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Connecting the dots: What’s the Defense Dept up to?

patty@samoanews.com

New Zealand website stuff.com reported this week that the U.S. Department of Defense is looking at helping to pay for a new cable that would link New Zealand, Australia and the United States with plans for spurs to several Pacific Islands, including American Samoa.
 
An unnamed Auckland source told a Fairfax New Zealand News reporter the department had an interest in spending about $100 million directly or indirectly on the proposed Hawaiki cable to link its defense bases.
 
Neither Hawaiki company nor the Defense department would confirm the interest to the reporter.
 
The US said in 2011 that it would build a permanent base for thousands of US Marines in Darwin.
 
The Australian Government said in June that the number of Marines at the base would rise from between 200 and 250 to 1150 next year. By 2016, it would support a 2500-strong Marine Air Ground Task Force.
 
“If interest in a fiber link translated into a contract, that could be a big boost for Hawaiki Cable, a New Zealand-based venture headed by former Alcatel-Lucent chief executive Remi Galasso,” the source told Fairfax NZ News.
 
Hawaiki is gathering financing and customers for an 8700 mile cable network that it hopes to lay in 2015 at a cost of $350 Million.
 
This week the company signed a letter of intent with Australia's fourth-largest internet provider, TPG Telecom, which has expressed interest in buying tens of millions of dollars worth of capacity on its Sydney-US and Sydney-Whangarei links.
 
In July this year, Hawaiki signed a memorandum of understanding with a Northland development agency, to build a landing site in Whangarei, New Zealand for the cable, including a station and other land-based infrastructure to support it.
 
BROADBAND COMES TO TONGA
 
Also this week the World Bank announced that high speed broadband has gone live in Tonga. The US $32.8 million Pacific Regional Connectivity Project financed the development of a submarine cable system that is now delivering the broadband service. It is being supported by the World Bank Group, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Tonga Cable Corporation.
 
The 500 mile+ fiber optic cable system linking Tonga to Fiji via the Southern Cross Cable (the main trans-Pacific link between Australia and the United States) will provide Tonga’s population of 100,000 with affordable, accessible, information and communication technology services.
 
“The advent of high speed internet is a landmark event for Tonga,” said Franz Drees-Gross, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. “The cable will make it faster and easier for Tongans to communicate which will bring profound benefits to development.”
 
U. S. IN THE PACIFIC
 
Stars and Stripes foreign policy reporter John Reed published a report titled “How the US is encircling China with military bases” in its Wednesday online edition. Stars and Stripes is authorized by Congress and the US Department of Defense to produce independent daily military news and information distributed at U.S. military installations in Europe and Mideast and East Asia. It is not distributed within the United States.
 
In his report that was reprinted in the Saipan Tribune, Reed said, “The U.S. military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a "divert airfield" on an old World War II airbase there. But the residents don't want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.”
 
He said the Pentagon's big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that's nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. And he said, “If truth be told, a lot of Air-Sea Battle is still in the conceptual phase. But a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific.”
 
According to Air Force documents on the Saipan project, the Air Force wants to expand the existing Saipan International Airport to accommodate cargo, fighter and tanker aircraft along with up to 700 support personnel for "periodic divert landings, joint military exercises, and joint and combined humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts."
 
Reed reports, in addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia, a top, but unnamed U.S. Air Force general revealed last month.
 
 A report yesterday in the Hindustan Times, one of India’s leading English language newspapers, names the general as General Helbert 'Hawk' Carlisle, the Commander of the US Air Force assets in the Pacific and says, “Remarks that his country is planning to station a military aircraft in Thiruvananthapuram as part of its policy of encircling China with defence bases has created flutters in Delhi and the government has dismissed any such possibility.”
 
The General's views have created a sort of unease in India with top Defence Ministry sources telling the newspaper that the Ministry is not discussing with the US any plans to base its assets on Indian soil. "India is not going to allow any foreign country to establish any military base on it's soil," the sources said.
 
SIDEBAR 1
 
In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ran an ad in Samoa News looking for land in American Samoa to be used for military training.
 
The ‘Public Notice’ said the Corps of Engineers is seeking to lease about 80 to 15,000 acres to be used for military training such as small unit tactics, land navigation and driver training.
 
The entire acreage must be available for exclusive use by the army and the landowner must allow capital improvements to meet training requirements and use of pyrotechnic and blank ammunition during day and night training.
 
The notice said the land shall be used 60 days a year and during training, access roads and training site shall be used on a 24-hour basis.
 
The lease was sought for a five-year term, with options to renew.
 
SIDEBAR 2
 
O3b Networks, the company with which American Samoa Telecommunication Authority (ASTCA) signed an agreement in January to provide up to 1.2Gbps of future broadband connectivity for Internet and other services for American Samoa has a prior relationship with the U.S. Dept. of Defense through its association with SES WORLD SKIES.
 
In March 2010, SES WORLD SKIES, a division of SES S.A. announced it is hosting a new, mission-critical Department of Defense communications node near the nation’s capital.
 
SES wholly owns satellite operators SES ASTRA and SES WORLD SKIES as well as participations in Ciel in Canada, QuetzSat in Mexico and satellite infrastructure start-up O3b Networks.
 
O3b CEO Steve Collar is a former SES executive as was the former CEO Mark Rigolle who has now returned to SES.
 
The O3b network is also venturing into communications at sea by offering the first fiber-quality, ultra-fast maritime broadband solution in conjunction with Harris CapRock.
 
CapRock, which was acquired by Harris Corp. in 2010, supports a wide range of customers in the energy, maritime and government industries, including Chevron, Diamond Offshore, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, MODEC, Shell, Transocean, KBR, Green Reefers, Gulf Offshore, Seatrans, Oceaneering, Subsea 7, the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and other federal civilian agencies.



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