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October 30, 2014

October 30, 2014

Video: In the Cockpit of a U-2 Spy Plane, Up High and Down Low

We recently wrote how it looked like the storied U-2 spy plane would likely avert retirement yet again this year, as well as about how the plane is difficult to land and flies so very, very high. Watch the video above to see what it looks like from the cockpit when the U-2 gets way, way up there, then check out the view from a chase car during the landing.

If you want to watch another U-2 landing as viewed from a chase car, here’s a taste. Then, for another view from 70,000 feet, try here or here, with the second link offering some testimonials from U-2 pilots.

And if you want to read about the U-2′s competition in the Obama fiscal 2015 budget, McClatchy recently penned a feature on the Global Hawk.

October 29, 2014

With ‘Bibi’ Comments, More Unhelpful Election Season Talk from Anonymous Administration Officials

Just a few weeks ago, some anonymous Obama administration sources floated the notion of bringing Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil by going around Congress. Last week, some more anonymous administration officials floated the notion that they might make a deal with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid dealing with Capitol Hill on sanctions relief.

Both stories gave Republicans campaign fodder as elections neared. Apparently addicted to supplying ammunition to the administration’s critics on the campaign trail, the latest hubbub served up by an anonymous administration official was to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” The response has been predictable. Full story

For His Final Act, Chuck Hagel Plans to Think Big

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Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIS on Sept. 16. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Asked Wednesday about his goals during the Obama administration’s final two years, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the idea is to “bring this country back together to work together to address the big, big issues coming at our country that will have long-term consequences for our society, for our next generation.”

That means: the ongoing threat of terrorism, climate change and other challenges not likely to subside anytime soon. Full story

October 28, 2014

No Confusion Over Military, Civilian Quarantine Rules, Obama Says

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Obama makes a statement on his administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before departing the White House on Oct. 28. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

To some, the Pentagon has seemed to be at odds with the White House message over quarantines for those fighting Ebola in Africa; while the Defense Department is weighing an expanded quarantine like the one the Army has already used, the White House has emphasized that blanket quarantines for health workers is a bad policy.

On Tuesday, in brief remarks to the media, President Obama explained what he saw as the difference. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 3:48 p.m.
Army, Foreign Policy

Super Soldier Exosuit Showing Improvement, According to Researchers

The Pentagon’s futuristic R&D wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants to construct a suit meant to give “superhuman” abilities to soldiers, although they’re more like “betterhuman”  qualities — reducing fatigue, increasing speed, boosting the ability to carry more weight, and doing it all with less risk of injury. The above video shows how testing is going for prototypes at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Full story

Unfinished Afghanistan Prison Renovation Plagued By Shoddy Workmanship, Watchdog Says

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A hallway in the prison. (credit: SIGAR)

Afghanistan’s largest prison was supposed to be renovated under a State Department contract to allow it to take in more detainees, but five years later, the project sits unfinished, hampered by defective workmanship and other problems, according to a report released Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Full story

October 27, 2014

Estimated Cost of ISIS War: $1 Billion and Rising

457890038 445x295 Estimated Cost of ISIS War: $1 Billion and Rising

Thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani as Turkish soldiers stand guard on the Turkish side of the border during fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish People’s Protection Unit forces, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province Oct. 26. (Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)

A spending watchdog group, using a conservative estimate, figures that the cost of the operation against ISIS has ticked past $1 billion. And the estimate for daily costs just got revised by the Pentagon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 11:58 a.m.
Terrorism, War

Navy Birthday, IAEA & John Kerry in the Week Ahead

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John Negroponte in a 2012 file photo. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Iraq, Iran, ISIS — all of those are the subject of events in Washington, D.C., this week, along with the subjects in the headline, Ukraine and much more. Full story

October 23, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: Battleship Musashi Triggers a Tsunami

That video of a Littoral Combat Ship launch (h/t) from the weekend feels like it should cause more of a splash, literally. Once upon a time, there was a ship that caused much more than a splash — the subject of this week’s Throwback Thursday. Full story

New Things We Know About the Senate Intelligence Interrogation Report

 

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Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on April 1. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Thanks to some dandy behind-the-scenes reporting from the Huffington Post and McClatchy, we’re learning a great deal about the long-delayed, much-disputed Senate Intelligence Committee report on the interrogation and detention practices under President George W. Bush. It’s a good thing, because with the way things are going, the public probably won’t see the report itself anytime soon. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 9:53 a.m.
Intelligence

October 22, 2014

Globalization and ‘The End of the Military-Industrial Complex’

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Lynn, as deputy secretary of Defense, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in an undated photo. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

William J. Lynn III, the former No. 2 at the Department of Defense, has published a piece in Foreign Affairs headlined “The End of the Military-Industrial Complex.” It is not that his case should be ignored or otherwise discounted; it’s well worth reading. But it does require a caveat, which is mentioned at the end of this post. Full story

Americans Support ISIS Fight, Just Don’t Think It’s Doing Anything

A majority of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center back the U.S. campaign against ISIS. However, they don’t really think the campaign is working.

The new poll, released Wednesday, finds that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans approve of the campaign — 57 percent in all. Only a third, however, think it’s going well.

The poll also finds that there are real doubts about the goals of the United States and its allies, and that 73 percent of those Americans polled don’t think U.S. allies are doing enough.

The two parties are very split on whether they are worried about the level of U.S. involvement in going after ISIS — 57 percent of Democrats are worried about going overboard, and 63 percent of Republicans are worried that the United States won’t go far enough. In particular, Democrats oppose sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria (66 percent), while Republicans favor it (57 percent). Independents align more closely with Democrats on both counts.

 

By Tim Starks Posted at 12:48 p.m.
Terrorism, War

Coburn Wastebook: Iron Man Suit, FEMA Golf Courses, Navy Magazines

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Sen. Tom Coburn on Jan. 14. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (@tomcoburn) is out with his final edition of his annual Wastebook of government spending, and besides the massages for rabbits and money to watch grass grow, a variety of Defense Department projects and other national security-related programs get the Oklahoma Republican’s sardonic smack. Full story

October 21, 2014

Reading the Tea Leaves on North Korea After U.S. Prisoner Release

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday confirmed that North Korea has released one of the three U.S. citizens it has been holding prisoner.

Jeffrey Fowle, an American tourist and father of three, was arrested in May on accusations of leaving a Bible behind in a hotel. He was allowed to depart North Korea on a U.S. military transport plane, according to a department press release that did not say when he was released into U.S. custody. The department did not provide many details about how the prisoner release came to transpire other than thanking the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang for its “tireless efforts” as the United States’ “Protecting Power in the DPRK.”

The Kim Jong Un regime continues to hold two other Americans, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.

Since North Korea never makes a good-faith gesture without an ulterior motive, it can be an interesting exercise to try to predict what Pyongyang has up its sleeve this time.

“We know they grab people to trade them,” said Jeffrey Lewis, who directs the East Asia nonproliferation program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “They clearly think they’re going to get something in exchange for this release. It’s very doubtful that it is a purely humanitarian gesture.”

Lewis emphasized how difficult it is to accurately guess at the intentions of the famously closed-off Kim regime. Still, he said Pyongyang could have freed Fowle in order to give its chief benefactor, China, a “deliverable” ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing next month. The North might also be seeking to build-up some goodwill ahead of its next potential provocation, Lewis said.

A number of arms control observers have speculated that the next provocation could involve the launch of another satellite. Earlier this month, 38 North, an expert website that uses satellite image analysis to track weapons development in North Korea, reported that the Stalinist state had evidently completed a key construction effort to expand its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which was the site of a successful space launch in December 2012. Pyongyang’s development of a satellite launch program is a serious concern to the international community as rocket technology can also be used to build intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“North Korea is now ready to move forward with another rocket launch,” reads the analysis by 38 North image expert Nick Hansen. “Should a decision be made soon to do so in Pyongyang – and we have no evidence that one has – a rocket could be launched by the end of 2014.”

Iran Nuclear Deal and Congressional Politics

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in New York on Sept. 26. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

This week, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration planned to bypass Congress on sanctions relief resulting from multi-party talks to strike an Iran nuclear deal. Suffice it to say hardly anyone thinks that’s going to go well, if he tries it. Full story

By Tim Starks Posted at 2:33 p.m.
Foreign Policy

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