The Insider

By Marcus Weisgerber
September 2, 2010 at 3:03 PM

The President has nominated Air Force Space Command chief Gen. Robert Kehler to become the next head of U.S. Strategic Command, replacing Gen. Kevin Chilton, who will retire, according to a Pentagon document.

But perhaps the most notable part of the Sept. 2 memo (from Lt. Gen. Richard Newton, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, announcing the leadership changes) is that it all but confirms Air Combat Command chief Gen. William Fraser will become the Air Force's next chief of staff.

Last month, Inside the Air Force reported that Fraser would likely become the service's next chief.

Chilton -- who has led STRATCOM since 2007 -- has been highly admired among the Air Force ranks and had often been rumored to be a candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Of late, Chilton's name has also been tossed around as a potential candidate for the Air Force chief slot. However, numerous current and retired general have said Fraser is the leading candidate for that position.

By John Liang
September 1, 2010 at 8:57 PM

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Howard "Buck" McKeon (D-CA), readiness subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Forbes (D-VA) and oversight and investigations Ranking Member Rob Wittman (D-VA) are demanding to know the legal basis behind Defense Secretary Robert Gates' proposed closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

In a letter sent yesterday to Gates, the lawmakers write:

The House Armed Services Committee supports your efforts to achieve budgetary growth in force structure and modernization accounts, but have growing concerns about the complex process being used to achieve the reductions and eliminations necessary to achieve that growth. While all of us desire efficient government, the Department's aggressive, four track approach to finding efficiencies throughout the Department could lead to critical capability gaps without deliberate oversight review.

Forbes, in a statement accompanying the letter, said: "If the decision to close JFCOM is as deliberate as the Department of Defense claims it was, then there is no reason they should not respond to a request from Congress for information related to the decision. This is our second request for this information, and we will continue to ask for it until we are given answers."

Specifically, the lawmakers' letter requests the Pentagon to provide the following documents by Sept. 10:

1)    A copy of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel’s legal opinion, along with supporting rationale, that concluded that the closing of U.S. Joint Forces Command does not trigger a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action.

2)    A copy of the report/written recommendation provided by the Director of Cost Assessment and Performance Evaluation and other senior staff that included a further analysis of each of the elements of the decision.

3)    Any business case analysis prepared by the Department of Defense that documents the extent to the decision will produce savings, reduce duplication and overhead in the defense enterprise, and instill a culture of savings and restraint across the Department.

4)    The terms of reference/ implementation memo provided to the task force led by the Secretary of Defense Chief of Staff and to the Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, detailing guidance and expectations for implementation of these decisions.

Forbes said in the statement that he had initially requested the items at an Aug. 10 committee briefing, but nothing had been received since then.

Last month, members of the Virginia congressional delegation challenged the legality of Gates' plan to close JFCOM and lambasted the Defense Business Board's study -- on which the move to close the Virginia facility was partially based -- as "superficial research" lacking "analytical rigor."

By John Liang
September 1, 2010 at 4:21 PM

The Missile Defense Agency plans to host an industry day next week to discuss its draft request for proposals for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, according to an announcement posted this morning on Federal Business Opportunities.

The event will take place at The University of Alabama in Huntsville on Sept. 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. According to the notice, briefings will be held on:

1) Transition Strategy;

2) Demarc Study Update;

3) Safety Limitation;

4) Fort Greely Missile Field 2 and Future Power Plant Updates;

5) Site Security Responsibilities;

6) Information Technical Certification;

7) GMD Capability Document (GCD) Update; and

8) GMD Development and Sustainment Contract (DSC) Update.

MDA released its draft GMD development and sustainment contract RFP in May.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who are competing against a Boeing-Northrop Grumman team, last month announced a slew of Huntsville-based companies that have joined them to compete for the GMD development and sustainment contract.

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 31, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Some forward-operating bases in Afghanistan are about to get new occupants. Northrop Grumman today announced a contract for "providing personnel for operating" counter-rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) systems in that country.

The deal comes in the form of a $68 million task order under the Defense Information Systems Agency's Encore II contract. The task order has a potential value of $219 million over a one-year base period and two one-year options, according to the company's Aug. 31 statement.

The C-RAM capability in question has been fielded "to multiple FOBs in Iraq and is in the process of being installed in Afghanistan," the company said.

Army officials are eying an experimental C-RAM program, the Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS), as a potential workplace for the Container Launch Unit of the canceled Non-Line of Sight Launch System, Inside the Army reported this week.

C-RAM capabilities are bound to become more important in the future if the conclusions of a recent Defense Department wargame hold true. The drill concluded that the increasing availability of precision weapons to potential foes could pose serious problems for U.S. forces.

By John Liang
August 30, 2010 at 3:13 PM

The Commerce Department is announcing long-awaited reforms to the federal export control system at a conference this week, something applauded by the Aerospace Industries Association in a statement released this morning:

"We are very pleased by the progress the administration is making in reviewing the U.S. Munitions List," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. "The restructured list shows great promise in assigning the appropriate level of protection to technology exports across all levels of risk." 

In particular, the completed review of Category VII of the USML -- Tanks and Military Vehicles -- shows that about 74 percent of the 12,000 items licensed last year could have been safely processed under the less restrictive Commerce Control List. This indicates substantial potential savings in time and compliance costs to U.S. exporters in the future, with enormous benefits for our military and closest allies.

"The clarification and eventual consolidation of the Munitions and Commerce Control lists will have a dramatic impact on small- and medium-sized companies," Blakey said. "These companies rarely have the resources to ensure compliance with the current export control regime. Simplifying the system offers them the opportunity to be more competitive in the international marketplace."

The president's initiatives also include consolidating licensing policies, export enforcement and information technology systems to make the export control licensing system more efficient.

"These initiatives will greatly improve our national security," Blakey said. "Enhanced interoperability with friends and allies will increase our ability to defend our common interests, and better controls for truly sensitive items will help keep them out of the hands of our adversaries."

The current system was established during the Cold War, when many key war-fighting technologies were developed first by the United States and primarily by the government, White House National Security Adviser James Jones writes in an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. "Today, our military is more dependent on technology initially developed by private companies for commercial purposes. It is therefore critical to our national security that our export control system enhances, not undermines, the competitiveness of U.S. industry," he adds. Furthermore:

. . . The current system is the product of layers upon layers of regulations adopted over the last few decades, with very little distinction between relatively low-tech and widely available items and the most advanced proprietary technology. Going forward, our goal is to focus our efforts on the most critical technologies and items needed to defend ourselves against current and anticipated threats, and to place more emphasis on protecting them effectively.

The foundation of our new system will ultimately include a single control list that distinguishes in tiers between the most sensitive items and technologies and everything else; a single licensing policy to be applied across all agencies; a center to better coordinate the many agencies involved in export-control enforcement; and a single IT system to make sure decisions are fully informed.

The development of a single, tiered, positive control list will allow us to closely and efficiently scrutinize the export of our most sensitive items and more effectively deny exports to those who mean to do us harm.

At the same time, such a system will allow the export of other items under less restrictive conditions, helping to ensure that the U.S. government can move quickly to respond to the needs of allies and coalition partners. The current system often makes it difficult for allies and partners to have the key items necessary for today's operations. We can do better. For example, if we decide to share a weapons system with our partners, we shouldn't require them to seek a license for every spare part.

By John Liang
August 27, 2010 at 3:37 PM

The Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog today highlights a recent Congressional Research Service report on "rare earth elements" used in a whole bunch of applications -- from jet fighter engines to flat panel displays. 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 Dan Dupont
August 27, 2010 at 4:00 AM

The Pentagon announced last night that Raytheon has won a contract in the Excalibur 1B program. From the release:

Raytheon Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded on Aug. 25 a $22,781,932 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Excalibur 155mm increment 1B unitary warhead M982E1 Precision Enhancement Projectile Qualification Phase. Work is to be performed at Tucson, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2013. One bid was solicited with three received. ACC JM&L Contracting Center is the contracting activity (W15QKN-08-0530; Serial No. 1771).

More to come.

By Dan Dupont
August 26, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has issued another memo explaining his push for efficiency initiatives.

This follows an Aug. 16 memo that promised more guidance was forthcoming. It still is, but the new memo, dated Aug. 20, covers those initiatives that "require immediate guidance."

"These are initial steps in our effort to redirect overhead and support resources to more critical mission areas," he says.

The memo bullets five specific areas for immediate attention, covering the topics he laid out in the Aug. 16 memo and in earlier public remarks.

By John Liang
August 25, 2010 at 9:00 PM

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn is OK with the media's focus on the portion of the Foreign Affairs article he wrote that deals with his declassification of a purported hack of U.S. military computer systems in 2008 (although some analysts are beginning to doubt that the hack was a foreign spy attack). That said, during a defense bloggers' conference call earlier today, he sought to highlight the article's focus on his "five pillars" of defending against cyber attacks:

1. Recognize cyberspace as a new domain of warfare (highlighted by the Pentagon's establishment of the new U.S. Cyber Command earlier this year);

2. Be able to respond "at network speed" to future cyber attacks;

3. Extend cyber protection to the U.S. civilian critical infrastructure;

4. Increase shared warning with international partners; and

5. Maintain U.S. technical dominance of the cyber domain.

The Pentagon is in the process of developing  a formal strategic document "over the course of the fall," with completion planned by the end of the year, according to Lynn.

By Dan Dupont
August 25, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Sources confirm this morning that the Army has canceled the current request for proposals for the Ground Combat Vehicle, with the requirements for the program under review. More to come.

By John Liang
August 24, 2010 at 8:40 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recommendation to eliminate U.S. Joint Forces Command when lawmakers return from their August recess.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) agreed to a request from Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D) to hold the hearing in September, which in addition to the proposed JFCOM closure will also "cover the full range of efficiency initiatives announced by Secretary Gates Aug. 9, 2010," according to a statement from Webb's office released today.

"I commend Chairman Levin for agreeing to schedule this important hearing on the future of JFCOM and the additional efficiency initiatives announced by Secretary Gates," Webb, who chairs the personnel subcommittee, said in his statement. "Congress has an essential constitutional oversight role in such matters. I believe that further action by the president or Secretary Gates should be suspended until Congress has had ample opportunity to review the full scope of the Secretary’s actions."

In his Aug. 23 response to Webb's request, Levin wrote: "I share the secretary's objectives of reducing 'duplication, overhead, and excess in the defense enterprise,' and instilling 'a culture of savings and restraint' across the Department of Defense. At the same time, I agree that the far-reaching initiatives announced by the Secretary deserve close scrutiny from our Committee."

By Dan Dupont
August 24, 2010 at 3:59 PM

The Army's new Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Acquisition Strategy contains some eye-popping numbers on the juggernaut that is the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program.

Including all variants, the report states, the U.S. government has spent more than $40 billion to date on more than 25,000 MRAPs. That's 19,000 vehicles for the Army alone. All of the above were procured via 17 low-rate initial production contracts, the report states.

And a new Congressional Research Service report has more. Dated June 17, the report adds up all MRAP funds to date as such: "Through FY2010, Congress appropriated $34.95 billion for all versions of the MRAP. In March 2010, DOD reprogrammed an additional $3.9 billion from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund to MRAP procurement. Both the House and Senate have now approved an additional $1.2 billion for MRAP procurement included in the FY2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R.4899)."

Add to that the FY-11 DOD budget request of $3.4 billion for the MRAP Vehicle Fund and the total is well above $40 billion.

By John Liang
August 24, 2010 at 2:10 PM

The Missile Defense Agency's intercept test of the Airborne Laser Test Bed scheduled for early this morning was postponed again, according to an agency statement:

The planned experiment involving the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB) today is delayed because of unsuccessful tracking beam calibration engagements by the ALTB against an airborne diagnostic aircraft (surrogate target). The calibrations must be successfully completed prior to firing the aircraft's main directed energy beam.

The target missile was not launched. Program officials will determine the next opportunity to conduct the experiment.

The delay marks the fourth time MDA has had to delay its test of intercepting a boosting ballistic missile. As reported Aug. 17:

The agency was trying to intercept a boosting ballistic missile at a range twice the distance from the previous shoot-down in February, MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said yesterday before the shoot-down test. The test delay marks the second postponement within the last 30 days.

The intercept attempt had been scheduled to take place two weeks ago, but was postponed due to a problem with the stand that holds up the target missile, O'Reilly told reporters at an Aug. 17 Defense Writers Group breakfast. A follow-up attempt was scheduled for Sunday night, but a software glitch in one of the system's tracking modules pushed it back again to last night. The test window opened at around 1 a.m. EST, he added.

By Carlo Muñoz
August 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

This week's announcement that Iran has successfully developed an unmanned strike capability has raised the stakes in an already tenuous relationship between Tehran and Washington.

According to recent reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the weaponized aerial drone will be able to carry upwards of four cruise missiles, and strike targets within 620 miles. During the aircraft's unveiling ceremony on Sunday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the work on the program was "only the beginning" of the country's efforts to acquire next-generation weapon technology.

While many regional and military experts regard the announcement as mere posturing -- especially in light of the international pressure over Iran's nuclear program -- and question the aircraft's true capability, the notion that potential adversaries could field advanced unmanned weapons systems against U.S. forces has prompted DOD to take action.

In January, Inside the Pentagon reported that Pentagon officials were drafting a new concept of operations to address the threat of UAVs to U.S. forces. The concept focused on counter-UAS capabilities against small to medium tactical drones, as well as integrated air missile defense threats, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Alison McBain, chief of the counter-UAS branch at the Joint UAS Center of Excellence, said in a Jan. 12 interview.

Israel was forced to temporarily shut down all aerial operations when militants tied to the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah were able to field a crude UAV against Israeli forces during the country's war with Lebanon in 2006

By John Liang
August 23, 2010 at 4:39 PM

The Pentagon has set up "Aristotle," an internal social networking site for its science and technology community, according to a statement released earlier this month by the Defense Technical Information Center and posted on the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's website:

Aristotle provides a secure environment for scientists, engineers, researchers and program managers to network, create and collaborate with other experts in the S&T community.

Aristotle is a Web-based social media tool that adds a new dimension to professional social networking for DoD employees. Users not only network with other individuals; they can link to Topics, Projects and Documents. Aristotle provides situational awareness of the larger DoD S&T community. This powerful application helps S&T professionals do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Users can organize and share information, and collaborate with colleagues around the world on Projects; gather, prioritize and utilize information; and keep up-to-speed on developments in areas vital to their work. Through Aristotle, users have access to DTIC's technical reports and research summaries.

Federal government and DoD employees and their contractors must register with DTIC to access Aristotle. In addition to the security provided by the requirement to sign on with a userid and password or by using a registered Common Access Card (CAC), users can assign permissions to everything they create in or upload to Aristotle.