Mark Collins – Afghanistan and India and China: Great Games?

Whilst the Dragon pledges oodles to India’s arch-adversary Pakistan,

China and Pakistan: Big Bucks for Links for Those Lips and Teeth

New Delhi frets that Beijing may be stealing a march on it in Afghanstan–and note the hopes for cooperation with Iran:

India seeks to regain influence in Afghanistan

Ghani, Modi likely to discuss final approval of a tripartite transit agreement involving India, Afghanistan and Iran centred around the Iranian port of Chabahar

When Afghan President Ashraf Ghani makes his first official visit to India next week, it will be a chance for New Delhi to regain ground lost to regional rivals Pakistan and China and push interests including trade routes and arms sales.

More than his predecessor Hamid Karzai, Ghani has reached out to neighbouring Pakistan to help negotiate a settlement with Taliban insurgents and to China to add clout to the fragile peace process [see “Helping Chinese Hand in Afghanistan?“] as well as to invest in the Afghan economy.

That has left India as an also-ran during the first seven months of Ghani’s tenure, and talk of a strategic partnership with Afghanistan including significant sales of military equipment during Karzai’s frequent visits has faded to silence.

China’s emerging role in Afghanistan, and its announcement this week of $46 billion of investment in India’s neighbour and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan [see link at start of the post], have heightened the sense that India could lose influence in South Asia, experts said.

“China’s footprint to our west will continue to grow bigger as it seeks access to the waters of the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, the energy resources of Iran and the mineral resources of Afghanistan,” said Vikram Sood, former head of India’s external spy agency [that’s the RAW, which the Paks are convinced (probably with reason) is up to no good in Baluchistanrecently here] and an influential South Asia strategist.

Earlier this month, India delivered three light helicopters to Afghanistan, Indian and Afghan sources said, a small deal that came three years late and was a far cry from Karzai’s requests in 2013 that included field guns and battle tanks [see “Indian Interests in Afghanistan, Part 2“].

“There was a shopping list, the expectation was it would be delivered,” said a source with direct knowledge of the security cooperation between the two countries, who was not authorised to speak to the press...

According to an Indian government official, on the leaders’ agenda will be to discuss final approval of a tripartite transit agreement involving India, Afghanistan and Iran centred around the Iranian port of Chabahar.

India’s access to landlocked Afghanistan, and potentially on to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe, is either through Pakistan, which is not seen as feasible given their mutual suspicion, or via Iran and northwards by land.
Again, India has been accused of dragging its feet.

“There were several opportunities, even the new government in Delhi had opportunities. But they didn’t act on it.”..


India all set to ink deal to develop Chabahar port in Iran

Developing Iranian port will help India counter neighbours…

Sure is a lot of jostling for influence by those in the region–and note the US seems pretty peripheral.  Earlier:

Afghan Foreign Policy Balancing: India (vs Pakistan) and China (money)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Canada’s Obamaproblem–and Mexico’s

Further to this post,

A Great Canadian Ambassador on Our Obamaproblem

a former White House official under the second President Bush takes on POTUS:

The U.S. is not being a good neighbor

Richard G. Miles was the National Security Council’s director for North America from 2007 to 2008 [more here].

In a world full of bad news, North America has been having quite a good run lately. Energy production is off the charts in the United States and Canada, and much-needed political and economic reforms are steadily advancing in Mexico, while fewer Mexicans are moving to the United States. Given the Obama administration’s lack of progress in other parts of the world, one might expect it to seize on the obvious opportunities on our nation’s doorsteps. It has not.

During his six years in office, President Obama has been to Saudi Arabia more times than he has to Canada. In February, a panel of former top Canadian diplomats was asked to comment on the state of U.S.-Canadian relations. “Unfortunately,” said one former emissary, “of modern presidents, Barack Obama appears to have the least appreciation of the strategic importance of Canada to the U.S. He has not put the necessary effort into the neighborhood, including Mexico, that it deserves.” Former ambassador Allan Gotlieb, the dean of Canada’s diplomatic corps, faulted Obama for a “striking lack of sensitivity” to “the impact of their [Keystone XL] position on our historic joint energy relationship, our joint economic security interests and the uniquely integrated economic ties with the country with which they share a continent [see also link at start of the post].”

It is hard to overstate what is at stake. The United States is now the world’s second-largest producer of oil and natural gas and has the fourth-largest proved gas reserves. Canada has jumped to the fifth-largest energy producer and controls the third-largest proved oil reserves. Although Mexico’s energy production has fallen over the past decade, it remains the 10th-largest oil producer in the world. The three North American countries together account for almost a quarter of the world’s oil and gas production.

Meanwhile, Mexico has made dramatic strides since the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1993...

Other country’s leaders are getting the POTUS treatment too:

Our Obamaproblem, World Needs More Canada Section

And then there’s this:

Keystone XL: Potus’ Pinocchios Go From Three to Four

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Pentagon’s Cyber Strategy Names Threat Countries, Threatens Retaliation

Further to this post,

US Defense Department Trying to Up Cyber Game–With Private Secto

the SecDef does the roll-out in Silicon Valley–with maybe offence too:
1) Pentagon Announces New Strategy for Cyberwarfare

The Pentagon on Thursday [April 23] took a major step designed to instill a measure of fear in potential cyberadversaries, releasing a new strategy that for the first time explicitly discusses the circumstances under which cyberweapons could be used against an attacker, and naming the countries it says present the greatest threat: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

The policy, announced in a speech at Stanford University by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, represents the fourth time in four months that the Obama administration has named suspected hackers or announced new strategies designed to raise the cost of cyberattacks.

A previous strategy, released in 2011, was less detailed and only alluded to the new arsenal of cyberweapons that the Pentagon was deploying. That strategy talked vaguely about adversaries, naming none.

But President Obama’s decision to publicly name North Korea’s leaders for ordering the largest destructive attack on an American target, the announcement of new sanctions against state-sponsored and criminal hackers, and the indictment of five members of the People’s Liberation Army for attacking American corporate targets [see “Cyber Security: US Legal Hammer Trying to Nail Dragon” ]all reflect a sea change in administration policy.

American officials have fumed for years that cyberattacks were largely cost-free. Now, much as Presidents Truman and Eisenhower struggled to define circumstances that could prompt a nuclear response from the United States, Mr. Obama and his aides are beginning to lay out conditions under which the nation would employ cyberattacks — either in retaliation for a strike, as an offensive weapon for conflict or in covert action. They have made no mention of the central role the United States played in the large cyberstrike against Iran’s nuclear program.

In his speech at Stanford, Mr. Carter revealed that — like the White House and the State Department — the Pentagon found itself the victim of a cyberintrusion months ago.

“The sensors that guard DoD’s unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks,” he said, saying the attack exploited “an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched.” He said that a “crack team of incident responders” had “quickly kicked them off the network.”

At the core of the cyberstrategy published by the Pentagon on Thursday was a hierarchy of cyberattacks.

The strategy said that routine attacks should be fended off by companies. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for detecting more complex attacks and helping the private sector defend against them.

But, in a significant declaration, about 2 percent of attacks on American systems, officials say, may rise to the level of prompting a national response — led by the Pentagon and through the military’s Cyber Command, which is based alongside the National Security Agency in Maryland.

“As a matter of principle, the United States will seek to exhaust all network defense and law enforcement options to mitigate any potential cyberrisk to the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests before conducting a cyberspace operation,” the strategy says.

But it adds that “there may be times when the president or the secretary of defense may determine that it would be appropriate for the U.S. military to conduct cyberoperations to disrupt an adversary’s military related networks or infrastructure so that the U.S. military can protect U.S. interests in an area of operations. For example, the United States military might use cyberoperations to terminate an ongoing conflict on U.S. terms, or to disrupt an adversary’s military systems to prevent the use of force against U.S. interests.” That last phrase seemed to leave open the door for pre-emptive cyberattacks [emphasis added].

Until now, most American cyberattacks on adversaries have been covert operations…

Very relevant:

US Cyber: Defence and Now Offence?


Canadian Cyber: Communications Security Establishment–Defence and Now Offence?

2) New cyber strategy includes Silicon Valley unit

Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled a new strategy for cyber warfare on Thursday and said the Pentagon should improve its ties to the private sector where most of the field’s top talent and technology resides.

On a trip to California’s Silicon Valley, Carter highlighted the risks of high-tech digital attacks, saying the Defense Department’s sophisticated weapons and the command-and-control networks that control them are “no good if they’ve been hacked.”

“Our reliance on technology has led to real vulnerabilities that our adversaries are eager to exploit,” Carter told students at Stanford University.

He said the military will be creating a new unit in Silicon Valley, a first-of-its kind “point-of-partnership.” It will probably be located at Moffett Airfield, a former Navy base, in Silicon Valley, according to a senior defense official.

Formally titled the “Defense Innovation Unit X,” the small command will be led by a civilian with a military deputy and staffed by an elite team of active-duty, reserve and civilian personnel, the defense official said.

That team will “scout for breakthrough and emerging technologies; and function as a local interface node for the rest of the department. Down the road, they could potentially help startups find new ways to work with DoD,” Carter said.

Similar ventures may follow in other areas with high-tech industries, including the New York City area, a senior defense official said…

The text of Secretary Carter’s speech is here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – US Defense Department Trying to Up Cyber Game–With Private Sector

At Foreign Policy:

Situation Report: Here comes a new cyber strategy

OK Computer. The Department of Defense is unleashing an aggressive new cyber and technology strategy Thursday in the heart of Silicon Valley during Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s two-day swing through the state, one that officials hope will get the Pentagon back in the game of developing cutting-edge technologies — a capability it has long ceded to the private sector.

Some of the highlights – according to Defense officials who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity – include opening an office in the San Francisco Bay area staffed by a mix of civilian and military personnel who will work closely with tech startups, and defining exactly when the military will take action in response to hack attacks.

Defense officials are increasingly worried that the government’s struggles to keep pace with the commercial tech sector have become a national security risk. “More and more of these technologies are developed in start-ups, and DoD must be open” to taking some risk in reaching out to the commercial sector, one official said.

The plan also calls for a new pilot program with In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit technology company that has long worked with the U.S. intelligence community. The official said that through this new partnership, “we will make investments in early-stage technologies, such as nano-electronics, software and automation.”

While in California, Carter is also slated to sit down with Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and participate in a private roundtable led by venture capital guru Ben Horowitz, founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to hear from tech executives. “The thing we’re after here is to build contacts and relationships with business that wouldn’t normally think of doing business with the Defense Department,” the Defense official said…

One wonders if our government intends anything similar.  Related:

NSA: How’re You Going to Keep Them Down at Fort Meade…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – USN Looking for More Super Hornets–Maybe Upgraded–and More Growlers

Further to this post,

USN: In Absence F-35s, More Super Hornets or Refurbished Legacies?

more on the US Navy’s thinking about fighter-bombers:

Navy Leans Toward Building More Super Hornets After F-35C Delays

The Navy is considering extending production of its F/A-18 Super Hornet beyond 2017 because of delays in production of the Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C and increased demands on the Hornet fleet, service leaders said.
Navy leaders had planned to halt production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet at Boeing’s St. Louis plant in 2017 as the service prepared to replace Hornets with Joint Strike Fighters.

In order to reduce operational risk, Navy aviation leaders have said the service needs two to three additional squadrons of Super Hornets as older F/A-18As, Bs, Cs and Ds reach the end of their useful service life.

“We have looked at the F-18 inventory as part of our overall inventory management. The CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) has testified that looking at our inventory from now into the mid-2020s and 2030s — we need about two to three squadrons of Super Hornets to really reduce risk going forward as we procure F-35Cs,” Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, airector of air warfare, told Military​.com in an interview…

The Navy had been planning for the Super Hornets to serve well into the 2030s, but now service leaders say that timeline will need to extend into the 2040s [one argument many use in favour of Canada’s buying the F-35 is that any other fighter will end up an “orphan” aircraft, very difficult to support/maintain]. Manazir explained that the Navy plans to begin buying 20 F-35Cs a year by 2020…

The Navy is considering a series of upgrades to the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft designed to increase the range and performance of the aircraft, Manazir added.

These proposed upgrades include the use of conformal fuel tanks, avionics enhancements and an external weapons pod designed to reduce the aircraft’s radar signature.

If the Navy decides to pursue these Boeing-funded upgrades to the aircraft, it is possible the Navy could also buy more than the 563 proposed, Navy officials said. Citing affordability concerns, Manazir said it was unlikely that all of the proposed upgrades would take place simultaneously [from 2013: “USN Interested in Super Super Hornet? Part 2“]…

The Navy is also involved in an ongoing joint study to assess the need for E/A-18G Growler jamming or electronic attack aircraft.

“We have enough Growlers to support the Navy mission, but what joint airborne electronic attack missions will we need to support in the future? Right now, we have 153 of them. If the joint fight requires more Growlers, then those would also come off the same line,” he explained.

The rapid technological improvement of potential adversaries’ air defense systems has created a circumstance wherein the F-35C’s stealth technology will at times need to work in tandem with the support of Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

“Maneuvering inside all of the bands of the spectrum is very important. If there is a strike fighter that is optimized for a certain part of the spectrum, you have to worry about dominating the rest of the spectrum,” Manazir explained. “If you are going to operate against high-end integrated air defense systems, you will have to have a combination of low-radar cross-section and probably some kind of jamming characteristics [see “Stealth: What is It Good For?” and “F-35 and EA-18G Growler: Stealthy Pentagon Studying“].”..

And it looks like  the USN may well get some of what it wants:

HASC Subcommittee Recommends Additional F-35Bs, F-18s in FY 2016 [the FY starts Oct. 1, 2015] Defense Bill

The House Armed Services tactical air and land subcommittee supports filling the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ unfunded requirements for additional Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornets and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF), committee aids told reporters on Wednesday [April 22].

Though the recommendation is subject to change between now and next week’s release of the full committee section of the annual defense bill, “the subcommittee does support, as members have said, additional F-18s and some F-35s,” a staffer said.

The Navy and Marine Corps had requested 12 additional F-18Fs, six F-35Bs and eight F-35Cs beyond what was included in their Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal. The subcommittee’s recommendation to the full committee supports the Super Hornets and the Marines’ B variant. The staffers could not say how many of each might be added – the funding for these additional planes would have to come from other subcommittees as well and therefore is a full committee discussion to be had next week – but they did note that several subcommittee members want to support as much of the Unfunded Requirements list as possible. The request for additional aircraft carrier variant JSFs was not supported, however…

Very relevant:

Not Quite a Real Go-to-War F-35 for a While Yet

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Dragoncouver Millionaires–and Ordinary Canadians

My friend Terry Glavin writes about urban realities in the province where he lives:

Canada’s unhappy affair with China’s millionaires

If the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual top 10 world cities rankings are what you’ve been relying on, you probably weren’t surprised last month when the global human resources outfit Mercer tagged Vancouver on its Quality of Living index as the best city in North America. But you might have been surprised this week when Statistics Canada released a study showing that, by a variety of indices, Vancouverites are the unhappiest people in Canada, falling dead last among the residents of 33 cities across the country.

We like to think of Lotusland’s grand metropolis as a place where people ski, sail, ride their bikes, swim, and hike though lush rainforests, all in the same day. But StatsCan’s annual survey of median household income in Canadian cities routinely puts Vancouver close to the bottom of the heap on that same list of 33 cities, and in January the Demographia International research institute ranked Vancouver second to last in a global survey of 378 cities on its Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver’s median household income in 2014 was $66,400, while the city’s median home price was 10.6 times higher: $704,800. Only Hong Kong fared worse, and just barely. Hong Kong also tops Vancouver, again only barely, as the property investment bolt-hole most favoured by Mainland China’s loot-laden millionaires. For years, we’ve been instructed to pretend that this is somehow mere coincidence. You can’t get away with talking to Hong Kongers like that, but Vancouverites take it sitting down…

China’s massive Operation Skynet fraud squad is now rummaging through Vancouver’s real estate industry. British Columbia’s police agencies won’t say whether they’re cooperating, but even if  they were, it wouldn’t be easy work. Over its final decade or so, the Immigrant Investor Program drew more than 30,000 Chinese millionaires to British Columbia…

Surveys by the China Merchants Bank show that nearly a quarter of Mainland China’s millionaires had already emigrated by 2o13, but vacancy rates in Vancouver’s posh new condo districts are perhaps 30 per cent. The  city doesn’t keep track, but University of British Columbia geography professor David Ley has been tracing the trend relationship between the rise in Vancouver residential property prices and the influx of immigrant investors over the years. The lines run in direct lockstep.

Last year, Macdonald Realty opened an office in Shanghai to directly market to Chinese buyers after finding that a third of its Vancouver house sales for the year had gone to buyers with “mainland Chinese names.” Ian Young reckons that, in dollar terms, near half of Vancouver’s detached housing market in 2014 probably went to Mainland Chinese buyers.

But the debate about these things has been so “suppressed,” to borrow Professor Ley’s term

There is postmodern, postcolonial pap.  Then there is reality.  And then there’s this reality from China:

Uyghur-Canadians say Chinese officials detained, blackmailed them

Lovely.  One eagerly awaits a firm and public response from our government.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Indian Defence Procurement: Rafale, or, Dis-Gust

First a breath of cancon:

Canada’s defense procurement system rivals India’s for inefficiency…

Now back to what for now is Modi-land:

Lessons for India: How the ‘Mother of All Defense Deals’ Crashed and Burned

Lessons for India: How the 'Mother of All Defense Deals' Crashed and Burned
Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jason Smith

India’s decision to procure 36 Dassault Rafale combat jets is an attempt to stop short-term hemorrhaging, but is not a substitute for the urgent need to address both the erosion of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) force strength or gaps in higher defense management that continue to plague the Indian armed forces.

On India’s decision to opt for a government-to-government deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar indicated that India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) project, which had taken 14 years from the projection of requirements to vendor selection, was effectively dead.  The $10 billion MMRCA project for 126 combat aircraft was conceived by the IAF in 2001 with an aim to augment its force strength, which is at an all-time low of 29 squadrons as a result of defense procurement inefficiencies, obsolescence and crashes.

It then took the Ministry of Defense six years after IAF conceived a requirement to then issue Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for the MiG-35, JAS-39, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16, F/A-18 and Rafale.  The terms of the initial RFP stipulated the purchase of 18 aircraft in “fly away” condition, while requiring the remaining 108 aircraft to be manufactured in India under a Transfer of Technology Agreement with the vendor, which would also be required to meet its offset obligations in India, per MoD’s Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP).

After vendor proposals underwent technical evaluation and field trials, the MoD announced in 2011 that it had narrowed down its selection to two vendors – Dassault (Rafale) and Eurofighter GmbH.  In January 2012, India announced that it had selected Dassault as its preferred vendor and would enter into “final talks” before signing the deal.  The process then ran into a stonewall.

First, allegations of irregularities in the selection process were made in the Rajya Sabha (India’s upper house of Parliament).  Then-Defense Minister, AK Antony, whose desire to accentuate above all else his credentials as not being corrupt earned him the derisive moniker “Saint Antony,” ordered a probe that interrupted negotiations with Dassault for four months.  Then, negotiations stalled over pricing differences and India’s insistence on guarantees over the 108 aircraft to be locally manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).  These differences ultimately proved insurmountable.

The government’s decision to source 36 Rafale combat jets from Dassault now raises new questions on how it intends to address significant force strength depletion in the IAF for which the MMRCA was conceived.  In the seven years alone that it has taken the Government of India to issue an RFP for the MMRCA and enter into negotiations with Dassault, the IAF has lost 36 MiG aircraft due to crashes (of which a majority have been MiG-21s), as well as 13 other aircraft (including 6 Sukhoi-30MKIs, 3 Jaguars and 2 Mirage-2000s), effectively reducing IAF’s force strength by over 4 squadrons…

Read on for some matters that may also apply to Canada.

Very relevant:

Western Countries Lusting for Indian Defence Bucks

Not That Easy: PM Modi Tries to Motivate Indian Defence Industry

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Nukes, or, Spinning Iranian Centrifuges…in the US

Not actual ones.  A clever and expensive idea–how well will it work?

Atomic Labs Across the U.S. Race to Stop Iran

When diplomats at the Iran talks in Switzerland pummeled Department of Energy scientists with difficult technical questions — like how to keep Iran’s nuclear plants open but ensure that the country was still a year away from building a bomb — the scientists at times turned to a secret replica of Iran’s nuclear facilities built deep in the forests of Tennessee.

There inside a gleaming plant at the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation were giant centrifuges — some surrendered more than a decade ago by Libya, others built since — that helped the scientists come up with what they told President Obama were the “best reasonable” estimates of Iran’s real-life ability to race for a weapon under different scenarios.

“We know a lot more about Iranian centrifuges than we would otherwise,” said a senior nuclear specialist familiar with the forested site and its covert operations.

The classified replica is but one part of an extensive crash program within the nation’s nine atomic laboratories — Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Livermore among them — to block Iran’s nuclear progress. As the next round of talks begins on Wednesday in Vienna, the secretive effort remains a technological obsession for thousands of lab employees living the Manhattan Project in reverse. Instead of building a bomb, as their predecessors did in a race to end World War II, they are trying to stop one.

A Simple Guide to the Nuclear Negotiations With Iran

A guide to help you navigate the talks between Western powers and Tehran.

Ernest J. Moniz, the nuclear scientist and secretary of energy, who oversees the atomic labs, said in an interview that as the Obama administration sought technical solutions at the talks, diplomats would have been stumbling in the dark “if we didn’t have this capability nurtured over many decades.” Although Mr. Moniz would not discuss the secret plant at Oak Ridge, parts of which date to the American and Israeli program to launch cyberattacks on Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant, he said more generally that the atomic labs give the United States “the capacity to carry through” in one of the most complex arms-control efforts in history…

And if the talks fail?

MOPping Up the Iranian Nuclear Program?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – New USAF Bomber: How Many For How Much? Part 2

Further to this post, the piece below has a pretty pessimistic view (and another prime contractor may bite the dust):

Almost Nobody Believes the U.S. Air Force Can Build an Affordable Bomber

The last time the U.S. Air Force developed a stealth bomber, the planes cost $2.2 billion each and couldn’t sit out in the rain.

The B-2 bomber, whose sensitive coating helps make it hard to detect on enemy radar, must be sheltered from the elements in climate-controlled hangars at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. None of the 20 planes is based overseas, where it could respond faster in a crisis.

Now, with little public scrutiny or debate, the Air Force is developing a next-generation bomber that it promises to build with advanced technology at a fraction of the B-2’s cost. Few outside the Pentagon take the advertised sticker price of $550 million per plane, or $55 billion for a planned fleet of 100, at face value.

“There’ll be a tendency to load this thing with every toy that can be developed because it’s the only game in town,” said Tom Christie, who watched the B-2’s costs increase in the 1980’s as a Pentagon acquisition executive and later served as director of operational testing for all weapons until he retired in 2005. “It’s worse now than it ever was.”

As the Air Force prepares to award a contract within months to build the new bomber, there’s also debate about whether it’s even needed in an era of unmanned aircraft and unconventional warfare against irregular forces.

The plane, which may not be ready for combat until the 2030s, may already be outmoded in an era of relatively inexpensive cruise missiles and drones that can be built with 3-D printers, said T.X. Hammes, a research fellow at the U.S. National Defense University…

Defense officials say their latest of repeated efforts at acquisition reform will be effective, protecting taxpayers from the vast cost overruns on the B-2 and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s current work on the F-35 fighter…

The contest to build the new bomber pits Northrop Grumman Corp., which has an incumbent’s advantage as the builder of the B-2, against a joint bid by Lockheed and Boeing Co., which bring the expertise and clout of the biggest and second-biggest U.S. government contractors.

Winning the competition is critical for Northrop, which doesn’t have a prime contract on a defense aerospace program to rival Lockheed’s F-35 fighter or Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker, said Douglas Rothacker, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. Without it, Northrop would have to rely more heavily on its unmanned systems and radar businesses, he said…

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime critic of runaway spending on weapons systems, said he needs to hear more about the new bomber.

“The Air Force has got to make the case, even if we have to have classified hearings,” the Arizona Republican said in an interview on Tuesday. “I’m not sold on it yet, but I’m not rejecting it. I want them to make their case.”

Then there are smaller combat aircraft and the Navy Department:

The F-35, or, Shed a Tear for the US Navy Department’s Last Manned Fighter-Bomber

But USAF differs:

Manned aircraft needed for future Air Force, as Navy moves unmanned

Pilot-centric after all.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – 2015 Federal Budget: Hot Air, Not Much There There for Defence and Security

Just keep in mind the dismal fate of all those spending promises in the 2008 “Canada First Defence Strategy”,

CDAI Paper: “Defence Budget at 2007 levels, Canada First Defence Strategy at Risk”

when considering the airy-fairy money pledged in this year’s budget (and what happens if another, more “progressive” government takes power?)–moreover the increases allocated to security/policing are piddling, especially in light of the terrible Jihadi terrorist threats the government says the country faces:

Federal budget: Despite annual funding boost, defence faces uncertain times

After shouldering much of the burden in the Conservative government’s drive to balance the federal budget, the Canadian military will have to wait more than a decade to get back what was taken away.

National Defence played a major role in helping eliminate the deficit over the past three years to help produce the $1.4-billion surplus announced by Finance Minister Joe Oliver on Tuesday [April 21]. That includes a cut of $2.1 billion to its operating budget and billions more to spending for new equipment.

Those efforts have had visible impacts on the Canadian Forces. The army has parked trucks and other support vehicles; the air force is flying its aircraft less; the navy has docked some of its ships; training exercises have been scaled back; and major procurement projects have been delayed or cancelled.

The cuts have raised questions about the military’s long-term sustainability. Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette was the latest to warn, last month, that the government would have to either spend more on defence or significantly scale back the Canadian Forces’ capabilities [see “Another Decade of Darkness for the Canadian Forces?“].

On Tuesday, the government appeared to respond to those concerns as it announced plans to speed up the rate by which defence spending will grow over the coming decade. The department’s budget was set to increase by two per cent per year to offset inflation and other costs, but it will now grow by three instead.

The government says the move will inject a cumulative $11 billion into the military by 2026. Speaking in the House of Commons, Oliver said the measure will ensure Canadian Forces personnel “have what they need to accomplish the dangerous tasks Canadians ask of them.”

But the military won’t begin to see any benefit until 2017 [emphasis added], according to budget documents [see below for them]. Even then, the defence budget will only increase by $184 million, which former assistant parliamentary budget officer Sahir Khan described as “chicken feed” for the military.

“You’ve seen a department that’s actually had to manage with less for quite a long time,” Khan said. “And then you see the first increments of money coming in are in 2017 and it’s $184 million, which is nowhere near the amount of money they were contributing to the fiscal bottom line.”

The government says it will take until 2021 for the budget to grow by $1 billion under the new model, which Khan noted is two elections from now. Given the government is expecting tight finances over the next few years, Khan said there’s no assurance the money will ever actually materialize for National Defence…

As for security/policing:

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency will share $292.5 million over the next five years, starting with $18 million and gradually building to $92 million in 2019-20.

The budget also includes an additional $2.5 million a year for the Security Intelligence Review Committee, doubling the agency’s budget. SIRC reviews some activities of CSIS [that’s good–see “Reviewing Canadian Intelligence Activities: Increasingly Pathetic, Part 2–With a Monty Python Twist“].

The government has been criticized for SIRC’s limited mandate, especially as it tries to give CSIS a broader mandate to disrupt suspected terrorist activities. There was no commitment in the budget to increase the powers of SIRC…

Meanwhile cyber security gets a pitiful pittance:

…$36 million is to be spent over five years to strengthen protection of energy, communications, banking, transportation and other crucial systems. An additional $58 million is to be spent over five years to fortify essential government cyber systems and infrastructure against attack [see see “Canadian Federal Government Cyber Preparedness: Hah!“and “Canadian Government Cyber Security Blah, Blah, Blah“]

Much more at

1) Federal Budget 2015 – Defence/Veteran Highlights

This from the main budget document:

…. Defending Canada
– Strengthening the Canadian Armed Forces by providing $11.8 billion over 10 years through an increase to the annual escalator for National Defence’s budget to 3 per cent, starting in 2017
– Providing up to $360.3 million in 2015 for the Canadian Armed Forces to extend its mission to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
– Providing $7.1 million in 2015-16 for the Canadian Armed Forces to deliver training assistance to the Ukrainian Security Forces.
– Providing $23 million over four years on a cash basis, starting in 2015–16, to upgrade the physical security of Canadian Armed Forces bases.

Enhancing National Security
– Investing $292.6 million over five years in intelligence and law enforcement agencies for additional investigative resources to counter terrorism.
– Providing $12.5 million over five years, starting in 2015–16,  and $2.5 million ongoing thereafter, in additional funding to the Security Intelligence Review Committee to enhance its review of the Canadian Security  Intelligence Service.
– Providing $58 million over five years , starting in 2015–16, to further protect the Government of Canada’s essential cyber systems and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.
– Investing $36.4 million over five years to support the operators of Canada’s vital cyber systems in addressing cyber security threats, as required by new legislation.
– Providing $60.4 million over three years on a cash basis to support an enhanced security model on Parliament Hill…

2) Budget 2015

For more, er, context have a look at the graphics here:

Another Decade of Darkness for the Canadian Forces? Part 2

Now an excerpt from a post in February 2013–and still no redo of the CFDS!

…The government has said it will announce a redo of the CFDS [Canada First Defence Strategy, June 2008] some time after the budget…But if each service tries to go on being as all-singing and all-dancing as possible each is likely to end up not performing all that well. The government needs to make some some very difficult choices to focus the services, and abandon some capabilities so as to be able to afford and maintain others. That means the government must decide what types of missions/roles each service must be able to perform (as opposed to “nice to have”) and how much it is willing to pay for the personnel and equipment so that those missions/roles can be carried out effectively and efficiently. But I doubt this government is capable of–or our services willing to–engage in such a serious review. Which the UK government did carry out well over two years ago, almost mercilessly…

One can only conclude that this is not a serious prime minister with respect to the core responsibilities of the federal government.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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