The Complex

Everyone Hates U.S. Bases in Asia -- Until Disaster Strikes

It was 1991 when a closely divided Philippine government ordered U.S. forces to leave the naval base in Subic Bay, a sprawling facility that had been used by Americans for decades. The Philippines and the U.S. militaries have interacted since, but only recently began discussing the possibility of again basing U.S. forces in the southeastern Asia nation. Even that hit a reported snag, however, over how the Philippine military would be allowed to use U.S. facilities built there.

It is against this backdrop that the U.S. military scrambled to assist the Philippines after much of it was leveled by Super Typhoon Haiyan, the monstrous storm that roared over the island nation Friday. Officials have said it may have killed more than 10,000 people, as a wall of water and winds in excess of 200 miles per hour devastated the country.

U.S. Marines were among the first to respond, sending about 90 personnel and two KC-130J planes from Futenma, Japan on Sunday to assess the damage. On Monday, the military announced additional support, including the deployment of more Marine Corps aircraft to perform search and rescue missions and deliver supplies and food to stranded civilians. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also ordered the aircraft carrier George Washington and other U.S. ships to the Philippines, including the cruisers Antietam and Cowpens, the destroyers Mustin and Lassen, and the supply ship Charles Drew.

"As needed, these ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts led by the government and military of the Republic of the Philippines," said Pentagon press secretary George Little on Monday night. "The ships should be on station with 48-72 hours. The Defense Department is continuing to work closely with the Philippine government to determine what, if any, additional assets may be required."

The response could become the latest example of the U.S. winning both goodwill and political points with an eastern Asian country while responding to natural disaster. In each case, the U.S. military's positioning of forces in the region allowed it to provide robust assistance more quickly and effectively than any other nation. That underscored America's ability to respond to crisis when other countries -- especially China, a growing power -- were unwilling or unable to do so. That, despite opposition at worst and mixed feelings at best in some of those nations to the U.S. moving to increase the amount of forces it circulates through the Pacific.

"The United States, for all of our problems, still has a lot of good working relationships and good will in that area of the world," said Michael Auslin, an expert on Asian politics and security issues at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. "The tragedy here is unfortunately an opportunity for us to show what we can do."

Auslin cited the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as a more drastic example of how providing humanitarian assistance improved U.S. relations in Asia. In that case, the worst hit country was Indonesia, which had maintained a frosty relationship with the U.S. since it imposed sanctions on the Indonesian government in 1991 following an incident in which Indonesian soldiers opened fire on a demonstration in East Timor, killing more than 270 people. After more than 130,000 Indonesians were killed by the tsunami, however, the U.S. dispatched the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and other ships to the region, providing helicopters and other assistance.

The U.S. relationship with Indonesia began to normalize afterward, most notably with the U.S. lifting an arms embargo in 2006. By last year, Indonesia's ministers had grown enough trust in the U.S. that they said they approved of the U.S. Marines expanding operations in nearby Australia, and wanted to conduct more disaster relief training with the American forces.

In another example, U.S. forces responded to a brutal earthquake in northeastern Japan in 2011 that killed more than 15,000 people and caused three nuclear reactors at a nuclear power plant to melt down. An estimated 24,000 U.S. service members took part in the relief effort, Operation Tomodachi. The Pentagon later acknowledged that some of them may have been exposed to radiation in the process, boosting their chances of developing cancer and other diseases. Japan's top officials later eased their rhetoric over the U.S.'s plans to shift forces around on its Japanese bases, thanking them for their help after the disaster.

In the case of the Philippines, the U.S. has a far better relationship than it did with Indonesia in 2004, said Murray Hiebert, an expert on southeastern Asia issues at the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. In particular, the Philippine military has worked with U.S. special operators in small numbers for years to fight the nation's insurgent groups, which include the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Still, America's involvement in the typhoon relief effort will service as a reminder to Philippine officials that there are benefits in striking a deal to allow the U.S. to base Marines and sailors there on a rotational basis. "Neither side is talking all that much" about it now, Hiebert said, but will likely circle back to it in coming weeks.

"The Philippines wants this very badly," he said. "They want us as a hedge against a growing China. I can't imagine they are going to spurn this opportunity."

The Complex

Navy Benches Intel Chiefs in Bribery Scandal ... And Promises That More Heads Will Roll

The U.S. Navy's widening scandal involving prostitutes, cash bribes and the fat-cat defense contractor who allegedly supplied them for sensitive military information just expanded to colossal proportions. The Navy announced Friday night that it has suspended access to classified information for two senior intelligence officers, effectively relieving them from duty. It's all part of the ongoing investigation into global defense Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

And the Pentagon is warning that more officers are likely to be implicated in this scandal, the Navy's biggest in decades. 

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, pictured above, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless -- the service's director of naval intelligence and director of intelligence operations, respectively -- have not been charged with any crimes. But the suspension "was deemed prudent given the sensitive nature [of] their current duties and to protect and support the integrity of the investigative process," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's top spokesman, in a statement.

The allegations against Admirals Branch and Loveless "involve inappropriate conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer rank," Kirby said. Intelligence officers need to maintain high standards in their personal lives because they're such tempting targets for blackmail by a hostile spy service. The military frequently pulls personnel from vital intelligence jobs if it believes their credibility could be compromised. Any association with a scandal involving prostitutes and bribery would certainly count as a reputational threat. At the moment, however, "there is no indication, nor do the allegations suggest, that in either case there was any breach of classified information," Kirby added.

The announcement takes a growing scandal and expands it to the most senior levels of the U.S. military. The Navy has not seen a scandal this large since dozens of naval officers were accused of sexually assaulting about 80 women and a handful of men at the Tailhook Association Symposium in Las Vegas in 1991. That incident ultimately ruined or harmed the careers of more than a dozen admirals.

Kirby told Foreign Policy on Friday night that he expects the scandal to continue expanding. Branch and Loveless's clearances were suspended at the direction of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, he added.

"I believe there will be more naval officers and perhaps Navy civilians implicated in this scandal," Kirby told Foreign Policy. "These allegations are personal misconduct."

Already, three Navy officials and two Glenn Defense executives have been charged in U.S. federal court in connection with the case. All three other Navy personnel -- two active-duty commanders and a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service -- are accused of sharing sensitive or classified information with Glenn Defense CEO Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for prostitutes, cash and other favors. Francis allegedly used that information, in turn, to overbill the U.S. military millions of dollars while servicing Navy ships in ports across the Pacific.

The Navy also relieved of command Capt. Daniel Dusek, the captain of the amphibious ship Bonhomme Richard, in connection with the investigation. He has not been charged with any crimes, but officials said that commanders lost confidence in him.

The Navy's announcement Friday came as Francis, the Glenn Defense CEO, appeared in court with two others already facing charges: Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, the first officer accused, and NCIS agent John Beliveau.

Also charged in the case are Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez and Glenn Defense executive Alex Wisidagama of Singapore. Misiewicz, Beliveau and Sanchez allegedly accepted bribes in the forms of prostitutes while traveling in the Pacific and luxury hotels in exchange for a variety of Navy information, including ship schedules. Sanchez is accused of accepting $100,000 in cash and prostitutes. Wisidagama is accused of serving as a lynchpin in his company's alleged scheme to overbill the Navy throughout Southeast Asia.

"According to the allegations in this case, a number of officials were willing to sacrifice their integrity and millions of taxpayer dollars for personal gratification," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said this week in announcing the charges against Sanchez. "While the overwhelming majority of the 400,000 active-duty Navy personnel conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, we and our law enforcement partners at Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Defense Criminal Investigative Service continue to investigate the allegations of fraud and corruption that tarnish the stellar reputation of the U.S. Navy."

The scandal has rocked the Navy's 7th Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, just as it was set to boost operations in the Pacific. Court documents in the cases of both Misiewicz and Sanchez say that other unidentified Navy personnel were aware of malfeasance, and either did nothing or participated in the schemes. In one example, the criminal complaint against Misiewicz says he attended a Lady Gaga concert on May 25, 2012, with other Navy personnel who visited Laem Chebang, Thailand, during a port stop by the Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Navy's 7th Fleet. Several of the officer ensnared in the scandal served on the ship during their careers.

Francis allegedly purchased the concert tickets and paid for prostitutes for the men who attended, according to Misiewicz's complaint.

"Don't chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines :) ... Who can we trust in the Office for Lady Ga Ga?" Francis said in a May 2012 email to Misiewicz, prosecutors allege, noting the playful use of emoticons in the message. "Tickets are not the issue who will keep silent :)"

Beliveau is accused of passing information about NCIS's investigation into Glenn Defense to Francis in exchange for prostitutes, airfare, posh hotel rooms, and a laptop computer for Beliveau's girlfriend. In particular, it outlines one trip Francis allegedly arranged for Beliveau in March 2011 to Bangkok, Thailand.

"According to one email, Francis asked: ‘Joyce your kinda Babe'? Beliveau replied ‘Nice. You bet. Hopefully I'm her kinda guy, hehe,'" the criminal complaint against him says. A photograph of the woman was allegedly attached to the email.

The complaint against Sanchez includes similar allegations. Prosecutors say he received $100,000 cash from Francis's company in January 2009, and continued to share sensitive Navy information with him until earlier this year. It included internal information that Glenn Defense used to its advantage while servicing U.S. ships. The company has locations in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the United States, and deliberately overcharged the Navy while "husbanding" the ships, providing food, fuel, water, waste removal, and other tasks, prosecutors say.

Sanchez's complaint also has a variety of specific allegations regarding the officer accepting prostitution. Francis is accused of emailing a woman in Indonesia early in March 2011 to arrange prostitutes to meet Sanchez, another unidentified Navy commander, and two other men in Singapore.

One of the emails described one of the "girls" as "Alda 167 cm [height] 36b [bra size] very young n still study, 17 yr," the complaint says. Francis later sent an email cancelling the planned meeting due to a tsunami in the region that allegedly kept Sanchez and his friends away from Singapore, prosecutors say.

Later that month, however, Francis sent Sanchez an email containing a picture of one of the prostitutes that had planned to meet the Navy officers in Singapore, court documents say. A brief message was attached: "I miss you BABE :)." Sanchez allegedly emailed the Glenn Defense CEO back the same day, saying "Nice pictures.....Brings back good memories :)."

U.S. Navy