Bunker Busters
As North Korea flirts with war, Wired magazine reports “the Pentagon is stepping up efforts to neutralize hardened bunkers” by developing new bombs “five times as strong as the current models by the end of the year, and ten times more powerful by 2013.” The new ordnance will be delivered by B-52s, B-2s and F-15Es.

Did you know?
The Pentagon reports that at least eight Iraqis who fled their homeland and sought refuge in America during the war have returned to Iraq as members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Source: USAToday

No News Is Good News
You won’t read it on the morning paper or see it on the evening news, but the United States military has dramatically—and perhaps irreversibly—turned the corner in Iraq, as the nonpartisan Brookings Institution details in its Iraq Index:

  • Iraq rates fourth in the region in political freedom, just behind Israel, Lebanon and Morocco.
  • Under Saddam Hussein, there were no commercial TV stations and no independent newspapers; by 2006 there were 54 commercial TV stations and 268 independent newspapers and magazines.
  • In May 2003, Iraq had no trained judges; by December 2008, Iraq had 1,225.
  • The average megawatt hours of electricity in prewar Iraq was 95,000; today it’s more than 145,000.
  • Iraq’s GDP jumped from $20.5 billion in 2002 to $60.9 billion by the end of 2008.
  • Prewar Iraq had just 833,000 telephone subscribers; today there are 17.7 million cellular and 1.3 million landline phone subscribers.
  • Internet subscribers jumped from 4,500 in prewar Iraq to 820,000 by April 2009.
  • The number of foreigners illegally crossing into Iraq has fallen from 80-90 per month in 2007 to 10-20 in 2009.
  • Attacks on energy installations and personnel have fallen from 30 per month in late 2004 to one per month in 2009.
  • The size of Iraq’s security forces has grown from 30,000 in mid-2003 to more than 589,000 by late 2008.
  • U.S. troop strength has zigzagged from 150,000 in 2003 to 115,000 in early 2004 to 160,000 in late 2005 to 171,000 in late 2007 to 134,000 in mid-2009 (and falling).
  • Monthly U.S. troop fatalities that once were as high as 137 now are in the single digits and low teens. The Army has borne the lion’s share of fatalities, with 3,108 dead. The Marines have lost 1,018; the Navy 97; the Air Force 49; and the Coast Guard one.

Find out more at www.brookings.edu/saban/iraq-index.aspx.

Making History
The Heritage Foundation recently answered the question, “Would President Obama’s budget plan really increase deficit spending much more than other modern presidents?” with an emphatic yes. Here’s how Obama’s deficit spending compares to his predecessors (spending measured as a percentage of economic output):

JFK -1 percent
LBJ -0.9 percent
Nixon -1.6 percent
Ford -3.5 percent
Carter -2.4 percent
Reagan -4.3 percent
Bush -4.3 percent
Clinton -0.1 percent
Bush -3.2 percent
Obama -7.3 percent

Bad Checks
Of the millions of stimulus checks being sent to Social Security beneficiaries, an estimated 10,000 are going to people who are deceased.

As Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL TV reports, one of those bad checks was mailed to Rose Hagner, who died in 1967. Her son, who is 83, told the station the check brought shock and laughter “all at the same time.”

The Social Security Administration blames the problem on a tight deadline to mail all the $250 checks by mid-June.

Academy Applications Soar
AP is reporting a spike in applications to the U.S. Military, Naval and Air Force academies, with Annapolis reporting a 40-percent increase in applications compared to 2008. “Annapolis received about 15,300 applications for about 1,230 positions—the highest number of applications the academy has received since 1988.” Applications are up 10 percent at Air Force and 9 percent at West Point.

As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.