The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Remember the Marine Corps’ new Harvest Hawk gunship program, which we told you about in March?

Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway said Friday the program remains on track to field aircraft this summer in Afghanistan.

“You know, Marine commanders have lusted for years over the AC-130s that the special ops communities have,” he told an audience assembled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And again, because we consider air to be an asymmetric advantage, we want to take it to the wall in terms of what our capacities are. We know that our KC-130Js have long loiter capability that they can generally stay outside the envelope of air defense fires. And so we've created a roll-on, roll- off package that takes about six or eight hours to transform an aircraft that might be hauling men and equipment to become an aircraft overhead with ISR and with sting.”

The Harvest Hawk is no AC-130, Conway conceded, noting the special operations aircraft is very expensive and has some very sophisticated systems.

“But our ISR we think is sufficient for the battlefield we face,” he added. “We think a 30 millimeter cannon out the side of that aircraft, a Hellfire capability that can be launched from that aircraft, and the other things associated with it then are what we need. And I think you're going to see it in the theater before the end of this calendar year. We're pretty excited about it.”

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said today he does not know of any U.S. aid to Pakistan that has been improperly diverted to advance the Pakistani nuclear weapons program.

"I am not aware of any U.S. aid that's gone towards nuclear weapons, save that which is very focused in the last several years -- last three years, three or four years, on improving their security, which is exactly what we'd like, and they've done that," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution.

We noted last Thursday Mullen's comments on the topic on Capitol Hill. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he acknowledged Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program, a point that caused Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to voice concern. The New York Times published a story on the subject today.

Mullen did note this morning he is encouraged by the Pakistani government’s efforts to fight insurgents.

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In an effort to bolster its KC-X tanker proposal team, Boeing has put former HH-47 boss Rick Lemaster in charge of its Air Force KC-767 program, Inside the Air Force has learned.

Boeing brass approved the move just a few weeks ago, and Lemaster set up shop at Boeing's offices in St. Louis last week. The move comes in the wake of the Pentagon's cancellation of the combat search-and-rescue helicopter effort, which Lemaster led for Boeing for a number of years.

“Rick Lemaster recently became Boeing's KC-X/USAF Tanker Program Manager,” a Boeing spokesman confirmed this afternoon. “His valuable experience both as program manager for our winning CSAR-X bid and as a former career acquisition officer in the U.S. Air Force make him well-suited to help lead our efforts in competing and winning the next KC-X Tanker competition.”

Long considered the underdog, Boeing's tandem-rotor HH-47 won the lengthy Air Force CSAR-X competition, which was mired by industry protests and numerous delays.

In another move, Greg Rusbarsky, who was slated to become the KC-X program manager if the Air Force selected the KC-767, has become the effort's chief engineer. Dave Bowman remains Boeing's vice president and general manager of tanker programs, reporting directly to Integrated Defense Systems President, Jim Albaugh.

Boeing's former tanker boss, Mark McGraw, left the program last summer and is working in the company's training systems sector.

By Marjorie Censer
May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), the committee's ranking member, asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey whether the decrease in procurement spending in the administration's fiscal year 2010 budget request represents the “start of a procurement holiday.”

Though Casey said “it certainly is too early to tell,” he added that he doesn't “feel that it is” -- and that the Army has “benefited substantially from a plus-up in our investment accounts over the last several years.”

In fact, he said of the holes in the service's equipment, the Army has “filled more than I would have thought possible.”

For more on Casey's testimony -- and what he told reporters during breaks in the hearing -- check out this story on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program as well as the next issue of Inside the Army, which will be posted to late today.

By John Reed
May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force today announced that it plans to make Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, the permanent headquarters for the service's cyber-fighting arm -- the 24th Air Force.

This comes after years of fits and starts for the numbered air force, which was originally going to have major command status -- a proposal viewed by many as the Air Force's attempt to establish itself as the lead service for defending the nation in the cyber arena.

However, this notion didn't exactly go over well with everyone in the Pentagon. Public relations flaps over an ad campaign depicting the Air Force as all that protected America from cyber devastation, distracting scandals involving nuclear weapons and subsequent leadership changes led the service to downsize the cyber arm to a numbered air force, reporting to Air Force Space Command, that would be responsible only for protecting the service's networks.

The 24th Air Force's new home of San Antonio makes good sense in that Texas has a fairly robust high-tech economy and nearby Austin is host to the main campus of the University of Texas and its research facilities. Other bases that were vying to host 24th Air Force were Barksdale AFB, LA, Langley AFB, VA, Offutt AFB, NE, Peterson AFB, CO, and Scott AFB, IL.

A provisional command has been working toward the official stand-up at its temporary home of at Barksdale just outside of Shreveport, LA, for more than a year.

Now that the Air Force has made its choice, service officials will have to wait until summer to get the green light to stand up the command at Lackland while the Air Force conducts and environmental impact study to ensure the new mission will not harm the local environment. This. however, is not likely to be a problem because the online-oriented command will require little “brick and mortar” development, said provisional cyber command chief Maj. Gen. William Lord earlier this year.

By John Liang
May 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Just because missile defense programs like the Multiple Kill Vehicle, Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Airborne Laser have experienced billions of dollars' worth of cost overruns and technical problems doesn't mean they should be canceled or cut back, according to the co-chair of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus.

"The reality is that any time you're on the cutting edge of innovation and doing things that are extremely technologically challenging, there are going to be a lot of failures," Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said today at a National Defense University Foundation breakfast. "Failure nearly always is the best teacher, and it takes you in a more productive direction at some point," he added.

In its fiscal year 2010 budget request, the Pentagon is recommending the cancellation of the KEI and MKV programs as well as not building a second prototype ABL aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a Senate hearing yesterday that "the policy of the Bush administration and the policy of this administration has been to develop a missile defense against rogue nations, not against China and Russia. And the Multiple Kill Vehicle, in addition to schedule and cost and technology issues, was designed against a far more capable enemy than either North Korea or Iran are going to be in the next 10 to 15 years."

But for Franks:

The reason I feel it's so vital that we at least make the effort to defend ((those programs)) is because first of all, MKV, that's what . . . the opposition is saying, that 'You can't do anything with decoys or multiple targets.' Well, that's why we wanted a Multiple Kill Vehicle! My God! I don't want to sound too dramatic here but it's just astonishing to me that they say, 'Well, this is a problem, and we're going to cut the very thing that possibly could address it. And we're not only just cut it, we're going to wipe it out.'

KEI "had been restructured in 2007 to emphasize development of a high-acceleration booster," the Missile Defense Agency's FY-10 budget justification documents state, adding:

However, we have encountered considerable technical issues and delays during development, such as repeated first and second booster case failures, thrust nozzle concerns, overheating of avionics, thermal battery canister failure and C-Band transponder failure during shock testing.

Even if such technical problems could be solved without excessive cost and schedule implications, we have become concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the KEI interceptor, which is currently estimated at $75 million per unit.

During May 13 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Gates said programs such as KEI are “essentially sinkholes for taxpayer dollars.”

On ABL, Gates told the Senate committee yesterday that he has a "problem" with the program's operational concept, in that:

It would have required buying a fleet of about 20 747s. And the other difficulty is that they have to orbit close enough to the launch site so that, if it were Iran, the orbit would be almost entirely within the borders of Iran, and if it were against North Korea it would be inside the borders of North Korea and China. And I just think operationally that's not going to happen. So we'll keep the research going.

For his part, Franks said this morning:

I don't think anybody will argue with the fact that no matter where we go with missile defense, I cannot perceive a time when the most effective time to defend yourself is ((not)) in boost phase. . . . Where do we have to go to where that paradigm would no longer be in place? And yet, those are the very systems that we're cutting.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee established a quorum and voted to favorably report out the following nominations:

  • Gov. Raymond E. Mabus, Jr. to be Secretary of the Navy;
  • Mr. Robert O. Work to be Under Secretary of the Navy;
  • Mr. Andrew C. Weber to be Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs;
  • Mr. Paul N. Stockton to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs;
  • Mr. Thomas R. Lamont to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; and
  • Mr. Charles A. Blanchard to be General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force.

The nominations were approved en bloc in a voice vote. All nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the committee’s action.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he will meet with the service chiefs tomorrow about their unfunded requirements lists and plans to provide them to Congress by Monday. He is testifying before the panel this morning.

Gates has told the services to brief him first before submitting any unfunded priorities to Congress.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A bit of dogfighting ensued this morning between F-22 Raptor proponent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Chambliss, whose state is home to a Lockheed Martin facility that makes the Raptor, quibbled with Gates’ statements that the Pentagon is completing the F-22 program, not killing it. Chambliss also asserted Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has told him privately that 243 Raptors is the service’s F-22 requirement -- and that the general will testify to that on Capitol Hill. Asserting DOD is assuming F-22s would only be required in the Pacific, Chambliss said he disagrees with that view -- and insisted the Air Force does, too.

But Gates said his decision to buy no more than 187 Raptors was based on input from the combatant commanders, who oversee military operations. He noted the F-22 is not going to be the only aircraft in the tactical air arsenal, citing Reaper unmanned drones and Joint Strike Fighters.

In the event of a hypothetical war with China, the Pentagon would have enough tactical air forces to concurrently deal with that conflict as well as other situations around the world if the entire tactical air arsenal is considered, he said.

By Jason Sherman
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon requires at least 2 percent annual growth in order to sustain the current portfolio of weapons programs in the fiscal year 2010 budget request, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

“For us to hold steady the program that we have in front of you for FY-10, for us to hold that steady in the outyears, we will need at least 2 percent real growth in the defense budget,” he said.

The total FY-10 defense spending request, both the Pentagon's base budget and funds to support wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, amount to 4.6 percent of the total gross national produce, Robert Hale, Defense Department comptroller, told the committee.

By Jason Sherman
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's top officer today offered this prediction: the Joint Strike Fighter will be the last manned fighter the Defense Department builds.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that recent U.S. military experience with unmanned aerial vehicles is influencing new thinking about what types of aircraft the Defense Department will build in the future -- a debate that played a role in the decision to review the requirement for a new bomber as well as to cap the F-22 program at 187 aircraft, he said.

We're in a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation. And the whole issue of what is going to be manned and what is going to be unmanned, what is going to be stealthy, what isn't.... From a warfighting perspective, I think this is at the heart of what we need to look at, whether it is fighters or bombers, quite frankly. That's been the essence of the discussion.

He added:

I think we're at the beginning of this change. There are those who see JSF as the last manned fighter or fighter/bomber or jet. And I'm one who is inclined to believe that. I don't know if its exactly right. But this all speaks to the change that goes out, obviously decades, including how much unmanned we're going to have and how it is going to be resourced.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's top military officer acknowledged today that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program, a point that caused Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to voice great concern. During this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Webb noted recent media reports about such an expansion.

The senator asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michal Mullen whether he had any evidence that Pakistan is "adding on to weapons systems and warheads."

"Yes," Mullen replied, without elaborating.

"That strikes me as something that we should be approaching with enormous concern," Webb continued.

Earlier this year the Obama administration proposed a hefty package of new aid to Pakistan's government; Congress must decide whether to approve it.

"We're spending a lot of time talking about the potential that Iran might have nuclear weapon capability and this ((Pakistani government)) is a regime that is far less stable and it should be a part of our debate," said Webb.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Pakistan has had a lot of freedom to spend billions of dollars in previous U.S. aid on things such as its military.

“That's one of the concerns that I have,” said Webb. “And we have begun focusing on Pakistan simply as the way that it would address the Afghani situation, when, as we all know, if you examine this from the Pakistani point of view, India is their greatest threat.”

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates this morning, senior Republicans on the panel complained that, in their view, Congress was kept in the dark about the analytical underpinnings of the Pentagon's defense budget request.

Part of the problem, they argued, were the nondisclosure agreements Gates asked of those working on budget matters. Gates dismissed the criticism, arguing the measure was necessary to prevent leaks during budget deliberations, particularly to Congressional offices.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who held up what appeared to be a copy of the pledge during his questioning, grilled Gates on some of the specifics of the agreements.

Gates said he was unaware of the exact number of officials forced to sign them, but he estimated that figure to be around "several hundred."

He added that the non-disclosure agreement is no longer binding because the White House submitted the budget details to Congress last week -- a point Gates said he made during a staff meeting on Monday.

By John Liang
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Southern Command and the Office of the Secretary of Defense this week are hosting a conference in Miami "to address the illicit trade of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials," SOUTHCOM announced today. Gary Samore, White House coordinator for arms control and WMD terrorism, delivered the keynote speech to attendees yesterday, according to the SOUTHCOM statement:

"President Obama has pledged to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," said Samore. "However, we cannot achieve this objective if, while we are seeking to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons and other forms of weapons of mass destruction, others are pursuing their acquisition with equal if not greater vigor. It is for this reason that the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) remains a critical component of international nonproliferation policy."

The meeting includes the participation of experts from around the world in an effort to share best practices and strengthen capabilities among countries that share a commitment to the Proliferation Security Initiative. PSI is a global effort to stop trafficking WMD, its delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern.

Thirty-four countries are attending the meeting in downtown Miami. The U.S. last hosted a PSI Operational Experts Group Meeting three years ago with representatives from 20 nations. Today, more than 90 nations support PSI including the following from the Western Hemisphere: U.S., Canada, Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Paraguay.

The multinational meeting provides a venue to enhance the WMD interdiction capabilities, organize PSI exercises to improve interoperability, and strengthen security relationships in the region and around the world.

Ambassador Paul Trivelli, Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Adviser at U.S. Southern Command, is scheduled to address the delegates in attendance Thursday.

"Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States share a collective interest in preventing the proliferation of WMD in our hemisphere," said Trivelli, former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, commenting on the importance of this week's event. "Regional PSI events like the meetings and training exercises SOUTHCOM hosts help us to better coordinate efforts to interdict trafficking and shut down the networks that profit from illicit trade."

By Thomas Duffy
May 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Federal agencies are usually loath to air any dirty laundry involving their relationships with contractors, even if those problems are dragging down a program the agency is trying to complete. But the Missile Defense Agency recently took the unusual step of calling out its industry partners for shoddy work that has increased costs and lengthened schedules on several programs.

In a preface to its fiscal year 2010 budget request overview that was issued May 7, the agency stated:

MDA and Mission Assurance. During the 1990s and early part of this decade, we learned that missile defense systems have very little tolerance for quality control errors, as we experienced many flight test failures. Out of necessity, MDA has since nurtured a culture of mission assurance within the Agency and within the missile defense industry as quality control and mission assurance remain the Agency’s highest priority. The Agency performs routine mission assurance evaluations and has permanent Mission Assurance Representatives at several sites.

Recently, there have been very disappointing lapses in quality management involving several of our industry partners that have impacted system element cost, schedule, and performance. There have been frequent schedule slips on the ((Space Tracking and Surveillance System)) program, some resulting in significant delays, due to quality issues caused by lack of discipline and detail in the procedures. Similarly, we have recently suffered over 50 days of manufacturing delays due to a lack of discipline during ((Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle)) assembly and testing. There are other examples over the past year. We are working closely with ((Defense Contract Management Agency)) to hold our industry partners accountable and improve their execution of quality control in manufacturing facilities.

The STSS program is under contract to Northrop Grumman. The company took another body blow from MDA when the Pentagon canceled the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program in the FY-10 budget request. KEI was to be a very fast interceptor to attack ballistic missiles during their early moments of flight. According to information the agency sent Congress last week, the KEI's cost is “currently estimated at $75 million per unit."

On May 7, an agency official told reporters that along with the program's cost, MDA has had problems with the materials and the electronics Northrop Grumman used. “By that I mean ((rocket)) cases bursting during static-fire tests or pre-testing of samples,” he said.

Raytheon is building the EKV for MDA.