Tag Archives: Department of Defense

Defense Contractors Discuss ‘Benefits’ of Middle Eastern Conflicts

Major defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh and Raytheon appeared pleased this week as escalating conflicts in the Middle East were touted as a reason for investor optimism at a Credit Suisse conference in West Palm Beach.

While defense spending has been a target of budget cuts for the past few years dating back to the budget sequester, this trend was recently reversed with an October budget deal which included $607 billion in additional defense spending.

“Our programs are well supported [in the budget],” said Lockheed’s Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner at the conference. “We think we did fare very well.”

Wilson Jones, president of Oshkosh, noted that countries have shown interest in buying M-ATV armored vehicles made by the company due to “the ISIS threat growing.”

The situation on the ground in Syria and recent downing of a Russian aircraft by the Turkish military has brought defense spending to the forefront of presidential rhetoric. Meanwhile, defense contractors viewed the aircraft downing through a positive lens for their bottom line.

Presidential candidate and United States Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an outspoken critic of defense spending, asked “how is it conservative to pass a trillion dollars in military expenditures?” during an exchange at the November 12th presidential debate. Paul’s criticism directly targeted a proposal by fellow 2016 candidate United States Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), calling for a $1 trillion dollar increase over the next 10 years. Rubio is one of several candidates calling for large scale increases in defense spending.

The perceived need for the U.S. military to operate stealth aircraft like the Lockheed Martin-made F-22, combined with increases in spending by other regional powers like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on munitions and other systems for use in operations in Yemen, give defense manufacturers even more reason for a positive outlook.

Given this volatility in the region, the environment also promises to provide a boost for candidates in both parties who can leverage hawkish rhetoric and calls for increased U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

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DoD: Man Held at Guantanamo for 13 Years was ‘Case of Mistaken Identity’

Department of Defense officials admitted on Monday that a man who has been held in the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the last 13 years as a suspected al-Qaeda trainer, was held due to a case of mistaken identity.

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, has been held as an indefinite detainee at Gitmo since 2002, despite the fact that he was never charged and prosecutors lacked adequate evidence for a trial.

During a panel meeting on Tuesday to evaluate whether al-Shamiri can be released, officials admitted he was actually a low-level Islamist foot soldier from Yemen who was taken into custody because he was confused with someone with a similar name.

[RELATED: Guantanamo Bay: An Untold History of Occupation, Torture, Sham Trials & Resistance]

In the DoD’s detainee profile on al-Shamiri, referred to as YM-434, it said he “fought in several jihadist theaters and associated with al-Qaida members in Afghanistan,” but also said he did not carry out the terrorist acts that were the basis of his detainment.

[pull_quote_center]It was previously assessed that YM-434 also was an al-Qaida facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, but we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to YM-434’s.[/pull_quote_center]

In a statement from al-Shamiri’s personal representative, he was described as “cooperative, enthusiastic and supportive,” and his rep noted that he “does have remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life.”

The statement also said al-Shamiri “wants to make a life for himself,” and he is “aware that Yemen is not an option, and he is willing to go to any country that will accept him.”

[RELATD: Judge Orders Release of Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videos]

President Obama, who has promised to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay on numerous occasions, rejected a plan to relocate the prison to U.S. soil, labeling it as too expensive with a price tag of over $600 million, and sent it back for revision.

U.S. Senators Call For Obama To End Program Training Syrian Militants

A letter sent from a bipartisan group of four U.S. Senators on Friday called on the Obama administration to end its Syria Train and Equip Program, calling the program a “failed initiative” that needs to be stopped before causing “additional harm” to the Syrian people.

Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) criticized the program, which was originally presented as a way to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels in an effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS).

[pull_quote_center]We write to express our deep concern about the Syria Train and Equip Program and to call for an end to this failed initiative. When Congress was considering the program last year, many of us expressed our concerns about this program endangering Americans and further escalating the conflict.[/pull_quote_center]

The letter, which was addressed to Department of Defense secretary Ash Carter, Department of State secretary John Kerry and Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, stated that the evidence from the program’s lack of success further supports their initial concerns.

[RELATED: ISIS Seized 2,300 U.S. Armored Humvees, Possibly Worth 1 Billion Dollars]

The senators noted that the program, which was “authorized at $500 million for Fiscal Year 2015,” has struggled to graduate “vetted” opposition fighters, and that General Lloyd Austin III, the commander of United States Central Command, recently said that only “four or five U.S.-trained opposition fighters were on the ground fighting in Syria.” The program’s initial goal was to train 5,000 fighters in its first year.

[pull_quote_center]The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat.[/pull_quote_center]

The senators cited a report from the U.S. Central Command which “confirmed that some of the fighters that we trained and equipped had turned over ammunition and trucks to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Al Nusra Front,” and that in exchange for safe passage, the U.S.-trained fighters “gave up approximately 25% of their U.S.-issued equipment.”

[pull_quote_center]With over 200,000 persons killed, 4 million refugees, and 7.6 million internally displaced people, the situation in Syria is absolutely tragic, and we must ensure that any U.S. efforts do not cause additional harm. We ask that you cease the Syria Train and Equip Program and look for alternative ways forward.[/pull_quote_center]

Late last month, the Obama administration corrected reports that the Syria Train and Equip Program had been suspended. Emily Horne, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, acknowledged that “We have clearly faced challenges with the Train & Equip program, and we are currently reviewing our efforts to determine how we can do better.” Horne also said that “we will continue our support for those forces on the ground while also continuing to refine and improve the Train & Equip program.”

Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS in March, noting that ISIS experienced dramatic growth in 2014 “because of all the U.S. military equipment they were able to seize – equipment that our military left in Iraq.” 

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Origin of ISIS]

Swann also noted that even when the U.S. government “became aware that ISIS fighters were capturing U.S. equipment, it did nothing.”


US Military Accidentally Ships Live Anthrax Spores Via FedEx to 9 US States, South Korea

A Department of Defense effort to create a field test kit to identify environmental threats went awry last week when workers at a United States military lab in Dugway, Utah mistakenly shipped live anthrax samples via FedEx to labs in Tennessee, New York, Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, California, Virginia, and to Osan Air Base in South Korea. The samples were intended to be rendered inactive prior to being shipped. The above-embedded video by ABC News describes anthrax as a “potential biological weapon.”

Though Pentagon officials claim that the mishap does not present a threat to the public, 4 lab workers in the US and 22 stationed at the South Korean training lab are being treated with post-exposure prophylaxis. None of the individuals being treated are symptomatic at this point in time. Reuters cited comments by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Jason McDonald who said that the 4 US-based civilian lab workers receiving treatment were “doing procedures that sent the agent into the air.” The 22 individuals being treated at the South Korean base include 10 active duty members of the US Army, 5 active duty members of the US Air Force, 4 military contractors, and 3 civilian officials.

According to Reuters, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said that workers at the Dugway lab followed all of the proper procedures for de-activating the anthrax spores and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether those procedures need to be changed. “But we definitely believe no one is in danger,” said Odierno.

CNN notes that FedEx spokesperson Jim McCluskey said, “FedEx is committed to the safe transport of all customer shipments, and our priority is the safety of our employees. We will be working closely with the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control to gather information about these shipments.”

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren confirmed that the sample that was sent to South Korea has been destroyed and that the facility has been decontaminated.

CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said, “CDC is working in conjunction with state and federal partners to conduct an investigation with all the labs that received samples from the DOD. The ongoing investigation includes determining if the labs also received other live samples, epidemiologic consultation, worker safety review, laboratory analysis and handling of laboratory waste.”

A similar incident happened in June of last year when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mistakenly exposed workers at a CDC lab to live anthrax, believing the spores had been de-activated.

Military Equipment, Lost by Pentagon, Turns up for Sale on Craigslist

According to a March 12 US Naval Criminal Investigative Service report published by The Intercept, Department of Defense officials misplaced equipment from a $750 million shipment of tools aimed at helping US soldiers track and disable improvised explosive devices. Some of the 32,000 sensitive, restricted pieces of equipment distributed through the program were only found after they were posted for sale on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

“Since 2009, some of this advanced hardware has been reported as missing and is actively being sold or discussed on the global market on a variety of websites,” said the report. The items, which include capabilities like night vision and thermal optic imaging, appeared for sale on 13 websites, including texasguntalk.com and sportfishermen.com, listed as equipment for outdoor activities like hunting and camping.

Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger at The Intercept wrote that they “found an eBay listing from Dec. 2014 for one of the pieces of equipment listed in the the NCIS document — the OASYS-BAE Systems Universal Thermal Monocular; it was listed for sale in Dec. 2014 for $6,000, with free standard shipping. Another item, currently listed for sale, is a CNVD-T Clip-On Night Vision Device Thermal System; it is advertised for $16,599.00 in ‘new condition!'”

The NCIS report concluded, “NCIS asks for your help in identifying and recovering these items to keep foreign entities from exploiting the technologies in these devices and using them against the U.S. military, NATO allies, or civilian law enforcement personnel during the course of their duties.”

The US Navy’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which acquires and issues the equipment, has been criticized in a 2012 Government Accountability Office report for its failure to oversee $18 billion in expenses. Military.com is reporting that the DOD is working on a downsizing plan for JIEDDO, complete with budget and personnel cuts, a claim which JIEDDO spokesperson David Small denied in comments to The Intercept.

Defense Waste: 16 Multi-Million Dollar Airplanes Sold for $32,000 in Scrap

Back in 2008, the Department of Defense spent $486 million buying 20 G.222 transport planes, intending to donate them to the Afghan Air Force. However, the planes were decommissioned in 2013 after they were determined to be fraught with performance and maintenance issues, which were further exacerbated by the fact that replacement parts were difficult to find. According to ABC News, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, an investigator charged with monitoring the government’s spending on the war effort, recently pointed out the fact that 16 of the planes had been scrapped and that the resulting raw materials had been sold by the Defense Logistics Agency to an Afghan construction company for $32,000 at a rate of six cents per pound. The planes had only been used to fly 234 flight hours between January and September of 2012.

Sopko’s report came in the form of two letters, one to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the other to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James, in which he expressed concerns that “the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.” Sopko sent the letters to kick off a probe into the decision making process that led officials to liquidate the planes at such an extreme loss.

According to Reuters, Pentagon spokesperson Major Brad Avots claimed that the planes were scrapped in an effort “to minimize impact on drawdown of US Forces in Afghanistan.” He also blamed the fog of war and said, “Working in a wartime environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes.”

Sopko has asked the Department of Defense and the Air Force what the plans are for the four remaining G.222 planes, which are currently parked at a US Air Force base in Germany. Major Avots responded to the inquiry by saying that officials are trying to determine if outside parties might be interested in buying them.

In December of 2013, Sopko, who had just begun his investigation into why the planes had been decommissioned, told NBC News, “We are just starting to gather the facts, so I cannot tell you whether it was criminal fraud or just plain mismanagement… But what I can say for sure, it is that this wastefulness is not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.”

More illegal immigrants to be able to serve in military

A policy adopted by the Department of Defense in 2008 which allows a number of illegal immigrants to serve in the US armed forces for the first time in decades, has been extended by two years.

The program is known as the Military Ascensions Vital to National Interest, or MAVNI, and is open to immigrants who do not hold a proper visa.  The caveat though is these individuals had to come to the US with their parents before they were 16.  Those eligible must also meet the requirements for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals policy, which was adopted by the Obama administration in 2012.  Requirements range from having no criminal record to have graduated high school or working towards a GED.

When it was adopted, MAVNI was meant to target immigrants who can comprehend and understand foreign languages such as Chinese, Persian, Pashto, and Arabic.  However one insider revealed to the Daily Mail, out of the 3 million people who might apply for the military, the administration is unsure how many of those have the language skills to meet the basic requirements.

“We’re just not sure how many within that existing population of DACA would have the linguistic skills to qualify,” said a defense official according to USA Today. “These are kids who entered the country at a fairly young age and have basically grown up in the United States, so the limit of their language talents would probably be the language that they received at home.”

The MAVNI program has only been open to a small number of illegal immigrants, but the cap has been raised to 1,500 recruits, according to the Military Times.  The program has one large incentive for illegal immigrants and that is a path to citizenship upon the completion of their service.

One important note though is the military branches are not required to accept MAVNI recruits, and since the program’s inception, many of those who have qualified for the program have been accepted into the Army.  The Air Force has accepted a small number of these recruits while the Navy and Marine Corps have not accepted any MAVNI recruits.

Obama’s Plan To Use Military Against U.S. Citizens Domestically Outlined In DoD Directive

Washington, D.C.– A Pentagon directive that details military support to civilian authorities has potentially troubling aspects that involve the use of federal military force against American citizens on U.S. soil.

The directive, which outlines the Obama administrations policy regarding military support, was issued on Dec. 29, 2010.

While there are noncontroversial provisions, such as support to civilian fire and emergency services and domestic use of the Army Corps of Engineers, the more troubling aspects of the directive are in regards to the domestic use of military arms and forces.

“This appears to be the latest step in the administration’s decision to use force within the United States against its citizens,” said a defense official opposed to the directive, according to the Washington Times.

The directive, No. 3025.18, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” states that U.S. commanders “are provided emergency authority under this directive.”

“Federal military forces shall not be used to quell civil disturbances unless specifically authorized by the president in accordance with applicable law or permitted under emergency authority,” the directive states.

“In these circumstances, those federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances,” under two conditions.

The two conditions set forth to utilize the military in a domestic situation are: “to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and public order,” and when federal, state and local authorities “are unable or decline to provide adequate protection for federal property or federal governmental functions.”

“Federal action, including the use of federal military forces, is authorized when necessary to protect the federal property or functions,” the directive states.

This can include loans of arms, ammunition, vessels and aircraft. The directive goes on to state clearly that it is for engaging civilians during times of unrest.

If there was any question about how this directive is potentially going to be utilized, it was answered when a U.S official said the Obama administration considered but rejected deploying military force under the directive during the recent standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters, according to a report in the Washington Times.

Bundy has been engaged in a legal battle with the federal Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees. In April, Bundy and his supporters stood their ground against federal authorities in a standoff that ended when the BLM backed down, this coming after the BLM had brought in over 200 armed agents and sniper teams to confiscate Bundy’s cattle.

The Pentagon directive authorizes the secretary of defense to approve the use of unarmed drones in domestic unrest, but bans the use of missile-firing unmanned aircraft. “Use of armed [unmanned aircraft systems] is not authorized,” the directive says. The directive was signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn.

As reported on previously by BenSwann.com, there has been a buildup of military arms and units within non-security-related federal agencies.

The buildup of executive military has raised questions about whether the Obama administration is undermining civil liberties utilizing the façade of counternarcotic and counterterrorism efforts.

The White House has consistently attacked private citizens’ ownership of firearms and their exercising of Second Amendment rights, despite the fact that most gun owners are law abiding citizens, while consistently militarizing and arming federal agencies using obscure statues that allow for deputization of security officials.

During a speech at the National Defense University a year ago, President Obama stated: “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone or with a shotgun — without due process, nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.”

The president’s own words certainly don’t to seem to reconcile with this directive.


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