The Insider

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 12, 2010 at 5:00 AM

As much as the idea of social network analysis is en vogue in defense circles, officials at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization still have a lot to learn in that department, according to the outfit's new boss.

Familial and tribal relationships in Afghanistan, for example, are “very, very foreign to most of us Westerners,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates told defense bloggers today. “Fundamentally, our challenge with social networking in Afghanistan and in Iraq is still driven by significant cultural ignorance,” he said. “We have a long way to go.”

The assessment comes as U.S. coalition forces a face sharp increase in the number of IEDs planted on the roads of Afghanistan, Oates said. For JIEDDO, the point of using social network analysis techniques is to identify, track and neutralize individuals who are key in insurgent bomb emplacement operations.

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

The Senate Armed Services Committee has some new members, panel Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) announced today in a statement.

Sen. Paul Kirk (D-MA) is out, and Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Edward Kaufman (D-DE) are in, according to the committee statement.

Brown will serve on the airland, emerging threats and strategic forces subcommittees. Bingaman will be on the personnel and strategic forces subpanels. Kaufman has been appointed to the emerging threats and seapower subcommittees.

By Marcus Weisgerber
March 11, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter just told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will breach critical Nunn-McCurdy spending caps.

Defense Department Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Christine Fox said in prepared testimony that officials Nunn-McCurdy notification is expected by April 1 and certification should be complete by June.

Fox also just told lawmakers that F-35s will cost between $80 million and $95 million per copy using 2002 dollars. Back in 2002, the planes were expected to cost $50 million per copy.

In addition to Carter and Fox, Pentagon Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Michael Gilmore and DOD Acting Program Executive Officer for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Air Force Maj. Gen. Clyde Moore and Michael Sullivan from the Government Accountability Office are all testifying this morning.

By John Liang
March 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The head of United States Division-Center in Iraq today gave a window on some of the irregular warfare lessons learned -- particularly working with the State Department -- over the past several years' operations in that country.

"We're doing a fair bit out here working with the State Department and these provincial reconstruction teams doing civil capacity operations," Maj. Gen. Terry Wolff told reporters this morning in a teleconference call. Additionally:

And so we kind of consider that a supporting line of effort of ours. Security and helping the ISF deal with the security is mission number one, but we also have a strong and vibrant effort working with our State Department and other interagency brethren who partner with us on -- every single day.

So it's not unusual to have a session, either out on the ground or back in headquarters planning, where we have Provincial Reconstruction Team members, State Department folks working side by side with USAID with a small American element, be it a platoon or a small company, that's out there doing business with Iraq tribal sheikhs, provincial leadership and Iraqi security forces all together. That's much different than what we experienced in 2003 or even 2004, and we've gotten a lot better at doing that. And that's what you're seeing play out both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

By John Liang
March 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

An "interim" version of the Pentagon's 2010 Space Posture Review was signed today by a senior Defense Department official, according to Air Force space programs chief Gary Payton.

Payton told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee this afternoon that officials from the office of the director of national intelligence have not yet approved the report. Once that is done, a copy will be made available to Congress, he added.

As Inside the Air Force reported in January, the service is conducting its own soup-to-nuts review of its space policies, programs and operations with plans to have a final slate of recommendations ready for review by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley by the end of the year.

Donley outlined the parameters and prime objectives of the review in a service-wide memo issued on Dec. 9, 2010, ITAF reported, adding:

Service officials have conferred with DOD regarding the ongoing Air Force review, according to the service official, who declined to comment on what kind of impact the DOD-led review would have on the service assessment, or how the service review would be incorporated into the Pentagon’s work.

“It has been a positive discussion, and I’ll just leave it at that,” the official said.

While the review is on pace to meet the mid-2010 deadline set by Donley in the Dec. 9 memo, the official said no preliminary versions of the report’s recommendations have been issued. “I do not think it is going to work like that,” the source said. “I think it is going to be more of an iterative process.”

By Marjorie Censer
March 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Malcolm O'Neill was sworn in today as the Army's new acquisition chief, according to Lt. Gen. William Phillips, the military deputy to O'Neill. Phillips appeared at a hearing of the House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee.

O'Neill, a retired three-star Army general, was nominated in late 2009, but his confirmation was held up until last week, when Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) obtained “a unanimous consent agreement on the Senate floor . . . to approve six Department of Defense nominees,” his office announced.

O’Neill served as head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization -- the precursor to the Missile Defense Agency -- in the 1990s. Before assuming his post as Army acquisition chief, he was working as a consultant and the chairman of the Army science and technology board of the National Academies. He succeeds Dean Popps, who became the acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology in January 2008.

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

Two analysts with Oppenheimer's Equity Research department weigh in on Northrop Grumman's decision not to bid on the tanker competition:

Northrop Grumman decided not to pursue the US Air Force's large aerial refueling contract, which they had won during the last competition. However, that was then and this is now and a new CEO at NOC is facing a different leadership team at the Pentagon, a different RFP (request for proposal) and contract structure. In the end, we think the decision came down to economics that left NOC with the choice to submit a token bid in the name of competition or try to compete on price with a more expensive (but more capable) aircraft, and potentially, end up with a fixed price contract that could dramatically increase the risk profile of NOC's future earnings/cash flows.


Listening to NOC management over the past few months, and seeing the changes in leadership and incentives, we weren't entirely surprised by the move not to bid. This contract has always been a must-win for Boeing and nice-to-have for NOC. The change to fixed price (vs. prior cost-plus) further softened the risk/reward for NOC.

We expect the DoD/AF will now enter into sole-source discussions with BA over a desirable tanker. Under those discussions, we do expect the DoD to obtain better pricing, cost discovery data, which will likely get over the hurdle of a blown competition in the end.

Other alternatives include: Congress demands loosening the RFP to balance the field, the DoD deciding to GFE (government furnished equipment) commercial 767s from Boeing and compete the integration (after clearly favoring the size/performance of the 767), or a very outside chance for EADS to take a shot at the contract on their own.

We're sure that some in Washington will both cheer and jeer at the decision; however, we're of the mind that the company made its goals clear in advance (even in laying out the incentives by which they are governing themselves), stated opposition early, fully evaluated the risk/reward and got to, what we'd agree is the right answer, "No."

By Pat Host
March 9, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter is going to have a busy Thursday.

As has been well-publicized, Carter is scheduled to appear that morning -- with Defense Department Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Christine Fox -- for a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Joint Strike Fighter program.

But that's not all. At 3 p.m., Carter and DOD Comptroller Robert Hale, Acting Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath and Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Shay Assad are scheduled to testify in front of the House Armed Services panel on defense acquisition reform.

The topic? Pentagon perspectives on managing the defense acquisition system and the workforce.

On that note, as reported right here last week, the panel has released a report with interim findings and recommendations that could have lasting implications. And one item that could come up in Thursday’s hearing is the Pentagon’s efforts to “reach out” to a larger segment of private industry.

The panel believes the Pentagon should be more proactive in its outreach for business opportunities, especially when it comes to small businesses, because “a small investment in additional outreach to industry could demonstrate a large return in increased competition, lower prices, and innovation,” the report concluded.

“The Department should work the Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, General Services Administration, and the private sector to proactively notify relevant firms, especially small businesses, of contract solicitations rather than only relying on firms to find those notifications on (Federal Business Opportunities)," it states.

By John Liang
March 9, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has officially nominated Elizabeth McGrath, the Pentagon's assistant deputy chief management officer, for a promotion to deputy CMO. According to her White House bio, issued Tuesday:

Elizabeth McGrath has served in the Department of Defense (DoD) for over 20 years; her experience spans a variety of business areas including systems acquisition, supply chain, financial and program management. Ms. McGrath currently serves as the Assistant Deputy Chief Management Officer for the DoD where she provides leadership for enterprise-level DoD business transformation and is focused on achieving increased efficiency, greater effectiveness, and improved performance in the Department's business enterprise policies, processes and systems. Ms. McGrath ensures the establishment of performance goals and measures for DoD business functions, is responsible for implementing DoD's Continuous Process Improvement/Lean Six Sigma efforts. She also performs acquisition oversight for large scale business Information Technology systems and oversees the development and implementation of the Business Enterprise Architecture. Ms. McGrath previously held numerous other financial, acquisition and program management positions within DoD and the Department of the Navy. Ms. McGrath holds a B.S. degree in Economics from George Mason University.

On Thursday, McGrath is scheduled to testify alongside Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter, DOD Comptroller Robert Hale and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Shay Assad in front of a House Armed Services Committee panel on defense acquisition reform.

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

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale last week said he does not subscribe to the thinking that China would eventually overtake the United States militarily (and in pretty much every other aspect, for that matter, as pundits have suggested).

"Maybe I'm naïve, but I'm hopeful that our economic ties to China -– the fact that they are a huge trading partner with the United States -- will cause them to think twice, and us to think twice, about getting involved in a military conflict," Hale said March 3 at an industry conference in Arlington, VA.

The pace of China's military buildup has caused much talk in Washington about Beijing's long-term intentions in recent years. The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review criticizes Chinese defense leaders for being less than forthcoming about their modernization plans. Still, the QDR expresses the Defense Department's desire for a "multidimensional (relationship) undergirded by a process of enhancing confidence and reducing mistrust in a manner that reinforces mutual interests."

By Pat Host
March 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Rising oil prices are often assessed for their ability to allow certain countries to increase economic development, but a professor at the Army War College has tackled a different question: Do oil exports fuel defense spending?

That's the title of a new monograph written by Clayton Chun and published by the War College's Strategic Studies Institute. Chun notes that countries that are able to process, export and ultimately control vital raw materials, such as oil, can wield their financial resources to improve the well-being of their citizens -- or to threaten a region through the development of a large military or security capability.

As economies shrink and oil revenues fall, logic suggests that defense spending should shrink. But Chun says this isn't necessarily the case.

Despite periods of falling oil revenues, these countries typically did not lower defense spending. In some cases, defense spending increased sharply, or the rate of decrease was much lower than the drop in oil revenues. This condition creates challenges for national security professionals. If nations face falling oil revenues and still have the will and ability to expand their military or security capabilities, then they might do so through the sacrifice of domestic spending or regional stability. Economic sanctions, worldwide recession, or falling oil demand may not stop these oil-exporting nations from purchasing weapons and creating large security forces.

By Pat Host
March 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Existing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the difficulties in confronting transnational rebel groups, as relations with neighboring states may pose challenges for security forces, according to a political science professor at the University of North Texas.

Idean Salehyan, also a fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, notes in a new Strategic Studies Institute monograph, "Transnational Insurgencies and the Escalation of Regional Conflict: Lessons for Iraq and Afghanistan," that many contemporary insurgencies pit governments against rebel organizations that span international boundaries, finding sanctuaries in neighboring states and support from rival governments. Because military and security forces must respect international boundaries, militant groups often use border regions to their advantage as safe havens.

A taste:

Once transnational rebels have established themselves on foreign soil, the conflict ceases to be a wholly domestic one and necessarily draws in regional governments. Traditional counterinsurgency strategies can only go so far in containing the threat as foreign soil is off limits to security forces. This threatens to change the dynamic of the war and lead to an escalatory process which encompasses neighboring states. The problem of cross-border militancy has the potential to raise tensions in the region, and even lead to a full-blown war between governments.

By John Liang
March 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating that the Obama administration's fiscal year 2011 budget request, if enacted, would result in deficits of $1.5 trillion in 2010 and $1.3 trillion in 2011, according to a CBO letter sent today to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI). "Those deficits would amount to 10.3 percent and 8.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), respectively," the letter states, adding: "By comparison, the deficit in 2009 totaled 9.9 percent of GDP."

On the defense side, CBO estimates the following:

From 2010 to 2011, total funding for discretionary defense programs in the President’s budget would grow by $16 billion, or 2.2 percent. Budget authority unrelated to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would grow by more than 3 percent, or $18 billion. Partially offsetting that increase, appropriations for the wars would edge down from $161 billion (with the requested supplemental appropriations included) to $159 billion.

For the period after 2011, the Administration’s budget includes a placeholder of $50 billion a year for war-related operations. As a result, proposed funding for defense overall would drop from $733 billion in 2011 to $642 billion in 2012 and would remain below the 2011 amount until 2018. Funding for defense activities other than for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would grow by an average of 3 percent annually through 2020.

By John Liang
March 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama today marked the 40th anniversary of a major arms control agreement with a statement that ties the old with the new -- as in ongoing talks with Russia on a new START treaty, among other efforts:

Forty years ago today, in the midst of a Cold War, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force, becoming the cornerstone of the world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Today, the threat of global nuclear war has passed, but the danger of nuclear proliferation endures, making the basic bargain of the NPT more important than ever: nations with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, nations without nuclear weapons will forsake them, and all nations have an “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear energy.

Each of these three pillars -- disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses -- are central to the vision that I outlined in Prague of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking a world without them.

To promote disarmament, the United States is working with Russia to complete negotiations on a new START Treaty that will significantly reduce our nuclear arsenals. Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. In addition, we will seek to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiate a treaty to end the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

To prevent proliferation, we will build on the historic resolution that we achieved at the United Nations Security Council last September by bringing together more than 40 nations at our Nuclear Security Summit next month with the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. At this spring’s treaty review conference and beyond, we will continue to work with allies and partners to strengthen the NPT and to enforce the rights and responsibilities of every nation, because the world cannot afford additional proliferation or regional arms races.

. . . It took years of focused effort among many nations to bring the NPT into force four decades ago and to sustain it as the most widely embraced nuclear agreement in history. On this 40th anniversary, the United States reaffirms our resolve to strengthen the nonproliferation regime to meet the challenges of the 21st century as we pursue our ultimate vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

By Dan Taylor
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been awarded contracts worth $15 million and $17.4 million, respectively, for the development of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) shipboard network, according to a Defense Department announcement today.

The two contracts cover the initial system development and demonstration phase for the program, and could end up being worth $775 million for Northrop or $936 million for Lockheed. Work under the contract should be complete by April 2011, and the winning contractor will continue work on the program until September 2014, according to the announcement.

“The primary goals of the CANES program are to build a secure afloat network required for naval and joint operations, and consolidate and reduce the number of afloat networks,” the announcement states.