The Insider

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June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization's recently released annual report includes a line in its "Way Ahead" section that piqued our interest.

"JIEDDO will participate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Capability Portfolio Management Process to oversee transition of initiatives into programs of record and enduring Service capabilities," it states there.

The CPM initiative, created by former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, is akin to a second set of eyes on the services' resource allocation plans. Each of the nine CPM teams can submit so-called issue papers to defense leaders if they believe certain service budget plans run counter to DOD-wide interests.

The report offers no reason to believe JIEDDO officials aren't talking extensively to the services when it comes to determining what counter-IED projects should be handed off to which service. But are they going the extra mile to also engage through the CPM process, as the document suggests?

Apparently not. When pressed, a JIEDDO spokeswoman said there are no formal processes set up for routing JIEDDO transition plans through the CPM assessment teams.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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June 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department should cooperate more closely with China in the area of science and technology, according to a March 2009 National Defense University paper presented at a conference of DOD international acquisition experts late last month.

"It is in the long-term interest of DOD to proactively seek out opportunities to engage in fundamental scientific collaborations with the top academic institutions in China," wrote William Berry, a researcher at NDU's Center for Technology and National Security Policy. "Through such collaborations we will learn new scientific techniques and strategies, avoid technological surprise, and develop beneficial working relationships that will enhance our economic and national security," the paper states.

According to Berry, China is expected to achieve world-class status in many areas of the life and physical sciences within 15 years, likely surpassing the United States.

Potential areas for cooperation include nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and fuel technologies, Berry wrote.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a handy pamphlet yesterday that explains what can be said publicly about the structure of America’s intelligence apparatus.

Over 114 pages, the document describes the big players in the intelligence world, like the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Reconnaissance Office. It also devotes a few lines to lesser-known organizations like DIA’s Underground Facilities Analysis Center (UFAC) or the National Media Exploitation Center (NMEC).

To be sure the public knows what to expect of the intelligence community, and perhaps in response to the bad press that followed the revelation of harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects, the document includes a section about what America’s spies can and cannot do.

In the “can-do” category, there are plenty of buzzwords that have to do with providing “situational awareness” or “long-term strategic assessments.” Here, the document also makes note of the classified Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which serves as the central U.S. repository for information about known or suspected terrorists (KSTs).

What can’t the intelligence community do? Two things, according to the document:

“Predict the future” and “violate U.S. law or the U.S. Constitution”

No surprises there.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The issue of cybersecurity pretty much dominates the discussions around information and communications technology (ICT) these days. A new Pentagon instruction shines the spotlight on another longstanding issue in the ICT community: information sharing with civilian organizations during stabilization and reconstruction operations.

The April 30 document, for the first time, clarifies how defense officials should use their IT gear to help civilian organizations plug into unclassified military information networks set up during disaster relief and reconstruction operations.

Here are some core points of the new instruction:

  • “Extension of bandwidth to or sharing of existing available bandwidth with civil-military partners is permitted to enable connection to or provision of Internet service and voice capability.
  • “Where circumstances require temporary cellular network services to be installed for DoD elements, these services may be extended for interim use by non-DoD partners until local services are re-established.
  • “The military departments and defense agencies will ensure that ICT wireless equipment complies with existing domestic, regional, and international frequency spectrum allocations and regulations for interference free operations.”

Many details are covered in the document itself.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama signed a memo this week that calls for addressing the government’s tendency to classify too much information. Among the steps being mulled, according to the memo, is “the possible restoration of the presumption against classification, which would preclude classification of information where there is significant doubt about the need for such classification.”

Read the memo here.

-- Chris Castelli

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May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon has notified Congress of potential foreign arms sales worth $1.2 billion, including upgrades to fighter aircraft, new attack helicopters and ship-based missiles for Egypt and South Korea.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon arm that works with the State Department to oversee foreign sales of military equipment, has announced three separate potential arms sales packages to a key U.S. partner in the Middle East and an U.S. ally in the Pacific.

The largest by dollar amount would be for Egypt: a potential $820 million sale of advanced combat helicopters to outfit the Arab republic with a dozen Boeing-built AH-64D Block II Apache Longbow helos. Three companies would see the bulk of this work: Boeing's operations in Mesa, AZ, and St. Louis, MO; General Electric's unit in Lynn, MA; and Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control shop in Orlando, FL. The package, according to DSCA's announcement yesterday afternoon, would include:

27 T700-GE-701D Engines, 36 Modernized Targeting Acquisition and Designation Systems/Pilot Night Vision Sensors, 28 M299 HELLFIRE Longbow Missile Launchers, 14 AN/ALQ-144(V)3 Infrared Jammers, and 14 AN/APR-39B(V)2 Radar Signal Detecting Sets. Also included: composite horizontal stabilizers, Integrated Helmet and Display Sight Systems, repair and return, transportation, depot maintenance, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor technical support, and other related elements of program support.

For South Korea, the Pentagon is proposing two potential arms packages: $170 million for 84 Standard Missiles-2 missiles of various types and an equal number of missile containers, work that would fall to Raytheon Electronic Systems Company in Tucson, AZ.

The other package -- a potential $250 million deal -- would upgrade 35 F-16 Block 32 fighter aircraft, improvements that would “allow employment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Improved Data Modem, and Secure Voice capabilities,” according to the DSCA statement, which added:

The Republic of Korea is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability in that region. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability, which will contribute to an acceptable military balance in the area. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives.

-- Jason Sherman

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May 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Today's must-read: Defense Secretary Robert Gates' speech last night to the graduating class at his high school alma mater, East High in Wichita, KS.

He packs a lot into a relatively brief address, touching on memories of his high school days, growing up in Kansas, how getting a D in college freshman calculus changed the trajectory of his life, as well as the importance of being honest, having moral courage and choosing some form of service to the community or nation.

Gates, the only career officer in the CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to become director -- which he was from 1991 to 1993 -- told students about how he found his way to the CIA and quickly realized he was not 007 material:

Then I went to graduate school, I ran into a recruiter from the Central Intelligence Agency, an organization I had never considered working for. I thought I was going to be a history professor. Now, at first, the CIA tried to train me to be a spy. However, my efforts were less James Bond and more Austin Powers -- and I don’t mean that in a good way. One of my first training assignments was to practice secret surveillance with a team following a woman CIA officer around downtown Richmond, Virginia. Our team wasn’t very stealthy, and someone reported to the Richmond police that some disreputable-looking men – that would be me and my fellow CIA trainees -- were stalking this poor woman. My two colleagues were picked up by the Richmond police, and the only reason I didn’t get arrested was because I had lost sight of her so much earlier than they had. I -- and CIA -- concluded pretty quickly that I wasn’t cut out to be doing operations in the field, and instead I became a CIA analyst -- one of the people who assess and interpret all the information that comes in. That led me into a career that allowed me to witness amazing moments in American history. So it may take you a few missteps and even embarrassments before you find the thing you’re really good at -- whether you go to college or not. So, keep at it.

Read the whole thing here.

-- Jason Sherman

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May 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In April, around the time the Pentagon approved the terms of reference for the Quadrennial Defense Review, Pentagon spokesman Bob Mehal said the department had also approved similar guidance for the Nuclear Posture Review.

Turns out that was incorrect.

The NPR TOR was actually still in staffing at the time -- and it took weeks more to weave its way to bureaucratic approval. But Mehal now tells us the NPR TOR was finally signed on May 13.

-- Chris Castelli

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May 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With concern about personnel costs rising at the Pentagon, here is an interesting item buried in the Defense Department's fiscal year 2008 performance report, released in March: The past fiscal year marked the first time that DOD health care costs rose faster than they did in the civilian sector.

To be precise, the document establishes the point of comparison as the "average percent Defense Health Program annual cost per equivalent life increase compared to average civilian sector increase." The goal, beginning in FY-07, was to "maintain an average Defense Health Program (DHP) medical cost per equivalent life increase at or below the average health care premium increase in the civilian sector," the document reads.

DOD failed to meet that goal. Since FY-05, when DOD's health care costs were 3.2 percent below the growth rate in the civilian sector, the number has gone up steadily. In FY-06, the number was 1 percent below the civilian sector increase; in FY-07, it was 0.8 percent below; and in FY-08, it was an estimated 1.8 percent above.

The Pentagon's request for military healthcare is $47 billion for FY-10, according to a defense budget request overview released by DOD. "The Department expects to continue to work with the Congress to look for ways to slow the growth of medical costs while continuing to provide high-quality care," the document reads.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the issue in a speech last week at the Brookings Institution. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get our arms around healthcare costs,” he said.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At a May 18 unveiling of a major new report on energy and national security, the Pentagon’s new acquisition chief announced a plan to push for creation of an energy research partnership with the Energy Department, Defense Environment Alert reports this week:

The Pentagon will approach DOE seeking a partnership that would see DOE focus on fundamental energy research, while DOD concentrates on development work using its testing facilities to advance new technologies beyond the laboratory stage, said Ashton Carter, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. He added that the Pentagon would integrate energy efficiency considerations into the acquisitions process. Also, DOD will soon release a new strategy on boosting the energy efficiency of its many installations, a leading DOD energy official says.

Energy will be a driver of much DOD acquisition policy, Carter said, adding: “I’m seeing it cropping up everywhere.” He said DOD spending on energy research and development has tripled over the last two years, and now stands at $1.2 billion, excluding an extra $300 million provided by the economic stimulus package.

Carter told a panel of retired generals and admirals gathered for the launch of a Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) report on energy that DOD will seek to make the most efficient use of its energy research resources and expertise, which are concentrated in the area of technology development, rather than basic research.

DOD will seek a partnership on energy issues with DOE and the White House, and Carter said he would approach Energy Secretary Steven Chu and White House staff on this issue. He said that at DOD, “we have a lot of very good test and demonstration facilities,” while DOE has greater strength in laboratories, so “we ((should)) use their science base, which is richer than ours in this field, to get good ideas.”

-- John Liang
 

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May 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Compared with just a few years ago, traditional soft-power disciplines -- like stabilization operations and everything associated with nation-building -- now are big business at the Pentagon. Adding the sums involved in programs like Section 1206, for example, and the Commander's Emergency Response Program quickly leads to amounts upward of one billion -- and that's not counting the money specifically intended for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In these spheres, $50 million might almost go unnoticed. That's the amount by which the Defense Department's "building partnership capacity" request differed from the time Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the major budget moves in early April until defense officials formally unveiled the fiscal year 2010 budget request a month later.

During his April 6 press conference on the budget, Gates said this:

"To boost global partnership capacity efforts, we will increase funding by $500 million. These initiatives include training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism and stability operations."

DOD's May 7 statement on the official defense budget request roll-out said this:

"To boost global partnership capacity, the department will spend $550 million for training and equipping foreign militaries (in addition to those in Iraq and Afghanistan) to undertake counterterrorism and stability operations and to conduct security and stabilization activities."

We asked DOD spokesman Cmdr. Darryn James how the difference came to be. "When the SecDef spoke on 6 April, he was presenting his best estimate at the time, and between April 6 and delivery of the budget one month later, we finalized the details and determined we needed $550 million," James wrote in an e-mail today.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon’s next-generation bomber should probably be a very-low observable, nuclear-capable, manned aircraft with a moderate capability and moderate range, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last evening.

However, he added, the parameters for the aircraft have not yet been officially defined. When the Pentagon prepared its fiscal year 2010 budget plan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not comfortable with where the service was with the program, Schwartz noted. The general said Gates has not yet settled on the bomber’s parameters, but the Air Force will work to persuade the defense secretary to embrace its ideas.

-- Chris Castelli

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May 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A new Defense Science Board report released this week makes mention of three relatively little-known Defense Department  biodefense labs operated in conjunction with foreign governments. They are the US Army Medical Component of the Armed Forces Research Institute of the Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in Bangkok, Thailand; the Naval Medical Research Center Detachment (NMRCD) in Lima, Peru; and the Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt.

"These laboratories outside the continental United States (OCONUS) play an important strategic role by developing effective medical countermeasures for protection against naturally occurring infectious diseases in their endemic regions and for surveillance of naturally occurring pathogens such as the avian influenza," the report states.

Problem is, according to the report, that clearing foreign scientists to work in these labs is difficult because the traditional U.S. background screening procedures cannot be applied so far away from Washington.

Panelists believe a "blanket waiver" allowing the use of State Department background investigations, conducted by the requisite U.S. embassies, would satisfy security requirements and improve collaboration.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dropped by the Cairo lab recently during a Middle East trip. According to an April 21 DOD news release covering the visit, the lab's workforce consists of 22 Navy and Army personnel and 11 career civilians, who work alongside 152 Egyptian scientists and 97 contractors.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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May 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified yesterday before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, he suggested the troubled, terminated VH-71 presidential helicopter might be succeeded by two different types of aircraft -- one helicopter to fly the president short distances and another, more-robust “escape” aircraft for use in an emergency.

"So one is idea is that you look at two different helicopters -- that you look at one that the president basically uses here in town to go to Andrews and on regular trips here in the United States and things like that, and an escape helicopter that has different kinds of capabilities and that could perhaps be a modified kind of helicopter that we use now in combat," Gates said.

"So we're going to be looking at a lot of different ideas on how we can get this program back on track, get a -- help the presidential helicopter program back into the budget and get the president and his successors helicopters within a reasonable period of time," he added.

-- Chris Castelli

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May 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This week, the day after the EastWest Institute released a report concluding that Iran could develop a nuclear warhead for ballistic missiles in six to eight years but would "not be able, for at least 10 to 15 years, to independently master the technologies necessary for advanced intermediate-range ballistic missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles," Iran test-fired a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a possible 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) range.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly today was asked at a House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing whether he agreed with the report's conclusions. He did not:

A lot of the assumptions they use in these types of assessments are not accurate, and they don't reflect our true capability, our specifications, what we've demonstrated, also what we know of the threat for what I have access to in intelligence, it does not correlate to the basic assumptions that they use in that study and others I've seen like that.

We asked MIT Professor Ted Postol, one of the co-authors of the report and a missile defense critic, whether the Iranian test changes any of the report's conclusions. Here's his response:

The short answer to your question is that the recent launch of a two-stage solid propellant missile does not change any of our conclusions. However, it does raise questions that were not addressed in the current report that will have to be dealt with in our continuing work at MIT and Stanford on this and related questions.

There is very little data on the Sejjil missile and very rough estimates I have done this evening suggest that it is likely to be able to carry a 1000 kg payload to 2000 km range. I will need to do further analysis on this missile, but it cannot be ruled out that it could eventually achieve a range of 2500 km. I caution you these are very preliminary numbers and I am not yet ready to stand by them.

Our current study estimates that if Iran moved ahead with a nuclear program it could take Iran 1 to 3 years to test a first nuclear weapon and an additional 5 to 6 years or more to develop a nuclear warhead compact and light enough to fly on a ballistic missile. This estimate was arrived at by the experts in our study who have built nuclear weapons. Our estimates in the study for the time it would take Iran to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to a range of 2000 km was for a modified version of the Safir satellite launch vehicle (SLV) where the second stage was redesigned to carry a payload of about 1000 kg. The development of this modified version of the Safir SLV would probably take no more than several years, but the long pole in having a nuclear-armed delivery system would be obtaining the warhead. This situation is also true if the solid propellant Sejjil missile is successfully refined into an operating system within the next several years. So in short, there is essentially no substantial change in our findings.

However, the fact that the Sejjil is a solid propellant missile introduces a new set of questions that we did not deal with in our report. This set of questions has to do with longer-term advances in ballistic missile capabilities that are based on solid propellant missiles. In the case of the Sejjil, increasing its range substantially would require building essentially a different and much larger solid propellant missile. This would be a gigantic enterprise, since scaling up the size of solid rocket motors is a gigantic technical and engineering task.

Problems that occur in constructing much larger rocket motors result from the sheer size of the motor and the casing. Early solid rocket motor casings were made of steel, and as the technology advanced the casings were fabricated from glass, Kevlar, and finally carbon epoxy materials. Winding these much larger casings, maintaining the strength and integrity of these much larger casings, mixing the propellant so that they are extremely uniform, and getting more energy out of the propellants, require major industrial and scientific efforts. You may recall, that when the US was rushing to deploy Pershing's in Europe, the development program was plagued with failures of that solid rocket motor. So the introduction of the Sejjil does not necessarily foretell the rapid development of larger longer-range solid propellant missiles. It does, however, introduce a potentially new class of systems. Since solid rocket propellant systems have relatively short burn times compared with similar classes of liquid propellants, they can potentially pose more demanding challenges to boost-phase and ascent-phase missile defense systems.

With regard to the boost-phase system discussed in the appendix of the report, this new technology will not be available for much larger and longer range rocket systems for quite a while, and even if it were available, the rockets would be very large and subject to the same vulnerabilities that were described for large liquid propellant missiles.

-- John Liang