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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
January 31, 2012

U.S. Military Envisions More Bases Like Djibouti Facility


U.S. Military Envisions More Bases Like Djibouti Facility
January 30, 2012

A little-known U.S. military facility in the Middle East is a model for the kind of American bases President Obama's new defense strategy suggests soon will pop up around the globe, a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

The U.S. commandos who swooped into Somalia to rescue two aid workers who had been kidnapped by pirates operated from an American base in Djibouti, said Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy. She called the facility a prime example of the kinds of facilities from which the U.S. military will launch the "small-footprint operations" across the globe that are discussed in the Obama administration's new national defense strategy.

The Djibouti base is called Camp Lemonnier, according to a State Department fact sheet. Pentagon and other U.S. national security officials believe Washington needs more Lemonnier-like bases.

The Obama administration's defense strategy, released this month, says smaller annual Pentagon budgets "will require innovative and creative solutions to maintain our support for allies."

unhappycamper comment: Evidently no one told Admiral Robert Willard: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/27/us-usa-asia-bases-idUSTRE80Q1XF20120127
January 28, 2012

The US may be getting out of Afghanistan earlier than 2014

On January 27, 2012, the Washington Post said:

France will speed up troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by one year
By Edward Cody and Karen DeYoung, Published: January 27

PARIS — France announced Friday that it will pull its combat forces out of Afghanistan one year ahead of the scheduled NATO withdrawal and said it would urge the rest of the alliance to do the same.

President Nicolas Sarkozy made the unexpected proposal in concert with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a news conference here. “We have decided .?.?. to ask NATO to consider a total handing of NATO combat missions to the Afghan army over the course of 2013,” Sarkozy said.

The move dramatized growing uncertainty, in Afghanistan as well as in NATO countries, over the future of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban. It could also complicate the Obama administration’s deliberations over the pace of withdrawing U.S. troops.

The 33,000 “surge” troops President Obama sent to Afghanistan in 2010 are due to be home by the end of summer. The military believes that the remaining 68,000 should stay until the end of the 2014 summer fighting season to maintain and expand what they say are gains against the Taliban. Reopening NATO discussions on an end date would probably strengthen the hand of administration officials who envision a faster, phased drawdown that would save money as well as U.S. lives.

On January 28, 2012 the Washington Post sez:


Afghans criticize plan for early French withdrawal, say 2013 NATO handover would be ‘mistake’
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, January 28, 8:58 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan — France’s plans to withdraw its combat troops from Afghanistan a year early drew harsh words Saturday in the Afghan capital, with critics accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of putting domestic politics ahead of Afghans’ safety.

A wider proposal by Sarkozy for NATO to hand over all security to Afghans by the end of next year also came under fire, with one Afghan lawmaker saying it would be “a big mistake” that would leave security forces unprepared to fight the Taliban insurgency and threaten a new descent into violence in the 10-year-old war.

Sarkozy’s decision, which came a week after four French troops were shot dead by an Afghan army trainee suspected of being a Taliban infiltrator, raises new questions about the unity of the U.S.-led military coalition.

It also reopens the debate over whether setting a deadline for troop withdrawals will allow the Taliban to run out the clock and seize more territory once foreign forces are gone.

On January 27, 2012, the Associated Press said:

France, Karzai now want expedited NATO exit
Friday, Jan. 27, 2012
By JAMEY KEATEN - Associated Press

PARIS -- France and Afghanistan agree NATO should speed up by a year its timetable for handing all combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday, raising new questions about the unity of the Western military alliance.

Sarkozy also announced a faster-track exit for France, the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan - marking a distinct break from previous plans to adhere to the U.S. goal of withdrawing combat forces by the end of 2014. The proposal comes a week after four unarmed French troops were killed by an Afghan soldier described as a Taliban infiltrator.

Sarkozy, alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai who was in Paris for a previously planned visit, said France had told the U.S. of its plan, and will present it at a Feb. 2-3 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. He said he would call President Barack Obama about it Saturday.


A sense of mission fatigue has been growing among some European contributors to the 10-year allied intervention in Afghanistan. The new idea floated by Sarkozy would accelerate a gradual drawdown of NATO troops that Obama has planned to see through until the end of 2014.

unhappycamper comment: It's about time adults took over the situation.

Don't know if you were aware of it, but the Pakistan border closure a few weeks ago adds about another $100 million a week to the supply costs.

We would save at least $100 billion dollars were we to get out of Afghanistan in 2013.

January 26, 2012

Lockheed F-35 Said to Be Cut by 13 Planes in Pentagonís Budget


Lockheed F-35 Said to Be Cut by 13 Planes in Pentagon’s Budget
By Tony Capaccio - Thu Jan 26 05:00:02 GMT 2012

The Pentagon will propose spending about $9.2 billion to buy 29 Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 jets in its fiscal 2013 budget, 13 fewer than previously planned, U.S. officials said.

The reduction is part of a decision to delay purchasing 179 of the Joint Strike Fighters beyond 2017 to continue development, testing and correction of deficiencies, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday in advance of a Defense Department announcement.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to outline the Department of Defense budget proposal today at the Pentagon, part of an effort to cut $488 billion, or 8.5 percent, from $5.62 trillion in spending that had been planned for 2012-2021.

Beyond the next budget year, the Pentagon’s previous plan to purchase 62 F-35s in fiscal 2014 is being reduced to 29, according to budget data. The request for 2015 is dropping to 44 from 81, and the planned purchase for 2016 will decline to 61 from 108.

unhappycamper comment: $9.2 billion / 29 F-35 planes = $317,241,379 a pop for the F-35. Kind of expensive, eh?
January 26, 2012

Defense Health Coordinating Authority Needed for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Act


Defense Health - Coordinating Authority Needed for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Activities
GAO-12-154, Jan 25, 2012

What GAO Found

From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2010, DOD activities for the treatment and research of PH and TBI received more than $2.7 billion. In fiscal year 2007, funding for these activities totaled $900 million; in fiscal year 2008, it was $573.8 million; in fiscal year 2009, $395 million; and in fiscal year 2010, $838.6 million. GAO found, however, that the reports DOD provided to Congress on these activities did not include expenditures, as required by law, and that the obligations data they contained were unreliable. Government wide policies call for agencies to have effective internal controls to assure accurate reporting of obligations and expenditures. However, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs has not developed quality control mechanisms to help ensure that data on PH and TBI activities are complete and accurate. Further, although DOD listed patient care among reported costs, it did not specify what those costs included, making it difficult for decisionmakers and Congress to fully understand the costs.

No one organization coordinates DOD’s PH and TBI activities. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed the Secretary of Defense to establish a Center for PTSD and a Center for TBI to, among other things, implement DOD’s comprehensive plans for these issues, disseminate best practices, provide guidance, and conduct research. Subsequently, a Senior Oversight Committee established by the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs reported in its plan to Congress that DOD had created a single Defense Center of Excellence for PH and TBI (DCOE) to lead efforts in practice standards, training, outreach, research, and direct care. The Committee tasked DCOE with acting as an information clearinghouse that would allow servicemembers and their families to navigate the system of care. In its own plan, DCOE stated that it would serve as a coordinating authority for DOD's PH and TBI issues and perform a gap analysis to identify needed programming. GAO found, however, as it had in prior reports, that DCOE’s strategic plan did not reflect a clear mission focusing the organization on its statutory responsibilities. Instead, those responsibilities are dispersed among the TRICARE Management Activity, the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, and others. While the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs has broad oversight for all of DOD’s medical missions, its global role prevents it from focusing on PH and TBI activities specifically. As a result, no single organization is devoted to ensuring that accurate and timely data are available on DOD’s PH and TBI activities or coordinating these activities. GAO, in conducting this review, had to obtain information from several different sources to compile a comprehensive list of DOD's PH and TBI activities. This finding was echoed in a recent RAND report that also noted that no single source in DOD tracked its PH and TBI programs or had appropriate resources to direct servicemembers to the full array of programs available. Without an entity to coordinate these activities, DOD will remain hampered in its efforts to ensure that resources are used effectively to meet goals, and Congress will be limited in its ability to obtain reliable information to guide decisionmaking.
Why GAO Did This Study

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which falls into the broader field of psychological health (PH), and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are recognized as the signature wounds of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In two reports issued in 2011 (GAO-11-219 and GAO-11-611), GAO cited numerous management weaknesses at the Defense Center of Excellence for PH and TBI (DCOE). For the present report, GAO reviewed (1) funding for DOD's PH and TBI activities in fiscal years 2007 through 2010 and the accuracy of its reporting on these activities to Congress and (2) DOD's ability to coordinate its PH and TBI activities to help ensure that funds are used to support programs of the most benefit to service- members. GAO interviewed DOD officials, reviewed legislation and DOD’s annual reports, and obtained relevant documentation.
What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to (1) include expenditure data in annual reports to Congress, as required; (2) establish quality control mechanisms on PH and TBI data; (3) if patient care costs are provided in future annual reports, specify what they include; and (4) revisit DCOE’s role as DOD’s coordinating authority for issues concerning PH and TBI, as stated in DCOE’s campaign plan, and determine whether DCOE or another organization should perform this function. In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD concurred with all four recommendations.

Read the whole GAO report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587931.txt

unhappycamper comment: This is the type of 'progress' Uncle Sam is making everywhere.
January 22, 2012

Documentary examines how toxic water at the nationís largest Marine base damaged lives

This 2007 photo shows some of the older base housing at Midway Park neighborhood at Camp Lejeune, N.C.


Documentary examines how toxic water at the nation’s largest Marine base damaged lives
By Darryl Fears, Published: January 21

Mike Partain didn’t believe the rumors about a place called Baby Heaven until he visited a Jacksonville, N.C., graveyard and wandered into a section where newborns were laid to rest.

Surrounded by hundreds of tiny marble headstones, he started to cry. A documentary film crew that followed him for a story about water contamination at Camp Lejeune heard his whimpers through a microphone clipped to his clothes. The crew dashed from another part of the graveyard and found him asking, “Why them and not me?”

The scene at Jacksonville City Cemetery is among the more poignant moments in the documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful,” about the men, women and children affected over three decades by contaminated water at the nation’s largest Marine base. The film made the short list of 15 documentary features being considered for an Oscar; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will cut the list to five Tuesday.

“Semper Fi” follows Partain and Jerome “Jerry” Ensminger, the men credited with uncovering records showing that the amount of leaked fuel that led to water contamination was many times greater than the Marine Corps acknowledged.
January 21, 2012

VA releases personal information of 2,200 vets

VA releases personal information of 2,200 vets
Published January 20, 2012
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs says personal information for more than 2,200 veterans, including Social Security numbers, was posted on Ancestry.com after it mistakenly released the data through the Freedom of Information Act.

The department said Friday there is no indication the information was misused, but it is still notifying all potentially affected veterans and is offering free credit monitoring. The department also said that Ancestry.com removed the information as soon as the VA alerted it to the department's mistake.

While the VA was required to release the requested records under the Freedom of Information Act, somehow information about living veterans was released as part of a database about deceased veterans. The department said it is investigating how the mistake happened.
January 21, 2012

Report: US Soldiers Bringing Their Violence Home from Overseas

Report: US Soldiers Bringing Their Violence Home from Overseas
Published on Friday, January 20, 2012 by Common Dreams
- Common Dreams staff

After more than ten years at war, soldiers in the US military are more prone to sexual violence, domestic abuse (including spousal and child abuse), and suicide, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Thursday.

Reuters sez:

Violent sex crimes committed by active U.S. Army soldiers have almost doubled over the past five years, due in part to the trauma of war, according to an Army report released on Thursday.

Reported violent sex crimes increased by 90 percent over the five-year period from 2006 to 2011. There were 2,811 violent felonies in 2011, nearly half of which were violent felony sex crimes. Most were committed in the United States.

One violent sex crime was committed by a soldier every six hours and 40 minutes in 2011, the Army said, serving as the main driver for an overall increase in violent felony crimes.

January 17, 2012

Afghanistan 'will take 30 years to develop into proper democratic state'

Sir Simon Gass said that 352,000 Afghan Security Forces would be left in place but added that would be a 'high water mark' and funding might not remain for that number

Afghanistan 'will take 30 years to develop into proper democratic state'
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
6:30AM GMT 16 Jan 2012

Sir Simon Gass, a British diplomat, said the country has gone through 30 years of disastrous conflict which has destroyed infrastructure and institutions.

"It will take decades to recover from the destruction that was wrought over that period of time," he added.

Referring to a World Bank report about countries emerging from prolonged conflict, Sir Simon said they do not have strong institutions, democratic values, rule of law or lack of corruption.

"Those are not values that can be delivered in a short period of time. Typically they take 30 years or so in countries coming out of conflict," he added.
January 5, 2012

Afghanistan: US press withdraws

Afghanistan: US press withdraws
By Ben Schreiner
Jan 6, 2012

Lost amid the attention paid to the historic United States withdrawal from Iraq has been the fact that nearly 100,000 US troops (and a near equal number of private contractors) remain entrenched in Afghanistan. The 10-year-long war has indeed become what many in the US have deemed the "forgotten war". For just as American troops have withdrawn from Iraq, the American press has largely packed up and withdrawn from Afghanistan.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, coverage of the war in Afghanistan accounted for only 2% of all US press content in 2011.[1] That's down two points from 2010, and three points from 2009. To put this in context, American media coverage of Afghanistan was on par with that of sports in the last year, and only one percent greater than the coverage of celebrity and entertainment related news.

Declining US press coverage of the war has no doubt been hastened by withering resources devoted by major American media outlets to Afghanistan. According to the online press-watch organization, Nieman Watchdog, only five US newspapers now maintain bureaus in Afghanistan, while at any given time a maximum of only ten broadcast correspondents can be found in the country. [2]


Such explanations from the American media establishment, however, fail to illuminate the underlying reason behind the shortcomings of US press coverage of the war in Afghanistan. For the decay in coverage is attributable to a problem greater than that of a press corps prioritizing perceived audience preferences to the detriment of news. Instead, the main factor in the decline in war coverage is a systemic failure of the American press brought about by the internalization of an US imperial ideology.


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