The Insider

By John Liang
February 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has asked Bruce Riedel from the Brookings Institute to chair an interagency review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today.

Riedel is working at the White House for 60 days while on temporary leave as a senior fellow at Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The study is to be completed before the NATO summit in April, according to the White House transcript of Gibbs' remarks on board Air Force One.

Amb. Richard Holbrooke and newly minted Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy have been appointed as co-chairs of the review, according to Gibbs. Riedel will report directly to the president and National Security Adviser James Jones, Gibbs added.

The proposed study is separate from the military review slated for completion this month. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus is overseeing that one.

Given that the economy has been pretty much dominating today's news as well as this morning's press gaggle, here's the only question that was asked at the White House (or should we say Air Force One) briefing about Riedel's Afghanistan-Pakistan study:

Q: Robert, just a quick question on the Afghanistan panel. How broad is that mission going to be? Is it going to look at troop increases and things like that? Or is it more going to look at --

MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, there's a review that overlaps also with what General Petraeus is doing. I think everyone has mentioned that in order for us to change the direction that we see in Afghanistan, we can't simply focus on just the military aspects, that we have to focus on the diplomatic, the civil society, the reconstruction.

So I think with what Bruce is doing, and what other military planners are doing, is looking at the Afghanistan and Pakistan policies in a -- not just in how many troops, but in a broad sense of what is possible and what needs to happen in order to change the direction.

By Dan Dupont
February 10, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Here's hoping the new under secretary of defense for policy, Michèle Flournoy, does something about her organization's Website.

The home page features an "Announcements" box right in the middle, highlighting "News, Speeches, Items of Interest."

The most recent news: March 27, 2007.

Latest "Public Statements": Sept. 28, 2006.

And the latest "Special Report": The Quadrennial Defense Review. From 2006.

At least the site does reflect that Flournoy is, finally, the under secretary following her confirmation this week -- though it spells her name without that tricky accent. Just one more update to be made.

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

While Iran's satellite launch last Monday has defense leaders worried, the move is not necessarily a sign that Tehran already has the know-how to build a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, according to Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

The leap from satellite program to missile program is "not an automatic," Cartwright told reporters today. "It doesn't happen in a day or two."

"((T))he work that they have done thus far is, at best, rudimentary -- very low orbit, very minimal energy to get up there," Cartwright said. "This is not a long- range missile, but it is the path toward that, so we have to worry about that."

By Marjorie Censer
February 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Facing tighter budgets and a greater emphasis on fuel efficiency, the military vehicle industry has a challenging year ahead, according to industry panelists at last week's tactical wheeled vehicles conference in Monterey, CA.

“We're going to be all together facing an uncertain future with unpredictability as the main theme,” Pat MacArevey, Navistar's director of government business and government affairs, said during the Feb. 2 panel. “I think the challenge is for our industry to behave like our customer and be on our toes in an era of persistent conflict.”

In particular, the panelists -- including retired Gen. Paul Kern, president and chief operating officer of AM General; John Stoddart, executive vice president and president for defense at Oshkosh; Dennis Dellinger, president for mobility and protection systems at BAE Systems; and MacArevey -- said the industry needs to look toward lightweight materials that provide vehicle protection and increased fuel efficiency.

Additionally, Kern touched on the need to constantly improve vehicles -- in his company's case, the humvee -- to meet threats in theater, while Dellinger looked toward the need to repair damaged vehicles. He favored recap, which allows new technology insertions, instead of reset, which simply returns vehicles to their original configurations.

Stoddart suggested the companies may consider future collaborations.

“We know that collectively we can do what our national strategy calls for us to do, and don't be surprised if you see the four of us working more closely together in the future,” he said.

For more coverage of the Monterey conference, check out this week's Inside the Army.

By Kate Brannen
February 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Accelerating equipment reset is one way that military spending can help play a role in the country's economic recovery, states a new memo from the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington-based think tank. The authors recommend adding $50 billion to equipment reset in fiscal year 2010 as part of the economic recovery package.

After years of use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the services' equipment -- its tanks, trucks and helicopters -- have undergone significant combat damage and require either replacement or repair.

"There is no reason that this reset cannot be done much more rapidly," reads the memo.

Defense spending for equipment reset, which could cost up to $100 billion, should be prioritized, according to the report, because it could spur medium- to long-term economic growth.

Reset is a major issue for the services, especially the Army. Inside the Army reported this week that reset is a "non-negotiable" priority for the service, despite serious funding challenges that lie ahead.

The first step to effective reset is determining what kinds of equipment are essential for the military to successfully defeat current and future threats, states to the memo.

"The vehicles most in need of reset are those seeing service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These include M1 Abrams tanks, M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, Stryker combat vehicles, military Humvees, and various support vehicles," write the authors.

Accelerating reset can bring employment for mechanics and machinists in states such as Texas, California, Oregon, Utah, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Alabama, states the memo.

CAP also calls for accelerating the spending of funds already authorized for military construction, as well as an extra $25 billion for fiscal year 2010 for projects in the next five years.

And to combat unemployment, CAP recommends increasing the ground forces to projected levels as quickly as possible.

"In 2010, the Army and Marines should attempt to add all 48,000 troops to their roles without lowering standards. This will increase military personnel expenditures by an estimated $5 billion in 2010 alone," reads the report.

By Jason Sherman
February 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, yesterday delivered his most detailed public remarks to date on his plans for leading the National Security Council. Speaking in Munich to the annual conference on security policy, Jones said the NSC is paying increased attention to the United States' capability to counter weapons of mass destruction as well as “placing a far higher priority on cyber security.”

From the transcript:

The President has made clear that to succeed against 21st century challenges, the United States must use, balance, and integrate all elements of national influence: our military and our diplomacy, our economy and our intelligence, and law enforcement capacity, our cultural outreach, and as was mentioned yesterday, the power of our moral example, in short, our values. Given this role, the NSC is by definition at the nexus of that effort. It integrates on a strategic sense all elements of our national security community towards the development of effective policy development and interagency cooperation. But to better carry out the president’s priorities, the National Security Council must respond to the world the way it is and not as we wish it were. And it must consider the fusion of our national priorities within the broader international context and interest. The NSC’s mission is relatively simple. It should perform the functions that it alone can perform and serve as a strategic center – and the word strategic is operative here – for the President’s priorities.

Jones, retired Marine four-star general, also said the NSC must adapt to evolving challenges.

There are traditional priorities that we will manage. But we must also update our outlook and sometimes our organization to keep pace with the changing world. To give you just a few examples, the NSC today works very closely with President Obama’s National Economic Council, which is led by Mr. Larry Summers, so that our response to the economic crisis is coordinated with our global partners and our national security needs. The NSC has worked closely with the White House Counsel’s office as we implement the President’s orders to ban torture and close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The National Security Council is undertaking a review to determine how best to unify our efforts to combat terrorism around the world while protecting our homeland. And this effort will be led by Mr. John Brennan.

The National Security Council will be at the table as our government forges a new approach to energy security and climate change that demand broad cooperation across the U.S. Government and more persistent American leadership around the world. And the NSC is evaluating how to update our capacity to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction while also placing a far higher priority on cyber security. There is no fixed model that can capture the world in all of its complexity. What’s right today will have to be different four years from now or eight years from now. And that’s precisely the point. The NSC’s comparatively small size gives it a unique capacity to reinvent itself as required and to pivot on the key priorities of our time.

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

This just out from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin's (D-MI) spokesman (note the last sentence):

This evening, February 9, 2009, the Senate voted to confirm:

Robert F. Hale to be Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer;

Michèle Flournoy to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and

Jeh Charles Johnson to be General Counsel, Department of Defense, reported out of Committee on February 5, 2009.

The Senate did not take action on the nomination of William J. Lynn III to be Deputy Secretary of Defense, also reported out of Committee on February 5, 2009.

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

A new survey conducted by the National Research Council and the American Association for the Advancement of Science queried scientists about their attitudes toward research that could be used for both good and evil.

According to an NRC statement, "rapid advances in the biological sciences over the last several decades have yielded great benefits such as medical therapies and vaccines. But some of these same scientific advances could also be used for malicious purposes, a threat that has become more salient to the science and policy communities since the terrorist attacks of 2001."

To that end, the survey "also explored actions the scientists might support to reduce the risk of misuse of research, as well as steps that scientists may already be taking in response to these concerns," the statement continues. The survey's results are summarized in a new NRC report that "includes recommendations for next steps."

While the survey had "a low response rate and uncertainties about whether the sample reflects the broader life sciences community limit the ability to generalize from the responses about the full U.S. life-sciences community” the survey results are nonetheless said to be “useful and informative," according to the statement.

The results suggest that survey respondents perceive a potential but not overwhelming risk of a bioterror attack in the next five years, a risk they believe is greater outside the U.S. Most respondents do not believe it is likely that dual-use knowledge, tools, or techniques will facilitate a bioterror attack in that time period.

Survey results also indicate that some respondents -- more than the committee had expected -- have been so concerned about dual-use issues that they have already taken action to try to avert misuse of research in the life sciences, even in the absence of guidelines or government restrictions. Some respondents reported that they had broken collaborations, not conducted some research projects, or not communicated research results.

Many of respondents' precautionary actions were taken during design, collaboration, and initial communication stages of research, before reaching the publication stage, the report notes. Of particular interest and concern to the committee, a few respondents offered comments about foreigners as potential security risks, which may be reflected in the reported avoidance of some collaborations.

"The fact that some scientists are changing their research activities may indicate that the life sciences community is responsibly responding to reduce the risk of misuse of science," said committee chair Ronald Atlas, professor of biology and public health at the University of Louisville. "But it is also possible that some scientists are overreacting to the perceived threat, for example by breaking collaborations and excluding foreigners from their laboratories. Our committee feels that it's important to further investigate how research activity is being changed in response to dual-use concerns."

With regard to future actions that the life sciences community would support to reduce the threat of misuse of research, the survey results indicate that life scientists in the U.S. may be more willing to consider mechanisms to reduce risks if they are developed and implemented by the scientific community itself. Most respondents favor their professional societies prescribing a code of conduct to help prevent misuse of life science research, for example, while a minority supported greater federal oversight. Among possible government restrictions, respondents were more supportive of restrictions on access to biological agents and certification of researchers than of any control of scientific knowledge generated from the research.

In addition, respondents showed support for mandatory training by institutions for practicing life scientists regarding dual-use concerns, as well as education materials and lectures for students.

The Carnegie Corp., the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Academies' Presidents' Circle Communications Initiative sponsored the project.

By John Reed
February 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently released the results of a Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored study looking into the feasibility of using alternative fuels for civil and military aviation and the results (no surprise here) weren't pretty.

The report -- eloquently titled "Life Cycle Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Alternative Jet Fuels" -- concluded that every single alternative jet fuel available for use in the next decade fails to meet federal greenhouse gas emission standards. The report has a particular impact on coal-base jet fuels which the Air Force had been pushing to adopt for stateside training missions by 2016. The service has been working to certify its aviation fleet to fly on the coal-to-liquids (CTL) fuel for several years now. However, the production process for these fuels emits far more greenhouse gases than standard aviation fuel.

Current law prohibits the service from buying any fuel that pollutes more than regular jet fuel. The study also claims that non-algae based biofuels such as those made from soy or palm oil would also pollute far more than current jet fuel.

However, Inside the Air Force recently reported that the service is moving to certify its fleet to fly on algae-based biofuels. This move came after Congress denied the service permission to sign long term contracts with CTL fuel makers -- something coal-based synthetic fuel makers say is necessary to offset the tremendous costs of building and operating CTL refineries.

The service dealt another blow to the CTL-fuel industry last month when it decided scrap its plan to build a CTL plant at Malmstom Air Force Base in Montana. If built, the plant would have produced 20,000 gallons of coal-based synthetic fuel per day and sold it to the Air Force at a discount.

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

As the newly minted Obama White House formulates policies on everything from economic stimulus proposals to defense spending, one initiative being pursued by the new administration has raised the hackles of a small but influential circle of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The issue that has lawmakers up in arms is a recent memorandum issued by the Office of Management and Budget requesting a cost-benefit assessment on transferring the National Nuclear Security Administration and the national laboratories from the Energy Department to the Pentagon.

First reported by media outlets in New Mexico, OMB's request calls upon DOE to “assess the costs and benefits” of shifting NNSA to DOD beginning in fiscal year 2011.

“The idea of moving NNSA into the DOD is not a new one, and has been rejected in the past for good reasons,” according to Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

NNSA's assignment to DOE is necessary to “ensure some independence from the military,” and the move would send a message to the international community that the United States was “militarizing control” of the nuclear weapons portfolio, she said in a Feb. 5 letter to OMB Director Peter Orszag.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others in the Pentagon have taken significant steps to reinvigorate the importance of the nuclear mission after a number of high-profile gaffes in the handling and transport of nuclear weapons in recent years.

But those efforts, according to Tauscher, have done little to restore lawmakers' confidence in the Pentagon's ability to manage the entire nuclear portfolio. “With all the recent evidence of military neglect of the nuclear mission, it is an odd time to consider relying on that vast bureaucracy to manage the activities” of either NNSA or the labs, Tauscher's letter states.

While opposed to the effort, the California Democrat suggested that if the White House was intent on exploring this option, it should do so in a broad-based manner, “and not focused on one option for improved management.”

“Such an examination would also be best formulated in consultation with Congress, particularly the committees of jurisdiction,” she writes.

By John Liang
February 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency has revamped its ground-test schedule, according to a spokesman.

In its fiscal year 2009 budget request, MDA listed three line items for ground tests dubbed "GTX-03c," scheduled for the first quarter of 2009, "GTX-09" in the second quarter of 2009 and "GTI-09" in the third quarter of 2009.

MDA conducted the first phase of GTX-03c in early December 2008, and ran "additional risk-reduction runs" late last month, according to MDA spokesman Rick Lehner:

GTX-03c simulated an engagement of an intermediate range ballistic missile target using the SM-3 interceptor and evaluated data transmission with the transportable AN/TPY-2 forward based radar. This ground test served as risk reduction for the upcoming Aegis BMD flight test FTM-15, scheduled to take place this spring.

The other two tests have been renamed as GTX-04a and GTI-04, respectively, Lehner told Inside Missile Defense today. Asked when the tests would take place, he responded: "Both ground tests are still pending determination of their final execution schedules."

GTX-04a, the first test of this campaign, will focus on theater-level missile defense capabilities, and assess the ((Ballistic Missile Defense System's)) ability to simultaneously execute multiple engagements, while integrating several BMDS elements, including PATRIOT, THAAD, Aegis BMD, AN/TPY-2 radar, and the Command Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system).

While specific test objectives for GTI-04 are still under review, "the test will assess the BMDS ability to simultaneously execute multiple engagements using both theater- and strategic-level assets," he added.

As we told you last week, MDA completed a new testing plan last November that cancels out what had been the agency's testing roadmap that had been in place since March 2005. In response to questions posed by, MDA said the change was made "to reflect the natural evolution of the agency's testing policy, which has occurred with the maturation of the ((ballistic missile defense)) system."

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

We told you yesterday about a missile defense researcher outside the government using the free Google mapping software to create pretty sophisticated visualizations. But government workers themselves -- Navy folks, to be exact -- also are employing the software giant's technology.

On Monday, officials at the the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) said they had entered a cooperative research agreement with Google that allows the two organizations to share unclassified data about the world's oceans.

Under the agreement, NMOC officials are making available bathymetric data sets, sea surface temperatures and ocean current information, which can now be viewed in the latest Google Earth application.

In return, Navy officials received Google Earth enterprise licenses, which gives them an easy-to-use way of visualizing their vast amount of data.

By John Liang
February 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee today approved the nominations of William Lynn to be deputy defense secretary, Robert Hale to be Pentagon comptroller, Michèle Flournoy to be under secretary of defense for policy and Jeh Charles Johnson to be DOD general counsel, according to a panel spokeswoman.

The committee "was able to establish a quorum this afternoon and voted to favorably report the . . . nominations, en bloc and by voice vote," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "All nominations were immediately reported to the floor following the committee’s action."

As of 6:20pm today, the full Senate hadn't voted on the nominations.

By John Reed
February 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air National Guard finally got its new boss on Tuesday when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and National Guard Bureau Director Gen. Craig McKinley pinned three stars on Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt during a Pentagon ceremony marking Wyatt's promotion to director of the ANG.

Wyatt succeeds McKinley, who was selected to be the first four-star director of the National Guard Bureau last year. McKinley's -- now Wyatt's -- deputy, Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw, served as acting director of the Air Guard following McKinley's promotion in December.

Wyatt takes the reins of the Air Guard as it faces dramatic reductions to its fighter fleet. Many of the Guard's 386 Block 25/30/32 F-16s will reach the end of their service lives as soon as 2016, while their replacement, the F-35 Lightning II, continues to suffer delays. This has left ANG leaders scrambling to find alternate missions for numerous flying units, Titshaw told an audience at the Reserve Officers Association Mid Winter Conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Time will tell if Wyatt is as outspoken as his predecessor about the need to recapitalize the ANG fleet. McKinley frequently told congress that the Air Guard was facing a fighter gap that would hurt its ability to perform the Operation Noble Eagle fighter patrols that defend stateside airspace against attack.

Wyatt was previously the adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard. The career fighter pilot has flown everything from F-100 Super Sabres to F-16 Vipers.

By Kate Brannen
February 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Army officials are beginning to tackle the enormous logistical task of bringing back the thousands of systems fielded for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finding a home for them stateside.

"If the war ended tomorrow, what would we do with all of these systems?" asked Tim Owings, deputy project manager for the Army's unmanned aircraft systems, speaking to reporters at the AUVSI conference this week.

It's an especially big problem when it comes to UAVs, whose numbers grew dramatically over the past couple of years -- and they continue to grow as operations shift to Afghanistan.

The original acquisition for the Shadow platform was 44 systems, said Owings, and now it's at 116. Every system includes four actual Shadow aircraft.

The numbers for Sky Warriors are now as high as 35 to 40 and there are just "a ton of Raven systems," said Owings.

"We're getting concerned about, if the war ended tomorrow, how do we, one, continue to keep currency on all that with the soldiers, and secondly, how do we sustain the equipment stateside?"

He said the Army is beginning to look at what needs to be done to handle the future influx of these systems. It is considering such issues as military construction, hangar space and runway space, in addition to continued simulation and training for soldiers so that they can stay fluent on the systems once the equipment is stateside.

"It is an issue and it's something we're acutely aware of in terms of trying to address it," said Owings.

However, the Army doesn't expect these systems to come home overnight either, he added.