The Insider

By Kate Brannen
March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense experts predicted a fierce battle this budget season during a discussion of the state of the military this morning on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show.

Andrew Exxum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and founder of the blog Abu Muqawama, alluded to three wars that are currently being fought: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the "really nasty battle that's getting ready to be waged between Secretary Gates and members of Congress and defense contractors."

He highlighted the debate around the Air Force's F-22, parts of which he said are built in 48 different states -- giving 96 senators a vested interest in keeping it alive.

"The F-22 will be justified not just in terms of something for national defense, but also in terms of a massive federal jobs program," said Exxum.

Gates will use the grim economic environment to make difficult choices in the hopes of creating a more strategic budget, the experts agreed.

"For the first time in this budget, you're going to see one that actually sets long-term priorities for the kinds of wars that he thinks this nation is going to fight," said Thom Shanker, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. "It's not going to be each service getting its fair, equitable share of the budget. And I think it's going to be released as a single, big package."

Robert Work, vice president of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, agreed.

"Generally, when you have real change inside the Pentagon it is in times when resources are constrained," he said.

The last two Quadrennial Defense Reviews occurred during defense build-ups, he said, "so hard choices have not had to been made."

"I do not think, that in this case, a bet against Secretary Gates would be a wise one," said Shanker. "This is his last public job ever. He has nothing to lose."

That the cuts are coming is not in dispute, but Robert Haddick, defense analyst at Small Wars Journal and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, wants to know why.

"The question I would have is if these cuts do in fact occur the way it was described in the Boston Globe article, what is the reason? Is it because these systems are actually lemons or not able to deliver on the missions that are assigned to them? Or is the purpose of cutting these programs to free up money to add to ever more headcount to general purpose ground forces?" asked Haddick.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Kevin Chilton mentioned an interesting document in his prepared remarks for a congressional hearing this week -- the "Global Deterrence Plan," approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last fall.

In his prepared testimony, the general described the classified document as a "significant step toward integrating deterrence activities across government agencies and with Allied partners."

Officials are tight-lipped about exactly what role non-military government agencies and partner nations would have to play in a concept traditionally mentioned in one breath with America's atomic weapons might.

An article by Chilton in the spring issue of the Air Force's Strategic Studies Quarterly offers some additional perspective.

In his piece, titled "Waging Deterrence in the 21st Century," Chilton describes deterrence as a "inherently a whole-of-government enterprise." He calls for an "innovative process" that would help "consider and include interagency deterrence courses of action, to make whole-of-government decisions on what courses of action to implement, and to coordinate their execution upon selection."

As for the role of allies, Chilton writes this:

U.S. friends and allies share our interest in deterrence success. Because of their different perspectives, different military capabilities, and different means of communication at their disposal, they offer much that can refine and improve our deterrence strategies and enhance the effectiveness of our deterrence activities. It is to our advantage (and theirs) to involve them more actively in "waging deterrence" in the twenty-first century.

One of the most important contributions that our friends and allies can make to our deterrence campaigns is to provide alternative assessments of competitors’ perceptions. Allied insights into how American deterrence activities may be perceived by both intended and unintended audiences can help us formulate more effective plans. Allied suggestions for alternative approaches to achieving key deterrence effects, including actions they would take in support of—or instead of—US actions, may prove invaluable.

As in the case of interagency collaboration, we need to develop innovative processes for collaborating with our friends and allies to enhance deterrence.

By Marjorie Censer
March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee has rescheduled its hearing on the Future Combat Systems program for next week.

The hearing -- now slated for 2 p.m. on March 26 -- was originally planned for Tuesday but was postponed because of illness on the part of subcommittee chairman Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).

Scheduled to attend to represent the Army are Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, and Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program manager for FCS. GAO representatives will also attend.

The hearing will address the GAO report released earlier this month, which criticized the FCS program for its immaturity and increasing cost.

By John Liang
March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House announced today that President Obama has nominated Elizabeth King to become assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. According to the White House statement:

Elizabeth King is currently Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor on Defense, Foreign Affairs and Veterans for Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), serving as the Senator's principal staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee and accompanying the Senator on international travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Bosnia, East Timor, China and Colombia. Prior to her current position, King was Legislative Director to Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA). In 1995, King served as Counsel for the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. She also worked as Staff Attorney for the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation. King holds a law degree from Georgetown University and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

By Dan Dupont
March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, President Obama's pick to succeed John Young as the Pentagon's top acquisition official, has been put on the docket for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.

Carter won't be alone. Here are the details:

Thursday, March 26, 2009 - 9:30 a.m.

To consider the nominations of:

Dr. Ashton B. Carter to be Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics;

Dr. James N. Miller, Jr. to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and

Ambassador Alexander R. Vershbow to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

By Jason Sherman
March 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House this afternoon formally nominated Ash Carter to be the Pentagon's acquisition executive -- President Obama had previously announced an "intent to nominate" -- forwarding the Harvard professor's dossier to the Senate for consideration.

With this action, the Senate Armed Services Committee can now schedule a confirmation hearing. A committee spokesman said that no date is yet set for the panel to consider Carter.

By John Liang
March 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon yesterday released the transcript of a March 10 interview Defense Secretary Robert Gates did with National Public Radio's Robert Siegel. The transcript includes a portion that was not aired, which touches on the Pentagon's two-war concept and the Quadrennial Defense Review:

SIEGEL: There have been debates in Washington for forever over whether we are capable of waging two wars at one time, whether we have a military large enough for that, having inherited this situation when we were at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. What's the lesson, is two wars at once perhaps biting off more than we can effectively chew even if we're willing to spend a trillion dollars at it?

GATES: Our military planning for a number of years has - and I would say going back at least 20 years - has been to have the ability to fight two major combat operations simultaneously. One where it would be an aggressive effort and another where you might have to hold for a while and then finish the job. I think one of the central questions that this department will face in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which will begin shortly, is whether that model makes any sense in the 21st century and whether what may have fit in a Cold War environment or an immediately post-Cold War environment really has application to today's world.

SIEGEL: And the experience of the past few years suggests some rethinking is need there in terms of what our doctrines are?

GATES: I think so.'s Jason Sherman reported that same day that Gates plans to summon the military's top brass from around the world to the Pentagon at the end of this month to unveil changes to the fiscal year 2010 budget request, kick off the QDR and roll out a new force-planning construct:

Gates plans to call a special meeting of the Defense Senior Leaders Conference (DSLC) -- a group that includes the 10 combatant commanders, the service chiefs and civilian Pentagon leaders -- to outline his plan for a “strategic reshaping” of the military, these officials say. That reshaping is expected to include some major changes to the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio.

The revision of the FY-10 Pentagon budget request -- which is expected to include cuts to major weapon system programs and possible terminations -- is being viewed as an unofficial prelude to the Quadrennial Defense Review.

“The budget drill is ((a)) major portion of the QDR,” said a Pentagon official. “The decisions made in the FY-10 budget drill are the foundation of anything else that we’re going to look at.” . . .

The terms of reference for the QDR -- the guidance that sets the scope of the review and the process for its execution -- is expected to be presented at the end-of-March meeting as well, sources say. On Jan. 27, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he hoped to formally begin the QDR -- a congressionally mandated review of the entire U.S. military enterprise that is supposed to yield a new modernization blueprint -- in February.

In addition to beginning the QDR at the end of this month, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is expected at the DSLC meeting to offer a new force-planning construct, which has wide-ranging implications for the entire U.S. defense enterprise. It forms a core justification for the composition of the U.S. armed forces as well as the number -- and types -- of ships, aircraft, trucks and tanks the services require.

The current force planning construct calls for the U.S. military to have the capabilities to deal with contingencies across a wide range of scenarios that are organized into three areas: homeland defense; irregular warfare; and conventional operations. The construct calls for the military to be able to conduct both steady-state and surge operations across these three areas and maintain the ability to conduct two nearly simultaneous major wars.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What should President Obama do about U.S.-Russian relations? The Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, co-chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart (D-CO) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), has some ideas, which they unveiled yesterday in a new report.

According to a summary of the study, the report advocates partnering with Russia to deal with Iran; collaborating to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime; taking a new look at missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic and making a genuine effort to develop a cooperative approach to the shared threat from Iranian missiles; accepting that neither Ukraine nor Georgia is ready for NATO membership and working closely with U.S. allies to develop options other than NATO membership to demonstrate a commitment to their sovereignty; and launching a serious dialogue on arms control, including extending the START I Treaty as well as further reduction of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

The full, 30-page report is online, too.

By John Liang
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department will likely miss a congressionally mandated deadline to identify all its underwater chemical and conventional munitions dump sites around U.S. coastlines due to budget constraints, Stuart Parker from sister publication Defense Environment Alert reports today.

An Army munitions cleanup expert told state waste officials earlier this month that the inventory is the first step in addressing underwater weapons remediation -- an issue for which a long-term national strategy still must be developed, DEA reports. In addition:

J.C. King, an Army munitions cleanup specialist, told the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials March 5 that the inventory work, which relies on archival research, is falling behind schedule because of budget shortfalls. “Neither Army or Navy currently has the funds required for this research, although both are doing research,” an Army source confirms.

Federal defense authorization law requires that DOD produce a final report on the position of all known munitions dumps at sea by the end of fiscal 2009. King said that to meet this requirement, the Army and Navy are taking an inventory of sites in an effort to list them in DOD’s 2010 annual environmental report to Congress. But “we are not going to make that, especially for conventional weapons,” he warned.

The Army is asking the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for an additional $1 million to complete the work on time, but without it the Army will probably have to ask for a deadline extension, the Army source says. The source adds that OSD is aware of the problem.

The military is facing key questions over where to go in terms of cleanup once the sites are identified. King said that development of a long-term national strategy for underwater weapons remediation is essential, noting that over time, the munitions will degrade and may discharge their contents into the water and sediments on the seabed. Devising such a strategy would involve talks with EPA, King said. At the same time, he called for a “risk-based” approach, weighing the risks of disturbing munitions for cleanup with leaving them alone.

A spokesman for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), one of the chief architects of the reporting requirement, says that the delay in completing the inventory is more than a nuisance, “as it raises questions of public health. Those timeframes for reporting are put there for a reason, not to be ignored, not to be unilaterally changed.” The spokesman was previously unaware of the delay, and would not comment further on what action Abercrombie may take in relation to it. . . .

By Jason Sherman
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Given that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has required a pledge of silence from everyone participating in the FY-10 budget review, it is hard to imagine that Robert Hale -- the Pentagon comptroller -- might spill the beans.

As soon as this week, Gates is expected to lock in some "hard choices" in the FY-10 budget, decisions that are expected to squeeze the military services' modernization accounts.

But Hale is scheduled to testify tomorrow before the House Budget Committee to discuss the Defense Department's FY-10 budget request. What will he say? What can he say?

After Hale, Michale Sullivan, director of acquisition and source management at the Government Accountability Office, will appear before the committee.

By Thomas Duffy
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Next Monday the Missile Defense Agency will open its seventh annual conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The conference runs through March 25. Two longtime critics of the agency's testing plans will serve as bookends on the opening day's agenda: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is scheduled to give the conference's keynote address at 10 a.m, while Phil Coyle, the former director of the Pentagon's independent testing office, is scheduled to speak at 3:40 in the afternoon. According to an agenda provided to us by MDA, Coyle's topic is “Missile Defense testing -- A Critic's View.”

Coyle was on Capitol Hill last month testifying before the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), the subcommittee's chairwoman, will speak at 11:30. Her topic: “Missile Defense Budget/Political Concerns in Congress."

Coyle was blunt in his view of MDA's testing program during the Feb. 25 hearing:

For missile defense, the most challenging technical obstacles are dealing with enemy attacks of two or more missiles with decoys and countermeasures that cab defeat missile defense. So far the testing programs have kicked that can down the road.

He also claimed “a troublesome lack of clarity” in the public discussions of the rationale for and the technical progress made toward an effective U.S. missile defense system, adding:

Quite simply, the public statements made by Pentagon officials and contractors have often been at variance with the facts at hand. It is difficult to separate programmatic spin from genuine progress. In particular, the missile defense program has made claims that have not been demonstrated through realistic testing.

Other speakers during the first day include Gen. Victor Renuart, commander of U.S. Northern Command; Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, MDA's director; Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, the commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Command; and Peter Verga, the principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Just a few years ago, defense officials said they hadn't the faintest idea of how many contractors were working for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to some congressional pressure and the advent of a piece of software with the fitting acronym SPOT, the fog has cleared a bit.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the total number of contractors in the U.S. Central Command area was just slightly under 260,000, according to a recently released Pentagon information paper. Of that amount, 52,000 were U.S. citizens. The rest are, in equal parts, citizens from the countries where U.S. force operate and individuals from outside those countries.

The paper includes an interesting update on all kinds of contractor-related efforts at DOD.

For example, it describes a Sept. 10, 2008, memo from former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, which served to create what the document calls a “'911' Response Capability.” Specifically, the memo provided guidance for military personnel “on the responsibility to respond to reports that . . . contractor and civilian employees have allegedly committed crimes or who are reported to be the victims of crimes,” the information paper states.

By Marjorie Censer
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A much-anticipated House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee hearing on the Future Combat Systems program -- scheduled for 3 p.m. today -- has been postponed.

The two Army witnesses -- Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, and Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program manager for FCS -- were already on Capitol Hill when word came down on the last-minute cancellation, attributed to illness on the part of subcommittee Chairman Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).

The hearing was set to include the two Army generals as well as representatives from the Government Accountability Office, which last week released a deeply critical assessment of the program.

No new date has been chosen for the hearing.

By Dan Dupont
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Air Force's editor, Marcus Weisgerber, is out in St. Louis today for the unveiling of the new F-15SE -- the Silent Eagle -- which Boeing touts as a "stealthy" version of the fighter designed for "international customers."

From our story:

ST. LOUIS, March 17, 2009 -- In an effort to keep its international fighter jet business churning, Boeing today revealed a new, advanced version of the multirole F-15 Eagle, which the company has been secretly developing for months.

Dubbed the F-15 Silent Eagle, the fighter jet sports side-mounted conformal fuel tanks that can carry both air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. Program officials claim the internal weapons bays, combined with canted vertical tails, special coating and advanced computer systems, turn the aircraft into a stealthy day-one strike aircraft.

Boeing displayed a full-scale model of the new jet in a hanger here close to where it builds international versions of the F-15E Strike Eagle. The ground test aircraft displayed during the roll-out is a modified version of the first F-15E flight test aircraft.

In what Boeing terms “front-end” stealth mode, the jet can carry a mixture of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and Small Diameter Bombs. The internal weapon bays can carry up to four AMRAAMs, or two JDAMs, or a mix of SDBs.

“Our international customers are worried about their future threats and they’re particularly worried about the value of stealth,” said Mark Bass, the company’s F-15 program vice president.

In a low-threat environment, the conformal fuel tanks -- which were flight-certified on the F-15C by the Air Force in the 1980s -- could be replaced by separate tanks that allow for external weapons mounting. The jet could then carry a heavy weapons load similar to an F-15E’s.

The aircraft likely will cost less than $100 million, according to Bass.

More pics here.

By John Liang
March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House today announced the nomination of Rose Gottemoeller for the position of assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance.

"Turning the tide on the threat of nuclear weapons and strengthening the international non-proliferation regime is one of the great and urgent challenges of our time," President Obama said in a statement. "Rose Gottemoeller’s extraordinary commitment and expertise make her a valuable addition to the State Department and my national security team as we renew American diplomacy to create a more secure world."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karin Look has run the office in an acting capacity since former verification and compliance bureau chief Paula DeSutter left, according to the State Department.

Gottemoeller is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment; before that, she served as deputy under secretary for defense nuclear non-proliferation in the Energy Department.

According to a State Department fact sheet:

The ((Verification and Compliance)) Bureau's core missions are to ensure that appropriate verification requirements and capabilities are fully considered and properly integrated throughout the development, negotiation, and implementation of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements and commitments and to ensure that other countries' compliance is carefully watched, rigorously assessed, appropriately reported, and resolutely enforced. In this regard, the Bureau is responsible for preparing the President's annual report to Congress on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. The Bureau is further required to prepare verifiability assessments on proposals and agreements, and to report these to Congress, as required. The Bureau also prepares the President's semi-annual Iran, North Korea, Syria Nonproliferation Report to Congress, which identifies entities that engage in the transfer of controlled items to and from Iran, North Korea, and Syria and authorizes the imposition of sanctions against these entities.