The Insider

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With the Obama administration recently presiding over its first fiscal year close-out, officials want to make sure work on the FY-09 financial statements goes as quickly as it did in previous years.

The statutory deadline for the paperwork is five months after the fiscal year ends. But during the past four years it took agencies only 45 days to complete the work.

"It is my expectation that federal agencies will continue to meet this accelerated time table, and I hereby request that federal agencies treat 45 days after the end of the fiscal year as a deadline for submitting year-end financial statements," Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag wrote in a memo yesterday.

Of course, not all financial statements are equal. The Defense Department -- partly because of its sheer vastness, officials say -- has been trying to get its numbers in order for years.

DOD's latest moves toward clean audits are summarized in the periodically updated Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan. The latest version, from March, said auditors considered 45 percent of DOD's $3.8 trillion in assets and liabilities deserving of a "complete" rating.

By John Liang
October 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The commander of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, ND, has been relieved of command "due to loss of confidence in his ability to command," according to an Air Force announcement released today:

Col. Christopher B. Ayres was removed by Maj. Gen. Roger W. Burg, commander of 20th Air Force. Col. Ayres assumed command in May 2008.

He was not relieved for any alleged misconduct or wrongdoing. Recent incidents during his command, including a vehicle rollover accident involving a Payload Transporter on Aug. 31, 2009, contributed to the loss of confidence.

“We must uphold the highest standards within the nuclear enterprise,” said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, who approved of the decision. “We must have complete confidence in our leadership as we continue the revitalization of the nuclear enterprise.”

Ayres' firing is not the only bad publicity the base has had to endure in recent years, what with an August 2007 mishap where an Air Force B-52 bomber was inadvertently loaded with live nuclear weapons slated for long-term storage during a flight from Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB, LA. That event led to the resignations of then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden late this afternoon in the Oval Office, according to the White House.

The meeting is closed to the press. No agenda items disclosed, but Afghanistan is sure to come up. As The Washington Post reported on its Web site yesterday:

President Obama announced in March that he would be sending 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized -- and the Pentagon is deploying -- at least 13,000 troops beyond that number, according to defense officials.

The additional troops are primarily support forces, including engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police. Their deployment has received little mention by officials at the Pentagon and the White House, who have spoken more publicly about the combat troops who have been sent to Afghanistan.

The deployment of the support troops to Afghanistan brings the total increase approved by Obama to 34,000. The buildup has raised the number of U.S. troops deployed to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan above the peak during the Iraq "surge" that President George W. Bush ordered, officials said.

By Marjorie Censer
October 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army chief of staff has approved the service's latest equipping strategy, describing the "ends, ways, and means the Army will use to achieve equipping balance by Fiscal Year 2011," according to a Sept. 29 memo from Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8). The memo, obtained by Inside the Army, notes that the strategy intends to "ensure Soldiers have the right amount and type of modernized equipment to meet their mission requirements -- whether in combat, training for combat, operating as part of the generating force, or conducting Homeland Defense and Defense Support to Civilian Agencies missions."

The 12-page equipping strategy, also obtained by ITA, lays out the methods by which the Army properly equips its troops. It also details challenges ahead, such as the increasingly uncertain budget environment.

"Affordability and Risk will be critical issues as the Army looks to move through Balance and into Enduring Readiness, while fielding the new Ground Combat Vehicle and continuing to Reset and recapitalize," the strategy reads. "There must be explicit decision criteria in equipping decisions at all levels."

By Jason Sherman
October 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Congressional Budget Office believes the Pentagon can shave $6 billion from the price tag of repairing war-torn equipment by adjusting the pace of U.S. troops withdrawals from Iraq.

In an Oct. 7 letter to Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), the non-partisan CBO outlines four alternatives for how the Pentagon might remove equipment and forces from Iraq and still meet the Obama administration's commitment to be gone by the end of 2011. Tierney is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform national security and foreign affairs subcommittee.

Current plans will require $41 billion to reconstitute war-torn equipment, which CBO believes can be pared back to as little as $35 billion by beginning to withdraw slightly more than four brigades a month beginning this month through next June. The administration plans to sustain current force levels of 128,000 troops in Iraq through the December elections, and in February begin withdrawing three brigades a month through August 2010.

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

The fiscal year 2010 defense authorization conference agreement unveiled yesterday scolds the Defense Department -- and senior uniformed officials in particular -- for not being responsive enough to lawmakers' queries.

Conferees stopped short of adopting a House provision that would have directed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide advice to Congress upon request, but they also unloaded on top military officials for repeatedly failing to provide information and documents in a timely manner as required by law.

Citing Senate confirmation hearings, the legislation counsels the services' top admirals and generals to remember what they agreed to:

In particular, the conferees remind these officers of their affirmative answers to the following questions: Do you agree to provide documents, including copies of electronic forms of communication, in a timely manner when requested by a duly constituted committee, or to consult with the committee regarding the basis for any good faith delay or denial in providing such documents? Do you agree, when asked, to give your personal views, even if those views differ from the administration in power?

By John Liang
October 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With Congress a full week into fiscal year 2010, House lawmakers have yet to officially designate who will negotiate the FY-10 defense appropriations bill.

Traditionally the members of the subcommittees of both chambers are the conferees. On Oct. 6, the Senate Appropriations Committee appointed Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kit Bond (R-MO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

A House staffer tells that the conference meetings could begin next week, with the two chambers voting on the final compromise bill the following week.

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

This afternoon, President Obama plans to meet again with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here’s the White House’s roster for today’s Situation Room session:

* Vice President Biden
* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
* 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
* 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

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

One of the ways to accelerate the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces is to simply extend the recruits' training days. That is one of the recommendations from the former head of the Iraqi army training effort that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, chose to include in his Aug. 30 Afghanistan assessment to Pentagon leaders.

But along with introducing perhaps 60- or 72-hour work weeks, the mindset in the corridors of Kabul's ministries must change, retired Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik argued in a July 16 memo to McChrystal.

"Given what our nation has already invested in blood and treasure and how that investment has and is growing, I believe a full-court, strategic press is necessary in two areas," Dubik's memo states.

"Part of the 'growth' necessary in the Afghan ministries concerns understanding that they will have to begin to carry out more of the financial burden -- within the ((country's)) actual means. All cannot come from the donor coffers much longer. This will be a huge psychological shift. At the right time over the next year, we should consider beginning to develop small steps in this regard to overcome the current inertia and build a foundation for the future."

Dubik also called for "increased intensity" within Afghanistan's security ministries and training centers. The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan "is not in a 'business as usual' position, yet I sense some of our Afghan partners are," he wrote.

As for police forces training, in particular, Dubik recommended the creation of one or more Kabul Police Academy "extension colleges" to help generate graduates more quickly.

By John Liang
October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The full Senate late this evening voted 93-7 in favor of the fiscal year 2010 defense appropriations bill.

When the Senate Appropriations Committee marked it up on Sept. 10, the bill contained $636.3 billion for the Pentagon, including $128.2 billion for overseas contingency operations.

October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The second industry day on the Army's new ground combat vehicle effort will be held Nov. 23 to Nov. 25 at the Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, MI, according to the program executive office integration.

The first two days are slated for full days, while the last -- the day before Thanksgiving -- will be a half-day. Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli is scheduled to be the event's keynote speaker on Nov. 24.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet today with congressional leaders and the chairs and ranking members of key committees to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here’s the invite list for the State Dining Room session, as released by the White House.


· Sen. Harry Reid, Majority Leader, D-NV
· Sen. Dick Durbin, Majority Whip, D-IL
· Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader, R-KY
· Sen. Jon Kyl, Republican Whip, R-AZ
· Sen. Carl Levin, Armed Services Chairman, D-MI
· Sen. John McCain, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-AZ
· Sen. Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Chairman and Defense Subcommittee Chairman, D-HI
· Sen. Thad Cochran, Appropriations Ranking Member and Defense Subcommittee Ranking, R-MS
· Sen. John Kerry, Foreign Affairs Chairman, D-MA
· Sen. Richard Lugar, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-IN
· Sen. Patrick Leahy, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chairman, D-VT
· Sen. Judd Gregg, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-NH
· Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Intelligence Committee Chair, D-CA
· Sen. Kit Bond, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MO


· Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA
· Rep. Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader, D-MD
· Rep. John Boehner, Republican Leader, R-OH
· Rep. James Clyburn, Majority Whip, D-SC
· Rep. Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, R-VA
· Rep. Ike Skelton, Armed Services Chairman, D-MO
· Rep. Howard McKeon, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-CA
· Rep. Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs Chairman, D-CA
· Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-FL
· Rep. David Obey, Appropriations Chairman, D-WI
· Rep. Jerry Lewis, Appropriations Ranking Member, R-CA
· Rep. Nita Lowey, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chairman, D-NY
· Rep. Kay Granger, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-TX
· Rep. John Murtha, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Chairman, D-PA
· Rep. Bill Young, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Ranking Member, R-FL
· Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Intelligence Committee Chairman, D-TX
· Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MI

By John Liang
October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Don't assume that the Obama administration's ongoing review of export control policy will lead to the easing of licensing requirements, according to a State Department official.

National security considerations will dominate the review, Robert Kovac, the head of the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), emphasized last week. As Inside U.S. Trade reported:

“Take this to the bank -- the litmus on this ((interagency review)) is going to be U.S. national security,” Kovac said in a Sept. 30 session at the Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy. “There are going to be all kinds of other factors, but the one that is going to be paramount is going to be national security.”

He also made the point that the outcome of the review is not necessarily a decision to decontrol items now subject to licensing.

According to Kovac, there are no “preconceived conclusions” about the review that would influence officials’ findings. Therefore, export control requirements could be tightened or they could be loosened, he said.

The administration’s review is divided into short- and medium-term steps meant to clear out languishing export control decisions as well as a fundamental review to shape an export control system for the future, according to Acting Deputy Assistant Commerce Secretary for Export Administration Matthew Borman.

Borman participated with Kovac and other administration officials in the opening panel of the conference organized by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

Kovac downplayed the extent to which a fundamental change in U.S. export controls could be achieved administratively. “We keep tinkering around the edges, ((but)) fundamental change will probably require legislation,” he said.

Kovac said he was “very excited” about the export control review because today’s commercial realities of global research and development or international defense production are not reflected in the laws underlying U.S. export controls.

Those laws are the Arms Export Control Act governing munitions exports and the expired Export Administration Act that governs dual-use exports.

As an example of how defense production realities have overtaken the statutory framework of the Arms Export Control Act, Kovac cited the Joint Strike Fighter. He said it is being co-designed and developed by nine countries and involves 52 major companies, not counting the subcontractors.

Kovac said he hoped that the administration could get Congress on board with whatever recommendations the review will produce. “We are going to involve Congress in this ((review)) early and often,” Kovac said.

He said an important part of the administration’s review will be the review of the export control lists and deciding what should remain controlled or taken off the list.

Representing the Defense Department at the panel was Anthony Aldwell of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA). He emphasized that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is “fully pledged” to examining export controls in a “very comprehensive” way in an effort to improve the current system.

The review, which he said was still at the “very early stages,” will be the number one priority for DTSA this fall, he said.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter says the Defense Department and the White House are still sorting out the requirements for the new presidential helicopter program, which will follow the terminated VH-71 effort.

The key is developing a “set of requirements that one can design around and come up with an affordable and practical solution," he said last night at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And we're working now. I'm working with the White House, who is the customer in this case, to get a more realistic set of requirements than those that underlay the VH-71, because that was the fundamental reason why the program couldn't be executed."

Despite the VH-71 program's termination months ago, President Obama "does need a helicopter, a new helicopter and a new process now of trying to ascertain which of the many needs that the White House has for short-haul transport can be met with a helicopter of a kind that we can actually build," Carter told the audience.

"The problem with the VH-71 was a lot of people think that requirements creep is our principal acquisition problem," he said. "We actually have made every mistake you can imagine, and by no means are our mistakes confined to acquisition creep."

But the VH-71 program "wasn't an example of requirements creep at all," Carter argued. "It was an example of the stubborn persistence in pursuing a set of requirements long after it became obvious that they couldn't be met by any realistic helicopter, certainly no easy derivative of a helicopter already in use."

By Kate Brannen
October 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking this morning at the big AUSA convention in Washington, said President Obama’s upcoming decisions on the Afghanistan campaign would be among the most important of his presidency.

“So, it’s important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right,” he said.

He reminded military and civilian advisers that advice to the president should be given “candidly but privately,” bringing to mind Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent speech at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies in London, where he rejected calls to change strategy in Afghanistan. During the Oct. 1 speech, McChrystal was asked whether he would support a scaling back of efforts in Afghanistan to pursue a strategy focused on hunting Al Qaeda through limited air strike. “The short answer is: No," he said.

Gates’ remarks this morning reflected a somewhat different attitude.

“And speaking for the Department of Defense, once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability,” said Gates.

To support operations in Afghanistan, Gates said he has ordered additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, “including the most advanced drones, such as the MC-12 unmanned aerial vehicle,” as well as additional explosive ordnance disposal teams. He also noted the delivery of the first M-ATVs to theater last week “only three months after the initial contract was awarded.”