The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Barack Obama, who will become a wartime president on his first day in office, will face pressing national security challenges and be forced to make critical decisions early, according to a report released today by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The document -- written by well-known defense expert Anthony Cordesman -- says Obama will have to determine how to handle the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how to reshape the fiscal year 2010 budget, how to deal with “the cost-containment crisis in defense procurement” and how to restructure deployment plans to reflect needs in Afghanistan.

“The new President elect is not going to have the time to meditate, have task forces examine broad changes in strategy, and think conceptually,” the report says. “As of January 20th, he will have to deal with the inheritance of ongoing wars and crises in many aspects of defense.”

While acknowledging the challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cordesman also zeroes in on the problems with defense programming and budgeting.

“There will be an immediate need to compensate for nearly eight years of conceptual strategies decoupled from force plans, and budgets, poorly structured wartime budget supplementals, a grossly mismanaged procurement effort in every military service, and a failure to contain the cost of U.S. defense spending,” he writes.

Immediately and for some time, Obama will have to reshape the Defense Department as well as national security policy to rebalance the structure and missions of the active and reserve components, address recruiting and retention problems and control costs, among other issues, the report says.

In the long-term, he will need to create forces able to perform both “hard” and “soft” functions, establish effective defense planning structures and cycles and ensure that procurement plans are “real and affordable,” while also addressing many other challenges.

The question, Cordesman concludes, is the degree to which the Obama administration will be realistic. He calls on the new presidential team to make “hard trade-offs without abandoning key options,” accept “the fact that the U.S. status as 'superpower' was always severely limited and these limits will grow” and look to create integrated and affordable plans and budgets that are tailored to major missions and regions.

“The extent to which the Obama Administration acts on this basis, rather than the basis of the ideological extremism and failed management of the Bush Administration, will determine much of its success and the state of U.S. national security,” Cordesman writes.

November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

So says Marc Ambinder, of The Atlantic.

He's got the press release from Obama-Biden.

By Sebastian Sprenger
November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama are in negotiations with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the conditions of a continued tenure at the helm of the Pentagon, has learned.

The Obama team wants to put Richard Danzig into the deputy defense secretary job, according to a source close to the president-elect's transition team. The plan is to elevate the former Navy secretary to the top Pentagon post following a transition period during which Gates would remain secretary, a source close to the Obama transition team said.

But Gates said he wants to keep his current deputy, Gordon England, in place during that time, the source said this evening, describing the situation as an “impasse.”

For the of job of national security adviser, Brookings Institution scholar James Steinberg is emerging as a likely pick, the source said, speaking on condition of not being named.

Steinberg was a deputy national security adviser during the Clinton administration.

By Marjorie Censer
November 4, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Beyond the big-ticket weapons programs and end-strength issues that garner the most attention in discussions of what the next Pentagon leadership team will have to deal with is the less-sexy but equally thorny matter of reset – returning all that well-worn equipment to fighting shape. As Inside the Pentagon reported last week, acting Pentagon comptroller Douglas Brook has said reset will be one of the requirements that will put pressure on the budget.

Though Brook said the next administration will likely cut defense spending, he cited the need to reset and recapitalize military equipment destroyed and worn down by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a factor that will push the budget up.

“The cost of bringing the Army back, in particular, to full strength will be substantial and that doesn’t include improvements in weapons systems planned by all of the services,” Brook said.

In that vein, we note today the Army’s Stryker program office is considering condensing reset work by using just one facility. According to the latest issue of Army AL&T magazine, the program management office for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams is “exploring the cost-savings and feasibility of conducting all Stryker resets at a centralized facility.”

Currently, the Stryker reset program is primarily conducted at the home station of the BCT that owns the equipment. In August, Inside the Army traveled to Ft. Lewis, WA -- home of the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team -- to see the program office gearing up for vehicle reset. Our story is here.

By Thomas Duffy
November 4, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A senior Pentagon advisory panel has issued a 66-page report laying out the top five issues the next commander-in-chief must put on his agenda. According to the Defense Science Board, these issues "could lead to future military failure" if left unresolved.

According to the report, “Defense Imperatives for the New Administration,” those issues are: Developing the intelligence needed to confront terrorism, protecting and defending the homeland; maintaining the capability to project force around the world; bringing stability to states and regions; and supporting state and local authorities in providing domestic catastrophe relief.

On the intel front, the science board says the United States lacks the means to get the type of intelligence needed to get inside terrorist networks. No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office next year, he will have to confront the threat of terrorism, a threat the science board board contends the U.S. intelligence community is not fully equipped to handle.

The limiting factor in thwarting terrorists is learning their identity and location. Terrorists have gotten better at their trade craft -- they are harder to detect and more lethal. In turn, we are spending a considerable amount on intelligence overall, and many intelligence community efforts have been redirected toward terrorism. Despite concerted efforts, we still lack the deep penetration required for actionable intelligence -- both foreign and domestic.

Despite the millions of dollars the U.S. government spends annually on intelligence gathering, the science board contends the intelligence community does not know enough.

The number one issue in counterterrorism is that we are information limited. Many nostrums for improving intelligence in support of counterterrorism focus on 'connecting the dots' on the presumption that we have all the dots. We do not, nor are we sufficiently astute and aggressive in collecting them.

One improvement needed is to strengthen domestic intelligence, the report says.

The creation of the Director of National Intelligence responded, in part, to the September 11 attacks against our homeland and placed domestic as well as foreign intelligence within the purview of a single individual. Notwithstanding, the successive directors of national intelligence have been slow to embrace domestic intelligence and that must be remedied.

By Dan Dupont
November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute has published a monograph summing up a conference on “Leadership and National Security Reform: The Next President’s Agenda," hosted earlier this year by the Bush School of Texas A&M University.

The participants examined the contemporary international environment and American national security policy for the next presidential administration. How threats, policies, and strategies have changed since 2001 and how the U.S., European, and other international security systems have responded to changing requirements were explored. The conference included a debate on the political parties international affairs positions and focused on three major themes: (1) In the post-9/11 world, what are the threats and challenges facing the next presidential administration? (2) What reforms are needed to the current national, European, and international security systems in terms of policy, institutions, and leadership? and (3) How can the next presidential administration affect change to improve U.S. and international security?

The whole thing can be found here.

By Jason Sherman
November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in a few days will recommend to the next president's Pentagon transition team increasing funding for the Joint Strike Fighter program in order to accelerate purchases of the stealthy single-engine jet slated to be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday.

England, in Fort Worth this week for a speaking engagement, said he will strongly advise the next administration to continue and even increase funding for F-35 development and production.

"In my judgment, it will be the best-performing airplane out there," England said when asked about criticisms of the F-35 from inside and outside of government.

England confirmed reports that the 2010 defense budget the Pentagon will propose to the next president lays the groundwork for increased funding to speed up F-35 purchases and production as soon as 2011. It’s important, England said, to increase F-35 production as soon as possible to bring down the cost to the U.S. and foreign buyers.

"We need to get the level of procurement up to get the most value for the money spent," said England, who, under General Dynamics and, briefly, Lockheed, ran the Fort Worth plant where the F-35 will be built.

Will the proposed F-35 spending hike snuff out continued F-22 production? The dogfight between supporters of both programs in Congress and Inside the Pentagon will play out in the next few months.

More than three months ago we reported the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was slated to be a key beneficiary of the $57 billion boost England is preparing in the fiscal year 2010 budget proposal for the next administration.

By Dan Dupont
November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Buried within this Bloomberg story on how well Republicans and Democrats say the current administration is handling the transition process is this bit on matters of interest in these parts:

At the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Washington research group headed by John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, transition planning for Obama has been under way for months.

Among the array of questions being discussed is whether to restructure the National Security Council in light of post-Sept. 11 concerns about domestic security, says P.J. Crowley, who worked in Clinton's NSC and is leading those discussions.

``I give the Bush administration credit,'' Crowley says. ``They recognized they'd be turning over two active wars and a Department of Homeland Security that's still a work-in- progress.''

Much more on internal DOD transition efforts here.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Members of the congressional delegation from Georgia, as well as Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), this week lobbied the Defense Department to consider setting up the headquarters of U.S. Africa Command in the Peach State.

In an Oct. 30 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, lawmakers argued Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA, would make a fine location for the new command.

Their pitch, complete with mention of a major defense contractor in proximity of the base, goes like this:

Dobbins has a substantial runway network as well as rail infrastructure that connects it with the Port of Savannah -- already a point of shipment for a significant amount of cargo bound for Africa. Further, given that the facilities in Marietta are presently shared by Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Naval Air Station Atlanta, the Georgia National Guard, and Lockheed Martin, they have long been a model for joint-ness within the Department of Defense, an important and unique characteristic given that AFRICOM will be a joint command and require coordination with many international partners and across numerous government agencies. With 52 acres of available property adjoining the base, any needed expansion of existing or construction of new facilities would also be unencumbered.

The letter this week follows a similar missive sent by Georgian lawmakers in August. That letter sought to advertise the locations of Ft. McPherson Ft. Gillem as possible locations for the AFRICOM headquarters. Both installations are located just south of Atlanta.

Pentagon officials apparently were already considering Dobbins, along with McPherson and Gillem, before lawmakers wrote to Gates yesterday, according to the text of the letter.

Currently, AFRICOM is based in Stuttgart, Germany, near the headquarters of U.S. European Command.

AFRICOM officials have said the command does not necessarily need a headquarters on the continent, but officials think some sort of presence there would be helpful.

“We believe AFRICOM will be more effective if some members of the staff are physically living and working on the continent, where they can meet face-to-face with their counterparts in African governments and nongovernmental organizations,” the command’s Web site states.

By Dan Dupont
October 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The New York Times today reports that the Bush administration got together recently with Afghanistan experts to talk about the rapidly growing conclusion that things are not improving over there.

Their audience, the Times writes: advisers from the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Over two days, according to participants in the discussions, the experts laid bare Afghanistan’s most pressing issues. They sought to make clear that the next president needed to have a plan for Afghanistan before he took office on Jan. 20. Otherwise, they said, it could be too late.

The next president will also face what could be politically fraught decisions about how aggressively to pursue a campaign against militants taking shelter in Pakistan’s tribal areas and whether to embrace negotiations under way in Afghanistan aimed at getting elements of the Taliban to lay down their arms. The discussions were started earlier this month in Saudi Arabia, and talks among Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have continued in Kabul at the request of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

So who was there?

It was organized by Barnett R. Rubin, an Afghanistan expert and a professor at New York University, and included John K. Wood, the senior Afghanistan director at the National Security Council; Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former American commander in Afghanistan who is now at NATO headquarters; and Kai Eide, the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, according to some participants.

The Obama campaign sent Jonah Blank, a foreign policy specialist for Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., and Craig Mullaney, another Afghanistan adviser for Mr. Obama, participants said. They said the McCain campaign was represented by Lisa Curtis and Kori Schake, two former State Department officials.

Our latest on Afghanistan:

Afghanistan Troop Plus-Ups Could Send More USAF Aircraft to Region
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, VA -- Deploying more troops to Afghanistan could result in more Air Force ground-attack aircraft heading to the region, according to Air Combat Command’s chief of operations.

Young: POM, Supplemental May Leave Space for Additional Vehicles for Afghanistan

By John Liang
October 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

During his roundtable discussion with reporters yesterday, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young announced he had made several new changes to the Defense Department acquisition directorate's "Strategic Goals Implementation Plan."

Inside the Pentagon reported in June on the progress of some of those goals, among them defining the so-called "desirable attributes" of the defense industrial base and the methodology to assess industry progress toward developing these attributes, a DOD official told ITP at the time.

Yesterday, Young told reporters that he had "sent a note and an updated version that we're about to issue” to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England “that said we believe we've completed on the order of 169 ((of the goals in the plan)), and we discussed this at an off-site in September, and at that off-site we added something like 240 new metrics, and that's what the new version will put out there -- the ones that we have remain((ing)) to do and the fact that we have new ones."

By Dan Dupont
October 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Check out today's INSIDER for a good rundown of the latest.

One highlight:

Defense Acquisition Shop Prepares for Shift in Administrations
The Pentagon is preparing to brief the incoming administration’s defense team on upcoming, key decisions affecting major weapons programs worth billions of dollars.

“As I keep telling people, acquisition doesn’t transition,” Pentagon acquisition chief John Young told Inside the Pentagon on Monday. “Acquisition is a continuous process. Yes, we’ve done some things to prepare.”

Young, who oversees the acquisition of major weapons systems and related policy matters, wants to help the new administration get ready for decisions on the horizon. In his brief remarks, Young did not cite examples of the upcoming decisions, but his spokesman later elaborated.

By Kate Brannen
October 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's Rapid Response Technology Office hopes to lure new business by making test beds available for companies to try out their new technologies. Speaking this week at the Emerging Technologies for Defense Applications conference in Arlington, VA, Benjamin Riley, director of the RRTO office, said it is possible for companies to book time on the Stiletto ship, for example, as well as at the Yuma Test Center in Yuma, AZ.

Inside the Pentagon reported this new use for Stiletto, "an all carbon-fiber vessel measuring 88 feet long and 40 feet wide," which was recently employed by U.S. Southern Command in counterdrug operations. Riley described the ship as a "maritime environment test bed," where companies can book time on the ship to use their plug-and-play technologies.

Time at the Yuma Test Center can also be booked by companies who want to test their counter-improvised explosive device technologies, said Riley.

The test bed effort is part of RRTO's outreach to innovative businesses, one of the office's key priorities for fiscal year 2009, according to Riley.

He listed other major areas where his office intends to invest its energies and resources in FY-09. One key priority is Thunderstorm, a multi-sensor program aimed at quickly mining data. The office will also look at the interface between law enforcement and military operations, strategic communications and influence operations, interagency coordination, biometrics and forensics, capabilities to support denied area operations, small dispersed unit operations, autonomous systems operations and strategic multi-layer assessment, said Riley.

By Dan Dupont
October 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM

We've been reporting this week on some fascinating new reports from the Defense Business Board that are worth wrapping up here given their focus on what comes next.

First up is the latest. Our story:

Panel: Fiscal Constraints Will Force Next Defense Secretary to Consider Program Kills

The next defense secretary will inherit a vexing set of financial challenges that demand an "all-or-nothing" approach to cutting the defense budget, including weapon systems and even personnel accounts, according to a key Defense Department advisory panel.

Such “bold action” would mark a departure from the less politically painful and more common practice of dealing with fiscal constraints by imposing small cuts across all accounts, the Defense Business Board says in a new report.


Pentagon Panel: Rising Healthcare Costs 'Perilous Threat' to DOD, Future Weapons Funding

Defense healthcare costs, which have surged 144 percent in the last eight years, are "eating up" the U.S. military budget and now represent an "existential threat" to the Defense Department, a high-level Pentagon advisory panel concludes in a new briefing that urges the next defense secretary and senior military leaders to address this "perilous threat."

Michael Bayer, chairman of the Defense Business Board, and Dov Zakheim, Pentagon comptroller from 2001 to 2005 and a member of the advisory panel, warn in a briefing presented Oct. 23 at the Pentagon that funding for weapon system acquisition programs and operations could soon be pinched by rising healthcare costs.

"Defense healthcare programs are facing an imminent head-on financial train wreck with other critical defense acquisition and operational programs," the panel's briefing slides assert.


DOD Panel: Next President 'Likely' to Face Crisis in First 270 Days

The next president is likely to face a major international crisis within his first nine months in office, according to a senior group of business advisers to the defense secretary.

Accordingly, the Defense Business Board says the new administration should set a goal to win Senate confirmation of key Pentagon posts in the first 30 days of the inauguration, in order to have a full team in place to deal with such a contingency.

And two more documents:

Defense Business Board Briefing Slides on 'Focusing a Transition Effort'
In Oct. 23, 2008, briefing slides, the Defense Business Board recommends that the next president will likely face a major international crisis within his first nine months in office, and should set a goal to win Senate confirmation of key Pentagon posts in the first 30 days after the inauguration.

DBB Briefing Slides on 'Improving DOD's Transition Process'
In Oct. 23, 2008, briefing slides, a Defense Business Board task force reviews private sector experience to find lessons relevant to the Defense Department during the transition to a new administration.

By John Liang
October 28, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The intelligence community spent $47.5 billion during fiscal year 2008, the office of the director of national intelligence announced today.

A federal law passed in 2007 mandates that the DNI disclose to the public "the aggregate amount of funds appropriated by Congress to the National Intelligence Program (NIP) for fiscal year 2008 not later than 30 days after the end of the fiscal year," the DNI statement reads.

But don't expect the intel community to be any more forthcoming.

"Any and all subsidiary information concerning the intelligence budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed," according to the statement. "Beyond the disclosure of the top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified budget information because such disclosures could harm national security. The only exceptions to the foregoing are for unclassified appropriations, primarily for the Community Management Account."

Getting the intelligence community to disclose even the above amount has been something that Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists has long advocated. Aftergood, who writes about this in his Secrecy News blog, last month highlighted the debate in Congress on how much oversight the intel community should have, when Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was defending congressional intelligence oversight and rejecting a proposal by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) to set up an intelligence subcommittee within the Senate Appropriations Committee:

Sen. Bond’s proposal, according to Sen. Inouye, would have the undesirable effect of reducing the number of Senators and staff who are engaged in intelligence oversight. “It would put all decisionmaking into fewer hands,” he said.

In making his argument, Senator Inouye also provided some fresh insight into current intelligence oversight arrangements in the Intelligence and Appropriations Committees.

“I would point out that the Intelligence Committee has one professional staff member on the majority staff who reviews the budget for the National Reconnaissance Office; so do we ((on the Appropriations Committee)). The Intelligence Committee has one professional staff member on the majority staff who reviews the budget for the National Security Agency; so do we.”