The Insider

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.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Army-led Biometrics Task Force now goes by the name Biometrics Identity Management Agency. Army Secretary John McHugh ordered the name change in a March 23 general order, noting his authority as the Defense Department's executive agent for biometrics. The one-page order was flagged by the Secrecy News blog.

"The Biometrics Identity Management Agency shall have fund certification authority while remaining in the deputy chief of staff, G–3/5/7 and OA–22 organizational structure, along with manpower management authority to establish and acquire resources needed to fulfill executive manager responsibilities," McHugh wrote.

The "executive manager" designation is an internal Army title conferred upon the former BTF director, and now the BIMA head.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said today the department has not yet decided whether to extend the May 10 deadline for industry responses to the Air Force's KC-X tanker request for proposals.

Carter made the comment in response to a reporter's question at a National Aeronautics Association luncheon.

EADS, which is weighing whether to compete against Boeing for the lucrative contract, would like the Defense Department to significantly extend the deadline. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Senate appropriators that DOD had received a letter from EADS formally requesting an extension, but Gates said DOD had not yet decided what to do.

By John Liang
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has nominated Teresa Takai to become the Defense Department's assistant secretary for Networks and information integration, the administration announced this afternoon.

According to her White House bio:

Since December 2007, Teri Takai has served as Chief Information Officer for the State of California. As a member of the Governor's cabinet, she advises him on the strategic management and direction of information technology resources as the state works to modernize and transform the way California does business with its citizens. Prior to her appointment in California, Takai served as Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state's Chief Information Officer. In this position, she restructured and consolidated Michigan's resources by merging the state's information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Before serving in state government, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company's information technology strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2005, Takai was named "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine. She is Past-President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as Practitioner Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

By John Liang
March 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The State Department's top legal adviser this week gave a speech at the American Society of International Law's (ASIL) 104th annual meeting that touched on, among other topics, the lawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare. According to an ASIL statement, Koh's speech "included a specific affirmation of the administration’s approach to the use of force, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which has recently come into question by some legal experts."

Specifically, Koh said:

(It) is the considered view of this administration . . . that targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war. . . . As recent events have shown, Al Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. . . . (T)his administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:

- First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and

- Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

In U.S. operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces – including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.

In response to arguments by opponents of using UAVs in warfare, Koh defended the Obama administration's policy:

(S)ome have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law. . . . (S)ome have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict – such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs -- so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war. . . . (S)ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meeting. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law. . . . Fourth and finally, some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems -- consistent with the applicable laws of wear -- for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.’

By John Liang
March 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

With the news this morning that the United States and Russia had finally reached agreement on a follow-on pact to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expired in December, the jockeying has begun to get the treaty ratified by the respective countries' parliaments.

Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had this to say about the pact in a statement released this afternoon:

This treaty makes significant reductions to the numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, will renew verification arrangements that would otherwise be unavailable, and provides a major tangible result since the President reset relations with Russia. I look forward to seeing the details of the treaty in the weeks to come. The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold hearings on the treaty provisions to determine whether the verification measures are sufficient to monitor treaty compliance. This will be among the most scrutinized issues in ratification process, and I intend to make sure the Intelligence Community is capable and adequately resourced to carry out its responsibilities.”

According to a White House transcript of a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Iowa, administration spokesman Robert Gibbs said:

We're hopeful to have a call with President Medvedev in the next few days and hope that we can wrap up a new treaty on the next call.

Again, the President has been enormously involved personally in moving this process along. The two Presidents last spoke on the 13th of March and we think we’re getting -- moving toward good progress on something that will be important for the American people.

Q Is that call on the 13th kind of a breakthrough?

MR. GIBBS: It certainly helped move a number of issues along, yes.

The follow-on pact, scheduled to be signed in Prague in the first week of April, "is not diminished by the fact that it provides for very modest reduction of the two countries' strategic nuclear arsenals compared to the 2002 Moscow Treaty (also known as SORT, or Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty)," Center for Nonproliferation Studies analyst and former START negotiator Nikolai Sokov writes in a commentary on the center's Web site:

Its purpose has been limited from the very beginning: the Treaty of Prague is meant to preserve the essential elements of transparency that were embodied in the expired START I. Essentially, it is a bridge that will provide predictability about the strategic arsenals of the United States and Russia as they engage in more complex and lengthy negotiations on a new treaty that will provide for deeper reductions.

Further, Sokov writes that some issues were "not tackled at all," including two key ones:

* Accounting for and limitation of nuclear warhead stockpiles. START I, like all other U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian treaties, only truly limited delivery vehicles whereas warheads were limited indirectly — through agreed accounting rules. It is high time to change the focus and fully address warheads themselves, including non-deployed warheads. Among other advantages, this method will help to solve the problems of uploading capability and of conventionally armed delivery vehicles. Yet the new focus will require very delicate and probably lengthy negotiations to develop brand-new rules and verification procedures.

Tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons were not covered in START I at all and consequently have remained outside the Treaty of Prague as well. These weapons are not subject to any legally binding limits or verification. This is also a novel task that will require much time and effort. Leaving them out of the "bridge" treaty is justifiable, but this element of nuclear postures cannot be kept in limbo for very long.

* Other nuclear powers. As the United States and Russia continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals, experts and many officials are beginning to contemplate when and how other nuclear powers (in particular the "official" ones listed in the Nonproliferation Treaty) will join arms reduction talks. The Russian military has been particularly insistent that the next stage of talks should be multilateral.

By Dan Dupont
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ran smack-dab into the train that is the Republican effort to defeat health-care reform efforts today. It seems the Republicans have invoked an obscure Senate rule that basically shuts down Senate business in the afternoon -- which today meant Levin’s hearing on U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea had to be scrapped.

And his office wants the press to know he’s not happy about it, judging by this statement sent to reporters:

It is astounding to me that Republicans have taken a step of such pointless, blind obstructionism. It cannot achieve their goal of obstructing health care reform. Instead, they are obstructing a hearing that has nothing to do with the health care debate and everything to do with the defense of our nation. And they have disrupted the schedules of senior commanders who in two cases have traveled thousands of miles from their troops, and who would be providing the Senate with information on pressing national security topics such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Chinese military capability and the threat of cyber-warfare. Our national security should not be held hostage to Republican pique over health care.

In an addendum to the press release, Levin’s office later pointed out that ranking member John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to hold the hearing, too.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) yesterday queried a senior defense official about the prospects of Pentagon leaders meeting their target of achieving a clean financial audit for the entire Defense Department by 2017.

"Do you think they'll make that?" he asked Elizabeth McGrath at her nomination hearing to become DOD's deputy chief chief management officer. McGrath currently serves as the assistant deputy CMO and DOD's performance improvement officer.

McGrath apparently was in no mood to give a yes-or-no answer: "I think that each year they'll make progress against that goal," she replied, noting renewed leadership attention to the issue would result in a "higher probability" of meeting the deadline.

McCain tried to draw her out again. "So you think we'll make the goal?" he asked.

"I think that they will make progress against the goal," McGrath responded. "I think time will tell as to whether or not they are able to hit the 2017 goal." Later, she described the target deadline as an "aggressive goal."

Clean audit opinions essentially are proof that an organization's financial books are balanced and that all money flows are traceable. DOD currently achieves clean audits for roughly half of its $3.8 trillion in combined assets and liabilities, according to Pentagon data.

By Jason Sherman
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

UPDATED 2:25 PM: Pentagon officials said that DOD has not yet changed the May 10 deadline for KC-X bids. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning that DOD will not modify the request for proposals for the KC-X competition, which EADS executives and their former U.S. partner Northrop Grumman believe favor a small aircraft, tilting the competition to rival Boeing. Pentagon officials have previously said DOD would consider extending the deadline in order to encourage European defense giant EADS to participate in the potential $35 billion competition.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

It was a tense hearing this morning for Solomon Watson, the administration's nominee to be general counsel for the Army. A trifecta of Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee tore into him repeatedly for his role as then-general counsel for The New York Times when the paper ran a story revealing a controversial, warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency and authorized by former President George W. Bush.

Watson stressed the decision to run the story in late 2005 was made by the newspaper's publisher, not himself. Watson said his deputy worked on a legal evaluation of the article before publication, which found that running the story would not be illegal. Watson became aware of the story after its publication, he said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) argued Watson should have worked actively to prevent the story's publication because it contained classified national security information. At the time, White House officials vigorously denounced the article, saying it had brought to light a counterterrorism program that needed to remain secret.

Having Watson oversee all Army legal issues would be like "putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house," Sessions opined. Watson, in turn, vowed to aggressively pursue leakers of classified information throughout the service if senators confirmed him.

Despite his concerns, Sessions does not have a hold on Watson's nomination "at this time," a spokesman for the senator told us this afternoon. We're still awaiting word from Republican critics Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Saxby Chambliss (GA) concerning a potential hold.

By John Liang
March 23, 2010 at 5:00 AM

In a move that could have implications for the Air Force's KC-X tanker replacement program, a World Trade Organization panel today issued a final ruling stating that some repayable launch aid given by European Union member states to Airbus violated the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), according to World Trade Online.

As Inside the Air Force has reported, the service late last month released its much-anticipated KC-X request for proposals:

The RFP does not take into account an interim World Trade Organization ruling against Airbus for receiving government subsidies. Boeing backers wanted the ruling addressed in the final RFP.

“While we appreciated the open dialogue with the Air Force throughout this process, we are disappointed that the RFP does not address some of our key concerns, including ((EADS)) Airbus’ unfair competitive advantage derived from subsidies from its sponsor European governments -- subsidies that the World Trade Organization has found to be illegal and harmful to U.S. workers and industry -- and how fuel and military-construction costs over the life of the tankers will be factored into consideration of the competing bids,” Jean Chamberlin, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s tanker program, said in a statement. “We will review the RFP in its entirety and in detail before offering further assessment.”

Speaking to reporters following a Feb. 24 House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, Boeing supporter Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) said he was “unhappy” the finalized RFP did not include language reflecting the WTO ruling. But “besides that they’re trying their best, and we’re trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, we have to get this done, this is a national priority to get these tankers,” he said.

Inside U.S. Trade reports today that according to sources on both sides of the dispute:

They said the final decision, delivered to the parties as a confidential document, differs little from a September confidential interim decision.

The final ruling says that some repayable launch aid to Airbus are actionable subsidies that caused serious prejudice to the sales or exports of U.S.-based Boeing. If the panel ruling were upheld on an expected appeal, the EU would have to remove their effects or remove the subsidy, sources familiar with the case said.

The final panel also found that some launch aid for the Airbus A380 were export-contingent prohibited subsidies that must be withdrawn immediately.

Airbus, however, sees a silver lining in the fact that once again the panel has failed to find that launch aid as a program on its face violates the ASCM. This means that each instance of launch aid given by EU member states for the development of a specific Airbus large civil aircraft has to be challenged individually as a subsidy.

The ruling therefore does not cover any launch aid that the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain may provide for the latest Airbus plane, the A350, in the near future, Airbus argues.

The Airbus statement highlighted that fact by saying that “US attempts to include the A350 were specifically rejected.” Therefore, Airbus said, possible future funding for that plane “is not affected in any way” by today's ruling.

A source close to the U.S. case called the Airbus argument absurd. The source said that while launch aid “in theory” could comply with the ASCM, the point of the finding is that when the loans were not on commercial terms, they violated the WTO rules.

The WTO's decision was met with applause by members of both parties in Congress.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement that "today's final ruling puts any doubts to rest -- launch aid is an illegal subsidy that has cost American jobs, hurt our ability to compete, and damaged our overall economy."

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) said: "We finally have a concrete ruling to justify what we have been saying for years. The illegal subsidies given by European governments have caused great damage to the U.S. aviation industry and cannot continue. If Airbus decides to bid for the KC-X tanker contract, this gives the Obama administration the opportunity to show its commitment to American workers by accounting for the illegal dealings of European governments."

By Marcus Weisgerber
March 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The GE Rolls-Royce F136 Fighter Engine Team announced this morning that it hit full afterburner on its third “production-configuration” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine.

“All major objectives have been reached during this phase of testing, which included an engine nozzle common to both F-35 engine programs,” an engine team statement reads.

“Six F136 engines are scheduled for testing this year, to measure engine performance and endurance as the competitive engine for the F-35 program continues to demonstrate steady progress and significant milestones,” the statement continues. “F136 performance is meeting all expectations in terms of thrust, temperature margins, and fuel consumption -- confirming the vital role that it will play competing in the Joint Strike Fighter program over several decades.”

The latest test results come as the Pentagon and Congress remain at odds over whether the F136 program should continue. Defense Department officials claim that the primary F135 Pratt & Whitney-built engine will suffice over the life of the JSF program, and that an alternate is a waste of money. Congress sees a second engine vital should a problem arise with the F135 down the road.

The F-35 alternate engine program is sure to be a hot topic when Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter and Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Christine Fox appear before a joint hearing of the House Armed Services air and land forces and seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittees on Wednesday.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

EADS released a statement this morning saying it will assess the "new situation" surrounding the request for proposals for the Air Force tanker program.

Yesterday, the Defense Department "indicated it would welcome a proposal from EADS North America as prime contractor for the KC-X tanker competition," the company said. "This is a significant development. EADS is assessing this new situation to determine if the company can feasibly submit a responsive proposal” to RFP.

While this development is "a positive sign that the DOD seeks competition, it does not address EADS’ underlying concerns that the RFP clearly favors a smaller, less capable aircraft, and that the additional combat capability offered by our system may not be fully valued," EADS said.

"An important prerequisite for our consideration of entry into this competition will be a significant extension to the period within which to prepare and submit a proposal," the statement continues. "EADS welcomes the DOD’s recent statement which indicated a willingness to extend the timeframe. Though this is essential, it is only one factor in making a decision for EADS to compete. In the end, the company will only submit a proposal if there is a fair chance to win, after evaluating all relevant factors."

By Pat Host
March 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Energy Support Center and the commercial airline industry trade group Air Transport Association of America have formed a team called the Strategic Alliance for Alternative Aviation Fuels to buy billions of dollars’ worth of biofuels for use in commercial and military airliners.

The alliance, announced at a press conference today in Washington, is “designed to harness the combined market share of the two sectors to advance the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels, leverage collective market and purchasing powers and encourage fuel suppliers to bring commercial alternative fuel and renewable energy into the marketplace,” according to a statement released today at a press conference in Washington.

According to the Air Transport Association, the commercial airline industry and the U.S. armed forces are the two largest consumers of jet fuel in the world. The military is expected to consume $14.2 billion worth of jet fuel during fiscal year 2010 -- 125.5 million barrels’ worth.

The alliance will be led by Navy Rear Adm. Kurt Kunkel, commander of the Defense Energy Support Center, located at Ft. Belvoir, VA.

Kunkel said the biggest challenge to making the alliance work will involve making sure the biofuels are “drop-in” -- meaning the existing infrastructure will be able to accommodate their use without significant modifications.

“From a DOD perspective, we like to make sure the critical infrastructure we have is utilized and we want to make sure that is not an impediment to execution,” Kunkel said.

According to Defense Logistics Agency briefing slides presented at the press conference, the four biofuels and quantities requested are HRJ-8 (400,000 gallons), which are Camelina- and Tallow-derived; HRJ-5 (190,000), also Camelina-derived; HRJ-5-Algae (1,500), which is derived from algae; and F-76 (20,055), also algae-derived.