The Insider

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Asthon Carter this week vowed to bring improvements to the area of contingency contracting, which has seen unprecedented activity since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.

"It is a fact of life that for every soldier we field, approximately one contractor also joins the effort," Carter said at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Missteps of the past eight years, which have included overcharges to the government and lax oversight over venders, were partly caused by the fact that officials kept thinking contractors' heavy involvement in U.S. military operations would be a short-lived phenomenon, Carter said.

By John Liang
January 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The past year's nonproliferation-related events, including President Obama's April 5 speech in Prague, as well as his meeting later on that year with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, constitute a "year of miracles," according to former Defense Secretary William Perry.

"If I look at all of these events together, I would say two things about them: First of all, they were totally unpredictable three years ago," Perry said this morning at a Carnegie Endowment event in Washington. "I would not have imagined seeing governments take such strong positions (on arms control) three years ago. . . . Think back to the 'annus mirabilis' that we all thought about at the time that the Soviet Union broke up and Eastern Europe broke free, it has been a year of miracles."

However, lest he "become overtaken with irrational exuberance," Perry noted that "what remains to be done is much, much more important and much, much more difficult than what has been done. Opposing forces to nuclear disarmament are gathering strength . . . the president will face a substantial battle if he gets a START follow-on treaty negotiated, he will face a substantial battle getting it ratified in the U.S. Senate, and an even more substantial battle on getting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratified."

Consequently, according to Perry:

More than anything at this stage what we need is less rhetoric about where we are going and more concrete, positive action about how to get there. We need a clear path forward through the minefields, and that path should have practical steps that can be taken that lead in that right direction but each step in and of itself can be justified on grounds that it will improve our security.

A new report from the independent International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, released in the United States this morning, outlines the steps the international community can take to minimize those threats.

Perry, who served on the commission along with 14 other international experts, said the panel's report "played out such a clear path forward."

By John Liang
January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama this week nominated Katherine Hammack to become the Army's assistant secretary for installations and environment.

According to Hammack's bio, as released by the White House:

Katherine G. Hammack has more than 25 years of experience as an energy and sustainability professional with private industry. Currently she is a leader in Ernst & Young’s (EY’s) Climate Change and Sustainability Services, an international professional services firm. At EY she has focused on the evaluation of energy conservation projects, green buildings, energy efficiency strategies, demand side management programs, and marketing electricity in deregulated markets. In that capacity she worked with clients to obtain Energy Star or LEED certification for their new construction or existing buildings. Katherine was the key LEED advisor on the world’s largest LEED-NC certified project (8.3 million square feet). Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Katherine was a marketing manager for a large electric utility, focused on services for architects and engineers. Katherine is a founding member of US Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. She was a consultant to the White House on the "Greening" of the White House and Executive Office Building where she led the group focused on Indoor Environmental Quality issues. Ms. Hammack has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Hartford. She is a Certified Energy Manager and LEED Accredited Professional.

The Defense Department is starting 2010 with vacancies in 21 of its top appointed positions, including acquisition posts charged with overseeing multibillion-dollar weapons programs, Inside the Pentagon reported earlier this month, with Hammack's position being one of them:

Of the 54 DOD positions that require presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate, 39 percent are vacant, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk.

Eleven of the vacancies have nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, but the White House has yet to issue nominations for the other 10.

Frank Kendall, who would be the Pentagon’s No. 2 acquisition official under DOD acquisition chief Ashton Carter, is one of the nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is holding up Kendall’s confirmation, according to published reports. Also, the White House has not announced a nominee for assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, a post formerly known as deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

Of the three military departments, only the Navy has an acquisition executive in place. Sean Stackley, a holdover from the Bush administration, continues to serve in that post. But Malcolm O’Neill, the nominee for the Army’s top acquisition job, is awaiting Senate confirmation. And the White House has not yet nominated anyone to be the Air Force’s acquisition chief.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Despite heavy Taliban and al Qaeda activity in Pakistan, the State Department's senior counterterrorism official believes the country's atomic weapons are safe.

"Obviously, whenever you see violence inside a country that has nuclear weapons, you have to have some concern," Daniel Benjamin said at a breakfast with reporters yesterday. "But that said, we consulted pretty extensively with the Pakistanis, and we are confident that they have their arsenal under control," he added.

Benjamin said Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain the "beating heart" of al Qaeda, and "the best guess" is still that al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

"The fact that we have had, as many others have said, very little information on where bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are for many years now is not really news," according to Benjamin. "Obviously, it's a real problem for us, a real challenge for us, and we're working to develop that information."

By John Liang
January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

House Armed Services Committee Democrats today elected Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) to chair the panel's air and land forces subcommittee and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) to head the terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee.

Smith takes the place of Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), who retired from the panel, and Sanchez will take Smith's place.

"I am confident that Congressman Smith and Congresswoman Sanchez will continue to serve our committee and our country well as they take on these new leadership responsibilities. I look forward to working with them in their new roles as the House Armed Services Committee begins work on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011," committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) said in a statement, adding:

I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Neil Abercrombie for serving Hawaii and our country for more than 19 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the House Armed Services Committee, Neil's hallmark has been making sure our troops have the equipment they need to protect our country and stay safe. His leadership helped prompt the Pentagon to speed up the delivery of life-saving body armor and ((Mine Resistant Ambush Protected)) vehicles to our forces on the frontlines. I have been honored to serve with Neil, and I will greatly miss his wise counsel, his good humor, and his loyal friendship. I know Congressman Abercrombie will continue to be a forceful and effective advocate on behalf of Hawaii's needs and interests.

By Christopher J. Castelli
January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon’s 2010 Space Posture Review will build on the foundation of similar work by the past two administrations, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said today, citing two key topics in the study.

One primary focus of the review is the increasing vulnerability of U.S. space assets and the search for ways to develop less-vulnerable assets for these critical parts of U.S. military and commercial systems, he said at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The other primary focus is to create adequate acquisition processes that can deliver space systems at the expected cost, he said. The department wants to bring more predictability into the space acquisition process while recognizing the challenges associated with the technology and the space environment, he noted.

“You don’t get to bring things down from space to fix them once you’ve put them up,” Lynn quipped.

By Marjorie Censer
January 20, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Reserve Officers Association today announced that its legislative agenda for 2010 will focus on maintaining the operational capabilities of the reserve component by fully funding equipment and training accounts.

"The agenda includes provisions to support Active and Reserve end-strengths that support mission requirements, and to adequately equip forces through regeneration and improved tracking of equipment," the ROA's announcement reads. "In addition, the agenda establishes the need to fully fund a minimum of 48 paid drill periods and two weeks of paid training per year."

ROA will also promote policies intended to improve recruitment and retention efforts within the Guard and Reserve and seek better continuity of health care coverage, the announcement states.

It notes that agenda items are "member-driven, organized by ROA’s legislative director, and acted on by the staff and grass roots initiatives."

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter has given Alan Shaffer, the principal deputy director for defense research and engineering, another hat to wear.

As of Jan. 7, Shaffer is also the acting principal deputy director of operational energy plans and programs, Carter wrote in a memo to his senior staff.

Lawmakers created the DOEP&P post in the Fiscal Year 2009 defense authorization legislation, enacted in the fall of 2008. The idea was to put a senior Defense Department official in charge of making all things operational -- from weapons to vehicles to forward bases -- more energy efficient.

Last December, White House officials nominated Sharon Burke, vice president of natural security at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, for the job. Sources said Shaffer himself was considered for the job last year, but declined.

Notably, Carter's memo refers to “implementation guidance” for the DOEP&P job, issued by Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn on Oct. 19, 2009. The guidance puts the new office under Carter's “authority, direction and control,” the memo states.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The military command keeping an eye on events like last week's Chinese missile defense test says the incident has left no measurable debris floating around in orbit.

As of Friday last week, officials were "not tracking" any debris as a result of the test, a U.S. Strategic Command spokesman told us today. The spokesman said there was debris in space immediately after the event, but the parts entered the Earth's atmosphere within 10 minutes.

In a widely reported statement following the Jan. 11 test, a Pentagon spokeswoman said military officials "detected two geographically separated missile launch events with an exoatmospheric collision also being observed by space-based sensors."

By Marjorie Censer
January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Though the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles rebuy award is on hold as the Army reevaluates the program, the dispute over the contract continues. The focus this time? Oshkosh's funding plans for building an electrodeposition or "E-coat" facility in Wisconsin.

According to a Jan. 17 article in The Northwestern, the Oshkosh Plan Commission is set to examine this week a $5 million assistance package that the company says it needs to build the facility.

The article says Oshkosh is relying on $51.5 million in state, city and company money -- $5 million in a development assistance grant from the city, $35 million from the state and $11.5 million of its own money -- to build the E-coat factory.

However, the article adds, the city is still looking at the package. The city's director of planning services is quoted as saying the new building's anticipated taxable value only allows $4 million in borrowing. Consequently, a $1 million donation from the Southwest Industrial Park tax incremental financing district would also be needed.

Defense analyst and consultant Loren Thompson, who counts competitor BAE Systems among his clients, writes today that the story of Oshkosh's victory over BAE "just keeps getting worse and worse," as reflected in this not-yet-approved aid.

In a statement released today, Oshkosh said the TIF is pending approval by the Oshkosh Common Council and is supported by the city and its partners.

“We look forward to working with the city and the state as we move forward on this project, which was outlined in our original proposal to our customer," said Oshkosh CEO Robert Bohn. "It is so important to have support from our community as we continue to build the products that protect the men and women in our military forces.”

By Jason Sherman
January 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

As the Pentagon prepares to unveil its fiscal year 2011 budget request the first week of February, a new analysis of defense spending over the last three decades concludes the Obama administration's forthcoming military spending request “locks into place (an) unprecedented rise in defense spending -- 90 percent -- that began in the late 1990s, consolidating a return to Reagan-ear budget levels.”

Based on spending forecasts the White House detailed in May, the Project on Defense Alternatives calculates the Obama administration will allocate $5 trillion to military spending between fiscal years 2010 and 2017, “assuming it stays its current course” and the president is elected to a second term.

Indeed, by a substantial margin, it would represent the greatest amount allotted the Pentagon in any eight years since 1946 -- a period encompassing the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold Wars.

The 61-page report is titled "An Undisciplined Defense: Understanding the $2 Trillion Surge in U.S. Defense Spending."

By Christopher J. Castelli
January 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

National Security Adviser Jim Jones today advocated strengthening Lebanon’s state institutions -- particularly its military -- in meetings with the country's leaders, the White House said in a statement. Lebanon was the last stop on his week-long visit to the Middle East. Jones expressed support for Lebanese military missions to implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions relevant to Lebanon and protect all Lebanese citizens. He echoed President Obama's commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Lebanon partnership "across a broad range of issues" and reiterated U.S. support for a sovereign, independent Lebanon, the White House said.

Jones, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, also laid a wreath at the U.S. embassy for the 337 killed in service to the U.S. government in Lebanon between 1976 and 1995, including the victims of the 1983 and 1984 embassy and Marine barracks bombings.

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

With the Obama administration planning on submitting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification before the end of this year, more than one think tank has begun to examine the pact's pros and cons.

The EastWest Institute today released a report calling for a fresh U.S. debate on the CTBT, calling the pact "a critical step that will reflect the U.S. commitment to nuclear nonproliferation." According to an institute statement:

The report, The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: New Technology, New Prospects?, is the result of discussions between a bipartisan group of 30 technical and policy experts about Senate ratification of the CTBT in light of recent technological advances. The CTBT is unanimously considered a key component of the global nonproliferation regime. The U.S. Senate rejected it in 1999, in part because of concerns that it would not ensure compliance by other states and that it would prevent the U.S. from maintaining the safety and reliability of its nuclear arsenal.

EWI's report suggests that ten years later, technological developments have changed that picture. It investigates how technical advances affect the debate and identifies concerns the Obama administration must address if it wants to pursue Senate ratification of the CTBT.

"Barack Obama laid out a promising and exciting agenda in Prague in April," said W. Pal Sidhu, Vice President of Programs at the EastWest Institute. "Now it's time to deliver."

The CTBT cannot come in to force until the U.S. and eight other countries, including China, India and Pakistan, ratify it. Many countries, including key nuclear powers such as Russia, see the U.S. Senate's failure to ratify the CTBT as a major hurdle to renewed U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation.

"The Senate has had valid concerns about the CTBT, and the administration must address these concerns," said Sidhu. "If the Obama administration is serious about leading the world towards nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, it's got to get serious about the CTBT."

Additionally, the National Academy of Sciences is due to release an update to its 2002 analysis of the treaty within the next 90 days.

An "ad hoc committee" is reviewing and updating "aspects of the analysis in the 2002 National Academies’ report, Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty," according to the NAS Web site. The committee is examining the following areas:

1) Maintaining the safety and reliability of the U.S. stockpile. The committee will assess, including information developed for and produced by the Nuclear Posture Review, the Administration’s plan to manage the risks in ensuring, over the longer term, a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile absent underground nuclear testing. The experience of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program, particularly in the last decade, will also be taken into account.

2) Nuclear explosion detection, location and identification. The committee will assess present nuclear explosion detection capabilities, taking into account the totality of assets accessible to the United States, including: (a) any improvements in U.S. national technical means in the last decade, and (b) operating experience of the international monitoring system. The committee might also consider how these capabilities are expected to improve over time.

3) Sustainability. The committee will assess what commitments are required to sustain: (a) America’s nuclear stockpile; (b) the U.S. monitoring system; and (c) an adequate international verification regime, including On-Site Inspection.

4) Technical Advances. The committee will assess the potential technical advances to nuclear weapon capabilities for other countries: (a) that result from evasive and non-evasive testing at levels below the U.S. detection capability; and (b) that result from returning to full-yield testing in a non-test-ban environment.

By Marjorie Censer
January 14, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The materiel development decision for the Army's ground combat vehicle effort -- which would replace the terminated Future Combat Systems manned ground vehicles -- has been rescheduled for February, though a specific date has not been set, program executive office integration spokesman Paul Mehney told Inside the Army today.

The review, originally slated for Dec. 22, is set to decide whether the program will begin at milestone A or B. As ITA reported at the time, the original meeting was postponed at the request of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

By Marjorie Censer
January 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM

No pressure, Army, but the ground combat vehicle -- set to replace the Future Combat Systems manned ground platforms -- will be a profoundly significant system, influencing "all other ground programs from the network to sensors, aircraft, fire support and dismounted soldier systems," a retired two-star writes in a new Armed Forces Journal article.

Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College and the current president of consulting firm Colgen Inc., notes in the piece that the Army does not have a great track record for equipping ground forces. Citing a "string of failures" from FCS to the Comanche helicopter, he stresses the importance of getting GCV right from the start.

"The GCV concept must fit the needs of today’s wars and yet be sufficiently expansive and adaptable to meet the needs of forces fighting higher-order battles," Scales writes.

To successfully produce the vehicle, he promotes changing the design focus of the GCV's network "from the operational and strategic to the tactical" and changing "the customer from the general to the individual soldier."

An individual soldier "should be well-connected inside or outside the GCV and should lose no situational awareness when making the transition from mounted to dismounted combat," Scales adds. Comparing the GCV to a "mothership," he says it must be "optimized to operate in small units for prolonged periods in inhospitable terrain and climate."

Additionally, Scales calls for the GCV to be a "universal carrier" whose design embraces the needs of all ground combat services and to be "optimized for the common purpose of transporting a squad-sized team to the fight, not just infantry but any small team likely to be placed in harm's way."

Writing that Strykers "have proven to be too thinly armored to survive the very large explosive power of Taliban IEDs and too immobile to maneuver off road to avoid them" in Afghanistan, Scales says the "new universal carrier must be able to travel and maneuver off roads that today are studded with IEDs." The GCV must also be fast -- able to sustain speeds of 70 kilometers per hour over broken terrain -- and quiet to perform counterinsurgency.

Despite his recommendations, Scales argues that no legacy system can meet the needs of all ground services across the spectrum of conflict. "The only practical solution is to build the GCV around the concept of a universal small-unit carrier and then stretch the system as far as possible to accommodate other functions," he writes.