Military budget

Disarmament& Nuclear weapons--U.S.& Military budget& Strategic weapons and space& great power war risk22 Mar 2014 01:25 pm

by Andrew Lichterman

I gave a talk at the Global Network on Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space annual meeting last weekend. Several people asked for a text, so I am posting the talk here (see link below). The talk touches upon current U.S. strategic weapons modernization programs, military space, and their relevance to the current climate of growing great power competition and confrontation, including the crisis in the Ukraine.

Vandenberg Air Force Base: Local and Global Connections

Military budget& Social movements and protest& civil liberties14 Oct 2013 11:18 am

urban shield 2.jpg

Frame from video, Urban Shield 2012 Highlights, listed on Youtube as sponsored by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

by Andrew Lichterman

Urban Shield, a huge multi-agency emergency response drill, will be held at sites throughout the Bay Area from October 25-28, 2013. Although often presented to the public as useful for preparing the region to respond for everything from earthquakes and fires to school shootings, Urban Shield primarily is focused on preventing and responding to terrorist attacks. Urban Shield also features a trade show with vendors promoting products ranging from high powered weapons and surveillance equipment to protective gear for hazardous materials response teams. The trade show will take place at the Marriott, in downtown Oakland. The exercise also is a competition, with SWAT teams, hazmat teams, EMT’s and firefighters not only from the Bay Area but from around the world competing for top honors.

A coalition of groups centered in the East Bay is protesting Urban Shield. The law enforcement aspects of the exercise are emblematic of the militarization of policing that took root in the “war on drugs” and has accelerated and intensified in a post 9/11 era. Further, a trade show in downtown Oakland featuring guns and ammunition undercuts long-running efforts to stop the marketing of guns and ammunition, part of broader efforts to stem the tide of gun violence in the city through non-violent means rather than violent repression.

Urban Shield sometimes is portrayed as a general emergency response exercise, but its primary focus is anti-terrorism. There’s a consortium of agencies called the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) that administers Urban Shield. At recent public hearings on Urban Shield, Oakland city officials tried to give the impression that the city’s involvement was limited to hosting the firefighting elements of the exercise, even suggesting that Alameda County, not Oakland, was the proper agency for questions or criticism concerning Urban Shield. All major Bay Area jurisdictions, however, participate in UASI governance: the UASI “Approval Authority” includes “representation from each of the three major cities of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose and the County of Alameda, County of Contra Costa, County of Marin, County of Monterey, County of San Francisco, County of San Mateo, County of Santa Clara and County of Sonoma.” (Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, The Bay Area Homeland Security Strategy 2012–2014, January 2012, p.5).

A report to that group on last year’s Urban Shield exercise stated that “[s]cenarios must contain a nexus to terrorism” to comply with the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program. The Urban Area Security Initiative’s Bay Area Homeland Security Strategy 2012–2014 states that

“Threat assessment data indicates that the Bay Area is home to many international and domestic terrorist organizations, making it a prime location for potential terrorist attack.”

Despite the supposed multi-purpose nature of the event, anti-terrorism and military-style police response dominates the imagery, marketing, and substance of Urban Shield. Promotional videos put out by the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, which coordinates Urban Shield, have the kind of highly charged music and pacing normally associated with TV advertising for a football playoff game. The action in the video is dominated by explosions and heavily armed swat teams kicking down doors and engaging in simulated gun battles. Now and then a firefighter or EMT appears, dealing with the destruction one would expect in the wake of one or another scenario with a “nexus to terrorism.”

A frame from a video of highlights from Urban Shield 2012 appears to show heavily armed officers apprehending “terrorists” with banners saying “No war for oil” and “we are 99%.” (see image at top of page.) The frames just preceding show some kind of improvised explosive device. This raises disturbing questions of who our police are being trained to profile and target as terrorists. Both the anti-war and the Occupy movements have been overwhelmingly non-violent, and have involved no activity reasonably described as “terrorist.”

The trade show to be held at the downtown Oakland Marriott is more than just a side show. Exhibitors showcase an array of equipment including guns and ammunition, surveillance devices, software to organize the vast flows of information gathered by police agencies, and gear used by bomb squads, paramedics, and fire departments.

Participating vendors are invited to play an integral part in Urban Shield. Exhibitors pay up to $15,000 to sponsor the event, and those in the upper tiers get far more than a booth at the show. All but the lowest tier can attend one or more Urban Shield dinner events. Vendors who pay $4500 or more get tickets to a “VIP tour” allowing them to view at least eight of the exercise venues. Those that pay $7500 or more are entitled to a “Product Demonstration at a designated tactical scenario.” The vendor application warns that product demonstration opportunities will be filled on a first come, first served basis, and that “[t]o ensure your product is being utilized to its full potential, it is highly recommended you commit your product early during the scenario development process.” A 2012 Alameda County Sheriff’s Department presentation on that year’s Urban Shield exercise showed featured technologies and company logos in slides describing scenarios, for example, the Parrot-AR Drone for a scenario in which “[a] member of the Sovereign Citizen movement drove a truck into a government building which resulted in a partial building collapse and fire.”

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Slide from Bay Area UASI Approval Authority Urban Shield 2012 Presentation, December 2012.

We live in a society where at all levels of government money too often drives policy, and that appears to be the case with Urban Shield. In a time when budgets for public services have been under attack for years, it’s hard for local agencies to find money for emergency preparedness. Homeland Security is a big pot of money–over 50 billion dollars annually throughout the Federal government. And that’s without including Defense Department homeland security spending–another $18 billion per year. But that money comes with strings, such as the requirement that exercises like Urban Shield have a focus on terrorism rather than hazards far more likely to inflict widespread devastation on the Bay Area, such as earthquakes, floods, and fires on the wildland-urban interface. The Urban Area Security Initiative’s 2012-2014 Bay Area Homeland Security Strategy reflects the way the quest for funding shapes this inversion of priorities:

“The purpose of the Bay Area Homeland Security Strategy (Bay Area Strategy or Strategy) is to ensure the Bay Area region has a comprehensive document and system that outlines the region’s risks, capabilities, vision, structure, goals and objectives for homeland security. Having such a Strategy will ensure the Bay Area is in the best possible position to clearly track and articulate its risk and capability needs to local leaders, the State of California and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when seeking resources and funding to enhance homeland security and public safety across the region. The Strategy is designed primarily to address terrorism risk faced by the Bay Area with an understanding that capabilities enhanced to combat terrorism often enhance the ability to also manage natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and man-made accidents, such as hazardous materials spills.”

All of this–the acceptance by local officials, even in a supposedly “liberal” region like the Bay Area, of funding tightly tied to an increasingly militarized internal security apparatus, the incorporation of corporate marketing directly into government activities–might have seemed shocking to many a decade or two ago. The “new normal,” however, is a surveillance-internal-security state driven by an intelligence-police-prison-industrial complex, a new Homeland Security wing of the military industrial complex. As I wrote six years ago regarding Bush-era domestic spying, the Cold War arms race was fueled in large part by power and profit interests having little to do with the common good, exploiting the climate of fear and to sell an endless and ever more sophisticated and expensive array of military technologies and services to the State. But for the emerging police-surveillance-industrial complex, our civil liberties will not be mere collateral damage in larger campaigns selling weapons and wars. They will be squarely in the sights of those who seek to sustain an increasingly two-tier society and to increase their profits by diminishing the freedoms of the rest of us.

The “war on terror” has led to a climate of fear and inflated threats. It has encouraged those in government to view the population as either victims or enemies. Training develops attitudes as well as exercising skills. The “homeland security” approach typified by Urban Shield emphasizes technology heavy, military-style rapid response. We are far better served by seeking solutions that strengthen our everyday public services and the economic and social health of our communities–the strongest basis for mutual aid and recovery in times of disaster. It’s time to end the war at home.

There will be a community witness and picket outside the trade show at the Marriott Hotel, 11th & Broadway, Oakland, October 25, 9am-5pm. For more information, go to

U.S. military& Military budget& Secrecy and democracy& Strategic weapons and space& Divine Strake29 Jul 2012 09:40 pm

by Andrew Lichterman

Back in 2006, I wrote a series of posts about the “Divine Strake” test, a very large conventional high explosive test slated to be conducted at the Nevada Test Site (now dubbed/sanitized to the “Nevada Nuclear Security Site”), intended to simulate the effects of low-yield nuclear weapons. That test was later canceled as a result of opposition both from disarmament groups and from regional opponents concerned about potential environmental effects. Along the way, I found budget documents showing that the U.S. military also was developing a very large, earth penetrating conventional bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. (see the latter part of my post titled The ‘Divine Strake’ low-yield nuclear weapons simulation: government denials and responses).

At that time, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Director James Tegnelia was quoted in an American Forces Press Service piece, denying that the Defense Department’s Hard Target Defeat program manifested anything more than a theoretical interest in developing a large conventional earth penetrator:

“One weapon Tegnelia commented on is the HTD program’s Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a multi-ton bomb. He stressed that it’s a defensive, not offensive, weapon. He told AFPS that the MOP is a test article meant to understand the design principles on which a country might build a weapon to counter hard targets. ‘We are not in the process to convince anybody to field a large earth penetrator,’ he said.” Steven Donald Smith, “U.S. Agency Works to Reduce WMD Threat,” American Forces Press Service, April 3, 2006 (emphasis added).

Tegnalia made this statement despite budget request documents filed earlier, in February 2006, listing among the FY2005 accomplishments of the “CP operational warfighter support” program the following:

Analyzed effectiveness of massive ordnance penetration against hard and deeply buried targets and completed preliminary design.
Refined Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) concept and began detailed weapon development and testing. Planned statically- emplaced Proof-of Principle test of effectiveness of Massive Ordnance payloads. Planned demonstration of massive ordnance airblast lethality against a full-scale tunnel target. Exhibit R-2a, RDT&E Defense-Wide/Applied Research - BA2 , 0602716BR Project BF - CP Operational Warfighter Support February 2006

On July 25, 2012, the Air Force Times quoted Air Force Secretary Michael Donley stating that the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is ready for use. (h/t to Common Dreams for its coverage of the issue). The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, more likely admitting the truth rather than retroactively revising it, states on its web site that

Flight tests have been successfully conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. MOP integration activities for initial weapon delivery are also complete. Final system refinement, design and test will be complete in 2012 with additional weapon deliveries in 2013. The Air Force is managing and funding the program at this time, with Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) providing support.
Early tests of MOP were conducted by DTRA under the MOP Technology Demonstration effort. These tests began in 2004 with DTRA partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory. DTRA conducted flight tests from 2008 to 2010. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, “Massive Ordnance Penetrator.”

All of this illustrates once again that on most matters, there is little reason to believe that any official of the United States Government is telling the truth when speaking for public consumption.

Disarmament& Military budget& Iraq war& Social movements and protest06 Oct 2006 05:41 pm

Andrew Lichterman

“Contemporary historians, confronted with the spectacle of a few capitalists conducting their predatory searches round the globe for new investment possibilities and appealing to the profit motives of the much-too-rich and the gambling instincts of the much-too-poor, want to clothe imperialism with the old grandeur of Rome and Alexander the Great, a grandeur which would make all the following events more humanly tolerable…. The only grandeur of imperialism lies in the nation’s losing battle against it. The tragedy of this half-hearted opposition was not that many national representatives could be bought by the new imperialist businessmen; worse than corruption was the fact that the incorruptible were convinced that imperialism was the only way to conduct world politics.” Hannah Arendt, Imperialism (Part Two of The Origins of Totalitarianism); (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), p.12

This week I received an e-mail fund raising pitch from an arms control group that bills itself as the peace movement’s electoral arm. I have removed the name of the group because the message typifies certain characteristics of “mainstream” discourse on issues of war and peace, characteristics that can not be narrowly attributed to– or blamed on– a particular individual or organization.

Here are the e-mail’s opening paragraphs, which capture the essence:

“Dear Friend,

Republicans have again reached for the gutter. You knew they would do it. In a desperate attempt to win the election, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) began running a deceptive TV ad attacking [name of state] Democrat [name of candidate] for receiving support from [name of group]. You can watch the ad on our website.

Contribute $35, $50, or more to [name of group] and help us respond to this Swift Boat style attack!

The ad is a typical GOP distortion.

It claims we recommend cutting $130 billion from the Pentagon’s budget. False.

What we do favor is cutting Cold War weapons and focusing on equipping our brave soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with what they need: body armor, fully armored vehicles, Predator drones, the best communication equipment, and beefed-up Homeland Security - including protection of our food and water supplies, and chemical and nuclear plants.”

The e-mail massage also had a link pointing readers to a “list of security programs supported by [name of group],” including not only the body armor, unmanned aircraft, and armored vehicles promoted in the e-mail, but such programs as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, better countermeasures for improvised explosive devices, and increased funding for precise, low-yield munitions–a good start on a shopping list for invasions and occupations present and future.

So: a fund raising pitch from a “peace” organization–not a “strategic” communication to hypothetical undecided swing-state voters, mind you, but a message aimed at being persuasive to their own “peace”-oriented base–that proudly proclaims that this organization does not advocate major military spending cuts, but instead advocates better weapons to fight bloody wars of occupation (with one of them, the Iraq war, also clearly being illegal from the outset). There was not a word in the e-mail to suggest that the Iraq war was a bad idea, or that endless pursuit of global military dominance is a bad idea, or that a military budget approaching a half trillion dollars a year is a bad idea.

This message echoes the approach taken by many Democratic Party politicians to “peace” issues this election season (and for many years now): it neither makes a case against U.S. wars of aggression, nor addresses the causes of the wars the U.S. fights. Instead, “opposition” is limited to “pragmatic” advocacy of what purportedly would be a cheaper, more efficient, less risky mix of weapons. But these weapons still will be used to advance a goal of permanent U.S. global military dominance that remains largely unquestioned by mainstream politicians and “arms control and disarmament” groups alike. And it is more than likely, if past performance is any guide, that little in this approach will change regardless of the outcome of the Congressional elections. If Democrats win, those who control the money and the visible platforms in the Democratic party and the constellation of thinly-disguised advertising agencies that roughly serve as its “intellectual” establishment will claim victory for their focus group-tested “moderate” approach. If they lose, they will seek to hang defeat on “the Left,” implying that “they” (despite being virtually invisible) somehow blurred the carefully confected vision of a slightly kinder, gentler empire that otherwise surely would have captured just enough of some all-important group of voters, however instrumentally stereotyped in this year’s jargon: NASCAR dads, security moms, the role of ordinary people in politics reduced to answers to questions we never get to choose.

It is impossible to know in the case of any particular organization or individual which motivation prevails–”bought by the new imperialist businessmen” or simply “convinced that imperialism [is] the only way to conduct world politics.” But what is clear is that most U.S. politicians and most U.S. “national security” and “foreign policy” professionals, regardless of party affiliation, fall into one or the other category. If there is to be a movement in this country for global justice and hence for any real peace, we are going to have to put it together largely without them. We can begin by refusing to give either money or votes to politicians, parties, and organizations who respond to U.S. wars of aggression by suggesting better ways to fight them.

Nuclear weapons--U.S.& U.S. military& Military budget& Strategic weapons and space10 Feb 2006 03:07 pm

Andrew Lichterman

“Global is defined as the capability to strike any target set in the world.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.10

The Air Force has put out a “Prompt Global Strike Request for Information,” beginning the process of examining alternatives for new weapons capable of hitting targets anywhere on earth. Supporting materials state that the Prompt Global Strike Analysis of Alternatives will examine “a range of system concepts to deliver precision weapons with global reach, in minutes to hours.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.9 The PGS AoA Study Plan Draft provides a laundry list of the kinds of concepts under consideration:

  • “High Speed Strike Systems. This approach requires development/adaptation of a piloted, remotely controlled, or autonomous subsonic/supersonic/hypersonic vehicle (aircraft, sea craft, or missile) to deliver precision standoff or direct attack subsonic/ supersonic/ hypersonic munitions.
  • Operationally Responsive Space. An expendable and/or reusable launch vehicle that can deliver precision guided munitions.
  • Military Space Plane. A reusable launch vehicle that could directly deliver precision guided munitions.
  • Ground or Sea-based Expendable Launch Vehicle. This approach consists of either modification of current space launch vehicles, conversion of deactivated intercontinental ballistic missiles or sea-launched ballistic missiles, or building a new launch vehicle to deliver weapon payloads; such as small launch vehicle or submarine launched intermediate range ballistic missiles. An advanced reentry vehicle/body; such as, a common aero vehicle could be developed to accompany these missile systems.
  • Air-Launched Global Strike System. This concept consists of an aircraft that air-launches Pegasus-like space launch vehicles configured with weapons and/or an aircraft delivering supersonic or hypersonic long-range cruise missiles.” Prompt Global Strike (PGS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) Study Plan Draft 28 Oct 2005, p.9

Several of these concepts already are being examined in other studies or already are under development. (see, for example, the Land Based Strategic Deterrent Analysis of Alternatives and the Force Application and Launch for the Continental United States (FALCON) program. While these plans for new kinds of strategic weapons are ramping up, the Pentagon also wants to upgrade existing long-range forces, making its bombers more capable and putting conventional warheads on Trident submarine launched ballistic missiles. (see William Arkin’s Early Warning blog for an overview of these programs.) New long-range weapons are a high priority to the Bush administration, which announced in the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review that it plans to “begin development of the next generation long-range strike systems, accelerating projected initial operational capability by almost two decades.” U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review Report, February 6, 2006 p.6 (more…)

U.S. military& Military budget& Secrecy and democracy01 Feb 2006 11:29 am

Andrew Lichterman

“Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy - a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress.” George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006.

Every four years, the U.S. Department of Defense issues its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a broad outline of U.S. military policy and the types of programs that the Department wants to implement it. The next (2005) version is due out in February, but has published 42 pages of the draft QDR (subscription required). Resources and commentary on current and past QDR’s can be found at the Project for Defense Alternatives.

“Orwellian” is a term that is overused, but both the language and the content of the 2005 QDR, echoed by George Bush in his State of the Union speech, evoke resonances of “1984,” Orwell’s tale of dictatorship sustained by eternal war. Several locutions that recur throughout the QDR manifest a vision of war without end, fought increasingly by forces that are both less visible and less accountable. Over and over the QDR authors tell us that we are fighting what they now call “the long war” — an even more open-ended term than the “war on terror,” since it can be fought against anyone, anywhere, anytime. Bush used the same phrase in his State of the Union Address to underscore his favorite theme: he is a War President, and must be allowed to do whatever he alone deems necessary. The draft QDR puts a bit more meat on the State of the Union’s rhetorical bones, giving us some idea of how those in power plan to use this “long war” as a justification for more war and less democracy. (more…)