The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
January 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Because of the unprecedented challenges facing President-elect Obama, the outgoing administration is facilitating “a different kind of transition,” according to Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser.

Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington yesterday, Hadley said the transition “is very much a mutual effort by the outgoing team and the incoming team.”

The Bush national security team has prepared a document that summarizes the 40 key issues of the administration, including the team's strategy on each issue, what has been accomplished and the remaining work to be done.

“Why do we do this?” Hadley asked. “The new team doesn't need to read them -- certainly, doesn't need to follow the policies in them -- but what we thought was important, in this different kind of transition, ((was)) for them to know what they have to work with -- what kind of policies ((are)) in place, what kind of relationships are in place and what kind of tools they have available. And what we, at least, think are the challenges that are going to hit them quickly.”

In addition, the Bush team has prepared a series of briefing memorandums and “view-graph briefings” on relevant issues and is planning joint briefings for the outgoing and incoming National Security Council teams.

“Both sides, with the direction of both President Bush and President-elect Obama -- ((are)) trying to make this a very different transition, because we're in a very different time,” Hadley added.

January 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates might not need to be confirmed by the Senate, but that doesn't mean he won't have to face the Senate Armed Services Committee soon.

According to a notice just sent out by the panel, Gates will be the only witness at a Jan. 27 hearing called "To receive testimony on the challenges facing the Department of Defense."

UPDATE: A source on the committee confirms that the hearing is in fact in lieu of a confirmation sit-down.

By Dan Dupont
January 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Wall Street Journal is the latest to note that Bill Lynn is likely to be the next deputy defense secretary. (We told you that before Christmas.)

Actually, the paper's "Washington Wire" says a bit more than that:

The Obama administration is expected to announce that it has offered the No. 2 job at the Pentagon to William Lynn, currently and executive at defense contractor Raytheon Co., according to people familiar with the situation.

According to these people, Lynn plans on accepting the post. He had been considered one of the front runners in recent weeks. Lynn, 55 years old, is a former comptroller of the Pentagon, a background that will come in handy as the defense budget comes under pressure. At Raytheon, Lynn is charged with heading the defense contractor’s Washington operations.

By Marcus Weisgerber
January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As the Pentagon prepares to cut the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate power plant program -- again -- engine makers General Electric and Rolls-Royce have launched a new Website touting their product's success.

The F136 Fighter Engine Team's stand up of the Web site comes about a month before the Defense Department's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal heads to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers -- for the third time in three years -- will have to decide whether to fund the program.

The cyber launch also comes in advance of a major testing milestone at which GE and Rolls-Royce will power up the first production F136 engine early this year.

Despite the F136's success, Pentagon officials have repeatedly lobbied to kill the program in an effort to save money, funding only the Pratt & Whitney-run F135 engine program.

Inside the Air Force first reported in November 2008 that the Pentagon would try to ax the F136 program in its FY-10 budget submission. Defense Department officials claimed they would save $3.5 billion over the next six years, according to sources and documents.

F136 program supporters claim a second engine is needed should a major issue arise with the primary power plant down the road. Opponents, however, say technological advancements in engine building make one engine a safe bet.

The Pentagon and allies plan to buy thousands of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighter-bomber aircraft.

Air Force F-16 fighters are powered by a mix of Pratt & Whitney and General Electric engines. Foreign countries are given the option of Pratt & Whitney or GE engines when buying Lockheed-built F-16s.

By John Liang
January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The proposed relocation of thousands of Marines and other military personnel to the Pacific island of Guam is raising tensions between the military and Environmental Protection Agency over who will pay for efforts to avoid negative environmental consequences as a result of the influx, sister publication Defense Environment Alert's Stuart Parker reports this week:

Local lawmakers are also worried that the military has not properly considered the implications of the repositioning program, with inadequate resources being dedicated to new infrastructure, including waste disposal.

Sources with the DOD Joint Guam Program Office (JGPO), which oversees the buildup, confirm they are now in talks with EPA over funding issues after EPA Region IX official Eric Manzanilla wrote by e-mail to JGPO head Gen. David Bice Nov. 13 warning that other government agencies would not be able to compensate if DOD fails to adequately fund activities to offset the impacts resulting from the increase in personnel and infrastructure. DOD says it is addressing some land issues related to the buildup, but does not specify what commitments it may make to offset environmental impacts.

Manzanilla, Communities and Ecosystems Director with Region IX, told Bice “we believe it is very unlikely that the government of Guam or other federal agencies will acquire all the resources to adequately address impacts that go beyond the military’s fencelines in Guam.”

Significant infrastructure-related impacts are expected from the massive buildup, with particular effects on the island’s drinking water supply and waste handling, sources say.

“Guam and the other U.S. Pacific Territories lag behind the rest of the nation in many socio-economic parameters, including environmental infrastructure,” Manzanilla says in the e-mail, warning of the possible emergence of “two Guams,” one military and adequately provided-for, and the other civilian and lacking resources.

In his e-mail, Manzanilla invites Bice to participate in a high level meeting to discuss funding infrastructure upgrades on the island. A spokesperson for JGPO could not confirm Bice’s commitment to such a meeting, but issued the following statement: “the Department of Defense is working with EPA, as well as other federal regulatory agencies such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services and ((the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration)), to address environmental issues associated with the military realignment.”

. . .

In a Dec. 19 letter to Defense Environment Alert responding to questions on the military buildup, Guam Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz (D) cites anticipated problems resulting from the environmental impacts of the military buildup, primarily pointing to fresh water supply and waste issues. Guthertz will chair the new Committee on the Military Buildup and Homeland Security in the Guam Legislature, which was to begin its session on Jan. 5.

“The military’s buildup plans primarily concern northern Guam where our aquifer, a water lens ((reservoir)) below ground level, is located. One of our concerns in the north is the possible negative impact on our water supply through ground contamination,” says Gutherz.

A Government Accountability Office report released last September found that the Defense Department had developed a basic framework for the military buildup on Guam but had not issued the congressionally required master plan that was initially due.

A separate GAO report released in May calls on the Navy to plan ahead for voyage repair capabilities in Guam that will be impacted by the cadre of vessels the service aims to locate there by 2012.

By Christopher J. Castelli
January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama has not yet formally named Leon Panetta to lead the CIA, but today he praised the former White House chief of staff's management skills, political savvy and integrity -- defending his pick amidst complaints from some lawmakers about Panetta's lack of intelligence experience.

“I have the utmost respect for Leon Panetta. I think that he is one of the finest public servants that we've had,” Obama told reporters in Washington, DC.

As White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, Panetta was fully versed in international affairs and crisis management and had to evaluate intelligence on a day-to-day basis, Obama said. At one point when a cell phone rang, Obama joked to reporters, "That may be him calling now, finding out where it's at."

Obama said his administration will have a "top-notch" intelligence team that will provide the best, unvarnished intelligence. (Although no announcement has been made, retired Adm. Dennis Blair is widely reported to be Obama's choice for director of national intelligence.) The new intelligence team will be forward-looking and will break with past practices that have tarnished the image of the CIA and U.S. foreign policy, Obama said. He also praised the work of U.S. intelligence professionals.

For an interesting defense of the pick, read this.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Vice President-elect Joe Biden said today it was a mistake for the Obama camp not to give Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a heads up about the Panetta pick. She chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Also: Newsweek reports Obama's camp is phoning key members of Congress to apologize for not providing advance notice of the pick.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While the Air Force was perhaps the most vocal of the services about plans to fight in cyberspace, others also are gearing up for the fight online. The Army, for example, is doing some intense soul-searching about what changes are needed to ensure soldiers can keep the upper hand in future cyber-fights. After a period of introspection, we're told, Army officials plan to start work on a field manual for cyberspace as part of the service's "3" series. The designation indicates the document will have an operational focus.

In a blog entry on the Combined Arms Center Web site, Army Lt. Col. Chip Bircher gave a good overview last month of the ground service's general thinking in the cyberspace realm. Bircher is the deputy director, futures, in an organization called the U.S. Army Computer Network Operations & Electronic Warfare Proponent.

We talked to Bircher's boss, Col. Wayne Parks, in November, and he told us service officials had begun deliberations about a dedicated force structure for cyberwarfare.

In his blog post, Bircher cites the cyber attacks on Estonia (2007) and in Georgia last summer -- both were allegedly carried out by Russians -- as examples of the types of clashes U.S. forces might face in the near future.

"Cyber attacks prior to the introduction of conventional Russian military forces ((into Georgia)) were in many respects analogous to deep strikes against key infrastructure which set the conditions for a successful Russian ground invasion," he wrote.

This stark assessment of Russian military cyberwar power during the spat with the former Soviet republic is noteworthy, by the way. So far, experts have concluded the cyber attacks were merely aimed at defacing Georgian government Web sites and that there was no link to military action on the ground.

By Dan Dupont
January 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A Happy New Year to all of our readers.

And a note on the transition: As we noted here just before Christmas, the name of William Lynn, former Pentagon comptroller and current Raytheon executive, has been circulating for some time in discussions of who might be brought into the Pentagon by the Obama team.

And: As we reported right here, he's looking more and more likely to be the choice for deputy defense secretary -- a bit of news some others seem to have come across today.

Much more to come.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After the lighter literary fare of the holidays, some might eagerly want to return to the somewhat drier texts of the U.S. military establishment. For those, a great read will be the latest edition of the Joint Staff's Joint Strategic Planning System, issued last month. The document outlines exactly how the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff goes about the business of providing military advice to the defense secretary and the president.

For the first time, the new edition describes the inner workings of the so-called Comprehensive Joint Assessment, which we told you about here and here. The CJA process, begun last October, is designed to provide a snapshot of requirements and challenges of the combatant commanders.

Some have described the timing of the drill as opportune, as it offers President-elect Barack Obama a good idea of what is currently important around the COCOMs just as he prepares to take office later this month.

By Christopher J. Castelli
January 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Vice President-elect Joe Biden and a few fellow senators will depart later this week on a "fact finding" trip to Southwest Asia, according to a statement from his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander. For security reasons, details of the itinerary will be released as the trip progresses, according to the statement, which does not name the countries they will visit.

The members of the delegation, who will be participating in all or part of the trip, include incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA) and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Biden will travel in his capacity as the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Alexander said.

"The fact-finding delegation will make it clear to foreign leaders that they are not there to speak on behalf of the U.S. government, or convey policy positions for the incoming administration," she said, noting the delegation thanks the Bush administration for its cooperation in making the trip possible.

By Jason Sherman
December 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-Elect Barack Obama's Defense Department transition team has notified more than a third of the Pentagon's 250 political appointees that they will not be asked to stick around after Jan. 20, according to The Hill.

Despite keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Pentagon, President-elect Obama’s transition team informed 90 Bush appointees their services will not be needed after Inauguration Day.

Scott Gration, a senior official on Obama’s transition team, called and emailed several of President Bush’s Pentagon appointees about 10 days ago to inform them they were being dismissed.

“It was very professionally done,” a senior Pentagon official -- who will not remain in place beyond Inauguration Day -- told on Dec. 31 of the notification process which took place early last week.

On Dec. 19, Gates -- speaking on behalf of Obama -- sent a note to all 250 Pentagon political appointees asking them to consider working until they pass their respective portfolios directly to their replacements. In that memo, reported here, he advised that some individuals would be told by Dec. 22 that they will be asked to vacate their posts with the administration change. In addition, Gates said:

To the extent you are willing and in a position to continue to serve, I am deeply appreciative. However, I encourage you to continue to prudently plan for the transition from DOD employment, as the pace of personnel decisions by the incoming Administration is likely to accelerate.

I regret the delay in being able to provide you with more clarity and guidance on how long some of you will be asked to continue serving in your current positions. I appreciate your patience and the willingness to consider this request in the interest of providing continuity for this Department and for its critical mission to the Nation in a time of war.

By Jason Sherman
December 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department is gearing up for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review with a little help from the Military Operations Research Society, which will host a four-day workshop next month involving key Pentagon players.

The Jan. 12-15 event, according to the agenda, will:

* Examine DOD assessment capabilities for performing QDR 2010 (to include such activities as gaming of advanced operational concepts).
* Identify past analyses and analytical methods applicable to determining DOD and other USG ((U.S. government)) capabilities and resource requirements.
* Provide a neutral environment in which OSD, the Joint Staff, Defense Agencies, Unified Commands, the Services, and other USG agencies can discuss analytical plans and preparations for QDR 2010.
* Provide ideas and analytical status to OSD/JCS decision makers who are planning for QDR 2010.
* Identify other activities that can help joint analysis in the 21st century

In what could foreshadow the structure of the upcoming QDR, the workshop plans five working groups to examine: Islamic extremism; countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; providing for homeland security/defense; dealing with a peer competitor; and “strategy, force and program integration methods.”

Wanna attend? You must have a secret clearance and -- because space is expected to be limited -- demonstrate how you would make a contribution to one of the panels.

By Jason Sherman
December 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Roadside bombs, the bane of U.S. forces in Iraq, are now becoming “the primary threat to forces in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal reported today.

A story filed from Kabul, Afghanistan, says attacks against U.S. forces involving improvised explosive devices -- and casualties caused by these roadside bombs -- are both 33 percent higher in 2008 than in 2007, citing figures complied by the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force.

"IEDs are the biggest threat we face," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, said in an interview. "They are the largest killer of ISAF troops."

The new data from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization paint a dire picture of Afghanistan's security situation.

Attacks against the Afghan security forces and government more than doubled, while the number of Afghan civilian deaths increased by at least 40%. The overall number of attacks in 2008 rose 31%, according to the statistics...

The increase in roadside bombs is forcing U.S. commanders here to rely more heavily on MRAPs, which can't reach many remote villages because it is difficult for them to traverse Afghanistan's narrow roads and harsh terrain.

The story doesn't note that the Defense Department in recent weeks has hammered together what Pentagon officials say will be at least a $3 billion acquisition to field a lighter, more maneuverable variant of the MRAP -- the M-ATV -- for commanders in Afghanistan. is following development of this so-called 'MRAP-lite' closely, including this Nov. 5 story:

The Pentagon is poised to reprise the unorthodox strategy used to procure Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks in a bid to rapidly provide troops in Afghanistan with a new vehicle that offers greater protection against roadside bombs than armored humvees, but one that is lighter than an MRAP, which commanders deem too cumbersome for roads in the Central Asian nation.

Like MRAP, the new program....would be set up to bypass the Pentagon's traditional procurement process in order to address an urgent request from Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Afghanistan and begin equipping units in as little as nine months, according to sources familiar with the current thinking.

Unlike MRAP, which last year mushroomed from a requirement for 1,100 vehicles for the Marine Corps to a $23 billion procurement effort -- the Pentagon’s No. 1 acquisition priority -- to rapidly deliver more than 15,838 armored trucks to Iraq, the ((M-ATV)) program is expected to involve the considerably smaller procurement of as many as 2,000 vehicles, according to sources.

Still, the fledgling project could be worth as much as $3 billion.

Because the total buy is relatively small, costs could run as high as $800,000 per vehicle, a price tag that could climb to nearly $1.5 million once government-furnished equipment is integrated, spare parts are purchased and the new vehicles are shipped to Afghanistan, according to sources familiar with estimates the Pentagon recently compiled.

By Rebekah Gordon
December 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM

After years of legal wrangling over whether the Navy had done enough to counter potential harm to whales from mid-frequency sonar used in anti-submarine training exercises, the service and environmental groups announced Dec. 27 that a settlement was reached.

“The Navy is pleased that after more than three years of extensive litigation, this matter has been brought to an end on favorable terms,” Frank Jimenez, the Navy’s general counsel, said in a statement on the Navy’s Web site. “The Navy welcomes an approach that relies more upon scientific research than litigation.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups sued the Navy in 2005, claiming the service had failed to conduct an adequate environmental review before commencing training off the coast of Southern California. Environmentalists have argued that sonar disrupts whale feeding and migration and, in some cases, causes injury, stranding and death.

The settlement is separate from the ruling made by the Supreme Court in November in Winter v. NRDC, which found that the need for realistic training to counter the growing threat of stealthy diesel-electric submarines, as judged necessary by military authorities, is of far greater public interest than environmentalists’ concerns for potential harm.

According to the Navy, the settlement does not require any additional mitigation measures to protect whales and “essentially adopts” the Navy’s program of environmental analysis and research that it had implemented before the lawsuit was filed. The service will continue to implement protective measures it developed in partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to a statement on the NRDC’s Web site, the settlement requires the Navy to “complete a full schedule of environmental reviews” for major training exercises.

“This agreement commits the Navy for the first time to a program of environmental review and public transparency in its sonar training in an effort to shield whales and other vulnerable species from harmful underwater noise,” Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the NRDC’s marine mammal program, said in the statement. “((W))hile it does not resolve disagreements with the Navy over operational safeguards required to reduce sonar's risk to whales and other marine life, it sets in place a process for negotiation between the Navy and this environmental coalition that we hope will reduce the need for future litigation.”

According to the NRDC, additional terms of the settlement that the Navy agreed to include:

• Funding $14.75 million in new marine mammal research;
• Public disclosure of previously classified information on sonar, including information that had been protected in NRDC v. Winter;
• A cooling off period to allow negotiation when future sonar disagreements arise;
• A payment of $1.1 million in attorney's fees for settling both the 2005 lawsuit and a 2006 lawsuit regarding sonar use around Hawaii.

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

William Lynn, the former Pentagon comptroller and current Raytheon executive, is being vetted for a senior position in the Obama administration, and defense industry insiders believe that position will be deputy defense secretary.

Lynn, the senior vice president of government operations and strategy at Raytheon, was comptroller during Clinton's second term; before that he was head of the program analysis and evaluation directorate.

According to defense industry sources, he's a strong candidate to succeed Gordon England as Robert Gates' No. 2. Gates is staying; England has said he will not.