The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Governors Association complained again today about efforts to give the Pentagon expanded authorities to respond to domestic disasters.

"Governors remain concerned regarding proposed changes to the military’s authority to engage independently in domestic emergency response situations," the group writes in an Aug. 20 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Republican John McCain (AZ). The proposal should not be included in the final version of this year's national defense authorization bill, the governors argue.

"We strongly believe the consideration of any such proposals should be preceded by a discussion regarding the tactical control of forces serving inside a state during a disaster response," the letter adds.

On Aug, 7, the group sent a similar letter to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs Paul Stockton. Both missives urge DOD to quickly establish the Council of Governors, as required by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, to foster talks and coordination on homeland defense and emergency response issues between DOD, the Department of Homeland Security and governors.

By John Liang
August 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program this week fired the megawatt-class, Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) in flight for the first time, except for one little detail: The laser beam never left the Boeing 747.

That was on purpose, as lead contractor Boeing said in a statement:

During the test, the modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and fired its high-energy laser while flying over the California High Desert. The laser was fired into an onboard calorimeter, which captured the beam and measured its power.

"This was a significant test of the Airborne Laser's capabilities, demonstrating that the system has truly moved from the drawing board to reality," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "We have seen that the Airborne Laser's high-energy laser is functioning aboard the aircraft and that ABL is ready for more flight tests to further validate its viability as a mobile missile defense system."

Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director, said, "This test shows that ABL is on track to shoot down a boosting ballistic missile later this year. After years of development, the team is excited to be so close to delivering this transformational and unique directed-energy weapon system. We think ABL will be a game-changer for weapon systems the same way stealth technology transformed aerial combat."

Before the upcoming missile shoot-down demonstration, ABL's high-energy laser will undergo a series of additional flight tests, building toward lethal capabilities. It will advance from being fired into the onboard calorimeter to being sent through the beam control/fire control system, exiting the aircraft through a nose-mounted turret. This will represent a major achievement in directed-energy technology because it will be the first time a megawatt-class laser has been coupled with precise pointing and atmospheric correction in an airborne environment. The team will follow this milestone with the firing of the high-energy laser against a variety of increasingly challenging targets, culminating with an airborne intercept test against a ballistic missile in the boost phase of flight.

The ABL aircraft is a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half holds the high-energy laser. The front section of the aircraft contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, provided by Boeing. Northrop Grumman developed and built the COIL.

According to a Northrop statement:

Maintaining the precise alignment of optical components within the laser while in flight ranks among the program's notable accomplishments, according to Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts - Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"ABL has to keep all of the powerful laser's optical components perfectly positioned as the aircraft vibrates and flexes during flight," Hixson said. "Since we were unable to fly the kind of large concrete pads used to hold a ground-based laser's optics in place, we had to isolate the COIL's optics from the structure but also maintain alignment. So the team developed an optical bench isolation system that isolates disturbances caused by normal aircraft operations while maintaining alignment to the gain medium, or the source of a laser's optical power. It's like an automobile's 'smart suspension' that keeps the car riding smoothly at the same level over a bumpy road."

The ABL is scheduled to attempt an intercept of a boosting ballistic missile sometime this fall, after years of delay and billions of dollars spent on the effort. In June, House and Senate authorizers approved Defense Secretary Robert Gates' $1.2 billion cut to MDA's fiscal year 2010 budget request, which included the cancellation of the second planned ABL aircraft.

Instead, Gates directed MDA to look at technologies beyond intercepting in the boost-phase and into the "ascent" phase of a ballistic missile's flight.

Inside Missile Defense reported in June that MDA would give the ABL program three chances to intercept a boosting target missile before deciding whether to cancel the effort entirely:

"What we’ve set up in our budget is, we're giving it a chance for three strikes," Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly said at a conference sponsored by the National Defense University. "It's going to fly in September/October, that time frame, and if it is not successful there, we’re going to fly it again in the middle of the ((fiscal)) year, and if it's not successful, we’ll fly it again next spring, and after that third one, I am committed to come back to the . . . under secretary of defense for acquisition and make a recommendation: Should we continue with this project?"

According to MDA's latest budget justification summary, the agency is requesting $187 million for fiscal year 2010 for the ABL program, down from the $401 million appropriated in FY-09.

"This scaling back of the ABL program retains funding for the lethal shoot-down later this year with the Tail #1 aircraft; retention of critical skills needed for optics and fire control; and continued test flights and de-commissioning of the aircraft if the flight tests are unsuccessful," the summary reads. The agency also -- under the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- is canceling the design and purchase of a second ABL aircraft.

By John Liang
August 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The two Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, next month are fully fueled and awaiting their marriage onto their booster, according to a Northrop Grumman official.

The satellites are scheduled to be launched on Sept. 15 aboard a single Delta II booster rocket between 8 pm and 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time, according to a Northrop fact sheet.

"We've stacked them on each other and on top of their orbit insertion stage, so this configuration is now ready to be mounted onto the booster and moved out to the launch pad, so we're very close," Fred Ricker, vice president of military systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' Space Systems Division, said in a telephone interview this morning from the Space and Missile Defense Command's annual conference in Huntsville, AL.

The two satellites will be placed in the same orbit, one in advance of the other, according to Ricker, who added:

So there'll be a leader and a follower, and what that allows us to do, then, is to become participants in ((Missile Defense Agency)) tests that will be carried out over the Pacific primarily. We'll be able to view target missiles that are launched from both satellites, and in doing so we'll be able to create a stereo viewing. That stereo view will be converted into an accurate, three-dimensional track that's describing the trajectory of the target missile, and that's what allows us to pass on the information about that track to the ((Ballistic Missile Defense)) System that will be taking that information, providing it to other parts of the system so that you can coordinate ultimately an intercept.

By Kate Brannen
August 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

On the day before national elections take place in Afghanistan, country experts emphasized the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow's results as well as their inability to predict what those results -- whatever they may be -- will mean for Afghanistan's security.

J. Alexander Thier, senior rule of law adviser at the United States Institute for Peace, said today that risk and instability would likely follow the election due to the high perception of fraud and corruption. These perceptions have been exacerbated by the recent controversial election in Iran, he said, adding that many Afghans also believe that the United States will have a hand in who wins.

Thier spoke, along with retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, at the Center for National Policy.

Both men agreed that all outcomes would invariably be accompanied by a level of risk and turbulence in the country.

"I expect tomorrow is going to be a violent day in Afghanistan," said Barno.

The speakers also said it would take time for the security situation to improve and for the Obama administration's multipronged strategy to produce results.

By next summer, Barno said all arrows currently pointing down would have bottomed out and start to turn upward, particularly the security indicators. But, he predicted a lot of violence between now and then.

Paul McHale, former assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and the discussion's moderator, said he believed it would take longer -- three to five years -- for real improvement to show. McHale said he agrees with David Kilcullen's recent assessment of two years of fighting left, followed by three years of transitioning operations to the Afghan security forces.

By John Liang
August 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Environmentalists are weighing the possibility of new litigation against the Army in light of a recent environmental assessment that proposes to re-start a controversial project that would relocate more than 1,000 desert tortoises, an endangered species, to make way for expanded training at the Army's Ft. Irwin, CA, National Training Center, Defense Environment Alert reports this week:

The Army last year suspended an initial translocation project at its National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA, after it saw a high mortality rate among translocated desert tortoises. A spokesman for Ft. Irwin says the predation number was a surprise. The Army also had been sued by environmentalists in 2008 over the project, but the suit was dismissed after the Army and other federal agencies reinitiated consultation under the Endangered Species Act over the impacts of the relocation project, and the Army agreed to revise its recovery plan for the tortoise.

Now the Army is looking to fulfill plans to relocate the tortoises from two training expansion areas at the NTC. But predation is an issue environmental activists believe should still be addressed under the latest relocation project.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) late last month released a draft environmental assessment analyzing the impacts of an Army plan to translocate desert tortoises from the Southern Expansion Area (SEA) and Western Expansion Area (WEA) of the NTC to BLM and other Army-managed lands. The SEA is approximately 24,000 acres of new training land, while the WEA is approximately 70,000 acres of new training property. The Army wants to transfer the desert tortoises out of the new training areas in order to protect them from training impacts. The military intends to use the new areas for both air and ground training. Both of these areas had been designated as critical habitat in 1994 for the desert tortoise. In order to allow the training use, the Army must comply with certain conservation measures and conditions.

Inside the Army reported in July 2008 that the service has planned to add 5,000 soldiers and increase training rotation capacity to 12 at Ft. Irwin, and prepared a draft programmatic environmental impact statement considering the “impacts associated with the stationing and training of new soldiers at Fort Irwin,” according to a June 2008 Federal Register notice. As ITA reported:

The move stems from an April 2002 record of decision that opted to go forward with the 30-year phased implementation of the service’s transformation from a division-based force to a modular, brigade-based Army.

“The Army leadership determined that the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) should transform over a period of several years to become a MultiComponent Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT), deployable throughout the world,” the notice explains. “Other smaller units would also be stationed at Fort Irwin.” The document, dated June 27, explains that training rotations would increase, as would the number of soldiers stationed at the base.

“Additional cantonment and range construction would be necessary to support the increase in rotations and troops,” it adds.

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said today that a cargo ship that mysteriously disappeared has been found near the Cape Verde archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, according to wire service reports.

He said details would be forthcoming about what happened to the ship, which is called the Arctic Sea, as well as why communications with it were lost and why it changed its itinerary.

Why we point this out: Search efforts over the last past 10 days reportedly involved rare coordination between Russia and NATO.

And: Yesterday, Finnish authorities dismissed talk that the vessel was carrying nuclear cargo.

By Jason Sherman
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department today unveiled a major overhaul of its main Web portal, incorporating a number of social networking tools in a bid to begin a new form of communication with the American public, according to a senior Pentagon official.

“We need to embrace these technologies. We need to use them because that’s what the young people use these days. We need to communicate with them,” said Price Floyd, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told American Forces Press Service, a Pentagon new service.

In addition to a new domain name -- -- the Pentagon's embrace of Twitter and Facebook is intended to encourage commanders to launch their own social networking sites, Floyd said.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twitters regularly, as does Floyd. U.S. European Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan also have Facebook sites.

The new site invites visitors to propose questions to ask the defense secretary as well as to express an interest in learning more about select policy issues.

But: Will this embrace by DOD of social networking be short-lived?

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn last month commissioned an assessment -- due in two weeks -- of security risks associated with military-sponsored social networking sites. That report -- and, possibly, the early returns on the Web site unveiled today -- is expected to influence a formal policy by the end of September.

By Marjorie Censer
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army is in standing up a new center intended to improve the efficiency of its unmanned aircraft system efforts, service officials said last week.

At a conference in Washington, Tim Owings, the Army's deputy program manager for UAS, told reporters that the Army is relocating a number of its unmanned systems, including Shadow, Hunter and Sky Warrior, to Dugway Proving Ground, UT.

The consolidated site at Dugway is called the Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center, Owings said, and will include acceptance testing, logistics support, contractor training and quick reaction fielding, among other capabilities, according to his briefing slides.

Owings said he expects the consolidation at RIAC to "reduce the time line by about 75 percent in terms of integration time lines."

His briefing slides indicate that RIAC will be activated this fall, and Owings said the consolidation effort there will be complete 12 to 18 months from now.

By Jason Sherman
August 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After months spent constructing new five-year investment plans, the military services today are required to formally submit their fiscal year 2011 to 2015 spending proposals to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

With this milestone, each of the service's four-star vice chiefs is polishing a presentation on their respective spending request to present in the coming weeks to Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and other Pentagon leaders.

Lynn and his deputies will be assessing how well the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps funded nearly $60 billion worth of new capabilities that Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants in order to bolster the U.S. military's ability to conduct low- and high-end combat.

Today's so-called POM-lock also officially kicks off the program and budget review, which is being led by 18 issue teams and will conclude in late fall with decisions on where to adjust spending proposed today by the services.

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

NATO is using a new Web site to solicit feedback from the public on the organization's plan for a new strategic concept, a key foundational document for the alliance. The existing concept dates back to 1999 -- years before September 11, the Afghanistan war, piracy and cyber attacks changed the international security environment, as NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen points out in an introductory video message on the site.

“The discussion forum will be your opportunity to help shape the new NATO,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen, by the way, seems well versed in the use of social media tools. He also has a video blog, a facebook account and a Twitter page.

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With the Quadrennial Defense Review considering the gamut of defense-related issues, Pentagon officials believe there may be no need to publish a separate National Defense Strategy in the wake of the review, a senior official told us recently.

“It's possible we'll choose to publish something, maybe in the late spring, but I suspect you'll see just the QDR,” Kathleen Hicks, the deputy under secretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces, said Aug. 6. “The QDR will have, within it, the defense strategy. But a stand-alone NDS, I wouldn't expect to see anytime in the near future,” she added.

Officials will, however, derive a new National Military Strategy from the QDR, Hicks said.

Unlike in the case of the NDS, updates to the NMS are required by law, she noted.

By Marjorie Censer
August 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Lockheed Martin today celebrated a milestone in its development of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, driving one of its operational prototypes through a banner to mark 50,000 miles of combined testing on four prototypes.

The company flew reporters up to its headquarters in Owego, N.Y., to view the celebration as well as to test drive the newest prototype.

The milestone follows the completion of a preliminary design review here last week. The JLTV program office held PDRs with each of the three industry teams competing in the technology development phase of the program, which is intended to produce a next-generation humvee for the Army and Marine Corps.

Lockheed Martin is teamed with BAE Systems' Armor Holdings division in the effort.

The other teams in the TD phase are AM General working with General Dynamics Land Systems and BAE Systems of York, PA, partnered with Navistar.

For more details on the PDRs and the road ahead for the JLTV, check out the next issue of Inside the Army on Monday.

By Thomas Duffy
August 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While official Washington slumbers through another hot August, members of the missile defense community will gather in Huntsville, AL, next week for the 12th Annual Space and Missile defense Conference sponsored by the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command.

The event takes place at Huntsville's Von Braun Center Aug 17-20. According to a notice issued by the command, the theme for this year's conference is “Space and Missile Defense . . .the path forward.”

SMDC also tells us that:

This year's SMD Conference will have an international emphasis, including information on ballistic missile defense in Europe and China. The conference will also emphasize a "Joint" nature. Exhibits and presentations on topics such as future technologies, Army Way Ahead, tactical perspectives, operational perspectives, increasing roles in each of the services, and operationally responsive space will explore these issues with attendees.

According to the command's notice, the confirmed speakers include Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff; NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr.; Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander, US Strategic Command; Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT); Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, commander, 14th Air Force; Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director, Missile Defense Agency; Maj. Gen. (P) Robert P. Lennox, G-8 nominee; Brig. Gen. Kurt S. Story, deputy commander for operations SMDC/ARSTRAT; and Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith (D).

By Jason Sherman
August 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense industry executives from six competing firms have joined voices in a bid to remind Defense Secretary Robert Gates of his commitment last year to a sweeping assessment of the U.S. military's vertical-lift needs.

In a July 25 letter to Gates -- which was coordinated by Rhett Flater, executive director of the American Helicopter Society International -- the six executives use a soft touch to prompt the secretary about his 2008 pledge, which is to say, they register no explicit request.

We would like to express our strong support for your DOD Future Vertical Lift initiative to develop a joint approach to the future development of vertical lift aircraft for all the military services.

It's not every day that executives from competing defense firms lend their signature to a common letter. But they all clearly would like the Pentagon to package a new competition for a multibillion dollar helicopter program.

Signing the letter along with Flater are: Richard Millman, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter Textron; Jeffrey Pino, president and CEO of Sikorsky Aircraft; Philip Dunford, vice president and general manager of Boeing's rotorcraft systems; Scott Rettig, president and CEO of AgustaWestland; David Oliver, chief operating officer, EADS North America; and Marillyn Hewson, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration.

Last May, Gates directed the Pentagon’s acquisition shop to spearhead a comprehensive review of the U.S. military’s rotorcraft needs. He directed a two-year assessment that was expected to influence the requirements for a joint heavy lift aircraft and a joint multirole helicopter for future reconnaissance and attack missions, according to industry officials. The executives, in their letter, recap their hopes for this effort:

We believe that this initiative, consisting of (a) common requirements definition via a Capabilities Based Assessment; (b) early integration of the Science and Technology community to define the technological art of the possible and to reduce risk; and (c) a Joint Strategic Plan identifying the path ahead to develop and field new capabilities, shows the potential to be an unusually successful approach to support current and future warfighters. We also view it as identifying a clear way ahead for the Department of Defense and for the vertical flight industry. It will allow us to conduct informed industry research and engineering and to be better able to focus precious Independent Research and Development resources on DOD’s areas of greatest need. We believe the integrated approach of your Future Vertical Lift initiative will allow the development, maturation and fielding of truly Joint, revolutionary capabilities more quickly and at less cost to the Government.

August 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department announced this afternoon the appointment of two new senior Pentagon officials and the reassignment of a third. According to DOD the people, and the jobs, are as follows.

Robert J. Butler has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and will be assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber and space policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Washington, D.C. Butler previously served with Computer Sciences Corp., San Antonio, Texas.

Michael C. McDaniel has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and will be assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense strategy and force planning, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Washington, D.C. McDaniel previously served with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Lansing, Mich.

Marcel J. Lettre II is assigned as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, Washington, D.C. Lettre previously served with the principal director for countering weapons of mass destruction, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Washington, D.C.