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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

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Wired: Air Force May Be Developing Stealth Drones in Secret


A Reaper drone in Afghanistan in 2007.

Air Force May Be Developing Stealth Drones in Secret
By David Axe

The Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar drone fleets may have helped against the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a fight against a real military like China’s, the relatively defenseless unmanned aerial vehicles would get shot down in a second. So once again, the air will belong to traditional, manned bombers and fighters able to survive the sophisticated air defenses.

At least that’s the Air Force’s official position. Secretly, however, the flying branch could be working on at least two new high-tech UAVs optimized for the most intensive future air wars. Ace aviation reporter Bill Sweetman has gathered evidence of new stealth drones under development by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — the latter potentially armed, and both drawing on classified funds. If these robots are real, the Air Force’s drone era is not only not ending — it’s barely begun.

To be clear, no one thinks unmanned aircraft are becoming any less vital to Washington’s shadowy counter-terrorism campaigns in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and, possibly soon, Mali. Missile-armed Predators, the larger Reapers carrying bombs and missiles, and stealthy, unarmed Sentinel spy drones, operated jointly by the CIA and the military, are still America’s weapon of choice for hunting terrorist leaders. Three years ago then-CIA director Leon Panetta, now the defense secretary, called UAVs the “only game in town” for disrupting the core of al-Qaida.

But when it comes to strictly military campaigns — assuming those even exist anymore — flying robots appear to be falling out of favor with the nation’s air combat branch. Earlier this year the Air Force announced controversial plans to scale back its known current and future drone fleets.

Read the rest at: http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=159766
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 9, 2012, 08:00 AM (1 replies)

Defense Contractors Seek Fiscal Cliff Relief, Budget-Busting Tax Breaks At Same Time


Defense Contractors Seek Fiscal Cliff Relief, Budget-Busting Tax Breaks At Same Time
Mark Gongloff
Ben Hallman
Posted: 12/06/2012 7:17 pm EST | Updated: 12/07/2012 1:56 pm EST

There's probably no group of companies more alarmed about going over the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect next month than defense contractors. The cliff is heavily geared toward inflicting pain on the industry, with $500 billion in cuts to government defense spending over the next decade, a process called for extraordinarily boring reasons "sequestration."


Less understood is the role the industry has played in pushing the country to the economic precipice. For years, these companies have lobbied for -- and won -- lucrative tax breaks that have cost the government billions of dollars. Even now, their lobbyists are pushing for an extension of a break that allows some companies to avoid paying taxes on some income earned overseas.

According to a study by the nonprofit group Citizens for Tax Justice, aerospace and defense firms paid an effective tax rate of 17 percent from 2008 to 2010, much lower than the 35 percent corporate tax rate mandated by law and just under the 18.5 percent average effective rate paid by all industries.

Some of those companies, in fact, paid negative tax rates during that period, once you account for government tax breaks. One of those was aerospace giant Boeing, whose executive vice president Dennis Muilenburg signed the AIA's letter to Obama. Boeing's effective tax rate was -1.8 percent from 2008 to 2010, on $9.7 billion in profit, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice study. That cost the government more than $3 billion in tax revenue, had Boeing been taxed at the 35 percent rate.

Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Dec 9, 2012, 07:06 AM (1 replies)

Oh Canada


Canada says reviewing F-35 report, denies plan to cancel
OTTAWA | Thu Dec 6, 2012 10:48pm EST

(Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Thursday it was reviewing an independent report on the cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, but denied that it had decided to cancel its planned purchase of 65 of the Lockheed Martin Corp warplanes.

The CTV network reported earlier that the cost of Canada's planned F-35 purchase was set to soar in cost and the government would start looking at alternative planes.

The media report was the latest embarrassment over the F-35 for the Conservative government, which announced in July 2010 it would buy 65 of the Joint Strike Fighters for C$9 billion.

Ottawa consistently brushed off critics who said the figure was too low, but had to launch a formal review of the project in April after a spending watchdog said the initial decision to buy the jets had been based on bad data from officials who deliberately downplayed the costs and risks.



Federal government cancels F-35 fighter purchase
By Michael Den Tandt, The Ottawa Citizen December 6, 2012

OTTAWA — The F-35 jet fighter purchase, the most persistent thorn in the federal government’s side and the subject of a devastating auditor-general’s report last spring, is dead.

Faced with the imminent release of an audit by accountants KPMG that will push the total projected life-cycle costs of the aircraft above $30 billion, the operations committee of the federal Cabinet decided to scrap the controversial sole-source program and go back to the drawing board, a source familiar with the decision said.

This occurred after Chief of the Defence Staff Thomas Lawson, while en route overseas, was called back urgently to appear before the committee, the source said.

The decision is sure to have ripple effects around the world, as any reduction in the number of aircraft on order causes the price to go up for all the other buyers. Canada is one of nine F-35 consortium members, including the United States.



Canada’s involvement in the F-35
By Lee Berthiaume, Canada.com December 6, 2012

OTTAWA — Canada has been an active partner in the U.S.-led F-35 stealth fighter program for 15 years. Here is a timeline of the key events, including a look at the many red flags that went up along the way to the government’s stunning decision Thursday to push the eject button:

1990s — U.S. military begins looking for single next-generation jet fighter design to become mainstay fighter of the future.


2011 — Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page releases report predicting F-35 program will cost $30 billion over 30 years. National Defence says price is $14.7 billion. Federal election is triggered two weeks later after Conservative government is found in contempt of Parliament for refusing reveal full costs of programs, including the F-35. Conservatives re-elected to majority. Numerous analysts raise concerns about escalating costs and production delays. Some allies scale back plans to purchase the F-35.


December 2012 — Government receives final KPMG report, which reportedly shows cost of F-35 program topping $30 billion. Reports Cabinet operations committee has pulled plug on the program, restarting the process to replace Canada’s CF-18 fleet.



Defence procurement problems run deeper than the F-35
By Philippe Lagassé, Ottawa Citizen December 6, 2012


Several acquisitions have been undermined or delayed because of inflated requirements and overly optimistic cost-estimates. While it is understandable that the military wants the best equipment possible, the trade-off between cost and capability must be tackled with greater caution, especially at a time when defence expenditures will be increasing at a slower pace.

Attempts to rig contract competitions in favour of one manufacturer or piece of equipment have not only been unethical, but counterproductive, too. A contract for new search and rescue planes, for instance, has been delayed for more than six years owing to the air force’s preference for a particular plane. With each additional postponement, the military’s ability to effectively perform search and rescue in the future has been further compromised.

Certain sole-sourced procurements have created a good deal of controversy as well. Declaring that the F-35 was the only aircraft that can replace the CF-18s has produced the exact opposite of the effect sought by the Joint Strike Fighter’s advocates; it led to a wave criticism which led the government to re-examine Canada’s fighter aircraft options. If the F-35 was clearly the best aircraft, it would have prevailed in a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of various alternatives. Despite Thursday’s confusing news about the F-35, the government’s insistence that all options are being examined suggests that such a comparative assessment may eventually take place.

Finally, the defence department must accept an uncomfortable reality: the plan to recapitalize the military was never properly costed and is no longer affordable under the existing defence budget. Unless there is a significant reinvestment in defence procurements after the deficit is eliminated, this means that the military must reconsider what the CF’s future equipment will look like, both in terms of quantity and quality.



Tories should learn from F-35 fiasco and revisit purchasing policies
By Michael Den Tandt, Postmedia News December 6, 2012

The Harper government has gone to the wall, and beyond, in defence of its beleaguered F-35 jet fighter program. It’s time for a backward shuffle, with alacrity. There will never be a better time than now, with both carrot and stick mitigating for a reboot.

Last spring, you will recall, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson meted out an epic spanking to the Conservatives on this file, when he confirmed that the top-line cost they cited in the 2011 election — $9 billion for 65 planes, or $15 billion including maintenance and other life-cycle costs — was $10 billion shy of true.

Even the internal Defence Department figure of $25.1 billion, the one withheld from the public, was suspect, because it assumed a 20-year life cycle. The longevity of these Lockheed-Martin-built aircraft, according to the Pentagon, is 36 years. So an honest price tag, all-in, will necessarily be substantially higher than any number cited so far, by anyone in the Canadian government.

The Conservatives have repeatedly promised not to spend more than the original budget — $9 billion, plus maintenance. That’s not nearly enough to pay for the 65 planes called for, at minimum, in Canada’s air defence plan, let alone the dozen or more replacements that will be required because of attrition.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 7, 2012, 10:04 AM (2 replies)

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Obama in Tehran?


Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Obama in Tehran?
by Tom Engelhardt | December 6, 2012 - 10:10am

Imagine, for a moment, a world in which the United States is a regional power, not a superpower. A world in which the globe’s mightiest nation, China, invades Mexico and Canada, deposing the leaders of both countries. A world in which China has also ringed the Americas, from Canada to Central America, with military bases. A world in which Chinese officials openly brag about conducting covert operations against and within the United States. A world in which the Chinese launch a sophisticated and crippling cyber attack on America’s nuclear facilities. A world in which the Chinese send spy drones soaring over the United States and position aircraft carrier battle groups off its shores. What would Americans think? How would Washington react? Perhaps something like Iran’s theocratic leadership today. After all, Iran has seen the United States invade its neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan, announce covert operations against it, surround it with military bases, fly drones over it, carry out naval operations off its coast, conduct a gigantic build-up of military forces all around it, and launch a cyberwar against it.

Imagine again, in this alternate universe, that China forged military alliances throughout the Americas, pulling Mexico and Canada, as well as Caribbean and Central American nations into its orbit. Imagine that it started selling advanced military technology to those countries. How might the U.S. government and its citizens respond?

It’s a question worth pondering given Washington’s recent actions. Last month, for instance, the U.S. quietly announced plans to further flood the Middle East with advanced weaponry. According to November notices sent by the Pentagon to Congress, the Department of Defense intends to oversee a $300 million deal with Saudi Arabia for spare parts for Abrams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Humvees, and another for $6.7 billion in new advanced aircraft. Add to this a proposed sale of $9.9 billion in Patriot missiles to Qatar, a $96 million deal with Oman for hundreds of Javelin guided missiles, and more than $1.1 billion in Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles for the United Arab Emirates. And this was on top of deals struck earlier in the year that include a $63 million sale of Huey II helicopters to Lebanon, $4.2 billion in Patriot missiles for Kuwait, a $3 billion agreement to arm Qatar with advanced Apache attack helicopters, more than $1 billion in upgrades for Abrams tanks belonging to Morocco’s military, and the sale of $428 million worth of radar equipment and tactical vehicles to Iraq.

All this is worth keeping in mind while reading the latest assessment of U.S.-Iranian relations by that peripatetic reporter extraordinaire and TomDispatch regular Pepe Escobar who conjures up a very different alternate reality in which President Obama morphs into President Richard Nixon heading for Beijing, and Washington acts far less bellicose.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 7, 2012, 09:29 AM (2 replies)

Special Operations Command leads propaganda fight


Navy Adm. William McRaven is commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Special Operations Command leads propaganda fight
Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAYShare

2:53PM EST December 6. 2012 - WASHINGTON - The military's Special Operations Command has become an emerging player in the Pentagon's propaganda efforts to confront violent extremists around the world, according to documents and a new report from a non-partisan think tank.

Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, directs the military's elite commando units - the Navy's SEALs and Army's Delta Force - in counterterrorism missions. SOCOM, as it is known, conducted the operation to kill Osama bin Laden and dealt bloody blows to insurgent groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Key to its propaganda efforts is a collection of websites known as the Trans Regional Web Initiative aimed at foreign audiences. USA TODAY first reported on its existence in 2008, and it appears to have expanded.

Some of those websites and blogs are classified programs and appear without attribution, according to a report released to USA TODAY, titled "The Pentagon as Pitchman: Perception and Reality of Public Diplomacy." The report, by the non-partisan Stimson Center, examines the military's growing role in shaping perceptions about the United States around the world.

Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 7, 2012, 09:09 AM (0 replies)

Fears Confirmed: Domestic Drones 'Fly Regularly' in US Airspace


The EFF released a new map that tracks the location of drone flights across the US.

Fears Confirmed: Domestic Drones 'Fly Regularly' in US Airspace
- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

Digital watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published several thousand pages of new drone license records on Wednesday confirming innumerable theorists' fears: that drones "regularly fly" in "national airspace all around the country."

The records, which were obtained by way of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the group writes on their Deeplinks blog.

According to the records, the Air Force has been testing out a variety of drones, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones to the larger Predator and Reaper models largely responsible for countless civilian and foreign military deaths.

Breaking down the shocking capabilities of the various machines, Deeplinks writes that the technologies "takes surveillance to a whole new level." They continue:
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 7, 2012, 08:58 AM (2 replies)

Coalition For Fiscal And National Security Boasts Deep Financial Ties To Military Complex



Coalition For Fiscal And National Security Boasts Deep Financial Ties To Military Complex
Christina Wilkie
Paul Blumenthal
Posted: 12/07/2012 12:01 am EST Updated: 12/07/2012 3:18 am EST

WASHINGTON -- The multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to fix the national debt opened a new front this week, when a group of retired foreign policy experts -- many with longstanding ties to private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson -- launched an effort to influence the debate over defense spending and debt reduction.

The Coalition for Fiscal and National Security is chaired by retired Adm. Michael Mullen, and includes 14 other former high-ranking government officials. Four former secretaries of state -- Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, George Shultz, and James A. Baker -- are in the group, with three former defense secretaries and three former secretaries of the treasury.

The coalition is funded by Peterson's family foundation and boasts a lineup of recognizable luminaries well out of the prime of their careers (the average age of coalition members is 79). All but one of the 15 coalition members has a personal financial stake in companies that stand to be affected by the group's advocacy, raising the possibility of conflicts of interest.

The coalition is the latest Peterson-funded group advocating cuts to retirement and health care benefits. Peterson, a longtime proponent of cutting Social Security and Medicare in order to finance deficit reduction and low corporate tax rates, has spent nearly a half-billion dollars in the past five years spreading his austerity agenda by funding groups that include the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Campaign To Fix the Debt, the Moment of Truth, and the Concord Coalition.

unhappycamper comment: I like Gen. Westmoreland better than I like Henry the K and James Baker. Actually I prefer a colonoscopy bag over Henry the K and James Baker.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 7, 2012, 06:59 AM (1 replies)

Congress supports building two submarines per year


Congress supports building two submarines per year
By Jennifer McDermott
Publication: theday.com
Published 12/05/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/05/2012 11:53 PM

Reversing the president’s decision to delay the purchase of one Virginia-class submarine was the top priority this year for submarine advocates in Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said Wednesday.


The conference committee will begin working out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill next week. Both contain $778 million in advance procurement funding so the Navy can purchase two Virginia-class submarines in 2014, which effectively locks the funding into the final authorization act.

The Senate passed the $631 billion defense bill, 98-0, Tuesday night; the House approved it in May.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., cautioned that the “Senate’s work on defense is not completed with the passage of this bill.” Congress has until the end of the year to prevent $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts — known as sequestration — from taking effect Jan. 2.

unhappycamper comment: Being as these things cost $5 ~ $7 billion dollars each, I guess things are fine at the House of Representatives.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 6, 2012, 01:17 PM (1 replies)

U.S. Commandos’ New Landlord in Afghanistan: Blackwater


A U.S. Special Forces soldier trains on his MK-12 sniper rifle in Iraq, 2007.

U.S. Commandos’ New Landlord in Afghanistan: Blackwater
By Spencer Ackerman

U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million.

You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.

That would be the Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan, created on July 1 to unite and oversee the three major spec-ops “tribes” throughout Afghanistan, which command some 7,000 elite troops in all. It’s run by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and is already tasked with reforming how those elite forces train Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban. And its role is only going to grow in Afghanistan, as regular U.S. forces withdraw by 2014 and the commandos take over the residual task of fighting al-Qaida and its allies. Perhaps that’s why Academi’s no-bid contract runs through May 2015.

Academi spokeswoman Kelley Gannon declined to comment for this story. But it’s highly unusual for U.S. military forces to take up official residence on a privately owned facility. According to Lt. Col. Tom Bryant, the spokesman for Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, it’s only supposed to be temporary, as the command plans to move to Bagram Air Field by summer 2013. But Camp Integrity is already shaping up to be a crucial location for an Afghanistan war that’s rapidly changing.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 6, 2012, 01:07 PM (3 replies)

White House touts $20 billion reduction in drop in contract spending for government


White House touts $20 billion reduction in drop in contract spending for government
By Josh Hicks, Published: December 5

The White House budget office on Thursday reported the federal government had reduced contract spending by 4 percent in the past fiscal year, an accomplishment that it said was the largest drop for a single cycle on record.

The Obama administration said it cut contract spending by more than $20 billion during fiscal 2012, largely by increasing coordination betweeen agencies — buying together instead of independently.

Contracts accounted for about 14 percent of all federal government spending during the past cycle, representing the lowest level since 2003.

President Obama issued a memo in November 2011 directing all government agencies to contract more efficiently, especially for management support services, which include engineering, program management and development of information-technology systems. The administration calculates that contract spending quad­rupled in that area during the previous administration.

unhappycamper comment: You can see 'defense' contracts at: http://www.defense.gov/contracts/

Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 6, 2012, 01:01 PM (0 replies)
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