US Indicts 14 in Khobar Towers Case
A US federal grand jury on June 21 indicted 13 Saudis and one Lebanese national in the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia--a terrorist act which killed 19 US airmen and wounded hundreds more US military personnel.
The indictment alleged extensive involvement by unnamed officials in Iran, though it sidestepped the question of Iranian government involvement and named no Iranian defendants.
The indictments were handed up five years almost to the day after the June 25, 1996, bombing. The statute of limitations was about to expire.
US authorities appeared to be trying to strike a balance between holding to account those who were responsible for murder while not unduly damaging US-Iran relations, which have warmed a bit since the election of President Mohammad Khatami.
None of those charged are currently in US custody. Some are in Saudi detainment-the FBI did not say how many-and some are currently at large. Then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh expressed confidence that at least a few of the suspects would soon be brought for trial before US courts, though he did not say how that would happen. Washington and Riyadh have no extradition treaty.
Moreover, Saudi officials were angry at Washington for filing charges without notifying Riyadh (see "Saudis React With Displeasure at Khobar Towers Charges," p. 18).
Behind the Scenes, It Was Iran
It was Iranian nationals who "inspired, supported, and supervised" members of Saudi Hezbollah throughout the preparation and execution of the Khobar Towers attack, US officials said when announcing the indictment.
Saudi Hezbollah is a homegrown terrorist group dedicated to driving US forces and influence from the Gulf.
The text of the indictment is laced with references to unnamed "Iranians," but they are not identified.
The actual bombing operation was masterminded by a senior Saudi Hezbollah member named Ahmed al-Mughassil, according to the indictment. He and confederates in 1993 began their search for a suitable target for a large-scale anti-US attack.
By 1995, an Iranian military official had counseled the Saudis to focus on sites in eastern Saudi Arabia, according to the indictment. After zeroing in on Khobar Towers as vulnerable, explosives were brought from Beirut, Lebanon, and a refitted tanker truck was outftted as a rolling bomb.
The effect of the bomb al-Mughassil and his group fashioned was more powerful than the one that Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. When the Khobar Towers bomb exploded, the blast left a crater 30 feet deep.
USAF Signs $7 Billion AWACS Contract
USAF officials finalized a long-term Airborne Warning and Control System modernization, sustainment, and support contract, officials announced May 31.
The deal, potentially worth $7 billion, brings together the Air Force and three major contractors.
The award was made to prime contractor Boeing and to subcontractors Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin and extends over the next 18 years. It is designed to provide a cradle-to-grave outlook for firms managing the E-3 system, said the Air Force.
"AWACS is somewhat unique in that it's been in service for almost 25 years and will likely be around for at least another 25," said Lt. Col. Sidney Kimhan, manager of AWACS modernization and sustainment support until his recent retirement.
"The system has had tremendous success, but we realized that to maintain and expand on that success, we needed to look at a somewhat different management approach."
Existing sustaining engineering and management contracts expire at the end of this fiscal year. Upcoming AWACS issues include the aging airframe problems, projected service life extension, and system upgrades. The top-down approach provided by grouping this work in a single contract will place greater responsibility on the prime contractor to integrate the work properly.
No-Fly-Zone Duty Called More Dangerous
Surveying the scene on a swing through Southwest Asia in early June, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that pilots enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq face increasing dangers.
Rumsfeld spoke after meeting with USAF pilots at Incirlik AB, Turkey. The Pentagon chief said they expressed concerns about heightened dangers posed by a greater aggressiveness that has characterized Iraqi air defense forces in recent months.
That aggressiveness stems partly from the fact that foreign help has strengthened Iraqi defensive capability, said Rumsfeld.
"With lives at risk, it's important that we be attentive to what's taking place, and what changes on the ground, and what circumstances might evolve in a way that would lead to some changes" in the manner in which zone enforcement takes place, said Rumsfeld.
USAF and coalition forces have been enforcing the exclusion zones over southern and northern Iraq since shortly after the war in the Gulf in 1991.
USAF Reaches Recruiting Milestone
The Air Force in May reached a major recruiting milestone by signing its 34,600th enlistment contract for the year.
The number equals the goal for accessions into basic training by Sept. 30. Last year, the service did not sign up enough new recruits to fill its quota until July.
"We increased the number of our recruiters, utilized enlistment bonuses, and continued an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign, and basically worked very hard," said Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service.
"However, we won't let up. We're definitely still hiring."
Continuing to recruit and writing what appears at present to be excess recruit contracts will come in handy to cover for possible cancellations and to get a head start on filling the next year's quota.
The Air Force continues to struggle to acquire sufficient numbers of health professionals, particularly nurses, dentists, and pharmacists.
"We still have a daunting challenge ahead of us," Deal said.
The Army then promised that all berets would be of US origin--considerably slowing deliveries.
DOD To Spend More on Science & Technology
The Pentagon's top weapons official believes that the Department of Defense should devote between 2.5 percent and three percent of its total budget on Science and Technology programs.
Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, gave that assessment to Congress on June 5. Such a move would mark an increase in S&T emphasis, as the category's current budget hovers at the low end of that range.
"I don't mind saying it should be somewhere in the range of 2.5 to three percent of our budget," he said. "It has not been that in the past several years. At some time in the past, it was at that type of level, but in that range is something we need to really focus on, and I think it ought to be constant."
The main target for more expenditure, in Aldridge's view, would be information technology. He is interested in exploring new ways to protect information from attack and to use data and information systems to disrupt enemy activities.
Aldridge also gave specific mention to space systems, which he said are essential for every activity related to targeting and would therefore be his second priority. Directed energy, unmanned systems, nano- and microtechnology, and ballistic and cruise missile defense wrap up his priority list.
The S&T budget in the Fiscal 2001 Pentagon budget request came to just $7.5 billion.
Boeing Wins C-130 Upgrade Work
The Air Force on June 4 announced it has awarded to Boeing a major contract for C-130 electronic upgrades. In so doing, it passed on a bid by Lockheed Martin, the aircraft's original manufacturer.
The award could be worth upward of $1 billion over the next decade. It provides Boeing a big boost in the growing field of aircraft services.
While many analysts had expected Lockheed Martin's historic experience with the C-130 to give it an edge, in the end Air Force officials opted instead for technology derived from Boeing's large commercial airline business.
Hundreds of C-130s will eventually be equipped with digital displays and flight-management systems used on the latest version of Boeing's 737 airliner. Other upgrades will include multifunction radar, new communications systems, and a single air data computer to replace the current three variants.
Work is scheduled to begin in 2004.
DOD Again Slows Anti-Anthrax Effort
The Department of Defense is slowing down its controversial anthrax vaccination effort for the third time, officials said June 11. The reason: continued shortage of FDA-approved vaccine.
At present, only special mission units, anthrax research personnel, and individuals involved in Congressionally mandated studies will receive anti-anthrax shots.
"This slowdown provides for a small reserve of FDA-released vaccine in the event of an emergency," said a Pentagon press release on the action.
BioPort Corp., the sole manufacturer of the vaccine, has been unable to pass FDA inspections following the renovation of its Michigan facility. The vaccination program has drawn on a dwindling supply of vaccine manufactured prior to the facility changes. Approximately 24,000 doses remain.
In December 1999, DOD stopped inoculating service members other than those deploying to the high-threat areas of Korea and Southwest Asia. In November 2000, a further slowdown eliminated personnel bound for Korea from that list.
DOD officials are working with BioPort to restart the flow of vaccine by the first quarter of 2002.
Hypersonic Aircraft Test Fails
A test of NASA's X-43A Hyper X ended in failure June 2 when the Pegasus booster carrying the unmanned aircraft to altitude veered out of control, prompting ground controllers to destroy both the rocket and its payload.
If all had gone as planned, NASA officials believe the hypersonic X-43A would have set a new world speed record for an air-breathing jet during the test.
The Hyper-X program is a five-year effort to demonstrate hypersonic propulsion and airframe technologies.
The 12-foot X-43A is a test airplane powered by a scramjet-a supersonic combustion ramjet engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere to help it burn liquid hydrogen for power.
The June 2 experiment began well enough, with the X-43A and its Pegasus booster dropping cleanly from a B-52 at 24,000 feet. Then, after the booster ignited and began climbing upward, something caused its nose to skew to the left. Eventually it began to break up and spiral downward.
Controllers initiated its self-destruct mechanism.
Two Engine Houses Strike JSF Deal
On June 6, GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney signed an agreement to ensure that their respective engines for all versions of the Joint Strike Fighter will be physically and functionally interchangeable.
Both prime JSF competitors-Boeing and Lockheed-chose the Pratt & Whitney JSF119 to power their demonstrator aircraft. The JSF119, which currently has more than 150 hours of flight testing under its belt, is derived from the F119 power plant used in the F-22.
GE's JSF F120 is a derivative of an engine originally designed for use in the YF-22 and YF-23 prototypes. The Pentagon wants to pit GE and Pratt & Whitney against each other, starting around 2011, in a competition for production JSF engine work.
"All JSF aircraft will be able to use either the P&W or GEAE engine," said USMC Maj. Gen. Michael A. Hough, JSF program director.
Top-Mounted Tank May Extend F-16's Range
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin are working on a new piggyback conformal fuel tank for the F-16.
The tank, which rides on top of the fuselage, carries upward of 3,000 pounds of fuel without reducing armament space.
"The tanks add additional range to the F-16, without taking out an underwing station where the external fuel tanks that are carried on the F-16 now reside," said Steve Barter, Lockheed Martin conformal fuel tank project pilot. "Alternately, it allows us to add even more fuel by carrying fuel under the wings."
The tanks will show up first on new Block 50 F-16s now being built for Greece and later on Block 60 aircraft for the United Arab Emirates.
F-16 Crash Kills USAF Pilot in Korea
USAF 1st Lt. Randolph E. Murff, 35th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan AB, South Korea, was killed in the June 12 crash of his F-16. He was on a nighttime training exercise in South Korea.
Murff had some 260 flying hours in the F-16. The aircraft went down about 40 miles southeast of Kunsan, just as Murff was beginning his mission. The F-16 was not carrying live munitions, according to USAF offcials.
A board of officers opened an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Former Chairman Blasts DOD Over Strategy Shift
Rep. Floyd Spence, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted senior defense officials for moving to discard the nation's current two-war strategy.
At a June 21 hearing, the South Carolina Republican said he opposed any shift away from US plans to maintain sufficient forces to fight and win a pair of Major Theater Wars at more or less the same time.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has claimed that the two-MTW strategy "is not working" and has initiated a search for a better force-sizing standard.
The problem, Spence told Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Henry Shelton, is that as far as US allies are concerned, a US military oriented to fight only one theater war is not a US military that is oriented to come to their aid.
Allies in Asia will believe that the US is only interested in defending Europe. Allies in Europe will have a sneaking suspicion that the US is only interested in defending Asia.
"Anything less than the two mega-theater war strategy is a no-war strategy. ... Our friends and allies will not gain any comfort from that, I can imagine. No matter how you word it or anything else, that is the message," said Spence.
Rumsfeld has talked about replacing the two-MTW policy, but he has not yet produced an alternative.
Israel To Buy 50 New F-16s
Lockheed Martin announced June 19 that Israel had agreed to purchase more than 50 additional F-16 fighters, at a cost of about $2 billion.
The new purchase comes on top of a previous order of 50 F-16I fighters, which are still in the pipeline. The two purchases taken together will keep the US fighter flowing steadily into the Israeli inventory for years to come and not incidently keep the production line open for USAF use, if need be.
Deliveries should continue until 2009, according to Lockheed Martin.
"Israel has the world's largest F-16 fleet outside the United States Air Force," said a corporate statement. "The country has received or ordered more than 300 F-16 aircraft, including 102 new ones ordered since 1999."
Global Hawk Breaks Record on Return
USAF's Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, developed by Northrop Grumman, became the first UAV to fly nonstop from Australia to the United States when it returned from a six-week deployment Down Under on June 8.
Global Hawk's April flight out had been a record setter, too, as it became the first UAV to fly across the Pacific nonstop.
In between its history-making trips the aircraft took part in a series of missions, logging 250 flight hours, while in Australia. On its 81st flight, it passed the cumulative 1,000-hour mark as it took part in Tandem Thrust exercises intended to train US and Australian personnel in joint crisis and contingency response operations.
As part of the operation, Australian defense scientists helped develop Global Hawk's ability to search large open areas and detect maritime targets.
Panel Wants Fast Track for Navy JSF
A key Pentagon study panel has recommended advancing deployment of the Navy's version of the Joint Strike Fighter by three years.
That would put the stealthy jet on carrier decks in 2009--one year before the US Marines and two years before the US Air Force are now scheduled to get their respective versions.
Unlike USAF, the Navy does not yet have a radar evading aircraft, study leaders noted.
The Transformation Panel, one of the many different groups that together make up Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's overall defense review, has no direct control of policy. But given the Administration's emphasis on transformational military capabilities, the panel's recommendations could well portend that the JSF program will, at the very least, survive and prosper.
The group's report also endorsed a ground-attack-capable F-22 Raptor.
"We said the F-22 program's coming along fine, the JSF is an important capability, and accelerate it to get it on the carriers faster," said panel chairman retired Air Force Gen. James P. McCarthy. "But we did not say you need X number of them."
Court To Rehear Military Retiree Health Case
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on June 13 vacated its previous ruling that could have meant military retirees and their dependents are eligible for damages due to a broken promise by the federal government to provide them with health care for life. The February ruling, made by a three-member panel of the court, directly affected only two retirees. It would have set the stage for a class-action suit.
All 16 members of the court will hear new arguments in the case, justices said.
The Class Act Group, a Florida-based group of retirees, brought the original lawsuit, on behalf of two retired Air Force lieutenant colonels, Robert L. Reinlie and William O. Schism, charging that they had what amounted to a contract with the US for their medical costs.
In initially siding with them, the three-judge panel ruled that personnel who entered military service before 1956 and stayed in uniform for at least 20 years had indeed been promised such care and that they were eligible for up to $10,000 apiece in damages.
In the retrial, the focus will be on whether promises of care by recruiters are legally binding on the government, whether Congress ratified those promises with its annual health care appropriations, and whether the recent enactment of Tricare for Life has relevance on the case, said the June 13 court order.
Army Makes Transition to Berets
Thousands of US Army personnel marked the 226th birthday of their venerable service by switching headgear to new black berets on June 14.
Soldiers based with 8th Army in South Korea were the first to don the new caps, due to their forward deployment in terms of time zones. As the day swept eastward, troops from Ft. Lewis, Wash., to Ft. Campbell, Ky., and the Military District of Washington all received permission to begin wearing their new berets, as they become available.
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki had originally planned to have enough berets for the entire Army to switch on the birthday date. But two controversies slowed down the change.
First, some Rangers objected to outfitting the entire service in headgear that previously only they had worn. A compromise was finally reached that has allowed the Rangers to switch from black to tan berets, continuing to note their elite status.
Second, some members of Congress were unhappy with the fact that some of the berets would have been made in China, Sri Lanka, and other developing nations, per Defense Logistics Agency contracting.
Eliminate the Division as Army Command Level?
The new Secretary of the Army, Thomas White, thinks it is possible that America's land forces would be leaner and meaner if they did away with a level of organization that dates to the Napoleonic Wars--the division.
Advances in information technology have flattened organizational charts in corporations all across the nation, noted White, a former Enron Energy Services vice chairman, in a meeting with reporters. Perhaps the Army should take advantage of the same trend.
"What about an Army 10 years from now or 15 years from now that is a corps that commands brigade-level structures? Maybe you've got 15 or 20 or 30 of them," said White.
Computing and communications power today means that corps could provide numerous small command posts to coordinate brigade commanders.
"They would have small, mobile command centers that if [corps headquarters] wanted to closely coordinate the activities of four or five of these brigades in a particular area, it could send out a small command post to accomplish that mission," said White.
Euro Generals Attack Euro Defense Force
In a letter to the London Daily Telegraph, 11 British and French generals and admirals have attacked the Euro Army concept as something that could sap British and French armed forces and endanger their nations' security.
The force is a "paper tiger" which, as designed, would force Britain and France to dilute their own combat capabilities in an effort to help defend less-capable European brethren, said the letter, which was signed by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill Norton, former chairman of the Military Command of NATO, and Gen. Pierre-Marie Gallois, father of France's nuclear capability, among others.
"The actions of federalist politicians and technocrats playing at armchair generals, building a fictitious paper army, will only serve to weaken even further our national capabilities to the detriment of our own security and world stability," said the letter.
Software Glitch Messes Up Pay
Due to a software glitch some 5,600 soldiers, 9,000 sailors, and 1,000 airmen received slightly larger paychecks for several months earlier this year. The same glitch caused 150 service members to receive less than they would normally.
Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials noted that the glitch underwithheld the Social Security contributions of 15,600 personnel and overwithheld for 150. The problem has now been fixed, but the government still wants its money.
The majority of the 15,600 service members owe less than $120, which should have been deducted from end-of-month May pay. Those who owe more will see further deductions in mid-June, July, and August pay.
The 150 members who overpaid Social Security should have received their refunds in May.
Trainee Dies at Lackland
AB Darryll M. Logans, age 20, assigned to the 331st Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, Tex., collapsed during routine physical conditioning June 14. He was pronounced dead at Wilford Hall Medical Center at 7:47 a.m.
Logans, whose home was Yigo, Guam, was in the fourth week of the six-week basic training program for new Air Force recruits.
This is the first death of a basic trainee at Lackland since the Sept. 12, 1999, death of trainee Micah J. Schindler. Schindler died two days after he became seriously ill from heat stroke complicated by water intoxication near the end of a 5.8-mile field march.
Air Force officials made several changes to the field training program following Schindler's death. Officers and enlisted personnel were also disciplined for lapses in duty performance that contributed to the death.
A USAF investigation into the circumstances surrounding Logans's death is ongoing.
The Bush Pentagon, with Air Force concurrence, proposed a one-third reduction in the fleet of B-1B bombers, which USAF once called the "backbone" of its long-range conventional force.
At present, there are 93 bombers in the B-1 inventory. In DOD's revised Fiscal 2002 budget, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked for authority to retire 33, leaving 60.
Defense officials portrayed the B-1B decision as an effort to seek greater efficiencies for a military trying to adjust to a post-Cold War climate. However, the plan itself was an Air Force initiative. USAF itself asserted that reducing the fleet to 60 bombers would cut operating expenses and lead to heightened readiness in the remaining force. The savings would be plowed back into the surviving aircraft.
The move will slice costs by $130 million, said Maj. Gen. Larry W. Northington, USAF's deputy assistant secretary for budget. "We do not want to maintain these airplanes," he said. "That's the whole idea."
The Air Force bought a total of 100 of the sleek, needle-nose B-1Bs in the 1980s. Attrition has claimed seven. The B-1B line was shut down after the last delivery in 1988. The B-1B entered service as a nuclear bomber designed to attack the Soviet Union but was eventually converted for conventional missions.
The retirement would further reduce an already shrunken bomber force, which once boasted hundreds of aircraft. Today's fleet consists of the 93 B-1s, 94 B-52Hs, and 21 B-2s. Not all are combat-coded and ready for action, however.
In a controversial move, Rumsfeld would consolidate the remaining B-1Bs at just two bases: Dyess AFB, Tex., and Ellsworth AFB, S.D. The change would end the B-1B mission for the Georgia Air National Guard's 116th Bomb Wing at Robins Air Force Base and the Kansas ANG's 184th Bomb Wing at McConnell Air Force Base. A smaller number of B-1Bs are assigned at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
It was the basing aspect of the Bush plan that prompted howls of protest from Kansas and Georgia lawmakers and officials. They have accused the Administration of playing politics, in light of the fact that the two remaining B-1 bases would be in the home states of President Bush and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the Senate majority leader.
On June 27, a group of 12 members of Congress wrote to Rumsfeld, protesting the B-1B decision. The B-1B, they asserted, is the Air Force's "fastest long-range strategic bomber" and, as such, dovetails with the Bush Administration's professed desire to shift its emphasis to more long-range precision-strike capability. "We urge you to reconsider this decision, which was made without consultation with Congress," the letter says.
One of the letter writers, Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was weighing a legislative move to block the B-1B plan.
At a June 28 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) disclosed an Air Force briefing slide that shows the political impacts of the decision to keep the B-1s in Texas and South Dakota.
"I am discouraged, I am frustrated, and I am angry," Roberts told Rumsfeld, who was testifying.
The Pentagon's ongoing review of strategy, force structure, and military transformation will favor airlift and, specifically, the C-17, according to Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., Commander in Chief of US Transportation Command.
Robertson said he anticipates a need for at least "50 to 60" more C-17s, or up to 180 in total, simply to support the current strategy of fighting two Major Theater Wars in close succession. If, as expected, the new military strategy calls for quicker deployments and possibly a shift in emphasis to Asia, "then you need more," Robertson said in a meeting with defense reporters in Washington.
He was also high on an upgrade of the C-5B, but not necessarily the C-5A, at least a dozen of which he said should probably be retired for chronic maintenance problems. He discounted the idea of building a "stretch" C-17 to replace the C-5 as being counterproductive, since it would negate the C-17's desirable qualities of being able to operate on small fields with limited ramp space. He also doesn't want US strategic airlift to depend on a single type airplane; in the case of a fleetwide grounding, air mobility would be hidebound.
Robertson also said he was intrigued by the idea of future transports that are stealthy and superfast but said they are not even on the technological horizon yet and that interim needs mandate more C-17s. Likewise, huge lighter-than-air craft for transport haven't developed much of a case.
In discussions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon strategist Andrew Marshall, Robertson was told that mobility concerns have not been forgotten in the current analysis.
"The importance ... and the shortfalls of mobility were recognized ... and are going to be taken care of," Robertson reported. A potential shortage of long-range cargo aircraft is the "No. 1 force projection problem" facing the US. military, and his top priority is to "fix strategic airlift."
Two of Rumsfeld's assessment panels-one on transformation and another on conventional forces-determined that the C-17 is particularly well-suited to evolving strategies that suggest quicker response and deployment abroad by all the services when crises occur.
Robertson said the benchmark strategic airlift requirement of 54.5 Million Ton-Miles a day, set in last fall's Mobility Requirements Study 2005, would be adequate to support a single Major Theater War. If the two-MTW requirement is officially dropped, it would not signal any opportunity to reduce the size of the airlift fleet, Robertson said.
"I still need what I need" for one MTW, he asserted.
Those involved in the study-the regional Commanders in Chief, TRANSCOM, the Joint Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense-"drew the line" at 54.5 MTM as "the highest point of medium risk" in carrying out national war plans. Any less, and "you are at high risk," Robertson said. The benchmark is "just about ... enough."
If the strategy applies terms like "concurrent" or "faster" to the airlift equation, "then you need more" cargo-carrying capacity, Robertson emphasized.
The oft-delayed MRS-05 was "the most credible study" ever done on airlift, Robertson stated. For the first time, airlift requirements were assessed beyond meeting an MTW, such as "what if we are moving the President at the same time? What if we had to move special operations forces at the same time?"
The budget technically already provides for 134 C-17s, he noted, but the funding is a "little squirrely" and does not yet provide for related accessory equipment, such as training simulators and other support gear.
Decisions on extending the C-17 production line and moving ahead with a C-5 upgrade are "all coming due" now, the TRANSCOM chief said. He said Boeing has been maintaining its C-17 vendors at its own expense in anticipation of another multiyear contract, and Lockheed Martin is also fronting the money for the not-yet-approved C-5B upgrade.
Robertson likes the figure of 210 C-17s but said, "I don't have any analysis upon which to base it, yet." Fiscal 2003 is "where you will really see the answer" to how many C-17s the Pentagon will buy, he added.
He backs the idea of helping private companies buy and operate civilian C-17s for the private outsize/oversize market, since TRANSCOM would have access to the aircraft in an emergency but not have to buy, insure, crew, or maintain them.
Robertson said the C-5B upgrade makes sense because the aircraft are only an average of 12 years old and are already "reasonably reliable," so he recommended upgrading a small number and then operationally testing them, as was done with the C-17, to make a go or no-go decision.
In any event, long lead times mean that such a decision will likely fall to "the CINC after next," meaning his successor's successor.
"Fixing theater airlift" is Robertson's second priority, and he urged completion of the C-130X modification program-recently awarded to Boeing-and buying new C-130Js to replace old C-130Es, which cannot be economically upgraded.
A new tanker would be Robertson's third priority, although he noted the KC-135 is still turning in a 95 percent reliability rate and USAF expects it could last "until it is 80 years old." However, he noted that the aircraft tend to spend more and more time in depot maintenance as they get older and new age-related problems crop up.
Force protection of aircraft deployed in unsettled areas, defensive systems against shoulder-fired missiles, and international avionics systems compliance round out the TRANSCOM chief's top budgetary priorities.
If indeed US military strategy shifts to the Pacific, Robertson said he'd have to expand the en route facilities at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Osan AB, South Korea; Kadena and Yokota ABs, Japan; Andersen AFB, Guam, and Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Moreover, he'd have to expand facilities where the US has a "toehold"-places like Australia and Singapore-and he has even looked at reopening port facilities in Vietnam. Air Mobility Command has benefitted from "several hundred million dollars' worth" of facilities and infrastructure improvements, such as fuel tanks and expanded ramps, at the six Pacific and six European bases for airlift, he said.
Robertson said he is working closely with the Army as it crafts a new operational concept that calls for far greater speed in deploying Army forces. He has told Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki that "if he comes up with a new requirement, as far as lift is concerned, he needs to tell me because it is going to take 15 years to buy it." However, he reported that Shinseki "thinks he can live with what we've got."
Asked whether an Army initiative to beef up its light forces will cause lift problems, Robertson answered that "speed will give us more problems than weight" in meeting the Army's ambitious deployment models. The airlift fleet can manage the "brigade in 96 hours" benchmark.
-by John A. Tirpak
The Bush Administration announced June 27 that it will request an additional $18.4 billion increase in Fiscal 2002 military spending. The hike comes on top of a $14.2 billion increase included in the Administration's original 2002 budget plan, released in April.
That means the 2002 request now stands seven percent higher than the amount appropriated for DOD this year.
Even so, the increase is not enough, according to many defense hawks in Congress. The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, has already indicated plans to try and tack on at least $5 billion more.
The latest cash influx contains an additional $600 million for missile defense. Added to the $1.6 billion increase requested in April, that would bring total missile shield spending to $7.5 billion, up from $5.3 billion in Fiscal 2001.
Some $3.6 billion would go toward modernization, with $4.2 billion for housing and $2 billion for health care.
General readiness (including operations and maintenance, depot maintenance, spares, and more) would receive $4.2 billion more, flying hours would get $1.3 billion more, and $2.6 billion would go for infrastructure.
The request for more money generally punts any decision on major weapons, such as the V-22 tilt-rotor or JSF, down field into later years.
"Taking these essential steps in Fiscal Year 2002 lays the foundation on which the Department of Defense can build in Fiscal 2003, following the results of the Secretary's strategic review and the Quadrennial Defense Review," said a senior defense official.
But budget analysts outside government worry that it is in 2003 and later that the current fiscal surplus will begin to be restricted by the provisions of the tax cut passed by Congress earlier this year.
At the same time, many expensive programs will be hitting late development and early production--possibly setting up a scramble for available procurement cash.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to begin the dismantling of all 50 Peacekeeper ICBMs, the 10-warhead missile that USAF deployed at the height of the Cold War.
The step was proposed as a cost-saving measure and to give a boost to President Bush's pledge to engage in unilateral cuts in Cold War-era nuclear arms.
The 50 Peacekeepers are the nation's newest ICBMs. If they are withdrawn from their silos and scrapped, the land-based "leg" of the US strategic nuclear triad would then consist of only 500 Minuteman III missiles, with the capability to employ from one to three warheads.
Peacekeepers, sometimes referred to as MX missiles, are forever associated with President Ronald Reagan's major buildup of strategic nuclear weapons intended to match Soviet weapons. The original plan called for building 100 of the ICBMs and basing them in a mobile "racetrack" configuration in the west. Congress balked at both aspects of the plan but eventually approved deployment of 50 in silos.
Bush has said he is eager to cut US nuclear systems to the "lowest possible number" as part of a new strategic framework with Russia.
Rumsfeld said the budget he inherited contained no money to maintain the weapons and no money to retire them. So, he decided to retire them. The weapons are based at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.
On June 28, Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee that "the Air Force reviewed the situation" and decided that the 50 nuclear ICBMS were "not needed" and could yield some $800 million in savings.
Rumsfeld proposed the missile retirement as part of the Fiscal 2002 defense budget revisions. Due to arms control and other considerations, Congress must approve the Pentagon's suggestion before it can be executed.
When USAF opens the next round of Expeditionary Aerospace Force deployments, it will shift gears and set a new goal.
EAF Cycles 1 and 2 focused on early notification of personnel about impending deployments in an effort to provide the stability and predictability needed to ease strains on units.
And it worked. "By the end of Cycle 1, the 120-day deployment notification goal was fine-tuned, and we've improved on that during Cycle 2," said Col. Walter Burns, commander of the Aerospace Expeditionary Force Center, Langley AFB, Va.
Now comes Cycle 3. When it begins next year, said Burns, it will concentrate all efforts on team-oriented deployments.
That means that Unit Type Codes-positions grouped together to provide necessary AEF capabilities-will be refined to meet the needs of specific ongoing operations such as Northern Watch and Southern Watch.
Previous UTCs were designed around the nation's strategy of being able to fight two regional wars at the same time.
In practical terms, that means many of the personnel for future AEF deployments will come from a single base, as opposed to a few people deploying from many bases.
"Before, you would have seven or eight different bases providing one or two or three people to go over to do the work in a particular shop," said Burns. "The team developed after they got off the plane and reported for duty. There was no coherent team aspect there. That's what we're trying to fix right now."
This new teaming concept means that for many installations the rhythm of deployments may change after AEF Cycle 2 ends next February.
Before, "a base like Langley would have people on the road all the time," Burns said. "But now, our goal is to tap a wing hard once, and then not so hard during a second on-call period. This will keep bases such as Langley and Shaw [AFB, S.C.] from being deployed all the time."
Airmen need to be aware that the change in focus may translate into a change in their own schedule. Some people who are now in AEF 5 and 6 may be switched to AEF 7 and 8, or even 9 and 10, said Burns.
But personnel can work with wing officials to help mitigate this short-term impact on predictability, he said.
"We want to be upfront and tell the field that, yes, there may be some impact, but this is an evolutionary improvement in the AEF process. In the long run, this will benefit everybody," said Burns.
Key Saudi Arabian officials reacted negatively to the June 21 US indictment of 14 suspects in the Khobar Towers bombing attack, casting doubt on whether any of those charged who are currently in Saudi custody will ever be handed over for trial.
In the wake of the US action, Defense Minister Prince Sultan ibn Abdulaziz accused America of attempting to meddle in internal Saudi affairs. Interior Minister Prince Nayif ibn Abdulaziz said Saudi authorities had not been consulted about the move.
"The trials must take place before Saudi judicial authorities, and our position on this question will not change," said Nayif. "No other entity has the right to try or investigate any crimes occurring on Saudi lands."
The harsh reaction reflected tensions between US and Saudi law enforcement authorities that existed throughout investigation into the 1996 Khobar terror attack.
Although then-FBI Director Louis Freeh praised Saudi cooperation during his press conference announcing the indictments, many US officials felt the Saudis provided less than full access for FBI agents working in their country.
Furthermore, the Saudis have been keen to rebuild relations with Iran, more so than is the case in Washington.
The indictment, which discourses at length about the involvement of Iranian officials, may well be seen b
The military has retained its position as the institution in which Americans have the most confidence, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Sixty-six percent of respondents to the survey said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in US armed forces. Organized religion came in second, at 60 percent, and the police third, at 57 percent.
Next came the Supreme Court and the Presidency, at 50 and 48 percent, respectively.
At the bottom of the rankings came big business, with a 28 percent high confidence rating, organized labor and Congress, tied at 26 percent, and Health Maintenance Organizations, or HMOs, at 15 percent.
Gallup pollsters have been running confidence-ranking polls since the 1970s. In general, most of the basic institutions tested-including religion, public schools, and branches of the government-have sunk in public esteem over time.
The only institutions that have increased in public confidence in that time have been the military, which has increased its "great deal" and "quite a lot" confidence rating by 10 points since the 1970s, and the Supreme Court, which has edged up by four.
The military passed organized religion to take the top spot
A new Rand study on military morale and quality of life says that the armed forces should allow personnel to retire with some benefits before 20 years of service and end the current "up or out" promotion system.
These are among moves needed to help the Department of Defense retain uniformed personnel with critical technical skills and ease recruitment and retention strain, said the final report of the Pentagon-requested evaluation.
Leading the study was retired Adm. David Jeremiah, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"What you have is a system that is basically 50 years old and has been Band-Aided over the years to accommodate different stresses and strains on it," Jeremiah told reporters at a DOD press briefing. "It needs to be looked at in a totality, restructured, and new proposals brought forward to change the way we do business."
The Jeremiah report is one of the numerous major defense reviews ordered by the Bush Administration when it took office. Some of its recommendations could be implemented by DOD as early as the 2003 budget cycle, according to Jeremiah. Or, it might go nowhere, said others.
The admiral said recent quality-of-life initiatives-such as the Administration's $1.4 billion increase in military pay and $400 million increase in housing accounts-are all well and good, but he claimed that more drastic action is needed to maintain personnel quality in the face of a declining propensity toward military service and competition in the job market.
Creating a flexible retirement system that would vest an individual early-before 20 years of service-as is done in the private sector would make the military more competitive with the private sector for those who do not wish to make the military a career. Ending "up or out" would promote retention of computer specialists and other technical professionals who might otherwise be forced into the private sector under current requirements that limit maximum years of service according to rank.
The study recommended focusing pay hikes on midlevel personnel, where the disparity between private and military pay and benefits is greatest, and increasing the number of Hispanics and African Americans in leadership positions.
Changing national demographics mean that in the future "you will have a largely Hispanic and African American [military] force," noted Jeremiah.
"A much larger proportion of the population will be Hispanic in 20 years or so," said the admiral. "If that's the case, then the military has to prepare. ... [W]e need to start putting into the system young Hispanics who can mature and be the sergeants and the colonels and the flag officers who can lead that force. ... We have to plan ahead to do that, or it won't happen. You have to build those kinds of leaders."
B-2 bomber proponents are pressing the Pentagon to buy more of the stealthy aircraft, saying they fit perfectly with the Bush Administration's inclination to make the military more dependent on flexible long-strike weapons.
Northrop Grumman chief Kent Kresa has offered to sell the Air Force 40 new B-2C (the C means "conventional") models at a total fixed price of just under $30 billion.
Thus, the unit price tag would be much lower than that for the B-2A fleet, which cost $44 billion for 21 aircraft. The lower cost stems mostly from the fact that the B-2's expensive research and development program has already been amortized. Lower-price components and new manufacturing techniques would also contribute cost savings.
Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) sent Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a letter urging the purchase. McKeon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that he has listened to many military leaders paint a dire picture of aging aircraft fleets and that the Pentagon needs to take action to modernize its force.
Air Force officials are not encouraging--or discouraging--such talk.
At a recent Senate hearing, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche noted only that "there are extensive upgrades being planned for the B-2, both in avionics and to put smart munitions on board."
The Air Force took delivery of the 21st aircraft in July 2000.
President Bush's decision to end Navy live-fire exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003 is drawing criticism from both sides of that inflamed issue.
Opponents say the bombing needs to end immediately. The Navy has conducted battle simulations on Vieques's eastern tip for more than half a century, but in recent years it has become a galvanizing force for Hispanics who see the issue as a vestige of US imperialism.
The growing power of the Hispanic vote in US politics has drawn some American politicians into the fray. The Republican governor of New York, George Pataki, has become an unlikely foe of Vieques training.
"My goal is not to have it stopped two years from now," said Pataki after the Administration announced its decision June 14. "My goal is to have it stopped now."
Proponents of the exercises say the Vieques range is irreplaceable. Nowhere else can Navy aircraft and ships conduct live-fire exercises together to such an extent, they say.
"I cannot agree with a politically motivated decision which sacrifices national security and unnecessarily puts the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk," said Sen. James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma.
Puerto Rico was scheduled to hold a nonbinding referendum in July on the future of the US military's Vieques use.
Three major Air Force programs with missile defense implications will be shifted this fall out of the service's hands and given to a defense agency, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.
Under a plan outlined in DOD's Fiscal 2002 defense budget revisions, the changeover would affect the Airborne Laser, the Space Based Laser, and the Space Based Infrared System (Low).
The first is an aircraft program, while the latter two are spacecraft programs.
Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's comptroller, said at a June 27 briefing that all three of the Air Force programs are relatively immature and would benefit from BMDO oversight. Not everyone in the Air Force agrees, however.
The Administration's high-profile missile defense plan received a decidedly mixed response during President Bush's June trip to Europe.
White House officials were quick to point out that they were pleasantly surprised that some nations expressed interest.
Former Soviet bloc nations such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland were supportive, they said, adding that the UK, Spain, Turkey, and Italy also were on the positive side.
"If I could capture what we were hearing, it was ... 'We understand that there is a threat; we want to work with the United States,' " said a top Administration official.
Is Europe's "center of gravity" moving toward a tacit acceptance of missile defense, as the White House contends? That is an open question. France and Germany expressed skepticism and urged staying within the framework of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said he looked forward to consulting with the US in the months ahead on the nature of the rogue missile threat and what defense technologies might be useful against it.
However, Putin also said that, if the US decided to move ahead on defenses unilaterally, Russia would eventually upgrade its missile systems with new multiple-warhead technology-in other words, reverse the process of "de-mirving" that has been the focus of strategic arms reductions.
"That will cost us a meager sum," Putin insisted in a meeting with several US reporters June 18, reported by the New York Times.
An unusual review commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finds that the US military of the future needs to have multiservice strike forces capable of deploying around the globe within 24 hours.
"Global Joint Response Forces" would resemble USAF's Aerospace Expeditionary Forces and take advantage of new weapons and modern communications and intelligence systems to increase power projection speed.
Retired Air Force Gen. James P. McCarthy, who led the study for the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, said the goal would be to gain control of an area within four days and bring the conflict to a decisive end within a month.
"We are not talking about creating a new force," said McCarthy at a June 12 Pentagon press briefing. "It is how you organize and exercise and train the existing forces and what capabilities that you give them."
The IDA transformation report was just one of many studies feeding into Rumsfeld's wide-ranging review of US forces and capabilities. Its findings did not at the time represent official policy.
Implementing the new strike forces would necessitate an acceleration in some key weapon systems, among them the Navy version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The carrier-based JSF could be speeded up by two or three years, suggested McCarthy. (See "Panel Wants Fast Track for Navy JSF," p. 19.)
Other systems, such as the Navy's new DD-21 destroyer and CVX future aircraft carrier, might receive less emphasis.
The newly blended response forces would not have to represent a large percentage of the total force to mark a large change in the US military's orientation, according to McCarthy. From a historical standpoint only eight to 14 percent of a military needs to be modernized to have a major impact.
"Most people think of Stukas and Panzers and characterize that as the German army in the beginnings of World War II," said McCarthy. "In fact, only about 10 percent of the force was transformed with that concept. Ninety percent of the forces that eventually conquered much of Europe was foot soldiers and horse-drawn cannon."
Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche says that, as he takes office, he has three principal goals for the service.
The first is to develop an Air Force strategy consistent with the overall course set by the Bush Administration for the military as a whole.
"We have a key role to play, and understanding what that role is and making sure our colleagues in other services can depend upon us is terribly important," he said.
The second goal is to improve the Air Force career development program. The current exodus of talented midcareer personnel underscores the need for change, in the view of the service's new civilian leader.
"We want service in the Air Force to be fulfilling for people throughout their whole career, not just for part of it," he said.
The third goal is to streamline staff and spending on overhead to increase the money available for new weapons and maintenance of existing systems.
"That's not just a matter of asking Congress for more money," said Roche. "It's also a matter of looking to see how we can improve our processes and be more efficient."
Roche added that he comes from a naval culture, not from an Army or Air Force culture.
Roche served 23 years on active duty in the US Navy, retiring as a captain. However, he told an interviewer with Air Force News Service, "I've worked in business around the Air Force for the last 17 years. What I do bring to the job is the understanding of the military warrior culture and the business world."
Some Air Force personnel who separated from the service under Voluntary Separation Incentive or Special Separation Benefit programs are eligible to return to active duty.
During the drawdown of 1992-95, more than 33,000 enlisted and 6,000 officers left the service under the terms of VSI/SSB. The Air Force's prior-service program is now welcoming back any of these personnel who were trained in critical skill areas.
"There was a shift in policy to remove an unnecessary barrier to extended active duty," said Maj. Northan Golden, accession policy chief at the Pentagon. "However, eligibility to return is based on the needs of the Air Force."
On the enlisted side, critical skill areas tend to focus on mechanical and electrical specialties. Crew chiefs and aircraft mechanics are among the needs. On the line officer side, only pilots, navigators, and air battle managers may return to active duty for an indefinite period.
Those interested in returning should note that they do not have to repay any money received under VSI/SSB, unless they retire from active duty. They may also continue to receive VSI payments or have them reduced or stopped.
"We have a lot of people who did not want to separate in the mid-'90s and have always wanted to be part of the Air Force," said Golden. "The Air Force needs people in these critical skill areas and this gives them that opportunity."
France, the country that virtually invented the concept of "the nation in arms," has finally ended its military draft.
Paris officially shut down its conscription operation on June 27 after 96 consecutive years of operation. The French draft actually goes back further, to the days of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, fought with huge armies of conscript soldiers.
Most major Western nations had already dropped the draft as a cumbersome and ineffective relic of the past (the US shut down its own draft in 1973), but the French persevered. Now, Paris aims to discharge all conscripted servicemen by the end of the year.
President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin explained that France's volunteer recruitment drive had proved to be so successful that France no longer needed the draft and could safely give it up. Also, they added, external threats had receded greatly in the post-Cold War era.
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag