The Insider

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July 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau will take over as the 13th president of the National Defense University tomorrow, according to an NDU statement. She will replace Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frances Wilson, who is retiring after 36 years in uniform.

Rondeau's most recent assignment was deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will preside over the changeover ceremony, the statement reads.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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July 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Military officials and blogs have not always mixed well, but lately, there have been multiple examples of officers engaging with the Army's most senior leaders through service blogs.

The topics covered range from the trivial to the profound. For example, on June 17, a commenter on the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Blog expressed his dismay that CAC coins were being made in China instead of the United States and asked what it would take to have them made here.

None other than Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, responded to the reader's question.

"We did place our order for these coins with an American supplier who was the low bid," writes Caldwell. "How that supplier then subcontracts is a decision that they make. However, absolutely understand the point you are making and appreciate the feedback."

As for more weighty matters: In a July 6 post, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli wrote a long essay on the future of Army training and, more specifically, the importance of the Mission Essential Task List.

"Today, a precise understanding of the true nature of the Mission Essential Task -- balanced against ‘full spectrum operations’ -- is more important than ever," writes Chiarelli.

The entry is prompting comments from civilians and officers alike. In response, Chiarelli writes, "Team -- great points that merit serious consideration. . . . Keep the conversation going. I'm learning from you every day."

Finally, in a real display of open debate, the Army is utilizing wiki software, the same that Wikipedia uses, to update its doctrine, allowing anyone with an Army Knowledge Online account to edit selected manuals by submitting changes through the wiki system.

-- Kate Brannen

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July 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) has been elected by his fellow House Armed Services Committee Democrats to chair the panel's strategic forces subcommittee, the full committee announced today.

Langevin replaces Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who resigned from the House late last month to become under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

Committee Chairman Ike Skelton said in a statement today that Langevin "has been a member of the House Armed Services Committee for many years, and also brings invaluable experience as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I am confident he will be an excellent chairman and make us proud as we work to protect Americans and preserve our national security."

The committee statement outlined how the vote took place:

Subcommittee chairmen were selected by the Caucus of the Committee pursuant to the Rules of the House Armed Services Committee and the Democratic Caucus. The full slate of subcommittee chairmen for the Committee will be submitted to the House Democratic Leadership for their consideration, and the new subcommittee chairman will assume his post immediately, pending no vote of disapproval by the House Democratic Caucus. The House Armed Services Committee Democratic Caucus also adopted a unanimous consent request to reaffirm the subcommittee selections of the entire Committee Democratic Caucus from earlier this year.

-- John Liang
 

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July 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Senate defense authorizers have opted to turn the Commercial and Foreign Entities (CFE) pilot program into a permanent affair. And House lawmakers, in their version of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization legislation, have taken a similar step, which means the provision now has a very good chance of making it into the final bill.

The Senate's bill still has to pass the full chamber, where at least two big fights -- one over the F-22 production and one over the Joint Strike Fighter alternative engine -- are waiting.

The CFE program allows the defense secretary to share space object positioning information with private companies and foreign countries.

"This program, which also allows participants to supply data for their satellites to DOD, has proved to be very useful to all aspects of the space community," Senate Armed Services Committee members wrote in their report on the bill.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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July 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama wrapped up a commencement address to the New Economic School in Moscow this morning by challenging graduates to take charge of their destinies, declaring the military industrial complex no longer has the power to unilaterally set agendas.

You get to decide what comes next. You get to choose where change will take us, because the future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground; the future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. That is the source of power in this century. And given all that has happened in your two decades on Earth, just imagine what you can create in the years to come.

The question is: Was he referring to Moscow only, or was he speaking to Washington as well?

-- Jason Sherman

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July 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has appointed Lisa Disbrow vice director of the Joint Staff's directorate for force structure, resources and assessment (J-8), the Pentagon announced today, a post that traditionally plays a key role in a number of important Pentagon activities, including weapon system investment decisions and crafting the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Disbrow, who received a promotion to the Senior Executive Service with her new assignment, was previously director for force management, analysis and gaming in the J-8.

-- Jason Sherman

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July 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army is very proud of the Blue Ribbon Panel it hosted last month to solicit ideas for its new ground combat vehicle effort.

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing last week, Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8), said the panel "illustrates the holistic nature of this effort, and the commitment we all have to get it right, to get popular support and to seek a variety of views about how it is that we're proceeding."

In a fairly uncharacteristic move, the service has even created a Web site for the one-day event, which lists logistical information for the event itself, news coverage, supporting documents -- and now a fancy new video.

The video (with soundtrack!) is really more of a a photo slide show of the event's participants, including Speakes and other Army generals dressed down for the occasion. It's narrated by Brig. Gen. Michael Harrison, director of joint and futures in the Army's G-8.

The panel was "designed to be people, who are acting in their role as private citizens, to come together to give us their personal advice about what they think we ought to integrate into our designs for the future, with the focus on the ground combat vehicle," said Speakes.

"The view here is, this is the not the Army going off in isolation, but rather, the Army is a part of a group of interested citizens who all have their views about what the Army ought to do, and ought to have learned and ought to be integrating into its future designs," he added.

The panel's executive committee, made up of service officials, is set to meet July 16 to discuss the effort's findings.

-- Kate Brannen

Further Reading:

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July 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Missile defense is among the stickiest issues to be tackled this week during President Obama's visit to Moscow. And he and his counterpart wasted no time in addressing it, judging by this joint statement:

In accordance with the understanding reached at the meeting in London on April 1, 2009, Russia and the United States plan to continue the discussion concerning the establishment of cooperation in responding to the challenge of ballistic missile proliferation. Our countries are intensifying their search for optimum ways of strengthening strategic relations on the basis of mutual respect and interests.

We have instructed our experts to work together to analyze the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century and to prepare appropriate recommendations, giving priority to the use of political and diplomatic methods. At the same time they plan to conduct a joint review of the entire spectrum of means at our disposal that allow us to cooperate on monitoring the development of missile programs around the world. Our experts are intensifying dialogue on establishing the Joint Data Exchange Center, which is to become the basis for a multilateral missile-launch notification regime.

The Russian Federation and the United States of America reaffirm their willingness to engage in equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with all interested countries that share their assessments of the danger of global proliferation of ballistic missiles. We call upon all countries having a missile potential to refrain from steps that could lead to missile proliferation and undermine regional and global stability.

-- John Liang
 

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July 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency plans to hold a "pre-proposal conference" later on this month to talk about its recently released final request for proposals for the MDA Engineering and Support Services (MiDAESS) program that will consolidate the 200-plus service contracts the agency currently manages.

According to a Federal Business Opportunities announcement posted yesterday:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will host a pre-proposal conference for the MiDAESS RFPs on July 8, 2009 in Huntsville, AL at a location to be determined. The location, time, and agenda will be provided in a future announcement. The government plans to hold only one pre-proposal conference.

As Inside Missile Defense reported last year when the first draft of the RFP was released:

MDA spends approximately $900 million annually on contractor support services for functional areas like quality, safety and mission assurance; business and financial management; administrative and professional support; engineering; acquisition management; and warfighter support, among others, according to briefing slides that accompany the draft RFP posted on Federal Business Opportunities.

In 2004, MDA began a re-engineering effort "to better align the agency to achieve an overall goal of developing a single integrated ((ballistic missile defense)) system," according to the RFP’s executive summary. "A foundational premise of the re-engineering was to centralize control in the agency headquarters and de-centralize execution in the field."

"We are constantly looking for ways that we can be more efficient and more effective," ((then-MDA Director Lt. Gen. Trey)) Obering told reporters at a Feb. 12 ((2008)) conference sponsored by Aviation Week, "and this ((draft RFP)) is part of that."

-- John Liang
 

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July 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department today released the name of the the new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency director -- Regina Dugan.

“Regina Dugan is precisely the dynamic leader DARPA needs to open new technology frontiers and transition revolutionary technologies to serve our nation’s interests,” said Zachary J. Lemnios, director, Defense Research and Engineering. “I am delighted she will be leading this agency and look forward to working closely with her."

Prior to this appointment, Dugan held several key positions in industry, most recently as president and chief executive officer of RedXDefense, LLC, which she co-founded in 2005, a company that develops defense against explosive threats. She has also served in senior executive positions in several additional companies in roles ranging from global sales and marketing to research and product development.

During her first tour at DARPA from January 1996 to May 2000, Dugan received the program manager of the year award for her leadership of the “Dog’s Nose Program”, which was focused on the development of an advanced, field-portable system for detecting the explosive content of land mines. She is also the recipient of the deFleury Medal, the office of the secretary of defense award for exceptional service, and the award for outstanding achievement. She has participated in wide-ranging studies for the Defense Science Board, the Army Science Board, the National Research Council and Science Foundation, and currently sits on the Naval Research Advisory Committee and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Science and Technology Panel.

Dugan earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and her master's and bachelor's degrees from Virginia Tech. She is the co-author of “Engineering Thermodynamics,” 1996, sole inventor on one issued patent and inventor or co-inventor on nine additional patents pending.

-- Dan Dupont

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July 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter about Iran to President Obama in advance of his summit with Russian President Medvedev in Moscow next week.

"As you travel to Russia next week we strongly urge you to put preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability as the top priority in your discussions with Russia’s leadership," the letter states. "Negotiations over bilateral arms control, missile defense in Europe, civilian nuclear cooperation, WTO accession and other issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship must be conducted with an eye towards Russian policy on Iran. We believe that the United States should not make unilateral gestures without specific understandings that Moscow will support tougher measures against Iran if Tehran does not soon suspend its enrichment program."

The letter urges Obama to "make it known that Russia should not expect progress on issues of concern to Moscow if it does not take a tougher stance on Iran."

-- Chris Castelli

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July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked yesterday whether he was surprised by how little Capitol Hill resistance has been mounted against some of the major defense program funding cuts he proposed for his department's fiscal year 2010 budget request. According to the DOD transcript, he replied:

A little bit. But I think that, you know, the chairman ((of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) and I have done four hearings, appropriations and authorizers, but the service secretaries and the service chiefs have done a lot of hearings and so has -- and ((Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) General ((James)) Cartwright has done a lot of briefings on missile defense, for example. And so I think that between our hearings and -- but especially hearing directly from the service chiefs and the service secretaries I believe has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the Hill in terms of hearing the services' views on these changes and their involvement in the process and their belief that we're headed in the right direction.

Despite a veto threat from the White House, Senate authorizers last week included language in their version of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill to continue the production of F-22A fighter planes above levels requested by the Obama administration. Another potential sticking point could be the Future Combat Systems program, Gates said:

Well, I've indicated to some of the chairmen and the ranking minorities of the committees what I -- issues that I think would be a problem. I'm not going to detail what that list is but I'll give you one more example. It'll be the vehicle program for Future Combat Systems. But so far -- you know, the truth of the matter is, we haven't seen the full Senate Armed Services Committee mark yet, but based on what I've been told about the House part and the partial information I have about the Senate mark, the F-22 and the second engine for the F-35 seem to be about the only main issues where they have gone anywhere different than what we put forward.

So based on the mark we've already seen from the House and what I've heard about the Senate, with those exceptions, I think we've actually done pretty well.

-- John Liang
 

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July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to have the National Security Agency chief also lead the new U.S. Cyber Command guarantees the intelligence community a sizeable role in U.S. government cyberspace efforts.

It also means the funding streams for the new command could in large part be classified.

Given the new command's firm footing in the intelligence world, the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee likely will be an important congressional panel for command officials in the areas of oversight and funding.

The unclassified portion of the panel's fiscal year 2010 intelligence authorization bill, unveiled last month, fits on a handy seven pages. The committee's report on the legislation, while it is 172 pages long, is equally thin on specifics.

"In furtherance of the President's emphasis on protecting government information systems, the bill also makes a sizeable investment in foundational cybersecurity capabilities," the document states.

Some parts of the report, albeit phrased in general terms, reveal lawmakers' concerns in the cybersecurity arena.

The document describes the following "standards" committee members intend to apply in their oversight role:

* "Funding for cybersecurity programs may need to be reduced or slowed until the future direction for cybersecurity is better defined.

* "Any cybersecurity strategy or plans should include clear goals and metrics to enhance program and congressional oversight.

* "There needs to be a clear doctrine for the use of offensive cyber capabilities.

* "Securing government information systems should include efforts beyond building bigger and better firewalls, such as improving the capability to attribute attacks to specific government or private actors.

* "Expansion of cybersecurity authorities and capabilities must include stronger oversight mechanisms to ensure that any monitoring is conducted in a manner consistent with laws and regulations.

* "Securing government information systems will require both a significant increase in the number of cybersecurity experts in government service and a cultural change in the way federal employees approach computer and information security."

An upcoming U.S. Strategic Command implementation plan for U.S. Cyber Command likely will shed some light on the military's approach to these issues.

Unless the document is classified, that is.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Terrorist attacks with improvised explosive devices on U.S. soil may be unlikely, but they are not impossible, administration officials and defense experts have said.

Department of Homeland Security officials, for their part, are assessing the vulnerability "underground locations" in the United States, and they need the help of a contractor to do so, according to a June 30 notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

The contractor's task will be to identify underground structures deemed particularly vulnerable to an IED attack, provide requisite training to security personnel, and figure out how many "Manhole Barrier Devices" it would take to block access to those sites.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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June 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

American combat forces have left Iraqi cities, villages and localities in accordance with last year's security agreement between the two governments, the Defense Department announced today.

"U.S. forces outside urban areas will continue to conduct operations by, with, and through ((the Iraqi security forces)), focusing on securing Iraqi borders and areas outside the cities," the statement reads.

American forces remaining in Iraqi cities will "train, advise and coordinate" with Iraqi forces and support "civil capacity efforts," Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general, Multi-National Force Iraq, is quoted as saying in the statement.

The current number of U.S. troops in Iraq is 131,000, according to the statement. In addition, 125,163 contractors support DOD missions there, the document states.

-- Sebastian Sprenger