National Security

The Special Relationship Under Austerity

Increasing NATO's bang in a time of fewer bucks.

I arrived in Washington this week with the U.S. challenge to European NATO partners to increase their share of the burden of collective defense ringing in my ears. It is a point that was well made by Secretary Gates, faithfully reiterated by Secretary Panetta, and was delivered with renewed urgency by Secretary Hagel, in the face of the challenge of sequestration.

We, in the U.K. government, want to work with the U.S. to address the challenges of defense in an age of austerity -- and in doing so, to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance. I said here in Washington last year, and repeated in Berlin, that we accept the challenge. I agree that European NATO must up its game. We cannot expect America to lead every operation in every circumstance; European NATO must in the future expect to do more. But talk of American disengagement is disingenuous; a strong NATO is in Europe's vital interest, but it is also in America's vital interest.

Western democracies, on both sides of the Atlantic, are going to have to learn to live with tighter defense resources for the foreseeable future. We must be realistic about the fiscal pressures -- but that does not mean all is lost. We can deliver far greater effective capability in Europe, even within current budgets. Because the problem is not just that too many allies are not spending enough; too often, what they are spending is not delivering proper, deployable capability and is not backed by the political will to deploy. In the short-term, increasing the deployable bang European NATO generates for each buck of defense spending is the best way to achieve a more equitable burden sharing; in the longer-term, as growth resumes, we have to press those partners whose contributions have dropped below what is acceptable to recognize that collective security is not a free lunch.

I am clear that NATO must remain the cornerstone of our defense. Not the NATO of our parents' generation, but an outward-looking NATO, ready to deal with a diverse range of threats emanating from beyond its borders. Collective action is the only realistic response to the challenges we face. Today, in Afghanistan, NATO continues to prove itself as the most effective military alliance the world has ever seen and a force multiplier for all of us.  For a decade, 10,000 British troops have fought alongside Americans as part of a wider coalition of 50 nations, under a NATO umbrella, but embracing new partners, all in a common cause. No other organization could have made that happen.  Our challenge is to ensure that NATO retains that unique capability as we end our combat mission in Afghanistan. 

The United Kingdom is committed to remaining America's most capable ally and the leading force in Europe. We have taken some tough decisions to deal with our own budget challenges, but will continue to field a broad spectrum force, supported by the world's fourth-largest defense budget, ready for the next set of security challenges.  The U.K. Future Force 2020 will be adaptable for the range of missions we will face in the future and interoperable with the United States and other allies. Our new aircraft carriers are under construction, and a new generation of highly capable destroyers and attack submarines are coming into service now. We will soon add the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to our fast jet force. Our regular army will be smaller, yes, but better equipped and able to call on a larger reserve component. We are investing in our world-classs special forces and the whole force will be supported by the air transport, air-to-air refuelling, cyber and intelligence and surveillance capabilities that are vital to today's operations.

We will retain and renew our continuously-deployed submarine-based nuclear deterrent and will continue working closely with the United States on the next generation of ballistic missile submarines. This capability gives us in Britain the ultimate safeguard of our security in an uncertain world, adds maximum value to the alliance, and provides NATO with a second deterrent force.

In a world where new powers are emerging, our two nations share values and strategic interests, a critical reason why we will remain the closest of partners. A strong transatlantic defense relationship will serve both of our countries well in this uncertain future. And key to delivering it with a shrinking budget is the close cooperation and the advanced interoperability between our armed forces. But as the security challenges change, so must our defense relationships.  Future U.K.-U.S. defense cooperation will be as much about remotely piloted air systems and cyber operations as it is about American and British boots working together on the ground. And developing the same levels of cooperation and interoperability between the European allies holds out the prospect of enhancing the Alliance's military capability -- even in the face of austerity.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

National Security

What a Piece of Junk!

Imperial investigators report weaknesses in Death Star management, performance.

From:  Imperial Government Accountability Office (IGAO)
To:       Lord Vader
Cc:        Imperial Navy

Subject: Death Star Requires Better Project Management and Oversight

Background

The Death Star project (also known as the Planetoidal Combat Ship, or PCS) has been the single largest defense acquisition in Imperial history, and has run considerably over budget. At the request of Emperor Palpatine, the IGAO has conducted a performance review of the Death Star, with reference to best practices in procurement and project management. Our research is based on numerous interviews with Imperial Navy leaders as well as Imperial Ministry of War senior executives. Our findings are summarized below:

Frequent Turnover in Senior Personnel Hampers Continuity. Competent management is key to a project as large as the construction of a moon-sized warship. Yet the unfortunate deaths of the last five Imperial admirals in charge of the Death Star project have contributed to a lack of continuity and institutional memory. We estimate that repeated asphyxiation of project managers has set back construction of the PCS by 16 months. Senior Imperial Navy leadership informs us that there have been difficulties in recruitment of qualified candidates, with several promising officers suddenly requesting early retirement when queried about becoming project leaders. Recommendation: Motivating project leaders through incentives such as cash bonuses, slaves, and land grants on habitable worlds. A reduction in the use of strangulation as a motivational tool.

Anti-Fighter Defenses Have Been Addressed, But Much Work Remains to Be Done. We note that the Imperial Navy has responded to our earlier concerns about vulnerability to Rebel Alliance fighters. Defense towers with close-range anti-fighter weapons have been installed at multiple and interlocking locations around the Death Star. Imperial Navy leadership is confident that any attacking fighters would be destroyed. We concur that anti-fighter defenses are formidable, yet we remain concerned that remaining blind spots could be exploited by aggressive rebel pilots. Recommendations: Additional anti-fighter towers be added, as well as a larger complement of TIE fighters.

Inadequate Reactor Shielding Has Not Been Mitigated.  The Death Star is sufficiently armored to withstand repeated hits from the full Rebel battle fleet. However, the thermal exhaust port of the PCS's main reactor is not armored, and the shaft to the reactor is not compartmentalized to deflect blast effects. During our interviews with experienced TIE fighter pilots, they unanimously agreed that the port is so narrow that no fighter -- not even one flying down the approach trench -- could obtain a sufficient firing angle, especially when attacking craft would be under continuous fire from shipboard weapons and interceptors. The prime contractor, Darkside Technologies, also assures us that the reactor is sufficiently shielded to withstand a hit from a proton torpedo. We reiterate the concerns stated in our previous report regarding the validity of the contractor's testing of reactor protection, and we remain concerned that penetration of the port could result in a catastrophic explosion of the main reactor. Recommendation: A permeable barrier over the port to allow heat to escape while deflecting projectiles, as well as compartmentalization to channel blast effects. Independent third-party validation of Darkside Technologies' testing of reactor shielding.

Anti-Intruder Defenses Are Strong But Still Vulnerable to Raids by Special Forces. Imperial Navy leaders expressed confidence that the Death Star's large complement of Imperial stormtroopers, as well as extensive use of access-controlled doors, are more than sufficient to defeat any raids to seize or disable the battle station. We concur that intrusion control systems are strong, but note that a small, fast-moving team could disable key systems. Recommendation: More guards at key locations as well as mobile patrols.

Inadequate Marksmanship Training Has Not Been Addressed. Stormtrooper Command (STORMCOM) requires all troops to receive extensive blaster training. Yet our audit of their marksmanship tests finds that 70 percent of stormtroopers cannot hit a large stationary object, such as a ship, at a distance of 10 feet. This calls into question the ability of the Death Star crew to repel boarders. Recommendation: More rigorous marksmanship training. Increased use of guard bots.

Insufficient Analysis of Alternatives to Death Star. While tests indicate that the Death Star can vaporize planets and thus encourage loyalty to beneficial Imperial rule, the Imperial Navy has not demonstrated that a fleet of Star Destroyers cannot effectively accomplish the same mission through devastation of a planet's surface at far less cost. Recommendation: Further modeling and simulation is needed to determine whether conventional ships can perform the same Imperial loyalty mission as the Death Star.

More Analysis of the Force Needs to Be Performed. The Imperial Intelligence Agency assures us that that the Jedi Knights have been eradicated. Furthermore, one Imperial admiral (prior to his recent demise) stated that the Death Star's crew will be sufficiently trained and motivated to withstand "Jedi mind tricks." Nonetheless, the potential of a Force-trained attacker to achieve significant disruption of the Death Star cannot be discounted. Recommendation: Further research is needed to determine effects of the Force on personnel and equipment, and whether adequate countermeasures can be developed.

Agency Comments:

From the Imperial Navy: We disagree with these findings. This battle station is impregnable. Any attack by Rebel fighters or troops will be quickly annihilated.

From Lord Vader: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

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