The Insider

By Carlo Muñoz
March 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon will begin providing military support to counternarcotics operations led by the Mexican government. During an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Gates said the Defense Department will conduct training for Mexican counternarcotics officials, as well as provide intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to those forces.

"I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans more than we have in the past. Some of the old biases against cooperation between our militaries and so on, I think, are being satisfied," Gates said. Those biases have declined, he added, due to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's increased efforts to take on the cartels operating in the country.

Last month's execution of Mexican Brig. Gen. Marco Enrique Tello Quinonez, which was linked to cartel leaders, was the latest event in a recent escalation of violence between the cartels and Mexican officials.

Those cartels pose a serious threat to U.S. national security, according to U.S. Joint Forces Command's 2008 Joint Operating Environment assessment released late last year. In the report, JFCOM strategists stated the destabilizing effect of Mexico's drug traffickers had put the country on par with Pakistan in terms of the possibility of a "rapid and sudden collapse."

The "sustained assault" on the Mexican government by the cartels has weakened Calderon's control over the country, the report states. "Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone," it adds.

Last month, Inside the Pentagon reported that JFCOM commander Gen. James Mattis planned to sit down with Mexican diplomats to discuss the JOE's findings.

While noting the ongoing war between the cartels and the Mexican government is "clearly a serious problem," Gates said the increased violence is an unfortunate side effect to Calderon's successful counternarcotics campaign. "I think people need to point out is the courage that Calderon has shown in taking this on," Gates said. "Because one of the reasons it's gotten as bad as it has is because his predecessors basically refused to do that."

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The beginning of the week had some bad news in store for the presidential helicopter program.

First, a story broke over the weekend that an employee of a "Maryland-based" defense company used a peer-to-peer file sharing program to beam potentially sensitive engineering and avionics data of the Sikorsky-made VH-60 helicopter into cyberspace.

By late last month, the files had already spread to a computer in Iran, Keith Tagliaferri of Tiversa, the Pennsylvania-based computer security company that first brought the incident to the attention of the military, told Reuters.

(We report on new plans by DOD to avoid similar cases of data loss in the future in a related story on InsideDefense.com.)

In Inside the Navy today, the follow-on Marine One copter program, the VH-71, also makes headlines by virtue of what government and industry sources believe to be its impending demise.

"In the days to come, any information you may receive about budget or program decisions will undoubtedly be wrong because I intend to wait until the end of our review process before making any decisions," Gates said at a Pentagon press briefing last week. "Putting together a budget package this large, complex and interrelated requires a coherent and holistic process -- a process that would be undermined if decisions about particular programs are made piecemeal or before the assessment is complete."

Nonetheless, government and industry sources, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions, said last week that the VH-71program is likely to meet its end.

Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter Textron cooperate on the VH-71 program.

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

In a Defense: Next post earlier this week, titled “Strike Back,” the Joint Strike Fighter program executive officer, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, commented on criticisms over the past several years made by an Australian think tank on the F-35 program and its applicability for Australia's future combat.

Well, it didn't take long for the group's head of capability analysis, Carlo Kopp, to respond with an open letter on the Defence Professionals' Web site.

First, Kopp noted “Air Power Australia's” agenda -- which Davis said was to extend the life of the F-111 and demand Aussie use of the F-22A:

Our agenda is simple: to ensure that the Western alliance never again suffers the humiliation of defeat in combat by opponents with superior air combat capabilities.

Your suggestion that Air Power Australia (APA) somehow has a primary focus in criticizing your program is false, in fact, of the thirty three (33) papers published in our APA Analyses research journal since its launch in 2004, only five, or 15 percent, are specifically focused upon the F-35 program. Moreover, APA has argued widely and strongly for acquisition reform, and proper force structure planning for Western Air Forces.

On APA's Web site, InsideDefense.com found six articles from the group itself in the F-35's subpage, as well as more than a dozen from other publications. When browsing the site's F-22A subpage -- which notes that “there are no alternatives to the F-22 Raptor" -- there are yet another handful of articles from other publications related to the JSF, with titles such as “Is the JSF really good enough?” and “Is the JSF right for Australia?” -- a two-part series.

Kopp continues:

Make no mistake, the world is changing around us and many of these changes are not for the better. Our ability, as the Western alliance, to maintain global military superiority, will depend upon us having genuinely superior capabilities. There is no room for the intellectual sloth which has pervaded much of the Joint Strike Fighter Program since its inception.

He also states that Davis misrepresented APA as having “a very 1950s-type of mindset” in how it looked at future aerial combat, contending, “had you taken the time to study this work, you would not have falsely claimed that APA made no allowances for radar-absorbent materials in our analysis, as APA made unusually generous allowances, favouring the F-35. In fact the analysis produced by APA also included the impact of refraction upon target aspect angles in long-range missile engagement geometries, a factor usually in such analyses, also favouring the F-35.”

“You failed to mention the principal point made by the APA, which is that inevitable evolutionary advancements in Russian radar power-aperture, signal and data processing, and missile performance, have surpassed the stealth specification to which the F-35 is being built,” he added.

Both the fifth-generation F-22 and the F-35 are built by Lockheed Martin.

Kopp's claim:

APA invested considerable effort in finding the optimal escape manoeuvre for the F-35, to minimise its exposure to a Surface to Air Missile battery, giving the aircraft every advantage we could. The aircraft consistently died in combat, because its poor aft sector stealth and low escape speed allowed the missile to run it down and kill it every time. The key factors were improved radar power-aperture and missile kinematic performance in the Russian Surface to Air Missile batteries. When APA applied this very same model to the F-22, it survived every time, due to much better aft sector stealth and supercruise.

Davis also mentioned that APA has not been briefed to the extent that partner nations have been, to the “special access required” level.

Kopp responds in his letter that “Your comments on classified access are curious, insofar as the Laws of Physics and Rules of Probability have no respect for such bureaucratic devices. Hiding information by such means merely makes it harder for an analyst to divine the ground truth, not impossible.”

He also contends that the JSF “program is a techno-strategic failure” and discounts Davis' leadership by saying he “became infatuated with marketing the program over managing it.”

But, based on Davis' recent comments -- that the program has “wasted more time on this group than we needed to” -- it's doubtful that this debate will be long-lived.

Meanwhile, 2009 will be a year of many firsts for the JSF program, in terms of testing new aspects of the plane. Check out Davis' less controversial comments on these activities in this week's Inside the Air Force.

By
February 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

News flash: Boeing is no longer partnered with Alenia for Joint Cargo Aircraft production, Inside the Air Force's Marcus Weisgerber reports from the Air Force Association conference in Orlando, FL.

Boeing was supposed to build an assembly plant for the Spartan in Jacksonville, FL, but the companies have been having trouble getting on the same page for months. Now, according to industry officials, the deal has been called off.

More details to come.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Shawn Brimley of the Center for a New American Security has recently joined his former boss, Michèle Flournoy, in the Pentagon's policy shop, we're told.

Brimley is serving as a "special assistant" to Flournoy, who is the under secretary of defense for policy, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington.

Flournoy, of course, is slated to play a key role in a number of key defense policy reviews this year, including the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Space Posture Review and the Nuclear Posture Review.

Two of Brimley's recent writings of note include an article last fall in Washington Quarterly, with Flournoy as co-author, and a piece in the Army War College's Winter 2008-2009 edition of Parameters.

In the latter publication, Brimley writes this:

At the Pentagon, in order for the QDR to be successful, senior leaders need to take an active role ensuring that the process is not only strategy driven, but also resource constrained. The leadership needs to guard against the QDR devolving into a thinly veiled competition for resources.

Finally, as part of the QDR, a force-planning construct should be developed that clearly delineates what is expected of US military forces related to homeland defense; major force-on-force conflicts that include regime change; stability and reconstruction operations; persistent foreign internal defense; and protecting American interests throughout the global commons.

Recent conflicts have called into question the long-standing requirement for the US military to plan for two nearly simultaneous major combat operations of the type required for regime change in the Middle East or East Asia. A new force-planning construct needs to acknowledge that military forces, particularly ground forces, are far less fungible than previous QDRs assumed. Put another way, a new force-planning construct cannot assert that forces deployed as part of long-term, steady-state advising or partnering missions will be able to be reset and shift rapidly to major combat operations.

By Marjorie Censer
February 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As the economy declines and Defense Department spending tightens, the amount of money going to National Guard recruiting and retention will get close scrutiny, according to the director of the National Guard Bureau.

Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley said today that the quality of selected Guard recruits has improved in recent months.

“What we see now in the last six months is the economy turn,” he said during a breakfast with defense reporters. “We have a lot of young men and women who are interested in the National Guard, and we are now able to pick the absolute best and brightest of this young pool of talent.”

But, he said, the question now is: “Can we continue to compensate young people at the rate that we have to join us and to stay with us?”

Decisions on that issue won't be made prior to the release of the president's budget, McKinley said, but, at that point, “we'll go back to the drawing board and put dollars at programs.

“And I'm sure that we're going to look at every program in our portfolio -- recruiting and retention is a big-ticket item, especially in the Army National Guard,” he added.

“Some significant chunks of (the Army Guard's) budget have gone into those areas, and I just don't know if we'll be able to sustain that,” McKinley told reporters.

We reported more on what McKinley had to say this morning:

The elevation of the National Guard Bureau director to a four-star position was a "fundamental" change that has provided him access to the most senior-level meetings in the Army, Air Force and Defense Department, according to the general now in that position.

Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, the first four-star NGB director, said today -- about 100 days into his new role – that he is “very, very pleased” with the access he now has to senior decision-makers in the Pentagon.

The fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization Act provided a fourth star for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, mandated that at least one deputy head of U.S. Northern Command be a Guard officer and expanded the bureau’s charter, among other actions.

During a breakfast with reporters in Washington today, McKinley said he's “been welcomed into the inner circles of the United States Army by (Chief of Staff) Gen. (George) Casey.

“He has put me -- as an Air Force officer -- on his four-star leadership team. I've met twice with the senior four-star leaders of the United States Army,” he continued. “I've been involved prior to this on the Air Force side with (Chief of Staff) Gen. Norton Schwartz and his predecessor Gen. Moseley at their Coronas -- their senior decision-making bodies. I've been on the councils that deliberate the budget and what's new . . . is I have access now to (Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman) Adm. Mullen and to (Defense) Secretary Robert Gates.”

By Marjorie Censer
February 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Guard Bureau is welcoming its share of the latest stimulus legislation and readying to make use of it.

According to a new analysis prepared by the NGB's Office of Legislative Liaison last week, the bureau has already “identified $1.2 billion worth of shovel-ready Army and Air National Guard military construction projects.

“This includes $382 million of Army National Guard projects and $352.5 million of Air National Guard projects,” the document reads. “The Army National Guard can immediately execute $368 million in facilities maintenance while the Air National Guard can execute $30.4 million in facilities maintenance.”

The analysis says the Senate National Guard Caucus last month pushed Senate leaders to include Guard military construction funding in the economic stimulus package, signed into law Feb. 17.

Included in the package is $266.3 million in operations and maintenance funding and $50 million in military construction money for the Army Guard, while the Air Guard received $25.8 million for O&M and $50 million for military construction, according to the document.

In urging support for Guard funding, the Senate caucus letter “noted that the National Guard is a community-based force with more than 3,200 Army and Air National Guard facilities spread across the nation,” the analysis says. “Improving and updating these facilities not only increases military readiness and homeland security but strengthens infrastructure which connects citizens to their military.”

By Dan Dupont
February 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As InsideDefense.com's Jason Sherman reported yesterday in a must-read piece, the defense secretary -- and not the White House, as others have suggested -- has told everyone involved in the process of retooling the FY-10 defense budget they must sign a nondisclosure agreement that says they won't talk to anyone about it.

Gates, according to defense officials, signed the first such pledge on Feb. 13 at a high-level meeting with the top brass and newly appointed Obama administration Pentagon officials. Following his lead, everyone from four-star generals to office managers involved in the budget review must commit in writing to discuss budget deliberations only with those immediately involved in the process.

“We're dealing with highly sensitive matters involving programs costing tens of billions of dollars,” Geoff Morrell, Gates' spokesman, told InsideDefense.com on Feb. 23.

There are, of course, billions of dollars at stake here as the Pentagon tries to bring the defense budget in line with the Obama administration's priorities in a very short time frame. (Topline figures on the budget come out tomorrow, but the details won't be available until late next month.) But the nondisclosure agreements are, to say the least, unusual -- despite what Morrell, the spokesman, said today in a briefing to reporters. From the transcript, which we'll have for you shortly:

Q Did this directive come from the White House . . . or was this a Gates (decision ?)?

MR. MORRELL: It was the secretary's idea. And it's not terribly unusual. . . .

Q It's highly unusual.

MR. MORRELL: Well, but it was used during the BRAC process, I understand.

Q It wasn't used in any budget process I've been covering, even under Rumsfeld, "Mr. Disclosure" himself.

MR. MORRELL: This is -- this is a big deal to the secretary. . . .

Q Is the concern in the entirety the budget process, or is there also a concern that there could be some manipulation or problems on Wall Street at a very volatile time?

MR. MORRELL: I think it's a number of things. I think -- well, our primary -- the secretary's primary concern is the budget process. But we're not naive, either. We understand these involve huge corporations that have a lot riding on the outcome of these discussions. . . .

Q If the information is classified, there's criminal penalties for disclosing it. So that is clearly something people are not supposed to do anyhow. Are we talking -- are you talking about nondisclosure of certain unclassified information? Is that what we're talking about here?

MR. MORRELL: I think most of the information that's probably being discussed is classified. But there's a process that the secretary wants to keep as collegial and confidence-building as possible. So you know, it doesn't have to be germane, necessarily, to speaking to a classified briefing paper that they are working with.

The whole process the secretary wants to keep out of the limelight. He wants to keep it secret, because ultimately it needs to be judged on the whole and not bits and pieces which may leak out. And he wants people to participate in this with the confidence of knowing that what they are saying is not being leaked, it's not being disseminated, and therefore we can work together perhaps in a more collegial and honest way and come up with a better product.

Q What does it say, Geoff, about the secretary's own confidence in his most senior military and civilian advisers that he requires them to sign a piece of paper rather than just say, "I expect you not to talk," and believe that they won't talk? What does it say --

MR. MORRELL: The secretary signed the agreement himself. He's subjecting himself to the same standard that he's asked of those who are working for him.

. . . He wants to create . . . an environment in which the best possible budget can be built. And he believes the only way to do that is to make sure that we are doing this in a utter and complete secrecy until that budget is rolled out.

Q But if it's secret, Geoff . . . if information is secret and therefore classified, there are criminal penalties for disclosing it, why --

MR. MORRELL: Barbara, you've been around here long enough to know that classified information with potential criminal consequences gets leaked all the time. This is to reinforce the message that indeed this is classified material, these are highly secret discussions, and we should remember that, be mindful of it and honor it.

Q Did he require the Joint Chiefs -- if he signed it, did he require --

MR. MORRELL: Everybody who is participating signed it. There is no one -- and if you didn't sign it, you aren't participating. So if you want to be a part of the budget process, you had to sign it.

Q Can you just for the record tell us, did the Joint Chiefs of Staff sign this?

MR. MORRELL: Every -- everyone is -- yes, all the chiefs signed it.

Q Did you sign one?

MR. MORRELL: I am not participating in the process, which allows me to speak to you with total honesty and a clean -- clear conscience, and so no, I'm not participating in the process.

Q So he doesn't think the issue of classification of sufficient.

MR. MORRELL: I think I've answered the question several times. . . .

Q How does that level of secrecy and control at the beginning square with the new administration's stated goal of maximum transparency throughout all -- the whole process?

MR. MORRELL: I don't think the administration has been advocating a -- transparency in national security matters. I think that at the end of this it will be apparent to everyone where the secretary is and the process -- what the process has yielded. But I do not believe that the president's call for greater transparency means that we should get rid of classification of materials that are highly sensitive. . . .

Q You're leaving the impression with the viewers and listeners that a lot of the material -- the budget material is, like, stamped "Top Secret" and sensitive, compartmented and all that, when, in fact, most of this is for official use only, or unclassified. I mean, do you need to bound this a little bit so that you -- people don't think the Pentagon Papers are being floated around here -- the budget season?

MR. MORRELL: . . . . If, indeed, not all the materials that this gang is working with are marked "secret" or are classified and therefore for official use only, all the more reason for a nondisclosure agreement so that those matters could not be discussed as well.

The bottom line is, the process is one, the secretary wishes to keep close hold while it is under way. When it's appropriate, when decisions have been made, when he has a budget to present, he will do so, I am confident, in a very open and transparent fashion so everybody knows what the end result is and likely how we got there. Okay?

By John Liang
February 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) today announced the panel's subcommittee members. They are:

AIRLAND

Democrats:

Lieberman (CT), Chairman
Bayh (IN)
Webb (VA)
McCaskill (MO)
Hagan (NC)
Begich (AK)
Burris (IL)

Republicans:

Thune (SD), Ranking Member
Inhofe (OK)
Sessions (AL)
Chambliss (GA)
Burr (NC)

EMERGING THREATS AND CAPABILITIES

Democrats:

Reed (RI), Chairman
Kennedy (MA)
Byrd (WV)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Ben Nelson (NE)
Bayh
Udall (CO)

Republicans:

Wicker (MS), Ranking Member
Graham (SC)
Martinez (FL)
Burr
Collins (ME)

PERSONNEL

Democrats:

Ben Nelson, Chairman
Kennedy
Lieberman
Akaka (HI)
Webb
McCaskill (MO)
Hagan
Begich
Burris

Republicans:

Graham, Ranking Member
Chambliss
Thune
Martinez
Wicker (MS)
Vitter (LA)
Collins

READINESS

Democrats:

Bayh, Chairman
Byrd
Akaka
McCaskill
Udall
Burris

Republicans:

Burr, Ranking Member
Inhofe
Chambliss
Thune

SEAPOWER

Democrats:

Kennedy, Chairman
Lieberman
Reed
Akaka
Bill Nelson
Webb
Hagan

Republicans:

Martinez, Ranking Member
Sessions
Wicker
Vitter
Collins

STRATEGIC FORCES

Democrats:

Bill Nelson, Chairman
Byrd
Reed
Ben Nelson
Udall
Begich

Republicans:

Sessions, Ranking Member
Inhofe
Graham
Vitter

By Jason Simpson
February 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ever since the Australian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States in 2006 to become a partner nation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, an “independent” think tank calling itself Air Power Australia has been all over the fifth-generation jet's capabilities. Suffice to say whoever's behind the JSF campaign isn't a fan.

But JSF Program Executive Officer Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis told Inside the Air Force last week that he has not paid much attention to this “small faction” in the land down under. In fact, the general said, “We've wasted more time on this group than we needed to.”

His reason?

It's a fairly small faction in Australia that has a fairly clear agenda of trying to extend the life of the F-111 and try to force the Australian government to demand the release of the F-22 to Australia. That's their overriding objective. If you read their all their articles, you will see articles that spend an incredible amount of time and detail trying to discredit everything on the F-35 while never comparing or questioning or, if you will, describe anything about the F-22, so it's pretty clear their whole idea is to do everything they can to change the Australian government's ((mind)) to buy the F-22. Their whole . . . premise is that, one day, all by itself, an F-35 will meet a Sikhoi MKI somewhere, all by itself, over the Pacific Ocean, and who will come out ahead? They have no concept of the modern warfare and systems of operations and airborne battle systems and coalition ops -- they just have no concept of that; it's all one-v-one airplane and who can turn the fastest quickest. That's a very 1950s-type of mindset. Keep in mind that one of the individuals that does this a member of the Parliament with a degree in physics, but he's enlisted some of the folks who have further degrees to do a rudimentary analysis of the structure of the F-35, and the most telling that they seem to focus on is because the F-22's bottom fuselage is smooth and the F-35's bottom fuselage has some curvatures, we hence have no (low-observable) capability when you look at us from the side. Their rudimentary understanding of stealth completely discounts the fact that there are a variety of different technologies including materials and different aspects that go well beyond the shape of the airplane to be able to . . . enhance radar cross-section. They're doing it from strictly a wire-frame analysis of the shape of the fuselage compared to something else.

Davis added that the JSF program office, rather than spurring an open debate with this group, “kind of just let them go and have their own little party down there.”

However, these articles have been “concerning for other partner nations" because “they read all this and it comes across quite authoritative and detailed, and so they are concerned about that,” Davis said. “Because of that, and because this comes across as appearing to be a very deep analysis when there is a very clear agenda behind it, is a difficult thing to dispute with partners.”

The “good news,” according to the two-star, is that the 13 services from the nine countries participating in the JSF effort have participated in live simulator events using data at the top secret and "special access required" level, which has the “most true representation of the airplane as we know it.” With simulations of airborne scenarios against Defense Intelligence Agency-certified models of surface-to-air missile threats, air-to-air threats and others, the partners are convinced that “this airplane can do basically what we're saying it can do, which basically discounts the articles we're dealing with in Australia,” according to Davis, who added Air Power Australia has not been briefed on the aircraft at this level of fidelity.

More from Davis:

When (the Norwegians) finally made their down-select, and all the dust and fur had settled from the battle with Gripen, and the cost of maintaining it and the cost of the industrial participation aspects, the Norwegians were very clear: they may someday, because of their geographic location, face a very highly advanced threat to their east, and it may run over them from the North Sea, or something else might happen, and some of those folks that (will) not necessarily always be friendly to their aspirations -- they may have to engage with an F-35. They basically said, 'We picked the F-35 because of that potential scenario, and we want the best airplane with the most stealth, the most sensors, the most networking capability, and the most coalition, if you will, capabilities to meet that threat if it should ever come.' They understand, in a very uncertain world, when you're going to have some friends and some enemies, you're going to want to fully operate with your friends and you want to overwhelm the enemy. It's not a one-v-one over the North Sea that they will necessarily see.

Make sure to read this week's issue of ITAF to hear more from Davis on JSF international partner news.

By Dan Dupont
February 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama today used the occasion of a White House economic summit to promise that the new presidential helicopter program will get a "thorough review" -- adding that he believes his current helicopter is not too shabby.

Reuters reports:

"I have already talked to (Defense Secretary Robert) Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," Obama said at a White House event on fiscal responsibility.

"It is an example of the procurement process gone amok and we are going to have to fix it."

According to The Hill, Obama noted "in jest" that "obviously I did not have a helicopter before."

Obama heeded a call from his former presidential rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel, to stem the cost overruns in many Defense Department programs with the presidential chopper just as an example.

"Your helicopter is going to cost as much as Air Force One," McCain told the president during the open session of the summit.

By Thomas Duffy
February 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In the weeks since President Barack Obama took the oath of office, his administration has been almost solely focused on rescuing the U.S. economy. But putting together a federal budget for fiscal year 2010 is near the top of the priority list, too.

On Feb. 26 the White House will release a 2010 budget overview, with the full budget request slated for release in April.

According to a memo sent out yesterday by Peter Orszag, the head of the White House budget office, we'll have to wait until April for real details on what the Defense Department's spending plans will look like in 2010 -- no one in the administration will be allowed to go any further than what's handed out next week. Orszag told the government's department and agency heads:

In the coming weeks, you and your representatives will be testifying before Congressional committees in support of the Administration's FY 2010 Budget and participating in public events focused on budget initiatives. For the period between the February 26 release of the Administration's FY 2010 Budget Overview and the April release of the full FY 2010 President's Budget, your testimony and public disclosures should be limited to the information contained in the Budget Overview. The agency summaries in the Overview provide highlights of the agency budget; the Overview also describes certain Administration initiatives and other proposals. You should not make commitments about specific programs not specifically mentioned in the Overview or address account level details until the release of the full Budget in April.

Stay tuned right here, though, because we will do our best to get you the details the White House is hanging on to until April.

By John Liang
February 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Cobra Dane early warning radar has been officially transferred from the Missile Defense Agency to the Air Force, MDA announced today.

As Inside Missile Defense reported last December:

The transfer of the Shemya, AK-based L-band, phased-array Cobra Dane radar was originally scheduled to take place in fiscal year 2008, but was delayed as service and agency officials were unable to complete discussions on the specifics of the transfer before the end of the fiscal year.

The other upgraded radars that provide the early warning function of the Ballistic Missile Defense System include systems based at Beale Air Force Base, CA, Thule Air Base in Greenland and Royal Air Force Station Fylingdales in the United Kingdom. As for those, “MDA and Air Force ((are)) still working transfer issues, nothing has been transferred formally yet, but we are working towards that objective,” Lehner told IMD in a December e-mail. “The upgrades to the radars (Beale, Fylingdales, and Thule) have been very successful. As you know, the modifications allow for missile defense missions to be supported without impacting the legacy missions of missile warning and space situational awareness. The software update makes improvements to the tracking capability of the radar, among other improvements, that support missile defense for the nation.

“The Thule radar upgrade was completed in record time and the radar at Beale AFB and RAF Fylindales are also performing extremely well,” Lehner’s e-mail continued. “As with any extensive hardware and software upgrade program, there will always be a few issues to work through; but, as demonstrated . . . during MDA’s ((Dec. 5)) missile intercept test, the radar at Beale AFB was on-line and performed flawlessly.”

According to today's MDA statement:

The upgraded COBRA DANE became available for ballistic missile defense operations in 2004, and is the first missile defense capability MDA has transferred to the Air Force. For decades COBRA DANE has supported intelligence data collection for purposes of treaty verification and tracking of Earth orbiting satellites. The radar continues to perform these missions in addition to its integration into the nation's missile defense system. The radar provides missile target tracking, object acquisition and classification and transmits target data to the missile defense command and control network.

In 2005, COBRA DANE participated in a special missile flight test involving a threat-representative missile dropped from a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft, and has also took part in numerous "ground" tests in which missile flight data is injected into the radar data processor to stimulate the software. COBRA DANE also supports missile defense system integration laboratory tests in Huntsville, Ala. using replicated COBRA DANE site data processing and missile defense communications hardware.

The Air Force Space Command will maintain COBRA DANE, including the hardware that supports the missile defense mission, and will operate the COBRA DANE in support of intelligence, space surveillance, and missile defense.

An August 2008 report to Congress from the Institute for Defense Analyses called on MDA to put “renewed emphasis” on BMDS research and development while transferring the responsibility for operating and maintaining key programs to the services as quickly as possible, IMD reported last October.

MDA “should remain a defense agency whose principal focus is ((research, development, test and engineering)) to develop, field, and integrate ballistic missile defense capabilities, including follow-on RDT&E,” the report states.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Admittedly, there are probably a few obstacles standing in the way of some kind of U.S.-Russian ballistic missile defense cooperation. But the thought of long-range nuclear-tipped missiles flying out of Iran one day has leaders in Moscow and Washington worried enough that the idea has gained some appeal while the Bush-era plans for a Poland- and Czech Republic-based system are under review.

Dean Wilkening, a Stanford University professor researching the technical feasibility of various European missile defense configurations, now throws a hypothetical, suitable Russian site into the mix that could come out of such an unprecedented pact.

In an updated briefing he sent us this week, Wilkening argues the combination of a tracking radar and interceptors located in Armavir, Russia, would cover most of Europe plus a good chunk of Russia against ballistic missiles from Iran.

According to his slides, the joint U.S.-Russian site would ...

"-- Protect western Russia, Europe and the US from non-stressing threats; -- protect Europe (except Turkey) and western Russia (except southern Russia) from depressed trajectories and low-((radar cross section)) threats; ((and)) -- protect the United States from low-RCS threats."

No word on whether an Armavir site will be featured in an upcoming Congressional Budget Office report about European missile defense options.

By John Liang
February 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Europe this week, one of the areas of discussion will likely be the status of the previous administration's proposal to base missile defense interceptors in Poland and an early warning radar in the Czech Republic, an issue that the Obama administration has pledged to review. When asked about it during an impromptu briefing en route to Krakow yesterday, Gates said:

I think that the message will be the same message that the vice president delivered in Munich: We are concerned about the Iranian missile threat and as long as that threat exists we will continue to pursue missile defense, as long as we know it will work, as long as we can make sure it works and that it's cost effective, and we want to pursue it in partnership not only with our NATO allies but also with the Russians. And frankly my -- I am hopeful that -- with a new start that maybe there are some opportunities with the Russians that we can pursue.

. . . The other fact of life is that by law we cannot begin construction on either the site in the Czech Republic or in Poland until both the ((Status-of-Forces Agreement)) and the missile defense agreements are ratified by both of their parliaments. So even if we had a different policy, we couldn't do anything until they do something.