History > 2009 > USA > War > Pentagon (II)
Paul Sahre and Sebastian Rether
April 23, 2009
Break Up the Air Force? A Fight Is On
for Muslims Serving Nation
November 9, 2009
The New York Times
By ANDREA ELLIOTT
Abdi Akgun joined the Marines in August of 2000, fresh out of
high school and eager to serve his country. As a Muslim, the attacks of Sept. 11
only steeled his resolve to fight terrorism.
But two years later, when Mr. Akgun was deployed to Iraq with the 26th Marine
Expeditionary Unit, the thought of confronting Muslims in battle gave him pause.
He was haunted by the possibility that he might end up killing innocent
“It’s kind of like the Civil War, where brothers fought each other across the
Mason-Dixon line,” Mr. Akgun, 28, of Lindenhurst, N.Y., who returned from Iraq
without ever pulling the trigger. “I don’t want to stain my faith, I don’t want
to stain my fellow Muslims, and I also don’t want to stain my country’s flag.”
Thousands of Muslims have served in the United States military — a legacy that
some trace to the First World War. But in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, as the
United States has become mired in two wars on Muslim lands, the service of
Muslim-Americans is more necessary and more complicated than ever before.
In the aftermath of the shootings at Fort Hood on Thursday by Maj. Nidal Malik
Hasan of the Army, a psychiatrist, many Muslim soldiers and their commanders say
they fear that the relationship between the military and its Muslim service
members will only grow more difficult.
On Sunday, the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said he worried
about a backlash against Muslims in the armed forces and emphasized the
military’s reliance on those men and women.
“Our diversity, not only in our Army but in our country, is a strength,” General
Casey said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And as horrific as this tragedy
was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
It is unclear what might have motivated Major Hasan, who is suspected of killing
13 people. Senior military and law enforcement officials said they had
tentatively dismissed the possibility that he was carrying out a terrorist plot.
He seems to have been influenced by a mixture of political, religious and
psychological factors, the officials said.
Muslim leaders, advocates and military service members have taken pains to
denounce the shooting and distance themselves from Major Hasan. They make the
point that his violence is no more representative of them than it is of other
groups to which he belongs, including Army psychiatrists.
“I don’t understand why the Muslim-American community has to take responsibility
for him,” said Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North
America. “The Army has had at least as much time and opportunity to form and
shape this person as the Muslim community.”
That sentiment was echoed by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South
Carolina, who told “Face the Nation” on CBS that the shooting was “not about his
religion — the fact that this man was a Muslim.”
Yet also Sunday, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut,
announced he would hold hearings to explore whether Major Hasan’s actions
Whatever his possible motives, the emerging portrait of Major Hasan’s life in
the military casts light on some of the struggles and frustrations felt by other
Muslims in the services. He was disillusioned with the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq, which he perceived to be part of a war on Islam, according to interviews
with friends and relatives.
He had been the subject of taunts and felt singled out by his fellow soldiers
for being Muslim, friends and relatives said. His uncle in Ramallah, West Bank,
Rafik Hamad, said Major Hasan’s fellow soldiers had once called him a “camel
That term, like “haaji” and “raghead,” has become a more common part of the
lexicon among soldiers on the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
several Muslim servicemen said in interviews. They spoke about the epithets
philosophically, saying they understood using them was a survival tactic to
dehumanize the enemy.
But for Muslim soldiers, particularly those who speak Arabic, the struggle to
distance themselves from those they fight has often proved more difficult in
Amjad Khan, who served in the Army for eight years and was deployed to Iraq,
said he had tried to get used to the way his fellow soldiers talked about
“It gets to you sometimes,” said Mr. Khan, 32, from Queens, who is of Pakistani
descent. “But the more personally you take things, the more you’re going to have
a hard time surviving.”
For Mr. Khan, the most difficult part of his wartime service came before he was
deployed, when a senior officer found his Islamic faith cause for suspicion.
“He said, ‘I have to watch my back because you might go nuts,’ ” Mr. Khan
Since Sept. 11, the nation’s military has recruited Muslim-Americans, eager to
have people with linguistic skills and a cultural understanding of the Middle
East. Some 3,557 military personnel identify themselves as Muslim among 1.4
million people in the active-duty population, according to official figures.
Muslim advocacy groups estimate the number to be far higher, as listing one’s
religious preference is voluntary.
Many Muslims are drawn to the military for the same reasons as other recruits.
In interviews, they cited patriotism, a search for discipline and their dreams
of attending college. Some Muslims said they had also enlisted to win new
respect in a country where people of their faith have struggled for acceptance.
But if military service has brought approval among non-Muslims, it has sometimes
invited a markedly different response among Muslims.
In the South Asian and Arab immigrant communities where the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq are deeply unpopular, Muslim military members have often felt
criticized for their service, Muslim chaplains, military members, veterans
advocates and others said in interviews.
Some return exhausted and traumatized from their tours, only to hear at their
local mosques that they will go to hell for “killing Muslims,” said Qaseem A.
Uqdah, the executive director of the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans
“Imagine you are 20 years old and you hear you’re going to purgatory,” Mr. Uqdah
said. He argued that Muslim groups must work harder to help their veterans cope
with coming home. “We are failing as a community here in America.”
During the first gulf war, Muslim scholars in the United States debated whether
members of their faith could righteously engage in combat in a Muslim country on
behalf of the United States military. The consensus was yes, provided the
conflict met the Islamic standard of a “just war.”
“In the Koran it says that war is to end the state of oppression and to uplift
the oppressed,” said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor at the law school at the
University of California, Los Angeles.
But he and others interviewed said it has been increasingly difficult for
Muslims to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as accounts have emerged of
the killing of civilians, the corruption of American-backed local governments,
and prisoner abuses like that of the Abu Ghraib scandal .
“Is it an army that defends the oppressed, or have you slipped into becoming the
oppressor?” asked Mr. El Fadl, who has counseled Muslims conflicted about
enlisting. “People from the military who contact me, that’s what I find they’re
torn up about.”
And yet more than 3,500 Muslims have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according
to Defense Department figures provided to The Times. As of 2006, some 212
Muslim-American soldiers had been awarded Combat Action Ribbons for their
service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seven had been killed.
Too many Americans overlook the heroic efforts of Muslims in uniform, said Capt.
Eric Rahman, 35, an Army reservist who won the Bronze Star for his service in
Iraq at the start of the war. He cited the example of Petty Officer Michael A.
Monsoor, a Navy Seal who won the Medal of Honor after pulling a team member to
safety during firefight in 2006, in Ramadi, Iraq.
Petty Officer Monsoor died saving another American, yet he will never be
remembered like Major Hasan, said Captain Rahman.
Regardless, he said, Muslim- and Arab-Americans are crucial to the military’s
success in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Take a look at these conflicts,” he said. “We need those skill sets, we need
those backgrounds, we need those perspectives.”
Eric Schmitt, Damien Cave and Catrina Stewart contributed
for Muslims Serving Nation, NYT, 9.11.2009,
U.S. Expected to Request
More War Financing
November 5, 2009
The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military officer said Wednesday
that he expected the Pentagon to ask Congress in the next few months for
emergency financing to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though
President Obama has pledged to end the Bush administration practice of paying
for the conflicts with so-called supplemental funds that are outside the normal
Defense Department budget.
The financing would be on top of the $130 billion that Congress authorized for
the wars just last month.
The military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, did not say how much additional money would be needed, but one figure in
circulation within the Pentagon and among outside defense budget analysts is $50
Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the
House appropriations defense subcommittee, cited $40 billion last week as a
hypothetical amount for the supplemental financing request. The number
represented a standard calculation of $1 billion for every 1,000 troops
Defense officials said the final request would depend on the number of
additional troops Mr. Obama decided to send to Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A.
McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has asked for 40,000 more
troops on top of the 68,000 American troops already there.
The request is likely to ignite objections from Democrats on Capitol Hill who
are increasingly alarmed about the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan, and it
could become a vehicle for a battle between Mr. Obama and his liberal Democratic
base. Mr. Obama is already under pressure from both parties in Congress because
of soaring deficits and the costs of his economic bailout and proposed health
At the National Press Club on Wednesday, Admiral Mullen said he anticipated the
need for more money for the wars in the coming year beyond the $130 billion
authorized for the 2010 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2009, until Sept.
30, 2010. He was responding to a questioner who asked, “Assuming that U.S. troop
levels in Afghanistan increase, do you expect that the Defense Department will
submit an emergency supplemental funding request during the coming months?”
Admiral Mullen replied: “From what I can see, I certainly think there will be
some requirement. I just don’t know exactly what it will be yet.”
Admiral Mullen’s spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said afterward that although the
admiral wanted to move away from supplemental defense financing, there might be
“a need for another supplemental on the unique and current demands of dynamic
operations in two theaters of war.”
The White House had little comment on Admiral Mullen’s remarks. “The president’s
budget provides a full-year funding for anticipated costs in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and he has made clear his intent to fund these wars through the
normal budgeting process,” Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said in an
e-mail message. “No decisions have been made about additional costs related to
new resource requests from the Department of Defense.”
Although the size of any request would depend on the number of extra forces
sent, Defense Department officials say they are likely to need more money even
without a buildup. Robert F. Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, recently told staff
members of the House Appropriations Committee that it would be hard to get
through September 2010 with $130 billion, regardless of a troop increase, said a
Congressional staff member who did not want to be identified as discussing
internal matters. Mr. Hale declined to comment.
In March, Mr. Hale told the House Budget Committee that $130 billion would be
enough for the year and that he did not expect to ask for more. But he did
caution that “there may be significant unforeseen developments or changes in
wartime strategy or tactics that cannot be addressed with existing resources.”
Beyond the possibility of adding troops, Pentagon officials say extra money
could be used, among other things, to repair equipment and transfer it from Iraq
to Afghanistan and to help commanders pay for local improvements in Afghanistan
like bridges and roads.
Mr. Obama did include the $130 billion for the wars as part of his regular $668
billion defense budget this year, the first time that has happened since 2001.
President George W. Bush regularly financed the wars with emergency requests
that usually came after the Pentagon budget was introduced.
The Bush White House said the practice was necessary because it was hard to
project what the wars would actually cost, particularly early on. But as the
years passed and the wars continued, critics said Mr. Bush was resorting to a
budget gimmick intended to lessen the impact on the deficit, at least at that
moment, and to restrain sticker shock.
Mr. Obama took office pledging more transparency and accountability in the
In April, before the current Pentagon budget was passed, the Obama
administration asked Congress for approval of an emergency $83.4 billion to pay
for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30. The administration said
the money was needed because legislation passed during the Bush administration
provided only enough money to pay for the wars through midyear.
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said at the time that the request
was unavoidable and that it would be the last outside the normal budget process.
U.S. Expected to
Request More War Financing, NYT, 5.11.2009,
Voice of Bush’s Pentagon
Becomes Harder to Hear
October 5, 2009
The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq
troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was
called upon by President Obama “several times” during the big Afghanistan
strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will
be back for two more meetings this week.
But the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good
relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White
House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.
No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of
the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr.
Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in
live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill
contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism
establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in
September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.
The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus
might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in
immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the
military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000
additional troops to Afghanistan.
General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has
largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid
antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military
superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.
The general’s aides requested anonymity to talk more candidly about his
relationship with the White House.
“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political
life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not,” said Peter Mansoor,
a retired Army colonel and professor of military history at Ohio State
University who was the executive officer to General Petraeus when he was the top
American commander in Iraq.
“It is other people who are looking at his popularity and saying that he would
be a good presidential candidate, and I think rightly that makes the
administration a little suspicious of him.”
General Petraeus’s advisers say he has stepped back in part because Mr. Obama
has handpicked his own public face for the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A.
McChrystal, who last week gave an interview to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” met with Mr.
Obama on Air Force One and used a speech in London to reject calls for scaling
back the war effort.
If anything, General McChrystal’s public comments may prove that General
Petraeus might be prudent to take a back seat during the debate. On Sunday, when
CNN’s John King asked Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, if it
was appropriate for a man in uniform to appear to campaign so openly for more
troops, General Jones replied, “Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come
up through the chain of command.”
How much General Petraeus’s muted voice will affect Mr. Obama’s decision on the
war is unclear, but people close to him say that stifling himself in public
could give him greater credibility to influence the debate from within. Others
say that his biggest influence may simply be as part of a team of military
advisers, including General McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The men are united in what they see as the need to build up the American effort
in Afghanistan, although General Petraeus, who works closely with General
McChrystal, said last week that he had not yet endorsed General McChrystal’s
request for more troops.
Together the three are likely to be aligned against Vice President Joseph R.
Biden Jr., as well as other administration officials who want to scale back the
effort. In that situation, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has worried
about a big American presence in Afghanistan but left the door open to more
troops, could be the most influential vote.
What is clear is that General Petraeus’s relationship with Mr. Obama is nothing
like his bond with Mr. Bush, who went mountain biking with the general in
Washington last fall, or with Mr. Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential
campaign, Senator John McCain of Arizona, whose aides briefly floated the
general’s name last year as a possible running mate.
By then the general had been talked about as a potential presidential candidate
himself, which still worries some political aides at the White House.
But not Mr. Obama, at least according to one of his top advisers. “The
president’s not thinking that way, and the vice president’s not thinking that
way,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “The president values
his insights in helping to turn around an eight-year-old war that has been
General Petraeus’s advisers say that to preserve a sense of military
impartiality, he has not voted since at least 2003, and that he is not sure if
he is still registered in New Hampshire, where he and his wife own property. The
general has been described as a Republican, including in a lengthy profile in
The New Yorker magazine last year. But a senior military official close to him
said last week that he could not confirm the general’s political party.
In the meantime, General Petraeus travels frequently from his home in Tampa to
Washington, where he met last week with the Afghan foreign minister. He also had
dinner with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative
for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general also makes calls on Capitol Hill.
“He understands the Congress better than any military commander I’ve ever met,”
said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that
General Petraeus had the nationwide influence to serve as a spokesman for the
administration’s policy on the Afghan war.
But until the president makes a decision, and determines if he wants to deploy
General Petraeus to help sell it, the commander is keeping his head down. “He
knows how to make his way through minefields like this,” said Jack Keane, the
former vice chief of staff of the Army.
Peter Baker contributed reporting.
Voice of Bush’s
Pentagon Becomes Harder to Hear, NYT, 5.10.2009,
First Woman Ascends
to Top Drill Sergeant Spot
September 22, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES DAO
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — It may come as no surprise that the Army’s new top drill
sergeant idolizes Gen. George S. Patton Jr., has jumped out of planes 33 times,
aces every physical training test and drives a black Corvette with “noslack”
But consider this: the sergeant is a woman.
On Tuesday, the Army will make Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King, 48, commandant
of its drill sergeant school here. It is a first. No woman has run one of the
Army’s rigorous schools for drill instructors.
Petite yet imposing, Sergeant Major King seems a drill sergeant at heart, ever
vigilant for busted rules: soldiers nodding off in class, soldiers with hair a
fraction too long, soldiers who run too slow.
“Are you crazy?” she shouts at one who is walking across a lawn. “Get off my
The eighth of 12 children, the sergeant major is the daughter of a sharecropper
who grew cucumbers and tobacco near Fort Bragg, N.C. Her first job in the Army
was as a postal clerk, a traditional position for women in those days.
She says she regrets not having been deployed to a war zone during her 29-year
Army career, though she has trained many soldiers who were. And now, in her new
job, she will have significant influence over the basic training of every
Last year the Army consolidated several drill schools into a single campus at
this sprawling post, meaning Sergeant Major King, with her staff of 78
instructors, will oversee drill sergeant training for the entire Army.
Famous for their Smokey Bear hats, booming voices and no-nonsense demeanor,
those sergeants transform tens of thousands of raw recruits into soldiers each
year. It is one of the backbone jobs of the military, and having a woman in
charge underscores the expanding role of women in the Army’s leadership.
But Sergeant Major King’s ascension is also a reminder of the limits of gender
integration in the military. Just 8 percent of the active-duty Army’s
highest-ranking enlisted soldiers — sergeants major and command sergeants major
— are women, though more than 13 percent of Army personnel are female.
In particular, the Army has struggled to recruit women as drill sergeants,
citing pregnancy, long hours and the prohibition against women serving in
frontline combat positions as reasons. Sergeant Major King said one of her
priorities would be to recruit more women into her school.
But she pushes back at the notion that she has risen because she is a woman.
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female,” Sergeant Major King said. “I
see a soldier.”
As a child, she refused her mother’s cooking lessons, insisting on driving her
father’s tractor and playing basketball instead. When her siblings got in
trouble, she volunteered to take their spankings.
It was the sight of a commanding-looking female soldier in a stylish red beret
at the fort that inspired her to enlist while still in high school. Within three
years, she was sent to drill sergeant school, graduating as one of five women in
a class of 30.
Willie Shelley, a retired command sergeant major who supervised Sergeant Major
King in three postings, said that he once promoted her over the objections of
his commander into a position at Fort Bragg that had been held only by men.
“Turns out she was about the best first sergeant they ever had,” Mr. Shelley
said. “It would not surprise me that she could become the first female sergeant
major of the Army,” he added, referring to its top enlisted soldier.
In her clipped speaking style, acute command of regulations and visible disgust
with slovenliness, Sergeant Major King prowls the grounds of Fort Jackson, where
she was the top noncommissioned officer for a human resources battalion before
being promoted to commandant.
“She can always find the cigarette butt under the mattress,” said Patrick J.
Jones, a public affairs officer at Fort Jackson. Respect for rules and
dedication to training is what keeps soldiers alive in combat, Sergeant Major
King says, and she expects drill sergeants to embody that ethic 24 hours a day.
“Most soldiers want to be like their drill sergeants,” she said. “They are the
Yet for all her gruffness, she can show surprising tenderness toward her
charges. She describes her soldiers as “my children” and her approach to
disciplining them as “tough love.” She wells up with emotion while describing
how she once hugged a burly master sergeant whose wife had left him.
“She is confident, no nonsense, but compassionate about what’s right for the
soldier,” said Col. John E. Bessler, her commander in a basic training battalion
four years ago.
After a stint as a drill sergeant in her early 20s, Sergeant Major King went
through a series of rapid promotions: aide to the secretary of defense, then
Dick Cheney; senior enlisted positions near the demilitarized zone in Korea;
with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg; and at NATO headquarters in Europe.
For a time in her 30s, she was married to another soldier. She got pregnant but
lost the baby, and eventually divorced. The failure of her marriage, she said,
brought on a period of soul-searching that led her to study the Bible. She was
planning to retire and join the ministry when her appointment to the drill
sergeant school was announced over the summer.
“On the other side, the military life, I was doing so good,” she said. “But my
personal life just stunk.” Since her divorce, she added, “I just pour my heart
into these soldiers.”
Looking back on her years in the Army, Sergeant Major King says she can think of
few occasions where men challenged her authority because she was a woman. “And
when they did,” she said, “I could handle it.”
Asked if women should be allowed into frontline combat units, she said yes, but
only if they meet the same standards as men.
While she says most women cannot meet those standards, she believes she can. As
if to prove her point, she scored a perfect 300 on her semiannual physical
training test last week, doing 34 push-ups and 66 situps, each in under two
minutes, then ran two miles in 16 minutes 10 seconds (well below the required
17:36 for her age group.)
But before she started her test, she characteristically noticed something amiss.
“Can you believe that?” the sergeant major asked no one in particular. “A bag of
garbage outside my Dumpster.”
First Woman Ascends to
Top Drill Sergeant Spot, NYT, 22.9.2009,
White House to Scrap
Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield
September 18, 2009
The New York Times
By PETER BAKER and NICHOLAS KULISH
WASHINGTON —President Obama announced on Thursday that he would scrap former
President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Poland and the
Czech Republic and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at
intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles.
Mr. Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech
Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned.
Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller
SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern
Europe or Turkey, officials said.
“President Bush was right that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a
significant threat,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House. But he said
new assessments of the nature of the Iranian threat required a different system
that would use existing technology and different locations. “This new approach
will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater
defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile
The decision amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the
new administration, one that has upset Czech and Polish allies and pleased
Russia, which has adamantly objected to the Bush plan. But Obama administration
officials stressed that they were not abandoning missile defense, only
redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.
“We value the U.S. president’s responsible approach towards implementing our
agreements,” President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia said Thursday in an address
on national television, news agencies reported. “I am ready to continue the
dialogue,” he said.
Mr. Obama called the leaders of both Poland and the Czech Republic before making
his announcement and said he “reaffirmed our deep and close ties.” In speaking
with reporters, he also reiterated America’s commitment under Article V of the
NATO charter that states that an attack on one member is an attack on the entire
But he also repeated that Russia’s concerns about the original missile defense
plan were “entirely unfounded” because both then and now it is aimed only at
Iran or other rogue states. He offered again to work with Russia on a joint
missile defense program.
The decision drew immediate Republican criticism for weakening the missile
defenses Mr. Bush envisioned.
“Scrapping the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic does
little more then empower Russia and Iran at the expense of our allies in
Europe,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader.
“It shows a willful determination to continue ignoring the threat posed by some
of the most dangerous regimes in the world, while taking one of the most
important defenses against Iran off the table.”
Anticipating the criticism, Mr. Obama said the decision was based on the
unanimous recommendation of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, and he sent Mr. Gates, a Republican first appointed by Mr.
Bush, to discuss the decision with reporters.
Mr. Gates said the new system would actually put defenses in place sooner than
the Bush plan and noted that land-based interceptor missiles would eventually be
located in Europe, including possibly Poland or the Czech Republic.
To say that the Obama administration was scrapping missile defense, Mr. Gates
said, is “misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing.” He added that the
new configuration “provides a better missile defense capability” than the one he
had recommended to Mr. Bush.
Administration officials said the Bush missile defense architecture was better
designed to counter potential long-range missiles by Iran, but recent tests and
intelligence have indicated that Tehran is moving more rapidly toward developing
short- and medium-range missiles. Mr. Obama’s advisers said their reconfigured
system would be more aimed at that threat by stationing interceptor missiles
closer to Iran.
It was only clear late last month that the Obama administration was seriously
considering alternative plans.
In arranging post-midnight calls by Mr. Obama to Czech and Polish leaders, and
quickly sending a top State Department official to Europe, the administration
was scrambling to notify and assure the European allies early Thursday morning
as word of its decision was already leaking out in Washington. The Wall Street
Journal reported Thursday that the administration would jettison the Bush
But it made for unfortunate timing, as Thursday is the 70th anniversary of the
Soviet invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, a date fraught with
sensitivity for Poles who viewed the Bush missile defense system as a political
security blanket against Russia. Poland and many other countries in the former
Soviet sphere worry that Mr. Obama is less willing to stand up to Russia. Mr.
Bush had developed a special relationship with Eastern Europe as relations
between Washington and Moscow deteriorated. The proposal to deploy parts of the
missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic were justified on the grounds
that they would protect Europe and the eastern coast of the United States
against any possible missile attacks from Iran.
But the Polish and Czech governments also saw the presence of American military
personnel based permanently in their countries as a protection against Russia.
Moscow strongly opposed the shield and claimed it was aimed against Russia and
undermined national security. The United States repeatedly denied such claims.
Mr. Obama’s advisers have said their changes to missile defense were motivated
by the accelerating Iranian threat, not by Russian complaints. But the
announcement comes just days before a private meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr.
Medvedev that is schedule to take place on the sidelines of the United Nations
General Assembly opening in New York.
The administration’s four-phase plan would deploy existing SM-3 interceptors
using the sea-based Aegis system in 2011, then after more testing deploy in 2015
an improved version of the interceptors both on ships and on land along with
advanced sensors. A still more advanced version of the interceptors would be
deployed in 2018 and yet another generation in 2020, the latter with more
capacity to counter possible future intercontinental missiles.
By doing so, officials said, they would be getting the first defenses actually
in place seven years earlier than the Bush plan, which envisioned deploying in
2018 the bigger ground-based interceptors that are still being developed. The
Obama review of missile defense was influenced in large part by evidence that
Iran has made significant progress toward developing medium-range missiles that
could threaten Europe, even as the prospects of an Iranian intercontinental
ballistic missile that could reach the United States remain distant.
In May, Iran launched the Sejil-2, the first successful test of a solid-fuel
missile. With an estimated range of around 1,200 miles, it could strike Israel
or many parts of Europe. Unlike Iran’s liquid-fuel missiles, a solid-fuel
missile can be stored, moved around and fired on shorter notice, and thus is
considered by military experts to be a greater threat.
The Obama team relied heavily on research by a Stanford University physicist,
Dean Wilkening, who presented the government with research this year arguing
that Poland and the Czech Republic were not the most effective places to station
a missile defense system against the most likely Iranian threat. Instead, he
said, more optimal places to station missiles and radar systems would be in
Turkey or the Balkans.
“If you move the system down closer to the Middle East,” it would “make more
sense for the defense of Europe, Mr. Wilkening said in an interview.
Mr. Wilkening said the new administration did not want to simply abandon missile
defense but orient it for a different threat than the Bush team saw. “The Obama
administration is more interested in missile defense as a valuable instrument, a
valuable aspect of our military posture than I would have thought,” he said.
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house
of Russia’s Parliament, said in an interview on Thursday that the decision would
give a major boost to relations between the two countries. Mr. Margelov said it
would in particular help negotiations when Mr. Obama meets with Mr. Medvedev at
the United Nations next week.
“For Russia, it is a victory for common sense,” Mr. Margelov said. “It another
positive signal that we have received from Washington that makes the general
climate very positive.”
But Mr. Margelov expressed doubt that the decision would make Moscow more
willing to support a push by the United States to increase sanctions against
Iran over its nuclear activities. The Kremlin said last week that it would
essentially block new sanctions, playing down Western concerns that Iran had
made progress in its bid for nuclear weapons.
Peter Baker reported from Washington and Nicholas Kulish from Berlin. Judy
Dempsey contributed reporting from Berlin, and Clifford J. Levy from Moscow.
White House to Scrap
Bush’s Approach to Missile Shield, NYT, 17.9.2009,
Pentagon Keeps Wary Watch
as Troops Blog
September 9, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES DAO
Over the course of 10 months in eastern Afghanistan, an Army specialist
nicknamed Mud Puppy maintained a blog irreverently chronicling life at the
front, from the terror of roadside bombs to the tyrannies of master sergeants.
Often funny and always profane, the blog, Embrace the Suck (military slang for
making the best of a bad situation), flies under the Army’s radar. Not
officially approved, it is hidden behind a password-protected wall because the
reservist does not want his superiors censoring it.
“Some officer would be reviewing all my writing,” the 31-year-old soldier, who
insisted that his name not be used, said in an e-mail message. “And sooner or
later he would find something to nail me with.”
There are two sides to the military’s foray into the freewheeling world of the
interactive Web. At the highest echelons of the Pentagon, civilian officials and
four-star generals are newly hailing the power of social networking to make
members of the American military more empathetic, entice recruits and shape
public opinion on the war.
Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces in Iraq, is on Facebook. The
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a YouTube channel
and posts Twitter updates almost daily.
The Army is encouraging personnel of all ranks to go online and collaboratively
rewrite seven of its field manuals. And on Aug. 17, the Department of Defense
unveiled a Web site promoting links to its blogs and its Flickr, Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube sites.
The Web, however, is a big place. And the many thousands of troops who use
blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to communicate with the
outside world are not always in tune with the Pentagon’s official voice.
Policing their daily flood of posts, videos and photographs is virtually
impossible — but that has not stopped some in the military from trying.
The Department of Defense, citing growing concerns about cybersecurity, plans to
issue a new policy in the coming weeks that is widely expected to set
departmentwide restrictions on access to social networking sites from military
computers. People involved with the department’s review say the new policy may
limit access to social media sites to those who can demonstrate a clear work
need, like public information officers or family counselors.
If that is the case, many officials say, it will significantly set back efforts
to expand and modernize the military’s use of the Web just as those efforts are
gaining momentum. And while the new policy would not apply to troops who use
private Internet providers, a large number of military personnel on bases and
ships across the world depend on their work computers to gain access to the
To many analysts and officers, the debate reflects a broader clash of cultures:
between the anarchic, unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the Web and the
hierarchical, tightly controlled, top-down tradition of the military.
“We as an institution still haven’t come to grips with how we want to use
blogging” and other social media, said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the
commander of the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
One of the Army’s leading advocates for more open access to the Web, General
Caldwell argues that social networking allows interaction among enlisted
soldiers, junior officers and generals in a way that was unthinkable a decade
He requires students at the Command and General Staff College at Fort
Leavenworth to blog, and the college now sponsors 40 publicly available blogs,
including his own, where policies are freely debated.
But getting approval for those blogs, as well as for YouTube and Facebook access
at the college, was a struggle. “At every corner, someone cited a regulation,”
General Caldwell said. In recent months, however, “the Army has made quantum
leaps” in embracing the Web, he added.
Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired.com’s national security blog, Danger Room, which
has reported extensively on the new policy review, said he recently asked
students at West Point whether they would allow soldiers to blog. Almost every
cadet said no.
“Then I asked, ‘How many of you think you can stop the flow of information from
your soldiers?’ ” Mr. Shachtman recalled. “Everybody agreed there is no way to
stop this information from going out anyway. So there is this sort of
Skeptics of the Pentagon review say it is motivated partly by a desire among
certain officials to exert control over the voices of troops on the Web.
Since the advent of military blogging during the Iraq war, some commanders have
remained uncomfortable with the art form, citing concerns about both security
Over the years, blogs have been censored or shut down, and several years ago the
Army instituted requirements that bloggers register with their commanding
officers and submit posts for review. As a result, some bloggers say, blogs have
become tamer — or, as in the case of Mud Puppy’s blog, gone underground.
Officials knowledgeable about the review say it is a result of growing concerns
at the United States Strategic Command, which oversees the military’s use of the
Internet, that social networking sites make military computers vulnerable to
viruses, hackers, identity thieves, terrorists and even hostile governments.
(Those concerns are not focused on the military’s secure system for classified
material, which does not use the public Internet.)
The review may already be having a chilling effect. The Marine Corps recently
restated a ban on using any social media on its network. And the Army, which in
June gave some bases access to Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites,
recently urged units to avoid creating new social media pages until the final
department policy was issued.
Still, even as they consider restricting the troops’ access to social media, the
most senior Pentagon officials have clearly come to view Facebook, Twitter,
YouTube and blogging as crucial elements of their public information operations.
“This department, I think, is way behind our curve” in using social media,
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said in July as he extolled the use of
Twitter by Iranian dissidents.
To critics, the Pentagon’s social media sites are goofy at best, propagandistic
at worst. “It’s like your parents’ using modern slang and failing miserably,”
said Sgt. Selena Coppa, who writes a blog, Active Duty Patriot, which frequently
criticizes the Iraq war and, she says, has gotten her into trouble with her
But to many troops, the deeper question is whether the military will allow
personnel in the field to use the sites the Pentagon itself wants to exploit.
For a generation raised on the Web, any restrictions will damage morale, those
“What comes out of my blog is the experiences of a soldier right in the middle
of all of this,” Mud Puppy (a nickname for military police), who recently
returned home to Illinois, wrote in a recent e-mail message. “I think that
people need to hear from us, more than they need to hear from the big whigs. War
has a cost, and that cost is paid by soldiers.”
Pentagon Keeps Wary
Watch as Troops Blog, NYT, 9.9.2009,
Gives Names of Detainees
to Red Cross
August 23, 2009
The New York Times
By ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — In a reversal of Pentagon policy, the military for the first
time is notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities
of militants who were being held in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in
Afghanistan run by United States Special Operations forces, according to three
The change begins to lift the veil from the American government’s most secretive
remaining overseas prisons by allowing the Red Cross to track the custody of
dozens of the most dangerous suspected terrorists and foreign fighters plucked
off the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is a major advance for the organization in its long fight to gain more
information about these detainees. The military had previously insisted that
disclosing any details about detainees at the secretive camps could tip off
other militants and jeopardize counterterrorism missions.
Detention practices will be in the spotlight this week. The Central Intelligence
Agency on Monday is to release a highly critical 2004 report on the agency’s
interrogation program by the C.I.A. inspector general. The long awaited report
provides new details about abuses that took place inside the agency’s secret
prisons, including C.I.A. officers carrying out mock executions and threatening
at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill. It is a violation of the
federal torture statute to threaten a detainee with imminent death.
Also, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to decide in the next
several days whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the
interrogations of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The new Pentagon policy on detainees took effect this month with no public
announcement from the military or the Red Cross. It represents another shift in
detention policy by the Obama administration, which has already vowed to close
the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by next year and is
conducting major reviews of the government’s procedures for interrogating and
A spokesman for the Red Cross in Washington, Bernard Barrett, declined to
comment on the new notification policy, citing the organization’s longstanding
practice of refusing to talk about its discussions with the Defense Department
about detention issues.
Unlike the secret prisons run by the C.I.A. that President Obama ordered closed
in January, the military continues to operate the Special Operations camps,
which it calls temporary screening sites, in Balad, Iraq, and Bagram,
As many as 30 to 40 foreign prisoners have been held at the camp in Iraq at any
given time, military officials said; they did not provide an estimate for the
Afghan camp but suggested that the number was smaller.
The Red Cross is allowed access to almost all American military prisons and
battlefield detention sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Special Operations
camps have been excluded.
The New York Times reported in 2006 that some soldiers at the temporary
detention site in Iraq, then located at Baghdad International Airport and called
Camp Nama, beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces, and
used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball.
Military officials say conditions at the camps have improved significantly since
then, but virtually all details of the sites remain shrouded in secrecy.
Under Pentagon rules, detainees at the Special Operations camps can be held for
up to two weeks. Formerly, the military at that point had to release a detainee;
transfer him to a long-term prison in Iraq or Afghanistan, to which the Red
Cross has broad access; or seek one-week renewable extensions from Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates or his representative.
Under the new policy, the military must notify the Red Cross of the detainees’
names and identification numbers within two weeks of capture, a notification
that before happened only after a detainee was transferred to a long-term
prison. The option to seek custody extensions has been eliminated, a senior
Pentagon official said.
Pentagon officials sought to play down the significance of the shift, saying
that most detainees at the camps had already been registered with the Red Cross
within the initial two-week period.
“The department makes every effort to register detainees with the I.C.R.C. as
soon as practicable after capture,” said Bryan G. Whitman, a Defense Department
spokesman, who declined to comment specifically on the Special Operations camps.
“There are certain instances where, for reasons of military necessity, this
cannot be accomplished.”
He added, “The department uses this two-week period to screen detainees for
further detention, in accordance with U.S. and international law.”
But human rights advocates hailed the policy change, saying that Special
Operations forces had often extended the custody of detainees, leaving them in a
legal limbo for weeks on end.
“Any improvement in I.C.R.C. notification and access is a positive development
because it not only accounts for the whereabouts of a person, but hopefully will
expedite notification to the family who is left anxious wondering about the fate
of his or her relative,” said Sahr MuhammedAlly, a senior associate for law and
security at Human Rights First, an advocacy group. The change in notifying the
Red Cross stemmed largely from a new climate that emerged after Mr. Obama’s
election, military officials said. The new administration set out the larger
goal to revamp detention and interrogation practices that had drawn
international condemnation under the Bush administration.
Into this environment stepped Gen. David H. Petraeus, newly selected to lead the
Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East.
When he was the top commander in Iraq, General Petraeus supported ideas promoted
by Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone to overhaul the detention system there, separating
hard-core militants from petty criminals who could be easily radicalized,
offering detainees vocational training and family visits. The United States is
now adopting this same approach to revamp the prison system in Afghanistan.
This spring, based on a request by General Petraeus, Mr. Gates ordered a review
of the Special Operations camps. Lt. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, an Air Force
officer who had served on the military’s Joint Staff in Washington, spent
several weeks in Afghanistan and Iraq examining the sites. At the request of
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Breedlove also
accompanied Special Operations teams on some of their missions to observe how
they treated prisoners at the point of capture.
In July, Admiral Mullen sent a confidential message to all of the military
service chiefs and senior field commanders asking them to redouble their efforts
to alert troops to the importance of treating detainees properly.
Admiral Mullen felt compelled to issue his message after viewing photographs
documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by American military
personnel in the early years of the wars there, often at the point of capture, a
senior military official said.
Mr. Obama decided in May not to make the photographs public, warning that the
images could ignite attacks against American troops.
In a classified report dated June 17, General Breedlove generally praised the
conditions at the Special Operations camps. He found only minor problems,
including a failure to provide a Koran to each detainee, and no arrows or other
symbols indicating which direction Muslim prisoners should face to pray toward
Military officials acknowledged that the Special Operations forces might have
improved conditions to impress the visiting investigator. But one of the
general’s recommendations surprised officials: provide more information about
detainees at the camps to the Red Cross earlier in the detention process.
The Red Cross has been lobbying the Pentagon for years for access to those held
at the Special Operations camps, or least information about who is being
detained in them. General Breedlove’s recommendation gave the group’s efforts a
prominent military endorsement.
Meanwhile, details of the C.I.A.’s problems with abuses in detention have been
emerging. According to the findings of the C.I.A. report to be issued Monday,
C.I.A. jailers at different times held the handgun and the drill close to the
body of the detainee, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, threatening to use them if the
prisoner was not cooperative with his interrogators, according to a government
official familiar with the contents of the report.
Mr. Nashiri, believed to be the mastermind of the 2000 attack on the American
destroyer Cole, was one of two C.I.A. detainees whose interrogation sessions
were videotaped. The tapes that were destroyed by C.I.A. officers in 2005, and
it is unclear whether the threats with the gun and the power drill were
documented on the tapes.
In a separate episode detailed in the report, C.I.A. officers fired a gunshot in
a room next to a detainee, making the prisoner believe a second detainee had
The C.I.A. declined to comment on specifics of the report, which were first
reported Friday evening by Newsweek.
Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said: “The C.I.A. in no way endorsed
behavior — no matter how infrequent — that went beyond the formal guidance. This
has all been looked at; professionals in the Department of Justice decided if
and when to pursue prosecution.”
Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting.
Pentagon Shift Gives
Names of Detainees to Red Cross, NYT, 23.8.2009,
Pentagon to Outline Shift
in War Planning Strategy
June 23, 2009
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will adopt a new strategy that for the first time
orders the military to anticipate that future conflicts will include a complex
mix of conventional, set-piece battles and campaigns against shadowy insurgents
and terrorists, according to senior officials.
The shift is intended to assure that the military is prepared to deal with a
spectrum of possible threats, including computer network attacks, attempts to
blind satellite positioning systems, strikes by precision missiles and roadside
bombs, and propaganda campaigns waged on television and the Internet. The new
strategy has broad implications for training, troop deployment, weapons
procurement and other aspects of military planning.
In officially embracing hybrid warfare, the Pentagon would be replacing a second
pillar of long-term planning. Senior officials disclosed in March that the
review was likely to reject a historic premise of American strategy — that the
nation need only to prepare to fight two major wars at a time.
Driving both sets of developments are lessons learned from the past six years,
when the United States has been fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet
is stretched to be ready for potentially significant operations elsewhere,
Pentagon officials say, such as against Iran, North Korea or even China and
Russia. Conflicts with any of those countries would also be expected to present
a hybrid range of challenges.
But powerful constituencies in the military and in Congress continue to argue
that the next war will not look like Iraq or Afghanistan, and they say the
military is focusing too much on counter-insurgency and losing its ability to
defeat a traditional nation-state.
Even so, senior officials say hybrid warfare will be adopted as a central
premise of military planning in the top-to-bottom review required every four
years by Congress. When completed later this year, the assessment, officially
called the Quadrennial Defense Review, will determine how billions of dollars
are spent on weapons and influence how the military reshapes its training.
During a Pentagon news conference last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
said of the new strategy, “It derives from my view that the old way of looking
at irregular warfare as being one kind of conflict and conventional warfare as a
discreet kind of warfare is an outdated concept. Conflict in the future will
slide up and down a scale, both in scope or scale and in lethality.”
Even before the review is complete, the new thinking has claimed high-dollar
Mr. Gates proposed ending production of the Air Force’s top-of-the-line F-22
fighter jets, arguing that money should be spent on warplanes that carry out a
broader array of missions, from countering enemy air forces to evading
surface-to-air missiles to bombing insurgent militias in hiding.
But supporters of the F-22 in Congress are pushing for financing to keep the
production line open, potentially setting up a veto battle.
The defense secretary also put on hold a multibillion-dollar program for the
Army’s next-generation armored vehicle, saying its proposed flat-bottom design
ignored lessons that angular troop transports are safer from roadside bombs,
which have been the biggest killer of troops in Iraq.
In preparing to adopt concepts of hybrid warfare, the Defense Department has
closely studied Israel’s last war in Lebanon in 2006, when a terrorist group,
Hezbollah, fielded high-tech weapons equal to any nation’s, including long-range
missiles. Likewise, when a traditional military power like Russia went to war
with the former Soviet republic of Georgia last August, its tanks, paratroopers
and warships were preceded by crippling computer network attacks.
The previous Pentagon strategy review focused on a four-square chart that
described security challenges to the nation as perceived then. It included
traditional, conventional conflicts; irregular warfare, such as terrorism and
insurgencies; catastrophic challenges from unconventional weapons used by
terrorists or rogue states; and disruptive threats, in which new technologies
could counter American advantages.
“The ‘quad chart’ was useful in its time,” said Michele A. Flournoy, the under
secretary of defense for policy, who is leading the strategy review for Mr.
“But we aren’t using it as a point of reference or departure,” she said in an
interview. “I think hybrid will be the defining character. The traditional, neat
categories — those are types that really don’t match reality any more.”
The nation’s top military officers are reviewing their procurement programs and
personnel policies to adapt to the new environment, focusing in particular on
weapons systems that can perform multiple missions.
“When I send a carrier strike group forward, or when I send an amphibious ready
group forward with a Marine Expeditionary Unit on board, I don’t know what they
are going to end up doing,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval
operations. “Therefore, the way that we view our training, the way that we view
our capabilities, has to be packaged for this range of actions.”
He cited the experience of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which was
steaming toward Iraq to carry out combat missions when it was diverted to become
the American headquarters for tsunami relief in Indonesia. Both Admiral Roughead
and Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, said in interviews
that they had adopted goals of making certain each weapon system could “stretch”
across a spectrum of operations, proving value in traditional and irregular
General Schwartz cited Air Force decisions to place surveillance systems on its
long-range bombers and tactical warplanes to make each a provider of valuable
battlefield intelligence, as well as maintaining strike capabilities.
“This is the kind of thing we are talking about, where we avoid point-mission
platforms and look for versatility,” General Schwartz said. “Multipurpose
platforms are inherently more affordable.”
For the ground forces, the goal is an ability to sustain 10 combat brigades
abroad at all times, with 10 more in reserve and nearly ready to go as they
complete training. This eventually would allow active duty troops to spend three
years at home for every year deployed.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, when asked to define the
Army’s goals in the review, said: “The most significant thing I’d like to get is
an acceptance of that rotational model.”
Pentagon to Outline
Shift in War Planning Strategy, NYT, 23.6.2009,
Privacy May Be a Victim
in Cyberdefense Plan
June 13, 2009
The New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — A plan to create a new Pentagon cybercommand is raising
significant privacy and diplomatic concerns, as the Obama administration moves
ahead on efforts to protect the nation from cyberattack and to prepare for
possible offensive operations against adversaries’ computer networks.
President Obama has said that the new cyberdefense strategy he unveiled last
month will provide protections for personal privacy and civil liberties. But
senior Pentagon and military officials say that Mr. Obama’s assurances may be
challenging to guarantee in practice, particularly in trying to monitor the
thousands of daily attacks on security systems in the United States that have
set off a race to develop better cyberweapons.
Much of the new military command’s work is expected to be carried out by the
National Security Agency, whose role in intercepting the domestic end of
international calls and e-mail messages after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, under
secret orders issued by the Bush administration, has already generated intense
There is simply no way, the officials say, to effectively conduct computer
operations without entering networks inside the United States, where the
military is prohibited from operating, or traveling electronic paths through
countries that are not themselves American targets.
The cybersecurity effort, Mr. Obama said at the White House last month, “will
not — I repeat, will not — include monitoring private sector networks or
But foreign adversaries often mount their attacks through computer network hubs
inside the United States, and military officials and outside experts say that
threat confronts the Pentagon and the administration with difficult questions.
Military officials say there may be a need to intercept and examine some e-mail
messages sent from other countries to guard against computer viruses or
potential terrorist action. Advocates say the process could ultimately be
accepted as the digital equivalent of customs inspections, in which passengers
arriving from overseas consent to have their luggage opened for security, tax
and health reasons.
“The government is in a quandary,” said Maren Leed, a defense expert at the
bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies who was a Pentagon
special assistant on cyberoperations from 2005 to 2008.
Ms. Leed said a broad debate was needed “about what constitutes an intrusion
that violates privacy and, at the other extreme, what is an intrusion that may
be acceptable in the face of an act of war.”
In a recent speech, Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff and a chief architect of the new cyberstrategy, acknowledged that a
major unresolved issue was how the military — which would include the National
Security Agency, where much of the cyberwar expertise resides — could legally
set up an early warning system.
Unlike a missile attack, which would show up on the Pentagon’s screens long
before reaching American territory, a cyberattack may be visible only after it
has been launched in the United States.
“How do you understand sovereignty in the cyberdomain?” General Cartwright
asked. “It doesn’t tend to pay a lot of attention to geographic boundaries.”
For example, the daily attacks on the Pentagon’s own computer systems, or probes
sent from Russia, China and Eastern Europe seeking chinks in the computer
systems of corporations and financial institutions, are rarely seen before their
effect is felt inside the United States.
Some administration officials have begun to discuss whether laws or regulations
must be changed to allow law enforcement, the military or intelligence agencies
greater access to networks or Internet providers when significant evidence of a
national security threat was found.
Ms. Leed said that while the Defense Department and related intelligence
agencies were the only organizations that had the ability to protect against
such cyberattacks, “they are not the best suited, from a civil liberties
perspective, to take on that responsibility.”
Under plans being completed at the Pentagon, the new cybercommand will be run by
a four-star general, much the way Gen. David H. Petraeus runs the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq from Central Command in Tampa, Fla. But the expectation is
that whoever is in charge of the new command will also direct the National
Security Agency, an effort to solve the turf war between the spy agency and the
military over who is in charge of conducting offensive operations.
While the N.S.A.’s job is chiefly one of detection and monitoring, the agency
also possesses what Michael D. McConnell, the former director of national
intelligence, called “the critical skill set” to respond quickly to
cyberattacks. Yet the Defense Department views cyberspace as its domain as well,
a new battleground after land, sea, air and space.
The complications are not limited to privacy concerns. The Pentagon is
increasingly worried about the diplomatic ramifications of being forced to use
the computer networks of many other nations while carrying out digital missions
— the computer equivalent of the Vietnam War’s spilling over the Cambodian
border in the 1960s. To battle Russian hackers, for example, it might be
necessary to act through the virtual cyberterritory of Britain or Germany or any
country where the attack was routed.
General Cartwright said military planners were trying to write rules of
engagement for scenarios in which a cyberattack was launched from a neutral
country that might have no idea what was going on. But, with time of the
essence, it may not be possible, the scenarios show, to ask other nations to act
against an attack that is flowing through their computers in milliseconds.
“If I pass through your country, do I have to talk to the ambassador?” General
Cartwright said. “It is very difficult. Those are the questions that are now
really starting to emerge vis-à-vis cyber.”
Frida Berrigan, a longtime peace activist who is a senior program associate at
the New America Foundation’s arms and security initiative, expressed concerns
about whether the Obama administration would be able to balance its promise to
respect privacy in cyberspace even as it appeared to be militarizing
“Obama was very deliberate in saying that the U.S. military and the U.S.
government would not be looking at our e-mail and not tracking what we do
online,” Ms. Berrigan said. “This is not to say there is not a cyberthreat out
there or that cyberterrorism is not a significant concern. We should be vigilant
and creative. But once again we see the Pentagon being put at the heart of it
and at front lines of offering a solution.”
Ms. Berrigan said that just as the counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan had proved that “there is no front line anymore, and no
demilitarized zone anymore, then if the Pentagon and the military services see
cyberspace as a battlefield domain, then the lines protecting privacy and our
civil liberties get blurred very, very quickly.”
Privacy May Be a Victim
in Cyberdefense Plan, NYT, 13.6.2009,
Pentagon Cyber Command
to Create Force for Future
May 5, 2009
Filed at 4:08 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military must reorganize its offensive and
defensive cyber operations and will use a new command at a Maryland Army
facility to create a digital warfare force for the future, the director of the
National Security Agency says.
Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, also the Pentagon's leading cyber warfare commander,
said the U.S. is determined to lead the global effort to use computer technology
to deter or defeat enemies, while still protecting the public's constitutional
In testimony prepared for delivery Tuesday to a House Armed Services
subcommittee, Alexander and other military leaders in cyber matters outlined the
challenges to keeping up with rapidly changing technologies and the need for
more resources and training. In blunt comments, Alexander acknowledged that
cyber training for the Pentagon's work force is inadequate and must be improved.
In separate prepared testimony, Lt. Gen. William Shelton, the Air Force's chief
of warfighting integration, said the Pentagon relies heavily on industry efforts
to respond to cyber threats. That approach, he said, does not keep pace with the
The testimony comes as the Obama administration prepares to release its review
of the nation's cybersecurity, and on the heels of a critical report by the
National Research Council. The independent group's report concluded that the
government's policies on how and when to wage cyber warfare are ill-formed, lack
adequate oversight and require a broad public debate.
Alexander said the military's new cyber command at Fort Meade, Md., will be a
sub-unit of U.S. Strategic Command, and would be designed to ''defend vital
networks and project power in cyberspace.''
Defense Department networks are probed repeatedly every day and the number of
intrusion attempts have more than doubled recently, officials have said.
Military leaders said earlier this month that the Pentagon spent more than $100
million in the past six months responding to and repairing damage from cyber
attacks and other computer network problems.
On the Net:
Pentagon Cyber Command
to Create Force for Future, NYT, 5.5.2009,
Break Up the
A Fight Is On
April 23, 2009
The New York Times
To the Editor:
“Up, Up and Out,” by Paul Kane (Op-Ed, April 21), recommends disbanding the Air
Force because of vague claims that ours is a redundant service and apparently
not at war.
Mr. Kane’s conclusion dismisses more than 71 percent of the 330,000 active-duty
airmen who, along with their Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve teammates,
have deployed since 2001. These warriors directly execute and support combat
operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In that period, 45 airmen have been killed in combat and more than 500 wounded.
The Air Force routinely responds rapidly to urgent calls from ground forces in
dire circumstances — with the unrivaled combat precision and reliability airmen
routinely bring to bear.
Our airmen prove their worth and commitment in distinctive service that prevents
war and reduces the cost of conflict in American blood and treasure. We have
done so faithfully in every conflict since our inception.
Today’s Air Force brings specific capabilities to the joint fight to defend the
homeland, deter aggression, help those in need and defend the freedoms we all
enjoy. This resonates with the American people because they recognize the vital
importance of Air Force global vigilance, reach and power.
We proudly secure our nation’s skies and our sister services from attack, any
time and any place. Airmen will be there when America needs them, and every
serving member of the Army, the Navy and the Marines knows it.
(Gen.) Norton A. Schwartz
Air Force Chief of Staff
Washington, April 21, 2009
To the Editor:
Paul Kane provides a provocative statement on issues that too long were ignored
in our thinking: a military structure shaped by the cold war; a policy of
retention that derogates the value of human resources; and an effort to mitigate
the mind-set supporting a volunteer army.
A remarkable, out-of-the box effort, to say the least.
Willoughby Hills, Ohio, April 21, 2009
To the Editor:
The point that Paul Kane makes in advocating disbanding the Air Force and
allocating the responsibility to the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps
certainly makes sense in the world we live in at this minute.
Yet the missions of these three services in their air arms is totally tactical.
If our only threat in the future is from enemies like the Taliban, all we need
is a tactical air arm to deal with terrorists, basically in caves.
But China and Russia would be delighted to have us abandon our strategic air
capacity in the form of the F-22 fighters and the aging B-52 strategic bomber
In World War II, we had the luxury of time to build the Eighth Air Force to deal
with the strategic threat in Europe, and the 20th Air Force to deal with the
threat in Japan.
It is unlikely that the luxury of this much time will ever be available again.
Princeton, N.J., April 21, 2009
To the Editor:
I take strong issue with Paul Kane’s article advocating the end of the Air
First, we fought this battle in the 1940s and learned that an independent Air
Force was vital to national security. Ignoring the lessons of history about the
need for air power would be a grave mistake. The world has not seen its last
war, and the need for deterrence and air dominance is growing, not diminishing.
Second, the Air Force is in the fight. Airmen are fighting on the ground, from
the skies and from space. The Air Force is enormously involved providing
real-time intelligence to commanders, cover to troops, precision air-to-surface
strikes, transport, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and much more.
If Mr. Kane is really concerned about too many “air forces,” perhaps a better
solution is for the Marine Corps to fold its air assets into the Air Force.
Michael M. Dunn
President and Chief Executive
Air Force Association
Arlington, Va., April 21, 2009
To the Editor:
Paul Kane suggests the possibility of mandatory national service for all
Americans at age 18, including compulsory military service. This is a dangerous
proposition at a time when we should be redefining our national priorities and
our international image.
To increase the size of our military — already the second largest in the world —
would be perceived as a sign of aggression and a continuation of the
militaristic policies that led to much of the hostility toward the United
In addition, this proposal would further handicap the United States in our
production of educated workers. Delaying higher education can only make worse
the dearth of Americans qualified for high-level positions, increasing the
outsourcing of these jobs.
Our human capital would be better served by investing in education than by
dedicating millions of youths to military service.
While a spirit of volunteerism and service to the community and nation should be
fostered, a policy of mandatory service — military or otherwise — would only
serve to weaken our country at home and abroad.
Brooklyn, April 21, 2009
To the Editor:
Paul Kane’s reasoned, intelligent article proposed a program I have long felt
was essential, and that is to establish national service for all young people. I
would suggest that it be mandatory either at 18 or upon college graduation,
whichever comes first.
While I disagree that the “best qualified” should be assigned to the military, I
do believe that a wide range of service should be offered and that we begin by
taking into the military those who want to join. If there are not enough, then
we can look at actually assigning them, allowing, of course, for those who are
And let’s provide them with credits for future education. This is not a draft
but rather goes a long way toward what President Obama and others are talking
about in terms of personal and collective responsibility and obligation.
I hope that Congress gets behind this; it is not a job for the Defense
Department alone but for the entire government and all agencies.
Elaine Hirschl Ellis
New York, April 21, 2009
Break Up the Air Force?
A Fight Is On, NYT, 23.4.2009,
Up, Up and Out
April 21, 2009
The New York Times
By PAUL KANE
Silver Spring, Md.
ROBERT GATES, the secretary of defense, has proposed a budget overhaul that will
go a long way toward improving our national security, but more can be done to
meet his long-term goal: creating the right military for the 21st century.
Not since Henry Stimson’s tenure from 1940 to ’45 has a defense secretary been
faced to the same degree with simultaneously fighting a war and carrying out
far-reaching reforms. Yet there are three major changes Mr. Gates should add to
his agenda, and they deserve President Obama’s support.
First, the Air Force should be eliminated, and its personnel and equipment
integrated into the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Second, the archaic “up or out”
military promotion system should be scrapped in favor of a plan that treats
service members as real assets. Third, the United States needs a national
service program for all young men and women, without any deferments, to increase
the quality and size of the pool from which troops are drawn.
At the moment, the Army, Navy and Marine Corps are at war, but the Air Force is
not. This is not the fault of the Air Force: it is simply not structured to be
in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Army, Marine and Navy personnel
have borne the brunt of deployments, commonly serving multiple tours, the Air
Force’s operational tempo remains comparatively comfortable. In 2007, only about
5 percent of the troops in Iraq were airmen.
Yes, air power is a critical component of America’s arsenal. But the Army, Navy
and Marines already maintain air wings within their expeditionary units. The Air
Force is increasingly a redundancy in structure and spending.
War is no longer made up of set-piece battles between huge armies confronting
each other with tanks and airplanes. As we move toward a greater emphasis on
rapid-response troops, the Army has tightened its physical fitness regime and
the Marine Corps has introduced a physically grueling Combat Fitness Test for
all members. Yet an Air Force study last year found that more than half of
airmen and women were overweight and 12 percent were obese.
Next, the current military personnel system is a peacetime bureaucratic
construct that serves neither national security nor those who wear the uniform.
Congress sets the level of manpower for each military service. Within this
constraint, military planners have to decide how many riflemen, mechanics,
cooks, medics, pilots and such there should be within the military’s job types,
known as Military Occupational Specialties. Then the Pentagon has to decide how
many people will be retained in the ranks or promoted.
The result is an “up or out” system that demands service members move up the
ladder simply to stay in the military. Any soldier passed over for promotion
twice must leave or retire.
Treating service members like so many widgets — in particular, the enlisted men
and women who make up 85 percent of the ranks — is arbitrary and bad management.
I have seen many fit, experienced officers and enlisted Marines arbitrarily
forced out because there were only so many slots into which they could be
The military should develop a new accounting and personnel system that tracks
the cost of developing its human capital and tallies each service member as an
investment with a fixed value based on his education, training, experience and
performance. This would reflect the departure of a valued service member as an
asset lost, not a cost cut. Why are fit men and women who have served in combat,
a human experience that a million dollars can’t buy, being pushed out instead of
retained for 15, 20, 30 years?
Last, Mr. Gates should urge President Obama to confer with Congress and
introduce national service at age 18 for all Americans. Under such a system,
young people from all classes and backgrounds would either serve in the military
or do other essential work like intelligence assessment, conservation,
antipoverty projects, educational tutoring, firefighting, policing, border
security, disaster relief or care for the elderly. The best qualified would be
assigned to the military.
The 1.6 million Americans who have served in the current wars represent less
than one percent of all citizens. We need to spread the risk and burden of
fighting our wars. If more of our national leaders had been in uniform, or knew
they might have children at risk in war, their decisions during military
confrontations might be better. And this is not just about the struggle against
terrorism: would New Orleans reconstruction have lagged so long if we had had a
national service program in natural-disaster recovery?
President Obama has the political capital to make these critical changes. Given
the urgency of war and money available under the economic recovery plan, now may
be our best chance for decades to truly modernize America’s defenses.
Paul Kane is a Marine veteran of Iraq and a former fellow with the International
Security Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Up, Up and Out, NYT,