Inside the Ring

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Air Force Magazine reported in its current edition that the new concept was ready for final approval in February, but was held up during the summer by officials in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, now headed by Michele Flournoy.

In August, the Air Force announced that the concept was approved in June by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps service chiefs, and the Air Force and Navy secretaries. The final directive was to have been signed by departing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates before he left office in late July.

However, defense officials said China’s government was alerted to some aspects of the concept earlier this year when the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank presented its own concept for a new warfighting strategy against China.

Andrew Krepinevich, the center’s director who recently left the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, could not be reached for comment.

As a result of the disclosure, China launched a major propaganda and influence campaign to derail it. The concept was raised in several meetings between Chinese and U.S. officials, with the Chinese asserting that the concept is a sign the Pentagon does not favor military relations and views China as an enemy.

Officials in the Obama administration who fear upsetting China also are thought to have intervened, and their opposition led Mr. Panetta to hold up final approval.

The final directive in its current form would order the Air Force and the Navy to develop and implement specific programs as part of the concept. It also would include proposals for defense contractors to support the concept.

LIBYA MISSILES PROLIFERATE

Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles obtained from pilfered stockpiles in war-torn Libya in recent months are beginning to show up in international black markets, raising concerns about terrorists using them to shoot down aircraft.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the major worry is that about 5,000 SA-7 missiles are circulating on the arms market. The weapons were taken from stocks in Libya and moved out of the southern part of the country into neighboring Sudan.

The weapons, known as “manpads” for man-portable air-defense systems, are considered ideal dual-use terrorist weapons capable of shooting down military or civilian aircraft.

An August 2009 State Department cable from the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, reveals that manpads were widely available in Yemen, but their numbers were reduced through a joint U.S.-Yemen program.

“Although the program has likely recovered the bulk of the illicit manpads available on the black market, several more will likely be collected in the coming years,” the cable says, noting that the U.S. government offered to pay Yemen’s Defense Ministry to destroy its stocks of missiles.

The cable says the chaos of Yemen’s 1994 civil war made shoulder-fired missiles “widely available” and the missiles from Yemeni stocks were used by al Qaeda operations in Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2001 and 2002.

By February 2005, 1,161 shoulder-fired missiles were destroyed and 102 have been collected since 2005.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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