Archive for the ‘Defense Department’ Category

Obama Picks Experienced Pentagon, State Department Leaders to Assist Transition

November 12, 2008

President-elect Obama has hired former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn to help shepherd his Pentagon transition, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., speaks during a news conference ... 
Former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., speaks during a news conference where he discussed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s plans to stimulate the economy and lead the country in a new direction Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2008.(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Nunn, a former Georgia senator and veteran Democratic defense adviser, was once rumored as a potential running mate for Obama. Transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Nunn will perform “an informal senior adviser role throughout the defense transition process.”

Nunn’s role has been described by others, speaking anonymously because the transition teams have not been announced, as the leader of Obama’s defense transition. Similarly, a senior administration official said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher would advise Obama on his State Department transition.

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer

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Bob Gates: Best Secretary of Defense for Next President is Now On The job

October 12, 2008

By Nancy Soderberg and Brian Katulis
The Washington Post
Sunday, October 12, 2008; Page B01

Here’s a free piece of advice to President Barack Obama or President John McCain: There’s no need to look for a new secretary of defense. You already have the best man in the job.

The Obama campaign in particular seems to have noticed the virtues of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. It’s a little head-spinning to see senior Democrats lauding a Bush cabinet officer in the heat of the campaign, but earlier this month, Richard Danzig, the former Navy secretary who has become one of Obama’s closest national security aides, said that many of Gates’s pragmatic policies at the Pentagon “are things that Senator Obama agrees with and I agree with.” Danzig added that Gates could do “even better” if he stayed on the job in an Obama administration.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates listens to a reporter's ... 
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates listens to a reporter’s question during a press availability on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008, in Ohrid, Macedonia. (AP Photo/Pool, Haraz N. Ghanbari)

The case for Gates goes beyond the obvious question of assisting the next president in handling Iraq, which Gates has helped haul back from the brink of total collapse. But he has also been instrumental in launching a sweeping revolution in U.S. national security.

Gates has found space to do so since, with the exception of Vice President Cheney, the hard-liners who populated the first Bush term are now gone. Instead of outspoken ideologues such as Douglas Feith and John Bolton, we now have competent functionaries such as National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley. Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who played cheerleader to the addled muscle-flexing policies of the first term, has surrounded herself with career diplomats and is actually listening to them. The administration that didn’t do nation-building and wouldn’t talk to the “axis of evil” is doing both.

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GAO: Terrorists operating freely on Pakistan border

April 17, 2008

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Terrorists are still operating freely in Pakistan along the country’s Afghanistan border, despite the U.S. giving Pakistan more than $10.5 billion in military and economic aid, according to a government watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office says in a report released Thursday that the U.S. lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the terrorist threat.
A tribesman with a rocket propelled grenade launcher mans a ... 
A tribesman with a rocket propelled grenade launcher mans a makeshift bunker following clashes between two rival factions in the Khyber tribal agency near Peshawar April 17, 2008. At least 20 people were killed and dozens others injured in clashes between the two factions in the Khyber Agency area of Jamrud, local media reported.REUTERS/Stringer (PAKISTAN)

Democrats called the report appalling because of congressional mandates demanding the nation do more to coordinate efforts by federal agencies.

“For anyone wondering how we’re doing in the fight to get the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, this report pretty much says it all,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Some federal agencies, including the Defense Department, agreed with the findings. But the State Department disagreed, saying that a comprehensive strategy does exist and is being implemented.

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“Sleeper Spy”: Chinese Man in U.S. Two Decades Before Activation

April 3, 2008

By Joby Warrick and Carrie Johnson 
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page A01

Prosecutors called Chi Mak the “perfect sleeper agent,” though he hardly looked the part. For two decades, the bespectacled Chinese-born engineer lived quietly with his wife in a Los Angeles suburb, buying a house and holding a steady job with a U.S. defense contractor, which rewarded him with promotions and a security clearance. Colleagues remembered him as a hard worker who often took paperwork home at night.
Chi Mak was sentenced to 241/2 years to send a message to China. 

Chi Mak was sentenced to 24 1/2 years to send a message to China. (Sketch By Bill Robles For The Associated Press)

Eventually, Mak’s job gave him access to sensitive plans for Navy ships, submarines and weapons. These he secretly copied and sent via courier to China — fulfilling a mission that U.S. officials say he had been planning since the 1970s.

Mak was sentenced last week to 24 1/2 years in prison by a federal judge who described the lengthy term as a warning to China not to “send agents here to steal America’s military secrets.” But it may already be too late: According to U.S. intelligence and Justice Department officials, the Mak case represents only a small facet of an intelligence-gathering operation that has long been in place and is growing in size and sophistication.

The Chinese government, in an enterprise that one senior official likened to an “intellectual vacuum cleaner,” has deployed a diverse network of professional spies, students, scientists and others to systematically collect U.S. know-how, the officials said. Some are trained in modern electronic techniques for snooping on wireless computer transactions. Others, such as Mak, are technical experts who have been in place for years and have blended into their communities.

“Chi Mak acknowledged that he had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier, in order to burrow into the defense-industrial establishment to steal secrets,” Joel Brenner, the head of counterintelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview. “It speaks of deep patience,” he said, and is part of a pattern.

Other recent prosecutions illustrate the scale of the problem. Mak, whose sentence capped an 18-month criminal probe, was the second U.S. citizen in the past two weeks to stand before a federal judge after being found guilty on espionage-related charges.

On Monday, former Defense Department analyst Gregg W. Bergersen pleaded guilty in Alexandria to charges that he gave classified information on U.S. weapons sales….

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Who Says The Elite Aren’t Fit To Serve?

March 17, 2008

 By John Renehan
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 16, 2008; Page B04

“J ohn!” called my brother from the living room. “Are you coming out or not?”

He and my sister-in-law were eager to start the movie we had rented, but I, lurking in my parents’ darkened study, waved them off. While they and the rest of the family were distracted, I had private business to attend to on the home computer.

It was December 2001, and I was a New Yorker.

Of the innumerable moments of surreality accompanying Sept. 11, 2001’s fracturing of our daily lives — fighter jets circling the city, a pillar of ash rising to the stratosphere, New Yorkers engaging in spontaneous conversation — here was a doozy: finding myself at my parents’ in California for Christmas, nosing furtively about the Internet for information on getting into the U.S. Army‘s Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Ga.

It seemed on the one hand an entirely reasonable thing to be doing, and on the other an outrageous one. Reasonable because the military would probably need the services of motivated citizens in the near future, and I was a motivated citizen. Outrageous because I, a lawyer with no military experience, knew virtually no one from my own background — comfortable childhood, good education, white-collar career — who had ever been in the service.

Nor had my prior life experience reduced my ignorance of things military. After high school, the students who joined up were the ones I would have expected to do so — rough dudes with pickup trucks who shot guns on the weekends. In college, I was barely aware of ROTC, except that I would occasionally see groups of cadets jogging in formation across campus and think that they must feel so awkward. In law school, I did sign up for “informational interviews” — they didn’t dare hope for actual employment interviews at Berkeley — with some of the services’ JAG Corps representatives and was later informed by a fellow student that I was the only bona fide interviewee. The other students on the roster intended to read statements of protest regarding the Defense Department‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Such experiences over a young lifetime coalesce into prejudice: People like us — the privileged, frankly — don’t join the military. We wonder about the military world occasionally, and a few of us may actually grow curious enough to investigate serving in a halting sort of way — lurking in our parents’ studies at Christmastime, perhaps — but that’s about as far as it generally goes, or ought to go, we think. The armed forces are for another sort of American. Right?

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High-level al-Qaida figure is captured

March 14, 2008
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Authorities have captured a high-level al-Qaida figure who helped Osama bin Laden escape from Afghanistan in 2001, the Pentagon announced Friday.
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to say when or where Mohammad Rahim was captured — or by whom — announcing only that he was handed over by the CIA to the Pentagon earlier this week and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But in a memo obtained by The Associated Press, CIA Director Michael Hayden told agency employees that Rahim was detained last summer, and he suggested Rahim was not captured by American authorities.

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Shot at satellite unlikely Wednesday: official

February 20, 2008
By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military does not anticipate trying to shoot apart a defunct spy satellite on Wednesday due to rough seas in the Pacific Ocean, a senior military official said.
The U.S. Navy may make its first attempt to shoot down an errant spy satellite loaded with toxic fuel overnight on Wednesday in an area of the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii, according to U.S. officials and government documents. REUTERS/Graphics 

The U.S. Navy may make its first attempt to shoot down an errant spy satellite loaded with toxic fuel overnight on Wednesday in an area of the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii, according to U.S. officials and government documents.

The official said that assessment could change but forecasts indicated the Pacific would not be calm enough for the operation. Under the Pentagon‘s plans, a Navy ship will fire a missile at the bus-sized satellite.

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Navy: Satellite in the Crosshairs

February 20, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 20, 2008

Three U.S. Navy ships have positioned themselves for an unprecedented mission: the execution of a dangerous satellite
about 150 miles above the earth.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will decide when the U.S. Navy will shoot for the first time at the rogue and out of control satellite about to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.

The satellite, USA 193, failed soon after launch in 2006.  The satellite contains about 1,000 pounds of dangerous hydrazine fuel.  Hydrazine is toxic to man and animals.

The Navy will use a modified SM-3 missile, a product of the Aegis ballistic missile defense weapons system, to shoot down the malfunctioning satellite.  Aegis BMD has been in development since the early 1990s.

Three ships are prepared for the mission: USS Lake Erie, USS Decatur, and USS Russell.  All have the Aegis BMD system, the SM-3 missile, and significant crew training and experience.

“We all have an agreed-upon series of steps that need to be taken for this launch to be given the go-ahead,” DoD spokesman Morrell said, adding that no final decision has been made on when to make the attempt.

“The [Defense] Secretary is the one who will decide if and when to pull the trigger,” the Mr. Morrell told us. 

The launch could take place as early as 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.

After Mr. Gates gives the go ahead, this mission rests in the hands of the men and women — the sailors — of the United States Navy.  Engineers and technologists completed their work long ago.  Now sailors will do their professional best — as they always do.

The best report on this mission we saw last night and this morning came from the Army Times and appears below:

By Zachary M. Peterson – Staff writer
Army Times
February 19, 2008  

Sailors aboard the cruiser Lake Erie could attempt the Navy’s first-of-its-kind missile shot to destroy a broken spy satellite as soon as Wednesday evening, officials said Tuesday.

The Navy will use a modified SM-3 missile, leveraging the Aegis ballistic missile defense weapons system to shoot down the malfunctioning satellite, which Defense Department officials fear could potentially shower hazardous debris on Earth.
This photo released by the US Navy in 2003 shows a Standard ... 
This photo released by the US Navy in 2003 shows a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launching from the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie. The US warship is moving into position to try to shoot down a defunct US spy satellite as early as Wednesday before it tumbles into the Earth’s atmosphere, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
(AFP/Us Navy-HO/File) 

The launch could take place as early as 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

The missile does not contain a warhead — it destroys its target using the force of the impact.

The SM-3 is the same missile the Navy uses in its ballistic missile defense tests, but the three missiles modified for the satellite shoot-down have software alterations designed to hit the specific target, a Navy official told reporters Tuesday afternoon in a briefing at the Pentagon.

This picture released by the US Navy shows Fire Controlman 2nd ...
This picture released by the US Navy shows Fire Controlman 2nd Class John Whitby operating the radar system control during a ballistic missile defense drill on February 16 aboard the USS Lake Erie. The US warship is moving into position to try to shoot down a defunct US spy satellite as early as Wednesday before it tumbles into the Earth’s atmosphere, Pentagon officials said.
(AFP/US Navy-HO/Michael Hight)

The official requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the missile shot.

The National Geospatial Agency has issued an aircraft advisory warning aviators of hazardous operations in a large area of the North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii from 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday evening to 12:00 a.m. Thursday setting off speculation that this will be the window the Navy uses to shoot down the satellite.

Ted Molczan, a satellite watcher who has been watching the failed spy satellite closely since its launch in 2006, has calculated it will pass directly over the area specified in the notifications for about three minutes around 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday.

The cruiser Lake Erie will take the first shot, the official said. The ship is carrying one additional modified SM-3 as well. The destroyer Decatur will provide long-range surveillance and tracking and also has one modified SM-3 aboard, the Navy source said. A third ship, the destroyer Russell, will “likely” remain pierside in Hawaii to provide backup for the Decatur, another Navy source said.

The Military Sealift Command missile range instrumentation ship Observation Island will also collect data and monitor the shoot, officials added.

Ultimately, the Navy is equipped to take three shots at the satellite, but there will be some period of time in between them, according to the Pentagon.

Officials would not specify how long they would wait to try again if the first shot misses, nor would they reveal how often the broken satellite completes an orbit over the Earth.

A typical Aegis BMD test, in which a warship destroys a test ballistic rocket fired from a range in Hawaii, lasts between 20 and 80 seconds.

The Pentagon first became aware of the potentially dangerous re-entry of the satellite early this year, according to press reports. The satellite, known as USA 193, experienced problems upon launch in 2006 and is roughly the size of school bus, DoD officials confirmed.

It took the Navy about six weeks to make the necessary modifications to the missiles and radars to “take it to sea with some degree of confidence,” the Navy official said at Tuesday’s briefing.

The Navy had no prior capability to shoot down satellites and had previously “not explored that,” the source added.

The challenge for the Navy in hitting the satellite is the nature of the target, the official said. The satellite is “bigger and faster than a missile” and the target must be hit in the fuel tank, which remains full, the official said.

The Defense Department will send out a statement within an hour of the missile’s launch, but it could take a day or longer to determine if the fuel tank was hit, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.

The satellite does not have its own heat signature, so operators must rely on the sun to warm the target.

The official described the orbiting satellite as a “cold body in space.”

Since January 2002, the Navy has a solid rate of success in its Aegis ballistic missile defense test program, hitting 12 of 14 targets so far.

The tests have increased in complexity, most recently boasting a success hit of a separating target last December.

The cost of the shoot down is unclear, but an Aegis ballistic missile defense tests costs around $40 million, the source said. One SM-3 missile costs about $10 million.

In this image provided by the US Navy a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) ...

 In this image provided by the US Navy a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from Pearl Harbor-based guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to intercept a threat representative target as part of a Missile Defense Agency test of the sea-based capability under development on Nov. 6, 2007. Taking a page from Hollywood science fiction, the Pentagon said Thursday Feb. 14, 2008 it will try to shoot down a dying, bus-size U.S. spy satellite loaded with toxic fuel on a collision course with the Earth using a SM-3 missile. The military hopes to smash the satellite as soon as next week — just before it enters Earth’s atmosphere — with a single missile fired from a Navy cruiser in the northern Pacific Ocean. Software associated with the SM-3 has been modified to enhance the chances of the missile’s sensors recognizing that the satellite is its target.
(AP Photo/US Navy)Related:
Effort to Shoot Down Satellite Could Inform Military Strategy
U.S. Navy Setting Up To Kill Dangerous SatelliteChina: No to U.S. Missile Shot at Satellite
Russia Says U.S. Satellite May Be “Space Weapon” Test

AP Military Writer: Navy Satellite Shot is Controversial
U.S. Navy Missile Destroys Dangerous Satellite

Navy Could Shoot Satellite as Early as Wednesday, Today

February 20, 2008
Larger article moved to:
Navy: Satellite in the Crosshairs
In this Nov 17, 2005 picture provided by the U.S. Navy, a Standard ... 
In this Nov 17, 2005 picture provided by the U.S. Navy, a Standard Missile Three (SM-3) is launched from the vertical launch system aboard the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie, during a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy test in the Pacific Ocean. The government issued notices to aviators and mariners to remain clear of a section of the Pacific beginning at 10:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 indicating the first window of opportunity to launch an SM-3 missile from the USS Lake Erie, in an effort to hit a crippled U.S. spy satellite.
(AP Photo/U.S. Navy) 

Arrests made in Chinese spying cases

February 12, 2008
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON – A Defense Department analyst and a former engineer for Boeing Co. were accused Monday in separate spy cases with helping deliver military secrets to the Chinese government, the Justice Department said.

Additionally, two immigrants from China and Taiwan accused of working with the defense analyst were arrested after an FBI raid Monday morning on a New Orleans home where one of them lived.

The two cases — based in Alexandria, Va., and Los Angeles — have no connection, and investigators said it was merely a coincidence that charges would be brought against both on the same day.

The arrests mark China’s latest attempts to gain top secret information about U.S. military….

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