The Insider

April 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that the Pentagon has not had to punish anyone for violating the nondisclosure agreements that have been used to prevent leaks about defense budget deliberations.

“No, because there have been no leaks, in case you hadn't noticed,” Gates told reporters who participated in a roundtable discussion with the defense secretary.

Gates said he and other officials have been “astonished” by the discipline displayed by Defense Department officials during the budget deliberations. Demanding the nondisclosure pacts was “kind of an afterthought,” he added, noting he could not remember who suggested the idea.

At that point, Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised his hand a bit, signaling he advocated the pacts.

“I think what you have is a building, fortunately, with men and women in it who when they put their name to something saying they won't do something, have the character and integrity to stick with it,” Gates added. “I didn't have to say a word to a soul through this whole process.”

Gates said he has given DOD officials the “maximum possible opportunity” to make their views on budget issues and programs known to him, to “guide” decisions and “try to change my mind about things.” But once a decision is made by DOD and the president, he said, the department must heed it and respect the chain of command when dealing with Capitol Hill, he added.

Conducting “guerrilla warfare” against DOD's budget plans, he said, is not a good idea.

-- Chris Castelli

April 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army will soon begin the process of picking a contractor to teach Afghan administration officials how to run an U.S.-style defense apparatus in their country -- literally.

According to a January 2009 draft request for proposals for the "Afghanistan National Security Sector Development & Fielding Program," contractors will be in charge of teaching senior security officials everything from personnel management, intelligence training, logistics, strategic planning and budgeting.

Army officials posted a link to the draft RFP on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site late last month, announcing the proposal submission period for industry would begin this month.

The winning company must provide "training, coaching and advice" to senior Afghan defense officials in the use of processes like the "Strategic Defense Planning System" or the "Planning, Programming and Budgeting System," according to the draft RFP. Both processes apparently are modeled after signature Pentagon processes.

To be clear, the document makes no mention of introducing the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System into the Afghan defense establishment.

It does, however, require the contractor to run a tight ship and keep U.S. defense officials abreast of the Afghans' progress, as illustrated by this snippet from the draft RFP:

"Within two months of start of contract, the contractor shall establish a system to track the progress of the ((assistant minister of defense for strategy and policy)) and his deputy as they develop internal staff operations and functions. The contractor shall provide written updates and an oral presentation to the ((U.S.-led Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan)) at least quarterly on the progress of the development and no less than monthly if progress is not being made in accordance with the plan that is approved by the CSTC-A . . . by the second month."

The contract's period of performance will begin on August 1 and last one year, according to the draft RFP. After that, there is a possibility of four yearlong extensions.

Contractors must put in sixty-hour work weeks, consisting of six ten-hour days (Saturday through Thursday) and no reimbursable overtime.  "Meal time is not inclusive in the 60 hours," notes the draft RFP.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

April 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A new Army vehicle modernization program “will take 15 years or more to implement,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday, while also stressing the importance of launching that effort.

“We need to get agreement with the Army and kind of broad agreement on what that program ought to look like and then build it out and . . . start bending steel just as soon as we can,” Gates said during a teleconference with reporters.

The modernization initiative is a response to Gates's decision to cancel the eight manned ground vehicles in the Army Future Combat Systems program -- a decision he said he didn't make until this weekend, just days before Monday's announcement.

“One reason why it was so difficult was because the Army felt very strongly about it,” he said during the same phone call. “I spent a lot of time with ((Army Chief of Staff)) Gen. ((George)) Casey and ((Army)) Secretary ((Pete)) Geren -- probably more time with them on this particular issue than on any other single issue with anybody else in the building.”

But -- as Gates said on Monday and in a roundtable with reporters yesterday -- he concluded the vehicle component of the program was not responsive to the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

-- Marjorie Censer

April 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As expected, President Obama has nominated Robert Work for the position of under secretary of the Navy.

His bio, as released by the White House:

Robert Work is currently Vice President, Strategic Studies at CSBA (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments). During a 27-year career in the Marine Corps, Mr. Work held a wide range of command, leadership, and management positions. His last assignment was as Military Assistant and Senior Aide to the Honorable Richard J. Danzig, 71st Secretary of the Navy. Since retiring in 2001, Mr. Work has focused on defense strategy and transformation and maritime affairs. He has written and spoken extensively on US Navy and Marine Corps strategies and programs; directed and analyzed three war game series for the Office of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense; contributed to Department of Defense studies on global basing and emerging military missions; and provided support for the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. He has also studied and prepared several reports on future defense challenges, including the changing nature of undersea warfare; power projection against regional nuclear powers, and power projection against future anti-access/area denial networks. Mr. Work earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Illinois; a Master's of Science in Systems Management from the University of Southern California; a Master's of Science in Space System Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School; and a Master's in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is a member of the International Insitute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, where he teaches defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces.

-- Dan Dupont

April 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today sought to mollify lawmakers' concerns over his proposal to cut $1.4 billion from the Missile Defense Agency.

As we reported yesterday, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mark Begich (D-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to President Obama warning that the proposed cuts "could undermine our emerging missile defense capabilities to protect the United States against a growing threat."

Additionally, the senators fear that the cuts could undermine the United States' international efforts to increase missile defense among allies:

Cooperation on missile defense is now a critical component of many of our closest security partnerships around the world. We fear that cuts to the budget for missile defense could inadvertently undermine these relationships and foster the impression that the United States is an unreliable ally. Moreover, sharp cuts would leave us and our friends around the world less capable of responding to the growing ballistic missile threat.

Speaking to a small group of reporters in a follow-up gathering today, Gates sought to mollify those lawmakers' opposition: “If we can show them ((lawmakers)) what we are sustaining with the ground-based interceptors for midcourse, and the research and development that we have continued with respect to the boost phase, perhaps we can persuade them that all is not as bad as they seem to think.”

-- John Liang

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

* In good shape on missile defense re: threats from rogue states.

* Cartwright: ABL's key attribute is directed energy. In right place at right time can "catch" an ICBM at the boost phase. But: Rudimentary. "Needs to go further." Tech should continue, but not ready for production.

* Cost savings across the FYDP: "We will have to sit down" and add them all up, Gates says. Decisions went to comptroller only Thursday; only when details go to OMB  "will we be in a position . . . to talk about how much we have saved" or how much more is in FYDP.

* Gates: Shipbuilding plans "inefficient." "Having all three built" by same company in same yard would be much more efficient. That said, "if we do that," must smoothly restart DDG-51 program.

* Gates: Increasing the buy of the JSF, but taken a "more cautious approach" to ramping up production over five years. "Several dozen aircraft" below original planned buy.

* Cartwright: More JSF test assets coming.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, has released a statement about the fiscal year 2010 budget decisions rolled out today by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“The recommendations made today by Secretary Gates represent an important first step in balancing the Department’s wants with our nation’s needs," he said in a statement e-mailed to reporters by a spokesman. The words "first step" were in bold, a not-so-subtle reference the role Congress will play as it debates the proposals.

"For far too long, the Defense Department has failed to address these challenges, and I applaud the Secretary for conducting this comprehensive review," Murtha continued. “However, the Committee will carefully review the Department’s recommendations in the context of current and future threats when we receive the detailed fiscal year 2010 budget request.”

-- Chris Castelli

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This time from Winslow Wheeler, the director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information:

Just as it did the press, Secretary of Defense Gates decisions on hardware will completely preoccupy Congress. A major food fight is sure to break out over the end of F-22 production at 187 very expensive, not particularly impressive fighters, no new presidential or search and rescue helicopters (for now), no more C-17s, and a very few other clean cut terminations.

While Washington DC hisses and spits over the secretary’s hardware recommendations, it is probably more important to ask, what has changed, and if anything has, where are we now going?

It does not appear that the basic DOD budget has changed; this set of decisions may be budget neutral, or it may even hold in its future expanded net spending requirements.

We have not changed an anticipation to prepare for occupations in foreign lands (the advocates call it “counter-insurgency”), or to continue to spend most of our defense budget on forms of conventional warfare most reminiscent of the mid twentieth century. To fight the indistinct, unspecified conflicts we may have to face in the foreseeable future, what has changed? The strategy? The shrinkage of the hardware inventory and its age? While many decisions were made, the Pentagon-ship of state appears to be very much on the same basic course.

For the defense Department’s broken acquisition system, the Secretary’s endorsement of the Levin – McCain “procurement reform” bill (now watered down at the Defense Department’s urging) means that business as usual is very alive and well. There will be some new bottles for some very old wine, but the bitterness of the taste will still be around as we rush to build untested aircraft (e.g. F-35), endorse problematic, unaffordable ship designs (e.g. LCS), and spend generously to defend against less, not more likely, threats (e.g. missile defense).

For one set of decisions, even if they are unspectacular, Secretary Gates deserves much good credit. He made people his first priority. Hopefully, that was not just rhetorical. The emphasis he put on medical research, caring for the wounded, and family support are all to be greatly commended. I fear, however, that Congress will do little more on this prime issue than simply throw money – as it has in the past.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

House Republicans today foreshadowed a debate in Congress about a fundamental assumption underlying the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 spending proposal -- that Iraq- and Afghanistan-like missions will make up a significant chunk of future U.S. military engagements.

"Secretary Gates' statement includes significant programmatic decisions that seem to be based on assumptions about the current security environment," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McHugh (R-NY) wrote in a statement this afternoon. "The Congress needs to ensure it understands and agrees with these assumptions about the threats we face before we can endorse decisions on the capabilities our military does and does not require."

In his press conference today, Gates described the 2008 National Defense Strategy as a key document from which the newly announced program decisions were derived. Gates crafted the document last summer, when a Republican president was still in office.

President Obama has yet to issue a formal national security strategy document.

More from McHugh:

"Republicans appreciate Secretary Gates’ effort to shape the Department of Defense so that we more effectively fight the wars our troops are engaged in today; however, we are concerned about the tradeoffs involved in re-balancing the Department.   It remains the Congress’ responsibility to provide for the common defense -- continued delays in the release of the defense budget details hinders our ability to carry out our constitutional duty.

((. . .))

“Today’s announcement that the Department will shift enduring costs previously included in war time supplemental spending bills into the base budget is something we support, but not without a commensurate increase in top line spending.  If implemented, this proposal will be tantamount to an $8 billion cut in defense spending. 

“Additionally, cutting missile defense spending and focusing missile defense programs to a ballistic missile’s terminal phase places unnecessary risk to the homeland. Just a day after North Korea launched a long range ballistic missile the Secretary missed an opportunity to re-commit to investment in missile defense capabilities.

-- Sebastian Sprenger


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today he "strongly" supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to restructure several major defense programs.

"It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow,” McCain said in a statement issued by his office. “Today’s announcement is a major step in the right direction. I believe Secretary Gates’ decision is key to ensuring that the defense establishment closes the gap between the way it supports current operations and the way it prepares for future conventional threats."

McCain also said he greatly appreciates that Gates "continues to place the highest priority on supporting the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

-- Chris Castelli

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

As budget day dawns, it's worth remembering what Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said a couple of weeks back of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plans to unveil defense spending changes himself -- before they even get to the White House:

One benefit, according to Levin, is the recommendations are usually leaked once they reach the Office of Management and Budget: “So you can avoid the leakage by simply saying, 'This is what I am recommending to the president,'” the Michigan Democrat said.

An early release would also ensure that most of the blowback from the major program cuts expected in the FY-10 proposal would fall mostly on the Pentagon and not the administration. “Instead of having the president or the president's budget take the heat, ((this)) is kind of a heat shield,” Levin said. “That does not mean OMB or the president will not get it, they ((will)) get less of it.”

It's also worth noting that the president is thousands of miles away today as his Republican defense secretary unveils what promises to be a controversial package of proposals -- putting Republicans on the Hill in the position of taking on a fellow GOPer they have spent the last two-plus years praising.

We will, of course, be following it all very closely today, on the site and right here on Defense: Next. Stay tuned.

-- Dan Dupont

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon leaders are not requesting fiscal year 2010 money for the Counterintelligence Field Activity today, thus bringing to a close an almost year-long process to close the controversial office and transfer its responsibilities to the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to a defense official.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed CIFA's dismantling last spring, acting on a recommendation from James Clapper, the under secretary of defense for intelligence.

It took defense officials two attempts to transfer CIFA's remaining funds to DIA -- one last summer, and one early this year. The latter transfer, it turned out, happened because lawmakers gave the Rumsfeld-era shop $200 million for FY-09 in last fall's omnibus spending package.

Of course, all counterintelligence funding matters are kept secret, which means specific funding figures concerning the CIFA-to-DIA transfer are unlikely to come up when Defense Secretary Robert Gates briefs details of the FY-10 defense budget request to reporter's today. Or ever, for that matter.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says Defense Secretary Robert Gates will reveal "very detailed" information about his budget decisions at today's 1:30 p.m. press briefing.

"During this press conference he will read a lengthy statement explaining each of his decisions and the strategic rationale behind them and then he will take questions," Morrell told us.

Stay tuned.

-- Chris Castelli

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is briefing service secretaries and service chiefs this morning on the final shape of the fiscal year 2010 budget request, according to defense officials. Pentagon sources say that late last week a "multi-page" memo was circulating that detailed cuts or restructuring to as many as 55 programs; how many of those changes will be included in the final revision of the FY-10 budget request will be revealed in a press conference this afternoon. 

-- Jason Sherman

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Live-blogging the big press conference. . . .

* Gates opens by noting "unorthodox" approach -- pointedly noting it was approved by President Obama.

* "These recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business."

* Cumulative result of Gates' 30 years in the national security arena.

* Consulted closely with president.

* Chairman and vice chairman "in complete accord" with these recommendations.

* Would have made almost all of the recommendations regardless of the budget situation.

April 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

First, people:

* Properly fund the growth of the military. Will require nearly $11 billion increase above FY-09 level.

* Increase medical research, health care and child care -- but move away from funding these areas through supplemental appropriations. An increase of $13 billion in base budget over last year.

* Needs an "institutional home" for the warfighter. FY-10 budget to be used to increase intelligence, surveilliance and recon spending by $2 billion: 50 Predator and Reaper unmanned systems now permanently funded in base budget.

* Increase manned ISR activities, including turbo-props used as part of Task Force ODIN. Research into new platforms.

* $500 million over last year in base budget to sustain and bolster helicopters. Shortages of maintenance crews and pilots noted; training and recruiting needed.

* Increase global partnership activities by $500 million

* Grow special ops personnel by more than 2,800, and buy more special forces-optimized lift and refueling aicraft.

* Increase LCS buys from two to three ships in FY-10; goal is to buy 55 total.

* Four Joint High-Speed Vessels, up from two.

* Stop Army BCTs at 48. Lower the risk of hollowing the force.