Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: Spending on Overseas Bases, Drones over Boston, and Benghazi

by Micah Zenko
April 19, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters).

Donna Cassata, “Report: US Footing Greater Bill for Overseas Bases,” Associated Press, April 17, 2013.

The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says.

The exhaustive, yearlong investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on costs and burden-sharing as the United States spends more than $10 billion a year to back up the U.S. military presence overseas, with 70 percent of the amount expended in the three nations. The figure does not include military personnel costs.

(3PA: The full 75-page SASC report can be found here.) 


Jacob Koebler, “Industry: Drones Could Have Helped Boston Marathon Bombing Responders,” US News, April 16, 2013.

Monday’s bombing killed three people and injured dozens more. On the police scanner in the aftermath of the attack, first responders discussed grounding a helicopter because it needed to refuel. Multiple drones would theoretically solve that problem.

Our industry is working to develop technologies to provide first responders with the best tools possible to do their jobs safely as they work to protect our communities,” [AUVSI President & CEO Michael] Toscano says.

(3PA: The AUVSI is the industry association and primary lobbyists for domestic drone manufacturers.)


Jay Solomon, “Kerry Focuses on Deciphering Duo in Iran, North Korea,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2013.

In recent months, Iran has begun installing at nuclear sites hundreds of more-advanced centrifuge machines capable of producing fuel at three times the current rate, according to U.S. and U.N. officials.  Iran has also completed the development of an uranium enrichment facility in a fortified military structure near the holy city of Qom, which is seen as largely immune from an American or Israel attack. “In Khameni’s eyes, he probably thinks he’s winning” his conflict with the U.S., said a senior Israeli official.

(3PA: There is a long tradition of naively believing non-Iranian policymakers can step into the shoes of the seventy-three-year-old Shiite theocrat and accurately comprehend what he sees and believes is lunacy.) 


Jennifer McDermott, “Admiral: Many Unaware Sub Service Keeps Enemies From Our Shores,” The Day, April 15, 2013.

“We operate forward inside their 20-yard line, inside their red zone, so that they rarely come out into midfield and very, very rarely operate off the East or West Coast of the United States of America,” he said. “I think the fact that we enjoy that advantage, where we don’t have to go to bed at night wondering if there’s going to be a land attack from sea, is something Americans have grown accustomed to and don’t realize that it hasn’t happened because we’re out there.”

(3PA: For a second, imagine if a Chinese admiral made a similar statement about operating near U.S. coastal waters in order to contain the U.S. Navy.)


House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Subject: Worldwide Threats, April 11, 2013.

REP. Terro Sewell: If each of you could just talk a little bit about the greatest cyberthreats from your perspectives — is it foreign governments? Is it terrorists? Is it criminals? I mean, where is the biggest threat?

DIR. James Clapper [director of national intelligence]:  Any time you’re assessing a threat, there are obviously two dimensions. One is the capability, and the other dimension is intent. And certainly from a capability standpoint, in terms of the ability to wreak damage to the country, we’re more concerned with the potential of a nation-state. And obviously — and we’ve called this out publicly before — Russia and China are probably the most capable from a nation-state perspective, have a capability to attack. This is separate, of course, from espionage, electronic or cyberespionage, and as we all know, that’s gone on quite voluminously, particularly by the Chinese.

Other threats, though, from other countries who don’t have that capability but might have a more malevolent intent, are also of concern to us, which we do watch. And then it tails off to hackers, criminals, organized crime, which probably represent a lesser capability but a more aggressive intent…

 


REP. Michele Bachmann:  When the White House conducted their armed drone strikes in North Africa, particularly in eastern Libya, prior to the attack on our mission in Benghazi on 9/11 last year, did the White House notify the State Department of the armed drone strikes before they were made?

DIR. John Brennan (director of central intelligence): Armed drone strikes in Libya? I’m unknowing of such, and I would defer to the White House to address your question.

REP. Bachmann: Were there any armed drone strikes in Northern Africa that were made by the White House?

DIR. Brennan: White House doesn’t have a drone capability, responsibility, whatever. So I –

REP. Bachmann: Did they have any directives toward having armed drone strikes in North Africa?

DIR. Brennan: Again, I don’t know what it is specifically you’re referring to, but again, I would defer to the White House on whatever happened at that time.

DIR. CLAPPER: (Referring to ?) the capability, the UAVs that were over — flying over Libya were military and were unarmed.

REP. Bachmann: And so were there any armed drone strikes that were made in North Africa prior to 9/11?

DIR. Clapper: In Libya?

REP. Bachmann: I’m asking in North Africa. I’m asking the — I’m asking Director Brennan. Were there any armed drone strikes that were made by the United States in North Africa prior to 9/11?

DIR. Brennan: Well, we usually don’t talk about any type of specific actions, but again, I don’t know what you could be referencing.

REP. Bachmann: I’m just wondering if the State Department was aware or if the military was aware or if the CIA was aware. And if we aren’t going to talk about that, we aren’t going to talk about that, but that’s a question I’d like to know.

(3PA: Classic congressional oversight.)


Audrey McAvoy, “Air Force General: Actions Aim To Deter North Korea,” Associated Press, April 10, 2013. 

B-2 stealth bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers have recently all flown to South Korea for exercises or short deployments in what amounted to a dramatic display of U.S. air power. The stealth planes are capable of sneaking past radar undetected. B-2 and B-52 bombers are capable of delivering nuclear weapons. “Every morning that a potential adversary gets up and goes, `You know what, I’m not going to mess with America today’ – that’s a good morning,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle said Tuesday in an interview at his headquarters in Hawaii. “We need all those mornings to keep coming.”

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