The Insider

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March 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

At 12:15 p.m. today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was scheduled to meet with President Obama in the Oval Office, according to the White House. Naturally, the meeting is closed to the press.

No agenda for the session has been released. It should be wrapped up before 3 p.m., though -- that's when Obama is slated to speak about and sign the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

-- Chris Castelli

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March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon announced today that after four months on the job, Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hunt, the head of the service's Quadrennial Defense Review efforts in the office of the assistant vice chief of staff, is being reassigned to become the next deputy commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Hunt has been the Air Force's QDR director since November 2008, according to his official bio:

General Hunt is responsible for the development of Air Force policy, concepts, analysis and strategy for the next QDR. His organization continually re-orients the department's capabilities and forces to be more agile in times of war, prepare for wider asymmetric challenges, and mitigate risk against uncertainty over the next 20 years.

In the same statement, the Pentagon also said Air Force Maj. Gen. Duane Jones, director of global combat support in the office of the deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support, would become the office's next director of resource integration.

According to his bio, Jones' current directorate "is responsible for integrating expeditionary combat support and is the focal point for all cross-functional ECS-related issues."

-- John Liang
 

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March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense officials have begun ramping up efforts to include simulations in home-station training that could help prepare U.S. forces for Afghanistan- and Iraq-like missions, Joint Forces Command Deputy Commander Vice Adm. Robert Harward said during a phone call with reporters yesterday. 

He said these new efforts to simulate the conditions of irregular warfare would particularly benefit ground troops, who account for the vast majority of casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

So far, he said, "We've done very little simulation training for those individuals."

JFCOM officials sponsor the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration. The project aims to recreate the complex environment of irregular battlefields.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Associated Press is reporting today that Ray Mabus is the Obama administration's choice to be Navy secretary.

That isn't likely to surprise anyone: We broke the story of Mabus' likely nod two months ago.

Mabus, a Democrat who endorsed Obama for the White House in 2007, served as a campaign adviser on Middle East issues. He also served a two-year tour in the early 1970s as a naval officer aboard the guided-missile cruiser Little Rock (then called CLG-4).

UPDATE (4:30pm): It's official -- Mabus is the pick, according to the White House: "At this critical moment in our nation’s history, I am grateful that these exceptional public servants have chosen to help my administration bring the change our country needs today," Obama said in a statement issued late this afternoon.

-- Chris Castelli

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March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A group of six senators from South Dakota, Louisiana and Texas sent a letter to President Obama yesterday urging him not to cancel the Air Force’s plans to field a new bomber aircraft by 2018.

“We believe termination of the Next-Generation Bomber would do tremendous danger to our nation’s future ability to project power abroad, and runs counter to what senior defense officials in your administration have stated about the need for” the aircraft, the senators wrote in response to a press report asserting the White House had suggested scrapping the program.

The senators -- including John Thune (R-SD), Tim Johnson (D-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) -- all have major Air Force bomber bases in their states that could eventually host the next-generation bomber.

Both South Dakota and Texas are home to B-1B squadrons at Ellsworth AFB and Dyess AFB, respectively, while Louisiana is home to B-52s at Barksdale AFB.

“The need for this new long range strike capability is urgent because, while our current wars are being fought in undefended airspace, the conflicts of the near-term future will likely feature heavily defended sophisticated and deadly air defense systems,” the senators wrote.

The senators argue that a stealthy new bomber is needed because the Air Force only flies 20 radar-evading B-2 bombers, which are based in Missouri. Those aircraft are expected to remain operational for several decades.

On another note, Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota were not listed on the letter – noteworthy given that their state is home to Minot Air Force Base, a major B-52 Stratofortress hub.

-- Marcus Weisgerber

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March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, nominee for the top Pentagon weapons buyer post, yesterday endorsed the now two-and-a-half year old Pentagon experiment with capability portfolio management.

"In general, I support the Capability Portfolio Management Initiative which . . . is intended to provide an enterprise-level, horizontal (cross-component) view of the Department to better balance and harmonize joint warfighter capability needs with capability development efforts," he wrote in prepared answers to advance questions from senators. "If confirmed, I will review the CPM construct to ensure it enables better-integrated and balanced advice across the full spectrum of capability needs to DOD senior leadership."

Outgoing acquisition czar John Young had some reservations about CPM, as Inside the Pentagon noted last summer.

In another prepared answer, Carter wrote it "may be appropriate" that he (or whoever ultimately gets the job) becomes a full member of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, where the core membership currently is  pretty much a services-only affair.

UPDATE (March 30, 12pm): The excerpts from the question-and-answer portion of his confirmation hearing are available here.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense leaders have largely embraced the idea that future conflicts will be defined by the tenets of irregular warfare, counterinsurgency and stability operations.

Less established is thinking about what it would mean for U.S. forces to win in such conflicts.

Gen. Mattis, the head of U.S. Joint Forces Command, released a "vision" for irregular warfare yesterday that seeks answers to this question. Mattis, for example, wants to know by what  "measures of effectiveness" commanders should go when planning and conducting IW-type operations.

In addition, Mattis raises the question as to what IW-related standards U.S. forces should be trained.

According to Military Operations Research Society President Army Lt. Col. Michael Kwinn, hard numbers and analysis techniques could produce answers in this inherently hard-to-quantify business.

Kwinn is also a professor of systems engineering at Westpoint. He told us today the discipline of operations research has a "huge role" in  irregular warfare. For one, he said, OR can help the military figure out "if we are winning" by providing feedback on key metrics.

Determining suitable metrics is an "art form," Kwinn said. In Bosnia, for example, U.S. officials used the price of bread as a criterion for measuring the effectiveness of operations there, he said.

As the idea of irregular warfare continues to evolve, there is a place for "facts, as opposed to thoughts and gut feeling" in that concept, Kwinn said.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Although the Army decided not to attend this afternoon's House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee hearing on the Future Combat Systems program, subcommittee chairman Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) -- who was not happy about the Army's decision -- entered the March 17 testimony of Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, and Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program manager for FCS, into the formal record.

(Abercrombie also expressed some annoyance that the Army canceled its appearance only yesterday -- through a staff member in his office.)

The two generals had submitted the testimony for the originally scheduled hearing last week. Citing ongoing budget talks, the service opted not to send its two representatives to today's event, called in response to a highly critical Government Accountability Office report on FCS.

In the prepared testimony, Thompson and Bartley argue that GAO uses outdated tools and methodologies for analyzing the program.

In fact, they say the FCS initiative serves in many ways as “a model for the flexibility and rapid adjustment that OSD and Congress have called for in defense acquisition.

Gone are the days when a defense program could be planned against a well defined enemy, and then developed and managed through a rigid, sequential set of milestones offering limited flexibility and stretched over long development timelines. The FCS acquisition model is responsive to the constantly changing operational environment.

As an example, the two say that GAO's analysis of software -- which relies on “counting source lines of code (SLOC) as a direct indicator of software cost” -- is no longer an accurate measure.

Additionally, the Army representatives push back against the GAO claim that the program is likely to see a greater tension between its rising costs and increasingly strained available funds.

“We differ from that conclusion because the program employs an integrated cost containment strategy to ensure that life-cycle costs are managed,” the testimony says, adding that the “Army's cost estimates have been consistent and updated as the program added or removed systems.”

Stay tuned for a full story on the hearing, and the testimony.

-- Marjorie Censer

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March 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post runs a brief item today that you probably have seen, addressing the Obama administration's apparent decision to eschew such terms as "long war" and "global war on terror."

The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase "global war on terror," a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor.

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' ((GWOT.)) Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' "

The memo said the direction came from the Office of Management and Budget, the executive-branch agency that reviews the public testimony of administration officials before it is delivered.

But Kenneth Baer, an OMB spokesman, says that's not the case.

"There was no memo, no guidance," Baer said yesterday. "This is the opinion of a career civil servant."

That may be so, but the new term is finding its way out there -- and all the way to the top. Though that doesn't mean it's all that well understood.

On Monday, Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke at a missile defense conference in DC, and addressed the topic of supplemental appropriations funding:

So right now we've got an '09 supp on the Hill, or are trying to get one to the Hill. We've got the '10 president's budget that we're trying to move forward on. We've got the '11 budget that we're working inside the department. We have two war supplementals, we used to call them -- OCO is the new acronym; I haven't got a clue what that one stands for -- but the money associated with running the wars.

-- Dan Dupont

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March 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House and Senate Budget committees today marked up their versions of the fiscal year 2010 concurrent budget resolution. The House Budget Committee released legislative text that included language on defense:

It is the policy of this resolution that --
(1) there is no higher priority than the defense of our Nation, and therefore the Administration and Congress will make the necessary investments and reforms to strengthen our military so that it can successfully meet the threats of the 21st century;
(2) acquisition reform is needed at the Department of Defense to end excessive cost growth in the development of new weapons systems and to ensure that weapons systems are delivered on time and in adequate quantities to equip our servicemen and servicewomen;
(3) the Department of Defense should review defense plans to ensure that weapons developed to counter Cold War-era threats are not redundant and are applicable to 21st century threats;
(4) sufficient resources should be provided for the Department of Defense to aggressively address the 758 unimplemented recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 2001 to improve practices at the Department of Defense, which could save billions of dollars that could be applied to priorities identified in this section;
(5) the Department of Defense should review the role that contractors play in its operations, including the degree to which contractors are performing inherently governmental functions, to ensure it has the most effective mix of government and contracted personnel;
(6) the Department of Defense report to Congress on its assessment of Cold War-era weaponry, its progress on implementing GAO recommendations, and its review of contractors at the Department as outlined in paragraphs (3), (4), and (5) by a date to be determined by the appropriate committees;
(7) the GAO provide a report to the appropriate congressional committees by December 31, 2009, on
5 the Department of Defense’s progress in implementing its audit recommendations;
(8) ballistic missile defense technologies that are not proven to work through adequate testing and that are not operationally viable should not be deployed, and that no funding should be provided for the research or development of space-based interceptors;
(9) cooperative threat reduction and other nonproliferation programs (securing "loose nukes" and other materials used in weapons of mass destruction), which were highlighted as high priorities by the 9/11 Commission, need to be funded at a level that is commensurate with the evolving threat;
(10) readiness of our troops, particularly the National Guard and Reserves, is a high priority, and that continued emphasis is needed to ensure adequate equipment and training;
(11) improving military health care services and ensuring quality health care for returning combat veterans is a high priority;
(12) military pay and benefits should be enhanced to improve the quality of life for military personnel and their families;
(13) the Department of Defense should make every effort to investigate the national security benefits of energy independence, including those that may be associated with alternative energy sources and energy efficiency conversions;
(14) the Administration’s budget requests should continue to comply with section 1008, Public Law 109–364, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, and that to the extent practicable overseas military operations should no longer be funded through emergency supplemental appropriations; and
(15) when assessing security threats and reviewing the programs and funding needed to counter these threats, the Administration should do so in a comprehensive manner that includes all agencies involved in our national security.

The House budgeteers also added the $50 billion-per-year "placeholder estimates" requested by the Obama administration, "marking the first time the budget includes both a full-year estimate for overseas operations for the budget year and estimates for future costs, thus providing a more realistic look at the likely costs and their effect on the deficit," according to a committee statement.

The Senate Budget Committee released a statement on its version, with the following defense-related language:

The Chairman’s Mark matches President Obama’s core defense budget and the President’s request for additional war costs. Unlike Bush administration budgets, which repeatedly left out or understated likely war costs, President Obama’s budget includes a far more honest accounting of the likely costs of overseas contingency operations including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Chairman’s Mark follows this approach, which will enhance oversight of war funds and save vital defense resources.

-- John Liang
 

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March 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Last December, Defense Department officials published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that set out guidelines for use of the military during domestic crises.

As it turns out, the rule is slated to replace DOD directive 3025, titled “Military Support to Civil Authorities.” That's according to James Reeves, who is the who is chief of the homeland defense/civil support capabilities-based assessment division in U.S. Northern Command's J-8 directorate.

Reeves and his team just finished up work on a capabilities-based assessment covering the areas homeland defense and civil support.

The CBA, signed by NORTHCOM commander Gen. Victor Renuart on March 11, assumed that the rule/directive would soon become official DOD policy, Reeves said. The new directive would tweak the way defense officials go about buying equipment for civil support missions, he told us. The current directive is “a little more restrictive” in that context, he said.

"It ((doesn't)) prevent anyone from going and acquiring capabilities for civil support, but you had to go up to the ((Office of the Secretary of Defense)) level and seek permission. The new directive changes that so that the department can resource for CS capabilities."

The public comment period for the rule ended on Feb. 2.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In addition to a foreword by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, the new edition of the Army's stability operations field manual features an introduction essay by Janine Davidson. Davidson will join Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon's new deputy under secretary of defense in charge of planning, strategy and force development, next week as deputy assistant secretary for plans in the same office. Currently an assistant professor at George Mason University and a former Air Force pilot, Davidson has worked at the Pentagon before, overseeing stability operations initiatives such as the Irregular Warfare Roadmap, the Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative and the Consortium for Complex Operations.

In her essay, Davidson praises not only the ideas captured by the manual, but also the "comprehensive approach" used by the writing team.

"Because the process of writing this manual led to the building of new relationships within and outside government, and collaborative debate about how best to conduct stability operations, the process might prove to be almost as important as the final product," writes Davidson.

Meanwhile the doctrine itself "fills a profound intellectual void by describing the complex 21st century landscape and articulating the military's unique role in bringing order to chaos," she writes.

She also counters the manual's critics, saying they "see the new doctrine as another dangerous step on the slippery slope toward U.S. imperialism."

She argues that FM 3-07 offers a set of options or tools but does not dictate to civilian leaders whether or where to use those tools.

Unfortunately, Davidson writes, the United States does not have the civilian capacity to carry out some of today's operations, making it necessary for the military to fill the gap.

"This manual is therefore a call to policymakers and legislators to either rebalance the national security portfolio by adequately resourcing these critical civilian agencies or to accept that soldiers and marines will continue to fill the gap -- and therefore will need to know how to do so," she writes.

And even if adequate expeditionary civilian capacity is reached, there will be times when it will be too dangerous for civilians to deploy, writes Davidson. This makes it necessary for the next generation of soldiers to understand the complexity of these missions and, according Davidson, FM 3-07 will help them do so.

We wrote about the field manual last year in Inside the Army. The version of the manual without the contributions from Flournoy and Davidson is here.

-- Kate Brannen

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March 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While President Obama's press conference tonight was overwhelmingly about the economy, he did say his administration was "changing procurement practices when it comes to the Pentagon budget," and fielded one defense-related question:

Q Mr. President, where do you plan to find savings in the Defense and Veterans Administration's budgets when so many items that seem destined for the chopping block are politically untenable, perhaps?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm sorry, so many?

Q When so many items that may be destined for the chopping block seem politically untenable, from major weapons systems -- as you mentioned, procurement -- to wounded warrior care costs, or increased operations on Afghanistan, or the size of the military itself.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, a couple of -- a couple of points I want to make.

The budget that we've put forward reflects the largest increase in veterans funding in 30 years. That's the right thing to do. Chuck asked earlier about sacrifices. I -- I don't think anybody doubts the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform have already made. And when they come home, then they have earned the benefits that they receive.

And unfortunately, over the last several years, all too often the VA has been under-resourced when it comes to dealing with things like post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, dealing with some of the backlogs in admission to VA hospitals.

So there are a whole host of veterans' issues that I think every American wants to see properly funded, and that's what's reflected in our budget.

Where the savings should come in -- and I've been working with Secretary Gates on this and will be detailing it more in the weeks to come -- is how do we reform our procurement system so that it keeps America safe and we're not wasting taxpayer dollars? And there is uniform acknowledgment that the procurement system right now doesn't work. That's not just my opinion; that's John McCain's opinion; that's Carl Levin's opinion.

There are a whole host of people who are students of the procurement process that will say if you've got a whole range of billion-dollar, multi-billion-dollar systems that are -- where we're seeing cost overruns of 30 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent, and then still don't perform the way they're supposed to or are providing our troops with the kinds of tools that they need to succeed on their missions, then we've got a problem.

Now, I think everybody in this town knows that the politics of changing procurement is tough, because, you know, lobbyists are very active in this area. You know, contractors are very good at dispersing the jobs in plants in the Defense Department widely.

And so what we have to do is to go through this process very carefully, be more disciplined than we've been in the last several years. As I've said, we've already identified, potentially, $40 billion in savings, just by some of the procurement reforms that are pretty apparent to a lot of -- a lot of critics out there. And we are going to continue to find savings in a way that allows us to put the resources where they're needed but to make sure that we're not simply fattening defense contractors.

One last point. In order for us to get a handle on these costs, it's also important that we are honest in what these costs are. And that's why it was so important for us to acknowledge the true costs of the Iraq war and the Afghan war, because if -- if those costs are somehow off the books and we're not thinking about them, then it's hard for us to make some of the tough choices that need to be made.

-- John Liang
 

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March 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Navy’s continuing interest in buying fewer Zumwalt-class DDG-1000 destroyers has once again upset the senators from Maine, which is home to Bath Iron Works shipyard. Check out the letter they sent Friday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Inside the Pentagon recently reported the Navy is looking seriously at further truncating the DDG-1000 program. Rather than three ships, the service might buy two or one.

-- Chris Castelli

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March 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) spoke this morning at a conference co-sponsored by the Missile Defense Agency and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. And if you were there and you are a supporter of the Airborne Laser program, you didn't have a good morning.

After calling for tighter missile defense testing requirements and the need to shift MDA back into the Pentagon's normal acquisition process, Tauscher -- who last week accepted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's offer to become under secretary of state for arms control and international security -- set her sights on the “tough budget choices” facing Congress and the Defense Department. Both Congress and DOD have avoided these choices over the years when dealing with certain weapon systems, she said, noting that this year will be different. And what program did she use as an example? The ABL.

Noting that the program is eight years behind schedule and $4 billion over cost, Tauscher said ABL is the definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over despite failing each time.

Supporters of the program are trying to ride to its rescue, though. Today, seven House members sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking him to support ABL. Noting they are concerned about reports that ABL will suffer a severe cut or even termination in the fiscal year 2010 budget, the lawmakers told Gates that ABL is “critical to the future of our national security capabilities.”

They lay out their case near the end of the letter:

The ABL is performing well and is scheduled to shoot down a boosting ballistic missile by the end of the year. Should the ABL be severely under-funded or canceled, the promise of speed-of-light and extreme precision in the hands of the warfighter will disappear, as will the fragile industrial base that supports it. In short, we will have wasted the resources that have been well invested since the Clinton administration.

The letter was signed by Reps. Norm Dicks (D-WA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Todd Akin (R-MO), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and, Buck McKeon (R-CA).

-- Thomas Duffy