Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Army Submits Gravesite Study of Arlington National Cemetery

No. 1038-11

Secretary of the Army John McHugh released today to Congress the results of a year-long effort to ensure accountability of gravesites and records at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). McHugh submitted the report in accordance with Public Law 111-339, which directed the Army to provide an accounting of gravesites at ANC, and put in place a plan of action for any discrepancies which may be found.

“The management team I put in place has now conducted the most comprehensive review and meticulous accounting of gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery’s 147 year history,” McHugh said. “They have examined every available record, physically counted every gravesite on the cemetery’s grounds, and created a digital record of every headstone and niche cover.”

McHugh said this report is the latest in a series that shows the Army’s commitment to and success in improving management and oversight at ANC. The Army’s inspector general recently reported that “significant progress has been made in all aspects of the cemetery’s performance, accountability and modernization.” The Government Accountability Office -- also directed to submit reports in accordance with Public Law 111-339 -- similarly noted that the Army “has taken positive steps to address management deficiencies at Arlington and has implemented improvements across a range of areas.”

The cemetery’s Gravesite Accountability Task Force reconciled existing records and conducted a physical identification of gravesites -- counting every marker in the cemetery and photographing each headstone and niche cover. They have completed nearly 200,000 cases, and validated those gravesites without any burial discrepancies in evidence.

Comprised of Army soldiers and civilians, the task force was charged with physically identifying every gravesite and niche cover, cross-referencing each with all available records, identifying discrepancies, applying appropriate corrective actions and developing standardized procedures that can be instituted into the daily operations of the cemetery.

“With the critical support of Congress and the American people, the task force’s significant work has resulted in a far more detailed and thorough understanding of Arlington’s records and living history than at any time since its inception during the Civil War in 1864,” said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program. “This comprehensive effort will create a set of proven procedures that will ensure the accountability of all current and future gravesites. While remarkable progress has been made this far, additional work is required.”

The gravesite accountability effort resulted in the first-ever review, analysis and coordination of all Arlington records that included more than 14 decades of varying records. The end result will be a single database that will serve as the authoritative record at Arlington National Cemetery.

The task force compared the photos for 259,978 headstones and niche covers in the cemetery against more than 510,000 records. Based upon its review, the task force validated 195,748 cases, and Arlington is currently completing the validation of 64,230 cases requiring additional review.

The Army is strengthening both accountability of gravesites and oversight of cemetery operations, identifying discrepancies and administrative errors, and taking immediate corrective action. The Army has defined new accountability processes, standards and technology, established a rigorous training program and gathered valuable best practices and lessons learned that are now being integrated into the Arlington’s daily operations.

As remaining cases are validated and resolved, Arlington’s leadership focus will shift to its plan for the future, having integrated the best practices from the task force into daily operations. With this plan in place, the next era at Arlington will be defined as one of modernization, transparency and accountability, with the goal of connecting the American people to Arlington’s rich living history.

Among the national cemeteries in the United States, Arlington National Cemetery is unique. It is the only national cemetery that routinely holds graveside services and provides full military honors for eligible veterans. It is a national and active military shrine, hosting 4.1 million visitors annually, as well as ceremonial functions involving heads of foreign countries and other high level dignitaries. As the second largest cemetery in the country, Arlington National Cemetery oversees approximately 27-30 funeral services per day, five days a week. On Saturdays, the cemetery holds services for which military honors are not required or requested.

News media with further questions may contact Jennifer Lynch at 877-907-8585 or jennifer.lynch1@us.army.mil . A copy of the ANC report is at http://www.defense.gov/news/20121222ANCtaskforcereportfinaldraft.pdf .

Pretrial Wraps Up for Alleged Document Leaker

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service


FORT MEADE, Md., Dec. 22, 2011 – The prosecution and defense rested today after delivering their closing statements in the Article 32 hearing of a soldier charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Today’s session, which adjourned at about 10:30 a.m., wrapped up eight days of pre-trial proceedings in the case against Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning that began Dec. 16.

An Article 32 hearing, often compared to a civilian grand jury, is a pretrial hearing to determine if grounds exist for a general court martial, the most serious of courts martial.

The investigating officer, Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, now has until Jan. 16 to issue his recommendations to the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, a Military District of Washington spokesperson told American Forces Press Service.

Alamanza may ask for an extension, if needed, the official said.
His report will recommend that the case be referred to a court martial, or that some or all of the charges against Manning be dismissed.

The Special Court Martial Convening Authority, Army Col. Carl Coffman, will then provide Alamanza’s recommendation to the General Court Martial Convening Authority, and indicate whether he concurs with it, the MDW official said.

Manning, an intelligence analyst, is suspected of leaking military and diplomatic documents to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in what officials believe is the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.

WikiLeaks, in turn, released thousands of these documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on its website last year.

At the time, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other senior defense officials condemned the organization’s actions, claiming the act put deployed service members at an increased risk.

The Article 32 hearing marked 24-year-old Manning’s first appearance in a military court since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.

He faces more than 20 charges alleging he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the data for public release and use by the enemy.

The charge of aiding the enemy under Article 104 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is a capital offense; however, the prosecution team has said it won’t recommend the death penalty, a legal official said.

If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge, officials said.

(Editors’ Note: Elaine Sanchez contributed to this article.)

Related Articles:
Pretrial Begins for Alleged Document Leaker
Army Adds 22 Charges Against Intelligence Analyst

Navy Continues Proud Tradition of Service

For veterans battling the wounds of war, there's an APP for that

The battle against the psychological scars of war is being helped by technology. One application for smart phones and the iPAD, is called the T2 Mood Tracker. It helps patients monitor their behavior over time.

Sailors Visit Orphans in Japan

SECNAV Visits Afghanistan

Norfolk Space A Terminal Helps Sailors During the Holidays

Headlines for Thursday, December 22, 2011


Headlines for Thursday, December 22, 2011: NPC Reminds Fleet of Changes to Evaluation Instructions; San Diego Sailors and Project Handclasp Send Cargo to Haiti.

2011 MCPON Holiday Message

Binding the Wounds of War - Veterans deal with invisible scars of war


In the first installment of the Pentagon Channel's three-part series, "Binding the Wounds of War" we look at how the Defense Department is helping veterans deal with post-traumatic stress.

DoD's Senior NCO concerned over report of shockingly high suicide rate


SgtMaj Bryan Battaglia offers leadership support to servicemembers and veterans struggling with emotional stress.

Army Charges Eight in Death of Fellow Soldier

Regional Command South Public Affairs

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2011 – Eight U.S. soldiers deployed to southern Afghanistan were charged today in connection with the death of a fellow soldier, military officials reported.

Army Pvt. Danny Chen, an infantryman assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, died Oct. 3, officials said. His body was found in a guard tower with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Army has charged eight of Chen’s fellow soldiers in connection with his death:

-- 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz

-- Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas

-- Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel

-- Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb

-- Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst

-- Spc. Thomas P. Curtis

-- Spc. Ryan J. Offutt, and

-- Sgt. Travis F. Carden

All of the accused are assigned to Company C, and posted to Combat Outpost Palace in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

Schwartz is charged with eight counts of dereliction of duty.

Dugas is charged with one count in violation of a lawful general regulation, four counts of dereliction of duty, and one count of making a false official statement.

Van Bockel is charged with two counts in violation of a lawful general regulation, three counts of dereliction of duty, four counts of maltreatment, one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of assault consummated by battery, one count of negligent homicide, and one count of reckless endangerment.

Holcomb is charged with four counts of violation of a lawful general regulation, two counts of dereliction of duty, two counts of maltreatment, one count of destruction of military property, one count of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of assault consummated by battery, one count of negligent homicide, one count of reckless endangerment, and one count of communicating a threat.

Hurst is charged with two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation, two counts of dereliction of duty, two counts of maltreatment, one count of involuntary manslaughter, one count of assault consummated by battery, one count of negligent homicide, and one count of reckless endangerment.

Curtis is charged with two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation, one count of dereliction of duty, six counts of maltreatment, one count of involuntary manslaughter, four counts of assault consummated by battery, one count of negligent homicide, and one count of reckless endangerment.

Offutt is charged with two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation, one count of dereliction of duty, four counts of maltreatment, one count of involuntary manslaughter, three counts of assault consummated by battery, one count of negligent homicide, and one count of reckless endangerment.Link
Carden is charged with two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation, two counts of maltreatment, and one count of assault.

As the legal process continues, further information will be published as it becomes available, officials said.

Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pentagon Official Underscores Zero Tolerance Policy for Bullying

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2011 – A senior Pentagon official today underscored the military’s “zero tolerance” against bullying and hazing in light of charges brought against eight soldiers.

Speaking at a Pentagon news briefing, Navy Capt. John Kirby offered condolences to the family of Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who was found dead in October from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Afghanistan where he was deployed. The Army today charged eight soldiers in Chen’s unit with being involved in his death, although officials won’t say how.

“Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to the family here,” said Kirby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations. “This is a tragic, tragic incident.”

Kirby declined to discuss the Chen case, but underscored that bullying and hazing are never tolerated by service members.

“Any single case of hazing or inappropriate conduct to a fellow soldier, airman, Marine, sailor [or] Coast Guardsman is inappropriate and not acceptable,” he said. “Zero is the right number.

“We treat each other with dignity and respect -- that’s what this uniform requires,” he added. “When we don’t, there’s a justice system in place to deal with it. And that’s what we’re seeing here in the case of Private Chen.”

Kirby said hazing is not tolerated in the military and “if it’s found and it’s proven -- it’s dealt with.”

“This is something inculcated in our culture from the moment you join the service,” he noted. “From the moment you raise your right hand through all your basic training and your first tours of duty, these notions are bred into you in the military.

“We treat each other with respect and dignity or we go home -- that’s it,” Kirby said pointedly. “The tolerance is absolutely zero and the system itself, because it works and works well, is in fact, a deterrent to future behavior.”

Kirby noted there are still “miscreants” who want to defy military regulations, and reiterated “when it’s found [and] proven, it’s dealt with.”

Kirby also cited “training mechanisms” in place throughout all the services designed to help curb these types of incidents.

“Whether you’re an officer or enlisted, this is something bred into you when you come into the service,” he said.

“Unfortunately, you’re never going to be 100 percent perfect in this,” Kirby said. “And there’s going to be those few who want to flaunt what the uniform stands for and what the regulations require … when that happens they’re going to be dealt with.”

Related Articles:
Army Charges Eight in Death of Fellow Soldier

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced

No. 103-11

The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will provide seats for news media aboard military chartered aircraft for travel to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 16, 2012, to cover a military commissions motions hearing Jan. 17-18, in the case of “United States v. Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri.” Return travel is planned for Jan. 19.

Media applications to attend this hearing should be e-mailed to GTMO.Press@osd.mil . All requests must be received by 5 p.m. EST, Jan. 3. Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at Guantanamo Bay, media travel is not guaranteed. There will be additional opportunity for media to view the proceedings by closed circuit television (CCTV) at Fort George G. Meade, Md.

Motions to be presented include Prosecution Motion for Protective Order to Protect Sensitive but Unclassified Information (AE 014), Defense Motion to Bar the Department of Defense from Monitoring Defense Counsel’s Computers (AE 016), Prosecution Motion regarding Public Access (AE 018), as well as the proposed trial schedule. The text of the motions can be found on the Office of Military Commissions website http://www.mc.mil under the active cases section using the defendant’s name.

Media should submit their names, positions, sponsoring organization and contact information to the above email address. Multiple names may be listed for organizations requiring support personnel. Requesters should indicate each individual’s desire to be considered for travel to Guantanamo or Fort Meade or both.

Media selected to travel to Guantanamo or attend the CCTV broadcast in the United States will be sent a selection notification by email after the closing date along with further travel information including media ground rules which can be viewed at the Office of Military Commissions website under the media resources section.

Unknown Service Member’s Remains Return to Hawaii

Center for Information Dominance Fights with Computers

Guam Service Members Wrap Donated Gifts

Headlines for Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Headlines for Wednesday, December 21, 2011: Final Iraqi Air Sortie Flies off USS John C. Stennis; USNS Mercy Celebrates 25 Years as a Hospital Ship.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NASCAR Drivers visit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Students Go Wassailing Aboard Navy Ships in Japan

Therapy Dogs Help Patients at Walter Reed Military Medical Center

Fleet and Family Service Centers Provide Transition Services

Headlines for Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Headlines for Tuesday, December 20, 2011: Navy Accepts USS San Diego; Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Completes Integrated Exercise

Leon Panetta Holiday Message


Secretary of Defense wishes the men and women of the U.S. military and their families and happy and safe holiday season.

The Passing of National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 19, 2011


With the passing of National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is now in a period of national mourning. We are deeply concerned with the well being of the North Korean people and our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times. It is our hope that the new leadership of the DPRK will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with its neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people. The United States stands ready to help the North Korean people and urges the new leadership to work with the international community to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and lasting security on the Korean Peninsula.


PRN: 2011/2174

Monday, December 19, 2011

New DoD Patient Safety Guide Draws Roadmap for Patient Activation

Posted by: Health.mil Staff
A newly released Patient Activation Reference Guide from the Department of Defense Patient Safety Program supports an agency-wide effort to foster an environment where patients are engaged participants in their health care. The guide provides a roadmap for moving patients toward full involvement and assistance of the health care team. The five module guide provides insight, background and resources that apply to all team members who care for patients and their families, including clinical and administrative staff, as well as the patient/family units themselves.

Activated patients have the information, skills and confidence to effectively make decisions about their health care. Research shows that patients who are engaged in their own care have better health outcomes, improving the quality of health care for both individuals and the entire system. Patients Safety Program leaders say that having an active patient population is critical as the Military Health System works toward high quality, cost-effective health care.

The Patient Activation Reference Guide is available on the Patient Safety Program website.

Involuntarily Separated Sailors Can Use Commissary

Norfolk Auto Skills Available During the Holidays

Celebrities visit Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan

Headlines for Monday, December 19, 2011


Headlines for Monday, December 19, 2011: USS Enterprise Returns from Two-Week Underway; SECNAV Updates Requirements for Purple Hearts

U.S.-South Korean Consults Follow Kim’s Death

By Cheryl Pellerin and Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2011 – U.S. officials are carefully watching the situation on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of news that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has died.

Kim died Saturday of a massive heart attack, according to a North Korean government release. Kim Jong-eun, the “Dear Leader’s” youngest son, is expected to replace him.

President Barack Obama consulted with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last night. They discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the death of Kim Jong-il, according to a White House read-out of the call.

“The president reaffirmed the United States’ strong commitment to the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the security of our close ally, the Republic of Korea,” according to the read out. “The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch as the situation develops and agreed they would direct their national security teams to continue close coordination.”

U.S. leaders have been in constant contact with South Korean and Japanese allies since Kim’s death was announced, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him in Germany that the allies have not seen any change “in North Korean behavior of a nature that would alarm us.”

Speaking broadly, the general said he is concerned about the transition, but there have been no changes to the alert readiness for U.S. forces on the peninsula. South Korean officials announced their armed forces are on a higher level of alert.

U.S. and South Korean leaders quickly established a network “to discuss this issue and to determine what we could do to contribute to understanding what might happen next,” Dempsey said.

“It is my expectation … that he will be the successor,” the chairman said. “We’ve gone to significant effort to understand, and I would only say at this point that he is young to be put in this position and we will have to see if it, in fact, is him and how he reacts to the burden of governance that he hasn’t had to deal with before.”

Kim Jong-il took over from his father Kim Il-sung in 1994. It was the first case of a son taking over for a father in a communist nation. In 2010, he announced his youngest son would succeed him.

North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and missile technology, U.S. officials have said. It is a pariah among nations in that it has actively sought to export nuclear and missile technology even as up to a million North Koreans are believed to have starved to death.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, 69, Has Died

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
at The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.

Kim's death was announced Monday by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media.

The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.

The news came as North Korea prepared for a hereditary succession. Kim Jong Il inherited power after his father, revered North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, died in 1994.

In September 2010, Kim Jong Il unveiled his third son, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, as his successor, putting him in high-ranking posts.

Dear Friends

Early this morning, the last of our troops left Iraq.

As we honor and reflect on the sacrifices that millions of men and women made for this war, I wanted to make sure you heard the news.

Bringing this war to a responsible end was a cause that sparked many Americans to get involved in the political process for the first time. Today's outcome is a reminder that we all have a stake in our country's future, and a say in the direction we choose.

Thank you.

Barack

MSNBC

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Last Convoy of American Troops Leaves Iraq, Marking an End to the War

By TIM ARANGO and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

at The New York Times

BAGHDAD — The last convoy of American troops to leave Iraq drove into Kuwait on Sunday morning, marking the end of the nearly nine-year war.

The convoy’s departure, which included about 110 vehicles and 500 soldiers, came three days after the American military folded its flag in a muted ceremony here to celebrate the end of its mission.

In darkness, the convoy snaked out of Contingency Operating Base Adder, near the southern city of Nasiriyah, around 2:30 a.m., and headed toward the border. The departure appeared to be the final moment of a drawn-out withdrawal that included weeks of ceremonies in Baghdad and around Iraq, and included visits by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, as well as a trip to Washington by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq.

As dawn approached on Sunday morning, the last trucks began to cross over the border into Kuwait at an outpost lit by floodlights and secured by barbed wire.

“I just can’t wait to call my wife and kids and let them know I am safe,” said Sgt. First Class Rodolfo Ruiz just before his armored vehicle crossed over the border. “I am really feeling it now.”

Shortly after crossing into Kuwait, Sergeant Ruiz told the men in his vehicle: “Hey guys, you made it.”

Then, he ordered the vehicles in his convoy not to flash their lights or honk their horns.

For security reasons, the last soldiers made no time for goodbyes to Iraqis with whom they had become acquainted. To keep details of the final trip secret from insurgents, interpreters for the last unit to leave the base called local tribal sheiks and government leaders on Saturday morning and conveyed that business would go on as usual, not letting on that all the Americans would soon be gone.

Many troops wondered how the Iraqis, whom they had worked closely with and trained over the past year, would react when they awoke on Sunday to find that the remaining American troops on the base had left without saying anything.

“The Iraqis are going to wake up in the morning and nobody will be there,” said a soldier who only identified himself as Specialist Joseph. He said he had immigrated to the United States from Iraq in 2009 and enlisted a year later, and refused to give his full name because he worried for his family’s safety.

Fearing that insurgents would try to attack the last Americans leaving the country, the military treated all convoys like combat missions.

As the armored vehicles drove through the desert, Marine, Navy and Army helicopters and planes flew overhead scanning the ground for insurgents and preparing to respond if the convoys were attacked.

Col. Douglas Crissman, one of the military’s top commanders in southern Iraq, said in an interview on Friday that he planned to be in a Blackhawk helicopter over the convoy with special communication equipment.

“It is a little bit weird,” he said, referring to how he had not told his counterparts in the Iraqi military when they were leaving. “But the professionals among them understand.”

Over the past year, Colonel Crissman and his troops spearheaded the military’s efforts to ensure the security of the long highway that passes through southern Iraq that a majority of convoys traveled on their way out of the country.

“Ninety-five percent of what we have done has been for everyone else,” Colonel Crissman said.

Across the highway, the military built relationships with 20 tribal sheiks, paying them to clear the highway of garbage, making it difficult for insurgents to hide roadside bombs in blown-out tires and trash.

Along with keeping the highway clean, the military hoped that the sheiks would help police the highway and provide intelligence on militants.

“I can’t possibly be all places at one time,” said Colonel Crissman in an interview in May. “There are real incentives for them to keep the highway safe. Those sheiks we have the best relationships with and have kept their highways clear and safe will be the most likely ones to get renewed for the remainder of the year.”

All American troops were legally obligated to leave the country by the end of the month, but President Obama, in announcing in October the end of the American military role here, promised that everyone would be home for the holidays.

The United States will continue to play a role in Iraq. The largest American embassy in the world is located here, and in the wake of the military departure it is doubling in size — from about 8,000 people to 16,000 people, most of them contractors. Under the authority of the ambassador will be less than 200 military personnel, to guard the embassy and oversee the sale of weapons to the Iraqi government.

History’s final judgment on the war, which claimed nearly 4,500 American lives and cost almost $1 trillion, may not be determined for decades. But it will be forever tainted by the early missteps and miscalculations, the faulty intelligence over Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs and his supposed links to terrorists, and a litany of American abuses, from the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal to a public shootout involving Blackwater mercenaries that left civilians dead — a sum of agonizing factors that diminished America’s standing in the Muslim world and its power to shape events around the globe.

When President George W. Bush announced the start of the war in 2003 in an address from the Oval Office, he proclaimed, “we will accept no outcome but victory.”

But the end appears neither victory, nor defeat, but a stalemate — one in which the optimists say violence has been reduced to a level that will allow the country to continue on its lurching path toward stability and democracy, and the pessimists say the American presence has been a bandage on a festering wound.

The war’s conclusion marks a political triumph for President Obama, who ran for office promising to bring the troops home, but is bittersweet for Iraqis who will now face on their own the unfinished legacy of a conflict that rid their country of a hated dictator but did little else to improve their lives.

CNN Breaking News

The last U.S. troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait on Sunday morning, ending almost nine years of a deadly and divisive war.

About 500 soldiers based in Fort Hood, Texas, and 110 military vehicles made the journey south from Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, to the Khabari border crossing, from where they will head to Camp Virginia in Kuwait before flying home.

They were the last soldiers in what amounted to the largest U.S. troop drawdown since the war in Vietnam.

America's contentious and costly war in Iraq officially ended Thursday with an understated ceremony in Baghdad, when U.S. troops lowered the flag of command that flew over the Iraqi capital.

Justified by President George W. Bush largely on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was seeking weapons of mass destruction that he could share with terrorists such as al Qaeda, the invasion cased deep divisions in America and around the world.

Pres ident Obama, elected partly on the strength of his opposition to the war, has promised economic, diplomatic and military help to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Nearly 4,500 Americans were killed and more than 30,000 injured in Iraq.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sailors Should be Wary of Holiday Stress

Fleet and Family Support Centers Provide Financial Assistance

American and Japanese Bands Hold Holiday Concert in Yokosuska

Headlines for Friday, December 16, 2011


Headlines for Friday, December 16, 2011: Federal Government Hires Record Number of Veterans in 2011; DoD Releases Guidance for Political Elections; TRIPS Helps Military Personnel Travel Safe During the Holidays

Thursday, December 15, 2011

31st MEU Marines Endure Pepper Spray Training

Secretary of Defense Visits Djibouti

NSA Bahrain Hosts Tree Lighting Ceremony

Headlines for Thursday, December 15, 2011


Headlines for Thursday, December 15, 2011: USS Carl Vinson Connects with Social Media; Separating Sailors Retain Some TRICARE Benefits.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CNO Holiday Message

Fleet Activities Sasebo Emphasizes Importance of Physical Training

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Visits Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Guam Sailors Celebrate 19th Annual Christmas Festival

Headlines for Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Headlines for Wednesday, December 14, 2011: Office of Naval Research Announces Basic Research Challenge Funding Recipients; USS Abraham Lincoln Receives Commander Naval Air Forces Battle Efficiency Award

Monday, December 12, 2011

Remarks for Istanbul Process Conference on Religious Freedom

Remarks by Suzan Johnson Cook
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
As Prepared - Washington, DC
December 12, 2011


Good morning. Thank you all for coming here for what I hope will be the first in a series of meetings that will advance respect for religious freedom and religious tolerance around the world. I am Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and I am honored to be your host for the next three days.

Before we begin, I would like to salute the many people, governments, and organizations here today who worked so hard to pass Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization Of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence, and Violence Against Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” That historic resolution was adopted by consensus in Geneva in March. As Secretary Clinton said in Istanbul in July, by passing it, “We have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression.”

The international community reinforced the spirit of Resolution 16/18 at the UN General Assembly, where the UNGA Third Committee adopted a similar resolution by consensus. I want to thank all of those who made that breakthrough possible, especially the Ambassadors from Geneva and New York who are with us here today.

Resolution 16/18 secured an international consensus around an action-oriented approach to combat religious intolerance in line with respect for universal human rights—including religious freedom and freedom of expression.

The resolution calls on states to take specific measures to combat religious intolerance. The focus of this implementation meeting is identifying best practices on prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on religion or belief, training government officials to avoid discrimination in their official duties, putting enforcement mechanisms in place and engaging with members of religious communities.

It is important that experts like you, practitioners of human rights protection, law enforcement, and community relations, share your views and exchange information on how to protect religious minorities.

You represent over 30 countries and a wide range of international organizations, including the European Union, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. With this kind of expertise, we can make progress on implementing this resolution. History will judge us not by the resolutions we pass – but by whether we put these resolutions into practice. As the famous American abolitionist Wendell Phillips once remarked, “Governments exist for the purpose of protecting the rights of minorities.” Those rights include the right to believe and the right practice a religion not sanctioned by the state -- or no religion at all.

Though we come from a wide range of backgrounds, this resolution, representing the consensus of the international community, unites us in a common purpose. This purpose is to advance religious freedom, promote religious tolerance, and combat discrimination on the basis of religion or belief—consistent with universal human rights principles. This means a commitment to protect religious minorities and protect freedom of expression. Fighting discrimination and improving respect for religious freedom also creates a climate of tolerance that promotes stability, social harmony, and security.

We know that some people distort various religious doctrines to justify intolerance, foment violence, or create strife that serves their narrow political purposes. We must denounce offensive speech whenever we encounter it – but our commitment to universal principles makes clear that faith must never be a crime and religion must never be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression.

Secretary Clinton put it this way in a February speech on Internet freedom: “Some take the view that, to encourage tolerance, some hateful ideas must be silenced by governments. We believe that efforts to curb the content of speech rarely succeed and often become an excuse to violate freedom of expression. Instead, as it has historically been proven time and time again, the better answer to offensive speech is more speech. People can and should speak out against intolerance and hatred. By exposing ideas to debate, those with merit tend to be strengthened, while weak and false ideas tend to fade away; perhaps not instantly, but eventually.”

In this country, religious freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. We continue to work at improving respect for our religious diversity and protecting freedom of expression. Yet we continue to see individuals involved in acts of intolerance, and attempts to discriminate against other religious groups. They usually get wide coverage in our free press, and yet, we have freedom of expression and use effective measures to deal with these issues that are consistent with the steps recommended in Resolution 16/18. Complacency is not an option.

Over the next three days, we seek frank discussions that will help our governments promote tolerance, combat discrimination and violence, and help us learn from each others’ experiences. Resolution 16/18 is a roadmap. Our agenda for the next three days is to explore how to use that map to implement the resolution in ways that will improve conditions for all of our citizens.

Today, we will hold plenary sessions where you will meet your counterparts from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice. They will share with you how our approaches to these problems are evolving, what we have adopted from other countries, and how we adapted based on experience. On Tuesday and Wednesday, our meetings will be divided into two tracks. The first track will explore effective government strategies to engage religious minorities. This discussion will include methods for training government officials on religious and cultural awareness. The second track will explore ways to better enforce laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. We urge members of your delegation to participate in both tracks to ensure that we capture the full range of opinions and ideas you all represent.

Following this conference, we will compile a set of best practices that will be submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to be shared with States and the general public.

This is a historic opportunity for all of our countries to make concrete advances in promoting tolerance and combating the discrimination and violence that blights so many lives. I welcome you to Washington as together we find ways to promote mutual respect between governments and citizens of all religions, creeds, and beliefs. Thank you.

USS Mustin Celebrates Centennial of Naval Aviation

Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Leaves Naval Air Station Everett for Last Time

Navy Personnel Command Offers Stress Management Tips for the Holidays

Department of the Navy Holds Civilian Human Resources Leadership Conference

Navy Munitions Command Ready to Respond at Any Time

Headlines for Monday, December 12, 2011



Headlines for Monday, December 12, 2011: Navy Wins Tenth Straight Game Against Army; George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Returns Home.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can the Center Hold?

Understanding Israel’s Pragmatic Majority

A majority of Israelis -- around 70 percent, according to a recent poll by the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, in Jerusalem -- support a two-state solution. Yet that same majority is deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions. To understand this seeming contradiction and the psyche of the Israeli mainstream, one should read the two articles that recently appeared in these pages on the Palestinian question -- "The Problem Is Palestinian Rejectionism," by Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner, and "Israel's Bunker Mentality," by Ronald Krebs (November/December 2011) -- not as a debate but as complementary arguments. Centrist Israelis endorse Krebs' argument that the occupation is an existential threat to the Jewish state. They understand that ending it would ease the demographic challenge to Israel's Jewish majority and allow Israel to retain both its Jewish and its democratic identities. A two-state solution would also deflate the growing international movement to delegitimize not only the occupation but also the existence of Israel itself.

Yet centrist Israelis also embrace the contention made by Kuperwasser and Lipner: that the Palestinian national movement, from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority, rejects Jewish sovereignty over any part of the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Centrist Israelis see PA President Mahmoud Abbas as merely a tactical moderate who opposes terrorism only because it has harmed the Palestinian cause. They base their suspicions on speeches such as his address to the UN General Assembly last September, when Abbas condemned "63 years" of Israeli occupation -- implicating the founding of Israel in 1948, not just the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which began in 1967. For centrists, the greatest obstacle to peace is the demand of Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, for the right of return of descendants of Palestinian refugees not just to a Palestinian state but also to Israel proper. These Israelis see Abbas' insistence on this right as proof that the Palestinian leader seeks to destabilize Israel from within and does not accept the right of the Jewish people to their own sovereign nation.

Such fears inhibit centrist Israelis from fully embracing the peace process, since they believe it will lead to an irredentist Palestinian state sitting on Israel's borders. Rocket attacks from the West Bank could make daily life in Israel's main population centers unbearable. If the Israeli army re-invaded to stop the attacks, Israeli officials and soldiers could find themselves charged with war crimes, just as they were after Israel attacked Gaza in 2008. And so although centrists understand how damaging to both sides the occupation has become, they view ending it before the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state as an even greater existential threat. Indeed, according to the Tel Aviv University Peace Index, a monthly public opinion survey, in January 2011, nearly 70 percent of Israelis polled moderately or strongly accepted the claim that even if a peace agreement were signed, the Palestinians would continue their struggle against Israel.

This is but one of the paradoxes with which centrist Israelis grapple. Another is the way they understand their country to be both a David and a Goliath: Goliath toward the Palestinians, but David toward the Arab and Muslim worlds. Israel remains the strongest military power in the Middle East. But in recent years, the balance has begun to shift. Iran, through its terrorist allies -- Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza -- has established a presence in two enclaves on Israel's borders. These organizations, equipped with tens of thousands of rockets, can now target all of Israel's population centers, many of which are directly threatened for the first time in the history of the Jewish state. And with Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel might soon lose its status as the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, which has been its main strategic advantage for decades. Then there is the emergence of a government in Turkey with Islamist roots and the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, which are eroding Israel's regional alliances. These factors -- not the occupation, as Krebs writes -- have created Israel's "bunker mentality."

Centrist Israelis realize that the Jewish state cannot indefinitely remain both an occupier and a member in good standing of the Western club of liberal democracies. Yet they are acutely aware that Israel is the only country threatened with destruction by some of its neighbors. And they face a Palestinian national movement whose goal, they believe, is not only the creation of its own state but also the displacement of its occupier's. Arguably, no other occupier has had to worry, as Israel does, that withdrawing will not merely diminish but destroy it.

The international community fails to acknowledge Israel's unique dilemma, reducing its options to a simplistic choice between occupation and peace, as Krebs implicitly does. This failure further undermines Israeli confidence in the peace process. The old slogan of the Israeli left, "Peace is better than the complete land of Israel," has turned out to be a mockery. Neither peace nor the complete land of Israel, centrists suspect, was ever a realistic option.

THE MAKING OF THE ISRAELI CENTER

Until the late 1980s, support for a Palestinian state could be found only on Israel's far-left fringe. Most Israeli Jews saw Palestinian sovereignty as inconceivable, especially after the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) adopted the "phased plan" in 1974, which stated that it would use any territory evacuated by Israel as a base from which to destabilize and eventually destroy it.

Under these circumstances, the Israeli mainstream argued about not whether to settle in the West Bank but where. Labor Party leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres hoped to transfer most of the West Bank to Jordan while supporting Israeli settlement of underpopulated areas. Almost all Israeli Jews agreed that the territories had been acquired legitimately in a war waged to defend themselves against destruction. The convergence of security needs with Israel's historical claims to biblical Judea and Samaria, birthplace of the Jewish people, resonated broadly. And the occupation appeared relatively cost-free. For years after 1967, the territories were mostly quiet, there were no army roadblocks, and most Palestinians had jobs.

The first intifada, the uprising in the territories that began in late 1987 and lasted into the early 1990s, ended the illusion of a benign occupation. Street battles with civilians throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails scarred a generation of Israeli soldiers. Meanwhile, much of the Israeli public came to realize that the occupation meant suppressing a hostile population and was therefore untenable. For the first time, mainstream Israelis began speaking of separating from the Palestinians.

This transformation led to Israel's acceptance of the Oslo peace process. Since the right had failed to bring security through territorial expansion, Israelis reasoned, perhaps the left would succeed in bringing peace through territorial concessions. Through the 1990s, increasing numbers of Israelis, including some on the right, came to accept the inevitability of a two-state solution and its attendant compromises, such as the division of Jerusalem.

But just as the first intifada ended the fantasy of Greater Israel, the second intifada, which began in September 2000, ended the fantasy of land for peace. Krebs notes that the second intifada "left Israelis frustrated and disillusioned." In fact, the Israeli reaction more closely resembled rage and despair. The left had promised that if only Israel would offer the Palestinians statehood based on the 1967 lines, the result would be peace. And Prime Minister Ehud Barak did precisely that when he accepted the "Clinton parameters" of December 2000, which proposed a contiguous Palestinian state on almost all the territories with its capital in East Jerusalem. But the violence escalated into the worst wave of terrorism in Israel's history. For the first time since 1948, the Israeli home front became the main front. The suicide bombings seemed to vindicate those on the right who warned that the phased plan remained the strategy of the Palestinian national movement.

The second intifada shattered the Israeli left at precisely the moment when the government had adopted its policy. Newspapers published interviews with leading left-wing politicians and journalists who, having struggled for decades to convince their skeptical fellow citizens of the need to negotiate with the PLO, confessed their naiveté. The Israeli journalist Amnon Dankner compared the effect of the second intifada on the Israeli left to the impact on the world communist movement of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's anti-Stalin "secret speech" in 1956. The peace camp had won the ideological war against the settlers only to be discredited by its Palestinian partner. Except for a small group of true believers, most Israelis concluded that their country no longer bore the chief moral responsibility for the occupation. The Palestinian cause lost one of its greatest assets: the guilty Israeli.

HAWKS TO THE MIDDLE

Still, for centrist Israelis, the consequences of the second intifada did not negate what they had learned in the first intifada. Indeed, those two traumatic events came to define the current centrist worldview. As the center saw it, the left had correctly diagnosed the impossibility of long-term occupation and the right had seen the folly of expecting to achieve peace with a group that denies Israel's legitimacy. The result was paralysis.

The most ambitious centrist attempt to break out of that stalemate and reject permanent occupation came in 2005, when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and uprooted 21 Israeli settlements. Sharon, elected half a year after the outbreak of the second intifada, was the first Israeli public figure to successfully embody the new center. As the father of the settlement enterprise, he made for an unlikely centrist hero. But he understood that Israelis wanted a leader who adopted a hard line on security and a pragmatic line on territory.

The Gaza withdrawal expressed the centrist mood. If Israel could not occupy the Palestinians or make peace with them, then it needed to extricate itself from the territories on its own terms. To the shock of the settlement movement, whose leaders had assumed that the second intifada confirmed the logic of their enterprise, a majority of Israelis supported Sharon's move. His successor, Ehud Olmert, hoped to unilaterally withdraw from most of the West Bank, as well. But Hamas and other militant groups launched thousands of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel immediately after the withdrawal there, forcing many committed unilateralists to acknowledge that continued West Bank occupation was preferable to unchecked missile fire.

The Kadima Party that Sharon founded to implement the withdrawal from Gaza has floundered in his absence. But the center remains a powerful force -- a fact demonstrated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to assume its mantle. Although Netanyahu received scant credit for it abroad, many Israelis saw his endorsement of a two-state solution in 2009 as a breakthrough, bringing the Likud Party, however fitfully, into the mainstream consensus regarding a Palestinian state. Indeed, there is no longer any major party -- including the hawkish Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home), the party of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman -- that rejects the principle of a two-state solution. And although much of the international community dismissed Netanyahu's unprecedented ten-month settlement freeze as insufficient, centrist Israelis applauded it.

Some centrists have criticized ­Netanyahu for refusing to endorse the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations. But they fault him for tactical reasons, not strategic ones. By accepting the Clinton parameters, of which the 1967 borders are a key principle, centrist commentators have argued, Netanyahu could have exposed Palestinian intransigence. But few Israelis believe that any initiative at this point would be met by the Palestinian concessions necessary for peace. So long as Hamas remains ascendant and Palestinian leaders from all factions insist on the right of return to Israel proper, no Israeli prime minister will sign a peace agreement.

Despite its deep skepticism of Palestinian intentions, the centrist majority continues to support a two-state solution. For the sake of a peace agreement that will grant Israel legitimacy, centrist Israelis are prepared to uproot dozens of West Bank settlements and concentrate the rest in settlement blocs along the 1967 borders. But the experience of two previous failed attempts to end the occupation has convinced centrists that the settlements are not the main obstacles to an agreement. The Clinton parameters, and an even more far-reaching peace plan presented by Olmert to Abbas in 2008, would have resolved the settlement issue. True, Israel constructed settlements throughout the territories to prevent a contiguous Palestinian state. And the infrastructure that sustains these communities, such as roads and military installations, is substantial. But as the Gaza withdrawal demonstrated, settlements can be dismantled and infrastructure left behind.

If a Palestinian leader emerges who is prepared to accept the legitimacy of Jewish nationhood, his most likely peace partner would be another incarnation of Sharon: a onetime hawk who has moved toward the center. It is no coincidence that it took two hawks -- Menachem Begin and Sharon -- to initiate Israel's two substantive territorial withdrawals. Israelis feel most secure with a hawkish leader, especially when embarking on a dovish initiative; although the Labor Party first advocated a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza during the second intifada, Israelis trusted only Sharon to carry it through. The Gaza withdrawal offers a political model for a future West Bank pullout: a formerly right-wing leader galvanizing a centrist majority to implement a left-wing vision.

For that to happen, Israelis will need to see a shift in the mindset of the Palestinian national movement. Centrist Israelis have made the conceptual breakthrough required to heal the conflict, recognizing that it is a struggle between two legitimate national narratives. The Palestinians must demonstrate that they, too, are ready to grapple with the complexity of the struggle. Were Palestinian leaders to accept the right of the Jewish people to national sovereignty and agree to confine the right of return for Palestinian refugees to a Palestinian state, they would open the path to statehood. As Kuperwasser and Lipner imply, the way to convince centrist Israelis to empower the Palestinians is for Palestinian leaders to accept the legitimacy of Jewish empowerment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Background Briefing on Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference

Special Briefing - Senior State Department Officials
Intercontinental Hotel - Geneva, Switzerland
December 6, 2011


MODERATOR: All right, everybody. We are in Geneva, where we just completed a fascinating day. And tomorrow the Secretary will be addressing the Biological Weapons Review Conference, which happens once every five years. To give you a sense of tomorrow’s event, we have two folks with us. We have [Senior State Department Official One], hereafter known as Senior State Department Official Number One. Sorry about that, [Senior State Department Official One.]

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Or make her Number One. She’s going to speak first.

MODERATOR: [Senior State Department Official One] and I have known each other a long time without a consideration. And then we have [Senior State Department Official Two] whose title is [title redacted], another old friend, hereafter Senior State Department Official Number Two. Take it away, [Senior State Department Official One.]

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Actually, I – we’ll let [Senior State Department Official Two] begin.

MODERATOR: Take it away, [Senior State Department Official Two]

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. Maybe I’ll just start really quickly. Well, in addition to the title that [Moderator] mentioned, last year I was asked to be – take on a different hat, an additional one as [Senior State Department Official]. And this was very much to prepare over the following year for this review conference. And as you know, this Administration has placed a premium on arms control and nonproliferation. The Biological Weapons – its full title is Biological Weapons and Toxin Convention – is one of the three pillars of the global WMD regime. It is the first treaty to ban an entire class of weapons, that is, biological and toxin weapons, entered into force in 1975.

And so again, as you know, this Administration has placed a premium on arms control, nonproliferation, multilateral engagement. In particular, this is an area that this Administration early on took an interest in. The major review that was issued by the Obama Administration was only the second to come out of the White House, which was issued in 2009. So the President specifically asked the Secretary of State to head our delegation out here. She’ll give our national statement tomorrow.

Now, the focus really is that, one, this is a cornerstone, as I said, of the global nonproliferation regime. But we are trying to make sure that this Convention is adaptable and is focused on the 21st century challenges out there. When the treaty came into force, basically we thought in terms of state actors. We all know that that world has changed. As a matter of fact, it’s 10 years since the United States experienced a biological incident. The anthrax letters killed a number of American citizens, caused billions of dollars in damage. So we know, from first hand, the havoc that can be wrought. Japan suffered a terrorist incident with biological weapons. And indeed, you look at al-Qaida. They have put out bulletins. You’ve seen things where they have called for people to work on biological and chem weapons. So it’s a real threat.

But the positive side of that story, in terms of adapting this Convention to 21st century challenges is that when you develop the tools to deal with a biological weapons incident, the result of which is disease, the same tools give you the same benefits for the global health security, because disease is disease, whether it’s the result of a weapons incident, whether it’s manmade, whether it’s the result of, say, a lab accident. So when you build the national capacities around the world to deter, detect, and deal with disease outbreaks, then you build capacity that’s got benefits for global health in general.

As a matter of fact, the Secretary has spoken about health security in speeches in the past, so it’s – again, this is certainly a long term interest approach. So as I say, it’s keeping to reconfigure this treaty to meet those challenges. And so [Senior State Department Official Two], I think, is going to talk about some of the elements that you could – themes that the Secretary may speak about, programmatic aspects we’d like to hear about.

But ultimately, in this brochure you’ve got some reference materials and a description of some of the programmatic elements we’re looking for. It’s not a press – it wasn’t designed as a press kit, but if you find it useful we just brought it along.

Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: This will be the first time that we’ve asked the Secretary of State to speak at this review conference. This is the seventh held. The themes that you’ll hear her talk about tomorrow are first, to essentially lay out why we think that continued cooperation against biological threats is important, the universality of a threat given travel times and the connectedness of the world today, and also the interconnectedness of the solutions – of the remedies. How building your national capacity to detect and respond to any biological threat enhances the security of the whole world, and that we do this together.

Second, she’ll give a brief recount of the United States’ efforts to comply with the Convention, which of course, includes destroying all of our biological weapons back in the 1970s. But more importantly is a proactive agenda we cooperate with dozens of countries including many in the less-developed world, not only through State and the ISN bureau, but through DHS, AID, CDC, DOD – all of these agencies play a role. We think we have a very positive record of cooperation.

And finally, she’ll lay out three areas in which we propose this review conference consider for further action. I should note that the review conference does not amend the Convention. What we do is we meet and agree on items we want to focus on in the next five-year period. We have found the last two five-year periods, what they call the intercessional period, to be extremely valuable in bringing together not only many different countries, but filling a room not just with arms control specialists and diplomats but with scientists, industry, law enforcement officials, defense officials, for a genuinely multi-sectoral approach to global health security.

So she’ll put out ideas in three areas – first, the interface of health and security, that is what can we do to enhance the surveillance and response capability of all nations? Secondly, a proposal on national implementation – how can we get states to report more regularly more useful information about their compliance with the Convention in a way that promotes transparency and builds confidence among state’s party that the Convention is respected? And third, on science and technology, to have a discussion about measures the scientific community needs to take to build the consciousness of the risks of bio-science research. We know the tremendous benefits. We wish to encourage those. But a good discussion about responsible, ethical behavior by researchers in this intercessional period is what we’re pushing for. So again, none of these proposals change the Convention; they are, rather, ideas for where to focus our work in the next five-year period. Many other countries are making similar ideas.

I’ll close just by highlighting two areas that I think will not be so highlighted in the end. There are a couple of areas where there are disagreements within the Convention state’s party. One is in the area of verification. A number of states look at the BWC as they look at other arms control agreements, the Nuclear Nonpro Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ask, why don’t we have a protocol for verification for intrusive inspections? The United States and a number of other countries believe that the very nature of biological research is such. It is so decentralized, it requires relatively simple equipment, fairly simple level of scientific knowledge, that you simply cannot design a verification mechanism that would work in the way that the IAEA works in the nuclear field. So this is one area where there are different views among state’s party.

Second is what we call Article 10. Article 10 of the Convention requires states to exchange information and technology. We believe, as I said, the U.S. has an excellent record, along with many other developed nations, in genuine two-way exchange with countries on scientific knowledge, on technology, on best practices. Some states, particularly in the nonaligned movement, believe there should be a more centralized, regularized mechanism to require and enforce this kind of technology exchange.

Now as I said, these are two longstanding issues in the Convention. I don’t expect either one of them to prevent us from having a successful inclusion – conclusion of a very forward-looking agenda for the next five years. There’s far more consensus than there is discord among the members of the Convention.

And with that, I think we have a few minutes for questions.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one simple one?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I get that essentially what you do at these revcons is to look at what you’re going to work on for the next five years. Do you believe that the Convention itself does need to be formally adapted, the language changed, presumably re-ratified by everybody, to deal with the 21st century threats that you were talking about, or not?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: If I might, I would say no, we’re not looking for any amendment because we think it’s flexible enough, and [Senior State Department Official One] mentioned this intercessional process that’s been a huge success of these last five years. What we’d like to do is further enhance and institutionalize that process. So instead of, say, having this group [Senior State Department Official One] was talking about, this huge convening forum here that brings together diplomats, scientists, NGOs, law enforcement, animal and health experts together, instead of, say, just come in, having a meeting and then sort of going away, our idea is to have an institutional process where you have working groups. And I think we sketch out sort of three baskets there where you would develop recommendations then for the state’s parties, that you have a continuing dialogue.

And again, the rapid pace of change in biological sciences is so extraordinary that, for example, science and technology is one of the areas that we’d like to see a working group or an ongoing one established to try and keep up with that. For example, there’s the other non-nuclear (inaudible) of the chemical weapons convention obviously deals with chemical weapons. But what’s fascinating science here is you have a convergence of chemical and biological areas. You could now chemically synthesize biological pathogens. So it’s extraordinary how rapid a change. And we believe that you need to, as I say, institutionalize this dialogue to try and stay ahead of that curve, both for traditional arms control security issues and also because, as we were talking about, this sort of health security and the extraordinary challenges we face in today’s global world where we all know disease knows no borders.

QUESTION: Can you say which countries are pushing for – if any, are pushing for the verification protocol?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So far – you’ll see in your packet an example of a summary of a U.S. proposal. We posted on the website of the Convention our specific language for proposals, and a number of other countries have done the same. So far, we have not seen any country that has posted a proposal for a verification mechanism. It’s a common element of rhetoric among a number of non-aligned states and among a number of allied states as well, who simply disagree with us about the impossibility of concluding such a mechanism. So there’s a wide array of states that believe a Convention like this needs a protocol for verification.

QUESTION: There’s not a risk of something like the (inaudible), where there’ll be an in-run around the normal process by some group of like-minded countries?

QUESTION: I’ll take that one as a yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don’t know the details.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think for one, this Convention runs by consensus. And as [Senior State Department Official One] said, that by and large there’s sort of a traditional attachment to the goal of the verification regime. That’s, for example, the position of the neutral/non-aligned movement, which is about a hundred and – it’s a huge chunk of the (inaudible) the international – it’s (inaudible), for example.

But as I say, it’s more sort of a standard thing, but not the big sort of floor piece. I would perhaps identify – I mean, Iran is one country that, for example, the prepcon that we had here last April, which went extraordinarily smoothly, Iran was the one country that was isolated in terms of trying to specify a specific focus on verification at the review conference.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t we like a verification process with Iran, so we can go in there and start poking around?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, one – this goes back to this notion of the changing nature of the threat out there. In terms of biological terrorism, how do you conceivably verify that?

MODERATOR: I think the point that [Senior State Department Official Two] is trying to make is that false verification is worse than no verification, in the sense that it gives you this sense of security that is not warranted.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve got no bias against verification. We have a bias in favor of things that work. And we simply don’t believe you can design a verification mechanism in this field that will achieve the goal of giving genuine confidence about other countries’ programs and intentions.

QUESTION: But is that because they – the threat now is really not so much countries as opposed to the non-state actors?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s not because of that, but I agree with the sentence. We think there is more reason to be concerned about sub-national actors and terrorists than about states. The BWC has been an enormous success in establishing an international norm that really treats biological weapons, as the preambles say, as abhorrent to the conscience of mankind. And even those countries that have not signed the Convention would not dream of making the argument that they have the right to pursue such a program.

MODERATOR: Do you want to go a little deeper on why you can’t verify?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well again, the dual-use nature. Because the same facilities that can produce equipment that would be used as a biological weapons – are the same facilities, the same substances that are vital for our industry, pharmaceuticals, our health, and so on. So it’s how you distinguish between the essential, vital, peaceful uses of the biological field and something that would be a biological agent. And as I say, that’s a huge problem just within, say, State programs. But then when it comes to, say, terrorism – and unlike the nuclear field, where you need massive infrastructure, complex programs, and so on, it’s – especially with the geographic changes in technology, it’s not that difficult to synthesize the materials. I mean, sort of –

MODERATOR: Anybody can do it in their basement.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: In their garage. That A-student in high school biology.

QUESTION: So if I might push just a little bit more on that. So basically, right now, as you go towards this revcon, is this really your main concern about these verification –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No.

QUESTION: No.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I mean, it’s an issue out there. We’ve tried to sort of reframe the debate as have a lot of countries, in terms of talking about enhancing confidence in our minds.

QUESTION: What about proliferation? What about – I mean, verification obviously, but what about proliferation? I think that’s a much greater concern than verification.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And our proposals are aimed at that. The programs that we do through State, Defense, DHS, are designed at providing the kind of security at biological research facilities around the world that will prevent the misuse or the diversion of any of these materials. So that’s an active step against proliferation. We also believe that enhancing a country’s ability to detect early a biological outbreak and to respond effectively is, in fact, a deterrent against the development of biological weapons. If all countries are well-prepared to respond, the value, either to a state or to a terrorist organization, of biological weapons will decline. So it’s a – inherently both a health security measure and a deterrent measure.

MODERATOR: Anything else?

All right, guys. Thank you very much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Posts

I´m in R&R time so new posts after August, 10th. See you asap.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

The President delivers Remarks at Independence Day Celebration


President Obama speaks to military families celebrating Independence Day on the South Lawn of the White House.

Lioness - Movie Trailer

The Egg - 1776 (Restored Director's Cut - 1972)

USS Bataan Conduct Amphibious Operations Training

Intermediate Maintenance Activity Reopens in Mayport

Navy Provincial Reconstruction Teams Train in Indiana

Headlines for Monday, July 4, 2011


Headlines for Monday, July 4, 2011: USS Boone, USS Thach Arrive for UNITAS 52; USS Alexandria Set to Receive Safety Excellence Award

2010 Fourth of July commemoration at the WH

SecDef Message

Income SECDEF Leon e. Panetta special Fourth of July message to the troops.

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