The Insider

By John Liang
May 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At a May 18 unveiling of a major new report on energy and national security, the Pentagon’s new acquisition chief announced a plan to push for creation of an energy research partnership with the Energy Department, Defense Environment Alert reports this week:

The Pentagon will approach DOE seeking a partnership that would see DOE focus on fundamental energy research, while DOD concentrates on development work using its testing facilities to advance new technologies beyond the laboratory stage, said Ashton Carter, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. He added that the Pentagon would integrate energy efficiency considerations into the acquisitions process. Also, DOD will soon release a new strategy on boosting the energy efficiency of its many installations, a leading DOD energy official says.

Energy will be a driver of much DOD acquisition policy, Carter said, adding: “I’m seeing it cropping up everywhere.” He said DOD spending on energy research and development has tripled over the last two years, and now stands at $1.2 billion, excluding an extra $300 million provided by the economic stimulus package.

Carter told a panel of retired generals and admirals gathered for the launch of a Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) report on energy that DOD will seek to make the most efficient use of its energy research resources and expertise, which are concentrated in the area of technology development, rather than basic research.

DOD will seek a partnership on energy issues with DOE and the White House, and Carter said he would approach Energy Secretary Steven Chu and White House staff on this issue. He said that at DOD, “we have a lot of very good test and demonstration facilities,” while DOE has greater strength in laboratories, so “we ((should)) use their science base, which is richer than ours in this field, to get good ideas.”

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

Compared with just a few years ago, traditional soft-power disciplines -- like stabilization operations and everything associated with nation-building -- now are big business at the Pentagon. Adding the sums involved in programs like Section 1206, for example, and the Commander's Emergency Response Program quickly leads to amounts upward of one billion -- and that's not counting the money specifically intended for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In these spheres, $50 million might almost go unnoticed. That's the amount by which the Defense Department's "building partnership capacity" request differed from the time Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the major budget moves in early April until defense officials formally unveiled the fiscal year 2010 budget request a month later.

During his April 6 press conference on the budget, Gates said this:

"To boost global partnership capacity efforts, we will increase funding by $500 million. These initiatives include training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism and stability operations."

DOD's May 7 statement on the official defense budget request roll-out said this:

"To boost global partnership capacity, the department will spend $550 million for training and equipping foreign militaries (in addition to those in Iraq and Afghanistan) to undertake counterterrorism and stability operations and to conduct security and stabilization activities."

We asked DOD spokesman Cmdr. Darryn James how the difference came to be. "When the SecDef spoke on 6 April, he was presenting his best estimate at the time, and between April 6 and delivery of the budget one month later, we finalized the details and determined we needed $550 million," James wrote in an e-mail today.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon’s next-generation bomber should probably be a very-low observable, nuclear-capable, manned aircraft with a moderate capability and moderate range, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last evening.

However, he added, the parameters for the aircraft have not yet been officially defined. When the Pentagon prepared its fiscal year 2010 budget plan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not comfortable with where the service was with the program, Schwartz noted. The general said Gates has not yet settled on the bomber’s parameters, but the Air Force will work to persuade the defense secretary to embrace its ideas.

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

A new Defense Science Board report released this week makes mention of three relatively little-known Defense Department biodefense labs operated in conjunction with foreign governments. They are the US Army Medical Component of the Armed Forces Research Institute of the Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in Bangkok, Thailand; the Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD) in Lima, Peru; and the Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt.

"These laboratories outside the continental United States (OCONUS) play an important strategic role by developing effective medical countermeasures for protection against naturally occurring infectious diseases in their endemic regions and for surveillance of naturally occurring pathogens such as the avian influenza," the report states.

Problem is, according to the report, that clearing foreign scientists to work in these labs is difficult because the traditional U.S. background screening procedures cannot be applied so far away from Washington.

Panelists believe a "blanket waiver" allowing the use of State Department background investigations, conducted by the requisite U.S. embassies, would satisfy security requirements and improve collaboration.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dropped by the Cairo lab recently during a Middle East trip. According to an April 21 DOD news release covering the visit, the lab's workforce consists of 22 Navy and Army personnel and 11 career civilians, who work alongside 152 Egyptian scientists and 97 contractors.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified yesterday before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, he suggested the troubled, terminated VH-71 presidential helicopter might be succeeded by two different types of aircraft -- one helicopter to fly the president short distances and another, more-robust “escape” aircraft for use in an emergency.

"So one is idea is that you look at two different helicopters -- that you look at one that the president basically uses here in town to go to Andrews and on regular trips here in the United States and things like that, and an escape helicopter that has different kinds of capabilities and that could perhaps be a modified kind of helicopter that we use now in combat," Gates said.

"So we're going to be looking at a lot of different ideas on how we can get this program back on track, get a -- help the presidential helicopter program back into the budget and get the president and his successors helicopters within a reasonable period of time," he added.

By John Liang
May 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This week, the day after the EastWest Institute released a report concluding that Iran could develop a nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles in six to eight years but would "not be able, for at least 10 to 15 years, to independently master the technologies necessary for advanced intermediate-range ballistic missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles," Iran test-fired a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a possible 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) range.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly today was asked at a House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing whether he agreed with the report's conclusions. He did not:

A lot of the assumptions they use in these types of assessments are not accurate, and they don't reflect our true capability, our specifications, what we've demonstrated, also what we know of the threat for what I have access to in intelligence, it does not correlate to the basic assumptions that they use in that study and others I've seen like that.

We asked MIT Professor Ted Postol, one of the co-authors of the report and a missile defense critic, whether the Iranian test changes any of the report's conclusions. Here's his response:

The short answer to your question is that the recent launch of a two-stage solid propellant missile does not change any of our conclusions. However, it does raise questions that were not addressed in the current report that will have to be dealt with in our continuing work at MIT and Stanford on this and related questions.

There is very little data on the Sejjil missile and very rough estimates I have done this evening suggest that it is likely to be able to carry a 1000 kg payload to 2000 km range. I will need to do further analysis on this missile, but it cannot be ruled out that it could eventually achieve a range of 2500 km. I caution you these are very preliminary numbers and I am not yet ready to stand by them.

Our current study estimates that if Iran moved ahead with a nuclear program it could take Iran 1 to 3 years to test a first nuclear weapon and an additional 5 to 6 years or more to develop a nuclear warhead compact and light enough to fly on a ballistic missile. This estimate was arrived at by the experts in our study who have built nuclear weapons. Our estimates in the study for the time it would take Iran to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to a range of 2000 km was for a modified version of the Safir satellite launch vehicle (SLV) where the second stage was redesigned to carry a payload of about 1000 kg. The development of this modified version of the Safir SLV would probably take no more than several years, but the long pole in having a nuclear-armed delivery system would be obtaining the warhead. This situation is also true if the solid propellant Sejjil missile is successfully refined into an operating system within the next several years. So in short, there is essentially no substantial change in our findings.

However, the fact that the Sejjil is a solid propellant missile introduces a new set of questions that we did not deal with in our report. This set of questions has to do with longer-term advances in ballistic missile capabilities that are based on solid propellant missiles. In the case of the Sejjil, increasing its range substantially would require building essentially a different and much larger solid propellant missile. This would be a gigantic enterprise, since scaling up the size of solid rocket motors is a gigantic technical and engineering task.

Problems that occur in constructing much larger rocket motors result from the sheer size of the motor and the casing. Early solid rocket motor casings were made of steel, and as the technology advanced the casings were fabricated from glass, Kevlar, and finally carbon epoxy materials. Winding these much larger casings, maintaining the strength and integrity of these much larger casings, mixing the propellant so that they are extremely uniform, and getting more energy out of the propellants, require major industrial and scientific efforts. You may recall, that when the US was rushing to deploy Pershing's in Europe, the development program was plagued with failures of that solid rocket motor. So the introduction of the Sejjil does not necessarily foretell the rapid development of larger longer-range solid propellant missiles. It does, however, introduce a potentially new class of systems. Since solid rocket propellant systems have relatively short burn times compared with similar classes of liquid propellants, they can potentially pose more demanding challenges to boost-phase and ascent-phase missile defense systems.

With regard to the boost-phase system discussed in the appendix of the report, this new technology will not be available for much larger and longer range rocket systems for quite a while, and even if it were available, the rockets would be very large and subject to the same vulnerabilities that were described for large liquid propellant missiles.

By Rebekah Gordon
May 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is now officially just that, sworn in to the position yesterday, according to the service. A former Mississippi governor and ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the 75th secretary took his oath of office during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Mabus replaces B.J. Penn, who was filling the role on an interim basis following the departure of former Navy Secretary Donald Winter on March 13.

In addition, according to Mabus' spokeswoman, Navy Under Secretary Robert Work was sworn in to his post this morning. A retired Marine Corps colonel, Work was previously a naval analyst and vice president at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Mabus and Work were confirmed by the Senate on Monday. During an April 28 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Mabus and Work pledged to improve the Navy’s acquisition workforce.

By Jason Sherman
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon tomorrow will dispatch two C-17s laden with food, water trucks and tents to Pakistan as part of a humanitarian relief effort announced today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said today in a press briefing.

The Defense Department, according to a White House fact sheet, plans to provide $10 million worth of goods and equipment as part of a $110 million U.S. government aid package to help people displaced by the Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban.

By Jason Sherman
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tapped Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan, a Navy SEAL who commands the 4th Fleet, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, to be his new senior military assistant.

Kernan's nomination for the position and a third star was sent to the Senate on Friday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters today, along with Gates' new picks to lead operations in Afghanistan -- Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the director of the Joint Staff, and Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Gates' current senior military assistant.

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told House lawmakers today the Air Force needs 243 Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors to maintain air superiority.

During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee today, Schwartz said: “243 is the right number and 187 is the affordable force.”

The Air Force chief's answer came in response to a question from Rep. Rob. Bishop (R-UT), who asked if the Pentagon's decision to end production of the fifth-generation fighter at 187 aircraft was purely budget-driven or a requirement.

Schwartz's comments come the week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate panel that the Air Force did not need any more Raptors.

By Marjorie Censer
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army does not require more active -duty end strength authority than it now has, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said today.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Casey at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee he'd like to give the Army temporary additional end strength through the end of fiscal year 2009 to provide “some latitude." Additionally, Lieberman has introduced an amendment to the FY-10 budget resolution that would boost the Army's active size by 30,000.

Though he did not reject outright the idea of a temporary increase, Casey said what he's “not ready to sign up for just yet is whether we need to increase the active Army beyond 547,000,” he told the committee.

“An active Army of that size plus the Guard and Reserve -- that's 1.1 million folks and, if the demand comes down, we should be able to provide the country with sustainable capability at appropriate deployment ratios at 1.1 million.”

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Casey said he has discussed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates the proposed increase, and they have opted not to support it.

“It comes down to it's about a billion dollars to have that increase, and that's a lot of money,” Casey said.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has announced plans to nominate J. Michael Gilmore to be the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation. Here is his bio, as released by the White House:

J. Michael Gilmore most recently served as Assistant Director for National Security at the Congressional Budget Office, where he was responsible for CBO's National Security Division, which performs analyses of major policy and program issues in national defense, international affairs, and veterans affairs. Before joining CBO in 2001, Dr. Gilmore was the Deputy Director for General Purpose Programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Program Analysis and Evaluation. In that position, he was responsible for developing, formulating, and implementing Secretary of Defense policies on all aspects of Department of Defense general purpose programs. In his 11 years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he began by analyzing strategic defense and military satellite communications programs and later, as part of the Cost Analysis Improvement Group, directed teams of analysts in preparing estimates of the costs of defense programs. Prior to his career in government, he was a defense analyst for McDonnell Douglas Corporation and a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he performed research on nuclear fusion. Dr. Gilmore received a Ph.D. and M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee says the Senate voted last night to confirm the following nominations:

* Gov. Raymond E. Mabus, Jr. to be Secretary of the Navy * Mr. Robert O. Work to be Under Secretary of the Navy * Mr. Andrew C. Weber to be Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs * Mr. Paul N. Stockton to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs * Mr. Thomas R. Lamont to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs * Mr. Charles A. Blanchard to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the House Armed Services Committee today the service plans to release a request for proposals for the KC-X tanker competition in June or July. The goal is to award a contract in mid-fiscal year 2010.

Speaking about the KC-X program last Friday, David Van Buren, the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said:

We're in the process now internally within the department of going though the acquisition plan, the execution, to be able to then come out to industry in the middle part of this year.

Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley are on the House side of Capitol Hill this morning to discuss the service's FY-10 budget proposal. The duo are scheduled to brief their spending request to senators on Thursday.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are asking Congress for the one-year renewal of a soon-to-expire authority under which officials may pay foreign tipsters through allied government representatives, according to a string of legislative proposals sent to lawmakers last week.

The years-old DOD Rewards program allows the defense secretary to "pay a monetary amount, or provide a payment-in-kind, to a person as a reward for providing United States Government personnel with information or nonlethal assistance" valuable in conducting operations or anticipating attacks against U.S. forces, according to law.

The Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, enacted early last year, gave DOD the additional authority to use foreign intermediaries to offer and pay these rewards -- up to $5 million. The authority to use intermediaries -- not the program as a whole -- is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

But defense officials only began transferring rewards through allied officials earlier this fiscal year, after guidance from former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England took effect in mid-September, a section-by-section analysis of the legislative proposals states.

Here is the key graph from the analysis:

"The authority to offer and make rewards by acting through government personnel of allied forces is currently in use in Afghanistan. The Commander, United States Central Command, is supportive and expects to expand this method of offering and making rewards. The authority was not implemented until fiscal year 2009 and requires more time to mature and develop based on adjusted national and theater strategies."