything. We're working hard with HII on quality control issues, and they are extremely motivated to make this thing work.
We're very happy that we have done due diligence, and we think that HII is in as good a place as possible. [Shipyard chief] Mike Petters is exactly right, they have to focus on performance, specifically quality. If the quality goes up, then the costs go down, and the schedule gets back on. I think Mike is focused on exactly the right thing and we're going to do everything we can to work with HII to make sure they're successful.
Q. The biggest ship they're building right now on the Gulf coast is the assault ship America (lha 6). Will there be another lha without a well deck and an aviation version of that ship or is that going to be a one-off ship?
A. Nope, there will be two ships. LHA 7 will not have a well deck on it, and we'll have two aviation-capable ships.
Our intent is for LHA 8, which right now is a 2016 ship, to have a well deck in it. We're doing an analysis to determine the best and most inexpensive way for us to achieve that. Is it a repeat of the LHA 8 Makin class or is it an LHA with a well deck inserted into it? It's not going to be a completely newly-designed ship. It'll be a mod repeat of some type with a well deck in it.
Q. If it has a well deck, why isn't it called LHD 9?
A. That's a good question. I don't know whether that's been decided yet.
Q. Back to shipyards. As you know, both shipyards that built the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) are U.S. subsidiaries of foreign owners. Do you see any issue with foreign ownership of U.S. shipyards?
A. So far, we're very comfortable with the smaller, mid-tier yards being foreign-owned. Marinette with Fincantieri and Austal USA with Austal. We're encouraged by the quality and we're encouraged by the management improvements that both of the companies are making.
We haven't really had to deal with foreign ownership of a larger yard - a NASSCO, or HII or Electric Boat. Certainly a nuclear yard [would be] a red line. We haven't really addressed a larger tier one yard. We would be concerned with a foreign owner of those yards.
Q. Of course, bae now owns most of the private repair yards in the U.S. doing U.S. Navy repair work.
A. That's true, from what we can see, there is no issue, Congress hasn't seemed to be at all worried about this. We certainly see a lot of advantages in this because of some of the management improvements that they're making as well as capital improvements they're making.
Q. The guided-missile submarine Florida was in action recently in the Mediterranean against the Libyan government. Has the ssgn proven itself?
A. I think the SSGN is a big success story. I think there's a lot more potential on the platform.
The two things that are at least definitely proven are that it is a tremendous covert strike platform, a volume strike platform. On the first day [of the missile strikes on Libya], the majority of U.S. Navy Tomahawks fired on Libya came off that single ship. So, covert volume strike has proven itself in combat. The majority of missiles fired on the first night from U.S. Navy platforms came from submarines and the majority of missiles that came from submarines came from Florida.
And it's a tremendous special operations forces (SOF) support platform. It can carry two dry deck shelters, two swimmer delivery vehicles. Essentially you have to think of this ship as having 24 tractor trailer-sized multi-function payload tubes. If you want to put [cruise missiles] in, you can. You can store SOF ammunition, you can store SOF gear. You could put unmanned underwater vehicles. I think there's a lot more potential for the submarine as a UUV mother ship. It has tremendous payload capacity and a very high availability rates because of the dual crew.
Q. Let's talk about airplanes. The 5th-generation Joint Strike Fighter will be in service in a few years, and some are already thinking about 6th-generation aircraft. How would you characterize that work?
A. Extremely at the beginning of the beginning.
The F/A-18 E and F [Super Hornet] is an extremely capable platform as you know fromWe're going to be operating Es and Fs well into the 2020s.
The JSF, we're hoping we'll have no more slips. The first six F-35C squadrons would be stood up by the end of this decade and they'll start deploying in the early 2020s.
So essentially, we're in very good shape as far as total number of strike fighters. Assuming the B and C do well, we'll be operating a mix of F/A-18 Es and Fs and F-35 Bs and Cs essentially through the 2020s.
The N-UCLASS - an unmanned system, carrier-capable, air-refuelable - we're going for a limited operational capability in 2018. That is going to inform what the next generation, or sixth generation fighter, might be.
So the debate within the department is, could that be a mix? Could it be a mix of manned and unmanned? Could it be an optionally manned platform? Do we believe that in 2030, when we need to start replacing the earliest Es and Fs ,will we be ready to go to an unmanned system at that point?
So we are just at the beginning of this. We've laid in the money in our 30-year aviation plan to be looking at that 6th-generation fighter starting around the 2020 time frame. That's when the majority of the RDT&E [research, development, testing and evaluation] money would start to fill in.
We have the 2013 and the 2017 QDRs, and many, many budget cycles between now and then. I think you could get people on both sides of the equation to tell the Navy what it needs but I don't think we're anywhere near knowing what the right answer is yet.
Q. Is the Navy considering additional assets to handle increased duties in the Arctic as global warming decreases the ice cap?
A. So far it's a Coast Guard area. There hasn't been any discussion between the Coast Guard and the Navy on whether the Navy would buy any icebreakers themselves. Our position is this is a Coast Guard mission best served by the Coast Guard.
The Arctic is central to future planning. We're very anxious to participate in climate change and in projections about how the future of the Arctic might unfold.
Submarines are up there, operating under the ice now. Potentially in the future we would have more surface ships. But as of right now there are no programs for any Navy icebreakers or any special ice-strengthened ships. Once we get a good feeling of what our long-term top line might be, I think further discussions between the Coast Guard and the Navy will occur on how we will be able to help each other in missions of mutual interest.
Q. Requirements are set by the combatant commanders, yet at times there seems to be little debate about the real need of the cocom requirements. Is this a good process or is it in need of some review?
A. They don't really set requirements, they have RRFs, Request for Forces. They submit their requests for forces and say, I need a ballistic missile defense ship, or a submarine for intelligence, surveillance or reconnaissance work, or a Marine task force, or an Army brigade combat team to do combat operations. The request comes into the Joint Staff. And there is a process by which you say, you just cannot get this.
The example with the Navy that I know of for sure is, if you add up all the requirements for submarines, where the combatant commander said I would like to have all sorts of submarines, the number would be above 15. But we say no, this is how many we can supply based on the total number of ships we have. So therefore the RRFs are adjudicated and combatant commanders are given submarines for missions that are deemed higher priority.
So the system does work. But I would say that over time, the system is designed to defer to the COCOM if at all possible. We look for ways to say yes, rather than try to determine whether we should truly say no for the good of the force. And I think this is a big, big debate that we have to have, and I think it's happening here within the department now.
The RRF process is in place. It does work, especially on high demand, low-density items - nobody can get everything they want, so you have to prioritize. And I think now what we'll be looking at is, if you want a ballistic missile defense ship, how would we be able to source that? How many amphibious ready groups might be demanded, or how many carrier battle groups?
As resources go down and operations and maintenance money goes down, the RRF process will be tightened up. Instead of looking always to say yes, we'll take a more holistic view across the force and whether we should be saying yes to this request or should we maintain the force? It's a big debate that happens every day in the Pentagon.
Q. Is the Navy right now paying a price for meeting the cocom request for two carrier strike groups to be on station in Fifth Fleet to support operations in Afghanistan?
A. Since 2006 Navy surface combatants, aircraft carriers and submarines have essentially been operating at major combat operations levels of demand. And the price the Navy pays for that is in missed maintenance, longer deployments, and this is another big issue.
People say, hey, why do you have to get to 313 ships when you're meeting all this demand with 287? What's the issue?
Well, the issue is we want to continue to meet that demand. But with the greater number of ships we don't want to increase presence, we want to have a sustainable operational model where we meet most of these demands but we can maintain our fleet so that each of our platforms can reach the end of their service lives.
When you hear the Navy arguing for more ships, it's not necessarily to say we want more ships out there all the time. We want to be able to meet the demand in a sustainable way where we can do our maintenance, take care of our sailors and Marines, and make sure that over time we're going to have the force ready when needed.