The Insider

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon isn't the only federal agency basing a good portion of its strategy on doomsday-like scenarios. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security also keep a list of what-if situations that serve as a springboard for departmental planning.

While the so-called "defense planning scenarios" of the Defense Department are closely guarded, the DHS "national planning scenarios" are available publicly via a simple Google search.

The Washington Post Web site offers version number 20.1, dated April 2005, while the State of Oregon kindly makes available what appears to a minor update from the same month, numbered 20.2, plus an executive summary.

A more more current version, dated March 2006, is available from the Web site of Florida's emergency management division.

On top of the list: The explosion of a ten-kiloton improvised nuclear device near a major U.S. city, causing "hundreds of thousands" of casualties.

Also on the list are attacks with improvised explosive devices, which, according to the document, could unfold like this:

During an event at a large urban entertainment/sports venue, three suicide bombers are strategically pre-positioned inside the arena. The detonation of their devices will instill mass panic and chaotic evacuation of the arena.

Occupants evacuating the arena are most likely to move toward one of several locations. A portion of the occupants will remain in the immediate area around the venue, clogging ingress for emergency responders. Some will head toward public transportation, while others will head toward parking lots to retrieve their vehicles and depart the area.

The main thrust of the attack is at the evacuation points. In the area of the main evacuee collection area (most likely on a main street outside the venue), the UA has placed a Large Vehicle Bomb (LVB) disguised as a fire department/EMS service vehicle. It is conceivable to disguise 10,000 pounds of explosives in such a vehicle, but the actual amount could be scaled down and still achieve severe effects.

UA is shorthand for the fictitious "Universal Adversary" terrorist cell.

By John Liang
March 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) are warning against cutting missile defense funding in the face of what they see as escalating threats from North Korea and Iran.

In an op-ed piece published today in Politico, Cantor and Kyl write:

. . . ((U))nclassified reports have detailed North Korea's preparations for the launch, possibly within days, of a new, even longer-range Taepo Dong 2 missile. This kind of missile is a threat, not just to some of America's closest allies in the region (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) but to the U.S. itself.

Moreover, North Korea continues to be the world’s greatest proliferator of ballistic missile technology and nuclear weapons know-how. We should be very concerned about with whom North Korea does business.

And then there’s Iran.

On Feb. 2, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly announced that his country had successfully launched its first satellite. If it were any other country, such a launch would seem of little consequence. However, as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, recently noted, space launch technologies “are compatible with an intercontinental ballistic missile-type capability.”

Add to that the latest news that Iran has enriched one-third more uranium than was previously understood -- more than enough to build a nuclear bomb -- and the potential threat is clear.

These examples should underscore the necessity for an effective, operational missile defense system. Yet the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are now seeking ways to halt the progress that’s been made in defending against these threats.

Cantor and Kyl write of their concern about recent statements from other members of Congress and news reports of the Obama administration's alleged plans to "make significant cuts" to the fiscal year 2010 missile defense budget, including "funds that would be used to deploy our missile defense assets to Europe -- which NATO has twice stated is necessary to deal with the threat from Iran.

"That such a rollback of the system is being discussed is dangerous," they warn. "That it is being discussed at the same time North Korea and Iran are carrying out aggressive, threatening activities is irresponsible and unacceptable."

The two lawmakers continue: "When President Obama campaigned last year, he said that he supported missile defense systems that work. Our systems have shown through numerous tests that they work -- that is not in doubt."

The Pentagon's operational test and evaluation office might have something to say about that, however.

At a Feb. 25 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) asked DOT&E Director Charles McQueary whether the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, just because it "receives a less-than-perfect test score, ((does)) this necessarily means it does not provide the warfighter with an operationally effective capability?"

McQueary responded that he couldn't say "with high confidence" that the GMD system is an operationally effective system. "Our job is testing and to deal with the facts at hand. And there's simply not been enough testing done in order to be able to state it."

To which Franks said:

. . . I don't know of any system that we have that is proven 100 percent effective. I'm not even sure we could say that about the baseball bat, but it's still pretty effective at close range.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still in the process of developing and assembling a set of security-related, what-if scenarios expected to help shape the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review deliberations, according to sources.

Outgoing Bush administration officials at the Pentagon last year set out the goal of readying a new set of highly classified Defense Planning Scenarios for the new administration to pick and chose from as the 2009/2010 QDR process begins.

Such prep work consumed most of the time during the 2005/2006 QDR season, several officials noted.

Some of the new DPSs have reached the point of being fairly "mature," while work on others has yet to begin in earnest, one source said today.

During the DPS development process, the services are given a chance to comment.

No word on whether a collection of DPSs will be ready later this month, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to formally kick off the QDR.

By Dan Dupont
March 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Jacques Gansler, who was under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics in the Clinton Pentagon, has penned a new piece for Foreign Policy on the United States' reliance on other countries in military areas -- including the use of weapon system components made in other countries.

Since U.S. President Barack Obama has taken office, the debate between economic protectionism and free trade has reemerged with a vengeance. Just this week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown dinged the new president's allies in Congress for inserting a controversial "Buy American" provision in the stimulus bill passed in February.

The most important strategic decisions over trade that Obama will face will not be about French cheese or the Chinese yuan, however, but over the dozens of countries around the world that, during the past few decades, have become critical in supplying the U.S. military with the latest technologies and best equipment. These foreign suppliers are significant, and increasingly vital, contributors to America's military superiority.

Gansler goes on to single out the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles program as well as the Medium Extended Air Defense System as examples of programs dependent on components made elsewhere. "Even Obama's new helicopter," he writes, "will be based on an Italian design and partially produced in Britain." (Maybe not, but you get his point.)

Not everyone is a fan:

Of course, critics argue that these arrangements are incredibly dangerous. After all, couldn't the U.S. weapons supply be cut off during wartime if the country were too reliant on foreign parts? Most of these foreign sources, however, are from NATO nations or other countries with which the United States has had enduring military and commercial relationships. For example, despite very public opposition in some of these countries to U.S. actions in Afghanistan or Iraq, at no time did foreign suppliers (including 20 German and two French suppliers) restrict the provision or sale of components.

Skeptics also worry about "Trojan horses" built into foreign-supplied systems, particularly in the case of software. But this potential threat can be addressed through extensive and rigorous testing and reverse engineering, just as occurs in the financial and medical communities. Still others raise serious and legitimate concerns about military technology leaking into the hands of rogue regimes or terrorists or being sold to third parties without U.S. knowledge. These are certainly excellent arguments for international arms-control treaties. But there's no reason why such treaties need preclude legal arms trade among allies, along with mutually agreed-to verification techniques.

More commonly, opponents emphasize the potential loss of jobs that might occur as a result of buying equipment from offshore firms.

Gansler, though, sees no way around it. "The United States must face the fact that it no longer has a monopoly on the world's best military technology," he concludes. "America's path toward future stability involves cooperating with allies and taking advantage of the best they have to offer, not cutting itself off and watching as its military superiority slips away."

By Carlo Muñoz
March 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Just days after the White House issued new acquisition rules for the U.S. government and little over a week after Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) penned joint legislation aimed at revamping the Pentagon's procurement process, House members have decided to throw their hat into the acquisition reform ring.

House Armed Services committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D- MO) has formally stood up a new "Panel of Defense Acquisition Reform," according to a committee press release issued today. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) will chair the newly formed panel, which includes Democratic Reps. Jim Cooper (TN), Brad Ellsworth (IN) and Joe Sestak (PA). On the Republican side, Rep. Mike Conaway (TX) will serve as the group's ranking member, with Reps. Duncan Hunter (CA) and Mike Coffman (CO) rounding out the GOP side of the group.

The seven-member bipartisan committee will "address broad issues surrounding the defense acquisition process," the committee release states. Those issues will include evaluation of current performance and value in the current acquisition system, exploring root causes of system failures and "administrative and cultural pressures" that lead to failing systems, it adds.

The panel will review these and other issues over a six-month period, with an option for an additional six months for continued evaluation. The panel will then issue its recommendations in a report to be included in the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, according to the statement. The panel's preliminary findings will also be integrated into the FY-10 bill, already in the works, as "different pieces of acquisition reform legislation come under consideration," it adds.

"The very talented members of this panel will put a fresh set of eyes on the problem, and I look forward to their recommendations," Skelton said in the statement. 

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

The Air Force has ordered inspections of its entire C-130 Hercules cargo hauler fleet after discovering a potential issue with wing bolts, according to service officials.

Each aircraft must undergo a two- to four-hour inspection before returning to flight, an Air Force Special Operations Command official told Inside the Air Force this morning. The command operates specially configured Hercs that are used to insert troops into combat zones and refuel helicopters.

The mandatory inspections include newer Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft in addition to the legacy C-130s, which make up the bulk of the Air Force's inventory. The oldest Air Force Hercules aircraft entered service in the early 1960s. The newer J-models entered the fleet in the late 1990s.

C-130s are the backbone of intratheater airlift and are used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to transport troops and cargo.

“Despite the size of the fleet, inspections are proceeding rapidly, and while this is a significant effort for our maintainers we currently don’t expect any major disruptions to essential airlift operations,” Vicki Stein, an Air Force spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail today.

The C-130 becomes the latest Air Force airframe to fall victim to potentially serious structural issues. A portion of the A-10 Warthog attack jet fleet remains grounded due to cracks in the wings. The service also grounded much of its F-15 fighter fleet for months in 2007 and 2008 after an Eagle snapped in two during a training mission.

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

Development of the Air Force's first-ever cyberspace doctrine appears to have hit a snag, and officials are mum about the cause of the hold-up. As we reported last October, officials crafted and circulated a draft version of the document over the summer. At the time, a service spokesman said the Air Force doctrine folks were trying to get the document wrapped up and approved by November.

A spokesman at Air University's Center for Doctrine Development and Education confirmed this week work on the cyber doctrine is still ongoing. He did not return a phone call requesting more information.

Experts said the delay could be due to still-unresolved fundamental questions over what it means for the service to fight in cyberspace.

(Work on a revision of another key, and related, Air Force doctrine piece, "information operations," also appears to be going slow, we're told.)

A senior general last week suggested the military as whole should move a tad bit more quickly on all things cyberspace, Inside the Air Force reported.

"My message for the cyberspace domain is it’s time we generate momentum in this particular area,” U.S. Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton said during a Feb. 26 speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference in Florida. “We are under ((cyber)) attack, we are behind, we are reactive, not proactive, and we -- all of us -- are making it too easy for those who would exploit and attack our networks.”

Meanwhile, Inside the Pentagon today reports about new push from the Joint Staff to get the personnel requirements for cyberspace operations figured out by late spring.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

UPDATED: Obama gave his speech, as advertised -- and unloaded on defense contracting.

The transcript and a memo Obama signed on contracting reform are here. Our coverage to follow.

Today at 10 a.m., President Obama is scheduled to give a major speech about his plan to "reform a broken system of contracting to cut back on wasteful spending, and save the American people tens of billions of dollars," according to the White House.

The AP reports that Obama will sign a new memo to reform contracting for the entire federal government, including the Pentagon. He is expected to discuss defense contracts in the speech. Stay tuned.

By Marjorie Censer
March 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, is seeking an "Ike Skelton Chair of Counterinsurgency" to serve “as the focal point for the diffusion of knowledge within CGSC and its three schools . . . concerning all aspects of counterinsurgency.”

According to the vacancy announcement, the selected person will serve “as an advocate for counterinsurgency education within the U.S. Army.” The job involves collaboration with school leaders; “interaction with national and international governmental and private agencies;” and advisory work on “changing the culture of the force through the use of experimentation, counterinsurgency articles, and the creation and sharing of knowledge and experiences.”

The salary will range from $105,000 to $120,000 for a limited tenure not to exceed three years, though the tenure is renewable.

The vacancy announcement comes as Ft. Leavenworth -- the intellectual center of the service -- is working more broadly to improve the Army's ability to respond to a changing combat environment.

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commanding general of the post's Combined Arms Center, last month called for increased interagency cooperation.

In particular, he said at a Feb. 11 breakfast, the Army is seeking to bring representatives from other federal agencies out to Ft. Leavenworth to be educated alongside Army officers.

“Your Army is thinking, and it’s constantly evolving to adapt to and change itself to be as capable and effective as it has always been,” Caldwell told the audience. “The environment today that we operate in we know has changed, the enemy has changed and we in the Army must also change.”

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

All signs point to an increased emphasis on energy issues at DOD, perhaps even in the context of the Quadrennial Defense Review. The British military, too, is thinking along those lines, according to a recently released Ministry of Defence science and technology plan.

Under the heading "Emerging Technologies," British defense officials have published a slide indicating how the Brits intend to go from "critical dependence on fossil fuels" to "efficient, cost effective alternatives to fossil fuels."

Admittedly, the slide consists mostly of buzzwords displayed on a notional time axis. But there are some interesting ones. For example, the idea of "Unmanned Vehicle Power Sharing" sounds pretty cool.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Oval Office today at 4:30 p.m., according to the White House. The meeting is closed to the press. No word yet what will be discussed, but it's a safe bet Obama will be asking questions.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, Gates said Obama is "somewhat more analytical" than former President George W. Bush, noting Obama "makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue, and if they don't speak up, he calls on them." Bush was interested in hearing different points of view, but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't spoken up before, Gates noted.

Though today's White House meeting is private, Gates is slated to go before the microphones earlier this afternoon at the Pentagon when he holds a press conference with France’s minister of defense, Hervé Morin.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The ink on the press release announcing the Levin-McCain acquisition reform bill last week had barely dried when the allegedly slow-as-molasses Pentagon bureaucracy moved with lightning speed to pick the legislation apart for what one official called "can't-live-with" items.

On Wednesday, outgoing Pentagon acquisition chief John Young gave orders to compile a DOD assessment of the measure for a scheduled Friday morning meeting between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and bill co-sponsor Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

McCain is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is the panel's chairman.

To what extent are senators willing to listen to concerns from inside what they have called a "flawed" DOD acquisition system in their attempt to enforce reforms?

"We will consider DOD's views, but we will not be governed by them," panel spokeswoman Tara Andringa tells us via e-mail.

The Friday Gates-McCain meeting never took place, by the way, because Gates was called to join President Obama at Camp Lejeune that day, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

By John Liang
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama was asked today about a New York Times story regarding a letter he sent to Russia's president last month in which Obama, according to the Times, offered to "back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons." The NYT further reported:

The Obama letter was hand-delivered in Moscow by top administration officials three weeks ago. It said the United States would not need to proceed with the interceptor system, which has been vehemently opposed by Russia since it was proposed by the Bush administration, if Iran halted any efforts to build nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran. Russia’s military, diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran give it some influence there, but it has often resisted Washington’s hard line against Iran.

"It’s almost saying to them, put up or shut up," said a senior administration official. "It's not that the Russians get to say, 'We'll try and therefore you have to suspend.' It says the threat has to go away."

At a joint briefing with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama was asked about the letter, according to a White House transcript:

Q I'd like to ask you about the letter that you've written to the Russian President about the anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe. Can you talk about why sort of a quid pro quo seemed like the smartest approach?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I think that the report that was in The New York Times didn't accurately characterize the letter. What we had was a very lengthy letter talking about a whole range of issues from nuclear proliferation to how are we going to deal with a set of common security concerns along the Afghan border and terrorism. And what I said in the letter is the same thing that I've said publicly, which is that the missile defense that we have talked about deploying is directed towards not Russia, but Iran. That has always been the concern, that you had potentially a missile from Iran that threatened either the United States or Europe.

And what I said in the letter was that, obviously, to the extent that we are lessening Iran's commitment to nuclear weapons, then that reduces the pressure for, or the need for a missile defense system.

In no way does that in any -- does that diminish my commitment to making sure that Poland, the Czech Republic and other NATO members are fully enjoying the partnership of the Alliance and U.S. support with respect to their security.

So the way it got characterized I think was as some sort of quid pro quo. It was simply a statement of fact that I've made previously, which is, is that the missile defense program, to the extent that it is deployed, is designed to deal with not a Russian threat, but a Iranian threat.

Q -- response have you received from Russia?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We've had a good exchange between ourselves and the Russians. I've said that we need to reset or reboot the relationship there. Russia needs to understand our unflagging commitment to the independence and security of countries like a Poland or a Czech Republic. On the other hand, we have areas of common concern. And I cited two examples: the issue of nuclear nonproliferation and the issue of terrorism. And at this point, I think we probably have some potential common concerns on the world economic front, as well.

So my hope is, is that we can have a constructive relationship where, based on common respect and mutual interest, we can move forward.

By Thomas Duffy
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army is hoping to mimic the counterinsurgency successes it has had in Iraq in Afghanistan and is looking for a contractor to carry out an extensive information operations program in the country. Last year, the service took over funding an existing program known as the United States External Information Program-Afghanistan, which it describes as “an Afghan approved full-spectrum and sustained counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) information campaign focused on separating the bomb makers and users from the support of the populace,” according to a solicitation the Army issued to industry today.

When the service took over the program it realigned its goals “to inform and influence undecided Afghans in order to accept the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) as a legitimate government of the people, support the acceptance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as legitimate security forces and enhance the perception an improved Afghan quality of life is controlled by their actions.”

The Army is asking the contractor to use all manner of media including billboards, flyers, posters, educational pamphlets or brochures, newspaper advertisements, radio messages, television advertisements and documentaries.

Countering IEDs is one of four main themes the program will carry out this year (the others being the ANSF and GIRoA, education, and development). Today the Army told potential contractors the counter-IED information campaign should reflect the following:

  • Report IED activities. The theme is that security is everyone's concern. The concept is to use media to encourage the local populace to stop violence by reporting IED activities and facilitators to the ANSF.
  • IEDs impact families and Afghan society. The theme is IEDs and bomb makers have an adverse impact on civil society. IEDs kill innocent men, women and children, IED facilitators are criminals, and IEDs tarnish the future of Afghanistan. The concept is to use media to document the effects of IEDs on society and family.
  • Killing Muslims is against Islam. The theme is that bombing and IEDs result in the murder of innocent Muslims, the concept is to use media to denounce IEDs as un-Islamic acts of violence and results in murder of innocent Muslims.
By Christopher J. Castelli
March 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House just announced that Vice President Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium, next week to meet with the North Atlantic Council, the principal forum for NATO’s 26 member states.

Biden will consult with allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to try to ensure their views help inform the strategic review ordered by President Obama, according to the administration's statement. Biden also will meet with NATO’s secretary general, senior leaders of the European Union and officials of the Belgian government.

More details will be released “at a later date,” according to the White House.