The Insider

By John Liang
May 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This week, the day after the EastWest Institute released a report concluding that Iran could develop a nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles in six to eight years but would "not be able, for at least 10 to 15 years, to independently master the technologies necessary for advanced intermediate-range ballistic missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles," Iran test-fired a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a possible 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) range.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly today was asked at a House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing whether he agreed with the report's conclusions. He did not:

A lot of the assumptions they use in these types of assessments are not accurate, and they don't reflect our true capability, our specifications, what we've demonstrated, also what we know of the threat for what I have access to in intelligence, it does not correlate to the basic assumptions that they use in that study and others I've seen like that.

We asked MIT Professor Ted Postol, one of the co-authors of the report and a missile defense critic, whether the Iranian test changes any of the report's conclusions. Here's his response:

The short answer to your question is that the recent launch of a two-stage solid propellant missile does not change any of our conclusions. However, it does raise questions that were not addressed in the current report that will have to be dealt with in our continuing work at MIT and Stanford on this and related questions.

There is very little data on the Sejjil missile and very rough estimates I have done this evening suggest that it is likely to be able to carry a 1000 kg payload to 2000 km range. I will need to do further analysis on this missile, but it cannot be ruled out that it could eventually achieve a range of 2500 km. I caution you these are very preliminary numbers and I am not yet ready to stand by them.

Our current study estimates that if Iran moved ahead with a nuclear program it could take Iran 1 to 3 years to test a first nuclear weapon and an additional 5 to 6 years or more to develop a nuclear warhead compact and light enough to fly on a ballistic missile. This estimate was arrived at by the experts in our study who have built nuclear weapons. Our estimates in the study for the time it would take Iran to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to a range of 2000 km was for a modified version of the Safir satellite launch vehicle (SLV) where the second stage was redesigned to carry a payload of about 1000 kg. The development of this modified version of the Safir SLV would probably take no more than several years, but the long pole in having a nuclear-armed delivery system would be obtaining the warhead. This situation is also true if the solid propellant Sejjil missile is successfully refined into an operating system within the next several years. So in short, there is essentially no substantial change in our findings.

However, the fact that the Sejjil is a solid propellant missile introduces a new set of questions that we did not deal with in our report. This set of questions has to do with longer-term advances in ballistic missile capabilities that are based on solid propellant missiles. In the case of the Sejjil, increasing its range substantially would require building essentially a different and much larger solid propellant missile. This would be a gigantic enterprise, since scaling up the size of solid rocket motors is a gigantic technical and engineering task.

Problems that occur in constructing much larger rocket motors result from the sheer size of the motor and the casing. Early solid rocket motor casings were made of steel, and as the technology advanced the casings were fabricated from glass, Kevlar, and finally carbon epoxy materials. Winding these much larger casings, maintaining the strength and integrity of these much larger casings, mixing the propellant so that they are extremely uniform, and getting more energy out of the propellants, require major industrial and scientific efforts. You may recall, that when the US was rushing to deploy Pershing's in Europe, the development program was plagued with failures of that solid rocket motor. So the introduction of the Sejjil does not necessarily foretell the rapid development of larger longer-range solid propellant missiles. It does, however, introduce a potentially new class of systems. Since solid rocket propellant systems have relatively short burn times compared with similar classes of liquid propellants, they can potentially pose more demanding challenges to boost-phase and ascent-phase missile defense systems.

With regard to the boost-phase system discussed in the appendix of the report, this new technology will not be available for much larger and longer range rocket systems for quite a while, and even if it were available, the rockets would be very large and subject to the same vulnerabilities that were described for large liquid propellant missiles.

By Rebekah Gordon
May 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is now officially just that, sworn in to the position yesterday, according to the service. A former Mississippi governor and ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the 75th secretary took his oath of office during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Mabus replaces B.J. Penn, who was filling the role on an interim basis following the departure of former Navy Secretary Donald Winter on March 13.

In addition, according to Mabus' spokeswoman, Navy Under Secretary Robert Work was sworn in to his post this morning. A retired Marine Corps colonel, Work was previously a naval analyst and vice president at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Mabus and Work were confirmed by the Senate on Monday. During an April 28 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Mabus and Work pledged to improve the Navy’s acquisition workforce.

By Jason Sherman
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon tomorrow will dispatch two C-17s laden with food, water trucks and tents to Pakistan as part of a humanitarian relief effort announced today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said today in a press briefing.

The Defense Department, according to a White House fact sheet, plans to provide $10 million worth of goods and equipment as part of a $110 million U.S. government aid package to help people displaced by the Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban.

By Jason Sherman
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tapped Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan, a Navy SEAL who commands the 4th Fleet, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, to be his new senior military assistant.

Kernan's nomination for the position and a third star was sent to the Senate on Friday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters today, along with Gates' new picks to lead operations in Afghanistan -- Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the director of the Joint Staff, and Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Gates' current senior military assistant.

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told House lawmakers today the Air Force needs 243 Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors to maintain air superiority.

During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee today, Schwartz said: “243 is the right number and 187 is the affordable force.”

The Air Force chief's answer came in response to a question from Rep. Rob. Bishop (R-UT), who asked if the Pentagon's decision to end production of the fifth-generation fighter at 187 aircraft was purely budget-driven or a requirement.

Schwartz's comments come the week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate panel that the Air Force did not need any more Raptors.

By Marjorie Censer
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army does not require more active -duty end strength authority than it now has, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said today.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Casey at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee he'd like to give the Army temporary additional end strength through the end of fiscal year 2009 to provide “some latitude." Additionally, Lieberman has introduced an amendment to the FY-10 budget resolution that would boost the Army's active size by 30,000.

Though he did not reject outright the idea of a temporary increase, Casey said what he's “not ready to sign up for just yet is whether we need to increase the active Army beyond 547,000,” he told the committee.

“An active Army of that size plus the Guard and Reserve -- that's 1.1 million folks and, if the demand comes down, we should be able to provide the country with sustainable capability at appropriate deployment ratios at 1.1 million.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Casey said he has discussed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates the proposed increase, and they have opted not to support it.

“It comes down to it's about a billion dollars to have that increase, and that's a lot of money,” Casey said.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has announced plans to nominate J. Michael Gilmore to be the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation. Here is his bio, as released by the White House:

J. Michael Gilmore most recently served as Assistant Director for National Security at the Congressional Budget Office, where he was responsible for CBO's National Security Division, which performs analyses of major policy and program issues in national defense, international affairs, and veterans affairs. Before joining CBO in 2001, Dr. Gilmore was the Deputy Director for General Purpose Programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Program Analysis and Evaluation. In that position, he was responsible for developing, formulating, and implementing Secretary of Defense policies on all aspects of Department of Defense general purpose programs. In his 11 years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he began by analyzing strategic defense and military satellite communications programs and later, as part of the Cost Analysis Improvement Group, directed teams of analysts in preparing estimates of the costs of defense programs. Prior to his career in government, he was a defense analyst for McDonnell Douglas Corporation and a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he performed research on nuclear fusion. Dr. Gilmore received a Ph.D. and M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee says the Senate voted last night to confirm the following nominations:

* Gov. Raymond E. Mabus, Jr. to be Secretary of the Navy * Mr. Robert O. Work to be Under Secretary of the Navy * Mr. Andrew C. Weber to be Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs * Mr. Paul N. Stockton to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs * Mr. Thomas R. Lamont to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs * Mr. Charles A. Blanchard to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the House Armed Services Committee today the service plans to release a request for proposals for the KC-X tanker competition in June or July. The goal is to award a contract in mid-fiscal year 2010.

Speaking about the KC-X program last Friday, David Van Buren, the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said:

We're in the process now internally within the department of going though the acquisition plan, the execution, to be able to then come out to industry in the middle part of this year.

Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley are on the House side of Capitol Hill this morning to discuss the service's FY-10 budget proposal. The duo are scheduled to brief their spending request to senators on Thursday.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are asking Congress for the one-year renewal of a soon-to-expire authority under which officials may pay foreign tipsters through allied government representatives, according to a string of legislative proposals sent to lawmakers last week.

The years-old DOD Rewards program allows the defense secretary to "pay a monetary amount, or provide a payment-in-kind, to a person as a reward for providing United States Government personnel with information or nonlethal assistance" valuable in conducting operations or anticipating attacks against U.S. forces, according to law.

The Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, enacted early last year, gave DOD the additional authority to use foreign intermediaries to offer and pay these rewards -- up to $5 million. The authority to use intermediaries -- not the program as a whole -- is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

But defense officials only began transferring rewards through allied officials earlier this fiscal year, after guidance from former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England took effect in mid-September, a section-by-section analysis of the legislative proposals states.

Here is the key graph from the analysis:

"The authority to offer and make rewards by acting through government personnel of allied forces is currently in use in Afghanistan. The Commander, United States Central Command, is supportive and expects to expand this method of offering and making rewards. The authority was not implemented until fiscal year 2009 and requires more time to mature and develop based on adjusted national and theater strategies."

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Remember the Marine Corps’ new Harvest Hawk gunship program, which we told you about in March?

Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway said Friday the program remains on track to field aircraft this summer in Afghanistan.

“You know, Marine commanders have lusted for years over the AC-130s that the special ops communities have,” he told an audience assembled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And again, because we consider air to be an asymmetric advantage, we want to take it to the wall in terms of what our capacities are. We know that our KC-130Js have long loiter capability that they can generally stay outside the envelope of air defense fires. And so we've created a roll-on, roll- off package that takes about six or eight hours to transform an aircraft that might be hauling men and equipment to become an aircraft overhead with ISR and with sting.”

The Harvest Hawk is no AC-130, Conway conceded, noting the special operations aircraft is very expensive and has some very sophisticated systems.

“But our ISR we think is sufficient for the battlefield we face,” he added. “We think a 30 millimeter cannon out the side of that aircraft, a Hellfire capability that can be launched from that aircraft, and the other things associated with it then are what we need. And I think you're going to see it in the theater before the end of this calendar year. We're pretty excited about it.”

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said today he does not know of any U.S. aid to Pakistan that has been improperly diverted to advance the Pakistani nuclear weapons program.

"I am not aware of any U.S. aid that's gone towards nuclear weapons, save that which is very focused in the last several years -- last three years, three or four years, on improving their security, which is exactly what we'd like, and they've done that," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution.

We noted last Thursday Mullen's comments on the topic on Capitol Hill. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he acknowledged Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program, a point that caused Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to voice concern. The New York Times published a story on the subject today.

Mullen did note this morning he is encouraged by the Pakistani government’s efforts to fight insurgents.

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In an effort to bolster its KC-X tanker proposal team, Boeing has put former HH-47 boss Rick Lemaster in charge of its Air Force KC-767 program, Inside the Air Force has learned.

Boeing brass approved the move just a few weeks ago, and Lemaster set up shop at Boeing's offices in St. Louis last week. The move comes in the wake of the Pentagon's cancellation of the combat search-and-rescue helicopter effort, which Lemaster led for Boeing for a number of years.

“Rick Lemaster recently became Boeing's KC-X/USAF Tanker Program Manager,” a Boeing spokesman confirmed this afternoon. “His valuable experience both as program manager for our winning CSAR-X bid and as a former career acquisition officer in the U.S. Air Force make him well-suited to help lead our efforts in competing and winning the next KC-X Tanker competition.”

Long considered the underdog, Boeing's tandem-rotor HH-47 won the lengthy Air Force CSAR-X competition, which was mired by industry protests and numerous delays.

In another move, Greg Rusbarsky, who was slated to become the KC-X program manager if the Air Force selected the KC-767, has become the effort's chief engineer. Dave Bowman remains Boeing's vice president and general manager of tanker programs, reporting directly to Integrated Defense Systems President, Jim Albaugh.

Boeing's former tanker boss, Mark McGraw, left the program last summer and is working in the company's training systems sector.

By Marjorie Censer
May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), the committee's ranking member, asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey whether the decrease in procurement spending in the administration's fiscal year 2010 budget request represents the “start of a procurement holiday.”

Though Casey said “it certainly is too early to tell,” he added that he doesn't “feel that it is” -- and that the Army has “benefited substantially from a plus-up in our investment accounts over the last several years.”

In fact, he said of the holes in the service's equipment, the Army has “filled more than I would have thought possible.”

For more on Casey's testimony -- and what he told reporters during breaks in the hearing -- check out this story on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program as well as the next issue of Inside the Army, which will be posted to late today.

By John Reed
May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force today announced that it plans to make Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, the permanent headquarters for the service's cyber-fighting arm -- the 24th Air Force.

This comes after years of fits and starts for the numbered air force, which was originally going to have major command status -- a proposal viewed by many as the Air Force's attempt to establish itself as the lead service for defending the nation in the cyber arena.

However, this notion didn't exactly go over well with everyone in the Pentagon. Public relations flaps over an ad campaign depicting the Air Force as all that protected America from cyber devastation, distracting scandals involving nuclear weapons and subsequent leadership changes led the service to downsize the cyber arm to a numbered air force, reporting to Air Force Space Command, that would be responsible only for protecting the service's networks.

The 24th Air Force's new home of San Antonio makes good sense in that Texas has a fairly robust high-tech economy and nearby Austin is host to the main campus of the University of Texas and its research facilities. Other bases that were vying to host 24th Air Force were Barksdale AFB, LA, Langley AFB, VA, Offutt AFB, NE, Peterson AFB, CO, and Scott AFB, IL.

A provisional command has been working toward the official stand-up at its temporary home of at Barksdale just outside of Shreveport, LA, for more than a year.

Now that the Air Force has made its choice, service officials will have to wait until summer to get the green light to stand up the command at Lackland while the Air Force conducts and environmental impact study to ensure the new mission will not harm the local environment. This. however, is not likely to be a problem because the online-oriented command will require little “brick and mortar” development, said provisional cyber command chief Maj. Gen. William Lord earlier this year.