Senator Chuck Hagel speaks at the Forum on the Law of the Sea Convention held at the Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel, Washington D.C, May 9, 2012. DoD Photo
Chuck Hagel’s going over at the hands of Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday was more than an argument over political and policy differences; it was another spasm in the efforts of neoconservatives to define U.S. security policy in their own image.
Hagel, a Republican former two-term senator from Nebraska, had once been considered one of the neoconservatives’ own, at least for a while. After joining the Senate in 1997, he quickly became one of Republican Sen. John McCain’s more avid wingmen. He helped run the Arizonan’s 2000 campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. Hagel also voted for the 2002 resolution to authorize U.S. action against Iraq, the precursor to the March 2003 invasion.
Sequestration dominated the first day of WEST 2013 at the San Diego Convention Center on Tuesday, with Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offering a sober assessment on the limits of American military power should the additional $500 billion in military cuts go into effect.
In a joint news conference on Thursday afternoon, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs announced the discontinuation of the 19-year-old Combat Exclusion Policy. The removal of existing gender barriers will be implemented on a rolling timeline: the services must report initial plans by this May, and by January 2016 all fields should be opened to qualified service members regardless of gender. The timeline delays are planned to give the services time to comply, to figure out how to apply for any desired waivers, and to evaluate resulting questions or concerns. The end of the Combat Exclusion Policy seems anticlimactic yet absurdly necessary.
The Pentagon announced yesterday it would end its official policy banning women from serving in ground-combat roles, opening an estimated 230,000 positions to female servicemembers. The unexpected move by departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has met mixed reaction, and numerous questions remain about the practical effects of the decision.
The Thursday announcement by Panetta—who was joined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—settles one of the last remaining policy disparities between men and women in combat, allowing females to join infantry, artillery, armor, and other combat-coded posts previously reserved solely for men, including the special operations components. But, while the policy change topples some of the last remaining walls for women in uniform, it also poses serious questions for policy makers, chief among them being the status of women vis-à-vis the Selective Service System.
Lance Cpl. Stephanie Robertson, a member of the female engagement team (FET) assigned to 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010. USMC Photo
Naval History Magazine, January 2013
After more than five exhausting years of global conflict, the British Commonwealth organized a powerful modern fleet that fought as equal partners with the U.S. Navy in the late stages of the Pacific war.
For the Royal Navy, the end seemed to come quickly in the Pacific war. Less than three days after the conflict’s outbreak, Japanese aircraft attacked and sank the most powerful British warships in Far Eastern waters, the modern battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse . Their loss, followed within a couple of months by the capture of the naval bases in Hong Kong and Singapore, effectively drove the British navy out of the Pacific.
But the Royal Navy—in the form of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF)—returned to make a major contribution in 1945 to the defeat of Japan. The BPF, its vital bases, and logistical support organization did not exist until late 1944, but eight months later, the fleet had become the most powerful deployed force in the history of the Royal Navy.
The BPF did not begin to come into focus until the August 1943 Quadrant Conference of Allied leaders in Quebec. Agreement was reached that greater priority should be given to the Pacific war, while retaining the “Germany first” principle. But for much of 1944, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff argued over how best to implement the decisions.
Congress closed its 2010-2012 session by passing a fiscal package that delays deep cuts to the defense budget and other executive branch agencies for two months, averting the “fiscal cliff” that threatened to slash nearly $50 billion from DOD’s 2013 appropriations ledger.
The negotiations offered a very public look at the high-drama posturing that has become a hallmark of dealings between the White House and Capitol Hill. To many casual observers, the back-and-forth signaled a new low in relations between the two branches, but to many on the inside, it was symptomatic of the legislative process that grinds on every day, usually outside of public view.
The hard work of crafting bipartisan legislation may take months of talks behind closed doors but produce only a few days of newsworthy drama. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of those must-pass measures that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support but take months of meetings, briefings, hearings and tense negotiations among members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle and DOD. The Hill and Pentagon trade budget requests, legislative proposals, cost estimates, testing data, planning documents and long-term strategy to craft each year’s spending priorities and an overarching national-security policy. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leads the four defense committees each year, followed by House and Senate Defense Appropriators — the HAC-D and SAC-D — and finally the Senate Armed Services Committee — SASC.
Proceedings, January 2013
A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.
Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.