Entries in Pentagon (60)


Tensions Flare as Afghanistan Drawdown Nears

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The debate over the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, set to begin next month, is unearthing old tensions between the Pentagon and the White House that could present new political and logistical challenges for President Obama.

Soon-to-be-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on his final tour of the country this week, warned that it would be "premature" to make any significant changes to the military campaign in Afghanistan before the end of the year or until the United States can say that "we've turned the corner here in Afghanistan."

The White House, on the other hand, continues to argue that the cuts in the numbers of troops will be "real."

Even if the Pentagon and White House agree on the number, Gates' public dissent makes it difficult for the president to sell that number to his supporters, who are getting increasingly agitated over the growing cost of the war.

The White House says the president has yet to make a final decision on the numbers, but several reports have suggested that 5,000 combat troops may be brought home in July, with roughly an additional 5,000 by the end of the year.

There are currently about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, so the withdrawal could be less than 10 percent, a number that is already riling up Obama's liberal base.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he wants to see 15,000 U.S. troops out by December.

This is not the first time in recent years the White House is finding itself at odds with the Pentagon over the number of troops in Afghanistan. In 2009, Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for a troop surge received a cool reception in Washington, even though the president eventually approved it, at a cost of $36 billion.

What's different now is the lack of public support for the longest war in U.S. history. A record two-thirds -- or 64 percent -- of Americans say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, a steep rise from 44 percent in late 2009, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll published in March.

Nearly 80 percent of independents said Obama should withdraw a "substantial number" of troops from Afghanistan this summer and barely more than a quarter felt the war is worth its costs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


8 Service Members Killed in Kabul Shooting Identified

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon has released the identities of the eight Air Force airmen killed this week in a shooting at the Kabul International Airport. Their remains are expected to return to Dover Air Force Base by Friday night.

  • Maj. Philip D. Ambard, 44, of Edmonds, Wash.  He was assigned to the 460th Space Communications Squadron, Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.
  • Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn, 41, of Gadsden, Ala.  He was assigned to the 99th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
  • Maj. David L. Brodeur, 34, of Auburn, Mass.  He was assigned to the 11th Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
  • Master Sgt. Tara R. Brown, 33, of Deltona, Fla.  She was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Joint Base Andrews, Md.
  • Lt. Col. Frank D. Bryant Jr., 37, of Knoxville, Tenn.  He was assigned to the 56th Operations Group, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
  • Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II, 40, of New Haven, Conn.  He was assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
  • Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, 35, of Hockley, Texas.  He was assigned to the 25th Operational Weather Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
  • Capt. Charles A. Ransom, 31, of Midlothian, Va.  He was assigned to the 83rd Network Operations Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

An Afghan Air Corps pilot, angered by an argument with nine American trainers at a Kabul airport, pulled a gun on the Americans and killed them, officials said Wednesday. The shooter then apparently shot and killed himself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama: Leon Panetta to Pentagon, David Petraeus to CIA

President Obama announces new jobs for Leon Panetta (C) and U.S. Army General David Petraeus (R) in the East Room of the White House. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama set in motion a major reshuffling of his national security team at the White House on Thursday, nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta to become Defense Secretary and Gen. David Petraeus to take the top job at the CIA. Their reassignments will create openings down the chain of command at the Pentagon.

Panetta will succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will leave his post this summer after serving since 2007. Gen. Petraeus, currently commanding forces in Afghanistan, will move into Panetta's job at the helm of CIA, as sources had confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday.

The move of Panetta, who was budget director for President Clinton during the 1990s, to the Defense Department is seen as a signal that the White House will apply a budget-cutting scalpel to spending at the Pentagon. President Obama's deficit reduction plan calls for $400 billion in cuts at the Pentagon over a dozen years.

Obama said that Petraeus' experience leading the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq will help him at the CIA.

In addition, Marine Gen. John Allen will be nominated to replace Petraeus at International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen is expected to leave his post in October, and Vice Chairman James Cartwright remains the frontrunner. Others in contention include Adm. James Stavridis, who commands U.S. forces in Europe, or Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who succeeded Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq in 2008 and served there until 2010, is currently the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Finally, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will replace outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. Crocker is also a former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and knows the region well.

Neither Panetta nor Petraues are expected to meet resistance on Capitol Hill.

If all goes according to plan, according to Pentagon sources, Panetta will be installed at the Pentagon by the end of the summer. Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has served both under President Bush and President Obama, has long made clear he wants to leave the demanding job.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petraeus Addresses His Future; Headed to the CIA?

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In a small press conference in Kabul, Gen. David Petraeus addressed widespread speculation that he will soon leave his post as commander of 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

He said he was “committed to staying here through the fighting season,” a statement that he and his aides have made for months, and roughly translates until about October or November.

But as one military official has put it, just because he has committed to staying that long doesn’t mean the White House will keep him there that long.

With Secretary of Defense Robert Gates leaving in the next few months and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen leaving this fall, it’s clear the jobs Petraeus could take will be open long before the fighting season finishes.

He was asked directly whether he would want to become the nation’s top spy if, as has been widely suggested, current CIA chief Leon Panetta succeeds Gates.

Petraeus declined to comment.

He did, however, call speculation in the media about which jobs he could take “trial balloons” -- suggesting he believes somebody is purposely leaking the possible jobs in order to gauge the reaction. Perhaps realizing he shouldn’t have suggested that, he quickly backed away from that statement and repeated his commitment to “serve with the pleasure of elected leaders.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cost of Libya Intervention $600 Million for First Week, Pentagon Says

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One week after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers has reached at least $600 million, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.

U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have launched at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals, costing $268.8 million, the Pentagon said. U.S. warplanes have dropped 455 precision guided bombs, costing tens of thousands of dollars each. A downed Air Force F-15E fighter jet will cost more than $60 million to replace.

And operation of ships and aircraft, guzzling ever-more-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say.

The three B-2 stealth bombers that flew from Missouri to Libya and back on an early bombing mission each cost an estimated $10,000 per hour to fly, a defense official said. That means the planes, each on a 25-hour roundtrip flight, ran up a bill of $750,000, and the 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) they dropped added at least $1.3 million more.

So far the Pentagon has financed the mission to take out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and disrupt his attacks on opposition forces using money in its existing budget, which has room for unanticipated military actions. The White House has not been forced to ask Congress for additional funds for the campaign.

Service member salaries, fuel costs and equipment maintenance are all part of annual military operating budgets. And hundreds of munitions, including the $1.4 million cruise missiles, are acquired each year and routinely used in action and training, officials say.

But experts say the administration may have to submit an emergency supplemental budget request for Libya later this year, assuming U.S. involvement in the international military operation does not end swiftly. The cost of operating the no-fly zone over Libya alone could cost the U.S. an estimated $30 million to $100 million a week, a study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found.

While many Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have questioned President Obama's constitutional authority to engage in Libya without their consent, some are voicing concern about the effect on the skyrocketing federal deficit.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have together cost more than $1.2 trillion so far, excluding troops' pay, medical costs and interest payments on debt incurred, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit budgetary research group.

Meanwhile, Obama has defended his decision to intervene in Libya, saying the mission is in support of an "international mandate" with a limited, humanitarian scope. The president has also said the U.S. military would only be actively involved for "days, not weeks" before other allied partners take on a leading role.

But Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and many of his peers say regardless of the president's intentions, the costs to taxpayers -- and potentially in American lives -- coupled with an uncertain outcome make the military intervention unwise.

"It's a strange time in which almost all of our congressional days are spent talking about budget, deficits, outrageous problems. And yet same time, all of this passes -- which is a very expensive operation even in a limited way, always is," Lugar said last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


U.S. Military Suffers No Damage, Personnel Loss After Japan Quake

STR/AFP/Getty Images. Tsunami tidal waves move upstream in the Naka river at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecture in Japan.(WASHINGTON) -- No damage has been reported to any U.S. ships or military facilities based in Japan following an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and 13-foot tsunami that hit the country Friday, according to a Pentagon official. All U.S. military personnel in Japan have also been accounted for.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Fleet announced that as a precaution, Ford Island Bridge at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam will be closed beginning at 2:30 a.m. local time, after the island, along with the western coast of the U.S., was placed under tsunami warnings and watches.  The decision has also been made that Navy ships at Pearl Harbor should ride out any potential tsunami.

"There is no intention to move any ships," a Pentagon official said.

The carrier USS Ronald Reagan is being moved to Japan just in case she is needed for helicopter and or medical support. The U.S. Pacific Command is also sending P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to support the Japanese government by providing aerial reconnaissance.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Military Panel Recommends Putting Women in the Battlefield

Jupiterimages/Comstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Should women soldiers take up arms on the battlefield?  The Military Leadership Diversity Commission says it's time that happened.

In a recommendation delivered to the Pentagon Monday, the commission strongly advised that policies excluding women from combat and other "barriers and inconsistencies" need to be eliminated to level the playing field so that women can advance in the military.

Commission leader and retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles said, "We know that [the exclusion] hinders women from promotion.  We want to take away all the hindrances and cultural biases."

Lyle pointed out that today's conflicts are vastly different from the Cold War era because women now "serve and lead military security, military police units, air defense units, intelligence units."

If the Defense Department agrees, it would repeal a 1994 combat exclusion policy that was crafted before women were assigned to combat units.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates Warns Against Short-Sighted Pentagon Spending Cuts

Photo Courtesy - Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It's the strongest warning yet from top Pentagon officials against deep spending cuts in the military budget, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as short-sighted. "We still live in a very dangerous and unstable world. Our military must remain strong and agile enough to face a range of threats."

Gates told the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon has already cancelled $330 billion in programs, such as the marine amphibious fighting vehicle and closed down an entire command.

Gates says the Pentagon is asking for $553 billion for the budget year starting October 1, plus $118 billion in war costs. The Obama 2012 budget calls for cutting the size of the army and marine corps beginning in 2015. Gates says this could be done with minimal risk. "Drastic reductions in the size and strength of the U.S. military make armed conflict all the more likely, with an unacceptably high cost in American blood and treasure."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Disputes Bradley Manning Mistreatment Allegations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell Wednesday disputed characterizations that Army Private Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, is receiving harsher treatment at the Marine brigade where he is being detained.

Morrell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that Manning’s detention is consistent with what other maximum security detainees at the brigade in Quantico, Virginia, would receive.

Manning supporters have alleged that he is being held in solitary confinement at the facility and facing tighter restrictions than other prisoners.   “Assertions by liberal bloggers or network reporters or others that he is being mistreated, or somehow treated differently than others, in isolation, are just not accurate,” said Morrell.

 “'He is in a cell by himself, but that is like every single other pretrial detainee at the brig,” said Morrell. “It just so happens that the configuration of the brig is that every individual is confined to his or her own cell.”

He added that Manning “is being held in the same quarters section with other pretrial detainees. He's allowed to watch television. He's allowed to read newspapers. He's allowed one hour per day of exercise,” Morrell said.  Defense officials say Manning is allowed to exercise in an exercise room, but not in his cell -- a rule consistent with the detention practices for all maximum security detainees at the facility.

Morrell said Manning was placed under two days of suicide watch last week, a decision that was made at the brigade commander’s discretion.  The brigade received a new commander this week as part of a scheduled rotation not related to that decision.

Manning  is being detained under charges filed last summer that he leaked to WikiLeaks a video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians.  But Manning is also suspected of having been behind the leak of thousands of U.S. military documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as hundreds of thousands of State Department cables.  Morrell said today that Manning is a “person of interest” in those leaks.

Manning had access to the documents while serving in Baghdad as an intelligence analyst.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Eye in the Sky: Pentagon Tests New Spy Plane

Photo Courtesy - AeroVironment, Inc.(EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.) -- High over the Mojave desert, the Pentagon has been quietly testing a new unmanned plane that flies higher, soars longer and runs greener than anything in the Pentagon's arsenal.

The Global Observer, made by Monrovia, California-based AeroVironment Inc., is bigger than a 767 and flies in the stratosphere up to 65,000 feet, twice as high as Mount Everest -- out of sight and out of range of most anti-aircraft missiles.  From there it will be able to see 600 miles in every direction, enough to survey the entire country of Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the manufacturer gave ABC News an exclusive look, including video of the first test of the plane, which is powered entirely by liquid hydrogen fuel -- light enough to power the drone for a week at a time, far longer than anything in use today.

"It uses hydrogen for fuel, which has three times the energy density of gasoline, which enables it to fly much longer and at much lower costs and -- oh, by the way, has zero emissions," AeroVironment CEO Tim Conver told ABC News in an interview at the plane's hangar at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The plane emits only water vapor.

The aircraft weighs about as much as a large SUV, but in order for it to fly so high for so long, the wing span has to be enormous -- about half the length of a football field.  That way, even when you can't see it, it can see you.

The new drone does the work of a satellite for just tens of millions of dollars -- some analysts say it would cost about $30 million -- compared with hundreds of millions to $1 billion for a satellite.  Unlike satellites, it can be aloft within hours and has the ability to instantly reposition.

The plane circles above a target for a week at a time.  In addition to on-board cameras that offer an unblinking eye, communications equipment offers cell phone, TV and broadband Internet for the same area.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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