Archive for the ‘News’ Category

“Omnibus” Information and Commentary: What Did the Appropriators Really Do to Defense Spending?

by Winslow T. Wheeler
16 January 2014

Summary of Findings:

In the so-called “war-related,” Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account of the 2014 Omnibus, there is a DOD program spending increase of $10.8 billion above what President Obama requested. This has been misreported as a “$5 billion” increase. The OCO account should be re-titled the War Pretext Slush Fund.

In the “base” portion of DOD spending, up to $7 billion is un- or poorly justified, arbitrary across-the-board cuts, most of them directed against O&M spending, which can only have a negative impact on military readiness. Moreover, these kinds of a-t-b cuts are precisely the sort of thing DOD and Congress vociferously criticized in the sequestration process.

There are also $10.7 billion in mostly specific programmatic cuts in Procurement and R&D portions of the bill, but it is possible that their primary effect will be to simply defer, if not increase, future costs.

Overall, the DOD section of the Omnibus should not be seen as an effort by Congress to return defense spending to lower, let alone pre-war, levels. Instead, it can be seen as a rear guard action by high defense spending advocates in Congress to keep the Pentagon budget as high as possible.

Discussion and Analysis:

This week by large bipartisan majorities, the House and Senate are passing HR 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (better known as the “Omnibus”). It appropriates discretionary spending for diverse agencies of the federal government for the balance of fiscal 2014. Division C of the bill contains funding for the Pentagon, not including military construction which is in a separate part of the bill. The bill text is accompanied by a “Joint Explanatory Statement” (JES) that contains more useful details-but which does not explain nearly as much as it should.

Some in Congress, the press and think tanks exult that we are witnessing a return to “regular order” after the chaos of Congress’ dysfunctional government shutdowns followed by giving most agencies “continuing resolutions,” which hold spending for individual programs mostly to the previous year’s spending level, no matter how impracticable that might be. While the House and Senate may have been able to get past the dysfunction of refusing to enact appropriations bills, the actual contents of the Department of Defense (DOD) portions of the Omnibus reveal that a much dysfunction remains.

The dysfunction simply comes in a different form: that of deceptive, arbitrary and misleading budget activities. These behaviors mask actual spending levels in DOD, and they can incur even larger future costs while pretending to promote economy. They constitute an effort to keep Pentagon spending as high as possible, now and in the future, even if some proclaim that DOD spending is plummeting downward, even dangerously.

To explain, some background and analysis are required.

Based on the available data from the Congressional Budget Office, we know the following:

· National Defense spending in the Pentagon and related agencies (the so-called 050 budget function) was $518 billion in 2013.

· Equivalent spending in the new “Omnibus” for 2014 is $520.5.

· Add to these amounts the money for the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. $82 billion was provided in 050 accounts for 2013. $79.4 billion was requested by President Obama for 2014, but this is being increased by Congress to $85.2 billion, an apparent “plus-up” of $5.8 billion (which is sometimes misreported as $5 billion).

· Thus, the total amount for 2013 was $600 billion; the total amount for 2014 is $605.7 billion.

Some in the press report this increase as a decrease. Eager to pretend the Pentagon is under some sort of austerity regime, they compare the $605.7 billion for 2014 as a huge cut from Obama’s original 2014 request of $640 billion. However, that request that was dead on arrival in Congress, and it constitutes only a cooperative “baseline” for politically driven comparison purposes. According to a budget analyst frequently consulted by the Washington press, the widely respected Todd Harrison at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments, defense spending at the newly decided 2014 level exceeds every defense budget during the Cold War, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam, with the only exception being the very peak of the Ronald Reagan era. To call $605.7 billion for defense in 2014 anything but a historic high (especially in the absence of an existential threat from the Soviet Union) disregards almost 70 years of post-World War Two defense budget history.

Others look at a different defense budget baseline that might have been: the $498 billion for the non-war parts of defense spending that the sequestration process from the Budget Control Act of 2011 would have imposed. They assert the $520.5 for National Defense in the Omnibus is a huge, $22.5 billion, increase. While they too are making comparisons to spending levels that never occurred, they are far more accurate than those proclaiming Pentagon budgetary Armageddon. The reason is the deceptive practices by congressional appropriators in the Omnibus.

WAR-PRETEXT SLUSH FUND

By parsing through the documents that the Appropriations Committees released this week on their Omnibus, especially the JES, it is apparent that the plus-up they gave to DOD in the war-related portions of the DOD budget is far larger than the $5.8 billion that is apparent from the math (comparing the $79.4 billion request to the $85.2 billion appropriation).

To explain, note first that the appropriators took a few billion dollars out of the OCO fund. They removed $1.7 billion out of the amounts requested for military personnel. They also nixed a request of $3.1 billion for something called the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund and the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, declaring the need in the former “greatly overstated.” They also cut the notoriously ineffective Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund by $130 million; they reduced a classified program by $58 million, and they made other smaller miscellaneous cuts. It all totals something just over $5 billion.

Then they added: $50 million for MRAP vehicle modifications, $90 million for a new CV-22 Osprey, and then came two mother loads. $9.3 billion was added for the various Operation and Maintenance (O&M) accounts of the military services, and $1 billion was added for equipment for the National Guard and Reserves. There were also various small miscellaneous adds.

In sum, the House and Senate appropriators cut Obama’s OCO account by over $5 billion, and then they added $5.8 billion to the requested amount. The full plus-up for DOD in the OCO fund is $10.8 billion, more than double the “$5 billion” reported by the some in the press.

The two biggest additions have little to do with “war-related” activities, however. Every bit of the $9.3 billion added for O&M in the OCO account was transferred from the “base” (non-war) parts of the bill. The appropriations committees were simply transferring money from the “base” accounts to the OCO accounts.

Because the Budget Control Act of 2011 and subsequent congressional budget deals put a cap on 2014 “base” Pentagon spending, the appropriators were simply creating a hole there into which they could pour more money (more on this later). They had reason to do this because the past budget deals put no cap whatsoever on the OCO accounts: in budget-gimmick terms; it’s all free (uncapped) money.

It is a loophole quite consciously created by the congressional budget negotiators, and it is not new. The basic gimmick is decades old, and today’s appropriators are using it to the hilt, surely motivated by the assertion that DOD suffers from “austerity.” Routine peacetime O&M money magically becomes “emergency” and “war-related,” and it all happens to be unconstrained under existing budget rules. That the purpose for which the money is used does not change one iota is immaterial.

The pretext is even clearer in the $1 billion fund created for equipment for the National Guard and Reserves. The added hardware in this account includes aircraft countermeasures and equipment to face an enemy that has no air defense, chemical and biological warfare equipment for a theater that includes no chem-bio warfare, new AESA radars for aircraft that will not need it in Afghanistan, forklifts and even “high-density storage cabinets.” So much for “war-related.” This perennial plus-up, usually added to the base portions of defense bills, is put in the OCO fund simply because money there does not count under budget caps, pure and simple.

The OCO account is not an emergency war fund; it is and should be known as a War-Pretext Slush Fund.

(The Congressional Research Service used to report almost annually on war spending, pointing out previous transgressions against the belief that it was for emergency, war needs only; however, those reports stopped coming out a few years ago, and we remain in the dark about what other portions in the OCO account don’t belong there.)

BASE BUDGET LEGERDEMAIN

This sort of gaming continues in the “base” parts of the DOD portions of the “Omnibus” appropriations bill.

In addition to the $9.3 billion promiscuously transferred to the so-called “war-related” account, there are many other cuts in the “base” bill. Some of them are actual program reductions: for example, the various procurement and R&D accounts for the F-35 program were cut by a grand total of $1.1 billion-a not inconsiderable amount.

But there are some shady reductions as well. Section 8109 declares a savings of $380 million due to “favorable foreign [currency] exchange rates.” An old and tired gimmick, the appropriators are pretending they can predict exchange rates out to September 2014 with great precision. If you have a financial adviser who claims he can do that, fire him; it is pure speculation.

The appropriators also declare a savings of $866.5 million due to “excess cash balances in Department of Defense Working Capital Funds.” These are accounts to pay internal and contractor bills; the money is not excess forever; they simply don’t need it right now, they think. The need for the money is not going away; it is simply being deferred. There is no real, lasting savings; they are mostly kicking the can to future years.

There are also $527 million in “undistributed” unobligated balances. “Undistributed” means they don’t know what program to apply them to; they’re usually guessing or using a computer model (which is not much better) to take away these funds that simply have not yet been spent-but for which there is usually a plan to do so.

There are $2.7 billion in reductions labeled “Program Adjustment to Non-NIP Only.” Nowhere are these explained in what is euphemistically titled the Omnibus’ “Joint Explanatory Statement,” but presumably “NIP” refers to National Intelligence Programs that are surreptitiously funded in the classified portions of the bill.

There are still more. Under the labels “underexecution,” “excess to requirement,” “overestimation,” and “overestimate,” more is cut. They appear to amount to $2.5 billion.

In addition to the transfer of $9.3 billion in O&M spending to the OCO account, all these cuts calculate to $7.0 billion.

Whether they are the result of detailed oversight work or of arbitrarily imposed budget targets we can only guess. They are rarely explained with any meaningful details; frequently they are not explained at all. Just where to cut is not specified; they are in effect across the board hits against all programs. They are precisely the kind of arbitrary cuts that DOD and Members of Congress complained so vociferously about in the Budget Control Act.

This behavior is also decades old. The actions are taken to help meet budget targets or to create holes into which the appropriators can pour other money for favored, specific programs. In fact, they serve both purposes.

Moreover, programs that can’t absorb the across-the-board hit (or don’t want to) will simply add back the money in future budgets. Program activities may simply be deferred to future years, which makes them not cuts but postponements. We may see the money again in the future, even if the specific re-emergence is invisible to us.

It is important to note the arbitrary cuts are mostly directed at the O&M budget. O&M funds a wide variety of activities, most prominently military training, equipment maintenance, and peacetime operations. These activities are the heart and core of military readiness-the ability to fight effectively and efficiently and to save our troops lives at the expense of the enemy’s. The appropriators across-the-board cuts in the O&M account will necessarily reduce spending for this military readiness, even if the rhetoric surrounding the bill proclaims they are not doing that. Under sequestration, DOD savaged these accounts and only partially restored them. Now Congress is hitting them up as well, even if it is saying it is not.

ACQUISITION

In the Procurement and R&D budgets there are hundreds of individual and specific programmatic cuts–not the arbitrary swipes the appropriators take at the O&M budget.

Overall, Procurement is cut $6.2 billion (6.2 percent) and R&D is cut $4.5 billion (6.7 percent) from Obama’s request.

A spokesman for the appropriators boasted to the press that they were able to avoid terminating programs and instead took relatively small reductions across many programs. This was to be good news, but it is not necessarily. Many of those actions can mean that production rates or research tempos will be cut back, or other elements of programs will simply be deferred to future years; these can also mean not just deferments of spending but cost increases-if production rates are made less efficient, for example.

In the past, such budget reductions have meant some efficiency in some programs. However, the prevailing atmosphere in DOD and Congress seems to be to endure a period of “austerity” (in truth, it is not) pending future restoration of higher spending levels. That is not a mentality that fosters efficiency. If we were confident that current DOD management knew how to get more out of less, or even wanted to do, we could be more optimistic.

EARMARKS

The Senate Appropriations Committee did not report any earmarks in its original version of the bill, and the House Appropriations Committee explicitly reported “Neither the bill nor the report contains any congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in Clause 9 of rule XXI.” Perhaps there are none that qualify under the Senate’s and House’s carefully circumscribed definition of earmarks, but there are plenty in the Omnibus. In fact, the JES is quite careful to point out that there are “congressional special interest items” in the bill, and they are to be treated with special care should DOD attempt to alter them. The tables for the R&D accounts show scores of them, and the Defense Health Program specifically lists 26 of them. Moreover, various procurement adds, such as for F-18s and Virginia class submarines, have all the hallmarks of earmarks, and yet they escape identity as such. Perhaps the chairmen of the two Defense Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), should be asked what circumvention of the so-called earmark ban is being used to permit these “congressional special interest items.”

THE FULL TALLY

In the so-called “war-related,” OCO account of the 2014 Omnibus, there is a DOD program spending increase of $10.8 billion above what President Obama requested.

In the “base” portion of DOD spending, up to $7 billion is un- or poorly justified, arbitrary across-the-board cuts, most of them directed against O&M spending, which can only have a negative impact on military readiness.

There are also $10.7 billion in mostly specific programmatic cuts in Procurement and R&D portions of the bill, but it is possible that their primary effect will be to simply defer, if not increase, future costs.

Overall, the DOD section of the Omnibus should not be seen as an effort by Congress to return defense spending to lower, let alone pre-war, levels. Instead, it can be seen as a rear guard action by high defense spending advocates in Congress to keep the Pentagon budget as high as possible. The bill attempts to build a bridge to a future time when higher defense budgets are politically feasible. In the meantime, the congressional appropriators will use gimmicks and dodges to keep spending higher while appearing to be lower.

Will the U.S. make needed changes to national strategy?

A new Quadrennial Defense Review and a new National Security Strategy are expected early this year. These iterations of routine official documents arrive in the context of a slow wind down of the post-9/11 wars, the problematic strategic legacies of these military interventions and a sluggish economic recovery from the Great Recession. Together these conditions obligate the United States to consider very substantial adjustments to strategy and force posture.

Last July “senior defense officials” gave a briefing on the Strategic Choices and Management Review which Secretary of Defense Hagel had initiated earlier in the year. One official fielded this question: “So have you guys looked at the active-reserve component force mix?”

Response: “… the short answer really is that we’re going to continue to look at the proper balance between the active and reserve, even under reduced fiscal levels, because it’s a way we have to get to a balanced budget.”

Recently Inside the Pentagon reported that “The Quadrennial Defense Review is expected to be largely silent on the topic of senior-level guidance for balancing active and reserve forces, which means the operational model that grew during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would remain untouched, according to defense observers and a former senior official.”

While strategically the Obama administration appears committed to avoiding long military occupations and counter-insurgencies, the Pentagon isn’t going to change its active/reserve force composition that has been atuned to support these sort of interventions. The Pentagon will forego one of the best ways available for achieving a more economical military posture: relying on a strong strategic reserve for infrequent medium and large scale wars while sizing the active force to meet a variety of smaller scale contingencies and for sustaining skilled cadre available to lead and train reserves in a rapid scaling up of the total force in the event of more demanding contingencies.

Today the risk of a large-scale war is very low and a force posture with a strong strategic reserve will be more cost effective than maintaining a comparatively large active duty force. Unfortunately, the Pentagon is still addicted to preparation for constant global military activism. The ongoing financial burden on the nation of this posture is a poor strategic choice.

Retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor has presented a reform proposal which could complement a more robust strategic reserve by providing more combat power in a smaller active duty force structure. Macgregor argues for his force reform which “…preserves depth in the force and provides more ready, deployable combat power at lower cost… designed to cope with the unexpected, ‘Strategic Surprise’; a ‘Korean-like Emergency’ in 1950 or a ‘Sarajevo-like’ event in 1914, not counterinsurgency and nation building.”

In October the Army War College published a book of selected presentations from a November 2011 symposium at the National Defense University called “Forging an American Grand Strategy: Securing a Path Through a Complex Future”. The symposium’s chair and the editor of this anthology Sheila Ronis, writes, “The National Security Strategy is the closest published document that represents a comprehensive discussion of where the country is going and what it wants to accomplish… it is neither sufficiently long term nor a true strategy that links resources with objectives over time. It represents, at best, a list of aspirational goals by an administration.” An updated National Security Strategy has been promised by the White House in 2014.

Former Ambassador to NATO David Abshire argues that, while the President has constitutional authority over military strategy, when it comes to the nation’s grand strategy (which includes all the goals of national effort) the President’s power is limited to being “Persuader in Chief.” In that regard it is notable that President Obama has not been particularly inclined to take up the challenge of persuading his nation of national priorities and the requisite investments needed to obtain them. Abshire’s observation is all the more significant when he raises “the threat” of America’s decline as a global power. He says, “America’s decline… will be the result of diminishing economic strength and competitiveness, not global politics.” Abshire is not the first to make this point. Yet, it remains notable that our national government’s default investment program remains military power, not economic strength.

Former Bush National Security Council member Peter Feaver says a “velvet covered iron fist” is the first pillar of a ‘discernible’ U.S. grand strategy. He writes, “The ‘iron fist’ built a military stronger than what was needed for near-term threats to dissuade a would-be hostile rival from achieving peer status. ‘Velvet’ accommodated major powers on issues, giving them a larger stake in the international distribution of goodies than their military strength would command to dissuade a near-peer from starting a hostile rivalry.”

Putting aside for now reasonable doubt as to whether a ‘stronger than needed’ military dissuades arms racing and hostility, this grand strategy formulation begs the question of what is the ‘velvet glove’ accommodation of China’s Pacific interests that will complement the ‘iron fist’ of the announced military ‘pivot to Asia.’ While Washington politicians are loathe to talk of accommodation of foreign powers, we very much need thoughtful discussion of what are the preferred accommodations to Chinese interests in the region. One such contribution is made by Amitai Etzioni in the Survival article cited below.

A short article appearing this past June in The Diplomat is notable for summing up (rhetorically at least) recent Navy/Marine Corps operational strategic thinking regarding their role in the Pacific. It speaks of new ‘revolutionary’ assets that will “dramatically enhance the power of the distributed force” — “a 21st century attack and defense enterprise.” “Inherent in such an enterprise is scalability and reach-back. By deploying the C5ISR honeycomb, the shooters in the enterprise can reach back to each other to enable the entire grid of operation, for either defense or offense.” Readers will have to decide if this extravagant language usefully describes new strategic elements or is, perhaps, reflective of baroque conceptual mannerisms favored by 21st Century Pentagon culture.

 

 

Sources: News and Commentary

 

The Diplomat: America’s Pacific Force Structure Takes ShapeRobbin F. Laird
“The strategic thrust of integrating modern systems is to create a grid that can operate in an area as a seamless whole, able to strike or defend simultaneously.” (06/28/13)

Trouthout: Making Trouble – and Alternatives – in Asia Joseph Gerson
“The US must pivot diplomatically, not militarily. Campaigning to reinforce US hegemony in Asia and the Pacific will be no more successful than it has been in the Middle East…” (12/6/13)

New York Times At War blog: A Plan for a More Powerful Military That Costs LessDaniel Davis
“Under the auspices of the Mitchell Institute, a nonprofit policy group founded by the Air Force Association, representatives of the Army, Air Force, and Navy presented a reorganization plan called the Macgregor Transformation Model. The plan is named after its architect, Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel who is the author of several books on reorganizing the military and also a decorated combat veteran. Mr. Macgregor says his plan can produce an increase in combat capability, even with smaller budgets.” (12/10/13)

Defense News: Next US Strategy Carries Heavy ExpectationsPaul McLeary and John T. Bennett
“The United States will have to adjust its military ambitions to reflect the cuts the Pentagon will have to make, said Frank Hoffman, a former Pentagon official and now senior research fellow at the National Defense University. There is little doubt that the American military will remain the most powerful military force in the world, he said. ‘You’re coming from a position of very dominant overmatch. Now it’s retaining overmatch and focusing on the things that are really important to you, and that’s what the [Asia-Pacific] rebalance is all about, maintaining overmatch.'” (12/11/13)

Breaking Defense: Budget Deal: Does the Pentagon Really Need an Extra $20 Billion?Bill Hartung
“Throwing an extra $20 billion at the Pentagon now may just postpone a necessary rethinking of how we structure our armed forces and what we expect of them in a world where traditional approaches no longer work.” (12/12/13)

Foreign Policy: The Little Deal is a Big DealGordon Adams
“…the Pentagon loves this deal… Sequester is kicked away for two years. Congress, being devoted once again to the short-term, is now likely to be kicking this budgetary device off into the future forever. Nobody knows what will happen two years from now, but you can bet that sequester is deader than a doornail.” (12/13/13)

Inside the Pentagon: No New Impulses Expected From QDR to Sort Out Active-Reserve Balance (subscription) (12/19/2013)

USA Today: Army and National Guard cross swords over troop cutsTom Vanden Brook
“Guard leaders maintain that the Army could be cut to as few as 420,000 soldiers if the Guard is allowed to expand.” (12/24/2013)

Los Angeles Times: Americans favor not isolationism but restraint – Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble
“Restraint aims to preserve U.S. power rather than expend it through occupation of failing states such as Afghanistan and the perpetual defense of healthy allies.” (12/27/2013)

 

 

Sources: Reports, Journal Articles, and Books

 

Oxford University Press: Strategy: A HistoryLawrence Freedman (September 2013)

Army War College: Forging an American Grand Strategy: Securing a Path Through a Complex Future. Selected Presentations from a Symposium at the National Defense University — Sheila R. Ronis, editor. (10/22/13)

Foreign Affairs: Defense on a Diet: How Budget Crises Have Improved U.S. StrategyMelvyn P. Leffler
“Defense spending will not be slashed but simply decline a bit — or possibly just grow at a slower rate.
This shift should not become a cause for despair but rather be treated as a spur to efficiency, creativity, discipline, and, above all, prudence. Past bouts of austerity have led U.S. officials to recognize that the ultimate source of national security is domestic economic vitality within an open world order — not U.S. military strength or its wanton use.” (Nov/Dec 2013)

Mitchell Institute: Macgregor Transformation Model (briefing slides) – Douglas Macgregor (11/19/13)

Stimson Center: The Softened Slope for DefenseRussell Rumbaugh (12/12/13)

Congressional Budget Office: Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2014 to 2023.
Nuclear forces will cost $570 billion over the next ten years. (12/19/2013)

The National Interest: America UnhingedJohn J. Mearsheimer
“Probably the most serious cost of Washington’s interventionist policies is the growth of a national-security state that threatens to undermine the liberal-democratic values that lie at the heart of the American political system.” (01/02/14)

Panetta explains Pentagon’s ‘pivot’ toward Asia

David Cloud. Los Angeles Times, 01 June 2012.
http://defensealt.org/NW22HP

Excerpt:

…the Pentagon plans to increase the Pacific fleet from 50 warships to 58, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the plans on condition of anonymity.

In addition, Panetta said that more than 40 Navy ships in the Pacific would be replaced with “more capable and technologically advanced ships” over the next five years.

But the number of warships “forward deployed” at any one time — operating in Asian waters rather than moored in San Diego or other U.S. ports — will grow by only four, from 23 to 27, by 2020. The reason: It is far less expensive to base troops, ships and planes in U.S. ports than abroad.

The six aircraft carriers now assigned to the Pacific will drop to five later this year. An additional carrier, now under construction, is scheduled to enter the fleet in 2014, returning the number to six.

Several hundred Marines have begun rotating into northern Australia on a training mission, and the force may grow to as many as 2,000 by 2016. But U.S. troop levels in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere in the region are likely to remain flat.

NATO Nuclear Weapons and the Defence and Deterrence Posture Review: A Non-consensual Debate

Wilbert van der Zeijden. Open Security, 07 May 2012.
http://defensealt.org/Jcdn7A

Excerpt:

Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have acknowledged publicly that they would like to see the US nuclear weapons all three are hosting removed from their territories. Yet the debate in NATO on this issue lacks transparency and accountability.

Military base issues limit Pentagon’s options for post-war Afghanistan

Carlo Munoz. The Hill, 06 May 2012.
http://defensealt.org/IDlUxL

Excerpt:

President Obama’s pledge to not build any permanent military outposts in Afghanistan could throw a wrench in the Pentagon’s postwar plans for the country, once U.S. troops leave in 2014. The president’s promise, made during Tuesday’s nationally televised speech from Afghanistan, is an integral piece of a postwar agreement between Washington and Kabul.

Air Force Ramps Up Drone War

Jefferson Morley. Salon.com, 5 April 2012.
http://defensealt.org/Hmesu7

Excerpt:

… the Reapers are now launched from two locations and carry out five sorties per day. The Air Force anticipates that activity will double in 2013 to four locations and 14 sorties a day. By 2015, the scope of the Reaper program is expected to double again to nine locations carrying out 46 sorties a day. By 2016, the plan is that Reapers will be launched from 11 locations carrying out 66 sorties per day.

U.S., Australia to broaden military ties amid Pentagon pivot to SE Asia

Craig Whitlock. Washington Post, 26 March 2012.
http://defensealt.org/HzVeNJ

from the Washington Post

Excerpt:

The United States and Australia are planning a major expansion of military ties, including possible drone flights from a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean and increased U.S. naval access to Australian ports, as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to Southeast Asia…

Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds

Elisabeth Bumiller and Allison Kopicki. New York Times, 26 March 2012.
http://defensealt.org/HyL9li

Excerpt:

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll…found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict.