The Insider

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.

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

Just because missile defense programs like the Multiple Kill Vehicle, Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Airborne Laser have experienced billions of dollars' worth of cost overruns and technical problems doesn't mean they should be canceled or cut back, according to the co-chair of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus.

"The reality is that any time you're on the cutting edge of innovation and doing things that are extremely technologically challenging, there are going to be a lot of failures," Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said today at a National Defense University Foundation breakfast. "Failure nearly always is the best teacher, and it takes you in a more productive direction at some point," he added.

In its fiscal year 2010 budget request, the Pentagon is recommending the cancellation of the KEI and MKV programs as well as not building a second prototype ABL aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a Senate hearing yesterday that "the policy of the Bush administration and the policy of this administration has been to develop a missile defense against rogue nations, not against China and Russia. And the Multiple Kill Vehicle, in addition to schedule and cost and technology issues, was designed against a far more capable enemy than either North Korea or Iran are going to be in the next 10 to 15 years."

But for Franks:

The reason I feel it's so vital that we at least make the effort to defend ((those programs)) is because first of all, MKV, that's what . . . the opposition is saying, that 'You can't do anything with decoys or multiple targets.' Well, that's why we wanted a Multiple Kill Vehicle! My God! I don't want to sound too dramatic here but it's just astonishing to me that they say, 'Well, this is a problem, and we're going to cut the very thing that possibly could address it. And we're not only just cut it, we're going to wipe it out.'

KEI "had been restructured in 2007 to emphasize development of a high-acceleration booster," the Missile Defense Agency's FY-10 budget justification documents state, adding:

However, we have encountered considerable technical issues and delays during development, such as repeated first and second booster case failures, thrust nozzle concerns, overheating of avionics, thermal battery canister failure and C-Band transponder failure during shock testing.

Even if such technical problems could be solved without excessive cost and schedule implications, we have become concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the KEI interceptor, which is currently estimated at $75 million per unit.

During May 13 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gates said programs such as KEI are “essentially sinkholes for taxpayer dollars.”

On ABL, Gates told the Senate committee yesterday that he has a "problem" with the program's operational concept, in that:

It would have required buying a fleet of about 20 747s. And the other difficulty is that they have to orbit close enough to the launch site so that, if it were Iran, the orbit would be almost entirely within the borders of Iran, and if it were against North Korea it would be inside the borders of North Korea and China. And I just think operationally that's not going to happen. So we'll keep the research going.

For his part, Franks said this morning:

I don't think anybody will argue with the fact that no matter where we go with missile defense, I cannot perceive a time when the most effective time to defend yourself is ((not)) in boost phase. . . . Where do we have to go to where that paradigm would no longer be in place? And yet, those are the very systems that we're cutting.

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

This morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee established a quorum and voted to favorably report out 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; and
  • Mr. Charles A. Blanchard to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force.

The nominations were approved en bloc in a voice vote. All nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the committee’s action.

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

Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will meet with the service chiefs tomorrow about their unfunded requirements lists and plans to provide them to Congress by Monday. He is testifying before the panel this morning.

Gates has told the services to brief him first before submitting any unfunded priorities to Congress.

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

A bit of dogfighting ensued this morning between F-22 Raptor proponent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Chambliss, whose state is home to a Lockheed Martin facility that makes the Raptor, quibbled with Gates’ statements that the Pentagon is completing the F-22 program, not killing it. Chambliss also asserted Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has told him privately that 243 Raptors is the service’s F-22 requirement -- and that the general will testify to that on Capitol Hill. Asserting DOD is assuming F-22s would only be required in the Pacific, Chambliss said he disagrees with that view -- and insisted the Air Force does, too.

But Gates said his decision to buy no more than 187 Raptors was based on input from the combatant commanders, who oversee military operations. He noted the F-22 is not going to be the only aircraft in the tactical air arsenal, citing Reaper unmanned drones and Joint Strike Fighters.

In the event of a hypothetical war with China, the Pentagon would have enough tactical air forces to concurrently deal with that conflict as well as other situations around the world if the entire tactical air arsenal is considered, he said.

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

The Pentagon requires at least 2 percent annual growth in order to sustain the current portfolio of weapons programs in the fiscal year 2010 budget request, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

“For us to hold steady the program that we have in front of you for FY-10, for us to hold that steady in the outyears, we will need at least 2 percent real growth in the defense budget,” he said.

The total FY-10 defense spending request, both the Pentagon's base budget and funds to support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, amount to 4.6 percent of the total gross national produce, Robert Hale, Defense Department comptroller, told the committee.

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

The Pentagon's top officer today offered this prediction: the Joint Strike Fighter will be the last manned fighter the Defense Department builds.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that recent U.S. military experience with unmanned aerial vehicles is influencing new thinking about what types of aircraft the Defense Department will build in the future -- a debate that played a role in the decision to review the requirement for a new bomber as well as to cap the F-22 program at 187 aircraft, he said.

We're in a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation. And the whole issue of what is going to be manned and what is going to be unmanned, what is going to be stealthy, what isn't.... From a warfighting perspective, I think this is at the heart of what we need to look at, whether it is fighters or bombers, quite frankly. That's been the essence of the discussion.

He added:

I think we're at the beginning of this change. There are those who see JSF as the last manned fighter or fighter/bomber or jet. And I'm one who is inclined to believe that. I don't know if its exactly right. But this all speaks to the change that goes out, obviously decades, including how much unmanned we're going to have and how it is going to be resourced.

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

The Pentagon's top military officer acknowledged today that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program, a point that caused Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to voice great concern. During this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Webb noted recent media reports about such an expansion.

The senator asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michal Mullen whether he had any evidence that Pakistan is "adding on to weapons systems and warheads."

"Yes," Mullen replied, without elaborating.

"That strikes me as something that we should be approaching with enormous concern," Webb continued.

Earlier this year the Obama administration proposed a hefty package of new aid to Pakistan's government; Congress must decide whether to approve it.

"We're spending a lot of time talking about the potential that Iran might have nuclear weapon capability and this ((Pakistani government)) is a regime that is far less stable and it should be a part of our debate," said Webb.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Pakistan has had a lot of freedom to spend billions of dollars in previous U.S. aid on things such as its military.

“That's one of the concerns that I have,” said Webb. “And we have begun focusing on Pakistan simply as the way that it would address the Afghani situation, when, as we all know, if you examine this from the Pakistani point of view, India is their greatest threat.”

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

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates this morning, senior Republicans on the panel complained that, in their view, Congress was kept in the dark about the analytical underpinnings of the Pentagon's defense budget request.

Part of the problem, they argued, were the nondisclosure agreements Gates asked of those working on budget matters. Gates dismissed the criticism, arguing the measure was necessary to prevent leaks during budget deliberations, particularly to Congressional offices.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who held up what appeared to be a copy of the pledge during his questioning, grilled Gates on some of the specifics of the agreements.

Gates said he was unaware of the exact number of officials forced to sign them, but he estimated that figure to be around "several hundred."

He added that the non-disclosure agreement is no longer binding because the White House submitted the budget details to Congress last week -- a point Gates said he made during a staff meeting on Monday.

By John Liang
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Southern Command and the Office of the Secretary of Defense this week are hosting a conference in Miami "to address the illicit trade of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials," SOUTHCOM announced today. Gary Samore, White House coordinator for arms control and WMD terrorism, delivered the keynote speech to attendees yesterday, according to the SOUTHCOM statement:

"President Obama has pledged to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," said Samore. "However, we cannot achieve this objective if, while we are seeking to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons and other forms of weapons of mass destruction, others are pursuing their acquisition with equal if not greater vigor. It is for this reason that the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) remains a critical component of international nonproliferation policy."

The meeting includes the participation of experts from around the world in an effort to share best practices and strengthen capabilities among countries that share a commitment to the Proliferation Security Initiative. PSI is a global effort to stop trafficking WMD, its delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern.

Thirty-four countries are attending the meeting in downtown Miami. The U.S. last hosted a PSI Operational Experts Group Meeting three years ago with representatives from 20 nations. Today, more than 90 nations support PSI including the following from the Western Hemisphere: U.S., Canada, Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Paraguay.

The multinational meeting provides a venue to enhance the WMD interdiction capabilities, organize PSI exercises to improve interoperability, and strengthen security relationships in the region and around the world.

Ambassador Paul Trivelli, Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Adviser at U.S. Southern Command, is scheduled to address the delegates in attendance Thursday.

"Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States share a collective interest in preventing the proliferation of WMD in our hemisphere," said Trivelli, former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, commenting on the importance of this week's event. "Regional PSI events like the meetings and training exercises SOUTHCOM hosts help us to better coordinate efforts to interdict trafficking and shut down the networks that profit from illicit trade."

By Thomas Duffy
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Federal agencies are usually loath to air any dirty laundry involving their relationships with contractors, even if those problems are dragging down a program the agency is trying to complete. But the Missile Defense Agency recently took the unusual step of calling out its industry partners for shoddy work that has increased costs and lengthened schedules on several programs.

In a preface to its fiscal year 2010 budget request overview that was issued May 7, the agency stated:

MDA and Mission Assurance. During the 1990s and early part of this decade, we learned that missile defense systems have very little tolerance for quality control errors, as we experienced many flight test failures. Out of necessity, MDA has since nurtured a culture of mission assurance within the Agency and within the missile defense industry as quality control and mission assurance remain the Agency’s highest priority. The Agency performs routine mission assurance evaluations and has permanent Mission Assurance Representatives at several sites.

Recently, there have been very disappointing lapses in quality management involving several of our industry partners that have impacted system element cost, schedule, and performance. There have been frequent schedule slips on the ((Space Tracking and Surveillance System)) program, some resulting in significant delays, due to quality issues caused by lack of discipline and detail in the procedures. Similarly, we have recently suffered over 50 days of manufacturing delays due to a lack of discipline during ((Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle)) assembly and testing. There are other examples over the past year. We are working closely with ((Defense Contract Management Agency)) to hold our industry partners accountable and improve their execution of quality control in manufacturing facilities.

The STSS program is under contract to Northrop Grumman. The company took another body blow from MDA when the Pentagon canceled the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program in the FY-10 budget request. KEI was to be a very fast interceptor to attack ballistic missiles during their early moments of flight. According to information the agency sent Congress last week, the KEI's cost is “currently estimated at $75 million per unit."

On May 7, an agency official told reporters that along with the program's cost, MDA has had problems with the materials and the electronics Northrop Grumman used. “By that I mean ((rocket)) cases bursting during static-fire tests or pre-testing of samples,” he said.

Raytheon is building the EKV for MDA.

By John Liang
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Unlike last month's Air Force One snafu flight over New York City, the Pentagon is making sure a similar flight exercise over the Washington, DC, area doesn't come as a surprise. According to a North American Aerospace Defense Command statement released today:

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region, will conduct exercise Falcon Virgo 09-07, on May 15 and 19 between midnight and 6:00 a.m. in the National Capital Region (NCR), Washington, D.C.

The exercise comprises a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Capital Region Command Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, the Continental U.S. NORAD Region (CONR), Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and CONR's Western Air Defense Sector.

Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD's intercept and identification operations, as well as procedural tests of the NCR Visual Warning System. Two Civil Air Patrol Cessna aircraft, two Air Force F-16s and one Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter will participate in the exercise. Residents may see these aircraft approaching and flying in the vicinity of the Washington D.C. area as part of this exercise during the late night and early morning hours from midnight through 6:00 a.m. on May 15th and the 19th.

And in case you didn't already know, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command have their own Facebook and Twitter pages.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense issues are on the White House’s agenda today. In the afternoon, President Obama and Vice President Biden are slated to meet for an hour with Gen. Raymond Odierno, the head of Multi-National Force–Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill in the Situation Room.

After that, Obama and Biden are scheduled meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Oval Office, according to the White House.

No word what precisely will be discussed. Both meetings are closed to the press.

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today nominated Lt. Gen. William Shelton for the position of Air Force assistant vice chief of staff, according to a Pentagon announcement. If approved by the Senate, Shelton will succeed Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, confirmed by the Senate last week as the new head of Air Force Global Strike Command.

The move comes just five months after Shelton was confirmed as the Air Force's chief of warfighting integration and chief information office.

The three-star has a long history in space-related assignments. Before coming to the Pentagon, Shelton served more than three years as the commander of 14th Air Force and the joint functional component command for space for U.S. Strategic Command. Before that, he serves as the director of plans and policy (J5) at STRATCOM.

Additionally, Maj. Gen. William Lord has been nominated to receive a third star and become Shelton's replacement as chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer. Lord is the commander of Air Force Cyber Command (Provisional).

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials want to "revitalize" military deception activities at the combatant commands, according to the recently unveiled defense budget justification documents.

With $940,000 for fiscal year 2010, the cost of this would be modest -- at least according to the budget documents released to the public. Details of the effort are classified.

Here is the exact wording from the defense-wide research, development, test and evaluation book:

Joint Military Deception Initiative (JMDI) is an initiative to revitalize DoD military deception planning and execution capability in the combatant commands. RDT&E funds will support development of next generation devices and capabilities.