The Insider

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April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force is contemplating the stand-up of a counterinsurgency irregular warfare wing, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said this morning.

A final decision will be made during a top-level meeting in June, the four-star told a group of industry and military officials during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"I think a wing-sized unit, at least to get started, is not unlikely," he said.

More to come. . .

-- Marcus Weisgerber

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April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Will the Nuclear Posture Review echo President Obama's goal of eliminating the world's nuclear weapons? A pair of Pentagon leaders offered no clear answer yesterday, but it seems the department is more focused on deterrence.

“In the president's Prague speech, he referenced ((eliminating nuclear weapons)) as an ultimate goal,” a senior defense official recalled at a background briefing. “He also said that until that time, as long as adversaries possess nuclear weapons, we will maintain a robust and credible nuclear deterrent.”

The NPR is “being taken in the context that he lays out in that speech, which is a desire to really strengthen non-proliferation progress, if you will; explore the possibility of further reductions in our own arsenal, while also ensuring that we take the steps necessary, both in terms of the infrastructure and the forces, to ensure that we have a safe and secure and reliable deterrent,” the official told Pentagon reporters.

This three-pronged approach is “really the conceptual frame, the starting point for the NPR,” the official added. Asked whether the NPR would be akin to a "place holder” on the way to “eventual global zero,” the official replied, “Well, I think that we are certainly looking to, in the post-START negotiations, go towards further reductions.”

A senior military official, however, questioned whether the NPR would aim to do away with nuclear weapons.

“But I don't know that I would speculate to say that that would be a goal. Right?” the senior military official said, noting the NPR is about deterrence, which involves more than just nuclear weapons. “So there are other aspects of what the department does that need to be brought to bear to deter, you know, a potential adversary from using nuclear capability."

-- Chris Castelli

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April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force's top general today said he sees no “obvious” reason to fold the National Nuclear Security Administration into the Defense Department.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution this morning, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the air service has “very little equity” in this discussion, but he doesn't see “immediately the obvious advantage” of the merger.

My personal view is, and at least my best military advise would be, that there is some merit in keeping the nuclear enterprise in our country not wholly concentrated within the Department of Defense -- that there is a history, a legacy, of civilian oversight and participation and involvement in the nuclear enterprise going back to the very first days.

Though “some” might see financial reasons to go forward with such a plan, the four-star general cautioned of some possible “unintended consequences” of migrating the Energy Department's role in the nuclear enterprise “in its entirety” into DOD. There isn't a “clear . . . distinct policy upside” to the idea, he added.

In January, the Office of Management Budget director, Peter Orszag, requested a study of the costs and benefits of transferring the budget and management of NNSA or its components to the Pentagon and elsewhere.

Schwartz isn't the first to oppose the idea. In February, Inside the Pentagon reported that some lawmakers worried a transfer could damage ongoing efforts.

Congressional sources at the time told ITP that any decision on the matter would require legislative action. And Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairwoman of the House of Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, wrote a letter to Orszag on Feb. 5 stating that the initiative “is not a new one, and has been rejected in the past for good reasons.”

-- Jason Simpson

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April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

One of the major selling points of the F-22A is its ability to penetrate -- undetected -- an enemy's heavily defended airspace and “kick down the door” for follow-on aircraft by laying waste to air defense networks. But why use a fleet of multimillion-dollar airplanes to do what can be done from a desk thousands of miles away from the target?

Enter the Air Force chief of staff.

“Traditionally, we take down integrated air defenses via kinetic means, but if it were possible to interrupt radar systems or surface-to-air missile systems via cyber, that would be another very powerful tool in the tool kit allowing us to accomplish air missions assigned to us by the joint forces command,” Gen. Norton Schwartz said today at the Brookings Institution. “We will develop that capability.”

The four-star added that the service is already developing a “nascent capability” in this arena -- and that it will continue to advance its cyber-warfare techniques to support “whatever architecture is ultimately approved for national cyber responsibilities.”

The idea of using cyber to shut down enemy air defenses is, of course, not exactly new -- rumors have long circulated suggesting that Israel hacked Syrian air defense networks or used hidden software “kill switches” inside the networks to take them down before its air strikes on a supposed Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.

-- John Reed
 

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April 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made his entrance this morning at Camp Lejeune, NC, in a V-22 Osprey.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell tells us Gates flew in a V-22 from the Marine Corps air station in New River, NC, to the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, NC. It was Gates’ first flight in a V-22, Morrell said.

Gates has made several appearances of late in which he has explained his rationale behind a raft of cuts to major weapon systems -- and while the V-22 was not among those systems, the Osprey was the target of a rather prominent predecessor.

The Osprey program is famous for resisting termination during President George H. W. Bush’s administration, when then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney did all he could to end the program. Cheney did not prevail because the Marines’ allies on Capitol Hill kept the program alive. The Osprey program also weathered very tough times after two fatal V-22 mishaps occurred in 2000.

Time will tell whether any of the programs that Gates wants to curtail or kill will become his version of the Osprey. But in series of remarks this month, Gates has expressed optimism about his chances of winning support for his fiscal year 2010 budget recommendations.

-- Chris Castelli

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April 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Melissa Hathaway, the White House lead for the recently completed 60-day cybersecurity review, didn't exactly let the cat out of the bag during her speech yesterday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

While the review team delivered the report on April 17, officials will begin discussing the results publicly only after administration leaders have had a chance to assess them, Hathaway said.

Of note, although hardly surprising, are her signals that the report recommends direct White House leadership on the issue of cybersecurity. "It requires leading from the top -- from the White House, to departments and agencies, state, local, tribal governments, the C-suite, and to the local classroom and library," she said.

At the Pentagon, similarly clear reporting lines are beginning to form: From the defense secretary to a four-star U.S. Cyber Command chief to the service-led component commands for cyber.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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April 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved aggressively today to set the terms of the upcoming debate with Congress over the fiscal year 2010 Pentagon budget request – arguing that any significant changes to his recommendations for cutting and adjusting weapon system programs amount to harming troops and compromising national security. His spokesman, Geoff Morrell, just forwarded the following excerpts from Gates' remarks today to Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC, who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan:

"This visit and spending some time with these Marines who are about to deploy simply reminds me of one of the basic themes of what I'm trying to do in FY10 budget. One dollar of pork in our budget is a dollar I can't spend to support these Marines. One dollar spent on capabilities we don't need is a dollar that I can't spend in getting ready for future threats. One dollar spent for equipment excess to our military requirements is a dollar that I can't use to help protect the American people. So I am hoping that the Congress will take a careful look at this budget and the change we are trying to make in no small part to provide the necessary support for these men and women who are about to go into combat."

-- Jason Sherman
 

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April 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Officials conducting a capabilities-based assessment of the military's forensics capabilities will soon wrap up the functional needs analysis of the drill, we're told. Next up, starting in June, will be a functional solutions analysis, which will have officials thinking about concrete solutions to the many capability gaps found during the FNA.

The goal is to formulate a Defense Department-wide program with centralized oversight of the relatively new area of battlefield forensics. Counterinsurgency operations amid the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan have shown the need for law-enforcement-style capabilities to solve what officials consider crimes, including suicide attacks and attacks with improvised explosive devices.

The Army's Training and Doctrine Command is leading the CBA. The drill is part of the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, a highly scripted process designed to ensure new capabilities can be used across the services.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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April 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Amid public professions of the excellent U.S.-Canadian security cooperation, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano this week said she is troubled by -- as she described it -- known or suspected terrorists crossing the border from Canada into the United States.

In an interview with CBC News, Napolitano described the situation at America's northern border like this:

"((Y))es, Canada is not Mexico. It doesn't have a drug war going on; it didn't have 6,000 homicides that were drug-related last year. Nonetheless, to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border. There are real issues there."

Since the April 20 interview, news reports have focused mostly on follow-up remarks she made suggesting those carrying out the September 11, 2001, attacks also had made their way to the United States from Canada. In a statement released after the interview, Napolitano said she knows this to be untrue.

But Napolitano's 9/11 connection comments aside, her remarks about the threat of terrorists traveling from Canada to the United States mirror a belief held by some in the military community.

As InsideDefense.com reported in February, officials at U.S. Northern Command's Joint Task Force-North believe Canadian immigration policies are creating a "favorable" environment for what the U.S. government deems to be potential terrorists seeking entry into the United States from the north.

The assessment was inadvertently posted on a JTF-North Web site earlier this year, and officials have since removed the document. (Our readers can view  two Canada-related briefing slides extracted from it -- marked "for official use only/law-enforcement sensitive" -- here.)

U.S. security officials have declined to elaborate on the findings in the document. Tristan Landry, a spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, argued Canada presents no greater threat to U.S. security "than any other Western democracy."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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April 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House yesterday sent the Senate the nominations of officials slated for top jobs in the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the the intelligence community. You've heard the names before, but now the nominations are in the hands of senators who can hold confirmation hearings for the nominees:

* Rand Beers, to be under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,

* Wallace Gregson, to be an assistant secretary of defense

* Priscilla Guthrie, to be chief information officer for the director of national intelligence

* Bonnie Jenkins, for the rank of ambassador during her tenure of service as coordinator for threat reduction programs.

* Elizabeth King, to be an assistant secretary of defense

* Raymond Mabus, to be Navy secretary

* Michael Nacht, to be an assistant secretary of defense

* Donald Remy, to be general counsel of the Army

* Robert Work, to be Navy under secretary

-- Chris Castelli

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April 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee will meet tomorrow morning to consider President Obama's $75.5 billion Pentagon supplemental spending request for the remainder of 2009. The request was sent to Congress on April 9.

A subcommittee spokesman told us that Chairman Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) will not issue a press release following the mark-up, opting to wait until the bill is reviewed by the full appropriations committee. Nor will Murtha meet with reporters, the spokesman said.

During a Senate floor speech this morning, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) attacked the Obama supplemental request and the administration's approach to defense spending.

Let’s compare 2009 to 2010, where I have been accused of not being able to do math. Defense spending does increase from 2009 to 2010 by $14.9B but, according to President Obama’s letter to Speaker Pelosi on April 9th, there will be no more supplementals. That would mean DOD would have to fund all wartime operations to the tune of $100B dollars-plus. However, President Obama does fence off $130B for “Overseas Contingency Funds,” which could be used for getting out of Iraq and increased operations in Afghanistan. Even adding the entire $130B to defense spending, which is never the case with supplemental funding, the overall increase in defense spending for 2010 is $3.5B. If we estimate 2% inflation for cost growth of just the defense budget, defense spending actually decreases by $7.3B. Now add in the accelerated growth of the Army and Marine Corps -- a 65K and 22K increase respectively -- at a cost of approximately $13B to cover pay and health care costs and you start to see the beginnings of how our military modernization gets gutted. DOD has "must pays' -- personnel, operations and maintenance, ongoing wartime and contingencies operations. With a zero supplemental fund, the money to pay for these "must pays" will be taken from the base defense budget and the areas that are always hit are research and development and acquisition

-- Thomas Duffy

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April 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Today marks the beginning of the third week of April -- a week the Obama administration had once targeted for transmitting the fiscal year 2010 budget request to Congress.

Today, an official at the White House Office of Management told Defense:Next that the current plan for sending details of the Pentagon's $534 billion spending to lawmakers is “sometime at the end of April or early May.”

In orther words: Maybe next week, maybe the week after.

In March, InsideDefense.com first reported that the schedule could slip into next month.

--Jason Sherman

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April 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At 4:30 p.m. today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden were scheduled to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office. No word on the agenda for the session, which was closed to the media.

Earlier today, Obama held his first official cabinet meeting. The president also spoke to CIA leaders and employees this afternoon.

-- Chris Castelli

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April 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This morning at the scenic campus of the Naval War College in Newport, RI, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked whether the Defense Department is focusing enough on commercial-off-the-shelf technologies, as opposed to developing the most advanced systems possible from scratch.

“I think we are beginning to take what is commercially available more seriously in the acquisition and procurement arena,” Gates told the audience. “Frankly I think that getting more civilian professional acquisition employees will create new opportunities for that. Obviously, there’s a certain inherent conflict of interest when you have contractors managing contractors and a desire to get the most technologically advanced -- and by happenstance the most expensive -- capability that you can.”

Gates noted there were instances in his recent fiscal year 2010 budget decisions, including in the classified arena, where DOD walked away from a very high-risk, high-technology capability in favor of buying COTS.

-- Chris Castelli
 

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April 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Two key nominations were announced today by the White House. Michael Nacht is President Obama's nominee to be the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs. Robert Litt is the nominee to be the general counsel in the office of the director of national intelligence. Here are their bios, as released by the White House:

Michael Nacht, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense (Global Strategic Affairs), Department of Defense
Michael Nacht is currently Professor of Public Policy and former Aaron Wildavsky Dean at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California - Berkeley. Nacht served a three-year term as a member of the U.S. Department of Defense Threat Reduction Advisory Committee, for which he chaired panels on counter terrorism and counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, reporting to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. He continues to consult for Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. From 1994-1997, Nacht was assistant director for Strategic and Eurasian Affairs at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, leading its work on nuclear arms reduction negotiations with Russia and initiating nuclear arms control talks with China. He participated in five summit meetings with President Clinton - four with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and one with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Nacht has testified before Congress on subjects ranging from arms control to the supply and demand for scientists in the workplace. Nacht earned his B.S. in aeronautics and astronautics at New York University and began his career working on missile aerodynamics for NASA before earning a Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University.

Robert S. Litt, Nominee for General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Robert S. Litt is a Partner at Arnold & Porter LLP, where he specializes in white collar criminal defense. Prior to joining the firm, Litt served for five years at the Department of Justice as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division. In these positions, his responsibilities included matters relating to national security, healthcare fraud, public corruption, computer crime and intellectual property. From 1978 to 1984, Litt served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, including as Chief Appellate Attorney. Litt is a member of the governing Council of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association and is a member of the Advisory Committee to the ABA’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security. He clerked for the Honorable Edward Weinfeld in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the Honorable Potter Stewart on the U.S. Supreme Court. Litt holds an A.B. from Harvard College, a M.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

-- Chris Castelli