The Insider

By Dan Dupont
November 13, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Lots of transition news today to tell you about. We'll be getting to that shortly.

One highlight to start the day:

Report Lays Out 10 Priorities for Obama's Defense Secretary

Improving the Pentagon’s acquisition performance as well as its processes for strategic guidance, programming and budgeting should be top priorities for the new administration, according to a new report on transition issues from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Inside the Pentagon reviewed an advance copy of the report, which says the study team focused on crafting recommendations that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the next defense secretary.

Kathleen Hicks spearheaded the review for CSIS. The think tank is led by John Hamre, who also chairs the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and is reportedly being considered for an Obama administration post.

Michèle Flournoy, who co-chairs the Obama camp’s DOD transition team, was one of the defense experts consulted by CSIS during the review.

The study lays out 10 top priorities in order of what is most important to fix at the Pentagon. Bolstering acquisition performance leads the list. The defense secretary “must focus the acquisition community on institutionalizing recent guidance, restoring a defense acquisition workforce, and providing cost realism in setting program requirements,” the report says.

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 13, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman says he will not be among the Bush administration officials sticking around for the transition at the Defense Department, but many DOD officials are willing if the Obama camp asks.

At a breakfast with reporters in Washington today, Edelman noted he will not stay beyond Jan. 20, 2009, when the next president is sworn into office. But he said numerous DOD officials said yes when Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked who would be willing and able to stay on for a while.

"A very high percentage of people have said . . . that if asked they would be willing to stay," Edelman said. "I think that's very encouraging." He did not cite specific names. Now it's up to the new team to decide whether to retain these officials, he said, noting it would also be understandable and appropriate if the new team wants to bring in its own people.

In September, spoke with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who predicted “over 90 percent” of DOD political appointees would stay until at least Jan. 20.

“And a lot of people will stay beyond that if they are asked to, to make sure the transition goes properly, including myself,” England added. “I’ve said I’ll stay to make sure it works.”

By Marjorie Censer
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A new RAND Corp. study is calling for the next administration to approach nation-building with a willingness to hear multiple and opposing views, particularly urging the new president to bring together civilian and military agencies in the effort. The report -- "After the War: Nation-Building from FDR to George W. Bush" -- says post-conflict reconstruction must rely on the entire national security establishment.

“This is not a responsibility that presidents can afford to delegate, nor is it one that any single department of government can handle,” the document says.

Consequently, the report authors write that the Defense Department should work with the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to discuss options and all involved “should be allowed significant latitude to disagree.”

“Once the president chooses or endorses a particular option, a fully integrated political-military plan should be generated,” the report continues.

An integrated planning effort would give civilian agencies the opportunity to comment on war plans and military agencies to provide diplomacy advice, and it should establish a division of labor.

Additionally, the RAND report suggests that the country look to rebalance civilian and military staff sizes and budgets, noting that the military's end strength and resources have far outweighed those of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State.

“Whatever approach to decision making presidents may adopt -- formal, competitive, collegial, or some combination thereof -- it is important that they foster debate among their principal advisers and value disciplined dissent as an essential aid to wise decision-making,” the report contends.

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Though the Associated Press reported last night that former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) will "help shepherd" the incoming administration's Pentagon transition effort, Obama camp spokesman Nick Shapiro tells us that Nunn will not be the Defense Department transition team leader. Instead, Nunn will have an informal role.

Also, Stephanie Cutter, the chief spokeswoman for the Obama transition effort, issued a statement about the AP story, torpedoing both the Nunn talk and the suggestion that former Secretary of State Warren Christopher would aid transition efforts at the State Department.

"Senator Sam Nunn will play an informal senior adviser role throughout the defense transition process," she said. "His expertise and the respect he has earned will be invaluable to ensure a smooth transition. Secretary Christopher is deeply respected in the United States and throughout the international community. However, he is not playing a role in the transition process. There's a lot of disinformation out there. We're working hard to put the agency review teams together and expect they'll be announced this week and inside the agencies by the end of the week."

By Thomas Duffy
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department today issued its first set of Small Business Innovation Research proposals for fiscal year 2009. The package includes projects for the Air Force, Army and Navy, chemical and biological defense, the Defense Advanced Research Agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Special Operations Command.

The SBIR program looks to harness the technical innovation of small companies in areas in which a major defense contractor would be unlikely to invest research dollars.

Companies apply first for a six-month to nine-month phase I award of between $70,000 to $100,000, allowing DOD to judge the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of their ideas. If that phase proves successful, a company may be asked to bid on a two-year phase II award worth between $500,000 and $750,000.

That work usually results in the development of a prototype.

If all of that goes well, small companies are then expected to secure funding from the private sector or non-SBIR government sources to turn their concept into a product that can be sold to the military on or the commercial market.

DOD will begin accepting ideas Dec. 8.

By Dan Dupont
November 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post today looks somewhat skeptically at President-elect Obama's plans to "reverse years-long trends, including pork barrel spending by Congress, the tendency of government employees to leave to work for government contractors and a sharp rise in the use of no-bid contracts."

Obama "also wants to make federal buying systems more efficient," the Post writes, with the Pentagon an obvious target.

Contracting specialists, former federal procurement officials and trade group representatives said that to fulfill those promises, the Obama administration will have to summon the will to effect a huge cultural change inside the government to take procurement more seriously.

Government acquisitions programs have long been plagued by delays and cost increases, but experts say the problems have worsened in recent years as the size of the federal workforce has barely grown even as the amount of spending on services, technology and other goods more than doubled. The Clinton administration cut the number of procurement workers as part of an effort to trim red tape, and the Bush administration accelerated the trend with a philosophical commitment to outsourcing and small government.

An annual Government Accountability Office assessment of Defense Department weapons programs helps illustrate some of the problems. Planned commitments on systems rose from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion in fiscal 2007, the report found. At the same time, the amount that programs exceeded cost estimates soared from $42 billion in 2000 to $295 billion last year. Average delays of the programs examined by the GAO increased from 16 months to 21 months.

"They're inheriting an almost broken procurement system" said Charles Tiefer, a contracting law professor at the University of Baltimore Law School. "During the last eight years, a lot of the critical oversight machinery was undercut or neglected."

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

John Podesta, co-chair of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, spoke to reporters this afternoon about the status of the transition effort.

He said the Obama camp will name transition team leaders for departments later this week. Some teams will begin their work as early as next Monday (Nov. 17), he said.

When asked whether Obama intends to retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Podesta said Obama has "great respect" for Gates. He said Obama intends to engage across the board with the federal agencies, noting a transition team will be sent to the Pentagon.

Obama will "render a judgment" on the defense secretary post after those briefings and after he has a chance to meet with his advisers, Podesta said.

By Marjorie Censer
November 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Army this week has a good look at what to expect from the transition, according to former officials who suggested keeping a close eye on the new administration's plans for the size of the force and how it handles the Future Combat Systems program -- the Army's sweeping modernization effort.

Some, including former Army acquisition chief Paul Hoeper, suggested the next administration may have to choose between growing the force and improving equipment.

Despite the hard choices ahead, Arnold Punaro, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, told ITA he expects the upcoming transition to be smooth.

“The Pentagon is more prepared than I’ve seen for transition,” he said, lauding the experience of the Defense Department's transition team and Obama's team.

“You’re not going to have any amateurs or rookies involved in this,” he said.

The transition may be even smoother if the current Pentagon acquisition executive sticks around -- which could happen, reported late last week. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked political appointees to consider staying in their posts until the Senate confirms their replacements to smooth the transition process. Whether John Young will be among those holdovers remains to be seen.

During a media roundtable on Oct. 30, John Young said he would stay in his post “((u))ntil they tell me to leave.”

Over on the Navy side, Inside the Navy reports today that service leaders are looking to the new Pentagon team -- and lawmakers -- for help:

On the eve of a new presidential administration, the Navy continues to conduct myriad missions at sea and ashore around the globe at a rate that is over-stressing portions of the force and requires continued support from the new administration and Congress, the sea service’s director of strategy and policy said in an interview last week.

“We’re pretty close to running at the margins,” Rear Adm. Robert Thomas said Nov. 4. “You can see where we’re overstressed in some areas in our steady-state posture and then you throw a contingency on it, now we’re cutting into bone.”

By John Liang
November 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon has released its latest "Enterprise Transition Plan" to help the new administration continue to make the Defense Department's business operations more efficient and effective.

The plan "has become part of the business operations culture of DOD and is the framework that integrates capabilities across the department," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England writes in the document's foreword.

The 398-page plan's first chapter lays out the DOD enterprise's conceptual foundation, including a "primer" divided into three sections: "Approach," "Progress" and "Challenges," which are "intended for incoming DOD leaders to acquaint them with the current context and approach to Business Transformation, recent progress and the near-term challenges ahead."

The second chapter talks about what the Pentagon needs to do to enable that enterprise, and Chapter 3 describes DOD's six "enterprise priorities":

  • Personnel Visibility
  • Acquisition Visibility
  • Common Supplier Engagement
  • Materiel Visibility
  • Real Property Accountability
  • Financial Visibility

The remaining chapters deal with business transformation within the individual services as well as the Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

To read the 2007 plan, click here, and for the 2006 one, click here.

By Sebastian Sprenger
November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama should pick a “confidential adviser” to help him fill science and technology-related jobs quickly, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

Before Obama’s inauguration, the adviser should help the incoming president “identify and recruit” candidates for key S&T appointments, according to a Nov. 5 National Academies statement.

After the inauguration, Obama should give the adviser the title of special assistant to the president for science and technology and nominate the person for job of Office of Science and Technology Policy director, reads the statement.

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take the helm, he should use the best available science and scientists to help manage the nation’s current and future issues, such as climate change, alternative energy, veterans' health, and the nation's infrastructure.

The report itself lists 80 high-level government positions deemed crucial for advising the new president on S&T matters, and it suggests ways of attracting qualified personnel for these jobs.

By Jason Sherman
November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced today that he plans to step aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and hand the gavel to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). The statement does not address what, if any, changes might be in store for the defense subcommittee, which Inouye chairs. A Senate source on the appropriations committee said that Inouye may hold both positions if he chooses. Byrd, who has served as chairman for 10 of the 50 years he has served on the appropriations committee, will remain on the panel and continue to chair the homeland security subcommittee. In a statement, Byrd said:

A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009. I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate. I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.

By Jason Simpson
November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Making the rounds in the blogosphere this week is a video showing a heretofore unidentified Air Force officer’s briefing on the Indian air force's Su30-MKI's performance at Red Flag 2008 (part 1 is here; part 2 here).

Stephen Trimble's blog “The DEW Line” was the first to post the YouTube video.

So who was that unmasked man?

According to Nellis Air Force Base public affairs, the lecturer was Col. Terrence Fornof, an F-15 Eagle pilot and the director of requirements and testing at the Air Force Warfare Center.

Fornof was “giving a private impromptu briefing in August 2008 to local Daedalians,” a group of retired military pilots, service spokesman Mike Estrada told Inside the Air Force in a Nov. 7 e-mail.

The response, in its entirety:

The YouTube videos “IAF SU-30 MKI Red Flag Lecture Part 1 & Part 2” were of Colonel Terrence Fornof, an F-15 pilot and the Director of the Requirements and Testing office at the United States Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis AFB, Nev., giving a private impromptu briefing in August 2008 to local Daedalians. The Daedalians are a group of retired military pilots. Col. Fornof did not mean to offend any U.S. allied forces, as he knows firsthand the importance of training with allied forces and the awesome firepower they bring to the fight. His comments during this briefing were his personal opinions and not those of U.S. Air Force Warfare Center or of the Air Force.

In his briefing, Fornof said the U.S. F-15 pilots “dominated” in the exercise, more due to the two countries' aviators' experience than the capabilities of the respective planes. The Su30-MKI and Eagle are parallel in capabilities, he added, but the F-22A Raptor's are superior. The colonel also was critical of French pilots' tactics in the dogfights.

Estrada said Fornof is not available for interviews, “nor is it Air Force policy to comment on the performance of U.S. and allied units taking part in Red Flag exercises.”

However, Air Force had no problem describing the Raptor’s dominance in a Red Flag exercise early in 2007, as Inside the Air Force reported at the time.

By John Liang
November 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Government Accountability Office today unveiled a new Web site dedicated to the presidential transition.

Out of 13 urgent policy concerns for the incoming Obama administration listed by GAO, four of them are national security-related: "U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan," "protecting the homeland," "undisciplined defense spending," and "rebuilding military readiness."

On the defense-spending side:

The new administration needs to move quickly to nominate and fill key leadership positions, including the Deputy Secretary of Defense (now statutorily designated as the Chief Management Officer), the Deputy Chief Management Officer, the Undersecretaries of Defense, and the Secretaries and the Undersecretaries in the military departments (now statutorily designated as each department’s Chief Management Officer). DOD senior leaders must have sufficient authority to make trade-offs between competing near-term and long-term demands, get the highest return from the funding choices that are made, and put sufficient controls in place to manage an increasingly large and involved contractor workforce.

As for the Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan issue:

No matter what policy choices are made, new approaches are needed that better integrate military, diplomatic, and development assistance into strategic, interagency plans.

On military readiness:

Developing an affordable plan to ensure that U.S. forces are ready to conduct missions at home and abroad now and in the future is critical to the nation’s security.

As for protecting the homeland, GAO has this to say about the Department of Homeland Security:

As the unifying core of the vast national network of organizations and institutions involved in securing the nation, the department must ensure that it is prepared and vigilant -- particularly during the presidential transition period, when the nation can be viewed as being especially vulnerable. Moreover, the new administration and Congress should work to further strengthen departmental operations and address critical issues that, as GAO has reported, affect the nation's security and preparedness.

By Sebastian Sprenger
November 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still working on a study of the requirements for U.S. trainers of foreign security forces that was slated for completion in the spring. The study, overseen by Celeste Ward, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations capabilities, last year set out to examine exactly how many forces the worldwide combatant commanders need for what officials call “train/advise/assist” missions in their areas of responsibility.

In an interview last December, Ward projected the study would be completed in the spring -- in time to influence the long-term spending plan beginning in fiscal year 2010.

Since then, few details have emerged about where the study is heading or what its results are.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Robert Mehal told us recently the study is indeed still ongoing, adding he “wouldn't even want to speculate” when it might be completed.

If and when study members reach their conclusions, and if the Pentagon leaders of President-elect Barack Obama opt to consider them, the numbers could influence force structure decisions aimed at configuring the ground forces for irregular warfare and stabilization operations, according to experts.

By Dan Dupont
November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Don't miss our new special report on what comes next now that the biggest question -- who's the next president? -- has been answered.

We lead off with this story:

Obama Team Considers New DOD Posts, Budget Challenges

President-elect Barack Obama's national security advisers -- led by former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig -- must assemble a new civilian Pentagon leadership team to take charge of two wars, determine how to reconstitute battle-worn forces while the federal budget and national economy faces severe pressure, and translate national security campaign promises into defense policy.

The Obama transition team, according to a briefing paper prepared for the campaign's national security advisory team, may consider a number of organizational changes to the Defense Department's civilian leadership that signal a break with priorities of the last eight years and point to the ascendancy of new issues that will affect defense strategy.

The incoming administration, according to the paper, may retool the intelligence under secretary office established by Donald Rumsfeld; create a new high-level energy security post; and divide the substantial portfolio of the assistant secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.

It will also mull cuts to high-profile weapon systems, the paper states, naming three: national missile defense, the Airborne Laser and the Army's Future Combat Systems program.

Much more therein. A good read for the first day after the election. And we've got a lot more to come.