The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Yesterday, we reported Defense Secretary Robert Gates had shaken up the budget ritual that lets the service chiefs present Congress with wish lists. This year, Gates has told the services that if they have any unfunded priorities, he'd love to hear about them -- thereby directing them to brief him before anything goes to Capitol Hill.

So who will take him up on that offer?

Rear Adm. John Blake, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said today that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway are working on unfunded requirements lists for the fiscal year 2010 budget cycle, but Blake told reporters he had not seen either list and had no information about what they might include in terms of programs or dollar figures.

Earlier today, during a separate briefing, Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, the Joint Staff's director for force structure and resources, said he is unaware of "unfunded requirements that have come up," though he said he expects there will be some. And Comptroller Robert Hale said he thought one combatant command -- maybe U.S. Northern Command -- had submitted some.

Pressed for more, Hale demurred. "You know, I think that this one, as far I'm concerned, is pre-decisional until they actually send them on their own as the military head to the Congress," he said.

But not before going to Gates.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What did House appropriators decide to do with a $30 million White House request to buy a new air traffic safety system for Kyrgyzstan, host country of Manas Air Base? The funds were requested as part of the fiscal year 2009 wartime supplemental made public last month.

A review of the House Appropriations Committee report on the legislation and the panel chairman's statements from this week aren't entirely conclusive, so we posed the question to the office of John Murtha (D-PA), the defense subcommittee chairman.

According to Matthew Mazonkey, Murtha's spokesman, the supplemental bill in its current form would fully fund the plan out of "coalition support accounts."

But there's a catch.

"However, these funds are contingent upon a renewed agreement between the United States and Kyrgyzstan over the use of Manas Air Base," Mazonkey told us in an e-mail.

Some news reports suggest negotiations to that effect are still ongoing between U.S. and Kyrgyz government officials, although others quote Kyrgyz officials as denying this. Pentagon officials have described the installation, located outside the capital Bishkek, as a critical hub for transport flights to Afghanistan.

As it stands, U.S. military officials have until August to close up shop at Manas.

By Carlo Muñoz
May 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

House appropriators are calling for the inclusion of $310 million in the fiscal year 2009 wartime supplemental bill to bolster the ongoing counternarcotics campaign led by the Mexican government. The funding called for in the House bill would be used to finance efforts to "expand aviation support" for Mexican anti-drug operations against that country's increasingly violent drug cartels.

"The committee strongly supports Mexico in its war against organized crime and drug trafficking and supports a coordinated security strategy to address mutual concerns," House appropriators wrote in their report on the bill. Specifically, the funds would go toward the purchase of three CN-235 Persuader maritime patrol aircraft and an unspecified number of HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, according to the bill.

Inside the Pentagon first reported in April a Defense Security Cooperation Agency proposal to sell Persuader aircraft to Mexico to support counterdrug efforts.

"The provision of such additional equipment in an expedited fashion will greatly assist the Mexican government, by enhancing the air transport ability and maritime aerial surveillance of the Mexican navy to conduct counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations," the bill states.

During an March appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon was ready to begin providing military support to Mexican antidrug efforts. Along with equipment and materiel support, Gates said DOD would also conduct training for Mexican counternarcotics officials.

However, the original FY-09 supplemental request forwarded to Capitol Hill by the White House that month did not include funding for Mexico.

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

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who is also the Pentagon's chief management officer, testified this morning before the House Armed Services Committee about Pentagon acquisition matters. Some lawmakers went out of their way to avoid asking the question which pending acquisition reform bill, the House's or the Senate's, Defense Department leaders prefer. Lynn, in turn, only said both pieces of legislation go "in the right direction" by addressing programs' technology shortcomings in early development stages.

Beside the two congressional efforts, Pentagon officials also are looking at acquisition-related issues during the Quadrennial Defense Review.

In the area of program cost projections, Lynn offered some thoughts on who he believes should be the ultimately authority in estimating how much programs may end up costing taxpayers -- program managers or the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Cost Analysis Improvement Group (CAIG).

When assessing programs, the Pentagon acquisition chief should have both estimates available, but -- "all things being equal" -- go with the CAIG estimate, Lynn said.

Later in the hearing, Lynn did express a preference for the House acquisition reform bill's provisions regarding the CAIG. The panel, which he described as the "best in the building" for cost analysis, should remain under OSD's director for program analysis and evaluation, Lynn said. The Senate bill would make the office a stand-alone organization at DOD.

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

U.S. Joint Forces Command and U.S. Strategic Command have begun an effort to consolidate missile defense training programs across the services, according to JFCOM's Website.

JFCOM's Joint Warfighting Center and STRATCOM's Joint Exercises and Training Directorate (J7) are leading the effort:

Pat McVay, the director of USSTRATCOM J7, said this partnership, will lead the effort called "All Things Missile" (ATM) to build on their current mission of providing global deterrence capabilities and aligning Defense Department efforts to combat the threat of weapons of mass destruction world wide.

"Right now, we have a somewhat disjointed capability to train multiple mission areas - missile warning, missile defense and feeder missile warnings. Separate capabilities were developed over different periods of time," McVay said.

McVay emphasized that ATM is in the requirements development stage and, at this point, the goal is to identify requirements and establish a program to solidify training capability.

Gregory Knapp, USJFCOM JWFC executive director, said the command will work with USSTRATCOM to define needed operational architecture, training requirements, a solutions process, and modeling and simulation.

"We'll go into . . . what is actually required to create a distributed training environment to certain training audiences, to train to certain tasks," Knapp said. "In the end what ((US))STRATCOM and ((US))JFCOM will be able to do will simulate any training audience against the ATM task set and train whenever we need wherever we need."

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

The Senate Armed Services Committee today approved the following defense-related nominations, according to a committee statement:

Elizabeth L. King to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs;

Michael Nacht to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs;

Wallace C. Gregson to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs;

Jo-Ellen Darcy to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works; and

Ines R. Triay to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management; as well as

296 pending military nominations in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. All nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the committee’s action.

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

Roughly half of the $17 billion the Obama administration plans to save in its fiscal year 2010 budget request will come through reductions, terminations or other changes to defense programs, according to a senior administration official.

The request includes 121 reductions, terminations or other savings, the top official told reporters Wednesday evening in a background teleconference.

"In total they would save nearly $17 billion in 2010 alone, and more thereafter," the official said. "About half of the money comes from defense, and about half from non-defense. Looked at a different way . . . about $11.5 billion comes from the discretionary part of the budget, and the rest from the mandatory part of the budget."

The bulk of the changes to defense programs have already been announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to the White House.

Notably, however, the official said there are "a few other items," but declined to be more specific.

"And your final question was the largest item that we had not previously announced -- I think you'll see that in the document that we release tomorrow morning," the official said.

By Joe Gould
May 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As the Army beefs up its electronic warfare abilities, an article published by the Russian state news agency suggests that Moscow's plans for an equivalent electronic warfare cadre were "thwarted" by the country's economic crisis.

In the last several months, the U.S. Army has okayed an electronic warfare field manual and set aside 1,500 slots for an EW force. But similar Russian plans fell victim to "yet another army reform," the piece alleges.

The article, authored by Yury Zaitsev, an academic adviser with the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences, says electronic warfare "will play an increasingly greater role in future conflicts."

Russia has used electronic warfare against insurgent communications networks and roadside bombs in the North Caucasian region, said Zaitsev. And EW may have been used against Russian helicopter pilots in the same region when they found that their GPS devices displayed inaccurate readings.

While there may not be a Russian EW unit, the country has developed an EW weapon that can "fit inside a car trunk and can disable the power grid of a small country or an entire region in just a few minutes," Zaitsev said.

But he closes with this:

A couple of years ago, the Government discussed the issue of establishing an electronic warfare force. Well-informed sources say the Defense Ministry had drafted all the required documents and coordinated them at top military-political level. The new military branch was designed to obstruct enemy electronics in the air, on land and at sea, as well as in space, and to shield Russian military installations and government facilities.

These plans were thwarted, however, by yet another army reform, a decision to adopt new military uniforms, and the present-day financial and economic crisis. This is rather lamentable, as electronic warfare units will become an indispensable asset during a hypothetical conflict with any powerful enemy.

In the final analysis, electronic warfare will decide the outcome of future military conflicts.

However, a U.S. Army official wasn't buying Zaitsev's claims, contending, "They just want the public to think so. A nice ((information operations)) campaign."

By Zachary M. Peterson
May 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department is slated to unveil its fiscal year 2010 budget request Thursday in a series of briefings, according to a Pentagon source.

Though the date has not been publicly announced, the source says the briefings are tentatively scheduled for midday Thursday. An Office of the Secretary of Defense briefing will be followed by Army, Air Force and Navy sessions.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates early last month announced major decisions in the FY-10 budget but did not provide detailed numbers. On Thursday, DOD is expected to reveal considerably more.

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

House lawmakers want to make sure local extremists aren't the only radio jockeys to be heard in the Taliban-infested border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee plan to beef up the programming of Voice of America's Radio Deewa and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in the area with $10.9 million, according to a panel report on the latest fiscal year 2009 supplemental spending bill.

The committee understands that research shows that radio is a dominant medium for news in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and that, with the exception of ((VOA's Radio Deewa)) and a few other international broadcasters, much of the radio broadcasting to this region is done by extremists.

The funds should be used to expand Radio Deewa's daily programming from six to nine hours, according to the report. In addition, lawmakers are eying a new six-hour program stream for RFE/RL, dubbed "Azadi Deewa," the report states. "Funds may also be used to establish capacity to send headlines and breaking news to listeners via mobile phones and to enhance security for RFE/RL's Kabul bureau," it adds.

By Kate Brannen
May 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

EADS North America and Lockheed Martin "are teaming up to develop a new armed scout helicopter to meet the Army’s armed reconnaissance helicopter mission," according to a company statement.

The industry team, which also includes American Eurocopter, was announced today at the Army Aviation Association of America's big annual conference in Nashville, TN.

Our full story will follow in a few minutes; here's a healthy excerpt:

Lockheed Martin will serve as the equipment package integrator for the platform, named Armed Scout 645. A full-scale version of the new airframe is on exhibit at the conference, according to an EADS North America statement.

In October, the Army canceled its Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, a program on contract with Bell Helicopter Textron, due to cost overruns and delays. ARH was set to replace Kiowa Warrior helicopters and equip a number of AH-64A Apache battalions. A new competition has not yet been launched.

The Army is reviewing its requirements for a replacement program before conducting a formal “analysis of alternatives” that will help service officials determine how best to proceed. The Army has said that unmanned systems will be considered as part of this analysis.

“The analysis will cover the entire spectrum of options -- from the potential use of ((unmanned aerial vehicles)) to the use of a manned/unmanned aircraft mix to the procurement of a new manned platform,” said Army Director of Aviation Brig. Gen. Walter Davis and Brig. Gen. William Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, in their joint statement at an April 23 House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee hearing.

The Armed Scout 645 is based on Eurocopter’s EC145 commercial airframe, the same platform for the Army’s UH-72A Light Utility Helicopter, said EADS North America in its statement. The company also announced plans to produce the new airframe at American Eurocopter’s facility in Columbus, MS, where UH-72As are manufactured.

“We’re confident that our team has a low-risk technical path to meet or exceed the performance requirements the Army outlined in the Sources Sought document,” said David Oliver, EADS North America chief operating officer, in a statement. “Our highly capable and best-value solution will meet the Army’s armed scout capability gap, and has the flexibility to respond to the customer’s evolving mission scenarios in both current and future conflicts.”

By Kate Brannen
May 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Army this week reports on what the service is doing to scale back its recruitment efforts now that it has met its end strength goals early. It has postponed several recruiting programs and closed enlistment waivers for “adult major misconduct,” or felonies, as well as testing positive for drug and alcohol at military entrance processing stations.

Similar issues are addressed in a new Government Accountability Office report, released today, in which the Army is applauded for meeting its recruitment and retention goals early in its attempts to increase end strength by roughly 7 percent by 2013.

The report also examines how the Army managed this growth and the cost-effectiveness of the financial incentives used to recruit and retain enlistees. The GAO concludes that the Army's use of bonuses could be more cost-effective, stating that the service has not taken advantage of existing research on how best to use recruiting resources to calculate its bonus amounts. The GAO also found that bonus amounts vary widely across the Army's components. However, the Army states in the report that since the GAO completed its study, the service has reduced the numbers and amounts of bonuses it offers.

GAO is also critical of the Army for loosening its quality goals for new recruits, including the practice of giving waivers to those who don't meet academic, physical and conduct standards. GAO recommends that the Army collect data on the costs of recruiting and training soldiers with conduct waivers. According to the report, existing analyses show these recruits perform similarly as those without conduct waivers, but they are more likely to be separated from the Army for "adverse reasons."

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Last week's Defense Science Board report conferred an almost operational role to defense acquisition. Specifically, the procurement of information technology should be conducted with a certain tactical feistyness or, as the document puts it, to "confound the enemy."

The recommendation is part of a section about ways to harden military cyberspace assets against intrusions.

According to the DSB report, IT acquisition folks should:

  • "Buy in variety and update often;
  • "Buy only needed functionality;
  • "Combine government and commercial off-the-shelf systems; ((and))
  • "Create a national cyber defense test bed."

DSB members acknowledge implementing these steps would drive up cost. But, they argue, buying IT gear any other way would be like "buying a tank without armor."

By Marcus Weisgerber
May 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House has tapped Charles Blanchard to become the Air Force's new general counsel. If confirmed, the Arizona lawyer would replace Mary Walker, who was among the first political appointees out the door when President Obama took office in January.

Blanchard -- a partner at Perkins Coie Brown & Bain in Phoenix -- served as the Air Force's general counsel during both of President George W. Bush's terms, and as the Army's general counsel under President Clinton from 1999 to 2001, according to a biography posted on the Web site of the Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, where he is an adjunct professor.

His biography also notes:

Mr. Blanchard was law clerk to the Hon. Harry T. Edwards in Washington, D.C., and then law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. From 1987-88 he served as Associate Independent Counsel for the Office of Independent Counsel James McKay.

Blanchard has served two consecutive terms in the Arizona Senate, from 1991-95, where he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and was Vice Chairman of the Senate Environmental Committee. From 1997-99 he was Chief Counsel for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Navy today awarded General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works division a fixed-price contract to build one Flight 0+ Littoral Combat Ship seaframe at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, AL. The ship is known as Coronado (LCS 4).

The Navy says the construction contract's value is source-selection sensitive information because the price of the fiscal year 2009 ship is tied to the ongoing competitive solicitation for FY-10 ships. But Coronado is expected to cost less than Independence (LCS-2), the Navy said in a statement today. “The cost savings are due to a stable design, readiness of production facilities, an experienced build team in place and a fixed-price contract,” the statement says.

The Navy awarded a total of two contracts for LCS seaframes in FY-09, including a contract to Lockheed Martin for LCS-3 on March 23. The service is conducting a competition for three more seaframes in FY-10. All FY-09 and FY-10 ships will be fixed-price type contracts.

The Navy statement says the current Flight 0+ phase of the LCS program includes ships procured during FY-09 and FY-10, and will incorporate the existing designs from the incumbent industry teams along with all approved engineering change proposals, improved production techniques and material improvements discovered as a result of the construction and testing of LCS-1 and LCS-2.

“The design for both ships is mature and we are incorporating revisions to specific areas based on the lessons learned from the construction of the initial ships, proposed production improvements and acceptance inspections,” the Navy statement says. Those revisions will be in place for the start of construction of the FY-09 ships, according to the service.

The LCS program has had its share of cost troubles; the Navy insists it is focused on that issue.

“Affordability is a critical objective for the LCS program, the service's statement says. “Navy and LCS industry teams are working to reduce cost, achieve steady production, and improve execution. We remain committed to effective cost control and have modified contracting strategies and management practices to provide program stability.”

The Navy says it needs 55 littoral warships to fill urgent warfighting gaps. “LCS will provide capability in sea mine localization, clearance and neutralization; defense against swarming small boats equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles; and finding and neutralizing quiet diesel submarines in noisy environments,” according to the statement.