NATO begins SOFA negotiations with Afghanistan
NATO began Status of Forces Agreement negotiations with the government of Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued Dec. 21.
Kirby’s statement reads as follows:
“Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was pleased to learn that NATO has begun negotiations with the Government of Afghanistan on the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
“NATO’s decision to move forward with negotiations on a SOFA is yet another demonstration of the international community’s willingness to support Afghanistan after 2014.
“But, as both the NATO Secretary General and Secretary Hagel have made clear, the Alliance won’t finalize their agreement with the Bilateral Security Agreement still hanging in the balance. The message of the United States and its allies in Europe is clear: the Bilateral Security Agreement should be signed without any more delay.”
Two men accused in National Guard fraud case
A sergeant with the New Mexico Army National Guard and his father-in-law are being accused of fraudulently obtaining recruiting bonuses.
The Albuquerque Journal reports SFC Travis Nau of Albuquerque is facing one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
His father-in-law, retired Col. Isaac Alvarado of Albuquerque, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.
The indictment was filed this week in federal court.
According to the indictment, Nau allegedly supplied Alvarado with the names and Social Security numbers of potential recruits, which enabled Alvarado to claim that he recruited the applicants and collect about $12,000 in bonuses. AP
China lashes out at Japan’s new defense plan
China’s military lashed out Dec. 21 at Japan’s plans to boost defense spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.
China “resolutely opposes” the five-year defense plan adopted by Japan Dec. 17, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
Japan “continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimized nations,” Geng said.
The strongly worded statement marks the latest salvo in the ongoing string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea.
China’s military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Japan’s nationalization of the islands in September 2012 sparked violent demonstrations in several Chinese cities. In the months since, Chinese patrol vessels have routinely confronted Japanese ships in the area, sparking fears of an incident.
Under the arrangement adopted Dec. 17, Japan will raise defense spending by 5 percent over the next five years to purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and set up an amphibious unit similar to the U.S. Marines.
Broader defense program guidelines also adopted Tuesday say Japan is “gravely concerned” about China’s growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, and its lack of transparency and “high-handed” approach. Late last month, China said all aircraft entering a vast zone over the East China sea must identify themselves and follow China’s instructions.
Geng accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century.
He accused Japan of maintaining a “Cold War mentality” that runs counter to the trends of peaceful development, cooperation and mutual benefit.
“We urge Japan to reflect deeply on its history, strictly adhere to its commitment to peaceful development, and take concrete measures to improve relations with its neighbors to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development,” Geng said. AP
Air Force upgrading Utah base for F-35 jets
Utah’s Hill Air Force Base is adding flight simulators and ammunition bunkers after being chosen as an operational base for a fleet of new fighter jets.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it has awarded nearly $6 million in contracts for the construction work at base 20 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Just weeks ago the U.S. Air Force announced it selected Hill as the base for 72 of the fighter jets.
The corps says one $4 million contract will renovate and expand a building that houses flight simulators for pilot training.
Four more simulators will be added for the new F-35 jet. The construction work was awarded to Ogden’s Creative Times Inc. covered bunkers for aircraft munitions. That job was won by Zumwalt Construction Inc. of Fresno, Calif. AP
Lockheed Martin ends Boy Scouts gifts over gay ban
Defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is halting donations to the Boy Scouts of America over the organization’s ban on gays serving as adult leaders.
Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Dec. 19 that the company decided it won’t support nonprofit organizations that don’t align with its corporate policies or commitment to diversity. The company didn’t disclose how much it has given the group.
In a statement, Johndroe says, “We believe engaging with and funding an organization that openly discriminates is in conflict with our policies.” He says the company applauds the Scouts’ mission but has a conflict with policies that discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Maryland-based Lockheed follows UPS and Intel in withdrawing support for the group.
The Boy Scouts said Lockheed has a right to express its opinion. Lockheed’s decision was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. AP
Boeing notifies bidding sites about 777X status
Boeing says it has begun telling states whether they’re still in the running to build its new 777X.
Boeing has gotten proposals from 22 states covering 54 locations that all want to build the plane. Boeing says it is narrowing the list down and is telling each location its status in the process. Boeing isn’t releasing the list publicly.
The company says it expects to pick a location early next year.
Boeing began looking for a new location to build the successor to its popular 777 after union workers in Washington State rejected a deal that would have kept the work there. The 777X is expected to bring thousands of well-paying jobs to wherever it is assembled.
Boeing is aiming to deliver the plane in 2020. AP
North Carolina out of the running for new Boeing 777X plant
Boeing has decided not to build its newest plant in North Carolina.
State officials said the aircraft builder told them Dec. 20 that sites in Charlotte, Greensboro and Kinston were out of the running as the site for a plant to build the new 777X airliner.
At least 22 states presented Boeing with proposals to build the plane. Boeing is letting the sites know as they fall out of the process. The company hopes to choose the site for its newest plant in early 2014.
Gov. Pat McCrory says North Carolina won’t land every project and made a bid that fit the state’s needs and provided a good return on its possible investment. AP
Alabama still interested in Boeing, not talking
Gov. Robert Bentley’s office says Alabama is interested in seeing Boeing jetliners built in the state, but it isn’t saying whether that might happen.
Boeing says it has started telling states whether they remain in the running to build its new 777X aircraft.
Bentley spokeswoman Jennifer Ardis said Dec. 20 the state remains in a non-disclosure agreement with Boeing, so officials can’t comment on the project.
Boeing has gotten proposals from 22 states covering 54 locations that all want to build the plane. Boeing says it is narrowing the list down and is telling each location its status in the process.
Boeing isn’t releasing the list publicly, but Huntsville officials say their area is being considered.
Boeing says it expects to pick a location early next year. AP