The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Maj. Gen. Kurt Stein late last week took over as commander of TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, succeeding Maj. Gen. Scott West.

According to a statement issued by the service, the ceremony was conducted by Army Materiel Command chief Gen. Ann Dunwoody and held at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Stein, the release adds, previously served in Iraq as a deputy chief of staff for the Combined Joint 1/4/8 directorate of Multi-National Force-Iraq.

West had served as TACOM's commander since April 2008 and retired after 33 years of service.

By Christopher J. Castelli
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Though the White House's spending cap aimed at reducing the deficit does not apply to the Defense Department, President Obama noted this morning the Pentagon is not exempt from budget common sense or the need to look for savings. As an example, he cited the Air Force's C-17 program.

The Quadrennial Defense Review and DOD's fiscal year 2011 budget request call for terminating production of the Boeing planes. The cut will save $2.5 billion, Obama said. Congress has previously provided unrequested money for unnecessary C-17s, he lamented in a speech, adding, "It's waste, pure and simple."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has previously argued the department needs no more C-17s. At a hearing last April, he told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the Air Force and U.S. Transportation Command believe the military has more than enough capacity for airlift over the next decade or so. He also cited a legislative prohibition on decommissioning C-5A cargo planes. “As we look at the capacity that we have with those 59 C-5As and we get more and more C-17s we just are continuing to build excess capacity,” Gates said.

Inside the Air Force recently reported the Air Force will ask Congress for permission to retire a number of its oldest C-5A aircraft when the service sends its FY-11 budget proposal to Capitol Hill.

By Dan Dupont
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Gates, outlining the fiscal year 2011 defense budget request for reporters at the Pentagon, just served notice that he will "strongly" recommend the president veto any defense bill that includes funding for more C-17s or the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials plan to finish work on the congressionally mandated space posture review by June, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said today. The review is delayed because the Defense Department drill is wrapped up in work on a White House-level review of the national space policy, she said. Flournoy made her comments during a briefing on the Quadrennial Defense Review, released today. She said work was under way to "sequence" the two reviews, ensuring the Pentagon's review would build on the president's.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials need the $33 billion included 2010 supplemental request by Memorial Day, May 31, to keep operations on track, according to Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale. The money is subject to congressional approval.

Depending on the rate of spending at the time, the military may be able to hold out only "a little bit longer" beyond the holiday, he told reporters at the Pentagon today.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Friends and what the Pentagon might call near-peer competitors alike now have the chance to read results of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review in their native tongues. That's thanks to the Defense Department, which offers executive summaries in Russian, Chinese, Arabic, French and Spanish.

As for China, the English version of the document reiterates a longstanding Pentagon complaint about the transparency of Beijing's military buildup. "China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope, and ultimate aims of its military modernization programs, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions," the QDR report states.

As noted by over the weekend, however, the final version of the QDR does downplay an earlier draft's language on China as a potential enemy.

By Marjorie Censer
January 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has challenges ahead, particularly in contracting, according to the farewell speech delivered Dec. 30, 2009, by Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, the organization's outgoing director.

Though he acknowledged JIEDDO's accomplishments, Metz said the "narrow link" is contracting. "JIEDDO’s establishment was a mandate to bring us to the reality of the enemy we currently face," he said. "I strongly feel that we must be prudent with our citizen’s money, and JIEDDO has embraced a transparent set of analytically driven processes to make sure we properly manage the funds allocated to us."

However, he warned, additional "layers of bureaucracy" would mean the Pentagon is "relinquish((ing)) the initiative to the enemy."

"The Department can significantly help JIEDDO with its mission by bringing a contracting capability inside the organization thus streamlining the processes while being prudent with our citizens’ money," Metz added. He urged allowing JIEDDO to operate in a "risk-tolerant environment"so potential solutions can get to soldiers quickly.

"If forced into a box of externally controlled, risk-averse processes, then close JIEDDO, because JIEDDO will no longer be able to do what it does best -- operate inside the Department’s 0- to 24-month capabilities delivery window, a place where DOD’s requirements validation and budget development processes and our contracting regulations are very difficult to maneuver," Metz added.

Additionally, he recommended the Quadrennial Defense Review -- set for release next week -- recognize the IED as "the enemy's weapon of choice" and require the Pentagon to continue aggressive efforts to combat IEDs.

That same day, Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, formerly the commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division (Light) and Ft. Drum, NY, assumed the JIEDDO directorship.

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

French air force Gen. Stéphane Abrial almost made big news last week when he spoke to an audience of senior U.S. military officials and defense policy experts.

Unfortunately, he left out a bit of information of the kind that could spark a more public examiniation of how NATO's International Security Assistance Force does business in Afghanistan.

The story: Abrial, the first European to head the alliance's U.S.-based Allied Command Transformation, was giving a talk -- titled "International Perspectives: Developing Global Partnerships " -- at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

During his Jan. 21 address, Abrial touched on the problem of intelligence sharing among ISAF nations during operations in Afghanistan. Almost in passing, he noted just how bad it still is, according to a transcript of the relevant section later provided by a spokesman.

And of course working in a coalition poses the very real question of the sharing of intelligence. Operations in Afghanistan have shown the difficulties arising from an insufficient ability to do it. Inability to access national intelligence justifying a target being placed on a Joint Prioritized Effects List has kept whole nations outside much of the targeting process. On the other hand, some nations will not share intelligence which could result in kinetic actions.

Naturally, we were curious as to which sharing-averse nations Abrial was referring to.

It took a few days to get this question straight with the folks at ACT. In their initial response they acknowledged that, yes, we captured the general's comments correctly in formulating our question.

But which countries was he talking about? He won't say, Abrial's spokesman, Roy Thorvaldsen, told us in an e-mail.

"I don't think GEN Abrial would want to drop any names," one public affairs officer said to another, according to e-mails exchanged within the command.

"This is all that you are going to get out of this," Thorvaldson finally told us, after we prodded again. "Remember that NATO is an Alliance of 28 individual nations and a complex political balance. A Strategic Commander needs to be very careful not to step on any toes."

By Jason Sherman
January 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, as always, had some of the best seats in the House for the State of the Union address. Seated to President Obama's right during the Joint Session of Congress front-row seats were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey. Behind them: Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, and Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant.

The location of their seats, on the the majority side of the chamber, allowed the Pentagon leaders plenty of opportunities to mill with Democrats before the president arrived. Working the other side of the room was their boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- who along with the rest of the cabinet was seated near the Republican members of Congress.

The Pentagon's top brass largely refrained from applause during the speech which covered a lot of political terrain, including a call for a new jobs bill, taxing big banks, health care reform, financial industry reform legislation, new education initiatives, and a three-year freeze on discretionary, non-defense federal spending.

The chiefs were studiously still when the president, near the end of his address, pledged to work to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military.

The president did not use this forum to unveil any new defense policy initiatives. He reiterated plans to withdraw combat troops from Iraq this summer and from Afghanistan by the summer of 2011.

And Obama also highlighted his commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear war.

Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people – the threat of nuclear weapons. I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April’s Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring forty-four nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of these weapons. That is why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions – sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That is why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.

By Christopher J. Castelli
January 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The thrust of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2011 budget request, due to be unveiled Monday, should come as no surprise, Defense Secretary Robert Gates' spokesman Geoff Morrell said yesterday.

"We've been leaving a trail of breadcrumbs . . . over the past several years in terms of where the secretary was heading in terms of reforming the defense budget," he said. "You saw in dramatic fashion last April when he announced the FY-10 budget proposals, and I think you will see FY-11 continue to build upon the reforms and the rebalancing that were first put forth in the '10 budget."

"But I don't think there will be any surprises in terms of where, philosophically, we are headed," he added. "This is very much about building upon the progress that was made in the ((FY-10)) budget and continuing the rebalancing so that there is focus on our forces and their families; that there is a greater commitment of resources necessary to win the wars that we are currently fighting; while at the same time obviously doing the prudent kind of planning for deterring or if necessary fighting future perhaps conventional conflicts against near peers. And that's the trajectory we've been on, and that's the one we'll continue to head on."

Given the fiscally constrained environment, DOD has made some "hard choices," he noted. "There are things that will be cut and things that will be added to, to achieve the proper balance that the secretary believes we must have."

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 28, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Readers missing a certain amount of informational meat behind some of the decisions outlined in the draft Quadrennial Defense Review report might wait until March or April. That is when the new Guidance for the Development of the Force is supposed to be wrapped up, we're told. The thing is, folks will need a security clearance to look at that one.

Defense leaders took a similar route in the 2006 QDR, when they packed a lot of detail that wasn't considered fit for the glossy paper of the QDR into what was then the Strategic Planning Guidance.

Of particular interest, one defense insider said, will be exactly what kind of treatment a kind of ueber-study will get in the GDF that is characterized in the draft QDR only as an effort to find the optimal combination of ISR, electronic warfare and "precision-attack" capabilities in support of "power projection operations."

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM

For some time , defense officials have been observing a trend among would-be adversaries, like China, of investing in systems capable of engaging U.S. forces from afar. The idea of these anti-access capabilities is to keep the world's best-equipped military from physically entering theaters of war, either by directly denying U.S. forces entry or, more indirectly, by disabling critical capabilities -- think GPS, for example -- needed to maneuver.

A U.S. Joint Forces Command-sponsored war game last year led to a number of urgent recommendations for Quadrennial Defense Review leaders to address the issue, we reported last October.

Jim Thomas, vice president for strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, yesterday pointed out two program portfolios worth watching in next week's defense budget request because they could offer insight into exactly how defense officials intend to approach the problem.

For one, DOD's plans for long-range strike capabilities, which would need to consider U.S. countermeasures to overcome anti-access weapons, is one area to keep an eye on, Thomas told reporters yesterday. Another, he said, has to do with space assets. Because satellites are increasingly vulnerable to enemy attack during a concerted anti-access campaign against U.S. forces, officials are expected to field more air-breathing systems delivering similar capabilities as backups, he said.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Talk about inside information: a Dec. 3, 2009, draft version of the Quadrennial Defense Review, which we posted earlier today, had the foresight to cite a draft version of President Obama's soon-to-be-released 2010 National Security Strategy.

In a section titled "America's Interests and the Role of Military Power," the draft QDR report notes four American "enduring interests" apparently mentioned in the then-draft NSS that underpin the whole, grand strategy review:

-- The security and resiliency of the United States, its citizens and their way of life, and of U.S. allies and partners;

-- A strong and competitive U.S. economy with a leading role in a vibrant and open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity;

-- Respect for values such as civil liberties, democracy, equality, dignity, justice, and the rule of law at home and around the world; and

-- An international order underpinned by U.S. leadership and engagement that promotes peace, security, responsibility, and stronger cooperation to meet global challenges, including transnational threats.

In a similar context, this draft QDR report paragraph on the threshold for the application of force is also of note:

-- The United States will always reserve the right to protect and defend our citizens and allies. We do not seek conflict with other nations, but will not wait to be attacked by adversaries preparing to harm U.S. citizens and allies. The need to employ force is likeliest against actors and threats that do not respond to traditional approaches to international influence and engagement.

By John Liang
January 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today regarding the negotiations over a follow-on pact to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. According to a White House "readout" of the call:

Earlier today, President Obama spoke with President Medvedev of Russia to thank him for his hard work and leadership on the New START Treaty negotiations, as the two sides have made steady progress in recent weeks. The Presidents agreed that negotiations are nearly complete, and pledged to continue the constructive contacts that have advanced U.S.-Russian relations over the last year.

The original START Treaty expired on Dec. 5. Russian and U.S. officials broke off negotiations late last month for the Christmas holidays. Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, left earlier this month for Moscow, and the rest of the U.S. negotiating team will head for Geneva on Feb. 1, Inside Missile Defense reported today.

IMD also notes that a senior U.S. diplomat earlier this month declined to say exactly when a final agreement could be reached:

“We’re doing all the things that you have to do beforehand -- the language, working on annexes, but these things are very technical; these technical annexes are non-trivial,” Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said.

“There’s a lot of really important stuff in there, so when do you declare yourself done?” she added in a Jan. 13 breakfast meeting with defense reporters. “I could actually say, ‘We’re done negotiating, but we have all these other things to do,’ and there’s going to be a lag time between the time we say we’re done and the time that it actually gets up to the Senate.”

“I think that we are really close, we are in a place where we’re working very, very hard, both sides are doing those things,” Tauscher said.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM

In the wake of reports about extremists in Iraq tapping into the video feeds of unmanned military drones, defense officials want to ensure the cybersecurity aspects of unmanned areal vehicles are addressed in military doctrine.

Communications links with overhead drones are "more critical" than those with manned aircraft because there is no pilot to take over the plane when the connection with the ground station gets lost or compromised, notes a Jan. 12 joint publication titled "Command and Control for Joint Air Operations."

"Communications security, and specifically bandwidth protection (from both friendly interference and adversary action) is imperative," the document states, in bold letters.

In general, unmanned aircraft should be treated "similarly to manned systems with regard to the established doctrinal warfighting principles," according to the document, reported today by Secrecy News.