The Insider

By Marcus Weisgerber
June 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Only a handful of members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee showed up to hear the Air Force leadership lay their plans for fiscal year 2010 during a hearing on Capitol Hill this morning.

Despite the scarce attendance, there certainly was not a lack of questions for Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, particularly from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).

As you can imagine, the duo who serve as Boeing's most vocal supporters in the House had many questions about the service's KC-X next-generation tanker competition. Unfortunately, the top two service leaders provided no new insight on a release date for the latest request for proposals or the criteria that will be used to determine a new winner. Who will serve as the source selection authority also is still up in the air.

“We hope to take the work we've developed thus far to the secretary very soon and to have him give us his direction on how to proceed,” Donley said. “We are hopeful that the new request for proposals will be out on the street this summer.”

I At one point toward the end of the hearing, Dicks and Tiahrt went back and fourth in almost rapid fire succession arguing that the industrial base in the United States should be taken into account when selecting a winner.

Dicks served as the acting chairman in the absence of subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA). Ranking Member C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) -- who also did not attend the hearing -- along with Murtha did pop in literally as Schwartz was walking out the hearing room door with his entourage.

By Jason Sherman
June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has tapped Rep. John McHugh, a Republican lawmaker from upstate New York and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, to be Army secretary, according to numerous press reports citing a senior administration official.

McHugh, a nine-term lawmaker, knows the Army well. His district -- New York's 23rd – includes Fort Drum, home to the Army's light infantry 10th Mountain Division. Before becoming the lead Republican on the House defense authorization committee, he was ranking member of the panel's military personnel subcommittee.

Obama is scheduled to make the announcement at 11:55 a.m., an event that will bet met by a collective sigh of relief by many in the Army who were concerned at the early candidacy of a retired Marine Corps general -- Arnold Punaro -- for the SECARMY post.

UPDATE: The White House issued the following statement from the president.

Today, I am proud to announce John McHugh as the next Secretary of the Army. John is a distinguished public servant who will help keep us safe and keep our sacred trust with our soldiers and their families. He is committed to keeping America’s Army the best-trained, the best-equipped, the best-led land force the world has ever seen. As Secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time. And John shares my belief that a sustainable national security strategy must include a bipartisan consensus at home, and he brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won him respect on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.

By Thomas Duffy
June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee right now is holding a hearing on the nominations of three general officers who, if confirmed, will take over very important combatant-commander positions. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal would receive a fourth star and assume command of the International Security Assistance Force and commander, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan. Navy Adm. James Stavridis would become head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. And Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser would get his fourth star and become commander, U.S. Southern Command.

McChrystal, who has extensive counterinsurgency experience, just told committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) that he could not put a "hard date" on how long the allied counterinsurgency campaign will last in Afghanistan. "We do have to make progress in 18 to 24 months," McChrystal said. U.S. casualties will go up as the allied operation increases, he added.

McCain asked McChrystal what lessons learned from Iraq could be applied to Afghanistan. "A classic counterinsurgency campaign, well resourced, is needed," McChrystal replied.

You can read the answers to questions posed by the committee before the hearing that were provided by McChrystal, Stavridis and Fraser here, here and here.

By Marjorie Censer
June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army announced today the official halt to its plan to add three brigade combat teams in adherence with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to keep the number at 45 BCTs, not the anticipated 48.

Additionally, the Army said in today's announcement, it will soon provide Congress “a detailed, project-by-project list that specifies which facility requirements have changed and which remain valid.”

Three installations -- Ft. Bliss, TX; Ft. Carson, CO; and Ft. Stewart, GA -- will no longer receive additional brigade combat teams, according to the announcement.

Additionally, the service said today that White Sands Missile Range, NM, will no longer receive a BCT from Europe in fiscal year 2013, as originally planned.

The halt to BCT growth “is the least disruptive ((course of action)) to affected communities and facilitates the best use of taxpayer dollars and current and planned fiscal ((year)) 2009 and fiscal ((year)) 2010 military construction projects,” the announcement adds.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Adm. James Stavridis, nominated to head U.S. European Command, today told the Senate Armed Services Committee about an interesting development from his current area of responsibility at U.S. Southern Command.

When the discussion during his confirmation hearing before the panel turned to counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan -- which he would help oversee as EUCOM chief -- Stavridis said this:

I could add, Senator, worth noting that we're in conversations at ((SOUTHCOM)) with our Colombian friends about the possibility of Colombian military engagement in Afghanistan. So that, if it comes to fruition, is a very direct and personal venue to have soldiers who have had experience in both counterinsurgency and counternarcotics transferring some of those lessons learned.

By Christopher J. Castelli
June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review will be “messy,” but that will not stop the Pentagon from consulting key allies and partners during the process, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said over the weekend.

In a May 30 speech in Singapore, Gates said new strategic realities will play a central role as the United States undergoes a number of policy reviews this year, including the QDR and NPR.

“These documents will lay out our view of the threats and challenges to our nation, and how that will be reflected in our future defense procurement and spending strategies,” he added.

Gates then predicted messiness and pledged openness.

“While it is at times a messy process, it will be an open and transparent exercise -- so that no one will get the wrong idea about our intentions,” he said. “We will consult with key allies and partners. And we will articulate our strategy clearly. It is our hope that this effort can be an example of the power of openness and its ability to reduce miscommunication and the risk of competitive arms spending.”

The reviews will help America pursue whole-of-government approaches that offer the only solution to the vexing security challenges of the modern era, Gates said.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization's recently released annual report includes a line in its "Way Ahead" section that piqued our interest.

"JIEDDO will participate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Capability Portfolio Management Process to oversee transition of initiatives into programs of record and enduring Service capabilities," it states there.

The CPM initiative, created by former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, is akin to a second set of eyes on the services' resource allocation plans. Each of the nine CPM teams can submit so-called issue papers to defense leaders if they believe certain service budget plans run counter to DOD-wide interests.

The report offers no reason to believe JIEDDO officials aren't talking extensively to the services when it comes to determining what counter-IED projects should be handed off to which service. But are they going the extra mile to also engage through the CPM process, as the document suggests?

Apparently not. When pressed, a JIEDDO spokeswoman said there are no formal processes set up for routing JIEDDO transition plans through the CPM assessment teams.

By Sebastian Sprenger
June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department should cooperate more closely with China in the area of science and technology, according to a March 2009 National Defense University paper presented at a conference of DOD international acquisition experts late last month.

"It is in the long-term interest of DOD to proactively seek out opportunities to engage in fundamental scientific collaborations with the top academic institutions in China," wrote William Berry, a researcher at NDU's Center for Technology and National Security Policy. "Through such collaborations we will learn new scientific techniques and strategies, avoid technological surprise, and develop beneficial working relationships that will enhance our economic and national security," the paper states.

According to Berry, China is expected to achieve world-class status in many areas of the life and physical sciences within 15 years, likely surpassing the United States.

Potential areas for cooperation include nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and fuel technologies, Berry wrote.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a handy pamphlet yesterday that explains what can be said publicly about the structure of America’s intelligence apparatus.

Over 114 pages, the document describes the big players in the intelligence world, like the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Reconnaissance Office. It also devotes a few lines to lesser-known organizations like DIA’s Underground Facilities Analysis Center (UFAC) or the National Media Exploitation Center (NMEC).

To be sure the public knows what to expect of the intelligence community, and perhaps in response to the bad press that followed the revelation of harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects, the document includes a section about what America’s spies can and cannot do.

In the “can-do” category, there are plenty of buzzwords that have to do with providing “situational awareness” or “long-term strategic assessments.” Here, the document also makes note of the classified Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which serves as the central U.S. repository for information about known or suspected terrorists (KSTs).

What can’t the intelligence community do? Two things, according to the document:

“Predict the future” and “violate U.S. law or the U.S. Constitution”

No surprises there.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The issue of cybersecurity pretty much dominates the discussions around information and communications technology (ICT) these days. A new Pentagon instruction shines the spotlight on another longstanding issue in the ICT community: information sharing with civilian organizations during stabilization and reconstruction operations.

The April 30 document, for the first time, clarifies how defense officials should use their IT gear to help civilian organizations plug into unclassified military information networks set up during disaster relief and reconstruction operations.

Here are some core points of the new instruction:

  • “Extension of bandwidth to or sharing of existing available bandwidth with civil-military partners is permitted to enable connection to or provision of Internet service and voice capability.
  • “Where circumstances require temporary cellular network services to be installed for DoD elements, these services may be extended for interim use by non-DoD partners until local services are re-established.
  • “The military departments and defense agencies will ensure that ICT wireless equipment complies with existing domestic, regional, and international frequency spectrum allocations and regulations for interference free operations.”

Many details are covered in the document itself.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama signed a memo this week that calls for addressing the government’s tendency to classify too much information. Among the steps being mulled, according to the memo, is “the possible restoration of the presumption against classification, which would preclude classification of information where there is significant doubt about the need for such classification.”

Read the memo.

By Jason Sherman
May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon has notified Congress of potential foreign arms sales worth $1.2 billion, including upgrades to fighter aircraft, new attack helicopters and ship-based missiles for Egypt and South Korea.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon arm that works with the State Department to oversee foreign sales of military equipment, has announced three separate potential arms sales packages to a key U.S. partner in the Middle East and an U.S. ally in the Pacific.

The largest by dollar amount would be for Egypt: a potential $820 million sale of advanced combat helicopters to outfit the Arab republic with a dozen Boeing-built AH-64D Block II Apache Longbow helos. Three companies would see the bulk of this work: Boeing's operations in Mesa, AZ, and St. Louis, MO; General Electric's unit in Lynn, MA; and Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control shop in Orlando, FL. The package, according to DSCA's announcement yesterday afternoon, would include:

27 T700-GE-701D Engines, 36 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 28 M299 HELLFIRE Longbow Missile Launchers, 14 AN/ALQ-144(V)3 Infrared Jammers, and 14 AN/APR-39B(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets. Also included: composite horizontal stabilizers, Integrated Helmet and Display Sight Systems, repair and return, transportation, depot maintenance, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical support, and other related elements of program support.

For South Korea, the Pentagon is proposing two potential arms packages: $170 million for 84 Standard Missiles-2 missiles of various types and an equal number of missile containers, work that would fall to Raytheon Electronic Systems Company in Tucson, AZ.

The other package -- a potential $250 million deal -- would upgrade 35 F-16 Block 32 fighter aircraft, improvements that would “allow employment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Improved Data Modem, and Secure Voice capabilities,” according to the DSCA statement, which added:

The Republic of Korea is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability in that region. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability, which will contribute to an acceptable military balance in the area. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives.

By Jason Sherman
May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Today's must-read: Defense Secretary Robert Gates' speech last night to the graduating class at his high school alma mater, East High in Wichita, KS.

He packs a lot into a relatively brief address, touching on memories of his high school days, growing up in Kansas, how getting a D in college freshman calculus changed the trajectory of his life, as well as the importance of being honest, having moral courage and choosing some form of service to the community or nation.

Gates, the only career officer in the CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to become director -- which he was from 1991 to 1993 -- told students about how he found his way to the CIA and quickly realized he was not 007 material:

Then I went to graduate school, I ran into a recruiter from the Central Intelligence Agency, an organization I had never considered working for. I thought I was going to be a history professor. Now, at first, the CIA tried to train me to be a spy. However, my efforts were less James Bond and more Austin Powers -- and I don’t mean that in a good way. One of my first training assignments was to practice secret surveillance with a team following a woman CIA officer around downtown Richmond, Virginia. Our team wasn’t very stealthy, and someone reported to the Richmond police that some disreputable-looking men – that would be me and my fellow CIA trainees -- were stalking this poor woman. My two colleagues were picked up by the Richmond police, and the only reason I didn’t get arrested was because I had lost sight of her so much earlier than they had. I -- and CIA -- concluded pretty quickly that I wasn’t cut out to be doing operations in the field, and instead I became a CIA analyst -- one of the people who assess and interpret all the information that comes in. That led me into a career that allowed me to witness amazing moments in American history. So it may take you a few missteps and even embarrassments before you find the thing you’re really good at -- whether you go to college or not. So, keep at it.

Read the whole thing here.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In April, around the time the Pentagon approved the terms of reference for the Quadrennial Defense Review, Pentagon spokesman Bob Mehal said the department had also approved similar guidance for the Nuclear Posture Review.

Turns out that was incorrect.

The NPR TOR was actually still in staffing at the time -- and it took weeks more to weave its way to bureaucratic approval. But Mehal now tells us the NPR TOR was finally signed on May 13.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With concern about personnel costs rising at the Pentagon, here is an interesting item buried in the Defense Department's fiscal year 2008 performance report, released in March: The past fiscal year marked the first time that DOD health care costs rose faster than they did in the civilian sector.

To be precise, the document establishes the point of comparison as the "average percent Defense Health Program annual cost per equivalent life increase compared to average civilian sector increase." The goal, beginning in FY-07, was to "maintain an average Defense Health Program (DHP) medical cost per equivalent life increase at or below the average health care premium increase in the civilian sector," the document reads.

DOD failed to meet that goal. Since FY-05, when DOD's health care costs were 3.2 percent below the growth rate in the civilian sector, the number has gone up steadily. In FY-06, the number was 1 percent below the civilian sector increase; in FY-07, it was 0.8 percent below; and in FY-08, it was an estimated 1.8 percent above.

The Pentagon's request for military healthcare is $47 billion for FY-10, according to a defense budget request overview released by DOD. "The Department expects to continue to work with the Congress to look for ways to slow the growth of medical costs while continuing to provide high-quality care," the document reads.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the issue in a speech last week at the Brookings Institution. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get our arms around healthcare costs,” he said.