U.S. Military insufficient to meet Threats, Part 3

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government  concludes its examination of the Heritage Foundation’s authoritative study of military threats to the U.S., and the ability of the Pentagon to respond to them, in this three-part series.

The Status of U.S. Military Power

Heritage found that that the U.S. should field:

Army: 50 brigade combat teams (BCTs); • Navy: at least 346 surface combatants and 624 strike aircraft; • Air Force: 1,200 fighter/ground-attack aircraft; and • Marine Corps: 36 battalions. Clearly, the current military falls dramatically short of those figures.

The common theme across the services and the U.S. nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity. While the military has been heavily engaged in operations, primarily in the Middle East but elsewhere as well, since September 11, 2001, experience is both ephemeral and context-sensitive. Valuable combat experience is lost as the servicemembers who individually gained experience leave the force, and it maintains direct relevance only for future operations of a similar type: Counterinsurgency operations in Iraq, for example, are fundamentally different from major conventional operations against a state like Iran or China.

Thus, although the current Joint Force is experienced in some types of operations, it lacks experience with high-end, major combat operations, and it is still aged and shrinking in its capacity for operations.

ARMY

The Army’s score remained “weak” for reasons similar to those cited in previous editions of the Index. The Army has continued to trade end strength and modernization for improved readiness in some units for current operations. However, accepting risks in these areas has enabled the Army to keep only one-third of its force at acceptable levels of readiness, and even for units deployed abroad, the Army has had to increase its reliance on contracted support to meet maintenance requirements. Budget cuts have affected combat units disproportionately: Over the past few years, a 16 percent reduction in total end strength has led to a 32 percent reduction in the number of brigade combat teams and similar reductions in the number of combat aviation brigades. In summary, the Army is too small for the tasks it is assigned, its equipment continues to age, and it struggles to improve the readiness of its operating forces. Concerned by the prospect of a “hollow force” (i.e., units that exist on paper but are woefully understaffed), Army officials, instead of using a 2017 congressional authorization to increase end strength by creating more units, chose merely to increase the level of staffing in existing units.

NAVY

The Navy’s readiness score returned to the 2016 Index’s score of “marginal.” While the Navy is maintaining a solid global presence (slightly more than one-third of the fleet is deployed on any given day), it has little ability to surge to meet wartime demands. As in 2016, the Navy’s decision to defer maintenance has kept ships at sea but also has affected the Navy’s ability to deploy. With scores of “weak” in capability (largely because of old platforms and troubled modernization programs) and “marginal” in capacity, the Navy remained just able to meet operational requirements in 2017. Continuing budget shortfalls in its shipbuilding account will hinder the Navy’s ability to improve its situation, both materially and quantitatively, for the next several years—an even larger problem considering that the Navy has revised its assessment of how many ships it needs to 355 instead of the 308 for which it has been budgeting in its 30-year shipbuilding plan.

AIR FORCE

Although the Air Force’s overall score remains the same as last year’s, a clearer picture of the USAF’s aircraft inventory yielded a significant drop in deliverable fighter capacity: The Air Force possesses 923 combat-coded tactical fighter aircraft, 236 below last year’s capacity assessment and 277 below the Index assessment of 1,200 needed to meet a two-MRC level of military strength. While the Air Force’s readiness score remained “marginal,” this assessed area continues to trend downward due to increasing evidence of training and maintenance shortfalls, as well as pilots’ own assessments of their forces obtained by The Heritage Foundation through personal interviews. Combined with a continued capability score of “marginal,” the Air Force’s overall military strength score continues to trend downward at a time when America’s dominance in the air domain is increasingly challenged by the technological advances of potential adversaries.

MARINE CORPS

” The Corps continues to deal with readiness challenges driven by the combined effects of high operational tempo and low levels of funding. Aviation remained the largest challenge for the Corps in 2017 as maintenance and flight hour shortfalls combined with old platforms to cause the service to self-assess a dire state of readiness. The Corps’ modernization programs are on track, but it will take several years for new equipment to be produced and fielded; ground combat systems, in particular, are long overdue for replacement. Unlike in past years, the Corps did not publicly provide detailed information about the status of its active-duty force with respect to its state of readiness for combat. The Corps has said the deploy-to-dwell ratio for its active force has dipped below 1:2, revealing increased stress on the force. This, combined with a clear assessment of poor aviation readiness, drove the Marine Corps’ overall strength score from “marginal” to “weak” in 2017, making it the only service to drop to a lower category.

NUCLEAR CAPABILTIES

Warhead modernization, warhead/system testing, and adequate investment in the intellectual and talent underpinnings of the nuclear enterprise continue to be the chief problems facing America’s nuclear capability. Delivery platform modernization continued to receive strong support from Congress and the Administration during 2017, with major investments in next-generation bomber and ballistic missile submarine programs, but the force depends on a very limited set of weapons (in number of designs) and models that are quite old, in stark contrast to the aggressive programs of competitor states. Of continued concern is the “marginal” score for “Allied Assurance” at a time when Russia has rattled its nuclear saber in a number of recent provocative exercises; China has been more aggressive in militarily pressing its claims to the South and East China Seas; north Korea is investing in a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability; and Iran retains its nuclear infrastructure program as a key feature of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)   meant to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. The aggressive pace of North Korea’s missile testing, which purportedly is tied to its nuclear aspirations, is of particular concern.

 

U.S. Military insufficient to meet Threats, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its examination of  the Heritage Foundation’s authoritative study of military threats to the U.S., and the ability of the Pentagon to respond to them, in this three-part series.

The U.S. defense posture varies by region. Heritage provides the following analysis:

Europe. For the most part, Europe remains a stable, mature, and friendly environment, home to America’s oldest and closest allies, although the migrant and refugee crises are straining the economies and societies of many European nations. The U.S. is tied to Europe by treaty, robust economic bonds, and deeply rooted cultural linkages. In general, America’s partners in the region are politically stable; possess mature (though increasingly debtladen) economies; and have fairly modern (but shrinking) militaries. America’s longtime presence in the region, Europe’s well-established basing and support infrastructure, and the framework for coordinated action provided by NATO make the region quite favorable for military operations. A more muscular, belligerent Russia has caused a review of U.S. force posture on the continent, spurring reinvestment of U.S. military capabilities through programs like the European Reassurance Initiative.

The resurgence of an aggressive, belligerent Russia has thrown conventional post–Cold War thinking into the waste bin. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea has changed post–Cold War norms. From the Arctic to the Baltics, Ukraine, and the South Caucasus, Russia has proven to be the source of much instability in Europe. Despite economic problems, Russia continues to prioritize the rebuilding of its military and funding for its military operations abroad. Russia’s military and political antagonism toward the United States continues unabated, and its efforts to undermine U.S. institutions and the NATO alliance are serious and troubling. Russia’s aggressive stance in a number of theaters, including the Balkans, Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine, continues to contribute to destabilization and run counter to U.S. interests.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), among the key weapons in Russia’s inventory are 324 intercontinental ballistic missiles; 2,700 main battle tanks; and more than 4,900 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 6,100 armored personnel carriers, and 4,316 pieces of artillery. The navy has one aircraft carrier; 62 submarines (including 13 ballistic missile submarines); five cruisers; 15 destroyers; 12 frigates; and 95 patrol and coastal combatants. The air force has 1,046 combat-capable aircraft. The IISS counts 270,000 members of the army. Russia also has a total reserve force of 2,000,000 for all armed forces.

The Middle East. The Middle East, by contrast, continues to be a deeply troubled area riven with conflict, ruled by authoritarian regimes, and home to a variety of terrorist and other destabilizing entities. Though the United States does enjoy a few strong partnerships in the region, its interests are beset by security and political challenges, transnational terrorism rooted in the region, and the maturing threat of a nuclear Iran. Offsetting these challenges to some extent are the U.S. military’s experience in the region and the basing infrastructure that it has developed and leveraged for nearly 25 years, although these positive elements are decaying as a consequence of continued upheaval in Syria; Iran’s pursuit of weapons that threaten both the U.S. and Europe, as well as its continued support of such terrorist groups as Hezbollah; and the increasingly problematic political environment in countries that historically have hosted U.S. forces (Qatar, for example).

Asia. China moved from “aggressive” to “testing” in the scope of its provocative behavior. China continues to militarize the islands that it built on reefs in international waters and continues to claim sovereignty. It also has continued to field new equipment, most notably in naval power, perceived to be most important in its efforts to shape the Western Pacific maritime domain in line with its interests.

Though the region includes longstanding U.S. allies that are stable and possess advanced economies, the tyranny of distance makes U.S. military operations in the region difficult in terms of the time and sealift and airlift required, a challenge that is only exacerbated as the size of the U.S. military continues to shrink. The region is critical to U.S. economic interests because Asian markets account for 40 percent of U.S. trade; consequently, the increasingly aggressive postures of China and North Korea have caused concern. In 2017, China was more overtly aggressive in pressing its claims to disputed islands and waters. Both South Korea and Japan have expressed alarm over North Korea’s intentions, especially with respect to its missile program. Combined with a slight decrease in political stability across the region, Asia as an operating environment has trended toward more challenging for the U.S. in 2017.

In the South China Sea, China has staked claims to maritime territory that includes the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and Scarborough Shoal. These claims overlap with the EEZ claims of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In addition to fishing rights, potentially lucrative oil and natural gas deposits are at stake. In the past few years, the Chinese have begun island-building projects on the Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross reefs to advance their disputed territorial claims. While the Chinese have claimed that these islands are being built for civilian purposes, to increase safety for ships transiting the waterway, analysis of recent construction shows airfields, radars, and hardened shelters that indicate a military focus.

The Report concludes tomorrow.

U.S. Military insufficient to meet Threats

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government examines the Heritage Foundation’s authoritative study of military threats to the U.S., and the ability of the Pentagon to respond to them, in this three-part series.

 The authoritative Heritage Foundation has completed a thorough review of  the United States’ military posture in a comprehensive study entitled the 2018 Index of Military Strength. Overall, America’s defense posture is rated “marginal” and is trending toward “weak.”

The study concludes that the current U.S. military force is likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities, but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies.

Budget cuts and budget uncertainty have forced the Pentagon to field a small, aging, and overworked force. According to Heritage, “Essential maintenance continues to be deferred; the availability of fewer units for operational deployments increases the frequency and length of deployments; and old equipment continues to be extended while programmed replacements are either delayed or beset by developmental difficulties. The military services have continued to prioritize readiness for current operations by shifting funding to deployed or soon-to-deploy units while sacrificing the ability to keep non-deployed units in “ready” condition; delaying, reducing, extending, or canceling modernization programs; and sustaining the reduction in size and number of military units. While Congress and the new Administration have taken some positive steps to fund readiness in 2017 more robustly, they have not overturned the Budget Control Act that caps defense spending. Without a real commitment to increases in modernization, capacity, and readiness accounts over the next few years, America’s military branches will continue to be strained to meet the missions they are called upon to fulfill. As currently postured, the U.S. military is only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.”

While the U.S. was slashing defense spending during the Obama Administration, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran were moving rapidly ahead and dramatically enhancing their own capabilities. Heritage notes:

Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups in the Middle East and Afghanistan—remained actual or potential threats to U.S. interests over the past year. All amply demonstrated a commitment to expanding their capabilities to pursue their respective interests that directly challenged those of the U.S. All also continued or increased their aggressive behavior when compared to the 2016 Index.

Worryingly, all of the six noted threat actors now rank “high” on the scale of threats to U.S. interests, with Russia coming close to being elevated to “severe” from its past score of “high.”

Russia and China continue to be the most worrisome, both because of the ongoing modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities and because of the more enduring effect they are having within their respective regions. Russia has maintained its active involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, has been more assertive in the Baltic Sea region, and has continued to insert itself into the Syrian conflict. China’s provocative behavior continues to include militarization of islands that it has built in highly disputed international waters of the South China Sea. China also continues its aggressive naval tactics to intimidate such neighboring countries as Japan and the Philippines and continues to bully other countries that try to exercise their right to navigate international waters in the region.

North Korea has executed an alarming number of missile tests: 18 as of early August 2017 compared to 21 for all of 2016. These tests have demonstrated the commitment of Kim Jong-un’s regime to fielding a force of shortrange, medium-range, and long-range ballistic, cruise, and submarine-launched missiles, presumably with the ability to carry nuclear warheads. The latest tests have hinted at North Korea’s ability to reach targets in the United States. These developments, combined with its increasingly hostile rhetoric toward the West over the past year, make North Korea the most volatile threat addressed in the Index.

Terrorism based in Afghanistan continues to challenge the stability of that country. To the extent that various groups based in the region straddling the border with Pakistan remain potent and active, they also remain a threat in being to the stability of Pakistan, which is a matter of concern given Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power and its sustained frictions with India, also a nuclear power.

In addition, Iran’s efforts to develop more advanced military capabilities and its active support of the various terrorist groups operating in the Middle East continue to undermine regional security conditions and therefore to threaten the regional interests of the U.S.

With these threats taken together, the globalized threat to U.S. vital national interests as a whole during 2017 remained “high.”

The Report continues tomorrow.

Attacking Red Tape

The U.S. Department of Commerce  is moving to undue the extraordinary burden placed on the American economy during President Obama’s tenure.

The prior Administration introduced record-breaking over-regulation, as noted in numerous studies, most notably that performed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). That addiction to regulation was more than just a nuisance. The CATO institute asserts that “It is widely recognized that excessive regulation is unnecessarily killing jobs.”

The Daily Signal found that “job-creating entrepreneurs in the United States have been dispirited by the scope and cost of escalating red tape…Since 2009, the expansion of Uncle Sam’s regulatory control has been one of the prime culprits in America’s startling decline in economic freedom and overall competitiveness. Each new edict has meant a new government bureaucracy that entrepreneurs and producers must navigate. Worse, the trend of overregulating our economy has also bred cronyism and tarnished our free-market system. As reported in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual study that benchmarks the quality and attractiveness of the entrepreneurial framework across countries, the United States remains stuck in the second tier economic freedom rank of the “mostly free,” with its business freedom score plunging to the lowest level since 2006. This increased regulatory burden, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, has notably undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth. A 2014 Brookings Institution analysis shows that with business exits now exceeding new business formations, entrepreneurial dynamism in the United States has been steadily dwindling. In light of the excessive and costly regulatory environment, it is not surprising that America’s ongoing economic recovery has been far from dynamic. Fewer Americans can prosper in this overregulated economy.”

The cost of compliance with the tidal wave of regulatory mandates was overwhelming. CEI estimated that in 2015, regulatory-related expenses were approximately $1.88 trillion, 10% of the entire American GDP and over 5 times the cost of federal corporate income taxes that year.

It’s not only private sector projects that are daunted by over-regulation.  Improtant infrastructure projects suffer greatly, as well.

According to the Department of Commerce, “the cost of permitting delays can more than double direct project construction costs when all delay factors are considered….the types of costs associated with delays are subtle and insidious – and we too often accept them as  status quo without realizing the massive drag they have created on our economy. For example, many proposed new projects offer environmental benefits compared to the status quo, so by delaying the new ‘greener’ solution, we may often prolong higher emissions and congestion associated with the status quo. Furthermore, delays may mask a greater threat – important infrastructure projects may not even be considered or initiated because of investment uncertainty and risk created by permitting delays. The risk of delay and associated lower returns can be a powerful disincentive for any private capital participation.”

In response, the Commerce Department issued, earlier this year, a Request for Information (RFI) on how to cut the burden, particularly for the hard-hit manufacturing sector, and has now published a study based on the results in a report entitled “Streamlining Permitting, and Reducing Regulatory Bburdens for Domestic Manufacturing.”   

The Report notes that:

“Federal regulations impose enormous costs on America’s businesses and working families. These costs burden virtually every sector of our economy, although the manufacturing sector is disproportionately hard hit. The direct costs on manufacturing companies were estimated by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to be $138.6 billion as of 2014,1 though this estimate does not include indirect negative effects on the U.S. economy such as reduced innovation and global competitiveness, lost investment, and significant job losses.  Small businesses are also disproportionately burdened by excessive federal regulation.

“on January 24, 2017, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum on Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing. The Memorandum, which is one part of an Administration-wide regulatory reform agenda, required the Secretary of Commerce, in coordination with other executive departments and agencies, to conduct outreach to stakeholders on the impact of federal regulations and permitting requirements on domestic manufacturing and to submit a report to the President setting forth a plan to streamline federal permitting processes and to reduce the regulatory burdens affecting domestic manufacturing industry expressed clear support for the need to protect the environment, human health, and worker safety, but shared concrete, detailed concerns about how the federal government tries to achieve those objectives. Respondents identified numerous regulatory and permitting problems, including:

  • onerous and lengthy permitting processes that increase cost, add uncertainty, and inhibit investment in new and existing manufacturing facilities;
  • inadequately designed rules that are impractical, unrealistic, inflexible, ambiguous, or that show a lack of understanding of how industry operates;
  • unnecessary aspects of rules, or unnecessary stringency, that are not required to achieve environmental or other regulatory objectives;
  • overlap and duplication between permitting processes and agencies; and
  • overly strict or punitive interpretations of guidance, policies or regulations that are often counter to a pro-growth interpretation.

“Despite numerous regulatory reform initiatives over the years, businesses continue to express concerns about increasing regulatory burdens. The fact that manufacturers continue to raise the same concerns, even after decades of regulatory reform efforts by the federal government, indicates a failure on the federal government’s part to fully engage with regulated industries and fully understand the real-world impact of its regulations. There is a vital need for better dialogue and understanding between regulators and industry. In the meantime, the urgency for reform continues to grow. A 2017 NAM study states that most manufacturers perceive their regulatory burden to have increased significantly, such that reducing their current burden is at least as important as reducing the cost of new regulations.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

“The Department makes three major recommendations.

  • Each agency’s Regulatory Reform Taskforce (RRTF) should deliver to the President an ‘Action Plan’ in response to all permitting and regulatory issues highlighted by industry.
  • Annual Regulatory Reduction Forum. There is no regular process for consultations with industry to identify specific actions the federal government can take to eliminate unduly burdensome regulations and accelerate permitting decisions. Thus, the Department recommends creating an annual, open forum for regulators and industry stakeholders to evaluate progress in reducing regulatory burdens.
  • Expanding the Model Process in FAST-41. [Title 41 of the FAST Act (FAST-41) (42 U.S.C. § 4370m) was designed to improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of the Federal environmental review and authorization process for covered infrastructure projects.] The FAST Act  contains various provisions aimed at streamlining the environmental review process, with improved agency coordination through the creation of a Coordinated Project Plan and a Permitting Dashboard. Covered projects will typically enjoy better coordination, transparency of approvals, and expedited permitting. The Department recommends that the Administration use existing authority to extend the use of streamlined permitting procedures in the FAST Act to any project that will result in a significant, immediate economic benefit to the United States. For example, consideration could be extended to funded, qualifying projects in a new “economically significant” category. Consideration should be extended to complex, funded manufacturing projects that are in late stages of development and that can demonstrate significant net direct and indirect benefits to the domestic economy. To be eligible for the current streamlining process, projects in this sector or category would still need to meet the definition of a “covered project” under FAST-41. FAST-41 provides a model process that could be incorporated into other Federal legislation that governs Federal programs and requirements that apply to manufacturing facilities. To expand further the universe of manufacturing projects that benefit from streamlined regulatory approval processes, the Administration could work with members of Congress to both expand the definition of “covered project” under FAST-41 and to incorporate procedures similar to those found in FAST-41 in other legislation applicable to manufacturing projects. The Department believes that these three recommendations, if executed promptly and with constant, aggressive leadership, will yield significant results. Set forth below is (i) a summary of issues raised in response to the RFI; (ii) an analysis relating to potential reforms; and (iii) specific recommendations and priority areas for reform.”

Why the Left Has Become Violent

The upsurge in politically-related violence, both verbal and physical, since the election of 2016 is painfully obvious.

Frustration and embarrassment are the key reasons for the unwanted development. Over the past eight years, the results of the most hard-Left administration in U.S. history have provided the U.S. with a doubled national debt (and little to show for all that spending), a sharply reduced level of national security, a crumbling middle class, and racial relations worse than at any time since the end of segregation.

To make matters worse for Progressives, as they prefer to be called, the actions of their international heroes, including Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, can no longer be hidden.  Maduro, who has received extensive praise from both Hollywood and Political leftists, including examples such as Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Naomi Campbell, Joseph Kennedy, is starving and oppressing his nation.

Much praise was heaped on the Obama Administration for opening up relations with Cuba. After fulfilling the leftists dream of renewed diplomatic and some economic contacts with the Communist Havana regime, however, the results have been bad.  The Russians are sending spy ships to the island nation, the Cuban people are as oppressed as ever, and those American diplomats sent to Havana have been subjected to brutal assaults. The Washington Times  describes the attack: “acoustic attack on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba is ‘unprecedented,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said … after revelations that American employees have suffered severe health problems including mild brain injury and damage to the central nervous system believed to have come from exposure inaudible high-pitch sound.”

Despite the clearly terrible results of leftist support for Castro and Maduro, there has been little attempt to question American politicians and celebrities who were so obviously wrong in their support.

Left-leaning internet and social media giants continue to betray freedom-seeking people in China and Cuba by caving in to totalitarian demands for censorship.

President Obama’s “give peace a chance” foreign policy, which including the reduction of the Pentagon budget, a premature withdrawal from Iraq, an announced departure date from Afghanistan, and, overall, a pullback from American leadership in international affairs, produced awful results.  Russia and China have taken advantage of the change to dramatically expand their militaries, and invade neighbors.  ISIS grew to become the most powerful terrorist group in history, and the Taliban regained strength in Afghanistan.

Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight. The U.S. economy, weakened by the Great Recession which was the result of left wing policies forcing financial institutions to provide loans to those without credible means of repayment, was further damaged by continued progressive policies.

The Democrat Party, now thoroughly controlled by the Left, lacks the willpower to move away from their extremism and failures.  They continue to cherish politicians like Rep Keith Ellison (D-Minn., vice chair of the DNC) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) who espouse failed radical positions, and reducing the application of the First Amendment.

National Review notes: “There is never a reckoning for the Left. An entire generation of American intellectuals found itself enraptured by the brutal, repressive, terroristic political apparatus of the Soviet Union — not only journalistic enablers like Walter Duranty of the Times and the various Hollywood reds and Communist party operatives, but the purportedly enlightened liberals at The New Republic, who were consistent apologists for Soviet brutality at home and abroad at the height of Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror. Scores of Americans, some of them in high government office, were working on behalf of one of history’s most murderous and repressive regimes — and the bad guys in that story are, in the popular imagination, the people who worked to expose that conspiracy, rather than the people who worked to advance it.”

The sympathetic media has largely ignored the abundant diplomatic, military, economic and social failures of the left. It doesn’t discuss Ellison’s antisemitism.  It doesn’t expose the bizarre statements of politicians who provide continual excuses for allowing illegal immigration to bust government budgets and ramp up violent crime.

The voters, however, have noticed. They have largely ousted the party of the left from the White House, and from the majority in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Republicans also control 68 state legislative bodies, while Democrats hold just 31.  The GOP now has 34 of the 50 state governorships, as well.

Rejected by the electorate, and with only negative results from their policies, the left has veered from politics and policies to violence and lies, in the streets, on college campuses, and in censorship tactics on the internet.

The promotion of racial animosity is among the unsavory tactics of desperation employed by the Left, an attempt to portray anyone disagreeing with them as racist. The libels and slanders recklessly levelled at their political opponents are now being fought in the courts.

There is some irony here.  The Democrat Party, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left, has been, historically, the party that promoted both slavery and segregation.  One of its foremost leaders was Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), the longest serving member in Congress, who had been a member of the KKK. There has been little discussion of taking his statue down.

The media has extensively publicized isolated instances of non-leftist violence at contentious political events, but it has intentionally ignored the well-financed, organized, frequent and abundant acts of planned violence by left wing groups across the nation.

Europe’s Separatist Movements

Catalonia’s independence movement may be the focus of this month’s news about separatist movements, but Europe has a number of regions that are considering going it alone. These movements tend to feed off of each other, supporting independence claims.

Even within Spain, Catalonia is not alone in seeking a split.  The Basque region has, for over half a century, been active in seeking some form of independence.  The main group leading the effort, the ETA, had in the past resorted to significant amounts of violence.

It is not coincidental that these movements appear to be gaining steam as elections for the European Parliament looms. Rather than unify the continent, the EU’s role in diminishing the status of its nation-state members has fostered fragmentation within its constituent member-states.

Among the most prominent of Europe’s separatist movements  are:

Scotland: In a 2014 vote, those in favor of remaining within the United Kingdom only won by a 5% margin, even though the region already enjoys considerable autonomy. There are significant defense-related implications for NATO if independence comes about, since those favoring secession have stated they would force Britain’s nuclear facilities out of the area. Leaders of the movement are now seeking a new referendum.

Lombardy and Veneto: There has long been tension between Italy’s wealthier, more industrialized north and the less affluent, more agricultural south. The underlying issue concerns a demand by these northern areas to keep more of the wealth they produce, which amounts to almost a third of the national economy. A nonbinding ballot is scheduled for the 22nd of this month. It should also be noted that in one ballot, 89% of voters from Venice opted for independence, also based largely on economic grounds. Italy’s regions of Sicily and Sardinia region have also had significant political discussions about breaking away from Rome.

Flanders and Wallonia : Belgium has long been a curious nation, split into a Flemish speaking north and a French speaking south.  The political inclinations of the two regions are also at odds, with a more conservative north and leftist south. A group called the New Flemish Alliance believes it will gain momentum by the end of this decade.

Corsica: In 2015, a French regionalist party won in local elections. The separatist The National Liberation Front of Corsica had engaged in violence, although it traded force for politics three years ago.  France also has another, more low key independence movement within its Brittany region, an area that speaks a distinct language, Breton.

Faroe Islands:  This portion of Denmark has elections scheduled for next year on the question of self-determination.  The area currently has considerable autonomy.

The list above is by no means complete. Other movements (with varying degrees of seriousness)  include those in Albania’s Northern Epirus, Azerbaijan’s Artsakh region, The Srpska and Croatian sections of Bosnia, The Czech Republic’s Moravian and Silesian sections, the Bornholm section of Denmark, Aland in Finland, Bavaria in Germany, upper Silesia in Poland, Russia’s North Caucasus and Tartar areas, the Jura Canton of Switzerland, and numerous other movements.

None of is should be particularly surprising to those with a passing knowledge of history.  Until the establishment of strong nation-states, Europe was a fragmented continent containing numerous small kingdoms, city-states, and autonomous regions.  Two of the most significant European nations, Italy and Germany, only became unified states in the 19th century.

The European Union, long advertised as a step forward, essentially if inadvertently has turned the clock back to a time when identification with a large nation-state was far less prevalent than that currently.  The EU’s predilection towards stringent centralized rules also echoes the past in that its bureaucracy tends to run roughshod over the concept of citizen rights over largely unresponsive government officials.

Puerto Rico’s Electrical Problems a Sign of Things to Come

The media glosses over the root cause that inhibit attempts to rebuild Puerto Rico after the ravages of the latest hurricane. It’s important to understand that cause, because the same mistakes could someday affect the entire United States.

While some circulate an incorrect narrative that the Trump Administration was less enthusiastic about addressing Puerto Rico than either Florida or Houston, the truth is rather different.

Washington has provided a substantial amount of assistance. According to Gov. Ricardo Rossello, “Puerto Rico officials continue to work closely with the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and with state partners through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact…We have over 12,000 — almost 13,000 — DoD personnel in Puerto Rico, over 4,000 Puerto Rico National Guard and EMACs together. There’s an expectation of 3,000 more to come to Puerto Rico in the next couple of weeks as well. The U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USS Comfort, has also been sent to the Island. The Department of Health and Human Services is using the Emergency Prescription Assistance program to provide care for upwards of 500,000 residents.”

Some have described the Pentagon’s efforts as “Militarizing” the reconstruction effort, a move necessary because in a number of the Island’s 78 municipalities, local officials have failed to provide an efficient effort.

Clearly, however, Puerto Rico’s recovery is not moving as rapidly as that of Florida or Houston. The reasons have to do with both geography and politics.

The most obvious fact is that Puerto Rico is, of course, an island, so transportation from the mainland must face an additional hurdle. The ability of nongovernmental assistance, the extraordinary efforts of private citizens who came from states adjacent to Texas and Florida,  to rush to the aid of those in need is very sharply reduced. The complications do not end there.  As noted in the official Puerto Rico website,  unlike the flatlands of Houston and Florida,  “The island of Puerto Rico has surprising geographical diversity with some 60% of the island’s terrain being very hilly… The top four highest mountains in Puerto Rico are Cerro Punta, Rosa, Guilarte and the Tres Picachos. They range from 3093 to 4389 ft. The mountainous interior is formed by the Cordillera Central Range and this is formed by a central mountain chain ranging from Mayaguez to Aibonito.”

But politics, and bad planning, have a lot to do with the ongoing plight, as well.

President Obama’s stimulus cost $792 billion dollars. Supposedly, $41.4 billion went to energy programs, including $4.4 billion to modernize the electrical grid.  Puerto Rico received about $6.5 billion of that.  The question is: Why were critical energy needs, both in Puerto Rico and nationwide, left totally unaddressed?  Throughout the United States, the crucial issue of protecting the electrical grid from an EMP attack was ignored.  In Puerto Rico, protecting the island’s fragile and outdated electrical infrastructure from the effects of a hurricane was not addressed. Despite all that, President Obama claimed he couldn’t find “shovel ready jobs” to invest his stimulus dollars in.  Those funds, instead, went to sources that provided less benefit to the economy than they did to the political fortunes of the Obama Administration.

Recently, The Hill  noted that “Puerto Rico was a catastrophe of corruption, mismanagement, incompetence and ignorance long before the added misery wrought by Hurricane Maria, which exposed to the world what was there to be seen all along: an island ill-prepared for a sunny day, much less a stormy one. For at least a decade, the media has been sounding the alarm about the crumbling infrastructure and financial mismanagement of Puerto Rico. But it all fell on deaf ears. Let’s flashback to August 2014, when Reuters reporter Luciana Lopez showed that Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority was teetering on insolvency. The power company relied too heavily on expensive oil and was plagued by aging infrastructure dating back to the 1960s, a bloated workforce, and a billing system that was arbitrary and difficult to justify.”

For far too long, critical electrical infrastructure problems have been ignored. This challenge includes both the facilities themselves, and the security surrounding them.

Rebecca Smith, writing in the Wall Street Journal, reported:

“The U.S. electric system is in danger of widespread blackouts lasting days, weeks or longer through the destruction of sensitive, hard-to-replace equipment. Yet records are so spotty that no government agency can offer an accurate tally of substation attacks, whether for vandalism, theft or more nefarious purposes. Most substations are unmanned and often protected chiefly by chain-link fences. Many have no electronic security, leaving attacks unnoticed until after the damage is done. Even if there are security cameras, they often prove worthless. In some cases, alarms are simply ignored.”

Add to that analysis the near-imminent threat of an EMP attack by North Korea or other potential opponent, which could, quite literally, destroy all electrical generating capacity in the nation for well over a year, resulting in devastating casualties.

Beyond security, America’s electrical infrastructure is simply outdated. The American Society of Civil Engineers  reveals that “Much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 21st century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states’ power grids are at full capacity. Energy infrastructure is undergoing increased investment to ensure long-term capacity and sustainability; in 2015, 40% of additional power generation came from natural gas and renewable systems. Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions.”

Puerto Rico’s dilemma may be a harbinger of things to come.

U.S. Returning to Human Space Flight

President Trump has reconstituted the National Space Council, a step towards fulfilling his emphasis on restoring America’s lead in space exploration and utilization, a hope he included in his inaugural address.

During his tenure in the Oval Office, Barack Obama prematurely ended the Space Shuttle program, then eliminated funding for developing the Constellation system, which had been scheduled to replace the Shuttle as America’s manned space effort.  This rendered the United States dependent on Russia for manned access to orbit. He changed NASA’s budgetary focus from human exploration to endeavors meant to bolster his climate change beliefs. The National Space Council was disbanded.

Writing for The Hill, Mark R. Whittington reported:

“…it is useful to look back on how profoundly and adroitly President Barack Obama crippled the space agency’s efforts to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit….The Augustine Commission, so named after its chairman former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, returned with a set of recommendations some months later…The government’s response was formulated in secret. …Project Constellation would be canceled, root and branch….Congress, which had not been consulted, reacted with bipartisan fury. The Obama administration made two critical errors. It had not consulted with Congress or anyone else when it developed its plans to kill Constellation. The White House also blatantly pulled a bureaucratic dodge that was apparent even to a first-term member of the House from the sticks… Nowhere in the Obama plan was there a commitment to send astronauts anywhere. Clearly, the White House had no intention of doing space exploration. President Obama had expressed an antipathy to American exceptionalism, and nothing speaks to that quality than American astronauts exploring other worlds.”

In a dramatic reversal of the prior administration, Vice President Pence’s announcement this month of the restoration of the National Space Council, which he will chair, (the secretaries of Defense, Commerce, and State, will be members) outlined its role in coordinating the White House’s ambitious scientific, commercial and security goals beyond Earth. In his opening remarks to the restored Council, Pence noted “…in recent years, the clarity of our purpose and the confidence of our conviction that propelled the United States to be a vanguard of space exploration seems to have waned. America seems to have lost our edge in space — and those days are over… for too long our government’s commitment has failed to match our people’s spirit and meet our nation’s needs. The truth is that America entered this new millennium without a coherent policy, a coherent vision for outer space. And in the absence of American leadership, other nations have seized the opportunity to stake their claim in the infinite frontier. Rather than lead in space, too often, we have chosen to drift. And, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift, we fall behind…

“…sending Americans to the moon was treated as a triumph to be remembered, but not repeated. Every passing year that the moon remained squarely in the rearview mirror further eroded our ability to return to the lunar domain and made it more likely that we would forget why we ever wanted to go in the first place. And now we find ourselves in a position where the United States has not sent an American astronaut beyond low-Earth orbit in 45 years. Across the board, our space program has suffered from apathy and neglect. “When the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, we had four years to find an assured way for our astronauts to get into space. In the meantime, we agreed to pay Russia to hitch a ride on their rockets to the International Space Station. But four years turned into five, and five years turned into six, and here we are, in 2017, still relying on the Russians to ferry our astronauts to the International Space Station — at a cost-per-seat that now stands at more than $76 million…rather than competing with other nations to create the best space technology, the previous administration chose capitulation. According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russia and China are pursuing a full range of anti-satellite technology to reduce U.S. military effectiveness, and they are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine.”

China Trade Practices Impact U.S. Economy, Korean Crisis, Part 3

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its three-part examination of China’s trade relations with both the United States and North Korea.

China’s economic practices are not merely inappropriate from a trade perspective; they are also national security risks, and are quietly assisting the North Koreans.  The FBI reported in June that “The United States has filed a complaint to civilly forfeit $1,902,976 from Mingzheng International Trading Limited (Mingzheng), a company based in Shenyang, China. The complaint alleges that Mingzheng is a front company that was created to launder United States dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities. According to the complaint, Mingzheng conspired to evade U.S. economic sanctions by facilitating prohibited U.S. dollar transactions through the United States on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a sanctioned entity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and to launder the proceeds of that conduct through U.S. financial institutions.

Indeed, China has found numerous avenues to assist North Korea.  Foreign Policy reveals that an “unpublished U.N. report obtained by Foreign Policy that documents sophisticated North Korean efforts to evade sanctions shows that China has proved a fickle partner at best in Washington’s effort to stymie Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions…China, despite its apparent cooperation of late with international efforts to sanction North Korea, has instead served as Pyongyang’s economic lifeline, purchasing the vast majority of its coal, gold, and iron ore and serving as the primary hub for illicit trade that undermines a raft of U.N. sanctions that China nominally supports, the report’s findings suggest.”

Ralph Jennings, writing in Forbes in 2016, reported “The State Department may look harder at Chinese companies in case they are equipping North Korea’s nuclear development, sanctions coordinator Daniel Fried told the foreign affairs subcommittee … His comment followed an announcement… that four Chinese nationals and Chinese industrial equipment wholesaler Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Co. faced their own sanctions and money laundering charges over suspected military support for North Korea via U.S. financial institutions…But a broader probe would just turn up just one thing for sure: China is North Korea’s BFF…”

The 2016 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission emphasizes that Beijing is using its wealth to “challenge the United States and intimidate China’s neighbors. For example, China’s ability to conduct conventional strikes against U.S. regional facilities recently reached an inflection point with the fielding of new ballistic missiles capable of reaching Guam. The Chinese military’s pursuit of force projection and expeditionary capabilities, while enabling it to provide public goods in the form of antipiracy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, will also strengthen China’s traditional warfighting capabilities against its weaker neighbors, many of whom are U.S. allies or partners. These developments are underpinned by advancements in China’s naval, air force, cyber, and space capabilities. In response to conflicting claims in the East and South China seas, China has increased its military deployments there. Moreover, China’s expanding intelligence collection capabilities, including in the cyber realm, have enabled many infiltrations of U.S. national security entities. The information China has extracted could strengthen its hand in a conflict with the United States.

An insiders‘ view of Chinese thinking on the North Korean issue reveals startling facts.  Rather than concentrating on how to reduce Pyongyang’s belligerence,  notes Rowan Callick in The Australian, “A commentary on the People’s Liberation Army website has urged China to target with ­strategic weapons the base where South Korea is deploying the US Terminal High Altitude Area ­Defence system to help defend it against North Korea.”

China’s actions in the economic, foreign policy, and military realms suggest China’s leaders have decided the time has come for China to leave behind its long-held strategy, espoused by Deng Xiaoping, of “hide your strength, bide your time.” China is showing itself to the world now, and the outcome is not what many had hoped for 15 years ago when the country was welcomed into the WTO and the global economic system.

China Trade Practices Impact U.S. Economy, Korean Crisis, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its three-part examination of China’s trade relations with both the United States and North Korea.

The Financial Times reports that “Over the past decade, the goods and services China has provided for the US increased by 98 per cent and 132 per cent respectively.”  Reflecting the political viewpoint of many of Washington’s elected officials, the Financial Times emphasizes the importance of the relationship. “China has helped the US maintain its economic and financial stability over more than a decade of war and overspending.”

The statistics indicate that China has more to lose in an all-out trade stoppage. In 2015, the U.S. trade deficit with China was $365.7 billion, the highest on record; in the first eight months of 2016, the deficit was $225 billion. The cumulative U.S. trade deficit with China in the 15 years since it joined the World Trade Organization is a staggering $3.5 trillion. As it protects its domestic industry from foreign competition, China continues to dump its massive overcapacity in U.S. and other global markets, materially damaging U.S. industries, including steel.

There is more than enough justification, even outside of the North Korean dilemma, to justify tough action on China’s aggressive trade practices. The 2016 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission notes that “China continues to violate the spirit and the letter of its international obligations by pursuing import substitution policies, imposing forced technology transfers, engaging in cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, and obstructing the free flow of information and commerce. China is also becoming a less welcoming market for foreign investors, with a host of restrictions and anticompetitive laws that proscribe foreign participation in broad swathes of the economy and promote domestic companies. At the same time, the extensive subsidization of and policy support for favored companies and sectors puts international competitors wishing to export to China at a distinct disadvantage. It has become all too apparent that the CCP has no intention of opening up what it considers key sectors of its economy to significant U.S. or foreign competition and control…

“China’s willingness to reshape the economic, geopolitical, and security order to accommodate its interests are of great concern as China’s global influence grows. This influence has been manifesting most recently with China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at connecting China with great portions of the rest of the world via a wide range of investments and infrastructure projects. Last year, the Commission tracked the initiative’s impact in Central Asia. This year, as part of our examination of China’s rise and South Asia, we considered its impact on some of the countries in that region. China’s emergence as a major player in South Asia is affecting the geopolitics of the region, and is causing the region’s traditional major power, India, to grow increasingly concerned about the prospect of Chinese encirclement.

Bloomberg reports that “China’s Worst Trade Abuses Are Hidden… China has also become adept in using non-tariff barriers to prop up favored companies. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in Beijing recently identified a raft of such measures China was using to protect manufacturers, including subsidizing local businesses and forcing foreign firms to turn over technology to Chinese partners… China failing to disclose measures that may violate WTO requirements, it is refusing to even discuss them.

“According to the American Chamber of Commerce in China’s 2016 Business Climate Survey, more than three-fourths of surveyed U.S. companies reported they felt foreign businesses are less welcome in China than in years past. Meanwhile, Chinese investment in the United States is growing rapidly, driven by the Chinese government’s “going out” strategy, a generally more open policy environment for outbound investment, and capital flight. The increased acquisition of U.S. assets by Chinese companies, which often receive state funding, has led to growing concern over the economic and national security implications of such acquisitions.

“In 2015, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China increased by 6.5 percent year-on-year to $367.2 billion, a new record. Over the same period, the U.S. deficit with China in advanced technology products reached $120.7 billion, a decrease of $3 billion from 2014. In the first eight months of 2016, the U.S. goods deficit with China fell 5.7 percent year-on-year to $225.2 billion due to weaker imports. The United States has a substantial but much smaller trade surplus with China in services: in 2015, the U.S. trade surplus in services with China totaled $29.5 billion. China continues to stall on liberalizing key sectors in which the United States is competitive globally, such as services…

The Report concludes tomorrow.