The Insider

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April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Asked about congressional reaction, Gates notes decisions will be controversial, says he hopes Congress will "rise above parochial interests" and consider the best interests of the nation.

* Gates says he did not take political interests into account in making decisions. Hopes Obama will approve and Congress will support "as much of it as possible."

* Decisions "emanate directly from the National Defense Strategy," Gates says -- strong analytical base.

* Programs he recommends delaying will be examined in the QDR. A list of "probably 10 or a dozen or more" issues to be examined in the QDR that came out of the exercise.

* F-22A decision: "Not a close call," Gates says. "We have fulfilled the program -- it's not like we're killing the F-22."

* "The military advice that I got was that there is no military requirement for F-22s" beyond current level -- including advice from the Air Force.

* More money for rotorcraft: "most focused" on "the need for more helicopters." In analysis noted principal shortfall was in crews, not airframes. Virtually all of the additional money going to accelerate the training of crews and pilots.

* "There needs to be a new presidential helicopter." Still good service life in current fleet and "we have time to do this." Will review requirements after FY-10 budget is submitted.

* Canceling CSAR-X, but will look at whether there is a requirement for a specialized search-and-rescue helicopter.

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April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* Gates concerned about jobs to be lost by cancellations but notes increases also part of the plan. Direct employment on the F-22 program about 22,000 this year, to decline to 13,000 in FY-11 as last aircraft rolls off the line. But, F-35 already employs 30,000+, to go to 82,000 in FY-11. Decisions "do a pretty good job of taking care of the industrial base there."

"We cannot be oblivious to the consequences of these decisions," he says, but national security interests trump.

* Irregular warfare constituency to have "a seat at the table" for the first time.

* Missile defense: Cartwright says SM-3 and THAAD needed; cites North Korea launch as proof. For fourth site of ground-based interceptor -- sufficient funds in FY-09 to carry forward as QDR is conducted and negotiations continue with European countries.

* KEI program: Cartwright says great utility in boost-phase systems. Need more analysis."What do we need in the boost phase?"

* Refueling tankers: Gates has talked with Murtha on split-buy strategy. "I still believe that it is not the best deal for the taxpayer to go with a split buy."

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April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The statement of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as released by the Pentagon:

I fully support the program decisions Secretary Gates has laid out today. None of them was easy to make. All of them are vital to the future.

These decisions put our people first. I have said and remain convinced the best way to guarantee our future is to support our troops and their families. It is the "recruit" and "retain" choices of American families that will make or break the all volunteer force. I could not agree more strongly with him making this his top priority.

The Secretary also took pains to shape that force by seeking better balance. If adopted in the President’s budget and passed into law, his recommendations will improve critical "enablers," such as aviation, special forces, cyber operations, civil affairs, intelligence analysis, unmanned aerial vehicles, MRAPs, and language skills. These are the capabilities we desperately need for the wars we are fighting and the ones we are likely to fight in years to come.

Some will argue he is tilting dangerously away from conventional capabilities. He is not. His decisions with respect to missile defense, tactical aviation, shipbuilding, Army modernization, ISR, and communications bear witness to his commitment to preserving our traditional strengths. In truth, he is evening out what has been in this time of war a fairly lop-sided approach to defense acquisition.

If we are what we buy, one might conclude we have become the world’s finest counter-insurgency force by sheer will alone. We simply must invest more aggressively in this vital mission.

Our ground forces remain our center of gravity in the current fight. The Secretary has protected the size of those forces. By adjusting active Army BCT growth to 45, he has ensured our ability to impact the fight sooner, increase dwell time, and reduce overall demand on equipment. This commitment will provide better manned units and end stop-loss. He has also provided for a healthy and attainable Army modernization program.

In all this, Secretary Gates is working hard to fix a flawed procurement process. Programs that aren’t performing well are getting the scrutiny they deserve. The acquisition workforce is getting the manpower and expertise it merits. And a struggling industrial base is getting the support and the oversight it warrants. More critically, we -- the military leadership of the nation -- are getting the top-down guidance we need to develop the right warfighting capabilities.

The Secretary presided over a comprehensive and collaborative process to arrive at his decisions. Every Service Chief and Combatant Commander had a voice, and every one of them used it. I know I speak for all of them when I say we are prepared to execute each and every one of these recommendations.
 

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April 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

News flash: Budget details coming on Monday, from the podium at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Gates will brief reporters.

Our story coming soon.

-- Dan Dupont

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April 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With speculation over which defense programs will suffer the budget ax reaching a fever pitch just days before Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to brief Congress on those cuts, the developer of the Airborne Laser -- one of the programs with a bulls-eye on it -- today continued its full-court-press to sway public opinion on the effort, touting the ancillary benefits from that multiyear, multibillion-dollar program.

"Continued Airborne Laser development can protect a very perishable industrial base," one that has also helped develop very advanced optics that could be used in other laser projects, Boeing Vice President and General Manager of Missile Defense Systems Greg Hyslop told a Capitol Hill audience this morning.

Hyslop, who spoke at a Marshall Institute-sponsored event, also touted other possible missions for ABL above and beyond shooting down ballistic missiles in their boost phase, like cruise missile defense or counter-air defense.

Inside the Air Force cited Boeing officials last month warning that roughly 1,000 jobs -- and the United States' edge in laser technology -- are at risk if the ABL program is canceled.

An operational fleet of Airborne Laser aircraft is still years -- possibly decades -- away, and Boeing estimates that the per-plane cost could be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. The Air Force predicts that a seven-aircraft fleet would be needed to successfully defend the United States from possible missile attacks.

As such, ABL has been on the table as one program that could be vulnerable in budget cuts predicted for the fiscal year 2010 defense budget.

. . . ((L))awmakers arguing for the cancellation of the program noted ABL’s schedule delays and cost increases. Other congressmen fighting for the program wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates pleading for the continuation of the laser’s development and did so because of their concerns of reports of the project’s possible termination.

But ABL wasn't the only boost-phase missile defense program being touted this morning. Michael Booen, Raytheon's vice president of advanced missile defense systems, spoke about his company's nascent effort to build an air-launched missile to shoot down ballistic missiles early in flight.

The proposed Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) is a two-stage missile with an infrared seeker that is designed to intercept short- and medium-range missiles in their boost phase. It is essentially an upgraded Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), which, Raytheon officials say, means that any aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying AMRAAM can carry NCADE.

The Missile Defense Agency awarded Raytheon a $10 million contract last year to continue research-and-development work on NCADE.

Booen said this morning that the interceptors could be built for less than $1 million apiece.

-- John Liang
 

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April 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Combatant commanders want the issue of sufficient "enablers" in the military to be treated as a topic of the Quadrennial Defense Review, U.S. Central Command Chief Gen. David Petraeus told members of the House Armed Services Committee this morning.

The term enablers is military jargon for non-combat forces performing crucial support work.

Petraeus singled out intelligence analysts, biometrics specialists and counter-IED experts as important enablers for the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As for intelligence specialists, in particular, Petraeus said those individuals were crucial in Iraq because they provided information about the populace that helped U.S. officials support  local reconciliation efforts.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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April 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

We've all heard about Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) introducing legislation to reform the Defense Department's acquisition system. Well, now it's the turn of their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol dome.

Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and John Spratt (D-SC) introduced the exact same bill to the House yesterday.

"Our acquisition and contracting processes too often result in cost overruns and delays," Tauscher, chairwoman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said in a joint statement. "At a time when we are trying to restore the economy and find ways to reduce spending, or spend more efficiently, we have to rework how the Pentagon awards and monitors contracts."

For his part, Spratt, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in the same statement that there was "huge room for improvement in defense procurement," adding:

Our bill does not pretend to be a panacea, but it offers some solid, well considered ideas, which have been carefully researched. It’s a good piece of work, and I am glad to sponsor it along with Senators Levin and McCain, and my colleague in the House, Rep. Ellen Tauscher.

As InsideDefense.com reported yesterday:

With the Senate expected this week to weigh in on new legislation geared toward revamping the Pentagon's troubled acquisition process, lawmakers are hammering out the final details before Thursday's vote, one of the bill's cosponsors said today.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said discussions have been held in recent weeks about specific elements of the bill ahead of Thursday's anticipated vote on the measure. While the Michigan Democrat noted that no significant push-back against the legislation has been seen, he said some on Capitol Hill have expressed concerns over the measure.

Levin's comments came during a briefing with reporters today in Washington.

In February, Levin and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican John McCain (AZ) introduced legislation calling for the creation of new posts within DOD to oversee cost assessments and developmental testing on current and future military weapon systems.

The Levin-McCain bill also calls for significantly strengthening the certification mandates for programs that violate cost-growth limits under the Nunn-McCurdy statute.

A similar version of the bill sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) is being mulled over on the House side. The companion House proposal was expected to be introduced last week, a Democratic aide told InsideDefense.com, adding that it would be “very, very close” to the mandates outlined in the Levin-McCain legislation.

Tauscher's bill is under review by House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) and is expected to be introduced sometime this month, the aide said.

During the ensuing debate in the Senate over the Levin-McCain bill, some senators had questioned language in the legislation calling for a ban on defense firms conducting progress assessments on major weapon systems being manufactured by the same company, Levin said. . . .

-- John Liang
 

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April 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With a North Korean ballistic missile test looming, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee want to make sure that the Obama administration keeps its eyes on the ball regarding the U.S. missile defense system.

In a letter sent yesterday to Obama, the GOP lawmakers call on the president to authorize military commanders to employ the nation's missile defense system if the U.S. or its allies are put at risk by the launch:

As you are aware, recent news reports suggest that North Korea is imminently close to launching a long-range Taepodong ballistic missile that could reach the United States. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific recently testified before our committee, "We're ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies and our national interests if the president so directs." However, it remains unclear whether the administration has made any decision, based upon comments made by your Secretary of Defense this weekend where he said the administration is, "not prepared to do anything about it." We respectfully encourage you to authorize our military commanders to employ our nation's missile defense system, should the United States or our allies be put at risk. . . .

While we support diplomatic efforts by your administration to prevent such a launch from occurring, we also believe prudent steps can be taken to make use of our missile defense capabilities should the United States or our allies be put at risk. Our nation’s top military generals recently testified before Congress that they believe our missile defense system is “effective” and has a “high probability" of intercepting an incoming missile if they were commanded to do so.

-- John Liang
 

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April 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In case you call a Pentagon contact and you get a wrong number, this may be why: The Defense Department today announced a reshuffling of senior executive service positions within DOD. They are:

Richard Davison, foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) reassigned to foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities), Washington, D.C.

Thomas P. Dee, director, Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), Washington, D.C,

John W. Fischer, director, Defense Laboratory Programs, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), Washington, D.C.

Robert A. Gold, director, engineering, prototyping, and technology integration reassigned to deputy director, space and intelligence capabilities, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Hersman, deputy assistant secretary of defense (countering weapons of mass destruction), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

Kathleen Hicks, deputy under secretary of defense (strategic plans and forces), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

Colin Kahl, deputy assistant secretary of defense (Middle East), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth McGrath, assistant deputy under secretary for business integration, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) reassigned to assistant deputy chief management officer, Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer, Washington, D.C.

David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense (forces transformation and resources), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

Barry Pavel, foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) reassigned to foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities), Washington, D.C.

Robert Salesses, foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Crisis Management) reassigned to foreign relations and defense policy manager, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense), Washington, D.C.

Julianne Smith, principal director (Europe and NATO), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

James Townsend, deputy assistant secretary of defense (Europe and NATO), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

Christine Wormuth, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense (homeland defense and America's security affairs), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy), Washington, D.C.

-- John Liang
 

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April 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A senior U.S. administration official warned earlier today that North Korea would face consequences if and when it carried out its expected satellite test launch later on this week. According to the White House transcript of a briefing held "on background" in London, where President Obama is meeting other world leaders:

Q Could you go into a little more depth on the North Korea subject, especially with regard to the missile launch plans?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I can say a little more about our position and what we said. In terms of the Chinese, you want to speak to the Chinese. But we’re – the President made clear we’re deeply concerned about the prospective missile launch by the North Koreans. They call it a satellite launch, but that’s a distinction, not a difference; it’s the same technology. But this is provocative to the region and contrary to U.N. Security Council resolutions. And there will be a reaction. There will be a reaction to it.

Q Can you say what the reaction is?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we -- there are U.N. Security Council resolutions, so we -- I expect that we will be talking in the U.N. Security Council about how to respond.

We want to see the Six-Party talks continue, and North Korea has been engaged in lots of actions over the last few months that have prevented that process from continuing. We’d like to see it continue.

-- John Liang
 

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March 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast in Washington this morning, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, emphasized his previous work to bring the research and development work of the commercial auto industry and the military vehicle business together -- and said he'd “continue to do that.”

“Twenty years ago, there was a huge gap between the development of technology which was being worked on for the military vehicles, for instance, and commercial vehicles, whether you're talking about crash avoidance . . . energy efficiency, unit materials, you name it,” Levin said today.

Yet, engineers at TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and General Motors were “literally half a mile apart,” he added.

Today, “there's now much greater coordination of research and development,” according to Levin.

“There's greater efficiency in that, and there's also great usefulness in terms of the capabilities of those technologies,” he continued. “So I worked very hard to do that . . . and I'm going to continue to do that.”

-- Marjorie Censer

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March 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials worry unfriendly foreign governments could find a way of secretly slipping counterfeit electronic parts or malicious software, called malware, into U.S. weapon systems. The result could be weapons suddenly malfunctioning or sensitive military information getting into the wrong hands.

In response, officials have kicked off a wave of new efforts recently under the moniker Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) to make sure potentially harmful components manufactured overseas don't end up in Washington's weaponry. (The Defense Science Board issued a report discussing some software-specific pitfalls in September 2007.)

The government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has long been a tool to control  foreign organizations taking ownership of U.S. companies considered part of the defense industrial base. But, officials say, the CFIUS regime has limited utility in securing the global stream of high-tech hard- and software intended for use in the Pentagon's arsenal.

"While the CFIUS work remains important, CFIUS addresses only one aspect of the problem," Mitchell Komaroff,  director of the Globalization Task Force in the office of DOD Chief Information Officer John Grimes, told us in a written statement.

"Ownership is not the only indicator of risk stemming from the global commercial marketplace.  Ownership does not indicate where products are developed, where services are executed and whether or not only trusted persons are accessing critical data. Even where CFIUS does review a transaction, the risk management tools available have a limited ability to mitigate for supply-chain risks."

According to Komaroff, the government's emerging SRCM model will "complement" the work of CFIUS. 

"DOD approaches SCRM through a defense-in-breadth strategy -- a multi-faceted risk mitigation strategy that seeks to identify, manage, mitigate, and monitor risk at every stage of the IT system or network lifecycle, from product design to system retirement.  DOD is actively working to ensure that policies and processes are put in place to raise awareness of the risk, empower acquirers to make informed decisions when they request and  procure ((information and communications technology)) products and services, and arm acquirers with practices and tools necessary to mitigate risk when ICT products are used across the government."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Like a number of defense programs, the future of the Air Force's Transformational Satellite Communications System, known simply as "TSAT," could be decided by the fiscal year 2010 budget, with a number of analysts speculating that it has a target on its head for cancellation.

The program was originally scheduled for contract award last spring, by the decision was delayed a number of times since then and ultimately was restructured as a less-complex system and a new request for proposals was released late last year.

Last week, Inside the Air Force reported that both contractors vying for the contract, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, said they had been asked by the air service to examine what alternatives to the multibillion-dollar project could be.

At a media briefing today at the National Space Symposium at Colorado Springs, CO, Gen. Robert Kehler, chief of Air Force Space Command, confirmed this report:

We have studied options, and there were a number of them on the table when we went through the last review last summer to include continuing with the existing programs of record, meaning WGS ((Wideband Global Satellite Communications system, built by Boeing)) and AEHF ((Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite system, built by Lockheed)).

Kehler said he did not know what the budget holds for TSAT or, for that matter, the Air Force's space portfolio as a whole:

I do not know what the budget decisions will be and how they will impact all of the space programs, not just TSAT. I don't know how they're going to unfold across the board. We've been asked our views, we've voiced our views, and I am very comfortable that my voice has been heard and now we have to see how the ultimate balance that the Secretary of the Air Force ((Michael Donley)) and others . . . have to make, and I don't know what they're going to decide.

-- Jason Simpson
 

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March 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This morning, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) fired at shot across the Capitol when he criticized senior House defense lawmakers for attempting to legislate a mixed buy of Air Force next-generation tankers.

Proclaiming his neutrality in the heated battle between Boeing and Northrop Grumman-EADS, Levin said: “I think the chances of getting something done are greater if there's a few people, particularly chairmen of a committee that's got some jurisdiction, who really are not tilted one way or another, not trying to shift the direction one way or another.

“I am honestly doing my very best to keep an open mind on this subject,” Levin said at breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington.

The senator's comments come after two prominent House lawmakers spent the last few weeks urging the Pentagon to buy both Boeing and Northrop tankers. House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) has said he plans to introduce legislation mandating a mixed buy. House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) also said he favors a procurement split. Pentagon officials claim buying both aircraft would be a misuse of taxpayer money.

Today, Levin said he would discuss his personal view of the split. The senator also noted has not spoken with either Murtha or Abercrombie.

“I don't want to prejudge it in any way,” Levin said. “I don't want to say anything that gives any suggestion that I have prejudged, because I haven't.”

“If you say anything that even suggests prejudgment, or a judgment on this, it creates all kinds of mis-impressions and I just don't want to do it,” he added.

When asked if he believes a Pentagon-run tanker acquisition program could withstand congressional interference or mandates, Levin simply responded: “Yeah.”

-- Marcus Weisgerber
 

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March 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At 12:15 p.m. today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was scheduled to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office, according to the White House. Naturally, the meeting is closed to the press.

No agenda for the session has been released. It should be wrapped up before 3 p.m., though -- that's when Obama is slated to speak about and sign the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

-- Chris Castelli