Friday, June 3, 2011

U .S. Military Chief 'Open' to Ideas on Japan Base

WASHINGTON - The head of the U.S. military said on June 1 that he was open to ideas on resolving a long-running row with Japan over bases after three senators called the two governments' agreement infeasible.
"I think we need to be as open as we possibly can to solutions now," Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a breakfast with reporters.
Sens. Carl Levin, John McCain and Jim Webb last month called for the United States to rethink base realignment plans in East Asia due to political opposition in Japan and cost overruns in both Japan and South Korea.
Japanese and U.S. officials earlier dismissed the proposal, saying that the plan worked out in 2006 was the best approach and would reduce troop numbers on Okinawa Island, where tensions with local residents have been frequent.
Mullen, whose term ends in September, did not comment specifically on the senators' proposal but said that the United States needed to be mindful both of costs and the political situation in Japan.
"This thing's been discussed for 15 years. There have been 20 different kinds of solutions that I've seen - all of them are difficult. So I think we have to be realistic here," Mullen said.
Any solution needs to preserve "the kind of influence and stability that our presence in that part of the world has done for 60-plus years, and at the same time recognize limitations and that there are needs on both sides."
The senators said that Japan needed to focus on reconstruction from its massive March 11 earthquake and not be distracted by the base dispute, which contributed to the resignation of a prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, last year.
Under the 2006 plan, the United States would move the flash point Futenma base out of a crowded urban area and to an isolated stretch of beach elsewhere on Okinawa.
Some Okinawan activists have demanded that the base be removed from the island completely. The senators said Futenma was needed for security but that its functions could largely be shifted to Okinawa's existing Kadena Air Base.
The United States stations 47,000 troops in Japan under a post-World War II security treaty, with half in Okinawa. The 2006 plan aims to shift 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam in 2014.

Assa d, in New Position, To Help Pentagon Get Best Deal

There will be a new negotiator at the table as the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin hammer out a pricing deal for the latest batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Pentagon veteran Shay Assad has been named the U.S. Defense Department’s director of defense pricing. (File photo / U.S. Defense Department)
Shay Assad, the newly named director of defense pricing, will help the U.S. Defense Department buy weapons at a lower cost than official budget estimates. The creation of the new position is part of the Pentagon's quest to drive down the cost of weapons at a time when defense budgets are constricting.
"We simply intend to be much more professional, much more capable, when it gets to sitting at the table and negotiating the price on behalf of the taxpayers," Assad said during a June 2 briefing at the Pentagon.
The creation of the position is part of Pentagon acquisition executive Aston Carter's Better Buying Power initiative to buy more for less money. Part of that initiative is looking beyond program cost estimates and determining what a program should cost.
In his new role, Assad will help program managers hit these should-cost targets, which will be set at levels less than official budget estimates.
In addition, he will spend more time improving the contracting and pricing work forces in "improving their skills on what it is we pay on the goods and services we buy."
One of the major elements of this is to transform the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), Assad said. DCMA has hired 300 pricing analysts who will assist contract officers during negotiations for weapons, sustainment, services and other contracts. It will take 18 to 24 months to bring this work force up to speed, Assad said.
Officials are also creating an online system that will "enable our contracting officers to get insight into the financial aspects of the companies that we deal with in a real-time way," he said. The system, which already includes rate data, is being tested.
Currently, it could take contracting officers months or even a year to compile this type of data. Soon it will all be organized under one roof and should take minutes to retrieve.
"What we're really trying to do is have contracting officers push away from the table and say: 'I did very well by the taxpayers,' " Assad said.
Assad previously served as director, defense procurement and acquisition, a position he has held since 2006. Richard Ginman, Assad's former deputy, has assumed that position and is responsible for general acquisition and contract policy.
While Assad will conduct peer reviews for sole-source programs that cost more than $1 billion and selective deals above $500 million, Ginman will work on competitive programs.
Assad will be "intimately involved" supporting the acquisition of the F-35, the Pentagon's most expensive program. DoD converted the program to a fixed-price construct last year and has entered new negotiations for the fifth batch of production aircraft.
The F-35 negotiations will likely not wrap up until this fall, Assad said.

U.K. Army Fears Loss of Battlefield Mobility

LONDON - British soldiers will be walking to war if the Ministry of Defence fails to deliver a coherent equipment plan as part of its restructuring of the U.K. military later this decade, according to a senior Army officer.
Maj. Gen. Bill Moore, the MoD's director of battlespace maneuver and master general of the Ordnance, singled out the need to fund a planned upgrade of the Army's Warrior infantry fighting vehicle as vital to enabling the British military to maneuver in the post-2015 era.
"While support for operations [in Afghanistan] is the main effort, we need to deliver a coherent Future Force 2020. If we don't get this right and don't get the Warrior [capability sustainment program] funded and maintain the other things in our program, the Army will be walking to war from 2015," Moore told an audience of senior officers and industry executives at a June 2 conference on land warfare, hosted here by the Royal United Services Institute.
The MoD has been in negotiations with Lockheed Martin UK for months to update more than 300 Warriors with a new turret, gun, electronic architecture and better armored protection.
The future of the program has been wracked by uncertainties as a result of heavy defense budget cuts imposed by the British government over the next four years.
The general said there is an enduring need for the Warrior, and the current machine has reached the end of its tether with an obsolete gun, a power-to-weight ratio on operations that is near its limit and other failings. The update would allow Warrior to stay in service beyond 2040.
While Moore may have had his tongue in his cheek over the "walking to war" comment, he said that even if Britain manages to maintain all the programs in the budget, there would still be an issue of being able to maneuver properly in the 2015-20 time frame.
There is a clear budget gap across many of the key maneuver equipment plans post-2015, and he said armored vehicles, support helicopters, air transport, support vehicles, ISTAR and joint fires would all require more funding if Britain is going to develop the Future Force 2020 concept fully.
One bright spot, he said, is the progress on the new armored scout vehicle being developed by General Dynamics UK. The team developing the turret for the vehicle conducted its first live firing with the 40mm case telescoped cannon system integrated in mid-May.
Lockheed Martin is leading the team using a Rheinmetall Landsysteme-designed turret. The tests, conducted in Germany, involved firing 20 rounds. General Dynamics said the milestone was achieved five months ahead of schedule.
Moore said Britain also needs more helicopter lift capabilities, including additional Boeing Chinooks and upgraded Eurocopter Pumas.
AgustaWestland Merlin battlefield support helicopters are being transferred to the Royal Navy for commando operations.
Future Force 2020 is a planned transformation of the British military into a more adaptable, but smaller, expeditionary force by the end of the decade.
The transformation, part of the 2010 British government strategic defense and security review, is sparking increasing debate here on military requirements and how they will be funded post-2015, against what could be a backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and budget pressure.

China Denies Responsibility for Gmail Cyberattack

BEIJING - China said on June 1 it was "unacceptable" to blame it for a cyberspying campaign, which Google said had targeted the Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials, journalists and Chinese activists.
The comments marked the latest salvo in a battle between the Chinese government and Google dating back to last year when the U.S. Internet giant revealed it had been the victim of a separate China-based cyberattack.
"To put all of the blame on China is unacceptable," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
"The so-called statement that the Chinese government supports hacking attacks is a total fabrication... It has ulterior motives."
Google said June 1 it was hit by a cyberspying campaign that appeared to have originated in Jinan, capital of the eastern Chinese province of Shandong. The company did not specifically point the finger of blame at Chinese authorities.
"We recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing," Google security team engineering director Eric Grosse said in a blog post.
"The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users' emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples' forwarding and delegation settings," he said.
Those affected included senior US government officials, Chinese political activists, military personnel, journalists and officials in several Asian countries, mainly South Korea, Grosse said.
"Google detected and has disrupted this campaign to take users' passwords and monitor their emails," he said.
"We have notified victims and secured their accounts," he added. "In addition, we have notified relevant government authorities."
The "phishing" ruse used to trick Gmail users into revealing account names and passwords reportedly involved sending booby-trapped messages that appeared to come from legitimate associates, friends or organizations.
The White House is investigating the situation but has no reason to believe that Gmail accounts of senior government officials were hacked, an official told AFP.
Briefing reporters on a new White House strategy statement about cyber-security, the Pentagon on May 31 did not rule out a military response if the United States was hit by an online attack.
"A response to a cyber-incident or attack on the U.S. would not necessarily be a cyber response," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said. Google said the California-based firm's systems and servers were not attacked.
There was no indication whether the Gmail spying campaign was related to the China-based cyberattack on Google that prompted the company early last year to stop bowing to Internet censors and reduce its presence in the country.
Google, whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," had initially threatened to close its Chinese operations altogether because of censorship and cyberattacks it said originated from China.
At that time, Beijing virulently denied any state involvement in the cyberattacks that Google said targeted email accounts of Chinese human rights activists and said such claims were "groundless."
Beijing tightly controls online content in a vast system dubbed the "Great Firewall of China," removing information it deems harmful such as pornography, violent content, and politically sensitive material.
Noting that China too had been a victim of cyberattacks, Hong said, "The Chinese government always disapproves of criminal activities including hacker activities and other activities that impair the Internet."
The spokesman added, "We punish these activities in accordance with law."

U.S., Romania in 'Complicated' F-16 Talks

BUCHAREST, Romania - The United States and Romania are in "very complicated" negotiations about the purchase of second-hand F-16 combat aircraft due to financing issues, the U.S. ambassador to Romania said June 2.
"This is a very complicated negotiation because at some point it requires a financial agreement," Ambassador Mark Gitenstein told a press conference.
"We are just not far enough to finalize that" at this stage, he added.
Romania announced in March 2010 it would purchase 24 F-16 aircraft currently used by the U.S. military for $1.3 billion in order to replace its ageing, Soviet-made MiG Lancer jets.
The announcement triggered criticism from European groups Eurofighter and Saab, which said authorities should have issued a call for tenders.
Then in June 2010, as Romania battled one of the worst recessions in Europe, then finance minister Sebastian Vladescu said the purchase represented 1 percent of GDP and "such an expense was downright impossible" at the moment.
Romania and the United States are close allies and agreed in May to deploy 24 missile interceptors on a military airbase in southern Romania in 2015 as part of the new U.S. defense shield

FBI Reviews Hacking of Officials' Gmail Accounts

The FBI is investigating a cyber attack that targeted hundreds of Google email accounts, including those belonging to senior U.S. government officials and military personnel.
Google believes the phishing scam, which tricked users into divulging personal information, was launched by hackers in Jinan, China, to monitor email content, Google announced in a June 1 blog post.
The Internet giant said its internal systems were not affected and those targeted by the incident have been notified.
FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said the agency is reviewing the matter. As with any cyber attack, incidents reported to the FBI are evaluated to determine if an investigation will be launched.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working with Google and agencies to analyze malicious activity and mitigate risks, DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said.
Less than two weeks ago, hackers penetrated information systems networks at Lockheed Martin. The defense contractor said no customer, program or employee data was compromised during the attack, and DHS and the U.S. Defense Department are looking into the matter.
"Impact to DoD [from the Lockheed cyber attack] is minimal and we don't expect any adverse effect," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a Defense Department spokeswoman.