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More Instability, Less DoD Money Worries Mullen

UPDATED: With comments by Naval War College piracy expert

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, said today is concerned the global financial crisis may "result in increased instability" around the globe. "At a time when resources are drying up... what does that mean for security," Mullen asked, making it clear he is worried.

Mullen spoke before an audience of more than 1,500 attending the Reserve Officers Association's annual conference. Perhaps most worrying, the chairman conceded that the US national security establishment has a fairly poor record at gauging where and when trouble might break out. "Those of us who have been doing this for a while know we are not good at predicting," the world's next trouble spot.

Mullen didn't mention that the Office of Management and Budget has called for a 10 percent reduction in planned defense spending for the upcoming budget year but it must have been on his mind. It could wipe out a considerable amount of the flexibility any military planner likes to have when confronting a dark and uncertain world.

Mullen also spoke about piracy, telling the conference that "there are significant individuals making a lot of money on piracy," stressing that the problem is "not just about the pirates on the beach."

The sea-going economy is enormous, Mullen noted, topping $2.2 trillion a year. The chairman told the Reserve Officers Association annual conference that the solution to the piracy problem is "not just about navies." The international community is making headway on the piracy issue. For example, Kenya has agreed to accept pirates captured at sea and jail them and try them. Among the recent moves by the international community to shore up its defense against pirates, the European Union recently deployed an anti-piracy task force to the seas off of Somalia, from which many of the recent piracy attacks have sprung.

An expert on piracy at the Naval War College noted that the solution to Somali piracy, at least, lies with fixing what happens on shore. So far, said Derek Reveron, a professor at the Newport, R.I. establishment, "the US Navy has been about deterring and disrupting piracy and not arresting pirates." Reveron said Kenya's decision to start trying pirates may lead to changes in the Navy's approach, "but I am more optimistic in commercial shippers solving this problem by avoiding the area with slow ships and understanding that evasive measures are more effective than armed responses. While many countries are deploying their navies to East Africa, it is not sustainable and will not solve the problem of piracy, which begins ashore in the failed state of Somalia."

[If you haven't seen it before, there's a nifty map of piracy attacks here, with links to detailed description of attacks on shipping.]

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