The annual war authorization (NDAA) is an excellent opportunity to examine our military’s roles and goals in the world. In this episode, learn about how much of our tax money Congress provided the Defense Department, including how much of that money is classified, how much more money was dedicated to war than was requested, and what they are authorized to use the money for. This episode also examines our Foreign Military Financing programs with a deep dive into a new partner country: Ecuador.
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“‘Es hora de un Plan Ecuador’: el presidente Lasso dice en entrevista con la BBC que su país necesita ayuda para enfrentar el narcotráfico.” Vanessa Buschschluter. Nov 4, 2021. BBC.
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“An Ecuadorean Town Is Sinking Because of Illegal Mining.” Updated Mar 28, 2022. CGTN America.
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“Ecuador’s Power Grid Gets a Massive Makeover.” Frank Dougherty. Mar 1, 2021. Power.
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Jen’s highlighted version
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January 19, 2023
The Atlantic Council
17:51 Gen. Laura Richardson: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that has been ongoing for the last over a decade in this region, 21 of 31 countries have signed on to this Belt and Road Initiative. I could take Argentina last January, the most recent signatory on to the Belt and Road Initiative, and $23 billion in infrastructure projects that signatory and signing on to that. But again, 21 of 31 countries. There are 25 countries that actually have infrastructure projects by the PRC. Four that aren't signatories of the BRI, but they do actually have projects within their countries. But not just that. Deepwater ports in 17 countries. I mean, this is critical infrastructure that's being invested in. I have the most space enabling infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere in Latin America and the Caribbean. And I just caused question, you know, why? Why is all of this critical infrastructure being invested in so heavily? In terms of telecommunications, 5G, I've got five countries with the 5G backbone in this region. I've got 24 countries with the PRC Huawei 3G-4G. Five countries have the Huawei backbone infrastructure. If I had to guess, they'll probably be offered a discount to upgrade and stay within the same PRC network. And so very, very concerning as we work with our countries.
20:00 Gen. Laura Richardson: What I'm starting to see as well is that this economy...the economy impacts to these partner nations is affecting their ability to buy equipment. And you know, as I work with our partner nations, and they invest in U.S. equipment, which is the best equipment, I must say I am a little biased, but it is the best equipment, they also buy into the supply chain of spare parts, and all those kinds of things that help to sustain this piece of equipment over many, many years. So in terms of the investment that they're getting, and that equipment to be able to stay operational, and the readiness of it, is very, very important. But now these partner nations, due to the impacts of their economy, are starting to look at the financing that goes along with it. Not necessarily the quality of the equipment, but who has the best finance deal because they can't afford it so much up front.
24:15 Gen. Laura Richardson: This region, why this region matters, with all of its rich resources and rare earth elements. You've got the lithium triangle which is needed for technology today. 60% of the world's lithium is in the lithium triangle: Argentina Bolivia, Chile. You just have the largest oil reserves -- light, sweet, crude -- discovered off of Guyana over a year ago. You have Venezuela's resources as well with oil, copper, gold. China gets 36% of its food source from this region. We have the Amazon, lungs of the world. We have 31% of the world's freshwater in this region too. I mean, it's just off the chart.
28:10 Gen. Laura Richardson: You know, you gotta question, why are they investing so heavily everywhere else across the planet? I worry about these dual-use state-owned enterprises that pop up from the PRC, and I worry about the dual use capability being able to flip them around and use them for military use.
33:30 Interviewer: Russia can't have the ability to provide many of these countries with resupply or new weapons. I mean, they're struggling to supply themselves, in many cases, for Ukraine. So is that presenting an opportunity for maybe the US to slide in? Gen. Laura Richardson: It is, absolutely and we're taking advantage of that, I'd like to say. So, we are working with those countries that have the Russian equipment to either donate or switch it out for United States equipment. or you Interviewer: Are countries taking the....? Gen. Laura Richardson: They are, yeah.
45:25 Gen. Laura Richardson: National Guard State Partnership Program is huge. We have the largest National Guard State Partnership Program. It has come up a couple of times with Ukraine. Ukraine has the State Partnership Program with California. How do we initially start our great coordination with Ukraine? It was leveraged to the National Guard State Partnership Program that California had. But I have the largest out of any of the CoCOMMs. I have 24 state partnership programs utilize those to the nth degree in terms of another lever.
48:25 Gen. Laura Richardson: Just yesterday I had a zoom call with the U.S. Ambassadors from Argentina and Chile and then also the strategy officer from Levant and then also the VP for Global Operations from Albermarle for lithium, to talk about the lithium triangle in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and the companies, how they're doing and what they see in terms of challenges and things like that in the lithium business and then the aggressiveness or the influence and coercion from the PRC.
June 15, 2022
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): The GAO found that the LCS had experienced engine failure in 10 of the 11 deployments reviewed.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): One major reason for the excessive costs of LCS: contractors. Unlike other ships where sailors do the maintenance, LCS relies almost exclusively on contractors who own and control the technical data needed to maintain and repair.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): Our top priority and national defense strategy is China and Russia. We can't waste scarce funds on costly LCS when there are more capable platforms like destroyers, attack submarines, and the new constellation class frigate.
May 25, 2022
Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense
Carlos Del Toro, Secretary, United States Navy
Admiral Michael M. Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations
General David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): I think the christening was just a few years ago...maybe three or so. So the fact that we christened the ship one year and a few years later we're decommissioning troubles me.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): Are there not other uses, if there's something missing from this class of ships, that we would avoid decommissioning?
Adm. Michael Gilday: We need a capable, lethal, ready Navy more than we need a larger Navy that's less capable, less lethal, and less ready. And so, unfortunately the Littoral combat ships that we have, while the mechanical issues were a factor, a bigger factor was was the lack of sufficient warfighting capability against a peer competitor in China.
Adm. Michael Gilday: And so we refuse to put an additional dollar against that system that wouldn't match the Chinese undersea threat.
Adm. Michael Gilday: In terms of what are the options going forward with these ships, I would offer to the subcommittee that we should consider offering these ships to other countries that would be able to use them effectively. There are countries in South America, as an example, as you pointed out, that would be able to use these ships that have small crews.
April 25, 2022
March 31, 2022
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Kerri Hannan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy, Policy, Planning, and Coordination, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Peter Natiello, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, Latin America and Caribbean Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development
Andrew M. Herscowitz, Chief Development Officer, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
Margaret Myers, Director of the Asia & Latin America Program, Inter-American Dialogue
Evan Ellis, Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies
24:20 Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA): Ecuador for example, nearly 20 years ago, former President Rafael Correa promised modernization for Ecuador, embracing Chinese loans and infrastructure projects in exchange for its oil. Fast forward to today. Ecuador now lives with the Chinese financed and built dam that's not fully operational despite being opened in 2016. The Coca Codo Sinclair Dam required over 7000 repairs, it sits right next to an active volcano, and erosion continues to damage the dam. The dam also caused an oil spill in 2020 that has impacted indigenous communities living downstream. And all that's on top of the billions of dollars that Ecuador still owes China.
56:40 Peter Natiello: One example that I could provide is work that we've done in Ecuador, with Ecuadorian journalists, to investigate, to analyze and to report on the issue of illegal and unregulated fishing off Ecuador's coast. And we do that because we want to ensure that Ecuadorian citizens have fact-based information upon which they can make decisions about China and countries like China, and whether they want their country working with them.
1:23:45 Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA): There are 86 million tons of identified lithium resources on the planet. On the planet. 49 million of the 86 million are in the Golden Triangle. That's Argentina, Bolivia, Chile. So what's our plan?
1:54:10 Evan Ellis: In security engagement, the PRC is a significant provider of military goods to the region including fighters, transport aircraft, and radars for Venezuela; helicopters and armored vehicles for Bolivia; and military trucks for Ecuador.
2:00:00 Margaret Myers: Ecuador is perhaps the best example here of a country that has begun to come to terms with the challenges associated with doing business with or interacting from a financial or investment perspective with China. And one need only travel the road from the airport to Quito where every day there are a lot of accidents because of challenges with the actual engineering of that road to know why many Ecuadorians feel this way.
March 10, 2022
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Jessica Lewis, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Mara Elizabeth Karlin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, U.S. Department of Defense
1:23:17 Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): According to one study, the DoD manages 48 of the 50 new security assistance programs that were created after the 9/11 attacks and out of the 170 existing security assistance programs today, DOD manages 87, a whopping 81% of those programs. That is a fundamental transition from the way in which we used to manage security assistance. And my worry is that it takes out of the equation the people who have the clearest and most important visibility on the ground as to the impact of that security assistance and those transfers.
Sen. Chris Murphy: We just spent $87 billion in military assistance over 20 years in Afghanistan. And the army that we supported went up in smoke overnight. That is an extraordinary waste of U.S. taxpayer dollars, and it mirrors a smaller but similar investment we made from 2003 to 2014 in the Iraqi military, who disintegrated when they faced the prospect of a fight against ISIS. Clearly, there is something very wrong with the way in which we are flowing military assistance to partner countries, especially in complicated war zones. You've got a minute and 10 seconds, so maybe you can just preview some lessons that we have learned, or the process by which we are going to learn lessons from all of the money that we have wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jessica Lewis: Senator, I'll be brief so that Dr. Karlin can jump in as well. I think we do need to learn lessons. We need to make sure, as I was just saying to Senator Cardin, that when we provide security assistance, we also look not just at train and equip, but we look at other things like how the Ministries of Defense operate? Is their security sector governant? Are we creating an infrastructure that's going to actually work? Mara Elizabeth Karlin: Thank you for raising this issue, Senator. And I can assure you that the Department of Defense is in the process of commissioning a study on this exact issue. I will just say in line with Assistant Secretary Lewis, it is really important that when we look at these efforts, we spend time assessing political will and we do not take an Excel spreadsheet approach to building partner militaries that misses the higher order issues that are deeply relevant to security sector governance, that will fundamentally show us the extent to which we can ultimately be successful or not with a partner. Thank you. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): You know, in Iraq, last time I was there, we were spending four times as much money on security assistance as we were on non-security assistance. And what Afghanistan taught us amongst many things, is that if you have a fundamentally corrupt government, then all the money you're flowing into the military is likely wasted in the end because that government can't stand and thus the military can't stand. So it also speaks to rebalancing the way in which we put money into conflict zones, to not think that military assistance alone does the job. You got to be building sustainable governments that serve the public interests in order to make your security assistance matter and be effective. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
March 8, 2022
House Armed Services Committee
Melissa G. Dalton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Office of the Secretary of Defense
General Laura Richardson, USA, Commander, U.S. Southern Command
General Glen D. VanHerck, USAF, Commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command
17:30 General Laura Richardson: Colombia, for example, our strongest partner in the region, exports security by training other Latin American militaries to counter transnational threats.
1:20:00 General Laura Richardson: If I look at what PRC (People's Republic of China) is investing in the [SOUTHCOM] AOR (Area of Responsibility), over a five year period of 2017 to 2021: $72 billion. It's off the charts. And I can read a couple of the projects. The most concerning projects that I have are the $6 billion in projects specifically near the Panama Canal. And I look at the strategic lines of communication: Panama Canal and the Strait of Magellan. But just to highlight a couple of the projects. The nuclear power plant in Argentina: $7.9 billion. The highway in Jamaica: $5.6 billion. The energy refinery in Cuba, $5 billion. The highway in Peru: $4 billion. Energy dam in Argentina: $4 billion, the Metro in Colombia: $3.9 billion. The freight railway in Argentina: $3 billion. These are not small projects that they're putting in this region. This region is rich in resources, and the Chinese don't go there to invest, they go there to extract. All of these projects are done with Chinese labor with host nation countries'.
November 30, 2021
Senate Foreign Affairs Committee
Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Todd D. Robinson, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State
1:47:15 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): I'd like to start with Mexico. I am increasingly concerned that the Mexican government is engaged in a systematic campaign to undermine American companies, and especially American energy companies that have invested in our shared prosperity and in the future of the Mexican people and economy. Over the past five months, Mexican regulators have shut down three privately owned fuel storage terminals. Among those they shut down a fuel terminal and Tuxpan, which is run by an American company based in Texas, and which transports fuel on ships owned by American companies. This is a pattern of sustained discrimination against American companies. And I worry that the Mexican government's ultimate aim is to roll back the country's historic 2013 energy sector liberalisation reforms in favor of Mexico's mismanaged and failing state-owned energy companies. The only way the Mexican government is going to slow and reverse their campaign is if the United States Government conveys clearly and candidly that their efforts pose a serious threat to our relationship and to our shared economic interests.
2:01:50 Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): Mr. Nichols, can you can you just be a little more specific about the tactics of the GEC? What are some of the specific activities they're doing? And what more would you like to see them do? Brian A. Nichols: The Global Engagement Center both measures public opinion and social media trends throughout the world. They actively work to counter false messages from our strategic competitors. And they prepare media products or talking points that our embassies and consulates around the hemisphere can use to combat disinformation. I think they do a great job. Obviously, it's a huge task. So the the resources that they have to bring to bear to this limit, somewhat, the ability to accomplish those goals, but I think they're doing vital, vital work.
2:13:30 Todd D. Robinson: We are, INL (International Narcotics and Law Enforcement) are working very closely with the Haitian National Police, the new Director General, we are going to send in advisors. When I was there two weeks ago, I arrived with -- they'd asked for greater ability to get police around the city -- I showed up with 19 new vehicles, 200 new protective vests for the police. The 19 was the first installment of a total of 60 that we're going to deliver to the Haitian National Police. We're gonna get advisors down there to work with the new SWAT team to start taking back the areas that have been taken from ordinary Haitians. But it's going to be a process and it's going to take some time. Sen. Bob Menendez: Well, first of all, is the Haitian National Police actually an institution capable of delivering the type of security that Hatians deserve? Todd D. Robinson: We believe it is. It's an institution that we have worked with in the past. There was a small brief moment where Haitians actually acknowledged that the Haitian National Police had gotten better and was more professional. Our goal, our long term goal is to try to bring it back to that Sen. Bob Menendez: How much time before we get security on the ground? Todd D. Robinson: I can't say exactly but we are working as fast as we can. Sen. Bob Menendez: Months, years? Todd D. Robinson: Well, I would hope we could do it in less than months. But we're working as fast as we can.
January 25, 2018
Senate Committee on Armed Services
Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman of Kissinger Associates and Former Secretary of State
Dr. George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University and Former Secretary of State
Richard L. Armitage, President, Armitage International and Former Deputy Secretary of State
Dr. George Shultz: Small platforms will carry a very destructive power. Then you can put these small platforms on drones. And drones can be manufactured easily, and you can have a great many of them inexpensively. So then you can have a swarm armed with lethal equipment. Any fixed target is a real target. So an airfield where our Air Force stores planes is a very vulnerable target. A ship at anchor is a vulnerable target. So you’ve got to think about that in terms of how you deploy. And in terms of the drones, while such a system cannot be jammed, it would only serve to get a drone—talking about getting a drone to the area of where its target is, but that sure could hit a specific target. At that point, the optical systems guided by artificial intelligence could use on-board, multi-spectral imaging to find a target and guide the weapons. It is exactly that autonomy that makes the technologic convergence a threat today. Because such drones will require no external input other than the signature of the designed target, they will not be vulnerable to jamming. Not requiring human intervention, the autonomous platforms will also be able to operate in very large numbers.
Dr. George Shultz: I think there’s a great lesson here for what we do in NATO to contain Russia because you can deploy these things in boxes so you don’t even know what they are and on trucks and train people to unload quickly and fire. So it’s a huge deterrent capability that is available, and it’s inexpensive enough so that we can expect our allies to pitch in and get them for themselves.
Dr. George Shultz: The creative use of swarms of autonomous drones to augment current forces would strongly and relatively cheaply reinforce NATO, as I said, that deterrence. If NATO assists frontline states in fielding large numbers of inexpensive autonomous drones that are pre-packaged in standard 20-foot containers, the weapons can be stored in sites across the countries under the control of reserve forces. If the weapons are pre-packaged and stored, the national forces can quickly deploy the weapons to delay a Russian advance. So what’s happening is you have small, cheap, and highly lethal replacing large, expensive platforms. And this change is coming about with great rapidity, and it is massively important to take it into account in anything that you are thinking about doing.
June 15, 2017
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
Tina Kaidanow, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State Vice Admiral Joseph Rixey, Director, U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency
14:40 Tina Kaidanow: Arms Transfers constitute an element of foreign policy. We therefore take into account foreign policy considerations as we contemplate each arms transfer or sale, including specifically, the appropriateness of the transfer in responding to U.S and recipient security needs; the degree to which the transfer supports U.S. strategic foreign policy and defense interests through increased access and influence; allied burden sharing and interoperability; consistency with U.S. interests regarding regional stability; the degree of protection afforded by the recipient company to our sensitive technology; the risk that significant change in the political or security situation of the recipient country could lead to inappropriate end use or transfer; and the likelihood that the recipient would use the arms to commit human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law, or retransfer the arms to those who would commit such abuses. As a second key point, arms transfers support the U.S. Defense industrial base and they reduce the cost of procurement for our own U.S. military. Purchases made through the Foreign Military Sales, known as the FMS, system often can be combined with our Defense Department orders to reduce unit costs. Beyond this, the US defense industry directly employs over 1.7 million people across our nation.
20:20 Vice Admiral Joseph Rixey: FMS is the government-to-government process through which the U.S. government purchases defense articles, training, and services on behalf of foreign governments, authorized in the Arms Export Control Act. FMS is a long standing security cooperation program that supports partner and regional security, enhances military-to-military cooperation, enables interoperability and develops and maintains international relationships. Through the FMS process, the US government determines whether or not the sale is of mutual benefit to us and the partner, whether the technology can and will be protected, and whether the transfer is consistent with U.S. conventional arms transfer policy. The FMS system is actually a set of systems in which the Department of State, Department of Defense, and Congress play critical roles. The Department of Defense in particular executes a number of different processes including the management of the FMS case lifecycle which is overseen by DSCA (Defense Security Cooperation Agency). Technology transfer reviews, overseen by the Defense Technology Security Administration, and the management of the Defense Acquisition and Logistics Systems, overseen by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and the military departments. This process, or a version of it, also serves us well, in the DoD Title X Building Partnership Capacity arena, where the process of building a case, validating a requirement and exercising our U.S. acquisition system to deliver capability is modeled on the FMS system. I want to say clearly that overall the system is performing very well. The United States continues to remain the provider of choice for our international partners, with 1,700 new cases implemented in Fiscal Year 2016 alone. These new cases, combined with adjustments to existing programs, equated to more than $33 billion in sales last year. This included over $25 billion in cases funded by our partner nations' own funds and approximately $8 billion in cases funded by DOD Title X program or Department of State's Appropriations. Most FMS cases move through the process relatively quickly. But some may move more slowly as we engage in deliberate review to ensure that the necessary arms transfer criteria are met.
Design by Only Child Imaginations