The Insider

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September 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

You may have missed this last Friday as you headed out the door for the weekend. The CIA is getting into the climate change business. Or at least it will keep an eye on how climate change affects the country's security.

The agency announced on Friday it is creating The Center on Climate Change and National Security. The center will be “the focal point” for CIA's work on the issue, a Sept. 25 release states. It will be a small unit headed up by senior specialists from the agency's directorate of intelligence and the directorate of science and technology.

What the center will actually do is spelled out a bit further in the new release:

Its charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The Center will provide support to American policymakers as they negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues. That is something the CIA has done for years. “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security. The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence,” said Director Leon Panetta.

The agency said the new center also will coordinate with the intelligence community on reviewing and declassifying imagery and other data that can be useful to scientists who are doing their own climate change research. The CIA expects the center to aggressively reach out to the academic community and to think tanks.

-- Thomas Duffy

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September 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army has named the new program executive office it recently set up to oversee the integration of the service’s modernization efforts across all brigade combat teams, according to a service spokesman.

The new PEO integration will manage the ground combat vehicle initiative as well as the capability packages, which are set to follow the first set of spin-out equipment developed under the Future Combat Systems program, said Paul Mehney, spokesman for the new office, earlier this month.

Previously, the FCS program was managed by a program manager rather than a program executive office. Mehney said a PEO has broader authority and will reflect a different way of managing funding. Additionally, a PEO is responsible for managing several major defense acquisition programs, each individually overseen by program and product offices with separate funding lines, he said.

The new PEO will be headquartered in St. Louis, MO, with supporting offices in Warren, MI, Huntsville, AL, Ft. Bliss, TX, and at the Pentagon, said Mehney.

-- Kate Brannen

FURTHER READING:

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September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House doesn't care for the Senate Appropriations Committee's plan to add $2.5 billion to the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget for 10 unrequested C-17s -- but not enough to threaten a veto. Funding for the Air Force cargo aircraft is one of only a few friction points the administration has with the Senate appropriators' proposed spending package, spelled out in a just-issued statement of administration policy.

The administration commends the committee for its support for the termination of programs that are no longer needed or are not performing as intended. The administration appreciates that the committee does not include unrequested funding for three such programs that could result in a veto -- unrequested advance procurement funding for the F-22 fighter aircraft, the continued development of the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine, and additional funding for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter Program. The Congress is urged to oppose funding these programs during floor action and in conference.

-- Jason Sherman

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September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Next Thursday nearly 5,000 Chinese military personnel, along with tanks, missile-carrying vehicles and over 150 aircraft, will be on display in Beijing as part of the Chinese government's National Day parade. This type of military display takes place once every decade, according to a press release issued by the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

According to a statement issued Sept. 17, the Chinese military will showcase 52 types of new weapon systems, including airborne early warning and control aircraft, sophisticated radar, unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite communication devices used by the People's Liberation Army.

Lt. Gen. Fang Fenghui, the commander of the PLA's Beijing Military Area Command and the general director of the parade, is quoted as saying:

They ((the weapon systems)) embody the ongoing transformation of the PLA from a labor-intensive force to a technology-intensive ((one that)) might be capable of joint operations in modern warfare.

Members of China's navy, air force and ballistic missile corps also will take part in the parade. Compared with the military's participation in the pared 10 years ago, this year's demonstration will have fewer troops and equipment but will will showcase increased high-tech weaponry and special forces units, according to the statement.

Of the military equipment that will be display, no specific models were identified, but Fang is quoted as saying that all will be stamped “Made in China.”

-- Thomas Duffy

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September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) took time on the House floor yesterday to rap Defense Secretary Robert Gates for omitting a new 30-year shipbuilding plan with the submission of the fiscal year 2010 defense budget request earlier this year.

In a statement issued today, Forbes said Gates was "ignoring" the law, which mandates that the Pentagon present a shipbuilding plan and an aviation plan, complete with certifications that the envisioned budget is sufficient to implement them, along with the budget request roll-out.

Forbes is ranking member of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee. Earlier this year, he sponsored a resolution giving the Defense Department until Sept. 15 to submit the documents.

But defense officials let the deadline pass, and lawmakers got -- as Forbes demonstrated with the aid of an empty flipchart during his speech yesterday -- nothing.

DOD officials have said the plans are on hold until Quadrennial Defense Review deliberations are further along.

Last week, Pentagon leaders announced plans for a ship-based missile defense capability in Europe, which could also factor into  shipbuilding arithmetics.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, today praised the Navy's plan to drop its ban on having women serve aboard submarines.

“We commend Navy officials for committing to expand opportunities for women in the Navy -- specifically by lifting the ban on women on submarines," she said in a statement. "This is a heartening first step toward opening all positions in the Armed Services to women, who have proven their value and valor under fire in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We look forward to working with the Navy to implement this policy as quickly as possible.”

In testimony prepared for the his recent renomination hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen advocated the change. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead echoed that call yesterday, according to media reports.

Debate over the issue has persisted for years. In 2000, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services recommended dropping the ban. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, has long opposed such changes.

-- Chris Castelli

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September 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While Defense Department leaders believe a final World Trade Organization resolution of the EADS-Boeing subsidies dispute is "many years away," as a briefing slide presented to lawmakers yesterday states, the potential monetary fall-out from the issue has already made its way into today's KC-X draft request for proposals.

A small clause included in the draft RFP's model contract is meant to ensure none of the offerors can charge any costs that may arise from a future WTO ruling to the U.S. government, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Clause H018 thusly reads:

Any penalties, taxes, tariffs, duties, or other similar-type costs imposed by a Governmental entity as a sanction, enforcement or implementation measure resulting from a decision in the complaints "Matters of European Communities and Certain Member States - Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft" or "United States - Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft" before the World Trade Organization shall not be included in the negotiated price of this contract, nor shall such costs be an allowable direct or indirect charge against this contract.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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September 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At a counterinsurgency conference in Washington yesterday Gen. Stanley McChrystal's leaked assessment of Afghanistan and its impact on the Obama administration's strategy for the war were the topics everyone wanted to talk about. For the counterinsurgency crowd, the underlying question was: Even if they are well-resourced, can counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan be successful? And, what have been the obstacles to success so far?

Most panel members painted a grim picture of the situation in Afghanistan, pointing to government corruption and poor leadership in the Afghan security forces as major obstacles to improving the security in the country.

Bing West presented a grave assessment of the situation that included photos and video from his recent trip there. Especially troubling to him, he said, is the Taliban's control of the beginning and end of firefights.

"We can put in more troops, but if we don't find a way to finish these fights, we'll have this conversation in a year or two years from now and the Taliban will still be intact," said West.

"What is our theory of victory?" he asked. "If you read the assessment that McChrystal came out with the other day, you read it very carefully, its theory of victory is not victory, it's transition -- and yet when you look at how do you transition, it becomes a bit fuzzy."

West said he is also troubled that the United States is building an Afghan army in its own image.

"They are all wearing armor, they're all wearing helmets, they're no more mobile than we are," he said. "When you get into a firefight, they immediately turn to the adviser, because he has permission to call in the indirect fires."

It is too early for the U.S. military to play the role of adviser or mentor, said Marine Col. Julian Dale Alford.

"The Afghan Army requires a partner force right now, then we can graduate to mentors and work our ways out of a job," he said. "We have it backwards."

He said the Afghan Army is doing well at the company-level and below, but at the battalion-level and above, they are struggling, "because they're trying to build the airplane while it's flying." It's at these levels where the lack of trained leadership is most telling and most detrimental, Alford and other panel members said.

Alford said that in order to truly partner with the Afghan security forces, the U.S. military needs to live with them, which is generally not the case now.

Alford also called for much better partnering with the Afghan police force -- an effort that will require at least 10 more brigades to adequately cover all of the districts, he argued.

"We have to do some real math and tell some real truth about what it's going to take if we're going to do population-centric COIN, because the police are the most important thing we're doing, and right now, we're not focused on it," said Alford.

-- Kate Brannen

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September 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Shay Assad, the acting deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology, recently reminded the military's contracting community to play by the book when it comes to paperwork for contracts within the U.S. Central Command area.

At issue is the mandatory Theater Business Clearance process, which provides crucial information on contracts and contractors to commanders in theater. The idea is for the services' various contracting shops to enforce compliance with the TBC process.

Apparently, not everyone got the memo.

"The Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan, CENTCOM, and our Joint Staff partners report that organizations are not complying with the TBC policy," Assad wrote in a Sept. 15 memo to the acquisition chiefs of the services, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Transportation Command and the defense agencies.

Memo recipients have until Oct. 31 to have their contracting officers "affirm" compliance with TBC requirements, the missive states.

An August CENTCOM fact sheet describes some of the "recent operational challenges" resulting from missing TBC documentation. For example, "sensitive items" were shipped without the necessary in-transit visibility. Plus, DOD officials have no way of verifying that armed personnel working within the CENTCOM area have the proper training, licenses and authorizations needed to carry weapons, the fact sheet states.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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September 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) doesn't think a hearing should be held just yet regarding the Obama administration's plans for Afghanistan, specifically about a report written by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- the chief military official in Afghanistan -- warning that the situation in that country would deteriorate rapidly without additional U.S. and coalition troops.

In a letter sent today to committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) as well as Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Levin writes:

I agree with you concerning the importance of succeeding in Afghanistan and the need for Congress and the American people to understand how the future of Afghanistan is linked to our own safety here at home.

At the present time, while General McChrystal has submitted his assessment of the situation on the ground and his recommendations concerning the strategy for Afghanistan up through the chain of command, he has not yet submitted his recommendation as to the resources that he believes would be needed to implement the strategy. I also understand that discussions on strategy are ongoing.

Under these circumstances I believe that it is premature to seek the military commanders' testimony on their resource recommendations to implement a strategy before the President's senior advisers, including Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates, have had an opportunity to provide their advice to the President relative to those recommendations. That was how the Committee handled General Petraeus' testimony in support of the 2007 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq. President Bush announced the surge on January 10, 2007, Secretary Gates and General Pace testified before the Committee on January 12, and General Petreaus testified before the Committee on January 23.

-- John Liang
 

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September 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Last week's press conference on the new way ahead for a European missile defense system left some questions unanswered on where exactly the two or three American Aegis missile defense-capable vessels, portrayed as an instantly available capability for protecting Europe from Iranian short- and medium-range missiles, would sail.

Deploying them to the waters "in and around the Mediterranean and the North Sea, et cetera" was as specfic as Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was going to get.

(Arguably, the North Sea is a bit of a geographic outlier, but we were assured by Cartwright's spokesman that the general wasn't misspeaking.)

Following the principle of getting interceptors as close as possible to a launch site inside Iran, the Black Sea also would be a suitable location for Aegis ships, as experts have noted.

The idea was picked up in a February Congressional Budget Office study exploring alternatives to the Bush-proposed system of stationary radar and interceptor sites in the Czech Republic and Poland.

But as attractive as a Black Sea option might be -- and a hypothetical Caspian Sea option, too, for that matter -- existing agreements covering those waters could make for some hiccups.

As for the Black Sea, the CBO report notes the Montreux Convention. The agreement, in force since 1936, "establishes Turkish control over the flow of ships between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea," the document states. It stipulates that "warships of non-Black Sea nations are not supposed to remain in the Black Sea for more than 21 days at a time," accordingt to the report.

It is unclear if Pentagon officials are indeed envisioning Aegis deployments to the Black Sea, and whether the Montreux Convention is on their radar at all. According to Cartwright's spokesman, exact deployment locations of the vessels have yet to be figured out.

Perhaps this issue is where Washington diplomats hope to get some form of support back from Russia, as a Black Sea nation, now that the highly contentious Bush-era missile defense plan is off the table.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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September 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army's Capstone Concept, an important vision paper on the service’s view of the future and its own role in it, is now open to public feedback. Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who has been tasked with leading the revision of the document, has sent a draft to Small Wars Journal with the goal of encouraging people to read it and submit comments and suggestions for review, according to the Web site.

This is just the beginning of an unusual series of reviews scheduled to take place before the Capstone Concept is published in December.

Before reaching final draft status, the document will be read and reviewed by a number of groups not normally included in Army concept development, Col. Bob Johnson, chief of joint and Army concepts at the Army Capabilities Integration Center, told Inside the Army in an interview in June.

Throughout the fall, the Army is planning review sessions with the think tank and academic community, as well as joint, interagency and multinational partners. The service is also organizing a number of workshops with graduate school students around the country.

-- Kate Brannen

FURTHER READING:

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September 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Brigade commanders echoed a recent New York Times op-ed today when they stressed how important interpreters are to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think the most important thing we could do to improve our operations dramatically in both Iraq and Afghanistan is increase the number of competent interpreters and to make sure that the contractors who provide interpreters, provide interpreters who speak English as well," said Army Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, speaking today at a counterinsurgency conference in Washington hosted by the Marines Corps University.

While this last point elicited laughter from the audience, McMaster and his fellow panel members emphasized the essential role interpreters play in counterinsurgency environments where local information and human intelligence are crucial to good decision-making.

An audience member asked the panel how much foreign language training soldiers and Marines need before they deploy.

"I think a commander needs a working vocabulary to be polite and make the effort to talk to people and greet them in their language," said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel, who's now a military history professor at Ohio State University. But, beyond that, a commander has to rely on an interpreter, he said.

"It is dangerous for a commander, unless he is fluent, to rely on his limited capabilities in some of these situations," said Mansoor. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings can cause serious setbacks, he added.

-- Kate Brannen

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September 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

According to the Defense Department's Web site, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley will conduct a briefing on the upcoming draft request for proposal for the KC-X tanker recapitalization program Thursday at 4 p.m. in the DOD briefing room.

InsideDefense.com first reported this on Tuesday:

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn plans to brief lawmakers this Thursday on the Pentagon's new acquisition strategy for a fleet of Air Force aerial refueling tankers, a move that marks the relaunch of a $35 billion, winner-take-all competition between aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus, whose parent company EADS is partnered with Northrop Grumman.

The Pentagon today notified Congress that Lynn -- along with Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley -- will travel to Capitol Hill the morning of Sept. 24 to explain the new strategy for procuring the KC-X aircraft, according to congressional and industry sources. Industry is expected to be briefed on a draft request for proposals later in the day, sources said.

-- Chris Castelli

Editor's note: The original version of this entry misspelled the name of the Air Force secretary.

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September 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

UPDATE: The post below, on analyst Loren Thompson's take on the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles protest, has generated some reader feedback, spurring us to find out more explicitly about Thompson's relationship with BAE Systems. Thompson, chief operating officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute, told us yesterday that BAE is one of the clients of his for-profit consulting firm (his leadership of which is noted in the original entry). However, Thompson insisted the paper was written for the Lexington Institute, and he asserted that the firm's work for BAE played no part in his analysis of the FMTV competition.

The original:

One analyst is predicting the Government Accountability Office will soon overturn the recent award of the Army's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles contract to Oshkosh.

FMTV competitors Navistar and BAE Systems earlier this month filed protests with the GAO of an August award to Oshkosh worth $280.9 million for 2,568 FMTVs. According to Oshkosh, the order is expected to total 23,000 trucks and trailers. BAE Systems was the incumbent in the competition.

In a Sept. 17 "issue brief," Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute (who also runs a consulting shop) writes that the Army made "fundamental mistakes" by accepting a "wildly unrealistic cost estimate from Oshkosh without making any serious attempt to determine whether it was valid" and by rating the three offerors "equal in terms of risk and capability," even though BAE Systems was the incumbent.

And, Thompson writes, the service rated the offerors equal with regard to past performance, ignoring BAE's relevant past experience.

In combination, these missteps nearly guarantee that the protests lodged by the losing teams will be sustained when the Government Accountability Office rules on them later this year. But the truck award raises more far-reaching questions about the competence of Army source selections, because the errors were so egregious. Consider the issue of cost realism, a central concern in acquisition reform. Despite lack of facilities, workforce and relevant experience, Oshkosh bid 30 percent below what BAE is charging for building the same trucks today. BAE bid below its current asking price too, and but not that low -- even though it already has a production process in place. Army personnel accepted the bids at face value without any effort to independently verify them, and in fact made cost the sole determinant of the award.

Additionally, Thompson writes that capabilities and past performance were supposed to outweigh cost as factors in the competition, and rating Oshkosh as equal in production capability "seems preposterous on its face." In past performance, the Army "ignored a host of factors" in assuming Oshkosh could match BAE, including Oshkosh's high-priority contract to build Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles.

"What this all adds up to is a procurement disaster in the making, a conclusion GAO analysts should have little difficulty reaching," Thompson concludes.

According to his biography, Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute, also runs Source Associates, a "for-profit consultancy."

-- Marjorie Censer