The Insider

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.”

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

At the opening of the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington today, BAE Systems distributed green business cards with one word on the front: "FMTV," in big, block letters. On the back, it says, "GET THE FACTS," with a link to a Web site,

The site lays out BAE's approach to the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles "rebuy" competition, which was awarded to Oshkosh and is under protest by both losing bidders -- BAE and Navistar. The site also details BAE's response to the Oshkosh award and uses the quote, "Out here, you go with what you trust." The Government Accountability Office is slated to rule on the case in mid-December.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon is fighting a congressional proposal to expand lawmakers' access to information about the integrity and performance of contractors. The objections to section 834 of the House's fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill are included in the Pentagon's sixth package of defense authorization appeals, dated Sept. 30.

The appeals are a last-ditch effort to sway House and Senate conferees as they wrap up work on the final version of the bill.

Section 834 would give any member of Congress access to a contracting database that is now open only to the chairmen and ranking members of committees with jurisdiction. The Defense Department's appeal argues access to the database should remain tight because it contains "sensitive information used to make responsibility determinations by acquisition officials."

Citing the new requirement for posting contracting officers' determination that a source is not responsible, the appeal argues the integrity of the database depends on keeping this information under wraps. "Contracting officers may be reluctant to be totally honest in making this determination if a lawsuit may ensue," DOD writes.

The appeals package also complains that House and Senate authorizers both declined to support DOD's request for new authority to activate Reserve forces in case of disasters. Governors have opposed this idea.

Further, the appeals object to provisions requiring interrogations to be filmed and not performed by contractors.

By Cid Standifer
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Navy announced today that Brian Detter has been sworn in to replace Roger Smith as the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for expeditionary warfare. Smith stepped down on Aug. 7.

Detter will report to Navy acquisition czar Sean Stackley, providing oversight of the department's urgent needs process, which is designed to respond rapidly to critical capability requirements of deployed Marines and sailors. He will be the primary adviser to Stackley for Marine Corps and Navy expeditionary warfare programs, the Navy said.

Detter ran his own business and technology consulting firm, Detter and Associates, LLC, for more than 12 years, according to the service. His work involved emerging medical technologies; biometrics; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; sensors; and unmanned arterial vehicles. He has also worked for members of Congress and served as an analyst for the Congressional Research Service, working on defense budget and other issues. In 2007, he founded Encytech, a public relations firm.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Tucked in the fiscal year 2010 appropriations bill is a surprising little amendment approved by the Senate yesterday that at least in theory could force the Pentagon to open up a bit online.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and approved by the Senate, says any report submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee from any department or agency "shall be posted on the public website of that agency upon receipt by the committee." It exempts reports that if released would compromise national security or reveal proprietary information.

“It is called transparency,” Coburn said yesterday on the Senate floor. “The American people are paying for ((the reports)). The American people have a right and an obligation to see them if they are going to be involved in the governance of our country. In fact, they are supposed to be in charge of the governance of our country.”

The Senate is slated to resume consideration of the bill on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

By Jason Sherman
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

“Wicked” -- that favorite adjective of New Englanders from certain neighborhoods -- should be accorded a place in the most serious precincts of U.S. national security debate and used to categorize the most difficult set of defense challenges.

That is a central recommendation of the Defense Science Board, which, in a report made public yesterday, calls for the Pentagon to form a new shop -- the Capability, Assessment, Warning and Response Office -- dedicated to wrestling with what it calls “wicked problems”

Are these evil, morally wrong problems? Not exactly. “Wicked problems” are complex and multivariable and do not have set solutions, according an essay on the concept attached to the report in an appendix.

The “wicked problems” construct was set forth in 1973 by U.C. Berkley professors Horst Wittel and Melvin Webber to describe challenges that are entwined in other problems and contain contractions or incomplete information, the essay states.

Wicked problems involve many stakeholders with competing viewpoints and goals. Attempts to deal with these problems impact other issues that can paradoxically produce negative and positive results, according to the DSB report on capability surprise.

Their potential to produce that surprise, according to the DSB, warrants a staff dedicated to focusing full-time on such challenges.

For many decades, the DOD has sustained an aggressive combination of technology, operations and policy initiatives to keep the nation secure. These expanding threats and limited resources demand that the department be managed with a combination of the best possible intelligence, the most aggressive technology programs, and inventive operational applications. There is benefit in an explicit methodology to highlight opportunities for interdiction and/or misdirection.

One option is to have a high-level, centralized organization be responsible for preventing or mitigating surprise... A central organization could ensure a reasonably exhaustive, capability-by-capability evaluation of the likelihood that an adversary will achieve a symmetric capability at parity with, or beyond our own; and the likelihood that an adversary can counter/deny us a critical capability. A central organization can have all the access required to understand present and future military capabilities while still ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of our development and operation of critical capabilities. An organization that stands above the individual capability developers and maintainers can bridge across them and consider alternative courses of action that might hedge a capability in one modality with a capability or basket of capability across other modalities. And, an organization so-placed can actually manage the hedging process.

By Jason Sherman
October 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Science Foundation today announced $8 million in grants to 19 social scientists as part of the Minerva initiative that defense secretary Robert Gates launched last year improve department's understanding behavioral and dimensions security, conflict cooperation. The NSF awarded an initial batch of Minerva contracts to seven researchers -- including historians, anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists -- to examine issues including Chinese military and technology studies; research that illuminates the perspectives of terrorists; research into possible disciplines required to deal with current and future security challenges; and religious and ideological studies. The total value of those contracts could be as much as $50 million.