POSTED: 11 NOVEMBER 2007 - 11:00am HST

John F Lehman - a history of bad ideas

Old Sailors Never Die:
9/11 Commissioner John Lehman on the War Path

by Tom Barry on 15 July 2004 in Foreign Policy in Focus

Blame the CIA. That's a political agenda that has found bipartisan support in Congress. Both the right and the left saw the departure of CIA chief George Tenet as a first step toward improving U.S. intelligence capabilities.

This month two bipartisan committees – the independent 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee – reviewing U.S. counterterrorism policy and the administration's response to 9/11 have fingered the CIA as having led the U.S. government astray. This assessment conflicts with the popular assumption that right-wing politics and ideology have driven all decisions by the Bush administration, including the war on Iraq. But rather than blaming the politicization of intelligence, the congressional bodies have followed the traditional route of scapegoating the CIA.

One of the most vocal critics of the CIA's performance has been John F. Lehman, Jr., former Navy secretary under President Reagan and member of the independent 9/11 commission, which will release its final report later this month. Lehman is also a leading candidate to replace Tenet as director of central intelligence.

The Present Danger, Then and Now
Over the past four decades Lehman has been a consistent advocate of U.S. military supremacy and ever-increasing military budgets. During his tenure as Navy secretary, he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. naval fleet in opposition to many in the Navy who believed that the young hotshot – who took over the job at the age of 38 – vastly overestimated the Soviet threat. He pushed out highly regarded officers such as Adm. Hyman Rickover, while winning the admiration and friendship of the most ideologically driven members of the administrations, such as assistant defense secretary Richard Perle and national security adviser Robert McFarlane.

Unlike many of the neocons and militarists who have shaped and supported the aggressive foreign policy of President George W. Bush, Lehman is no chicken hawk. As a Naval Reserve Officer, Lehman flew combat missions during the Vietnam War. But he has long traveled in the same ideological circles of the militarist right wing. He has been a longtime critic of the CIA, not because of its propensity for covert operations but because of its passivity and timid threat assessments. He blames for the CIA for misleading assessments of the tactics of the Vietnamese guerrilla armies and for downplaying Soviet military strength.

Lehman's ideological and class origins have catapulted him into national politics and into the center of the military-industrial complex. A scion of one of Philadelphia's oldest and wealthiest families, Lehman owns his own investment firm and sits on the board of directors of numerous corporations, many of which are major defense contractors. His credentials as a Navy secretary dedicated to expanding the fleet and technological capabilities of the Navy, combined with his family background in investment banking, have made Lehman a major figure in the new frontier of private equity investing in aerospace and defense industries. A member of Philadelphia's high society, Lehman can trace his family line back to an aide to William Penn, founder of the Quaker colony. The late Grace Kelley was Lehman's cousin, and while a student at Cambridge, Lehman frequently spent weekends at the palace of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in Monaco.

As a student, Lehman also began associating with the emerging right-wing elite. He joined the Intercollegiate Student Institute, founded by William Buckley, Jr., and as a graduate student roomed with Edwin Feulner, who would later become the president of the Heritage Foundation. Although a national security aide to Henry Kissinger during the Nixon administration, Lehman by the late 1970s had moved further to the right. He joined the Committee on the Present Danger that was sharply critical of the moderate national security policies of both political parties and blamed the CIA for underplaying the Soviet threat. But as time proved, the CIA national intelligence estimates provided in the 1970s were largely correct, while the independent threat assessments advanced by the Committee on the Present Danger and the closely associated Team B proved wildly overstated.

Lehman's penchant for ideology and political agendas over fact-based intelligence was one of the reasons he was forced out of the second Reagan administration. In 1987, when he left with such other hardliners as Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney, it was increasingly apparent even to the most die-hard anticommunists that the Soviet Union was beginning to implode. After leaving the Reagan administration, Lehman dedicated himself to investment banking and private equity ventures in defense industries. He also became a trustee of the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank. In his writings in such conservative publications as the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, and National Review, Lehman bemoaned the post-cold war decreases in the U.S. military budget.

Although one of the harshest critics of the CIA for its pre- and post-9/1l intelligence, Lehman has in his own policy advocacy not let facts stand in the way of his political agenda. Just eleven days after September 11, Lehman signed a statement by the Project for the New American Century that presaged the administration's own foreign policy initiatives.

Common Knowledge about Iraq
PNAC's September 20 letter to President Bush stated: "It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism."

Lehman signed another PNAC statement at the onset of the Iraq invasion that urged the president "to accelerate plans for removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. As you have said, every day that Saddam Hussein remains in power brings closer the day when terrorists will have not just airplanes with which to attack us, but chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, as well. It is now common knowledge that Saddam, along with Iran, is a funder and supporter of terrorism against Israel. Iraq has harbored terrorists such as Abu Nidal in the past, and it maintains links to the Al Qaeda network."

Although the two congressional committees on the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. response concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies got their facts wrong, Lehman himself persists in supporting the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were in cahoots.

Lehman told NBC's Meet the Press on June 20 that the commission had documents captured in Iraq that "indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda." Lehman succeeded in giving new life to the administration's claims, although the CIA quickly dismissed the assertion, saying that the documents did not support Lehman's allegation. In fact, the CIA had investigated this alleged link "a long time ago" and concluded that one officer in Hussein's militia merely had a name that was similar to that of an al-Qaeda operative. However, Lehman claimed on national television that it was new information, as yet unexamined by the commission or other government entities.

Bad Intelligence
Lehman has long charged that the CIA has dismissed dissenting points of views. He has faulted the CIA for not giving adequate attention to theories that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 attacks, and even the anthrax attacks of the fall of 2001. And Lehman continues to parrot the arguments of the neoconservatives, regularly appearing in the Weekly Standard, that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were close collaborators.

That John Lehman has even been considered as capable of directing the overhaul of the badly flawed U.S. intelligence system underscores the degree to which right-wing ideologues and agendas continue to shape U.S. national security strategy. The main lesson for intelligence reform that should be drawn from recent U.S. foreign policy misadventures is that politicized intelligence is bad intelligence.

Certainly the CIA fell short in providing fact-based intelligence about the al-Qaeda threat and the alleged Iraqi threat. But, as it has done in the past, notably under pressure from Team B and the Committee on the Present Danger in the late 1970s, the CIA reworked its own intelligence estimates to reflect the ideological convictions of the administration. But John Lehman – along with the neoconservatives, the trigger-happy militarists like Rumsfeld and Cheney, and the liberal hawks in the Democratic Party – also got it very wrong. Conveniently, they all join together again in blaming the CIA for its faulty fact-checking.



POSTED: 3 NOVEMBER 2007 - 7:00am HST

If John Lehman were Secretary of Defense

image above: ex Navy Secretary Lehman in office with model of WW2 warship on which he served
Oil crisis exercise bares US 'impotence'

Staff Writers on 1 November 2007 for

It's August 2009, oil prices have topped 150 dollars a barrel and a secret uranium plant has been detected in Iran. Tehran and Caracas are slashing oil exports by 700,000 barrels to punish the west for sanctions, and the US military is ready to move its entire Pacific fleet into the Middle East to counter threats.

It may be tomorrow's headlines, but on Thursday a high-powered panel of Washington insiders acting as the US president's national security council found they would face almost impossible choices and be powerless in such a case, baring the United States' growing inability to lead in global crises.

"In this kind of hostile environment (Iran and Iraq) would have the upper hand," said Gene Sperling, who played the treasury secretary in the exercise.
It "would make us look impotent," he added.

"This scenario could start tomorrow," said retired general John Abizaid, the former US Central Command chief.

Put on by the Securing America's Future Energy and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the unscripted one-day simulation sought to emphasize the danger of the narrow gap between world oil production capacity and demand, and the heavy US dependence on oil imports.

But it exposed the strained US military's incapacity to project its power over multiple regions, and the ability of even small countries to provoke a world political and economic crisis.

To play a White House team reacting to the news in real time, SAFE brought together nine former top presidential advisors and officials with intimate knowledge of national security affairs.

The "council" included former treasury secretary Robert Rubin playing the president's national security advisor, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage as secretary of state, former navy secretary John Lehman as secretary of defense, and former national security council official Philip Zelikow as national intelligence director.

The scenario they woke up to on May 4, 2009 was the loss to world markets of one million barrels a day in oil supplies when saboteurs in Azerbaijan caused the shutdown of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

The action heightened geopolitical tensions in the region and sent oil prices from the mid-90 dollar range to 115 dollars a barrel.

With the stock markets plummeting, the council has to advise the president what to say and do, and finds its hands tied by the strains of the Iraq war and by domestic politics.

"Energy Secretary" Carol Browner -- head of the US Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s -- says the president can release oil from the strategic reserve to alleviate gasoline prices, or call for conservation with lower speed limits, a Sunday driving ban, and other measures.

Looking at possible Russian or Iran involvement in the Azerbaijan blast, "joint chiefs chairman" Abizaid says the strategic reserve has to be kept for military needs.

Others say the public and Congress would not accept forced conservation.
With no information on who made the Azerbaijan attack -- Armenians? pro-Russian elements? Iran? -- the defense and intelligence officials say they have to be on alert but do not know what else to do.

"Our ability to project power into this area is very limited. We are strung out all over the globe," said Lehman, noting the military hasn't begun to rebuild after years in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rubin points out that with global production capacity almost maxed out, there is little possibility of replacing the lost oil flow.

"It shows how weak our hand is," he says, as the group falters on urging the president to do more than assuage US consumers.

Three months later, the situation has drastically worsened. A secret uranium enrichment plant was discovered in Iran, confirming its nuclear weapon ambitions, and oil production in Nigeria has been curtailed by rebel attacks.

As the council meets, Iran has just replied to threatened new Western sanctions by cutting back its oil production and Venezuela follows suit, sending prices past 150 dollars.

The president's advisors say there are no short-term measures to soften the economic or political blow. They also admit sanctions on Iran have little effect, that high oil prices and short supply actually encourage producer cutbacks.

Militarily, with Israel threatening to take action on Iran itself, the Pentagon says the US has to project force in the region. But doing so means moving the entire Pacific fleet to the Middle East, ceding power in the Pacific -- and Taiwan -- to China.

After failing to demand sacrifices from the American public in the years following the 9/11 attacks, the new crisis has brought things to a head, Lehman said, as he suggests reviving the draft.

"We are facing a mortal threat to our way of life here," he said.



POSTED: 15 OCTOBER 2007 - 7:150am HST

Navy cancels second LCS after talks fail

image above: General Dynamics proposal for LCS based on Austal hull design

The USA's New Littoral Combat Ships

1 October 2007 in Defense Industry Daily

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the U.S. Navy's newest surface combatant class. Optimized for shallow seas and operations within 100 miles of shore, but deployable across the ocean, LCS ships are a centerpiece of the USA's new focus on littoral warfare. They will help to counter growing "asymmetric" threats like coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines, global piracy, and terrorists on small fast attack boats.

They will also perform intelligence gathering and scouting using helicopters and UAVs, offer some ground combat support capabilities, and share tactical information with other Navy aircraft, ships, submarines, and joint units. Swappable "mission modules," UAV robot aircraft, and robotic UUV and USV vehicles will give these small ships the specialized capabilities they require for each of these roles – and the quick-replace adaptability they need to keep up.

At present, two teams are competing for the final LCS design. The General Dynamics team is offering a futuristic but practical high-speed trimaran based on Austal designs and experience. The Lockheed Martin team offers a high-speed semi-planing monohull based on Fincantieri designs that have set trans-Atlantic speed records. Team Lockheed's efforts have run into serious trouble, including cancellation of the contract for their second ship. The General Dynamics/Austal team started later, and remains on track so far – but trouble may be looming.

No immediate impact on Austal foreseen

by Sean Reilly  2 November 2007 in Everything Alabama (

The Navy is canceling construction of a second littoral combat ship (LCS) that was to be built at Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, officials announced Thursday in a decision that also sinks the service's original strategy for future buys of the futuristic vessel.

The morning announcement came after the Navy and the lead contractor, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp., could not agree on restructuring the contract to control rising costs, Rear Admiral Charles "Chuck" Goddard told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

"They were above the number that we were willing to accept," Goddard said in summarizing the outcome of talks that began in September.

The Navy will now have to work through how much to pay the General Dynamics/Austal team for aluminum and equipment already purchased for the second ship, which is in the preparatory stages of production.

At Austal, which employs 1,176 people between its Mobile River yard and other area facilities, "we see no impact on our employees or our work load for the next nine to twelve months," Chief Executive Officer Bob Browning said in an e-mail.

"Austal is committed to building our order book and workforce into the future."

Besides work on the first LCS, now about 70 percent complete, the yard is also building a second Hawaii Superferry vessel scheduled for delivery next September, Bill Pfister, the company's vice president of government programs, said in a follow-up phone interview.

In a statement, General Dynamics spokesman Jim DeMartini said the company is "disappointed" that the Navy rejected what he described as a realistic offer that shared risk equally between both sides. Even so, DeMartini said, the company remains focused on completing the first LCS "and delivering the most capable, most affordable ship we can to the U.S. Navy."

The Navy ultimately wants to build 55 of the speedy close-to-shore ships, designed for submarine hunting and other missions in shallow coastal waters.

Although Goddard and other top officials repeatedly underscored their commitment to that goal, Thursday's announcement continues a streak of bad news that has fueled unhappiness among members of Congress. While the program is still salvageable, Navy leaders have "got to send a message to Capitol Hill that they can do it, and they've got to do it soon," said Jay Korman, a principal with The Avascent Group, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.

U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, all voiced support for the LCS on Thursday. Despite the possibility of budget cuts, "we were confident that the program would receive adequate funding" for this fiscal year, Sessions, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The Navy's original buying strategy is now defunct, however. That plan had called for the General Dynamics/Austal team and a rival consortium led by Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. to build two ships each on a trial basis. The Navy had then tentatively planned to choose one of the competing designs in fiscal 2010 as the basis for future orders.

In April, the Navy canceled the second Lockheed ship, citing similar cost worries. That means each team now has only one ship in production, with both slated for delivery next year. The Navy plans to try out the two vessels in an "operational assessment" in early 2009, which could lead to a decision on future moves, Rear Admiral Barry McCullough said.

Looking ahead, a key issue is the price tag for future vessels, said Ronald O'Rourke, an analyst with the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The first four ships (including the two that have been canceled) were supposed to cost around $220 million each, although the final bill for the first two will be much higher, the Navy has acknowledged. Earlier this year, the military had asked Congress to allow the tab for the next two ships to go as high as $460 million each. That figure may no longer be valid, officials indicated Thursday.

"That was dependent on some assumptions on how many other ones we were going to build," Goddard said, "and we're going to have to go re-look at that."

The Navy has blamed the cost overruns on several factors, including rising raw material prices and an approach that called for ship construction to begin before the design was complete.

In seeking to restructure the deal for the General Dynamics/Austal vessels, the military had wanted to move from a "cost plus" arrangement that provided the team with full reimbursement of their costs, along with an agreed-upon fee, to a fixed-price agreement that included incentives for good performance. The contract for the first ship, however, will remain cost-plus.

see also:
Island Breath: HSF, Navy & Govling
Island Breath: Legislature Contact List
Island Breath: HSF Slice & Swath Technology 9/5/07
Island Breath: Maritime Administration & EIS 9/3/07
Island Breath: Support from Oahu's DMZ 8/30/2007
Island Breath: DMZ - Stop the Strykers 7/2/07
Island Breath: Superferry & Military
Island Breath: Superferry History
Island Breath: Stop the Superferry
Island Breath: Superferry Meetings