America’s “No.2 Nuke Commander” Suspended From Duty

Not arrested or charged, but suspension from such a high-profile job seems a reasonable precaution. The chap sitting in that seat can do without any distractions.

No. 2 nuke commander suspended amid casino probe

WASHINGTON — The No. 2 officer at the military command in charge of all U.S. nuclear war-fighting forces is suspected in a case involving counterfeit gambling chips at a western Iowa casino and has been suspended from his duties, officials said.

Vice Adm. Timothy Giardina
U.S. Navy

Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina has not been arrested or charged, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent David Dales said Saturday. The state investigation is ongoing.

Giardina, deputy commander at U.S. Strategic Command, was suspended on Sept. 3 and is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a Strategic Command spokeswoman said.

The highly unusual action against a high-ranking officer at Strategic Command was made more than three weeks ago but not publicly announced at that time. The command is located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads Strategic Command, suspended Giardina, according to the command’s top spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze. Giardina is still assigned to the command but is prohibited from performing duties related to nuclear weapons and other issues requiring a security clearance, she said.

Kehler has recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Giardina be reassigned, Kunze said. Giardina has been the deputy commander of Strategic Command since December 2011. He is a career submarine officer and prior to starting his assignment there was the deputy commander and chief of staff at U.S. Pacific Fleet.

DCI agents stationed at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, discovered the counterfeit chips, Dales said. He would not say when the discovery was made or how much in counterfeit chips was found, only that “it was a significant monetary amount.”

Council Bluffs is located across the Missouri River from Omaha.

“We were able to detect this one pretty quickly and jump on it,” Dales said. He declined to give specifics on how authorities determined that casino chips had been counterfeited or how Giardina might have been involved.

Strategic Command oversees the military’s nuclear fighter units, including the Navy’s nuclear-armed submarines and the Air Force’s nuclear bombers and nuclear land-based missiles.

Kunze said Strategic Command did not announce the suspension because Giardina remains under investigation and action on Kehler’s recommendation that Giardina be reassigned is pending. The suspension was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.

Kunze said a law enforcement investigation of Giardina began June 16. Kehler became aware of this on July 16, and the following day he asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to begin a probe.

The suspension is yet another blow to the military’s nuclear establishment. Last spring the nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., pulled 17 launch control officers off duty after a problematic inspection and later relieved of duty the officer in charge of training and proficiency.

In August a nuclear missile unit at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., failed a nuclear safety and security inspection; nine days later an officer in charge of the unit’s security forces was relieved of duty.

http://www.stripes.com/news/navy/no-2-nuke-commander-suspended-amid-casino-probe-1.244005

Wreath laying at Navy Memorial in Washington, DC

130917-N-PM781-003 WASHINGTON (Sept. 17, 2013) Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, right, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey place a wreath at the Navy Memorial, as Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, back left, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert look on. The ceremony was held in honor of the victims of the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 16. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

SECDEF ready to cut LCS program to 24 vessels, not 52

Considered “not survivable” in combat, over budget, of limited operational value… and now cut short.

Sources: Pentagon Backs Cutting LCS to 24 ships

Sources say officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense want to cut the total LCS buy from 52 to 24. Here, the first-in-class LCSs Freedom, left, and Independence maneuver off San Diego in May 2012. (Lt. Jan Shultis / Navy)

WASHINGTON — The office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) reportedly supports the idea of limiting total purchases of littoral combat ships to only 24, far short of the US Navy’s goal of 52 ships, sources have told Defense News.

Stopping at 24 ships would end LCS procurement with the fiscal 2015 budget.

The Navy, according to sources, is countering with proposals for higher numbers, but strongly advocates going no lower than 32 ships — a number that would continue production another one or two years.

The positions are part of ongoing deliberations to formulate the fiscal 2015 defense budget, due to be submitted to Congress in February. The annual budget process has been heavily disrupted due to sequester cuts, and the White House’s insistence on producing two versions of the budget — a non-sequestration version, called the program objective memorandum (POM) — and an alternative POM (ALT POM), incorporating the mandated cuts and hence, far more severe reductions in purchases and programs.

Pentagon budget officials have focused primarily on the ALT POM, and in late August began switching to the POM. The OSD proposal to limit LCS to 24 ships is understood to be part of the ALT POM discussions.

Asked for comment, both OSD and Navy officials emphasized that no final decisions have been made.

“Until the FY15 President’s Budget request is submitted to the Congress in February 2014, and becomes part of the public record, all decisions are pre-decisional and it is inappropriate to discuss specific details,” said Lt. Caroline Hutcheson, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

“We continue to evaluate the future demand for forces and will maintain a balance between force structure requirements while managing fiscal and operational risk,” she added. “We remain committed to a 52-ship LCS program —this number accurately and appropriately captures the requirement for capacity and capabilities.”

One defense official noted a mandated $52 billion cut is coming at the end of fiscal 2013, Sept. 30.

“You can’t cut force structure that quickly,” Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Aug. 28. “We’ve already cut the readiness accounts to a bare minimum. So the investment accounts will take an inordinate part of those cuts for 2014 on.”

In addition to supporting a reduction to 24 ships, OSD also reportedly is insisting the Navy place a top priority on fielding the mine countermeasures (MCM) module, one of three major mission packages under development for the LCS.

The Navy already has prioritized the MCM module in order to fulfill its most pressing operational need for the ships — three developmental packages have been delivered — but the effort has seen significant issues that have pushed back its operational readiness.

Sean Stackley, the Navy’s top acquisition official, noted during a July 25 appearance before Congress that, “sequestration, combined with recent congressional marks and rescissions, will impact the operational test schedule for the mine countermeasures mission package.”

Stackley did not say during that hearing what the revised initial operational capability (IOC) date was for the MCM module, but he noted the surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare packages are scheduled to reach IOC in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

What 24 Means

While LCS has been controversial since its inception more than a decade ago, the Navy’s top leadership has never wavered in its support of the full program. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, have remained adamant in their support, testifying before Congress in defense of the program and proclaiming it in multiple public addresses.

Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of the Navy’s surface forces, noted in an internal memo produced in November that with 24 ships — half devoted to mine warfare — the Navy will have exceeded the current minesweeping capacity of its ships and aircraft. While the modules are required to be interchangeable between the two LCS variants, only the Independence-class ships have been used in developmental MCM testing.

Four littoral combat ships have been delivered, while construction contracts or contract options have been awarded for 20 more. The numbers are evenly divided between the Freedom class, built by Lockheed Martin at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis., and the Independence class, built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. Construction contracts have been awarded for LCS hulls five through 16; four more are in the 2014 budget, while hulls 21 through 24 are planned to be funded and awarded in 2015.

The Navy’s program of record shows two ships scheduled for 2016, and two more in 2017. A minimum of 32 ships would extend production another one or two years — enough, perhaps, for the sequestration restrictions to be relaxed or eliminated.

Meanwhile, Pentagon budget deliberations continue on a wide scale. But time is growing short. Under OSD deadlines, budget proposals are to be presented to the deputy’s Management Action Group in late September, followed by briefings to Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s top acquisition official, in late September or early October. A full budget brief to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel isn’t expected until November.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130902/DEFREG02/309020018

Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, overseas partners may be in trouble

Yikes! A kick in the budgetary backside for the Pentagon as tough choices are being made between smaller forces, less new equipment, and reduced operations.

But this does not just affect the US military. There are 10 international partners involved in the F-35 boondoggle. In particular, Britain’s Royal Navy has predicated its entire 21st century naval aviation programme on the F-35B STVOL variant. Its new aircraft carriers are under construction without the cats & traps that would permit an alternative (such as the F/A-18E/F) to be substituted affordably.

Is it too late to restart the AV-8B production line?

Pentagon considers cancelling F-35 program, leaked documents suggest

F-35 JSF (AFP Photo / HO)

Leaked documents from a Pentagon budget review suggest that the agency is tired of its costly F-35 fighter jets, and has thoughts about cancelling the $391.2 billion program that has already expanded into 10 foreign countries.

Pentagon officials held a briefing on Wednesday in which they mapped out ways to manage the $500 billion in automated budget cuts required over the next decade. A slideshow laid out a number of suggestions and exposed the Pentagon’s frustration with its F-35 jets, which are designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp. based out of Bethesda, Md. The agency also suggested scrapping plans for a new stealthy, long-range bomber, attendees of the briefing told Reuters.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to reporters on Wednesday and indicated that the Pentagon might have to decide between a “much smaller force” and a decade-long “holiday” from modernizing weapons systems and technology.

Pentagon briefing slides indicated that a decision to maintain a larger military “could result in the cancellation of the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 program and a new stealthy, long-range bomber,” Reuters reports.

When officials familiar with the budget review leaked the news about the F-35s, the agency tried to downplay its alleged intentions.

The F-35 program is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system. A fleet of 2,443 aircraft has an estimated price tag of $391.2 billion, which is up 68 percent from the projected costs measured in 2001. Earlier this year, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program manager, condemned the manufacturer for “trying to squeeze every nickel” out of the Department of Defense.

Although the warplane is the most expensive combat aircraft in history, its quality is lacking. In February, the US military grounded an entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters because of a crack found on a turbine blade on one of the jets, marking the fourth time that a fleet was grounded because of manufacturing problems. In April, Bogdan told a Senate committee that he doubted the planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack.

But before the sequestration took effect this year, the Pentagon secured several contracts with Lockheed Martin to ensure the continued production and maintenance of the costly F-35s. This week, the Defense Department struck another deal with the company to produce 71 more jet fighters, claiming the costs per aircraft have been reduced by about 4 percent – an insignificant reduction when compared to the 68 percent price increase that has occurred since 2001.

After news broke of the Pentagon’s prospect to cancel the program, officials tried to control the damage of such an alarming statement that runs counter to the claims they publicly make.

“We have gone to great lengths to stress that this review identified, through a rigorous process of strategic modeling, possible decisions we might face, under scenarios we may or may not face in the future,” Pentagon Spokesman George Little told Reuters in an email when asked about the slides. “Any suggestion that we’re now moving away from key modernization programs as a result of yesterday’s discussion of the outcomes of the review would be incorrect.”

An unnamed defense official familiar with the briefing told Reuters that the leaked budget document indicated possibilities for a worst-case scenario. He admitted that the Pentagon considered scrapping the program, but said it was unlikely, since “cancelling the program would be detrimental to our national defense.”

Regardless of the Pentagon’s intent, Congress is responsible for authorizing Department of Defense spending, and has often forced the agency to make costly and unnecessary weapons purchases.

Last year, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that the US has no need for new tanks. But even though senior Army officials have repeatedly stated that there is no need to spend half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on new 70-ton Abrams tanks, lawmakers from both parties have pushed the Pentagon to accept the useless purchases.

Earlier this year, an investigation revealed that lobbying efforts by Northrop Grumman have kept a costly Global Hawk drone flying, despite the Pentagon’s attempt to end the project. A defense authorization bill passed by Congress requires the Air Force to keep flying its Block 30 Global Hawks through at least 2014, which costs taxpayers $260 million per year.

The US spends more money on defense than any other nation, but lawmakers from both parties often insist that the agency continue to buy tanks and keep ships and planes it no longer needs. Although the Pentagon has expressed its frustration with the costly F-35 fighter jets, there is little the agency can do without congressional support.

http://rt.com/usa/pentagon-f35-stealth-bomber-963/