The Insider

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March 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

With insurgents in Afghanistan increasing their use of improvised explosive devices, a senior coalition commander on the ground in that country was asked what can be done to counteract these IEDs.

Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, the commander of Regional Command South in Afghanistan, briefed Pentagon reporters earlier this morning via satellite. De Kruif, who commands about 23,000 troops from 17 nations, is responsible for security and stability operations in the southern region of Afghanistan.

Getting more protection against IEDs is not just a matter of putting more armor on vehicles, according to the Defense Department transcript of de Kruif's remarks:

The first step is having an approach in which you win the hearts and minds of the people. So that means that every day, although we have an IED threat, our forces will go out and have a 24/7 presence amongst the Afghan people. Because by the end of the day, it is the Afghan people who will deny the use of IEDs by the insurgency.

And I just wanted to mention to you that more than 70 percent of the IEDs in Kandahar city are turned in to us or the ANSF by the Afghan people. So this just shows you how -- to put it mildly -- how fed up the Afghans are, the local nationals, with IEDs.

The second step is that you've got into the IED system, that you need to know where the facilities are, where they train the IED cells and where they produce the IEDs. That is mainly a work which is conducted by special forces now. And we are definitely increasing the capacity we have of special forces in RC South, mainly focusing on getting more information of the IED system.

The next step is that you get better capabilities regarding the detection of the IEDs. We are, over the next couple of months, significantly increasing the capabilities we have with new systems to detect IEDs on the ground.

And then last but not least, yes, if we are not able to find an IED, we should protect our people. So the availability of well-protected vehicles like the MRAPs are essential. And one of the highlights which we integrate in our planning from the start is that we would have enough MRAPs available for the U.S. forces coming in.

Let me make one other remark. It's not only ISAF who needs to improve its IED capabilities. But we are now in the process of significantly increas((ing)) the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces in their counter-IED capabilities. So we are moving forward the right way. But we all know that beating the IED system will be a very long and difficult fight.

-- John Liang
 

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March 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

An April 2 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States has been canceled because the report is not yet complete, according to an e-mail from Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI) office.

William Perry, chairman of the commission, and James Schlesinger, the vice chairman, were scheduled to appear before the committee.

The meeting will be rescheduled once the commission completes its report, according to Levin's office.

The commission delivered an interim report on Dec. 15. Inside the Pentagon reported on it here.

-- Kate Brannen
 

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March 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today issued details on $5.9 billion in funding for nearly 3,000 military construction projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, out of which $300 million would go "to develop energy-efficient technologies," according to a Defense Department Web page.

That $5.9 billion amount "represents the bulk of the approximately $7.4 billion in defense-related funding provided by the ARRA signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, 2009," according to a DOD statement released today:

DOD Recovery Act funds will be spent at DOD facilities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The primary purpose of these funds is to create jobs and stimulate economic activity across the country. All projects focus on making much-needed improvements to military installations and include hospitals, child development centers, and housing for troops and their families.

The two largest DOD projects to be constructed under the ARRA will be new hospitals at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Fort Hood, Texas.

Representing less than 1 percent of the entire $787 billion ARRA package, the $7.4 billion investment in defense-related projects will further the legislation's stated goal of stimulating the American economy, while improving the quality of life for service members, their families, and DOD civilian workers.

ARRA funds are also being used to support DoD high priority programs such as care for wounded warriors and energy security. Facility improvement projects include many energy conservation measures. $300 million of ARRA funds will be used on military energy research programs so that the DOD can continue to lead the way in the national effort to achieve greater energy independence.

-- John Liang
 

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March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense experts predicted a fierce battle this budget season during a discussion of the state of the military this morning on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show.

Andrew Exxum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and founder of the blog Abu Muqawama, alluded to three wars that are currently being fought: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the "really nasty battle that's getting ready to be waged between Secretary Gates and members of Congress and defense contractors."

He highlighted the debate around the Air Force's F-22, parts of which he said are built in 48 different states -- giving 96 senators a vested interest in keeping it alive.

"The F-22 will be justified not just in terms of something for national defense, but also in terms of a massive federal jobs program," said Exxum.

Gates will use the grim economic environment to make difficult choices in the hopes of creating a more strategic budget, the experts agreed.

"For the first time in this budget, you're going to see one that actually sets long-term priorities for the kinds of wars that he thinks this nation is going to fight," said Thom Shanker, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. "It's not going to be each service getting its fair, equitable share of the budget. And I think it's going to be released as a single, big package."

Robert Work, vice president of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, agreed.

"Generally, when you have real change inside the Pentagon it is in times when resources are constrained," he said.

The last two Quadrennial Defense Reviews occurred during defense build-ups, he said, "so hard choices have not had to been made."

"I do not think, that in this case, a bet against Secretary Gates would be a wise one," said Shanker. "This is his last public job ever. He has nothing to lose."

That the cuts are coming is not in dispute, but Robert Haddick, defense analyst at Small Wars Journal and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, wants to know why.

"The question I would have is if these cuts do in fact occur the way it was described in the Boston Globe article, what is the reason? Is it because these systems are actually lemons or not able to deliver on the missions that are assigned to them? Or is the purpose of cutting these programs to free up money to add to ever more headcount to general purpose ground forces?" asked Haddick.

-- Kate Brannen

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March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Kevin Chilton mentioned an interesting document in his prepared remarks for a congressional hearing this week -- the "Global Deterrence Plan," approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last fall.

In his prepared testimony, the general described the classified document as a "significant step toward integrating deterrence activities across government agencies and with Allied partners."

Officials are tight-lipped about exactly what role non-military government agencies and partner nations would have to play in a concept traditionally mentioned in one breath with America's atomic weapons might.

An article by Chilton in the spring issue of the Air Force's Strategic Studies Quarterly offers some additional perspective.

In his piece, titled "Waging Deterrence in the 21st Century," Chilton describes deterrence as a "inherently a whole-of-government enterprise." He calls for an "innovative process" that would help "consider and include interagency deterrence courses of action, to make whole-ofgovernment decisions on what courses of action to implement, and to coordinate their execution upon selection."

As for the role of allies, Chilton writes this:

U.S. friends and allies share our interest in deterrence success. Because of their different perspectives, different military capabilities, and different means of communication at their disposal, they offer much that can refine and improve our deterrence strategies and enhance the effectiveness of our deterrence activities. It is to our advantage (and theirs) to involve them more actively in "waging deterrence" in the twenty-first century.

One of the most important contributions that our friends and allies can make to our deterrence campaigns is to provide alternative assessments of competitors’ perceptions. Allied insights into how American deterrence activities may be perceived by both intended and unintended audiences can help us formulate more effective plans. Allied suggestions for alternative approaches to achieving key deterrence effects, including actions they would take in support of—or instead of—US actions, may prove invaluable.

As in the case of interagency collaboration, we need to develop innovative processes for collaborating with our friends and allies to enhance deterrence.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee has rescheduled its hearing on the Future Combat Systems program for next week.

The hearing -- now slated for 2 p.m. on March 26 -- was originally planned for Tuesday but was postponed because of illness on the part of subcommittee chairman Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).

Scheduled to attend to represent the Army are Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, and Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program manager for FCS. GAO representatives will also attend.

The hearing will address the GAO report released earlier this month, which criticized the FCS program for its immaturity and increasing cost.

-- Marjorie Censer

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March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House announced today that President Obama has nominated Elizabeth King to become assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. According to the White House statement:

Elizabeth King is currently Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor on Defense, Foreign Affairs and Veterans for Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), serving as the Senator's principal staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee and accompanying the Senator on international travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Bosnia, East Timor, China and Colombia. Prior to her current position, King was Legislative Director to Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA). In 1995, King served as Counsel for the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. She also worked as Staff Attorney for the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation. King holds a law degree from Georgetown University and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

-- John Liang
 

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March 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, President Obama's pick to succeed John Young as the Pentagon's top acquisition official, has been put on the docket for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week.

Carter won't be alone. Here are the details:

Thursday, March 26, 2009 - 9:30 a.m.

To consider the nominations of:

Dr. Ashton B. Carter to be Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics;

Dr. James N. Miller, Jr. to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and

Ambassador Alexander R. Vershbow to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

-- Dan Dupont

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March 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House this afternoon formally nominated Ash Carter to be the Pentagon's acquisition executive -- President Obama had previously announced an  "intent to nominate" --  forwarding the Harvard professor's dossier to the Senate for consideration.

With this action, the Senate Armed Services Committee can now schedule a confirmation hearing. A committee spokesman said that no date is yet set for the panel to consider Carter.

-- Jason Sherman
 

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March 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon yesterday released the transcript of a March 10 interview Defense Secretary Robert Gates did with National Public Radio's Robert Siegel. The transcript includes a portion that was not aired, which touches on the Pentagon's two-war concept and the Quadrennial Defense Review:

SIEGEL: There have been debates in Washington for forever over whether we are capable of waging two wars at one time, whether we have a military large enough for that, having inherited this situation when we were at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. What's the lesson, is two wars at once perhaps biting off more than we can effectively chew even if we're willing to spend a trillion dollars at it?

GATES: Our military planning for a number of years has - and I would say going back at least 20 years - has been to have the ability to fight two major combat operations simultaneously. One where it would be an aggressive effort and another where you might have to hold for a while and then finish the job. I think one of the central questions that this department will face in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which will begin shortly, is whether that model makes any sense in the 21st century and whether what may have fit in a Cold War environment or an immediately post-Cold War environment really has application to today's world.

SIEGEL: And the experience of the past few years suggests some rethinking is need there in terms of what our doctrines are?

GATES: I think so.

InsideDefense.com's Jason Sherman reported that same day that Gates plans to summon the military's top brass from around the world to the Pentagon at the end of this month to unveil changes to the fiscal year 2010 budget request, kick off the QDR and roll out a new force-planning construct:

Gates plans to call a special meeting of the Defense Senior Leaders Conference (DSLC) -- a group that includes the 10 combatant commanders, the service chiefs and civilian Pentagon leaders -- to outline his plan for a “strategic reshaping” of the military, these officials say. That reshaping is expected to include some major changes to the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio.

The revision of the FY-10 Pentagon budget request -- which is expected to include cuts to major weapon system programs and possible terminations -- is being viewed as an unofficial prelude to the Quadrennial Defense Review.

“The budget drill is ((a)) major portion of the QDR,” said a Pentagon official. “The decisions made in the FY-10 budget drill are the foundation of anything else that we’re going to look at.” . . .

The terms of reference for the QDR -- the guidance that sets the scope of the review and the process for its execution -- is expected to be presented at the end-of-March meeting as well, sources say. On Jan. 27, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he hoped to formally begin the QDR -- a congressionally mandated review of the entire U.S. military enterprise that is supposed to yield a new modernization blueprint -- in February.

In addition to beginning the QDR at the end of this month, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is expected at the DSLC meeting to offer a new force-planning construct, which has wide-ranging implications for the entire U.S. defense enterprise. It forms a core justification for the composition of the U.S. armed forces as well as the number -- and types -- of ships, aircraft, trucks and tanks the services require.

The current force planning construct calls for the U.S. military to have the capabilities to deal with contingencies across a wide range of scenarios that are organized into three areas: homeland defense; irregular warfare; and conventional operations. The construct calls for the military to be able to conduct both steady-state and surge operations across these three areas and maintain the ability to conduct two nearly simultaneous major wars.

-- John Liang

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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

What should President Obama do about U.S.-Russian relations? The Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, co-chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart (D-CO) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), has some ideas, which they unveiled yesterday in a new report.

According to a summary of the study, the report advocates partnering with Russia to deal with Iran; collaborating to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime; taking a new look at missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic and making a genuine effort to develop a cooperative approach to the shared threat from Iranian missiles; accepting that neither Ukraine nor Georgia is ready for NATO membership and working closely with U.S. allies to develop options other than NATO membership to demonstrate a commitment to their sovereignty; and launching a serious dialogue on arms control, including extending the START I Treaty as well as further reduction of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

The full, 30-page report is online, too.

-- Chris Castelli

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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department will likely miss a congressionally mandated deadline to identify all its underwater chemical and conventional munitions dump sites around U.S. coastlines due to budget constraints, Stuart Parker from sister publication Defense Environment Alert reports today.

An Army munitions cleanup expert told state waste officials earlier this month that the inventory is the first step in addressing underwater weapons remediation -- an issue for which a long-term national strategy still must be developed, DEA reports. In addition:

J.C. King, an Army munitions cleanup specialist, told the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials March 5 that the inventory work, which relies on archival research, is falling behind schedule because of budget shortfalls. “Neither Army or Navy currently has the funds required for this research, although both are doing research,” an Army source confirms.

Federal defense authorization law requires that DOD produce a final report on the position of all known munitions dumps at sea by the end of fiscal 2009. King said that to meet this requirement, the Army and Navy are taking an inventory of sites in an effort to list them in DOD’s 2010 annual environmental report to Congress. But “we are not going to make that, especially for conventional weapons,” he warned.

The Army is asking the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for an additional $1 million to complete the work on time, but without it the Army will probably have to ask for a deadline extension, the Army source says. The source adds that OSD is aware of the problem.

The military is facing key questions over where to go in terms of cleanup once the sites are identified. King said that development of a long-term national strategy for underwater weapons remediation is essential, noting that over time, the munitions will degrade and may discharge their contents into the water and sediments on the seabed. Devising such a strategy would involve talks with EPA, King said. At the same time, he called for a “risk-based” approach, weighing the risks of disturbing munitions for cleanup with leaving them alone.

A spokesman for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), one of the chief architects of the reporting requirement, says that the delay in completing the inventory is more than a nuisance, “as it raises questions of public health. Those timeframes for reporting are put there for a reason, not to be ignored, not to be unilaterally changed.” The spokesman was previously unaware of the delay, and would not comment further on what action Abercrombie may take in relation to it. . . .

For the rest of the story, click here.

-- John Liang
 

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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Given that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has required a pledge of silence from everyone participating in the FY-10 budget review, it is hard to imagine that Robert Hale -- the Pentagon comptroller -- might spill the beans.

As soon as this week, Gates is expected to lock in some "hard choices" in the FY-10 budget, decisions that are expected to squeeze the military services' modernization accounts. 

But Hale is scheduled to testify tomorrow before the House Budget Committee to discuss the Defense Department's FY-10 budget request. What will he say? What can he say?

After Hale, Michale Sullivan, director of acquisition and source management at the Government Accountability Office, will appear before the committee.

-- Jason Sherman

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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Next Monday the Missile Defense Agency will open its seventh annual conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The conference runs through March 25. Two longtime critics of the agency's testing plans will serve as bookends on the opening day's agenda: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is scheduled to give the conference's keynote address at 10 a.m, while Phil Coyle, the former director of the Pentagon's independent testing office, is scheduled to speak at 3:40 in the afternoon. According to an agenda provided to us by MDA, Coyle's topic is “Missile Defense testing -- A Critic's View.”

Coyle was on Capitol Hill last month testifying before the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), the subcommittee's chairwoman, will speak at 11:30. Her topic: “Missile Defense Budget/Political Concerns in Congress."

Coyle was blunt in his view of MDA's testing programduring the Feb. 25 hearing:

For missile defense, the most challenging technical obstacles are dealing with enemy attacks of two or more missiles with decoys and countermeasures that cab defeat missile defense. So far the testing programs have kicked that can down the road.

He also claimed “a troublesome lack of clarity” in the public discussions of the rationale for and the technical progress made toward an effective U.S. missile defense system, adding:

Quite simply, the public statements made by Pentagon officials and contractors have often been at variance with the facts at hand. It is difficult to separate programmatic spin from genuine progress. In particular, the missile defense program has made claims that have not been demonstrated through realistic testing.

Other speakers during the first day include Gen. Victor Renuart, commander of U.S. Northern Command; Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, MDA's director; Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, the commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Command; and Peter Verga, the principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy.

-- Thomas Duffy
 

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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Just a few years ago, defense officials said they hadn't the faintest idea of how many contractors were working for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to some congressional pressure and the advent of a piece of software with the fitting acronym SPOT, the fog has cleared a bit.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the total number of contractors in the U.S. Central Command area was just slightly under 260,000, according to a recently released Pentagon information paper. Of that amount, 52,000 were U.S. citizens. The rest are, in equal parts, citizens from the countries where U.S. force operate and individuals from outside those countries.

The paper includes an interesting update on all kinds of contractor-related efforts at DOD.

For example, it describes a Sept. 10, 2008, memo from former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, which served to create what the document calls a “'911' Response Capability.” Specifically, the memo provided guidance for military personnel “on the responsibility to respond to reports that . . . contractor and civilian employees have allegedly committed crimes or who are reported to be the victims of crimes,” the information paper states.

-- Sebastian Sprenger