The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Tucked in the fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill is a surprising little amendment approved by the Senate yesterday that at least in theory could force the Pentagon to open up a bit online.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and approved by the Senate, says any report submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee from any department or agency "shall be posted on the public website of that agency upon receipt by the committee." It exempts reports that if released would compromise national security or reveal proprietary information.

“It is called transparency,” Coburn said yesterday on the Senate floor. “The American people are paying for ((the reports)). The American people have a right and an obligation to see them if they are going to be involved in the governance of our country. In fact, they are supposed to be in charge of the governance of our country.”

The Senate is slated to resume consideration of the bill on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

By Jason Sherman
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

“Wicked” -- that favorite adjective of New Englanders from certain neighborhoods -- should be accorded a place in the most serious precincts of U.S. national security debate and used to categorize the most difficult set of defense challenges.

That is a central recommendation of the Defense Science Board, which, in a report made public yesterday, calls for the Pentagon to form a new shop -- the Capability, Assessment, Warning and Response Office -- dedicated to wrestling with what it calls “wicked problems”

Are these evil, morally wrong problems? Not exactly. “Wicked problems” are complex and multivariable and do not have set solutions, according an essay on the concept attached to the report in an appendix.

The “wicked problems” construct was set forth in 1973 by U.C. Berkley professors Horst Wittel and Melvin Webber to describe challenges that are entwined in other problems and contain contractions or incomplete information, the essay states.

Wicked problems involve many stakeholders with competing viewpoints and goals. Attempts to deal with these problems impact other issues that can paradoxically produce negative and positive results, according to the DSB report on capability surprise.

Their potential to produce that surprise, according to the DSB, warrants a staff dedicated to focusing full-time on such challenges.

For many decades, the DOD has sustained an aggressive combination of technology, operations and policy initiatives to keep the nation secure. These expanding threats and limited resources demand that the department be managed with a combination of the best possible intelligence, the most aggressive technology programs, and inventive operational applications. There is benefit in an explicit methodology to highlight opportunities for interdiction and/or misdirection.

One option is to have a high-level, centralized organization be responsible for preventing or mitigating surprise... A central organization could ensure a reasonably exhaustive, capability-by-capability evaluation of the likelihood that an adversary will achieve a symmetric capability at parity with, or beyond our own; and the likelihood that an adversary can counter/deny us a critical capability. A central organization can have all the access required to understand present and future military capabilities while still ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of our development and operation of critical capabilities. An organization that stands above the individual capability developers and maintainers can bridge across them and consider alternative courses of action that might hedge a capability in one modality with a capability or basket of capability across other modalities. And, an organization so-placed can actually manage the hedging process.

By Jason Sherman
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Science Foundation today announced $8 million in grants to 19 social scientists as part of the Minerva initiative that defense secretary Robert Gates launched last year improve department's understanding behavioral and dimensions security, conflict cooperation. The NSF awarded an initial batch of Minerva contracts to seven researchers -- including historians, anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists -- to examine issues including Chinese military and technology studies; research that illuminates the perspectives of terrorists; research into possible disciplines required to deal with current and future security challenges; and religious and ideological studies. The total value of those contracts could be as much as $50 million.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Deputy National Security Director and National Security Council Chief of Staff Mark Lippert will return to active duty in the Navy, the White House announced today.

Denis McDonough will remain deputy national security adviser and assume the role of NSC chief of staff. Ben Rhodes will assume the role of deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. Nate Tibbits will be the NSC's executive secretary.

“I will miss Mark and his counsel, his excellent work at the NSC, and his good cheer. At the same time, I was not surprised when he came and told me he had stepped forward for another mobilization, as Mark is passionate about the Navy," President Obama said in a statement.

Lippert, according to the Navy, is a lieutenant. A Navy spokesman said Lippert, an intelligence officer, is deploying with a naval special warfare unit.

"I support his decision," Obama added. "He is a close friend, and I admire and respect his devotion to our country and answering the call to active duty service. He will always have a senior foreign policy position in this White House, when he chooses to return to civilian life."

National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones added, “Mark has been vital to building a strong and revitalized National Security Council, ready to address the myriad challenges we face in the 21st century. I’m confident that Mark will continue to serve his nation in the United States Navy with the same commitment and sense of patriotism that we benefited from here in the White House. I congratulate him on this new post.”

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, lost his bid today to compel U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to testify before Congress by Nov. 15. The Senate rejected McCain's proposed amendment on that topic when discussing the fiscal year 2010 defense appropriations bill.

That does not, however, mean for certain that the generals will not testify by Nov. 15. The Senate approved an alternative amendment offered by committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), which calls for the generals to testify on the strategy and resources for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Obama administration decides what course it will pursue. The White House is in the midst of such decisions, which are reportedly due to be made in a matter of weeks.

McCain suffered another blow last night when the Senate rejected another amendment of his to curtail C-17 funding.

By Christopher J. Castelli
September 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama will meet with his national security team to discuss Afghanistan today, the White House says.

Those at the sit-down will include Vice President Biden; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Amb. Richard Holbrooke; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen; U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan; Director of National Intelligence retired Adm. Dennis Blair; CIA Director Leon Panetta; U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry; U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson; and National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones.

By Sebastian Sprenger
September 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Administration officials aim to finalize a revised Joint Campaign Plan for U.S. operations in Iraq by Jan. 1, the head of coalition forces there told lawmakers today. The document will lay out a division of labor between the U.S. military and diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the delicate phase of transitioning more security responsibility to the Iraqi government, Army Gen. Raymond Odierno said during a House Armed Services committee hearing on the war in Iraq.

By Marjorie Censer
September 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama today announced his intent to nominate Christine Fox as the Pentagon's new director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

Fox, president of the Center for Naval Analyses, has nearly 30 years of experience as analyst and research manager focused on defense issues, according to a White House announcement. At CNA, she oversees the federally funded research and development center's work on operations, cost and acquisition, manpower, readiness and technology issues.

Before becoming CNA president, she was vice president and director of CNA's Operations Evaluation Group, the announcement adds. Fox, also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, received a B.S. in mathematics from George Mason University and an M.S. in applied mathematics also from George Mason.

By Christopher J. Castelli
September 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House today sent to the Senate the nomination of Gladys Commons to be the Navy's comptroller. President Obama announced his intent to nominate Commons earlier this month. Here's the official bio released at the time:

From 2002 to 2004, Ms. Gladys Commons served as comptroller of Military Sealift Command where she directed the programming, budgeting, and execution of a $2.4 billion annual budget which provided resources to operate a fleet of 131 logistics force, special mission, strategic sealift and prepositioned ships. In this role, Commons also resolved long standing financial issues and restored credibility and integrity to the Command's programming and budgeting process. Prior to this position, Commons served for eight years as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) and briefly as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller). She has also served as Deputy for Financial Management/Comptroller at Marine Corps Systems Command. Commons holds a Bachelors degree in Education from Fayetteville State University and a Masters degree in Public Financial Management from American University.

By Marjorie Censer
September 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles have been deployed to Afghanistan, Marine Corps Systems Command announced yesterday.

The news comes about three months after the Army and Marine Corps awarded the first of three M-ATV contracts issued thus far to Oshkosh.

“So we have pulled out all the stops to collapse the schedule and get these vehicles into theater,” Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, joint program executive officer for MRAP, said in yesterday's announcement. “We are doing everything that’s required to ensure that they are safe, that the risk assessments are complete, that they’re fully integrated and flown into Afghanistan.”

Inside the Army reported last week that the Army and Marine Corps are slated to order just under 1,000 more of the trucks by the end of this month or early in October.

Also of note is a new GAO report on tactical wheeled vehicles, which we posted yesterday.

From our story:

GAO Calls for Comprehensive Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy
The Pentagon, poised to spend more than $16 billion in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 to procure tactical wheeled vehicles, lacks a "unified, comprehensive, long-term TWV strategy," according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

By Sebastian Sprenger
September 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen yesterday outed himself as a supporter of the White House's wait-and-see approach to the question over troop levels in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Rasmussen said NATO members and alliance "Partners" were still studying what he called a "top-secret, close-hold" assessment on the war by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

"We will discuss it within the Alliance, and when the time is right we’ll discuss the resource aspects as well," Rasmussen said.

By Thomas Duffy
September 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

You may have missed this last Friday as you headed out the door for the weekend. The CIA is getting into the climate change business. Or at least it will keep an eye on how climate change affects the country's security.

The agency announced on Friday it is creating The Center on Climate Change and National Security. The center will be “the focal point” for CIA's work on the issue, a Sept. 25 release states. It will be a small unit headed up by senior specialists from the agency's directorate of intelligence and the directorate of science and technology.

What the center will actually do is spelled out a bit further in the new release:

Its charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The Center will provide support to American policymakers as they negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues. That is something the CIA has done for years. “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security. The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence,” said Director Leon Panetta.

The agency said the new center also will coordinate with the intelligence community on reviewing and declassifying imagery and other data that can be useful to scientists who are doing their own climate change research. The CIA expects the center to aggressively reach out to the academic community and to think tanks.

By Kate Brannen
September 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army has named the new program executive office it recently set up to oversee the integration of the service’s modernization efforts across all brigade combat teams, according to a service spokesman.

The new PEO integration will manage the ground combat vehicle initiative as well as the capability packages, which are set to follow the first set of spin-out equipment developed under the Future Combat Systems program, said Paul Mehney, spokesman for the new office, earlier this month.

Previously, the FCS program was managed by a program manager rather than a program executive office. Mehney said a PEO has broader authority and will reflect a different way of managing funding. Additionally, a PEO is responsible for managing several major defense acquisition programs, each individually overseen by program and product offices with separate funding lines, he said.

The new PEO will be headquartered in St. Louis, MO, with supporting offices in Warren, MI, Huntsville, AL, Ft. Bliss, TX, and at the Pentagon, said Mehney.

FURTHER READING:

By Jason Sherman
September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House doesn't care for the Senate Appropriations Committee's plan to add $2.5 billion to the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget for 10 unrequested C-17s -- but not enough to threaten a veto. Funding for the Air Force cargo aircraft is one of only a few friction points the administration has with the Senate appropriators' proposed spending package, spelled out in a just-issued statement of administration policy.

The administration commends the committee for its support for the termination of programs that are no longer needed or are not performing as intended. The administration appreciates that the committee does not include unrequested funding for three such programs that could result in a veto -- unrequested advance procurement funding for the F-22 fighter aircraft, the continued development of the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine, and additional funding for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Program. The Congress is urged to oppose funding these programs during floor action and in conference.

By Thomas Duffy
September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Next Thursday nearly 5,000 Chinese military personnel, along with tanks, missile-carrying vehicles and over 150 aircraft, will be on display in Beijing as part of the Chinese government's National Day parade. This type of military display takes place once every decade, according to a press release issued by the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

According to a statement issued Sept. 17, the Chinese military will showcase 52 types of new weapon systems, including airborne early warning and control aircraft, sophisticated radar, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite communication devices used by the People's Liberation Army.

Lt. Gen. Fang Fenghui, the commander of the PLA's Beijing Military Area Command and the general director of the parade, is quoted as saying:

They ((the weapon systems)) embody the ongoing transformation of the PLA from a labor-intensive force to a technology-intensive ((one that)) might be capable of joint operations in modern warfare.

Members of China's navy, air force and ballistic missile corps also will take part in the parade. Compared with the military's participation in the pared 10 years ago, this year's demonstration will have fewer troops and equipment but will will showcase increased high-tech weaponry and special forces units, according to the statement.

Of the military equipment that will be display, no specific models were identified, but Fang is quoted as saying that all will be stamped “Made in China.”