The Insider

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January 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After the lighter literary fare of the holidays, some might eagerly want to return to the somewhat drier texts of the U.S. military establishment. For those, a great read will be the latest edition of the Joint Staff's Joint Strategic Planning System, issued last month. The document outlines exactly how the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff goes about the business of providing military advice to the defense secretary and the president.

For the first time, the new edition describes the inner workings of the so-called Comprehensive Joint Assessement, which we told you about here and here. The CJA process, begun last October, is designed to provide a snapshot of requirements and challenges of the combatant commanders.

Some have described the timing of the drill as opportune, as it offers President-elect Barack Obama a good idea of what is currently important around the COCOMs just as he prepares to take office later this month.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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January 5, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Vice President-elect Joe Biden and a few fellow senators will depart later this week on a "fact finding" trip to Southwest Asia, according to a statement from his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander. For security reasons, details of the itinerary will be released as the trip progresses, according to the statement, which does not name the countries they will visit.

The members of the delegation, who will be participating in all or part of the trip, include incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA) and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Biden will travel in his capacity as the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Alexander said.

"The fact-finding delegation will make it clear to foreign leaders that they are not there to speak on behalf of the U.S. government, or convey policy positions for the incoming administration," she said, noting the delegation thanks the Bush administration for its cooperation in making the trip possible.

-- Chris Castelli

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December 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-Elect Barack Obama's Defense Department transition team has notified more than a third of the Pentagon's 250 political appointees that they will not be asked to stick around after Jan. 20, according to The Hill.

Despite keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the Pentagon, President-elect Obama’s transition team informed 90 Bush appointees their services will not be needed after Inauguration Day.

Scott Gration, a senior official on Obama’s transition team, called and emailed several of President Bush’s Pentagon appointees about 10 days ago to inform them they were being dismissed.

“It was very professionally done,” a senior Pentagon official -- who will not remain in place beyond Inauguration Day -- told InsideDefense.com on Dec. 31 of the notification process which took place early last week.

On Dec. 19, Gates -- speaking on behalf of Obama -- sent a note to all 250 Pentagon political appointees asking them to consider working until they pass their respective portfolios directly to their replacements. In that memo, reported here, he advised that some individuals would be told by Dec. 22 that they will be asked to vacate their posts with the administration change. In addition, Gates said:

To the extent you are willing and in a position to continue to serve, I am deeply appreciative. However, I encourage you to continue to prudently plan for the transition from DOD employment, as the pace of personnel decisions by the incoming Administration is likely to accelerate.

I regret the delay in being able to provide you with more clarity and guidance on how long some of you will be asked to continue serving in your current positions. I appreciate your patience and the willingness to consider this request in the interest of providing continuity for this Department and for its critical mission to the Nation in a time of war.

-- Jason Sherman

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December 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department is gearing up for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review with a little help from the Military Operations Research Society, which will host a four-day workshop next month involving key Pentagon players.

The Jan. 12-15 event, according to the agenda, will:

* Examine DOD assessment capabilities for performing QDR 2010 (to include such activities as gaming of advanced operational concepts).
* Identify past analyses and analytical methods applicable to determining DOD and other USG ((U.S. government)) capabilities and resource requirements.
* Provide a neutral environment in which OSD, the Joint Staff, Defense Agencies, Unified Commands, the Services, and other USG agencies can discuss analytical plans and
preparations for QDR 2010.
* Provide ideas and analytical status to OSD/JCS decision makers who are planning for QDR 2010.
* Identify other activities that can help joint analysis in the 21st century

In what could foreshadow the structure of the upcoming QDR, the workshop plans five working groups to examine: Islamic extremism; countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; providing for homeland security/defense; dealing with a peer competitor; and “strategy, force and program integration methods.”

Wanna attend? You must have a secret clearance and -- because space is expected to be limited -- demonstrate how you would make a contribution to one of the panels.

-- Jason Sherman

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December 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Roadside bombs, the bane of U.S. forces in Iraq, are now becoming “the primary threat to forces in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal reported today.

A story filed from Kabul, Afghanistan, says attacks against U.S. forces involving improvised explosive devices -- and casualties caused by these roadside bombs -- are both 33 percent higher in 2008 than in 2007, citing figures complied by the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force.

"IEDs are the biggest threat we face," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, said in an interview. "They are the largest killer of ISAF troops."

The new data from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization paint a dire picture of Afghanistan's security situation.

Attacks against the Afghan security forces and government more than doubled, while the number of Afghan civilian deaths increased by at least 40%. The overall number of attacks in 2008 rose 31%, according to the statistics...

The increase in roadside bombs is forcing U.S. commanders here to rely more heavily on MRAPs, which can't reach many remote villages because it is difficult for them to traverse Afghanistan's narrow roads and harsh terrain.

The story doesn't note that the Defense Department in recent weeks has hammered together what Pentagon officials say will be at least a $3 billion acquisition to field a lighter, more maneuverable variant of the MRAP -- the M-ATV -- for commanders in Afghanistan.

InsideDefense.com is following development of this so-called 'MRAP-lite' closely, including this Nov. 5 story:

The Pentagon is poised to reprise the unorthodox strategy used to procure Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks in a bid to rapidly provide troops in Afghanistan with a new vehicle that offers greater protection against roadside bombs than armored humvees, but one that is lighter than an MRAP, which commanders deem too cumbersome for roads in the Central Asian nation.

Like MRAP, the new program....would be set up to bypass the Pentagon's traditional procurement process in order to address an urgent request from Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Afghanistan and begin equipping units in as little as nine months, according to sources familiar with the current thinking.

Unlike MRAP, which last year mushroomed from a requirement for 1,100 vehicles for the Marine Corps to a $23 billion procurement effort -- the Pentagon’s No. 1 acquisition priority -- to rapidly deliver more than 15,838 armored trucks to Iraq, the ((M-ATV)) program is expected to involve the considerably smaller procurement of as many as 2,000 vehicles, according to sources.

Still, the fledgling project could be worth as much as $3 billion.

Because the total buy is relatively small, costs could run as high as $800,000 per vehicle, a price tag that could climb to nearly $1.5 million once government-furnished equipment is integrated, spare parts are purchased and the new vehicles are shipped to Afghanistan, according to sources familiar with estimates the Pentagon recently compiled.

-- Jason Sherman

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December 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM

After years of legal wrangling over whether the Navy had done enough to counter potential harm to whales from mid-frequency sonar used in anti-submarine training exercises, the service and environmental groups announced Dec. 27 that a settlement was reached.

“The Navy is pleased that after more than three years of extensive litigation, this matter has been brought to an end on favorable terms,” Frank Jimenez, the Navy’s general counsel, said in a statement on the Navy’s Web site. “The Navy welcomes an approach that relies more upon scientific research than litigation.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups sued the Navy in 2005, claiming the service had failed to conduct an adequate environmental review before commencing training off the coast of Southern California. Environmentalists have argued that sonar disrupts whale feeding and migration and, in some cases, causes injury, stranding and death.

The settlement is separate from the ruling made by the Supreme Court in November in Winter v. NRDC, which found that the need for realistic training to counter the growing threat of stealthy diesel-electric submarines, as judged necessary by military authorities, is of far greater public interest than environmentalists’ concerns for potential harm.

According to the Navy, the settlement does not require any additional mitigation measures to protect whales and “essentially adopts” the Navy’s program of environmental analysis and research that it had implemented before the lawsuit was filed. The service will continue to implement protective measures it developed in partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to a statement on the NRDC’s Web site, the settlement requires the Navy to “complete a full schedule of environmental reviews” for major training exercises.

“This agreement commits the Navy for the first time to a program of environmental review and public transparency in its sonar training in an effort to shield whales and other vulnerable species from harmful underwater noise,” Joel Reynolds, senior attorney and director of the NRDC’s marine mammal program, said in the statement. “((W))hile it does not resolve disagreements with the Navy over operational safeguards required to reduce sonar's risk to whales and other marine life, it sets in place a process for negotiation between the Navy and this environmental coalition that we hope will reduce the need for future litigation.”

According to the NRDC, additional terms of the settlement that the Navy agreed to include:

• Funding $14.75 million in new marine mammal research;
• Public disclosure of previously classified information on sonar, including information that had been protected in NRDC v. Winter;
• A cooling off period to allow negotiation when future sonar disagreements arise;
• A payment of $1.1 million in attorney's fees for settling both the 2005 lawsuit and a 2006 lawsuit regarding sonar use around Hawaii.

-- Rebekah Gordon

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December 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM

William Lynn, the former Pentagon comptroller and current Raytheon executive, is being vetted for a senior position in the Obama administration, and defense industry insiders believe that position will be deputy defense secretary.

Lynn, the senior vice president of government operations and strategy at Raytheon, was comptroller during Clinton's second term; before that he was head of the program analysis and evaluation directorate.

According to defense industry sources, he's a strong candidate to succeed Gordon England as Robert Gates' No. 2. Gates is staying; England has said he will not.

-- Dan Dupont

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December 24, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The latest Inside Missile Defense -- which won't be out until next week -- has a story about the ongoing negotiations between the Missile Defense Agency and Boeing, the lead contractor on the agency's huge program to defend the United States against a ballistic missile attack. Boeing had been working under a contract to develop the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that was awarded in 2001.

Earlier this year, MDA announced that that contract became too complicated to execute and that Boeing would be signed to a new one by Dec. 31. But both sides are still talking over the details of that arrangement and won't make the Dec. 31 date.

To keep the effort going, MDA told us it will give Boeing a “bridge” contract until the main contract is in place.

And today, the agency told us the cost of the bridge contract will be $398 million in fiscal year 2009 money. It will be doled out to Boeing in two increments, each covering three months.

Here's a sneak peek at the story:

The existing contract Boeing has been working under since 2001 has become “too complex to administer effectively” and associated cost overruns have changed the program’s technical content and schedule, MDA said in a statement issued in early June. The agency decided to end that contract on Dec. 31 and have Boeing signed to a new deal called the “core completion contract.”

On Dec. 22, an MDA spokesman explained to Inside Missile Defense how the interim contract would be used: “It is a six-month bridge with ((an option of)) three months and an option for another three months,” he said. The dollar amount of the bridge contract is being negotiated, the spokesman added. Fiscal year 2009 dollars from the GMD account will pay for the bridge contract.

During a Nov. 12 teleconference with reporters, former MDA Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering said the two sides had just started talking and that the agency would not be held to the Dec. 31 date. “We are beginning discussions on the negotiations with the contractor right now and I will not be held hostage to a schedule to try to minimize our leverage with respect to negotiations. While that is our target, that's not necessarily going to be a hard and fast date we are trying to meet.”

Obering said the cost of the core completion contract is “a big part of the negotiations.”

The GMD contract Boeing is now signed to calls for work to continue through 2011. The contract to be negotiated will extend that work another two years, through 2013.

During an Oct. 2 breakfast with reporters, Richard Danzig, who was advising the Obama campaign on national security issues, said the GMD effort would be one Pentagon program the new administration would closely review if Obama were elected.

-- Thomas Duffy

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December 23, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Science Board today released a pair of reports about future challenges for the U.S. military and nuclear inspections.

You can read the full 505-page "Challenges to Military Operations in Support of U.S. Interests," or if you just need some lighter reading over the holiday break you could just read the 113-page executive summary.

That report is "robust in scope," as DSB Chairman William Schneider writes in his cover letter without a hint of understatement. Schneider says it "concerns itself with challenges the U.S. military might face in the future, emphasizing areas where the nation is less well-prepared."

Future adversaries are more likely to attack the nation with asymmetric tools of war, employed using non-traditional concepts of operation. Thus, challenges from nuclear weapons, from cyber warfare, in and from space, to force deployment and resupply, and on U.S. soil, may well dominate in the decades ahead. Addressing U.S. vulnerabilities in these and other areas is the focus of the study's effort, leading to actions for the Department that can improve the nation's posture against future threats.

The second report released today is on "Nuclear Weapons Inspections for the Strategic Nuclear Forces."

The report is the second in a "four-phase effort" meant to look at the security of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, according to retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, who chaired the DSB task force:

Phase I addressed weapons security and was completed in the summer of 2007. Phase III was added as a first priority and assessed the systemic causes of the unauthorized movement of nuclear weapons from Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB. Phase IV will focus on nuclear weapons inspections of non-strategic nuclear forces.

In this week's report, the DSB calls on the Air Force secretary and chief of staff as well as the major air commanders to:

- Provide clear direction on the collective and individual objectives of the set of nuclear inspections.
- Remove any direction or implication that inspection teams have an education or mentoring responsibility during the conduct of an inspection.

Additionally, the Air Force secretary "should direct formation of a team of (Nuclear Surety Inspection), (Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection), (Defense Nuclear Surety Inspection) inspectors and officers and senior NCOs from bomber units and ICBM units to increase the clarity of direction for nuclear weapons operations." Specifically, the DSB report recommends that the secretary:

- Expand the technical manuals as needed.
- Restore the clear direction formerly embodied in Air Force regulations on nuclear operations and inspections.

Further, the SECAF should:

- Require that Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe provide a common set of demanding standards that NSI and NORI/ORI inspectors must attain and sustain.
     * The requirements for initial assignment should include at least one assignment performing nuclear weapons duties.
- Direct that (Air Force Inspection Agency) produce:
     * A formal training course and assemble training teams to assist major air command inspection teams.
     * Standardized checklists for inspections of common areas.
- Direct that the NSI Process Review Conference be held each six months.
- Direct that major air commands have the authority for by-name assignment to MAJCOM inspection needs.

-- John Liang

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December 23, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama announced new additions to his administration's national security team this afternoon.

Two key White House billets are among the announcements.

According to the Obama team, they will be filled by:

Thomas Donilon, deputy national security advisor
Donilon is a partner at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers and serves on the firm’s global governing committee. Most recently Mr. Donilon co-chaired the Obama-Biden State Department Agency Review Team and the Obama-Biden general election debate preparation effort.  Mr. Donilon served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Chief of Staff at the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration.  In these capacities, he oversaw the development and implementation of the Department’s major policy initiatives.  He was deeply involved in  a range of policy issues, including the Bosnia and Middle East peace negotiations, the expansion of NATO, and US-China relations.


Antony “Tony” Blinken, national security advisor to the vice president
Blinken is staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a post he's held since 2002. From 1994 to 2001, Mr. Blinken served on the National Security Council staff at The White House.  He was Senior Director for European Affairs (1999-2001) and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and NSC Senior Director for Speechwriting (1994-1998).  He also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1993 – 1994), and was a lawyer in New York and Paris.  Mr. Blinken was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2001 to 2002) and a Senior Foreign Policy adviser to the Obama-Biden presidential campaign. 

Nominated to two top State Department posts are James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, who was deputy national security adviser to President Clinton from 1996 to 2000; and Jacob Lew, deputy secretary of state, who directed the White House Office of Management and Budget for part of Clinton's presidency.

In a statement, Obama said: “The team that we have assembled is uniquely suited to meet the great global challenges facing us today. They join a strong team of leading experts and accomplished managers and I look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”

-- Jason Sherman

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December 22, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The New York Times used its lead editorial on Sunday to propose significant changes to the Pentagon's spending plans, declaring "there is plenty of fat in the defense budget."

Its suggestions are fairly predictable but worth noting. To wit:

End production of the Air Force’s F-22. The F-22 was designed to ensure victory in air-to-air dogfights with the kind of futuristic fighters that the Soviet Union did not last long enough to build. The Air Force should instead rely on its version of the new high-performance F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which comes into production in 2012 and like the F-22 uses stealth technology to elude enemy radar.

Until then, it can use upgraded versions of the F-16, which can outperform anything now flown by any potential foe. The F-35 will provide a still larger margin of superiority. The net annual savings: about $3 billion.

Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. This is a stealthy blue water combat ship designed to fight the kind of midocean battles no other nation is preparing to wage. The Navy can rely on the existing DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyer, a powerful, well-armed ship that incorporates the advanced Aegis combat system for tracking and destroying multiple air, ship and submarine targets. The Navy has sharply cut back the number of Zumwalts on order from 32 to two.

Cutting the last two could save more than $3 billion a year that should be used to buy more of the littoral combat ships that are really needed. Those ships can move quickly in shallow offshore waters and provide helicopter and other close-in support for far more likely ground combat operations.

And so on. The V-22 also gets the stop sign, though the Army's Future Combat Systems do not.

-- Dan Dupont

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December 22, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Army Secretary Pete Geren won't be sticking around for the Obama administration, he announced today -- though he will stay until his successor is confirmed.

And Air Force acquisition chief Sue Payton will do the same, as we reported last week.

They won't be the only ones, as we report in a just-posted piece:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has officially invited political appointees to stay in their positions until replaced.

In a Dec. 19 memo sent to senior Defense Department officials, Gates says he has “received authorization from the President-Elect’s Transition team” to extend invitations to political appointees who want to stay beyond Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

“This option will be available to all willing political appointees with the exception of those who are contacted individually and told otherwise,” Gates writes.

Those not invited to stay will be told no later than the close of business today, he adds.

-- Dan Dupont

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December 22, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today named researchers at seven universities to spearhead the Minerva Research Initiative, a project Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched this spring that aims to expand collaboration between social scientists and the U.S. military in order to improve the Defense Department's “intellectual capital” to wrestle with new security challenges.

The researchers, their academic affiliation, and titles of their winning proposals are:

Susan Shrink, University of California, San Diego: The Evolving Relationship Between Technology and National Security in China: Innovation, Defense Transformation, and China’s Place in the Global Technology Order

Mark Woodward, Arizona State University: Finding Allies for the War of Words: Mapping the Diffusion and Influence of Counter-Radical Muslim Discourse

Patricia Lewis, Monterey Institute of International Studies: Iraq’s Wars with the US from the Iraqi Perspective: State Security, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Civil-Military Relations, Ethnic Conflict and Political Communication in Baathist Iraq

Jacob Shapiro, Princeton University: Terrorism Governance and Development

David Matsumoto, San Francisco State University: Emotion and Intergroup Relations

James Lindsay, The University of Texas at Austin: Climate Change, State Stability, and Political Risk in Africa

Nazli Choucri, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: ECIR - Explorations in Cyber International Relations

In total, the seven contract awards are expected to be worth as much as $50 million over five years, which will be supported by a total of 16 universities, including three non-U.S. institutions, according to a Pentagon statement announcing the awards.

“These grants lay the groundwork for exciting new research and relationships that will bring the best work of academics to bear on our country's most pressing national security challenges," Thomas Mahnken, deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning, said in a statement.

Selected from a submission pool of 211 white papers, the winning projects were selected based on “merit review by panels of subject matter experts in the pertinent fields,” the Pentagon said in its statement.

-- Jason Sherman

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December 19, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Amid the reviewing of the strategy and requirements for the war in Afghanistan, biometric capabilities are a sure bet to be one of the requirements on the rise there, we're told.  According to military officials, biometric technologies have made a sizable contribution to pacifying Iraq because the systems enable ground troops to reliably identify individuals and, thus, tell ordinary citizens from suspected extremists.

Biometric technologies also had an impact on the fight against improvised explosive devices in Iraq, where they were used in conjunction with forensic capabilities. Military officials, along with experts from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, use DNA or fingerprints left at IED explosion sites to try to piece together the web of individuals involved in bomb making.

In the fall, officials shipped the first -- and so far only -- forensic analysis lab to Afghanistan. The numbers of attacks with IEDs has steadily climbed there over the last year. The lab, housed in a container-like structure, is supposed to be fully operational just about now, a defense officials tells us.

Pentagon officials are still awaiting word on what exactly the requirements are going to be when the U.S. Central Command Assessment Team finishes its review. The military use of biometrics typically involves collection systems, often handheld, and the requisite network infrastructure and databases to process biometric information.

"Will there be more requirements than we've got there now? Yes there will be," the defense official said. "But it's unclear what they'll be."

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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December 19, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Congressional authorizers recently approved a renewed Defense Department reprogramming request that would fully fund the Minerva initiative. The first request was denied.

The goal behind Minerva is building closer ties with social scientists, who defense officials believe have much to offer in understanding the roots of extremism worldwide.

With the approval from the House and Senate Armed Services committees came instructions for how to tweak the programs funding channels and management, according to House panel spokeswoman Lara Battles.

"((The committees)) gave direction to restructure the program -- specifically, to move the funding to a traditional research (6.1) program element and to begin building an in-house capacity for the types of efforts within Minerva," she told us in an e-mail.

The notation "6.1" is Pentagon budget shorthand for a basic research program.

A senior defense official said earlier this month the appropriations committees, which must also approve the reprogramming request, have already signaled they would do so soon.

-- Sebastian Sprenger