1. Future of U.S. National Security
This week staff attended a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation regarding the future of U.S. national security. The speakers included The Honorable Allen West, Lt. Col. (U.S. Army, Ret.), and former Member, U.S. House of Representatives, Major General James Vincent Young, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Reserve, and a Panel Discussion with Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Fellow, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, The American Enterprise Institute, Robert P Haffa Jr., Ph.D., Senior Fellow, The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and Dean Cheng, Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation
The speakers discussed both broad range and specific threats from countries where the most imminent known threats are present to include China, North Korea, and Russia. Throughout the United State’s history our military buildups and draw downs have coincided with our conflict involvement. However, today we are facing a draw down not because the threats to our national security have decreased but due to budget constraints. The panel discussed the threats that deserve the greatest attention and what our defense initiative priorities should be to defend our country and combat these threats where they develop.
It is difficult to point to any part of the world where the United States is better prepared to protect its interests than it was four years ago. Strong words and promises mean little if they are not supported by the ability to act. What does that mean for U.S. foreign policy? It means having a military that can prevent and deter aggressive nations which threaten U.S. interests. Furthermore, an effective foreign policy requires leadership that must go deeper than empty rhetoric while we retreat from a leadership role on the world stage.
2. Global War on Terror: Guantanamo Bay
On Thursday, staff attended a speech given by President Obama at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair. His discussion on the Gitmo facility was part of a larger discussion on counterterrorism policy.
The original premise for opening the detention center at Guantanamo was that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention, he noted during his remarks, but added the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional five years ago.
“In the meantime, Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” the president said. “Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at Gitmo. During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep Gitmo open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home.”
Obama has tried to close the facility and transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress stopped the process, he noted. “These restrictions make no sense,” he said.
Obama said he believes these detainees can be held in U.S. prisons and prosecuted in U.S. courts. “No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States,” he said. “Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offenses, including some who are more dangerous than most Gitmo detainees.”
The president called on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from the facility.
“I have tasked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions,” he said. “I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case-by-case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.”
There will still be detainees who have participated in attacks on Americans who cannot be prosecuted due to tainted evidence, Obama noted. “But once we commit to a process of closing Gitmo, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law,” he said.
Obama asked if Guantanamo is the kind of legacy America wants or deserves. “Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?” he asked. “Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”
Webcast: Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120130
3. Cyber Security
On Tuesday, staff attended a Center for Strategic and International Studies event “Threat and Response: Combating Advanced Attacks and Cyber-Espionage.”
The keynote speakers were Mr. John C. (Chris) Inglis, Deputy Director at the National Security Agency and David DeWalt, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Fire Eye.
Other panelists included experts from both government and the private sector who offered their views on the rapidly growing threat of cyber warfare and espionage, mostly coming from China and Russia, as well as assorted criminal groups and non-state actors. The key issues are not only defending against these attacks, but implementing the right policies to deter and punish those who engage in them.
A video of the event can be found here:
1. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
This week, staff attended hearings held by the House Foreign Relations Committee regarding the Middle East and North Africa FY 2014 Budget priorities and challenges. The guest speakers included the Honorable Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State and Ms. Alina L. Romanowski, Acting Assistant Administrator, Bureau for the Middle East, U.S. Agency for International Development
The representatives from their perspective agencies took the opportunity to discuss USAID’s FY 2014 budget and the efforts they are making to meet development needs and continue to address U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. In this constrained budget environment, USAID’s assistance—as part of a broader, coordinated U.S. Government effort—is an effective investment in the long-term safety, security, and prosperity of this critically important and rapidly evolving region. As such, it is an investment in our own economic health and national security.
USAID-managed portion of the budget request for FY 2014 in the region is $1.2 billion, which represents a decrease of $340 million from the FY 2012 level. The Administration has also requested $580 million for the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund (MENA IF), which is a macro-level tool that will allow us to more nimbly support the transitions that are taking root and show their commitment to the people of the region. The MENA IF request also includes funding for USAID’s Middle East Regional program. At a level of $30 million, the USAID Middle East Regional program represents USAID’s focused programmatic approach to address trans-boundary issues such as water scarcity and trade and investment and will also strengthen USAID’s technical expertise. This platform will also provide USAID assistance to Libya, where there is no USAID mission, in support of local justice and security reform, elections, civil society, small and medium enterprises, and women's empowerment.
The speakers also briefly discussed Iraq, where we have invested both significant time and resources over the last decade and have seen a lot of changes. In FY 2014 we will see a major recalibration of assistance in Iraq from our FY 2012 level. As such, USAID has not requested any funds in FY 2014 for programs in Iraq. However, existing funds will be used to support key areas of economic development and good governance as outlined in the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.
2. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Also this week, staff attended a hearing held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding the Call for Economic Liberty in the Arab World. The guest speakers for the hearing were Mr. Hernando de Soto, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy and The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, Chairman of Albright Stonebridge Group.
Arab countries, like all countries, would benefit from an economic system in which access to the protections of law are available to rich and poor alike. People want to vote but they also want to eat and economic frustration has contributed much to the unrest we see in the Arab world and elsewhere.
Experts in fighting poverty are now agreed that legal rights are essential for the poor to acquire assets, build capital, obtain credit, and lift themselves into the middle class. This is a fact we should bear in mind when observing events in Arab countries, and when contemplating our own regional role.
The speakers explained that true democracy demands a parliament that functions, an independent judiciary, a culture that rejects corruption, an economic system that generates opportunity, and a free and vibrant civil society. As we have seen, revolutions and other sudden changes in government are usually accompanied by a sharp rise in public expectations.
People who have been promised change and have supported new leadership naturally hope to see improvements in their lives – but it is much easier to demand reforms when out of power than to implement them when confronted by the hard realities of public office.
Army Pfc. James L. Constant, 2nd Infantry Division (IR), was lost at the Naktong Bulge, near Changnyong, South Korea. He was accounted for on May 15th and was buried May 25th, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division