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Fat Leonard’ Scandal Influences Pentagon’s pick to lead Joint Chiefs

Fat Leonard

By Debbie Gregory.

When it came time for the Pentagon to chose a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of their top choices turned out to be tainted rattled by the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard” because of his size, has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes and more.  He wanted classified information to help his Singapore-based company retain lucrative contracts to resupply Navy vessels in the Pacific, as it had done for more than a quarter-century.

Francis confessed to swindling the Navy out of $35 million and bribing scores of officers.

Francis confided to federal agents in early 2015 that he had paid for opulent dinners and other favors for Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, then-commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific. Locklear was one of four contenders to head the Joint Chiefs.

While the Justice Department decided to not press charges, and despite being cleared of wrongdoing by the Navy, his association with the 350-pound contractor helped sink Locklear’s chances to lead the Joint Chiefs.

The Navy has declined to disclose how many people it has kicked out of the service for taking bribes or gifts from Francis.

Locklear last served as the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command from March 9, 2012, to May 27, 2015. Prior to that, he served as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe – U.S. Naval Forces Africa and NATO’s Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples. Prior to that, he served as Director, Navy Staff from July 2009 to October 2010. He retired from the Navy on July 1, 2015, after 39 years of service.

President Barack Obama nominated Gen. Joseph Dunford to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 5, 2015. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and took over from Army General Martin Dempsey on September 25, 2015, and officially took office on October 1, 2015.

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Dunford Outlines Military Strategy

dunford2

By Debbie Gregory.

Change is coming at strategic levels in the Defense Department, according to Gen. Joseph Dunford , the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The soon-to-be-finalized National Military Strategy will focus on developing international alliances, projecting power to faraway places, and reframing the definition of war to aid in the Defense Department’s planning processes.

The U.S. needs better ways to deal with Russian behavior in Ukraine and Georgia, Iran’s actions across the Middle East, and China’s behavior in the South and East China Seas, Dunford said.

“Each of those nations have leveraged economic and political influence, information operations, unconventional operations and military pressure to advance their national interests,” he added. “I refer to that as adversarial competition that has a military dimension, but falls short of actual conflict.”

The traditional U.S. approach is to think the nation is at peace or at war, but these countries are blurring the lines between peace and war, according to Dunford.

“I like to remind people who have a high level of confidence in assumptions on when, where and how we will fight the next fight … that the Korean War took place right after some of the best strategists that we’ve ever produced as a nation decided to rebalance to Europe,” he said. Military operation plans, therefore, are ill-suited to prepare forces for what defense leaders consider an increasingly complex international security environment, according to Dunford.

A re-evaluation of what constitutes war is necessary because Russian activities in Europe have been carefully orchestrated to fall below the West’s threshold.

Dunford alleged that Moscow was specifically seeking to undermine America’s ability to project power and “the credibility of our alliances” because those two capabilities represent the “centers of gravity” from which the US military draws strength.

“We don’t have mission command today at the strategic level,” he said. “And more importantly, we haven’t set the fundamental conditions that are necessary to establish mission command.”

Previously, the Pentagon’s National Military Strategy documents have been released publicly, but the new version will be classified. The documents are waiting for approval from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

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Could the Cold War be Heating Up Again? Military Connection

military connection

By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps commandant thought to be taking over the Joint Chiefs of Staff told lawmakers that he felt that Russia was the “greatest threat” to US national security.

“Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,” Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military post in the US, acting as the chief military adviser to the president, the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense. Obama nominated Dunford for the job in May, after the current CJCS, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced his retirement.

With its large nuclear arsenal, destabilizing role in Ukraine and threat to NATO nations on its borders, Russia presents a significant challenge to the U.S., even as it faces threats like that of ISIS.

Other top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Secretary Deborah James have also voiced similar concerns.  James said that NATO members should honor the promise they made to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, in order to combat the alleged threat from Moscow.

When asked about other top challenges, Dunford said that China has been increasingly assertive in the South China and East China Seas. He said that China has been building up artificial islands for possible military use, and asserting territorial rights disputed by their neighbors, most of whom are American allies.

Also on the list were ISIS and North Korea, since North Korea has ballistic missile capabilities.

If confirmed, Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps and former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will face an uncertain budget environment for the armed services, with the threat of forced cuts through sequestration looming later this year.

“What keeps me up at night is our ability to respond to the unexpected,” General Dunford told the Senators. “On balance, our force can deal with the challenges that we have now. But there is very little residual capability.”

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Could the Cold War be Heating Up Again? Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory