The Insider

By John Liang
February 2, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Following a long, drawn-out debate and passage in the Senate, President Obama this morning signed the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty into law.

"With the Senate having approved the treaty with a strong bipartisan vote late last year, today's signing marks a final step in the process," a White House public affairs blog entry states.

Both houses of Russia's parliament ratified the New START Treaty last week, but as Inside Missile Defense reported recently, implementing the pact could prove difficult, according to a nonproliferation policy expert:

"The Russian parliament's resolution on ratification of New START, which was deliberately shaped to balance and counter its counterpart adopted by the U.S. Senate, suggests that implementation of New START will not be a trivial task," Nikolai Sokov, an analyst with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, writes in a Jan. 25 analysis of the Russian parliament's deliberations. "In effect, the treaty did not resolve the most important controversies that exist between the two countries -- missile defense, long-range conventional weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, elements of the verification regime (especially the exchange of telemetry). Each side will carefully monitor what the other will be doing throughout the duration of the treaty. The Bilateral Implementation Commission will not be simply a technical body facilitating the implementation of the treaty -- it will have to engage in full-scale negotiations on issues of substance with parties often pursuing opposite positions."

Further, "the next stage of nuclear arms reduction talks is already shaping as a challenging and controversial endeavor as well, because it will have to address many of the outstanding issues, on which New START has temporized or which were 'swept under the carpet,' according to Sokov. "In addition, new talks will probably have to tackle the issue of 'third parties' -- nuclear weapons states that have traditionally remained outside the process, most significantly China and, to a smaller extent, Great Britain and France. Even before they sit down to these new talks, however, negotiators may have their work cut out for them."

By John Liang
February 2, 2011 at 7:13 PM

The Pentagon recently completed a report to Congress that concludes the Defense Department "paid $285 billion over a three-year span to hundreds of military contractors that defrauded the Pentagon during the same period," according to a statement by the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders, who requested the report, further says:

"With the country running a $14 trillion national debt, my goal is to provide as much transparency as possible about what is happening with taxpayer money," said Sanders (I-Vt.). "The sad truth is that virtually all of the major defense contractors in this country for years have been engaged in systemic fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money."

The preliminary report detailed how the Pentagon spent $270 billion from 2007 to 2009 on 91 contractors involved in civil fraud cases that resulted in judgments of more than $1 million. Another $682 million went to 30 contractors convicted of hard-core criminal fraud in the same three-year period. Billions more went to firms that had been suspended or debarred by the Pentagon for misusing taxpayer dollars.

A Sanders provision in a defense spending bill required the report and directed the Department of Defense to recommend ways to punish fraudulent contractors. The Pentagon brass saw no need for any changes. "The department believes that existing remedies with respect to contractor wrongdoing are sufficient," the Report to Congress on Contractor Fraud concluded.

"It is clear that DOD's current approach is not working and we need far more vigorous enforcement to protect taxpayers from massive fraud," Sanders said.

Under a separate Sanders provision in another law signed by President Obama, a government-wide federal contractor fraud database will be accessible to the public by April 15.  Until now, access to the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System was limited to federal acquisition officials and certain members of Congress.

Sanders' office also released a "staff analysis" of the DOD report.

Eliminating fraud is something all the services have striven to do. As reported last December, each year the Army asks its headquarters staff, its major commands and what are known as direct reporting units to deliver a report card on their individual programs aimed at detecting and correcting instances of waste, fraud and abuse. The report card, called the "Annual Statement of Assurance," is sent to the Army secretary. Further:

"On Dec. 16, the assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller sent out a 40-page memo that provides guidance for the fiscal year 2011 statement," reported. "According to the memo, the statements are due to the Army comptroller's office by May 16, 2011, for everyone but the headquarters staff. That staff has until May 31 to submit its report card."

The Army's acquisition shop has one specific task for FY-11, according to the comptroller:

In May 2008, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in [Office of Management and Budget] published guidelines for Federal Agencies to use in conducting internal control reviews of their acquisition functions. The DOD is required to integrate the internal control review of acquisition with the existing internal control assessment and annual Statement of Assurance reporting processes, beginning with the Fiscal Year 2009 cycle. Office of the Secretary of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics -- has developed a template that provides focus areas ("cornerstones") and related questions that should be addressed when reviewing the acquisition processes. The execution of this requirement has been included by OSD as a validation requirement during Fiscal Year 2011.

By John Liang
February 2, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn last fall published an essay in Foreign Affairs magazine in which he described the Pentagon's new five-pillar cybersecurity strategy. Those pillars include:

* Recognizing cyberspace as a new domain of warfare

* Ensuring defenses are active

* Protecting critical infrastructure

* Engaging in cyber defense with our national security partners as a shared activity

* Leveraging the U.S. technological base to retain our technological edge

To that end, the Pentagon's industrial policy office recently released briefing slides that show how the Defense Department plans to implement the fifth pillar. As a note on the office's website states:

The critical message is that our economic security is part of our national security. The risk of compromise to the information technology industrial base supply chain is very real and the DoD's cyber security strategy depends on the U.S. commercial IT sector remaining the world's leader. This requires continuing investments in science, technology and education at all levels.

By Thomas Duffy
February 2, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will give his first view of the world to Congress next week when he appears before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Clapper will present the committee with his worldwide threat assessment Feb. 10. Clapper was sworn in as the fourth DNI on August 9, 2010.

Tomorrow, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will consider the nomination of Stephanie O'Sullivan to be Clapper's No. 2 official. President Obama sent O'Sullivan's nomination to be the principal deputy DNI to Congress on Jan. 5. O'Sullivan previously held the position of associate deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was appointed to that job in December 2009.

By Jason Sherman
February 1, 2011 at 9:59 PM

Northrop Grumman today issued a press release touting a successful critical design review of the Long Endurance Multi Intelligence Vehicle, the hybrid airship it is tricking out with sensors for the Army. In December, Inside the Army's Debbie Siegelbaum reported that the LEMV program -- which aims to build three airships with 21-day persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities -- cleared that hurdle in mid-November.

Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman vice president and integrated program team leader of LEMV and airship programs, reiterated in today's statement much of what he told ITA last month about LEMV, an airship longer than a football field and higher than a seven-story building:

There are three upcoming major milestones in the next 10 months. We'll have hull inflation in the spring and first flight of the airship test article by mid-to-late summer. Upon completion of the development ground and flight testing phase, we expect to transition to a government facility and conduct our final acceptance long endurance flight just before year's end. In early 2012, LEMV will participate in an Army Joint Military Utility Assessment in an operational environment. As you can imagine, it's a very aggressive schedule to deliver from concept-to-combat in this time period.

By John Liang
February 1, 2011 at 9:38 PM

The date is set. The Obama administration will submit its fiscal year 2012 budget request on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.

Officials in the Pentagon as well as the Office of Management and Budget confirmed the date to today.

As always, stay tuned to Defense Budget Alert for all DOD spending news, including:

Analysts: Debt Limit Impasse Unlikely To Dramatically Affect DOD Funding

Defense Leaders Stress 'Conditions-Based' Nature Of Planned Army Cuts

Deputy SECDEF Promises More Basic R&D Funding In FY-12 Budget

McKeon Challenges Proposed Pentagon Budget Cuts

By Dan Dupont
February 1, 2011 at 9:11 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has just announced a couple of key hearings coming soon. On Thursday, Feb. 17, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen will discuss the fiscal year 2012 defense budget request (that's three days after it's likely to be unveiled, by the way).

And on Feb. 15, the committee will take up the nominations of Michael Vickers as under secretary for intelligence and Jo Ann Rooney as principal deputy under secretary for personnel and readiness.

By John Liang
February 1, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) today announced that his panel would implement a two-year moratorium on earmarks.

According to a committee statement, Inouye says:

I continue to support the Constitutional right of members of Congress to direct investments to their states and districts under the fiscally responsible and transparent earmarking process that we have established.

However, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. The President has stated unequivocally that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House will not pass any bills that contain them. Given the reality before us, it makes no sense to accept earmark requests that have no chance of being enacted into law.

The Appropriations Committee will thoroughly review its earmark policy to ensure that every member has a precise definition of what constitutes an earmark. To that end, we will send each member a letter with the interpretation of Rule XLIV (44) that will be used by the Committee. If any member submits a request that is an earmark as defined by that rule, we will respectfully return the request.

Next year, when the consequences of this decision are fully understood by the members of this body, we will most certainly revisit this issue and explore ways to improve the earmarking process.  At the appropriate time, I will once again urge the Senate to consider a transparent and fair earmark process that protects our rights as legislators to answer the petitions of our constituents, regardless of what the President or some Federal bureaucrat thinks is right.

By Cid Standifer
February 1, 2011 at 7:25 PM

A long-delayed request for proposals for the Ship-to-Shore Connector, successor top the air-cushioned landing craft, is imminent, according to a notice on Federal Business Opportunities.

The RFP was not posted by the January deadline previously announced by Naval Sea Systems Command. The notice posted on FedBizOpps on Jan. 31 said the RFP is expected out this month. “Due to unforeseen events, NAVSEA now intends to issue the subject solicitation in February 2011,” the post states. “All other information contained in the pre-solicitation synopsis, as updated by the 22 DEC 2010 Modification Notice, remains unchanged.”

In December, a FedBizOpps post said the RFP would drop in January. Before that, it was scheduled to be released in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011. The document was originally slated to be out by the end of FY-10.

At a conference in October, Capt. Walt Towns, head of the Navy's amphibious warfare directorate, said the SSC could still be fielded on time if the RFP were released by the end of 2010.

Initial operational capability for the SSC is slated for FY-19, and the Navy plans to completely replace the LCAC by 2030.

By John Liang
February 1, 2011 at 4:41 PM

The newly appointed ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee plans to try to advance amendments to expand the scope of the Sikes Act -- a natural resources law that applies to the military -- as part of the next defense authorization bill, Defense Environment Alert reports this morning. Specifically:

The effort could extend coverage of the Sikes Act to include state-owned National Guard installations -- something the Defense Department had sought in the last Congress -- and could expand an invasive species management pilot program used by the military in Guam to all U.S. military installations.

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), who on Jan. 19 was named ranking member of the Armed Services readiness subcommittee, introduced a stand-alone bill -- H.R. 5284 -- last year that would have amended the Sikes Act, extending its provisions to state-owned National Guard facilities and expanding the invasive species management program. While that bill did not pass despite efforts by DOD to include the Guard measures in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, Bordallo intends to address the substance of H.R. 5284 in the context of the FY-12 defense authorization bill, the congressional staffer says.

Bordallo's 2010 bill specifically would have extended Sikes Act provisions to state-owned Guard installations, applying the same requirements to these installations to develop and implement integrated natural resources management plans (INRMPs) that are already required at federally owned military bases.

DOD had proposed similar language to Congress last April as part of the FY-11 defense authorization bill, which would have given nearly four dozen Army National Guard bases the ability to substitute military-derived, legally binding INRMPs for Endangered Species Act (ESA) critical habitat designations should those lands be deemed key to an endangered species. Such INRMPs must be deemed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to give a benefit to the species if used as a substitute for an ESA critical habitat designation.

Currently, military installations with significant natural resources must implement INRMPs that protect species, wetlands and other resources. Congress granted DOD the INRMP substitution ability for its federally owned bases many years ago, after the department argued that environmental requirements like critical habitat designations were placing too many hurdles on the military's ability to train. But a DOD analysis last year found that Guard bases did not meet the statutory definition of a "military installation."

DOD suggested technical changes to Bordallo's bill late last Congress -- too late to try to get them into the defense authorization bill -- which was passed in late December, according to the congressional staffer. In addition to the Armed Services Committee, the measure also falls under the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee, which sponsored a hearing on Bordallo's bill last May, the source notes.

DOD Environmental Management Director Maureen Sullivan testified before the House Natural Resources insular affairs, oceans and wildlife subcommittee last May in support of Bordallo's Guard provisions. In written testimony, she said the ability to develop Guard INRMPs would allow for "more efficient and effective natural resources management" at these bases. In addition, without the amendment, Guard bases could not compete on a level playing field for funds, according to a DOD source.

Bordallo's 2010 bill would also have expanded an invasive species management program for Guam to include all U.S. military bases, according to Bordallo's floor statement last May. DOD expressed concerns with the bill's initial wording, with Sullivan warning that having a statutory requirement to address invasive species "in the INRMP may overburden the process. This would impede the development of INRMPs that would otherwise have substantial beneficial impact," she testified.

The DOD source said a slight tweak was needed to the language, but added that the amendment is nonetheless important because invasive species control currently is not considered a "must-fund" item under the military's budgeting process. The amendment would be helpful in order to avoid mission impacts, the source said, citing the example of the yellow star thistle, an invasive plant that has blanketed 23,000 acres of land on Ft. Hunter Liggett, CA, making some lands unusable for military training.

In her Jan. 19 press release announcing her appointment as ranking member on the readiness subcommittee, Bordallo says she would continue her focus on overseeing the military's massive buildup on Guam, noting the readiness panel's jurisdiction over infrastructure and environmental issues regarding the buildup. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) is the new chairman of the readiness subcommittee.

The Congressional Research Service published a report last October outlining the major issues of moving thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Here's a taste:

In 2006, the United States and Japan agreed on a "Roadmap" to strengthen their alliance, including a buildup on Guam to cost $10.3 billion, with Japan contributing 60 percent. Primary goals were to start the related construction on Guam by 2010 and to complete relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. In Tokyo on February 17, 2009, the Secretary of State signed the bilateral “Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and Their Dependents From Okinawa to Guam” that reaffirmed the "Roadmap" of May 1, 2006. The two governments agreed that of the estimated $10.27 billion cost of the facilities and infrastructure development for the relocation, Japan will provide $6.09 billion, including up to $2.8 billion in direct cash contributions (in FY2008 dollars). The United States committed to fund $3.18 billion plus about $1 billion for a road.

However, in September 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) became the ruling party. This political change raised uncertainty as Japan sought to re-negotiate the agreement, even while the United States sought its implementation. The dispute over the location on Okinawa of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma raised implications for the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. In January 2010, Japan promised to decide by May on the location of the FRF. Then, North Korea’s attack on South Korea’s naval ship (Cheonan) in March, and China’s deployment of its Navy near Okinawa which confronted Japan’s forces in April, catalyzed Japan to resolve the dispute in favor of deterrence. On May 28, the Secretaries of Defense and State and their counterparts in Japan issued a “2+2” Joint Statement, in which they reaffirmed commitment to implement the 2006 Roadmap and the 2009 Agreement. In July, the Navy issued the final Environmental Impact Statement on the buildup on Guam, while planning to start construction by the end of FY2010. The Navy estimated that Guam’s population would increase by a total of 30,190, including 8,552 Marines.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010 (enacted as P.L. 111-84 on October 28, 2009) authorized the first substantial incremental funding for the relocation of about 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, but conditioned upon the Defense Department’s submission to Congress of a Guam Master Plan. Among a number of provisions related to Guam in the legislation and conference report, Congress designated the Deputy Secretary of Defense to lead a Guam Executive Council and coordinate interagency efforts related to Guam. Congress also required a report on training, readiness, and movement requirements for Marine Forces Pacific, with a sense of Congress that expansion of Marine Corps training should not impact the implementation of the U.S.-Japan agreement on relocation from Okinawa to Guam. Congress authorized a total amount (including for Defense-wide, Army, Navy, and Air Force) of almost $733 million.

By John Liang
January 31, 2011 at 5:11 PM

The ongoing political unrest in Egypt and other North African and Middle Eastern countries has caused higher oil prices. This is just the latest nudge for the U.S. military to find alternative sources of energy to power its ships, aircraft and ground vehicles. reported earlier this month that an influential Pentagon advisory board has been revisiting ways the Defense Department -- the nation's largest single fuel consumer -- might insulate itself from fuel-price volatility:

Specifically, the Defense Business Board will review whether the military should utilize contractual instruments available in commodity markets and used by commercial concerns, including airline and transportation companies, to try to stabilize fuel costs.

On Jan. 7, the chairman of the Defense Business Board, Michael Bayer, directed the formation of a new task force to examine the Pentagon's energy acquisition practices with a particular focus on options for hedging, returning to an issue the panel examined in 2003.

The panel, "Fuel Hedging Task Group," will be led by Denis Bovin, an investment banker and seasoned Pentagon consultant, and John O'Connor, a Defense Business Board consultant.

Bayer, in a Jan. 7 memo, directed the panel to "reexamine potential ways to reduce the department's exposure to fuel price volatility, including hedging in commercial markets."

Inside the Navy reports this week that the service is putting the finishing touches on a set of technical guidelines for the alternative fuels it will use to power its ships. The Navy is hoping to release the 350-page document to the public in the first half of this year, according to Gregory Toms, the expert who sets the standards for shipboard fuels at Naval Sea Systems Command. Specifically:

The release will come amidst an increasing push to meet the green energy goals set by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in 2009 -- goals that are widely considered to be the most ambitious of all the services. By 2020, for example, the Navy is aiming to use alternative sources for half of its total energy consumption.

The Navy has focused much of its energy on bio-fuels -- fuels derived from organic materials ranging from plants to animals -- contracting 150,000 gallons of algae-derived ship fuel from the San Francisco-based alternative energy company Solazyme late last year. That order came on top of the 20,000 gallons the company had already delivered to the service in 2009.

But the petroleum-based fuel the Navy now uses for its aircraft and ships -- called JP-5 and F-76, respectively, needs to meet a complex set of requirements. JP-5, for example, has a significantly higher flashpoint than the fuel used by the Army and Air Force because of shipboard safety precautions.

Lots more military energy news being reported in Inside the Navy and Inside the Army this week, including:

Pentagon Policy Still Needed To Give Army Operational Energy Plans Teeth

Navy Attacks RAND Study Calling Biofuels Effort Commercially Unviable

Mabus: Aircraft, Ship Engines Need Industry Help To Run On All Biofuel

By John Liang
January 31, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Congressional Research Service reports are somewhat tough for the general public to come by given that CRS does not release them publicly.

Inside the Army reports this week about one such report that lays out a case for proceeding at a "more measured and introspective pace" with the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle and infantry brigade modernization programs while service officials determine the impact of a recently announced end-strength cut and a proposed reorganization of its brigade combat teams. Specifically:

"These possible actions have implications for both programs," states a Jan. 18 Congressional Research Service report obtained by Inside the Army. The document refers to a Jan. 6 announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to cut the size of the Army by 27,000 in fiscal year 2015 and to plans, advanced by the service's Training and Doctrine Command, to add a third maneuver battalion to the heavy and infantry variants of the Army's brigade combat teams.

Defense acquisition chief Ashton Carter was expected to issue an acquisition decision memorandum for the E-IBCT program any day. The document would approve the purchase of some additional equipment for infantry soldiers after the Army voluntarily stopped two program components and was granted a less-than-expected number of Network Integration Kits in a Jan. 14 Defense Acquisition Board meeting.

Meanwhile, the service received responses to its GCV request for proposals on Jan. 21. The Army plans to field the vehicle in 2017.

According to the CRS report, the number of vehicles and infantry brigade modernization equipment required by Army forces could change depending on force structure decisions. "The Army could conceivably change the number of HBCTs as well as their organization which could have a significant impact on the numbers of GCVs procured and total program costs," the document reads.

Adding to the uncertainty is the chance that HBCTs "might be assigned new roles and missions," according to the report. "The same can be said for the overall requirements for E-IBCT equipment if [infantry brigade combat team] numbers and roles and missions vary significantly," it adds.

Click here to read the report.

By John Liang
January 28, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to attend the change-of-command ceremony at U.S. Strategic Command, this morning shared an anecdote from his days as an airman:

Visiting this organization carries a special meaning for me, as I spent most of my time as an Air Force lieutenant, serving in the old Strategic Air Command. I well understand the pressure under which you work -- and the occasional pitfalls, some serious, some less so. For example, one day in 1967, we were told there was a problem with the war plans. SAC Headquarters in Omaha needed to change the launch sequencing for all the missiles immediately. So, we at Whiteman, ordered pizzas and worked all night to fix the strike execution control documents, using -- and, here, I’m really going to date myself -- large, unwieldy sheets of laminating paper. The next morning, we received a call from a major in one of the launch control capsules. Turns out that one of SAC’s new targets had become a carefully laminated piece of pepperoni.

By John Liang
January 27, 2011 at 6:00 PM

A new Government Accountability Office report released this morning notes that Afghanistan's National Army has reached the "interim" goal of 134,000 troops three months ahead of schedule.

"Officials cited increased recruitment of new soldiers and higher training capacity as factors that enabled the growth," GAO's report states. "The ANA has also generally achieved its goal of drawing proportionally from Afghanistan's major ethnic groups, with some key exceptions."

That said, Afghanistan's army still faces challenges, including "high rates of attrition -- the loss of soldiers from the force before they complete their contracts -- and absenteeism," according to the report. "In particular, high attrition could impact the ANA's ability to meet its end size goal of 171,600 by October 2011."

The international community and Afghanistan's government "have set an objective of having the Afghan army and police lead and conduct security operations in all Afghan provinces by the end of 2014," GAO states. The report further notes:

As of September 2010, no ANA unit was assessed as capable of conducting its mission independent of coalition assistance. About two-thirds were assessed as effective with limited coalition support. Efforts to develop ANA capability have been challenged by difficulties in staffing leadership positions and a shortage of coalition trainers, including a shortfall of approximately 18 percent (275 of 1,495) of the personnel needed to provide instruction at ANA training facilities. Neither DOD nor NATO has completed an analysis of ANA sustainment costs. Such analysis is important given that, as of January 2010, the International Monetary Fund projected that it will take until at least 2023 for the Afghan government to raise sufficient revenues to cover its operating expenses, including those related to the army -- highlighting Afghanistan's continued dependence on external sources of funding. In addition, DOD and NATO studies indicate that growth of the ANA beyond the current end goal of 171,600 may be needed -- potentially up to a force size of 240,000 personnel. Any such growth will necessitate additional donor assistance.

Consequently, GAO:

. . . recommends that the Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with international partners, take steps to eliminate the shortage of trainers; clarify what ANA growth beyond the current end goal, if any, is needed; and develop estimates of the future funding needed to further grow and sustain the ANA. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation regarding trainers.

In comments on an earlier GAO draft of the report, DOD "partially concurred with the need to develop growth and cost estimates for the ANA." Specifically, the department states in a letter included in the report that:

The department is currently evaluating potential growth of the ANA in 2012. To help inform that evaluation and future growth decisions, the department has prepared cost estimates to grow and sustain various ANA force levels. The necessary resources to support an eventual growth decision will be included in the department's upcoming budget submission and are regularly shared with our international partners to encourage them to contribute the necessary resources. Beyond 2012, it is difficult to speculate as to the exact overall ANA end-strength requirement and associated costs due to the large number of variables (e.g., size and composition of international forces, future security threat, and future capability of the ANA). Additionally, we note that the final end-strength of the ANA is not controlled by the DOD, but ultimately decided by the Government of Afghanistan and the international community through the Joint Coordination Monitoring Board process.

Earlier this week, Army Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, released a letter to his troops that included an assessment of the situation in that country in 2010:

Despite the achievements of 2010, there is much hard work to be done in 2011. And, as always in Afghanistan, the way ahead will be difficult. As President [Hamid] Karzai has made clear, the Kabul security bubble needs to be extended into neighboring provinces. The gains in the south and southwest have to be solidified, joined, and expanded. Areas of improved security in the east and west need to be connected and extended. And insurgent advances in recent years in the north and mountainous northeast must be halted and reversed.

To capitalize on the security gains we achieved in 2010, we will also have to maintain our support for Afghan-led efforts to establish governance that can earn the support of the people. We will have to sustain our work to enable Afghan institutions to improve basic services and to show the Afghan people that a brighter future lies in supporting the new Afghanistan rather than returning to the repressive, brutal days of the Taliban. Additionally, we will have to expand our efforts to help Afghan officials implement President Karzai's direction to combat corruption and the criminal patronage networks that undermine the development of Afghan institutions. In support of the latter effort, we will need to pursue initiatives to ensure that our contracting and procurement activities are part of the solution rather than a continuing part of the problem.

By John Liang
January 27, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke with reporters yesterday on a plane en route to Canada and took the opportunity to talk about his proposed budgetary efficiencies initiatives, according to a transcript released today by the Pentagon:

. . . The first is that there is opposition clearly in some quarters to any reduction in the defense top line from the earlier projections, going from $566 billion to $553 billion. That's fine as rhetoric, but let me describe to you the real world that I live in.

In fiscal year '11, if we end up with a year-long continuing resolution, as increasingly seems likely, that will represent a $23 billion cut in the defense budget, below what the president asked for. This Congress would be responsible for that.

It's the worst of all possible kinds of reductions, in significant measure because it comes halfway through the fiscal year. But beyond that, we can't make up all of that through changes in contracts and programs and so on. And, in fact, most likely it would come out of operations and maintenance, even in war - operations and maintenance, through stretching out programs, which is what makes them very expensive; cuts in training and readiness.

And frankly, that's how you hollow out a military even in wartime. It means lower flying - fewer flying hours, fewer steaming days, cuts in training for home-based – home-stationed ground forces, cuts in maintenance and so on.

So, again, if we ended up with this yearlong continuing resolution, this new Congress would be responsible for a cut that's nearly twice the size of our FY '12 proposal and much, much more damaging.

So my question is about the seriousness of those who are worried about reductions to the defense budget, and I think they can demonstrate that seriousness by passing a defense appropriations bill, which still would be $10 billion less than the president has asked for.

So in short, talk about not cutting defense in FY '12, as far as I'm concerned, is simply rhetoric without action on the FY '11 defense budget that's already in front of the Congress.

Second, there have been some concerns expressed about a $78 billion cut in the projected defense budget over the next five years. First of all, to make clear to everybody, that's in budget projections. The reality is the dollars in the budget will go up every year. And the impact on the services is very modest. Of that $78 billion, $54 billion are coming from - is coming from outside the services, from other Defense agencies and other cuts. Fourteen billion (dollars) is through changes in defense - in assumptions, like lower inflation. We're going to have lower pay raises than we had projected, and so on.

So $68 billion of the $78 billion don't touch the services, really, at all. Four billion - an additional $4 billion comes from restructuring the Joint Strike Fighter program, and I would argue that's actually to the advantage of the services. And $6 billion is from the force reductions in '15 and '16.

And my view is, on those force reductions in the Marine Corps and the Army, that's far enough out in the future that if our assumptions about what the world is like prove to be not correct, there's plenty of time to adjust and change those - change those figures.

So the bottom line is, of that $78 (billion) that supposedly is dramatically affecting our defense capabilities, only about $10 billion come out of anything having to do with the troops or investment funds or capabilities.

Finally, we have been able to carry out the promise to the services that the roughly $100 billion in savings that they found through the efficiencies, they will get to keep. Now, the reality is they're having to deal with about $28 billion in must-pays - additional fuel costs, things like health care and so on. But they will get $70 billion more than was in their original program for investment through the savings they've identified that will be returned to them.

So I just wanted -- those were the three things that I just wanted to mention. And I - as you can tell, I feel especially strongly about the continuing resolution because the consequences for us - I mean, it's one thing to talk about FY '12 and then to express concerns about something that may or may not happen in four or five years, but I have a crisis on my doorstep. And I want them to deal with the crisis on my doorstep before we start arguing about the levels in FY '12.

As reported yesterday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) during a hearing yesterday signaled his sharp disagreement with the Obama administration's proposed cuts to the Pentagon's budget and vowed to fight "any measures that stress our forces." Specifically:

McKeon said that while he supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates' effort to find efficiencies in the Defense Department's operations, he plans in coming weeks to "pursue" the consequences of the White House Office of Management and Budget decision last month to cut planned DOD spending by $78 billion over five years.

"I intend to pursue the impact of this decision by the administration,” McKeon said. “We have asked much of our men and women in uniform over the years. They have bravely fought and sacrificed for all of us -- each and every one of us in this room. I cannot in good conscience ask them to 'do more with less.'"