Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rumsfeld Departure Rumors

Who knows if they're really true, of course, but apparently Donald Rumsfeld is rumored to be leaving the Defense Department some time after the new year. He's been asked in press conferences in recent months numerous times whether he would be resigning and always said he wasn't going anywhere. But it would make sense for him to resign fairly soon, given that many of his closest colleagues in the DoD have already left. He has reportedly offered his resignation to President Bush a number of times. Maybe if he offers to resign again, the reasons for resignation will be such that the president decides to accept it.

The United Press International makes a passing reference to the Rummy rumors in an interesting analysis of the "bunker buster" bomb, which didn't get any funding in the 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill (see also "Funding Dropped for Nuclear Bunker Buster"). That doesn't mean the bunker buster is gone for good, given that funding for it was cut off last year, too, yet supporters found money for it through the Department of Energy. Here's an except from the article:

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, always an enthusiast for new, high-tech weapons with which U.S. forces can strike first and hardest, was a longtime supporter of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). But at a time when important but immensely costly active ballistic missile defense programs are being developed and deployed on all fronts, and with a serious, unanticipated insurgency continuing to rage in Iraq, cuts had to be made somewhere.

"Two Rumsfeld loyalists have left major positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the past two year -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of defense for Policy Douglas Feith. A third, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, left somewhat earlier. And now speculation is swirling in Washington that Rumsfeld's own days in office are numbered and that he might be replaced in the New Year by Gordon England or Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. All this was bad news for the RNEP.

"Also, the Democrats loathed it -- and it was a safer political target to go after than BMD systems. Their position is that RNEP will be costly, there are far more important programs that need to be funded, and conventional munitions will do the job anyway."

Gordon England, who is currently acting deputy secretary of defense, appears to be generally well respected by the defense industry and military officials, though he has spent nine months or so in purgatory as acting deputy secretary because Senators Olypmpa Snowe (R-ME) and Trent Lott (R-MS) have concerns about the Navy's shipbuilding plans. Perhaps the White House and the Defense Department will ring in the new year with an announcement that, with transformation of the military under way and recent elections in Iraq completed, Rumsfeld has declared his work done and is ready for someone else to take over.

Poland takes over air defense of Baltic States

Since 1 January 2006, Poland will take over the responsibility for air defense of Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). Since those countries became members of NATO, the other countries have deployed a four-fighters flight tasked with air policing of the Baltic States airspace. First two MiG-29s deployed on 27 December, next two are to follow-up shortly. Two fighters will maintain continues 7/24 QRA ground alert for next three months.
Polish contingent consists of 4 MiG-29 fighters armed with R-27R, R-73 and R-60M missiles, 6 pilots, 4 GCI navigators, 10 planners/staff officers and 40 ground personnel (maintenance, meteo, armament specialists etc.). The aircraft will station at Siauliai – Zokniai airbase and will replace USAF detachment. On 31 March Polish MiG-29 will be replaced by Turkish detachment.
Since some time Russian air force occasionally tests the air defense of Baltic States. It started on 15 September 2005, when a Russian Su-27 crashed in Lithuania, when its pilot lost the geographical orientation. The German F-4F took off with delay and arrived on spot after the Russian fighter crash. During the German detachment, Russian aircraft violated the Baltic States airspace eight times.
Of course the four fighters is not adequate air defense in case of any hostile action, but is an important element of peace-time air policing. It is enough to make sure that the Baltic States’ airspace is not freely used by any other country at will. It also helps to integrate the air defense system, which is presently built up. It already consists of three Lockheed AN/TPS-117 long range radars and number of smaller and older types radars provided by Norway. The air defense is controlled by Regional Airspace Surveillance Coordination Center (RASCC), deployed in Karmelava, Lithuania (for all Baltic states). Polish fighters will report to that center (tactical control) and to Air Operations Center in Pyry near Warsaw (command and logistics matters). The detachment is provided by 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron from Minsk Mazowiecki. For the first time new NATO member (former WP country) will take over the task of air defense of Baltic States.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Heat Is On -- Can You Feel It Burning?

The US military appears to growing less shy about discussing its various directed-energy weapon projects, from microwaves that temporarily burn the sky to "laser dazzlers" intended to warn intruders away from restricted areas. For a rundown on various programs described at a recent conference see "Directed-Energy Weapons Promising, Problematic."

Though officials seem well aware that such projects could have "public relations" issues -- can the laser burned out people eyes? would they be misused? etc. -- as well as legal ramifications, new "rules of engagement" requirements, and so on, the demand is apparently very high. The program manager for "Project Sheriff," for instance, said generals are asking for his program to be fielded ASAP. Project Sheriff is a experimental vehicle fitted with a whole range of directed-energy devices, including the active denial technology (which creates the "burning sensation" in people's skin); improvised explosive device (IED) jammers; and acoustic emitters, which can project speech or noises into the middle of a crowd from long distances.

Congress clearly support such projects. Among other things, the new defense authorization bill include $10 million for Project Sheriff. Given the tricky situation presented by missions like Operations Iraqi Freedom, development of new non-lethal or less-than-lethal weapons -- there is debate within the Pentagon on just what to call them, reportedly -- is certainly worth a shot...