The Insider

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

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation Frank Rose last week attended the "First Annual Israel Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference" in Tel Aviv, and the State Department today released the transcript of his prepared remarks.

During his speech, Rose highlighted the areas of cooperation between the United States and Israel:

* BMD Operations and Plans: In addition to conducting the Biannual Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise with Israel in November 2009, the U.S. and Israel continue to meet regularly and coordinate extensively on a wide range of missile defense issues.

* Arrow Weapons System: The Arrow System provides Israel with an indigenous capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The United States and Israel are co-producing the Arrow-2 missile defense system and engaged in additional BMD research and development activities. We are also working closely together on an improved version of the Arrow missile – the Arrow-3 – that will allow the system to engage threat missiles at greater ranges.

* X-band Radar: In September 2008, the United States and Israel worked together closely to deploy an X-band radar to Israel intended to enhance Israel’s defense.

* David’s Sling: The United States and Israel are co-developing the “David’s Sling” Weapon System (DSWS) to defend against short-range rocket and missile threats falling below the optimal capability for Israel’s Arrow interceptor.

"The growing proliferation of missile threats, especially those with ranges of less than 1,000 kilometers, mean that regional demand for U.S. (Ballistic Missile Defense) assets is likely to exceed supply for some years to come," Rose continued. "This places a premium on developing flexible, adaptable, and relocatable defense capabilities and in encouraging the development of missile defense capabilities by our regional partners." Further:

This is why our collaborative missile defense efforts are so important. Together we can work to protect what we value and what our adversaries will seek to put at risk, both now and in the future. The combination of U.S-Israeli cooperation on BMD research and development, deployment of proven technologies and weapon systems such as the Arrow, and plans and operational experience through joint exercises and training, will go far in enhancing Israeli security and our mutual interests.

Rose concluded his speech with these points:

First, missile defenses offer numerous advantages, including the opportunity to enhance the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence commitments for our allies and friends. Missile defenses also provide more options for the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Second, the new U.S. approach to missile defense outlined in the Ballistic Missile Defense Review is beneficial for Israel as well as our other regional allies, and builds on the strong foundation of U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation.

Finally, the United States remains committed to working closely with our friends, allies, and partners around the world, including Israel, to defend against the mutual threats we face, and we believe that our new approach allows us to more effectively accomplish this goal.

By John Liang
May 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Raytheon, Boeing and BAE Systems are among the suitors looking to buy Fairfax, VA-based defense contractor Argon ST, Reuters reported this morning, quoting unnamed sources:

Argon, which hired advisers to sell itself in January, has asked potential buyers for $30 a share, the sources said, a price that values the company at $660 million based on fully diluted shares outstanding.

Argon, which makes sensors for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, has completed management presentations with Boeing, BAE, Raytheon and a few other companies, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the auction are not public.

Argon also helps produce the AN/SLQ-25(V)A and AN/SLQ-25(V)(C) torpedo countermeasure transmitting sets, among other systems.

Inside the Army reported last October that Argon was one of the companies that has helped develop the forward-operating base protection system Cerberus. The Army intended to solicit bids for the system and purchase some 200 units, according to an service official. Further:

A highly mobile, configurable system, designed and developed by the Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center branch of NVESD, Cerberus has been used by stateside border patrols and the military, Jennings told Inside the Army during an Oct. 13 tour of NVESD’s facilities. The system, fielded to the military since 2006, is gaining new relevance as troops deploy to more remote parts of Afghanistan.

“We are trying to extend the eyes and ears of the individual,” said Jennings. “Where the other ((force protection systems)) are more reactive, trying to protect yourself from being shot, trying to protect yourself from being blown up, trying to stop people from penetrating ((perimeters)), we are trying to get forward of it, to see and hear far enough out that we can affect a response earlier.”

Development efforts began after Sept. 11, 2001, to provide security at ammunition storage facilities, and Cerberus was made mobile to provide border security in 2005. After the Army’s rapid equipping force expressed interest in 2007, a modified system was deployed during that year’s troop surge in Iraq.

The Army has fielded 40 Cerberus systems as part of the Base Expeditionary Targeting and Surveillance System-Combined (BETSS-C), and variants are being used by American border patrol units and by the Marine Corps, which employs a version called the Ground Based Operational Surveillance System.

Reflecting a broader interest within the Army, the 82nd Airborne has submitted an operational needs request for Cerberus, said Jennings, and Army modernization officials in the Army Capabilities Integration Center’s Task Force 120 have told him it may be useful for infantry brigade combat teams.

“There was a gap in the IBCT which had to do with organic protection, security and surveillance,” said Jennings. “((The Task Force 120 officials)) were looking at what we were doing for that. So some of the things that we were doing for the border patrol and the 82nd may have applications.”

In January, the Defense Department announced it had awarded Argon a $23.8 million "firm-fixed-price contract for 28 Cerberus units and associated spares for deployment in support of operational forces abroad."

By Dan Dupont
May 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made his share of news the last few days, which we don't need to document here.

But you might have missed this little exchange between Gates and reporters en route to Kansas City, MO, where he gave the big speech that's making headlines:

Q When you talk about trimming overhead, possibly even combining agencies, could something along the lines of another BRAC even be on the table here?

SEC. GATES: I don't know. As I say, I'm trying to be realistic about this.

(Laughter.)

I will tell you, the services would love to have another BRAC. But it may be in the too-hard column politically.

Q Would you like to have another BRAC?

SEC. GATES: I think being able to further consolidate facilities is always a good idea. But there are just huge political challenges associated with it. So I'm just not -- that's not an important element in what I'm trying to do.

By Jason Sherman
May 10, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Senate on Friday announced it had approved the nomination of Vice Adm. David Venlet to be program executive officer of the Joint Strike Fighter program, “a position of importance and responsibility” in accordance with section 601 of Title 10.

In March, Defense Secretary Robert Gates named Venlet to head the F-35 program, elevating the PEO position from a two-star to a three-star billet in a bid to improve results of the acquisition effort, which has seen significant cost growth and schedule slips.

Before Venlet can take the helm, though, he must be sworn in. Sources said the admiral, the former head of Naval Air Systems Command which last fall produced a stinging JSF critique, is on leave today.

By Jason Sherman
May 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to deliver a major address on the defense budget Saturday afternoon from the steps of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, KS.

Reuters has a preview.

According to the library, the event is to mark the 65th anniversary of the allied victory in Europe:

In his remarks, the Secretary will reflect on General Eisenhower's national security policies and approach to defense spending as President - lessons applicable to the difficult budget choices the Pentagon faces today at a time of economic and fiscal duress.

In an address on Monday to the Navy League, where Gates warned that the sea service's shipbuilding plans were non sustainable, he argued that the nation can no longer afford to pay for weapons programs that are not necessary -- and promised more on the subject at his speech in Kansas:

In this year’s budget submission, the Department has asked to end funding for an extra engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as well as to cease production of the C-17 cargo aircraft – two decisions supported by the services and by reams of analysis. As we speak, a fight is on to keep the Congress from putting the extra engine and more C-17s back into the budget -- at an unnecessary potential cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars over the next few years. The issues surrounding political will and the Defense budget are ones I will discuss in more detail at the Eisenhower Library this coming Saturday.

Eisenhower might call Gates' campaign to shut off funding for the JSF alternative engine and the C-17 cargo plane textbook examples of battling against the military-industrial complex -- a system of interests that span across the military services, defense industry and Congress.

Eisenhower, during his presidential farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961, warned that the growth of a large arms industry could have a deleterious effect on the nation:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual--is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

By Thomas Duffy
May 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee today issued new reports on the war in Afghanistan and U.S. cooperation with Pakistan in fighting terrorism.

On Afghanistan, the committee's view on the Obama administration's handling of the war since taking over is laid out early in the report:

Sixteen months later, the situation is markedly different. Not only do we have a fully-resourced, comprehensive civil-military strategy in place, we are beginning to witness signs of real progress toward securing key parts of the country and turning the tide against a resurgent Taliban. While realistic about the critical challenges ahead, military leaders and top Administration officials consider the recent success of U.S.-led operations in Helmand Province a strong indication that we are moving in the right direction. As Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy recently underscored, “we are seeing conditions beginning to develop that we believe will ultimately be necessary for success. And for the first time we believe we have the right mission, the right strategy, the right leadership, and the right level of resources in support of the mission.”((2))

Next Wednesday Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will give a classified briefing on the war to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The policy committee also sees good signs in the Obama administration's handling of relations with Pakistan:

The Obama Administration has made building a partnership with Pakistan a central U.S. national security priority. The previous Administration pursued a dangerously short-sighted and simplistic approach toward Pakistan. For years, it relied on a military strategy built primarily on a personal relationship with President Musharraf and, in effect, outsourced U.S. counterterrorism efforts to the Pakistani military – funneling $11 billion in military assistance to Pakistan with little oversight or accountability, and very few results. At the same time, the Bush Administration neglected critical development needs in Pakistan, failing to address root causes contributing to the growth of violent extremism in the region. While investing heavily in counterterrorism initiatives and military aid, nonmilitary assistance was virtually nonexistent: throughout Fiscal Years 2002-2007, just one percent of U.S. spending in Pakistan’s tribal region was devoted to development efforts. This fundamental imbalance not only prevented the development of a viable partnership with the Pakistani government, it also stymied our ability to effectively address the Taliban and al Qaeda threat and advance other central national security goals in the region.

The Pakistan report is here.

By Jason Sherman
May 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today announced a potential $218 million sale to Australia of two RQ-7B Shadow 200 unmanned aircraft systems, a deal designed to bolster the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability of a key U.S. ally operating in Afghanistan.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, DOD's foreign military sales arm, has notified Congress of the possible sale of the system -- built by AAI Corporation, Hunt Valley, MD -- which would include four ground control stations, support equipment, sales and repair parts, tools and test equipment.

“The proposed sale of the RQ-7B SHADOW 200 systems will improve Australia’s capability to support ongoing ground operations in Afghanistan,” DSCA said in a statement. “Australia will also use the enhanced capability in future contingency operations encompassing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and stability operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these systems into its armed forces.”

The statement notes Australia's “efforts in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Iraq and in Afghanistan have served U.S. national security interests. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives and facilitates burden sharing with our allies,” DSCA states.

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

Lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing this morning on Afghanistan weighed in on the effectiveness of the 30,000-troop surge to that country ordered by the Obama administration six months ago.

Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) had this to say, particularly about the contribution of allied forces to Afghanistan:

While we have increased forces in Afghanistan, our allies have also begun to send additional troops. To date, they have added about 50 percent of the 9000 new troops they pledged after President Obama's December speech. But serious concerns remain about our ability to train the Afghan security forces who will have to assume the burden of providing security and combating terrorism in Afghanistan without more international trainers. I am pleased that Secretary Gates has decided to send additional U.S. military personnel to fill this gap, but this is a short term solution and not a long-term fix.

This concern relates to another. In a recent meeting, NATO endorsed a process to transition the lead for security in some districts from U.S. and allied troops to Afghan National Security Forces. I think all of us would like to know more about this process and its implications -- what progress do we have to see in a district before it can transition to Afghan lead, and what does this mean for the international troops in that district? Are we talking about progress among the Afghan security forces or must the district also need a competent and honest government?

Ranking Member Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), however, was more worried about the number of U.S. troops:

The '30,000 troop cap' put in place by this Administration was a decision based on political considerations -- not mission calculus. The unfortunate result is that it is sending the wrong signal to our commanders and forcing military planners to make difficult tradeoff decisions between combat troops and key enablers. I am particularly concerned that we are under resourcing force protection capabilities. These life-saving combat enablers -- and others -- were already under resourced prior to the president’s troop surge.

By Dan Dupont
May 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A few key personnel should soon be at their desks in the Pentagon, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The press secretary for panel Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D- MI) just sent out the names of a handful of nominees for Defense Department posts voted out by the committee today:

Elizabeth McGrath to be Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense;

Michael McCord to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller);

Sharon Burke to be Director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs;

Solomon Watson to be General Counsel of the Department of the Army;

Katherine Hammack to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment; and

Donald Cook to be Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, National Nuclear Security Administration.; as well as

2,799 pending military nominations in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. All nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the Committee’s action.

Full Senate confirmation is up next.

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

The Pentagon just released its latest report on security and stability in Iraq. The report notes that due to the U.S. drawdown of forces in Iraq and the gradual handover of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, information regarding the situation in that country may not be as reliable as in the past:

As a consequence of the movement of U.S. combat forces out of Iraqi cities on June 30, 2009, the United States has reduced visibility and ability to verify Iraqi reports. Without a robust U.S. presence, United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I) metrics include host nation reports that are not independently verifiable. The overall trends between U.S. force data and host nation data are very close, but some values may differ. Current charts show a combination of U.S. and host-nation reported data. The combination of these reports causes baseline numbers to increase, making it difficult to compare these charts with those from previous publications of this report. Each slide is annotated to indicate the types of reports included.

With that caveat, though, the report states:

Although stability is improving, it is not yet enduring. Looking ahead, the United States will continue to use a "whole of government" approach to help build Iraq’s governing organizations as legitimate, representative, and effective institutions serving all Iraqi citizens.

By Zachary M. Peterson
May 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter told luncheon attendees today at the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space conference that the Defense Department should focus on what the Joint Strike Fighter "should" cost not what the jet "will" cost.

Carter did not expand much on the comment; however, he did say that the key to the troubled program's success is affordability. The acquisition czar added that the department must get the JSF program back on track and is "determined to do so" after the Joint Estimating Team (JET) found last fall that the cost of the Pentagon's largest current procurement effort had grew considerably from the original estimates.

When asked by a lieutenant commander in the audience how fellow acquisition professionals could avoid the mistakes that plague JSF in the future, Carter said people working within program offices should focus on the "content, not the process." He argued in many cases program personnel are "so choked with process" that they are satisfied if they start out with a "lion and end up with a mouse." Further, Carter said programs must be able to allow issues to surface "in an honest way," so they can be solved before more serious problems arise.

Carter declined to take any questions from reporters.

By John Liang
May 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

National Public Radio this morning did a curtain-raiser on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference being held this week at the United Nations in New York. NPR spoke with several nonproliferation experts to get their views on Iran and North Korea. Leonard Spector of the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies had this to say about Iran's challenge to the United States regarding the U.S. commitment to nonproliferation:

Iran will pound away at that, but I think most states are going to say, whoa, the United States has really made some progress. It's committed quite openly to the vision of disarmament, which we had not seen in the previous administration. Maybe now it's time for us, the other countries, to stand behind the United States in an effort to reinforce the non-proliferation parts of the treaty.

Mitchell Reiss, a nuclear issues expert at the College of William and Mary, said that non-nuclear countries could receive security benefits from the NPT, regardless of whether the United States were to make reductions to its atomic arsenal:

It's the non-nuclear weapon states that have the most to gain from making sure that the NPT is robust and that its safeguards are effective and the cheaters, like North Korea and Iran are punished. Our reductions aren't a prize or a reward to the non-nuclear weapon states; it's something that we do out of our self-interest. But the NPT is in their self-interest.

By Jason Sherman
May 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today raised fundamental questions about the affordability of the Navy's modernization plans and called for the sea service “to be designed for new challenges, new technologies, and new missions.”

In an address to the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, Gates issued a raft of challenges to Navy and Marine Corps leaders. We'll have a full story up on the speech, which is sure to get lots of attention. For now, here are some key quotes -- not necessarily in order of delivery -- from the prepared text:

  • I do not foresee any significant topline increases in the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions. At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 ((billion)) to 6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.
  • Our Navy has to be designed for new challenges, new technologies, and new missions -- because another one of history’s hard lessons is that, when it comes to military capabilities, those who fail to adapt often fail to survive.
  • … ((T))he virtual monopoly the U.S. has enjoyed with precision guided weapons is eroding -- especially with long-range, accurate anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that can potentially strike from over the horizon. This is a particular concern with aircraft carriers and other large, multi-billion-dollar blue-water surface combatants, where, for example, a Ford-class carrier plus its full complement of the latest aircraft would represent potentially $15 to $20 billion worth of hardware at risk. The U.S. will also face increasingly sophisticated underwater combat systems -- including numbers of stealthy subs -- all of which could end the operational sanctuary our Navy has enjoyed in the Western Pacific for the better part of six decades.
  • But we must also rethink what and how we buy -- to shift investments towards systems that provide the ability to see and strike deep along the full spectrum of conflict. This means, among other things: extending the range at which U.S. naval forces can fight, refuel, and strike, with more resources devoted to long-range unmanned aircraft and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. New sea-based missile defenses; a submarine force with expanded roles that is prepared to conduct more missions deep inside an enemy’s battle network. We will also have to increase submarine strike capability and look at smaller and unmanned underwater platforms.
  • ((T))he Department must continually adjust its future plans as the strategic environment evolves. Two major examples come to mind.
    • First, what kind of new platform is needed to get large numbers of troops from ship to shore under fire -- in other words, the capability provided by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. No doubt, it was a real strategic asset during the first Gulf War to have a flotilla of Marines waiting off Kuwait City -- forcing Saddam’s army to keep one eye on the Saudi border, and one eye on the coast. But we have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again -- especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore. On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?

Second -- aircraft carriers. Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040. To be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys. Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one? Any future plans must address these realities.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 30, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's Feb. 1 Quadrennial Defense Review report addressed many but not all of the items required by law, according to a study released today by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Of the 17 required reporting items, the Defense Department addressed six, partially addressed seven, and did not directly address four, GAO concludes.

"The items not directly addressed included items addressing the anticipated roles and missions of the reserve component, the advisability of revisions to the Unified Command Plan, the extent to which resources must be shifted among two or more theaters, and the appropriate ratio of combat to support forces," GAO writes. "According to DOD officials, these items were not directly addressed for a variety of reasons such as changes in the operational environment, the difficulty of briefly summarizing a large volume of data generated through the QDR analyses, or departmental plans to report on some items separately."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development David Ochmanek discussed the tooth-to-tail ratio in an interview with Inside the Pentagon.

By Dan Dupont
April 30, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The issue of counterfeit parts in the military supply chain is back in the news, as you may have noted. From our story yesterday:

The Defense Department is unable to vet counterfeit parts from U.S. weapon systems' supply chain, a shortcoming that has exposed Air Force aircraft to bogus parts such as sensitive electronics and metals used in critical components, according to a new report by congressional auditors.

That report, from the Government Accountability Office, is here.

It contains this little nugget of interesting info:

In April 2009 DOD formed a departmentwide team -- partially in response to media reports that highlighted the existence of counterfeit parts in the DOD supply chain10 -- to collect information and recommend actions to mitigate the risk of counterfeit parts in its supply chain.

And what media reports are those? Here's one, from the GAO report's footnote:

"Fake Parts are Seeping Into Military Aircraft Maintenance Depots,” Inside the Air Force (Mar. 28, 2008) . . . .