The Insider

By John Liang
June 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) didn't wait long to schedule the nomination hearing for Army Gen. David Petraeus to replace departed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as head of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on June 29. Petraeus is the head of U.S. Central Command.

Meanwhile, the committee this morning is considering the nominations of Army Gen. Raymond Odierno to become head of U.S. Joint Forces Command and Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III to become chief of U.S. Forces-Iraq.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama’s big meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which could decide the fate of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is scheduled to wrap up shortly after 1 p.m., according to the administration. The following officials are slated to join Obama in the Situation Room for the session:

Vice President Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State
Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff
General James Jones, National Security Adviser
Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Adviser
John Brennan, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser
Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
David Gompert, Acting Director of National Intelligence
Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID
James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Doug Lute, Coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan
John Tien, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan
General David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command
General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (via videoconference)
Ambassador Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (via videoconference)

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The New York Times reports that Gen. Stanley McChrystal met with President Obama privately for about 20 minutes this morning -- and then the general left the White House before today's scheduled major meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he had been slated to attend. (Obama and McChrystal's private one-on-one meeting was not listed on the schedule of White House events released earlier to the press.)

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has accepted the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and replaced him with U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus. Speaking in the Rose Garden, the president stressed the need to uphold the civilian control of the military. Obama said no diversion must complicate the mission in Afghanistan. "We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war," he said. This is a change in personnel but not in policy, the president stressed. Obama urged the Senate to swiftly confirm Petraeus for his new post.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has released a statement on Gen. Stanley McChrystal's profile in Rolling Stone magazine:

I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of 'Rolling Stone' magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person.

Earlier today, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) released a statement:

When General McChrystal called me this morning, I emphasized that my concern is our policy in Afghanistan and what it will take to be successful there. I respect General McChrystal as a soldier and always have. What’s most important is the 94,000 American troops serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan. Their safety and their mission should be the priority we stay focused on above all else. The Commander in Chief and his national security team, including his top commander on the ground, must have confidence in each other and confidence in the path forward in Afghanistan. It would be a grave mistake to allow this unfolding news drama to distract anyone from the mission at hand. Now is not the time for Washington to be sidetracked by chatter. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and give the President and his national security team the space to decide what is in the best interest of our mission, and to have their face-to-face discussion tomorrow without a premature Washington feeding frenzy.

By John Liang
June 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Missouri and South Dakota congressional delegations got some good news today, with the Pentagon deciding to base MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles at Whiteman Air Force Base, MO, and Ellsworth AFB, SD. According to a just-released joint statement by the Missouri's two senators, Kit Bond (R) and Claire McCaskill (D):

"The troops at Whiteman have always been at the tip of the military’s spear and the addition of the Predator mission makes this Missouri base one of the most important in the war against terrorism," said Bond, Missouri’s senior Senator and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The Predator is one of our most important and effective weapons in gathering intelligence and carrying out strikes on terrorists."

"As the home of the B-2 bomber, Whiteman Air Force Base already plays a critical role in defending our nation. The decision is further testament to the capabilities of the world class team at Whiteman. I'm proud that we will be operating these Predator missions out of Missouri and that Whiteman will continue to be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq," said McCaskill.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley gave the senators the news this morning, according to the statement. As a result of the service's choice of Whiteman, the base will get 280 new military and civilian personnel beginning in September, and will be fully staffed by February 2011.

South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in a statement released today not surprisingly also welcomed the choice:

"This decision by the Air Force recognizes the strengths of Ellsworth Air Force Base, and is a testament to the great work that has been done across the board to keep this a world class facility. As Chairman, I have been working day and night to keep this base ready for any future mission, and I’m proud that these efforts and those of our entire delegation have played a role in bringing hundreds of new jobs to South Dakota," said Johnson, Chairman of the Military Construction Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

. . . as did Sen. John Thune (R) in a statement of his own:

"Ellsworth Air Force Base and the Rapid City community is the perfect location for this new mission," said Thune. "Ellsworth's B-1 bombers have been providing on-call close air support to troops in Afghanistan with outstanding success. With this new mission, the men and women of Ellsworth will continue that tradition by providing real-time intelligence information to those same troops." Thune said.

Inside the Air Force reported last month that the Defense Department believes it would be more costly to combine key sensor development programs for Army and Air Force unmanned aircraft than to allow the services to pursue the projects separately. Specifically:

In a recent report to the congressional oversight committees, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said there is “not a business case at this time” to merge the parallel development projects for unmanned aircraft systems-based signals intelligence.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee requested Carter examine whether the dual acquisition strategies provide the “best value for the warfighter and taxpayer.” The request was part of a Senate report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations Act.

Carter’s April 12 report states that “while the capability requirements documents for SIGINT sensors appear to be similar at the macro level, there are significant differences at the sensor function and technical specification level.” That is because the military departments designed their sensor programs to meet their specific operational and technical needs.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the decision on the Marine Corps' new leadership team official Monday evening. Here's the complete statement issued by the department:

"I am pleased to announce that I have recommended to the President that Gen. James F. Amos be nominated as the next commandant of the United States Marine Corps. Gen. Amos' combat experience includes command of a Marine aircraft wing and a Marine expeditionary force during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He went on to lead the Marines' Combat Development Command and serve as deputy commandant for combat development and integration. If nominated and confirmed, Gen. Amos will be the first aviator to attain this post.

"I am also recommending that Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford be promoted to replace Gen. Amos as assistant commandant. Lt. Gen. Dunford is currently the commander of I MEF and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, with responsibility for all Marines serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters.

"Gen. James Conway will complete his term as commandant this fall and retire from the Marine Corps after four decades of outstanding service. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank Gen. Conway for his faithful and selfless service that included tours as a battalion commander in Operation Desert Storm, a Marine expeditionary force commander in Iraq, and director of operations for the Joint Staff. We will properly recognize Gen. Conway's extraordinary service at an appropriate time.

"I came to these leadership decisions after a thorough process that considered several outstanding candidates. I am convinced that Gen. Amos and Lt. Gen. Dunford are the right team to lead the U.S. Marine Corps at this time, especially as it balances the capabilities needed to support current operations, its unique maritime heritage and its future role defending America."

Inside the Navy this week has some thoughts on what it all might mean.

By Dan Dupont
June 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM

InsideDefense.com has turned up an interesting document on IEDs. Its title, "Alternative Motivations for IED Use in Afghanistan," gets at the heart of the matter: Why are these things being used against U.S. and coalition troops?

If the answer seems obvious, consider these findings from the report, written by Marco Tomasi, a U.S. Central Command analyst (and labeled "for official use only"):

(U//FOUO) Possible alternative Motivating Operations (MOs) for IED use in Afghanistan include hunger, quality of life, economic development, and opium production.

That part about hunger is a key theme.

(U//FOUO) Anecdotal reports describe incidents in which assailants used IEDs to target caravans carrying humanitarian relief supplies, including food. The attackers then stole the food, and distributed it themselves. This in itself suggests three possible behavioral functions tied to the same MO. The first is to acquire food to eliminate or decrease hunger. This function is powerful, in that it can result in some of the most desperate and extreme behavioral topographiesiii. The second is to make a profit by selling the food to those in need. Given that perpetrators stole the food, they could even sell at below-market-values and still turn a profit. Overlap may exist between this and the third function: garnering attention. The distribution of food to those in need, especially if done independent of a profit motive, would result in attention/support from a population. To state this from a public relations perspective, a group may steal food in order to distribute it as charity in their own name, so that they may win hearts and minds of the people. In effect, gaining the support of the people is the motivation, or at least part of the motivation, behind USAIDs relief actions. The specific purposes to which the IED-related behaviors serve will greatly depend on the individuals or groups engaging in the attacks.

And:

(U//FOUO) If the food security prediction for Afghanistan is correct, the likelihood of IED attacks directed at supply vehicles is likely to increase, especially throughout the mid-section of the country, as well as in the northern province of Badakhshan.

One more anecdote of note relayed in the report:

An IED was found on a road near a village in Afghanistan. It was rendered safe and the American forces went to the village to find out who was responsible. They found out that the IED was emplaced, at least in part, to attract attention to the village in the hope that some reconstruction projects would come their way.

We contacted the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization for comment on the paper, and received this reply:

As far as we are concerned, it is dated information, reflecting the opinion of one analyst.

By John Liang
June 17, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Obama administration officials have repeatedly stated that the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty under consideration by the Senate does not constrain the United States from deploying ballistic missile defenses.

Those assurances, however, may not be enough, according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had this to say in his opening statement at a hearing this morning on the new START Treaty:

While such assurances are welcome, they do not change the fact that the treaty text -- not just the preamble, but Article V of the treaty itself -- includes a clear, legally binding limitation on our missile defense options. Now, this may not be a meaningful limitation, but it is impossible to deny that it is a limitation, as the administration has said. I continue to have serious concerns about why the administration agreed to this language in the treaty text, after telling the Congress repeatedly during the negotiations that they would do no such thing, and I fear it could fuel Russia’s clear desire to establish unfounded linkages between offensive and defensive weapons.

By John Liang
June 17, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The National Nuclear Security Administration will be submitting to Congress by the end of this month a plan for transforming the U.S. nuclear weapons complex "into a modern, efficient and responsive 21st century Nuclear Security Enterprise," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this morning at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Specifically:

This Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan provides the multi-decade investment strategy needed to extend the life of key nuclear weapon systems, rebuild and modernize our facilities, and provide for necessary physical and intellectual infrastructure.

InsideDefense.com reported in April that Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter had asked the Defense Science Board to assess U.S. nuclear treaty monitoring and verification technologies:

"During the coming years, the United States is expected to engage in a series of treaty negotiations on nuclear weapons and nuclear forces," Carter writes in an April 26 terms-of-reference memo. "In addition, the rapid growth in nuclear power worldwide will likely stress the implementation practices of existing material control agreements, as well as poise more nations with the ability to acquire nuclear weapons of their own.

"Monitoring and verification measures are an integral part of all the existing, modified or new agreements," Carter's memo continues. "Potential requirements for new or expanded monitoring and verification requirements place a renewed focus -- after almost two decades of limited investment -- on the adequacy of the nation's technical tools to support monitoring and verification, both as part of the cooperative verification regimes of the treaties and through national intelligence."

Consequently, Carter wants a DSB task force to study the future of nonproliferation and arms control agreements "and the environments in which they might be implemented (for example, the level of transparency and cooperation that will be desired/required in post-Cold War arms control agreements, including treaties among nuclear states in addition to the United States and Russia)." Additionally, the task force should predict "the demands and challenges placed on existing agreements enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency with the growth in nuclear power over the next 15 to 20 years, and assess the adequacy of current practices and resources to maintain confidence that inspected nations remain nonproliferators."

Carter also calls on the board to study the possibility of adapting current technologies from other applications like ISR systems used in finding improvised explosive devices; stockpile stewardship; nuclear forensics and attribution; nuclear weapons effects; and nuclear defense and interdiction programs.

By John Liang
June 17, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to hold a hearing next week to consider the nominations of Army Gen. Raymond Odierno to become head of U.S. Joint Forces Command and Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin to become the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq.

Odierno, the current commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, was nominated for his next post by President Obama on May 24. Austin, who was nominated to replace Odierno on May 18, is serving as Joint Staff director, according to a Pentagon statement.

By Zachary M. Peterson
June 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway was preaching to the choir this morning when he addressed the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus. In his speech, Conway again reiterated the requirement for 38 amphibious vessels to carry Marines and equipment, but noted that budget constraints holding the fleet size at 33 ships were acceptable. However, anything lower than a 33-amphib fleet is “untenable,” Conway argued, according to a statement issued today by the shipbuilding caucus.

The four-star general added the “value of the amphibious fleet cannot be questioned,” the statement says.

Conway said funding for aircraft carriers, submarines, and surface ships are higher on the Navy’s priority list than amphibious ships, the statement adds. "In order to elevate the importance of maintaining a strong amphibious fleet, the Marine Corps continues to emphasize the flexibility of the amphibious platforms and their contribution to forcible entry and maintaining a presence off shore."

The Marine Corps focuses on the number of ships needed, not the dollars required to build those ships, according to the statement.

The Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS), the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee, and Rob Wittman (R-VA).

By Carlo Muñoz
June 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Time is running out for the Defense Department, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

With U.S. and coalition forces gearing up for what promises to be a difficult and bloody year ahead in Afghanistan, Gates appealed to lawmakers approve nearly $200 million in wartime funding. "I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on the supplemental," he told members of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today.

While the Senate has approved a version of the $192 million spending package, which would finance combat operations through the remaining fiscal year and into FY-11, the House version continues to languish in committee. Prior to today's hearing, Gates said he had hoped to have a wartime spending bill in place before Memorial Day.

Now, Gates has set a hard deadline of July 4 for passage of the Overseas Contingency Operations bill.

Should lawmakers fail to meet that extended deadline, DOD decisionmakers will "begin to have to do stupid things" via "disruptive plans and disruptive actions" just to keep U.S. forces ready to fight in Afghanistan.

Such rhetoric is nothing new, as Gates has expressed the same sort of urgency regarding passage of previous wartime spending bills. But with U.S. forces preparing for an large-scale counterinsurgency offensive in Southern Afghanistan, the stakes are a little higher this time around.

"Such planning is disruptive, especially in a time of war, and I ask you help in avoiding this action," he said.

By John Liang
June 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Russian Air Force later on this summer plan to conduct a cooperative air defense exercise focused on combating terrorism, according to a NORAD statement issued this afternoon:

This exercise will take place in Russian and U.S. airspace to include Western Alaska and Eastern Russia in early August 2010. The scenario will involve both Russian and U.S. aircraft monitoring an international flight seized by terrorists.

The U.S. and Russian militaries have invited media representatives to observe the exercise either from the Alaskan NORAD Region Command Center at Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK, or from the Russian Federation Air Force Control Center in Moscow, according to the statement.

By Jason Sherman
June 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's acquisition executive and comptroller are directing the Defense Department to comply with a new law requiring full and open competition for earmarks awarded by House members to for-profit entities, a statutory requirement more strict than it is for earmarks sponsored by senators.

The 2010 defense appropriations act -- section 8121, to be exact -- requires the Pentagon to sift through 99 pages of congressional earmarks and sort out which are intended for “for-profit” entities and which are to be directed to non-profits, such as universities.

Aston Carter, the acquisition executive, and Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, lay it out in a June 7 memo:

Effective immediately, comptroller, contracting and program/project management personnel should work collaboratively to identify the applicable “for-profit” earmarks sponsored solely by members of the House of Representatives and ensure . . . compliance (with the new law).