The Insider

By
November 23, 2010 at 9:19 PM

While the eyes of the world have been riveted on the Korean  Peninsula following North Korea's artillery attack on a South Korean island, U.S. Pacific Fleet is thinking of the long-term prospects for the region.

On Nov. 16, Pacific Fleet headquarters issued a request for a contractor to:

study the diplomatic, political, economic, security, and strategic implications of a regime collapse in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and provide political-military policy recommendations to mitigate the disruptions and security threats inevitably attendant to such an event. This study and analysis should be holistic in nature and include participants from key regional countries, for the purpose of collaboratively exploring issues of vital national security interest to the United States and other countries in Northeast Asia.

And seeing as Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 180 ships, nearly 2,000 aircraft and 125,000 Sailors, Marines and Civilians, according to Navy figures, one might think that the Navy wouldn't have to contract out studies on the implications of regime collapse in (by some accounts ) the world's most notorious rogue state. InsideDefense.com sought more details on the contract announcement from Pacific Fleet, but Navy spokesmen have yet to respond.

-- Andrew Burt

By
November 23, 2010 at 3:36 PM

Ever read through a government report or memo -- especially one coming out of the Pentagon -- and felt you needed a road map just to find your way to the end? The Obama administration is trying to do something about that by issuing preliminary rules yesterday for the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

President Obama signed the legislation into law back in mid-October with an eye toward promoting "clear government communication that the public can understand and use," according to an Office of Management and Budget memo released yesterday. The law requires OMB to "develop and issue guidance on implementing the requirements" of the act by April 13, 2011. In the memo, OMB says that final guidance will be developed by the deadline but until then the preliminary rules will give federal agencies some much needed direction.

OMB explains the purpose behind the law this way:

Plain writing is concise, simple, meaningful, and well-organized. It avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity, and obscurity. It does not contain unnecessary complexity.

This is not the first time a sitting administration has tried to untangle government syntax and retire certain jargon. OMB provides several examples of how plain writing can save the taxpayer a few dollars:

  • • reduce questions from the public to agency staff;
  • • improve compliance with regulations;
  • • reduce resources spent on enforcement;
  • • reduce errors on forms and applications; and
  • • reduce time spent addressing errors.

-- Thomas Duffy

By
November 23, 2010 at 1:55 PM

The White House is strongly condemning North Korea’s artillery attack today on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. In a statement released early this morning, the administration urged North Korea to “halt its belligerent action and to fully abide by the terms of the Armistice Agreement.” The United States is “firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability,” the White House said.

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp underscored the risk posed by North Korean artillery during a Sept. 16 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing concerning security on the Korean Peninsula. “Sir, they clearly have well over 200 long-range systems that could strike the heart of Seoul today without moving either their weapons or their ammunition. And with a city of 28 million, that's within that range,” Sharp said. If North Korea were to shell Seoul, the attack would be devastating, he said.

“We work very hard, as you know, in our war plans to be prepared to quickly take that artillery out both by counter-fire artillery and by joint fires by our naval and our Air Forces both on the Republic of Korea and the U.S. side,” Sharp said. “We work that very hard throughout the year in many, many different exercises. But I've got to be realistic. We're not going to be able to stop all that artillery, and there will be a lot of destruction if they choose to do that.”

-- Chris Castelli

By
November 22, 2010 at 5:42 PM

NATO leaders agreed over the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, to a new strategic concept -- designed in part to guide the alliance over the next decade -- that makes missile defense a mission for the 28-member states.

The new concept commits the alliance to:

develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence, which contributes to the indivisible security of the Alliance. We will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners.

The gathering was also hailed by participants as an opportunity for NATO and Russia to reset relations. The alliance, in the strategic concept, committed to:

enhance the political consultations and practical cooperation with Russia in areas of shared interests, including missile defence, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-piracy and the promotion of wider international security; use the full potential of the NATO-Russia Council for dialogue and joint action with Russia.

-- Jason Sherman

By
November 19, 2010 at 7:28 PM

In CNBC's lead-in to a segment on growing tensions between the United States and China, the network's Power Lunch program today featured at some length an Inside the Army story published on InsideDefense.com earlier this month. From that piece:

Army officials met outside Washington last week for a thought experiment about the implications of a large-scale economic breakdown that would force the Army to absorb significant funding cuts and prepare the service for an increased role in keeping domestic order amid civil unrest.

The three-day session was part of the Army's Unified Quest 2011 wargame, an annual series of seminars aimed at putting service assumptions to the test and trying to gauge how the Army must change to remain relevant in future conflicts.

Officials picked the scenario of a worldwide economic collapse because it was deemed a plausible course of events given the current global security environment. In such a future, the United States would be broke, causing a domino effect that would push economies across the globe into chaos.

The Army would have to significantly alter its investment portfolio, focusing on light and inexpensive forces, according to Lt. Col. Mark Elfendahl, who led a group of experts examining the economic-collapse scenario. An increased focus on domestic activities might be a way of justifying whatever Army force structure the country can still afford, he said in a Nov. 4 briefing about his group's conclusions at Booze Allen Hamilton's conference facility in McLean, VA.

Watch: the segment here.

-- Dan Dupont

By
November 19, 2010 at 4:54 PM

With the Marine Corps' variant of the Joint Strike Fighter set next Monday to face the judgement of Pentagon leaders, we hear from a reader -- a seasoned Washington hand and retired Marine -- who believes the outcome of the Nov. 22 JSF milestone review carries implications far beyond the F-35 program.

Senior Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have questioned the fundamental need for the F-35B to the nation in recent weeks following a technical review that determined the Marine Corps' variant will require another substantial infusion of cash in the fiscal year 2012 budget and additional time to develop in order to address new technical challenges. Could this line of questioning be prelude to dramatic changes to Marine Corps, which potentially are now in play?

Our reader opines:

I think I understand why Bob Gates picked Jim Amos as Commandant and it makes me an even greater admirer of Gates. Only by having a Marine Aviator as Commandant, and a fixed-wing jet pilot at that, could Gates have the Marines start down a path towards doing away with their fixed-wing jet assets. When Amos says, after the new year, that “middleweight forces” do not need to possess organic fixed-wing assets no one in Marine Aviation will argue with him. Only Gates would have thought of using that sort of velvet knife to surgically remove “another Air Force” from DoD’s balance sheet.  Once Amos shows he has the “mettle” to give up on fixed-wing aviation, the concept of ship-to-objective maneuver (STOM) via EFVs will be next package to be unceremoniously heaved overboard.

-- Jason Sherman

By
November 18, 2010 at 8:14 PM

The Defense Department has released its annual financial report covering the recently completed fiscal year 2010 period.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn laid out the department's view of how finances were handled over the past 12 months:

In FY 2010 – while military operations continued in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world – DoD launched an equally important battle: to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and cost-consciousness within its own organization. Initial efforts focused on ending or restructuring troubled or excess weapons programs. In FY 2010, about 20 programs were affected, with additional changes included in the FY 2011 budget request.

The savings were substantial. The Nation’s difficult economic and financial situation means, however, that additional changes will be needed so the Department can maintain the modest, real budget growth necessary to sustain current force structure and make additional investments in modernization.

An issue that has plagued DOD for years is the inability to produce a "clean" audit. The poor performance of the department's financial management systems is to blame. Further in the annual report, the department's inspector general alludes to this problem:

We are unable to express an opinion on the DOD Agency-Wide FY 2010 and FY 2009 Basic Financial Statements because of limitations on the scope of our work. Thus, the financial statements may be unreliable.

-- Thomas Duffy

By
November 18, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters today the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program will go before the Defense Acquisition Board on Monday for an assessment of the program's ongoing technical baseline review.

That "soup-to-nuts" review, being led by JSF Program Executive Officer Vice Adm. David Venlet, is near completion and has discovered additional issues that are of concern, Morrell said. For example, the aircraft needs more lines of software code than previously expected, he said.

Morrell added that no decisions are expected to be made during the DAB meeting. He declined to comment on what recommendations might come out of it, noting that any big decisions on JSF would be made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, probably in the fiscal year 2012 budget process. He stressed the department is not wavering on the program, which remains of "vital importance."

-- Chris Castelli

By
November 18, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Army Gen. Carter Ham and Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler are being considered this morning by the Senate Armed Services Committee to fill key military billets, -- commander of U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Strategic Command, respectively.

Their prepared answers to advance questions asked by the committee are here.

-- Jason Sherman

By
November 17, 2010 at 8:45 PM

The Air Force has yet to make contact with an F-22A Raptor fighter lost last night somewhere in the skies above Alaska, according to a service announcement released today. Air traffic control personnel at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, AK, lost contact with the fifth-generation fighter during a routine training mission, according to the statement. Contact between the fighter and base personnel was lost around 7:40 p.m. Alaska Standard Time -- 11:40 EST -- last night, base spokesman Corrina Jones told The News Tribune in Tacoma, WA.

Members of the Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Coordination Center have deployed HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and an HC-130 King aircraft to an area northeast of Cantwell, which was the last known location of the aircraft, according to the statement. The aircraft was attached to the 3rd Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

-- Carlo Muñoz

By
November 17, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Last week it was President Obama's deficit-reduction task force rolling out lots of options for getting America's finances in order; today the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force takes a crack at it, including some defense budget-cutting moves.

In a 140-page report released today, the task force recommends freezing defense spending at fiscal year 2011 levels for the next five years. The Obama administration is requesting $708 billion for FY-11.

Some of the options the task force is offering include shrinking the size of the uniformed military and canceling or slowing down several high-priced weapons programs including the Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Virginia Class submarine and the ballistic missile defense program.

If these options are adopted, the United States would still have the most formidable military in the world, the task force argues:

Setting mission priorities and accounting for the fiscally constrained environment must be a part of defense planning discipline. After the kind of force and budgetary restructuring that we discuss here, the Task Force believes that the U.S. would have a military tailored to meet the priority missions that it will be asked to perform after the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan conclude. The options described here are based on an evaluation of the strategic and military risks that the U.S. might face in the future. The illustrative package gives top priority to counter-terror and cyber-security operations, and assigns significant priority to deterrence and reassurance, sea patrol, humanitarian relief, and peacekeeping. Conversely, the options assign low priority in the future to counterinsurgency, stabilization, and governance. The plan also provides a sizable and important hedge for conventional combat and strengthens the military “tooth” (combat forces) relative to the support “tail.” Setting these priorities allows for a reduction of 275,000 in the active duty force. Approximately 1.21 million troops would remain – a large, modern, and more deployable force than any other country in the world.

The task force is chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former White House Budget Director and Federal Reserve Vice Chair Alice Rivlin.

-- Thomas Duffy

By
November 17, 2010 at 7:58 PM

The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee have announced their line-ups for the 111th Congress, issuing a slate of subcommittee assignments today that includes a few changes.

The changes reflect the appointments to the Committee of Senator Joe Manchin III (D-West Virginia) and Senator Christopher A. Coons (D-Delaware) on November 15, 2010.

A complete listing of all subcommittee members was also sent out, so we pass it along here:

Subcommittee on AirLand

Senator Lieberman, Chairman

 

Senator Thune, Ranking Member

Senator Bayh

 

Senator Inhofe

Senator Webb

 

Senator Sessions

Senator McCaskill

 

Senator Chambliss

Senator Hagan

 

Senator Brown

Senator Begich

 

Senator Burr

Senator Burris

 

 

Senator Coons

 

 

Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Senator Bill Nelson, Chairman

 

Senator LeMieux, Ranking Member

Senator Reed

 

Senator Graham

Senator Ben Nelson

 

Senator Wicker

Senator Bayh

 

Senator Brown

Senator Udall

 

Senator Burr

Senator Bingaman

 

Senator Collins

Senator Manchin

 

 

Senator Coons

 

 

 

Subcommittee on Personnel

Senator Webb, Chairman

 

Senator Graham, Ranking Member

Senator Lieberman

 

Senator Chambliss

Senator Akaka

 

Senator Thune

Senator Ben Nelson

 

Senator Wicker

Senator McCaskill

 

Senator  LeMieux

Senator Hagan

 

Senator Vitter

Senator Begich

 

Senator Collins

Senator Burris

 

 

Senator Bingaman

 

 

 

Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support

Senator Bayh, Chairman

 

Senator Burr, Ranking Member

Senator Akaka

 

Senator Inhofe

Senator McCaskill

 

Senator Chambliss

Senator Udall

 

Senator Thune

Senator Burris

 

 

Senator Manchin

 

 

 

Subcommittee on Seapower

Senator Reed, Chairman

 

Senator Wicker, Ranking Member

Senator Lieberman

 

Senator Sessions

Senator Akaka

 

Senator  LeMieux

Senator Bill Nelson

 

Senator Vitter

Senator Webb

 

Senator Collins

Senator Hagan

 

 

Senator Coons

 

 

 

Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

Senator Ben Nelson, Chairman

 

Senator Vitter, Ranking Member

Senator Reed

 

Senator Sessions

Senator Bill Nelson

 

Senator Inhofe

Senator Udall

 

Senator Graham

Senator Begich

 

Senator Brown

Senator Bingaman

 

 

Senator Manchin

 

 

-- Dan Dupont

 

By
November 17, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) made news this week when he turned 180 degrees on his opposition to a ban on budget earmarks. The issue is at the top of the list for the new wave of Republicans coming into Congress.

But yesterday, two Republican senators spoke up unabashedly in support of the earmark process, citing prominent defense programs in doing so. The occasion was a press conference announcing new leadership for the Senate National Guard Caucus. Joining Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) were Republicans Kit Bond (MO) and new caucus chair Lindsey Graham.

A reporter asked about the earmark ban. Bond said a ban "doesn't make sense," and the following exchange then took place:

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. Okay. Earmarks have been abused. There's plenty of examples of times when the money was wasted. I can give you one example of where an earmark, I think, was wisely invoked. Remember the up-armored humvee debate and the MRAP debate? I went to Iraq and Afghanistan like these gentlemen do. Kit's had a son over there in the Marines.

And I'm for the moratorium up to the point that it puts my nation at risk. And I've said that in a public statement today. I would support the moratorium, but if there was a national security issue that the moratorium affected in an adverse way, I will do what's necessary.

The Marines were really down on the up-armored humvee. I had a Marine captain tell me in 2004, '05 -- I can't remember the year -- that he would get court-martialed before he sent his Marines out beyond the wire in an up-armored humvee because they were coffins.

The Marines had access to MRAPs, and they have to take them in South Carolina, so I knew about them. And as a result, the up-armored humvee program was taking precedent over the MRAP program. And it was going to be terminated. Senator Levin and myself in the Defense authorization bill put $7 million into the budget to keep that line open. And when Secretary Gates came about a month later, the rest is history.

And what they've done on the equipment side, they're not giving themselves enough credit. I've been in the Guard and Reserves for over 20 years now. I've never seen a time where the Guard has the access to the equipment, modern capabilities, that they do today. And the only reason that happened is because of these two guys making sure the Guard didn't get left out.

So I'm willing to do the moratorium, but if I find a national security issue that's not being taken care of by the Pentagon, and we come together and say, "You know what, our men and women are going to suffer," I'm going to do what's necessary for the men and women.

SEN. LEAHY: Thank you.

SEN. BOND: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, if you could ever reach him, is a great opponent of earmarks because we earmarked the LITENING pod for the F-16, which took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous leader of Ansar al-Islam.

SEN. LEAHY: And he never -- he never thanked us. (Laughter.)

SEN. BOND: He's up there with the -- looking for the 72 virgins, I guess. Okay. Thanks.

SEN. LEAHY: I'll leave that one alone. (Laughter.)

-- Thomas Duffy

By
November 16, 2010 at 9:31 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today argued against cutting the defense budget to address the massive federal deficit.

“When it comes to the deficit, the Department of Defense is not the problem,” Gates said at the annual meeting of The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. The specific defense cuts recently proposed by the leaders of the administration’s deficit commission amount to “math, not strategy,” Gates said.

C-SPAN has video of Gates’ remarks. In the clip, Gates appears after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

-- Chris Castelli

By
November 16, 2010 at 3:31 PM

With money tight everywhere, the Obama administration is focusing on getting back taxpayer dollars that were doled out improperly.

In a 10-page memo sent out today to all federal agencies, the administration says it wants every department to submit a "recapture audit plan" by Jan. 14, 2011. These plans will form the main thrust of President Barack Obama's goal of cutting government-wide improper payments by $50 billion and retrieving at least $2 billion in improper payments by fiscal year 2012.

The memo explains:

As part of its Accountable Government Initiative, the Administration has moved to cut programs that do not work, streamline how government operates to save money and improve performance, and make government more open and responsive to the needs of the American people. One of the biggest sources of waste and inefficiency is the nearly $110 billion in improper payments1

made in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 to individuals, organizations, and contractors. Whether the errors resulted from inadequate record keeping, inaccurate eligibility determinations, inadvertent processing errors, the lack of timely and reliable information to confirm payment accuracy, or fraud, the amount of payment errors is unacceptable and must be addressed aggressively and comprehensively.

Each federal agency must publicly report its improper payments annually starting in FY-11.

-- Thomas Duffy