The Insider

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November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced today that he plans to step aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and hand the gavel to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). The statement does not address what, if any, changes might be in store for the defense subcommittee, which Inouye chairs. A Senate source on the appropriations committee said that Inouye may hold both positions if he chooses. Byrd, who has served as chairman for 10 of the 50 years he has served on the appropriations committee, will remain on the panel and continue to chair the homeland security subcommittee. In a statement, Byrd said: 

A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009.
 
I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate.  I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.

-- Jason Sherman

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November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Making the rounds in the blogosphere this week is a video showing a heretofore unidentified Air Force officer’s briefing on the Indian air force's Su30-MKI's performance at Red Flag 2008 (part 1 is here; part 2 here).

Stephen Trimble's blog “The DEW Line” was the first to post the YouTube video. 

So who was that unmasked man?

According to Nellis Air Force Base public affairs, the lecturer was Col. Terrence Fornof, an F-15 Eagle pilot and the director of requirements and testing at the Air Force Warfare Center.

Fornof was “giving a private impromptu briefing in August 2008 to local Daedalians,” a group of retired military pilots, service spokesman Mike Estrada told Inside the Air Force in a Nov. 7 e-mail.

The response, in its entirety:

The YouTube videos “IAF SU-30 MKI Red Flag Lecture Part 1 & Part 2” were of Colonel Terrence Fornof, an F-15 pilot and the Director of the Requirements and Testing office at the United States Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis AFB, Nev., giving a private impromptu briefing in August 2008 to local Daedalians. The Daedalians are a group of retired military pilots. Col. Fornof did not mean to offend any U.S. allied forces, as he knows firsthand the importance of training with allied forces and the awesome firepower they bring to the fight. His comments during this briefing were his personal opinions and not those of U.S. Air Force Warfare Center or of the Air Force.

In his briefing, Fornof said the U.S. F-15 pilots “dominated” in the exercise, more due to the two countries' aviators' experience than the capabilities of the respective planes. The Su30-MKI and Eagle are parallel in capabilties, he added, but the F-22A Raptor's are superior. The colonel also was critical of French pilots' tactics in the dogfights.

Estrada said Fornof is not available for interviews, “nor is it Air Force policy to comment on the performance of U.S. and allied units taking part in Red Flag exercises.”

However, Air Force had no problem describing the Raptor’s dominance in a Red Flag exercise early in 2007, as Inside the Air Force reported at the time.

-- Jason Simpson

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November 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Government Accountability Office today unveiled a new Web site dedicated to the presidential transition.

Out of 13 urgent policy concerns for the incoming Obama administration listed by GAO, four of them are national security-related: "U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan," "protecting the homeland," "undisciplined defense spending," and "rebuilding military readiness."

On the defense-spending side:

The new administration needs to move quickly to nominate and fill key leadership positions, including the Deputy Secretary of Defense (now statutorily designated as the Chief Management Officer), the Deputy Chief Management Officer, the Undersecretaries of Defense, and the Secretaries and the Undersecretaries in the military departments (now statutorily designated as each department’s Chief Management Officer). DOD senior leaders must have sufficient authority to make trade-offs between competing near-term and long-term demands, get the highest return from the funding choices that are made, and put sufficient controls in place to manage an increasingly large and involved contractor workforce.

As for the Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan issue:

No matter what policy choices are made, new approaches are needed that better integrate military, diplomatic, and development assistance into strategic, interagency plans.

On military readiness:

Developing an affordable plan to ensure that U.S. forces are ready to conduct missions at home and abroad now and in the future is critical to the nation’s security.

As for protecting the homeland, GAO has this to say about the Department of Homeland Security:

As the unifying core of the vast national network of organizations and institutions involved in securing the nation, the department must ensure that it is prepared and vigilant -- particularly during the presidential transition period, when the nation can be viewed as being especially vulnerable. Moreover, the new administration and Congress should work to further strengthen departmental operations and address critical issues that, as GAO has reported, affect the nation's security and preparedness.

-- John Liang
 

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November 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon officials are still working on a study of the requirements for U.S. trainers of foreign security forces that was slated for completion in the spring. The study, overseen by Celeste Ward, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations capabilities, last year set out to examine exactly how many forces the worldwide combatant commanders need for what officials call “train/advise/assist” missions in their areas of responsibility.

In an interview last December, Ward projected the study would be completed in the spring -- in time to influence the long-term spending plan beginning in fiscal year 2010.

Since then, few details have emerged about where the study is heading or what its results are.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Robert Mehal told us recently the study is indeed still ongoing, adding he “wouldn't even want to speculate” when it might be completed.

If and when study members reach their conclusions, and if the Pentagon leaders of President-elect Barack Obama opt to consider them, the numbers could influence force structure decisions aimed at configuring the ground forces for irregular warfare and stabilization operations, according to experts.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Don't miss our new special report on what comes next now that the biggest question -- who's the next president? -- has been answered.

We lead off with this story:

Obama Team Considers New DOD Posts, Budget Challenges

President-elect Barack Obama's national security advisers -- led by former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig -- must assemble a new civilian Pentagon leadership team to take charge of two wars, determine how to reconstitute battle-worn forces while the federal budget and national economy faces severe pressure, and translate national security campaign promises into defense policy.

The Obama transition team, according to a briefing paper prepared for the campaign's national security advisory team, may consider a number of organizational changes to the Defense Department's civilian leadership that signal a break with priorities of the last eight years and point to the ascendancy of new issues that will affect defense strategy.

The incoming administration, according to the paper, may retool the intelligence under secretary office established by Donald Rumsfeld; create a new high-level energy security post; and divide the substantial portfolio of the assistant secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.

It will also mull cuts to high-profile weapon systems, the paper states, naming three: national missile defense, the Airborne Laser and the Army's Future Combat Systems program.

Much more therein. A good read for the first day after the election. And we've got a lot more to come.

-- Dan Dupont

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November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

CIA Director Michael Hayden today issued a statement to agency employees explaining how the agency will educate the incoming administration while still supporting the outgoing Bush team -- a primer on how to serve two masters, in essence, that applies to the Pentagon and other government agencies:

That means that we in the intelligence community will have -- until noon on January 20th -- two sets of consumers. As we continue to serve the current administration, we are also in touch with President-elect Obama and his national security team. Through expanded access, greater than what he had in his briefings as a candidate or as a senator, he will see the full range of capabilities we deploy for the United States.

Hayden said the agency's leadership was to meet this morning to talk about the transition to a new administration. CIA has prepared a great deal of information about the agency for the Obama team, Hayden said.

“((Director of National Intelligence Mike)) McConnell, who will launch the first briefing of the incoming administration, has asked Michael Morell, our director for intelligence, to be his representative throughout that process," the statement reads. "The two principal briefers for the president-elect are also CIA careerists.”

Hayden also noted that with every incoming administration there is talk about personnel changes across the government. On that note, he has some advice for the CIA staff: “At this point, I would urge you to ignore it. I certainly have.”

-- Thomas Duffy 

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November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Cross two names off the list of potential defense secretaries under President-elect Barack Obama: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. Richard Lugar  (R-IN) both ruled out the possibility today.

Powell, speaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter in Hong Kong, said “I am not interested in a position in government, nor have I been approached." He suggested that it was time for a new generation of leaders to step forward.

A spokesman for Lugar, meanwhile, responded to speculation that Obama was considering the senator for Secretary of State by saying Lugar does not want that position or any other in an Obama cabinet. Instead, Lugar looks forward to working with the administration through bipartisan cooperation while serving as the ranking Republican on the foreign relations committee.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, whose term is up in January, remains open to the idea of serving in an Obama administration, although he has not officially been approached, reports NBC's Ken Strickland.

Speculation continues to surround former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, who is one of Obama's closest defense advisers. However, InsideDefense.com reported Oct. 2 that Danzig supported the idea of asking Robert Gates to stay on the job. After saying he thought Gates was a "good" secretary, Danzig went on to say, “I think he’d be an even better one in an Obama administration.”

-- Kate Brannen

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November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Barack Obama, who will become a wartime president on his first day in office, will face pressing national security challenges and be forced to make critical decisions early, according to a report released today by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The document -- written by well-known defense expert Anthony Cordesman -- says Obama will have to determine how to handle the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how to reshape the fiscal year 2010 budget, how to deal with “the cost-containment crisis in defense procurement” and how to restructure deployment plans to reflect needs in Afghanistan.

“The new President elect is not going to have the time to meditate, have task forces examine broad changes in strategy, and think conceptually,” the report says. “As of January 20th, he will have to deal with the inheritance of ongoing wars and crises in many aspects of defense.”

While acknowledging the challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cordesman also zeroes in on the problems with defense programming and budgeting.

“There will be an immediate need to compensate for nearly eight years of conceptual strategies decoupled from force plans, and budgets, poorly structured wartime budget supplementals, a grossly mismanaged procurement effort in every military service, and a failure to contain the cost of U.S. defense spending,” he writes.

Immediately and for some time, Obama will have to reshape the Defense Department as well as national security policy to rebalance the structure and missions of the active and reserve components, address recruiting and retention problems and control costs, among other issues, the report says.

In the long-term, he will need to create forces able to perform both “hard” and “soft” functions, establish effective defense planning structures and cycles and ensure that procurement plans are “real and affordable,” while also addressing many other challenges.

The question, Cordesman concludes, is the degree to which the Obama administration will be realistic. He calls on the new presidential team to make “hard trade-offs without abandoning key options,” accept “the fact that the U.S. status as 'superpower' was always severely limited and these limits will grow” and look to create integrated and affordable plans and budgets that are tailored to major missions and regions.

“The extent to which the Obama Administration acts on this basis, rather than the basis of the ideological extremism and failed management of the Bush Administration, will determine much of its success and the state of U.S. national security,” Cordesman writes.

-- Marjorie Censer

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November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

So says Marc Ambinder, of The Atlantic.

He's got the press release from Obama-Biden here.

By
November 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama are in negotiations with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the conditions of a continued tenure at the helm of the Pentagon, InsideDefense.com has learned.

The Obama team wants to put Richard Danzig into the deputy defense secretary job, according to a source close to the president-elect's transition team. The plan is to elevate the former Navy secretary to the top Pentagon post following a transition period during which Gates would remain secretary, a source close to the Obama transition team said.

But Gates said he wants to keep his current deputy, Gordon England, in place during that time, the source said this evening, describing the situation as an “impasse.”

For the of job of national security adviser, Brookings Institution scholar James Steinberg is emerging as a likely pick, the source said, speaking on condition of not being named.

Steinberg was a deputy national security adviser during the Clinton administration.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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November 4, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Beyond the big-ticket weapons programs and end-strength issues that garner the most attention in discussions of what the next Pentagon leadership team will have to deal with is the less-sexy but equally thorny matter of reset – returning all that well-worn equipment to fighting shape. As Inside the Pentagon reported last week, acting Pentagon comptroller Douglas Brook has said reset will be one of the requirements that will put pressure on the budget.

Though Brook said the next administration will likely cut defense spending, he cited the need to reset and recapitalize military equipment destroyed and worn down by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a factor that will push the budget up.

“The cost of bringing the Army back, in particular, to full strength will be substantial and that doesn’t include improvements in weapons systems planned by all of the services,” Brook said.

In that vein, we note today the Army’s Stryker program office is considering condensing reset work by using just one facility. According to the latest issue of Army AL&T magazine, the program management office for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams is “exploring the cost-savings and feasibility of conducting all Stryker resets at a centralized facility.”

Currently, the Stryker reset program is primarily conducted at the home station of the BCT that owns the equipment. In August, Inside the Army traveled to Ft. Lewis, WA -- home of the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team -- to see the program office gearing up for vehicle reset. Our story is here.

-- Marjorie Censer

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November 4, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A senior Pentagon advisory panel has issued a 66-page report laying out the top five issues the next commander-in-chief must put on his agenda. According to the Defense Science Board, these issues "could lead to future military failure" if left unresolved.

According to the report, “Defense Imperatives for the New Administration,” those issues are: Developing the intelligence needed to confront terrorism, protecting and defending the homeland; maintaining the capability to project force around the world; bringing stability to states and regions; and supporting state and local authorities in providing domestic catastrophe relief.

On the intel front, the science board says the United States lacks the means to get the type of intelligence needed to get inside terrorist networks. No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office next year, he will have to confront the threat of terrorism, a threat the science board board contends the U.S. intelligence community is not fully equipped to handle.

The limiting factor in thwarting terrorists is learning their identity and location. Terrorists have gotten better at their trade craft -- they are harder to detect and more lethal. In turn, we are spending a considerable amount on intelligence overall, and many intelligence community efforts have been redirected toward terrorism. Despite concerted efforts, we still lack the deep penetration required for actionable intelligence -- both foreign and domestic.

Despite the millions of dollars the U.S. government spends annually on intelligence gathering, the science board contends the intelligence community does not know enough.

The number one issue in counterterrorism is that we are information limited. Many nostrums for improving intelligence in support of counterterrorism focus on 'connecting the dots' on the presumption that we have all the dots. We do not, nor are we sufficiently astute and aggressive in collecting them.

One improvement needed is to strengthen domestic intelligence, the report says.

The creation of the Director of National Intelligence responded, in part, to the September 11 attacks against our homeland and placed domestic as well as foreign intelligence within the purview of a single individual. Notwithstanding, the successive directors of national intelligence have been slow to embrace domestic intelligence and that must be remedied.

-- Thomas Duffy

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November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute has published a monograph summing up a conference on “Leadership and National Security Reform: The Next President’s Agenda," hosted earlier this year by the Bush School of Texas A&M University.

The participants examined the contemporary international environment and American national security policy for the next presidential administration. How threats, policies, and strategies have changed since 2001 and how the U.S., European, and other international security systems have responded to changing requirements were explored. The conference included a debate on the political parties international affairs positions and focused on three major themes: (1) In the post-9/11 world, what are the threats and challenges facing the next presidential administration? (2) What reforms are needed to the current national, European, and international security systems in terms of policy, institutions, and leadership? and (3) How can the next presidential administration affect change to improve U.S. and international security?

The whole thing can be found here.

-- Dan Dupont

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November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in a few days will recommend to the next president's Pentagon transition team increasing funding for the Joint Strike Fighter program in order to accelerate purchases of the stealthy single-engine jet slated to be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday.

England, in Fort Worth this week for a speaking engagement, said he will strongly advise the next administration to continue and even increase funding for F-35 development and production.

"In my judgment, it will be the best-performing airplane out there," England said when asked about criticisms of the F-35 from inside and outside of government.

England confirmed reports that the 2010 defense budget the Pentagon will propose to the next president lays the groundwork for increased funding to speed up F-35 purchases and production as soon as 2011.
It’s important, England said, to increase F-35 production as soon as possible to bring down the cost to the U.S. and foreign buyers.

"We need to get the level of procurement up to get the most value for the money spent," said England, who, under General Dynamics and, briefly, Lockheed, ran the Fort Worth plant where the F-35 will be built. 

Will the proposed F-35 spending hike snuff out continued F-22 production? The dogfight between supporters of both programs in Congress and inside the Pentagon will play out in the next few months.

More than three months ago we reported the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was slated to be a key beneficiary of the $57 billion boost England is preparing in the fiscal year 2010 budget proposal for the next administration.

-- Jason Sherman

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November 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Buried within this Bloomberg story on how well Republicans and Democrats say the current administration is handling the transition process is this bit on matters of interest in these parts:

At the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Washington research group headed by John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, transition planning for Obama has been under way for months.

Among the array of questions being discussed is whether to restructure the National Security Council in light of post-Sept. 11 concerns about domestic security, says P.J. Crowley, who worked in Clinton's NSC and is leading those discussions.

``I give the Bush administration credit,'' Crowley says. ``They recognized they'd be turning over two active wars and a Department of Homeland Security that's still a work-in- progress.''

Much more on internal DOD transition efforts here.

-- Dan Dupont