The Insider

By Jason Sherman
May 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today announced plans to shake up the military leadership in Afghanistan by naming two new generals with a “unique skill set to counterinsurgency” operations.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon this afternoon, Gates said that he has requested the resignation of Gen. David McKiernan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and has named Lt. Gen. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to be nominated for a fourth star and commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. McChrystal, former head of Joint Special Operations Command, is currently director of the Joint Staff.

In addition, Gates is creating a new post, deputy commander U.S. Forces Afghanistan, to be filled by Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, a former head of the 82nd Airborne Division who is now wrapping up a tour as the defense secretary's military deputy.

“With a new strategy and a new mission and an international approach in Afghanistan... this is the right time to make the change -- when we are at the beginning of an implementation of a new strategy," Gates said. "The focus here is on getting fresh thinking, fresh eyes on the problem and how we implement the strategy and mission going forward.”

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

By all accounts, warfare in cyberspace is a murky business. Uncertainty about what constitutes an attack, ignorance of who exactly is behind it, and questions over the proportionality of a U.S. response (nukes, anyone?) make for an entirely novel set of defense policy challenges.

As for the definition of a cyber attack, two senior generals in the cyberspace field last week presented a dose of nuance in the face of the oft-cited assertion that the Defense Department's networks are under “constant attack.”

At a hearing of the House Armed Services terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee, panel member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) questioned National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, reportedly the U.S. Cyber Command chief in-waiting, on the issue.

Thornberry: “Well, for example, when the constitution says Congress has the responsibility to declare war, what does that mean when we're under attack every day? How do we deal with warfare in cyberspace?

Alexander: “Well, I think the loose use of the word 'under attack' and 'warfare' is probably more accurately described as people probing our network. We call that -- I think others loosely call that an attack on your network, but it falls short of what I think we would legally look at. And I've got the head lawyer back there right behind me, so he'll raise his hand and make sure I say this right. But . . . “

(At this point, the lawyer apparently nodded, according to a transcript of the session.)

At a breakfast with reporters last week, U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Kevin Chilton struck a similar chord, saying probes of U.S. networks resembled to intelligence gathering and espionage activities, not outright acts of war.

Next up on the ladder of cyber force escalation are denial-of-service attacks, which would provide grounds for U.S. military action, both generals said in their respective comments.

“I think in the legal framework it starts to go up to when is it going from exploit to damage? And in that change is where you go from what I'll call spying operations into warfare,” said Alexander.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 11, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Robert Lentz, a senior DOD information assurance official, told lawmakers last week he saw "no problem" in the development of higher data security standards for contractors working on military systems.

Lentz made the comment during a hearing of the House Armed Services terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee hearing, when he was asked whether Pentagon officials were getting pushback from contractors against such regulations.

"No, we're not," Lentz replied. "In fact they're asking for that language."

Hackers have repeatedly, and presumably successfully, attempted to lift unclassified but sensitive information about U.S. weapon systems from defense companies' computer networks.

In his final press conference late last month, former Pentagon acquisition czar John Young hinted at an internal debate about the cost of the added information assurance on contractor networks, particularly with respect to existing contracts.

"We've got to accept the reality that people don't like. And that is we have awarded contracts ((where)) the government is probably going to go in and . . . ask people to set a higher standard for their information assurance processes.

"It's probably going to cost us some money. Nobody wants to come to grips with that. But the reality is we've got to come to grips with it."

Looking back his tenure at the Pentagon, Young said he should have "pushed harder" on the issue.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This week, some Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates complaining that the nondisclosure agreements he made military officials sign for the fiscal year 2010 budget process might create a climate of fear among those called to testify about the budget.

But Pentagon officials disputed that yesterday, telling reporters nothing should inhibit honest answers.

“Now that the budget is out,” Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale said, military officers testifying on Capitol Hill “can talk about anything that's other than security classification or predecisional information.”

Hale and Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, the Joint Staff's director for force structure and resources, said they see no intimidation.

Stanley said the service chiefs are expected to provide their best military advice to Congress. There are “things for a specific service that they would disagree with,” he said, but from a “holistic approach,” the military’s top brass were “supportive of the secretary's decisions."

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are on the mind of Defense Secretary Robert Gates as he visits Afghanistan today.

"Well, mainly, I just want to see how it's going in terms of the new infrastructure to accommodate the additional troops," he told reporters while en route there. "I want to ask right at the ground level what do you need out here you're not getting? How are the MRAPs working out here? How are the MRAPs with the new suspension working out here? What kind of numbers do you think you need? Is there other equipment that you need?"

Gates added: "I just want to keep the focus here; we have 21,000 additional troops going in over time. I just want to keep the focus on what I've been talking about for months, and that is, 'What do we need to do to get the equipment and the support to the troops in the field so they can be successful and come home safely?'"

He said he would check on steps taken to improve the medical evacuation of troops in Afghanistan. "I sent 10 or a dozen additional helicopters out to try and meet that requirement; a new combat aviation brigade is coming in this month and will that meet the need that on a longer term basis that the 10 additional helicopters met on a short-term basis?" he said.

But Gates said his "favorite subject" is ISR.

"Well, we've put a lot of new stuff in there and there's more to come in under the FY '10 budget," he added. "I just want to make sure they're ready for it, that they'll be able to absorb it and use it in an effective way and what is the still unmet need."

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate has confirmed Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz as the new commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, according to a service notice released this afternoon. The three-star will oversee all of the service’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-focused bombers.

President Barack Obama nominated Klotz -- who is the Air Force assistant vice chief of staff -- to for the top AFGSC post in mid-April.

A Rhodes scholar who holds a doctorate in philosophy, Klotz has spent the majority of his career working with nuclear ICBMs. He also served as the vice commander of Air Force Space Command.

Also today, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney McKinley the service’s next enlisted leader.

Chief Master Sergeant James Roy will become the 16th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force during an appointment ceremony on June 30, which will coincide with Chief McKinley’s retirement.

In a statement Schwartz said:

This is a good day for all Airmen. While they will lose a tremendous leader and advocate in Chief McKinley, they gain a worthy successor in Chief Roy. Given his record and reputation, I am confident that Chief Roy will carry the best interests of our Air Force family forward to our nation’s leaders as we support today’s joint fight and rebalance our force for the challenges ahead.

Roy currently serves as the senior enlisted leader and advisor to the U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Timothy Keating. He has served as the command chief master sergeant at wings in Air Education and Training Command, Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After the House Armed Services Committee marked up their version of a defense acquisition reform bill yesterday, the legislation is expected to hit the House floor next week, a committee staffer tells us, adding the detailed timing is yet to be finalized.

We've got the chairman's mark and all amendments here.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who is sponsoring a similarly themed bill in the Senate, signaled his willingness yesterday to begin a conference on the two pieces of legislation before Memorial Day. The full Senate passed the Levin bill yesterday.

By Jason Sherman
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House just released President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget request transmittal letter to Congress, which says the spending request:

includes critical investments in rebuilding our military, securing our homeland, and expanding our diplomatic efforts because we need to use all elements of our power to provide for our national security. We are not only proposing significant funding for our national security, but we are also being careful with those investments by, for instance, reforming defense contracting so that we are using our defense dollars to their maximum effect.

By Dan Dupont
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale was just asked about whether there are more program terminations in the FY-10 budget request, unveiled today, beyond those announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in early April.

His answer: Not that I can think of.

Hale cautioned that it's a "big budget," but neither he nor Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, Joint Staff director of force structure, resources and assessment, could come up with any more terminations.

By Zachary M. Peterson
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon budget officials said this afternoon that the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor could be a candidate to replace the canceled VH-71 presidential helicopter.

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale and Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, the director for force structure, resources and assessments on the Joint Staff, told reporters at a briefing on the FY-10 budget request that the department will seek an existing solution, if possible, to replace the aging Marine One helicopters that currently shuttle the president and other VIPs on short trips.

Stanley said the V-22 could be a viable platform, but noted that the requirements for the presidential helicopter must be reviewed prior to a competition for any new contract award.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department is continuing to avoid funding the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter -- despite Congress' repeated demands that DOD fund the effort -- but DOD Comptroller Robert Hale said today the Pentagon might one day accept Capitol Hill's point of view.

Asked why the alternate engine is unfunded in DOD's fiscal year 2010 budget request, he told reporters, "Because we don't think there's a business case for it, in terms of overall savings for the same capability."

But since Congress has repeatedly pushed the Pentagon to fund the effort, does it make sense at some point for the Pentagon to call it quits on the argument?

"Well, I mean, I think, our job is to propose what we think will provide the most national security for a given amount of money," Hale said. "I understand Article 1, Section 8. It's an independent branch of government. And they have the right to ultimately appropriate the money."

Then he briefly suggested DOD might one day see it Capitol Hill's way.

"But I mean, maybe there comes a day," he said. "But at this point, I think, that's the right thing for us to do, which is to continue to propose what we think is in the best interests of the country."

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Yesterday, we reported Defense Secretary Robert Gates had shaken up the budget ritual that lets the service chiefs present Congress with wish lists. This year, Gates has told the services that if they have any unfunded priorities, he'd love to hear about them -- thereby directing them to brief him before anything goes to Capitol Hill.

So who will take him up on that offer?

Rear Adm. John Blake, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said today that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway are working on unfunded requirements lists for the fiscal year 2010 budget cycle, but Blake told reporters he had not seen either list and had no information about what they might include in terms of programs or dollar figures.

Earlier today, during a separate briefing, Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, the Joint Staff's director for force structure and resources, said he is unaware of "unfunded requirements that have come up," though he said he expects there will be some. And Comptroller Robert Hale said he thought one combatant command -- maybe U.S. Northern Command -- had submitted some.

Pressed for more, Hale demurred. "You know, I think that this one, as far I'm concerned, is pre-decisional until they actually send them on their own as the military head to the Congress," he said.

But not before going to Gates.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What did House appropriators decide to do with a $30 million White House request to buy a new air traffic safety system for Kyrgyzstan, host country of Manas Air Base? The funds were requested as part of the fiscal year 2009 wartime supplemental made public last month.

A review of the House Appropriations Committee report on the legislation and the panel chairman's statements from this week aren't entirely conclusive, so we posed the question to the office of John Murtha (D-PA), the defense subcommittee chairman.

According to Matthew Mazonkey, Murtha's spokesman, the supplemental bill in its current form would fully fund the plan out of "coalition support accounts."

But there's a catch.

"However, these funds are contingent upon a renewed agreement between the United States and Kyrgyzstan over the use of Manas Air Base," Mazonkey told us in an e-mail.

Some news reports suggest negotiations to that effect are still ongoing between U.S. and Kyrgyz government officials, although others quote Kyrgyz officials as denying this. Pentagon officials have described the installation, located outside the capital Bishkek, as a critical hub for transport flights to Afghanistan.

As it stands, U.S. military officials have until August to close up shop at Manas.

By Carlo Muñoz
May 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

House appropriators are calling for the inclusion of $310 million in the fiscal year 2009 wartime supplemental bill to bolster the ongoing counternarcotics campaign led by the Mexican government. The funding called for in the House bill would be used to finance efforts to "expand aviation support" for Mexican anti-drug operations against that country's increasingly violent drug cartels.

"The committee strongly supports Mexico in its war against organized crime and drug trafficking and supports a coordinated security strategy to address mutual concerns," House appropriators wrote in their report on the bill. Specifically, the funds would go toward the purchase of three CN-235 Persuader maritime patrol aircraft and an unspecified number of HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, according to the bill.

Inside the Pentagon first reported in April a Defense Security Cooperation Agency proposal to sell Persuader aircraft to Mexico to support counterdrug efforts.

"The provision of such additional equipment in an expedited fashion will greatly assist the Mexican government, by enhancing the air transport ability and maritime aerial surveillance of the Mexican navy to conduct counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations," the bill states.

During an March appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon was ready to begin providing military support to Mexican antidrug efforts. Along with equipment and materiel support, Gates said DOD would also conduct training for Mexican counternarcotics officials.

However, the original FY-09 supplemental request forwarded to Capitol Hill by the White House that month did not include funding for Mexico.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who is also the Pentagon's chief management officer, testified this morning before the House Armed Services Committee about Pentagon acquisition matters. Some lawmakers went out of their way to avoid asking the question which pending acquisition reform bill, the House's or the Senate's, Defense Department leaders prefer. Lynn, in turn, only said both pieces of legislation go "in the right direction" by addressing programs' technology shortcomings in early development stages.

Beside the two congressional efforts, Pentagon officials also are looking at acquisition-related issues during the Quadrennial Defense Review.

In the area of program cost projections, Lynn offered some thoughts on who he believes should be the ultimately authority in estimating how much programs may end up costing taxpayers -- program managers or the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Cost Analysis Improvement Group (CAIG).

When assessing programs, the Pentagon acquisition chief should have both estimates available, but -- "all things being equal" -- go with the CAIG estimate, Lynn said.

Later in the hearing, Lynn did express a preference for the House acquisition reform bill's provisions regarding the CAIG. The panel, which he described as the "best in the building" for cost analysis, should remain under OSD's director for program analysis and evaluation, Lynn said. The Senate bill would make the office a stand-alone organization at DOD.