The Insider

By Dan Dupont
April 9, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense consultant and Lexington Institute COO Loren Thompson has attacked a story we wrote this week on the Joint Strike Fighter, alleging ethical lapses and claiming that that the story is "wrong,” among other wild accusations.

Thompson's assertions are flat wrong. In an update to the story published last night, we included a response from the Pentagon's spokesman, Col. David Lapan, backing up the numbers used in the story. You can read that full story here:

Exclusive: DOD Warns Congress JSF Costs Could Skyrocket To $388 Billion By Summer

The Defense Department has told Congress the price tag for the Joint Strike Fighter program could rise as high as $388 billion by this summer, a recalibration that could raise fundamental questions about the affordability of the Pentagon's plans to buy 2,443 of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft.

In a report disclosed this week by, the Pentagon advised lawmakers that a new, statutorily mandated independent cost estimate of the F-35 program, which formally began last week, could propel F-35 costs from $133.5 million per plane -- a new high -- to as much as $158.1 million, according to DOD sources and figures provided in the 53-page report on JSF sent to Congress April 1.

“The department expects this analysis will result in increases” of as much as 18.4 percent -- or $60.4 billion -- to the current $328.2 billion JSF program cost estimate, according to figures in the report. Such a change would mark $90 billion in cost growth since 2008. obtained a copy of the report and extrapolated the cost increases with assistance from government officials.

Col. David Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said Pentagon cost estimators have calculated a slightly lower number than the $388 billion figure, “but it is not a large . . . difference.” The figure first reported by on April 6 is in the “ballpark,” Lapan said in an interview on April 8.

The story -- and its math -- have been backed by numerous officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere in the defense community, and are, as noted by Col. Lapan, not disputed by the Pentagon itself.

The numbers used in the story are based entirely on the numbers submitted by the Pentagon to Congress, which you can read here. stands behind the story as published (and as updated to reflect Pentagon comments, which were sought for the original story but not submitted to us until after it was printed).

We soundly reject Mr. Thompson's unfounded accusations.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 8, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the "New START" pact in Prague today, laying the groundwork for the extension of a nuclear disarmament agreement that has been key to relations between the two countries for decades. To enter into force, both countries' parliaments must ratify the treaty.

"While the New START treaty is an important first step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey," Obama said in a statement posted on the White House Web site today. "As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons," the statement reads.

The nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States make up more than 90 percent of the world's atomic weapons.

The treaty text enables Washington and Moscow to continue their work on ballistic missile defense shields, an ongoing point of contention regarding a planned U.S. system for Europe. "A missile of a type developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the Earth shall not be considered to be a ballistic missile to which the provisions of this Treaty apply," the treaty states.

"President Medvedev and I have also agreed to expand our discussions on missile defense," Obama's statement reads. "This will include regular exchanges of information about our threat assessments, as well as the completion of a joint assessment of emerging ballistic missiles. And as these assessments are completed, I look forward to launching a serious dialogue about Russian-American cooperation on missile defense," the statement adds.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander is finally getting his shot at explaining to Congress his vision for U.S. Cyber Command, and senators will get a chance to inquire about the particulars of the newest military command's raison d'être. Alexander's nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled for April 15, the panel announced yesterday. He will testify alongside Vice Adm. James Winnefeld, who is nominated to lead U.S. Northern Command.

President Obama nominated Alexander last October to lead CYBERCOM, the sub-unified command that initially will operate under the auspices of U.S. Strategic Command. The job of CYBERCOM chief comes with a promotion to four-star general, and Alexander would continue to be director of the National Security Agency, if confirmed.

By Thomas Duffy
April 7, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair yesterday addressed the Bipartisan Policy Center's conference on the "State of Intelligence Reform," hosted by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Keane (R) and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IA), the two commissioners of the 9/11 panel.

Conference attendees heard from two panels featuring intelligence community veterans like Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the former ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; and former DNI retired Adm. Mike McConnell.

Then Blair stepped up and gave his recipe for making things better in the intelligence field:

Here are three practical recommendations. They’re in progress, but they need to be driven to build that kind of agency leadership: First, as mandated by the IRTPA, every officer must serve in a joint job before he or she can be promoted to the Senior Intelligence Service. Now, this program, as Director McConnell -- former Director McConnell mentioned -- is under way.

But we need to toughen this requirement so the jobs that earn joint duty credit are those that provide real experience in the capabilities and the culture of other agencies. I can tell you that once you’ve served a significant period of time outside your home agency in the atmosphere of another agency, you go back to your former duties a changed person. You have real understanding of what can be done. So that’s number one.

Second, we need more thorough succession planning within the agencies, conducted basically by the agency leadership itself, but overseen by the DNI. Succession planning will ensure that officers promoted to leadership roles in the individual agencies truly have the right qualifications and the joint ethic. Succession planning is also necessary for other goals that we’re pursuing for the leadership of the Intelligence Community -- diversity and breadth -- as well as parent agency skills.

And third, we need to continue to improve joint education. We’ve started new joint training courses for entry-, mid-level and senior intelligence officers this year. And we’ll look to continually improve them. The curricula of these courses must be continually updated and refreshed. We’re learning the best examples; best practices are coming all the time. And as I mentioned, primarily
from the field in. And we have to plow those back into the education so that those who are in the courses can take full advantage of them.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review, released today, directs the Pentagon to retire the nuclear-tipped version of Tomahawk cruise missile, as expected.

"This system serves a redundant purpose in the U.S. nuclear stockpile," the report states. "It has been one of a number of means to forward-deploy nuclear weapons in time of crisis. Other means include forward-deployment of bombers with either bombs or cruise missiles, as well as forward-deployment of dual-capable fighters. In addition, U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs are capable of striking any potential adversary. The deterrence and assurance roles of TLAM-N can be adequately substituted by these other means, and the United States remains committed to providing a credible extended deterrence posture and capabilities."

Inside the Pentagon reported in February that the nuclear Tomahawk would likely be retired.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

White House officials plan to roll out the much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review tomorrow. The document will be heavily scrutinized for any indications of how President Obama plans to implement his vision of a nuclear weapons-free world -- or at least diminish the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security policy toolbox.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, on its Web site, editorialized about the potential outcomes of the review today. According to the UCS blog entry, a lot will hinge on subtleties in the final text, for example when it comes to the stated purpose of nuclear weapons. Options here, UCS folks write, range from characterizing atomic weapons strictly as a deterrent force to reserving the right to use them on a pre-emptive basis in certain circumstances.

Other points warranting attention will be sections on the U.S. arsenal size, stockpile maintenance plans, tactical weapons in Europe and the alert status of the U.S. arsenal, according to UCS.

By John Liang
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency plans to brief potential contractors next week on its nascent space-based, missile-launch-tracking system, envisioned as a follow-on to the experimental, dual-satellite Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

The unclassified industry day on the Precision Tracking Space System will take place on April 9 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Eastern time at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA, According to an April 1 Federal Business Opportunities notice.

The agency plans to incorporate lessons learned from the two STSS demonstration satellites currently in orbit to inform its decisions while it develops the PTSS capability, according to MDA's fiscal year 2011 budget documents. Consequently, MDA is asking Congress for $67 million in FY-11 to fund the PTSS effort, reported in February.

The agency's objective for the PTSS program "is to deliver an operational space-based system to address the ascent phase midcourse tracking challenge facing the MDA," the notice states, adding:

To meet this objective, MDA plans to first develop a prototype system, followed by an operational PTSS. The PTSS prototype and operational system are planned to consist of a constellation of spacecraft and associated ground control and processing equipment that is integrated with the developed Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) elements to support command and control, track generation, fusion, and transfer of data through the entire fire-control loop. The operational PTSS will integrate into the BMDS.

As for the industry day itself, MDA has four goals, according to the notice:

(1) to familiarize participants with MDA’s efforts in the Precision Tracking Space System,
(2) share the acquisition approach for the prototype and operational PTSS,
(3) discuss the planned timing and content of solicitations related to PTSS, and
(4) answer questions.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter spoke enthusiastically this morning about plans for a significant increase in the number of camera-equipped aerostats over Afghanistan as a cost-effective way of looking out for insurgent fighters and IED emplacers. Then, this afternoon, the Defense Logistics Agency said it is looking for a contractor to run a facility in the country where liquid helium is converted into gas -- just the kind often used in blimps and tethered balloons.


To be sure, the request for information doesn't say specifically what the gaseous helium would be used for. But the circumstances suggest a connection.

The contractor would be required to always have gas on hand -- even in the event that the conversion is for some reason unavailable, the RFI reads. "To satisfy this no-single-point-of-failure requirement, the contractor may provide on-site storage containers to store gaseous helium previously produced at the facility," according to the RFI. The production schedule is simple: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Defense officials prefer a portable facility, like one mounted on a skid, that the government would lease on a monthly basis, the RFI reads.

By John Liang
April 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A new Senate Republican Policy Committee paper is taking the Obama administration to task for not doing enough to compel Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"The United Nations Security Council has been demanding for years that Iran cease its uranium enrichment program," the paper notes. "Barack Obama made clear when he was a candidate for President that diplomacy without precondition was his preferred policy to address Iran’s nuclear program. As President he implemented that policy, saying he would give it until the end of 2009 to see 'serious movement on the part of the Iranians.' Secretary of State Clinton agreed that 'crippling sanctions' should be the consequence if diplomatic offers to Iran 'are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.'"

Has that process been successful? Republicans sure don't think so, according to the report:

There is little more to show for the year of engagement than an additional year’s worth of enriched uranium and functioning centrifuges. A publicly revealed covert uranium enrichment facility is just the most recent evidence Iran has no intention of halting its nuclear program.

Tough sanctions are intended to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program in defiance of international demands. If the U.S. does not impose them after insisting it would, both allies and enemies will question our credibility.

By Marjorie Censer
March 31, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The first increment of the Army's brigade combat team modernization effort is slated to face a Defense Acquisition Board interim review Friday (April 2), program executive office integration spokesman Paul Mehney confirmed Tuesday.

The review is the first of two required by Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter in a Dec. 24 acquisition decision memorandum signed last year. According to the memo, the review will address the network, including a maturity plan through fiscal year 2017; the Army’s plan for an open, scalable architecture; and a network technology readiness assessment to be prepared by the director of defense research and engineering. Additionally, the meeting is to provide an update on reliability growth plans, a reevaluation of the threshold and objective reliability requirements for the program and an update on the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System flight limited user test.

The memo also says the review will include a “comprehensive precision mix cost-effectiveness analysis for the BCT” intended to “demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the NLOS-LS, in EIBCT relevant scenarios, with appropriate augmentation by other Army and joint platforms.”

Meanwhile, Mehney said the Army has identified all of the fixes needed for Increment 1 based on last year's LUT and will implement the corrections by the next LUT, slated for the fourth quarter of FY-10. At a March 10 hearing, an Army official said the service had identified 94 percent of the required fixes.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 30, 2010 at 5:00 AM

June promises to be a decisive month for the military space community. For one, Pentagon leaders plan to release the final version of their space posture review during that month. In addition, officials plan to wrap up an initial capabilities document for the National Space Situational Awareness program, according to a recent Air Force note on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Such documents are created as part of the Defense Department's Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. In the case of the National SSA program, any information coming out of the effort will likely highly classified, given that military space activities are closely guarded secrets in the face of competition from countries like China and Russia.

Reliable situational awareness of all objects and goings-on in space is considered a prerequisite for any offensive and protective military space capability, Pentagon officials have said. Work on the National SSA ICD is co-led by the Air Force Space Command and the National Security Space Office, according to the March 16 FedBizOpps notice.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Army-led Biometrics Task Force now goes by the name Biometrics Identity Management Agency. Army Secretary John McHugh ordered the name change in a March 23 general order, noting his authority as the Defense Department's executive agent for biometrics. The one-page order was flagged by the Secrecy News blog.

"The Biometrics Identity Management Agency shall have fund certification authority while remaining in the deputy chief of staff, G–3/5/7 and OA–22 organizational structure, along with manpower management authority to establish and acquire resources needed to fulfill executive manager responsibilities," McHugh wrote.

The "executive manager" designation is an internal Army title conferred upon the former BTF director, and now the BIMA head.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said today the department has not yet decided whether to extend the May 10 deadline for industry responses to the Air Force's KC-X tanker request for proposals.

Carter made the comment in response to a reporter's question at a National Aeronautics Association luncheon.

EADS, which is weighing whether to compete against Boeing for the lucrative contract, would like the Defense Department to significantly extend the deadline. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Senate appropriators that DOD had received a letter from EADS formally requesting an extension, but Gates said DOD had not yet decided what to do.

By John Liang
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has nominated Teresa Takai to become the Defense Department's assistant secretary for Networks and information integration, the administration announced this afternoon.

According to her White House bio:

Since December 2007, Teri Takai has served as Chief Information Officer for the State of California. As a member of the Governor's cabinet, she advises him on the strategic management and direction of information technology resources as the state works to modernize and transform the way California does business with its citizens. Prior to her appointment in California, Takai served as Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state's Chief Information Officer. In this position, she restructured and consolidated Michigan's resources by merging the state's information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Before serving in state government, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company's information technology strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2005, Takai was named "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine. She is Past-President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as Practitioner Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

By John Liang
March 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The State Department's top legal adviser this week gave a speech at the American Society of International Law's (ASIL) 104th annual meeting that touched on, among other topics, the lawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare. According to an ASIL statement, Koh's speech "included a specific affirmation of the administration’s approach to the use of force, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which has recently come into question by some legal experts."

Specifically, Koh said:

(It) is the considered view of this administration . . . that targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war. . . . As recent events have shown, Al Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. . . . (T)his administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:

- First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and

- Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

In U.S. operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces – including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.

In response to arguments by opponents of using UAVs in warfare, Koh defended the Obama administration's policy:

(S)ome have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law. . . . (S)ome have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict – such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs -- so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war. . . . (S)ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meeting. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law. . . . Fourth and finally, some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems -- consistent with the applicable laws of wear -- for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.’