The Insider

By Dan Dupont
April 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A Joint Strike Fighter discussion of a different kind is under way:

WASHINGTON - Gov. Jan Brewer and a delegation of about 20 elected officials and Phoenix-area business leaders lobbied top Air Force generals for four hours Monday in an effort to convince them that Luke Air Force Base would be the best place to train pilots on the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"We gave it 100 percent, and I think we were successful," Brewer said afterward in an interview with the Republic on Capitol Hill. "It just felt good."

Although Air Force officials made no promises, the governor said they noted Luke's strengths, including strong community support, good year-round flying weather, and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, a 2.7 million-acre pilot training area.

"All the puzzle pieces fit together," Brewer said.


The one weakness that Air Force officials raised is that Maricopa County is a so-called "non-attainment area" under the Clean Air Act, meaning that it does not meet federal standards for the amount of fine particulate dust and soot in the air.

Brewer said Air Force officials expressed some concern about the pollution but said they did not expect that any F-35s brought to the base would add significantly to the problem.

By Jason Sherman
April 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's public affairs shop attempted last week to steer Defense Department reporters away from the math laid out in DOD's own F-35 Selected Acquisition Report -- which definitively says the total cost for Joint Strike Fighter program will increase to as much as $388 billion this June. (See pages 36 and 37 of the report.)

However, at least one key lawmaker has questions about the numbers laid out in the document -- the sole basis for the math cited in our story (derided by a Pentagon spokesman as "fuzzy," though no one -- including DOD-- has yet to explain how that could be given that the numbers are in the SAR).

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee, this morning referred to the F-35 SAR at a hearing on tactical aircraft programs. He suggested that an upwardly revised JSF independent cost estimate will raise questions about the affordability of the Pentagon's plans to buy 2,443 of the fighters, just as we reported. Here's what he said:

The Defense Department is warning Congress that the overall cost for buying the JSF will increase yet again as a result of the independent cost estimate, when it comes out this summer. The magnitude of that revised cost estimate could raise basic questions about the department's plans for and the commitment of the program's international partners to the program as it is currently envisioned.

Thune asked the service representatives at the hearing how they were prepared to handle such increases. We'll have the answer for you later today.

But let's review that math: The SAR states that the $133.5 million program acquisition unit cost (PAUC) “will increase” by as much as 18.4 percent, which would raise the PAUC to $158.1 million.

From there, the arithmetic is simple: $158.1 million x 2,443 JSF aircraft = $388 billion. Nothing “fuzzy” about it. This is the way the Pentagon has calculated program costs for more than 40 years.

By John Liang
April 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

In last week's issue, Inside Missile Defense featured a story on a GAO report that had some critical things to say about the Missile Defense Agency's LV-2 target rocket. Specifically:

GAO also found problems with the system’s technological maturity: “None of the LV-2’s six critical technologies are fully mature, even through the missile is in production. Five of the LV-2’s critical technologies -- the reentry vehicle separation system and countermeasure integration, the avionics software, avionics suite, and C4 booster -- are nearing maturity but have not been flight tested in their current form, fit, and function on the LV-2.”

In a response to an earlier draft of the report, however, Defense Department officials took issue with GAO’s definition of when a technology can be deemed “mature” before entering into system development. “For GAO, that term means Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7. For DOD, it means TRL 6,” writes Nancy Spruill, the Pentagon’s director for acquisition resources and analysis.

“Thus, throughout the draft report, there are frequent references to immature technology being used in Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP) system development, which is often true if a threshold of TRL 7 is applied,” Spruill adds. The Ballistic Missile Defense System is an MDAP.

While the LV-2 program planned to have those technologies gain maturity through a missile defense flight test as early as 2008, “the first launch has now been delayed until fiscal year 2010,” according to GAO. “In addition, the reentry vehicle shroud is still immature. Program officials discovered problems with the design of the shrouded configuration and considered developing a back-up technology as an alternative. In late 2008, however, officials determined that problems with the original design were manageable and would not affect mission objectives. This technology will not be needed until the LV-2 target’s third launch in a STSS program test now scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal year 2011. Program officials expect it to be nearing maturity by that time.”

GAO notes that in March 2006, the LV-2 target started its development “with almost all of its technologies still being demonstrated in a lab or through analytical studies -- a low level of maturity.”

A Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, however, told Inside Missile Defense in an e-mail today that the LV-2 "has been flown and successfully met all requirements in its maiden flight Jan. 31, 2010" during a failed intercept test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told IMD in a separate e-mail that the "Failure Review Board is still under way for the flight test but haven't heard of any problems with the target."

Further, the Lockheed spokeswoman wrote:

Regarding the portion of the Missile Defense Agency’s targets inventory that Lockheed Martin provides, Lockheed Martin’s Targets and Countermeasures Program has achieved an unmatched 97-percent mission success rate with 35 successful target missions out of 36 since 1996, a level of quality exemplified in the maiden mission of the LV-2 target, which is the most sophisticated target flown to date. Lockheed Martin applies stringent quality standards to yield reliable targets with best value.  As Lockheed Martin transitions from LV-2 development to production, we are focusing on efficiency and cost reduction.

By John Liang
April 12, 2010 at 5:00 AM

That's the subheadline for Credit Suisse analysts Robert Spingarn and Julie Yates in their just-published quarterly outlook for the defense industry.

A taste:

We expect a relatively quiet quarter from defense contractors, especially given previous delays in FY-10 budget approval. We suspect that government services revenues and margins could come in a little light given recent trends. DoD is in the process of overhauling its cash management and payment protocols, which could eventually drive higher working capital requirements for contractors, but it is probably to soon to see much impact on cash flow in the quarter. There were several large int’l orders in the quarter such as Boeing's order from UAE for 6 C-17s, (Lockheed Martin's) order from Egypt for 20 F-16s and the UK's selection of (General Dynamics) for up to 580 (Austrian Spanish Cooperation Development) vehicles. Separately, in a competitive bid (Raytheon) beat out (Northrop Grumman) for an $886M contract for next-gen GPS. We foresee small guidance increases from (L-3 Communications) and (Raytheon).

By Dan Dupont
April 9, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense consultant and Lexington Institute COO Loren Thompson has attacked a story we wrote this week on the Joint Strike Fighter, alleging ethical lapses and claiming that that the story is "wrong,” among other wild accusations.

Thompson's assertions are flat wrong. In an update to the story published last night, we included a response from the Pentagon's spokesman, Col. David Lapan, backing up the numbers used in the story. You can read that full story here:

Exclusive: DOD Warns Congress JSF Costs Could Skyrocket To $388 Billion By Summer

The Defense Department has told Congress the price tag for the Joint Strike Fighter program could rise as high as $388 billion by this summer, a recalibration that could raise fundamental questions about the affordability of the Pentagon's plans to buy 2,443 of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft.

In a report disclosed this week by, the Pentagon advised lawmakers that a new, statutorily mandated independent cost estimate of the F-35 program, which formally began last week, could propel F-35 costs from $133.5 million per plane -- a new high -- to as much as $158.1 million, according to DOD sources and figures provided in the 53-page report on JSF sent to Congress April 1.

“The department expects this analysis will result in increases” of as much as 18.4 percent -- or $60.4 billion -- to the current $328.2 billion JSF program cost estimate, according to figures in the report. Such a change would mark $90 billion in cost growth since 2008. obtained a copy of the report and extrapolated the cost increases with assistance from government officials.

Col. David Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said Pentagon cost estimators have calculated a slightly lower number than the $388 billion figure, “but it is not a large . . . difference.” The figure first reported by on April 6 is in the “ballpark,” Lapan said in an interview on April 8.

The story -- and its math -- have been backed by numerous officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere in the defense community, and are, as noted by Col. Lapan, not disputed by the Pentagon itself.

The numbers used in the story are based entirely on the numbers submitted by the Pentagon to Congress, which you can read here. stands behind the story as published (and as updated to reflect Pentagon comments, which were sought for the original story but not submitted to us until after it was printed).

We soundly reject Mr. Thompson's unfounded accusations.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 8, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the "New START" pact in Prague today, laying the groundwork for the extension of a nuclear disarmament agreement that has been key to relations between the two countries for decades. To enter into force, both countries' parliaments must ratify the treaty.

"While the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey," Obama said in a statement posted on the White House Web site today. "As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons," the statement reads.

The nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States make up more than 90 percent of the world's atomic weapons.

The treaty text enables Washington and Moscow to continue their work on ballistic missile defense shields, an ongoing point of contention regarding a planned U.S. system for Europe. "A missile of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the Earth shall not be considered to be a ballistic missile to which the provisions of this Treaty apply," the treaty states.

"President Medvedev and I have also agreed to expand our discussions on missile defense," Obama's statement reads. "This will include regular exchanges of information about our threat assessments, as well as the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles. And as these assessments are completed, I look forward to launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defense," the statement adds.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander is finally getting his shot at explaining to Congress his vision for U.S. Cyber Command, and senators will get a chance to inquire about the particulars of the newest military command's raison d'être. Alexander's nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for April 15, the panel announced yesterday. He will testify alongside Vice Adm. James Winnefeld, who is nominated to lead U.S. Northern Command.

President Obama nominated Alexander last October to lead CYBERCOM, the sub-unified command that initially will operate under the auspices of U.S. Strategic Command. The job of CYBERCOM chief comes with a promotion to four-star general, and Alexander would continue to be director of the National Security Agency, if confirmed.

By Thomas Duffy
April 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair yesterday addressed the Bipartisan Policy Center's conference on the "State of Intelligence Reform," hosted by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Keane (R) and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IA), the two commissioners of the 9/11 panel.

Conference attendees heard from two panels featuring intelligence community veterans like Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the former ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; and former DNI retired Adm. Mike McConnell.

Then Blair stepped up and gave his recipe for making things better in the intelligence field:

Here are three practical recommendations. They’re in progress, but they need to be driven to build that kind of agency leadership: First, as mandated by the IRTPA, every officer must serve in a joint job before he or she can be promoted to the Senior Intelligence Service. Now, this program, as Director McConnell -- former Director McConnell mentioned -- is under way.

But we need to toughen this requirement so the jobs that earn joint duty credit are those that provide real experience in the capabilities and the culture of other agencies. I can tell you that once you’ve served a significant period of time outside your home agency in the atmosphere of another agency, you go back to your former duties a changed person. You have real understanding of what can be done. So that’s number one.

Second, we need more thorough succession planning within the agencies, conducted basically by the agency leadership itself, but overseen by the DNI. Succession planning will ensure that officers promoted to leadership roles in the individual agencies truly have the right qualifications and the joint ethic. Succession planning is also necessary for other goals that we’re pursuing for the leadership of the Intelligence Community -- diversity and breadth -- as well as parent agency skills.

And third, we need to continue to improve joint education. We’ve started new joint training courses for entry-, mid-level and senior intelligence officers this year. And we’ll look to continually improve them. The curricula of these courses must be continually updated and refreshed. We’re learning the best examples; best practices are coming all the time. And as I mentioned, primarily
from the field in. And we have to plow those back into the education so that those who are in the courses can take full advantage of them.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review, released today, directs the Pentagon to retire the nuclear-tipped version of Tomahawk cruise missile, as expected.

"This system serves a redundant purpose in the U.S. nuclear stockpile," the report states. "It has been one of a number of means to forward-deploy nuclear weapons in time of crisis. Other means include forward-deployment of bombers with either bombs or cruise missiles, as well as forward-deployment of dual-capable fighters. In addition, U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs are capable of striking any potential adversary. The deterrence and assurance roles of TLAM-N can be adequately substituted by these other means, and the United States remains committed to providing a credible extended deterrence posture and capabilities."

Inside the Pentagon reported in February that the nuclear Tomahawk would likely be retired.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

White House officials plan to roll out the much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review tomorrow. The document will be heavily scrutinized for any indications of how President Obama plans to implement his vision of a nuclear weapons-free world -- or at least diminish the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security policy toolbox.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, on its Web site, editorialized about the potential outcomes of the review today. According to the UCS blog entry, a lot will hinge on subtleties in the final text, for example when it comes to the stated purpose of nuclear weapons. Options here, UCS folks write, range from characterizing atomic weapons strictly as a deterrent force to reserving the right to use them on a pre-emptive basis in certain circumstances.

Other points warranting attention will be sections on the U.S. arsenal size, stockpile maintenance plans, tactical weapons in Europe and the alert status of the U.S. arsenal, according to UCS.

By John Liang
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency plans to brief potential contractors next week on its nascent space-based, missile-launch-tracking system, envisioned as a follow-on to the experimental, dual-satellite Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

The unclassified industry day on the Precision Tracking Space System will take place on April 9 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Eastern time at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA, According to an April 1 Federal Business Opportunities notice.

The agency plans to incorporate lessons learned from the two STSS demonstration satellites currently in orbit to inform its decisions while it develops the PTSS capability, according to MDA's fiscal year 2011 budget documents. Consequently, MDA is asking Congress for $67 million in FY-11 to fund the PTSS effort, reported in February.

The agency's objective for the PTSS program "is to deliver an operational space-based system to address the ascent phase midcourse tracking challenge facing the MDA," the notice states, adding:

To meet this objective, MDA plans to first develop a prototype system, followed by an operational PTSS. The PTSS prototype and operational system are planned to consist of a constellation of spacecraft and associated ground control and processing equipment that is integrated with the developed Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) elements to support command and control, track generation, fusion, and transfer of data through the entire fire-control loop. The operational PTSS will integrate into the BMDS.

As for the industry day itself, MDA has four goals, according to the notice:

(1) to familiarize participants with MDA’s efforts in the Precision Tracking Space System,
(2) share the acquisition approach for the prototype and operational PTSS,
(3) discuss the planned timing and content of solicitations related to PTSS, and
(4) answer questions.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter spoke enthusiastically this morning about plans for a significant increase in the number of camera-equipped aerostats over Afghanistan as a cost-effective way of looking out for insurgent fighters and IED emplacers. Then, this afternoon, the Defense Logistics Agency said it is looking for a contractor to run a facility in the country where liquid helium is converted into gas -- just the kind often used in blimps and tethered balloons.


To be sure, the request for information doesn't say specifically what the gaseous helium would be used for. But the circumstances suggest a connection.

The contractor would be required to always have gas on hand -- even in the event that the conversion is for some reason unavailable, the RFI reads. "To satisfy this no-single-point-of-failure requirement, the contractor may provide on-site storage containers to store gaseous helium previously produced at the facility," according to the RFI. The production schedule is simple: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Defense officials prefer a portable facility, like one mounted on a skid, that the government would lease on a monthly basis, the RFI reads.

By John Liang
April 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A new Senate Republican Policy Committee paper is taking the Obama administration to task for not doing enough to compel Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"The United Nations Security Council has been demanding for years that Iran cease its uranium enrichment program," the paper notes. "Barack Obama made clear when he was a candidate for President that diplomacy without precondition was his preferred policy to address Iran’s nuclear program. As President he implemented that policy, saying he would give it until the end of 2009 to see 'serious movement on the part of the Iranians.' Secretary of State Clinton agreed that 'crippling sanctions' should be the consequence if diplomatic offers to Iran 'are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.'"

Has that process been successful? Republicans sure don't think so, according to the report:

There is little more to show for the year of engagement than an additional year’s worth of enriched uranium and functioning centrifuges. A publicly revealed covert uranium enrichment facility is just the most recent evidence Iran has no intention of halting its nuclear program.

Tough sanctions are intended to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program in defiance of international demands. If the U.S. does not impose them after insisting it would, both allies and enemies will question our credibility.

By Marjorie Censer
March 31, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The first increment of the Army's brigade combat team modernization effort is slated to face a Defense Acquisition Board interim review Friday (April 2), program executive office integration spokesman Paul Mehney confirmed Tuesday.

The review is the first of two required by Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter in a Dec. 24 acquisition decision memorandum signed last year. According to the memo, the review will address the network, including a maturity plan through fiscal year 2017; the Army’s plan for an open, scalable architecture; and a network technology readiness assessment to be prepared by the director of defense research and engineering. Additionally, the meeting is to provide an update on reliability growth plans, a reevaluation of the threshold and objective reliability requirements for the program and an update on the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System flight limited user test.

The memo also says the review will include a “comprehensive precision mix cost-effectiveness analysis for the BCT” intended to “demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the NLOS-LS, in EIBCT relevant scenarios, with appropriate augmentation by other Army and joint platforms.”

Meanwhile, Mehney said the Army has identified all of the fixes needed for Increment 1 based on last year's LUT and will implement the corrections by the next LUT, slated for the fourth quarter of FY-10. At a March 10 hearing, an Army official said the service had identified 94 percent of the required fixes.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 30, 2010 at 5:00 AM

June promises to be a decisive month for the military space community. For one, Pentagon leaders plan to release the final version of their space posture review during that month. In addition, officials plan to wrap up an initial capabilities document for the National Space Situational Awareness program, according to a recent Air Force note on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Such documents are created as part of the Defense Department's Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. In the case of the National SSA program, any information coming out of the effort will likely highly classified, given that military space activities are closely guarded secrets in the face of competition from countries like China and Russia.

Reliable situational awareness of all objects and goings-on in space is considered a prerequisite for any offensive and protective military space capability, Pentagon officials have said. Work on the National SSA ICD is co-led by the Air Force Space Command and the National Security Space Office, according to the March 16 FedBizOpps notice.