Fortifying one of its key allies in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration
announced a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia on Thursday, saying it had agreed to
sell F-15 fighter jets valued at nearly $30 billion to the Royal Saudi Air
The agreement, and the administration’s parallel plans to press ahead with a
nearly $11 billion arms deal for Iraq, despite rising political tensions there,
is dramatic evidence of its determination to project American military influence
in an oil-rich region shadowed by a threat from Iran.
Though the White House said the deal had not been accelerated to respond to
threats by Iranian officials in recent days to shut off the Strait of Hormuz,
its timing is laden with significance, as tensions with Iran have deepened and
the United States has withdrawn its last soldiers from Iraq.
“This sale will send a strong message to countries in the region that the United
States is committed to stability in the gulf and the broader Middle East,” said
Andrew J. Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military
affairs. “It will enhance Saudi Arabia’s ability to deter and defend against
external threats to its sovereignty.”
The agreement also suggests that the United States and Saudi Arabia have moved
beyond a bitter falling-out over the uprisings in the Arab world. Though the two
countries continue to differ on how to handle the popular revolts in the region,
American and Saudi officials said, the disagreement has not fractured a
strategic alliance based on a common concern over Iran.
Saudi Arabia is a longtime foe of Iran, with relations souring further last fall
after the United States broke up what it said was an Iranian-backed plot to kill
the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Iran has denied the accusations.
“When you look at the size of this package, what does it tell you about
U.S.-Saudi relations?” said a senior Saudi official, who spoke anonymously
because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “It says it’s very strong and
very solid. Any disagreements from time to time don’t affect the core
The weapons package is remarkable, both for its size and for its technical
sophistication. Under the terms of the $29.4 billion agreement signed on Dec.
24, Saudi Arabia will get 84 new F-15SA jets, manufactured by Boeing, and
upgrades to 70 F-15s in the Saudi fleet with new munitions and spare parts. It
will also get help with training, logistics and maintenance.
The new F-15s, which will be delivered in 2015, are among the most capable and
versatile fighter jets in the world, Pentagon officials said. They will come
with the latest air-to-air missiles and precision-guided air-to-ground missiles,
enabling them to strike ships and radar facilities day or night and in any
Though Mr. Shapiro and other officials said the planes were intended to help
Saudi Arabia protect its sovereignty, military analysts said they would be
effective against Iranian planes and ships anywhere in the Persian Gulf. They
are part of a 10-year, $60 billion weapons package for Saudi Arabia that was
approved last year by Congress.
At the time, there was a vigorous debate, with some lawmakers arguing that such
a huge arms package would threaten the military position of Israel. Mr. Shapiro,
speaking at a State Department briefing, said the administration was satisfied
that the sale of the F-15s would not diminish “Israel’s qualitative military
The White House portrayed the arms sale as part of a concerted effort to shore
up its relationship with Saudi Arabia. President Obama has made several
telephone calls to King Abdullah, a senior official said; the national security
adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, traveled twice to the Saudi capital, Riyadh; and
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. led a high-level delegation to the funeral of
Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz in October.
Early this year, the Saudis were furious when Mr. Obama withdrew support for
Egypt’s embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, after he faced massive protests in
Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Later, it was the White House’s turn to be upset, when
Saudi tanks rolled into neighboring Bahrain to help quash a mainly Shiite
rebellion against that kingdom’s Sunni monarchy.
Yet Saudi Arabia and the United States continue to cooperate in areas like
counterterrorism. In recent weeks, the two have worked to resolve the crisis in
Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has formally agreed to cede power in a
Saudi-brokered agreement and has applied for a visa to travel to the United
States for medical treatment.
“The agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the
United States and Saudi Arabia,” Joshua R. Earnest, the White House’s deputy
press secretary, said in a statement issued in Hawaii, where Mr. Obama is on
With the United States pulling out of Iraq, the administration has been eager to
demonstrate that it will remain a presence in the region. It is proceeding with
weapons sales to Iraq, despite fears that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki
may abandon his American-backed power-sharing government in favor of a
The administration has weighed stationing combat troops in Kuwait in case of a
military confrontation with Iran or a collapse in security in Iraq. It is also
seeking to expand military ties with other gulf countries, including Qatar, Oman
and the United Arab Emirates.
“I see this more in the longer-term effort by the administration to signal that
even with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the U.S. is still committed to the
defense of its allies in the gulf and to the containment of Iran,” said F.
Gregory Gause III, an expert on Saudi affairs at the University of Vermont.
The weapons deal, Mr. Gause said, also illustrated that the two countries could
put aside their differences and focus on larger strategic priorities. “After
some tension-filled months this year over Egypt and Bahrain, both sides have
agreed to disagree on that, and agree on their common interests,” he said.
reported from Honolulu,
and Steven Lee
Myers from Washington.
contributed reporting from Washington.
December 17, 2011
The New York Times
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
WHEN President Obama decides soon whether to approve a $53 million arms sale to
our close but despotic ally Bahrain, he must weigh the fact that America has a
major naval base here and that Bahrain is a moderate, modernizing bulwark
Yet he should also understand the systematic, violent repression here, the kind
that apparently killed a 14-year-old boy, Ali al-Sheikh, and continues to
torment his family.
Ali grew up here in Sitra, a collection of poor villages far from the gleaming
bank towers of Bahrain’s skyline. Almost every day pro-democracy protests still
bubble up in Sitra, and even when they are completely peaceful they are crushed
with a barrage of American-made tear gas.
People here admire much about America and welcomed me into their homes, but
there is also anger that the tear gas shells that they sweep off the streets
each morning are made by a Pennsylvania company, NonLethal Technologies. It is a
private company that declined to comment, but the American government grants it
a license for these exports — and every shell fired undermines our image.
In August, Ali joined one of the protests. A policeman fired a shell at Ali from
less than 15 feet away, according to the account of the family and human-rights
groups. The shell apparently hit the boy in the back of the neck, and he died
almost immediately, a couple of minutes’ walk from his home.
The government claims that the bruise was “inconsistent” with a blow from a tear
gas grenade. Frankly, I’ve seen the Bahrain authorities lie so much that I don’t
credit their denial.
Jawad al-Sheikh, Ali’s father, says that at the hospital, the government tried
to force him to sign papers saying Ali had not been killed by the police.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has recently distanced himself from the killings
and torture, while pledging that Bahrain will reform. There have indeed been
modest signs of improvement, and a member of the royal family, Saqer al-Khalifa,
told me that progress will now be accelerated.
Yet despite the lofty rhetoric, the police have continued to persecute Ali’s
family. For starters, riot policemen fired tear gas at the boy’s funeral,
The police summoned Jawad for interrogation, most recently this month. He fears
he will be fired from his job in the Ministry of Electricity.
Skirmishes break out almost daily in the neighborhood, with the police firing
tear gas for offenses as trivial as honking to the tune of “Down, Down, Hamad.”
Disproportionately often, those tear gas shells seem aimed at Ali’s house. Once,
Jawad says, a shell was fired into the house through the front door. A couple of
weeks ago, riot policemen barged into the house and ripped photos of Ali from
the wall, said the boy’s mother, Maryam Abdulla.
“They’re worried about their throne,” she added, “so they want us to live in
Mourners regularly leave flowers and photos of Ali on his grave, which is in a
vacant lot near the home. Perhaps because some messages call him a martyr, the
riot police come regularly and smash the pictures and throw away the flowers.
The family has not purchased a headstone yet, for fear that the police will
The repression is ubiquitous. Consider Zainab al-Khawaja, 28, whose husband and
father are both in prison and have been tortured for pro-democracy activities,
according to human rights reports. Police officers have threatened to cut off
Khawaja’s tongue, she told me, and they broke her father’s heart by falsely
telling him that she had been shipped to Saudi Arabia to be raped and tortured.
She braved the risks by talking to me about this last week — before she was
Khawaja earned her college degree in Wisconsin. She has read deeply of Gandhi
and of Gene Sharp, an American scholar who writes about how to use nonviolent
protest to overthrow dictators. She was sitting peacefully protesting in a
traffic circle when the police attacked her. First they fired tear gas grenades
next to her, and then handcuffed her and dragged her away — sometimes slapping
and hitting her as video cameras rolled. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights
says that she was beaten more at the police station.
Khawaja is tough as nails, and when we walked alongside demonstrations together,
she seemed unbothered by tear gas that left me blinded and coughing. But she
worried about her 2-year-old daughter, Jude. And one time as we were driving
back from visiting a family whose baby had just died, possibly because so much
tear gas had been fired in the neighborhood, Khawaja began crying. “I think I’m
losing it,” she said. “It all just gets to me.”
Since the government has now silenced her by putting her in jail, I’ll give her
the last word. I asked her a few days before her arrest about the proposed
American arms sale to Bahrain.
“At least don’t sell them arms,” she pleaded. “When Obama sells arms to
dictators repressing people seeking democracy, he ruins the reputation of
America. It’s never in America’s interest to turn a whole people against it.”
The New York Times
By ANDREW FEINSTEIN
LAST week’s conviction of Viktor Bout, the so-called Merchant of Death, was a
rare moment of triumph in the fight against the illicit arms trade.
But it points to the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of the global trade in
weapons: Governments protect corrupt and dangerous arms dealers as long as they
need them and then throw them behind bars when they are no longer useful.
Arms deals stretch across a continuum of legality and ethics from the formal
trade to the gray and black markets. In practice, the boundaries between the
three markets are fuzzy.
With bribery and corruption de rigueur — a Transparency International study
estimated that the arms trade accounted for almost 40 percent of corruption in
all global trade — there are very few arms transactions that do not involve
illegality, most often through middlemen, agents or dealers like Mr. Bout.
Mr. Bout made fortunes providing “transport and logistical” services — an
oft-used euphemism favored by arms dealers — to conflict zones around the world
on behalf of governments, the United Nations, large listed companies and myriad
His clients included, among others, the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, the
Northern Alliance and then the Taliban in Afghanistan, a number of the
protagonists in the Balkans, the Angolan government and its mortal enemy the
Unita rebel movement, and all sides in the complex conflict that continues to
rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr. Bout clearly lived out the credo of the arms merchant: “Sell to anyone who
In 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, the American military faced a major
problem getting supplies into Baghdad, as planes came under fire and landing
conditions became treacherous. The United States and its contractors turned to a
range of air cargo suppliers.
One of the most consistently used was Irbis Air — an airline owned by Mr. Bout.
From 2003 to 2004 alone, Irbis Air conducted hundreds of runs to Baghdad and
other Iraqi airports, carrying everything from boots to bullets.
Irbis Air landed in Baghdad 92 times between January and May 2004, while also
conducting deliveries elsewhere in Iraq. Mr. Bout earned $60 million between
2003 and 2005 — in addition to the free fuel that the United States military
gave to regular cargo operators.
Mr. Bout’s client list in Iraq made for intriguing and damning reading: The
United States Air Mobility Command, Federal Express, Fluor and KBR, among
others. At the time Mr. Bout was supposedly wanted by the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.,
as well as being the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant.
Mr. Bout and his airlines were also on the verge of being placed on an American
Treasury Asset Freeze list and the Foreign Assets Control list, which outlaws
the use of certain contractors. The United States military’s Central Command
asked for a week’s delay. It was granted, allowing Mr. Bout to deliver a final
shipment of arms and ammunition.
Clearly, years later, Washington decided that Mr. Bout’s evils outweighed his
benefits, and so began the sting operation that ultimately netted the Russian in
But as his cell door clanks shut, it is crucial to remember that there are many
Viktor Bouts out there, some protected by their own governments, or the
governments and intelligence agencies to whom they are useful.
Governments must impose greater transparency on the use of middlemen, agents and
brokers, including public disclosure of what they are paid and the details of
the specific work they have undertaken. Much of this could be addressed by
passing a robust version of the International Arms Trade Treaty currently being
negotiated at the United Nations.
Similarly, banning the use of so-called economic offsets in procurement
decisions — promises by arms manufacturers to invest in the buying country’s
economy — would close down a major route of bribe payments.
And finally, given the close and complex relationships between defense
contractors and arms dealers and governments and intelligence agencies, any
party participating in arms deals should be banned from making political
contributions — a practice that fuels corruption.
These changes require political will, which will materialize only if taxpayers
who unwittingly bankroll the arms trade make clear to their elected
representatives that current practices are unacceptable.
Until then, the arms trade will remain hidden behind a veil of
national-security-imposed secrecy, continuing to undermine democratic
accountability, the rule of law and sometimes even the very national security it
is meant to bolster.
It was not
just two mismanaged wars and trillions of dollars in misconceived and poorly
supervised weapons contracts that drove Pentagon spending to unsustainable
levels over the past decade — about $700 billion for last year alone. Military
pay, benefit and retirement costs rose by more than 50 percent over the same
decade (accounting for inflation). Leaving aside Afghanistan and Iraq, those
costs now account for nearly $1 out of every $3 the Pentagon spends.
Much of that is necessary to recruit and retain a high-quality, all-volunteer
military. The men and women who risk their lives to keep us secure deserve
decent pay while they serve and ample benefits once they retire. But current
military pay, pension systems and retiree health care benefits are unsustainable
and ripe for reform.
President Obama has proposed two changes that would save $27 billion over 10
years: increasing co-payments for some prescription drugs for retirees and
dependents of active-duty soldiers and charging a modest fee for policies
supplementing Medicare coverage for retirees. That would still leave insurees
paying substantially less than most other Americans.
Working-age military retirees also pay too little for basic family coverage. The
current annual premium of $460 has not been increased since 1995. The Pentagon
hopes to raise that to $520 for new enrollees once Congress approves financing
bills for the new fiscal year that starts on Saturday. That is still barely a
tenth of what federal civilian workers pay for comparable insurance.
Another $45 billion to $50 billion could be saved by adjusting the formula for
pay increases to take account of special allowances and benefits worth about
$5,000 a year.
The retirement system is both unfair and increasingly expensive. Most veterans,
including many who have served multiple combat tours, will never qualify for
even a partial military pension or retiree health benefits. These are only
available to those who have served at least 20 years. Those who do qualify can
start collecting their pensions as soon as they leave service, even if they are
still in their late 30s, making for huge long-term costs.
Mr. Obama called for a commission to study possible reforms. But the change the
Pentagon reportedly has in mind, phasing in a 401(k)-type plan for future
retirees, is the wrong way to go. Military pensions should not be held hostage
to stock market gyrations. Partial pensions should be made available to those
serving less than 20 years. Payments should begin at normal retirement age.
The Pentagon needs to contribute at least $400 billion in 10-year budget savings
if the Congressional deficit panel does reach an agreement by December and as
much as $900 billion if it does not.
To find those savings, the Pentagon must also sharply prune the tens of billions
it spends every year on building new versions of cold war weapons systems ill
suited to America’s 21st-century military needs: aircraft carriers, nuclear
attack submarines, stealth destroyers and manned aerial combat fighters. The
United States already has a comfortable margin of dominance in all these areas.
The Pentagon’s ambitions expanded without limit over the Bush era, and Congress
eagerly wrote the checks. The country cannot afford to continue this way, and
national security doesn’t require it.
The White House and Congress must find the courage to proceed. Reforms of pay,
benefits and pensions must be phased in fairly and commitments already made must
be honored. But they, too, cannot be deferred any longer.
September 23, 2011
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — The global economic crisis may set off upheaval
and even unrest, but the ability of the world’s governments to buy new military
hardware was sharply curtailed last year by strains on their national
treasuries, according to a new Congressional study.
Worldwide arms sales in 2010 totaled $40.4 billion, a drop of 38 percent from
the $65.2 billion in arms deals signed in 2009 and the lowest total since 2003,
the study found.
Even in this tight market, the United States maintained its dominating position
in the global arms bazaar, signing $21.3 billion in worldwide arms sales, or
52.7 percent of all weapons deals, a drop from $22.6 billion in 2009.
Russia was second with $7.8 billion in arms sales in 2010, or 19.3 percent of
the market, compared with $12.8 billion in 2009. Following the United States and
Russia in sales were France, Britain, China, Germany and Italy.
Developing nations continued to be the primary focus of foreign arms sales,
according to the report, by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a
division of the Library of Congress. The annual study is considered the most
detailed collection of unclassified global arms sales data available to the
The report found that the total value of arms transfer deals with developing
nations last year was $30.7 billion, or 76.2 percent of worldwide deals. That
was a drop from $49.8 billion in 2009.
India, which signed $5.8 billion in weapons transfer deals, was the top
purchaser in the developing world last year, followed by Taiwan with $2.7
billion in agreements and Saudi Arabia with $2.2 billion in deals. Other major
purchasers were Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Syria, South Korea, Singapore and
The United States was not only the largest weapons supplier last year, but also
the main source of weapons to the developing world, accounting for about $14.9
billion of these deals — or 48.6 percent. That was a striking rise from 2009,
when its sales of $15.1 billion to developing nations accounted for 30.3 percent
of the market.
Russia was second in arms deals with developing nations last year, signing $7.6
billion in agreements, or about 24.7 percent.
“Worldwide weapons sales declined generally in 2010 in response to the
constraints created by the tenuous state of the global economy,” wrote Richard
F. Grimmett, a specialist in international security at the Congressional
Research Service and author of the study.
“In view of budget difficulties faced by many purchasing nations, they chose to
defer or limit the purchase of new major weapons systems,” he wrote. “Some
nations chose to limit their buying to upgrades of existing systems or to
training and support services.”
To compare weapons sales over various years, the study used figures in 2010
dollars, with amounts for previous years adjusted for inflation to give a
constant financial measurement.
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
— The Obama administration has quietly supplied Israel with bombs capable of
destroying buried targets, like terrorists’ arms caches or perhaps sites in Iran
suspected of being part of that nation’s nuclear weapons program, American
officials said Friday.
The administration’s transfer of bunker-busting bombs, first reported in an
online article by Newsweek, began in 2009. American officials who confirmed the
shipments spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized
to discuss the matter publicly. They declined to comment on the number of bombs
that had been supplied to Israel or on their capabilities.
Israel had sought this class of weapons for many years. In 2005, the Bush
administration notified Congress of a pending transfer to Israel of bombs
designed to destroy buried targets. “This proposed sale will contribute to the
foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve
the security of a friendly country,” a news release from the Defense Security
Cooperation Agency stated.
Subsequent notifications of plans to sell Israel different models of
bunker-busting weapons were sent to Congress by the agency again in 2007 and
But the weapons were not given to Israel at the time. Pentagon officials were
frustrated that Israel had transferred military technology to China. And there
were deep concerns that if the United States supplied bunker-busting bombs to
Israel, it might be viewed as having tacitly endorsed an attack on Iran.
In the interim, Israel developed its own bunker-busting bomb, officials said,
but the American variants were viewed as more cost-effective.
George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to comment on the reports
of a weapons transfer. “We’re not going to comment on these press reports, but
make no mistake about it: the United States is committed to the security of
Israel and Israel’s ability to maintain its qualitative military edge,” Mr.
The issue is so sensitive that Israeli military officials asked the United
States not to release documentation of the arms transfers, even if requested
under the Freedom of Information Act, according to American officials.
The arms transfers could help President Obama’s political standing among Jewish
voters. Israeli-American relations have been bruised by a variety of political
and geopolitical matters, and efforts by the administration to strengthen the
Israeli military may convince some voters that the president is sufficiently
supportive of Israel.
February 5, 2011
Filed at 8:37 a.m. EST
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MUNICH (AP) — The U.S. and Russia on Saturday finalized a nuclear arms treaty
that limits the number of atomic warheads the former Cold War foes are allowed
to possess — securing a key foreign policy goal of President Barack Obama.
The New START treaty was approved by the U.S. Senate in December after Obama
pressed strongly for its passage, and Russia ratified the deal last month.
The treaty went into effect when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
exchanged the ratification papers with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on
the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich.
New START is a cornerstone of Obama's efforts to "reset" U.S. relations with
Clinton said before the ceremony that the treaty is "another example of the kind
of clear-eyed cooperation that is in everyone's interests."
In addition to New START, she said the U.S. is in talks with Russia about how
the two countries can work together to address issues that affect their common
security, while maintaining strategic stability.
Suggestions include joint analysis, joint exercises and sharing of early-warning
data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system, Clinton
She said she would also talk with Lavrov about "further arms control issues,
including non-strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons and our ongoing work to
revive, strengthen and modernize the regime on conventional forces."
Lavrov called New START "a product of the understanding that unilateral
approaches to security are counterproductive."
"The principles of equality, parity, equal and indivisible security ... form a
solid basis for today's Russian-American interaction in a range of areas,"
"The treaty that enters into force today will enhance international stability."
The New START treaty, negotiated last year, limits each side to 1,550 strategic
warheads, down from 2,200. The pact also re-establishes a monitoring system that
ended in December 2009 with the expiration of an earlier arms deal.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the treaty's entering into force as "a
historical, political milestone on the road to our ultimate goal: achieving a
world free of nuclear weapons."
September 17, 2010
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — President Obama is preparing to seek Congressional approval for
a huge arms sale to Saudi Arabia, chiefly intended as a building block for
Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran, according to administration and
The advanced jet fighters and helicopters for Saudi Arabia, long a leading
customer for these weapons, could become the largest arms deal in American
history, and one significant enough to shift the region’s balance of power over
the course of a decade.
The key element of the sale would be scores of new F-15 combat aircraft, along
with more than 175 attack and troop-transport helicopters and, if subsequent
negotiations are successful, ships and antimissile defenses. The deal has been
put together in quiet consultations with Israel, which has sought assurances
that it will retain its technological edge over Saudi forces, even as Saudi
Arabia improves its ability to face down a shared rival, the Iranians.
“We want Iran to understand that its nuclear program is not getting them
leverage over their neighbors, that they are not getting an advantage,” a senior
administration official said Friday, describing the Saudi sale as part of a
broader regional strategy in which the United States has bolstered antimissle
defenses in Arab states along the Persian Gulf. “We want the Iranians to know
that every time they think they will gain, they will actually lose.”
Though the timing appears coincidental, Congress will likely be formally
notified of the proposed sale in the coming days, during a visit to the United
States by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has used his
annual visit to address the United Nations General Assembly as a moment to
denounce the United States and proclaim that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely
peaceful, though this month international weapons inspectors said they had been
stonewalled on important questions about Iranian work on warhead designs.
When the arms sale plan is formally sent to Congress, that will start a 30-day
clock for it to consider the issue. There is little question it will go forward
— the administration is already talking about how many jobs it will create in
Congressional districts around the country — but several members of Congress
have already expressed reservations about whether it would erode Israel’s
Administration officials would not discuss the proposed sale on the record
because the pre-notification negotiations with Congressional committees were
still under way. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal on
Tuesday, projected that the value could top $60 billion. But officials involved
in the planning said a firm estimate remained impossible because the sale would
unfold in phases and would be likely to change along the way as weapons
packages, battlefield-management systems and service contracts were decided.
Saudi Arabia has over the decades been the largest purchaser of American arms,
with a package for advanced-radar aircraft and associated command systems in the
early 1980s worth about $7.5 billion. That was followed in the early 1990s by a
deal for jet fighters and support systems that cost nearly $10 billion,
according to government records. Another gulf partner that serves as a front
line against Iran, the United Arab Emirates, has also purchased significant
amounts of American weapons, in particular air-defense systems.
In the past, Israel has often regarded those sales with suspicion. But in recent
years, the standoff with Iran has changed the regional dynamics. Officials from
Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates describe their perceptions of
the threat from Iran in very similar terms.
Since coming to office, Mr. Obama and his top officials have hinted at extending
the American defense umbrella over much of the Persian Gulf, in hopes of
preventing other states in the region, including the Saudi Arabia, from seeking
nuclear arms of their own. The sale of conventional weapons, the theory goes,
helps persuade Saudia Arabia and other Arab states that they could deter Iranian
ambitions, even without their own nuclear capability.
There is an added benefit for the American military, in addition to helping
regional partners bolster their defenses with weapons that cannot be matched by
Iran. The purchase of these American combat systems and related military
support, including American trainers, would allow the United States armed forces
to operate seamlessly in that part of the world, according to Pentagon
“We are helping these allied and partner nations create their own containment
shield against Iran,” said an American military officer. “It is a way of
deterring Iran, but helpful to us in so many other ways.”
A senior Defense Department official said the proposed sale would include 84 new
F-15s and an agreement to modernize 70 of Saudi Arabia’s older F-15s to that
same upgraded configuration. The official said Saudi Arabia was expected to
retire its older aircraft as the new and upgraded warplanes arrived, so that
over the next 5 or 10 years the Saudi Air Force would be far more capable, but
not larger in number.
In addition, the weapons package would include 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72
Black Hawk troop-transport helicopters and 36 Little Bird helicopters. The
Little Bird is a small, agile helicopter used by American Special Operations
forces for surveillance, as well as for inserting or extracting small numbers of
combat troops quickly and surreptitiously.
September 14, 2010
The New York Times
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
The secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, announced more than 20 changes in
purchasing procedures on Tuesday intended to rein in the ballooning cost of
weapons systems and make military ships and planes more affordable.
Mr. Gates said the moves would cut waste, set goals for what weapons should cost
and give military contractors greater financial incentives to complete projects
In addition, the military will give preferential treatment to suppliers with
good cost-control records and will require more competitive bidding for service
contracts, an area that has been rife with abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Gates’s goal is to save $100 billion over the next several years and use
that money to continue the Pentagon’s modernization programs, including the
design of a new nuclear missile submarine and long-range aerial strike systems.
He said the Pentagon had already started adjusting speed and size requirements
to save billions on the projected cost of the submarine.
The initiative is the Pentagon’s latest effort to deal with a long-running
problem: how to keep the cost of new weapons from climbing so much that the size
of its forces keeps shrinking. To reverse that trend, Mr. Gates said, “designing
to affordability, and not just to desire or appetite, is critical.”
He added that while consumers were accustomed to paying less for more advanced
computers and mobile phones each year, taxpayers “had to spend significantly
more in order to get more” in military programs.
The changes come as the growth in military spending, which has soared since the
terrorist attacks nine years ago, begins to slow. The Pentagon spends about $400
billion of its $700 billion annual budget on equipment and services, and
military officials hope to avoid budget cuts by showing Congress and the White
House that they can use the money more effectively.
While contractors support a number of the changes, they say the pressure to cut
costs is already prompting layoffs and buyouts at military companies, even as
the Obama administration is battling to save jobs in other areas of the economy.
Industry executives also doubt that the Pentagon will be able to fend off budget
cuts once the Afghanistan war winds down, and they fear that could lead to even
larger reductions in jobs and contracts, especially if Mr. Gates retires next
year, as he has hinted.
An industry consultant, James McAleese, said the recent announcements of buyouts
and layoffs at companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing showed how seriously
the contractors were taking Mr. Gates’s push for efficiency.
“It’s almost as if Secretary Gates, despite all the political turbulence, is
winning the war without firing a shot,” Mr. McAleese said.
Many previous efforts to improve Pentagon contracting have foundered, and Mr.
Gates had to cancel or trim nearly three dozen programs last year. But he and
Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, worked with the industry on
the latest changes and incorporated some of its suggestions for streamlining
Pentagon oversight and trying to maintain stable production rates.
“Over all, I think it’s positive,” Richard K. Sylvester, the vice president of
acquisition policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, said of the new
guidelines. “We’ve got a number of good things in there.”
As part of the cost-saving plan, Mr. Gates has also proposed closing a major
military command and reducing the number of generals and admirals.
Mr. Carter said at a briefing Tuesday that a “substantial fraction” of the $100
billion in savings could come from the contracting changes.
Mr. Gates said the department planned to increasingly turn to fixed-price
contracts, with incentive bonuses for good performance, instead of cost-plus
contracts, in which the government covered all the expenses and guaranteed
contractors a profit.
Under that type of fixed-price contract, the government and the contractor would
share equally in cost overruns. The Pentagon is finishing talks with Lockheed
Martin to shift to such a contract earlier than expected in the Joint Strike
Mr. Gates said that the new ballistic missile submarine, the long-range aerial
strike systems, an advanced combat vehicle for the Army and a presidential
helicopter could cost more than $200 billion over the next decades, and the new
approaches will be incorporated “right at the beginning as a firm requirement
for each new program.”
He said early estimates had placed the cost of each submarine at $7 billion, but
the department now projected it could build one for $5 billion.
Mr. Gates said he would also expand to the rest of the military a
preferred-supplier program started by the Navy to funnel more work to its best
But Mr. Gates and Mr. Carter sounded more hard-nosed in describing their efforts
to crack down on the service contractors, which supply things like gas and food
to intelligence analysts at a cost that has soared to $200 billion a year.
Mr. Carter said the Pentagon’s own track record was “even worse” in managing
those contracts than the ones for weapons.
September 12, 2010
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — The global economic recession significantly pushed down
purchases of weapons last year to the lowest level since 2005, a new government
study has found.
The report to Congress concluded that the value of worldwide arms deals in 2009
was $57.5 billion, a drop of 8.5 percent from 2008.
While the United States maintained its role as the world’s leading supplier of
weapons, officials nonetheless saw the value of its arms trade sharply decline
in 2009. This was in contrast to 2008, when the United States increased the
value of its weapons sales despite a drop in business for competitors in the
global arms bazaar.
For 2009, the United States signed arms deals worth $22.6 billion — a dominating
39 percent of the worldwide market. Even so, that sales figure was down from
$38.1 billion in 2008, which had been a surprising increase over the $25.7
billion in 2007 that defied sluggish economic trends.
The decrease in American weapons sales in 2009 was caused by a pause in major
orders from clients in the Middle East and Asia, which had pumped up the value
of contracts the year before. At the same time, there were fewer support and
services contracts signed with American defense firms last year, the study said.
Russia was a distant second in worldwide weapons sales in 2009, concluding $10.4
billion in arms deals, followed by France, with $7.4 billion in contracts. Other
leading arms traders included Germany, Italy, China and Britain.
The annual report was produced by the nonpartisan Congressional Research
Service, a division of the Library of Congress. The analysis, regarded as the
most detailed collection of unclassified global arms sales data available to the
public, was delivered to members of the House and Senate over the weekend in
advance of their return to work on Monday after the summer recess.
The decline in new weapons sales worldwide in 2009 was caused by government
decisions “to defer the purchase of major systems” in a period of “severe
international recession,” wrote Richard F. Grimmett, a specialist in
international security at the Congressional Research Service and the author of
The recession did not halt military modernization and improvements, as nations
sought to make their armed forces more lethal despite tight budgets.
“Some nations chose to focus on completing the integration into their militaries
of major weapons systems they had already purchased,” Mr. Grimmett wrote. Other
nations, according to the study, focused available military money on smaller
contracts for “training and support services, as well as selective upgrades of
existing weapons systems.”
Mr. Grimmett said that while the global recession slowed overall weapons sales,
“The international arms market is still very competitive,” with major
weapons-producing nations battling over traditional clients and seeking new
buyers in emerging markets.
To that end, the study focuses in particular on the category of weapons sales to
the developing world, which totaled $45.1 billion of the overall arms trade in
2009, a drop from $48.8 billion in 2008.
In 2009, Brazil was the top weapons buyer in the developing world, concluding
$7.2 billion in purchase contracts, followed by Venezuela with $6.4 billion in
purchases and Saudi Arabia with $4.3 billion. Other major arms buyers last year
were Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Egypt, Vietnam, India and Kuwait.
Over much of the past decade, Saudi Arabia, China, India and the United Arab
Emirates have been among the largest weapons purchasers in this category.
The United States led not only in global arms sales, but also in the category of
weapons contracts to the developing world, signing deals worth $17.4 billion in
arms to these nations in 2009. Russia was second, followed by France.
“Relationships between arms suppliers and recipients continue to evolve in the
21st century in response to changing political, military and economic
circumstances,” Mr. Grimmett concluded. “Where before the principal motivation
for arms sales by foreign suppliers might have been to support a foreign policy
objective, today that motivation may be based as much on economic
The study uses figures in 2009 dollars, with amounts for previous years adjusted
for inflation to give a constant financial measurement.
Finally, the truth can be told. The United States has officially announced
that it has 5,113 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, plus “several thousand” more
waiting to be dismantled. The totals are so close to the unofficial estimates
that have been publicly circulating for years, you might wonder what all the
excitement is about.
American intelligence officials long argued that disclosing the numbers would
help terrorists calculate the minimum fuel needed for a weapon. If that was ever
true, it is certainly out of date. Reputable Web sites already reveal that
American weapons designers need around 4 kilograms of plutonium, or about 8.8
The fact that these nonsecrets were jealously guarded for so long shows the
stubborn cold war mind-set of the nuclear, defense and intelligence
bureaucracies. President Obama should be commended for breaking with this
anachronism. It will help bolster American credibility as he presses to curb the
further spread of nuclear weapons.
The numbers show how far the United States has come in shrinking a nuclear
arsenal that reached a peak of 31,255 weapons in 1967. The 5,113 means a
reduction of 84 percent, but still far more than is needed to deter any threat.
The United States and Russia (which is estimated to have thousands more weapons
in reserve than the United States) need to make even deeper cuts. But after
years of inaction under President George W. Bush, who disdained arms treaties,
the trend is better.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran was still at his blustering best this
week. Despite the fact that his country hid its nuclear efforts for years and
was recently caught hiding another banned enrichment plant, he told an audience
at the United Nations that Washington is the “main suspect” fostering a nuclear
arms race. Mr. Obama’s decision to disclose, and the numbers, took some of the
wind out of that.
April 22, 2010
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER and THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — In coming years, President Obama will decide whether to deploy a
new class of weapons capable of reaching any corner of the earth from the United
States in under an hour and with such accuracy and force that they would greatly
diminish America’s reliance on its nuclear arsenal.
Yet even now, concerns about the technology are so strong that the Obama
administration has acceded to a demand by Russia that the United States
decommission one nuclear missile for every one of these conventional weapons
fielded by the Pentagon. That provision, the White House said, is buried deep
inside the New Start treaty that Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev
signed in Prague two weeks ago.
Called Prompt Global Strike, the new weapon is designed to carry out tasks like
picking off Osama bin Laden in a cave, if the right one could be found; taking
out a North Korean missile while it is being rolled to the launch pad; or
destroying an Iranian nuclear site — all without crossing the nuclear threshold.
In theory, the weapon will hurl a conventional warhead of enormous weight at
high speed and with pinpoint accuracy, generating the localized destructive
power of a nuclear warhead.
The idea is not new: President George W. Bush and his staff promoted the
technology, imagining that this new generation of conventional weapons would
replace nuclear warheads on submarines.
In face-to-face meetings with President Bush, Russian leaders complained that
the technology could increase the risk of a nuclear war, because Russia would
not know if the missiles carried nuclear warheads or conventional ones. Mr. Bush
and his aides concluded that the Russians were right.
Partly as a result, the idea “really hadn’t gone anywhere in the Bush
administration,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has served both
presidents, said recently on ABC’s “This Week.” But he added that it was
“embraced by the new administration.”
Mr. Obama himself alluded to the concept in a recent interview with The New York
Times, saying it was part of an effort “to move towards less emphasis on nuclear
weapons” while insuring “that our conventional weapons capability is an
effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”
The Obama national security team scrapped the idea of putting the new
conventional weapon on submarines. Instead, the White House has asked Congress
for about $250 million next year to explore a new alternative, one that uses
some of the most advanced technology in the military today as well as some not
yet even invented.
The final price of the system remains unknown. Senator John McCain of Arizona,
the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing
on Thursday that Prompt Global Strike would be “essential and critical, but also
It would be based, at least initially, on the West Coast, probably at Vandenberg
Air Force Base.
Under the Obama plan, the Prompt Global Strike warhead would be mounted on a
long-range missile to start its journey toward a target. It would travel through
the atmosphere at several times the speed of sound, generating so much heat that
it would have to be shielded with special materials to avoid melting. (In that
regard, it is akin to the problem that confronted designers of the space shuttle
But since the vehicle would remain within the atmosphere rather than going into
space, it would be far more maneuverable than a ballistic missile, capable of
avoiding the airspace of neutral countries, for example, or steering clear of
hostile territory. Its designers note that it could fly straight up the middle
of the Persian Gulf before making a sharp turn toward a target.
The Pentagon hopes to deploy an early version of the system by 2014 or 2015. But
even under optimistic timetables, a complete array of missiles, warheads,
sensors and control systems is not expected to enter the arsenal until 2017 to
2020, long after Mr. Obama will have left office, even if he is elected to a
The planning for Prompt Global Strike is being headed by Gen. Kevin P. Chilton
of the Air Force, the top officer of the military’s Strategic Command and the
man in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal. In the Obama era — where every
administration discussion of nuclear weapons takes note of Mr. Obama’s
commitment to moving toward “Global Zero,” the elimination of the nuclear
arsenal — the new part of General Chilton’s job is to talk about conventional
In an interview at his headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, General Chilton
described how the conventional capability offered by the proposed system would
give the president more choices.
“Today, we can present some conventional options to the president to strike a
target anywhere on the globe that range from 96 hours, to several hours maybe,
4, 5, 6 hours,” General Chilton said.
That would simply not be fast enough, he noted, if intelligence arrived about a
movement by Al Qaeda terrorists or the imminent launching of a missile. “If the
president wants to act on a particular target faster than that, the only thing
we have that goes faster is a nuclear response,” he said.
But the key to filling that gap is to make sure that Russia and China, among
other nuclear powers, understand that the missile launching they see on their
radar screens does not signal the start of a nuclear attack, officials said.
Under the administration’s new concept, Russia or other nations would regularly
inspect the Prompt Global Strike silos to assure themselves that the weapons
were nonnuclear. And they would be placed in locations far from the strategic
“Who knows if we would ever deploy it?” Gary Samore, Mr. Obama’s top adviser on
unconventional weapons, said at a conference in Washington on Wednesday. But he
noted that Russia was already so focused on the possibility that it insisted
that any conventional weapon mounted on a missile that could reach it counted
against the new limit on the American arsenal in the treaty.
In a follow-on treaty, he said, the Russians would certainly want to negotiate
on Prompt Global Strike and ballistic missile defenses.
If Mr. Obama does decide to deploy the system, Mr. Samore said, the number of
weapons would be small enough that Russia and China would not fear that they
could take out their nuclear arsenals.
Every four years the White House issues a “nuclear posture
review.” That may sound like an anachronism. It isn’t. In a world where the
United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons — and Iran,
North Korea and others have seemingly unquenchable nuclear appetites — what the
United States says about its arsenal matters enormously.
President Obama’s review was due to Congress in December. That has been delayed,
in part because of administration infighting. The president needs to get this
right. It is his chance to finally jettison cold war doctrine and bolster
America’s credibility as it presses to rein in Iran, North Korea and other
Mr. Obama has already committed rhetorically to the vision of a world without
nuclear weapons. But we are concerned that some of his advisers, especially at
the Pentagon, are resisting his bold ambitions. He needs to stick with the ideas
he articulated in his campaign and in speeches last year in Prague and at the
These are some of the important questions the posture review must address:
THEIR PURPOSE: Current doctrine gives nuclear weapons a “critical role” in
defending the United States and its allies. And it suggests they could be used
against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces — not
just nuclear arms. Mr. Obama’s aides have proposed changing that to say that the
“primary” purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack against the
United States or its allies. This still invites questions about whether
Washington values — and might use — nuclear forces against non-nuclear targets.
Given America’s vast conventional military superiority, broader uses are neither
realistic nor necessary. Any ambiguity undercuts Washington’s credibility when
it argues that other countries have no strategic reason to develop their own
nuclear arms. The sole purpose of American nuclear forces should be to deter a
nuclear attack against this country or its allies.
HOW MANY: President George W. Bush disdained arms control as old think, and
Washington and Moscow have not signed an arms reduction treaty since 2002. Mr.
Obama launched negotiations on a new agreement that would slash the number of
warheads each side has deployed from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675. The talks
are dragging on, but there is hope for an agreement soon. Both sides should go
The review should make clear that the United States is ready to move, as a next
step, down to 1,000 deployed warheads — military experts say half that number is
enough to wipe out the assets of Russia, which is no longer an enemy. China, the
only major nuclear power adding to its arsenal, is estimated to have 100 to 200
warheads. The treaty being negotiated says nothing about the nearly 15,000
warheads, in total, that the United States and Russia keep as backups — the
so-called hedge. And it says nothing about America’s 500 short-range nuclear
weapons, which are considered secure, or Russia’s 3,000 or more, which are
chillingly vulnerable to theft.
The review should make clear that there is no need for a huge hedge, and that
tactical weapons have an utter lack of strategic value — as a prelude to
reducing both. Certainly no general we know of could imagine exploding a warhead
on a battlefield. Today’s greatest nuclear danger is that terrorists will steal
or build a weapon. That is best countered by halting proliferation and securing
and reducing stockpiles and other material.
NEW WEAPONS: The United States built its last new warhead in 1989. So when aides
to President George W. Bush called for building new weapons, with new designs
and new capabilities, it opened this country to charges of hypocrisy and double
standards when it demanded that North Korea and Iran end their nuclear programs.
Mr. Obama has said that this country does not need new weapons. But we are
concerned the review will open the door to just that by directing the labs to
study options — including a new weapons design — for maintaining the arsenal.
The government has a strong and hugely expensive system for ensuring that the
stockpile is safe and reliable. Mr. Obama has already vastly increased the labs’
budgets. The review should make clear that there is no need for a new weapon.
ALERT LEVELS: The United States and Russia each still have about 1,000 weapons
ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Mr. Obama has rightly described this as a
dangerous cold war relic. The review should commit to taking as many of those
forces off hair-trigger alert as possible — and encourage Russia to do the same.
In April, Mr. Obama will host a much needed summit meeting on the need to better
secure nuclear material from terrorists. In May, Washington will encourage a
United Nations-led conference to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,
the bedrock, and battered, agreement for curbing the spread of nuclear arms.
President Obama will also have to persuade the Senate to ratify the Start
follow-on treaty, and we hope he will quickly press the Senate to approve the
test ban treaty. He is also working with allies to revive nuclear talks with
North Korea and to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. Getting the nuclear posture
review right is essential for moving all of this ahead.
March 31, 2009
Thez New York Times
By CHRISTOPHER DREW
Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 largest weapons
programs were over budget last year, for a combined total of $296 billion more
than the original estimates, a Congressional auditing agency reported Monday.
The findings, compiled by the Government Accountability Office, seemed likely to
add to the pressure on officials to make sizable cuts in the most troubled
programs as they work out the details of a proposed $664 billion defense budget
for fiscal 2010.
President Obama has said that the “days of giving defense contractors a blank
check are over.” Pentagon officials have said they will finish putting together
a list of proposed cuts in April.
In a letter to Congress, Gene L. Dodaro, the acting comptroller general for the
G.A.O., an auditing agency, said that while there had been modest improvements
in the last year, the Pentagon’s management of the contracts remained poor, and
cost overruns were “still staggering.”
The accountability office reported that the programs were behind schedule by an
average of 22 months, up from 21 months last year and 18 months in 2003.
The office had previously said that the cost of a similar portfolio of programs
had risen by $295 billion through 2007, or $301 billion when adjusted for
In the report released on Monday, the G.A.O. said the Pentagon often had to
reduce the number of planes and ships it could buy.
The report said, for instance, that the cost of 10 of the largest weapons
systems was running 32 percent higher than projected, and the quantities that
could be purchased had been cut.
Some programs, like the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet and the Army’s Future
Combat System, are among the systems that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has
said he is scrutinizing.
According to the G.A.O., the F-22, which was designed in the 1980s, was
originally expected to cost $88 billion in 2009 dollars for 648 planes. The
program is now expected to cost $73.7 billion for the 184 planes.
Some military analysts say they believe that Mr. Gates will recommend canceling
the plane, or buying fewer planes than the Air Force wants.
But the G.A.O. also said the Pentagon had done a better job of managing some
In a response to the office, John J. Young Jr., the Pentagon’s top acquisition
official, said department officials had “instituted several major changes that
are beginning to show results.”
Mr. Young also noted that in some cases, the cost growth was not a result of
overruns but of program expansions. And in others, delays were ordered by top
Pentagon officials or Congress as part of budgeting trade-offs.
November 3, 2008
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER and CHRISTOPHER DREW
WASHINGTON — After years of unfettered growth in military
budgets, Defense Department planners, top commanders and weapons manufacturers
now say they are almost certain that the financial meltdown will have a serious
impact on future Pentagon spending.
Across the military services, deep apprehension has led to closed-door meetings
and detailed calculations in anticipation of potential cuts. Civilian and
military budget planners concede that they are already analyzing worst-case
contingency spending plans that would freeze or slash their overall budgets.
The obvious targets for savings would be expensive new arms programs, which have
racked up cost overruns of at least $300 billion for the top 75 weapons systems,
according to the Government Accountability Office. Congressional budget experts
say likely targets for reductions are the Army’s plans for fielding advanced
combat systems, the Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighter, the Navy’s new destroyer
and the ground-based missile defense system.
Even before the crisis on Wall Street, senior Pentagon officials were
anticipating little appetite for growth in military spending after seven years
of war. But the question of how to pay for national security now looms as a
significant challenge for the next president, at a time when the Pentagon’s
annual base budget for standard operations has reached more than $500 billion,
the highest level since World War II when adjusted for inflation.
On top of that figure, supplemental spending for the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan has topped $100 billion each year, frustrating Republicans as well
as Democrats in Congress. In all, the Defense Department now accounts for half
of the government’s total discretionary spending, and Pentagon and military
officials fear it could be the choice for major cuts to pay the rest of the
On the presidential campaign trail, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have
pledged to cut fat without carving into the muscle of national security. Both
have said they would protect the overall level of military spending; Mr. McCain
has further pledged to add more troops to the roster of the armed services
beyond the 92,000 now advocated by the Pentagon, a growth endorsed by Mr. Obama.
Some critics, citing the increase in military spending since Sept. 11, 2001, say
it would be much easier to cut military spending than programs like Social
Security and Medicare at a time when most people’s retirement savings are
dwindling because of the financial crisis. Representative Barney Frank, the
Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services
Committee, has raised the idea of reducing military spending by one-quarter.
At the Pentagon, senior officials have taken up the mission of urging sustained
military spending. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has
asked Congress and the nation to pledge at least 4 percent of the gross domestic
product to the military. And Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned
against repeating historic trends, in which the nation cut money for the armed
services after a period of warfare.
“We basically gutted our military after World War I, after World War II, in
certain ways after Korea, certainly after Vietnam and after the end of the cold
war,” Mr. Gates said. “Experience is the ability to recognize a mistake when you
make it again.”
Mr. Gates acknowledges that military spending is almost certain to level off,
and he expressed a goal that the Pentagon budget at least keep pace with
inflation over coming years.
Apprehension over potential budget cuts has trickled down the Pentagon
bureaucracy to those who each year draft the military’s spending proposals.
“If that’s what they want, they have to know that we simply cannot do everything
we are doing now, but for less money,” said one Pentagon budget officer who was
not authorized to speak for attribution. “So if there’s going to be less, it’s
up to the president, Congress and the public to tell us what part of our
national security mission we should stop carrying out.”
Much of the Pentagon budget pays for personnel costs, which are difficult to cut
at any time, and particularly while troops are risking their lives in combat.
Mr. Obama has said his plan to begin drawing down American forces from Iraq
would ease a wartime taxpayer burden that now totals over $10 billion a month.
But budget analysts at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill say that even troop
reductions in Iraq — whether at the cautious pace laid out by President Bush and
endorsed by Mr. McCain or at the more rapid pace prescribed by Mr. Obama — would
present little savings in the first years.
Moving tens of thousands of troops and their heavy equipment home from the
Persian Gulf region is a costly undertaking. And housing at stateside bases is
more expensive than in the war zone, so savings would be seen only in subsequent
Calls by both presidential candidates to shift troops from Iraq to Afghanistan
actually would add costs to the Pentagon budget, according to military planners
and Congressional budget experts. It is significantly more expensive to sustain
each soldier in Afghanistan than in Iraq because of Afghanistan’s landlocked
location and primitive road network.
The federal budget is due to Congress in February, but that document is expected
to be little more than an outline, arriving soon after Inauguration Day.
Congressional officials predict the new president will require several months to
put his imprint on a detailed spending plan that would actually be worth
debating on Capitol Hill.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama has said he would initially maintain overall
military spending at current levels.
“Obama has made it very clear that he doesn’t see how the defense budget can be
cut now given the commitments we have,” said F. Whitten Peters, a former Air
Force secretary now advising Mr. Obama on national security policies. “His sense
is that there is not money to be cut from the defense budget in the near term.”
But in looking to future Pentagon budgets, he added, it is clear that “all the
weapons programs cannot fit.”
“So,” he continued, “you’re going to have to make some hard decisions.”
Mr. McCain, a former Navy combat pilot who was taken prisoner during the war in
Vietnam, is known for taking on what he has seen as wasteful Pentagon spending.
According to one of his advisers on military policy, Mr. McCain “feels very
strongly that the whole procurement process is totally dysfunctional.”
“He believes that putting order, discipline and accountability back into the
process will stop the gold-plating and bring costs down,” said the adviser, who
asked not to be named in order to discuss the candidate’s views frankly.
These budget pressures also seem quite likely to add to the tensions between
Congress and the Pentagon over the best balance between supporting the troops
fighting insurgencies and developing weapons that might be needed in larger
“I think we need a complete review of this whole thing,” said Representative
Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat from Hawaii who is chairman of a House Armed
Services subcommittee. “You cannot make a case for undermining the readiness of
the Army and the Marines in the circumstances that we face today with a
commitment of so much money to weapons systems that are at best abstract and
Executives at the leading defense contractors say they realize that the
Pentagon’s spending is likely to be more restrained. Boeing’s chief executive,
W. James McNerney Jr., recently wrote in a note to his employees: “No one really
yet knows when or to what extent defense spending could be affected. But it’s
unrealistic to think there won’t be some measure of impact.”
Ronald D. Sugar, the chief executive of Northrop Grumman, told stock analysts
last month that financing for the company’s projects seemed locked in for the
coming year. But, Mr. Sugar added, “Clearly the pressures are going to increase
in the out years.”
A number of scholars who have examined the subject, including David C.
Hendrickson, a political scientist at Colorado College, predict that “defense
will not prove to be ‘recession proof.’ ”
“Serious savings could be had by reducing force structure and limiting
modernization,” said Professor Hendrickson, who posted a “blogbook” on the
financial crisis at pictorial-guide-to-crisis.blogspot.com. “Though American
power has weakened on every count, there is no reconsideration of objectives.
Defining a coherent philosophy in foreign affairs and defense strategy that is
respectful of limits is vital.”
Other analysts, like Loren B. Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a policy
research center, say that weapons spending will be fiercely defended by many in
Congress and their allies in the weapons industry as a way to stimulate the
economy. Buying new armaments and repairing worn-out weapons, Mr. Thompson said,
protects jobs and corporate profits, and therefore benefits the economy over
The New York Times
By ERIC LIPTON
— The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons
deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran,
and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies.
From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft
and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year
to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military
equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.
The trend, which started in 2006, is most pronounced in the Middle East, but it
reaches into northern Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and even Canada,
through dozens of deals that senior Bush administration officials say they are
confident will both tighten military alliances and combat terrorism.
“This is not about being gunrunners,” said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy
under secretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. “This is
about building a more secure world.”
The surging American arms sales reflect the foreign policy tides, including the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader campaign against international
terrorism, that have dominated the Bush administration. Deliveries on orders now
being placed will continue for several years, perhaps as one of President Bush’s
most lasting legacies.
The United States is far from the only country pushing sophisticated weapons
systems: it is facing intense competition from Russia and elsewhere in Europe,
including continuing contests for multibillion-dollar deals to sell fighter jets
to India and Brazil.
In that booming market, American military contractors are working closely with
the Pentagon, which acts as a broker and procures arms for foreign customers
through its Foreign Military Sales program.
Less sophisticated weapons, and services to maintain these weapons systems, are
often bought directly by foreign governments. That category of direct commercial
sales has seen an enormous surge as well, as measured by export licenses issued
this fiscal year covering an estimated $96 billion, up from $58 billion in 2005,
according to the State Department, which must approve the licenses.
About 60 countries get annual military aid from the United States, $4.5 billion
a year, to help them buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80
percent of that aid. The United States has also recently given Iraq and
Afghanistan large amounts of weapons and other equipment and has begun to train
fledgling military units at no charge; this assistance is included in the tally
of foreign sales. But most arms exports are paid for by the purchasers without
United States financing.
The growing tally of international weapon deals, which started to surge in 2006,
is now provoking questions among some advocates of arms control and some members
“Sure, this is a quick and easy way to cement alliances,” said William D.
Hartung, an arms control specialist at the New America Foundation, a public
policy institute. “But this is getting out of hand.”
Congress is notified before major arms sales deals are completed between foreign
governments and the Pentagon. While lawmakers have the power to object formally
and block any individual sale, they rarely use it.
Representative Howard L. Berman of California, chairman of the House Committee
on Foreign Affairs, said he supported many of the individual weapons sales, like
helping Iraq build the capacity to defend itself, but he worried that the sales
blitz could have some negative effects. “This could turn into a spiraling arms
race that in the end could decrease stability,” he said.
The United States has long been the top arms supplier to the world. In the past
several years, however, the list of nations that rely on the United States as a
primary source of major weapons systems has greatly expanded. Among the recent
additions are Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Georgia, India, Iraq, Morocco and
Pakistan, according to sales data through the end of last month provided by the
Department of Defense. Cumulatively, these countries signed $870 million worth
of arms deals with the United States from 2001 to 2004. For the past four fiscal
years, that total has been $13.8 billion.
In many cases, these sales represent a cultural shift, as nations like Romania,
Poland and Morocco, which have long relied on Russian-made MIG-17 fighter jets,
are now buying new F-16s, built by Lockheed Martin.
At Lockheed Martin, one of the largest American military contractors,
international sales last year brought in about $6.3 billion, or 15 percent of
the company’s total sales, up from $4.8 billion in 2001. The foreign sales by
Lockheed and other American military contractors are credited with helping keep
alive some production lines, like those of the F-16 fighter jet and Boeing’s
C-17 transport plane.
Fighter jets made in America will now be flying in other countries for years to
come, meaning continued profits for American contractors that maintain them, and
in many cases regular interaction between the United States military and foreign
air forces, Mr. Lemkin, the Air Force official, said.
Sales are also being driven by the push by many foreign nations to join the
once-exclusive club of countries whose arsenals include precise, laser-guided
missiles, high-priced American technology that the United States displayed
during its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the Persian Gulf region, much of the rearmament is driven by fears of Iran.
The United Arab Emirates, for example, are considering spending as much as $16
billion on American-made missile defense systems, according to recent
notifications sent to Congress by the Department of Defense.
The Emirates also have announced an intention to order offensive weapons,
including up to 26 Black Hawk helicopters and 900 Longbow Hellfire II missiles,
which can knock out enemy tanks.
Saudi Arabia, this fiscal year alone, has signed at least $6 billion worth of
agreements to buy weapons from the United States government — the highest figure
for that country since 1993, which was another peak year in American weapons
sales, after the first Persian Gulf war.
Israel, long a major buyer of United States military equipment, is also
increasing its orders, including planned purchases of perhaps as many as four
American-made coastal warships, worth $1.9 billion.
In Asia, as North Korea has conducted tests of a long-range missile, American
allies have been buying more United States equipment. One ally, South Korea, has
signed sales agreements with the Pentagon this year worth $1.1 billion.
So far, the value of foreign arms deliveries completed by the United States has
increased only modestly, reaching $13 billion last year compared with an average
of $12 billion over the previous three years. Because complex weapons systems
take a long time to produce, it is expected that the increase in sales
agreements will result in much greater arms deliveries in the coming years. (All
dollar amounts for previous years cited in this article have been adjusted to
reflect the impact of inflation.)
The flood of sophisticated American military equipment pouring into the Middle
East has evoked concern among some members of Congress, who fear that the Bush
administration may be compromising the military edge Israel has long maintained
in the region.
Not surprisingly, two of the biggest new American arms customers are Iraq and
Just in the past two years, Iraq has signed more than $3 billion of sales
agreements — and announced plans to buy perhaps as much as $7 billion more in
American equipment, financed by its rising oil revenues.
Lt. Col. Almarah Belk, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said that making these sales
served the interests of both Iraq and the United States because “it reduces the
risk of corruption and assists the Iraqis in getting around bottlenecks in their
Over the past three years, the United States government, separately, has agreed
to buy more than $10 billion in military equipment and weapons on behalf of
Afghanistan, according to Defense Department records, including M-16 rifles and
C-27 military transport aircraft.
Even tiny countries like Estonia and Latvia are getting into the mix, playing a
part in a collaborative effort by 15 countries, mostly in Europe, to buy two
C-17 Boeing transport planes, which are used in moving military supplies as well
as conducting relief missions.
Boeing has delivered 176 of these $200 million planes to the United States. But
until 2006, Britain was the only foreign country that flew them. Now, in
addition to the European consortium, Canada, Australia and Qatar have put in
orders, and Boeing is competing to sell the plane to six other countries, said
Tommy Dunehew, Boeing’s C-17 international sales manager.
In the last year, foreign sales have made up nearly half of the production at
the California plant where C-17s are made. “It has been filling up the factory
in the last couple of years,” Mr. Dunehew said.
Even before this new round of sales got under way, the United States’ share of
the world arms trade was rising, from 40 percent of arms deliveries in 2000 to
nearly 52 percent in 2006, the latest year for which the Congressional Research
Service has compiled data. The next-largest seller was Russia, which in 2006
accounted for 21 percent of global deliveries.
Representative Berman, who sponsored a bill passed in May to overhaul the arms
export process, said American military sales, while often well intended, were
sometimes misguided. He cited military sales to Pakistan, which he said he
feared were doing more to stoke tensions with India than combat terrorism in the
Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and
Nonproliferation, a Washington research group, said one of his biggest worries
was that if alliances shifted, the United States might eventually be in combat
against an enemy equipped with American-made weapons. Arms sales have had
unintended consequences before, as when the United States armed militants
fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, only to eventually confront hostile Taliban
fighters armed with the same weapons there.
“Once you sell arms to another country, you lose control over how they are
used,” Mr. Sharp said. “And the weapons, unfortunately, don’t have an expiration
But Mr. Lemkin, of the Pentagon, said that with so many nations now willing to
sell advanced weapons systems, the United States could not afford to be too
restrictive in its own sales.
“Would you rather they bought the weapons and aircraft from other countries?” he
said. “Because they will.”
111 nations, including major NATO allies, adopted a treaty that sets an
eight-year deadline to eliminate stockpiles of cluster arms — pernicious weapons
that scatter thousands of small bombs across a wide area, where they pose a
long-term deadly threat to innocents. The Bush administration not only failed to
sign the treaty but vigorously opposed it.
After marching in lockstep for years, even Britain broke with America’s position
and agreed to withdraw its weapons from use. That dealt a much-needed blow to
Washington’s long-standing opposition to this sort of sensible arms control, and
in particular to this treaty-averse administration.
The campaign to ban cluster munitions, pressed by human rights activists, never
attained quite the high profile of the one to ban land mines, a treaty that
Washington also refused to sign. But the two weapons have this in common: Both
wreak more damage on civilians than soldiers and present a threat long after war
Cluster munitions, fired from aircraft or artillery, spray small “bomblets” over
an expanse the size of two or three football fields. Many do not explode on
impact but can be easily triggered by unsuspecting civilians. The most appalling
of these devices can look like a desired object — a can of food or a toy.
No one has more invested in cluster munitions than the United States, which
Human Rights Watch says has been the largest producer, stockpiler and user,
using them in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Others that have used
them include Britain, France, Sudan, NATO, Israel and Hezbollah.
United States officials insist the Pentagon must have such munitions. That is
what the Clinton administration said when it opposed the land-mine treaty in
1997. It is a weak argument: cluster bombs are weapons for conventional wars
with conventional battlefields. America is less likely to fight big conventional
wars than counterinsurgency conflicts in population centers, no place for
munitions that kill indiscriminately.
As the main holdout, the United States gives cover to countries like Russia and
China, which also rejected the ban. The treaty is weaker for it: together, these
three nations have more than a billion cluster munitions stockpiled, far more
than the number of weapons expected to be destroyed. Also weakening the pact is
a loophole that will let America continue military cooperation with treaty
signers, even if it uses cluster munitions.
At least this treaty, like the land-mine ban, will stigmatize cluster munitions
and make it harder to use them. Since the land-mine treaty entered into force,
experts say more than 40 million have been destroyed, trade in land mines has
virtually ended, and in 2007 only two countries — Russia and Myanmar — used
them. The United States has paid $1.2 billion (more than any other nation) to
defuse land mines and clean up war zones.
Modern nations need a range of weapons to protect their legitimate interests.
Cluster munitions that disproportionately harm civilians are not among them.
President Bush must resist the temptation to further sabotage this worthy treaty
and let it take effect. It is not clear where the candidates stand on the
treaty, but the next president, whoever it is, should repudiate Mr. Bush’s
opposition and sign it.
Monday, 19 May 2008
The New York Times
By Kim Sengupta
The British Government is accused of being the chief obstacle to the signing of
a treaty to ban cluster bombs, which have maimed and killed thousands of
Countries that have suffered the impact of the bombs, humanitarian groups and
former commanders of British forces have called for the UK to drop its
insistence on retaining cluster munitions, a stance, they say, that is likely to
scupper hopes of securing an agreement at an international conference starting
in Dublin today.
More than 100 countries are taking part in the talks. Delegates will point out
that the vast majority of cluster bomb victims are non-combatants. Opponents of
the weapon received the backing yesterday of Pope Benedict XVI, who called for a
"strong and credible" treaty to end their use.
The two sets of weapons at the heart of the argument are the M85 and the M73,
munitions fired, respectively, by artillery and rockets. British officials claim
these are "smart" weapons which minimise the risk of "collateral damage" and are
essential for military operations. The M85 is meant to self destruct and not
pose a lingering threat to civilians. However, according to the United Nations,
300 civilians were killed or injured in Lebanon, where Israel used the weapons
An Apache helicopter can launch 684 M73 bomblets in one attack. They were used
by the Americans in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Their use was criticised by US
forces, who had to negotiate unexploded cluster munitions on their way to
Baghdad. The first two British soldiers killed in Kosovo were casualties of Nato
cluster bombs they had been trying to clear. Senior Foreign Office sources said
the UK was not prepared to give up the M73 and the system was "non-negotiable".
There was said to be flexibility over the M85, but the Ministry of Defence is
expected to resist losing them.
The UK is said to be under strong pressure from the Americans – who are not
taking part in the Dublin talks – to resist signing up to banning cluster bombs.
Defence officials in London say a range of issues is at stake, including
munitions stored at US bases in Britain, and the legal status of British
soldiers serving alongside Americans where the US may use cluster weapons.
There are said to be divisions within the Government over the Dublin summit.
Lord Malloch Brown, Foreign Office minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, is
reported to have said he would be "uncomfortable" about a compromise that leaves
some cluster bombs in the UK arsenal. The Environment Secretary, Hillary Benn,
favours an overall ban.
Campaigners say the Government must live up to Gordon Brown's promise last year
"to work internationally for a ban" on weapons that cause unacceptable harm to
civilians. "Insisting on keeping some weapons and saying they are not negotiable
is a deal breaker," said Simon Conway, a former British Army soldier who is
director of the pressure group Landmine Action. "The position of the UK is a
huge stumbling block to achieving a comprehensive treaty. Des Browne, the
Defence Secretary, has told me himself that he did not believe the M73 was
appropriate for counter-insurgency operations."
Lord Ramsbotham, a fomer British Army general and chief inspector of prisons, is
among a number of distinguished senior officers, including General Sir Rupert
Smith, General Patrick Cordingley and Field Marshal Lord Brammall, who have
asked the Government to sign the treaty. Lord Ramsbotham, who flew to
Afghanistan yesterday as part of a parliamentary delegation, said: "I am going
to ask the commanders there whether they intend to use cluster weapons and I
would be very surprised if the answer is 'yes'. There are moral objections to
using cluster munitions, but tactical ones as well. They were designed to stop
Soviet armour in the Cold War. There is no place for them in the type of warfare
we are seeing now."
(Reuters) - Six U.S. soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a house rigged with
explosives blew up north of Baghdad during a new U.S.-Iraqi offensive targeting
al Qaeda guerrillas in Iraq, the U.S. military said.
It was one of the highest daily death tolls for U.S. troops in Iraq for months
and followed the deaths of three soldiers in the operation a day earlier. More
than 3,900 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in
The military gave few details of the incident but said the six soldiers were
killed by a "house-borne improvised explosive device" during operations on
Wednesday in Diyala, a volatile province north of Baghdad that is a hotbed of al
The three other soldiers were killed in Salahuddin province, also north of
Baghdad, another target area of the new U.S.-led offensive against al Qaeda that
was launched on Tuesday.
The commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, Major-General Mark Hertling told
a news conference in Baghdad that 24,000 U.S. troops and 50,000 Iraqi army
soldiers were participating in Operation Iron Harvest in four provinces north of
The operation is part of a wider offensive called Operation Phantom Phoenix,
which U.S. commanders announced on Tuesday in Baghdad and its southern outskirts
as well as the north.
Hertling said the main northern effort was in Diyala, an ethnically mixed and
volatile area which he said al Qaeda considered the capital of its Islamic
A brigade of about 5,000 U.S. troops and a division of Iraqis had launched
assaults near Muqdadiya in a fertile part of the Diyala River valley known as
the bread basket.
Hertling said they had run into lighter opposition than they expected, with
guerrillas apparently withdrawing from villages as the Americans advanced. He
said Iraqi military reports that about 20-30 militants had been killed "sound
U.S. forces say al Qaeda Sunni Arab militants have regrouped in northern Diyala,
Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces after being driven from western Anbar province
"The people that left Anbar and Baghdad have moved up into my area," Hertling,
whose northern area covers Diyala, Salahuddin, Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces,
told a briefing.
ADDITIONAL FORCES IN NORTH
Hertling said additional troops were being sent into his northern area, which in
previous years was a "force economy region" with a lighter U.S. contingent than
"I've got enough to do what we need to be doing right now," he said, declining
to give details on the additional forces.
U.S. forces have acknowledged an increase in so-called "spectacular" attacks --
mainly large-scale suicide bombings -- in recent weeks despite an overall
decline in violence.
Increasingly, strikes have hit volunteer security patrols, which U.S. forces
refer to as "concerned local citizens" and pay to guard neighbourhoods against
Hertling said five severed heads had been found on a road in Diyala with
warnings in Arabic written in blood on their foreheads that all volunteers would
share their fate.
"I think these spectacular attacks of suicide bombers and suicide vests are in
fact going to be AQI's Achilles' heel," he said, referring to al Qaeda in Iraq.
"They are going to continue to kill innocent people, and that in fact is what is
generating the concerned local citizens in the first place."
Northern provinces are also among the most ethnically and religiously diverse,
which Hertling said can lead to tension.
In Kirkuk bombers struck two churches on Wednesday, wounding three people and
causing damage to the buildings. Those strikes followed a campaign of seven
strikes on Christian targets in Baghdad and Mosul on Sunday, which wounded four
people in total.
The recent strikes on churches have so far hit when buildings were empty,
leaving few casualties but renewing fears of sectarian violence against Iraq's
small Christian community, about 3 percent of its 27 million mainly Muslim
(Writing by Peter Graff and Ross Colvin,
additional reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud
November 13, 2007
Filed at 12:51 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENEVA (AP) -- Delegates to a U.N. weapons conference agreed Tuesday to
negotiate a new accord regulating the use of cluster bombs -- but stopped short
of pursuing a legally binding treaty
The use of cluster bombs -- which typically scatter hundreds of small bomblets
over a wide area -- has come under growing criticism from Canada, the European
Union and others.
However, the United States, Russia and China insist the weapon has a legitimate
military purpose and have resisted a legally binding treaty on cluster bombs,
which are not explicitly regulated by the U.N. Convention on Conventional
Weapons, the CCW.
On Tuesday, diplomats from 102 nations agreed to ''negotiate a proposal to
address urgently the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions while striking a
balance between military and humanitarian considerations.''
European delegates said the outcome fell short of their expectations but
expressed hope for an eventual international ban the most dangerous cluster
''We see this as a wholly inadequate outcome,'' said Stephen Goose, executive
director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch and the London-based Cluster Munition Coalition said the only
way to forward now is outside the U.N. framework.
Cluster bombs -- produced in 34 countries around the world -- are only banned in
Austria, Belgium and Norway.
The weapon is used to cover an area the size of a football field with hundreds
of bomblets, some as small as a flashlight battery. They are intended to destroy
airfields or make terrain impassable for tanks and soldiers.
Experts say unexploded bomblets can detonate later at the slightest disturbance,
and children are attracted to the often brightly colored munitions, some with
small parachutes attached.
In June, the United States said it was willing to resume negotiations on the use
of cluster bombs, reversing its previous position that no new agreement on the
weapon was necessary. However, the U.S. said it was unwilling to negotiate a
October 1, 2007
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — The United States maintained its role as the leading
supplier of weapons to the developing world in 2006, followed by Russia and
Britain, according to a Congressional study to be released Monday. Pakistan,
India and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers.
global arms market is highly competitive, with manufacturing nations seeking
both to increase profits and to expand political influence through weapons sales
to developing nations, which reached nearly $28.8 billion in 2006.
That sales total was a slight drop from the 2005 figure of $31.8 billion, a
trend explained by the strain of rising fuel prices that prompted many
developing states — except those that produce oil — to choose upgrading current
arsenals over buying new weapons.
The report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,” was produced by
the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of
Congress, and presents a number of interesting observations linking arms sales
and global politics. For example, Russia has been a major supplier of weapons to
Iran in past years, including a $700 million deal for surface-to-air missiles in
But anxieties over Iran’s nuclear program can be seen as having deterred Moscow
from concluding significant new conventional arms deals with Iran in 2006, deals
that could be viewed as overly provocative while the Security Council debates
new sanctions on Iran.
At the same time, though, Russia continues to nurture an arms-trade relationship
that is deeply disturbing to the Bush administration, by signing weapons deals
with oil-rich Venezuela and its anti-American leader, Hugo Chávez.
The Russian agreements with Venezuela in 2006 included the sale of two dozen
Su-30 fighter jets valued at more than $1 billion, along with attack and
transport helicopters valued at more than $700 million.
Russia also sold Venezuela a large number of AK-series assault rifles in a deal
that included a pledge to build a factory in Venezuela to produce those rifles
and ammunition, together valued at more than $500 million.
“Venezuela’s populist president, Hugo Chávez, has taken a hostile approach to
relations with the United States in recent years,” wrote Richard F. Grimmett, a
specialist in national defense at the Congressional Research Service.
“Thus his decision to seek advanced military equipment from Russia is a matter
of U.S. concern,” Mr. Grimmett wrote in the report. “Chávez appears embarked on
an effort to make Venezuela an important military force in Latin America.”
The study makes clear also that the United States has signed weapons-sales
agreements with nations whose records on democracy and human rights are subject
to official criticism.
The announcement of major new arms agreements with Pakistan last year renewed
debate over whether the Bush administration was elevating its counterterrorism
priorities above its pledge to spread democracy around the world.
Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales in 2006, including the
$1.4 billion purchase of 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in
missiles and bombs. The deal included a package for $890 million in upgrades for
Pakistan’s older versions of the F-16.
At the same time, the State Department’s own survey of global human rights in
2006 noted a variety of shortcomings in Pakistan’s record on human rights and
But the Bush administration has argued that it is important to maintain the
support of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the broader counterterrorism fight, in
particular as Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders regroup in the rugged North-West
Frontier Province along the Afghan border.
In 2006, the United States agreed to sell $10.3 billion in weapons to the
developing world, or 35.8 percent of these deals worldwide, according to the
study. Russia was second with $8.1 billion, or 28.1 percent, and Britain was
third with $3.1 billion, or 10.8 percent.
Pakistan concluded $5.1 billion in agreements to buy arms in 2006. That total
was followed by India with $3.5 billion in agreements and Saudi Arabia with $3.2
billion in deals.
The combined value of arms sales worldwide to both developed and developing
nations in 2006 reached $40.3 billion, a decline of nearly 13 percent from 2005.
When combining totals for arms sales to developed and developing nations, the
ranking of world arms dealers remained the same. The United States led with
$16.9 billion, followed by Russia with $8.7 billion and Britain with $3.1
billion. The 2006 sales figures for all three nations were higher than their
totals in 2005.
China plays an interesting role in the arms market, being both a purchaser of
advanced air and naval weapons, from Russia, and as a supplier of less-expensive
arms to developing nations.
Mr. Grimmett’s study uses figures in 2006 dollars, with amounts for previous
years adjusted for inflation, to give a constant financial measurement.
August 30, 2007
The New York Times
By DAVID S. CLOUD and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 — Weapons that were originally given to Iraqi security
forces by the American military have been recovered over the past year by the
authorities in Turkey after being used in violent crimes in that country,
Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The discovery that serial numbers on pistols and other weapons recovered in
Turkey matched those distributed to Iraqi police units has prompted growing
concern by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that controls on weapons being
provided to Iraqis are inadequate. It was also a factor in the decision to
dispatch the department’s inspector general to Iraq next week to investigate the
problem, the officials said.
Pentagon officials said they did not yet have evidence that Iraqi security
forces or Kurdish officials were selling or giving the weapons to Kurdish
separatists, as Turkish officials have contended.
It was possible, they said, that the weapons had been stolen or lost during
firefights and smuggled into Turkey after being sold in Iraq’s extensive black
market for firearms. Officials gave widely varied estimates — from dozens to
hundreds — of how many American-supplied weapons had been found in Turkey.
Over the past year, inquiries by federal oversight agencies have found serious
discrepancies in military records of where thousands of weapons intended for
Iraqi security forces actually ended up.
The disclosure of the weapons in Turkey, part of those investigations, came on
the same day that the Army announced moves aimed at addressing a widening
scandal that has generated 76 criminal investigations involving contract fraud
in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Twenty civilians and military personnel have
been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries.
“The reports suggest we have serious issues in this area,” Army Secretary Pete
Geren told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the criminal inquiries and the
reported diversion of Iraqi weapons to Turkey were major reasons behind his
decision to take action now.
Mr. Gates sent the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, to Turkey
last month for talks with Turkish officials, who had been complaining for months
that American-supplied weapons were being used in murders and other violent
crimes carried out, in some cases, by Kurdish militants.
Turkey’s allegations that Iraq was being used as a sanctuary to carry out
attacks inside Turkey have strained relations between the Bush administration
and Ankara over the past six months, with Turkey not ruling out a military
intervention into northern Iraq to stop the activity.
American officials said that it appeared that the weapons found in Turkey were
given to Iraqi units in 2004 and 2005 when, in the rush to build police and army
units, controls on distribution of firearms had been much weaker. Gen. David H.
Petraeus, who was then in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces and who
is now the top American commander in Iraq, has said that the imperative to
provide weapons to Iraqi security forces was more important at the time than
maintaining impeccable records.
By checking serial numbers, American officials confirmed that some of the
recovered weapons, which included handguns made by Glock, an Austrian weapons
manufacturer, had originally been bought by the Defense Department for
distribution in Iraq, the officials said.
Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, said at a briefing on Wednesday that Mr.
Gates was “deeply troubled by the reports and allegations” about problems
accounting for American-supplied weapons in Iraq.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that the problem of weapons turning up in
Turkey was part of a larger investigation being carried out by the Pentagon
inspector general, Claude M. Kicklighter, a retired Army three-star general,
into allegations that American-supplied weapons had been improperly accounted
for and fallen into the wrong hands.
“General Kicklighter has informed the secretary that he will remain in-country
as long as it takes to find out if record-keeping problems persist, and if so,
make recommendations to the commanders on the ground how to fix those problems,”
Mr. Morrell said.
American officials added that they had not seen firm evidence that the firearms
had been found in the hands of Kurdish separatists from the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers Party, the hard-line Kurdish separatist group that for years has used
northern Iraq as a sanctuary to carry out attacks inside Turkey.
Turkish officials have complained in recent months that Kurdish officials in
senior positions in the Iraqi government, including Massoud Barzani, the
president of the Kurdistan region, are actively supporting the Kurdish Workers
Party, known as the PKK. Mr. Barzani and other Kurdish officials say they do not
support attacks by the PKK into Turkey.
At the Pentagon on Wednesday, Mr. Morrell said, “If American-issued weapons have
ended up in the hands of criminals in Turkey or terrorists in Turkey, that is
not based upon the policy of this department or this government.”
As the American authorities work to clamp down on any illicit flow of
American-supplied weapons to insurgents, Mr. Geren, the Army secretary,
announced that two new review panels would address immediate problems and
systemic shortcomings in the contracting system.
One panel of retired generals and civilian contracting experts, led by Jacques
Gansler, a former top Pentagon acquisition official, will examine the Army
contracting system and report back in 45 days how to improve its organization,
staffing levels, auditing ability and other functions to prevent fraud, waste
The second review, led by Lt. Gen. N. Ross Thompson III and Kathryn Condon, two
Army contracting specialists, will examine current operations, Mr. Geren said.
It will look for improprieties in the 18,000 contracts awarded from 2003 to 2007
by the Army’s big contracting office in Kuwait. Those contracts to clothe, house
and feed American forces moving in and out of Kuwait are valued at more than $3
January 25, 2007
Matt Weaver and agencies
American military has unveiled its latest hi-tech weapon - a virtual
flame-thrower on top of a Humvee that microwaves enemies at 500 paces.
defence experts are also developing artificial black ice to put the skids under
The ray gun, which is supposed to be harmless, is designed to make people feel
they are about to catch fire and drop their weapons.
The futuristic new weapon, called the Active Denial System, was tested yesterday
on 10 journalists who volunteered to be fired at.
Airmen zapped beams from a dish on a Humvee at the volunteers. They were treated
to a blast of 54C (130F) heat, that was said not to be painful but intense
enough to make them feel they were about to ignite.
The test was carried out at a distance of 500 yards - nearly 17 times the range
of existing non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets.
Military officials say it would help save lives in places like Iraq and
Afghanistan, but it is not expected to go into production until 2010.
"This is one of the key technologies for the future," said Marine Colonel Kirk
Hymes, director of the non-lethal weapons programme which helped develop the new
"Non-lethal weapons are important for the escalation of force, especially in the
environments our forces are operating in."
The system uses tiny waves, which only penetrates 0.4mm of the skin, just enough
to cause discomfort. By comparison, common kitchen microwaves penetrate several
centimetres of skin. The system was developed by the military, but the two
devices currently being evaluated were built by defence contractor Raytheon.
Airman Blaine Pernell, said he could have used the system during his four tours
in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk.
"All we could do is watch them," he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops
"could have dispersed them".
A new document from the US Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (Darpra)
also reveals a programme to come up with spray-on "polymer ice" to cause
pursuing enemies and their vehicles to skid and slide.
It says the substance will "degrade the ability of our adversaries to chase us".
It is hoped that the same programme will come up with a "reversal agent" that
will stop US military vehicles from slipping on the ice.
December 26, 2006
The New York Times
By LESLIE WAYNE
THESE are very good times for military contractors. Profits
are up, their stocks are rising and Pentagon spending is reaching record levels.
The only cloud might seem to be what the Democratic takeover of Congress could
mean for their business. After all, this is an industry that has generally
supported the Republican Party by sending about 60 percent of its political
contributions to Republican candidates.
But, even so, few in the military industry are worried. Next year’s Pentagon
budget is expected to exceed $560 billion, including spending for Iraq. And,
sometime this spring, President Bush has indicated he will seek an additional
$100 billion in supplemental spending in 2007 for Iraq and Afghanistan.
And no one expects Democrats, in the last two years of the Bush administration,
to make major changes, especially with the war continuing. Democrats are
sensitive to the charge of being “soft” on defense, and are expected to use
their control of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to establish
their military bona fides for the 2008 presidential election. This would include
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is an increasingly vocal member
of the committee.
“I wouldn’t look for Democrats to make cuts in the defense budget,” said Michael
O’Hanlan, a military expert at the Brookings Institution. “You didn’t hear a lot
about the defense budget in the last campaign and the Democrats know that you
don’t mess with the top line.”
Still, the industry can expect some harsh scrutiny. Senator John McCain, the
Arizona Republican who has lead the efforts to tighten oversight of military
contractors and programs, moves up to become the ranking Republican on the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
He promises to keep up his relentless criticism of how the Pentagon spends its
billions — he has already written the incoming secretary of defense, Robert M.
Gates, to lay out some of his complaints.
On the House side, the incoming Democratic chairman, Ike Skelton of Missouri,
has said he wants to resurrect the committee’s investigations and oversight
subcommittee, which the Republicans disbanded in 1995. And he wants to hold
hearings on missile defense and other space-based weapons systems that many
Democrats have questioned.
While Democrats and Senator McCain may cause individual companies some pain
through attacks on specific programs and weapons systems, the billions that have
been supporting the industry are expected to continue unabated, and perhaps even
“I think the Democrats will be on good behavior as long as the war continues and
we have 150,000 troops in Iraq,” said Paul Nisbet, an analyst with JSA
Securities in Newport, R.I.
Evidence of the industry’s good fortune is reflected in the stocks of major
contractors over the last year. At the end of 2005, the Lockheed Martin
Corporation, the largest contractor, was trading around $62 a share. Now
Lockheed is around $92 a share. Over the last year, Boeing, which holds the No.
2 position, saw its shares rise from about $66 a share to around almost $89 a
share. Meanwhile, Raytheon stock has risen from around $39 a share to more than
$53 a share in the last year and General Dynamics has gone from the high $50s a
share to almost $74 a share over the same period.
“We certainly don’t foresee any change,” said Thomas Jurkowsky, a spokesman for
Lockheed Martin. “You certainly cannot deny that there is a lot of uncertainty
in the world — North Korea, Iran, Iraq. The Democratic Congress will see the
reality of the dangerous world we live in, and will make decisions accordingly.”
Democrats are typically loath to cut programs that could affect unionized
workers. The fact that so many of the Pentagon’s weapons are build by unionized
work forces — the backbone of the Democratic Party — is another reason why
Democrats are expected to keep the money flowing.
“The unionized workers in defense plants are a natural constituency of the
Democrats,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute
in Arlington, Va. “There is not too much advantage for Democrats to attack
Still, some programs are not expected to fare well. Among those considered
vulnerable are large Air Force programs that are not directly related to the war
in Iraq — satellites, missile defense and tactical fighters, for example.
Already, the incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin, has
said it is a mistake to purchase more missiles until tests can determine whether
the missile defense program works.
Also worrisome to the industry is that the incoming Democrats — specifically,
Mr. Levin — have indicated that they are supportive of efforts to more closely
scrutinize contractors on the issues of mismanagement and cost overruns. In a
postelection news conference, Mr. Levin expressed support for Mr. McCain’s
efforts and even listed industry oversight as one of his top priorities.
“We need to put much more emphasis on the oversight process, to make sure that
the American people are getting a proper return on their tax dollars and that
Pentagon activities are lawful and transparent,” Mr. Levin said.
This comes as some of the most important and costly weapon systems the Pentagon
is acquiring have fallen years behind in development and billions over budget —
grist for Congressional scrutiny, especially from Mr. McCain.
In fact, Mr. McCain, even before stepping up to the No. 2 position on the
committee, began to make his presence felt. Just this month, the Air Force,
under pressure from Mr. McCain, announced it was rewriting some of the rules for
a contest between Airbus and Boeing for a contract potentially valued at $200
billion to build a new fleet of aerial tankers, which allow military planes to
be refueled in midair.
Mr. McCain’s past scrutiny of this contract led to the jailing of two top Boeing
executives and the early retirement of an Air Force secretary.
Mr. McCain wrote Mr. Gates, the incoming defense secretary, to complain about a
lack of open competition in the tanker bidding process, which led to rewriting
of the bidding rules. The tanker program would be a record order of commercial
jets — the Air Force plans to buy some 530 commercial jets over the next three
decades and adapt them for use as flying gas stations.
Mr. McCain would have wielded even greater influence had he become chairman of
the full Senate Armed Services Committee.
“These contractors clearly are relieved,” said Danielle Brian, executive
director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit that has been
critical of Pentagon practices. “These reforms won’t be the No. 1 priority for
the committee, but it will be an important priority.”
The Prime Minister's announcement that Britain's
Trident nuclear deterrent is to be renewed was as disappointing as it was
unsurprising. Whatever arguments Mr Blair marshalled yesterday to justify the
spending of £20bn or so on new submarines, we find the arguments on the other
side a good deal more compelling. The Trident system was conceived and built to
combat a particular threat: that presented by the Soviet Union at the height of
the Cold War. Today's Russia may not be the benign Western-orientated state we
had hoped for after the collapse of the USSR, but it is not the threatening
superpower of old either.
Today's strategic neighbourhood is quite different - and less predictable. The
threats we face are from terrorism and global warming, and from countries that
aspire to buck the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. North Korea
makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions, and Iran wants to keep us guessing.
Whether yesterday's announcement sends these countries a useful message is
questionable. There was a chance here for Britain to set a new direction in the
international debate: one that was about restraint rather than escalation. That
opportunity has been lost.
The timing also smacks of politics. The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies
Campbell, argued yesterday - and we agree with him - that there would have been
merit in waiting until international security trends became clearer. There was
no need to take any decision on Trident until the next Parliament at the
earliest. The haste suggests a desire on Mr Blair's part to seal a part of his
New Labour legacy by ensuring that Labour never retreats again into
unilateralism: this is to play party politics with national defence.
Mr Blair's statement contained some concessions to his critics - most of whom
sit on his own benches. The nuclear weapons budget, he said, will account for a
fraction - 3 per cent - of the overall defence budget. Investment in new
submarines will not be at the expense of conventional defence. The submarines
will be built by British companies, in Britain. The number of warheads could be
reduced from around 200 to 160 - rather less than the 50 per cent cut some had
These, though, are details. They do not alter the principle, which is that
Britain is set to modernise its nuclear capacity using money that could better
be spent on other things, at a time when nuclear weapons may not be the best way
of meeting the new threats to our national security. Parliament has been
promised a vote next March. Regrettably, the extensive public debate that we
should have had about the future of Britain's defence capability has been closed
before it had properly begun.
October 29, 2006
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — Russia surpassed the United
States in 2005 as the leader in weapons deals with the developing world, and its
new agreements included selling $700 million in surface-to-air missiles to Iran
and eight new aerial refueling tankers to China, according to a new
Those weapons deals were part of the highly competitive global arms bazaar in
the developing world that grew to $30.2 billion in 2005, up from $26.4 billion
in 2004. It is a market that the United States has regularly dominated.
Russia’s agreements with Iran are not the biggest part of its total sales —
India and China are its principal buyers. But the sales to improve Iran’s
air-defense system are particularly troubling to the United States because they
would complicate the task of Pentagon planners should the president order
airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The Bush administration has vowed a diplomatic solution in dealing with Iran.
But as United Nations diplomats argue over potential sanctions against Iran for
its nuclear ambitions, Russian officials have expressed reluctance to vote for
the most stringent economic sanctions, partly owing to Moscow’s extensive trade
relations with Tehran.
Russia’s weapons sales to China also worry Pentagon planners. Although China has
joined the United States in partnership to press for a resumption of six-party
talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program after its recent test, Taiwan
remains a potential flash point between Beijing and Washington.
Thus, China’s ability to refuel its attack planes and bombers to enable them to
fly farther from Chinese soil could require the United States Navy to operate
even farther out to sea should the United States military be called to deal with
a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. That would have an impact on the range and number
of air missions of United States Navy aircraft launched from carriers.
Details of the specific weapons deals in the global arms trade last year are
included in an annual study by the Congressional Research Service that is
considered the most thorough compilation of statistics available in an
unclassified form. The report was delivered to members of Congress on Friday.
Among other arms transfers described in the study was a statistic that a single,
unnamed nation — but one identified separately by Pentagon and other
administration officials to be North Korea — shipped about 40 ballistic missiles
to other nations in the four-year period ending in 2005, the only nation to have
done so. Transfers of these weapons are prohibited under international
agreements to control the trade of ballistic missiles.
United Nations sanctions passed earlier this month after the North Korean
nuclear test include a new and specific ban on trade or transport of ballistic
missiles and missile parts to or from North Korea.
The report, entitled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,” found
that Russia’s arms agreements with the developing world totaled $7 billion in
2005, an increase from its $5.4 billion in sales in 2004. That figure surpassed
the United States’ annual sales agreements to the developing world for the first
time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
France ranked second in arms transfer agreements to developing nations, with
$6.3 billion, and the United States was third, with $6.2 billion.
The leading buyer in the developing world in 2005 was India, with $5.4 billion
in weapons purchases, followed by Saudi Arabia with $3.4 billion and China with
The total value of all arms sales deals worldwide, when counting both developing
and developed nations, in 2005 was $44.2 billion.
The Russian sales in 2005 included 29 of the SA-15 Gauntlet surface-to-air
missile systems for Iran; Russia also signed deals to upgrade Iran’s Su-24
bombers and MIG-29 fighter aircraft, as well as its T-72 battle tanks.
“For a period of time, in the mid-1990s, the Russian government agreed not to
make new advanced weapons sales to the Iran government,” wrote Richard F.
Grimmett, author of the study by the Congressional Research Service, a division
of the Library of Congress. “That agreement has since been rescinded by Russia.
As the U.S. focuses increasing attention on Iran’s efforts to enhance its
nuclear as well as conventional military capabilities, major arms transfers to
Iran continue to be a matter of concern.”
Russia also agreed in 2005 to sell China eight of the IL-78M aerial refueling
tanker aircraft, according to the study.
In 2005, the United States led in total arms transfer agreements, when deals to
both developed and developing nations are combined. The total was $12.8 billion,
down from $13.2 billion in 2004.
The report charted no blockbuster military sales deals by the United States in
2005, and the total in many ways was reached by sales of spare parts for weapons
purchased under previous contracts.
France ranked second in total sales, with $7.9 billion, up from $2.2 billion in
2004. Russia was third when sales to developing and developed nations were
combined, with $7.4 billion, up from $5.6 billion in 2004.
The study uses figures in 2005 dollars, with amounts for previous years adjusted
to account for inflation.
MRS Margaret Thatcher, while carefully stating
that the Government had “no present plans” to acquire chemical warfare weapons,
emphasized to the Commons yesterday how “very worrying” she found the Soviet
possession of a “substantial” offensive capability while Britain possessed only
the means of providing soldiers with protective clothing against chemical
The Prime Minister, and more extensively Mr Francis Pym, Secretary of State for
Defence, confirmed in the first Commons exchanges on the subject, that the
Government is actively considering with the United States ways to deter the
Russians in chemical warfare.
Mrs Thatcher said that the Russians’ capability ought to be more widely known.
Mr Harold Brown, the United States Defence Secretary, suggested to Mrs Thatcher
at 10 Downing Street on June 2 that Britain and the United States ought to
consider acquiring chemical weapons. That was not a proposal as such, so the
Prime Minister yesterday was able to tell Mr Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for West
Lothian, that “no such proposal was made”.
However, short of deterring the Russians through a chemical weapons treaty ban —
for which Mr Pym said Russian objections gave no hope for early progress —
acquisition would seen to be the only remaining option.
Asked by Mr Robert Atkins, Conservative MP for Preston North, when he expected
to make a decision on offensive capability, Mr Pym repeated that he had no
plans, beyond making inquiries and studying the implications.
In telling Mr Patrick Duffy, Labour MP for Sheffield, Attercliffe, that the
Soviet Union was causing anxiety as they improved and developed their chemical
warfare techniques Mr Pym foreshadowed an eventual announcement.
The more that is learnt of German preparations and progress with new weapons,
the more apparent it is that the Allies ended the war with Germany only just in
The dangers faced, above all by Britain, were many and terrible.
Radio and optical equipment. A fabulous ray was to deal with tanks. This proved
to be only infra-red searchlights to blind tanks and was used in conjunction
with the 88mm gun. It was more humdrum than the fable. But it was deadly against
tanks moving at night, as ours did.
Guns. There were unpleasant novelties, such as the rocket-assisted shells. At a
certain point in the shell's progress, the rocket took over and provided further
propulsion. There was at least a scheme in the pre-development stage to provide
the V2 rocket with wings, which had great possibilities.
Chemical warfare. The Germans had a new gas in great quantity with certain
qualities more deadly than any yet used. It could have been mastered, but would
have given trouble and caused much loss, especially as anti-gas discipline in
England was naturally not as good as at the outset of the war. It is known that
Hitler was the man who prevented its use, not through altruism but because he
did not believe it would pay.
The Germans were experimenting with a piloted VI flying-bomb with a retarded
take-off and an obvious increase of accuracy. They had also made considerable
progress with controlled projectiles directed either from an aircraft to a
ground target or to aircraft.
Naval construction. There was a torpedo with a range of 80 miles and an acoustic
head which "listened" to its target. There were controlled torpedoes that would
follow a zigzag course with deadly possibilities.
There was a jet-propelled submarine going into production with an underwater
speed of 25 knots. These were made possible by a new fuel.
The inventions mentioned were in all stages, from pre-development to full
production. When it is realised that full preparation was made by the Germans to
carry out all essential production in underground factories impervious to
bombing, the full extent of the peril becomes apparent.
It is not too much to say that the Germans were in the act of switching from one
kind of war to another and that many developments of the kind I have enumerated
would have been as deadly as those already disclosed in, for example, the VI and
Allied bombing had delayed the switchover and would have hampered development,
especially by attacks on communications, but could not have stopped it.
Friday September 8, 1944 Guardian Air Correspondent
The reports below were the first
permitted after V1 flying bomb launch sites in France fell to allied troops.
Relief was premature, and the date unluckily chosen. The same day, the first of
the deadlier V2 rockets hit a house in Staveley Road, Chiswick
In addition to the great numbers of
homes destroyed and damaged during the raids up to the end of August, damage had
been reported to 149 schools, 112 public-houses, 111 churches and 98 hospitals.
Following is a list of casualties in some of the major "incidents" which for
security reasons have not previously been disclosed: London County Council
evacuation hostel at Westerham, Kent: 8 adults, 22 children killed. Tottenham
Court Road: 20 killed. Surface shelter, St Pancras, 24 killed. Surface shelter,
Hayes, Middlesex: 23 killed. Shop centre, Camberwell: 23 killed, 39 injured.
Clapham Junction: direct hit on bus, damage to shops: 24 killed, 25 seriously
hurt. Willesden: shops, houses, school and rest centre damaged: 20 killed,25
seriously hurt. Trench shelter at Barking: 15 killed, 13 seriously hurt.
Melbourne House, Aldwych: 25 killed. Houses and a trolley bus at Leyton: 34
killed, 24 injured. Works at Barnet: 21 killed, 190 seriously hurt.
More than a hundred bombs
On one southern English borough have fallen more than a hundred flying bombs.
Thousands of its houses have been damaged and a morning salutation among
neighbours is often a raising of the eyebrows and nodding of the head as if to
say "Rough again."
Numbers of women and children have gone away, but there are women enough to form
fish queues in the battered High Street, which the wardens call "battlefield"
because it has had a bomb at every corner, and enough children to occupy the day
The brilliant success of the fighter squadrons of the air defence of Great
Britain in combating the V1 is a striking example of how British pilots are
capable of developing novel tactics to meet new problems and special conditions
in air combat. At the outset the small size of the flying bomb and its high
speed at low altitudes made the weapon a target by no means easy to locate
visually and destroy. But within an extremely short time pilots grasped the
peculiar situation arising from the new offensive, devised various methods of
attack and then tested them.
The fact that 1,900 VIs were accounted for by fighters operating in all
weathers, and at night as well as day, showed clearly that they had got the
menace well under control.
The bombers come over as I am going home at dusk, flying high and lonely, the
lights at their wing-tips glowing richly like the red and green jujubes we used
to suck as children.
Standing back against the wall to watch them, the day still heavy upon me, I am
teased by the memory of another time when I have stood like this. It comes back
as one cruciform shape follows another against the cool, dimly blue evening. The
wild geese driving in a great wedge across the sky, their exulting clangour and
rhythmic, proud wings, the cold of the wind-scoured marsh aching in one's
finger-tips, and a boy's half-broken voice beside one saying: "They look like
aircraft flying in formation, don't they?"
For us on the coast the wild geese, every year, brought in the winter. The iron
weather, in our minds, began with the October morning or twilight when the first
trumpeting battalions passed over the town, just as spring was confirmed by the
chiffchaff. Now it is the Lancasters that remind one of the wildfowl and one's
spring song is the throb of their engines.
How can spring be both this and that other, one asks, and logic has no answer.
Once "the drunkenness of things being various" [from Louis MacNeice's poem Snow]
brought exhilaration; now there is only weariness and bewilderment.
One cannot find the synthesis that will make an orderly whole of the Juggernaut
tanks roaring along the bypass and the horses reeking and straining ahead of the
jangling plough chains, of the women who protest in print at the sending of
vitamins and powdered milk to Occupied Countries while their own children are
growing up without knowing the taste of milk chocolate.
The irreconcilables are crowded on one another - the striking apprentices: the
pilots and their pin-up girls in their smart bars, impossibly young and heroic;
the distorting mirrors of propaganda, the justice and felicity of a Mozart
quartet on the radio; the narcissi and almond blossom massed before the Easter
altar, and the VD advertisements in the press. The April sunshine is ironic and
impartial on them all: there is no synthesis, no formula for integration, only
panic edging closer.
Still the Lancasters, the iron geese who bring winter in our spring, are passing
overhead, ascending into hell through a huge, serene sky, pricked with the first
stars, faint and sparse. One will not hear them coming back: the droning will be
no more than a menacing pedal in the troubled fantasia of dream whose cadences
are never resolved, a ground bass to the melody of this, our sweet season.
The military authorities announced
yesterday that the destruction of the Zeppelin that came down early on Sunday
morning at Cuffley, a few miles north of London, was mainly due to an army
airman, Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson, Worcestershire Regiment and Royal
The king has awarded Lieutenant
Robinson the Victoria Cross. To the official announcement of this in last
night's "Gazette" is added the following note:- "For most conspicuous bravery.
He attacked an enemy airship under circumstances of great difficulty and danger,
and sent it crashing to the ground as a flaming wreck. He had been in the air
for more than two hours, and had previously attacked another airship during his
Viscount French, Commander in Chief, Home Forces, in a statement says, "The
airship ... passed through heavy and accurate gunfire, but it is established
beyond doubt that the main factor in its destruction was an aeroplane of the
R.F.C., which attacked with the utmost gallantry and judgment and brought it
Several other army aviators were on the track of or engaging the Zeppelin, and
one of these who witnessed the end from a height of 10,000ft. describes how
Lieutenant Robinson, anticipating the raider's movements, was able to dash in on
the airship as the latter rose to about 12,000ft.
A flying officer, at the inquest on the German crew on Monday, expressed the
opinion that the airship was not crippled by gunfire before the aviator's
attack, but in other quarters this claim was made for the anti-aircraft guns.
An officer of the Royal Flying Corps who took part in the pursuit of the
destroyed Zeppelin told a press representative that two other aeroplanes were
endeavouring to engage the air ship, which was making frantic efforts to get
away, firing with its machine guns, first diving and then ascending.
An east coast correspondent says Lieutenant Robinson was one of several British
aviators who pursued a Zeppelin several months ago, but had the misfortune to
meet with engine trouble. After cursing his luck he registered a vow that he
would bring down a Zeppelin or die in the attempt.
Lord French stated yesterday:- "An important part of one of the enemy's airships
which raided England on September 2-3 has been picked up in the eastern
counties. There is no doubt that the ship suffered severe damage from gunfire."
It was reported on Monday that part of a Zeppelin gondola, with a great length
of wire and a telephone installation, had been picked up in a village on the
East Anglian coast.
WE NOW know the best and the worst
of the Government policy concerning aerial warfare, and are in a position to
realise the full effects of the neglect of the King’s Ministers in this branch
We are aided in this unpleasant task by the news which we publish from Berlin
today showing that the Germans propose to allocate nearly four millions more to
their aerial fleet, bringing up the total sum available to for this purpose to
between six and seven millions sterling.
It is the Government as a whole on whom the responsibility rests for their
inability to understand the importance of this new branch of warfare, and for
their failure to take the measures necessary for our security.
It was obvious to every looker-on that when M. Blériot crossed the Channel a new
chapter was opened in the military history of the British Isles, and it was
obvious many years ago that the Germans had built dirigibles which were bound to
exercise a most important influence upon warfare by sea and land.
At present Germany possesses a fleet of useful dirigibles, to be formed into two
squadrons, each of five airships, while we possess not a single airship. The
Zeppelins now travel 56 miles an hour, have a good armament, and a range of
1,200 to 1,500 miles. Germany has also built, or is building, eight dirigible
stations. The stations on the Rhine are some 250 miles from Chatham, which can
be reached in five hours, given favourable weather.
Does Mr Churchill or Colonel Seely seriously think that the Germans are so
obtuse that they cannot realize the advantages gained by their audacity and