The Insider

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January 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) today named Charles Curtis and John Nagl to an independent panel that will assess the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review.

"Charles Curtis and John Nagl offer a wide range and depth of defense policy and practical experience both in and out of government," Levin said in a statement. "Their demonstrated ability for independent thinking will contribute significantly to the panel’s assessments and recommendations relating to the 2009 QDR."

The Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Act requires the defense secretary to establish an independent panel to assess the QDR's "recommendations, stated and implied assumptions, and the vulnerabilities of the underlying strategy and force structure," the committee statement reads. "((Defense)) Secretary ((Robert)) Gates announced he would appoint a 12-member, bipartisan panel to meet this requirement, and the FY2010 NDAA included a provision that adds eight congressionally appointed members to the QDR independent panel for 2009, two each to be appointed by the HASC and SASC chairs and ranking members."

According to the bios included in the Levin statement:

Honorable Charles Curtis

Mr. Curtis is currently a non-resident Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the president emeritus of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a group founded by former Sen. Sam Nunn and philanthropist Ted Turner that works to address threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Before joining NTI, he was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. From 1994 to 1997, he served as undersecretary and deputy secretary of the Department of Energy.

Dr. John Nagl

Mr. Nagl is the president of the Center for a New American Security. He is a retired Army lieutenant colonel whose service includes combat service in the Iraq war and Operation Desert Storm and a former West Point professor. He contributed to Army’s field manual on counterinsurgency, and is the author of "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam."

Inside the Pentagon reported last November that former Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who along with former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) had been eyed to lead the panel, had withdrawn his name from consideration. It also appeared doubtful that Graham would co-chair the group if the Florida Democrat participates.

Warner told ITP at the time that he had informed DOD of his decision -- based on potential conflicts of interest -- on Oct. 23, the day after ITP first reported Pentagon and congressional sources considered him a frontrunner to co-chair the panel.

Meanwhile, a source close to Graham told ITP in November that if Graham serves on the panel he is unlikely to co-chair it because he is already busy with other commitments.

Graham chairs the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and serves on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, both created by Congress.

-- John Liang

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January 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The latest issue of the Army AL&T Magazine, put out by the office of the assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, focuses a bit on unmanned systems, and the service's acquisition executive, Dean Popps, summarizes neatly where the Army has come in a very short time frame on unpiloted aircraft:

The Army UAS story is a recent one. In 1999, a single Hunter system was sent to support U.S. troops in the Balkans, becoming the first Army UAS to support real-world operations. A year later, the UAS PO consisted of 70 people with an annual budget of $60 million. Today, the PO manages more than $1 billion annually with more than 1,100 unmanned aircraft in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), and this demand for unmanned systems is continually increasing. It took the Army more than a decade to fly 100,000 UAS hours. It took us less than 1 year to fly the next 100,000 hours, and we fly more than that each year in theater. These systems operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with multiple aircraft in the same unit operating simultaneously.

Two of the featured stories deal with that UAS office -- and one in particular highlights the Army's work on manned/unmanned (MUM) teaming, a big deal for the service and an increasingly bigger one going forward.

-- Dan Dupont

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January 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A new movie takes a close look at the Human Terrain System -- a Pentagon program that sends social scientists, former military personnel and reservists to combat zones to work alongside American troops.

According to the movie's Web site, the film tells two stories: one political, the other personal. The first takes a broad look at the program, examining the sometimes-troubled collaboration between American academics and the U.S. military.

It also tells the personal story of a Human Terrain member, Michael Bhatia, who died while embedded with the Army in Afghanistan.

"Simultaneously a road-trip into the heart of the war machine and a critical investigation of academic collaboration with the military, ‘Human Terrain’ traces a new ‘revolution in military affairs’ after U.S. policies based on virtual technologies and virtuous ideologies fail to create peace, and foot soldiers are left to clean up the mess," reads a movie description.

The film features interviews with Steve Fondacaro, HTS project manager; Montgomery McFate, HTS co-founder along with Fondacaro; Amb. Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and many other key players in the development of the program.

The Human Terrain System is being considered as part of the Army's capability package for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. That package is intended to combine equipment originally developed as part of the Future Combat Systems program with additional capabilities that meet urgent requirements from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final makeup of that package should be revealed in next week's unveiling of the FY-11 defense budget request. In addition to the Human Terrain System, other candidates include persistent surveillance technologies, the Advanced Precision Mortar Initiative, the Ground Soldier System and cultural and language training.

-- Kate Brannen

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January 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Asthon Carter this week vowed to bring improvements to the area of contingency contracting, which has seen unprecedented activity since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.

"It is a fact of life that for every soldier we field, approximately one contractor also joins the effort," Carter said at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Missteps of the past eight years, which have included overcharges to the government and lax oversight over venders, were partly caused by the fact that officials kept thinking contractors' heavy involvement in U.S. military operations would be a short-lived phenomenon, Carter said.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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January 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The past year's nonproliferation-related events, including President Obama's April 5 speech in Prague, as well as his meeting later on that year with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, constitute a "year of miracles," according to former Defense Secretary William Perry.

"If I look at all of these events together, I would say two things about them: First of all, they were totally unpredictable three years ago," Perry said this morning at a Carnegie Endowment event in Washington. "I would not have imagined seeing governments take such strong positions (on arms control) three years ago. . . . Think back to the 'annus mirabilis' that we all thought about at the time that the Soviet Union broke up and Eastern Europe broke free, it has been a year of miracles."

However, lest he "become overtaken with irrational exuberance," Perry noted that "what remains to be done is much, much more important and much, much more difficult than what has been done. Opposing forces to nuclear disarmament are gathering strength . . . the president will face a substantial battle if he gets a START follow-on treaty negotiated, he will face a substantial battle getting it ratified in the U.S. Senate, and an even more substantial battle on getting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratified."

Consequently, according to Perry:

More than anything at this stage what we need is less rhetoric about where we are going and more concrete, positive action about how to get there. We need a clear path forward through the minefields, and that path should have practical steps that can be taken that lead in that right direction but each step in and of itself can be justified on grounds that it will improve our security.

A new report from the independent International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, released in the United States this morning, outlines the steps the international community can take to minimize those threats.

Perry, who served on the commission along with 14 other international experts, said the panel's report "played out such a clear path forward."

-- John Liang

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January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama this week nominated Katherine Hammack to become the Army's assistant secretary for installations and environment.

According to Hammack's bio, as released by the White House:

Katherine G. Hammack has more than 25 years of experience as an energy and sustainability professional with private industry. Currently she is a leader in Ernst & Young’s (EY’s) Climate Change and Sustainability Services, an international professional services firm. At EY she has focused on the evaluation of energy conservation projects, green buildings, energy efficiency strategies, demand side management programs, and marketing electricity in deregulated markets. In that capacity she worked with clients to obtain Energy Star or LEED certification for their new construction or existing buildings. Katherine was the key LEED advisor on the world’s largest LEED-NC certified project (8.3 million square feet). Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Katherine was a marketing manager for a large electric utility, focused on services for architects and engineers. Katherine is a founding member of US Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. She was a consultant to the White House on the "Greening" of the White House and Executive Office Building where she led the group focused on Indoor Environmental Quality issues. Ms. Hammack has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Hartford. She is a Certified Energy Manager and LEED Accredited Professional.

The Defense Department is starting 2010 with vacancies in 21 of its top appointed positions, including acquisition posts charged with overseeing multibillion-dollar weapons programs, Inside the Pentagon reported earlier this month, with Hammack's position being one of them:

Of the 54 DOD positions that require presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate, 39 percent are vacant, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk.

Eleven of the vacancies have nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, but the White House has yet to issue nominations for the other 10.

Frank Kendall, who would be the Pentagon’s No. 2 acquisition official under DOD acquisition chief Ashton Carter, is one of the nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is holding up Kendall’s confirmation, according to published reports. Also, the White House has not announced a nominee for assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, a post formerly known as deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

Of the three military departments, only the Navy has an acquisition executive in place. Sean Stackley, a holdover from the Bush administration, continues to serve in that post. But Malcolm O’Neill, the nominee for the Army’s top acquisition job, is awaiting Senate confirmation. And the White House has not yet nominated anyone to be the Air Force’s acquisition chief.

-- John Liang

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January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Despite heavy Taliban and al Qaeda activity in Pakistan, the State Department's senior counterterrorism official believes the country's atomic weapons are safe.

"Obviously, whenever you see violence inside a country that has nuclear weapons, you have to have some concern," Daniel Benjamin said at a breakfast with reporters yesterday. "But that said, we consulted pretty extensively with the Pakistanis, and we are confident that they have their arsenal under control," he added.

Benjamin said Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain the "beating heart" of al Qaeda, and "the best guess" is still that al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

"The fact that we have had, as many others have said, very little information on where bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are for many years now is not really news," according to Benjamin. "Obviously, it's a real problem for us, a real challenge for us, and we're working to develop that information."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

House Armed Services Committee Democrats today elected Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) to chair the panel's air and land forces subcommittee and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) to head the terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee.

Smith takes the place of Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), who retired from the panel, and Sanchez will take Smith's place.

"I am confident that Congressman Smith and Congresswoman Sanchez will continue to serve our committee and our country well as they take on these new leadership responsibilities. I look forward to working with them in their new roles as the House Armed Services Committee begins work on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011," committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) said in a statement, adding:

I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Neil Abercrombie for serving Hawaii and our country for more than 19 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the House Armed Services Committee, Neil's hallmark has been making sure our troops have the equipment they need to protect our country and stay safe. His leadership helped prompt the Pentagon to speed up the delivery of life-saving body armor and ((Mine Resistant Ambush Protected)) vehicles to our forces on the frontlines. I have been honored to serve with Neil, and I will greatly miss his wise counsel, his good humor, and his loyal friendship. I know Congressman Abercrombie will continue to be a forceful and effective advocate on behalf of Hawaii's needs and interests.

-- John Liang

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January 21, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon’s 2010 Space Posture Review will build on the foundation of similar work by the past two administrations, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said today, citing two key topics in the study.

One primary focus of the review is the increasing vulnerability of U.S. space assets and the search for ways to develop less-vulnerable assets for these critical parts of U.S. military and commercial systems, he said at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The other primary focus is to create adequate acquisition processes that can deliver space systems at the expected cost, he said. The department wants to bring more predictability into the space acquisition process while recognizing the challenges associated with the technology and the space environment, he noted.

“You don’t get to bring things down from space to fix them once you’ve put them up,” Lynn quipped.

-- Chris Castelli

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January 20, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Reserve Officers Association today announced that its legislative agenda for 2010 will focus on maintaining the operational capabilities of the reserve component by fully funding equipment and training accounts.

"The agenda includes provisions to support Active and Reserve end-strengths that support mission requirements, and to adequately equip forces through regeneration and improved tracking of equipment," the ROA's announcement reads. "In addition, the agenda establishes the need to fully fund a minimum of 48 paid drill periods and two weeks of paid training per year."

ROA will also promote policies intended to improve recruitment and retention efforts within the Guard and Reserve and seek better continuity of health care coverage, the announcement states.

It notes that agenda items are "member-driven, organized by ROA’s legislative director, and acted on by the staff and grass roots initiatives."

-- Marjorie Censer


 

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January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter has given Alan Shaffer, the principal deputy director for defense research and engineering, another hat to wear.

As of Jan. 7, Shaffer is also the acting principal deputy director of operational energy plans and programs, Carter wrote in a memo to his senior staff.

Lawmakers created the DOEP&P post in the Fiscal Year 2009 defense authorization legislation, enacted in the fall of 2008. The idea was to put a senior Defense Department official in charge of making all things operational -- from weapons to vehicles to forward bases -- more energy efficient.

Last December, White House officials nominated Sharon Burke, vice president of natural security at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, for the job. Sources said Shaffer himself was considered for the job last year, but declined.

Notably, Carter's memo refers to “implementation guidance” for the DOEP&P job, issued by Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn on Oct. 19, 2009. The guidance puts the new office under Carter's “authority, direction and control,” the memo states.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The military command keeping an eye on events like last week's Chinese missile defense test says the incident has left no measurable debris floating around in orbit.

As of Friday last week, officials were "not tracking" any debris as a result of the test, a U.S. Strategic Command spokesman told us today. The spokesman said there was debris in space immediately after the event, but the parts entered the Earth's atmosphere within 10 minutes.

In a widely reported statement following the Jan. 11 test, a Pentagon spokeswoman said military officials "detected two geographically separated missile launch events with an exoatmospheric collision also being observed by space-based sensors."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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January 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Though the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles rebuy award is on hold as the Army reevaluates the program, the dispute over the contract continues. The focus this time? Oshkosh's funding plans for building an electrodeposition or "E-coat" facility in Wisconsin.

According to a Jan. 17 article in The Northwestern, the Oshkosh Plan Commission is set to examine this week a $5 million assistance package that the company says it needs to build the facility.

The article says Oshkosh is relying on $51.5 million in state, city and company money -- $5 million in a development assistance grant from the city, $35 million from the state and $11.5 million of its own money -- to build the E-coat factory.

However, the article adds, the city is still looking at the package. The city's director of planning services is quoted as saying the new building's anticipated taxable value only allows $4 million in borrowing. Consequently, a $1 million donation from the Southwest Industrial Park tax incremental financing district would also be needed.

Defense analyst and consultant Loren Thompson, who counts competitor BAE Systems among his clients, writes today that the story of Oshkosh's victory over BAE "just keeps getting worse and worse," as reflected in this not-yet-approved aid.

In a statement released today, Oshkosh said the TIF is pending approval by the Oshkosh Common Council and is supported by the city and its partners.

“We look forward to working with the city and the state as we move forward on this project, which was outlined in our original proposal to our customer," said Oshkosh CEO Robert Bohn. "It is so important to have support from our community as we continue to build the products that protect the men and women in our military forces.”

-- Marjorie Censer

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January 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

As the Pentagon prepares to unveil its fiscal year 2011 budget request the first week of February, a new analysis of defense spending over the last three decades concludes the Obama administration's forthcoming military spending request “locks into place (an) unprecedented rise in defense spending -- 90 percent -- that began in the late 1990s, consolidating a return to Reagan-ear budget levels.”

Based on spending forecasts the White House detailed in May, the Project on Defense Alternatives calculates the Obama administration will allocate $5 trillion to military spending between fiscal years 2010 and 2017, “assuming it stays its current course” and the president is elected to a second term.

Indeed, by a substantial margin, it would represent the greatest amount allotted the Pentagon in any eight years since 1946 -- a period encompassing the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold Wars.

The 61-page report is titled "An Undisciplined Defense: Understanding the $2 Trillion Surge in U.S. Defense Spending."

-- Jason Sherman

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January 15, 2010 at 5:00 AM

National Security Adviser Jim Jones today advocated strengthening Lebanon’s state institutions -- particularly its military -- in meetings with the country's leaders, the White House said in a statement. Lebanon was the last stop on his week-long visit to the Middle East. Jones expressed support for Lebanese military missions to implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions relevant to Lebanon and protect all Lebanese citizens. He echoed President Obama's commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Lebanon partnership "across a broad range of issues" and reiterated U.S. support for a sovereign, independent Lebanon, the White House said.

Jones, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, also laid a wreath at the U.S. embassy for the 337 killed in service to the U.S. government in Lebanon between 1976 and 1995, including the victims of the 1983 and 1984 embassy and Marine barracks bombings.

-- Chris Castelli