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December 19, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Along with discussions of future warfare and force structure comes the question of what role Special Operations Forces will play. In the world outlined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his recent and much-discussed Foreign Affairs article, will more SOF forces be needed? What will an increase in SOF numbers do to its capabilities?

"For SOF in particular that poses a lot of dilemmas that I don't think have been adequately answered," Stephen Biddle , a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said at a luncheon with reporters this week. He posed the question, what happens to the capabilities of Special Operations Forces when their size is dramatically increased?

"If you're going to double the size of the SOF, part of what makes the SOF so good is they're trained so well and they're equipped so well, but part is that they're very carefully selected," said Biddle. "I personally have not seen a good study of what will happen to SOF proficiency if you expand it by X percent."

Speaking at the same event, Maj. Gen. David Fastabend, director of strategy, plans and policy in the office of the deputy chief of staff (G-3/5/7), said that because today's conventional forces have such a high level of combat experience, they already have a greater growth potential than past U.S. forces.

Also, because the deployment schedule in the Army is so rigorous -- a year off and a year on for years in a row -- soldiers are “kind of self-selected for that type of lifestyle," said Fastabend.

"((SOF)) can probably grow more readily than in the past, but certainly there's an upward bound to it," he said.

A May 16, 2008, Congressional Research Service report laid out Pentagon plans for near-term SOF growth:

As mandated by the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) SOF continues to expand. USSOCOM added 6,643 military and civilians in 2007. By the end of FY2009, USSOCOM hopes to grow to 55,890 civilian and military personnel, of which 43,745 will be active duty military, 4,310 Guard, 2,560 Reserves, and 5,275 government civilians. These increases roughly translate into adding five additional Special Forces battalions, four additional Ranger companies, 300 additional SEALs, 2,500 Marine Special Operations Forces, and additional special operations aviators.

-- Kate Brannen

FURTHER READING: SPECIAL OPS

Recent and related stories:

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December 18, 2008 at 5:00 AM

FYI: The latest issue of Inside the Air Force is up early.

(Editor's note: You're going to see that kind of thing a lot over the next few days because of our holiday schedule. So stay tuned.)

Here are some highlights:

WITHOUT RESTORING FUNDING CUTS, ORS 2015 DEADLINE WILL NOT BE REACHED
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, CO -- The Air Force will not be able to reach U.S. Strategic Command’s desired operationally responsive space end-state of 2015 without restoring recent funding cuts made by Pentagon officials, Space Command’s ORS division chief told Inside the Air Force this month.


USAF TO APPLY AT-6B LESSONS LEARNED TO OA-X ATTACK PLANE EFFORT
The Air Force plans to take lessons learned from a light-attack plane sensor integration program and apply them to a potential acquisition program later down the road, according to service officials.


JROC REVIEWING SURVIVABILITY-RELATED KPP CHANGE FOR NEW HC/MC-130Js
The Joint Requirements Oversight Council is reviewing a change made by the Air Force to a key performance parameter for missile survivability on a dozen new C-130J-based special operations and rescue tankers that the service is hoping to field by 2012, according to documents reviewed by Inside the Air Force.


COMMAND LEAD: LARGE SATELLITES NEEDED FOR PROTECTED COMM MISSION
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, CO -- Air Force Space Command officials still envision small constellations of “very capable” satellites performing future protected communications mission even as concerns have been continuously raised in recent months about the expense of the service’s next constellation, a command official told Inside the Air Force this month.

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December 18, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Defense secretary Robert Gates was the sole guest on PBS' Charlie Rose program last night. It was a wide-ranging discussion on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Russia, China and Gates' historic decision to become the first sitting defense secretary to serve an incoming administration.

The full interview is online here.

Gates noted President-elect Barack Obama's administration must decide what the U.S. objectives are in Afghanistan and whether some of the current goals are too long-term and idealistic.

Perhaps the United States needs to scale back its objectives there for the next two to three years and focus above all on preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for violent extremists, he said. That is easier said than done, he acknowledged, adding the solution cannot simply be military in nature.

"My biggest concern in Afghanistan is the history of foreign armies in Afghanistan going back to Alexander the Great. As long as the Afghan people see us as their friend and ally, as long as they see us as in this fight for them, as well as for ourselves, then I think we'll be OK," Gates said. "But if we get too many forces in there, if they come to see us as in it only for ourselves, and not as their ally, and they turn against us, then I think we cannot be successful."

The solution is to accelerate the growth of the Afghan army and get them in the lead with the United States in a supporting role, Gates opined.

-- Chris Castelli
 

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December 17, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Defense Department officials working on the military's first-ever biometrics science and technology roadmap were concerned their forthcoming document  might be perceived as merely another technical piece of writing amid the flurry of Pentagon roadmaps, plans, strategies and what-have-you.

So they decided to give it a bit more authoritative oomph by submitting it for review -- and, presumably, endorsement -- to the Defense Science and Technology and Advisory Group, or DSTAG. Membership on that panel includes senior S&T officials from the services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Joint Staff.

The blessing of jointness comes with a price, of course. It could still be months until the roadmap will be considered done, we're told.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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December 17, 2008 at 5:00 AM

With little more than a month left in office, President Bush is scheduled today to visit the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, to talk about defense matters.

Early this afternoon, in the college’s Thorpe Hall, he is slated to deliver a speech about "national security, homeland security and the freedom agenda."

After the speech, he plans to meet privately with Army War College students.

-- Chris Castelli

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December 16, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Army this week runs a story on the service's transition efforts that's based on a briefing you should check out even if you're not all that interested in the Army.

Army Transition Briefing for Senior Leaders
In a Nov. 25, 2008, briefing prepared for senior service leaders, Army officials lay out the service's positions on the roles and missions review and the presidential transition. Note: The briefing is labeled "FOUO - DRAFT - PREDECISIONAL."

Why? Well, for one thing, it goes into some broad transition issues -- and it contains a handy chart laying out the transition POCs in each major service and department. (Page 8 in the .pdf version.)

Also: The briefing gives a status report on the roles and missions report and on the 5100.1 directive rewrite, two issues that cross service lines.

On that note, this story, from yesterday:

Pentagon Revises Definition of Military Services' Core Roles, Responsibilities

Dec. 15, 2008 -- The Defense Department today hammered out the final wrinkles in a new agreement outlining the core functions of each military service and U.S. Special Operations Command, setting the stage for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to send Congress the 2008 Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review report before Christmas, according to Pentagon officials.

Service and SOCOM representatives met and resolved their differences over language in what one service official calls a “big update” to the Defense Department directive that sets forth the functions of the military components, adding a section for the Coast Guard and another for SOCOM, these officials say.

The revision of Defense Department directive 5000.1, prepared by the services and the Joint Staff, was undertaken as part of a congressionally mandated assessment of the roles and missions of the services that also includes an assessment of five specific capability areas Congress asked the Pentagon to examine.

The updated directive does not outline any significant realignment of responsibilities among the services, each of which was invited to write the portion of the directive describing its contribution to the enterprise, according to Pentagon officials.

-- Dan Dupont

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December 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama is slated to hold a national security meeting in Chicago in today. The Obama camp says the meeting will include Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Secretary of State-designee Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General-designee Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security-designee Janet Napolitano, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Ambassador to the United Nations-designee Susan Rice, National Security Adviser-designee Jim Jones, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, White House Chief of Staff-designee Rahm Emanuel and White House Counsel designee Greg Craig.

At the end of the day, Obama is scheduled to hold a press conference at the Drake Hotel to discuss the nation's energy and environmental future. He will reportedly announce his environmental team.

-- Chris Castelli

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December 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM

And you thought Wall Street was having a tough year? Check out some excerpts from this press release just issued by the Government Accountability Office:

For the 12th year in a row, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was prevented from expressing an opinion on the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government -- other than the Statement of Social Insurance -- because of numerous material internal control weaknesses and other limitations.

“While significant progress has been made in improving financial management since the federal government began preparing consolidated financial statements 12 years ago, three major impediments have continued to prevent us from rendering an opinion on the accrual basis consolidated financial statements over this period of time,” said Gene L Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. “Those include serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense, the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.” Dodaro also noted three additional material weaknesses related to improper payments, information security, and tax collection activities. Dodaro added that at least three major agencies did not get clean opinions – the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“The need for reliable, high-quality financial information has never been greater,” Dodaro said, pointing out that much work remains to be done on improving the state of federal financial management. “Continued improvement needs to be a top priority of the new administration and Congress to help provide the financial accountability the public deserves and the information decision makers need to help evaluate government programs and manage the government in a cost-effective manner."

DOD earlier this month did release its "FY 2008 DOD Agency Financial Report (AFR)," in which it stated the following liabilities:

. . . the Department has significant unfunded liabilities consisting primarily of actuarial liabilities related to military retirement pension and health care benefits. While the liability presents the Department with a negative financial position, the majority of the unfunded portion will come from annual appropriations outside the Department’s budget. The FY 2008 actuarial liability estimate totaled $2.0 trillion of which $1.3 trillion will come from the U.S. Treasury to cover liabilities existing at inception of the programs. Approximately $378.9 billion is currently covered with invested U.S. Treasury securities. Due to the significant growth in liability in recent years, the Board of Actuaries accelerated the liquidation of the initial unfunded liabilities by reducing the amortization period thus increasing the annual contribution amounts from the U.S. Treasury.

-- John Liang
 

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December 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM

We've just posted a story on a new interim report by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. The panel is led by former Defense Secretary William Perry, an adviser to President-elect Barack Obama.

The report is the latest to discuss the possibility of a world without nuclear weapons. Notably, however, it acknowledges such a world is rather unlikely to show up any time soon. The Wall Street Journal took up that theme in an opinion piece published yesterday.

The commission's chairman is William Perry, a former Clinton Defense Secretary and a close Obama adviser. Mr. Perry is also one of the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,' the nickname given to him, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn for an op-ed published in these pages last year offering a blueprint for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

The commission's interim report is due out any day now, and the advance word is that Mr. Perry has come back to Earth. We're told the report's central finding is that the U.S. will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future. A deterrent is credible, the report further notes, only if enemies believe it will work. That means modernization.

-- Chris Castelli

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December 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A few months ago, Defense Department officials announced plans to manage two of the 2009 Joint Capability Technology Demonstration candidates under the competitive prototyping approach, we reported last month. The idea was to "showcase" the merits of this much-touted acquisition technique, officials wrote in a September report.

But plans change. According to Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Darryn James, DOD no longer wants to try competitive prototyping on the High-Power Microwave Advanced Munitions Project (CHAMP). James said he had no information about what led to the decision.

Simply put, the project seeks to build an air vehicle emitting microwaves so powerful that they fry electronic equipment on the ground below. Exactly what that vehicle would look like is unclear. A formal announcement to industry, first released in October, talks of a Counter-electronics High-Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project -- as opposed to the term "munitions" that appears as part of the effort's name in other places.

According to a set of Air Force briefing slides from October, posted online, officials envision the vehicle to be some sort of fixed-wing craft capable of hovering over cities. (Note the graphic on page 18, including the types of buildings used in the illustration.)

The project's secrecy exceeds that of many other military high-tech efforts. Industry officials seeking a slice of the $40 million CHAMP development contract must be able to obtain the same types of clearances required for personnel working on atomic weapons, according to DOD's October notice to industry.

Defense officials still plan to pursue the Joint Medical Distant Support and Evacuation (JMDSE)  JCTD candidate as a competitive-prototyping effort, James said.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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December 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Army's Human Terrain Team program, which has repeatedly come under fire since its creation, is getting a shout-out from a counterinsurgency officer in Afghanistan. Army Col. John Agoglia, director of the Kabul-based Counterinsurgency Training Center-Afghanistan, told us in an interview last week he plans to soon integrate the teams' research into his organization's training curriculum.

Agoglia said he hasn't personally worked with any HTT personnel. But, he added, "the brigade commanders I've talked to felt they're getting very good information from them."

Under the HTT program, anthropologists deploy alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to facilitate troops' interactions with the local population.

But before CTC-A trainers can tap into the information gathered by HTT teams, officials must build the requisite information sharing infrastructure, including ways of exchanging secret information, Agoglia said.

"We need to get our pipes set up and we need to get our information sharing capabilities improved," the colonel said. "And then we'll start looking at what they have and start pulling them into the training we're doing at the center."

Wired magazine's Danger Room blog has chronicled some of the issues surrounding the HTT program here, here, and here.

A Human Terrain Team handbook, issued by the Army's Training and Doctrine Command in September, is posted here.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama will meet today in Chicago with former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher, Chairmen of the National War Powers Commission.

This bipartisan panel , whose members include Lee Hamilton, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, Abner Mikva, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Anne-Marie Slaughter -- dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton -- and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, reviewed and made recommendations about the War Powers Act. Their report was released in July 2008. The meeting is being held at the request of the commission members.

In addition, Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be in Washington on Thursday and will have a private working breakfast with retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's choice to be national security adviser, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is slated to become secretary of state. 

-- Chris Castelli

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December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes the global financial crisis will force the Pentagon to “squeeze” its budget.  In addition, the Pentagon's No. 1 officer passed up an opportunity during yesterday's press conference to support the Air Force's bid to buy additional F-22A fighters.

ADM. MULLEN: I think it's very clear from, obviously, President- elect Obama's public statements, also Secretary Gates, to look at -- to take a very, very intense, focused, comprehensive view at what we're buying -- and from that perspective, I think that's very healthy. 

And I say that -- also, I'm obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got in so many -- in so many of our programs. And we are going to have to get a grip on that, or we will not be able to buy them. It's very clear to me. We won't be able to buy them, and we won't be able -- or we won't be able to buy them in the quantity we need.
 
I am -- I'm very concerned about the global financial crisis and its impact globally on security. I think it will impact on security over a period of time, and we have to recognize that. I think it's important for all of us in the Defense Department to squeeze our budgets, to draw in where we can, and for leaders to commit to that and certainly recognize that there are challenges out there which we'll continue to have to resource.
 
Q:     Do you think, for instance, of the biggest military needs -- say the F-22, the most expensive fighter plane ever made?
 
ADM. MULLEN: There's been an awful lot of discussion about that. It's not a matter of do we need it.... We have it. It's a question of how many do we need for the future. And Secretary Gates has been pretty clear. This administration has been very clear about where it's been, where he is, and certainly has, you know, left it open to see what the additional numbers should be. The chief of staff of the Air Force has talked about a number that is another -- what? -- 50 or so more than the 183 right now.
 
So I think we're going to -- we're going to work our way through that. I do -- I am concerned that it is such an expensive system.  
 
I think it is -- in the aviation world, our future is in the Joint Strike Fighter, but the Joint Strike Fighter is a new system. New systems usually struggle, you know, meeting exact deadlines. And I think it's very important we have capability to bridge to that system with respect to the broad range of capabilities for the country.

-- Jason Sherman

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December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The National Security Agency plays a huge role in the government's cyberspace activities. Much of what the secretive organization is doing in that area probably will never see the light of day due to classification. Regardless, or perhaps because of it, the Ft. Meade-based agency must surely be a great place to work, Army Brig. Gen. Steve Smith, who is the chief cyber officer in the Army's G-6 directorate, said at an industry conference this morning.

"What young person wouldn't want to go work for NSA?" Smith asked, given that folks there are doing "some of the coolest stuff" with state-of-the-art technology. But there's more. "And you get to hack legally," Smith said.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

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December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The 2010 QDR just might be preceded by a brand-new, sweeping national security review.

Experts say President-elect Barack Obama’s team is likely to conduct a new kind of national security review that spans the entire U.S. government. Call it what you will -- NSR, quadrennial NSR, or QNSR; it could be a very big deal.

“With the rise in importance of stability operations and the Obama team’s desire to increase the role of ‘soft power,’ this is an idea that is likely to get a warm reception,” says Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Such a review could be done without delaying the schedule for the QDR, he said.

Opinions differ, however, on how soon such a review can be mustered, as Inside the Pentagon reports today.

Also today: Our coverage of telling essays by Michèle Flournoy, who co-chairs Obama’s DOD transition team, and Robert Gates, who will continue to lead the Pentagon. (Her essay is here; his is here.)

And see this story on the three-step process that Flournoy recommended for developing the new national security strategy.  She outlined it this past summer in a book published by the Center for New American Security.

-- Chris Castelli