The Insider

By John Liang
July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked yesterday whether he was surprised by how little Capitol Hill resistance has been mounted against some of the major defense program funding cuts he proposed for his department's fiscal year 2010 budget request. According to the DOD transcript, he replied:

A little bit. But I think that, you know, the chairman ((of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) and I have done four hearings, appropriations and authorizers, but the service secretaries and the service chiefs have done a lot of hearings and so has -- and ((Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) General ((James)) Cartwright has done a lot of briefings on missile defense, for example. And so I think that between our hearings and -- but especially hearing directly from the service chiefs and the service secretaries I believe has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the Hill in terms of hearing the services' views on these changes and their involvement in the process and their belief that we're headed in the right direction.

Despite a veto threat from the White House, Senate authorizers last week included language in their version of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill to continue the production of F-22A fighter planes above levels requested by the Obama administration. Another potential sticking point could be the Future Combat Systems program, Gates said:

Well, I've indicated to some of the chairmen and the ranking minorities of the committees what I -- issues that I think would be a problem. I'm not going to detail what that list is but I'll give you one more example. It'll be the vehicle program for Future Combat Systems. But so far -- you know, the truth of the matter is, we haven't seen the full Senate Armed Services Committee mark yet, but based on what I've been told about the House part and the partial information I have about the Senate mark, the F-22 and the second engine for the F-35 seem to be about the only main issues where they have gone anywhere different than what we put forward.

So based on the mark we've already seen from the House and what I've heard about the Senate, with those exceptions, I think we've actually done pretty well.

By Sebastian Sprenger
July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to have the National Security Agency chief also lead the new U.S. Cyber Command guarantees the intelligence community a sizeable role in U.S. government cyberspace efforts.

It also means the funding streams for the new command could in large part be classified.

Given the new command's firm footing in the intelligence world, the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee likely will be an important congressional panel for command officials in the areas of oversight and funding.

The unclassified portion of the panel's fiscal year 2010 intelligence authorization bill, unveiled last month, fits on a handy seven pages. The committee's report on the legislation, while it is 172 pages long, is equally thin on specifics.

"In furtherance of the President's emphasis on protecting government information systems, the bill also makes a sizeable investment in foundational cybersecurity capabilities," the document states.

Some parts of the report, albeit phrased in general terms, reveal lawmakers' concerns in the cybersecurity arena.

The document describes the following "standards" committee members intend to apply in their oversight role:

* "Funding for cybersecurity programs may need to be reduced or slowed until the future direction for cybersecurity is better defined.

* "Any cybersecurity strategy or plans should include clear goals and metrics to enhance program and congressional oversight.

* "There needs to be a clear doctrine for the use of offensive cyber capabilities.

* "Securing government information systems should include efforts beyond building bigger and better firewalls, such as improving the capability to attribute attacks to specific government or private actors.

* "Expansion of cybersecurity authorities and capabilities must include stronger oversight mechanisms to ensure that any monitoring is conducted in a manner consistent with laws and regulations.

* "Securing government information systems will require both a significant increase in the number of cybersecurity experts in government service and a cultural change in the way federal employees approach computer and information security."

An upcoming U.S. Strategic Command implementation plan for U.S. Cyber Command likely will shed some light on the military's approach to these issues.

Unless the document is classified, that is.

By Sebastian Sprenger
July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Terrorist attacks with improvised explosive devices on U.S. soil may be unlikely, but they are not impossible, administration officials and defense experts have said.

Department of Homeland Security officials, for their part, are assessing the vulnerability "underground locations" in the United States, and they need the help of a contractor to do so, according to a June 30 notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The contractor's task will be to identify underground structures deemed particularly vulnerable to an IED attack, provide requisite training to security personnel, and figure out how many "Manhole Barrier Devices" it would take to block access to those sites.

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

American combat forces have left Iraqi cities, villages and localities in accordance with last year's security agreement between the two governments, the Defense Department announced today.

"U.S. forces outside urban areas will continue to conduct operations by, with, and through ((the Iraqi security forces)), focusing on securing Iraqi borders and areas outside the cities," the statement reads.

American forces remaining in Iraqi cities will "train, advise and coordinate" with Iraqi forces and support "civil capacity efforts," Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general, Multi-National Force Iraq, is quoted as saying in the statement.

The current number of U.S. troops in Iraq is 131,000, according to the statement. In addition, 125,163 contractors support DOD missions there, the document states.

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

The White House has a nifty new tool for tracking the progress of information technology projects throughout the government.

According to the "IT Dashboard" Web site, the Defense Department has 62 "major investments" slated to consume $9.6 billion this fiscal year.

In a series of simple charts and tables, viewers can quickly see the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of cost and schedule.

Out of DOD's major projects, three are flagged red in the "overall" category, which considers cost, schedule and an as-yet unfilled "agency evaluation" field. Red stands for "significant concerns." The overall red projects are the Cheyenne Mountain Complex/Tactical Warning-Attack Assessment, the Expeditionary Combat Support System and the Net-Centric Enterprise Services programs, according to the site.

The site offers fields to identify the prime contractor for each project. But we found that the information was lacking in most cases when we visited the site this afternoon.

Noteworthy fine print: All information on the "IT Dashboard" is based on figures reported by the agencies themselves.

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

In some alternate universe, the military acquisition system is working just fine, Air Force Maj. Dan Ward, who works in the service's acquisition branch, writes in the July/August edition of the Defense AT&L newsletter. Now, that's according to a "12-star general" puffing cigars in his secret, wood-paneled Pentagon office.

Ward's article is posted on the Defense Acquisition University Web site.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee announced with some fanfare plans to create a National Defense Panel in the fiscal year 2010 authorization bill whose members would critique the 2009 Quadrennial Defense Review.

Senators, in their version of the bill so far, made no such requirement.

The issue never even came up during Senate Armed Services Committee deliberations this week, committee spokeswoman Tara Andringa tells us.

"The issue wasn't discussed during markup so we can't speak as to why the committee didn't include it," she wrote in an e-mail. "We can point out, however, that the law already requires the secretary of defense to establish an 'independent panel' to review the QDR's report," she wrote.

Of course, this doesn't mean the National Defense Panel will never become a reality. But it shows that the need for the group is at least debatable among lawmakers.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's chief for acquisition, technology and logistics, issued a short June 23 memo implementing organizational changes consistent with the new Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act.

Within the defense research and engineering directorate (DDR&E), which reports to Carter, the memo says the Defense Department created two "new" offices: director of systems engineering (SE) and director of developmental test and evaluation (DT&E). The new law required DOD to create the positions under Carter's purview.

According to a briefing from the Defense Acquisition University, there were already positions in the acquisition shop with “basically the same functions required by the legislation,” but the law codifies the SE and DT&E organizations in Title 10 and requires more reports to Congress.

Also reporting to DDR&E will be the director of research and the director of rapid transition, according to Carter's memo.

The office of systems and software engineering and the joint advanced concepts office will be “reallocated within” the acquisition and technology shop “and to” DDR&E, the missive adds.

Further details on the changes will be “announced later,” Carter writes.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Among the amendments approved this morning by House lawmakers considering the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill is a provision requiring new reviews about the Pentagon's use of subcontractors.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and blessed by the full House, would require the Defense Department to conduct a study on the total number of subcontractors used on “the last five major weapons systems in which acquisition has been completed” and determine if fewer subcontractors could have been more cost effective.

The DOD report would be due March 1, 2010. Also, the Government Accountability Office would have to complete a review of DOD's study by May 1, 2010.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force officials are looking for a contractor to put together a "comprehensive AF/PAK strategic communication plan" for U.S. Central Command, according to a recent notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The term AF/PAK is Washingtonese shorthand for "Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The strategic communication plan is needed amid "the on-going conflict in Afghanistan and unrest in Pakistan," the June 18 solicitation reads.

The document defines strategic communication thusly:

Strategic Communication supports the command’s obligation to facilitate information capabilities in order to keep the American people, regional and international audiences informed of ((CENTCOM)) operations that lead to defeating our adversaries, improving regional stability, and promoting and protecting U.S. interests in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Notably, the solicitation identifies some of the key U.S. government AF/PAK-related players the contractor will have to work with. There is an "Inter-Agency AF/PAK Framework Development Operational Planning Team," and also an "AF/PAK Strategic Framework Project," according to the solicitation.

By John Liang
June 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Marking up the defense authorization bill behind closed doors is not something that has sat well with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). According to an e-mail received yesterday from her spokeswoman:

This may not come as a surprise to some of you, but Sen. Claire McCaskill is causing a ruckus again this year in the Senate Armed Services Committee mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The committee traditionally closes its mark-up of the annual defense policy bill to the public and press, but for the third year in a row, McCaskill is trying to open up committee deliberations to bring new transparency and accountability to the process. In an attempt to keep the mark-up open, McCaskill will continue to object to the motion to close each of the subcommittee and full committee meetings, which requires the consent of a majority of the committee members.

The Armed Services Committee has said that it holds its meeting behind closed doors to enable free discussion of classified information, but the reality is that a large majority of the material included in the legislation is unclassified and that the committee is free to move into a closed, classified setting at any time. Furthermore, the House Armed Services Committee considers the same legislation publically, and the Senate bill is traditionally considered by the full Senate in open session.

The committee began its work on the legislation earlier today, and will continue through Thursday.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In a draft white paper first reported here yesterday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey makes the case for moving the Army's "aim point" away from traditional warfare toward hybrid warfare, the oft-cited blend of high-intensity combat and guerrilla-style conflict.

The idea, Casey argues, is that a focus on the middle ground between peacetime operations and high-intensity warfare would enable the Army to do both better.

"Shifting our aim is not exchanging one 'Either-Or' position for another. Aiming more towards the center of the conflict spectrum will enable us to respond quickly and effectively to hybrid threats across the spectrum, as the situation and mission dictate."

We ran Casey's view by counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

In a brief interview yesterday, Nagl called the chief's thinking a "move in the right direction."

"The interesting question is whether the Army, in fact, needs two aim points; whether some forces should be optimized for high-end conflicts -- peer and near-peer threats -- and other forces should be optimized for counterinsurgency or hybrid war. If you're going to go with single aim point, then hybrid is the right aim point, without a doubt."

By John Liang
June 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense secretaries past and present have long complained about the amount of reports Congress requires the Pentagon to submit. This year, for instance, just on missile defense, House authorizers, in their report accompanying the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, want eight reports from DOD to be submitted within the next year. Inside Missile Defense will be tracking the following:

A report on the U.S.-Israeli Arrow-3 program:

The committee understands that the Department of Defense is currently negotiating a project agreement with the Israeli Ministry of Defense for the Arrow-3 program. Given the high-risk nature of Arrow-3, the committee understands that the Arrow-3 project agreement will contain clear knowledge points (i.e., technical benchmarks) and a schedule that will govern the development of the program. Future decisions about the program should be based on the Arrow-3 system’s ability to meet the agreed knowledge points and schedule. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees by April 15, 2010, that describes the agreed knowledge points and schedule, and assesses whether the Arrow-3 program is meeting the agreed knowledge points and schedule. The committee further directs that the report include a discussion of alternative paths the Department is examining to assist Israel in developing an upper-tier missile defense capability, such as the land-based version of the Standard Missile-3 (SM–3), should the Arrow-3 program fail to meet the agreed knowledge points and schedule.

A report on the recently canceled KEI and MKV programs:

The committee recognizes that the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program and the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program have completed research and development of certain technologies that could be beneficial to other defense programs. The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the congressional defense committees not later than March 31, 2010, on the feasibility of completing development of certain technologies that were in the process of being developed through the KEI and MKV programs and could have additional useful defense applications.

A report on the planned Precision Tracking Space Sensor (PTSS) constellation:

The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the defense committees not later than March 1, 2010, providing a description of the PTSS long-lead, risk-reduction activities to include: (1) payload design, prototyping and laboratory characterization; (2) continuing work on consolidated ground processing of overhead sensor feeds; and (3) implementation of the C2BMC interface. On the Ground-based Midcourse Defense Sustainment and Modernization Program:

This section would require the Secretary of Defense to establish a sustainment and modernization program to ensure the long-term reliability, availability, maintainability, and supportability of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to protect the United States against limited ballistic missile attacks, whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate. It would also require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees outlining the Department of Defense’s long-term sustainment and modernization plan for that system.

Missile defense in Europe:

This section would prohibit the Department of Defense from acquiring (other than for initial long-lead procurement) or deploying operational missiles of a long-range missile defense system in Europe until the Secretary of Defense, after receiving the views of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, submits to the congressional defense committees a report certifying that the proposed interceptor to be deployed as part of such a missile defense system has demonstrated, through successful, operationally realistic flight testing, a high probability of working in an operationally effective manner and the ability to accomplish the mission.

Ascent phase missile defense:

This section would require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional defense committees outlining a strategy for ascent phase missile defense within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

Foreign ballistic missile intelligence analysis:

This section would require the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to conduct an assessment of foreign ballistic missile intelligence analysis gaps and shortfalls, and prepare a plan to ensure that the appropriate intelligence centers have sufficient analytical capabilities to address such gaps and shortfalls. The committee is aware of certain intelligence gaps and shortfalls in foreign ballistic missile activities, in particular emerging longer-range ballistic missile activities, as noted by the Missile Defense Agency.

This section would also require a report by February 28, 2010, on the results of the assessment, the plan to ensure sufficient analytical capabilities, and a description of the resources required to implement such plan.

A U.S.-Russian joint missile defense data exchange center:

This section would allow the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Government of the Russian Federation, to expand the United States-Russian Federation joint center for the exchange of data from early warning systems for launches of ballistic missiles, as established pursuant to section 1231 of the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106–398), to include the exchange of data on missile defense-related activities.

This section would also require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on plans for expansion of the joint data exchange center to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives within 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

By Marjorie Censer
June 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services Committee is focusing on safety in Army tactical wheeled vehicles, calling for increased egress enhancements and a report on fire suppression systems.

Citing the potential threat of heavy armor doors on vehicles like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, the report on the committee's fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill calls for the Army secretary to “pursue mature technologies that provide some level of armor door power-assist, to allow military personnel to quickly egress tactical combat vehicles in emergencies.”

The report notes that, in some cases, the armor door on a tactical combat vehicle can weigh more than 400 pounds, “making it very difficult for the warfighter to rapidly egress the vehicle during emergencies such as vehicle rollovers.”

In a second, the committee praises tactical wheeled vehicle fire suppression systems, which it says “provide a proven capability for force protection against improvised explosive devices that use fire accelerants to increase lethality and injury to the warfighter.”

Yet, the report says, the systems are a required performance specification only for some TWV platforms. Accordingly, the panel directs the defense secretary “to conduct a capability-based performance assessment of fire suppression system technology for TWVs.”

More specifically, the committee dictates, the assessment -- due by March 15, 2010 -- should consider fuel tank, tire, engine and crew compartment fire suppression systems.

“The Secretary should determine the advisability and feasibility of requiring fire suppression systems on all current and future tactical wheeled vehicle platforms and provide relative cost assessments,” the report adds.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill aims to make some small, but significant, tweaks to the law governing special operations.

The bill modifies the section of Title 10 spelling out what activities fall under the special operations label and are therefore core missions for U.S. Special Operations Command.

The legislation introduces a couple of newcomers: information operations, counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, security force assistance and counterinsurgency operations.

Departing the canon of warfighting areas listed in the statute are "direct action," humanitarian assistance and theater search and rescue.

"Strategic reconnaissance" would get reworded to read "special reconnaissance."

Unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, civil affairs operations, counterterrorism and psychological operations remain on the list.