The Insider

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

The White House Office of Management and Budget today released a report highlighting the government's efforts to reduce the money it spends on contracts, with federal agencies being "on track to save $19 billion through improvements to their contracting and acquisition practices."

The Pentagon was one of the highlighted departments:

The Defense Department hired a contractor to create the next-generation shoulder-fired missile, the Javelin. The missile proved successful but expensive. Its early use resulted in cracked launch tubes that cost approximately $25,000 each to repair. An in-house team of Pentagon engineers took a close look at the problem and recommended specific improvements to “ruggedize” launch tubes to make the tube less susceptible to cracks and abrasion damage in combat environments. The team designed and qualified a protective urethane coating for the Javelin launch tube. The Defense Department’s contracts now include the design change, and, as a result, taxpayers will save an estimated $10 million in hardware costs alone over the five-year life of the contract.

Additionally, the report highlights actions DOD and other government agencies have made to reduce "high-risk contracting," including the Pentagon's use of "peer-review teams":

No federal department contracts as much as the Department of Defense. Secretary Gates is adamant that dollars be spent effectively and efficiently and that they deliver quality services for our troops and our country. As a result, a new system of high-level peer reviews is in place to ensure consistent policy implementation, to improve the quality of contracting processes, and to facilitate cross-sharing of best practices and lessons learned throughout DOD, including for the purpose of mitigating the use of high risk contracts.

For larger contracts, a Deputy Director for Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy leads the peer review team, which is comprised of senior leaders from outside the agency with experience in the type of procurement being reviewed. For smaller contracts, the Services and agencies are responsible for implementing internal peer review programs.

Already, the Defense Department has conducted reviews on 40 different supply and service acquisition programs, with several having undergone as many as three phases of peer review. Contract solicitations have been simplified and improved. In addition, the interchange between the peer review teams and the host teams has enabled invaluable mentoring opportunities to develop future senior leaders. Overall, these efforts are bolstering the quality of contracting processes and the resulting contracts. To date, programs that have undergone all three phases of peer review have not had a sustained protest. In this way, peer reviews are helping the Pentagon to achieve more effective and efficient contracting.

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

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recently released a report, titled "China's Use of Perception Management and Strategic Deception" and produced on contract by Science Applications International Corp., on how the Chinese government is seeking to manage foreigners' perceptions of the country.

A taste:

Beijing's overt efforts to restore the Middle Kingdom's economic, military, and political prestige present an interesting dilemma for U.S. and Asian policy makers. While China's expanding economic prowess, military might, and exercise of political influence are largely visible to the untrained eye -- is there more to the story? Are members of the US academic, diplomatic, and intelligence communities being targeted by an unspoken agenda that may further Chinese foreign policy and national security objectives, potentially at a significant cost to those outside Beijing?

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

Proponents of the High-Integrity Global Positioning System argue that it would deliver a much-needed defense against GPS signal jamming within a year (see our new story on the program here).

But how pressing is the need for such a device, and how widespread is the jamming tactic among the usual of suspects of rogue nations and potential peer competitors?

According to Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Russians, the Chinese and probably the Iranians have the capability right now.

"Everybody who has a brain is trying to figure out how to do this," he told us.

Commercially available Russian-made technology is available today that could be used to "jam your entire neighborhood," Lewis said.

(It is unclear how useful these devices would be in military operations, however, given that anti-jamming technology exists already to account for attempts to scramble the signal.)

"Jamming of electromagnetic signals is fairly widespread and conducted by a number of nations," one defense official wrote in an e-mail. "It is a widespread enough practice that the U.S. believes we need a robust capability to operate in a jammed environment as soon as possible."

As for HIGPS, officials will conduct initial operational tests with the technology in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility next year, Alan Shaffer, the principal deputy director of defense research and engineering, told us yesterday during a brief telephone interview.

He declined to narrow down where exactly the tests would take place. (The PACOM area, of course, is enormously large. It includes China.)

But the secrecy surrounding the test location doesn't mean the gear will be used as part of some classified operation, Shaffer maintained. It's just that "we don't typically go ahead and talk about specific things we're doing ahead of time," he said.

By John Liang
December 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's nominee for the Pentagon's next chief spokesman thinks keeping in touch with the public won't be his only job. Maintaining close communication with his counterparts in other government agencies will be high on Douglas Wilson's priority list, as well.

Wilson, who would replace Dorrance Smith, states in his written preliminary answers to a Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing that:

I believe the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs will not only be responsible for effectively communicating Department information and messages to the Congress, to the American public and to international audiences – but he or she will also be responsible for working even more closely with colleagues and counterparts who also have communications responsibilities within the national security framework – diplomatic, intelligence, foreign assistance, public diplomacy, legal and financial, both within the Administration and within Congress. All involved must work together to develop credible and consistent message frameworks as well as both rapid pro-active and rapid-response communications efforts within those frameworks. All of this must be done within a continually-changing technological environment shaped by the many communications and social networking tools available not just to government communicators but to individuals, groups and mass audiences. The challenge here will be to understand that these new tools are themselves not a “one-size-fits-all” panacea, but instead must be tailored for use when and where they can be effective, either singly or in combination with other communications tools.

By Carlo Muñoz
December 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Col. Christopher Haas, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa, will be promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a ceremony this week at U.S. Africa Command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, according to a command spokesman.

Haas will receive his first star four months after taking command of SOCAFRICA and succeeding Brig. Gen. Patrick Higgins in the role. Higgins was named the theater special operations command's first chief in August 2007, shortly after the TSOC was created. AFRICOM was officially stood up earlier that year.

Haas' promotion comes as Joint Special Operations Task Force - Trans Sahara prepares to fully integrate into SOCAFRICA in May.

During his tenure as SOCAFRICA chief, Higgins outlined his thoughts on the continent and U.S. forces' role there in an interview with Inside the Pentagon last December. You can read about it here and here

By John Liang
December 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While the aerospace industry suffered drops in orders and backlog in 2009, total aerospace sales have increased this year and will do so again in 2010, according to Aerospace Industries Association projections.

AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey told attendees of the organization's annual year-end luncheon in Washington this afternoon that while "there are decreases in some aerospace categories . . . our projection for continued overall sales growth is a solid barometer that the aerospace industry boosts trade and generates thousands of high-paying jobs across the country."

Aerospace exports dropped by 17 percent in 2009 and imports went down by 34 percent, according to AIA. On the other hand, the industry's trade surplus is still the largest of any manufacturing sector at $54 billion, Blakey said.

By Zachary M. Peterson
December 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Vice Adm. David Architzel has been named to replace Vice Adm. David Venlet as the commander of Naval Air Systems Command, the service said yesterday.

The Navy has yet to announce who will replace Architzel as the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition ( second-in-command to acquisition czar Sean Stackley). Sources tell Inside the Navy that Rear Adm. William Hilarides, the program executive officer for submarines, is a possibility for the job.

Industry sources also said it is unlikely, though it is possible, that Architzel would be dual-hatted as both NAVAIR commander and deputy acquisition chief.

By Dan Taylor
December 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Lawmakers and senior Pentagon officials were tight-lipped this afternoon after a closed-door Senate Armed Services Committee meeting to discuss the fiscal health of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) was the only one to say anything to reporters after emerging from the committee hearing room in the Russell Senate Office Building, although even he declined comment on the content of the hearing itself.

“They've got real issues and they're working through them,” he said of program officials. “I don't know what they knew,” he said of the current cost and schedule issues, “but . . . they should've known.”

Chambliss added that the committee has “major, major issues” to deal with in the coming months.

“The committee is going to have to face this, because here we are getting close to budget time again, and the ((Joint Estimate Team)) report ((has not been)) made public and won't be until probably sometime as we get into the budget process,” he said.

The panel of cost estimators also found the F-35 program would need an additional $16 billion over the next five years, as first reported. The Pentagon is likely to adopt the JET recommendation to slow JSF development by one year when in finalizes its FY-11 budget proposal, as we wrote last week.

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter and Maj. Gen. David Heinz, the JSF program executive officer, were among the witnesses at today's meeting.

By John Liang
December 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System test did not take place late last week due to a target failure, according to a Missile Defense Agency statement.

"The target missile was successfully deployed from a C-17 transport aircraft but the target's rocket motor did not ignite," the MDA statement reads. "The THAAD interceptor missile was not launched; however, the system’s fire control system conducted a number of successful simulations. All THAAD system components were verified to be in working order, and the system was ready to conduct the mission."

MDA said officials would "conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the anomaly."

By Dan Dupont
December 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

It promised to be quite an interesting affair: A Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Joint Strike Fighter program and, specifically, a Joint Estimating Team that's made lots of news lately -- nearly all of it broken by -- on the status of the F-35.

Alas, the hearing -- scheduled for tomorrow -- has been "postponed to a date to be determined," the committee just said in an e-mail to reporters.

Scheduled witnesses included Ashton Carter, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Maj. Gen. David Heinz, the JSF program executive officer.

Also on tap, listed as TBD: "A participant on the Joint Estimating Team."

UPDATE 4:10 P.M.

The committee has announced it will hold a closed session on JSF and the JET tomorrow at 1:30, featuring Carter, Heinz and Christine Fox, the director of the office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation.

By John Liang
December 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Joint Forces Command plans to conduct an "All Things Missile" proof of concept event this week in Suffolk, VA, according to a command statement. JFCOM will partner with U.S. Strategic Command and other "service partners" to develop a "Joint Training Environment."


The consolidated training environment brings together the currently separate simulation environments of Survivable; Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment; Ballistic Missile Defense Systems and Tactical Engagement Simulations, to create a joint training environment which is "All Things Missile."

By Christopher J. Castelli
December 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, says he has secured more than $100 million in the fiscal year 2010 defense appropriations bill for the continuation of the mission systems work on Lockheed Martin's VH-71 presidential helicopter program. The funds are part of the conference agreement for the bill, he said in a Dec. 11 statement.

Earlier this year, Hinchey secured $485.2 million in the House's version of the bill, but Senate appropriators did not recommend any funds for the VH-71 program, which the Pentagon terminated this year. During the conference process, senators strongly resisted the House position, according to Hinchey.

"Although I was not able to achieve my complete objective, which was to fully continue all aspects of Lockheed Martin's Increment 1 presidential helicopter, this funding will save about 250 jobs in Owego that would have been lost without it," Hinchey said in a statement. "The funding included in the conference agreement will help ensure that $1 billion already spent to develop the necessary mission systems technology for the next presidential helicopter does not go to waste. The agreement ensures that the VH-71 remains a viable contender to replace the current fleet as the administration considers new options. I will continue to do all that I can to support this program this year and in next year's appropriations process."

The Defense Department expects to restart the acquisition process for the new presidential helicopter program next spring, stressing realistic requirements and improved affordability, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said last month.

By Sebastian Sprenger
December 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Eric Edelman, Pentagon policy chief in the George W. Bush administration, will soon be in a position to dissect the work of his immediate successor, Michèle Flournoy, on the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Edelman is one of two picks announced today by House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) to serve on a congressionally mandated panel charged with critiquing the results of the ongoing review.

Former Republican senator from Missouri, Jim Talent, is McKeon's second pick. Talent is a distinguished fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) is expected to follow suit with the announcement of his two picks "soon," which could be as early as today, panel spokeswoman Lara Battles tells us.

By John Liang
December 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Thinking about getting into the unmanned aerial systems market? It may be tough -- but it can be done, according to a new analysis from Frost & Sullivan:

Defense companies that wish to claim a stake in the intensely competitive unmanned aircraft system (UAS) market will find the task challenging. Mature technologies, coupled with increasing consolidation, are making the UAS market a difficult space to enter. These challenges are not likely to hold back the market, especially with the Department of Defense's (DoD's) demand for UAS at an all-time high due to the ongoing war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


"By focusing on UAS subsystems, the U.S. defense industry will still be able to take advantage of a market space that is rapidly changing both technologically and competitively," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Lindsay Voss. "Six years after the onset of rapid UAS procurement, the U.S. DoD is still demanding more persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets in the air. This ensures growth in the UAS space while many other areas of aerospace and defense are contracting."

But while the "overwhelming demand for constant ISR from warfighters has kicked the UAS market into overdrive, stimulating dramatic growth for key UAS companies," don't think it will be an easy market to get into, the Frost & Sullivan statement reads:

New participants are not likely to find the going as easy as the entrenched competitors. Companies that could provide an 80 percent UAS solution ten years ago dominate the market today across all key platform categories. Market domination by well-established companies has already driven some participants out of the market and forced others to diversify their product and/or service offerings.

"Diversification is proving to be an important strategy as new market participants seek to be profitable in the UAS space," observes Voss. "Companies that are able to offer value to their military customers through current product offerings while expanding into key UAS market sub-segments are improving their competitive positions."

Inside the Pentagon had a UAS-related story in this week's issue:

JROC To Review ICDs For Air Force UAS Flight Plan, MQ-X In Early 2010
The Joint Requirements Oversight Council is slated early next year to review two key initiatives tied to Air Force efforts to bolster unmanned aerial system capabilities on the battlefield, a service official tells Inside the Pentagon.

Service officials expect to brief the JROC, which is headed by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, on the initial capabilities documents (ICDs) for its UAS flight plan and its next-generation UAS, dubbed MQ-X, according to the official.

“The MQ-X initial capabilities document, we are doing a little rewrite on that and take it back through,” the official said. “It will be the same timing as the flight plan ICD, and my guess ((is)) it will hit the JROC around February or March.”

By Marcus Weisgerber
December 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

EADS North America CEO Sean O'Keefe said his company fully backs Northrop Grumman's decision not to participate in the Air Force's next-generation tanker program unless changes are made to the draft request for proposals.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman President and Chief Operating Officer Wes Bush told top Pentagon officials the Air Force response to hundreds of industry questions about the latest competition’s draft request for proposals “suggests that the department is not planning to substantially address our concerns.”

“Based on that assessment, we don't appear to have an asset that will answer the requirements as now stated,” O'Keefe said at a breakfast with a group of reporters this morning in Washington.. “This is not a negotiating ploy.”

Northrop Grumman and rival Boeing separately met with the Air Force KC-X program officers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base earlier this week.

“We're heartened by the fact that the response to this has been that the Defense Department has taken that as a serious indicator,” O'Keefe said. “They've invited the opportunity to sit down and review the issues.”

O'Keefe said the Northrop-EADS team believes the Air Force will release the final request for proposals in mid-January.