The Insider

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Officials in the Joint Staff's Military Education Coordination Council last month recommended three new focus areas where officials believe increased attention is needed in military schoolhouse curricula this year, we're told.

The new areas blessed by the panel are titled "space as a contested environment," "psychological health awareness" and "operational contract support education for non-acquisition DOD Personnel," according to a Joint Staff briefing from last month.

The list of "special areas of emphasis," as the Joint Staff calls them, also includes a handful of topics carried over from last year. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen has yet to approve the council's recommendations.

The recommendation to boost awareness of the relatively new field of operational contract support, or OCS, is rooted in the experiences with contracting and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, DOD officials were utterly unprepared for the vast number of contractors with whom military commanders ended up sharing the battlefields, as a recent briefing from a Pentagon logistician describes it in two photos.

"Current ((joint professional military education)) does not adequately prepare officers/enlisted to operate/interface effectively with OCS in the contingency environment," the briefing states.

By Marjorie Censer
March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon must return to the three key principles: Focusing on actions rather than intent; decisive leadership; and meaningful strategy based on detailed plans and budgets, according to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In a speech delivered today at a National Defense University conference, Cordesman calls the Pentagon the “worst-run department in our history," citing “critical problems” in manpower numbers, the balance of active and reserve forces and deployment cycles. According to a transcript of the speech, he calls jointness a farce and says the current wars were undertaken without a clear plan for ending the conflicts and bringing stability.

Though Cordesman blames DOD's national security team, he also says “the problems we face are part of a defense culture that has been building for a long, long time.”

He calls for a return to a time in which only actions mattered. “It does not matter a damn what Secretary Gates or Admiral Mullen tried to do. It does not matter a damn how difficult the circumstances were, are, and will be,” Cordesman said. “There is only one test: What did you do that served the broader national interest of the U.S. successfully during your tour of duty?”

The Pentagon also requires decisive leadership, even above improvements in process, according to Cordesman's speech. He argues that top military and civilian decisionmakers let “the underbudgeting of procurement, force plans, and manpower grow,” and did not make difficult but necessary choices and trade-offs.

Finally, Cordesman calls for “meaningful strategy” based on accurate plans.

“Now, strategy seems to at best be the conceptual underpinning of our defense posture and at worst a series of phrases and buzzwords that often seem to contribute nothing,” the transcript reads.

"We can't afford to go on the way we have been operating,” Cordesman concludes. “We can't afford to waste the world's best military on the world's most mediocre leadership and try to keep solving our problems by throwing money at them.”

By Thomas Duffy
March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair announced this afternoon that Amb. Charles Freeman asked that his selection to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council be withdrawn. Blair accepted Freeman's request. The choice of Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has sparked controversy because of his views on Israel and his connections with Saudi and Chinese interests.

Yesterday, all seven Republican members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to Blair expressing concerns over Freeman's qualifications for the position, as well as his objectivity.

The NIC is responsible for producing national intelligence estimates and other assessments on specific issues.

Earlier today, Blair defended Freeman during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) brought up Freeman's past business associations and his views on Israel.

Blair responded by stating, in part:

Those of us who know him find him to be a person of strong views, of an inventive mind -- on the analytical point of view -- I'm not talking about policy. And that when we go back and forth with him a better understanding comes out of those interactions, and that's primarily the value that I think he will bring.

Despite that view, Blair today accepted Freeman's request to have his name withdrawn.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon isn't the only federal agency basing a good portion of its strategy on doomsday-like scenarios. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security also keep a list of what-if situations that serve as a springboard for departmental planning.

While the so-called "defense planning scenarios" of the Defense Department are closely guarded, the DHS "national planning scenarios" are available publicly via a simple Google search.

The Washington Post Web site offers version number 20.1, dated April 2005, while the State of Oregon kindly makes available what appears to a minor update from the same month, numbered 20.2, plus an executive summary.

A more more current version, dated March 2006, is available from the Web site of Florida's emergency management division.

On top of the list: The explosion of a ten-kiloton improvised nuclear device near a major U.S. city, causing "hundreds of thousands" of casualties.

Also on the list are attacks with improvised explosive devices, which, according to the document, could unfold like this:

During an event at a large urban entertainment/sports venue, three suicide bombers are strategically pre-positioned inside the arena. The detonation of their devices will instill mass panic and chaotic evacuation of the arena.

Occupants evacuating the arena are most likely to move toward one of several locations. A portion of the occupants will remain in the immediate area around the venue, clogging ingress for emergency responders. Some will head toward public transportation, while others will head toward parking lots to retrieve their vehicles and depart the area.

The main thrust of the attack is at the evacuation points. In the area of the main evacuee collection area (most likely on a main street outside the venue), the UA has placed a Large Vehicle Bomb (LVB) disguised as a fire department/EMS service vehicle. It is conceivable to disguise 10,000 pounds of explosives in such a vehicle, but the actual amount could be scaled down and still achieve severe effects.

UA is shorthand for the fictitious "Universal Adversary" terrorist cell.

By John Liang
March 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) are warning against cutting missile defense funding in the face of what they see as escalating threats from North Korea and Iran.

In an op-ed piece published today in Politico, Cantor and Kyl write:

. . . ((U))nclassified reports have detailed North Korea's preparations for the launch, possibly within days, of a new, even longer-range Taepo Dong 2 missile. This kind of missile is a threat, not just to some of America's closest allies in the region (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) but to the U.S. itself.

Moreover, North Korea continues to be the world’s greatest proliferator of ballistic missile technology and nuclear weapons know-how. We should be very concerned about with whom North Korea does business.

And then there’s Iran.

On Feb. 2, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly announced that his country had successfully launched its first satellite. If it were any other country, such a launch would seem of little consequence. However, as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, recently noted, space launch technologies “are compatible with an intercontinental ballistic missile-type capability.”

Add to that the latest news that Iran has enriched one-third more uranium than was previously understood -- more than enough to build a nuclear bomb -- and the potential threat is clear.

These examples should underscore the necessity for an effective, operational missile defense system. Yet the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are now seeking ways to halt the progress that’s been made in defending against these threats.

Cantor and Kyl write of their concern about recent statements from other members of Congress and news reports of the Obama administration's alleged plans to "make significant cuts" to the fiscal year 2010 missile defense budget, including "funds that would be used to deploy our missile defense assets to Europe -- which NATO has twice stated is necessary to deal with the threat from Iran.

"That such a rollback of the system is being discussed is dangerous," they warn. "That it is being discussed at the same time North Korea and Iran are carrying out aggressive, threatening activities is irresponsible and unacceptable."

The two lawmakers continue: "When President Obama campaigned last year, he said that he supported missile defense systems that work. Our systems have shown through numerous tests that they work -- that is not in doubt."

The Pentagon's operational test and evaluation office might have something to say about that, however.

At a Feb. 25 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) asked DOT&E Director Charles McQueary whether the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, just because it "receives a less-than-perfect test score, ((does)) this necessarily means it does not provide the warfighter with an operationally effective capability?"

McQueary responded that he couldn't say "with high confidence" that the GMD system is an operationally effective system. "Our job is testing and to deal with the facts at hand. And there's simply not been enough testing done in order to be able to state it."

To which Franks said:

. . . I don't know of any system that we have that is proven 100 percent effective. I'm not even sure we could say that about the baseball bat, but it's still pretty effective at close range.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still in the process of developing and assembling a set of security-related, what-if scenarios expected to help shape the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review deliberations, according to sources.

Outgoing Bush administration officials at the Pentagon last year set out the goal of readying a new set of highly classified Defense Planning Scenarios for the new administration to pick and chose from as the 2009/2010 QDR process begins.

Such prep work consumed most of the time during the 2005/2006 QDR season, several officials noted.

Some of the new DPSs have reached the point of being fairly "mature," while work on others has yet to begin in earnest, one source said today.

During the DPS development process, the services are given a chance to comment.

No word on whether a collection of DPSs will be ready later this month, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to formally kick off the QDR.

By Dan Dupont
March 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Jacques Gansler, who was under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics in the Clinton Pentagon, has penned a new piece for Foreign Policy on the United States' reliance on other countries in military areas -- including the use of weapon system components made in other countries.

Since U.S. President Barack Obama has taken office, the debate between economic protectionism and free trade has reemerged with a vengeance. Just this week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown dinged the new president's allies in Congress for inserting a controversial "Buy American" provision in the stimulus bill passed in February.

The most important strategic decisions over trade that Obama will face will not be about French cheese or the Chinese yuan, however, but over the dozens of countries around the world that, during the past few decades, have become critical in supplying the U.S. military with the latest technologies and best equipment. These foreign suppliers are significant, and increasingly vital, contributors to America's military superiority.

Gansler goes on to single out the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles program as well as the Medium Extended Air Defense System as examples of programs dependent on components made elsewhere. "Even Obama's new helicopter," he writes, "will be based on an Italian design and partially produced in Britain." (Maybe not, but you get his point.)

Not everyone is a fan:

Of course, critics argue that these arrangements are incredibly dangerous. After all, couldn't the U.S. weapons supply be cut off during wartime if the country were too reliant on foreign parts? Most of these foreign sources, however, are from NATO nations or other countries with which the United States has had enduring military and commercial relationships. For example, despite very public opposition in some of these countries to U.S. actions in Afghanistan or Iraq, at no time did foreign suppliers (including 20 German and two French suppliers) restrict the provision or sale of components.

Skeptics also worry about "Trojan horses" built into foreign-supplied systems, particularly in the case of software. But this potential threat can be addressed through extensive and rigorous testing and reverse engineering, just as occurs in the financial and medical communities. Still others raise serious and legitimate concerns about military technology leaking into the hands of rogue regimes or terrorists or being sold to third parties without U.S. knowledge. These are certainly excellent arguments for international arms-control treaties. But there's no reason why such treaties need preclude legal arms trade among allies, along with mutually agreed-to verification techniques.

More commonly, opponents emphasize the potential loss of jobs that might occur as a result of buying equipment from offshore firms.

Gansler, though, sees no way around it. "The United States must face the fact that it no longer has a monopoly on the world's best military technology," he concludes. "America's path toward future stability involves cooperating with allies and taking advantage of the best they have to offer, not cutting itself off and watching as its military superiority slips away."

By Carlo Muñoz
March 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Just days after the White House issued new acquisition rules for the U.S. government and little over a week after Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) penned joint legislation aimed at revamping the Pentagon's procurement process, House members have decided to throw their hat into the acquisition reform ring.

House Armed Services committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D- MO) has formally stood up a new "Panel of Defense Acquisition Reform," according to a committee press release issued today. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) will chair the newly formed panel, which includes Democratic Reps. Jim Cooper (TN), Brad Ellsworth (IN) and Joe Sestak (PA). On the Republican side, Rep. Mike Conaway (TX) will serve as the group's ranking member, with Reps. Duncan Hunter (CA) and Mike Coffman (CO) rounding out the GOP side of the group.

The seven-member bipartisan committee will "address broad issues surrounding the defense acquisition process," the committee release states. Those issues will include evaluation of current performance and value in the current acquisition system, exploring root causes of system failures and "administrative and cultural pressures" that lead to failing systems, it adds.

The panel will review these and other issues over a six-month period, with an option for an additional six months for continued evaluation. The panel will then issue its recommendations in a report to be included in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, according to the statement. The panel's preliminary findings will also be integrated into the FY-10 bill, already in the works, as "different pieces of acquisition reform legislation come under consideration," it adds.

"The very talented members of this panel will put a fresh set of eyes on the problem, and I look forward to their recommendations," Skelton said in the statement. 

By Marcus Weisgerber
March 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force has ordered inspections of its entire C-130 Hercules cargo hauler fleet after discovering a potential issue with wing bolts, according to service officials.

Each aircraft must undergo a two- to four-hour inspection before returning to flight, an Air Force Special Operations Command official told Inside the Air Force this morning. The command operates specially configured Hercs that are used to insert troops into combat zones and refuel helicopters.

The mandatory inspections include newer Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft in addition to the legacy C-130s, which make up the bulk of the Air Force's inventory. The oldest Air Force Hercules aircraft entered service in the early 1960s. The newer J-models entered the fleet in the late 1990s.

C-130s are the backbone of intratheater airlift and are used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to transport troops and cargo.

“Despite the size of the fleet, inspections are proceeding rapidly, and while this is a significant effort for our maintainers we currently don’t expect any major disruptions to essential airlift operations,” Vicki Stein, an Air Force spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail today.

The C-130 becomes the latest Air Force airframe to fall victim to potentially serious structural issues. A portion of the A-10 Warthog attack jet fleet remains grounded due to cracks in the wings. The service also grounded much of its F-15 fighter fleet for months in 2007 and 2008 after an Eagle snapped in two during a training mission.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Development of the Air Force's first-ever cyberspace doctrine appears to have hit a snag, and officials are mum about the cause of the hold-up. As we reported last October, officials crafted and circulated a draft version of the document over the summer. At the time, a service spokesman said the Air Force doctrine folks were trying to get the document wrapped up and approved by November.

A spokesman at Air University's Center for Doctrine Development and Education confirmed this week work on the cyber doctrine is still ongoing. He did not return a phone call requesting more information.

Experts said the delay could be due to still-unresolved fundamental questions over what it means for the service to fight in cyberspace.

(Work on a revision of another key, and related, Air Force doctrine piece, "information operations," also appears to be going slow, we're told.)

A senior general last week suggested the military as whole should move a tad bit more quickly on all things cyberspace, Inside the Air Force reported.

"My message for the cyberspace domain is it’s time we generate momentum in this particular area,” U.S. Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton said during a Feb. 26 speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference in Florida. “We are under ((cyber)) attack, we are behind, we are reactive, not proactive, and we -- all of us -- are making it too easy for those who would exploit and attack our networks.”

Meanwhile, Inside the Pentagon today reports about new push from the Joint Staff to get the personnel requirements for cyberspace operations figured out by late spring.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

UPDATED: Obama gave his speech, as advertised -- and unloaded on defense contracting.

The transcript and a memo Obama signed on contracting reform are here. Our coverage to follow.

Today at 10 a.m., President Obama is scheduled to give a major speech about his plan to "reform a broken system of contracting to cut back on wasteful spending, and save the American people tens of billions of dollars," according to the White House.

The AP reports that Obama will sign a new memo to reform contracting for the entire federal government, including the Pentagon. He is expected to discuss defense contracts in the speech. Stay tuned.

By Marjorie Censer
March 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, is seeking an "Ike Skelton Chair of Counterinsurgency" to serve “as the focal point for the diffusion of knowledge within CGSC and its three schools . . . concerning all aspects of counterinsurgency.”

According to the vacancy announcement, the selected person will serve “as an advocate for counterinsurgency education within the U.S. Army.” The job involves collaboration with school leaders; “interaction with national and international governmental and private agencies;” and advisory work on “changing the culture of the force through the use of experimentation, counterinsurgency articles, and the creation and sharing of knowledge and experiences.”

The salary will range from $105,000 to $120,000 for a limited tenure not to exceed three years, though the tenure is renewable.

The vacancy announcement comes as Ft. Leavenworth -- the intellectual center of the service -- is working more broadly to improve the Army's ability to respond to a changing combat environment.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commanding general of the post's Combined Arms Center, last month called for increased interagency cooperation.

In particular, he said at a Feb. 11 breakfast, the Army is seeking to bring representatives from other federal agencies out to Ft. Leavenworth to be educated alongside Army officers.

“Your Army is thinking, and it’s constantly evolving to adapt to and change itself to be as capable and effective as it has always been,” Caldwell told the audience. “The environment today that we operate in we know has changed, the enemy has changed and we in the Army must also change.”

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

All signs point to an increased emphasis on energy issues at DOD, perhaps even in the context of the Quadrennial Defense Review. The British military, too, is thinking along those lines, according to a recently released Ministry of Defence science and technology plan.

Under the heading "Emerging Technologies," British defense officials have published a slide indicating how the Brits intend to go from "critical dependence on fossil fuels" to "efficient, cost effective alternatives to fossil fuels."

Admittedly, the slide consists mostly of buzzwords displayed on a notional time axis. But there are some interesting ones. For example, the idea of "Unmanned Vehicle Power Sharing" sounds pretty cool.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Oval Office today at 4:30 p.m., according to the White House. The meeting is closed to the press. No word yet what will be discussed, but it's a safe bet Obama will be asking questions.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, Gates said Obama is "somewhat more analytical" than former President George W. Bush, noting Obama "makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue, and if they don't speak up, he calls on them." Bush was interested in hearing different points of view, but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't spoken up before, Gates noted.

Though today's White House meeting is private, Gates is slated to go before the microphones earlier this afternoon at the Pentagon when he holds a press conference with France’s minister of defense, Hervé Morin.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The ink on the press release announcing the Levin-McCain acquisition reform bill last week had barely dried when the allegedly slow-as-molasses Pentagon bureaucracy moved with lightning speed to pick the legislation apart for what one official called "can't-live-with" items.

On Wednesday, outgoing Pentagon acquisition chief John Young gave orders to compile a DOD assessment of the measure for a scheduled Friday morning meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and bill co-sponsor Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

McCain is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is the panel's chairman.

To what extent are senators willing to listen to concerns from inside what they have called a "flawed" DOD acquisition system in their attempt to enforce reforms?

"We will consider DOD's views, but we will not be governed by them," panel spokeswoman Tara Andringa tells us via e-mail.

The Friday Gates-McCain meeting never took place, by the way, because Gates was called to join President Obama at Camp Lejeune that day, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.