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November 17, 2011
Notes from the Pentagon

The Obama administration is set to offer more concessions to the Russians on missile defense, the latest one a proposal to share secret technical data on the U.S. military’s most effective anti-missile interceptor.

Word of the proposed offer is causing concern among missile defense advocates on Capitol Hill who have questioned the administration’s past secret dealings with the Russians, led mainly by Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control.

According to U.S. officials, Mrs. Tauscher discussed the proposal in recent talks with the Russians couched as an offer of technical data on the Navy’s SM-3 missile burnout velocity, called VBO. The idea behind the offer is to assuage Russian fears that U.S. missile defenses in Europe will target Moscow’s missiles.a The velocity of a rocket when it runs out of fuel is a key technical feature that, if known by an adversary, could be used to counter it.

It is suspected that U.S. negotiators believe that providing the burnout data would help convince Moscow that current SM-3s are not fast enough to hit Russia’s long-range missiles.

Critics, however, say engaging in discussion of missile speed limits is the first step by Russia in seeking limits on interceptor speeds, as was discussed and rejected during earlier U.S.-Russia talks in the 1990s.

Mrs. Tauscher for months has been trying to conclude a technical agreement with the Russians on missile defenses.

However, Moscow’s negotiators are not interested in reaching a mutually beneficial accord and instead are trying to gain technology and secrets about U.S. defenses from the talks, or to limit U.S. defenses through an agreement, according to defense officials.

The SM-3 is the mainstay of the Navy’s sea-based missile defenses and a land-based version is planned for Europe to counter long-range missile threats. In 2008, a modified SM-3 was used to shoot down a falling U.S. satellite.

Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said in a speech Wednesday that he is very concerned about sensitive missile defense data being compromised by Mrs. Tauscher’s negotiating effort.

Mr. Turner said Republicans will “oppose any effort by the administration to provide to Russia information on the burnout velocity, also known as VBO, of SM-3 missile interceptors.”

“The House Armed Services Committee will vigorously resist such compromise of U.S. missile defense systems capabilities,” Mr. Turner said.

Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, on Wednesday submitted written questions about missile interceptor data to U.S. Ambassador to Russia-designate Michael McFaul.

Mr. Kirk wants to know if the administration plans to provide sensitive SM-3 velocity data to the Russians before next year’s NATO summit in Chicago.

He also asked whether doing so would violate the administration’s National Disclosure Policy, or require a waiver.

“How could a decision to release SM-3 VBO data, regardless of whether such decision is taken, be consistent with the administration’s decision that ‘the United States will not provide missile defense interceptor telemetry to Russia under the New START Treaty?’ ” Mr. Kirk said.

The administration has insisted it will not conclude any agreement with Russia limiting missile defenses.

However, the White House in May rejected a draft agreement with the Russians that was drawn up by Mrs. Tauscher over concerns that the agreement would have legally binding limits on defenses.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he spoke to several people in the department and he was told “we’ve made no such offer.”

President Obama in recent weeks has continued his penchant for highlighting America’s faults, rather than its greatness, in several comments that were largely ignored by most news outlets.

On Saturday, he told a group of CEOs in Honolulu, while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, that America has been “lazy” in not attracting more foreign business and overseas investment.

“We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken for granted [that], well, people will want to come here, and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America.”

On Sept. 30, he told Orlando’s WESH television station that while the United States is a “great, great country” it had “gotten a little soft” and lost its competitive edge.

At a fundraiser last month in San Francisco, the president criticized Americans for lacking ambition. “Anybody been to Beijing Airport lately?” he said. “Or driven on high-speed rail in Asia or Europe? What’s changed? Well, we’ve lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam and unleashed all the potential in this country.”

Last month, a WikiLeaks cable revealed that in 2009 Mr. Obama wanted to travel to Japan and apologize for the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but Japan’s government rejected the idea.

The president is ready to approve military cyberattacks or “kinetic” bombing raids in response to major cyberattacks on the United States, according to a Pentagon report to Congress.

“The President reserves the right to respond using all necessary means to defend our nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests from hostile acts in cyberspace,” says the report, titled “Department of Defense Cyberspace Policy Report.”

“Hostile acts may include significant cyberattacks directed against the U.S. economy, government or military. As directed by the president, response options may include using cyber and/or kinetic capabilities provided by DoD.”

The Pentagon is working to bolster intelligence gathering and other efforts to improve the ability to trace the origin of attacks, the report says.

“This research focuses on two primary areas: developing new ways to trace the physical source of an attack, and seeking to assess the identity of the attacker via behavior-based algorithms,” the report says, noting that new methods are set to be used on defense networks in the near future to detect, track and report malicious computer activities.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, is the second senior House Republican to write Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to request a formal national security review of the joint venture between General Electric and state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China.

“This partnership is troubling for a number of reasons, especially given the increasingly aggressive posture of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the rapid advances in Chinese aeronautics and space programs, and the unprecedented Chinese threat from cyberattacks and espionage,” Mr. Wolf, chairman of the subcommittee that funds the FBI, stated in the Nov. 14 letter.

He warned that efforts to jointly develop avionics technology with China “could provide the Chinese with years, if not decades, worth of U.S. avionics technology that will fuel their aeronautics capabilities, potentially at great expense to our national and economic security.”

Mr. Wolf said that the widespread scale of Chinese espionage has called into question assurances from GE officials that sensitive U.S. technology will not be compromised in the venture.

“Should the GE-AVIC joint venture proceed, there is no question that all of the sensitive technology involved will be compromised by the PLA” as China’s military is known, he said.

The annual U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report, made public Wednesday, also questioned the security implications for the GE-AVIC deal.

“Members of Congress raised concerns that AVIC could divert U.S. commercial avionics technology to China’s military systems, as China has done with missile, jet, and satellite know-how,” the report said.

The commission report said GE described its Chinese partner as having “developed strong capabilities to supply avionics products to various models of aircraft, both for military and civil use.”

When The Washington Times reported Nov. 3 that Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl M. Levin, Michigan Democrat, was intervening in a completed Pentagon inspector general report, his office had no comment.

But Fox News was able to get a statement.

The issue is this: Mr. Levin has been trying for three years to get a government agency to criticize Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s practice of giving war briefings to retired military analysts who then appear on TV and radio.

The first Pentagon inspector general report found no wrongdoing. A separate Government Accountability Office probe said the briefings followed public relations rules. A Federal Communications Commission probe has found nothing on which to take action.

And a second Pentagon IG probe, urged by Mr. Levin, cleared the program, though its completed findings have not been released.

The Times’ Rowan Scarborough reported that Mr. Levin, through his general counsel, has had communication with the IG designed to get those findings changed.

Fox News “Special Report” did a follow-up story on Veterans Day. In a hallway interview, a network reporter buttonholed Mr. Levin, who denied he was intervening.

But the next day, Mr. Levin gave a statement to Fox reporter James Rosen, saying one of his aides has been talking to the IG to make sure it “fully addresses the allegations of impropriety.”

Some of the retired officers are asking: Isn’t the IG supposed to conduct independent investigations without political interference?

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