The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
December 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), in a letter sent today, is calling on the Obama administration to adopt the Missouri National Guard's model to stabilize Afghanistan.

According to the missive, sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the National Guard Agriculture Development Teams have been extremely successful in Afghanistan. Though the Missouri Guard sent the first ADT team to Afghanistan in February 2008, there are now 10 other states with teams of their own, Bond writes.

"It makes sense to utilize further this already successful National Guard model to serve as a vital bridge between the military capabilities of the Department of Defense and the civil capabilities of the State Department," he adds.

Furthermore, Bond attaches a proposal from the Missouri National Guard's adjutant general that backs establishing a "civil branch" of the National Guard as a pilot program and supports establishing the Missouri Regional Training Institute at Ft. Leonard Wood to serve as a "center of excellence" to train civilians, among other recommendations.

The proposal "uses existing, proven, and cost-effective National Guard assets to achieve stability in troubled areas based on the successful State Partnership Program and the Agriculture Development Team concept," Bond concludes, urging Gates and Clinton to review the proposal.

By Marjorie Censer
December 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Texas lawmakers sat down with the Army today to discuss the award of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles "rebuy" contract, which was granted to Oshkosh earlier this year.

According to a press release, a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers -- including Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R) -- was scheduled to sit down with service officials to ask them "to reconsider the flawed bidding process that has mistakenly awarded the FMTV contract to a bidder with zero experience building these armored trucks and is requesting millions of dollars in government aide to create a facility where they can be built."

Houston Mayor Bill White (D) was also set to attend.

Incumbent BAE Systems has its FMTV production facility in Sealy, TX. BAE, as well as losing bidder Navistar, has protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office. GAO is set to rule by Dec. 14.

By Sebastian Sprenger
December 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After President Obama's speech on the way ahead in Afghanistan last night, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today threw his support behind the U.S. strategy. According to a statement on the Alliance Web site, Rasmussen "confirmed" plans to send "at least 5 000 more soldiers and probably more" from NATO members and partners to Afghanistan during 2010. (The statement makes no mention from where these troops would come.)

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, Defense Secretary Gates said Washington is seeking 5,000-7,000 additional forces from NATO.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also testified today, said she will speak with Alliance foreign ministers in Brussels tomorrow to discuss details.

By Marjorie Censer
December 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Strykers work very well in Iraq but are not as effective in Afghanistan, House Appropriations defense subcommittee chairman John Murtha (D-PA) told reporters during a briefing today on Capitol Hill.

He said he has spoken with a British general who said he plans to change the way Strykers operate in the country, but Murtha did not provide further details.

Strykers have been criticized as ineffective and unsafe in Afghanistan, most notably in a Washington Times article published last month. That piece quoted one soldier who called the Stryker "the most dangerous ride of my life."

"Equipment is a big worry," Murtha said today.

By John Liang
December 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Northrop Grumman's threat yesterday to abandon its bid for the KC-X airborne tanker competition "is merely a posturing move," according to a research note issued this week by Credit Suisse analysts Robert Spingarn and Julie Yates.

Northrop wants to opt out of the competition unless the Pentagon makes significant changes to the draft request for proposals, which, Spingarn and Yates write: "((A))ppears to favor the smaller tanker likely to be offered by BA ((Boeing)). We suspect partner EADS endorsed NOC’s ((Northrop's)) strategy. Frankly, we agree, as our recent visit to the annual USAF Airlift/Tanker Convention suggests that the recently adopted pass/fail nature of the evaluation process favors a smaller aircraft that meets minimum hurdles."

The Credit Suisse analysts further write:

Simply a Ploy: We see NOC’s letter as part of a negotiation process because NOC has concluded it would have to bid the current RFP at a massive loss in order to win, as the extra capabilities offered by its Airbus 330-based tanker will not receive credit unless bid prices are within 1 percent of one another. This “negotiation” needs to be wrapped up soon because the Secretary of Defense may see this as an issue that impacts his legacy.

NOC’s Objectives: (1) To alter the new pass/fail evaluation method in order to favor a premium technical solution/capability at a justifiable price premium (2) To re-introduce proposal risk to differentiate maturity of the two candidate aircraft, where BA’s “frankentanker” suffered last time (3) To re-introduce past performance which penalized BA in the prior contest.

Path Forward: (1) We think the final solution must allow Sec. Gates to deliver a new tanker at savings of at least several hundred million dollars to the taxpayer vs. the ‘08 contract (2) Given that USAF Air Mobility Command & OSD are now refusing to pay a premium price for additional technical capability (beyond KC-135 performance), NOC must explain why it’s a/c is a better solution (3) To achieve a more balanced RFP, we think NOC must be prepared to make concessions that have an equally favorable benefit for BA.

If NOC refuses to accept concessions, Secretary ((Robert)) Gates might go ahead with an uncontested award, but Congress remains an unpredictable factor.

By Marcus Weisgerber
December 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Northrop Grumman's threat to drop out of the Air Force's next-generation tanker competition is a “blow to the program,” House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) told reporters this afternoon during a briefing on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday, Northrop President and COO Wes Bush told Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter that without major modifications to the KC-X draft request for proposals, the company would not submit a bid for the lucrative contract.

The Pennsylvania Democrat is slated to meet with Carter tomorrow to discuss the KC-X competition, Murtha said. During that meeting, Murtha said he would advocate for splitting the tanker buy between Northrop and Boeing, a position he has maintained for several months.

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

The formation of a Defense Department-wide task force on improvised explosive devices last month suggests there is still sand in the wheels of the counter-IED bureaucracy.

We asked Kenneth Comer, the new deputy director for intelligence in the Joint IED Defeat Organization, what he thinks the move means, aside from the high-level talk of "breaking down stovepipes" within DOD, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has put it.

The task force was set up "because JIEDDO does not have all of the authority or oversight or coordination capability over all of the things that are done in countering IEDs," Comer said.

"We don't make MRAPs, for example," he added, using the acronym for the blast-proof trucks. Another example of limited "oversight" on JIEDDO's part, he added, is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- both in terms of the ISR Task Force as an organization and ISR goings-on in general.

Maybe -- and that's a big maybe -- the new task force could lead to new "authorities" for JIEDDO in the area of social network analysis, the secretive craft aimed at understanding the inner dynamics of extremist networks, according to Comer.

"Vehicle armor, ISR task force, ISR in general, social networks and social dynamics and non-kinetic measures, and having JIEDDO at least having more of a coordinating role with any or all of those would be something that will be open to discussion," he said.

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

In an interview last week, a senior Joint IED Defeat Organization official told us trying to figure out extremist networks Afghanistan is particularly difficult because the makeup of these networks often changes within days.

"I can map . . . the topology of the network as we envision it today, a Wednesday," Kenneth Comer, JIEDDO's new deputy director for intelligence, said. "By Sunday, the topology of that network is going to change substantially."

The situation in Afghanistan is different from the counter-IED fight in Iraq, where social network analysis techniques provided officials with a decent understanding of bomb maker networks, Comber said.

We asked Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla, who has studied the idea of network-against-network warfare, how he views the situation.

The key point, as I observe these networks, is that change, though continual, is not continuous. There are periods of stasis, and it is during these periods that we must strike at them before they morph.

Once they shapeshift, we face a steep learning curve again, the goal being to learn enough to hurt them before they change yet again.

Tough, but it's a key characteristic of netwar, this organizational dimension. What I call "the organizational race" that has, to some extent, replaced the cold war-era arms race concept.

JIEDDO's goal with its social network analysis program is to bring about the "collapse" of bomb maker networks so they no longer pose a danger, Comer explained. This could entail killing or jailing network members, but it could also mean removing Taliban influence over some network members who might not partake in the IED business were it not for intimidation or enticement, he said.

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

Earlier this afternoon, the White House held an on-background, curtain-raiser briefing featuring "senior administration officials" regarding President Obama's plan for a 30,000-troop build-up in Afghanistan.

According to one official in the transcript released by the White House:

In his speech tonight at West Point the President will begin by reaffirming the core goal of the United States in the region, which comes -- draws from the March 2009 strategic review. And just to be clear, that goal is to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent their return to either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

In order to achieve that goal we have subordinate goals for first Pakistan and then Afghanistan, which I'll outline briefly before getting to your questions.

In Pakistan we need to sustain our focus on al Qaeda and we need to help the Pakistanis stabilize their state. That second part, stabilizing Pakistan, really has three dimensions: a political dimension, an economic dimension and a security dimension. The Pakistanis require help across all three of these aspects, in particular on the security front where they face internal extremists, the Pakistani Taliban, if you will, who actually threaten their state. But also on the political and economic front, the Pakistanis require our assistance, and our long-term aim with Pakistan is to establish and then sustain a strategic partnership, which helps them bring stability to their state; in turn, to the region.

Let's shift to Afghanistan. There, our goal is to prevent the return of the Taliban -- I'm sorry, of al Qaeda -- and to prevent the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghan government. The President tonight will announce a new approach as to how we will accomplish those goals in Afghanistan. The concept that he'll describe is to surge American forces to do several things: first, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, which has been building steadily over the last three or four years; to secure key population centers, especially in the south and the east; to train Afghan forces, and then as quickly as possible transfer responsibility to a capable Afghan partner.

Just to review the bidding, in terms of what that means for troops, today there are just at 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan; 33,000 of those were committed this year, in 2009. The President will announce tonight that those 68,000 will be joined by an additional 30,000 Americans by next summer, by the summer of 2010. He will also announce that this surge, if you will, will be for a defined period of time. For more details on the timelines and so forth, you should tune in to the speech tonight.

Now, what will these troops be doing? They'll have the following military mission. First of all, they aim to degrade the Taliban in order to provide time and space to develop Afghan capacity. Most directly, the Afghan capacity we're developing are the Afghan security forces, so the army and the police. They also want to degrade the Taliban for a second purpose, and that is so that as we begin to hand off responsibility to the Afghan army and police, those emerging security forces are able to handle the Taliban because it's at a diminished strength.

The other key task for the military, this additional 30,000 over the coming months, is to train and partner with the Afghan security forces to accelerate their development. The broad aim here is to open a new window of opportunity for Afghanistan and to create conditions to begin to transfer to Afghan responsibility by a date which the President will specify in his speech.

By Dan Dupont
November 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

It's been a bit of a dry spell for the Defense Science Board; a quick glance at the DSB web site shows the organization hasn't been tapped for any new studies since February (none, at least, that the Pentagon has acknowledged publicly).

It hasn't published one of its normally quite information-rich newsletters since May 2008, either -- again, at least not publicly.

The DSB has put out more than 10 reports this year, the latest released in September. But with no new studies announced since February, and no newsletters to provide any info on the status of ongoing reports, the board's status has been a bit of a question mark.

We've got part of the answer in a story published today:

The Obama administration has lined up a new team of outside advisers to provide the Pentagon's top weapon buyer independent advice on scientific, technical and manufacturing matters as well as acquisition process issues.

A new roster for the Defense Science Board is set to be unveiled next month as the panelists -- including approximately 40 board members and 20 senior fellows -- on the longstanding advisory group prepare for their first meeting in early January, according to the board's leader.

“It will be a whole, newly composed board,” Paul Kaminski, the DSB board chairman, told today in a brief telephone interview. Kaminski declined to identify the new members, who he said will be announced by the Pentagon sometime in December.

Kaminski also noted that the board "is drafting proposals for as many as three new task force studies."

More to come.

By Dan Dupont
November 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A new version of the joint operating concept for irregular warfare is in the works and could be released as soon as next month, according to a document obtained by

The current version, 1.0, is dated September 2007. And version 2.0 could be out in December, the document states -- but it could also slip as far as February.

Two key reviews are approaching. The first, slated for Dec. 19, is a meeting of the three-star service operations deputies. After that will be a senior-level Tank review, which is not yet scheduled, the document states.

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

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today underscored the high price tag attached to the administration's new plans for Afghanistan, which President Obama will unveil next Tuesday.

"Well, look, guys, it's a billion dollars -- it's a million dollars a troop for a year," he told reporters. "It's -- 10,000 troops is $10 billion. That's in addition to what we already spend in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That also does not include training, and it doesn't include the maintenance of -- the maintaining of a security force. It's very, very, very expensive."

A reporter asked Gibbs whether that means there will be a supplemental budget request to cover the cost.

"I'm going to let the President make a decision before we go get the budget for the decision to implement what he does," Gibbs said. "I don't know what you guys would do on Tuesday if I just blurted it all out here."

By Kate Brannen
November 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army is nearing the release date for its revised Capstone Concept, a document that has received a lot of attention over the last few months. A new, slick video from the Army's Training and Doctrine Command introduces the ideas behind the latest version of the paper, which will be publicly released Dec. 21.

The Capstone Concept serves as a vision paper that looks out 10 to 15 years, describing what the Army sees as the future and its role within that.

"It is a logical assumption to conclude that what we'll experience in the future is very much like what we're experiencing now," says Col. Robert Johnson in the 15-minute video. He serves as chief of the Joint and Army Concepts Division at TRADOC's Army Capabilities Integration Center. Also making cameos in the video are Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, ARCIC director; Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who led the rewrite of the paper; and Gen. Martin Dempsey, TRADOC's commanding general.

This revision of the Capstone Concept is "particularly important," says Dempsey, because it captures the lessons of the last eight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli experience in Southern Lebanon in 2006. One of the lessons learned is that major combat operations alone will not characterize the future operating environment, says Vane.

"The most fundamental shift in our thinking is to embrace the enduring uncertainty of war," says McMaster.

The video paints a future marked by urban population growth, water scarcity, poverty and political instability, making the case that situational awareness will require much more than advanced technology. Instead, human intelligence and knowledge of history and culture will prove crucial to success, according to McMaster.

Information dominance "was not my experience in Iraq," says Capt. Robert Green, a member of the concept-writing team. "Our information technologies and our reconnaissance and surveillance and UAVs and those kinds of things played a critical role in the operations that we did, but they probably gave us, in my experience, maybe 10 percent of the information that we acquired. Most of the information that we got was from doing reconnaissance the old-fashioned way -- going out, looking with our eyes, listening with our ears and talking to people."


By Marjorie Censer
November 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Oshkosh announced last week it has already completed the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles required in November. The company was set to produce 664 of the trucks this month.

The order was finished on Nov. 19, according to the announcement, which notes that November "marks the fifth consecutive month the company has exceeded the accelerated M-ATV delivery schedule.

"Oshkosh will continue to increase production to meet December's requirement of 1,000 vehicles, with output remaining at that high level through April 2010," the announcement continues.

By Marjorie Censer
November 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama last week nominated Maria Sally Matiella to succeed Nelson Ford as the Army's assistant secretary for financial management.

Matiella, who most recently served as assistant chief financial officer for accounting at the Housing and Urban Development Department, has 29 years of federal employment behind her, according to the White House's announcement. She has also served as chief financial officer for the USDA Forest Service, as staff accountant for the Pentagon comptroller's office and as financial manager for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Matiella holds a bachelor's degree and a business degree from the University of Arizona, the announcement reads.