Category Archives: Environment and World Security

Veterans Administration Has $1 Billion Unexpected Funding Shortfall

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VA Budget Shortfall httpdelmarvapublicradio.net

Image: delmarvapublicradio.net

“THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC”

“Under repeated questioning, VA Secretary David Shulkin acknowledged the department may need emergency funds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was scolded by both parties over its budget Wednesday as lawmakers scurried to find a fix to an unexpected shortfall of more than $1 billion that would threaten medical care for thousands of veterans in the coming months.

“We would like to work with you,” Shulkin told a Senate appropriations panel. “We need to do this quickly.”

At the hearing, lawmakers pressed Shulkin about the department’s financial management after it significantly underestimated costs for its Choice program, which offers veterans federally paid medical care outside the VA. Several questioned Shulkin’s claim that the VA can fill the budget gap simply by shifting funds — without an emergency infusion of new money — without hurting veterans’ care.

“The department’s stewardship of funds is the real issue at hand,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., chair of the Appropriations panel overseeing the VA. He faulted VA for a “precarious situation” requiring a congressional bailout.

Shulkin cited unexpectedly high demand for Choice and defended President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request as adequate, but allowed that more money may be needed.

“On financial projections, we have to do better,” he said. “We do not want to see veterans impacted at all by our inability to manage budgets.”

Shulkin made the surprise revelation last week, urgently asking Congress for help. He said VA needed legal authority to shift money from other VA programs.

His disclosure came just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured that Choice was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over on Aug. 7. Shulkin now says that money will dry up by mid-August. He cited excessive use of Choice beyond its original intent of using private doctors only when veterans must wait more than 30 days for a VA appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Skeptical senators on Wednesday signaled they may need to move forward on a financial bailout.

In a letter Wednesday to the VA, Moran joined three other GOP senators, including John McCain, in demanding more detailed information from VA on what fix is needed.

“Unless Congress appropriates emergency funding to continue the Veterans Choice Program, hundreds of thousands of veterans who now rely on the Choice Card will be sent back to a VA that cannot effectively manage or coordinate their care,” the senators said. “We cannot send our veterans back to the pre-scandal days in which veterans were subjected to unacceptable wait-times.”

VA is already instructing its medical centers to limit the number of veterans sent to private doctors. Some veterans were being sent to Defense Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA.” It also was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs.

Congressional Democrats on VA oversight committees have also sharply criticized the proposed 2018 budget. Shulkin, for instance, says he intends to tap other parts of the VA budget to cover the shortfall, including $620 million in carryover money that had been designated for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The budget proposal also seeks to cover rising costs of Choice in part by reducing disability benefits for thousands of veterans once they reach retirement age, drawing an outcry from major veterans’ organizations who said veterans heavily rely on the payments.

Shulkin has since backed off the plan to reduce disability benefits but has not indicated what other areas may be cut.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Shulkin that it sure sounded like VA needed money.

“You’re defending this budget, but your job is to defend veterans,” she said. “It seems to me if the administration makes the request, it will be better served.”

The VA’s faulty budget estimates were a primary reason that Congress passed legislation in March to extend the Choice program beyond its Aug. 7 expiration date until the money ran out, which VA said would happen early next year. At the bill-signing ceremony with veterans’ groups, Trump said the legislation would ensure veterans will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”

The department is now more closely restricting use of Choice to its 30-day, 40-mile requirements.

The unexpectedly high Choice costs are also raising questions about the amount of money needed in future years as VA seeks to expand the program.

Earlier this month, Shulkin described the outlines of an overhaul, dubbed Veterans CARE, which would replace Choice and its 30-day, 40-mile restrictions to give veterans even wider access to private doctors. He is asking Congress to approve that plan by this fall.”

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2017/06/22/veterans-affairs-facing-1-billion-shortfall-because-unexpected-choice-program-costs/418787001/

 

Generals and Admirals Need Checks and Balances Too

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ASSOCIATION OF UNITED STATES ARMY”  By Lt. Col. Joe Doty, USA Retired and Maj. Gen. Rich Long, USA Retired

“Without question, most past and present top officers are some of the finest, most competent, values-based and selfless officers our nation can produce.

But they, like us all, are human, flawed, and we all need a healthy dose of oversight and accountability.

Some generals have made the news lately for behaviors that violate the professional ethic. Although this trend seems new or current, it isn’t. Thomas E. Ricks, a well-published author on defense matters, wrote “General Failure” in the November 2012 issue of The Atlantic and in the same year published a book, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, on the same topic. His critique focused on a perceived lack of accountability in our armed forces at the general-officer level.

In June 2008, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman wrote “Cause for Relief: Why Presidents No Longer Fire Generals” in Armed Forces Journal. And in May 2007, then-Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote his (in)famous “A Failure in Generalship,” also in Armed Forces Journal. Our national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in 1997 wrote Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. The book talks about failures at our highest officer and political levels up to and during the Vietnam War.

Generals are human beings and as such we need to be honest and frank about human behavior and human frailty. Nobody is perfect. So it seems to be an appropriate question: How is the system working in terms of oversight and accountability for general officers?

Recently we’ve had an admiral caught up in the “Fat Leonard” scandal; a former aide to the secretary of defense, Maj. Gen. Ronald Lewis, was relieved of his duties due to transgressions; and Maj. Gen. David Haight was forced to retire due to questionable professional behavior. At some point, we must ask ourselves whether there is a more effective system of checks and balances that can mitigate some of these issues. Lastly, and perhaps most egregiously, there is the case of former Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who pleaded guilty to adultery, maltreatment of a subordinate, engaging in improper relations and several other charges. Who was providing oversight of him or holding him accountable for his actions?

Don Snider, an expert in the study of the Army profession, notes that professions like the military are self-policing. Other unique aspects of professions (such as law and medicine) include that they:

  • Provide a necessary service to the country.
  • Have a shared ethic.
  • Have a unique expert knowledge.
  • Develop their own members.

Our military takes each of these aspects of being a profession seriously. As the most senior representatives of a self-policing profession, our general officers should be the standard-bearers and set the example for the rest of the force—and for the country—in their personal and professional lives.

They should also know how to self-police. Assuming there is real self-policing of generals, either by someone or a group, would it be helpful to make the policing process more transparent? Would making public the specific (and anonymous) examples of how generals are holding themselves accountable be an appropriate service to the nation?

At the risk of oversimplifying this self-policing and oversight challenge, is a general’s immediate supervisor responsible for policing and holding accountable his or her subordinate? Is the four-star responsible for the three-star? Is the two-star responsible for the one-star? Here, it is important to note that the concept of chain of command is ingrained in the DNA of every service member. It is part of the professional ethic. And the construct of chain of command has a built-in concept and understanding of responsibility and accountability, which does not cease once someone is promoted to general rank.

DoD inspectors general certainly play a role in oversight and accountability, but it’s a role initiated after an allegation has been made. IG investigators are not involved in the day-to-day business of general officers. How do we get more proactive and ahead of the allegations?

At the top levels, trust is sacrosanct. Theoretically, our promotion and selection system has selected those who need little or no oversight. However, the promotion and selection system is only as good as people can make it, and there will be bad apples. It can be argued that officers at this level need more or closer oversight due to their strategic responsibilities and the potential for national or international embarrassment. The Gen. David Petraeus affair could serve as an example.

Mathematically and statistically, it is safe to assume there are bad apples among general officers. The military’s selection and promotion system is run by human beings, so it must have flaws and make mistakes. Is it realistic to think every general never does anything wrong? This violates common and reasoned sense. There are just over 300 generals in the active Army and about 650 in the Total Army. The fact that only one or two get in trouble each year is pretty good and perhaps surprising, but because of the sacred nature of their duties, even one-tenth of a percent is too high. Again, the need for oversight and accountability.

In terms of the human dimension and understanding of this topic, there are basic psychological processes at work. One can be called the Bathsheba Syndrome or “the dark side of success,” which suggests absolute power corrupts absolutely or that enormous success can be an antecedent to ethical failure. There are numerous historical examples of this: Tiger Woods and Richard Nixon come to mind. As such, it can easily be argued that because of their success, top officers need more oversight and accountability.

Expectancy theory is taught in most basic psychology courses and suggests people behave in ways they are expected to behave. Officers who attain the rank of general are the best of the best and are expected to be that way—almost flawless—and in some cases, may think they are flawless (as their evaluation reports state) and therefore think they can get away with anything. Unhinged or unbalanced ambition and/or unhealthy narcissism are recipes for disaster.

There is a difference between an officer who knows they should be and deserve to be a general, and one who may be a bit surprised and humbled to obtain the rank. This difference may be cognitively and emotionally subtle at the individual level, but can be profound in how it plays out. Again, an argument for more structured oversight and accountability.

It is the nature of life in the military to cover for each other. Loyalty to and taking care of your buddies and comrades in arms is part of the professional ethic. These bonds are emotional and powerful, as they must be due to the nature of the profession. But to what extreme? When are the times when this loyalty does not and should not apply?

The answer is: when one’s actions are unethical, against the law or will hurt the effectiveness of the organization. Importantly, a subordinate’s loyalty to a general-level officer is often exponentially magnified due to the rank, position power, referent power and expert power of the general. Hence, loyalty at this level may be impervious to and blind to wrongdoing. Asking or expecting a subordinate to call out a possible transgression by a superior officer can, unfortunately, be a career-ender for the subordinate. Is it realistic to think people in and around Sinclair over the course of his career never suspected anything nefarious was going on?

A recommended solution to this challenge is for DoD to require colonels selected as executive officers for generals to attend the IG course and have as part of their duties a formal responsibility of reporting and answering outside the chain of command and to certify, under oath, that they are not aware of malfeasance or issues that must be addressed. Other duties could include:

  • Challenging the general’s assumptions and thinking.
  • Attempting to find blind spots in the general’s personality and thinking.
  • Asking lots of “why” questions.
  • Providing candid and blunt feedback and assessments.

We also recommend that DoD increase its education and developmental opportunities in terms of helping officers increase their emotional intelligence, specifically in terms of self-awareness and self-management. Emotional intelligence is a leadership skill that can be taught, learned and increased over time. Individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence are less vulnerable to self-delusion, burnout, and personal and professional indiscretions.

Our purpose here is not to poke anyone in the eye or throw stones. Our focus is on organizational improvement and learning. “

GENERALS NEED CHECKS AND BALANCES TOO

 

 

Industry/Pentagon Revolving Door Featured in Deputy Secretary of Defense Confirmation

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Industry Pentagon Revolving Door

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“Mr. Shanahan, you’re not making me happy,” the chairman said. “You just ducked basically every question Sen. Fischer asked you.”

After Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer tried to elicit the nominee’s position on how to respond to Russian violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, McCain stepped in.

McCain’s biggest objection to Shanahan, however, was the nominee’s 31 years at America’s second largest defense contractor, Boeing. (Only Lockheed Martin sells more to the Pentagon. And Sen. McCain, thanks to the long-running scandal over Boeing’s former tanker deal, is believed to harbor a deep suspicion of Boeing’s conduct).

“Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning,” Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain told the administration’s nominee for deputy secretary of defense this morning. “Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?”

“Very clear,” said Patrick Shanahan, enduring a rocky confirmation hearing for the No. 2 position in the Pentagon, which remains unusually short on senior officials. Other senators at the hearing asked Shanahan about Pentagon procurement, especially about nurturing innovation, continuing the Third Off Strategy for high-tech weapons, and starting the Pentagon’s long-awaited audit this fall. But McCain repeatedly took the mike to berate the Trump nominee for non-answers on Russia and for potential conflicts of interest after his 31 years at Boeing.

In that initial exchange, Shanahan’s specific offense was giving a vague non-answer in his written testimony to the committee’s question on whether he supported providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine. In the hearing, ironically, when McCain asked Shanahan to clarify, he stated his support for arming the Ukrainians so swiftly and unequivocally that the irascible but aging senator seemed momentarily thrown before returning to the attack.

“I want to move forward as quickly as I can with your nomination,” McCain told Shanahan at the hearing’s end, “(but) I am concerned. 90 percent of defense spending is in the hands of five corporations, of which you represent one. I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.”

“Mr. Shanahan, I think you’re a fine man; you have an outstanding record; (but) take a look at your responses that you sent to this committee,” McCain said. “Some of them were less than specific, at least one of them (was) almost insulting.”

Citing US casualties in Afghanistan, Ukrainian casualties against Russian-backed separatists, and the US shoot-down of a Syrian jet, McCain made it clear he wants clear answers on administration policy — and if the committee doesn’t get them, it will find answers of its own as it works on the annual defense policy bill.

“I want some answers, I want some straightforward answers, (and) if they don’t give us a strategy from the people that I admire most, we’re going to put a strategy in,” McCain warned. “I want to work with this administration, I want to work with this president, I want to work with the new secretary of defense, — who I happen to be one of the most ardent admirers of — but I have to tell you, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to mark-up up the defense authorization bill….The president has two choices: Either give us a strategy or we will put a strategy that we develop into the defense authorization bill.”

“Somehow over the last several years, this committee seems to have been treated as sort of a rubber stamp,” McCain concluded. “That’s not what the Constitution of the United States says. The Constitution of the United States says that the Senate would provide advice and consent.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/mccain-hammers-depsecdef-nominee-shanahan-on-russia-boeing/

Limits Placed on Congressional Oversight

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Oversight Limitis Shutterstock

Image:  Shutterstock

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT” By Peter Tyler

“In May, a legally binding opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) was made public, stating that individual Members of Congress “do not have the authority to conduct oversight” of the executive branch.

[ They are]  only entitled to “voluntary cooperation” with their requests for information.

However, individual Members of Congress play a critical role in conducting a lot of important oversight. If agencies follow the OLC opinion, it would diminish Congress’s oversight power.

As pointed out in a previous Project On Government Oversight blog, the OLC opinion builds on a harmful and long-standing executive branch policy that diminishes congressional oversight authority, with what appears to be a troubling new twist. And Congress has rightly excoriated the executive branch for this new policy—most notably in a letter from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—defending its Constitutional duty and responsibility to oversee the executive branch.

The OLC opinion (Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch) dangerously asserts that only committee or subcommittee chairmen have Constitutional authority to conduct oversight, and, accordingly, to make requests for, and be official recipients of, information from the executive branch. It argues that the Constitution does not authorize individual Members of Congress—including committee ranking minority members—to conduct oversight, since they are not “endowed with the full power of Congress” in the form of a chair appointment. As a result, the requests for information by Members who are not Chairs, would not be “properly considered” as an oversight request, because they do not “trigger any obligation to accommodate congressional needs and [are] not legally enforceable.”

Oddly and detrimentally, the opinion puts oversight requests from individual Members of Congress (and even other committee members and the Ranking Members) as less important than information requests from the public. Such requests may (or may not) be answered at the discretion of the executive branch, wrenching away Members’ Constitutional prerogative to exercise oversight as a separate but equal branch of government. The opinion’s de facto result would be to increase and centralize the power of the executive branch—which is primarily made up of appointed bureaucrats, not elected representatives.

One key difference between this new OLC opinion and previous Justice Department guidance from 1984 is that the new opinion asserts that, “Whether it is appropriate to respond to requests from individual members will depend on the circumstances.” (Emphasis added) The Justice Department’s 1984 guidance states, “if the [Congressional] request is not an official committee or subcommittee request, then the agency should process it as a request from ‘any person’ under the FOIA.” The difference is subtle, but important. Previously, the executive branch’s policy was to treat requests for information from individual Members of Congress as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Now, according to OLC, agencies have discretion to not respond to Congress at all, depending “on the circumstances.”

How have agency officials responded to the new OLC opinion? Public statements by federal agencies have varied.

Last week, in an appearance before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao responded to a question regarding information requests from Congress by saying that “I will do everything I can, but it’s up to the White House on what they want to do. It’s up to the White House and this administration. I’m not in charge of that.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a different hearing, “Regardless of who the letter comes from—and it doesn’t have to just come from a ranking member or chairman—we’ll respond to any congressional inquiry.”

Members of Congress from both political parties are criticizing OLC’s opinion.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, publically opposed the policy, calling it “dangerous and unsustainable.” Likewise, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) condemned the policy, assuring “I’ll punch above my weight on this if this administration thinks it can withhold information.” Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) all offered criticism, with Senator Portman reflecting on his time as budget director in the George W. Bush administration: “I found dealing with Congress frustrating, but I felt it was my responsibility to deal with Congress, it’s the way the founders set things up.”

The strongest criticism is coming from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, who wrote to President Trump urging him to encourage executive-branch cooperation with Congressional oversight, and requesting that the White House rescind the opinion. Senator Grassley has long conducted robust Congressional oversight as an individual Member of Congress, Ranking Member, and Chair. His letter is a thorough criticism of the OLC opinion, pointing out the major flaws and citing case law and long-held Congressional practices in equal measure. Senator Grassley argues that, “Every member of Congress is a constitutional officer…. This applies obviously regardless of whether they are in the majority or the minority at the moment and regardless of whether they are in a leadership position on a particular committee. Thus, all members need accurate information from the Executive Branch in order to carry out their Constitutional function to make informed decisions on all sorts of legislative issues covering a vast array of complex matters across our massive federal government.”

Senator Grassley makes an important reference to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals case Murphy v. Department of the Army, which concluded that “[i]t would be an inappropriate intrusion into the legislative sphere for the courts to decide without congressional direction that, for example, only the chairman of a committee shall be regarded as the official voice of the Congress for purposes of receiving such information, as distinguished from its ranking minority member, other committee members, or other members of the Congress.” He further notes that it would be even more inappropriate for the executive branch to determine how Congress does its job. The implication is that the OLC’s opinion threatens our constitutionally mandated system of checks and balances.

The OLC opinion emphasizes the ability of committee chairs to legally compel information from the executive branch via subpoena as evidence of their “authorization” to conduct oversight. However, as Senator Grassley put it, “that’s just not how it works.” He describes that, “[t]he vast majority of information Congress obtains, even through a Chairman’s requests, is obtained voluntarily, not by compulsion,” and the subpoena is “a last resort.”

Senator Grassley draws attention to the fact that many requests for information from Members of Congress are not partisan in nature, and that a partisan response from the executive branch to these requests “discourages bipartisanship, decreases transparency, and diminishes the crucial role of the American people’s elected representatives.” He ends by noting that the OLC opinion “obstructs what ought to be the natural flow of information between agencies and the committees, which frustrates the Constitutional function of legislating.”

The good news is that the OLC opinion does not have to represent the final word of the Administration. President Trump should recognize the rights and duties of Congress to oversee the executive branch, and tell OLC to rescind the opinion.  Equally important, Congressional leadership should be unified in demanding that the executive branch provide information critical to Congress’s Constitutional obligations.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/06/limits-placed-on-congressional-oversight.html

By: Peter Tyler
Investigator, POGO

Peter Tyler is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Peter’s areas of expertise are Congressional Oversight, Federal spending accountability, Inspectors General.

U.S. Army Is Growing By Thousands of Soldiers

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ALLIED SPIRIT V

(Photo Credit: Markus Rauchenberger/Army)

“ARMY TIMES”

“The Army has used a suite of force-shaping measures and incentives to retain and recruit enough soldiers to bring the force back to over a million.

[Measures] including five-figure enlistment and retention bonuses, as well as major opportunities for National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers to go active.

The Army is on track to reach its end strength goal of 1,018,000 soldiers by the end of September, and that will mean enough manpower to fill holes in existing combat units, save some units from planned deactivations, and man some new ones.

Units throughout the Army will feel the benefit of adding 28,000 troops to the active and reserve components, according to a Thursday release from the Army, reversing a drawdown that had planned for just 980,000 soldiers this year.

“These force structure gains facilitated by the FY17 end strength increase have begun, but some will take several years to achieve full operational capability,” said Brig. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of the Force Management Division, in the release. “Implementation of these decisions, without sacrificing readiness or modernization, is dependent upon receiving future appropriations commensurate with the authorized end strength.”

The Army has used a suite of force-shaping measures and incentives to retain and recruit enough soldiers to bring the force back to over a million, including five-figure enlistment and retention bonuses, as well as major opportunities for National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers to go active.

In addition to filling existing manning gaps in brigade combat teams, the release said, the plus-up will save several units that were slated for deactivation. They are:

  • 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
  • 18th Military Police Brigade Headquarters based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
  • 206th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • 61st Maintenance Company at Camp Stanley, South Korea.
  • 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.

Soldiers retained during the end strength build up also could end up joining the recently announced Security Force Assistance Brigades and their training school, as well as an aviation training brigade at Fort Hood.

More soldiers will also help with the Army’s increased manning in Europe.

The Army is planning to station the following units overseas, according to the release.

  • A field artillery brigade headquarters with an organic brigade support battalion headquarters, a signal company and a Multiple Launch Rocket System battalion (MLRS).
  • Two MLRS battalions with two forward support companies.
  • A short range air defense battalion.
  • A theater movement control element.
  • A petroleum support company.
  • An ammunition platoon.

Further, the Army plans to convert an infantry brigade to an armored brigade and add 1,300 new staff to Training and Doctrine Command, in an attempt to increase training and recruiting capacity, the release said.

“The end strength increase will augment deploying units, and units on high readiness status, with additional soldiers to increase Army readiness and enable us to continue to protect the nation,” Mennes said.”

https://www.armytimes.com/articles/the-army-is-growing-by-thousands-of-soldiers-heres-where-theyre-going-to-go

 

 

Pentagon Declares Lockheed F-35 “Too Big to Fail”

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F-35 Too Big to Fail

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/US Air Force)

“DEFENSE NEWS” By Michael P. Hughes

“Officially begun in 2001, with roots extending back to the late 1980s, the F-35 program is nearly a decade behind schedule, and has  failed to meet many of its original design requirements.

It’s also become the most expensive defense program in world history, at about $1.5 trillion before the fighter is  phased out in 2070.

The F-35 was billed as a fighter jet that could do almost everything the U.S. military desired, serving the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy — and even Britain’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy — all in one aircraft design. It’s supposed to replace and improve upon several current — and aging — aircraft types with widely different missions. It’s marketed as a cost-effective, powerful multi-role fighter airplane significantly better than anything potential adversaries could build in the next two decades. But it’s turned out to be none of those things.

The unit cost per airplane, above $100 million, is roughly twice what was promised early on. Even after U.S. President Donald Trump lambasted the cost of the program in February, the price per plane dropped just $7 million — less than 7 percent.

And yet, the U.S. is still throwing huge sums of money at the project. Essentially, the Pentagon has declared the F-35 “ too big to fail.” As a retired member of the U.S. Air Force and current university professor of finance who has been involved in and studied military aviation and acquisitions, I find the F-35 to be one of the greatest boondoggles in recent military purchasing history.

Forget what’s already spent

The Pentagon is trying to argue that just because taxpayers have flushed more than $100 billion down the proverbial toilet so far, we must continue to throw billions more down that same toilet. That violates the most elementary financial principles of capital budgeting, which is the method companies and governments use to decide on investments. So-called sunk costs, the money already paid on a project, should never be a factor in investment decisions. Rather, spending should be based on how it will add value in the future.

Keeping the F-35 program alive is not only a gross waste in itself: Its funding could be spent on defense programs that are really useful and needed for national defense, such as  anti-drone systems to defend U.S. troops.

Part of the enormous cost has come as a result of an effort to share aircraft design and replacement parts across different branches of the military. In 2013, a study by the think tank Rand found that it would have been cheaper if the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy had simply  designed and developed separate and more specialized aircraft to meet their specific operational requirements.

Not living up to top billing

The company building the F-35 has made grand claims. Lockheed Martin said the plane would be far better than current aircraft — “four times more effective” in air-to-air combat, “eight times more effective” in air-to-ground combat and “three times more effective” in recognizing and suppressing an enemy’s air defenses. It would, in fact, be “ second only to the F-22 in air superiority.” In addition, the F-35 was to have better range and require less logistics support than current military aircraft. The Pentagon is still calling the F-35 “ the most affordable, lethal, supportable, and survivable aircraft ever to be used.”

But that’s not how the plane has turned out. In January 2015, mock combat testing pitted the F-35 against an F-16, one of the fighters it is slated to replace. The F-35A was flown “clean” with empty weapon bays and without any drag-inducing and heavy, externally mounted weapons or fuel tanks. The F-16D, a heavier and somewhat less capable training version of the mainstay F-16C, was further encumbered with two 370-gallon external wing-mounted fuel tanks.

In spite of its significant advantages, the F-35A’s test pilot noted that the F-35A was less maneuverable and markedly inferior to the F-16D in a visual-range dogfight.

Stealth over power

One key reason the F-35 doesn’t possess the world-beating air-to-air prowess promised, and is likely not even adequate when compared with its current potential adversaries, is that it was designed first and foremost to be a stealthy airplane. This requirement has taken precedence over maneuverability, and likely above its overall air-to-air lethality. The Pentagon and especially the Air Force seem to be relying almost exclusively on the F-35’s stealth capabilities to succeed at its missions.

Like the F-117 and F-22, the F-35’s stealth capability greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, its radar cross-section, the signal that radar receivers see bouncing back off an airplane. The plane looks smaller on radar — perhaps like a bird rather than a plane — but is not invisible. The F-35 is designed to be stealthy primarily in the X-band, the radar frequency range most commonly used for targeting in air-to-air combat.

In other radar frequencies, the F-35 is not so stealthy, making it vulnerable to being tracked and shot down using current — and even obsolete — weapons. As far back as 1999 the same type of stealth technology was not able to prevent a U.S. Air Force F-117 flying over Kosovo from being located, tracked and shot down using an outdated Soviet radar and surface-to-air missile system. In the nearly two decades since, that incident has been studied in depth not only by the U.S., but also by potential adversaries seeking weaknesses in passive radar stealth aircraft.

Of course, radar is not the only way to locate and target an aircraft. One can also use an aircraft’s infrared emissions, which are created by friction-generated heat as it flies through the air, along with its hot engines. Several nations, particularly the Russians, have excellent passive infrared search and tracking systems that can locate and target enemy aircraft with great precision — sometimes using lasers to measure exact distances, but without needing radar.

It’s also very common in air-to-air battles for opposing planes to come close enough that their pilots can see each other. The F-35 is as visible as any other aircraft its size.

Analysts weigh in

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon say the F-35’s superiority over its rivals lies in its ability to remain undetected, giving it “ first look, first shot, first kill.” Hugh Harkins, a highly respected author on military combat aircraft, called that claim “a marketing and publicity gimmick” in his book on Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35S, a potential opponent of the F-35. “In real terms an aircraft in the class of the F-35 cannot compete with the Su-35S for out and out performance such as speed, climb, altitude, and maneuverability,” he wrote.

Other critics have been even harsher. Pierre Sprey, a co-founding member of the so-called fighter mafia at the Pentagon and a co-designer of the F-16, calls the F-35 “inherently a terrible airplane” that is the product of “an exceptionally dumb piece of Air Force PR spin.” He has said the F-35 would likely lose a close-in combat encounter to a well-flown MiG-21, a 1950s Soviet fighter design. Robert Dorr, an Air Force veteran, career diplomat and military air combat historian, wrote in his book “Air Power Abandoned”: “The F-35 demonstrates repeatedly that it can’t live up to promises made for it. … It’s that bad.”

How did we get here?

How did the F-35 go from its conception as the most technologically advanced, do-it-all military aircraft in the world to a virtual turkey? Over the decades-long effort to meet a real military need for better aircraft, the F-35 program is the result of the merging or combination of several other separate and diverse projects into a set of requirements for an airplane that is trying to be everything to everybody.

In combat, the difference between winning and losing is often not very great. With second place all too often meaning death, the Pentagon seeks to provide warriors with the best possible equipment. The best tools are those that are tailor-made to address specific missions and types of combat. Seeking to accomplish more tasks with less money, defense planners looked for ways to economize.

For a fighter airplane, funding decisions become a balancing act of procuring not just the best aircraft possible, but enough of them to make an effective force. This has lead to the creation of so-called multi-role fighter aircraft, capable both in air-to-air combat and against ground targets. Where trade-offs have to happen, designers of most multi-role fighters emphasize aerial combat strength, reducing air-to-ground capabilities. With the F-35, it appears designers created an airplane that doesn’t do either mission exceptionally well. They have made the plane an inelegant jack-of-all-trades, but master of none — at great expense, both in the past and, apparently,  well into the future.

I believe the F-35 program should be immediately canceled; the technologies and systems developed for it should be used in more up-to-date and cost-effective aircraft designs. Specifically, the F-35 should be replaced with a series of new designs targeted toward the specific mission requirements of the individual branches of the armed forces, in lieu of a single aircraft design trying to be everything to everyone.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/what-went-wrong-with-lockheeds-f-35-commentary

This article was originally published on The Conversation .

About the Author

Image result for Michael P. Hughes is a professor of finance at Francis Marion University.

Michael P. Hughes is a professor of finance at Francis Marion University. He served more than 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. During that time, he spent more than 14 years in nuclear treaty monitoring and related activities, while the initial 7 years were in the aircraft maintenance and engineering (propulsion) arena with F-4 and F-15 aircraft.

http://departments.fmarion.edu/business/hughes-michael-p.html

5 Ways to Make Terrorism Worse

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Terrorism Worse

“DEFENSE ONE”

“Terrorists are pleased to confront a United States that demonizes Muslims and seeks only its own advantage.

Donald Trump seems to regard a terrorist attack almost anywhere in the world as an opportunity to take to Twitter to tout his domestic political agenda. Instead of further straining relations with key democratic allies, the president would be better off reconsidering his own policies that are making terrorism worse.

First, Trump has realigned U.S. policy in the Middle East to give uncritical support to authoritarian regimes whose repressive policies fuel grievances that are exploited by violent extremists. Governments like Saudi Arabia also promote extreme, intolerant interpretations of Islam throughout the world on which terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qa’eda base their worldviews. If Trump were serious about reducing the threat from terrorism, he would confront his authoritarian allies about the hateful incitement spread by preachers and religious and educational institutions in their countries, and about the direct support that still flows to violent extremist groups in Syria and elsewhere. He would also urge U.S. allies to govern in a way that provides hope to the millions of young people across the region who are squeezed between repressive, corrupt authoritarian rulers and violent extremists who claim to offer the only alternative. Instead, Trump condones the harmful practices of his authoritarian allies, remaining silent about their violations of human rights while offering lavish praise and arms sales.

Second, the Trump administration has taken sides in the ancient sectarian rift between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims that has helped fuel conflict in Syria and elsewhere and created conditions in which terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qa’eda thrive. Exploitation of sectarian divisions by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and their proxies has been one of the chief drivers of terrorist violence in the Middle East in recent years, such as the bombings in Baghdad last week, which killed dozens. Trump is encouraging U.S. allies to step up sectarian conflict in Bahrain and Yemen while issuing threats against Iran, steps that vindicate and embolden sectarian extremists in Tehran. Terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital, immediately claimed by ISIS, received only perfunctory condemnation from the White House. The White House statement, which seemed to blame the victims for the assault, has received widespread condemnation. This hopelessly one-sided approach to violence against civilians will only fuel resentment and more violence. To reduce the threat of terrorism, the United States must work to ease sectarian conflicts in the region. Trump is making them worse.

Third, Trump continues to push a travel ban against six majority-Muslim countries, even as more and more federal courts declare it unconstitutional. The president’s single-minded pursuit of this discriminatory policy supports the narrative of violent extremists who claim that Muslims are unwelcome in the West. The travel ban abets recruiting efforts in another way as well: by fomenting distrust of law enforcement among American Muslims, thus reducing the chance that violent extremists might be reported to authorities.

Fourth, Trump’s and his administration’s harsh rhetoric against Muslims, enthusiastically backed up by his cheerleaders in the media, gives license to bigots whose actions benefit ISIS and other extremist groups. Hate crimes against Muslims have jumped, perhaps by half, since Trump began his campaign for the presidency, and he has little to say about this alarming trend. The spread of bigoted attitudes towards Muslims fuels divisions that are be exploited by violent extremists.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the Trump administration is not providing leadership on universal human rights and therefore failing to offer any constructive alternative to the hateful, nihilistic ideology of the terrorists. The Trump administration has pledged to put America first and secure American interests in a world “where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” Terrorists are only too pleased to confront the United States in such an amoral world, one without universal values or common interests and with no sense of global community.

By turning its back on these values, the Trump administration is unilaterally giving up the United States’ greatest strength, and making it easier for terrorists to spread division, fear, and violence.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/06/five-ways-president-trump-making-terrorism-worse/138602/?oref=d-topictop

The US Military’s Iran Connection?

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Military and IRAN

(Photo: KGL Logistics logo, Iran rials by Serova / Flickr)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“The chairman of a key US military contractor in the Middle East was recently charged with multiple felonies in a major fraud, money laundering, and public corruption scheme.

Fraud and money laundering charges are only the latest in a string of KGL controversies in recent years.

There have been accusations of business ties to Iran in violation of US sanctions, and of systematic leaking of sealed and privileged federal court documents and other sensitive material to KGL’s Washington lawyers by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the DoD component that oversees KGL’s US military contracts.

According to court papers in Kuwait, where the charges were filed, misappropriated investor money so far totals more than $160 million, a figure that could go higher, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has learned. The contractor, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport, better known as KGL, is a publicly traded conglomerate with hundreds of millions of dollars in US military contracts. The criminal charges, together with other court documents and unreported revelations made by former executives of a KGL affiliate in a US lawsuit, involve KGL’s possible violation of US sanctions against Iran, and accusations of potentially illicit flows of cash from Russia, Iran, and Syria. Taken together, the allegations raise troubling questions about the American military’s heavy reliance on the firm.

The 2017 criminal indictment by Kuwaiti prosecutors points specifically to a KGL affiliate, called KGL Investments (KGLI), as the alleged nexus of fraud and money laundering inside company headquarters from 2007 to 2015.

Two former KGLI executives have also made related allegations in little-noticed 2013 sworn statements filed in a US lawsuit. One executive said he was told by his KGLI boss that Iran’s state-owned shipping company, sanctioned by the United States in 2008 as a nuclear proliferator, was “KGL’s vehicle to Iran and she further told me that…[it] made a lot of money for KGL.”

The executive also said, “Specifically, it appeared to me that KGLI was engaged in money laundering, and presenting false financial information to investors.”

A spokesperson for KGL told POGO that, “Notwithstanding the name, KGL Investments is neither owned nor controlled by any of the KGL group of companies. No KGL entity is a party to the legal proceedings in Kuwait. The Kuwait courts will address and resolve the disputed allegations.” KGL has long denied it has ever violated US sanctions in any way.

However, KGL Investments, KGL, and many of its subsidiaries are co-located in the same office building and directed, in part, by KGL’s just-indicted chairman, who is also a director of KGLI, according to court papers. The indictment says that a portion of the embezzled funds was channeled to KGL component companies.

Also targeted in the criminal complaint against KGL’s chairman is the Vice-Chairman of KGLI. Convictions could result in jail sentences. Court documents list victims of the alleged fraud as key government departments: Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security and its Ports Authority. The Ports Authority serves as a staging area for America’s ongoing military involvement in Iraq, and was indispensable to US Central Command (CENTCOM) in both the first and second Gulf Wars and occupation of Iraq.

According to an official in Kuwait, senior US military personnel at the American embassy and at Camp Arifjan, a large American base in Kuwait, were officially informed of the criminal indictment, and received written copies of the details. This was done, the official said, because the indictment targets executives related to a major US military contractor, allegedly involved in stealing from important Kuwaiti institutions. In a separate dispute, the Ports Authority recently banned KGL from operating in the port. It remained unclear what action, if any, the US military might take in response. Spokespersons at CENTCOM, the Department of Defense, and the US Army’s Contracting Command all declined to comment.

What Happens Next?

Further revelations about KGL or its subsidiaries, or a conviction of one or both of the indicted executives, could call into question the conglomerate’s grip on sizable US military contracts, and its eligibility to receive future awards. Beyond the large contracts it already has, KGL is currently in line for a sizable share of the new so-called Heavy Lift VIII (HL8), a $200 million transportation-services deal that the US military could assign by August. But there is the possibility the award could run afoul of federal contracting rules, which require ethical conduct and the avoidance of serious crimes.

According to contracting rules, officially known as the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): “Purchases shall be made from, and contracts shall be awarded to, responsible prospective contractors only.” The FAR goes on to specify that, “… To be determined responsible, a prospective contractor must … have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics.” The regulation notes that contractors may be subject to debarment, suspension, or ineligibility if they are convicted or face a civil judgment for fraud, embezzlement, or “any other offense indicating a lack of business integrity or business honesty that seriously and directly affects the present responsibility of a Government contractor or subcontractor.”

In December, the Iran Sanctions Act was extended by 10 years on a 99-0 vote in the Senate, and a 419-1 vote in the House of Representations. The law states that the federal government “shall terminate a contract with such person or debar or suspend such person from eligibility for Federal contracts for a period of not less than 2 years” if they are found to have falsely certified to be in compliance with US sanctions against Iran.

KGL has repeatedly said it complied with provisions of the FAR.

A Hearing in Court

The criminal charges against KGL executives are the result of a four-year probe by Kuwait’s national security police. A court hearing on the matter in Kuwait was held on May 21, and another is scheduled for June 11. Among other records, POGO obtained a 21-page copy of a charge sheet dated May 9, 2017 (in Arabic).

The document names three defendants. Saed Dashti, 61, is chairman of KGL. Maria [Marsha] Lazareva, 44, is Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of KGLI, where Saed Dashti also serves as a director. A third defendant, Mohamed Al-Asfour, 71, is a senior public official: the executive vice-chairman of Kuwait’s Ports Authority.

Documents describe Lazareva as a Russian national. She was educated at the Wharton business school and public records associate her with real estate ownership in the Philadelphia area. According to news accounts, she showed up in court for the May 21 hearing, protesting her innocence.

The indictment says Dashti and Lazareva transferred large sums of investors’ money to their own private accounts and to a variety of KGL subsidiaries or related companies between 2007 and 2015. They did this, court documents say, partly using a network of financial institutions including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and one of its branches in the Cayman Islands. The bank also has branches in the United States, Kuwait, Asia, and other parts of the world. It’s unclear whether any of the allegedly embezzled funds passed at some point through the American financial system, which could trigger a US investigation.

A civil lawsuit involving KGL in Pennsylvania has brought to light accusations that could bear directly on the alleged fraud and money laundering scheme in Kuwait. The lawsuit, brought by KGL, charges the firm’s principal competitor, Agility Public Warehousing Co., with defaming KGL’s reputation by falsely claiming it had ties to Iran.

Saed Dashti and Marsha Lazareva

Saed Dashti and Marsha Lazareva (Source: Instagram)

 

Testimony in the Pennsylvania case—which is ongoing—includes declarations sworn in 2013 by a pair of former executives of KGL Investments, as part of Agility’s defense. Both said Dashti and Lazareva misinformed investors about KGLI’s financial condition, and one of the executives reported they had made repeated trips to Russia, Iran, and Syria in an apparent attempt to shore up KGLI’s faltering finances.

The two former KGLI executives testified that Dashti and Lazareva occupied offices on the same floors and hallways at KGL’s headquarters in Kuwait along with other subsidiaries.

One of the executives who testified, Ahmed Mabrouk, is an American citizen currently employed in the US financial industry. Court records identify him as former KGLI Vice-President Investments, a job where he testified he spent 18 months in 2008 and 2009 (a period covered by the 2017 criminal indictment) helping to analyze KGLI’s so-called “Port Fund,” an entity that invested in marine facilities around the Middle East and elsewhere. Under oath, Mabrouk said:

“Ms. Lazareva described to me the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) as KGL’s vehicle to Iran and she further told me that IRISL made a lot of money for KGL. When I was employed at KGLI, I observed Ms. Lazareva in her office reviewing documents related to IRISL, which bore the logo of IRISL, as well as the Iranian emblem.”

The declaration of Mabrouk, who could not be reached for comment, did not include documentary or other evidence to support his statement.

The United States, European Union (EU), and United Nations (UN) have all imposed sanctions on IRISL, Iran’s state-owned shipping company and a former joint-venture partner with KGL. Referring to US sanctions, applied in 2008, then-Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey explained:

“Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for U.N. designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce. IRISL’s actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile programs.”

In his declaration, Mabrouk said, “I reviewed KGLI’s internal financial statements and observed that KGLI consistently had a negative cash flow.” Mabrouk also testified that he looked at “…financial statements that had been provided to investors. The financial statements provided to investors consistently, and in bad faith, misrepresented financial data regarding KGLI and its portfolio companies’ actual financial condition.”

Concern about KGLI’s financial condition, according to Mabrouk, caused KGLI’s banks to stop lending it money, creating a cash squeeze. And that led to “fundraising” trips by Dashti and Lazareva, he said:

“I understood that Ms. Lazareva and Saeeed (sic) Dashti took a number of trips on private planes to, among other places, Iran, Syria and Russia. Following each trip, I observed in KGLI’s internal financial statements an influx of funds into KGLI’s accounts. Ms. Lazareva told me and others at KGLI that these trips were for ‘fundraising;’ however, to my knowledge, such fundraising was not tied to any formalized investment process.”

Mabrouk did not say what, if anything, KGL Investments did in exchange for the money it allegedly received, or that he knew specifically that inflows had come from Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though he said the pair had travelled there.

Mabrouk did specify that Lazareva at one point asked him to travel to Syria to “review a potential investment in a port,” but he refused because that country was under US sanctions. Because Mabrouk also holds an Egyptian passport, he said Lazareva told him to use that travel document instead of an American passport. When he refused a second time, it set off a chain of events which, he said, led to his departure from the company.

Another KGLI executive also offered testimony in the same Pennsylvania court case. Wael Salam, an American citizen who worked for KGLI both in Kuwait and in Atlanta, said he was the firm’s Chief Investment Officer. He said both Dashti and Lazareva were directly and deeply involved in decision-making at the firm. He also reported that KGL funded KGLI with money from its subsidiaries as well as seeking contributions from outside investors.

Salam said that, from his perspective as an insider at the company, making profits did not appear to be KGLI’s principal goal, at least given its decision to sink its money and assets from its “Port Fund” into a variety of failing or near-bankrupt facilities in Egypt, Pakistan, and other countries.

Four years before the criminal indictments in Kuwait, Salam testified that he wanted to leave KGLI “…because I believed it was engaging in illicit activities … Specifically, it appeared to me that KGLI was engaged in money laundering, and presenting false financial information to investors.” His statements also show that Salam was trying to raise money to start his own investment fund after he left KGLI, which the company cited as one of the grounds for his dismissal. He could not be reached for comment.

Salam said Lazareva asked him on multiple occasions to visit Iran, sometimes without explanation and at other times to evaluate a port investment. When he refused because Iran was under US sanctions, she suggested that he, too, use his Egyptian passport. He again refused to go and, following a series of disputes and alleged high-pressure tactics by the company, was fired.

A KGL representative declined to comment to POGO on the testimony of Mabrouk or Salam.

More Ties to Iran

The Pennsylvania court case recently provided additional information about KGL’s relationship with Iran, a controversy that stretches back into the Obama Administration. As evidence emerged indicating possible sanctions violations by KGL in its joint ownership of ships with IRISL, Ashton Carter, then Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and later Secretary of Defense, wrote to US lawmakers who had inquired about the situation.

In letters to Senators Claire McCaskill, Robert Menendez, Mark Kirk, Robert Bennett, and others in 2011, Carter wrote that DoD could find “no substantial information” that KGL had continuing ties to Iran that would prevent it from holding US military contracts. By that time, the company had publicly announced its decision to end all business dealings with Iran in compliance with US law.

Since then, however, as part of legal discovery in the Pennsylvania court case, KGL has divulged emails and documents, and offered testimony from one of its former executives that appear to show it did have business with IRISL—at a time when Under Secretary Carter was telling Congress just the opposite. At least that is the argument set forth in an extensively documented summary of KGL’s own internal records filed by KGL’s adversary in the Pennsylvania case. Among other things, the summary cites those KGL records showing that its joint venture with IRISL made “at least 63 financial transactions” with the Iranian shipper after US sanctions had been imposed. In another example from the summary, a former KGL executive, Allan Rosenberg, gave the court a statement describing how he set up a “ghost structure” email system that resulted in the concealment of KGL’s continuing business with the Iranian-owned company.

A KGL spokesperson declined to comment on the summary or on Rosenberg’s statement.

Airplane Parts for Iran?

In May last year, Fuad Dashti, a brother of the recently indicted Saed Dashti—both members of the wealthy Kuwaiti family that controls KGL—was arrested at San Francisco International Airport. He was charged with involvement in illegally selling aircraft parts to Iran, according to a senior US official, and brought to Washington, DC, apparently for questioning by the FBI. One official at the time described him as, “singing like a bird” while in US custody. Fuad Dashti has since been allowed to leave the United States and was photographed some months ago in Doha, Qatar. At the time of his arrest, a KGL spokesman told POGO that “the alleged conduct [of Fuad Dashti] does not involve KGL or any of its affiliates and that Mr. Fuad Dashti was not acting as a KGL employee or representative.”

However, Fuad Dashti maintains ongoing financial ties to KGL, and has been listed as a top executive and part owner of National Cleaning Company, which is partly owned by KGL. According to the recent indictment in Kuwait, Saed Dashti also owns a share of National Cleaning, though it is unclear whether misappropriated funds were diverted to the company. There was no reply to POGO’s repeated attempts to reach Fuad Dashti, including a message left at a California house where he is listed as owner.

Key Questions Remain

The criminal indictment of KGL’s chairman adds to a growing roster of unresolved issues swirling around the company and its role as a contractor with hundreds of millions of dollars in business with the US military. Questions surrounding the company’s possible financial ties to Iran, and even Syria and Russia, raise national security concerns at a time when those countries are actively engaged in confronting American interests.

America’s federal acquisition regulations require ethical conduct from companies and their leaders. The large body of evidence in Kuwait’s extensively documented fraud and money laundering case raises doubts whether that requirement is being met.

So, too, does the arrest of Fuad Dashti, long a key figure in KGL’s controlling dynasty, on charges of commercial dealings with Iran. Yet the US government has made virtually no public statements about the matter. The fact that KGL, as long ago as 2011 and perhaps earlier, has been the focus of a probe led by the FBI into its ties with Iran only adds to the doubts. Again, no result of that investigation has ever been made public. And the same is true of the US official response to a well-documented pattern of leaks to KGL’s Washington lawyers by the Defense Logistics Agency. Senior US officials have told POGO that the DoD’s Office of General Counsel and its Defense Criminal Investigative Service have looked at or been made aware of the matter. Yet neither has made a public statement about the issues.

Indeed, years of requests for information about KGL from agencies ranging from DoD to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control have been met with incomplete answers and, on occasion, with apparently inaccurate information. Given that result, Congress needs to clear up what is going on with KGL and its huge government contracts, because federal agencies appear unable or unwilling to shed light on the issue, or credibly resolve it.

Given the new criminal charges lodged against KGL’s chairman, the American public needs to know whether the company is a responsible and deserving recipient of US taxpayer funds. To find out, Congress should look into what the FBI and other agencies have learned after years of investigating the company’s conduct, and inform the public of what it learns.

Of course KGL is not the only logistics contractor the US military could rely on. Its principal competitor, and one of the largest single US contractors in the Iraq war, is Agility Public Warehousing Company. Yet Agility, too, has faced its share legal problems: the Department of Justice recently settled criminal, civil, and administrative charges against it. In the criminal case, which began in 2009, DOJ sought hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for alleged overcharging.  In the end, Agility was only required to “pay a maximum of $551…in restitution.” In the civil case, the company agreed to pay $95 million, ending its suspension and allowing it to bid once again on US government contracts.

Taken together, Agility’s recently resolved legal problems and the new criminal charges against KGL’s chairman highlight the need for Congress and the Defense Department to reevaluate a contracting framework that has made America’s military the captive of two giant companies in one of the most strategic parts of the globe, an area where US forces cannot operate without extensive logistical support. As an alternative to this dysfunctional system, Congress and the Defense Department should examine how to foster more competition by explicitly encouraging the Pentagon to make deals with a wider variety of market participants.”

http://www.pogo.org/our-work/articles/2017/us-top-militarys-iran-contracting.html

 

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) To Offer Data to Industry for Partnerships

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NGA Federal News Radio

NGA Headquarters – Image:  “Federal News Radio”

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“The idea: offer companies chunks of the “wonderland” of unclassified NGA data so they can use them to build new products or to test algorithms key to their products.

It’s a bold and rare move by a large and largely secretive government agency.

The top two leaders of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Robert Cardillo and Susan Gordon, met with Anthony Vinci, now NGA’s director of plans and programs, to discuss ways to get more value from the agency’s incredibly valuable pools of data.

Using The Economist‘s description of data as the oil of today — the most valuable commodity in our economy — Vinci argued the agency must deploy it and help pay the American people back for the investment they have made in building the agency. If data is the new oil, Vinci said companies should “turn it into plastic,” adding value.

Cardillo told reporters would NGA would create a B corporation — in effect a non-profit government company — and hire an outsider to run it.

This, I think it’s fair to say, is not a slam dunk. Culturally, it will be challenging, Vinci admitted. “It’s straightforward, but it sort of breaks every rule we have in the IC (Intelligence Community).” The IC doesn’t share data and it doesn’t partner with outsiders, except for allied and friendly governments when needed.

This process may sidestep the whole process of generating a requirement for an intelligence system. “I don’t think that’s how problems can be solved any more,” Vinci said. The current system, which can be circumvented if an urgent need exists, is generally slow and restrictive, one that the Pentagon and the IC are increasingly trying to amend.

I spoke with three senior industry officials who listened to Vinci’s presentation and they were hopeful but cautious. All three said they thought the new effort could yield unexpected and useful returns on taxpayer’s investments in the data.

The biggest obstacle may be Congress. Although NGA would not be making money from the data sharing and it would not be releasing any data that could help our enemies, they would be sharing a government resource which voting taxpayers paid for and over which lawmakers have oversight. Whether the products resulting from the data would be licensed back to NGA, or allowed to generate profits for companies is all still to be determined.

“That’s part of what were trying to figure out Vinci told me,: “taxpayers paid for this data and how can we get that value back to them.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/nga-to-offer-data-to-industry-for-partnerships/

 

Big Industry Winners in the Saudi Weapons Offer

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SAUDI-DEFENCE

(Photo Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The big winner, at least on the platform side, is Lockheed Martin, with an estimated $29.1 billion in potential sales.

That includes seven THAAD missile defense batteries ($13.5 billion), and three KC-130J and 20 C-130J aircraft ($5.8 billion), as well as four multi-mission surface combatant ships ($6 billion)

Now that details of the $110 billion arms package offered to Saudi Arabia are known, Lockheed Martin appears to be the clear winner among American defense firms.

First, a caveat: Defense News broke the details of the roughly $84 billion in unknown weapons offerings that President Donald Trump brought with him on a May 20 visit to the Kingdom. But by the nature of how foreign military sales are completed, dollar totals are best-guess estimations and likely represent the ceiling for what could be spent. The figures listed may well come down, and the timeframes listed may well change, based on final negotiations around the equipment.

the company’s Sikorsky arm also benefited, with two types of Black Hawk variants: 14 MH-60R Seahawk rotorcraft ($2 billion) and 30 UH-60 rescue helicopters ($1.8 billion). That could potentially grow. A statement from Lockheed, released after the visit to Saudi Arabia, claimed that a deal was being reached with Saudi company Taqnia to “support final assembly and completion of an estimated 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Saudi government.”

A few other companies also fared well.

Boeing cashed in with an eight-year sustainment deal ($6.25 billion) for their F-15 aircraft, along with a relatively small $20 million deal to run a study on recapitalizing Saudi’s older fleet of F-15 C/D aircraft.

Raytheon’s big win came from an unknown type of enhancement for the Patriot missile system ($6.65 billion). BAE, meanwhile, hopes to bring in $3.7 billion worth of work on its Bradley vehicle, with a pair of contracts – one to modify 400 existing vehicles, and another to produce 213 new ones. (The company may also cash out on an order for 180 Howitzers, worth $1.5 billion.)

There is also a $2 billion order for an unknown number of Mk-VI patrol boats, produced by SAFE Boats International.

The previously unreported list includes roughly 104,000 air to surface weapons, including 27,000 GBU-38 designs ($1.24 billion, Boeing), 9,000 GBU-31v3 designs ($690 million, Boeing), 9,000 GBU-31v1 designs ($490 million, Boeing), 50,000 GBU-12 designs ($1.67 billion, Lockheed and Raytheon) and 9,000 GBU-10 designs ($370 million, Lockheed and Raytheon.)

Known unknowns
But there is a chance for more growth, based on a set of unspecified aircraft and satellite programs. The list includes $2 billion for a light air support aircraft, type and quantity to be decided later. It also includes another $2 billion for four new aircraft to replace the Kingdom’s Tactical Airborne Surveillance System, which serves a similar role to the U.S. Air Force JSTARS.

The light air support seems to have a fairly small list of options: either Textron with it’s AT-6 (or, perhaps, its Scorpion jet, still in search of a first customer) or the Embraer/Sierra Nevada team’s A-29 Super Tucano. Both the UAE and Jordan have ordered the A-29, so buying the Super Tucano would give the Kingdom commonality with two of its closest allies.

The wildcard may be the U.S. Air Force’s OA-X experiment, which is holding a flyoff between the Scorpion, AT-6 and A-29 this summer. In theory, the Air Force is looking at replacing the A-10 with one of the three planes, but the service has been careful to stress this summer’s action is more of a fact-finding exercise than a downselect. At the same time, if the USAF shows a preference for one of the jets, the Saudis may look in the same direction.

As to the TASS replacement, the first question is whether the Saudis look to glom onto the JSTARS recapitalization, which should be awarded sometime in fiscal year 2018. If so, Boeing, a Northrop Grumman/L-3/General Dynamics team and a Lockheed Martin/ Bombardier team would benefit here.

However, the TASS and JSTARS setups are somewhat different, and it may be the Saudis would look for a custom solution.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom has been offered a clutch of satellites, with as-yet-unknown designs: two “Remote Sensing Satellites” estimated at $800 million and two satellite communications & space based early warning systems estimated at $4 billion.

Given the focus on missile defense, the space based early warning systems could well be a derivative of Lockheed’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile defense satellite. If so, the U.S. may be able to seek an arrangement with the Kingdom on information sharing, which would widen the overall capability of the missile tracking system.

How quickly these contracts can be pushed through the system is an open question. Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, wrote in a note to investors Friday that “precision munitions and missile defense remain top priorities for the Kingdom.”

“We think the elements of the package will probably go through as individual items, which could reduce opposition. We think some of the more easily defined items that have been either sold to Saudi before or to other countries could proceed quickly (such as THAAD, Patriot, precision munitions, helicopters, F-15, C-130Js, etc.),” he wrote.”