The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Today, the Senate voted 68-29 to approve the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization conference agreement, sending the bill to President Obama for signature.

By Marjorie Censer
October 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Facing similar problems to those of General Motors a year ago, the Defense Department should begin reining in personnel costs and rethinking the way it buys weapons, according to a report released today.

Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments writes in a report titled "Avoiding a DOD Bailout" that DOD's problems are "eerily similar" to those of GM a year ago.

Both saw high rates of growth in healthcare and retirement pension costs, he argues, while both also found themselves "in a period of disruptive change in the competitive environment."

For GM, this meant increasing fuel prices coupled with a declining economy and growing interest in fuel-efficient cars, while DOD "now finds itself saddled with a number of weapon programs whose capabilities are ill-suited for the types of conflict the military currently faces and whose costs have risen beyond what the Department can afford."

"The challenge for DOD, as it was for GM, is that the competition is adapting faster than it can keep up," Harrison writes.

But with budget challenges ahead, he argues the Pentagon cannot spend "its way out of these problems" and must make tough choices. Harrison calls for the Defense Department to rein in personnel costs by changing its pensions and healthcare benefits and reducing the number of troops. Additionally, he writes, DOD could save money by moving fewer families between bases.

In weapons acquisition, DOD must learn to control research and development costs as well as its "appetite for 'exquisite' systems," he contends.

"The Department is fundamentally on an unsustainable path, and a sharp change in direction is needed to correct its course," Harrison finds. "A massive infusion of funding in excess of the current defense plan -- a DOD 'bailout' of sorts -- would only delay the inevitable day of reckoning, much like giving more loans to GM without restructuring the company."

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, has been thinking about the implications of the Internet on national security for some time. He is perhaps best known for advocating the military strategy of “Netwar” against terrorist groups, which he says can be waged in cyberspace and on real-world battlefields.

At the core of the “Netwar” concept lies the oft-cited idea that “it takes a network to fight a network.” In other words: The U.S. military should adopt some of the characteristics of what Arquilla calls “dark networks,” particularly with respect to organization, and beat al Qaeda et al on their own turf.

In a new report sponsored by the Pentagon, Arquilla lays out a few recommendations for how defense officials should wage “Netwar” in the virtual domain.

One idea is for the government to mobilize “cyber militias,” he writes.

This action would consist perhaps of setting up Web sites from which interested “netizens” could download search and other sorts of tools that they could then employ against targets that had been illuminated by the cyber command. This could be done by either overt or covert means and, given the usual sensitivities of senior American political leaders, would take a very steely resolve to pursue as a viable option.

A variant of this approach could be to recruit a smaller number of “master hackers” who would use their skills to track the activities of terrorists in cyberspace, Arquilla writes.

The basic design of this strategy would be very much like earlier efforts in history to use privateers to strike enemies at sea, sometimes even to hit them from the sea, as Queen Elizabeth I had Sir Francis Drake and other “sea dogs” do in the 16th century. The institutional basis of this approach is the “letter of marque” providing authorization for such action and distinguishing it from common piracy.

Arquilla also would like to see an intelligence and technology hub emerge akin to the World War II “Bletchley Park” in England. Analysts at ueber-secret facility developed code-breaking capabilities for the Allies that led to a series of decisive wins over Nazi Germany.

Meanwhile, defense officials continue to wrestle with some fundamental questions relating to war in cyberspace. For example, the question of how to practice deterrence in the virtual domain has been simmering in defense circles for some time. We had the chance to ask Rear Adm. Dan Davenport of U.S. Joint Forces Command recently whether a key command-sponsored war game staged in early summer brought participants any closer to an answer.

“Not really,” he replied.

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

Vice President Biden is in Eastern Europe this week, and one of the discussion topics with Polish and Czech leaders is the Obama administration's policy shift to sea- and land-based Standard Missile-3s to protect the region from the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

According to a just-released White House transcript of Biden's remarks today at the Polish prime minister's chancery in Warsaw, the vice president said:

As one who championed the admission of Poland into NATO, I would also point out that we take not only our mutual commitments seriously, but I take it very, very seriously. President Obama and I consider this to be a solemn obligation. President Obama has said, and this is a promise he said not only for our time, but for all time. We appreciate Poland has stepped up and agreed to host an element of the previous missile defense plan.

And we now appreciate that Poland's government agrees with us that there is now a better way, a better way -- with new technology and new information -- to defend against the emerging ballistic missile threats. Our new phased adaptive approach to missile defense is designed to meet a growing threat not only to the United States, but first and foremost to Europe. It's going to meet it with proven technology that will cover more of Europe, including Poland, and will do it more efficiently than the previous system could have, or did. It strengthens missile defense for Europe, it strengthens Article 5, and it strengthens the alliance’s deterrent capability. Mr. Prime Minister, we have -- we have a lot to do. Simply put, our missile plan is better security for NATO, and is better security for Poland, and ultimately better security for the United States of America.

Mr. Prime Minister, you and I affirmed our commitment to the declaration on strategic cooperation in 2008. And we discussed additional practical opportunities to strengthen our bilateral security cooperation beyond what we already have done. I welcome the Prime Minister's affirmation that Poland stands ready to host future elements of proposed missile defense.

But as Inside Missile Defense reports today, missile defense is only one of a myriad of issues Biden will cover during his trip, according to Tony Blinken, the vice president 's national security adviser:

"In terms of missile defense, I think it’s going to be an important item on the agenda in all of the meetings that we have in all three countries," Blinken said in an Oct. 19 conference call briefing. "But the agenda is much bigger than missile defense. And I touched on a number of the issues, whether it’s what we’re doing together in Afghanistan; whether it's the work we’re doing together actually to reform NATO, going forward with a new strategic concept; energy security, climate change, the economies in all these countries. There is a very full and broad agenda -- the advancement of democracy. And so missile defense will be part of it, but the trip is not focused on missile defense per se."

By Marjorie Censer
October 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army -- incorporating soldier feedback -- has successfully adapted the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to meet ever-changing theater requirements, Brig. Gen. Robert Brown, deputy commanding general for Multinational Division-North and the 25th Infantry Division, said today.

For instance, a "young soldier" came up with an MRAP modification intended to protect against RKG-3 anti-tank grenades, Brown said, speaking by teleconference at an Oct. 20 Pentagon briefing.

He described the change as "a screen that goes on the outside and causes the RKG-3 to bounce off it and become ineffective." According to Brown, the idea was sent back to the United States, where a counter-IED task force tested it.

"I think we've got about 40 of them right now on MRAPs," Brown said today. "And one attack we've had since then. Can't verify, but it was ineffective. And we think the screen had something to do with it."

Another example, Brown added during today's briefing, was a modification to a counter-sniper screen meant to protect gunners in MRAPs. Though the screen was effective, it "distracted ((the gunner)) from looking, having good observation and being able to stop somebody throwing an RKG-3. There were blind spots."

In response, soldiers devised a system using "a series of fiberglass poles" to allow them to see RKG-3 gunners but still have protection, Brown said.

By Jason Sherman
October 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale have postponed their scheduled appearance before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday. The reason? According to a source familiar with the situation: Lynn needs to be in the Pentagon because Defense Secretary Robert Gates is traveling in Asia.

No new date is set for the hearing, which was billed as an opportunity for the senior Pentagon officials to discuss “Defense Costs and Long-Term Fiscal Challenges."

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

It's official -- President Obama has nominated National Security Agency Director Army Lt. Gen Keith Alexander to lead the recently created U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The job would come with a fourth star.

The new Cyber Command, at least initially, is part of U.S. Strategic Command. As in the case of other combatant commands, it will consist of several service component commands. The Army, for its part, recently agreed on an organizational construct for an Army Cyber Forces Command, as Inside the Army reported earlier this month.

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

Adm. Robert Willard is slated today to assume Command of U.S. Pacific Command from Adm. Timothy Keating in a ceremony at the command's headquarters in Hawaii. Keating has held PACOM's top post since March 23, 2007. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen are scheduled to speak at the event.

By Jason Sherman
October 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The 10 additional C-17s Congress wants the Pentagon to buy in fiscal year 2010 will cost $100 million annually to operate, a sum that will “invariably reduce critical warfighting capability somewhere else in the defense program,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Pete Orszag, argues in an Oct. 13 letter to key members of the House and Senate appropriations committees.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterates many points in Orszag's missive in a heartburn appeal to the same lawmakers dated Oct. 14. Both letters warn that President Obama will likely veto the FY-10 defense appropriations bill if it in any way funds the VH-71 presidential helicopter program or the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine program.

By Thomas Duffy
October 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

According to the White House budget office, Defense Department costs for fiscal year 2009 ran .7 percent below what had been projected during a mid-session review last August. In a joint statement issued this afternoon, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner tallied up government spending for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30:

Department of Defense -- Outlays for the Department of Defense (DOD) were $637 billion, $4.4 billion, or 0.7 percent, less than estimated in the ((mid-session review)). There is no single explanation for the differences between projected and actual outlays, but several examples illustrate the types of variance seen in accounts. For example, DOD spent $1.5 billion less than projected for the Air Force to purchase aircraft, in part because prior year supplemental appropriations provided more money than could be used to buy C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, exceeding production capacity. Other examples of lower-than-projected outlays include the contracts to purchase heavy- and medium-wheeled vehicles, where contracts were delayed or protested, slowing outlays by more than $1 billion. In some instances supplemental funds caused higher-than-expected outlays for the purchase of major defense systems, such as for the Navy's purchase of aircraft. In this instance, the purchase of planes had an outlay surge in the second year after appropriations (resulting in an outlay rate $1.3 billion higher than projected).

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Congressional Budget Office should check into the cost of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's proposal for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan by 40,000, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) said yesterday at a House Budget Committee hearing.

"So have you personally analyzed in any way some of the other estimates that every soldier or serviceman or woman we have in Afghanistan, it costs about $1 million?" Edwards asked Matthew Goldberg, CBO's acting assistant director for national security.

Goldberg noted CBO has focused mostly on Iraq, which has been the bigger operation until now, and that CBO has not distinguished the cost per service member between the two theaters. "If we were to receive a request to look specifically at Afghanistan, we would attempt to make those distinctions and refining estimates," he added.

Edwards faulted Republicans for not seeking such information. "That seems completely inconsistent with their newfound focus on trying to reduce the deficit that, in my opinion, many of them helped create with their irresponsible budgets of tax cuts during a time of war and defense build-up,” he charged.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported last night that the White House is poised to approve McChrystal's troop request. The BBC's Mark Urban discussed the story on Charlie Rose last night. The White House is dismissing the report.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale are scheduled to testify next week on Capitol Hill about "defense costs and long-term fiscal challenges," the House Budget Committee announced yesterday.

The hearing is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 21.

"Additional witnesses may be announced," the committee notes.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's nominees for top Pentagon jobs overseeing budget and acquisition issues will testify at a Senate confirmation hearing next week.

Christine Fox, the nominee to lead the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CA&PE) shop, and Frank Kendall, the nominee for the Pentagon's No. 2 acquisition job, will be among the witnesses at the Oct. 22 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Fox recently stepped down as president of the Center for Naval Analyses.

Kendall, who would be the deputy to Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter, has served most recently as a managing partner at Renaissance Strategic Advisors.

Also testifying will be Gladys Commons, the nominee to be the Navy's comptroller and Terry Yonkers, who is in line to become assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations and environment.

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

President Obama has nominated Clifford Stanley to become the next under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, the White House announced today. According to Stanley's bio, as released by the administration:

Dr. Clifford L. Stanley recently served as the President of Scholarship America, the nation’s largest nonprofit, private-sector scholarship organization. As President, Dr. Stanley provided leadership for over 50,000 volunteers in 42 states with a full-time staff of 160 men and women. Prior to assuming this position, Dr. Stanley served on the senior leadership team of the University of Pennsylvania as Executive Vice President. In that capacity, he served as Chief Operating Officer and was responsible to the president for the non-academic functions of the university, such as business, finance, facilities maintenance, and campus security. In 2002, Dr. Stanley retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Major General. During his distinguished 33-year career, he served in a range of leadership positions including Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, where he was responsible for all doctrine, organization, training and education in the U.S. Marine Corps; Commanding General of the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia; Commanding General, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center; and Director of Public Affairs, Marine Corps Headquarters. Dr. Stanley earned his Doctorate of Education Degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and holds a Masters degree in Counseling from The Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelors degree in Psychology from South Carolina State University.

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

This morning, after receiving the presidential daily briefing in the Oval Office, President Obama will discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan with his national security team in the Situation Room.

Here’s the list of expected participants, as released by the White House:

Vice President Biden
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (via videoconference)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Amb. Susan Rice, Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Amb. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew
Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan (via videoconference)
Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence
CIA Director Leon Panetta
Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (via videoconference)
Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (via videoconference)
Retired Gen. James Jones, National Security Adviser
Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Adviser
John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan