The Insider

By John Liang
May 20, 2010 at 5:00 AM

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) had some choice words for the Obama administration upon learning of the resignation of Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair:

That a man who has willingly dedicated himself to the cause of our nation's freedom would rather step down than continue to serve as America’s top intelligence officer is a disturbing sign of the stranglehold the Obama White House has placed on America's intelligence agencies. Clearly, and understandably, Director Blair was frustrated by the White House's micromanagement and sidelining of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on national security issues.

Blair's resignation is the result of the Obama administration's rampant politicization of national security and outright disregard for congressional intelligence oversight. Blair's resignation is disturbing and unfortunate. The concerns I have come from how the Obama administration conducts national security, not over the director of national intelligence, who they never allowed to do it.

Hoekstra said congressional Republicans would be "watching closely who the president plans to name as a successor," calling the administration’s national security apparatus "broken, dysfunctional and in disarray, with Blair being "the one person you could count on for rationality" among U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan -- "and he’s the one the president let go."

By Tony Bertuca
May 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Army has announced it will hold a “renewable energy rodeo and symposium” June 8-9 at Ft. Bliss, TX, to showcase energy initiatives impacting all levels of the service from ground vehicles to installations.

But while it's in Texas, this rodeo will not feature any bulls or horses -- just displays and demonstrations of technologies that address the generation of renewable and alternative energy sources as well as their distribution, transfer and application.

The event is being co-hosted by the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center and Ft. Bliss, the Army's center for renewable energy, according to a statement from the service.

"The energy rodeo and symposium provides a unique opportunity to evaluate mature technologies in a dynamic environment while, at the same time, establishing crucial partnerships," Ft. Bliss commander Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg is quoted as saying in an Army statement. "We are looking for game-changing technologies and innovative solutions for the energy and environmental challenges we all face."

According to the Army, the rodeo's list of anticipated attendees includes government officials, industry representatives, renewable energy experts, academics and Pentagon-level military and civilian officials from all branches of the armed forces.

By John Liang
May 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services Committee this morning adopted an amendment by voice vote that requires the defense secretary to conduct a study assessing the potential use of modeling and simulation to strengthen cybersecurity within the Pentagon.

"The United States is more dependent on our computer systems than any other country, especially as it relates to our military readiness and training and our national security operations," said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who sponsored the amendment. "Yet, our cyberdefenses are weak, leaving us vulnerable to threats emanating around the world. Not only do we need a whole-of-government and state-of-the art strategic cyberdefense plan to protect our national systems, but we should take full advantage of state-of-the-art tools available through modeling and simulation to create a cybersecurity system within the Department of Defense that is unrivaled."

Forbes' statement further reads:

In 2007, the Office of the Secretary of Defense was compelled to shut down its computer information systems for more than a week in order to defend against infiltration attempts that were found to be coming from China. Those 2007 attacks resulted in the loss of 10 terabytes of information -- an amount comparable to the contents of the entire Library of Congress, according to U.S. intelligence officials in a report by National Public Radio.

Specifically, Forbes’ amendment requires a report to Congress no later than January 1, 2012, on the use of modeling and simulation, including application recommendations, to strengthen cybersecurity within the Department of Defense.

By John Liang
May 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) today gave a speech to the National Policy Conference of The Nixon Center and the Richard Nixon Foundation. In it, he questioned the Obama administration's stated goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons:

First, is 'zero' really desirable? If nuclear deterrence has kept the peace between superpowers since the end of World War II, which itself cost over 60 million lives by some estimates, are nuclear weapons really a risk to peace or a contributor to peace?

Second, since the know-how exists to build nuclear weapons and they can't be disinvented, is it really realistic to think they could be effectively eliminated? For example, if we get near to zero, any nation that can breakout and build even a few nuclear weapons will become a superpower.

And the superpowers themselves will find it difficult to get close to zero. For example, if Russia deploys ten extra nuclear weapons today, that's not a big deal, we have 2,200 deployed. If, however, each side is at 100 weapons, and one side deploys an extra ten, that's a significant military breakout. And while we will have 1,550 deployed weapons under the new treaty, and China will still have only several hundred, as we go lower, China has every incentive to build up quickly and become a peer competitor to the U.S. How do we deal with these problems? It's not clear we know.

Third, do we really have to 'restore our moral leadership' and is it necessarily more moral or moral at all to eschew weapons that have been a deterrent to conflict, but the elimination of which could make the world again safe for conventional wars between the great powers? Again, World War 2 cost an estimated 60 million lives. After 1945, the great powers have been deterred from war with each other.

By Thomas Duffy
May 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon missile defense officials and M.I.T. physicist Ted Postol are facing off once again following a front-page story in this morning's New York Times. Postol and George Lewis, a Cornell physicist, have penned a critical look at the testing record of the Standard Missile-3 interceptor that will be published later this month in Arms Control Today. The SM-3 is supposed to provide the knockout punch for the Obama administration's new phased adaptive approach for missile defense. The plan rests on having dozens of Navy Aegis ships equipped with interceptors that can take down enemy missiles in flight using kinetic energy.

But Postol and Lewis are very skeptical, according to the Times, basing their wariness on a review of the publicly available testing record of the SM-3. Looking at 10 tests the Pentagon announced as successful, Postol and Lewis say they have determined that only one or two of the tests succeeded, according to the Times report.

Postol has been down this road before. He famously took aim at the Patriot antimissile system's batting average during the 1992 Gulf War.

Just hours after the Times story hit the newsstand, the top spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency fired back. Writing on the Defense Department's DOD Live blog, Richard Lehner said:

Postol and Lewis apparently based their assessment on publicly released photos gleaned from a sensor mounted aboard the SM-3 and postulated what they perceived to be the interceptor’s impact point although they had no access to classified telemetry data showing the complete destruction of the target missiles, or subsequent sensor views of the intercept that were not publicly released so as not to reveal to potential adversaries exactly where the target missile was struck.

Later in the blog, Lehner notes:

All of the tests cited by the authors as “misses” were tests involving short-range unitary targets, when the warhead remains attached to the booster rocket. These tests were correctly described by the Missile Defense Agency as successful intercepts, because they successfully intercepted the target. Post-test analysis from collected telemetry showed that the interceptor’s kill vehicle impacted the target body or warhead within inches of the expected impact point that was calculated to maximize damage against a variety of warhead types.

Lehner will be taking questions regarding the Postol/Lewis SM-3 analysis at 4:00 o'clock this afternoon on DOD Live.

By Carlo Muñoz
May 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon announced this month that Brig. Gen. Kevin Magnum will head its new aviation subordinate command, headquartered at Ft. Bragg, NC. Magnum is currently the deputy commanding general-center at U.S. Division-Center in Iraq, according to a May 3 announcement on the Defense Department's website.

As first reported by Inside the Pentagon, the idea to create a new aviation subordinate command under U.S. Army Special Operations Command was spawned by findings in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, as well as subsequent Army force structure decisions, Col. Steve Mathias, director of special operations aviation at USASOC, said last December.

The new aviation command will be headquartered at Ft. Bragg NC, and be organized in the same structure as USASOC’s Special Forces subordinate command.

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, will be folded under the new provisional command once the organization is fully stood up, Mathias said at the time. Along with the 160th SOAR’s fleet of combat rotorcraft -- including the MH-60 Black Hawk, A/MH-6M Little Bird and MH-47 Chinook -- the new subordinate command would also be responsible for the command’s growing fleet of unmanned aircraft.

Magnum is also a former commander of the 160th SOAR.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 18, 2010 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Forces Korea Commander Army Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp has canceled exercise "Courageous Channel 2010," which was to take place from May 20-24, according to a note on the 8th Army website. The announcement contains no dateline, but the Web page's URL contains today's date.

The statement comes as the Washington Post reported this afternoon that South Korea plans to publicly blame the North over what it believes was a torpedo attack on a South Korean vessel in March that killed 46 sailors.

The cancellation "is to prevent the perception that the exercise was a response to events surrounding the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and the subsequent investigation," the USFK statement reads.

By John Liang
May 17, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Don't expect the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ratification process to be a slam-dunk affair. At least according to Senate Republicans.

In a May 14 report, the Senate Republican Policy Committee states that the U.S. and Russian nuclear relationship "seems not to have destabilized in START's absence, and thus there is no reason for the Senate to rush its constitutional duty to evaluate the merits of the replacement treaty (New START) independently."

Specifically:

New START raises many questions on a range of topics at the heart of U.S. national security policy, including issues of nuclear modernization, missile defense, verification, tactical nuclear weapons, U.S. and Russian nuclear force structure, Russian cooperation with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and prompt conventional global strike capabilities.

A treaty of this magnitude requires the most thorough and thoughtful deliberation and attention of the Senate. It will be especially critical for the Senate to articulate with clarity its understanding of many of the treaty’s vague clauses and Russian statements affecting these issues.

Past treaties on similarly weighty arms control matters were before the Senate for extended periods of time, with extensive committee work. START itself was subject to more than 20 days of committee hearings, while other arms control treaties of similar magnitude had more than 45 such hearings.

The Senate must be given appropriate time to complete its work. After all, the President delayed submission of his Nuclear Posture Review to Congress by four months and missed his own deadline for New START by several months.

A Heritage Foundation report released at the end of last month is somewhat harsher in its analysis, stating that the follow-on treaty "stymies U.S. efforts to develop and deploy missile defenses"; "elevates and emboldens Russia as nuclear power"; and "fails to address the real nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea."

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee, in a separate report released May 14, claims "strong bipartisan support" for the follow-on pact:

Historically, arms control treaties have enjoyed strong bipartisan support and have been advanced by leaders from both parties over the past several decades, from President John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The New START Treaty is in line with past nuclear arms treaties, including the START I Treaty, the START II Treaty, and the SORT Treaty – all of which received nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate.

By John Liang
May 14, 2010 at 5:00 AM

With the passing of House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) earlier this spring, Democrats on the panel this week announced their subcommittee assignments for the remainder of the current congressional session. They include:

Chair: Norman D. Dicks, Washington
Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana
James P. Moran, Virginia
Marcy Kaptur, Ohio
Allen Boyd, Florida
Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey
Sanford Bishop, Georgia
Maurice D. Hinchey, New York
Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, Michigan
Tim Ryan, Ohio

By John Liang
May 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Following a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said on May 11 that the EU is ready to "immediately" negotiate a settlement of a bilateral dispute with the United States over subsidies for the development of large civil aircraft by Airbus and Boeing -- provided there are no preconditions, Inside U.S. Trade's World Trade Online reports this week.

In a press roundtable, De Gucht said the negotiations could start now but would not provide a specific timetable. “We'll have to see in the coming weeks,” he said.

The Air Force's KC-X airborne refueling tanker competition has been caught up in this transatlantic dispute, with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. competing against Boeing for the multibillion-dollar contract. During his roundtable this week:

De Gucht gave no signal at the press roundtable that EU member states will provide launch aid for the Airbus A350 plane, but other sources said that the decision could be imminent and could be made even before the U.S. Air Force decides on the award of a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract, on which both Boeing and Airbus parent company European Aeronautical Defense and Space (EADS) are bidding.

EADS opponents in Congress have tried to use the subsidies issue to pressure the Air Force not to award the contract to EADS. This week, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) will introduce a bill that would force the Air Force to consider the WTO subsidy ruling in the Airbus case in the tanker decision and Boeing has been lobbying heavily for the bill.

De Gucht said he did not discuss the tanker contract in his separate meetings with Kirk and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman.

Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Germany have pledged about $4 billion in launch aid for the A350, but the details have been under negotiation since the middle of 2009. Observers believe that the royalty-based financing is being tailored to comply with the findings in the WTO cases against previous Airbus funding.

By John Liang
May 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The White House this afternoon officially submitted the follow-on Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to the Senate for ratification.

In a letter accompanying the text of the treaty, President Obama writes:

The Treaty will enhance the national security of the United States. It mandates mutual reductions and limitations on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals. The Treaty will promote transparency and predictability in the strategic relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation and will enable each Party to verify that the other Party is complying with its obligations through a regime that includes on-site inspections, notifications, a comprehensive and continuing exchange of data regarding strategic offensive arms, and provisions for the use of national technical means of verification. The Treaty further includes detailed procedures for the conversion or elimination of Treaty-accountable items, and provides for the exchange of certain telemetric information on selected ballistic missile launches for increased transparency.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the pact next week.

Administration officials can expect intense questioning on details of the pact from Republican lawmakers, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told attendees of a Capitol Hill breakfast this morning.

President Obama "wants a world without any nuclear weapons, zero, none," Sessions said. "I think that makes me nervous," he added, calling such a goal "unrealistic" and one that "raises questions in my mind of how this whole thing is going to play out."

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 12, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) today accused Air Force leaders of attempting to conduct a "backdoor" Base Realignment and Closure process against the Air National Guard.

During his opening statement at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing this morning, Bond said he is worried a planned reduction in ANG fighter aircraft would threaten the ability to police the skies over the United States.

Air Force leaders have said the service will not replace legacy fighters with fifth-generation aircraft on a one-to-one basis because the newer aircraft are much more capable than their predecessors. But Bond said he disagrees with the reductions and called them a "backdoor BRAC."

The senator also blamed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program for sucking money from other Air Force programs.

By John Liang
May 11, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Boeing has regained its place as the world's largest aerospace and defense contractor, according to a study released today by Deloitte.

"Boeing had higher sales revenue than EADS (in 2009) and regained its position as the world's largest A&D company, reversing its 2nd place performance in 2008," the report states.

Deloitte's "2009 Global Aerospace & Defense Industry Performance Wrap-Up" looks at "the financial performance of the industry by assessing the key metrics of performance related revenue growth, operating earnings and margin, asset effectiveness, cash generation, sales bookings, employee productivity, and total level of employment," according to a company statement announcing the report's release. Specifically:

The study evaluated the 2009 financial performance of the 91 global A&D companies with revenues exceeding $500 million; and revealed that in spite of the 2009 worldwide economic recession, the A&D industry has continued to demonstrate its resilience by posting stable revenue. Financial performance varied depending on subsector and region-specific factors impacting key metrics.

Other key findings include:

* The global A&D industry slowed in 2009 compared to the record performance of the industry in 2008 and several years of compounded growth
* American firms grew faster in 2009, at 3.4 percent, than European companies, whose revenue fell by 2.1 percent. Executing strategic leverage in the acquisition space
* Sales bookings (Book-to-Bill ratio) fell significantly from 1.41x in 2008 to 0.89x in 2009, a substantial 36.9 percent decrease, due to fewer new bookings and existing order cancellations, portending slower times ahead.

By Thomas Duffy
May 11, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington today and tomorrow to meet with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One issue that may come up during the talks is the Afghan government's notorious corruption problem. During an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee last week, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy sketched out the situation:

You know, Afghanistan is a country that has been in and out of war for 30 years. In that kind of environment, corruption tends to take root in the society writ large. It is a problem for other countries in the region as well.

I think we are seeing renewed commitment to dealing with this problem on the Afghan side. They have recently established a major crimes task force and indicted key officials, the mayor of Kabul, a minister, a police general, trying to signal no one's going to be above the rule of law.

It's a -- we're at the beginning of a process. But again, the -- we are moving in the right direction. We are trying to change the incentive structures that have motivated corruption in the past.

One of the temptations that leads to corruption is available cash. It's been a big problem for the U.S. military since the war began eight years ago. Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale recently told a group of Army budget officials that the Defense Department is making real progress in shutting off the flow of cash into the country. Speaking April 21 during a teleconference with Army financial managers, Hale said:

We need to get cash off the battlefield in Afghanistan and again we’re having some success. Last fiscal year we’re down to about 10% cash payments to Afghan vendors. Of course essentially all the U.S. payments are by electronic funds transfer but we need to continue.

Afghanistan has a serious corruption problem and the less cash there the better in terms of minimizing corruption risk and also helping internal controls. In some cases, Afghanistan needs new systems, not fancy ones that take years; ones we can get there and get to them in six months and that will reduce their workload, which is a major problem.

Hale added that DOD has created smaller pots of money to complete some local procurement projects, particularly information technology, more quickly without having to get approval from a government headquarters official.

On Thursday Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military official in Afghanistan, will provide an operational update on the war in a closed meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

By John Liang
May 11, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon is working with the National Security Council and the Federal Aviation Administration to avert confrontations with wind energy developers over project planning following a move by the Defense Department to scale back opposition to a proposed major wind farm in Oregon, Defense Environment Alert reports today.

DOD also is eying collaboration with other agencies to boost investment in mitigating adverse impacts from wind turbines, according to a DOD spokeswoman. Further, DEA reports:

DOD April 30 backed down from its opposition to a proposed major wind farm in Arlington, OR, lifting a potentially significant roadblock to the renewable energy project. DOD’s objections -- tied to concerns that wind turbines would interfere with military radar -- had reportedly raised a stir within the administration, given its interest in developing alternative energy sources.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sought clearance for the wind farm and threatened to place a hold on the administration’s nominee to be the first DOD operational energy director, announced DOD’s reversal in an April 30 press release. Wyden is also advocating that Congress revise the energy siting process to avert such confrontations. “Going forward, Congress must work on reforming this process to provide smoother siting while protecting security and aviation. Our great state can and should play a role in a strong national defense and be a leader in our country’s smarter energy future at the same time.”

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn recently informed Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) of DOD’s decision to rescind its opposition, which many feared would effectively block construction of the Shepherds Flat wind farm. To allay its concerns that wind turbines will interfere with military radar, DOD plans to upgrade a nearby radar system, according to Wyden’s announcement.

DOD’s decision to withdraw its objections reflects various considerations, the spokeswoman says, including that the impact on the country’s surveillance network from the additional turbines is not as severe as initially thought; ongoing analysis will inform the cumulative impacts of future projects and the government’s mitigation approach; and DOD has mitigation options it can take in the short-run. DOD is optimistic that an ongoing study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Lab will provide short-term mitigation measures such as software and hardware upgrades to a long-range radar system. DOD commissioned the independent study by MIT last month to further analyze the impacts (Defense Environment Alert, April 27).

At the same time, DOD is taking action to avoid such future late-stage conflicts over wind energy projects. DOD has previously said wind projects can potentially conflict with military mission needs, raising concerns about the potential for wind turbines to interfere with radar. DOD is now working with the NSC and FAA “to improve the overall process that developers go through so that we can resolve encroachment issues at the earliest possible stage,” the DOD spokeswoman says, adding that DOD also plans to work with other agencies “to increase our investment in ((research and development)) on mitigation technology.”