The Insider

By John Liang
August 13, 2010 at 3:19 PM

Colombian drug cartel leaders shouldn't think the United States will discontinue its narcotics interdiction flights off the coast of Colombia anytime soon. In a memo to the secretaries of state and defense this week, President Obama writes:

Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 1012 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995, as amended (22 U.S.C. 2291-4), I hereby certify, with respect to Colombia, that (1) interdiction of aircraft reasonably suspected to be primarily engaged in illicit drug trafficking in that country's airspace is necessary, because of the extraordinary threat posed by illicit drug trafficking to the national security of that country; and (2) that country has appropriate procedures in place to protect against innocent loss of life in the air and on the ground in connection with such interdiction, which shall at a minimum include effective means to identify and warn an aircraft before the use of force is directed against the aircraft.

The Secretary of State is authorized and directed to publish this determination in the Federal Register and to notify the Congress of this determination.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon notified Congress of a proposed $167 million sale of nine Black Hawk helicopters to Colombia. "This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in South America," the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

Last month, Inside the Pentagon reported that the Defense Department was formulating a new concept of operations and force-planning strategy for counternarcotics operations in Colombia, focusing those efforts on the premier air base in the country. Specifically:

"We are in review mode on what form the [military] construction is going to take and what the concept of operations . . . is going to be," said a military official in the region with knowledge of the plan.

"Both of those are in development and that work is ongoing," the official added.

While the official could not comment on when DOD expects to finalize the Colombian resourcing plan, the official noted those plans will center on future counternarcotics operations based out of Palanquero air base in Puerto Salgar.

The internal DOD work regarding the Colombian CONOPS and subsequent resourcing plan is based on "developing and defining what mission sets we would fly out of Palanquero, what the construction requirements would be to support those mission sets, how we would operate and that sort of thing."

Exactly how U.S. forces will conduct counterdrug missions from Palanquero will be guided, in part, by a defense cooperation agreement inked between the United States and Colombia last year.

According to the agreement, U.S. forces will be allowed to conduct counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations from Colombia for 10 years, with an option to extend the agreement another 10 years in 2019, another DOD official said at the time.

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 12, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Four Virginia congressmen -- Randy Forbes (R), Glenn Nye (D), Bobby Scott (D) and Rob Wittman (R) -- announced today that they will host a roundtable discussion next week on the Pentagon's plans to eliminate U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, VA. The session is slated for the afternoon of Aug. 18 at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk, VA.

Elected officials and other community and industry leaders directly impacted by the closing of the command have been invited, according the lawmakers' statement. The event will let lawmakers and local leaders to "discuss the impact of, and analyze ideas and prepare a collective response" to the closing of the command, the statement adds.

By John Liang
August 12, 2010 at 6:47 PM

With the Airborne Laser's next shoot-down attempt of a boosting ballistic missile target due to take place by the end of next month, the system recently went through a "continuing series of calibration and targeting tests," Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner tells Inside Missile Defense.

According to the FAA Notice to Airmen posted late last month:


The above notice refers to the time frame between July 23 and Aug. 1 in an area "out over the Pacific off Point Mugu and vicinity," Lehner said. No missile intercepts were attempted during the tests, he added.

The House Armed Services Committee in May approved a $50 million increase for directed-energy research and the Airborne Laser Test Bed program "to facilitate the testing and development of technologies that are most likely to yield operational capabilities in the future," strategic forces subcommittee Chairman James Langevin (D-RI) said.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Turner (R-OH) said at the time that he was "particularly pleased" with the ALTB funding increase. "It was clear that the budget request was not sufficient to support further flight testing using the Airborne Laser Test Bed as well as mature innovative directed energy technologies," he added.

By John Liang
August 12, 2010 at 6:28 PM

North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command recently promulgated a new policy for how to conduct experiments related to the organizations' missions.


This instruction establishes procedures for implementing the experimentation program within North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) in accordance with the references listed in Attachment 1. It details the procedures (experimentation proposal identification, submission, integration, coordination, and assessment) and staff responsibilities related to the NORAD and USNORTHCOM experimentation process (Attachment 2). This instruction applies to all NORAD and USNORTHCOM Headquarters staff, regions, subordinate commands, components, and any persons or entities working in the capacity of the Headquarters. It does not apply to National Guard and/or Reserve units that are not assigned, allocated, or apportioned to NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

By John Liang
August 12, 2010 at 3:35 PM

The Pentagon recently updated its doctrine on helping other countries' counterinsurgency efforts. According to the preface to "Joint Publication 3-22 on Foreign Internal Defense":

This publication has been prepared under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It sets forth joint doctrine to govern the joint activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in operations and provides the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination and for US military involvement in multinational operations while conducting or supporting FID. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders (JFCs) and prescribes joint doctrine for operations, education, and training. It provides military guidance for use by the Armed Forces in preparing their appropriate plans. It is not the intent of this publication to restrict the authority of the JFC from organizing the force and executing the mission in a manner the JFC deems most appropriate to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the overall objectives.

Last month, Inside the Army reported that officials at Joint Forces Command's Joint Irregular Warfare Center plan to offer a still-classified metrics scheme as their answer to the question of how the U.S. military would know whether its irregular-warfare missions are succeeding or failing. Specifically:

Work on the metrics program, conducted in concert with the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, began in response to a March 11, 2009, irregular warfare vision statement from JFCOM chief Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis. The document gave JIWC and JWAC 18 months to craft "measures of effectiveness that will facilitate and guide the joint force in the planning and execution" of irregular warfare, the document said. Mattis last week was nominated to take over U.S. Central Command.

As a starting point, officials picked a classified program used by a combatant command, JIWC Director James O'Connell told Inside the Army in a June 16 interview. The plan now is to "expand . . . the aperture of that program" and get other COCOMs and services to also adopt it, O'Connell said. A common set of metrics for irregular warfare outcomes would serve to help DOD officials gauge "where we are" as they plan and execute missions, he added.

O'Connell declined to describe the program identified by JFCOM or name the combatant command using it, citing the effort's classification. Whether the program would be applied to measure progress in Afghanistan is still undecided, he said.

DOD leaders believe irregular warfare, a term loathed by many civilian development specialists outside the military, will constitute the predominant form of conflict facing the United States in the future. In DOD nomenclature, sub-disciplines of IW are the fields of counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense and stability operations.

O'Connell suggested the metrics program's classification currently hinders it from being widely discussed by civilian experts and academics outside the military -- as it is customary with progress measures leaning heavily on development and nation-building. To that end, officials hope to make at least parts of the program unclassified within the next three to four months, according to O'Connell.

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 12, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he was not surprised when Virginia's governor and congressional delegation balked at the Pentagon's plans to close Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, VA.

"I think their concerns over the potential loss of jobs . . . are absolutely valid," Gates told reporters Aug. 12 while traveling. "And we're going to work very hard to limit the implications and to mitigate whatever consequences there are. This is a planning process that will go forward. Nothing is going to happen immediately, or in the very near future. So I think we have some time to work through this. But I think their concerns about jobs for their constituents are completely legitimate."

Gates announced Monday that the command would be eliminated within a year, prompting swift and strong condemnations from Virginia lawmakers who have vowed to fight the move. He also said Virginia might benefit from additional shipbuilding money should his proposed reforms work as hoped.

By John Liang
August 11, 2010 at 9:55 PM

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Buck McKeon (R-CA) doesn't like the fact that $3.3 billion in defense spending will go instead to fund education programs. According to the text of a floor statement he delivered yesterday:

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in opposition to this measure, which will increase domestic spending at the expense of national security. Specifically, the federal government will spend $10 billion for this teacher bailout, paid for in part with a $3.3 billion cut in defense programs. As the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I can assure you that the Department of Defense has need for these funds, including unfunded requirements related to our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I say this fully aware of the needs of our educational system, as the former Chairman and Ranking Member of Education and Labor.

Those in favor of this bill will say that this money was previously identified by the Department of Defense as unspent and available for higher priorities. This includes $683.5 million unspent from last year’s economic stimulus package and $325 million for military construction projects. They will use this argument to convince members that these cuts will not harm the Department and to assure you that this next bailout is fully paid for.

But this argument misses two larger points. First, as yesterday’s Military Times observed, ‘…diverting money from the defense budget to education programs would eliminate any opportunity for the Defense Department or Congress to take unobligated money from one defense program to spend on another defense program.’ For example, in the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, we used the unobligated balances for military construction projects to fund other more pressing infrastructure needs, such as barracks and armories, and many of the services’ unfunded requirements. Now these funds will no longer be available for these purposes and the services will have outstanding needs go unmet.

Second, rescissions to the DoD budget this late in the fiscal year are problematic and disruptive to operations. As the Department of Defense Comptroller has told the Armed Services Committee, this rescission will require that DoD restructure or postpone programs. I am confident the Department will try to avoid adverse effects on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but when this nation is fighting two wars, Congress should not be pulling the financial rug out from under DoD at the end of the year.

Moreover, while these funds were identified as ‘unspent’ earlier this year, some of these 'unspent' dollars have already been diverted to other defense programs. When we cut the original accounts now, it will mean that some of these accounts no longer have enough money in them. Think about your own checking account—at the beginning of the year, you see that you have $1,000 more than your budget says you’ll need. So you move $800 into another account or give it to one of your children. If the government comes and takes $1,000 from you at the end of the year, your remaining account balance may not be sufficient and you find yourself in an overdraft situation. In the case of government agencies, it is against the law to overdraft an account. We have been told that the Department of Defense may find itself in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act in some accounts.

Finally, I remain concerned that this is the beginning of a slippery slope. The Secretary of Defense has initiated an ongoing effort to generate $100 billion in savings within the Department of Defense over the next five years. Yesterday he announced a series of spending freezes and closures of organizations within his office and combatant commands. Secretary Gates plans on plowing these savings back into force structure and modernization accounts.

By Jason Sherman
August 11, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Is the Defense Department's security assistance program for Lebanon's armed forces indirectly aiding Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces? In the wake of last week's deadly clash between Israeli and Lebanese forces, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), House Armed Services Committee chairman, wants to know. The Missouri lawmaker sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates a letter today requesting that Pentagon officials brief him on how security assistance to Lebanon, which over the last five years has totaled $105.5 million, is advancing U.S. policy aims.

The "recent exchange of fire between Israeli and Lebanese armed forces along that border has me concerned that our policy with Lebanon may be counter-productive," Skelton writes:

First, I am concerned that the training and equipment we have provided the LAF for the purposes of counter-terror may in fact be used by the LAF against the Israelis.  I am also concerned of reports that the LAF is collaborating with Hezbollah and that Hezbollah is, as a result, an indirect recipient of our aid.

Yesterday, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, announced that on Aug. 2 he placed a hold on future U.S. military assistance to Lebanon:

I have been concerned for sometime about reported Hezbollah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and its implications for our military assistance program for Lebanon. For that reason, on August 2, I placed a hold on a $100 million dollar security assistance package to the LAF. The incident on the Israel-Lebanon border only one day after my hold was placed simply reinforces the critical need for the United States to conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military. I strongly condemn the unprovoked attacked by the Lebanese Army that resulted in the death of an Israeli officer. Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hezbollah influence on the LAF -- and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor -- I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon.

Steven Heydemann, a Middle East expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, told it is too early to tell whether Hezbollah played any role in last week's incident:

I would hope that the people raising the questions would think back to the purposes of why we are providing that aid in the first place, which is to strengthen the formal institutions of the Lebanese states and permit the Lebanese government to extend its sovereignty over all of its territory and to deny Hezbollah justification for maintaining a kind of independent non-state militia. So there is a broader strategic purpose that is served by providing military support to the Lebanese army. And I think it would be short sighted and counterproductive if we let an incident like this obscure what we are trying to achieve with that aid.

On June 14, the Defense Department notified Congress of its plans for a $23 million security assistance package for Lebanon using fiscal year 2010 funds. No lawmakers objected to that proposal over the subsequent 15 days, according to a Pentagon spokesman, which cleared DOD to press ahead with the assistance package for Beirut.

According to the Congressional Research Service, security assistance to Lebanon falls under so-called Section 1206 authority, which allows the defense secretary -- with the concurrence of the secretary of state -- to sponsor a program to build the capacity of a foreign nation's military in order to either participate in a military operation alongside U.S. forces or conduct counterterrorism operations, including:

For Lebanon, Section 1206 assistance first focused on helping the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to bring order to southern Lebanon and secure the country’s northern border in the wake of the July 2006 Israel strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon. FY2006 assistance bought spare parts for trucks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters. FY2007 assistance purchased trucks, secure communications equipment, vehicles and helicopter spare parts, spare parts for guns, and soldier equipment, including night vision goggles and body armor. FY2008 and FY2009 assistance has focused on equipment for Lebanese special operations forces. FY2008 items include secure communications equipment, as well as vehicles, night vision sights, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, vehicles and ambulances, small arms, clothing, textiles, and individual equipment. FY2009 Urban Solider Equipment items are intended to help Lebanese force conduct CT operations in an urban environment. This package includes bulldozers, Humvee ambulances, tactical armor vests, rifles, and night vision device rifle scopes. FY2009 funds are also supplying four Cessna Caravan aircraft, as well as related spare parts and training.

By John Liang
August 11, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Foreign defense contractors that want to work with the Pentagon while employing people with more than one passport have had no shortage of headaches when trying to comply with the U.S. government's export control policies, as a State Department notice in this morning's Federal Register states:

The current requirement for the provision of additional information within a license to cover dual national and third-country national foreign employees has created a tremendous administrative burden on approved end-users and has evolved into a human rights issue, which has become a focus of contention between the U.S. and allies and friends without a commensurate gain in national security.

Consequently, the State Department has changed the rule:

Based on available intelligence and law enforcement information, and given the current licensing requirements regarding access by dual or third country national employees, most diversions of U.S. Munitions List (USML) items appears to occur outside the scope of approved licenses, not within foreign companies or organizations providing access to properly screened dual national or third country national employees. This amendment will place the affirmative responsibility upon the foreign company, government, or international organization, with the understanding that by accepting the USML defense article, they must comply with the provisions of U.S. laws and regulations to prevent the possible diversion of U.S. defense articles and technology. This change, by no means, reduces the due diligence requirements of the applicant to ensure, to the best of their ability, that the end-use and end-user are consistent with the approved authorization. The Department views due diligence as a requirement for security clearances or other effective screening procedures as a condition for access to ITAR-controlled defense articles and technology.

As National Security Adviser James Jones said in June:

We should be striving for a system that prevents harmful exports while facilitating useful ones. Our current system is not meeting that objective. In fact, our system itself poses a potential national security risk based on the fact that its structure is overly complicated, contains too many redundancies, and tries to protect too much. In short, we are hard to work with. As Secretary Gates has often said, we need to have a "higher fence around a smaller yard."

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 10, 2010 at 6:35 PM

United Nations leaders are scheduled to announce tomorrow a $460 million relief program to deal with the Pakistan flooding disaster, according to a cable today from Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, that is being distributed in military and diplomatic circles.

According to the missive, the 90-day Pakistan Initial Flood Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP) will address seven sectors: food ($156 million), water, sanitation and hygiene ($110 million), shelter ($105 million) health ($56 million), logistics ($16 million), nutrition ($14million) and protection (less than $2 million).

After 30 days, officials would review the plan in light of “humanitarian needs and gaps,” the cable states.

The missive asks recipients to keep the information “on close hold” until tomorrow, when UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes is expected to announce the plan in New York.

The relief plan follows an initial position by the Pakistani government, which “questioned the duration of the U.N. plan for emergency flood relief and also required that the U.N. scale back the plan to limit the clusters involved and to deal only with relief and not early recovery,” the cable states.

As for the role of the U.S. military in the disaster, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters flew eight relief flights yesterday, delivering goods and evacuating 565 flood victims, according to the cable. That brings the total number of helicopter sorties to 40, with 221,000 pounds of supplies delivered and 2,305 victims evacuated to the city of Khwazakhela, according to Patterson's cable.

In a briefing with donors in Pakistan today, U.N. officials stressed that “a nationwide response” is necessary to deal with the crisis, Patterson's cable states. Also needed is an “emergency response capability” in the provinces Sindh and Punjab, where such capabilities are “nascent at best,” according to the document.

“[W]hile access is is not the issue in Punjab and Sindh, the sheer number of affected individuals -- estimated to be more than 8.8 million collectively -- will create significant problems in the coming weeks,” the cable states.

U.N. officials plan to set up a command and control center “at an Islamabad hotel” to manage the crisis, the missive adds.

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 10, 2010 at 2:29 PM

EADS North America said today its CEO, Sean O’Keefe, was a passenger on a private aircraft that crashed in Alaska last night.

Local authorities are reporting that there are survivors and a rescue operation is under way. "No other details are available at this time," said Guy Hicks, EADS North America spokesman.

CNN is reporting Ted Stevens, the former Republican senator from Alaska, was also a passenger on the plane.

(UPDATE 3 p.m.: CNN is now reporting that Stevens was killed in the crash. Reuters is reporting that O'Keefe survived.)

By Dan Dupont
August 9, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Asked today what will happen to Gen. Ray Odierno, who has been nominated to take over as commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, if JFCOM is dissolved, Gates said he has talked to the general (now in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq) and Odierno is on board with the move, which Gates estimates will take about a year. After that? Gates quipped that just as was the case in Iraq, Odierno's responsibility is to work himself out of a job, and then Gates will find him another one.

By Dan Dupont
August 9, 2010 at 6:13 PM

Reports of U.S. Joint Forces Command's impending demise were all it took for Virginia lawmakers to step into action, calling an "emergency" press conference for today at 4:00:

Washington, D.C. – Governor Bob McDonnell, Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04), Congressman Glenn Nye (VA-02), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), and Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) will hold an urgent press conference today to discuss Secretary Robert Gates’ announcement today of plans to eliminate Joint Forces Command. The press conference will be held at 4:00 p.m. at the Webb University Center at Old Dominion University.


Governor Bob McDonnell

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04)

Congressman Glenn Nye (VA-02)

Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03)

Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01)

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told reporters Virginia may stand to gain more than it loses from JFCOM's demise if he is successful in cutting what he hopes to cut in many areas. How? According to Gates, a few billion dollars for more Navy shipbuilding may be in the offing if the cuts are permitted.

By John Liang
August 9, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Until the Pentagon completes its restructuring of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and has a better idea of what its future tactical aircraft requirements will be -- and until it knows more about what unmanned aircraft and bombers can bring to the table -- "it will be difficult for DOD to make informed investments in legacy aircraft upgrades and modernizations, and new aircraft procurements," a new GAO report released today states.


GAO suggests that Congress consider requiring that costs associated with modernizing and sustaining the legacy fleet be included in future investment plans, and recommends that DOD 1) better define requirements and the size and severity of projected shortfalls, 2) clearly articulate how systems like unmanned aircraft are accounted for, and 3) complete a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis of options for addressing expected shortfalls. DOD agreed with the second recommendation and partially agreed with the others, citing current and planned actions. GAO believes its recommendations remain valid.

UPDATE (2:40 p.m.): Bloomberg News is reporting that Boeing may get an extra $7 billion "to extend the use of the Navy's older fleet of F/A-18 jets, partly because of delays in Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters," quoting the GAO report.

By John Liang
August 9, 2010 at 5:37 PM

At least one analyst is downplaying the notion in the news last week that China's new missile could be a "carrier killer." As the Associate Press reported last week:

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China -- an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

But Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute doesn't seem to think so. In a blog entry posted today, he writes:

I haven't seen the intelligence reports, so maybe all the alarm is warranted. But I doubt it. China has yet to conduct a single realistic test of the conventionally-armed ballistic missile. Even if it performs as feared, there is a glaring omission in all the threat mongering: the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has no reliable way of actually targeting U.S. carrier task forces when they are at sea. No matter how accurate the new missile's guidance system may be, Chinese military commanders need to know where to aim it -- especially since a near miss with a conventional warhead has pretty much the same military value as missing by a hundred miles. So how exactly is the PLA supposed to find U.S. carriers, when they are constantly moving and actively excluding hostile forces from their immediate vicinity?

The answer is that it can't. "Four and a half acres of sovereign U.S. territory" -- the way carrier proponents often describe flattops -- may sound like a huge target, but in fact it is a mere speck in the vast expanses of the Western Pacific. For example, the modestly-sized South China Sea that Beijing keeps trying to claim for itself contains over a million square miles of water, in which a carrier can easily hide. And that's only a small part of the East Asia littoral. I calculated a decade ago that to acquire continuous target-quality information for the entire South China Sea, the PLA would need over a hundred low-earth-orbit reconnaissance satellites moving in three parallel tracks. At the moment, China only has a handful of such satellites, and as a result most of the time its overhead sensors aren't anywhere near areas of interest. It also has over-the-horizon radars and roaming submarines, plus a fleet of reconnaissance aircraft, but these do not add up to the seamless targeting network the PLA would need to track and attack a U.S. carrier.