The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today praised the C-17 program -- but defended his proposal to stop buying the cargo planes. At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, concerns about the decision were raised by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), whose state is home to a Boeing facility where C-17 components are assembled. Bond griped it was a case of “ready, fire, aim.” He asked Gates to support the inclusion of “long lead time” funding for the C-17 in the fiscal year 2009 supplemental appropriations package.

But Gates said the Air Force and U.S. Transportation Command believe the military has more than enough capacity for airlift over the next decade or so. He also cited a legislative prohibition on decommissioning C-5A cargo planes. “As we look at the capacity that we have with those 59 C-5As and we get more and more C-17s we just are continuing to build excess capacity,” Gates said.

Even if Congress lifts the prohibition, the Air Force would have to look at what other priorities it would have to give up to buy more C-17s, according to Gates.

“It's a zero-sum game,” he said. Gates added he is trying to balance all these things to come up with the “maximum possible capability for the maximum range of potential conflict.”

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The age-old tactic of suicide attacks is receiving renewed attention from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. In a note posted on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site today, JIEDDO officials announced plans for the demonstration of new technologies aimed at detecting individuals intent on blowing themselves up.

Suicide bombings are common events in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A recent string of suicide bombings in Iraq has killed scores of people, ending a relatively calm period there that began at the start of the year.

JIEDDO's short announcement doesn't reveal much about how officials intend to proceed on the task. The money phrase, ripe with military jargon, is this one:

Purpose of this announcement is to identify parties potentially interested in participating in a JIEDDO-conducted demonstration to characterize Person-Borne IED (PBIED) sensors against an intelligence-backed, standardized set of threat surrogates.

Interested companies have until Sept. 18 to get in touch, the announcement reads.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Juan Garcia, a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives and naval aviator who befriended President Obama when they were classmates at Harvard Law School, has been tapped for a senior job in the Navy. The White House has announced plans to nominate Garcia to be the Navy’s assistant secretary for manpower and Reserve affairs. Last year, Garcia was rumored to be in the running for the Navy secretary job -- one blogger even declared he had been selected.

That turned out to be wrong, of course: The Navy secretary nomination went to Ray Mabus, a Navy veteran and former Mississippi governor who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.

Here’s Garcia’s bio, as released by the White House:

Mr. Garcia was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, where he represented the 32nd District from 2006 - 2009. He is currently an attorney with Hartline, Dacus, Barger, Dreyer & Kern, L.L.P in Corpus Christi, TX. Previously, Mr. Garcia was a White House Fellow, serving as a special assistant to Richard Riley, the Secretary of Education. Since 1992 Mr. Garcia has been a Naval Aviator, and is currently the Commanding Officer of Naval Reserve Training Squadron 28. Mr. Garcia earned a B.A. from the University of California in Los Angeles, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.P.P. from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

By John Liang
April 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), one of the co-founders of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus, today slammed the Obama administration's proposed billion-dollar-plus cut to the Missile Defense Agency's fiscal year 2010 budget. Speaking at a Capitol Hill symposium sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, he said:

Secretary Gates announced President Obama's missile defense budget would reflect a $1.4 billion cut from last year's budget, which was $8.9 billion. Last year's Missile Defense Agency would have requested $9.45 billion for FY-10. So, this cut is worse than a $1.4 billion cut. It's actually around $1.85 billion, and since they are increasing other platforms, such as ((Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense)) and Aegis ((Ballistic Missile Defense)), the programs that have been cut have most likely been completely eliminated. Some people ask: If President Obama is going to plus-up some of our theater defenses even though it is going to come at the expense of long-range defenses and less-mature systems, is this really that bad? The answer is yes. It is really that bad.

Franks went on to emphasize the layered aspect of missile defense:

We must have defenses against short-, medium-, and long-range missiles. We must also have defenses to intercept missiles in every phase of flight: boost, midcourse and terminal. When we gut programs that defeat the enemy's missiles in their boost phase, we must fund another program that will step in to fill that gap. The Obama missile defense cuts do not do that. We know they are significantly cutting the Airborne Laser program, and the secretary was mysteriously quiet about ((the Kinetic Energy Interceptor)). I think this means it will take a significant cut. The program has already suffered serious setbacks because of budget cuts. Congress creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when it makes funding of a program contingent on the success of that program, but then it refuses to provide the funding necessary for success. It should come as no surprise that in such cases, a system will fail to meet knowledge points or will stagger in uncertainty as to what its objective even is. This has been the story of KEI and unfortunately we are doing it to ((the Airborne Laser program)) now. We are starving these systems.

As reported earlier this month, when asked about KEI on April 6, Gates said:

As for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, "looking at the boost phase is an area that we're going to do more R&D," Gates said. "Clearly, there is great leverage in working in missile defense in the boost phase, because you catch it before you have the sophisticated threats or capabilities that might emerge -- decoys and things like that.

"But we've got to figure out what the right way forward is; what the right balance is between the mid-course and the terminal," he continued. "We've got now a good mid-course. We've got a good terminal capability. What do we need in the boost phase? What kind of attributes does it have for mobility and location, etc? Those are the things that we've got to understand before we go any further with the boost phase."

By Kate Brannen
April 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What could make the Quadrennial Defense Review a better product? That was one of the topics up for debate at today's panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here's one idea: Ban PowerPoint presentations, said Robert Soule of the Institute for Defense Analyses. Soule served as director of the Pentagon’s program analysis and evaluation (PA&E) office from July 1998 through April 2001 and worked on President Obama's Defense Department transition team. Throughout the QDR process, Soule said it helps if there are fewer briefings, in lieu of more emphasis on discussion. He also counseled that the review should focus on a "reasonably small number" of issues -- and that it not get bogged down by detailed modeling and simulations.

Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, agreed with Soule that the QDR should focus on fewer issues, saying 10 is all right, but six is preferred. In addition, Blechman said having small staffs working on the review is more effective. Ideally, Blechman would like to see senior leaders from across the government, not just the Defense Department, working together on "America's grand strategy to confront" future challenges. The agreed-upon strategy would ideally take the form of a short, closely held memo, said Blechman.

"It might be time for us to change the law to shake things up," said Creighton Greene, a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The QDR process may have become too institutionalized, too routine, he said, to create effective strategy and policy changes.

Before the panel discussion, Michèle Flournoy, under secretary of defense for policy, addressed the audience. She said she thinks this Quadrennial Defense Review will be an important one and added that it will differ from past reviews because of its "whole-of-government" approach, through which Pentagon planners are accepting intellectual help and input from other government agencies, allied partners, think tanks, academia and the private sector.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

When asked during their confirmation hearings whether the top Pentagon weapons buyer should have a seat on the pivotal Joint Requirements Oversight Council, both the new acquisition under secretary, Ashton Carter, and his predecessor, John Young, answered “maybe.” But for Young, who was formally replaced by Carter yesterday, the answer these days is more akin to “maybe not.”

Lawmakers and defense experts have previously floated the idea of full JROC membership for the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics to ensure closer collaboration between the military's requirements definition folks and the civilian-run acquisition bureaucracy. The perpetual ramping-up of requirements in weapon systems, known as “requirements creep” in Pentagon jargon, is blamed for continued cost overruns and schedule slips in Defense Department programs.

Full JROC membership currently is limited to senior officers from the military branches. The acquisition executive has an advisory role in the process.

In a final briefing with reporters yesterday, Young said acquisition and requirements officials must collaborate more closely and quickly. But in his view, a formal separation between the acquisition realm and the JROC should remain to guarantee a system of “checks and balances.”

“I respect the military community's ability to state the requirements, and I think you have to respect the acquisition community's ability to challenge requirements if we have reason to,” Young said. Acquisition officials' objections could come as a result of budget concerns or technical feasibility of proposed requirements, he said.

“Putting people on both sides and giving them veto votes on the other ((side's proposals)) is probably not the perfect ((solution)),” Young said.

In his written responses to advance questions for his Oct. 4, 2007, confirmation hearing, then-acting acquisition chief Young supported the idea of participating in the JROC process as an adviser. Beyond that, full membership on the panel “may be appropriate,” he wrote.

During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill lamented what she perceived to be “a lot of back-scratching by the various branches -- you know, 'I won't mess with your program if you don't mess with mine'” on the council at the time. She asked Young to answer in writing whether he believed a full seat on the panel would have a “cleansing effect.”

Ashton Carter, who was sworn in as the new Pentagon acquisition chief yesterday, offered a noncommittal answer to the JROC membership question last month. In advance questions for his nomination hearing, Senators asked if he saw the “need for any changes in the structure or operations” of the JROC.

Carter stressed the importance of “close coordination” between requirements and acquisition officials. As for a membership on the JROC, such a move “may be appropriate,” he wrote.

By John Liang
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Navy is ramping up its drive to increase the service's generation and use of renewable energy sources through the development of marine renewable power, led by ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), Defense Environment Alert reports.

OTEC is a process pioneered in the 1970s by defense contractors and subsequently abandoned when oil prices returned to lower levels in the 1980s, according to DEA, which adds:

The Navy’s effort to use marine-based energy is part of a broader push to increase its generation and use of renewable energy to comply with statutory requirements and reduce fossil fuel dependence. The marine energy initiative seeks to make specific use of tropical and subtropical waters around many Navy bases to generate power.

The Navy announced its desire to use more marine renewable power at the Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference in Washington, DC, April 15, when Howard Snow, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and facilities, appealed to delegates to consider the service as a partner in the development of marine renewables. Snow told the conference the Navy is an “enthusiastic customer” for renewable energy, and could provide land for renewable projects more cheaply than the commercial marketplace can.

The ultimate aim, Snow said in an April 22 interview with Defense Environment Alert, would be to generate sufficient power on-base to “island” installations from the electrical grid, effectively making them self-sufficient. In the interim, however, the goal is to meet the Navy’s target mandated by the 2005 Energy Policy Act of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Snow noted that at present, regulatory requirements in certain states -- notably California -- make it difficult or impossible for military bases to sell significant amounts of electricity back into the grid. . . .

The Navy’s efforts come as other military services are pushing hard to increase their portfolio of renewables and alternative fuels on economic, security and environmental grounds. For example, the Air Force is aggressively pursuing bio-based jet fuels and solar power, while the Army has committed to making its bases net exporters of electrical power within 15 years.

For more of coverage of the military's efforts to reduce fuel consumption and explore alternative energy sources, check out Defense Energy Watch.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) concluded a confirmation hearing today for Defense Department posts by noting the committee will move “quickly” to advance the nominations of the candidates who testified:

  • Raymond Mabus, to be Navy Secretary;
  • Robert Work, to be Navy Under Secretary;
  • Elizabeth King, to be assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs;
  • Donald Remy, to be the Army’s general counsel;
  • Michael Nacht, to be assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs;
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Wallace 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
  • Inés Triay to be assistant secretary of energy for environmental management.

Much of the hearing was devoted to discussing naval issues. In fact, Levin and Ranking Republican John McCain (AZ) had to step in to get Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to wrap up their dueling statements about the Navy’s plan to base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Mayport, FL. It was only then that the committee received testimony from Nacht, Gregson, Darcy and Triay, who comprised the second panel of nominees.

By Marjorie Censer
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Welcome to the building, Ash Carter.

Carter’s predecessor, John Young, left the Pentagon yesterday -- but not without saying a few words about what it’s like to be the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Don’t expect to see those words on any recruiting posters.

“You get paid a salary but -- beyond that -- you become almost a monk and get all kinds of restrictions levied on you for coming in here and trying to help your country and do the right thing,” he told reporters yesterday.

And, he added, a person in his position “can't participate in the economy, you have every possibility that you could be in limbo for months as you're waiting to be confirmed in these positions, and then once you're in these positions you're going to be subjected to excessive mandates that operate from the presumption that you are an unethical person.”

He blamed Congress for holding up his confirmation for six months, limiting his effectiveness.

“I was acting ((acquisition executive)), but -- knowing that you could create new holds by pro-actively doing your job -- I had to be careful,” Young said. “I actually ignored that and I went ahead and did things like restructuring the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle ((program)) and other things, but it was probably at my peril and risk to do those things.”

So what’s next?

Young said he would leave the Pentagon “an unemployed individual,” and said he had “no idea” what he’d do next. “Despite what some people have inaccurately written, I have not interviewed, looked for jobs, filed recusals -- I've done nothing because I do not want to bring any more controversy on the acquisition team.”

He did say he'd start looking “probably not too far down the road.”

By John Liang
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today released the details behind $835 million worth of improvement projects for 850 defense facilities across the country funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The $835 million "represents the balance of the ARRA funds provided to the DOD for construction and repair projects," according to a Defense Department statement, which adds:

All of the new projects will be conducted at Army and Army National Guard facilities in 37 states and the District of Columbia. More than half of the $835 million will be spent in five states: Texas ($155 million), Kentucky ($83 million), North Carolina ($83 million), Oklahoma ($66 million) and Hawaii ($59 million). In addition to making much-needed improvements to military installations, an additional $346 million will be spent on energy-related projects enabling the DOD to lead the way in the national effort to achieve greater energy independence.

Representing less than 1 percent of the entire $787 billion ARRA package, the overall $7.4 billion investment in defense-related projects will further the legislation’s stated goal of stimulating the American economy through job creation, while improving the quality of life for service members, their families, and DOD civilian workers.

In March, the Pentagon issued details on $5.9 billion in funding for nearly 3,000 military construction projects funded by ARRA, out of which $300 million would go "to develop energy-efficient technologies."

Click here to view the full DOD report to Congress issued this week.

By Jason Sherman
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Mark your calendars: A date is now set for the first congressional hearing on the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget request. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will testify the morning of May 13 before the House Armed Services Committee, according to congressional sources.

Still no word on when the White House will transmit the FY-10 budget; presumably it will be at least a day before Gates testifies.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

James Clapper, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, wants everything in the field of measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) to be considered a top priority.

"MASINT operations and activities shall be treated as high-priority efforts and receive full and proactive support in all resourcing and programmatic actions," he wrote in an April 22 Defense Department instruction.

The previous version of the document, which dates from 1993, contains no such language.

According to Clapper's instruction, MASINT is defined as:

Information produced by quantitative and qualitative analysis of physical attributes of targets and events to characterize, locate, and identify them. MASINT exploits a variety of phenomenologies to support signature development and analysis, to perform technical analysis, and to detect, characterize, locate, and identify targets and events. MASINT is derived from specialized, technically-derived measurements of physical phenomenon intrinsic to an object or event and it includes the use of quantitative signatures to interpret the data.

The high-priority designation for MASINT comes amid a growing interest from defense leaders in anything capable of providing improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.

The Pentagon's ISR requests have soared since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operations there have shown a critical need for information about violent extremists' operations -- a markedly different intelligence challenge from the Cold War era, when U.S. spy satellites were often tasked to simply photograph large Soviet formations.

In today's security environment, a few potential MASINT applications come to mind: Separating friends from foes in urban warfare, identifying buried targets, or finding improvised explosive devices.

On the latter issue, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization chief Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz last year said his office is working on ways to make the characteristic copper plates of armor-piercing roadside bombs, or explosively formed penetrators, visible to nearby ground forces through the use of radar and other sensors.

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama noted today his administration will fund an organization called Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy or ARPA-E, which is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Congress created ARPA-E a couple of years ago, but the Bush administration never funded it.

This morning at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Obama said DARPA -- which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik -- has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research on projects such as the precursor to the Internet, known as ARPANET; stealth technology; and the Global Positioning System.

"All owe a debt to the work of DARPA," Obama said. "So ARPA-E seeks to do the same kind of high-risk/high-reward research."

Last month, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the House Science and Technology Committee that ARPA-E will "identify technologies with potential to become the next generation of revolutionary energy systems and products while it will make a major impact on our twin problems of energy security and climate change."

Chu said he was pushing to get ARPA-E up and running soon. When advisers told him it would take one year, he instructed them to revisit the issue and see why it would take so long. "There might be regulations, things like that," he said. "And I have not gotten back the answer to that. So I hope it would take much shorter than one year."

By Dan Dupont
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

It's official: John Young is out as Pentagon acquisition executive, and Ashton Carter is in, sworn in this morning.

Young took a good deal of time to talk to reporters this morning, and we're going to bring you a lot of news from that session.

We've already begun with these:

Young Slams Air Force's UAV Acquisition Strategy as Illogical

Young: Price Should be Ultimate Factor in KC-X Tanker Competition

Young Criticizes 'Flawed Contract Strategy' Behind Future Combat Systems Program

Stay tuned for more.

By Jason Simpson
April 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Former Pentagon acquisition chief John Young today highlighted the MQ-4 Global Hawk program in reflecting on what he sees as a flawed Defense Department requirements mindset.

In his last meeting with reporters as DOD's weapons buying czar, Young said, “I find myself wishing that I had pushed harder in several spaces on requirements, and maybe even had a more major initiative to go and review the fact that I now have programs governed by ((600- or)) 700-page requirements documents that may have 1,000 requirements -- and several hundred of those requirements are tradeable.”

Centering his thoughts on the high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system, Young said the program has roughly 240 requirements, and 100 of those are “tradeable.”

“Because they exist on paper," he said, program officials are testing those “tradeable" requirements. “What did it matter, if you had a tradeable requirement -- i.e. it was tradeable and you don't have to deliver it -- now I'm going to test to see if I delivered it or not? I mean, I'm spending money in ways that just aren't efficient, so I've got to keep changing the mindsets there," he said.

Programs like that, Young said, make him wish he had “pushed an initiative in requirements harder,” but noted that there are “a lot of great things that have been done” in other acquisition programs, particularly those that have featured joint analysis teams.