Tag Archives: MIC

Pentagon Wants Ideas from Firms With Little or No History of Working with the Military

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intelligence-community-science-technology-opportunities-for-small-business-engagement-13-638                                                             http://www.defenseinnovationmarketplace.mil

“NEW YORK TIMES”

“A small group of high-ranking Pentagon officials made a quiet visit to Silicon Valley in December to solicit national security ideas from start-up firms with little or no history of working with the military.

In an unusual request for outside ideas, the Pentagon also opened for public comment a long-range research and development plan in December.

“They’ve realized that the old model wasn’t working anymore,” said James Lewis, director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They’re really worried about America’s capacity to innovate.”

There is a precedent for the initiative. Startled by the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, at the Pentagon to ensure that the United States would not be blindsided by technological advances.

Now, the Pentagon has decided that the nation needs more than ARPA, renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, if it is to find new technologies to maintain American military superiority.

The Pentagon issued a formal request for new ideas in December. Soon after, out of concern that the call for fresh thinking would not reach past the usual Washington contractors, Stephen Welby, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering, visited a dozen Silicon Valley start-ups that are pursuing new technologies that the Pentagon believes might have a national security role beyond the next dozen or so years.

The Pentagon was less interested in hearing near-term ideas because of the difficulty of integrating them into the nation’s existing arsenal, Mr. Welby said.

The region has a long history of military work. During the 1960s and ’70s, Silicon Valley was dominated by aerospace and military contractors such as Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and FMC Corporation. It was also the center of the nation’s electronic warfare industry.

That changed with the explosive growth of the commercial semiconductor industry.

The Pentagon focused on smaller companies during its December visit; it did not, for example, visit Google. Mr. Welby acknowledged that Silicon Valley start-ups were not likely to be focused on the Pentagon as a customer. The military has captive suppliers and a long and complex sales cycle, and it is perceived as being a small market compared with the hundreds of millions of customers for consumer electronics products.

Mr. Welby has worked for three different Darpa directors, but he said that Pentagon officials now believed they had to look beyond their own advanced technology offices.

“The Darpa culture is about trying to understand high-risk technology,” he said. “It’s about big leaps.” Today, however, the Pentagon needs to break out of what can be seen as a “not invented here” culture, he said.

“We’re thinking about what the world is going to look like in 2030 and what tools the department will need in 20 or 30 years,” he added.

One of the companies Mr. Welby’s group visited was Liquid Robotics, a Sunnyvale, Calif., maker of a novel automated oceangoing surveillance robot that draws its propulsion from the action of waves.

Roger Hine, Liquid Robotics’ chief technology officer, said the company had been eager to meet with Pentagon officials. But he was still cautious about the challenges that companies funded by venture capital would face in committing to do research for the military.

“We’re not going to rent out James Gosling to the government,” Mr. Hine said, referring to the prominent Silicon Valley technologist who is one of the principal designers at Liquid Robotics.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/science/pentagon-looking-for-edge-in-the-future-checks-in-with-silicon-valley.html?_r=0

 

 

 

 

The Truth About the Middle East “Wars”

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Dailypaul dot comblog_daniel_bolger “New York Times” By  Army Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger

“A a senior commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, I lost 80 soldiers. Despite their sacrifices, and those of thousands more, all we have to show for it are two failed wars.

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam.

As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that.

As veterans, we tell ourselves it was all worth it. The grim butchery of war hovers out of sight and out of mind, an unwelcome guest at the dignified ceremonies. Instead, we talk of devotion to duty and noble sacrifice. We salute the soldiers at Omaha Beach, the sailors at Leyte Gulf, the airmen in the skies over Berlin and the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, and we’re not wrong to do so. The military thrives on tales of valor. In our volunteer armed forces, such stirring examples keep bringing young men and women through the recruiters’ door. As we used to say in the First Cavalry Division, they want to “live the legend.” In the military, we love our legends.

Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.

The surge in Iraq did not “win” anything. It bought time. It allowed us to kill some more bad guys and feel better about ourselves. But in the end, shackled to a corrupt, sectarian government in Baghdad and hobbled by our fellow Americans’ unwillingness to commit to a fight lasting decades, the surge just forestalled today’s stalemate. Like a handful of aspirin gobbled by a fevered patient, the surge cooled the symptoms. But the underlying disease didn’t go away. The remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents we battled for more than eight years simply re-emerged this year as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

The surge legend is soothing, especially for military commanders like me. We can convince ourselves that we did our part, and a few more diplomats or civilian leaders should have done theirs. Similar myths no doubt comforted Americans who fought under the command of Robert E. Lee in the Civil War or William C. Westmoreland in Vietnam. But as a three-star general who spent four years trying to win this thing — and failing — I now know better.

What went wrong in Iraq and in Afghanistan isn’t the stuff of legend. It won’t bring people into the recruiting office, or make for good speeches on Veterans Day. Reserve those honors for the brave men and women who bear the burdens of combat.

That said, those who served deserve an accounting from the generals. What happened? How? And, especially, why? It has to be a public assessment, nonpartisan and not left to the military. (We tend to grade ourselves on the curve.) Something along the lines of the 9/11 Commission is in order. We owe that to our veterans and our fellow citizens.

Such an accounting couldn’t be more timely. Today we are hearing some, including those in uniform, argue for a robust ground offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq. Air attacks aren’t enough, we’re told. Our Kurdish and Iraqi Army allies are weak and incompetent. Only another surge can win the fight against this dire threat. Really? If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.

As a veteran, and a general who learned hard lessons in two lost campaigns, I’d like to suggest an alternative. Maybe an incomplete and imperfect effort to contain the Islamic State is as good as it gets. Perhaps the best we can or should do is to keep it busy, “degrade” its forces, harry them or kill them, and seek the long game at the lowest possible cost. It’s not a solution that is likely to spawn a legend. But in the real world, it just may well give us something better than another defeat.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wars-in-iraq-and-afghanistan.html?_r=0

 

Nearly $1 Billion Spent To Elevate Afghan Women May Have Been Squandered

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defense-largeImage: Massoud Hossaini/AP

“$64.8 million on 652 projects, programs and initiatives to support Afghan women in fiscal 2011 through 2013. $850.5 million on 17 projects, but could not identify the specific amount of funds within these projects that directly supported Afghan women, the IG said.”

“DEFENSE ONE”

“Improving the status of women has been a central challenge in Afghanistan since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban. But current American efforts to boost access to jobs, health care, education and child care suffer from poor tracking of funds and an inability of U.S. agencies to connect their programs to demonstrated improvements in that war-torn country, a watchdog reported on Thursday.

……..the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR] said. “But none of the three agencies can readily identify the full extent of their projects, programs, and initiatives supporting Afghan women or the corresponding amount of funding expended on those efforts,” auditors found, and there is “no comprehensive assessment available to confirm” whether reported gains by women in recent years are the result of U.S. efforts.

SIGAR warned that the absence of more detailed information will limit the agencies’ ability to make informed policy, program and funding decisions, especially as the number of U.S. personnel on the ground decreases. “Although the agencies monitor and evaluate most of their individual efforts at the program or project-level, none of the agencies has compiled this information into an agency-level assessment of the impact these efforts have had on the lives of Afghan women, in accordance with best practices in managing and assessing government programs,” it said.

Despite past progress reported by the agencies in measures such as girls going to school and construction of women’s shelters, the Afghan people continue “to face barriers recruiting women into the Afghan National Security Forces,” the report said. It cited “a lack of programs and facilities, such as child care, latrines, and dormitories, to support women in the ANSF; adequate career paths for women; training that would provide females with skills equal to their male colleagues; and a general understanding of the need for acceptance of females in the forces.”

What’s more, reported cases of violence against women in 2013 rose by 25 percent compared with 2012, according to data SIGAR cited from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The watchdog recommended that State, the Defense Department and USAID report within 90 days on new efforts to “develop and implement agency-wide mechanisms to track the number and funding—both obligated and disbursed—of projects, programs, and initiatives” to support Afghan women. It also called upon the agencies to use existing data for an agency-wide assessment of progress and develop a plan with timeframes.

The agencies partially agreed, but in some cases argued that existing data systems are sufficient.

The report is addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with the U.S. ambassador P. Michael McKinley and Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III.”

http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/12/nearly-1-billion-spent-elevate-afghan-women-may-have-been-squandered/101589/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

 

 

Retired General Casts Jaundiced Eye on the Pentagon Slush Fund

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rstreet.org

“DEFENSE ONE” – Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., (ret.)

“America cannot return to the days of unrestrained Pentagon spending, nor can we suffer a Congress that is negligent in its oversight authority. Those who are using the war with ISIS to argue for increasing Pentagon spending are manipulating a difficult situation for their own political purposes.

The Pentagon doesn’t need more money; it needs clearer policies and more effective management. Simply throwing money at complex problems is never good policy. Hopefully the next Secretary of Defense and the new Congress will find a way to work together to achieve both of these goals.

……….as the U.S. commitment to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has declined, the OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] account has become a slush fund for other programs unrelated to the conflicts overseas. This is largely because the war fund is not subject to spending caps, which makes it an attractive vehicle for the Pentagon to pad its base budget and for Congress to pay for pet projects.

As we move into the debate over the Pentagon’s 2016 budget next year, claims that the Pentagon is facing massive and crippling budget cuts are misleading. In fact, the Pentagon will receive approximately the same amount of money in fiscal year 2016 that it is likely to receive this year. At roughly half a trillion dollars, the Pentagon’s base budget will remain at historically high levels, matching the peak in the Cold War in constant dollars.

And within that historically high amount, there are signs of rampant waste. Investigations have revealed that tens of billions of dollars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been wasted on projects with no practical purpose, or simply lost through fiscal mismanagement.

If lawmakers are truly concerned about containing spending to control the deficit, they will focus on eliminating the billions of dollars that are wasted at the Pentagon every year and invest in only those programs we need to keep us safe. Even more importantly, they will work with the new secretary of defense, likely Ashton Carter, to implement the common-sense, cost saving measures the Pentagon has already asked for, including modest compensation reforms and the closure of excess bases.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/12/washingtons-window-reform-war-funding-just-opened/100944/?oref=d_brief_nl

Lead Photo Credit Above:  “rstreet.org”

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

http://armscontrolcenter.org/about/staff/rgard/

Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. is Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation where his policy work focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, missile defense, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, military policy, nuclear terrorism, and other national security issues.

During his military career, Gard saw combat in both the Korea and Vietnam wars, and served a three year tour in Germany. He also served as Executive Assistant to two secretaries of defense; the first Director of Human Resources Development for the U.S. Army; Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; and President of National Defense University (NDU)

 

Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure

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“STRATFOR”

“The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda’s intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

——if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That’s when you simply point out to the prisoner that, “for you the war is over.” You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.

The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda’s intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn’t need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.

Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.

The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator’s tool kit.

At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn’t.

U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.

The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.”

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090420_torture_and_u_s_intelligence_failure#axzz3LQKKLpE1

 

 

Record-Setting Year for Fraud Recovery

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war-is-hell-cartoon“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“It’s the holiday season again: the time of year when the Department of Justice (DOJ) announces its annual False Claims Act (FCA) fraud recovery statistics. For fiscal year 2014, the DOJ secured a record $5.69 billion in settlements and judgments in civil FCA cases—a dramatic increase over last year’s total of $3.8 billion and the first time the annual recovery has exceeded $5 billion. Since 1986, when Congress strengthened the FCA, more than $44 billion has been reclaimed from companies and individuals who committed fraud against the federal government.

The FCA, which dates back to the Civil War, is the government’s primary tool in recovering funds stolen from federal programs: Medicare and Medicaid, contracts and grants, housing programs, disaster relief loans, and agricultural subsidies.

The lion’s share of FY 2014 recoveries came from housing and mortgage fraud cases. Financial institutions such as Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase paid the federal government $3.1 billion to settle allegations of improper mortgage lending practices that triggered the 2008 global financial crisis. Health care fraud cases, which usually comprise the largest share of annual FCA recoveries, accounted for $2.3 billion. A substantial part of that came from pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson’s historic settlement resolving federal and state claims of improperly marketing its prescription drugs and paying kickbacks to health care providers.

As for contract fraud-related cases, there were several notable recoveries this past year (most of these companies are in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database):

  • Boeing: $23 million to settle claims of submitting false labor charges on C-17 Globemaster aircraft maintenance contracts
  • Hewlett-Packard: $32.5 million for allegedly overbilling the U.S. Postal Service
  • McKesson: $18 million to resolve allegations that it improperly set temperature monitors used in shipping vaccines under a contract with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • MPRI: $3.2 million to settle claims of submitting false labor charges on a contract to support the Army in Afghanistan
  • Northrop Grumman: $11.4 million for allegedly overbilling for employee costs on federal contracts
  • Samsung: $2.3 million to settle charges of misleading federal agencies about the country of origin of its products

According to the DOJ, nearly $3 billion of the $5.69 billion was recovered in lawsuits filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the FCA, which entitles them to a share of the recovery. These whistleblowers—who put their personal and professional lives at great risk by filing suit—were awarded a total of $435 million. We are certain this will elicit howls of outrage from the Chamber of Commerce, which has been trying to gut the FCA for years.

Although the DOJ noted that more than 700 qui tam lawsuits were filed last year, we were disappointed that it neglected to report the current backlog of pending FCA and qui tam lawsuits. We blogged back in October that, as of January 2011, more than 1,300 lawsuits were under seal and stuck in legal limbo while the government decides whether or not to intervene. Nearly two months later, the DOJ still has not responded to our request for more recent numbers.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2014/12/20141203-doj-announces-record-setting-year-for-fraud-recovery.html

What It Means To Kill in Combat

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“If a war fails to achieve its stated objectives—as Vietnam did—it can make the reasons for killing even harder to accept. Some recent vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, said the psychiatrist, are already asking, “What was it all for?”

This is not to cast troops who kill in combat as victims. They shouldcarry the weight of what they did. But they should not be forced to carry it alone. Their leadership, from the company level all the way to the Chief of Staff, is part of every killing that’s carried out. So too are the civilian architects of these wars. And the rest of us bear some responsibility as well. The killing a country does through its soldiers is part of its fabric and identity. The less it is examined, the less a country will know about itself, its impulses, and the impact of what it has trained and dispatched its sons and daughters to do.

A more honest conversation about what war is and what war does is a good place to start. Those now calling for boots on the ground in Iraq, Syria, or anywhere else, should be first to have it. They should understand and explain exactly what it will mean if troops are deployed, and they should press the military to give its charges tools that not only help them kill when they should, but also how to live with the killing they’ve done later in life. More counseling must be made available as well, as part of the broader overhaul of the VA, and steps taken to remove the stigma that still exists around seeking help for the psychological wounds of war. And no one should ask a veteran if he or she has killed anybody unless they really want to hear the answer—and are prepared to listen.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2014/11/what-it-means-kill-combat/100028/?oref=d-river

Afghanisan – What Exactly Are We Reconstructing with $104B of Tax Payer Money?

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“If we don’t make progress on corruption and narcotics, we may lose the whole ball of wax… You’re going to end up with a narco-mafia state, and they will work with the terrorists, because they are funding the terrorists.”  – John Sopko – Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

For now, as troops pack up and head home, after the U.S. spent 13 years fighting in Afghanistan at the cost of nearly $800 billion and more than 2,300 lives, don’t expect much action in Congress to address where all of that went, and where it’s going

America’s longest war comes to its official end on Dec. 31, but among many members of Congress—ultimately charged with oversight of the $104 billion in U.S. taxpayer money dedicated to Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2001—political appetite has waned, especially amid a contentious midterm election and continuing budget cuts.

The U.S. will leave roughly 9,800 U.S. troops, along with about 2,700 NATO forces, for a train, advise and assist mission. But the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan is far from over—of the more than $104 billion slated for reconstruction, some $14.5 billion still awaits disbursement over the next several years, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s quarterly report to Congress released Thursday.

“Just because the troops are leaving, that doesn’t mean that reconstruction is over,” Special Inspector General John Sopko told Defense One. “Now more than ever you really need to oversight over there … otherwise, you’re just going to be pouring money in and not knowing what happens to it.”

(Related: After $18M, US Halts Work on Half-Renovated Prison in Afghanistan)

When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12, it will have to decide whether to pass another stop-gap measure and simply extend the level of funding, or, more likely, tuck all of the appropriations bills—including the Overseas Contingency Operation’s budget request, which funds the war in Afghanistan—into a giant, $1 trillion-plus omnibus bill to fund the government through the fiscal year until the end of next September.

Given budget constraints and the spate of foreign policy crises outside of Afghanistan, despite the worrying conclusions of the SIGAR report, there is little urgency on the Hill to address the issue of oversight on existing funding.

A group of Democratic senators is calling for sustained funding for reconstruction, but with a greater proportion of the money tied to conditions to the Afghan government, now led by newly elected President Ashraf Ghani. “Up to now we haven’t done much conditionality at all—because you’re not rewarded for conditionality, you’re not rewarded on withholding money, but on spending money,” Sopko said, “most of it has been a carrot and not a stick. Sometimes, we have to risk saying no to the Afghans.”

Others members of Congress have cautioned against perpetuating a status quo that shows no real progress.

The problem is not insufficient funding—it’s inefficient funding.

This is the Afghanistan we are leaving behind, according to SIGAR:

Opium production, which funds the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, is at an all-time high, using U.S.-sponsored irrigation projects and providing 411,000 full-time jobs—more than the Afghan National Security Forces—despite $7.8 billion spent to eradicate it.

Infrastructure projects, such as the renovation of Afghanistan’s largest prison, continue to be riddled by corruption. The renovation remains incomplete, leaving roughly 7,400 prisoners to be held in a facility with defective workmanship—some in the hallways, due to overcrowding—despite $18.5 million paid out by the State Department.

Afghanistan also remains dangerously dependent on foreign aid. According to reports, in September the Ministry of Finance was forced to ask donors for $537 million to cover government salaries until the year’s end, despite over a decade of massive foreign and American investment.

The Afghan government has estimated it will need $3.9 billion a year in development aid until 2020. Sopko says the U.S. plans to spend closer to $5 to 8 billion on Afghanistan reconstruction over the next several years in order to preserve fragile gains—with substantially less U.S. troops and personnel to oversee the spending.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chairs a subcommittee on contracting oversight, said that funding going forward should be limited to areas that can be audited, which after this year will be increasingly difficult to do.

“She’s already raised concerns about the fact that many projects will be unreachable by government oversight officials after the withdrawal, which will only further drive up the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse—which is why she’s proposed that money for those projects outside the areas of possible oversight be limited,” spokeswoman Sarah Feldman said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Budget Committee, said, “In light of the call to further help the new Afghan government with U.S. taxpayer dollars, it’s important to note how much money already has been squandered.”

“Thanks to the aggressive oversight we’ve had on Afghanistan spending, we have some idea of how much money has been wasted, although we’ll probably never know the extent of it because the problems have been so rampant,” he said. “The waste, fraud and abuse in Afghanistan spending should give anyone pause before spending more money on aid and reconstruction.”

But given competing priorities, there is little to indicate that Congress will use this crucial moment of transition for both Afghanistan and the U.S. role there as an opportunity to mandate enforcement of oversight on the billions of dollars left to be spent.

The Democratic majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee echoed many of SIGAR’s concerns in its own report, released Monday.

“As we enter this new phase, it is critical that the United States re-examine its presence in Afghanistan to ensure that assistance is provided in the most efficient, cost effective, and sustainable manner possible,” Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., wrote in his introduction.

Titled “Afghanistan in Transition: U.S. Civilian Presence and Assistance Post-2014,” the report calls for renewed political attention—and sustained financial support—for Afghanistan, as well as increasing the portion of that support dependent upon the Afghan government meeting certain conditions on governance and human rights, revenue generation and collection, and development.

U.S. political support for assistance to Afghanistan has diminished in recent years, even though precipitous cuts in funding could have a destabilizing effect on the country.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report, “Afghanistan in Transition: U.S. Civilian Presence and Assistance Post-2014”

U.S. political support for assistance to Afghanistan has diminished in recent years, even though precipitous cuts in funding could have a destabilizing effect on the country. To maintain support for future funding, key accountability measures must be strengthened,” the report states.

If there is not a clear plan to keep the Afghan government accountable, it should not be implemented, according to the Democratic senators. If funding cannot be sufficiently monitored, it should be terminated. The tough talk reflects the increasing challenges of oversight in Afghanistan moving forward.

As the report cautions, “With the military drawdown, it will be more difficult to monitor development projects.”

(Read More: Will Afghanistan Become the ‘Forgotten War’ Again?)

Officials and members of Congress expected the OCO to come down significantly with the drawdown in Afghanistan—the Obama administration requested $65.8 billion for fiscal year 2015, roughly a third less than the prior fiscal year. But unexpected flare-ups with the Islamic State, Russia and even the Ebola fight have prompted a reconsideration of easing the U.S. government’s reliance on OCO funding. Some lawmakers have suggested that the U.S. withdrew too quickly from Iraq, giving rise to the Islamic State, and that the administration should rethink its timeline for the drawdown in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration requested $5.8 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction efforts for FY2015, the current fiscal year, with roughly $4 billion for supporting ANSF alone. The FY2015 request is a decrease from the $6.2 billion appropriated in FY2014, but the continuing resolution funded the OCO—and thus, Afghanistan reconstruction—at last year’s higher spending levels.

By many measures, Afghanistan has made progress, according to the senators’ report. The Afghan government reports 7.3 million students are attending school—with one-third of them girls—compared only 1 million in 2001, most of who were male. Life expectancy has increased by 20 years to 60 years old, and maternal mortality rates have been halved. Since 2001, Afghanistan’s GDP has increased from $2.4 billion to more than $20 billion.”

http://www.sigar.mil/about/leadership/ig-sigar.html

Photo Credit and John Sopko Biography:  http://www.sigar.mil/about/leadership/ig-sigar.html

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Vietnam May Help With ISIL/ISIS

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                                                         MR KERRY – HAVE YOU GIVEN THIS ANY THOUGHT?

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                                              Veteran John Kerry Testifying Against Vietnam War in 1971

By

“Obsessed with communism, America intervened in Vietnam’s civil war and took the place of the French colonialists.

Obsessed with jihadists and 9/11, are we now doing the bidding of Iran and Syria in Iraq? Is jihadist to Sunni nationalism what communism was to Vietnamese nationalism: a fearsome ideological movement that triggers emotional reactions in the West — reinforced with videotaped beheadings — but that masks a deeper underlying nationalist movement that is to some degree legitimate and popular in its context?

&MaxW=640&imageVersion=default&AR-140919971 - Copy                             John Kerry Flying into Iraq on ISIL State Department Mission 2014

“The key reason we failed in Vietnam was that the communists managed to harness the Vietnamese nationalist narrative much more effectively than our South Vietnamese allies, who were too often seen as corrupt or illegitimate.

Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis embraced or resigned themselves to the Islamic State because they were systematically abused by the pro-Shiite, pro-Iranian governments of Bashar Assad in Syria and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq — and because they see ISIL as a vehicle to revive Sunni nationalism and end Shiite oppression.

Why did the Islamic State behead two U.S. journalists? Because it is a coalition of foreign jihadis, local Sunni tribes and former Iraqi Baath Party military officers.

I suspect the jihadis in charge want to draw the U.S. into another “crusade” against Muslims — just like Osama bin Laden — to energize and attract Muslims from across the world and to overcome their main weakness, namely that most Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis are attracted to the Islamic State simply as a vehicle of their sectarian resurgence, not because they want puritanical/jihadist Islam.

There is no better way to get secular Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis to fuse with the Islamic State than have America bomb them all.”

http://m.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/280854722.html?section=/opinion

 

 

 

Making Money on Warfare While Hoping We Do Not Get Shot with Our Own Ordnance

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“The U.S. State Department has cleared a $600 million sale of 46,000 120-millimeter armor-piercing tank rounds for the Iraqi Army’s M1A1 Abrams tank fleet.

The United States has been helping rebuild Iraq’s military since the 2003 American-led invasion, which ousted then President Saddam Hussein. Among the equipment delivered were 140 General Dynamics M1A1 Abrams tanks for the Iraqi Army. More than two-dozen of those Abrams have reportedly been damaged in recent months during the fighting with ISIS.

Other Iraqi weapon sales cleared this year include:

—- Helicopter Sustainment for Bell 407, OH-58 Kiowa and Huey helicopters, valued at $500 million.

—- 5,000 Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles, valued at $700 million.

—- 200 AM General Humvees, valued at $101 million.

—- Seven Raytheon Aerostats, valued at $90 million.

—- 24 Beechcraft AT-6 attack planes, valued at $790 million.

—- Air traffic control systems, including radars, for four bases, valued at $700 million.

—- 24 Boeing Apache helicopters and mission equipment, valued at $6.17 billion.”

http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/10/state-department-clears-sale-46000-tank-rounds-iraq/96935/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

 

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