The Insider

By John Liang
February 17, 2011 at 4:44 PM

The Defense Department isn't the only agency looking to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning that the United States would "really be in the soup" if his counterparts in the State Department don't get the full funding they need to continue operations in Afghanistan. Gates said it "reminds me of the final scene in the movie 'Charlie Wilson's War,' where we spent billions to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but couldn't get $1 million to build a school."

By Dan Dupont
February 16, 2011 at 8:45 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, through spokesman Geoff Morrell, has reacted to the House vote on the JSF alternate engine. His statement:

Secretary Gates welcomes today's vote and is gratified that the full House has recognized the merits of the Department's position in opposing the JSF extra engine. He understands this afternoon's vote is but one step, although a very important one, on the path to ensuring that we stop spending limited dollars on unwanted and unneeded defense programs.

By John Liang
February 16, 2011 at 8:24 PM

The Government Accountability Office has given the Pentagon office in charge of processing security clearances a pat on the back for improving the way the office does its job.

In its "High-Risk Series" update released today, GAO removed the high-risk designation from the Defense Department's Personnel Security Clearance Program. According to a GAO statement:

Serious delays in processing security clearances prompted GAO to first designate this program, which handles the vast majority of security clearances in the federal government, a high-risk area in 2005. Continued delays, coupled with concerns about clearance documentation, resulted in the program being included on GAO’s 2007 and 2009 high-risk lists.  GAO is removing the high-risk designation from this program because of DOD’s progress in timeliness and in developing tools and metrics to assess quality.  High-level attention by DOD, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with sustained congressional oversight, played a key role in spurring progress.

More specifically, according to the report itself:

High-level attention by DOD, OMB, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with consistent congressional oversight, has led to significant improvements in processing security clearances. For example, DOD processed 90 percent of all initial clearances in an average of 49 days in fiscal year 2010 and thus met the 60-day statutory timeliness objective. Furthermore, DOD has reduced the average time it takes to process 90 percent of initial security clearances for industry personnel from 129 days in 2008 to 63 days in 2010. DOD has also developed and is implementing quality assessment tools and has issued adjudicative standards for addressing incomplete investigations.

By Jason Sherman
February 16, 2011 at 6:59 PM

The House this afternoon voted to strip funding for the Joint Strike Fighter F136 alternate engine program from the fiscal year 2011 defense appropriations bill, adopting an amendment introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) to halt spending on the effort.

The vote hands Defense Secretary Robert Gates a major victory in his effort to adjust the Pentagon's budget.

More to follow . . .

By Jason Sherman
February 16, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) today raised the prospect that OSD's legislative affairs shop may have contravened a statute that prohibits the Pentagon from lobbying Congress by circulating to lawmakers “information" papers on the F136 program that argue “the interests of the taxpayers” and the military “are best served by not pursuing a second engine.”

Here's the exchange from the House Armed Services Committee hearing this morning:

Bartlett: For the past two days two papers have been circulated by the Congress here. One on Monday, one on Tuesday. They are unsigned and undated. It simply says prepared by the Department of Defense. The Office of the Secretary of Defense for legislative affairs has refused to respond over the last three days to why these papers are not dated, why they were not provided to the [House] Armed Services Committee.

Sir, when I was a little boy, my mother impressed on me that an intent to deceive is the same thing as a lie. In each of these papers there is a statement, “The F136 alternate engine is currently three to four years behind in development compared to the current engine program,” and yesterday's paper said the F136 engine is already three to four years behind in the development phase.

Sir, as you know the first engine is now about 24 months behind in its development and I understand that the second engine is just two to three months behind in its development cycle. So, in reality, had they both been started at the same time, the second engine would now be well ahead of the first engine.

Sir, are you comfortable that these two [issue papers[ that have gone through the Congress for the last couple of days do not constitute a violation of the statute that prohibits the Pentagon from lobbying the Congress?

Gates: I am not in the slightest aware of either one of those documents. . . .

Bartlett: Sir, these two papers are circulating. They are both unsigned and undated. And the Office of the Secretary of Defense Legislative Affairs refuses to respond over the last three days as to why these papers are not signed.... they were provided to everyone else in the Congress except the Armed Services Committee, is my understanding.

Are you comfortable sir, that this does not violate the statute that says, the Pentagon cannot lobby Congress?

Gates: Let me see the papers and find out the background before I make a judgement on them.

On Monday, during a Pentagon press conference, Gates reached out to newly elected GOP House members expressing a hope that they would support his call to terminate the F136 program when he said:

And my hope is that, particularly the new members who are interested in fiscal responsibility will see this as an opportunity to save $3 billion for the taxpayers that can be put to better use.

Josh Holly, spokesman for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), told today that the Office of the Secretary of Defense shipped the "information" paper in question to all new House members on Monday. "Our staff pinged OSD/LA on Monday and Tuesday -- and did not receive a response, which is highly unusual," Holly said in an e-mail, adding:

Chairman McKeon believes Rep. Bartlett raised some valid concerns at the hearing this morning. The Department of Defense is viewed on the Hill as a neutral authority; and pushing questionable information to specific Members without providing the committee of jurisdiction the courtesy of a heads-up is questionable and might cause some to doubt the Pentagon’s motives on other programs as well.

By Jason Sherman
February 16, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today issued a stern warning to lawmakers against reducing military spending, cautioning that “shortsighted cuts could well lead to costlier and more tragic consequences later” -- including “an unacceptably high cost in America blood and treasure.”

During his opening statement before the House Armed Services Committee this morning to defend the Pentagon's fiscal year 2012 budget request, Gates used the opportunity -- perhaps his last before the panel as SECDEF -- to exhorting against precipitous cuts in military spending.

We still live in a very dangerous and very unstable world. Our military must remain strong and agile enough to respond to a diverse range of threats from non-state actors attempting to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction and sophisticated missiles to more traditional threats of other states both building up their conventional forces and developing new capabilities that target our traditional strengths.

We shrink from our global security responsibilities at our peril.

Retrenchment brought about by shortsighted cuts could well lead to costlier and more tragic consequences later, indeed as they always have in the past. Surely we should learn from our national experience since World War I that drastic reductions in the size and strength of the U.S. military make armed conflict all the more likely with an unacceptably high cost in America blood and treasure.

By John Liang
February 15, 2011 at 4:59 PM

The office of the Director of National Intelligence announced yesterday it is asking Congress for $55 billion for fiscal year 2012. Want more detail? Unless you have a security clearance, fat chance. According to the DNI statement:

Any and all subsidiary information concerning the National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed. Beyond the disclosure of the NIP topline figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified budget information because such disclosures could harm national security. The only exceptions to the foregoing are for existing unclassified appropriations, primarily for the Intelligence Community Management Account.

UPDATE: Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists had this to say about the DNI budget disclosure on his Secrecy News blog:

The disclosure of the budget request constitutes a new milestone in the “normalization” of intelligence budgeting. It sets the stage for a direct appropriation of intelligence funds, to replace the deliberately misleading practice of concealing intelligence funds within the defense budget.  Doing so would also enable the Pentagon to (accurately) report a smaller total budget figure, a congenial prospect in tight budget times.  (See "Intelligence Budget Disclosure: What Comes Next?", Secrecy News, November 1, 2010.)

The publication of the intelligence budget request is the culmination of many years of contentious debate and litigation on the subject.

Until quite recently, intelligence community leaders firmly opposed disclosure both of the intelligence budget total and of the total budget request.  In response to a 1999 lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet said that revealing the budget request would damage national security and compromise intelligence methods.

"I have determined that disclosure of the budget request or the total appropriation reasonably could be expected to provide foreign intelligence services with a valuable benchmark for identifying and frustrating United States' intelligence programs," DCI Tenet wrote in a sworn declaration.  The court upheld the classification of the requested information.

By John Liang
February 15, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Defense Environment Alert is reporting this week that an ad-hoc team of energy assessors convened by the commandant of the Marine Corps is recommending the service make a number of changes to lower the cost and risk of providing energy and water to forces operating in Afghanistan.

The team's recommendations include advice to better match electrical power load to demand in order to eliminate wasted energy, and to exploit local water sources, replacing bottled water shipments. Specifically:

The recommendations were recently released in a report dated January 2011 by the Marine Energy Assessment Team (MEAT), which was tasked in August 2009 to conduct an assessment in the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to determine measures to lower energy and water costs and risks. The commandant directed the assessment in response to the high fuel consumption rates and related costs, along with the high human toll from improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on supply convoys. . . .

After visiting both large and small bases, collecting data on-site and input from leaders, logistics staff and others, the MEAT recommends changes for the near-term (within six months), mid-term (between 6 months and three years) and long-term (beyond three years).

For the short-term, the team makes a number of recommendations. First, the Marine Corps should eliminate the use of bottled drinking water in Marine operations in nearly all of Helmand province, located in South Central Afghanistan, and known as the Marine Expeditionary Brigade - Afghanistan (MEB-A) area of responsibility (AOR). "Over half of the tactical logistics capacity in MEB-A is being used to transport bottled drinking water to forces arrayed in the AOR," the report says. Exploitable water sources exist within reach for forward operating bases and smaller bases and outposts, "yet two months after decisive operations commenced the sole source of drinking water and in many cases the sole source for all water remains bottled water transported at great cost and risk to human life," it says. It recommends evaluating all sites in the AOR to identify exploitable water sources and move forward on extracting the water and making it potable.

Second, in the short-term, the Marines should be more efficient at using spot electrical power generation for smaller bases, for instance by "ganging generators," it says. Ganging generators more closely matches power load to generation, increasing fuel efficiency and wear and tear on the generator, according to the DOD Energy Blog website. The report notes that in many cases generators in the AOR "are not efficiently matched to the demand load."

Third, the report recommends exploring alternative power sources in place of generators for the relatively small loads at smaller bases and operations. Reducing fuel requirements for this would directly lower the frequency of resupplies needed, it says.

And it recommends an information campaign targeted at Marines at all levels emphasizing power and water conservation.

For the mid-term, the report advises reducing demand for energy, particularly at combat operations centers (COCs) without affecting operational capability by assessing lessons learned on reducing in-theater energy and water demand across the military services, and exploring the possibility of reducing the size of COC staffs.

Second, in the mid-term, the Corps should accelerate the fielding of technologies to exploit local renewable power and water resources, which could reduce fuel requirements in the AOR. Third, the Corps should improve its capacity, through for instance extreme resolution digital maps, to plan for the use of local water and renewable energy such as solar, wind or small hydro power sources.

For the long-term, the Corps should work with the private sector, academia and government labs to find creative, highly efficient solutions to meet expeditionary requirements for energy.

The team released initial findings in October 2009, finding that at the tactical level, the most pressing energy-related challenge in Afghanistan has been the transport of water.

Inside the Navy reports this week that despite the Defense Department's commitment to calculate the fully burdened cost of fuel as part of its energy efficient acquisition process, DOD still has no overall estimate for how much it costs to get fuel to forces in Afghanistan, according to David Bak, the lead analyst in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans. Further:

Speaking at a conference Feb. 9 in Washington, Bak explained that determining the "fully burdened cost of fuel," which covers not just the price per gallon but the expenditures required to equip and deploy the convoys that deliver the fuel to its final destination, "is actually technically impossible."

But according to Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, that metric has already been worked into the acquisition process.

"We are making sure that energy efficiency is a part of our acquisition process," Lynn said at a defense environmental awards ceremony in June. "Calculating the fully burdened cost of fuel used by potential weapons systems -- including the costs of securely transporting it to a war zone -- is now a mandatory part of their evaluation."

Speaking last October, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli echoed Lynn's words.

"Already we've taken a significant step to improve our energy security by using the fully burdened cost of fuel as we conduct the analysis of alternatives for the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armed Aerial Scout," he said.

According to Bak, however, the main problem holding DOD back from determining that figure has to do with the lack of data collection from the field.

"One of the problems we have in Afghanistan today is we don't collect the data uniformly or consistently about what the fuel burn rate is," he said. "We know how much the Defense Logistics Agency sells to the services, how much is generally used. But the department hasn't done a point of use data collecting or metering by any means -- hardly at all, frankly."

By John Liang
February 15, 2011 at 4:18 PM

The Missile Defense Agency has released a draft environmental assessment for the maintenance and repair of the ship that carries the Sea-Based X-Band Radar. According to an agency statement:

Potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed maintenance and repair of the vessel are analyzed in the Draft EA. Regularly scheduled maintenance and repairs are needed for the vessel to be certified for continued operation. The SBX Radar Vessel is an integral part of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). Maintenance and repair work may begin in the spring of 2011, and will take approximately three months to complete.

Current plans are to have maintenance work performed at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Wash. Two naval facilities, Naval Station Everett, Wash., and Naval Base Coronado-Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., are being considered only as contingencies should unforeseen circumstances prevent work from being performed at Todd Pacific Shipyards. The Draft EA has been prepared to analyze potential effects at these two alternative federal facilities.

The SBX Radar Vessel became operational in 2005. It is one of the sensor systems supporting the nation’s missile defense system. It requires routine maintenance and repair as well as mandatory recertification of structural and propulsion components. Thruster maintenance and repair must be performed at a deepwater (a minimum of 50 feet) facility. Three locations on the West Coast have the appropriate depth to accomplish repairs: Todd Pacific Shipyards, Naval Station Everett and Naval Base Coronado-Naval Air Station North Island. The X-band radar will not be turned on when the vessel is in port.

In its fiscal year 2012 budget request unveiled yesterday, MDA is asking Congress for $177.1 million in FY-12 for SBX procurement. Over the next five years, the agency envisions needing $172.6 million in FY-13, $162.6 million in FY-14, $185.9 million in FY-15, and $173.6 million in FY-16.

February 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM

"Bad things will occur."

That's defense comptroller Robert Hale, introducing a long and familiar list of what the Pentagon and the services face under a yearlong continuing resolution.

It's a long list, and it's in his charts documents page for more).

After 30 years in and around defense budgeting, Hale said, "I can't think of a more serious situation than the one we face right now."

As for the House Appropriations defense subcommittee mark, Hale said "there will be some significant risk" if it is passed, especially in the overseas contingency operations budget.

Reset, too, is cut by the House panel, Hale noted.

However, he added, "it is significantly better" than a yearlong CR.

February 14, 2011 at 7:15 PM

Key point: Gates said $540 billion is the lowest DOD can go in FY-11, though it has requested more.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee, meanwhile, has proposed an FY-11 defense bill that would grant DOD just $532 billion.

The comptroller, Robert Hale, has taken over now, laying out the broad-brush details.

February 14, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is sticking to his guns with the press right now and refusing to entertain questions on Egypt or any other topic not related to the budget, noting that he is slated to testify before two committees later in the week and will have plenty of chances to talk about Egypt then.

Asked about the reaction on Capitol Hill to his defense budget plans, Gates noted that in meetings today "there really wasn't much discussion at all . . . about the politics of the budget. There were . . . a number of questions for clarifications sake, but really nothing beyond that."

Watch more here.

By Jordana Mishory
February 14, 2011 at 4:12 PM

The Pentagon's fiscal year 2012 budget request throws its support behind adding $2.2 billion for National Nuclear Security Administration weapons activities between 2013 and 2016, according to a summary of the request posted on the White House's website.

"These funds will enhance the reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons complex and support the goals of the Nuclear Posture Review as the United States and Russia implement the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)," the summary states.

Senators ratified the New START treaty during December's lame duck session after a long-fought battle.

The budget also calls for funding to sustain nuclear deterrence in order to protect the nation and promote worldwide stability. To do so, the administration wants to "modernize America's nuclear arsenal and the complex that sustains it." This will help to deter nuclear buildup and proliferation.

"This includes specific commitments to maintain continuous at-sea deployments of ballistic missile submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the ability to surge additional submarines during crises; sustain the Air Force's Minuteman III missile through 2030; and modernize the heavy bomber force so it can serve for the indefinite future," the summary states. "The budget continues the president's global lockdown initiative to secure nuclear materials, detect and deter nuclear testing and smuggling, and support verification and implementation of international nonproliferation treaties."

The administration is requesting a $553 billion base budget -- an increase of $22 billion over FY-10 appropriations. Congress never passed an FY-11 appropriations bill. The summary states that the request reflects investment in priorities including nuclear security.

By Amanda Palleschi
February 14, 2011 at 4:08 PM

President Obama's budget request for fiscal year 2012 provides $2.3 billion to "support improved cybersecurity efforts" in the Defense Department and "greater joint planning efforts" between DOD and the Department of Homeland Security to increase the effectiveness of U.S. cybersecurity efforts, according to documents released this morning by the White House. DOD and DHS signed a memorandum of agreement last year to align and enhance U.S. cyberdefense capabilities.

DOD's FY-12 budget request also seeks a $119 million boost to support U.S. Cyber Command, which was stood up in 2010 to “direct the operation and defense of specific DOD information networks,” according to a budget request summary issued by the White House.

“In addition to bolstering ongoing operational capabilities, the administration funds new and ongoing cybersecurity science and technology; enhances DOD activities to protect core defense information systems; and, in partnership with DHS, supports cybersecurity demonstration and pilot programs to protect critical network systems,” the summary adds.

DHS, meanwhile, is seeking $459 million in FY-12 for its National Cyber Security Division. Further, the intelligence community's FY-12 budget request also seeks funds to boost federal cybersecurity, the details of which are not specified in the White House summary.

By John Liang
February 11, 2011 at 11:01 PM

The Congressional Budget Office just released a report titled the "Long-Term Implications of the 2011 Future Years Defense Program." In it, CBO projects the "costs of DOD's plans for its base budget (reflected in the [future years defense program], along with other long-term plans released by the department) by using factors that are consistent with the department's recent experience."

The report presents the following conclusions:

* To execute its base-budget plans for the period covered by the FYDP, DoD would need about $187 billion (or 7 percent) more over those five years than if funding was held at the 2010 level of $537 billion. Over the 10 years from 2012 to 2021, DoD would need a total of $680 billion (or 13 percent) more than if funding was held at the 2010 level.

* From 2011 to 2015, DoD's base budget would grow at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent, after an adjustment for inflation. Beyond the FYDP period, from 2016 to 2028, average annual growth in the costs of DoD's base-budget plans would be 0.8 percent after an adjustment for inflation. At those rates, DoD's base budget would rise from $548 billion in 2011 to $601 billion in 2015 and to $665 billion in 2028.

* The primary cause of long-term growth in DoD's budget from 2011 through 2028 would be increasing costs for operation and support, which would account for nearly all of the increase. In particular, CBO projects that there would be significant increases in the costs for military and civilian compensation, military medical care, and various operation and maintenance activities.

* That large contribution of operation and support costs to budget growth is a change from earlier projections, in which sharp growth in anticipated requirements to replace and modernize weapon systems (the so-called bow wave) was the primary factor underlying budget growth beyond the years covered by the FYDP. In the current projections, acquisition costs would steadily grow from $189 billion in 2011 to a peak of $218 billion in 2017 (an increase of about 15 percent) before decreasing and leveling off—albeit with year-to-year variations—at an average of about $200 billion per year thereafter.

Stay tuned to's Defense Budget Alert on Monday, Feb. 14, for in-depth coverage of the Pentagon's rollout of the fiscal year 2012 budget request.