The Insider

June 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn will provide key oversight of the upcoming tanker competition, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said toward the end of this morning's Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.

Gates said he plans to put the “best people” on the tanker program and set up a “supervisory role.”

“I’m going to clearly ask the deputy secretary to take a very close interest in this process,” he told lawmakers.

Gates said he remains a strong proponent of a winner-take-all approach for the program.

-- Chris Castelli

June 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today announced a slew of new Senior Executive Service appointments, among them several new faces in the Defense Department's policy shop:

Daniel Chiu, a study team leader in Institute for Defense Analyses' Joint Advanced Warfighting Division, as principal director for strategy;

Janine Davidson, a national and global security assistant professor at George Mason University, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans;

Vicki Huddleston, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa;

Marcel Lettre, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) senior national security adviser, as principal director for countering weapons of mass destruction;

Celeste Wallander, an associate professor at American University, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia policy; and

William Wechsler, managing director of Greenwich Associates, as deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats.

Additionally, there were a bunch of policy shop reassignments, according to the DOD announcement:

Amanda Dory, a foreign relations and defense policy manager, has been reassigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy;

Kenneth Handelman, another foreign relations and defense policy manager, will become principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs;

Alisa Stack, a foreign relations and defense policy manager in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, will become principal director for force development in the policy shop's strategy, plans and force development office;

Theresa Whelan, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa, will become deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense domains and defense support of civil authorities; and

Thomas Harvey, a foreign relations and defense policy manager in the international security affairs office, will become the policy shop's chief of staff.

Click here to view Inside the Pentagon's story on the policy shop's reorganization of its homeland defense office.

-- John Liang

June 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Next week, the House Armed Services Committee will mark up the full fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, according to a committee statement. Additionally, members will vote on a bill submitted by eight Republican members late last month that would order the Navy to provide a new 30-year shipbuilding plan, which the service declined to submit with the fiscal year 2010 budget request due to the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review. As Inside the Navy reported this week:

The measure, House Resolution 477, was referred to the House Armed Services Committee May 21. The Navy is required by law to provide Congress with a 30-year shipbuilding plan annually, but Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told the House panel in testimony last month that this year’s plan would not be provided until after the QDR, which will examine Defense Department force structure writ large.

“After the QDR, we will be able to provide a plan that has merit,” Roughead said June 4 in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The four-star admiral added this was the “right way to go” instead of submitting a plan prior to the force structure determinations produced by the QDR.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), who sponsored the House resolution, does not concur with the Navy’s intention to delay submitting the plan, according to a statement released last week.

“At a time when China is rapidly closing the 23-ship gap between their navy and ours, and at a time when our Navy is operating with $4.6 billion in unmet requirements, Americans would be shocked to know that the ((Defense Department)) cannot or will not produce a key plan for the future of our naval fleet,” Forbes said in the statement.

The committee said it would also mark up a resolution that would call on the defense secretary "to transmit to the House of Representatives the fiscal year 2010 30-year aviation plan relating to the long-term aviation plans of the Department of Defense, as required by section 231a of title 10, United States Code."

-- John Liang

June 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Apple Computer today unveiled its new operating system for the iPhone, which will support new applications like spoken turn-by-turn directions via TomTom's iPhone-enabled GPS app.

With all the new iPhone operating system bells and whistles announced by Apple execs today, one can expect there to be a defense contractor (or deployed service member) to come up with some new apps for military use.

As Newsweek reported in April:

The iPod isn't the only multifunction handheld on the market, but among soldiers it's the most popular. Since most recruits have used one -- and many already own one -- it's that much easier to train them to prepare and upload new content. Users can add phrases to language software, annotate maps and link text or voice recordings to photos ("Have you seen this man?"). Apple devices make it easy to shoot, store and play video. Consider the impact of showing villagers a video message of a relaxed and respected local leader encouraging them to help root out insurgents. . . .

Apple gadgets are proving to be surprisingly versatile. Software developers and the U.S. Department of Defense are developing military software for iPods that enables soldiers to display aerial video from drones and have teleconferences with intelligence agents halfway across the globe. Snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan now use a "ballistics calculator" called BulletFlight, made by the Florida firm Knight's Armament for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Army researchers are developing applications to turn an iPod into a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot). In Sudan, American military observers are using iPods to learn the appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leaders.

-- John Liang

June 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

According to a Washington Post article yesterday, the military's strategic communication efforts in Baghdad have a credibility problem. The story center's around the free Baghdad Now newspaper, which it claims is produced by an Army PsyOps unit.

Among Baghdadis, the pamphlet is not exactly popular, according to the Post.

A U.S. Army officer in Baghdad, speaking on the condition of anonymity so he could express criticism of the product, said the Iraqi soldiers at his outpost mock the publication and are more interested in the editorially independent Department of Defense newspaper, Stars and Stripes, and in the magazines soldiers get in the mail.

"They say it's childish," the officer said. "Baghdad Now makes a good fuel source at the Iraqi checkpoints."

While defense officials are quick to call for more money for strategic communication, they are tight-lipped about exactly what their projects entail.

A recent DOD report revealed ongoing work on strategic communication plans covering Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the goal of "countering violent extremism." Curiously, there is also one on ballistic missile defense.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

June 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials have reported an 11 percent decrease in Defense Department contractors in Iraq between Dec 31, 2008 and March 31. The reduction -- from 148,050 to 132,610 -- is due to "ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint" in that country, states a May 2009 Pentagon information paper.

The numbers in Afghanistan also are down -- from 60,563 in the last quarter of 2008 to 51,776 in the first quarter of this year, according to the document. This includes a reduction of 9,000 local workers and an addition of roughly 3,500 U.S. workers over the reporting period.

So, do those numbers belie DOD's pledge to employ Afghans and buy from local companies whenever possible?

Maybe, maybe not. The numbers should be taken with a grain of salt because they are due to "revised reporting procedures," as the information paper puts it.

"The data system previously used in census collection (Joint Contingency Contracting System -- JCCS) was found to have been duplicating reported numbers on task order contracts," the document states.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

June 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials were unwilling yesterday to illustrate the scenarios underlying a U.S. Joint Forces Command wargame under way in McLean, VA, so reporters participating in a teleconference about the drill resorted to prodding wargame leaders about general defense themes to see whether they played some role in the one-week event.

Not surprisingly, the theme of hybrid warfare came up, as did cyberspace and command and control.

But JFCOM Deputy Commander Vice Adm. Robert Harward and the command's concept development and experimentation chief, Rear Adm. Dan Davenport, mentioned a few other ideas of note.

Exhibit A: Information operations. The background is, of course, the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where violent extremists use radio, TV and the Internet to mobilize supporters and intimidate locals. In that context, defense officials use the term "narrative" a lot, and so did Davenport.

"The narrative has been a very major discussion topic so far ((in the wargame)) and one of the key areas of focus," he said.

"There is a recognition of how important that overarching blanket of information operations ((is)), both in the receive mode and in the transmit mode," added Harward. "I would not say that's a surprise, but I would say the emphasis on how we get that right is a major topic in most of the . . . discussions so far through the wargame."

Exhibit B: "Surrogates." The admirals' comments appeared to reflect a trend, or at least DOD's fear of a trend, of adversary nation states secretly employing proxies to do their bidding. The concern is particularly grave when it comes to seemingly ragtag groups plotting attacks with weapons of mass destruction at the behest -- and with the support of -- nation states, according to Harward.

Related theme: What means of deterrence can America use to keep non-state actors in check?

Exhibit C: Seabasing. A reporter asked whether wargame participants believe DOD should ramp up its seabasing capabilities. "I can tell you that's been a big part of the discussion," Harward said. "In several of the scenarios that has been a focal point," he added.

While the context of wargamers' seabasing discussions is unclear, the idea of an off-shore force staging capability comes amid two generally accepted assumptions among defense leaders: For one, the U.S. military will embark on lots of missions -- combat, humanitarian or otherwise -- in the foreseeable future. In addition, adversaries will try to find ways of denying U.S. forces access to faraway trouble spots.

The wargame's unclassified final report is expected at the end of July.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

June 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Officials at the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command have big plans for saving energy and moving away from fossil-based fuels.

At an industry conference in Denver, CO, last month, PACOM officials outlined a list of projects totaling a whopping $4.2 billion. The biggest chunk on the list of "unfunded" projects, as the PACOM briefing slides call them, involves the construction of three Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTCE) "pilot plants," worth $969 million.

Officials also want to apply spray foam insulation to all PACOM buildings -- to the tune of $400 million. According to the briefing, Defense Department tests with the technology in a "desert environment" have shown energy savings of up to 60 percent.

Also on the list are three biofuel electrical power plants ($295 million), a project called "smart grid and islanding circuitry" ($227 million) and upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems ($200 million).

Much more, including a list of completed energy-related projects, is here.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

June 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

For an attorney, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

A U.S. appeals court this week affirmed an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that had sustained the government's default termination of the A-12 aircraft contract to which General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas -- now owned by Boeing -- were parties with the Navy.

But this latest decision doesn't mean it's over, according to at least one of the contractors. Not by a long shot.

In a statement, GD says it "disagrees with this most recent ruling and continues to believe that the government's default termination was not justified. The company also believes that the ruling provides significant grounds for appeal, and intends to seek a re-hearing in the Federal Circuit."

The A-12 Avenger II program was intended to be a carrier-based stealth fighter replacement for the A-6 Intruder used by the Navy and Marine Corps, but the program was canceled in 1991 due to high costs and technical problems.

-- John Liang

June 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Only a handful of members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee showed up to hear the Air Force leadership lay their plans for fiscal year 2010 during a hearing on Capitol Hill this morning.

Despite the scarce attendance, there certainly was not a lack of questions for Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, particularly from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).

As you can imagine, the duo who serve as Boeing's most vocal supporters in the House had many questions about the service's KC-X next-generation tanker competition. Unfortunately, the top two service leaders provided no new insight on a release date for the latest request for proposals or the criteria that will be used to determine a new winner. Who will serve as the source selection authority also is still up in the air.

“We hope to take the work we've developed thus far to the secretary very soon and to have him give us his direction on how to proceed,” Donley said. “We are hopeful that the new request for proposals will be out on the street this summer.”

I At one point toward the end of the hearing, Dicks and Tiahrt went back and fourth in almost rapid fire succession arguing that the industrial base in the United States should be taken into account when selecting a winner.

Dicks served as the acting chairman in the absence of subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA). Ranking Member C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) -- who also did not attend the hearing -- along with Murtha did pop in literally as Schwartz was walking out the hearing room door with his entourage.

-- Marcus Weisgerber

June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has tapped Rep. John McHugh, a Republican lawmaker from upstate New York and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, to be Army secretary, according to numerous press reports citing a senior administration official.

McHugh, a nine-term lawmaker, knows the Army well. His district -- New York's 23rd – includes Fort Drum, home to the Army's light infantry 10th Mountain Division. Before becoming the lead Republican on the House defense authorization committee, he was ranking member of the panel's military personnel subcommittee.

Obama is scheduled to make the announcement at 11:55 a.m., an event that will bet met by a collective sigh of relief by many in the Army who were concerned at the early candidacy of a retired Marine Corps general -- Arnold Punaro -- for the SECARMY post.

UPDATE: The White House issued the following statement from the president.

Today, I am proud to announce John McHugh as the next Secretary of the Army. John is a distinguished public servant who will help keep us safe and keep our sacred trust with our soldiers and their families. He is committed to keeping America’s Army the best-trained, the best-equipped, the best-led land force the world has ever seen. As Secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time. And John shares my belief that a sustainable national security strategy must include a bipartisan consensus at home, and he brings patriotism and a pragmatism that has won him respect on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.

-- Jason Sherman

June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee right now is holding a hearing on the nominations of three general officers who, if confirmed, will take over very important combatant-commander positions. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal would receive a fourth star and assume command of the International Security Assistance Force and commander, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan. Navy Adm. James Stavridis would become head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. And Air Force Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser would get his fourth star and become commander, U.S. Southern Command.

McChrystal, who has extensive counterinsurgency experience, just told committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) that he could not put a "hard date" on how long the allied counterinsurgency campaign will last in Afghanistan. "We do have to make progress in 18 to 24 months," McChrystal said. U.S. casualties will go up as the allied operation increases, he added.

McCain asked McChrystal what lessons learned from Iraq could be applied to Afghanistan. "A classic counterinsurgency campaign, well resourced, is needed," McChrystal replied.

You can read the answers to questions posed by the committee before the hearing that were provided by McChrystal, Stavridis and Fraser here, here and here.

-- Thomas Duffy

June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army announced today the official halt to its plan to add three brigade combat teams in adherence with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to keep the number at 45 BCTs, not the anticipated 48.

Additionally, the Army said in today's announcement, it will soon provide Congress “a detailed, project-by-project list that specifies which facility requirements have changed and which remain valid.”

Three installations -- Ft. Bliss, TX; Ft. Carson, CO; and Ft. Stewart, GA -- will no longer receive additional brigade combat teams, according to the announcement.

Additionally, the service said today that White Sands Missile Range, NM, will no longer receive a BCT from Europe in fiscal year 2013, as originally planned.

The halt to BCT growth “is the least disruptive ((course of action)) to affected communities and facilitates the best use of taxpayer dollars and current and planned fiscal ((year)) 2009 and fiscal ((year)) 2010 military construction projects,” the announcement adds.

-- Marjorie Censer

June 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Adm. James Stavridis, nominated to head U.S. European Command, today told the Senate Armed Services Committee about an interesting development from his current area of responsibility at U.S. Southern Command.

When the discussion during his confirmation hearing before the panel turned to counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan -- which he would help oversee as EUCOM chief -- Stavridis said this:

I could add, Senator, worth noting that we're in conversations at ((SOUTHCOM)) with our Colombian friends about the possibility of Colombian military engagement in Afghanistan. So that, if it comes to fruition, is a very direct and personal venue to have soldiers who have had experience in both counterinsurgency and counternarcotics transferring some of those lessons learned.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Quadrennial Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review will be “messy,” but that will not stop the Pentagon from consulting key allies and partners during the process, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said over the weekend.

In a May 30 speech in Singapore, Gates said new strategic realities will play a central role as the United States undergoes a number of policy reviews this year, including the QDR and NPR.

“These documents will lay out our view of the threats and challenges to our nation, and how that will be reflected in our future defense procurement and spending strategies,” he added.

Gates then predicted messiness and pledged openness.

“While it is at times a messy process, it will be an open and transparent exercise -- so that no one will get the wrong idea about our intentions,” he said. “We will consult with key allies and partners. And we will articulate our strategy clearly. It is our hope that this effort can be an example of the power of openness and its ability to reduce miscommunication and the risk of competitive arms spending.”

The reviews will help America pursue whole-of-government approaches that offer the only solution to the vexing security challenges of the modern era, Gates said.

-- Chris Castelli