The Insider

By John Liang
September 28, 2010 at 4:46 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee this morning approved the nomination of Marine Corps Gen. James Amos to become the service's next commandant, along with 3,272 other pending military nominations, for the full Senate's consideration. During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, the general had a lot to say over a myriad of issues concerning the Marine Corps:

Amos Endorses EFV Capability As Necessary For Marine Corps

Prospective Commandant Says Many Marines Would Like A Name Change

Force Structure Review Will Address Amphibious Ship Requirement

Marines Shuffle F/A-18s To Prepare For Possibility Of Late JSF IOC

By John Liang
September 28, 2010 at 3:21 PM

We mentioned it in this morning's INSIDER, but in case you missed it, DefenseNews ran a story today about the Pentagon's reshuffling of its information technology efforts:

The Pentagon's top high-tech directorate will officially close its doors next March, according to a Defense Department memo that describes how its surviving functions and personnel will be split among four other DoD entities.

Robert Rangel, a senior aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has tapped Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Staff vice chairman, and Christine Fox, director of DoD's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, with overseeing a process that will culminate with the shuttering of the Pentagon's Networks and Information Integration (NII) directorate on March 31, 2011.

Closing NII is part of Gates' push to eliminate $101 billion in unnecessary organizations and costs and transfer those savings to weapon programs over five years. He also wants to shutter U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), the Pentagon's Business Transformation Agency and the Joint Staff's Command, Control, Communications, & Computer Systems (J6) directorate. The Business Transformation Agency and the networks and information shop both are part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Sound familiar? That's because reported it a couple weeks ago:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates intends to disestablish the major Pentagon offices that handle computer networks by transferring many of their functions to the Defense Information Systems Agency and other organizations, according to a recent memo issued as part of Gates' Pentagon efficiency initiative.

The Sept. 1 memo tasks the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of the cost assessment and program evaluation (CAPE) shop with leading the working group that develops the implementation plan to disestablish the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration (NII) and the Joint Staff's J6 function, both of which deal with enterprise information technology and hardware issues.

By John Liang
September 28, 2010 at 3:08 PM

U.S. and Israeli defense officials have signed an agreement to continue developing the David's Sling weapon system, according to a Missile Defense Agency statement released yesterday. "This agreement continues efforts initiated under the U.S.-Israel Short-Range Ballistic Missile Defense Project Agreement signed by both nations in 2008," the statement adds. Further:

Signing on behalf of the United States was Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency. Signing for the State of Israel were Rear Admiral Ophir Shoham, Director, Directorate of Defense Research and Development; Mr. Tzahi Malach, Department of Finance, Ministry of Defense; and Mr. Ehud Shani, Director General, Ministry of Defense.

The David's Sling Weapon System Project Agreement will advance efforts to develop an Israeli capability against short-range and theater ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and cruise missiles. Included in the project is the continued development of the Stunner Interceptor to provide lower-tier intercept capability for Israel's multi-layered missile defense system. David's Sling will also address the threat posed by the types of inexpensive and easily-produced short-range missiles and rockets used during the 2006 Lebanon War, and will also advance low-altitude intercept technology and provide that technology to benefit U.S. and Israeli industry.

The signing of the project agreement demonstrates the continued commitment of the United States to the defense of Israel.

In related news, reported yesterday that House appropriators have recommended adding $301 million for the Israeli Cooperative Programs line item, with $96 million going to fund U.S.-Israeli short-range ballistic missile defense, and $205 million going to the Israeli "Iron Dome" rocket defense program.

By Sebastian Sprenger
September 27, 2010 at 3:39 PM

House members are expected to unveil legislation this week aimed at tackling the perennial issue of interagency reform. While most officials would agree the U.S. government must do a better job working in concert to solve today’s national security problems, they'd likely also concede there's been little progress toward that goal. Members of the Project on National Security Reform, who have been developing solutions since 2006, thought a breakthrough was afoot when newly elected President Obama picked Jim Jones and other experts affiliated with the group to serve in top national-security related slots. But with two wars going on and an economic crisis ravaging the country, interagency reform was unable to rise to the top of the new administration's agenda.

The effort could get a new boost this week, as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) are slated on Thursday to unveil a bill to "overhaul interagency national security coordination," according to an statement from Skelton's office. The lawmakers view the legislation as "the largest reform since the 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community," the statement reads.

By John Liang
September 27, 2010 at 2:51 PM

The Congressional Budget Office this morning released a cost estimate of S. 3581, the "Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties Implementation Act of 2010," which would implement a pair of defense cooperation treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia:

S. 3581 would implement two treaties to facilitate trade in defense articles and services on the U.S. Munitions List. Businesses seeking to export defense articles and services on that list generally require export licenses from the Department of State. In 2007, the United States signed bilateral treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia that would waive the licensing requirement for exports of certain goods and services to those countries. This legislation would implement those treaties.

The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) at the Department of State issues export licenses and maintains a registry of manufacturers or providers of defense articles and services. The DDTC is funded primarily through annual appropriations but has the authority to collect and spend registration fees. It is also responsible for ensuring compliance with rules and regulations governing defense trade, and has the authority to assess civil and criminal penalties for violations.

Based on information from the DDTC, CBO estimates that most of the DDTC's workload would be unaffected by the treaties and that implementing the bill would have insignificant effects on spending subject to appropriation. Enacting S. 3581 could affect collections of civil and criminal penalties and registration fees, thus affecting federal revenues and direct spending; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, CBO estimates that such collections and spending would not be significant in any year.

CBO has not reviewed S. 3581 for intergovernmental or private-sector mandates because section 4 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act excludes from the application of that act any legislative provisions that are necessary for the ratification or implementation of international treaty obligations. CBO has determined that the bill falls within that exclusion.

During a press conference in July with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House, President Obama voiced his support for quick ratification of the U.S.-U.K. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, saying his "administration is working hard with the Senate to move forward as soon as possible with our defense trade treaty with the U.K., which will be good for our workers and our troops in both our countries."

S. 3581 isn't the only defense-trade-related piece of legislation on the congressional docket. As Inside the Pentagon reported in June:

An international defense procurement group is concerned about provisions on industrial base matters and "monitoring exemptions" in the House's fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, according to a Canadian official with the organization.

The Defense MOU Attaché Group, founded in 1986 and comprised of 21 countries, is monitoring these issues "very closely," said Jennifer Stewart, vice chairwoman of the group and director general of defense procurement at the Canadian embassy in Washington. The organization includes officials from Australia, Belgium, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and other countries that have reciprocal defense procurement agreements with the United States.

The international defense procurement officials are concerned about a provision in the House bill asking the Pentagon to include "detailed analysis of waivers granted under the Buy American Act, including analysis of domestic capacity to supply articles, materials or supplies procured from overseas," Stewart said in an interview.

The bill also asks for an analysis of the reasons for an increase or decrease in the number of waivers granted from fiscal year to fiscal year.

"The issue . . . looks like an attempt to make sure that DOD is basically buying exclusively from American sources," charged Stewart. "It kind of undermines the MOUs that we have in place to try to minimize an American preference."

By Carlo Muñoz
September 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM

The White House this week nominated Lt. Gen. Larry James to succeed retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula as the new chief of the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance shop, according to a Sept. 23 Pentagon announcement. James will leave his current post as the commander of 14th Air Force at Air Force Space Command to assume the new A2 position. As the 14th Air Force chief, James was also dual-hatted as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Functional Component Command - Space.

Maj. Gen. Susan Helms is slated to receive her third star and replace James as the head of the 14th and the JFCC-S. Prior to her nomination, Helms was the director of STRATCOM's policy and programs directorate (J5) at Offutt Air Force Base, NE.

The administration's announcement come on the heels of a major restructuring of the air service's senior leadership. As first reported by Inside the Air Force, those moves culminated in the nomination of Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove to become the Air Force's new vice chief of staff and Gen. Robert Kehler's selection to replace Gen. Kevin Chilton as the head of U.S. Strategic Command.

Deptula officially resigned his post as the A2 chief in August.

By John Liang
September 24, 2010 at 3:41 PM

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting this morning that the Littoral Combat Ship Freedom, for the second time in the past six months, is having engine problems that will result in completely replacing the unit:

"High vibration indications were discovered in the starboard-side gas turbine engine while the ship was operating off Southern California," said Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for Naval Surface Forces, San Diego.

"A borescope was done and damage was found to the engine's blading. The engine will be replaced during a scheduled (servicing) visit to Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme," which starts on Sept. 27.

Freedom has a second gas turbine. But the ship switched to its two diesel engines when the problem arose offshore on Sept. 12. In early May, the vessel had to pull into General Dynamics-NASSCO shipyard in San Diego for repairs when issues developed with a waterjet, which is part of the ship's propulsion system.

The first-of-its-kind ship -- built by Lockheed Martin -- has had its share of teething problems as the Navy considers whether to buy Lockheed's version or a competing one being manufactured by Austal USA. As Inside the Navy reported in May:

The Navy's first Littoral Combat Ship, the Freedom (LCS-1), dry-docked in a San Diego shipyard late last week awaiting repairs to a starboard boost water jet, according to Naval Surface Forces.

"Freedom requires a short dry-dock period of three to five days to repair the starboard-boost water jet," Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a service spokesman, told Inside the Navy May 4. "LCS-1 water jets have been reliable since the ship launched more than three and a half years ago and we did not have any mission limiting problems on deployment."

Freedom recently returned from its maiden deployment to the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean before arriving at its home port in San Diego last month.

"Original equipment manufacturer, Rolls/Kamewa, is expediting the shipment of a replacement seal," Servello noted. "The ship is expected to dock at NASSCO San Diego on May 8. Rolls/Kamewa indicates that seal failure is rare, but does occasionally occur within the maintenance interval."

The following month, another wrinkle popped up:

The Lockheed Martin-built Freedom (LCS-1) the Navy's lead ship in the nascent Littoral Combat Ship class will not make a previously scheduled appearance at an international fleet review due to leaks discovered recently in the port and starboard splitter gear lube oil coolers, a Navy spokesman said last week.

"Due to emergent maintenance, over the last two weeks the decision was made to not have Freedom attend the International Fleet Review in Vancouver, Canada, in order to ensure the ship is fully prepared to participate in the upcoming [Rim of the Pacific] exercise," Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello told Inside the Navy.

The leaks and crack and structural damage in the ship's centerline fuel tanks were discovered recently and fixed over the weekend (June 5-6), Servello noted. The repairs were made pierside.

"Prime contractor Lockheed Martin and subcontractors were able to successfully troubleshoot the problem and make the needed repairs," he said. "Additionally, cracks and minor structural damage was discovered in one of the centerline fuel tanks. Repair and post-repair inspections on the tank were completed over the weekend."

By John Liang
September 24, 2010 at 3:17 PM

A story in today's Wall Street Journal highlights U.S. national security officials' concerns about China's control of certain minerals and metals that are used in a whole bunch of applications -- from jet fighter engines to flat panel displays:

China's control of a key minerals market has U.S. military thinkers and policy makers alike worried about access to materials that are essential for 21st-century technology like smartphones—and smart bombs.

The concern over supplies of so-called rare-earth elements was highlighted this week by a report that Chinese customs officials had blocked exports of the materials to Japan. On Thursday, Beijing denied those reports. "China doesn't block rare-earth exports to Japan," said Chen Rongkai, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce.

At issue is a group of 17 metallic elements with magnetic properties suited for high-tech applications such as computer hard drives and digital cameras. Rare-earth elements are also key to "green" technology: Energy-efficient light bulbs use europium and yttrium, while hybrid car batteries and wind-power turbines use neodymium.

While rare-earth ore deposits are found around the globe, China's dominance in mining and processing the elements has raised alarms in Washington. According to an April 2010 Government Accountability Office report, China now produces approximately 97% of the world's rare-earth oxides, the raw materials that can be further refined into metals and blended into alloys that can be made into finished components.

Over the past year, China has imposed global export quotas on the elements. Its Commerce Ministry has said total exports for the year would be capped at just under 30,300 metric tons, down 40% from last year. Only 7,976 tons of that were allocated for the second half of this year. Experts say much of that has already been shipped.

That has spurred anxiety among government officials and industry executives. Delegations from the U.S., Germany, and Japan have implored Beijing to recognize how critical they consider sustained supply. . . .

The fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill contains a provision that, if passed, would direct the Pentagon to address national security issues related to rare-earth materials in the defense supply chain. As Inside the Pentagon reported in June:

A congressionally mandated Government Accountability Office report on rare earth materials in DOD's supply chain, issued in April, said that current capabilities to process rare earth metals into finished materials (such as precision-guided munitions, lasers, communication systems and radar systems) are "limited mostly to Chinese sources" and bolstered vertical integration may "increase China's total market power and dominance."

As a result, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants DOD acquisition chief Ashton Carter to report to Congress on national security issues related to rare earth materials in the defense supply chain by March 15, 2011.

The report must include the steps that DOD has taken to identify and address national security risks due to the department's dependence on Chinese sources for rare earth materials and which DOD plans to take within the next two years to identify and address such risks, authorizers add. The DOD report should also indicate whether direct investment by the U.S. government is needed to minimize national security risks associated with an interruption of supply and when the department plans to have a comprehensive plan to deal with these risks, the committee states.

Last month, the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog highlighted a Congressional Research Service report on rare earth elements. According to the report:

The concentration of production of rare earth elements (REEs) outside the United States raises the important issue of supply vulnerability. REEs are used for new energy technologies and national security applications. Is the United States vulnerable to supply disruptions of REEs? Are these elements essential to U.S. national security and economic well-being?

There are 17 rare earth elements (REEs), 15 within the chemical group called lanthanides, plus yttrium and scandium. The lanthanides consist of the following: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium. Rare earths are moderately abundant in the earth’s crust, some even more abundant than copper, lead, gold, and platinum. While more abundant than many other minerals, REE are not concentrated enough to make them easily exploitable economically. The United States was once self-reliant in domestically produced REEs, but over the past 15 years has become 100% reliant on imports, primarily from China, because of lower-cost operations.

In February 2009, a Pentagon board ruled that specialty metals are not materials critical to national security for which only a U.S. source should be tapped, eliminating a national security reason for the Defense Department to ensure a long-term domestic supply of such materials. As reported at the time:

John Young, the defense acquisition executive, submitted the finding to Congress in a Jan. 26 report mandated by lawmakers. The report followed a Dec. 12 meeting of the Strategic Materials Protection Board, chaired by Young and composed of representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the service acquisition executive offices and the under secretary of defense for intelligence.

The Strategic Materials Protection Board discussed and approved the definitions of strategic and critical materials proposed by the executive secretary during its meeting, the report states.

"As a result of the modified definition for critical materials, any material designated as critical will require a risk assessment and a strategy to ensure domestic availability," the committee explains.

The status of specialty metals used to make sensors, armored vehicles, satellites and other items has long been a congressional concern. The Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Act mandated the creation of the Strategic Materials Protection Board to oversee their use.

A year later, the FY-08 Defense Authorization Act directed the board to assess the extent to which domestic producers of strategic materials are investing in a sustained way in the processes, infrastructure, workforce training and facilities needed for the continued domestic production of such materials.

The Jan. 26 report concludes that the critical nature of a material is a function of its importance in DOD applications. It also assesses the extent to which department actions are required to shape and sustain the market and the impact and likelihood of supply disruption.

By Amanda Palleschi
September 24, 2010 at 12:20 AM

U.S. Cyber Command has been “in action every day of its brief existence,” Gen. Keith Alexander told the House Armed Services Committee in testimony Wednesday.

DOD networks defended by CYBERCOM are probed “roughly 250,000 times an hour,” and threats to those networks could take on an increasingly destructive nature in the future, Alexander said in his first public testimony since being named head of the command in May. Alexander is also the director of the National Security Agency.

“The key thing that we've seen is hacker activity and exploitation. . . . Not just stealing our intellectual property but also our secrets and other parts of our networks,” Alexander said. “Those are things that can destroy equipment. So it's not something that you recover from by just stopping the traffic.”

Alexander also stressed the importance of partnerships with industry, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security in carrying out CYBERCOM's mission, although he stressed that it is not CYBERCOM's mission “to defend the entire nation, just the DOD networks.”

Asked by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) how the U.S. government could work to stop an attack against critical infrastructure, the banking sector or the transportation system, Alexander said the task would largely fall to industry.

“We need to come up with a more -- my term -- a more dynamic or active defense that puts into place those capabilities that we need to defend in a crisis,” he said. “That's what we are working on right now in the department to do to ensure that that works and working, actually, closely, with Department of Homeland Security and the White House to show how that could be done.”

By John Liang
September 23, 2010 at 7:28 PM

Looks like the Pentagon's operational test and evaluation office has rejoined the Internet age.

For most of the past decade, the Defense Department only released its annual OT&E reports via paper copy, which would then dutifully scan and post online.

Apparently, though, DOT&E has changed its tune, as the office's website now has posted every report from 1999 through 2009.

Not only that, DOT&E this week released its 19-page oversight list of the programs the office monitors. Some interesting entries in the last-page "notes" section, particularly for the KC-130J Harvest Hawk aircraft program:

Due to the unique nature of weaponizing this mostly logistics platform we are closely watching the specific challenges of the Hawk (HH) concept. HH should be contained in the KC-130J section of Annual Report.

Click here to read about some of the recent work DOD has been doing on its C-130 aircraft fleet.

As for the Three-dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program, the DOT&E oversight list has this note:

3DELRR -- add new programs: Armed Scout Helo (Army); Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (USAF); Hellfire (Army); Massive Ordinance Penetrator (USAF).

By Jason Sherman
September 23, 2010 at 5:30 PM

House Republicans yesterday unveiled their 48-page "Pledge to America," a legislative agenda and campaign platform that calls for a "robust national defense," including "fully" funding missile defense programs, enforcing sanctions against Iran, keeping terrorist combatants in Guantanamo jails and taking "action to secure our borders."

The manifesto promises to "offer a plan to stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of government."

The Pentagon's budget, which has doubled over the last decade and accounts for roughly half of total discretionary funds in the federal budget, does not appear to be a target for Republicans in the hunt to halt spending. According to the House GOP document:

We will launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade. By cutting Congress’ budget, imposing a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees, and reviewing every current government program to eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs, we can curb Washington’s irresponsible spending habits and reduce the size of government, while still fulfilling our necessary obligations.

By Jason Sherman
September 23, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command, made a claim today before the House Armed Services Committee that few of his combatant command counterparts could match: His "area of responsibility" has increased 400 percent over the last decade. In prepared remarks, he said:

In 2009 there were more than 1.8 billion Internet users, and 4.6 billion cellular subscribers; together they sent roughly 90 trillion e-mails. Cyberspace in that sense is "larger" than ever. And yet, at the same time, bandwidth is broader and search engines are more powerful than ever, and so in a different sense cyberspace has become "smaller," with more and more people able to interact with each other in real-time.

By John Liang
September 23, 2010 at 3:39 PM

The Aerospace Industries Association plans to hold a "policy discussion" next week on Capitol Hill "on the importance of space to national security," according to an AIA statement released this morning.

Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller will provide the Sept. 28 keynote address, the statement reads.

Following Miller, AIA will hold a panel discussion featuring Pentagon industrial policy director Brett Lambert, retied Air Force Lt. Gen. Trey Obering and Steven Miller, division director of advanced systems in the Cost Analysis and and Program Evaluation office at DOD.

"The panel will discuss national security space industrial base and acquisition issues as they relate to DOD’s efforts to increase efficiency," according to the statement.

Additionally, AIA is releasing a new report titled "Tipping Point: Maintaining the Health of the National Security Space Industrial Base" that outlines the factors that the association believes "are making the U.S. national security space base increasingly fragile."

Marion Blakey, the head of AIA, gave a speech last week at the Air Force Association's annual conference in which she warned about the projected lack of qualified aerospace graduates as they face an upcoming wave of retirements in the field and a lack of jobs following recent program cancellations.

A lag in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States could cause problems because half of the aerospace workforce will retire in the next 10 years, Blakey said. Not only that, young people also may see a "roller-coaster environment" in the field following large-scale layoffs in 1990s after factories closed, Inside the Air Force reported. Further:

"We do not have enough homegrown talent coming up through those disciplines," Blakey said, during a Sept. 15 speech at an Air Force Association conference. "I stress homegrown because, as you know, we have got to have security clearances for those jobs. This is a big issue for us."

The Air Force needs to do a better job of paying attention to the aerospace industrial base, she said. She believes that the base has only been taken into account in a very analytic way in recent years.

"That analysis of capabilities is something that has to be done together with industry," Blakey said. "We know how we may be able to maintain things. But when those factories go away, they are gone. It is like cutting down the redwoods. It is over. And it takes a very long time to build them back."

By Tony Bertuca
September 22, 2010 at 7:53 PM

The Army announced today that the industry day for the Ground Combat Vehicle will be held on Oct. 1 in Dearborn, MI.

"The solicitation is still being worked so a (request for proposals) will not be released at this event," Paul Mehney, spokesman for the program, told Inside the Army in an e-mail today. "Instead, general requirements for the Technology Development Phase and the acquisition strategy will be discussed."

Mehney said the TD phase will be a 24-month period beginning at the time of the contract award.

"Up to four contractors per (Commercial and Government Entity) Code are permitted at the industry day," he said. "The Army is dedicated to providing interested industry parties with information to ensure understanding of the acquisition process and proposal requirements that have changed as a result of the RFP cancellation."

The Army canceled the GCV RFP on Aug. 25, saying it was because officials wanted to further review and change the vehicle's requirements. A new RFP is expected to be issued within 60 days of the cancellation.

By John Liang
September 22, 2010 at 6:40 PM

The Pentagon announced yesterday afternoon that Warner Robins, GA-based L-3 Communications TCS had been awarded a $61 million "immediate award contract to provide modifications to MC-130W aircraft to install a Precision Strike package."

Under the terms of the contract, eight kits and eight installations are being procured, according to the Defense Department statement. "At this time, $15,837,316 has been obligated for a total of $61,018,760 because $45,181,444 was previously obligated," DOD adds.

It's not the first contract awarded recently to support MC-130Ws, however. On June 2, the service awarded Sparks, NV-based Sierra Nevada Corp. a $20.8 million contract to "provide for interim contractor support for the modification to MC-130W aircraft to install a precision strike package in support of Project Dragon Spear, an urgent deployment acquisition to support U.S. Special Operations Command combat mission needs." Sierra Nevada was awarded a $12 million follow-on contract last week.

As Inside the Air Force reported in April, Air Force Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have been looking to collaborate on two separate but similar modification efforts geared toward revamping the C-130 platforms within their respective fleets. Specifically:

The Air Force and Marine Corps programs, known as the MC-130W Dragon Spear and the KC-130J Harvest Hawk respectively, are centered around a "roll on, roll off" sensor, communications and weapons suite.

That package, once fully developed, will allow the Marine Corps' fleet of KC-130Js and AFSOC's MC-130Ws to provide fire support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to special operations and Marine Corps ground forces, while simultaneously conducting refueling missions.

But due to the similarities between the two programs, Congress mandated an Air Force review to explore potential opportunities for collaboration. The report requirement was included in the fiscal year 2010 Defense Authorization Act.

The Feb. 22 report approved by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley noted the "base requirements and capabilities" for both programs were too specifically tailored to allow for wholesale swaps of technologies or equipment between the two platforms. However, the report noted that "while the Dragon Spear and Harvest Hawk programs are highly independent" a level of cooperation could be reached, according to the report.

"A collaborative approach to the (U.S. Special Operations Command) and USMC programs benefits the DOD by meeting SOF-unique requirements and providing the (Marine Corps) with potential alternatives to accelerate the Harvest Hawk capability delivery," Donley writes.

In March, ITAF reported that the Pentagon had opted to boost funding for a new multimission precision strike package for AFSOC's fleet of combat refuelers, which are set to arrive at the command by April:

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale requested the roughly $157 million uptick for the Precision Strike Package program last month, categorizing it as a joint urgent operational need, according to a Feb. 2 reprogramming notice. "Approval of this request is critical to generate armed overwatch capability," the notice states.

The money will finance procurement of eight PSP kits for AFSOC's venerable MC-130W Combat Spear. The PSP kits will include sensor and communications systems, as well as precision munitions and a "medium-caliber" gun, it adds.

Reprogramming funds will also go toward "installation kits, spares, data packages and support equipment" associated with the PSP kits, the notice states.

AFSOC plans to have 12 Combat Spears equipped with the new PSP package by the end of fiscal year 2011, AFSOC strike requirements division chief Lt. Col. Dave Vardaman told Inside the Air Force in a March 23 e-mail.