Archive for February, 2010

23
Feb
10

Travel advisory to Mexico renewed

The United States has renewed a travel alert to Mexico, citing increased violence in the country.

The alert, issued Sunday by the State Department, is in effect until August 20 and supersedes an alert issued August 20, 2009.

“Recent violent attacks have caused the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Michoacan, Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua … and to advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution,” the alert says.

“Drug cartels and associated criminal elements have retaliated violently against individuals who speak out against them or whom they otherwise view as a threat to their organization. These attacks include the abduction and murder of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua.”

More than 16,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels shortly after assuming office in December 2006. Ciudad Juarez, in Chihuahua state across the border from El Paso, Texas, is the most violent city in the nation.

“The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern,” the alert says.

“Mexican authorities report that more than 2,600 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2009,” the report states. “Additionally, this city of 1.3 million people experienced more than 16,000 car thefts and 1,900 carjackings in 2009. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports.”

01
Feb
10

Pentagon shifts its strategy

The Pentagon will no longer shape the U.S. military to fight two major conventional wars at once, but rather prepare for numerous conflicts and not all in the same style, according to a draft of a new strategic outlook the Pentagon is announcing on Monday.

The new mantra for military planners will replace the almost 25-year-old combat planning style of fighting and winning two major conventional wars in two different locations in favor of a fighting force that is capable of protecting U.S. interests around the world from a range of threats, from terrorism to cyber attacks.

The change will be addressed in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated document that looks at future threats and the military’s requirements to mitigate them.

“It is no longer appropriate to speak of major regional conflicts as the sole or even primary template for sizing, shaping or evaluating U.S. forces,” according to a draft first obtained by Inside Defense.

The review will come on the same day the Pentagon presents its 2011 budget.

According to Pentagon officials, Defense Secretary Robert Gateswill be asking for $708 billion, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — $44 billion more the 2010 budget of $664 billion.

The last major review was released in 2006 and the Pentagon’s view of the world has changed dramatically in the four years since.

The 2006 review was heavily focused on the threat of a large-scale conventional war with China and that country’s saber rattling over Taiwan. It also stressed the need for more of and a greater role for special forces troops for use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2010 review still stresses the threats from China, but will look at the need to defend against a growing threat of cyber attacks — without directly tying China to past cyber attacks, according to Pentagon officials — and China’s focus on preemptively striking and crippling an adversary’s ability to tell what it will do next ahead of a large attack.

“Prudence demands that future conflicts could involve kinetic and non-kinetic (use of explosive weapons and laser weapons) attacks on space-based surveillance and communications,” according to the draft.

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The review will put heavy stress on quenching the insatiable need for more unmanned aerial vehicles, including Predator and Reaper, the Air Force’s premier UAV’s used by the military for both reconnaissance and air strikes. The aircraft are used in Iraq, Afghanistan and over Pakistan and Gates has said the Pentagon needs more.

01
Feb
10

Obama unveils budget

President Obama revealed a $3.8 trillion budget for 2011 on Monday that tries to balance two competing goals: continued government spending to boost the fragile economic recovery and controlling the nation’s deficit.

“We simply cannot continue to spend as if deficits don’t have consequences, as if waste doesn’t matter,” Obama said at a White House presentation. “It’s time to save what we can, spend what we must and live within our means once again.”

The budget calls for $53 billion in tax cuts and $50 billion job-creating measures, including small-business tax cuts, as well as new investments in green technology and infrastructure programs for work on roads and bridges.

The budget proposes new tax breaks and incentives for small businesses that hire new employees or boost wages, which would cost $30 billion. There would also be tax breaks for small businesses that make new investments.

The budget includes a one-year extension of Making Work Pay tax breaks, delivered as a part of last year’s stimulus package, which would cost $22 billion. This credit resulted in slightly higher paychecks for 110 million families, according to the White House.