At a press briefing on Wednesday, John Rood, the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, fielded questions about the Bush Administration's new Export Control Directive - the latest attempt to reduce delays and inefficiencies in the State Department's export control system. If implemented properly, some of the proposals could help to address long-standing staffing shortages, jurisdictional issues, and Information Technology (IT) problems. Improvements in these areas could help to reduce licensing delays, which, in turn, could alleviate pressure on the State Department to relax export controls.
A new Congressional Research Service report on "U.S. Arms Sales to Pakistan" recently obtained by the FAS provides a succinct overview of recent U.S. arms sales to General Pervez Musharraf's regime, the tumultous fifty-year history of US security assistance to Pakistan, and presidential authority to stop such sales. The release of the report coincides with a worsening political crisis in Pakistan and growing Congressional and public discontent over the United States' multi-billion dollar military aid program for General Musharraf's beseiged and increasingly authoritarian regime.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the FAS, the Department of Homeland Security has released a December 2005 report to Congress on the status of DHS's efforts to counter the threat from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to commercial airliners.
The report, which Congress required as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, sheds new light on several key DHS counter-MANPADS efforts, including airport vulnerability assessments, contingency plans for MANPADS attacks, and intelligence sharing and law enforcement training. These efforts are part of a multi-faceted U.S. campaign to deprive terrorists of access to these weapons and mitigate the threat from missiles that are already in terrorist arsenals.
The latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia contains additional information about the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles used by Islamic insurgents to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft in March. Below is an excerpt from the UN report:
On 23 March 2007, at approximately 1700 hours, an IL-76 cargo plane
belonging to Transaviaexport, a Belarusian company, was shot down after a missile
fired by Shabaab fighters hit the left wing. The plane, with 11 crewmembers and
passengers, was hit at low altitude following take-off. It had earlier delivered
logistics and spare parts for another aircraft that had made an emergency landing at
Mogadishu International Airport. The missile used to shoot down the plane was an
SA-18 (MANPAD, Man Portable Air Defence System). The SA-18 was reported to
be part of a consignment of six SA-18s that had been delivered by Eritrea to
ICU/Shabaab. Two missiles were fired at the plane; one hit the target and the other
missed. The Monitoring Group showed the Committee a video of the actual firing of
the missile, during the midterm briefing on 27 April 2007.
At a press briefing on Monday, Assistant Secretary of State John Rood elaborated on the Bush Administration’s latest attempt to secure license-free defense exports to the UK, a contentious issue that sparked a bruising battle between the administration and House Republicans three years ago. This time the exemptions are packaged in the form of a Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty (DTCT), the stated goal of which is to “improve transatlantic defence information sharing by reducing the barriers to exchanges of defence goods, services and information between the US and UK.” By pursuing a treaty, the administration avoids another confrontation with the House, but it remains to be seen whether the Democrat-controlled Senate will tolerate what appears to be an end-run around their colleagues, especially given the administration’s apparent failure to adequately consult either chamber before negotiating the treaty.
Note: After this entry was posted, the Associated Press revealed that the item in question is actually a 20-year-old expended AT-4 anti-tank missile launcher that posed no threat.
This morning a woman from Jersey City discovered a "missile" lying in the grass on her front lawn. Niranjana Besai showed the missile to her neighbor, who told CBS 2 News that at first he thought the 6-foot-long item was just a pipe. Upon closer inspection, he concluded that it looked like the missile launchers he'd seen on TV. The New Jersey television station said that their "sources" told them that the "device is the type used ot shoot shoulder-fired rockets and is capable of taking down an aircraft."
Little else is known about the item, but initial descriptions are consistent with the physical appearance of many man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), the launch tubes of which are approximately 5 to 6 feet long and look a bit like a pipe. Private ownership of MANPADS is ilegal in the United States, and the version used by the US military - the Stinger missile - is one of the most tighly guarded weapons in its arsenals. If the item is indeed a MANPADS, it would have profound national security and policy implications.
On Friday, the Washington Post posted an Associated Press story with a video still of a man in civilian clothes holding what appears to be an advanced SA-18 Igla man-portable air defense system (MANPADS).* To date, the only MANPADS reported to be in the arsenals of the Somali insurgents were the less sophisticated SA-7.** The video was reportedly obtained by the Associated Press from an individual associated with Shabab, the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controlled much of Somalia before it was routed by Ethiopian troops in December 2006. Last October, UN investigators reported that the ICU had received six weapons shipments containing several dozen shoulder-fired missiles.
In a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), FAS analyst Matt Schroeder provides an unprecedented look at global efforts to counter the terrorist threat from Man-portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The report, which appears as an appendix in this year's edition of the SIPRI Yearbook, goes beyond mainstream media coverage of counter-MANPADS efforts (i.e. the myopic focus on anti-missile systems) by providing detailed summaries of oft-ignored but critically important programs to secure MANPADS inventories, destroy surplus missiles, collect missiles from the black market, and strengthen export controls. Also assessed are the strengths and limitations of the various anti-missile systems that are currently being considered for installation on commercial airliners and at airports. The appendix concludes with a list of recommendations for expanding and strengthening international counter-MANPADS efforts.
The FAS has acquired, via a Freedom of Information Act request, additional information about a cache of "22 surface-to-air missiles" discovered by Coalition Forces north of Baghdad on 4 January 2006. According to the responsive document - a redacted entry from a database maintained by Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) - the missiles were SA-13 "Gopher" surface-to-air missiles. The SA-13 is a short-range, low altitude, infra-red seeking missile that is typically launched from a pedestal mounted on the back of an armored vehicle. The weapons cache, which included 5000 rounds of 32 mm cannon ammunition, was located with a mine detector and appeared at the time to have been "emplaced in the last 2 weeks." It is unclear from the DoD documents if the missiles were operational or who they belonged to.
On Thursday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced a new bill that would require the Pentagon to establish a pilot program "to determine the feasibility and desirability" of equipping turbojet planes in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) with anti-missile systems. The CRAF is a Defense Department program that draws on civilian passenger and cargo aircraft to supplement the military's existing airlift capacity during emergencies. As of November 2006, there were 1,379 aircraft enrolled in the CRAF.
The program established by the 'Civil Reserve Air Fleet Missile Defense Pilot Program Act of 2007' (HR 2274) would require the installation of DoD-certified anti-missile systems on at least 20 CRAF planes for a two-year period. The bill authorizes $75,000,000 to cover costs associated with the program, and is co-sponsored by Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL).