Category: Miscellaneous

The Threat From Terrorism and Human Trafficking in Latin America

This originally appeared in Insidesources: “Hypothetical, if unproven, scenarios often dominate the storyline of possible collusion between organized crime and jihadists in Latin America. But the growth of illicit networks and successful human smuggling operations poses a known and immediate threat to U.S. national security.

Complicated networks of fringe supporters, associate funders and full-time operators help connect criminal and terrorist elements from hot spots around the globe. Hezbollah works with powerful Colombian and Brazilian drug syndicates to move tons of cocaine into Africa and Europe. Networks of loosely affiliated criminal organizations facilitate the paid covert transfer of terrorists over international borders.

The fluidity of these networks, however, poses a problem for counterterrorism and interdiction efforts. Navy Adm. Kurt Walter Tidd explained that “what’s true about (a network) today … isn’t necessarily true tomorrow.”

Understanding the complexities of the international connections linking organized crime with terrorist organizations can be confusing since they remain in constant flux, he said.

Terrorism expert Douglas Farah offers a more static picture of networks, breaking them down into three essential elements: fixers, super fixers and shadow facilitators. Local fixers are business elites that profit from connecting seedy organizations to otherwise difficult-to-penetrate local financial networks, while the super fixers do something similar on a regional or global scale. The shadow facilitators, Farah writes, specialize in moving weapons and commodities, in addition to having access to fraudulent documents and money-laundering services.

Networks rely on these outsourcing operations. And that outsourcing has provided lesser-known actors capabilities once generally reserved for nation-states. This makes a relatively inexpensive operation, like human smuggling, accessible to virtually anyone. The small-time Islamist thousands of miles away now becomes a significant threat.

The problem for U.S. security is that networks in Latin America specialize in human smuggling and have known connections to countries of concern in the Middle East.

According to the Arizona attorney general’s office, a disproportionate amount of wire transfers come from the Middle East or from individuals with Middle Eastern names to specific border cities in Mexico. The majority of wire transfers arrive in Tapachula ‒‒ a city on Mexico’s southern border and a major hub for human smuggling. The second-highest amount goes to the northern city of Nogales, just over the border from Arizona. Neither city appears to have a notable immigrant population, which might otherwise warrant such significant transactions.

In August 2014, four Turkish men who claimed to have ties to terrorist organizations were detained after crossing the border into Texas. The four flew directly from Istanbul to Mexico City, and a Turkish-speaking contact sheltered them in a safe house for a month before their cross-border transit into Texas from Reynosa, Mexico. Each man paid a mere $8,000. Putting that cost in perspective: Hezbollah operatives have laundered as much as $200 million a month in cocaine revenue for some Latin American drug cartels.

Judicial Watch sources reported in 2015 that cartel associates had willingly and knowingly smuggled ISIS members through the weakly manned corridor between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. ISIS member Mahmood Omar Khabir ‒‒ a former al-Qaeda instructor expelled from Kuwait for extremism ‒‒ claims to have traveled back and forth across the border from his hideout in northern Mexico near El Paso to scout targets with the help of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sharafat Ali Khan pleaded guilty in April 2017 to smuggling illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh through an elaborate underground railroad that originated in Brazil. One of those smuggled Afghans was later tied to a plot to attack the United States and pleaded guilty in April 2017.

The confusing overlaps between criminal and terrorist activities within the networks create uncertainties of jurisdiction for the military and law enforcement. Trying to stop the range of illicit activities of one criminal organization should change to emphasizing a specific type of operation. The U.S. government could concentrate on human smuggling in Latin America and counter the activity rather than the actor.

To supplement this strategy, the U.S. government could adopt a version of Drug Enforcement Administration Chief of Operations David Braun’s idea of helping Latin American countries craft powerful conspiracy laws. The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act proved successful in taking apart the once impenetrable American mob because it allowed prosecutors to try organized crime leaders and associates for ordering or facilitating a criminal act, regardless of whether they personally committed the offense.

The U.S. adversaries who have infiltrated Latin America have proven capable and willing to move people into position to attack American communities. For that reason, human smuggling should be a priority.”

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FOXNEWS: Grantham says Trump must have a plan for terrorism in Latin America

This originally appeared in Fox News based on Grantham’s recent study “Terrorism in Latin America (Part One): The Infiltration of Islamic Extremists”

“The growth of Islamic extremist activity in Latin America is a major security threat to our country. And Iran’s influence in Latin America demands a new national security strategy in the region.

That is all according to a new report released by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan public policy research organization.

The report, authored by David Grantham, senior fellow on national security at the center, looked into the growing influence of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran in Latin America…” read more here.

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5 Reasons the U.S. Should Defund the U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

(This piece also appeared in the Times of Israel and is co-authored by Calev Myers)

“American taxpayer money is wasted on UN programs, such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), for which the United States remains the single largest donor of any country, having given $380 million toward a nearly $1 billion budget in 2015.

The United Nations set up UNRWA in 1950 to provide relief services for Palestinian Arabs displaced after the 1948 war between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. The organization was intended to provide temporary social services only to Palestinian Arab refugees and only until they could be integrated into the country that sheltered them. UNRWA has instead grown into a near-permanent refugee industry with substandard education, health care and social services for the millions of Palestinian Arabs under its care.

Despite billions of dollars in aid over the past six decades, there has been little improvement in the lives of Palestinians under UNRWA’s care. Some 65 percent of Palestinian refugees live in poverty, which worsened for some in Gaza after Israel’s withdraw in 2005; the refugee infant mortality rate stands at nearly 22 percent; unemployment in Gaza reached nearly 30 percent in 2011. But five issues, in particular, undermine the rationale for its very existence:

  1. Flawed Legal Mandate

A Palestinian-only refugee agency is legally unsound and morally unjust. Indeed, all other refugees around the world –‒ 130 million since World War II ‒‒ are cared for under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR has a specific mandate to integrate refugees into the country where they reside to avoid creating generations of people dependent on foreign assistance. UNRWA does just the opposite by applying refugee status to third and fourth generation Palestinians who were never displaced. As a result, the number of “Palestine refugees” grew from roughly 700,000 in 1950 to over 5 million today.

  1. Conflicts of Interest

UNHCR avoids employing aid recipients to escape conflict of interests, whereas UNRWA is staffed mainly by Palestinians and those with an interest in maintaining and growing the system. Making matters worse, an overstaffed UNRWA employs one person for every 182 Palestine refugees registered by UNRWA, compared to UNHCR’s one staff member for every 5,500 refugees.

  1. Faulty Logic of Refugee Status

Approximately 2 million Arab Palestinians live in the area west of the Jordan River, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and are registered by UNRWA as refugees from Palestine. The problem is that these refugees cannot be considered refugees from Palestine since they already live in the Palestinian Authority; the vast majority of them were born in their current place of residence and were never displaced. That twisted logic has now allowed thousands of Syrians of Palestinian origin to register with UNRWA, despite the fact that the majority of them were born in Syria and lived there as citizens until civil war displaced them. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other Syrian refugees not of Palestinian origin receive no such preferential treatment.

  1. Radicalizing the Innocent

UNRWA textbooks are based largely on Hamas ideology and systematically indoctrinate students in violent jihad. Their schools also periodically hold ceremonies to honor “shahids” or those who have carried out terrorist attacks. Even the UNRWA schools in Gaza were revealed to have been used as munitions storage for Hamas on three different occasions in 2014. In one instance, UNRWA officials simply handed confiscated missiles back to Hamas.

  1. UNRWA Terrorism Connection

The Hamas faction has won the last three elections for the employees’ committee within UNRWA, meaning most employees are members of or support Hamas. That poses a significant problem because, among other issues, Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mash’al admitted that Hamas often reallocates for military use large amounts of donations intended to rebuild civilian infrastructure.

The US government must rethink funding UNRWA. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) began the process with the 2014 UNRWA Anti-Terrorism Act. But US officials could go one step further by refusing to renew UNRWA’s mandate when it expires in June 2017, and by giving UNHCR responsibility for Palestinian refugees. All UNRWA operations west of the Jordan River could then be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

American taxpayers and the average Palestinian have virtually nothing to show for the millions provided to UNRWA. The U.S. government and others must demand new solutions.”

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Two-Faced Trump Haters

Originally appeared in Townhall.com: “The increasing hysteria around Trump from the absolute resistance crowd brought to mind the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and her statement that peace would come when Israel’s enemies “love their children more than they hate us.” An appropriate parallel would be: Americans will not see peace until Trump’s opposition loves this country more than they hate him.

We have learned that Trump’s progressive opposition will literally protest, violently in some cases, the very things they cared nothing about only one or two years prior:

  1.  James Clapper lied under oath to Congress and never stepped down. No protests.
  2. President Obama ended America’s wet-foot dry-foot policy with Cuba, which left poor Cuban refugees stranded in transit or stuck permanently under the despotism of an emboldened Communist government. No protests.
  3. The Obama administration literally laundered cash and delivered it under the cover of darkness to the greatest state-sponsor of terror. No protests.
  4. President Obama handed out Obamacare waivers at random and then changed the requirements of the law at will. No protests.
  5. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and others previously supported school choice options. No protests.

Here’s what that teaches us about politics and society:

  1. Hypocritical protests are not organic. Genuine, organized protests challenge an idea regardless of the actor. Premediated, often violent protests, are based on the actor.
  2.  Progressives see their political ideas as deities to be worshipped, not policy solutions to be negotiated. Don’t believe me? Tell a progressive that you are willing to allow national gun confiscation only if they agree to outlawing all forms of abortion. Although you have gone as far as sacrificing a constitutional right for an extra-constitutional privilege, they will not accept it.
  3.  The peaceful transition of power does not end on inauguration day. Democrats in office have chosen self over constitutional duty by refusing to attend hearings or otherwise stonewalling appointments. And now Michael Flynn is out in what Bloomberg’s Eli Lake believes to be a political assassination by Obama holdovers.
  4.  Allegations matter more than facts. The Trump administration is learning that in politics if you are responding, you are losing. It was never a Muslim ban and now it doesn’t matter.
  5.  The most powerful position in the world is not liberating. Undoing executive orders put in place by Obama is a valid objective. However, governing through EOs will not have the same staying power as those results that come from work with the legislative branch.
And where does the  administration go from here:
  1. Move quickly to fill all other cabinet positions, particularly those held by Obama loyalists. This slow, disjointed approach to building a government will continue to undermine the president, especially since Americans now know Obama has effectively constructed a shadow unit to undermine any attempts at erasing his harmful policies.
  2. Become more organized, more professional and more calculating. This “you can cash me outside” strategy to governance is more than just unbecoming – it’s cavalier and dangerous. Vice President Pence should take a greater role in crafting an improved image, message and strategy for the administration.
  3.  Remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. His presence is unnecessary and unwise.
  4.  Move forward with anti-terrorism goals, like concentrating the focus of the counter-extremism program on radical Islam. Those that always beat a hasty retreat to their “not all Muslims are terrorists” safe space after a terrorist attack must understand that such a reaction does not help good Muslims – it hurts them. Defining the enemy protects the innocent. Sebastian Gorka, James Mattis and K.T. McFarland can together define the enemy like no one else.
  5. Encourage more high-profile, off-season debates like the recent engagement between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. Cruz thoroughly dismantled Sanders’ deity of democratic socialism, showing his political religion to be completely unrealistic in both concept and execution. Reaffirming political philosophies in the public square can help forthcoming legislation.”
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The Failure of a Dam in California Is Warning About the Grid

This column originally appeared in Townhall.com. “What in the world does the frightening news about the Oroville Dam in California have to do with America’s electric grid? Answer: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The California state government is scrambling to address the failing dam after heavy rains have damaged the main concrete spillway and water is now pouring over the emergency spillway for the first time in history.  The erosion of the natural barrier –? the last line of defense between Californians and the emergency spillway ?? has prompted the evacuation of some 185,000 residents. Some outlets are even reporting that the dam might very well break, a mini-doomsday scenario for those in the immediate vicinity of the deteriorating infrastructure.

This brewing catastrophe might have been avoided had FERC acted some years ago to upgrade the capabilities of the dam, according to early reports. A motion was filed with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, “urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside,” Mercury News writes. FERC officials, however, rejected the fix, arguing that the upgrades were “unnecessary” when compared to the costs; and they called “overblown” the scenario that enough water could accumulate to overwhelm the emergency spillway. FERC concluded the assessment with its age-old mantra that dam’s safety measures met “engineering guidelines.”

These are the same phrases FERC uses to explain why they have not required greater protection of the electric grid. When industry leaders and FERC officials are faced with questions about the fragility of America’s grid system, the potential for damage to the grid from high impact threats and the possibility for prolonged blackouts, both groups routinely call the threats overblown, suggest that recommended upgrades are unnecessary and fall back on the mediocre conclusion that the grid “meets required guidelines.”

FERC is a U.S. federal agency that regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce, and, among other things, sets reliability standards for the power grid. This organization is not to be confused with the private corporation called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which also regulates bulk transmission of electricity, while creating and regulating reliability standards.

But as Thomas Popik, Chairman of Foundation for Resilient Societies explains, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a “hybrid system” wherein NERC writes grid guidelines and FERC reviews and approves. And any FERC recommendations have to be approved by two-thirds of NERC’s members, and that includes private electric companies of all shapes and sizes. In other words, the industry can essentially set its own standards of reliability through a cost-benefit analysis, and then point to those guidelines as satisfactory for safety.

That arrangement can be a worthwhile mechanism for shielding private business from costly and unnecessary government regulation. It becomes a problem when an industry that oversees arguably the most vulnerable and most important infrastructure in America determines security measures based largely on its profit margins. Indeed, NERC and its members often fight what it calls “unfunded mandates,” government regulations that add unfunded costs to their bottom line. But it is also unacceptable that an industry can essentially set its own standards. Fire marshals can shut down the headquarters of an electric company if the building does not meet certain safety standards. Why then exactly is the grid, an infrastructure of far superior importance, able to largely avoid external oversight? This is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

The incestuous FERC-NERC relationship has created a closed-system of decision making that involves the protection of America’s most vital asset. More worrisome is the fact that the use of identical phraseology to explain away threats to the dam more than a decade ago is used today to explain away threats to the grid. Americans are witnessing the consequences of this arrangement.

The failing of the Oroville Dam in California is teaching us that critical infrastructure needs rigorous protection. Rahm Emanuel reminded us to never let a serious crisis go to waste. But his intent was to empower big government.

In a free-market economy, those standards can be achieved without government interference. It requires electric companies to agree that better protection is necessary; consumers who demand higher standards; and security specialists who can field a cost-effective product that is attractive to utilities in both price and capability. One begets the other. And Oroville shows us that it’s time to harden the dam grid.”

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When Citizens Threaten the Establishment

This originally appeared in Townhall: “The outcome of this presidential election will not change the fact that the United States is experiencing an internal Thucydides Trap – a reference to how the emerging power of Athens struck fear in the heart of the established power in Sparta, sparking the ancient Peloponnesian War.

According to Gallup polling, trust in government to do the right thing “all or most of the time” has reached its lowest point in more than 50 years. The increasingly informed American public is an emerging power that threatens the establishment.

This is not a tax inspired, tea-in-the-harbor routine. No, this situation is a result of political elites — a mosaic of Republican and Democrat bureaucrats, media clingers and financiers — taking for granted the security of the United States, and then trying to hide it from the governed.

Elites and their hangers-on have worked tirelessly to insulate themselves from the consequences of the big government they champion. Meanwhile, they tell average Americans that exorbitant spending, unabashed federal overreach and legislative manipulation, while frustrating, were acceptable shortcomings of a modern bureaucracy. Cultural overlords excused it all as competing visions of America’s future.

Somewhere along the lines, emboldened elitists have shifted to actions that undermine national security. And they haven’t tried to explain it away as with taxes, education or healthcare. They’ve tried to hide it.

Political elites admitted, for instance, that governments cannot effectively vet thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees. No matter, they simply try to insulate themselves from the impact. The Daily Caller confirmed that 112 of the 121 Syrian refugees resettled in Virginia ended up in the state’s poorest communities. The counties of the highest means received nine. Peggy Noonan calls this the “top detaching itself from the bottom.”

Ben Rhodes privately confessed that the Iran nuclear deal was a bad one. John Podesta agreed that it condemned “the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf.” Naturally, they went on to congratulate fellow elitists for their expert pageantry in selling such a terrible idea. In other words, they measured success by the creativity it took to approve a horrible something, rather than scuttling the horrible something. Yes, the same could be said for the Omnibus Bill and Obamacare. But the difference here is that officials privately acknowledged a solution posed a long-term threat to national security and still fought for it.

The administration used the cover of darkness to deliver $1.7 billion in foreign currency (an illegal technique known as money laundering) to pay the greatest state sponsor of terror for the release of U.S. prisoners. They told the American public it had to do with an outstanding debt from decades ago, but only after the deed was uncovered. Now Loretta Lynch, the country’s chief law enforcement official, has chosen to “effectively plead the Fifth” when faced with questions from congress.

Hillary Clinton’s email scandal epitomizes the establishment’s complete disregard for the security of the country. The pattern of contempt for protocol is alarming; even more so when one considers that she was fourth in the presidential line of succession as Secretary of State. Those actions prove her instinct for choosing personal priorities over national ones.

Those are just the highlights. The establishment went from an entrenched power that fought to guard the American system so it could selfishly benefit from it to a group that acts unconcerned with the system’s survival. The American public went from suspecting the political elite of corruption to knowing it.

Ayn Rand declared a society doomedwhen you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors…when your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you.” The establishment will fight. It might even offer token remedies. But those will amount to very little as the political class continues to undermine the country’s safety. The American public should begin by demanding innovative security solutions all purposed at yanking power back from the establishment:

  • Restructure centralized classification systems so as to limit federal power and allow for intelligence to flow directly to state and local law enforcement officials.
  • Position military assets at choke points of national interest rather than spread haphazardly throughout the globe. This would decrease defense costs, focus U.S. efforts on real threats and limit the establishment’s ability to manipulate the armed forces for its own agenda.
  • Make continental defense a priority by encouraging states to protect critical infrastructure like the electric grid. This action would proactively guard the nation and encourage greater state authority.

The conflict inherent in the Thucydides Trap can be avoided but it requires major change.”

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Response to the Presidential Debate – Nation’s Security at Risk or Not?

The second debate helped clarify how each candidate sees the world at this moment, which ironically added to the confusion of truth that has overtaken this election cycle. Mr. Trump described a country and a world that seems to be falling apart. Secretary Clinton offered a differing view, one where improvement could be realized with some modifications and collaboration. Much like the first presidential debate, one candidate defined a system that is in serious need of change – the other considered existing policies and government strategy as something in which to build on, requiring slight adjustments to maximize outcome. In other words, Mr. Trump believes the country is headed in the wrong direction – Secretary Clinton disagrees.

If national security is any indication of truth, Mr. Trump’s perspective appears to be closer to reality.

The email controversy once again met a generally unrepentant Secretary Clinton. She flatly denied even those facts to which the FBI Director testified. Her willingness to challenge those truths on such a big stage should be seen as a symptom of a larger problem: how political elites refuse to believe their actions take for granted the security of the United States. That theme continued with immigration when Secretary Clinton suggested her administration could and would effectively vet thousands of additional Syrian refugees. That surge is not sympathy – that’s untenable and dangerous. Our government has proven, from healthcare to the economy, that it simply does not have the capacity to manage such a consequential operation. Secretary Clinton closed the loop on this theme by naming the Iran Deal and work with Russia on nuclear material as successes that prove her ability to address Syria. Those conclusions were either knowingly untruthful or frighteningly naïve. In fact, the situation in Syria may be unrecoverable because of her decisions while with the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, a plan to defeat global jihadism remained elusive.  Both simply chose to focus on other matters. And the moderators’ recent obsession over Aleppo strikes me as curious. The questions which echoed the vice presidential debate imply that America must now get involved. A frustrating development since few in the media demanded action from the Obama administration when it could have potentially prevented the ongoing tragedy. The issue reminds of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill when he extolled the House of Commons for dithering in the face of Nazi military build-up. “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.”

But we did finally see some separation in strategy over the Middle East, wherein Secretary Clinton called for increased focus on Syria, particularly human rights investigations into Russian aggression, and Mr. Trump said the United States must focus on the Islamic State. Both ideas seemed reasonable and easily digestible for voters.

The highlight of the night, however, came when Mr. Trump essentially said America must know its enemy first and foremost in regards to terrorism. This point is a critical one we at the NCPA have called for in partnership with Lt. General Michael Flynn (ret.) in our Foxnews article. Secretary Clinton’s muddled and stale response about accepting people – “not all Muslims are bad” routine — proved his point and her own inability to be honest about the threat. She should be reminded that naming the enemy actually clarifies things, it doesn’t confuse them.

The lack of comments on the state of our military, despite the litany of foreign policy solutions each wanted to implement, remained the most glaring omission. It will be difficult to achieve any of their objectives with the readiness crisis facing U.S. armed forces.

In the end, both proved to have completely different views of the world as it stands. Americans must decide with which reality they agree.

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Experts Respond to Vice Presidential Debate

Allen West said:

“What I heard from this Vice Presidential debate in the area of foreign policy and national security is one side that was delusional. Furthermore, there was not enough conversation on the critical issue of our security and the restoration of our military.

There is no Iranian nuclear agreement; every aspect has been violated. Also, Hillary Clinton has stated she will not deploy any American troops into Iraq or Syria. President Obama has deployed 6,000 already, after dismissing military leadership recommendations to keep a residual force. The most savage and barbaric Islamic terrorist organization was reconstituted. That threat has not decreased; even the Director of National Intelligence has stated so, and the Director of the FBI has evidenced concern about domestic jihadism. There has been an immense increase of Islamic terrorism under the presidency of Barack Obama. Also, Hillary Clinton supported the destabilization of Libya, now a terrorist sanctuary and base of operations.”

David Grantham writes:

“The vice presidential debate proved to be one of measurable national security ideas. Both men took advantage of opportunities to elaborate on their running mates’ respective foreign policy strategy. Overall, we heard a promise of more government from Senator Kaine and a plea for less of it from Governor Pence. Both urged a strong U.S. global presence, although they defined strength differently. Both aimed for an improved military through different means. The major problem for Senator Kaine is explaining how that can be achieved with his simultaneous increase in domestic spending.

More precisely, the ideas presented defined each potential administration. Both seemed to agree on a version of protection in Syria – humanitarian areas and no-fly zones. Kaine wanted to extend the current administration’s largely failing ISIS strategy, while Pence suggested a more aggressive approach. Kaine even championed an ‘intelligence surge,’ defined as increased cooperation with allies and the hiring of more people – unfortunately that requires even more growth in government and more spending. Our work at the NCPA has shown that the government spends enough – it’s the wisdom behind the strategy that’s lacking. Perhaps the most egregious claims came with the ‘success’ of the Iran deal, the decrease in terrorism ‘in some ways’ and the reset with Russia, all touted as achievements by Kaine. Each one is demonstrably false, and to be counted as successes sounded naive and dishonest.”

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Why Foreign Military Sales Benefit the United States

Joe Ruzicka is an NCPA contributor and expert on military affairs:

After more than two years in the making, the Obama Administration has approved sales of 4th generation fighters to several Middle East countries. Qatar and Kuwait have been patiently waiting for White House approval to move the sales packages forward, while Bahrain may need to show more effort in their human rights efforts before full approval is given.  The sales packages now head to Congressional leaders for final approval.

While some may disagree with the sale of U.S. weaponry to a foreign country, particularly those in the Middle East, the foreign military sale process makes sense from an economic and partnership standpoint.

First, production lines in key economic areas can stay open. U.S. Government orders for 4th Generation fighter aircraft are very limited due to the ongoing transition of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft fleets to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (a 5th Generation jet).  Boeing was expected to completely shut down its production lines by the end of the decade if the F-15 and F/A-18 sales were not approved. With these latest foreign military sales, new life has been breathed into a production line that was on its last legs.

Boeing employs over 15,000 people at their St. Louis plant. The sale packages could easily extend those production lines’ lifespan into the next decade. This means those highly technical jobs remain and thrive in the St. Louis area.

Additional economic impacts include several strategic business benefits. Overall unit costs are lowered due to economies of scale, the U.S. balance of trade is improved and the foreign sales create a windfall for U.S. industry.  According to Loren Thompson, the F-15 sale to Qatar would be worth about $4 billion to Boeing’s defense business if all options are exercised. The F/A-18 package will consist of 28 Super Hornets with an option for 12 more and could be worth nearly $3 billion.

While the impact can certainly be felt in real dollars, the intangibles from a foreign military sale might be even more lucrative.

When the United States enters into a foreign military sale agreement with a country like Qatar, the government uses a “Total Package” approach. This means that not only are the aircraft procured, but also everything else that is required to utilize and operate the weaponry.

For example, the Middle East fighter jet sale will also contain provisions for training (of both maintenance and aircrews), logistics and spare parts, and maintenance applications. The Total Package approach is a 30-35 year bi-lateral agreement that has been entered into between the two countries. This long-standing relationship is key if the United States wants to maintain security cooperation with its allies in an increasingly dangerous world.

Furthermore, by selling U.S. products and weaponry, the United States ensures that interoperability is achieved between the two countries. It also prevents non-U.S. weapons systems from being purchased and proliferated. Fighting alongside a country that has similar weaponry helps build a military coalition through common tactics, techniques, and procedures.

A great example of this is the 2011 Air Campaign against Libya where U.S. and NATO aircraft worked in conjunction with each other to unseat dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Belgium flies the U.S. made F-16 fighter. During the campaign, Belgian F-16s were qualified to conduct air-to-air refueling (AAR) operations from any boom-type NATO tanker. This resulted in Belgian fighter aircraft being refueled by tankers from the U.S. Air Force, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, or the French Air Force. The interoperability of the Belgians with other NATO aircraft simplified AAR planning and was one key factor in preventing Qaddafi from crushing the rebel movement.

Finally, for those naysayers who are worried that the receiving country would use our own technology against us, the U.S. is very careful in controlling what technology is sold abroad. Foreign military sales go through a rigorous vetting process. Key technology restrictions must be met prior to the weaponry being exported. This may be as simple as fighter aircraft being sold with a less powerful radar than the U.S. version or a full scale Anti-Tamper plan in place to prevent any technology leaks. Regardless of the sale or the country, rest assured the United States maintains a tactical advantage with its own weaponry.

And remember, that tactical advantage also translates into a great economic and security cooperation impact for the United States.

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How Our Armed Forces Can Have Cost-effective and Efficient Medical Care

Nadeen Wincapaw is a military spouse and volunteer contributor:  “Active duty and their families have two basic options for medical care: a “Standard” option and a “Prime” option.  The standards functions much like a traditional insurance plan with co-payments and other out-of-pocket fees for the freedom to choose any doctor, facility, or specialist a family prefers. Prime operates like an HMO with a primary care provider (usually at a military treatment facility) who manages all the care for the patient and makes referrals as needed to specialists in a specified network (explained here). Under either of the plans, there is no monthly premium for active duty service members.

Once the military member has left active duty, either by finishing his/her contract, resigning his/her commission or by retiring (completing at least 20 years of active service), the service member can elect to receive medical care through the Veteran’s Administration, often with little or no out-of-pocket expense.

Sounds straightforward, right?

Well, it’s not.  No two bases’ medical groups are administered the same way; record keeping is different depending on location; quality of care depends on the branch of service; on and on it goes.  Even continued integration of services and joint assignments have failed to standardize medical care.  The quality of care for active duty and their families is not equal.

In the case of a retiree, the Veteran’s Administration duplicates the effort of the TriCare insurance program by providing a second source for treatment. But the VA has been plagued with reports of substandard care, dilapidated facilities, backlogged paperwork and, recently, secret waiting lists. Despite the plethora of issues, the VA annually treats millions of veterans at their 1,700 medical centers across the United States with a budget of over $50 billion.

The budget for the Department of Defense’s medical care was over $52 billion in 2012, and each year that number continues to rise.

It’s time for some real-world ideas on how to cut costs and fix the budget.  The best place to begin is in the duplication of services; medical care is one place where a consolidation of those services can be applied to save money, time, and effort.

All defense-related medical care could be folded into one joint medical command. This would include the Veteran’s Health Administration as well as the TriCare-affiliated care. One large joint command would have the benefit of allowing the standardization of administration, record keeping and personnel management.

Research and development would also be streamlined. Having access to any of the VA and military facilities would open the door for staff to expand their milieu and specialize in a field for advancement (a complaint I have heard from more than one DOD doctor). Allowing the current contractors of TriCare to take over the administration of the combined care would offer less bureaucratic red tape and a more business-oriented direction for the VA.

A modest savings of even 5 percent over the current budgets of the DOD and VA would equal $5 billion dollars.”

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