The Insider

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.'"

By John Liang
January 27, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Rose Gottemoeller, the assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, is in Geneva this week attending the Conference on Disarmament. Here are some highlights from the speech she gave this morning:

. . . On the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty:

Mr. President, an FMCT long has been one of the key goals of multilateral arms control. A cutoff will provide a firm foundation for future disarmament efforts, and help to consolidate the arms control gains made since the end of the Cold War. It is one of the key steps called for in the Final Document of the NPT Review Conference. An FMCT's verifiable controls on fissile material will play an important role by strengthening confidence among the relevant states and help to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr. President, no other world body of sovereign states is better suited to negotiate an FMCT. We readily acknowledge that an FMCT would have profound security implications for countries that have unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, including the United States of America. Under the CD's rules of procedure and consensus principle, every State assembled in this room will have an equal opportunity to defend its interests and ensure that an FMCT does not harm its vital interests.

The entire point of seeking to pursue an FMCT here, in the CD, is precisely because of the consensus principle undergirding this body's substantive work. No country need fear the outcome of FMCT negotiations. And no country should feel it necessary to abuse the consensus principle and frustrate everyone else's desire to resume serious disarmament efforts and negotiations.

. . . On the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty:

Mr. President, the Administration is pleased that the United States Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the New START Treaty on December 22 of last year. When he called to offer his condolences for the tragedy at Domodedovo Airport, President Obama congratulated President Medvedev on the successful vote in the Russian State Duma. Yesterday, there was a positive vote in the Federation Council, which is excellent news. The legislative process will be followed by an exchange of the instruments of ratification, which will bring the Treaty into force.

When the Treaty is fully implemented, it will result in the lowest number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and the Russian Federation since the 1950s.

The New START Treaty sets the stage for further limits on and reductions in nuclear arms. As President Obama stated when he signed the New START Treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010, once the Treaty enters into force, the United States intends to pursue with Russia further reductions in strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons, including on non-deployed nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Senate made clear its strong interest in addressing the numerical disparity in non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia. The Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification calls for the United States to seek to initiate negotiations with Russia to limit and reduce tactical nuclear weapons within a year of entry into force of the New START Treaty.

Work is already underway in Washington to prepare for such dialogue with Russia on future talks.

The United States will continue its long tradition of transparency about nuclear weapons, as exemplified by the stockpile numbers that we released during the NPT Review Conference, as well as the many briefings and documents which we made available in the run-up to and at the RevCon, and subsequently.

As a follow-up to the September 2009 P-5 conference on verification, transparency and confidence building, the five will meet later this year to take up these issues again, as part of our effort to implement the Review Conference's final Document.

. . . On preventing an outer space arms race:

Mr. President, the U.S. National Space Policy was released on June 28, 2010, and reflects the principles and goals to be used in shaping the conduct of U.S. space programs and activities. One provision of the policy states that the United States will pursue pragmatic and voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures - or TCBMs - to strengthen stability in space by mitigating the risk of mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.

To implement this part of the policy, the United States is continuing to consult with the European Union on its initiative to develop a comprehensive set of multilateral TCBMs, also known as the "Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities." We plan to make a decision in the coming weeks as to whether the United States can sign on to this Code, including what, if any, modifications would be necessary.

Additionally, we look forward to working with our colleagues in the international community in the Group of Government Experts (GGE), which was established by Resolution 65/68 during the 65th session of the UN General Assembly. It is our hope that this GGE will serve as a constructive mechanism to examine voluntary and pragmatic TCBMs in space that address real problems.

Within a short time, the United States will be announcing its National Security Space Strategy. Like the Space Policy, the National Space Strategy will be based on the notion of shared interest: It is in the shared interest of all space-faring nations to ensure the responsible, peaceful and safe use of space.

With regard to arms control, the National Space Policy states that the United States will consider space-related arms control concepts and proposals that meet the criteria of equitability and effective verification and which enhance the national security of the United States and its allies. The United States continues to support the inclusion of a non-negotiating, or discussion, mandate in any CD program of work under the agenda item, "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space," which is known as PAROS.

. . . On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

The Obama Administration will continue to lay the groundwork for positive U.S. Senate consideration of the CTBT, working closely with the Senate, and to bolster international support for the Treaty.

While the Administration prepares for U.S. Senate consideration of the Treaty, the United States has increased its level of participation in all of the activities of the CTBTO's Preparatory Commission in preparing for the entry into force of the CTBT, especially with respect to the Treaty's verification regime.

U.S. technical experts are working closely with their counterparts from the Provisional Technical Secretariat to explore joint efforts to improve the capabilities of the various networks of the global International Monitoring System and the functions of the International Data Centre in Vienna.

After an absence of eight years, U.S. experts are fully engaged in advancing the effectiveness of the On-Site Inspection element of the verification regime, both from policy and technical perspectives.

The United States has also assumed full responsibility for the costs of operating, maintaining, and sustaining the 31 stations of the International Monitoring System assigned by the Treaty to the United States.

By John Liang
January 26, 2011 at 10:43 PM

The Pentagon announced this afternoon that Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been awarded separate $107 million contracts for preliminary design work on the Space Fence, which the Air Force says will revolutionize the way space debris is identified.

Inside the Air Force reported last November that Air Force officials had released a request for proposals the previous month for the Space Fence program's preliminary design review. Further:

The Electronic Systems Center released the request for the preliminary design review of the Space Fence program, which will be valued at more than $3.5 billion, according to a service statement. Officials would like to award up to two preliminary design review contracts worth up to $214 million for the program before March, said Linda Haines, the program manager.

"It is going to be a best value award to the government based on mission capability, past performance and price," Haines said, during a Nov. 4 telephone interview. "So obviously, at the minimum I'm looking for an offerer with the most technically solid, mature response to our criteria, obviously with the least risk and a plan that meets our objectives."

The contractor or contractors winning the awards will utilize an 18-month period of performance for activities that include developing preliminary system designs, radar performance analysis and prototypes, according to the statement. The work will address critical manufacturing processes, key technical risks and production costs to help meet the Air Force's initial operational capability need date of September 2015. Final proposals are due Nov. 19.

Later that month, Lockheed and Raytheon each submitted their own proposals, ITAF reported:

Lockheed officials submitted their proposal on Nov. 18 for the preliminary design review of the $3.5 billion Space Fence program, according to a company statement. Raytheon officials submitted their proposal on Nov. 19, which was the last day to file, said Scott Spence, the program director for the company's space fence program.

The Air Force Electronic Systems Center (ESC) released a request for proposal last month. Service officials plan to award up to two preliminary design review contracts for the program before March. The deal could be worth up to $214 million.

The program will use multiple S-band ground-based radars to detect and track space objects, according to a service statement. It will offer improved accuracy in identifying objects, more timeliness and better surveillance.

"We were delighted when the Air Force, after a lot of analysis, selected S-Band because we have been making S-Band projects for a long, long time," said John Morse, the director of Lockheed Martin's space fence program, during a Nov. 19 interview. "We have got over 400 large S-Band antennas out there in the U.S. fleet as well as several international fleets."

Raytheon and Lockheed were among the three companies ESC awarded $30 million multi-contractor concept development contracts in June 2009, according to the statement. That work will be completed in December.

By John Liang
January 26, 2011 at 10:25 PM

The Government Accountability Office this morning released a report on the Pentagon's proposed phased adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe. As subsequently reported:

The Defense Department faces several "key" management challenges in implementing its plan to defend Europe against ballistic missile attack, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

"DOD has initiated multiple simultaneous efforts to implement [the European phased adaptive approach] but faces three key management challenges -- the lack of clear guidance, life-cycle cost estimates, and a fully integrated schedule -- which may result in inefficient planning and execution, limited oversight, and increased cost and performance risks," GAO states in the report, released today.

Since the United States announced its shift from a plan to locate two-stage, Ground-based Interceptors in Poland and an early warning radar system in the Czech Republic to an approach involving sea-based Standard Missile-3s and, eventually, more advanced land-based versions of the SM-3, various government agencies have looked into how the new plan would be implemented.

"Stakeholders throughout DOD -- including U.S. European Command, the Missile Defense Agency, and the military services -- as well as the State Department, have taken steps to implement this policy, including considering options for the deployment of assets, requesting forces, preparing for testing, and analyzing infrastructure needs," the report states. "However, effective planning requires clear guidance regarding desired end states and key BMD stakeholders, including the combatant commands and military services, believe that such guidance is not yet in place for EPAA."

The report, however, wasn't the only thing the agency put out today. It also released the text of a podcast that further expounded on GAO's findings. A taste:

[ Narrator: ] Welcome to GAO's Watchdog Report, your source for news and information from the Government Accountability Office. It's January 26, 2011. In September 2009, President Obama announced a new approach for ballistic missile defense in Europe. The European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA, is intended to defend against changing threats and incorporate evolving technologies. A group led by John Pendleton, a director in GAO's Defense Capabilities and Management team, recently reviewed the Defense Department's implementation of this new approach. GAO's Jeremy Cluchey sat down with John to learn more.

[Jeremy Cluchey:] How does the U.S. government’s European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense differ from the previous approach?

[John Pendleton:] Well, in late 2009 the President revised our approach to focus in Europe on near-term threats and deemed the new approach the Phased Adaptive Approach because it comes in phases; it's adaptive to changes in our own abilities and technology, as well as the threat; and an approach meaning that it's not a program so much with specifics about individual elements as it is a broad approach to how do you evolve again as the threat and our abilities change. This differed because previously the plan in Europe to counter a threat originating in the Middle East was to build a fixed radar site in the Czech Republic and then have ground-based interceptors that would knock a threat missile out in mid-flight and put those ground-based interceptors in Poland. That was abandoned in favor of this approach, which focuses more on threats that currently exist -- threats in the region that could threaten U.S. forces or our allies in Europe.

[Jeremy Cluchey:] Estimating the lifecycle cost of this approach must present some challenges. How has DOD gone about addressing them?

[John Pendleton:] When we talked to them about that, their approach is to estimate the cost of the individual parts of the system. While we understand their need to manage the program that way, it creates some problems because it's difficult to see what the overall approach is going to cost and when. The Missile Defense Agency, which are creating these technologies, hand them off to other elements within the military—the military services actually operate them—so they need to have a sense of how much money they need to set aside and, more importantly, ask the Congress for. And Congress needs to know what to expect next year and the year after.

[Jeremy Cluchey:] Your report identifies issues as well with DOD's guidance on EPAA end states. Can you talk a little bit more about what this means?

[John Pendleton:] End states is a term of art often used by the Department of Defense. For the European Phased Adaptive Approach, this is focused on what's gonna happen and when, and it really comes down to those folks that will be operating the systems needing to understand what the plan is. What we heard, because we went around and talked and got information from folks all around the world, is we need information about how the system will perform under more operationally realistic conditions. But also, as a system, there's a risk when you develop individual parts but you haven't interconnected them yet. And you get a fair amount of synergy when you connect a radar over here with a radar on a ship with something that will shoot a missile over here. You expand the area that can be covered and you create a much wider net. The combatant commands that would have to ultimately employ these, as well as the services that might be involved in operating them, need better information about how this system will perform as a system under operationally realistic conditions.

[Jeremy Cluchey:] What is GAO recommending be done to address the concerns discussed here and raised in the report?

[John Pendleton:] Well we're recommending that DOD address some of the management challenges that we've talked about here, the guidance for what's gonna happen and when, the lifecycle cost estimates, a schedule that provides specifics about when they anticipate fielding things, and then the operational performance metrics that would allow the department to measure how these systems would perform under more realistic conditions.

By John Liang
January 26, 2011 at 1:00 PM

No growth may be good growth. At least according to Deloitte's new 2011 outlook on the aerospace and defense industry. In a statement, the company announces:

"Flat was the new up" in 2010. Last year was a comparatively good year contrasted with many other industries. Aerospace & Defense (A&D) sector sales and profits were relatively flat, which was good in a recessionary environment. Looking ahead, flat revenues and profits may again be the story for the overall industry in 2011.

The Deloitte report, "Aerospace & Defense 2011 Outlook," attributes the forecast to the continued impact from anticipated defense spending cuts, offset by an uptick in commercial aerospace, and the slow recovering economic cycle.

There is a sense of unease as the Department of Defense (DOD) budgets for research, development and procurement are moderating or declining. Given the slowdown in U.S. defense spending, the report suggests that contractors need to consider how to replace revenues in areas such as foreign military sales, growth in adjacent markets and through gap filling and scale building acquisitions for example.

By Marcus Weisgerber
January 25, 2011 at 10:35 PM

The Pentagon will not send political appointees or anyone from the inner circle of the KC-X tanker program to testify at a high-profile hearing on last year's snafu in which the Air Force inadvertently sent bid evaluation data to the wrong parties, instead opting to send a uniformed acquisition official and a senior cyber crime official.

Maj. Gen. Wendy Masiello, program executive officer for combat and mission support in the service's acquisition shop, and Steven Shirley, executive director of the Pentagon's Cyber Crime Center, will occupy the witness tables in the Dirksen Office Building hearing room on Thursday morning.

In her role Masiello oversees service contracts, not the high-profile weapon system acquisitions.

Last year the Air Force acknowledged that it had mistakenly send computer files containing evaluation data of each bidder's KC-X proposal to opposite parties. Boeing received EADS data, and vice versa. It came to light later that Boeing did not open the file on the disk, but an EADS employee did.

Shirley -- a former vice commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations -- is expected to testify on the computer forensics involved in the service's investigation into the snafu.

Boeing-friendly Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged Levin to hold the hearing.

By Dan Dupont
January 25, 2011 at 9:54 PM

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus is no more.

Instead, its co-chairmen said today, the group will henceforth be known as the Unmanned Systems Caucus.

From a statement issued by the two, Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX):

The goal of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus is to educate members of Congress, stakeholders, and the public on the strategic, tactical, law enforcement and scientific value of unmanned systems.

“I’m excited by the continued development and evolution of unmanned systems. The science and technology behind these systems are literally saving lives in civil and military communities. Our caucus is dedicated to educate and informing members of congress, the private sector, and the public about the importance and value of unmanned systems to the country,” said McKeon.

Since inception, the caucus has progressed to larger-scale support to now include ground and maritime systems. The caucus wanted to reflect that new expanded focus with the updated name.

“We have seen tremendous growth in the land, air, and maritime sectors of the industry over the last two years. I am excited to promote the entire industry and its advancements in science and technology while developing unmanned systems.

“Unmanned Systems have saved countless lives on the battlefield. I believe these systems and their capabilities go far beyond Department of Defense use, and I demonstrate continued success as they become more prevalent within our civilian communities,” McKeon added.

Co-chairman, Congressman Cuellar stated, "Unmanned Systems are essential to further maintain security on our borders and to combat illegal activity at our ports of entry. Their importance to our national security efforts cannot be overestimated, as they provide necessary information in moments of natural disasters at home as well as in the efforts to combat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We must do everything in our power to keep our communities safe and this caucus will help us reach that goal.”

The Unmanned Systems Caucus, originally formed as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus in 2009, recognizes the overwhelming value of unmanned systems in the scientific, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security communities. The 31 members of the bipartisan caucus are committed to the growth and expansion of these systems in all sectors.

By Dan Dupont
January 25, 2011 at 9:34 PM

The Pentagon announced today that the president as nominated  Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel to take over as commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, FL.

Fiel is the vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. He would succeed Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster as commander.

From Fiel's official Air Force biography:

General Fiel entered the Air Force in 1981 as a graduate of Officer Training School. He has held a variety of assignments and has commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels. Additionally, he has held a variety of staff positions at major command, unified command, Air Staff and Secretary of the Air Force levels. Prior to his current assignment, he was Chief of Staff, Headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

General Fiel has significant experience in combat and leadership positions in major joint contingency operations. He commanded a special operations squadron during Bosnia and Kosovo operations. From September 2001 to March 2003, he was forward-deployed as the Joint Special Operations Air Component Commander in Operation Enduring Freedom. From May 2006 to April 2008, he was forward-deployed as a Task Force Commander multiple times for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

By Marcus Weisgerber
January 25, 2011 at 8:20 PM

The Air Force claims fixes are on the way for a new wide-area airborne surveillance sensor pod that service testers lambasted in an evaluation report last month.

To recap, an internal Air Force audit of the new, supposedly all-seeing Gorgon Stare sensor, conducted by Air Combat Command's 53rd Wing, reveals an unreliable system of high-power cameras that frequently crashes during test flights. The Dec. 30 report -- marked “Draft/Predecisional” -- lists a number of major issues with the Sierra Nevada Corp.-built pod that need to be addressed before the system is deployed in Afghanistan.

Here is the Air Force's official statement on the draft report:

This system is being fielded to meet a Combatant Command requirement for a persistent, wide-area surveillance capability that allows multiple users to access the data from one platform.

This is a very advanced technology the Air Force is developing rapidly to meet warfighter requirements.

Gorgon Stare is in the first increment of a multi-increment program, and the second increment will increase the warfighter's capabilities by range and resolution.

The document leaked was a draft memo that was later revised in January.

The January memo includes three issues that we have identified and have fixes in place. The first was addressing critical Technical Order shortfalls; the second was Gorgon Stare Ground Station image and grid coordinate generation; and the third was Remote Video Terminal compatibility. We're working all three issues and do not believe they will affect the deployment schedule.

Air Force leadership understands the importance of providing quick, timely and actionable ISR for the field. Gorgon Stare will not be fielded until the theater commander accepts it.

The Air Force takes its responsibility seriously because lives depend on the quality of the intelligence products that are produced.

While the statement identifies fixes for some of the more minor problems reveled in the report, it makes no mention of issues the system has tracking people one they exit a vehicle or tracking anything at night.

By Dan Dupont
January 25, 2011 at 7:45 PM

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) today announced a bill called the "Defense and Deficit Reduction Act" that he says would "take defense spending back to 2008 levels for the next five years."

In a statement, Stark said the House has passed a "meaningless budget resolution directing House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to freeze non-defense spending to 2008 levels," whereas his bill would have a "meaningful effect on the deficit, saving $182 billion."

From the statement:

"We can't be serious about reducing the deficit if we're going to wall off 60 percent of our discretionary spending from cuts," said Rep. Stark. "This legislation would save $182 billion, from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines that the Pentagon doesn't want. At a time when we are spending seven times the next closest nation on our military, we must look toward defense for waste and potential savings."

You can watch video of Stark during debate on the earlier resolution.

By Dan Taylor
January 25, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Echoing comments made by senior Defense Department officials in recent weeks, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told reporters today that department leaders are in discussions with Congress on the effects of a year-long continuing resolution if a defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2011 is not passed.

"I know that [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates, Bob Hale, the comptroller of the Pentagon, and all of the services are actively engaged [with Congress] in talking about this and explaining what the repercussions are of operating under the traditional continuing resolution," he said following an event in Washington.

Mabus said a continuing resolution, which caps spending at 2010 levels and bans any new starts, "presents some real issues for DOD as a whole," and "those are going to have some real impacts on the Navy and on DOD going forward."

The federal government is operating under a continuing resolution passed by Congress late last month. That resolution expires March 4 and Congress will have to either pass an omnibus appropriations bill before that date or extend the continuing resolution.

Last week, reported that the Pentagon is finalizing contingency plans for how to endure under a continuing resolution that would last the balance of FY-11. Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter has asked the service procurement chiefs to identify which programs would be affected if Congress extends the stopgap spending measure beyond March 4 instead of passing the appropriations bill.