The Insider

October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Amid the extensive discussions of Iraq and the "surge" on the presidential campaign trail, Gen. David Petraeus this week took to the stage at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention and discussed potential "storm clouds" he says have the potential to reverse the progress made recently in Iraq.

He pointed to the challenge of integrating the Sons of Iraq, militia groups recruited by the United States, into the Iraqi Security Forces. He said 50,000 had been integrated so far, while there are close to 100,000 total. (Transcript here.)

Other concerns involve whether al Qaeda will reignite sectarian violence or if efforts by "al Qaeda and Sunni extremists to return to areas that they once controlled" will succeed.

Petraeus said there could be violence during provincial elections, which are scheduled for the end of January, and disagreement over provincial power and region formation. The return of displaced families could fuel various ethnic disputes, especially in Kirkuk, he said.

"So, many challenges. And the reasons that Gen. Odierno and I, and Amb. Crocker and others have cautioned, we think, responsibly, about the possibility of fragility and reversal of some of this progress," said Petraeus. (Video here.)

Petraeus also offered up an interesting take on a key battle in Iraq last year. He laid out how several different systems were used together to give the Army an absolute asymmetric advantage, listing the assets that Col. John Hort, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, had at his disposal 24 hours a day:

Two predator unmanned aerial vehicles, three Shadow, three other lower-level systems -- unmanned aerial vehicles, three teams of two Apaches each. He had counter-fire radars ringing the city that would tell us where they shot at us from. We had guided-missile launch rocket systems primed and ready to launch if we did detect the enemy earlier to put a strike right into the center of Sadr City and kill the group of individuals who were hiding right across in a hospital without breaking a window in that hospital. He had other assets supporting him -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, other governmental agencies, human intelligence operatives . . . and all these other systems -- Global Hawk, ((Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System)), moving target indicators, EP-3s. He had blimps with optics. He had towers with optics. All of this focus, in and support of elements that included tanks, Bradleys, Strykers, snipers and all of that pulled together under one brigade commander over the course of several weeks.

"No other military in the world could devote that level of assets to one theater, let alone one brigade," he added.

-- Kate Brannen

October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

As the Department of Homeland Security gears up for its first-ever transition of administrations, a report by a group of DHS advisers from early this year is worth revisiting.

Members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, in January, noted that terrorist attacks or natural disasters on U.S. soil during the transition period could catch leaders at the behemoth agency at a particularly bad time.

Specifically, the panelists are worried about what they call a “vulnerable period” -- the time frame beginning 30 days before the change in administration until six months afterwards.

“The ((panel)) believes that the incoming and outgoing administrations must work closely together during the administration transition. It is extremely clear that successful transitions require a shared commitment to ensuring a smooth transition of power. This is facilitated by a positive attitude and open mind in both incoming and outgoing administrations, combined with the willingness to respect and listen to each other’s concerns and priorities.”

For one, outgoing DHS leaders should offer “operational briefings” to the presidential nominees aimed at keeping them abreast of homeland security threats, the group recommended.

In addition, Congress and the new administration should closely cooperate to get key DHS staff confirmed and ready to go as soon as possible. Outgoing leadership also should ensure all political appointees have senior-level career personnel in place for backup, the group recommended.

In that context of talk about urgency, “vulnerable period” and “heightened threat,” this report we told you about earlier today is a good read.

The Homeland Security Advisory Panel last month produced another interesting document, titled “Top Ten Challenges Facing the Next Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Not surprisingly, the thorny issue of improving intelligence and information sharing is on that list, at No. 3.

Another tough one, at No. 8: “Find the right balance between secure borders and open doors to travelers, students and commerce.”

-- Sebastian Sprenger

October 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A long-running fight between the Navy and environmentalists over the use of mid-frequency sonar in a training range off the coast of Southern California, and the potential harm it could inflict on whales, found itself before the nine justices of the Supreme Court today. 

According to news reports, the justices seemed split during oral arguments. But Justice Stephen Breyer seemed downright frustrated by the dispute.
“This is -- I want to give you a chance to say what's so terrible about what they're doing,” Breyer told Richard Kendall, the lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has sued the Navy. “I will express a little frustration. Not your fault. But why couldn't you work this thing out? I mean, ((the Navy is)) willing to give you quite a lot of conditions, and you say, well, we have got to have more conditions. And you are asking us, who know nothing about whales and less about the military, to start reading all these documents to try to figure out who's right in the case where the other side says the other side is totally unreasonable.”
“The Navy is focused on having it its way or no way,” Kendall responded. (Full transcript here -- in .pdf.)
Environmentalists argue that sonar use is harmful to whales, disrupting their feeding and migration and in some cases causing injury or even death by beaching. Meanwhile, the Navy argues that sonar training is critical to the hunt for stealthy diesel-electric submarines. At the heart of the question is whether the courts can force the Navy to adhere to environmental laws when the President has deemed the training a “national security emergency.”
A judgment in the NRDC's favor could have far-reaching implications for the Navy, forcing it to alter the way it conducts training and fleet readiness in the future. For now, in its exercises off the Southern California coast, the Navy must adhere to the U.S. district court's requirement to power down its mid-frequency sonar when a whale is spotted 2,200 yards away.
“Legal experts said the case raises broad questions about the military's obligation to obey environmental laws,” The Washington Post reports.
-- Rebekah Gordon
October 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Congressional Budget Office yesterday said the federal budget deficit had ballooned to about $438 billion in fiscal year 2008, compared to $162 billion the year before. That number is "about $31 billion higher than the $407 billion deficit CBO projected this summer, primarily due to lower-than-projected revenues and higher-than-expected spending for defense and deposit insurance," CBO said

Wondering how this might affect defense spending in the near future? While Joseph Campbell of Barclays Capital did an informal survey of defense contractors recently who told him they felt that the recent financial turmoil wouldn't impact their credit ratings, Wall Street folks will get a chance to ask senior U.S. defense contractor officials directly during the upcoming quarterly earnings conference calls.
Here are links to the big ones (all times Eastern): 
Lockheed Martin -- Oct. 21, 11am
Boeing -- Oct. 22, 10:30am
General Dynamics: Oct. 22, 11:30am
Raytheon -- Oct. 23, 9am
United Technologies -- Oct. 16, 10am
Northrop Grumman -- Date/time not finalized yet 
We'll keep you posted on any major developments.
-- John Liang 
October 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Military leaders are still trying to get their hands around what it means to fight in cyberspace. From the outside, it’s hard to tell exactly how far the Pentagon has come in moving the idea of cyber warfare from a subject of study to a subject of doctrine writing and practice.

According to Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Basla, the deputy in the Joint Staff’s J-6 directorate, the development of the intellectual underpinning of cyber warfare is not yet completed.

Fundamental questions remain to be answered, he told us at AUSA  yesterday, including “What constitutes a cyber attack?” and “How do we integrated cyber in the other warfighting domains?”

Or, put differently, at what point does a cyber conflict turn into a shooting war?

“We don’t have a strong answer to that,” Basla said.

According to the general, officials also are wondering how deterrence, a concept that brings back memories of Cold War nuclear arms racing, could be applied in cyberspace.

“There are huge efforts going on in studying all those different pieces,” Basla added.

At U.S. Strategic Command, where officials know a thing or two about deterrence, that very subject was up for discussion at a January 2008 workshop.

The two-day event produced a collection of papers by attendees, including a piece by defense strategist Tom Barnett, which we’ve posted here.

The military produced two key documents in recent years, both classified, guiding goings-on in the cyberspace arena: The 2006 National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations and the companion implementation plan. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the strategy on Dec. 11, 2006, in one of his last moves as Pentagon chief. His successors signed the implementation plan on Oct. 1, 2007.

The implementation plan contains 42 different “activities” that are being executed by “a number of different organizations,” according to Basla.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

October 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Despite another punishing day on Wall Street -- where stock prices plummeted more than 500 points, dragging the Dow Jones Industrial Average down to 9,447 -- the Pentagon’s main weapon systems builders report they are well-positioned to weather the credit crisis that is rocking global markets, Joseph Campbell of Barclays Capital told investors today. 

Campbell, who analyzes aerospace and defense firms, conducted an informal survey asking firms that he follows to sketch out potential impacts of the credit crisis.

“Nearly all of the companies in our universe responded that they did not expect the credit crisis to have any impact on their financial liquidity or their ability to access credit markets,” he writes in a research note. “Most said they had no plans or expectations of needs to access credit markets and that their current cash on hand, expected cash flows, and credit facilities already in place would likely be adequate for all of their expected needs.”

He concludes:

Nearly all aerospace-defense companies in our universe have very good credit ratings, strong cash flows, and generally large amounts of cash on hand. As a result, we do not expect the credit crisis to have large impacts on the industry’s access to cash. The main impact we believe will be to weaken the global economy and to make credit for aircraft financing harder to find and more expensive to obtain. 

-- Jason Sherman

October 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Army has unveiled an important new addition to its doctrinal canon: Field Manual 3-07: Stability Operations. Yesterday’s Washington Post summed it up nicely:

The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.The doctrine, which has generated intense debate in the

U.S. military establishment and government, holds that in coming years, American troops are not likely to engage in major ground combat against hostile states as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead will frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas to safeguard populations and rebuild countries. (full article

This new manual is being released today as the annual AUSA convention begins in Washington. It is the latest installment in a wider effort to bring the Army’s doctrine in line with strategic guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to prepare for an array of threats much wider than traditional state-on-state conflicts.

Earlier this year the Army updated its keystone doctrine, Field Manual 3-0: Operations, shifting emphasis from conventional to a “full spectrum” opeations, a change that places post-conflict stability operations on par with offensive and defensive engagement. That change was made in accordance with Defense Department directive, 3000.05, issued in November 2005 that defined stability operations as “a core U.S. military mission” to be given “priority comparable to combat operations.”

--Jason Sherman

October 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Looks like China didn't take long to respond to the Defense Department's announcement on Friday of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan:

Beijing has notified the U.S. that it will not go forward with some senior level visits and some other cooperative military-to-military plans, Marine Maj. Stewart Upton, a Defense Department spokesman, told The Associated Press.

"In response to Friday's announcement of Taiwan arms sales, the People's Republic of China canceled or postponed several upcoming military-to-military exchanges," he said.

Sister publication Inside U.S.-China Trade reported last month that the sales had stalled since 2001 because of internal disagreement between political parties in Taiwan over whether the sales were necessary given the fact that they would likely anger China.

Taiwan approved the weapons purchases last December following a compromise in its legislature that limited some of the sales.

In a statement released over the weekend, a Chinese government spokesman called the potential sale "a serious violation of the principles set in the three Sino-U.S. Joint Communiqués, August 17 Communiqué in particular, and gross interference in China's internal affairs, which will undermine China's national security, and create disturbance and obstacles to the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations. The Chinese government and people will definitely respond with strong indignation."

-- John Liang

October 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post last week ran a good piece on the Pentagon’s use of information operations in Iraq. The story is based on a contract awarded last month to four public relations firms. Under the contract, the Post reports, the companies are charged with producing “media campaigns” that cast U.S. objectives in Iraq in a positive light and convince residents of the barbarism of the insurgency.

The application of information operations during future wars likely will be near the top of the agenda for the new defense leadership. The field is considered key to irregular warfare, which many defense officials believe to be the predominant type of conflict facing America in the foreseeable future.

An August draft version of a yet-unreleased policy directive governing IW says information ops are crucial for neutralizing “adversary propaganda” during Iraq-style counterinsurgency campaigns, as we reported in September.

Exactly how this should be done isn’t all that clear yet, according to experts and officials, who say some thorny issues remain to be resolved.

For example, one question is who should be in charge of conducting information operations. “IO authorities have been a subject of much contention from the outset over a decade ago,” one expert writes.

While the authority to employ IO initially rested solely with the “national command authority,” which consists of the president and the defense secretary, the combatant commanders were given more power over IO some years ago, this expert said. “Now ((it is)) a bit of pulling and hauling, with many hoping a balanced result will ensue.”

There also were instances of friction among the COCOMs themselves, we’re told. One official described a “food fight” breaking out at one point over operational control of IO forces and equipment between U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Central Command as part of the military’s “Countering Adversary Use of the Internet” program.

That program targets the online propaganda efforts of violent Islamic extremists, we reported last month.

In that context, the now-declassified Rumsfeld-era information operations roadmap, from 2003, remains a great read.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

October 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

During last night's vice presidential debate, Democratic nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) gave a brief shout-out to Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. If you left the room for even a few seconds you might have missed it, but it’s worthy of note given that the blast-proof truck program has long been a priority of Biden’s.

His reminder of his work on MRAPs -- he argued for huge amounts of money for the vehicles -- came during a discussion with Republican nominee Gov. Sarah Palin about troop funding.

“John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPs, those things that are protecting the governor's son and, pray God, my son and a lot of other sons and daughters,” he said during last night's 90-minute debate.

But, these days the MRAP program isn't expected to get a whole lot more funding; in fact, it's winding down. The Defense Department issued what was likely the last program contract last month, this time to International Military and Government.

However, a new effort -- known now as MRAP “Lite” -- is emerging. Check back with Inside the Army next week for more information on that initiative.

-- Marjorie Censer

Editor’s note: We keep very close tabs on MRAP at this special report.

And: Sign up for our MRAP Alert e-mail service here.

October 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM
For the first time in months, the Air Force has a nearly complete senior leadership staff. The Senate voted yesterday evening to confirm Michael Donley as Air Force secretary and Lt. Gen. William Fraser as the vice chief of staff.
Donley -- who has been serving in an acting capacity since June 21 -- becomes the Air Force's 22nd secretary. But his time as the service's top civilian could be limited, though, as a new administration will enter the White House in January and likely make new appointments.
As for Fraser, the president must offer the official appointment to the general before he can assume his new position, according to an Air Force statement released last night. The general -- who now serves as the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- will assume the vice chief of staff position on Oct 9.
The position of under secretary of the Air Force -- which has been vacant since Ronald Sega stepped down in August 2007 -- and assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, remain the only unfilled senior positions. Kevin Billings has been serving in the assistant secretary role since this summer.
In addition, the Senate has confirmed Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley to receive his fourth star and lead the National Guard Bureau. McKinley becomes the first four-star general in the NGB's history, as we reported this morning
The move reflects changes made in the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which provided a fourth star for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, mandated that at least one deputy head of U.S. Northern Command be a Guard officer and expanded the bureau’s charter.
McKinley, who is the director of the Air National Guard, will succeed Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, who was confirmed on Thursday as the first National Guard deputy commander for NORTHCOM, according to a National Guard Bureau statement. 
-- Marcus Weisgerber
October 2, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Two stories posted yesterday shed some much-needed light on the goings-on at the Pentagon as the Bush administration winds down.

First up:

Joint Staff officials are beginning a sweeping review of combatant command and service priorities that could lay the groundwork for the next administration’s decisions early next year on everything from Afghanistan to weapons of mass destruction, according to defense officials.

The analysis is part of the military’s second “comprehensive joint assessment,” a little-known process piloted last fall. As part of this year’s iteration, military leaders in June asked the combatant commanders and service leaders to compile a list of resource priorities, concept-development and experimentation plans, and assessments of the security environment in their areas of responsibility.

In response to the data call, the combatant commanders crafted lists of “warfighter challenges” specific to their regions, describing where they want to see increased investment, according to a defense official.

Joint Staff officials now are beginning to comb through the heaps of data, trying to determine trends, we’re told.

This year marks the second time the military establishment is conducting an annual comprehensive joint assessment. The drill will be soon be codified in the upcoming CJCS directive 3100.01B, which governs the Joint Strategic Planning System.

Officials said the timing of the exercise is opportune, as it is expected to flesh out a comprehensive portrayal of all happenings at the COCOMs just when a new president-elect weighs his first defense-related moves.

Cynics could argue the CJA, like many other Pentagon plans and strategies drawn up toward the end of the Bush era, is doomed to have a limited shelf life.

But, officials say, the review is the product of a supposedly apolitical military caste whose advice has merit regardless of who moves into the White House.

The other story of note concerns the transition to that next administration -- and efforts to figure out which issues, according to the current leadership, should matter most to the next:

The Pentagon's top brass are homing in on about 10 issues identified this summer as crucial matters for the next president and his Defense Department transition team to address as they take the reins of the U.S. military bureaucracy early next year, according to Pentagon officials.

Nearly all of the top issues are classified secret, and most deal with geopolitical challenges, these officials say. They are part of a wider package of 90 briefings detailing issues of lesser import that are expected be of interest to an incoming administration.

“They deal with issues such as sustaining the fight and making the appropriate fiscal decisions at the right time,” said one Pentagon official who has seen the briefings. “It’s not a wish list.”

The story adds important details on the work of the Chairman's New Administration Transition Team, led by this general.

-- Sebastian Sprenger


October 2, 2008 at 5:00 AM
A growing consensus among national security experts holds that in order for the U.S. military to be successful in the types of missions it is fighing, it needs better support from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. But for that to happen, these other federal agencies need a dramatic boost in resources, some of those experts said this week.
"We have more members in military bands than we have foreign service officers," said retired Lt. Col. John Nagl, at a panel discussion yesterday hosted by the Center for a New American Security, where he is a senior fellow.
While Nagl said he likes a John Philip Sousa march as much as the next guy, he is willing to scrap bands in favor of compact discs if it means defense dollars can be spared for the State Department. "We need a bigger State Department more than we need a bigger Army," said Nagl. "I believe that very strongly."
At the same event, a discussion titled "Officership In a Time of War," Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, voiced similar sentiments.
"I'd like to see a surge in the State Department," he said, crediting both "kinetic and non-kinetic solutions" for the decrease in violence in Iraq.
And in that vein, Chiarelli ascribed the recent decline in violence not just to the fabled surge of additional troops, but to the Anbar Awakening -- the movement among Sunni tribes to act as security forces alongside coalition troops -- and the work of people like Paul Brinkley, the deputy under secretary of defense for business transformation, who led the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.
"I happen to believe it's more than just the five BCTs ((brigade combat teams)) that are responsible for the security situation that we see today," said. Gen. Peter Chiarelli.
A new report from the RAND Corp., "Integrating Instruments of Power and Influence," takes up similar themes. The report argues that to better prepare for future military interventions, "the United States needs to shift substantial resources to the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, and military-civilian efforts must be integrated from top to bottom."
It also recommends:
"A major increase is needed in U.S. resources for non-military activities -- where the ratio between military and non-military national security spending is now 17 to 1. This should include adding at least 6,600 Foreign Service officers for the State Department, 2000 for USAID, and recreating a separate “United States Information Agency-like” agency."
The provisional reconstruction teams in Iraq are good examples of military and civilian officials teaming up, performing tasks for which they are best suited, said an Army colonel in the audience at the CNAS event.
"If you marry the military's capacity with discrete civilian expertise, it is a winning combination," said Michele Flournoy, president and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security. She said the military can provide security, transportation, planning and expertise to better enable their less-resourced civilian counterparts to do their jobs.
-- Kate Brannen
October 2, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Obama senior foreign policy adviser Richard Danzig had breakfast with defense reporters this morning, and he was asked whether Obama would ask America's European allies for more help in Afghanistan. 

Danzig responded by explaining how he thinks Obama would change America's relations overseas: 
One of the many remarkable things the election of Senator Obama would produce is a very different view of America through much of the world. Lots of enthusiasm for him in Europe but obviously also in Asia and Africa and Latin America. That gives some greater freedom of action to governments in those countries to support America. And that's a worldwide observation, whether it's Japanese ships in the Indian Ocean or French combat troops in Afghanistan.
My sense is that one can fairly and should ask the Europeans to do more in Afghanistan. Where for many nations that focus should be on combat troops, there is also potential for dealing with support of the police and the civilian reconstruction items I've mentioned as priorities where many of them have real resources to offer. 
But how, Danzig was asked, can some of these countries send troops if their populace is against doing so? 
This comes back to my observation that Sen. Obama is not a miracle worker, and there are real difficulties and many (countries) will remain unpersuaded. But he would instantly be our most persuasive advocate. As I've indicated I have great respect for Secretary Gates but I think there's a large difference between the potential that a new president, particularly what a president Obama would have, recognizing that 80 percent of the world roughly articulates a desire to have him as president and 20 percent Sen. McCain.
 It's an extraordinarily dramatic evocative power he has. I was with him in Berlin and saw the manifestation of that there. And this translates into advantages for America. Does it translate into magical bottom-line resolutions? No, it doesn't. Will it be as strong on the first day as it might be on the fifth year? Yes. I think it's definitely something that we can work with. Your question was would Sen. Obama request (that) the Europeans contribute more to Afghanistan? The answer to that is yes.” 
Danzig also said today he could see Gates sticking around in an Obama administration. And he made news on the subject of defense spending under Obama.
More to come, too.
-- Thomas Duffy
October 1, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Tomorrow DC-based defense reporters get to question former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, a top adviser to Barack Obama and a guy rumored to be on the short list for defense secretary should Obama win.

We'll have much more tomorrow on what he has to say, but today we'll take a brief look at what he's been saying of late.

First up, our story, from September, on Danzig and former Defense Secretary William Perry, also an Obama backer.

Next, from July, this National Journal interview touches on some key topics including the state of the defense budget. A taste:

NJ: How do you tame the defense budget, given the huge and increasing costs of long-deferred equipment modernization programs?

Danzig: There's a persistent problem with cost overruns. The recent performance of the Pentagon has been unusually bad. It's very difficult, but I think we can do a lot better than we've seen from this administration. This administration got off to a very bad start when it put $10 billion into missile defense and took it out of the normal acquisition process. It compounded that when it made it apparent that it didn't like bad news, and you had turnover in the heads of ((the Pentagon Office of)) Program Analysis and Evaluation. You have to create an atmosphere of honesty and candor.

NJ: But where do we cut spending?

Danzig: That's a very appropriate question. The Hindu religion has a goddess, Kali, who is the goddess of destruction, and we need a Kali: We need some creative destruction. We need the ability to recognize that some programs shouldn't be pursued and some pressing expenses need to be cut back. The answer to that isn't ideological; it's got to be based on a one-by-one look at the programs. I would say the Obama watchword is pragmatism.


  • Here's a bio on Danzig, from the Navy.
  • This Newsweek piece from August gives Danzig's view of how Obama would handle Russia.
  • And then there's Danzig . . . on Winnie the Pooh. Really.

-- Dan Dupont