News Briefs – May 16, 2016

Poland’s defense minister accused of undermining military

Several former Polish defense ministers are calling for the dismissal of the current minister, arguing that he is undermining the image of Poland’s military within NATO and Polish society itself.
The letter, made public May 15, comes several days after Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz accused his predecessors of leaving the country defenseless with mismanagement and allowing Russian agents to influence military training.
The signatories say Macieriewicz’s claims aren’t true. They said he has discredited the army, undermined the country’s image with its allies and encouraged “aggressive activities against our country” by enemies.
A spokesman for the president, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party, denounced the letter as a “tool of the opposition” being used in a “political fight.”
The letter was signed by former Defense Ministers Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Bronislaw Komorowski, Radoslaw Sikorski, Bogdan Klich and Tomasz Siemoniak, and former deputy defense minister Janusz Zemke. AP

United Arab Emirates military plane crashes during training

The military of the United Arab Emirates says a military aircraft has crashed during a training flight in the Gulf country, killing two onboard.
The military’s general command announced the accident in a brief statement May 15. It says the pilot and an instructor were killed.
The statement did not say what type of aircraft was involved or where or when the crash happened.
The seven-state Emirates federation has one of the Arab world’s best-equipped militaries. It is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, and a Saudi-led force battling Shiite rebels in Yemen.
Its armed forces include F-16 and Mirage 2000 fighter planes as well as several types of transport aircraft, helicopters and trainers. AP

China says U.S. report hypes up its so-called military threat

China’s defense ministry says a U.S. report assessing its island-building efforts in the South China Sea has “hyped up” China’s so-called military threat.
Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun says the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on China’s military activities had “wilfully distorted China’s national defense policy” and says the U.S. is too suspicious.
Yang said in a statement on the defense ministry’s website late May 14: “China follows a national defense policy that is defensive in nature.”
The Pentagon report to the U.S. Congress May 13 said that China was focused on developing and weaponizing the islands it has built in the South China Sea so it will have greater control over the maritime region without resorting to armed conflict. AP

Moldova: 500 Russian soldiers stage military exercises

Some 500 Russian soldiers and 100 military vehicles stationed in Moldova’s breakaway republic are staging weeks of military exercises.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported May 13 that the exercises aim to test the capacity of troops in confronting and defeating conventional fighting groups engaged in trying to destabilize the situation in Trans-Dniester and seize strategic objectives.
The pro-Russian region broke away from Moldova in 1990 and a war broke out in 1992, leaving 1,500 dead.
The commander of the Russian troops in Trans-Dniester, Dmitry Zelenkov, was quoted as saying the exercises would last until the end of May.
Russia’s defense ministry says some 1,300 troops are stationed in Trans-Dniester, of which 350 are peacekeepers.
Moldova protested the presence of Russian troops in a Victory Day parade in Trans-Dniester last week. AP

Bid process expected to decide Sandia lab contract

The $2.9 billion contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico is up for grabs for the first time in two decades.
The National Nuclear Security Administration is expected this month to issue a final request for proposals to run one of the nation’s premier federal laboratories.
Sandia spokesman Jim Danneskiold told the Albuquerque Journal that while any possible change can cause concern, the lab doesn’t expect a disruption in its work.
A current schedule set April 2017 as the deadline for the new contract.
Longtime lab operator Lockheed Martin has indicated interest in bidding.
“We are reviewing the draft request for proposals now, and as with any proposal opportunity, we’ll make a final decision on bidding after we’ve received and completed a thorough review of the final RFP documents,” said a statement from Jill Krugman, a spokeswoman for the defense contractor. “We previously expressed our interest in bidding to NNSA in response to their request for information in 2015. We’re proud of our long-standing partnership with Sandia and our support of its vital national security mission.”
The agreement has been extended several times since the Department of Energy announced its intent in 2011 to put the contract up for bid.
Lockheed Martin is considered the front-runner, but Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, thinks it should be barred.
A Department of Energy Office of Inspector General report in 2014 found that Lockheed Martin used taxpayer money in lobbying for its no-bid contract extension several years ago. Sandia Corp. and Lockheed Martin paid a $4.8 million fine.
“The lab does create jobs, of that there is no dispute, but there is a lot of economic propaganda that it has this multiplying effect,” Coghlan also said. “I just don’t think it’s true.”
Administration and Sandia officials declined to comment on the bid process. AP

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