Military News

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dempsey Visits Strategic, Remote Kwajalein Atoll



By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Marshall Islands, Feb. 21, 2015 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid a visit here today to highlight Kwajalein’s importance to the U.S. missile defense and space programs.

The atoll, located more than 2,000 miles southwest of Honolulu, is home to the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

The U.S. rebalance to the Pacific is a matter of "national imperative," Dempsey told a town hall audience at an open-air church with about 200 people in attendance. The general’s wife, Deanie, was also on-hand to address family-member concerns and answer questions.

The U.S. rebalance to the Pacific region is important because 7 of the 9 billion people in the world are projected to be living in the arc from India to China by 2050, Dempsey said. Where the majority of the planet’s people live is where the issues -- economic, demographic, security, climate change -- will be, he said.

Key U.S. Missile Defense, Space Program Site

In addition, the chairman highlighted the importance of the efforts of the 1,000 people who serve on Kwajalein in support of key U.S. missile defense and space programs.

Eleven of the 100 islands comprising the atoll are leased by the United States from the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Radar, optics, telemetry, and communications equipment on eight islands provide instrumentation for ballistic missile and missile interceptor testing and space operations support.

"The future of space … is contested. It's congested and it's becoming increasingly competitive," Dempsey said. "That's one of those things where if we don't get ahead of it, you're not going to catch up once you fall behind."

The chairman answered questions on variety of topics. The town hall participants, mostly civilian employees, were concerned about the defense budget, health care, the rebalance to the Pacific, and the U.S. response to violent extremism.

The commander of U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll said the people on Kwajalein are uniquely familiar with the chairman and his spouse because of their greetings over the American Forces Network.

"We all spent a moment or so with the Dempseys, whether they knew it or not, as they enter our homes via AFN and wish us all a happy holiday," said Army Col. Nestor Sadler, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Strategic Site

The visit of the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to this far-flung atoll underscores just how critical Kwajalein is to national security, the colonel said.

"If we're not concerned about what our adversaries are putting in space, and if we're not concerned what is currently in space, then Kwajalein isn't important, but I have yet to find anyone who thinks we shouldn't be concerned," Sadler said.

Kwajalein is the world's premier range and test site for intercontinental ballistic missiles and space operations support, he said.

"This is very important. There are a lot of things that we do here because of where we're located, that we can't do anywhere else in the world," he said.

The U.S. military has a great relationship with the Marshallese people and their government, Sadler said. "Without the Marshallese workforce, we would not be successful here on Kwajalein," he said.

The U.S. ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Thomas Hart Armbruster, said the U.S. is invested in the relationship with the Marshallese.

The United States provides about $75 million a year in compact assistance, education, health and infrastructure to the Marshall Islands, he said. That aid runs out in fiscal year 2023, he said, so that is why the base is so important, because that lease runs through 2066.

"So it's really a partnership between the U.S. and the RMI that's going to last a lifetime, basically," he said.

"We're responsible for their defense and they've played a huge role in the history of the U.S. -- from World War II when Marshallese scouts were here working with our forces," Armbruster said.

During the Battle of Kwajalein the United States wrested control of the atoll from Japan during World War II. The Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1983 and gained independence in 1986. The two countries negotiated an Amended Compact that entered into force in 2004.

ISR invests in infrastructure, Airmen



By Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information / Published February 20, 2015

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Increasing demands for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, coupled with limited funding across the Air Force, were discussed during the Air Force Association’s monthly breakfast Feb. 18, in Arlington, Virginia.

“What we’re facing here in our nation is certainly one of the more challenging environments I’ve seen since I put on the uniform,” said Lt. Gen. Bob Otto, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR. “The unconstrained demand for what we bring to table – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – within the limited budget, is creating some very difficult times.”

In 2006, the Air Force presented 11 combat air patrols (CAPS) of full-motion video, meeting approximately half of the combatant command’s requirement, Otto said. Today, at 65 CAPS, the Air Force is meeting about 21 percent of Central Command’s ISR requirement.

“When you look at that situation, something has changed,” he said. “There’s been a dramatic shift in the role of ISR for the forces, and ISR is the first line of defense; it’s more important than it ever has been.”

Otto said under sequestration it will be very difficult for the ISR mission to meet all the requirements of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.

“When you have 75 percent of your ISR assets engaged and 100 percent of your MQ-1B’s (Predator) and MQ-9’s (Reaper) and analysts, how would you describe that?” he asked. “I describe it as a deny operation. We’re not ‘all-in’ on an adversary – this is not major contingency operations. So, what’s left if we had to do the ‘defeat?’ It’s very challenging for our Air Force. We have got to modernize our force.”

Some of the modernization efforts include keeping the U-2 Dragon Lady until 2019, to facilitate a smoother transition and allow upgrades to the Global Hawk’s sensors.

“We want to rebalance and optimize integrated ISR capabilities – today and tomorrow,” Otto said. “We’ve got to get enough maneuvering room to make some changes from the force we are today to the force that we need to be tomorrow.”

The general recognizes the shift to prepare for tomorrow’s fight requires a balancing act, across all mission sets of ISR. The changes needed in collection; analysis; targeting; cyber, space and operational intelligence; architectures and Airmen encompass innovative ways of doing the mission while keeping good faith with ISR Airmen.

“We’ve got to teach the fundamental tradecraft so that we can turn intelligence products to inform the (Combined Forces Air Component Commander) on a timeline that’s relevant to him or her in their fight,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to have good training – you have to work through the requirements and we need to be able to make some decisions on how good is good enough and how much risk are we willing to take.”

ISR Airmen constitute about half of the Airmen who operate in the Air Force’s cyber missions, Otto’s concern is by spreading them too thin, some of the best ISR Airmen will be lost to an improving economy.

“The Airmen in ISR have a high satisfaction rate,” he said. “They love what they do and they do it extremely well. These are smart Airmen and they have choices, especially with an improving economy.”

Otto plans to provide some relief to ISR Airmen in the way of increasing certain bonuses, decreasing CAPS from 65 to 60 and find a more systematic approach to provide relief.

“They stay with us because they’re patriots,” he said. “We need to give them a break. We’ve been surging, essentially, for the last seven years – we did take a year off, but barely felt relief down at the crew site. We need to give them a reason to stay, because they love what they do.”