The Insider

By John Liang
July 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At a House Army Caucus breakfast earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates previewed the near future for operations in Afghanistan:

The next few months will be hard, especially as we clear and hold areas where we have not had a persistent presence, and as we attack an enemy that has, over the past few years, become more battle-hardened, lethal, and media-savvy. As with our troop increase in Iraq in 2007, we expect violence to increase before signs of progress and positive momentum start to show -- hopefully by sometime next summer.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "will continue to affect the state of the Army for years to come," Gates said.

And, despite the stress of the two wars, the secretary said the Army would be able to meet its recruiting and retention goals "much earlier than planned."

As for long-term strategy, Gates said:

There is little doubt that the security challenges we now face, and will in the future, have changed -- and our thinking must likewise change. It simply will not do to base our defense strategy solely on continuing to design and buy -- as we have for the last 60 years -- only the most technologically advanced versions of weapons to keep up with or stay ahead of a superpower adversary, especially one that has been gone for nearly a generation.

We have to invest in new concepts and new technologies and take into account all the assets and capabilities we can bring to the fight. We have to measure those capabilities against the real threats posed by real-world adversaries with real limitations, not threats conjured up from enemies with unlimited time, unlimited resources, and unlimited technological acumen. And we have to prepare to wage future wars and break the habit of rearming for previous ones.

Some have called for yet more analysis before making any of the decisions in this budget. Or cited varying definitions of “requirements” in defense of the status quo. A number of the arguments I’ve heard remind me of the line about those who use statistics the way a drunken man uses a lamp post -- for support rather than illumination.

By Marcus Weisgerber
July 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

There has been a lot of buzz around Washington, and abroad, about a July 23 Congressional Quarterly article that says the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will need two years of additional work. Several blogs have written about the story and at one point it even appeared on the Drudge Report.

What the industry grunts, lobbyists and bloggers seem to have forgotten is that Inside the Air Force reported this news eight months ago. To quote our lede:

“Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has directed the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to all but disregard a recent assessment by a highly esteemed team of military cost estimators that concludes the Joint Strike Fighter program requires two additional years of testing and development -- and a staggering $15 billion more than is currently programmed over the next six years.”

This all stems back to a 2008 analysis by the Joint Estimate Team (JET), a group of “independent” military cost analysts. ITAF reviewed an internal Air Force document that listed the team's findings. The CQ story references the same report, but quotes “congressional aides familiar with the findings.”

At the time, our story received a bit of bounce, appearing in the Pentagon's Early Bird roundup of defense-related news, in addition to being referenced in a number of defense blogs and newspapers, including the Ft. Worth Star Telegram (the story on the newspaper's Web site has been archived, but it has been reposted here).

What's more, the CQ piece claims the JET prognosis was kept a secret at a time when the Senate just voted to end F-22A production. Not the case. Former Pentagon acquisition czar John Young discussed the numbers with ITAF in November 2008. He also discussed the report with Bloomberg News here.

By Sebastian Sprenger
July 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) today called on Defense Department leaders to consider the equipment needs of the National Guard during the drawdown of forces in Iraq.

Current Defense Department plans envision a portion of U.S. gear being left behind and/or given to the Iraqi government when American troops begin leaving the country in large numbers next year.

"If it makes sense, some of that equipment should return to the U.S. to fill the stocks of our National Guard units" so these units are capable of responding to domestic disaster, Skelton said in a statement.

In a letter to National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Craig McKinley, Skelton asked for "information about any current shortage of equipment, caused by ongoing operations, which would slow the response to any significant natural disaster."

The assessment comes in the wake of a request by the Pentagon to not only leave worn-out excess gear behind, but also $750 million worth of equipment that would additionally be given to the Iraqi government.

As we noted in this story today, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) this week pitched the idea of crafting an inventory list of no-longer-needed DOD equipment, from which states and local communities could order items they deem useful for their disaster preparedness efforts.

By John Liang
July 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

An intercept test of the Arrow Weapon System last night was aborted when it encountered problems while still on the ground, according to a Missile Defense Agency statement:

The target missile was dropped from a C-17 aircraft and represented a future ballistic missile threat. The radar detected the target and transferred its tracks to the battle management control center. The AWS and the BMDS elements exchanged data in real-time on the target. Not all test conditions to launch the Arrow Interceptor were met, and it was not launched. Interoperability objectives, including a simulated intercept by the Aegis destroyer, USS Benfold (DDG 65), were achieved. Results are being analyzed by the program engineers.

While the MDA statement said only that the test took place "at a missile test range in the United States," The Associated Press reported that it took place off the California coast.

When asked what those test conditions were, an MDA spokesman told Inside Missile Defense in a short e-mail that those conditions were "still under review. Nothing more to add now."

According to MDA's statement:

The test also exercised the Arrow Weapon System interoperability with other elements of the U. S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), including the Terminal High Altitude Area (THAAD) Program, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Program and the Patriot (PAC-3) Program.

At a breakfast with reporters last month, MDA Director and Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly offered a brief preview of the intercept test:

Part of that test will be to test against a missile that is in the range of over 1000 kilometers. One reason they're in the Pacific is, they're limited to the range of missiles that can test in the Eastern Mediterranean; there is a safety issue regarded there, so that's the primary purpose of them coming to the United States to use our test range. . . .

This upcoming test though, it also provides us the opportunity to have the Patriot System, the THAAD system and the Aegis system, all interacting with the Arrow system so we are demonstrating full interoperability as we execute this test. The systems as we were referring to them before, when they work together, they provide sensor data earlier and it's a very, very good test of our coalition architecture that we could deploy in that part of the world that would provide very powerful missile defense.

By Sebastian Sprenger
July 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

According to a decision issued yesterday, the Government Accountability Office found no evidence that a Rumsfeld-era Defense Department public outreach program involving retired military officers violated anti-propaganda statutes.

The scope of the review rested on three questions, according to a letter from acting GAO General Counsel Daniel Gordon to Congressional leaders: Did the program aim to hide the source of information presented, was it "purely partisan in nature," or did it constitute "self-aggrandizement?"

According to Gordon's letter, the answer is no.

But the missive is careful to note the limited scope of the review. Not examined, for example, were the business ties of analysts involved in the program.

Despite the program's legality from an anti-propaganda standpoint, Gordon's letter includes a piece of advice for the Pentagon's public affairs apparatus:

"While DOD understandably values its ties with retired military officers, we believe that, before undertaking anything along the lines of the now-terminated program at issue in this decision, DOD should consider whether it needs to have additional policies and procedures in place to protect the integrity of, and public confidence in, its public affairs efforts and to ensure the transparency of its public relations activities."

Meanwhile, the DOD inspector general also will weigh in on the issue in an upcoming report.

By Jason Sherman
July 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Retired Sen. John Warner (R-VA), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is calling for Senate's Armed Services and Intelligence committees to have a key role in formulating climate change legislation, sister publication Carbon Control News reports. This recommendation, the online news service reports in its blog -- In the Air -- ” reflects a growing push by cap-and-trade proponents to cast the climate change debate as a national security priority.”

Warner was a key sponsor of climate change legislation during the last Congress, and since having left the Senate in 2008 he has become spokesman for the newly formed Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate.

Speaking July 22 at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Warner also said the foreign relations panel chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) should be the central committee driving the climate bill through the Senate. Approximately six committees currently claim jurisdiction over pending climate change legislation, and Warner's suggestion would further broaden that process.

Kerry said Warner's idea “is an excellent suggestion we will follow up on,” and told reporters that national security implications of climate change will likely be a feature of the final bill. He stopped short, however, of promising a full national security title as suggested by Warner.

Backing a role for the military in U.S. climate policy, Warner said “they deserve a title in this bill,” in light of the role the Defense Department is likely to play in responding to climate change exacerbated natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world.

By John Liang
July 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Adm. Timothy Keating, head of U.S. Pacific Command, was asked during a Pentagon briefing today for his assessment of the military-to-military component of U.S.-China relations. Keating, whose tour of duty ends in three months if the Senate confirms his replacement (Pacific Fleet head Adm. Robert Willard), said he would be attending a meeting next week between Defense and State department officials to discuss U.S.-China relations.

"The mil-to-mil dialogue with China is not robust right now," Keating said, adding:

It has been essentially on hold since our latest announcement of Taiwan arms sales in October of 2008. I've not been to Beijing in over a year, nor has any senior military leader been to Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii in that same time.

As you're well aware, Michele Flournoy just returned from senior- level discussions with colleagues and counterparts in China. We hope that this is a clear signal on the part of the Chinese of their intention to resume pure military-to-military dialogue.

I am not scheduled to go to Beijing, for what it's worth. I do think, however, that Admiral Bob Willard, presuming Senate confirmation, after he takes command, will go to China in -- I don't know, sometime maybe into 2010.

So we would rather have more frequent dialogue. We would have -- more importantly, we'd rather have more robust dialogue, something substantive. There's plenty of substance to discuss. Right now it's not going on.

Inside the Pentagon reported last week that a planned meeting scheduled for this month between U.S. and Chinese naval officers to discuss avoiding dangerous incidents at sea had been delayed:

After conducting Defense Consultative Talks in China in late June, Pentagon policy chief Michèle Flournoy told reporters in Beijing that U.S. and Chinese naval officials would meet in July. But that is no longer expected because both sides are still in the midst of scheduling the session.

“There is still no firm date,” Defense Department spokeswoman Maj. Maureen Schumann told Inside the Pentagon, noting this is still being worked out. The talks “will not be held this month,” she said.

“Looks like it won’t be in July,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Breslau added. But the commitment to meet remains.

The meeting would be a “special” session held under the 1998 Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) between the two countries. Unlike annual plenary or working group MMCA meetings, special sessions are convened to address specific matters of concern.

For his part, Keating today still held out hope that such a meeting could take place soon:

We hope that the MMCA -- Military Maritime Consultative Agreement -- meets in the near future. It was agreed to by China and by the United States Department of Defense, precise scheduling not certain. It's an important dialogue in a relatively narrow sense of MMCA; in a broader sense, mil to mil with Pacific Command. We hope that it is invigorated sooner than later.

By Marcus Weisgerber
July 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senators are putting on quite a show as floor debate on an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill that would end F-22A production at 187 aircraft has concluded.

In his closing argument, the Raptor's strongest supporter, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), said: “The folks at the Pentagon are watching this vote. The White House is watching this vote. The Chinese are watching this vote!”

The Republican, whose state is home to Lockheed Martin's F-22A final assembly facility, also went on to name several Chinese aerospace companies that are developing fifth-generation fighter jets for Beijing.

Senators are voting now. Stand by.

By Jason Sherman
July 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

That's how President Obama framed the fight over continued funding of the Air Force plane in comments from the Rose Garden, thanking the Senate for passing an amendment to block additional spending for the F-22 in fiscal year 2010.

Long before I took this office, I argued that meeting our greatest challenges would require not only changing policies in Washington, but changing the way we do business in Washington. I also promised that part of that change would be eliminating waste and inefficiency in our defense projects -- reform that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will do whatever it takes to defend the American people, which is why we’ve increased our funding for our military, and why we will always give our men and women in uniform the equipment and support that they need to get the job done.

But I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on outdated and unnecessary defense projects to keep this nation secure. That's why I’ve taken steps to greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts. That's why I've signed overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to limit cost overruns on weapons systems before they spiral out of control. And that's why I'm grateful that the Senate just voted against an additional $1.75 billion to buy F-22 fighter jets that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need.

At a time when we’re fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, this would have been an inexcusable waste of money. Every dollar of waste in our defense budget is a dollar we can’t spend to support our troops, or prepare for future threats, or protect the American people. Our budget is a zero-sum game, and if more money goes to F-22s, it is our troops and citizens who lose.

So I want to thank Secretary Gates for his outspoken leadership on this issue. I want to thank every member of Congress who put politics aside to do what’s right for the American military and the American taxpayers. And I particularly want to thank Senators Levin and McCain for helping to make this happen.

By Marcus Weisgerber
July 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A vote on an amendment introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) that would remove funding for Lockheed Martin F-22A purchases in the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill remains in limbo.

At the current time, no vote has been scheduled; however, reports indicate Senators could vote on the amendment at some point this evening. Right now the chamber is debating a separate hate crimes amendment.

The top Democrat and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee introduced the amendment a week ago, but, the measure was withdrawn so lawmakers could debate the hate crimes amendment.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) -- whose constituently includes the Raptor final assembly facility -- inserted $1.75 billion into the FY-10 defense authorization bill to buy seven aircraft. Authorization and appropriations panels in the House also have included money for more F-22As in mark-ups of their respective FY-10 defense bills, despite a stern veto threat from the White House.

At the same time, a group of Democrats -- including Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry -- have said they would support future F-22A purchases. Several of the Raptor's mission systems -- including its electronic warfare suite; communication, navigation and identification low-observable apertures; multi-spectral countermeasures; and stores management system -- are built by BAE Systems just across the Massachusetts border in Nashua, NH.

Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued his argument against buying more F-22As, noting the Lockheed-run F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will generate tens-of-thousands of jobs over the next two years.

“What I have not heard is a substantive reason for adding more aircraft in terms of our strategic needs,” Gates said during a briefing this afternoon at the Pentagon.

By John Liang
July 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Chicago last night defending the Obama administration's efforts to curb spending on programs like the F-22A Raptor and missile defense.

"We stand at a crossroads," he told the Economic Club of Chicago, adding:

We simply cannot risk continuing down the same path -- where our spending and program priorities are increasingly divorced from the very real threats of today and the growing ones of tomorrow. These threats demand that all of our nation’s leaders rise above the politics and parochialism that have too often plagued considerations of our nation's defense -- from industry to interest groups, from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. The time has come to draw a line and take a stand against the business-as-usual approach to national defense. We must all fulfill our obligation to the American people to ensure that our country remains safe and strong. Just as our men and women in uniform are doing their duty to this end, we in Washington must now do ours.

Gates reiterated the administration's promise to veto any defense legislation that includes funding for more F-22As.

"The reaction from parts of Washington has been predictable," he said, adding:

The most substantive criticism is that completing the F-22 program means we are risking the future of U.S. air supremacy. To assess this risk, it is worth looking at real-world potential threat and assessing the capabilities that other countries have now or in the pipeline.

Consider that by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 of the most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful of comparable aircraft for the Chinese. Nonetheless, some portray this scenario as a dire threat to America's national security.


If the Department of Defense can’t figure out a way to defend the United States on a budget of more than half a trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by buying a few more ships and planes.

By Dan Dupont
July 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Times are tough all over. Boeing and SAIC, lead contractors on the Future Combat Systems program, announced today they are taking steps to cut personnel in the wake of the Pentagon's decision to cancel the FCS ground vehicles.

From Boeing's statement:

Due to the decision by the Pentagon directing the U.S. Army to restructure the FCS program, as well as related funding reductions anticipated in fiscal year 2010, Boeing and its partner SAIC will be reducing their combined work force by approximately 30 percent. Boeing will begin issuing 60-day advance layoff notices to its employees today, July 17, at several sites nationwide. Approximately 70 Boeing employees will receive notices today. Additional notices are expected to be issued on July 31.

Boeing and SAIC are committed to preserving as many jobs as possible for these valued, highly skilled employees and the companies are taking aggressive steps to lessen the impact of the funding reductions. These steps include making every effort to redeploy FCS personnel to other programs within Boeing and SAIC, as well as reassessing contract labor requirements. The companies will work with affected employees to help them through this transition by offering career services and other assistance.

Boeing and SAIC are committed to working closely with their Army customer to implement required changes to the program in a timely and efficient manner. They will continue to support the Army in delivering these important networked capabilities to soldiers as soon as possible.

Much more on FCS can be found on our Combat Vehicles page, and in next week's Inside the Army.

By Jason Sherman
July 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has tapped Tom Ehrhard -- an unmanned aircraft expert, strategic analyst and retired Air Force colonel -- to be a special assistant, according to a July 16 internal Air Force announcement. Ehrhard returns to the Pentagon after a stint as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. His last post in the Pentagon was as military assistant to Andrew Marshall, director of Net Assessment.

Ehrhard likely will deal with many familiar faces on his return to the Pentagon, particularly former colleagues from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who now hold a variety of influential posts, including: Robert Work, the under secretary of the Navy; Michael Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities; Andrew Krepinevich, the CSBA president who was named last month to the Defense Policy Board by Defense Secretary Robert Gates; and Steven Kosiak, who oversees the Pentagon's budget at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

By Sebastian Sprenger
July 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still trying to figure out how the U.S. defense bureaucracy must change to account for the fact that potential adversaries can easily and inexpensively arm themselves with commercial technology.

The technology need not be sophisticated to be effective, as recent operations have shown. In the case of improvised explosive devices, violent extremists used cell phones, garage door openers and other devices to serve as crude triggers.

The amount of effort the IED threat has sparked at DOD, monetarily and organizationally, has been astounding. Many officials have described the fight as a true poster child for "asymmetric warfare" -- the kind of conflict defense leaders believe is here to stay.

In recent years, officials have kicked around several suggestions for how to react. The discussion has centered around two essential questions: Does DOD need one organization in charge of rapidly fielding asymmetric countermeasures, or does it need many?

Opponents of the consolidation option fear the gains in fielding speed generated by one organization in charge could quickly evaporate as that organization grows in size and bureaucratic overhead.

Those advocating a centralized rapid-fielding shop argue the current multitude of offices, initiatives and programs produces too much overlap and misses out on potential synergies.

A new Defense Science Board report could provide ammunition for those favoring a single organization in charge. As we reported yesterday, the document proposes a Rapid Acquisition and Fielding Agency (RAFA), whose three-star director would report directly to the Pentagon acquisition chief.

The idea, and even the acronym, may sound familiar to our readers. In a separate DSB study, published in the spring and titled "Capability Surprise," panel members called for a Rapid Capability Fielding Office, or RCFO, with similar goals.

University of Maryland Professor Jacques Gansler, a former DOD acquisition chief and frequent Pentagon consultant, was task force chairman for the DSB study released this week. He was a member of the "Institutional Process Change" working group during the panel's study of capability surprise, as we noted in February.

By Jason Sherman
July 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition executive, met with CEOs from more than a dozen defense firms to break bread last week, the Boston Globe reports today. His message: Let's get along, OK?

I am not a believer that industry is an enemy of the government. That's how we arm ourselves in this country. We don't have a government arms industry. We buy from private industry. We can't do it without industry. I just had dinner Thursday night with the CEOs of all the top 15 defense companies and I said that to them. I want to have an open, non-antagonistic relationship where we work together. If we can align our interests so I get done what I need to do for the warfighter and the taxpayer and you get done what you need for your business. We can't always do that, but we're not always headed in opposite directions either.