Selling weapons used to be a cut-throat business. With a no-questions-asked policy, it has led in the past, to the selling of weapons to support African conflicts, leaving Angola, Somalia, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic Congo awash with AK-47 semi-automatic rifles and very little else.
Today’s high-tech weapons manufacturers are enjoying record sales. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year. One of the more controversial is the Defense Department’s plans to sell Saudi Arabia $6.8 billion and the United Arab Emirates $4 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions. The trouble is – has anyone asked where these weapons will ultimately end up?
Kerry was a major proponent of the New START treaty with Russia, which the Senate ratified after a long debate in December 2010. As secretary of state, he has supported negotiating a follow-on treaty with Russia that could place further limits on the two countries’ stockpiles of strategic and tactical deployed nuclear weapons.
But Kerry knew last year that Russia was in violation of the INF Treaty. That pact, signed by President Reagan, bars development, testing, or deployment of missiles or delivery systems with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
[...] The exact manner of the Russian cheating remains unclear and highly classified, although there have been several reports that Russia has tested and plans to continue testing two missiles in ways that could violate the terms of the treaty: the SS-25 road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and the newer RS-26 ICBM, which Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has called “the missile defense killer,” a reference to U.S. plans to expand ballistic missile defense in Europe.
The State Department declined to confirm or deny that it believes Russia is in violation of the treaty and declined to comment on the 2012 briefing with Kerry.
Today I found out that during the height of the Cold War, the US military put such an emphasis on a rapid response to an attack on American soil, that to minimize any foreseeable delay in launching a nuclear missile, for nearly two decades they intentionally set the launch codes at every silo in the US to 8 zeroes.
We guess the first thing we need to address is how this even came to be in the first place. Well, in 1962 JFK signed the National Security Action Memorandum 160, which was supposed to ensure that every nuclear weapon the US had be fitted with a Permissive Action Link (PAL), basically a small device that ensured that the missile could only be launched with the right code and with the right authority.
There was particularly a concern that the nuclear missiles the United States had stationed in other countries, some of which with somewhat unstable leadership, could potentially be seized by those governments and launched. With the PAL system, this became much less of a problem.
Indian nuclear scientists haven’t had an easy time of it over the past decade. Not only has the scientific community been plagued by “suicides,” unexplained deaths, and sabotage, but those incidents have gone mostly underreported in the country—diluting public interest and leaving the cases quickly cast off by police.
Last month, two high-ranking engineers—KK Josh and Abhish Shivam—on India’s first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it was clear they hadn’t been hit by a moving train, and reports allege they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide. The media and the Ministry of Defence, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn’t investigate any further.
This is the latest in a long list of suspicious deaths. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam’s body turned up in June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by the Indian media. However, Pakistani outlets, perhaps unsurprisingly, given relations between the two countries, kept the story going, noting how quick authorities were to label the death a suicide considering no note was left.
Arnon Milchan, the Israeli producer of such smash hits as “Fight Club,” “Pretty Woman,” and hundreds of other films, is opening up for the first time ever about his involvement in clandestine deals to acquire arms for Israel and his work to promote the country’s alleged nuclear program.
The film tycoon sat down with Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan for the season premiere of her current affairs show “Uvda” (“Fact”), in which he discusses his efforts to engage Hollywood colleagues in his work for Israel’s Defense Ministry. Keshet’s show is scheduled to air Monday, November 25, on Israel’s Channel 2.
This isn’t the first time Milchan’s role in Israeli arms dealings and intelligence has surfaced: Just two years ago authors Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman published a book titled “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan” – which alleged that Milchan was an operative for Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations. The bureau, headed by spy-masters Benjamin Blumberg and Rafi Eitan, gathered information for secret defense-related programs, including Israel’s alleged nuclear program. The bureau was closed after Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying on behalf of Israel in 1986.
The “Uvda” report does, however, contain some shocking new details about Milchan’s work, including claims that other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney Pollack and at least one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for Israel.
Pentagon leaders are drafting a plan to cut education, healthcare and housing benefits in an effort to get Congress to end the sequester.
The fiscal 2015 budget is the first spending plan offered by the Pentagon that takes sequestration cuts into account.
By proposing spending cuts to the sensitive benefits programs, the Pentagon is gambling it can convince lawmakers to change the sequester.
Under sequestration, the Pentagon is staring down $500 billion in mandatory spending cuts. The cuts began in March and would reduce Pentagon spending by $52 billion next year.
The strategy under review by the Pentagon offers a multi-year plan to ramp down benefit levels, rather than single-year fixes to military compensation programs, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said during a national security symposium in California.
“We have a body of knowledge that has convinced us doing it once is the right answer,” Dempsey said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the plan on Monday.
Earlier this week, the legislature in Washington state agreed to give Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks through 2040 in an attempt to convince the company to locate production of a new jetliner fleet in the state. It’s believed to be the largest state tax break for a company ever. But the huge concession still may not satisfy Boeing.
The company is now threatening to take production of the jetliner fleet elsewhere over a contract dispute with its machinist union. On Thursday, the union shot down a proposal from Boeing that would have replaced worker pensions with a contribution retirement savings plan and guaranteed raises of just 1 percent every other year, according to the Seattle Times. The New York Times reports that the proposed biannual 1 percent raise would have been in conjunction with some cost-of-living escalations.
“Without the terms of this contract extension, we’re left with no choice but to open the process competitively and pursue all options for the 777X,” Ray Conner, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, said in a statement.
One of the nation’s largest defense companies, Boeing already has a pretty sweet deal in Washington state, where the company says it does a majority of its business. The deal that Washington’s governor signed into law Monday extends Boeing’s breaks on the business and occupation tax — the major business tax levied in Washington — as well as some property and sales tax exemptions, from 2024 to 2040.
That comes after a decade in which the company was able to zero out its income tax liability to every state on $35 billion in U.S. profits, Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-leaning research group, notes in a new report. In addition to the state tax breaks, Boeing got $1.8 billion in federal income tax rebates over the last 10 years, CTJ found.
For their part, Boeing officials note that the company doesn’t owe any corporate income tax in Washington, because the state doesn’t levy one.
A new report from Reuters has discovered widespread accounting fraud at the Pentagon, describing a budget of more than $8 trillion disappearing into a mess of corrupted data, erroneous reports, and unauditable ledgers. Sources from the Department of Finance and Accounting describe the arduous process of squaring the Navy’s books with the US Treasury outlays, dealing with obviously inaccurate numbers or entries that were simply left blank. The data usually arrives just two days before deadline, and supervisors direct the office to enter false numbers — known as “plugs” — to square the accounts and conceal the agencies’ patchy bookkeeping. The result is fraudulent figures that can reach as high as a trillion dollars in a single year, simply to make the Pentagon books match the Treasury’s budget.
The report doesn’t allege any specific instances of fraud, but rather a widespread failure of accounting processes that have allowed for a staggering quantity of waste and misallocation of resources. “I don’t think they’re lying and cheating and stealing necessarily, but it’s not the right thing to do,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told Reuters.
In one example, the Army lost track of roughly $5.8 billion worth of supplies between 2003 and 2011. That figure is troubling partially because of the possibility for profiteering, but more so because of the equipment shortages reported by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan during those years. Those shortages were made significantly worse by what Reuters describes as “the Pentagon’s chronic failure to keep track of its money.”
- Robert Harneis: ’US, France playing good cop-bad cop in Iran talks’
- ‘Israel will attack Iran if you sign the deal, French MP told Fabius’
- Netanyahu urges France not to weaken on Iran talks
- How France Scuttled the Iran Deal at the Last Minute
- Iranian MP: France derails N-talks for Saudi arms deal
- After Reportedly Being Offered Saudi Weapons Sales, France Tries to Blow Up Iran Deal
There’s absolutely no evidence to back the allegation, and indeed ample evidence in the form of reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the contrary, but the US is still expressing “skepticism” about Syria’s chemical disarmament.
It was US demands that led the UN Security Council to set artificially early deadlines for several stages of the disarmament, and the OPCW has confirmed Syria has met every single one with time to spare.
- Syrian chemical weapons mission funded only until end of month (Reuters)
- Strange silence on success in removing Syria’s chemical weapons (Washington Post)
- Chemical arms experts hail cooperation from Syria (Press TV)
- UN report on chemical weapon use in Syria delayed until early December (HRI)
- A Critique of the Report of the UN Mission to Investigate the Use of Sarin in Damascus (Denis R. O’Brien)
- Vince Cable refuses to name firms that tried to export chemicals to Syria (Independent)
Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.
While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.
Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”
Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.
Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight:
“I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”
The story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.
In a world where budgets are tight, and bottom lines daunting, it makes sense that governments around the world have to do more with less, or they just have to do less. Surprisingly, one part of the state apparatus that most countries seem happy to outsource is one of its most fundamental—security. At home, cash-strapped American cities, and even communities, are turning to private forces to protect public order. And a report out of the UN on Monday shows that the private security industry is experiencing a global economic boom that many of its customers would love—the shadowy industry is growing at 7.4 percent a year and is on target to balloon to a $244 billion global market by 2016.
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the world’s biggest spender on private security, totaling $138 billion a year, thanks in large part to a spike in demand during the concurrent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the report, last year the Pentagon spent $44 billion on mercenaries in the two countries combined and in 2011 the U.S. spent $3 billion alone on a five-year deal for private protection for the U.S. embassy building in Baghdad. But, as the American military presence diminishes, much of the outsourced security work is transitioning to police work, with protection of oil company assets abroad also on the rise.
Outside of war zones, contractors have flocked to the perilous shipping routes off the Somali coast that are particularly high risk because of pirates. More than 140 private companies now patrol those waters. The ongoing shift towards private forces poses huge regulatory issues, particularly the registering and licensing of private contractors and the absence of internationally binging legal codes, according to the report. The UN itself is a major employer of private security firms and the report warned “there is a risk that, without proper standards and oversight, the outsourcing of security functions by the United Nations to private companies could have a negative effect on the image and effectiveness of the United Nations in the field.”
A Pentagon think tank that reports directly to the secretary of Defense has hired a longtime advocate of a large nuclear weapons arsenal to review the Obama administration’s move to reduce the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, military contract records show.
In a June speech in Berlin, President Obama proposed reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal by one third, saying “after a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third.”
The Office of Net Assessment, which has been run since its inception in 1973 by Andrew Marshall, 92, has hired the National Institute of Public Policy to conduct a study called “Identifying the Fundamental Assumptions and Logic of Minimum Deterrence, and Examining Them Against Empirical Evidence.” The contract is worth $184,183.
[...] NIPP is run by Keith Payne, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of Defense for forces and policy in the first administration of President George W. Bush. In 1980, Payne co-authored an article in Foreign Policy magazine that argued that some forms of nuclear war were winnable.
Chilling new evidence that Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack has emerged in former classified documents written at the height of the cold war.
Cabinet memos and briefing papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a major war games exercise, Operation Able Art, conducted in November 1983 by the US and its Nato allies was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility.
[...] Able Archer, which involved 40,000 US and Nato troops moving across western Europe, co-ordinated by encrypted communications systems, imagined a scenario in which Blue Forces (Nato) defended its allies after Orange Forces (Warsaw Pact countries) sent troops into Yugoslavia following political unrest. The Orange Forces had quickly followed this up with invasions of Finland, Norway and eventually Greece. As the conflict had intensified, a conventional war had escalated into one involving chemical and nuclear weapons.
Numerous UK air bases, including Greenham Common, Brize Norton and Mildenhall, were used in the exercise, much of which is still shrouded in secrecy. However, last month Paul Dibb, a former director of the Australian Joint Intelligence Organisation, suggested that the 1983 exercise posed a more substantial threat than the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. “Able Archer could have triggered the ultimate unintended catastrophe, and with prompt nuclear strike capacities on both the US and Soviet sides, orders of magnitude greater than in 1962,” he said .
The Pentagon this week edged closer to mounting missile-destroying lasers on unmanned and manned aircraft, awarding $26 million to defense contractors to develop the technology.
Under the name Project Endurance, DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research agency, awarded Northrop Grumman $14.6 million and Lockheed Martin $11.4 million in contracts for the effort, according to Military & Aerospace Electronics. Called “Project Endurance,” the research will “develop technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy electro-optical IR guided surface-to-air missiles,” according to DARPA’s 2014 budget request.
The project focuses on “miniaturizing component technologies, developing high-precision target tracking, identification, and lightweight agile beam control to support target engagement,” as well as “the phenomenology of laser-target interactions and associated threat vulnerabilities.”
Those vulnerabilities have been a particular concern when it comes to slow-moving drones, whose job it is to loiter more than it is to evade, making them a potential easy target to be shot out of the sky.
THE leading companies behind arms shipments to Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian government are owned by a group of shadowy companies the Eye has discovered have extensive interests in the UK’s toxic shell company network, indicating a central British role in sustaining the corrupt trade by laundering its proceeds.
A study by Washington-based researchers C4ADS into the “Odessa Network” of shippers running weapons largely out of the Ukrainian Black Sea port and its neighbour Oktyabursk, in the city of Nikolaev, reveals cargoes apparently headed through the Bosphorus for Syrian ports, with voyages often concealed from authorities by disabling the “transponders” that enable ships to be located. By piecing together the ships’ movements and disappearances around the Mediterranean, together with their previous record of delivering arms for the Russian government, however, the researchers conclude with near certainty that these are key arms deliveries.
In an interesting spot, journalist Alice Ollstein today noted that, while Reprieve clients the Rehman family were testifying at Congress about the day a drone strike killed their grandmother in North-West Pakistan, President Obama was meeting the CEOs of arms companies including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
Both firms are involved in the manufacture of drones – although the Predators and Reapers which fly covert missions over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere are made by another firm, General Atomics.
More significantly though, Lockheed is the manufacturer of the Hellfire missile - the weapon of choice in drone strikes, and the one which is believed to have killed Mammana Bibi, the grandmother of Zubair and Nabila who spoke to Congress on Tuesday.
So as the Rehmans spoke to Congress about the drone strike which killed their grandmother, the man who signs off on the drone programme was meeting the man who provides the missiles. A useful indication, perhaps, of how strongly (or not) the Obama administration feels about the issue of civilian casualties.
Syria’s declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, the international watchdog says.
This comes a day before the deadline set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The weapons have been placed under seal, an OPCW spokesman said.
“We are like ghosts, they don’t see you, they don’t hear you,” Jeff Liddiat reflects on the struggle of more than a half-century to get justice for servicemen who were exposed to nuclear tests by the British government. “I suppose they hope those remaining of us will die sooner rather than later, so there’ll be no one left to bother them.”
To these men, the experience over the years has been one of Whitehall cynicism and neglect. They were given no warnings about the possible dangers they faced at the time and, since then, denial by the Ministry of Defence that the illnesses suffered by them and, in many cases, by their offspring had anything to do with the radioactive fallout they faced.
Successive UK governments have so far spent around £5m blocking legal action by the veterans to get compensation. The official position is that there is no correlation between the veterans’ medical conditions and the tests. In any event, it is held, the time limit for such litigation has passed
The MoD’s medical stance is based to a large extent on a Japanese study, carried out in the 1940s on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The veterans point out that advances in medicine has meant those test results need to be reviewed. It is unfair, they maintain, to enforce time factor on bringing cases as important aspects of what took place has only emerged gradually, partly, at least, due to government secrecy.
Other countries, including America and France, have accepted responsibility to their personnel and paid out compensation to those affected by the tests in the Pacific and Australia. The US administration awarded $ 75,000 to Pat Spackman, whose husband Flight Lieutenant Derek Spackman, was a navigator on a Canberra aircraft sent from its base in Darwin on a mission. codenamed Aconite, to sample radioactivity from tests carried out by American scientists in the Marshall Islands in 1954. The MoD had repeatedly refused to give her a war widow’s pension.
A debate will take place in the Commons this week about the plight of the servicemen on a motion by John Baron, the Conservative MP for Billlericay, a persistent campaigner on the issue. The exact number of those affected was thought to be around 25,000, often watching the mushroom cloud wearing just shorts and sandals. Many have since died.
A decade-plus of annual records in military spending had the United States centered around a wartime economy, and sequestration, with its relatively modest cuts in spending, would be enough to send the whole system crashing down.
At least that was the theory put forward by lobbyists for the arms makers in fighting budget cuts in Congress. The gloomy predictions never panned out, however, and the major contractors are enjoying massive and rising profits, even as their overall sales dip somewhat.
Taiwanese Special Forces and a select few other military units recently received updated bulletproof armor that includes a ballistic face mask that serves to protect operators from lethal headshots and to reduce fighting effectiveness of opposing forces, seemingly by causing them to immediately curl into the fetal position and cry for their mothers.
For nearly 20 years, South Korea and the world’s biggest powers have sought to pry from North Korea a promise – that it would keep – to end its nuclear weapons program.
They have used carrots and they have used sticks. As inducements, the powers offered to build North Korea a nuclear reactor, provided fuel, and gave food. When that failed they have tried punishments, freezing Pyongyang out of the world financial system and imposing sanctions to starve the government there of all sorts of goods.
Yet twin clouds of steam from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, spotted last month in satellite images, suggest all those efforts have come to naught, and raise questions about how the international community – distracted by Iran and Syria – can deter North Korea’s seemingly insatiable desire for nuclear weapons.
US analysts and the South Korean intelligence agency say the steam indicates that after a six-year hiatus, Pyongyang has restarted its reactor, capable of producing enough plutonium each year to make one or two nuclear bombs as well as of generating electricity.
- North Korea rejects US’s non-aggression pact offer (AP)
- Nile Bowie: Preemptive strike rationale deepens N. Korean status quo (RT)
- North Korea warns of ‘all-out war’ (AFP)
- North Korea confirms it replaced hard-line military chief with little-known army general (AP)
- NKorea blames ‘hostile’ US policy for tensions (AP)
- US worried about NKorea’s cyber, missile threats (AP)
- South Korea warns off Pyongyang with missile display (AP)
- $22 million blimp to fill gap in surveillance of North Korea (Stars and Stripes)
- China bans several weapon-related North Korea exports (BBC)
- North Korea: UN rights probe shows ‘unspeakable atrocities’ (BBC)
- N Korea agrees to reopen military hotline with Seoul (BBC)
- South Koreans Once Again Commuting to North (Newser)
In the weeks following the atomic attacks on Japan 68 years ago, and then for decades afterward, the United States engaged in airtight suppression of all film shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings. This included footage shot by U.S. military crews and Japanese newsreel teams. In addition, for many years, all but a handful of newspaper photographs were seized or prohibited not only in the United States, but also in occupied Japan.
Meanwhile, the American public only got to see the same black and white images: a mushroom cloud, battered buildings, a devastated landscape. The true human costs–a full airing of the bomb’s effects on people –were kept hidden. The writer Mary McCarthy declared that Hiroshima had already fallen into “a hole in history.” The public did not see any of the newsreel footage for 25 years, and the U.S. military film remained hidden for more than three decades. (The story is told in full in my bookAtomic Cover-up.)
In fact, the Japanese footage might have disappeared forever if the newsreel team had not hidden one print from the Americans in a ceiling. The color U.S. military footage was not shown anywhere until the early 1980s, and has never been fully aired. It rests today at the National Archives in College Park, Md. When that footage finally emerged, I spoke with and corresponded with the man at the center of this drama: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Daniel A. McGovern, who directed the U.S. military film-makers in 1945-1946, managed the Japanese footage, and then kept watch on all of the top-secret material for decades.
McGovern observed that, “The main reason it was classified was…because of the horror, the devastation.” I also met and interviewed one top member of his military crew, who had fought for years to get the footage aired widely in America, and interviewed some of the hibakusha who appear in the footage. Those accounts form the center of Atomic Cover-Up. You can read about that a view some of the color footage here. But let’s focus on tjhe Japanese newsreel footage for the moment.
During the public debate around the question of whether to attack Syria, Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush, made a series of high-profile media appearances. Hadley argued strenuously for military intervention in appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg TV, and authored a Washington Post op-ed headlined “To stop Iran, Obama must enforce red lines with Assad.”
In each case, Hadley’s audience was not informed that he serves as a director of Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike against Syria. Hadley earns $128,500 in annual cash compensation from the company and chairs its public affairs committee. He also owns 11,477 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate ($77.65 on August 23, making Hadley’s share’s worth $891,189). Despite this financial stake, Hadley was presented to his audience as an experienced, independent national security expert.
Though Hadley’s undisclosed conflict is particularly egregious, it is not unique. The following report documents the industry ties of Hadley, 21 other media commentators, and seven think tanks that participated in the media debate around Syria. Like Hadley, these individuals and organizations have strong ties to defense contractors and other defense- and foreign policy-focused firms with a vested interest in the Syria debate, but they were presented to their audiences with a veneer of expertise and independence, as former military officials, retired diplomats, and independent think tanks.
It is not easy or quick to get rid of a nation’s chemical weapons. Just ask the United States.
Three decades after the U.S. started destroying its own chemical weapons, the nation’s stockpile stands at more than 3,000 tons — about three times what the U.S. now says Syrian President Bashar Assad controls.
While the U.S. has made significant progress eradicating 90 per cent of the 31,500 tons it once possessed, the military doesn’t expect to complete destruction until 2023.
Experts say it’s probably simpler to make chemical weapons than to get rid of them.
“Disposal requires such rigorous processes to ensure there is no pollution or residual agent,” said Susannah Sirkin, international policy director for Physicians for Human Rights, which has been monitoring weapons of mass destruction for more than two decades. “On average it is costing about 10 times more to destroy than it did to make the munitions.”
Four robotics companies — HDT Robotics, iRobot, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ — recently ran their M240 machine gun-armed robots through a live-fire demo at Fort Benning in what has been dubbed the “Robotic Rodeo.” The point was to give the brass a chance to see just how viable such systems are.
The Army, which issued a favorable assessment of the technology last week, doesn’t see our armed robotic overlords as weapons taking the place of boots on the ground, but rather as combatants working alongside troops in the field.
“They’re not just tools, but members of the squad. That’s the goal,” Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of Unmanned Ground Vehicles at Fort Benning told Computerworld. “A robot becoming a member of the squad, we see that as a matter of training.”
Senior Army officers attending the rodeo appeared satisfied with the robots after seeing them accurately hit targets 500 feet away, and they hope to see battle ‘bots in action within five years.
Four-star General Keith Alexander had a perfectly fine 39-year career serving in the military and then as director of the National Security Agency. His 40th—and last before he plans to leave office in 2014–hasn’t been so pleasant, thanks to the series of leaks from Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden that have thrown his agency into one of the biggest privacy scandals in its history.
Alexander has now “formalized plans” to leave by spring of next year, according to a report from Reuters, who names the Navy’s Vice Admiral Michael Rogers as a possible replacement. More surprisingly, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis may be out earlier, before the end of the year.
Luckily for Alexander and Inglis, they have a perk-filled escape route from the NSA controversy: A lucrative position at a Beltway contractor or consultancy. As much as 70% of the intelligence community’s budget—nearly $11 billion for the NSA alone last year according to one Snowden leak–goes to contractors, writes Tim Shorrock, author of the book Spies for Hire. And plenty of those firms would be eager to employ someone with as much influence over that budget as Alexander. “This guy has incredible power,” says Shorrock. “I expect he’ll bring that to the contractor world. It’s just too enticing.”
To give a sense of Alexander’s choices, here’s how the last four NSA directors have spent their golden years…
A bipartisan group of 50 senators have warned US President Barack Obama that they will not ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty signed last month by Secretary of State John Kerry. The lawmakers, who comprise half of the Senate, signed on to a letter this week that expressed concern that ratifying the treaty could limit America’s ability to provide military aid to Israel.
Fifty senators, including all 45 Senate Republicans and Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR), listed a number of reasons for their opposition to the treaty, including that “the State Department has acknowledged that the treaty includes language that could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel.”
The treaty prohibits a state from trading arms if “it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a party.”
States are also required to assess whether recipients are likely to “commit or facilitate a serious violation” of international humanitarian or human rights law and whether the arms deal could “contribute to or undermine peace or security.” Those clauses – and the range of interpretations that they afford – are at the heart of the critique.
In their letter, the senators said they “urge” Obama “to notify the treaty depository that the US does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations.”
The senators complained that the treaty failed to achieve consensus, and was adopted instead by majority vote in the UN General Assembly. According to the senators, this “violates the red line drawn by the Obama Administration.”
European Union states should work together in four areas of defense technology, including developing drones, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said in a report.
In a report commissioned ahead of an EU summit in December, Catherine Ashton said European governments should commit to cooperative projects in drones, a new satellite communications system, cyber defense and plugging a shortfall in air tankers.
Though primarily a civilian organization, the EU plays a growing military and security role, ranging from an anti-piracy naval force off Somalia to training the army in Mali, and the December summit aims to strengthen that role.
Weaknesses in areas such as air-to-air refueling planes and surveillance drones were shown up during NATO’s bombing campaign of Libya in 2011.
Ashton’s report said drones would be increasingly important for both military and civilian uses such as border control and agriculture. The report said there was an urgent need to prepare a program for the next generation of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones.
Three European aerospace companies called on Europe in June to launch its own independent drone program to reduce reliance on foreign-made equipment.