Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shutdown: Congress Stuck In Funding Stalemate

Washington Post
October 1, 2013
Pg. 1


By Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane
The U.S. government began to shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday, after a Congress bitterly divided over President Obama’s signature health-care initiative failed to reach agreement to fund federal agencies.
Hours before a midnight deadline, the Republican House passed its third proposal in two weeks to fund the government for a matter of weeks. Like the previous plans, the new one sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act, this time by delaying enforcement of the “individual mandate,” a cornerstone of the law that requires all Americans to obtain health insurance.
The new measure also sought to strip lawmakers and their aides of long-standing government health benefits.
The Democratic-led Senate quickly rejected that plan on a party-line vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) urged House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to abandon the assault on the health-care law and pass a simple bill to keep the government open. Otherwise, Reid warned, “the responsibility for this Republican government shutdown will rest squarely on his shoulders.”
Boehner refused to yield. He instead won approval, in a 1 a.m. largely party-line roll call, requesting a special House-Senate committee to meet in the coming days to resolve differences between the two parties, leaving in limbo the fate of millions of federal workers and the services they provide.
Shortly before midnight, the White House budget office issued a memo instructing agencies to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.”
The impasse means 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed Tuesday. National parks, monuments and museums, as well as most federal offices, will close. Tens of thousands of air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents will be required to serve without pay. And many congressional hearings — including one scheduled for Tuesday on last month’s Washington Navy Yard shootings — will be postponed.
In a last-minute ray of hope for active-duty troops, Congress on Monday approved and sent to the White House an agreement to keep issuing military paychecks. But Obama warned that the broader economy, which is finally starting to recover from the shocks of the past six years, would take a substantial hit if congressional gridlock shutters “America’s largest employer.”
“Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you ‘give’ to the other side. It’s our basic responsibility,” Obama said in a statement Monday evening at the White House.
Privately, senior Republicans predicted that the closure would last at least a week. A fraction of today’s House Republicans were on Capitol Hill in 1995 and 1996 when a Republican-led Congress last shut down the government in a dispute over the budget with a Democratic president. Younger lawmakers don’t remember the pain the shutdown caused constituents, senior Republicans said. And many of them now question the conventional wisdom that the closures weakened the GOP presidential candidate in 1996 and nearly cost the party control of the House.
Democrats predicted that if the shutdown stretches into the weekend, the government-funding dispute could be rolled into an even more serious battle over the $16.7 trillion federal debt limit. The Treasury Department will begin running short of cash to pay the nation’s bills as soon as Oct. 17 unless Congress approves additional borrowing authority. With so little time remaining to avoid what would be the nation’s first default, Democratic aides predicted that negotiations to reopen the government may be merged into the debt-limit talks.
On Monday evening, Obama telephoned Boehner to urge him to reconsider his stance on the health-care law. In a call that lasted nearly 10 minutes, according to Boehner’s office, the president reiterated his insistence that there would be no negotiations over the debt limit, and that Congress must pay the bills it has incurred.
Boehner responded by mocking Obama in a speech on the House floor.
“  ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’ ” he said, quoting Obama. “I would say to the president: This is not about me. It’s not about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness.”
The speech drew applause for the embattled speaker, who argued passionately that Republicans were merely seeking “fairness” for working people. Obama has delayed a mandate for employers to insure workers and delayed other requirements for big unions, Boehner said. “Yet they stick our constituents with a bill they don’t like and a bill they can’t afford,” he said.
Despite the show of unity, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol remain deeply divided about the attack on the health-care law. In the House, a group of more moderate Republicans was seething about the decision to bow to the forces that oppose the Affordable Care Act, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his allies on the right, including such outside groups as Heritage Action for America.
On Monday, some publicly urged Boehner to drop the issue and seek the help of House Democrats to pass the simple government-funding bill that the Senate approved last week.
“I don’t want to shut down the government,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), who is trying to become her state’s first GOP senator since the 1950s, adding that she was inclined to support a “clean” funding bill.
Frustrations also were simmering among Senate Republicans, who complained that House leaders were pressing the attack in direct opposition to public opinion. Polls show that voters overwhelmingly disapprove of using the threat of a shutdown to defund the health-care law and that blame for a shutdown will fall squarely on Republicans.
“By wanting to repeal Obamacare using this method, it defies what the popular will is,” said Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who campaigned last year on behalf of his party’s national ticket.
“I campaigned in 2012 all over this country for months: ‘Repeal and replace Obamacare.’ That was not the mandate of the voters,” McCain said. “If they wanted to repeal Obamacare, the 2012 election would have been probably significantly different.”
Adding to the tension Monday was Boehner’s decision to add the provision that would strip lawmakers, congressional staff members and White House aides of the employer subsidies for health insurance they have received for many years.
Now that lawmakers and their aides must join the new health-insurance exchanges, some conservative groups have criticized the subsidies, worth about $5,000 a year for individual coverage and $10,000 for families, as a “special exemption” from the new law. By including the provision, House leaders hoped to attract conservative support and put pressure on Senate Democrats, who faced the choice of shutting down the government to protect their own perks.
“On what flooding peninsula can you stand when it’s a question of delaying the individual mandate, ending member subsidies and funding the government?” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). If Reid kills it, “the senators he’s going to protect become the subject of incredible scrutiny.”
Even some Republicans were uneasy about the prospect of dealing their aides — and some of their colleagues — the equivalent of a big pay cut. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) called it an “outrage,” adding that Boehner had worked directly with Reid and the Obama administration to make sure the subsidies would stay in place when congressional employees join the exchanges next year.
Boehner and his team presented the proposal to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door meeting Monday. For more than an hour and a half, lawmakers argued about the plan. They emerged with an unusual number of public dissenters, including Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), one of a dozen Republicans who ultimately voted against the proposal.
“I don’t want to be the facilitator of a disastrous process and plan,” he said.
Still, most Republicans endorsed the deal, even if somewhat reluctantly. “I think this is a principled call by leadership and it has the support of the con­ference,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), one of Boehner’s closest friends.
Democrats, meanwhile, were united against any attempt by Republicans to extract concessions now, especially with the larger fight over the debt limit swiftly approaching.
“The bottom line is very simple,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “You negotiate on this, they will up the ante for the debt limit.”
Ed O’Keefe, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jackie Kucinich and Jeff Simon contributed to this report.
FAQ: How will a government shutdown affect federal workers?
A list of key questions and answers from Washington Post coverage of the impact on federal government employees.
When will I know if I'll be furloughed because of a shutdown?
Federal workers should have received an e-mail or phone call from their supervisors by Monday telling them to report for work or remain at home.
Those who are nonessential can have a few hours Tuesday morning to come into the office to secure their files, send e-mails and put things in order before signing off. It is illegal for them to conduct any work until they are called back to their jobs.
Who is "exempt" and who's not?
That's up to individual agencies. A recent Office of Management and Budget memo told agencies to review plans they made in 2011. The government is required by law to maintain functions that:
*Provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations.
*Provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year contracts.
*Protect life and property.
Who decides?
Federal managers must review which of their employees will be excepted or exempted and required to work, and which are be non-excepted or non-exempted and sent home.
How many workers will be affected?
A government shutdown jeopardizes the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers who will be told to stay home. The federal government has more than 2 million employees. Those workers who remain on the job as well as active military would be entitled to their salaries, but might not be paid on time.
Will I be paid?
The OMB memo says much the same: "Without further specific direction or enactment by Congress, all excepted employees are entitled to receive payment for obligations incurred by their agencies for their performance of excepted work during the period of the appropriations lapse. After appropriations are enacted, payroll centers will pay all excepted employees for time worked."
The memo does not directly address pay for "non-exempt" employees. The Office of Personnel Management guidance says that "Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period."
If I am paid, will my paycheck be on time?
Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, said the administration officials indicated that employees who are required to work would be paid "eventually."
"They can't guarantee [the workers] will be paid on time," Junemann said. "They are pretty comfortable with the statement that everybody who works will be paid eventually." Those who are furloughed might be paid, but Republicans could move to block that.
If I'm furloughed, why can't I take annual leave or other paid time off instead?
Because that creates a debt obligation to the government not payable under the Antideficiency Act if no appropriation has been made. This includes a requirement to cancel any paid leave that had been scheduled.
Employees cannot substitute paid leave for furlough time, and even previously scheduled paid time off must be canceled "because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights."
How would a new plan offered by House Republicans affect me?
A new plan, like those Republicans have pushed before, would increase employee contributions to their retirement benefits.
The plan now under discussion apparently is like a bill that a Republican-majority House approved in December. Had it passed the Senate, the measure would have required federal workers to pay an additional 5 percent of their salary over five years toward their retirement contributions, saving the government about $80 billion.
How is this possible shutdown different from previous ones?
Compared with the shutdowns of the 1990s, many more federal workers are in danger of being furloughed this year, because Congress has not passed a single funding bill. In the past, Congress had passed appropriations bills that funded various large agencies, including the Defense Department, meaning they could continue to operate even if other parts of the government could not.
What if I'm a government contractor?
Contractors said they assumed they will receive little notice about whether their employees will go to work. And then, they would have to decide - on a contract-by-contract basis - what to do with those workers.
Will I be reimbursed for time missed?
In past shutdowns, federal employees have been reimbursed for time missed, said Alan Chvotkin, counsel at the Professional Services Council, an industry group. But contractors have not fared as well.
"Contractors have never been reimbursed," Chvotkin said. A shutdown has been "just lost revenue, lost salary to those affected."
While there is no law requiring that nonessential employees be compensated if they are ordered off the job, Congress has in the past voted to reimburse their losses once shutdowns ended.
But this go-round may be different. The bitterly divided Congress includes many lawmakers who are unsympathetic to the plight of federal workers and could be loath to help them recoup their money.
Will overseas military operations be affected?
Defense Department spokesman George Little said overseas operations, including those in Afghanistan, will not be directly affected.
What's the status of employee benefits?
Coverage under the federal employee health insurance program would continue, with the employees' share accumulating until they return to paid status. Coverage under the life insurance program also will continue, without cost to the employee. For the long-term care and vision and dental insurance programs, enrollees must continue to pay the premiums; those paying through payroll deduction will be billed directly if the unpaid period lasts of weeks.
What if I'm deemed "essential" but get sick?
Essential employees who are too sick to work during a shutdown will face the same uncertainty over their pay for the time off work as those who are furloughed.
If I'm a retired federal worker, will I still get my check?
For millions of federal retirees who may be concerned about their annuity checks, which arrive on the first day of each month, the OPM said they will be paid on Oct. 1 as normal.
Federal retirement payments, like payments such as Social Security benefits, fall under the "mandatory" budget category not funded through annual appropriations and thus not affected by these kinds of funding deadlocks. According to the OPM, federal retirees "will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month."
How does a shutdown end?
It's up to Congress and the White House. No doubt there will be plenty of pressure from the public and workforce. There is no law setting a time limit.
-- From staff reports

The Impact, Agency By Agency

Washington Post
October 1, 2013
Pg. 12

Government Shutdown


The government shutdown will interrupt some services and jeopardize the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers. The Office of Management and Budget asked federal agencies to make contingency plans; the government does not stop functioning completely, and by law, certain agencies must operate with unsalaried employees. They include those that deal with national security and the safety of people and property, as well as those that manage benefits such as Social Security payments. The U.S. Postal Service will also be unaffected by a shutdown. Here’s what some agencies have said about their plans.
Department of Agriculture
Overall impact -- Inspections of meat and poultry will continue, and workers including firefighters will remain on the job. The agency will halt its production of statistical reports on crop estimates and sales widely used in the agricultural market.
Workers -- The USDA hasn’t said precisely how many of its 100,000 workers will be furloughed.
Department of Commerce
Overall impact -- The department includes agencies such as the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, as well as various economic development offices — all of which will be closed.
Workers -- Of the Commerce Department’s 46,420 employees, 40,234 will be furloughed.
Federal courts
Overall impact -- According to Judge John D. Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, federal courts can continue to operate for approximately two weeks with reserve funds.
Workers -- After the reserve funds are depleted, only essential employees will continue to work. Each court has flexibility in determining which employees are essential -- other than judges, who will work.
Department of Defense
Overall impact -- The Defense Department will continue to conduct military operations and training exercises.
Workers -- The roughly 1.4 million active-duty uniformed military personnel will stay on the job. Of the department’s 800,000 civilian workers, about half will be furloughed.
Department of Education
Overall impact -- The department will still distribute $22 billion to public schools that is normally obligated on Oct. 1. This represents the second half of 2013 funding already appropriated by Congress to help educate poor and disabled K-12 students and to fund career and technical education programs. This funding does not require further congressional authorization.
Workers -- If the shutdown lasts a week, approximately 212 of the department’s 4,225 full- and part-time employees will be working. An additional 30 employees may be called to work if the shutdown lasts longer than a week.
Department of Energy
Overall impact -- Most of the Department of Energy's activities will cease during the shutdown, with big exceptions for the office overseeing the safety of the nation's nuclear arsenal and the administrators in charge of dams and transmission lines around the country.
Workers -- The Department of Energy has 13,814 employees. During a shutdown, all but 1,113 will be sent home, according to a contingency plan the agency recently posted on its Web site.
Environmental Protection Agency
Overall impact -- On Monday, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said her department will all but close during the shutdown.
Workers -- McCarthy offered no specifics but said that the “vast majority of people” will not be paid if there is no budget.
The Federal Reserve
Overall impact -- The Fed is self-funded and will remain open and operational.
Workers -- No impact.
Health and Human Services
Overall impact -- The department has said it anticipates furloughing 40,512 workers while retaining 37,686.
Workers -- The agency will be sending home more than half its workers, but the lack of funding will not affect various offices equally.
Department of Homeland Security
Overall impact -- The vast majority of Department of Homeland Security employees will continue to work under a shutdown because their functions “must be maintained under all circumstances to ensure the safety and security of the nation and its citizens,” or because their jobs are not funded by congressional appropriations.
Workers -- About 86 percent of the department’s roughly 231,000 employees are “essential,” meaning they will remain on the job for the “safety of human life or protection of property.” Some of those workers will also be part of an “emergency relocation group” that responds to possible emergency situations.
Federal Transit Administration
Overall impact -- According toFTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, no grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, purchase orders, travel authorizations or other documents obligating funds will be made to any of the agency's 1,300 grantees.
Workers -- About 95 percent of the FTA’s workers will be furloughed. Remaining staffs will be limited to four people who will handle shutdown and startup activities as well as emergency needs.
Food and Drug Administration
Overall impact -- The FDA will continue “limited activities” in programs that are funded through industry user fees and will continue “select vital activities” such as handling high-risk recalls of tainted food or drugs. Officials said the FDA will be unable to keep up the majority of its food-safety, nutrition and cosmetics oversight.
Workers -- The agency will be forced to furlough 6,620 workers, or about 45 percent of its 14,779-person workforce.
Housing and Urban Development
Overall impact -- The agency's contingency plan says that just 379 of 8,709 employees will be expected to work during a shutdown.
Workers -- The vast majority of HUD's agencies will be staffed by skeleton crews, with the exception of Ginne Mae, the mortgage-guarantee agency, will maintain 43 of 108 employees.
Department of the Interior
Overall impact --Interiorwill operate with a significantly smaller workforce, and national parks will be closed to the public. Agencies under its authority include the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Land Management, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Workers -- Interior has 72,562 employees. More than 58,000 will face furloughs, and those remaining on the job as exempted workers (6,306) have mostly law enforcement and security-related duties.
Department of Justice
Overall impact -- BecauseJustice has a broad array of national security, law enforcement and criminal justice responsibilities, a high percentage of activities and employees are excepted.
Workers -- Of 114,486 employees, an estimated 96,744 will be excepted from furloughs under the Justice Department's plan. Approximately 17,742 employees will be subject to possible furloughs.
Department of Labor
Overall impact -- During the shutdown, a majority of the Department of Labor's employees will be furloughed.
Workers -- Of the 16,304 employees at the agency, only 2,954 will be expected to work.
Overall impact --NASA employees will be furloughed unless instructed that their jobs are exempted. Among the agency functions that will continue are those involving the safe operation of satellites and the international space station, and “other activities involving protection of life and property,” according to the agency Web site.
Workers -- An internal memo states that NASA will “narrowly construe the available exceptions in determining which activities can continue.” The agency has 18,250 employees across the country, and the shutdown contingency plan indicates that 549 will be exempted from furloughs.
National Institutes of Health
Overall impact -- The NIH will not take any actions on grant applications or awards, but will continue to allow grantees with existing grants to draw on their funds and will accept new online grant applications (which will be stored and processed later). The NIH Clinical Center will continue to provide direct medical services and maintain research protocols for current patients but will not admit new patients or initiate new clinical trials.
Workers -- Under theplan, 2,564 NIH staff members will be excepted for the provision of patient care, 734 to protect property related to ongoing medical experiments, 568 for maintenance of animals and protection of inanimate government property, and 212 to maintain computerized systems to support research and clinical patient care.
United States Postal Service
Overall impact -- The U.S. Postal Service, which is a self-funded agency, will remain open, and mail delivery will continue as usual.
Workers -- No impact.
Small Business Administration
Overall impact -- The agency will shut down nearly all its operations, including processing for most of its lending programs, which guarantee tens of billions of dollars in lending to small and new businesses every year.
Workers -- The SBA will have to furlough more than 2,100 employees, nearly two-thirds of its workforce, according to the agency’s contingency plan. Nearly all of the exempt employees work in the agency's Office of Disaster Assistance.
Securities and Exchange Commission
Overall impact -- The SEC will not be immediately affected. It plans to use funds carried over from the previous year.
Workers -- No immediate impact.
Overall impact -- Essentially, all Smithsonian institutions, museums and zoos will be closed.
Workers -- Those exempted include security and maintenance workers and zoo employeesresponsible for the care of the animals.
Department of State
Overall impact -- The State Department, which receives funding in the annual State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, will be able to operate for a limited time.
Workers -- Activities carried out by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, both domestically and abroad, are fee-funded and will continue. The department will continue passport operations and visa issuance overseas.
Supreme Court
Overall impact --The court has made no official announcement, but it continued to operate during previous shutdowns.
Workers -- Not available.
Department of Transportation
Overall impact -- Air travel should continue as normal because federal air-traffic controllers will remain on the job.
Workers -- According to the department's contingency plan, 18,481 of its 55,468 employees will be furloughed.
Department of the Treasury
Overall impact -- The Treasury Department will continue disbursements of Social Security funds, automated revenue collections and the work of daily cash management for the government, in addition to paying interest on the federal debt. But the department’s largest component, the Internal Revenue Service, will cease some of its key functions such as audits, examinations of returns, processing of paper returns and call-center operations.
Workers -- About 88 percent of the 110,000 employees will be placed on furlough, including nearly 90 percent of IRS workers. About 8,800 of the IRS’s 95,000 employees will stay on in roles such as law enforcementor because their positions are paid for by funds outside of appropriations. Most headquarters and administrative employees will be furloughed.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Overall impact -- Medical services will not be affected, but benefits programs probably will. Regional offices handling disability claims will have limited services, and the Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits. The Board of Veterans' Appeals will be unable to hold hearings.
Workers -- VA projects that 95 percent of its 332,000 employees are exempt from furloughs, including the 289,000 who work for the Veterans Health Administration.
The White House
Overall impact -- About three-quarters of White House employees will be furloughed.
Workers -- Some 436 employees will be designated as exempt, and the remaining 1,265 will be furloughed.

2 Marine Generals Fired Over Base Attack

Washington Post
October 1, 2013
Pg. 1


Taliban entered NATO airfield in Afghanistan, killing 2, destroying jets

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The commandant of the Marine Corps on Monday took the extraordinary step of firing two generals for not adequately protecting a giant base in southern Afghanistan that Taliban fighters stormed last year, resulting in the deaths of two Marines and the destruction of half a dozen U.S. fighter jets.
It is the first time since the Vietnam War that a general, let alone two, has been sacked for negligence after a successful enemy attack. But the assault also was unprecedented:
Fifteen insurgents entered a NATO airfield and destroyed almost an entire squadron of Marine AV-8B Harrier jets, the largest single loss of allied materiel in the almost 12-year Afghan war.
The commandant, Gen. James F. Amos, said the two generals did not deploy enough troops to guard the base and take other measures to prepare for a ground attack by the Taliban. The two, Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, the top Marine commander in southern Afghanistan at the time, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant, the senior Marine aviation officer in the area, “failed to exercise the level of judgment expected of commanders of their rank,” Amos said.
“It was unrealistic to think that a determined enemy would not be able to penetrate the perimeter fence,” Amos said.
The incident brings into stark relief the unique challenges of waging war in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops over the past two years has forced commanders to triage, sometimes leading them to thin out defenses. The U.S. military also has been forced to rely on other nations’ troops, who often are not as well trained or equipped, to safeguard American personnel and supplies.
The attack occurred at Camp Bastion, a British-run NATO air base in Helmand province that adjoins Camp Leatherneck, a vast U.S. facility that serves as the NATO headquarters for southwestern Afghanistan. Because Leatherneck does not have a runway, the Marines use Bastion as their principal air hub in the country. Several hundred Marines live and work on the British side, and dozens of U.S. helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are parked there.
The British are responsible for guarding Bastion, which is ringed by a chain-link fence, triple coils of razor wire and watchtowers from which sentries can scan the horizon for any potential attackers. British commanders had assigned the task of manning the towers to troops from Tonga, which has sent 55 soldiers to Afghanistan.
On the night of the attack, the Tongans left unmanned the watchtower nearest to the Taliban breach, according to an investigation by the U.S. Central Command.
Other aspects of the U.S.-British security plan were “sub-optimal,” the investigation found, with no single officer in charge of security for both Bastion and Leatherneck. The security arrangement created command-and-control relationships “contrary to the war-fighting principles of simplicity,” Amos wrote in a memo accepting the investigation.
Troop reductions also affected security measures. When Gurganus took command in 2011, about 17,000 U.S. troops were in his area of operations. By the time of the attack, in September 2012, the American contingent had dropped to 7,400 because of troop-withdrawal requirements imposed by President Obama.
In December 2011, 325 Marines were assigned to patrol the area around Bastion and Leatherneck. In the month before the attack, that number was cut to about 110.
Gurganus did seek permission in the summer of 2012 to add 160 troops to protect Bastion and Leatherneck, but his superiors in Kabul rejected the request because the military had reached a limit on forces set by the White House.
Even so, Amos said Gurganus should have reallocated troops from elsewhere to protect the encampments. “The commander still has the inherent responsibility to provide protection for his forces,” Amos said. “Regardless of where you are in a [troop] drawdown, you’re required to balance force projection with force protection.”
Despite the overall troop reduction, several officers stationed at Leatherneck at the time said that many Marines with idle time could have been assigned to guard duty. Instead, some of them took online college classes and others worked out in the gym twice a day.
In an interview with The Washington Post this year, Gurganus characterized the attack as “a lucky break” for the Taliban. “When you’re fighting a war, the enemy gets a vote,” he said.
Amos said that when he informed Gurganus that he was being relieved, Gurganus told him, “As the most senior commander on the ground, I am accountable.”
Two Marines, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, were killed trying to fend off the attack. Raible, a Harrier squadron commander, charged into the combat zone armed with only a handgun. Eight other Marines were wounded in the fighting. The cost of the destroyed and damaged aircraft has been estimated at $200 million.
Although Gurganus ordered a review of security on the bases after the attack and a British general conducted a brief investigation for the NATO headquarters in Kabul, the Marine Corps waited eight months to ask the Central Command to initiate a formal U.S. investigation. Amos’s decision followed inquiries from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, congressional staff members and a front-page article in The Post that detailed the unmanned watchtower and the reduction in troops patrolling the perimeter.
Amos said Monday that he wanted to wait for reports from NATO and the Central Command before requesting a formal investigation.
Before seeking the investigation, Amos had nominated Gurganus to receive a third star and serve as the Marine Corps staff director, the service’s third-ranking job. His nomination was placed on hold once the inquiry began.
Since his return from Afghanistan, Sturdevant has been serving as the director of plans and policy for the U.S. Pacific Command.
Amos said the decision to fire the generals was the most agonizing choice he has had to make as Marine commandant. Gurganus and Sturdevant are friends of his, he said, and their collective time in uniform totals almost seven decades.
In a statement Monday evening, Gurganus said, “I have complete trust and confidence in the leadership of our Corps and fully respect the decision of our Commandant.”
Gurganus and Sturdevant will be allowed to retire, but Amos said it will be up to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to determine their final rank. If allowed to retire as major generals, they would be eligible to receive an inflation-adjusted annual pension of about $145,000.
The last two-star general to be fired for combat incompetence was Army Maj. Gen. James Baldwin, who was relieved of command in 1971 following a North Vietnamese attack that killed 30 soldiers at a U.S. outpost, said military historian Thomas E. Ricks.

Hagel Hopes Deal By End October On US Forces In Afghanistan

Agence France-Presse
September 30, 2013


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday he hoped an accord on the future US military presence in Afghanistan would be in place by November, despite President Hamid Karzai's refusal to be rushed.
"I hope we'll have that agreement by the end of October, because we just can't move without it," Hagel told US soldiers participating in a live-fire exercise in South Korea.
The United States plans to pull out the bulk of its 57,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and has tentative plans to retain a smaller force of around 10,000 forces after that.
But a new security agreement is needed to allow for the post-2014 presence, including provisions allowing the United States access to various bases.
"We're working with President Karzai and his government to get that bilateral security agreement completed and signed," Hagel said.
"Once we do that, we can and will go forward. That's critically important," he added.
But Karzai has insisted Afghanistan would not be rushed over the negotiations and has even hinted that an agreement might not be finalised before presidential elections in April next year.
"We are not in a hurry, if it happens in my government it will be good, if not, the new president can discuss it and either accept or reject it," Karzai said in August.

Japan, U.S. To Incorporate Cyber-Defense In Cooperation Guidelines

Japan News
October 1, 2013
Pg. 1


By The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Japanese and U.S. governments will incorporate a policy on how to respond to cyber-attacks in the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, a move aimed at countering China, according to Japanese government sources.
China is said to be actively studying the use of cyber-attacks.
Under the new policy, the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military would jointly respond if Japan's defense computer system came under a cyber-attack.
The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to agree on the re-revision of the guidelines at a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, also known as a two-plus-two meeting of foreign and defense ministers, scheduled to be held in Tokyo on Thursday. The bureau chief-level Subcommittee for Defense Cooperation is expected to have concrete discussions on the matter for more than a year.
The current guidelines define cooperation between the two countries in three situations--peacetime, when Japan comes under armed attack and when there is an emergency around Japan that could seriously affect the country's peace and security. The guidelines do not refer to cyber-attacks.
However, there have recently been an increasing number of cyber-attacks against the Japanese and U.S. governments, and there is a high risk that the communication and command systems of the SDF and the U.S. military stationed in Japan may come under such attacks.
Therefore, according to the sources, the Japanese and U.S. governments judged it is necessary to define bilateral cooperation in dealing with cyber-attacks in the guidelines.
Specifically, the two countries will discuss how to communicate and cooperate during peacetime and how to respond to an enemy state's possible cyber-attack against their missile defense or radar systems prior to attacks using ordinary weapons such as missiles and airplanes, the sources said.
Cyberspace is the fifth field of military operations along with ground, sea, air and space. Developing a defense system to cope with cyber-attacks is an urgent task for Japan.
However, the Japanese government sets strict requirements for initiating the right to self-defense under the current interpretation of the Constitution. Therefore, legal limits are unclear as to how vigorous a counterattack Japan could undertake as part of its right to self-defense if the country comes under a cyber-attack that does not involve weapons.
A panel concerning the re-definition of a legal basis for security, which is an advisory body to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is currently discussing legal issues related to countering cyber-attacks. The Japanese government will discuss with the U.S. government the re-revision of the guidelines based on outcomes of the panel's discussions.

Chinese Ships In Disputed Waters On National Day: Japan

Agence France-Presse
September 30, 2013


Chinese ships sailed into Tokyo-controlled waters on Tuesday as Beijing celebrated its National Day and as Japan and the United States prepare for talks on their defence pact.
Four vessels from the Chinese coastguard entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial waters of the Senkaku islands at around 9:00 am (0000 GMT) and stayed for about six hours before leaving, the Japanese coastguard said.
China calls the islands the Diaoyus and says they belong to Beijing.
The incursion came as US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry prepare to head to Tokyo for a meeting Thursday with Japanese counterparts Itsunori Onodera and Fumio Kishida.
Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants Tokyo to play a more self-confident role on the world stage and for its military to shoulder more of the burden of the defence pact with Washington.
The so-called "2+2" meeting will discuss operational arrangements for the Tokyo-Washington alliance, which were last amended in 1997, officials have said.
The latest incident comes on the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, a day marked by a public holiday throughout the country.
In recent months there have been fewer incidents than in the opening stages of the latest row over the islands, which erupted in September last year. However, China has apparently loosely tied the sallies to significant events, either diplomatic or domestic.
Observers say Beijing wants to create a "new normal" by demonstrating that Japan no longer has effective control over the islands. It hopes that might force Tokyo to the negotiating table over their future -- something Japan has repeatedly ruled out.
Tokyo is not prepared even formally to acknowledge the existence of any dispute.
Asia-watchers say the tense stand-off could erupt into a limited armed conflict, with some warning that it may even draw the United States in.
So far there has been little diplomatic headway on finding a solution, although both sides have made qualified offers of talks.
The long-running dispute over the ownership of the islands flared into a bitter row about a year ago when Tokyo nationalised part of the chain.

China-U.S. Military Ties Grow As Countries Eye Each Other At Sea

September 30, 2013


By Bloomberg News
China’s official People’s Daily newspaper lambasted the U.S. when it led the most recent RIMPAC naval drill, the Pacific Ocean military simulation held every other year. The 22-nation exercise reflected Washington’s bid to “contain the military rise of another country,” it said.
Next year, Chinese ships will join the Rim of the Pacific exercise for the first time. During a visit to the Pentagon last month, Foreign Minister Wang Yi described military ties as a “bright spot” in the U.S.-China relationship.
Wang’s words and China’s participation reflect a changed attitude as the world’s two biggest militaries boost contacts despite competing for influence in the Asia-Pacific, home to shipping lanes and resource reserves. The closer ties will be tested as China grows more assertive in a region dotted with nations that would call for U.S. help if attacked.
“The competition and conflicts between China and the U.S. will still be there, but it will prevent them from escalating to an unmanageable level,” Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said by phone. “It is preventable diplomacy rather than positive cooperation.”
U.S.-China ties will be on display at next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders meeting in Bali. China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea may be discussed, along with changing U.S. and Chinese roles in the region.
Military competition between the the U.S. and China is on the rise even as the two foster closer links, with China’s defense budget more than doubling since 2006. Though its military spending is less than one-fifth of the U.S., China has developed drones, stealth fighters and an aircraft carrier while deploying a type of anti-ship ballistic missile the U.S. says is meant to threaten U.S. carriers in the region.
That buildout comes as China has pushed its territorial claims more forcefully in the South and East China seas and as the U.S. Navy plans to move more forces to the region in a strategic shift.
China’s naval expansion “is largely about countering” the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Captain James Fanell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, said in a January presentation at a conference in San Diego.
“They want to have the capability to make sure that events do not occur in those three seas that they do not approve of,” said Bernard Cole, a former Navy officer who teaches at the National War College in Washington, referring to the Yellow, East and South China seas. “The problem from a U.S. perspective is that we have mutual defense treaties with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.”
Recent contacts offer a counterpoint to unease on both sides. In August, China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan visited the Pentagon and the commander of China’s navy, Admiral Wu Shengli, got a tour of a U.S. Los Angeles-class attack submarine in San Diego in September. Also last month, three Chinese ships joined search-and-rescue exercises with the U.S. off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
RIMPAC is held by the U.S. Pacific Fleet in seas around the Hawaiian islands. The exercises once trained for conflict with the Soviet Union and later included Russia as a participant. China was an observer to the drills in 1998.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi announced China would attend the exercise after a summit between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping in California in June. During the talks, the two vowed to build “a new type of military relations,” Yang said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
“This is to us a very visible manifestation of the idea that a rising China can provide a positive contribution to international security,” U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said of China’s participation in RIMPAC when he visited Beijing Sept. 10.
Still, closer ties between the U.S. and the People’s Liberation Army can be reversed, Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said by phone. The visits and the RIMPAC exercises are the “warm fuzzies of military diplomacy,” he said.
U.S. reconnaissance as well as arms sales to Taiwan remain problems in the military relationship with China, Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher with the PLA Academy of Military Science, wrote in the People’s Daily in August.
China’s participation in RIMPAC sparked concern in the U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, introduced an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act seeking to limit Chinese exposure to “sensitive information obtained through military-to-military contacts.”
“This it not like turning over an entirely new leaf, this is just one small step forward to develop a slightly more positive relationship with the PLA,” Bitzinger said. “There’s going to be steps forward and steps backward. And every time there’s a step backward generally U.S.-allied ties get stronger.”