The Pentagon sees stronger allied partnerships as key to preventing chemical and biological attacks, according to a senior U.S. Defense Department official.
Agreements with the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia to work together to thwart "the unique threats that are coming our way" are even more critical as defense budgets decline globally, the officials said.
"We recognize, more so than ever, it's our partnerships that's going to enable us to field the best capabilities for our forces, for our nations working together," the official said Dec. 8. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of topic.
The Pentagon is facing a more than $450 billion reduction to planned spending over the next decade. It is unclear how the Pentagon budget reductions will impact the chemical and biological division. However, "there's a shared understanding that the [weapons of mass destruction] threat is very real, very serious and it is still a very high priority."
To that end, Pentagon officials are conducting a "strategic review and analysis" of chemical and biological defense programs, which kicked off in August, the official said. To address the spending reductions, officials realize "we needed to relook the whole" chemical and biological defense enterprise.
In addition, the Pentagon has started participating in a series of exercises with South Korea that are "taking a look at the bio defense problem in that region," the official said. The drill uses a "whole-of-government approach" and includes Seoul's Ministry of Defense, Center for Disease Control, law enforcement and others.
"We're helping our colleagues there go through some of the learning experiences we had in the United States in that interagency environment," the official said. "It's a new challenge for them, but the threat is ever more present on the peninsula today."
BONN, Germany - Spain is the new lead nation of maritime task force 465 on an anti-piracy mission in the waters around the Horn of Africa. German flotilla Adm. Thomas Jugel handed the command of the European Union's flotilla Atalanta over on Dec. 6 to Spanish Capt. Jorge Manso.
Jugel had been commanding the task force of six ships and eight helicopters from Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and France for the past four months.
In a report issued by the German military, he spoke about the decline in the number of successful pirate raids from 50 in 2010 to 20 so far in 2011. According to the German admiral, more and more ships are passing the area registered and preferably in a convoys. In addition, the EU warships in May were granted a more offensive mandate to tackle the situation.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, who visited the troops in Djibouti for the occasion, said he regarded the operation so far as a success. However, he warned that the military mission only fights the symptoms. A final solution requires that constitutional structures be established in Somalia, and the pirate masterminds had to be found and their cash flows cut off, he said.
Just a few days before the change in command, the German parliament voted to extend the country's participation in Atalanta for one more year. In the coming month, the German Navy will take part with about 500 troops, one frigate and a P3-C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The upper limit of the mandate is 1,400 troops.
Iran's Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 television station has shown the first images of what appears to be an intact RQ-170 Sentinel UAV belonging to the U.S. Air Force, according to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
According to the BBC, the footage was captioned "RQ170 - advanced US spy plane."
The images show Iranian military officials inspecting the aircraft, which appears to be largely undamaged, according to the BBC report.
The U.S. Defense Department has confirmed that an unmanned aircraft is missing over western Afghanistan. The Pentagon has so far declined to identify the type of aircraft or under what circumstances the plane was lost.
The Iranians claim to have brought down the stealthy Sentinel using electronic attack methods.
U.S. analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., said the aircraft likely malfunctioned.
There is also concern that the RQ-170's stealth technology might be compromised, affording other powers to reverse engineer the planes' design features, said analyst Richard Aboulafia. However, any gains would be temporary, he said; reverse engineering doesn't help a national industry innovate.
Women will now be allowed into Britain's Royal Navy submarine service, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced Dec. 8, ending a ban that has been in place since 1993.
Nearly 10 percent of those serving in the Royal Navy are women.
The first group of women officer volunteers will begin training next year and are expected to arrive onboard one of the four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines in late 2013, the Royal Navy said in a statement.
Female enlisted ratings will be recruited and trained from 2014.
Women also will be assigned to new Astute-class hunter-killer attack submarines beginning in 2016, the service said, following "necessary modifications" to the boats' accommodations.
"Our primary objective in the Royal Navy is maintaining our operational effectiveness both now and in the future," Vice Adm. Charles Montgomery, the Navy's second sea lord and head of personnel and training, said in the statement.
"This carefully considered decision will allow the Submarine Service to draw on the widest range of talent and skills of our people - those in service and those yet to join."
Hammond, in his first address as the new defense secretary, said the move will help the service maintain operational effectiveness.
"The Royal Navy has always been at the forefront of innovation," Hammond said, "and this decision represents another step in its distinguished tradition of recognizing the contribution of its people and making the very best use of the talent from which it can recruit."
The 110-year old submarine service has never allowed women to serve on its undersea craft. Women began serving at sea with the Royal Navy in 1990, but the service decided in 1993 not to allow them on submarines, citing health concerns. At issue were worries that higher levels of carbon dioxide in a submarine's atmosphere threatened women's health.
The Navy statement noted that "recent research by the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport showed that these risks were unfounded and that there were no medical reasons for excluding women from service in submarines.
"That research came as part of an 18-month review conducted by the Royal Navy looking at the legal, operational, health, social, technical and financial issues of allowing women to go to sea with the Silent Service."
The U.S. Navy in 2010 reversed a long-standing policy against allowing women on its submarines, and the first group of women is preparing to report this month aboard their first boats. So far, women are being assigned only to large missile submarines, and there are no current plans to allow females to serve aboard smaller attack subs.
No decision on allowing U.S. enlisted women to serve on submarines has been announced.
The objections to women on subs in the U.S. Navy were based more on cultural grounds. In particular, spouses of men serving in subs were often vocal objectors.
Service aboard submarines can be a more grueling experience than on surface ships. The boats are cramped, and passageways, working and living spaces aboard even large submarines are tight. Nuclear submarines can remain submerged for weeks, even months at a time, and submarine sailors are constantly urged to be polite and considerate of their shipmates.
BONN, Germany - According to President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan will remain dependent on international assistance for the foreseeable future.
At the opening of the conference on Afghanistan here on Dec. 5, titled "From Transition to Transformation," he asked for further help from the international community for at least 10 years after 2014, when most foreign troops will leave.
More than 1,000 delegates, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, met in the former German capital to discuss Afghanistan's future.
"Three key issues will be on the agenda for Bonn: the civilian aspects of transition until 2014, the political process in Afghanistan as well as a long-term commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014," a German foreign office spokesperson said.
According to Ban, progress has already been made since the invasion in 2001.
"Together, we have supported the return of 4.6 million Afghan refugees," Ban said: "We have enrolled 7.3 million more children in school and helped deliver better health care.
"As Afghanistan assumes full responsibility for its security, the government and its international partners must shift and intensify their focus on the non-military aspects of transition - on development, on governance and on extending effective civilian authority throughout Afghanistan," Ban said.
In addition to delegates from other states and organizations, Ban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ensured their support. However, both asked the Afghan president and his government to more aggressively fight corruption and drug-trafficking, and demanded greater efforts to promote women rights and national reconciliation.
"We will tackle corruption more effectively," Karzai had promised the delegates earlier. He also announced reforms to government institutions and the civil service. Afghanistan does not want to be a burden on the international community any longer than necessary, he said.
During the conference, many nations and organizations, including the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations, vowed to continue supporting Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal.
"A stable and peaceful Afghanistan which does not pose a threat to the world is in the interest of all of us," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during his opening remarks.
Among the conference participants were about 60 foreign ministers, but there were no representatives of the Taliban or Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan. The latter boycotted the meeting because of a U.S. airstrike near the Afghan border on Nov. 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi used the meeting to demand the closure of all international military bases in Afghanistan and criticized the International Security Assistance Force.
Jo Nakano, Japanese vice minister of foreign affairs, announced that his country would host a ministerial conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo in July 2012.
"The conference will address, in addition to the coordination of international economic assistance through the transition period, Afghanistan's strategy for sustainable development including regional economic cooperation," he said.
BEIJING - Chinese and US defense officials opened military talks in Beijing on Dec. 7 after ties were strained by American arms sales to Taiwan and a planned U.S. troop deployment in Australia.
The talks, led by Michele Flournoy, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, and her Chinese counterpart Ma Xiaotian, come a day after China's President Hu Jintao urged the navy to prepare for military combat.
China's official Xinhua news agency said military relations between the two powers, the situations in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea and the sale of U.S. arms to Taiwan would be on the agenda.They are the first ministry-level talks between the two nations since September, when Washington announced a $5.85 billion upgrade to Taiwan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets, angering Beijing, which considers the island a breakaway province.
Several Asian nations have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea, a strategically vital area believed to encompass huge oil and gas reserves, while China claims it all.
One-third of global seaborne trade passes through the maritime area and Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese forces of increasing aggression there, ratcheting up tensions in the region.
On Dec. 6, Hu said in a speech to China's Central Military Commission that the navy needed to "make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security and world peace."
Opening the one-day annual meeting, Ma said the talks showed that "both countries are being sincere about maintaining military exchanges".
"Hopefully both sides will make the best of this opportunity to expand common ground, keep risks under control and avoid misjudgment," he added, according to Xinhua.
ATHENS - Cash-strapped Greece is considering an offer of hundreds of redundant M1A1 Abrams tanks extended by the United States government, the Greek army said on Wednesday.
"This is a free offer," army spokesman Yiannis Sifakis told AFP.
"A delegation of officers has travelled to the United States to examine tanks in storage; we are departing on the premise of picking 400 of them," he said.
"The only cost will be that of transport, which is estimated in the region of eight million euros ($11 million)," the spokesman said.
Ta Nea daily reported that the tanks, stored in Nevada, saw action in the 1990-1991 Gulf War and were first offered by the United States a year ago. The state council on foreign policy and defence will have the final say on whether the offer is taken up, Sifakis said.
Greece is in the grip of a debt crisis that has forced the government to freeze procurement orders for tanks, frigates and fighter jets.
The country has traditionally been one of the world's heaviest defence spenders per capita owing to decades of rivalry with neighboring Turkey.
Greece has in the past bought tanks from Germany, and there have been reports that Berlin has recently tried to sell updated versions of its Leopard model.
Next year, Athens has allocated more money to military equipment orders - 1 billion euros compared to 600 million euros a year earlier - but the defence ministry will cut its running budget by 1.4 percent.