The Cable

Navy chief: We don’t know what happens next in Libya war

The U.S. military does not know when it will hand off control of the intervention in Libya to an international coalition, or whether a transfer of power will allow it to reduce its role in the war, according to the Navy's top military officer.

Adm. Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, said that he has received no guidance on the path ahead for command and control of the no-fly zone, no-drive zone, no-sail zone, arms embargo enforcement, and any other missions currently being managed by U.S. Africom Commander Gen. Carter Ham, who is in Germany. NATO has been battling internally over whether to take command, while the French government's latest proposal is to set up a "political steering committee" made of Western and Arab foreign ministers.

Diplomatic sources told The Cable that the United States has communicated to its European partners that it wants to hand off command of the Libya war by the end of this week. But the White House hasn't said whether it supports the French plan. Meanwhile, the Navy, which is conducting the bulk of the operations, has no idea what the transfer of control will look like, or when it might take place.

"We are very mindful of the transition to another command and control lead or structure," Roughead told a meeting of the Defense Writers Group, a set of reporters who interview senior officials over greasy eggs and bacon. "There are a lot of political aspects to it.... Obviously I'm interested in the transition to a different command and control structure."

"Do you have any clarity at all on what the follow-up transition command structure is going to be?"  Wired's Spencer Ackerman asked Roughead.

"They're still working that," Roughead said, adding that he doesn't believe the absence of a future command structure has a negative impact on the ongoing operations. He said previous models of international command and control don't apply.

Roughead also said there's no guarantee that U.S. military forces would be able to decrease their presence or activities when the transition takes place. In other words, the U.S. military might give up control, but still be doing most of the work.

"We have to look at what the design is going to be... and then you'll make your force structure decisions based on that," Roughead said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a quick handover of control in a Tuesday interview with ABC News.

"It will be days. Whether it's by Saturday or not depends upon the evaluation made by our military commanders along with our allies and partners," she said.

Asked who the mission will be handed over to, Clinton said, "That is still being worked out."

Clinton also left open the possibility that Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi could stay in power even after the military mission in Libya is complete, as President Obama did in a Tuesday interview with NBC.

"Now obviously, if we want to see a stable, peaceful, hopefully someday democratic Libya, it is highly unlikely that can be accomplished if he stays in power as he is," Clinton said.

Roughead also said he didn't think the Libya mission would be very expensive for the Navy.

"It may sound like I'm trying to minimize it and I'm not... when you look at the expenses of what we in the Navy incurred, given the fact that the forces were already there, those costs are sunk for me," he said. "The Growlers [U.S. navy electronic jamming warplanes] we brought in were being flown in Iraq anyway."

The Cable

Ros-Lehtinen targets several State Department budget items

House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has responded to the  president's fiscal 2012 international affairs budget request, recommending the elimination of over a dozen State Department and foreign aid programs.

"Those who complain about potentially diminished levels of International Affairs funding need to ask themselves how much less an insolvent United States of America would be able to do," Ros-Lehtinen wrote to House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan in her official response to the administration's 2012 budget request, which was obtained by The Cable. "It is no longer sufficient to ask whether a particular activity is useful. Rather, the correct question is whether a given activity is so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it."

She said the administration's separation of State Department funding between regular budget accounts and the war-related account known as "overseas contingency operations," (OCO) obscures what she calls the "dramatic and unsustainable" funding increases for diplomacy and development over recent years. The OCO account includes money to help the State Department assume increased responsibilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which totaled $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2010.

Ros-Lehtinen said that when all the money requested is totaled, it equals $61.4 billion -- or a 13 percent increase over fiscal 2010 levels.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the entire State Department and USAID fiscal 2012 budget request, which can be found here, seeks just over $47 billion, a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2010 levels. The president is requesting a grand total of $50.9 billion for U.S. diplomacy and development efforts, after accounting for programs outside State and USAID, such as the Peace Corps, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. That's $3.7 billion -- or 6.7 percent less -- than the $54.6 billion that was requested for the same accounts in fiscal 2011.

Obama is also requesting $8.7 billion in supplemental funding for the State Department and USAID in fiscal 2012 under the OCO account, a $2.3 billion increase over the fiscal 2011 request.

Ros-Lehtinen criticized several items in the administration's budget request. She said the State Department's $12 billion request for operations was too high, and pledged to fight "locality pay" increases for foreign services officers, which were passed in 2008 to account for differences between what diplomats receive abroad as compared to when they live in Washington.

Ros-Lehtinen also recommended cutting off assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which would save $225 million, and cutting off economic assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, a savings of $400 million. She also recommended ending funding for the Asia Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the East-West Center.

As for foreign aid, Ros-Lehtinen wants to freeze the number of direct hire employees at USAID and take $2.9 billion away from the organization, returning it to fiscal 2008 levels. She also wants to end foreign aid to countries who give out foreign aid of their own, including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

Some other targets of Ros-Lehtinen's budget axe include global health programs, global climate change programs, the Peace Corps, the Organization of American States, the United Nations Development Program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In an attached dissenting letter from the committee's ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), he defended the administration's request as part of an integrated national security spending strategy.

"In a world characterized by great turmoil and uncertainty, the budget request represents the resources needed to protect Americans and American national security interests around the world," Berman wrote.

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