The Insider

By Kate Brannen
April 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What could make the Quadrennial Defense Review a better product? That was one of the topics up for debate at today's panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here's one idea: Ban PowerPoint presentations, said Robert Soule of the Institute for Defense Analyses. Soule served as director of the Pentagon’s program analysis and evaluation (PA&E) office from July 1998 through April 2001 and worked on President Obama's Defense Department transition team. Throughout the QDR process, Soule said it helps if there are fewer briefings, in lieu of more emphasis on discussion. He also counseled that the review should focus on a "reasonably small number" of issues -- and that it not get bogged down by detailed modeling and simulations.

Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, agreed with Soule that the QDR should focus on fewer issues, saying 10 is all right, but six is preferred. In addition, Blechman said having small staffs working on the review is more effective. Ideally, Blechman would like to see senior leaders from across the government, not just the Defense Department, working together on "America's grand strategy to confront" future challenges. The agreed-upon strategy would ideally take the form of a short, closely held memo, said Blechman.

"It might be time for us to change the law to shake things up," said Creighton Greene, a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The QDR process may have become too institutionalized, too routine, he said, to create effective strategy and policy changes.

Before the panel discussion, Michèle Flournoy, under secretary of defense for policy, addressed the audience. She said she thinks this Quadrennial Defense Review will be an important one and added that it will differ from past reviews because of its "whole-of-government" approach, through which Pentagon planners are accepting intellectual help and input from other government agencies, allied partners, think tanks, academia and the private sector.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

When asked during their confirmation hearings whether the top Pentagon weapons buyer should have a seat on the pivotal Joint Requirements Oversight Council, both the new acquisition under secretary, Ashton Carter, and his predecessor, John Young, answered “maybe.” But for Young, who was formally replaced by Carter yesterday, the answer these days is more akin to “maybe not.”

Lawmakers and defense experts have previously floated the idea of full JROC membership for the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics to ensure closer collaboration between the military's requirements definition folks and the civilian-run acquisition bureaucracy. The perpetual ramping-up of requirements in weapon systems, known as “requirements creep” in Pentagon jargon, is blamed for continued cost overruns and schedule slips in Defense Department programs.

Full JROC membership currently is limited to senior officers from the military branches. The acquisition executive has an advisory role in the process.

In a final briefing with reporters yesterday, Young said acquisition and requirements officials must collaborate more closely and quickly. But in his view, a formal separation between the acquisition realm and the JROC should remain to guarantee a system of “checks and balances.”

“I respect the military community's ability to state the requirements, and I think you have to respect the acquisition community's ability to challenge requirements if we have reason to,” Young said. Acquisition officials' objections could come as a result of budget concerns or technical feasibility of proposed requirements, he said.

“Putting people on both sides and giving them veto votes on the other ((side's proposals)) is probably not the perfect ((solution)),” Young said.

In his written responses to advance questions for his Oct. 4, 2007, confirmation hearing, then-acting acquisition chief Young supported the idea of participating in the JROC process as an adviser. Beyond that, full membership on the panel “may be appropriate,” he wrote.

During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill lamented what she perceived to be “a lot of back-scratching by the various branches -- you know, 'I won't mess with your program if you don't mess with mine'” on the council at the time. She asked Young to answer in writing whether he believed a full seat on the panel would have a “cleansing effect.”

Ashton Carter, who was sworn in as the new Pentagon acquisition chief yesterday, offered a noncommittal answer to the JROC membership question last month. In advance questions for his nomination hearing, Senators asked if he saw the “need for any changes in the structure or operations” of the JROC.

Carter stressed the importance of “close coordination” between requirements and acquisition officials. As for a membership on the JROC, such a move “may be appropriate,” he wrote.

By John Liang
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Navy is ramping up its drive to increase the service's generation and use of renewable energy sources through the development of marine renewable power, led by ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), Defense Environment Alert reports.

OTEC is a process pioneered in the 1970s by defense contractors and subsequently abandoned when oil prices returned to lower levels in the 1980s, according to DEA, which adds:

The Navy’s effort to use marine-based energy is part of a broader push to increase its generation and use of renewable energy to comply with statutory requirements and reduce fossil fuel dependence. The marine energy initiative seeks to make specific use of tropical and subtropical waters around many Navy bases to generate power.

The Navy announced its desire to use more marine renewable power at the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, DC, April 15, when Howard Snow, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and facilities, appealed to delegates to consider the service as a partner in the development of marine renewables. Snow told the conference the Navy is an “enthusiastic customer” for renewable energy, and could provide land for renewable projects more cheaply than the commercial marketplace can.

The ultimate aim, Snow said in an April 22 interview with Defense Environment Alert, would be to generate sufficient power on-base to “island” installations from the electrical grid, effectively making them self-sufficient. In the interim, however, the goal is to meet the Navy’s target mandated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Snow noted that at present, regulatory requirements in certain states -- notably California -- make it difficult or impossible for military bases to sell significant amounts of electricity back into the grid. . . .

The Navy’s efforts come as other military services are pushing hard to increase their portfolio of renewables and alternative fuels on economic, security and environmental grounds. For example, the Air Force is aggressively pursuing bio-based jet fuels and solar power, while the Army has committed to making its bases net exporters of electrical power within 15 years.

For more of coverage of the military's efforts to reduce fuel consumption and explore alternative energy sources, check out Defense Energy Watch.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) concluded a confirmation hearing today for Defense Department posts by noting the committee will move “quickly” to advance the nominations of the candidates who testified:

  • Raymond Mabus, to be Navy Secretary;
  • Robert Work, to be Navy Under Secretary;
  • Elizabeth King, to be assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs;
  • Donald Remy, to be the Army’s general counsel;
  • Michael Nacht, to be assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs;
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, to be assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs;
  • Jo-Ellen Darcy, to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works; and
  • Inés Triay to be assistant secretary of energy for environmental management.

Much of the hearing was devoted to discussing naval issues. In fact, Levin and Ranking Republican John McCain (AZ) had to step in to get Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to wrap up their dueling statements about the Navy’s plan to base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Mayport, FL. It was only then that the committee received testimony from Nacht, Gregson, Darcy and Triay, who comprised the second panel of nominees.

By Marjorie Censer
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Welcome to the building, Ash Carter.

Carter’s predecessor, John Young, left the Pentagon yesterday -- but not without saying a few words about what it’s like to be the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Don’t expect to see those words on any recruiting posters.

“You get paid a salary but -- beyond that -- you become almost a monk and get all kinds of restrictions levied on you for coming in here and trying to help your country and do the right thing,” he told reporters yesterday.

And, he added, a person in his position “can't participate in the economy, you have every possibility that you could be in limbo for months as you're waiting to be confirmed in these positions, and then once you're in these positions you're going to be subjected to excessive mandates that operate from the presumption that you are an unethical person.”

He blamed Congress for holding up his confirmation for six months, limiting his effectiveness.

“I was acting ((acquisition executive)), but -- knowing that you could create new holds by pro-actively doing your job -- I had to be careful,” Young said. “I actually ignored that and I went ahead and did things like restructuring the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle ((program)) and other things, but it was probably at my peril and risk to do those things.”

So what’s next?

Young said he would leave the Pentagon “an unemployed individual,” and said he had “no idea” what he’d do next. “Despite what some people have inaccurately written, I have not interviewed, looked for jobs, filed recusals -- I've done nothing because I do not want to bring any more controversy on the acquisition team.”

He did say he'd start looking “probably not too far down the road.”

By John Liang
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today released the details behind $835 million worth of improvement projects for 850 defense facilities across the country funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The $835 million "represents the balance of the ARRA funds provided to the DOD for construction and repair projects," according to a Defense Department statement, which adds:

All of the new projects will be conducted at Army and Army National Guard facilities in 37 states and the District of Columbia. More than half of the $835 million will be spent in five states: Texas ($155 million), Kentucky ($83 million), North Carolina ($83 million), Oklahoma ($66 million) and Hawaii ($59 million). In addition to making much-needed improvements to military installations, an additional $346 million will be spent on energy-related projects enabling the DOD to lead the way in the national effort to achieve greater energy independence.

Representing less than 1 percent of the entire $787 billion ARRA package, the overall $7.4 billion investment in defense-related projects will further the legislation’s stated goal of stimulating the American economy through job creation, while improving the quality of life for service members, their families, and DOD civilian workers.

In March, the Pentagon issued details on $5.9 billion in funding for nearly 3,000 military construction projects funded by ARRA, out of which $300 million would go "to develop energy-efficient technologies."

Click here to view the full DOD report to Congress issued this week.

By Jason Sherman
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Mark your calendars: A date is now set for the first congressional hearing on the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget request. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will testify the morning of May 13 before the House Armed Services Committee, according to congressional sources.

Still no word on when the White House will transmit the FY-10 budget; presumably it will be at least a day before Gates testifies.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

James Clapper, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, wants everything in the field of measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) to be considered a top priority.

"MASINT operations and activities shall be treated as high-priority efforts and receive full and proactive support in all resourcing and programmatic actions," he wrote in an April 22 Defense Department instruction.

The previous version of the document, which dates from 1993, contains no such language.

According to Clapper's instruction, MASINT is defined as:

Information produced by quantitative and qualitative analysis of physical attributes of targets and events to characterize, locate, and identify them. MASINT exploits a variety of phenomenologies to support signature development and analysis, to perform technical analysis, and to detect, characterize, locate, and identify targets and events. MASINT is derived from specialized, technically-derived measurements of physical phenomenon intrinsic to an object or event and it includes the use of quantitative signatures to interpret the data.

The high-priority designation for MASINT comes amid a growing interest from defense leaders in anything capable of providing improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.

The Pentagon's ISR requests have soared since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operations there have shown a critical need for information about violent extremists' operations -- a markedly different intelligence challenge from the Cold War era, when U.S. spy satellites were often tasked to simply photograph large Soviet formations.

In today's security environment, a few potential MASINT applications come to mind: Separating friends from foes in urban warfare, identifying buried targets, or finding improvised explosive devices.

On the latter issue, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization chief Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz last year said his office is working on ways to make the characteristic copper plates of armor-piercing roadside bombs, or explosively formed penetrators, visible to nearby ground forces through the use of radar and other sensors.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama noted today his administration will fund an organization called Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy or ARPA-E, which is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Congress created ARPA-E a couple of years ago, but the Bush administration never funded it.

This morning at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Obama said DARPA -- which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik -- has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research on projects such as the precursor to the Internet, known as ARPANET; stealth technology; and the Global Positioning System.

"All owe a debt to the work of DARPA," Obama said. "So ARPA-E seeks to do the same kind of high-risk/high-reward research."

Last month, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the House Science and Technology Committee that ARPA-E will "identify technologies with potential to become the next generation of revolutionary energy systems and products while it will make a major impact on our twin problems of energy security and climate change."

Chu said he was pushing to get ARPA-E up and running soon. When advisers told him it would take one year, he instructed them to revisit the issue and see why it would take so long. "There might be regulations, things like that," he said. "And I have not gotten back the answer to that. So I hope it would take much shorter than one year."

By Dan Dupont
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

It's official: John Young is out as Pentagon acquisition executive, and Ashton Carter is in, sworn in this morning.

Young took a good deal of time to talk to reporters this morning, and we're going to bring you a lot of news from that session.

We've already begun with these:

Young Slams Air Force's UAV Acquisition Strategy as Illogical

Young: Price Should be Ultimate Factor in KC-X Tanker Competition

Young Criticizes 'Flawed Contract Strategy' Behind Future Combat Systems Program

Stay tuned for more.

By Jason Simpson
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Former Pentagon acquisition chief John Young today highlighted the MQ-4 Global Hawk program in reflecting on what he sees as a flawed Defense Department requirements mindset.

In his last meeting with reporters as DOD's weapons buying czar, Young said, “I find myself wishing that I had pushed harder in several spaces on requirements, and maybe even had a more major initiative to go and review the fact that I now have programs governed by ((600- or)) 700-page requirements documents that may have 1,000 requirements -- and several hundred of those requirements are tradeable.”

Centering his thoughts on the high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system, Young said the program has roughly 240 requirements, and 100 of those are “tradeable.”

“Because they exist on paper," he said, program officials are testing those “tradeable" requirements. “What did it matter, if you had a tradeable requirement -- i.e. it was tradeable and you don't have to deliver it -- now I'm going to test to see if I delivered it or not? I mean, I'm spending money in ways that just aren't efficient, so I've got to keep changing the mindsets there," he said.

Programs like that, Young said, make him wish he had “pushed an initiative in requirements harder,” but noted that there are “a lot of great things that have been done” in other acquisition programs, particularly those that have featured joint analysis teams.

By Jason Simpson
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Strike Fighter ultimately will succeed, outgoing Pentagon acquisition chief John Young predicted today, even though program officials inadequately funded the prototype flyoff during the competition to build the fifth-generation fighter.

“I think we didn't fully understand all the risks of achieving weight on the Joint Strike Fighter and other such things, but Joint Strike Fighter is, in the end, going to be successful, and I think fairly successful for what we're asking for three airplanes to do in terms of capability,” Young said.

In February, reported that Young had written a memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates stating that “JSF technology demonstrators were not adequately robust, leading to optimistic estimates of the structural weight of the aircraft."

At least the F-35 program didn't go the way of the A-12 Avenger II, Young noted. The A-12 was intended to be a carrier-based stealth fighter replacement for the A-6 Intruder used by the Navy and Marine Corps, but the program was canceled in 1991 due to high costs. The cancellation led to years of litigation between the design team -- McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics -- and DOD, which is still ongoing, according to Young.

“People clearly didn't understand the risk ((of the A-12 program)) -- they signed up for a price that was totally unrealistic and kind of said, 'Industry, you got to go do it,' and we took them to court for not doing it,” he said.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama today announced plans to nominate Paul Stockton to be assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs. Here's his bio, as issued by the White House:

Mr. Stockton is a senior research scholar at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. He was formerly the associate provost at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and was the founding director of its Center for Homeland Defense and Security. His research focuses on how U.S. security institutions respond to changes in the threat (including the rise of terrorism), and the interaction of Congress and the Executive branch in restructuring national security budgets, policies and institutional arrangements. From 2000-2001, he founded and served as the acting dean of NPS' School of International Graduate Studies. From 1995 until 2000, he served as director of NPS' Center for Civil-Military Relations. From 1986-1989 Stockton served as legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Stockton received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1976 and a doctorate in government from Harvard University in 1986.

By John Liang
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today awarded Lockheed Martin Aeronautics a $100 million increment of a nearly $400 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract for phase three of an effort to develop a stratospheric airship that can simultaneously track airborne and ground targets in flights lasting upward of 10 years, according to a Defense Department announcement.

The program is dubbed Integrated Sensor is Structure, or ISIS for short. Work on the contract is expected to be completed in March 2013, according to the DOD statement. "This contract was procured under a limited source competition with two bids solicited and two bids received," the statement reads.

As Inside the Air Force reported last month:

In the second phase, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman worked on the systems design, and several sectors of Lockheed, Northrop and Raytheon were contracted for “critical technology” development, which included low areal density hull materials, lightweight low-power-density radar arrays, extremely low-power transmit-receive modules and regenerative power systems.

In Phase III, the agency will design, develop and fabricate a subscale demonstration system and conduct flight tests, Walker said.

Flight demonstration is scheduled for fiscal year 2013; it will be up to the Air Force following the flights to determine future acquisition and operations of a production asset, Walker added in a March 17 e-mail.

By Dan Dupont
April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter was confirmed by the Senate yesterday for the post of under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

He'll succeed John Young, who made a lot of waves -- and a lot of news -- during his tenure as the Pentagon acquisition chief.

More to come on both.

And while we're on the topic of Obama appointees, there's an item in The Washington Post today about Arnold Punaro's case for Army secretary. You might recall we covered Punaro's possible nomination for the post back in early February.

Also: Inside the Air Force today has this noteworthy story:

A White House demand that Bush administration political appointees in the Pentagon abide by new ethics rules may prompt three senior Air Force officials to vacate their positions by the end of the month, Inside the Air Force has learned.

The appointees’ departure will leave several holes in the service’s senior leadership structure until the White House nominates replacements. Three assistant secretaries -- John Vonglis, Craig Duehring and Kevin Billings -- are expected to vacate their posts by April 30 rather than sign an Obama administration-required “ethics pledge” that prohibits the appointees from working on Defense Department-related projects for two years after leaving the Pentagon.