The Insider

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

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

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

December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) made the case on the Senate floor today that the future of the American automotive industry has crucial implications for the Army.

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin said he wants to focus on the connection between the automotive industry and its contributions to national defense. He called this link "a central component of the debate" over making federal loans to U.S. automakers and urged other senators to "consider that important reason" when voting.

As a senator from Michigan, home of the Big 3 -- Ford, Chrysler and General Motors -- Levin has worked with the Army's Tank Automotive Research and Development Command, the Army's National Automotive Center and the Automotive Research Center in an effort to create partnerships between DOD and the automotive industry.

Levin read a statement from TARDEC director Grace Bochenek that highlighted the research and development initiatives ongoing between the Army and the American automotive industry. Listed were lightweight vehicles, robotics and alternative fuel programs among others.

Politico is reporting that Levin's press aides are circulating a memo that argues if the Big 3 go down, so too will suppliers that also provide spare parts to the military.

The link between the auto and defense industries, Levin’s memo points out, lies in the automakers’ vast supplier base.

A number of companies that aren’t household names, such as Arvin Meritor and Detroit Diesel, can’t keep supplying the military with axles and engines if they don’t have enough work from the automakers. And the military already struggles to find suppliers for the many components needed for its ground vehicles.

If suppliers disappear along with Detroit’s auto companies, the cost of replacement parts could skyrocket, Levin’s memo warns.

According to Politico, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wants auto companies to get involved with the manufacturing of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

-- Kate Brannen

December 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

In the spirit of the term "All Politics Is Local," Boeing today released a statement about an Arizona State University report that found the company's missile defense work had contributed $193 million per year to Arizona's economy. According to Boeing:

The study looked at payroll, non-payroll purchases and expenditures, and vendor commitments in the state to determine the overall impact of Boeing's work on the GMD program.

Major economic impacts for 2007 include:

* Created 1,936 direct and indirect jobs in the state
* Distributed a payroll of $94 million
* Generated $137 million in Arizona household earnings
* Contributed $12.7 million in state and local government tax revenue.

Arizona State economics professor Lee McPheters, who has studied Boeing and other high-tech firms, said GMD gives Arizona's economy a major boost.

"Looking at the average earnings across all the jobs created by GMD, both direct and indirect, the GMD program serves not only to expand the size of the economy in Arizona, but also to raise the average standard of living of its residents," said McPheters.

Who paid for the study, might you ask?


-- John Liang

December 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A moment worth noting from yesterday's press briefing with Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell:

Q I may have missed it last week -- so can I just ask is it definite that you're staying as the press secretary?

MR. MORRELL: That's my understanding in my conversations with the secretary, yes. I will be here to work with you as best I can for the foreseeable future.

Morrell -- whose full title is deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs -- joined the Pentagon in June of 2007.

-- Dan Dupont

December 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon has not been able to rapidly adapt to a “war footing,” according to the Center for Public Integrity's new large-scale assessment of the Bush administration, titled “Broken Government.”

The nonpartisan organization's project is a digital report intended to provide “a comprehensive assessment of executive branch failures over the course of the Bush presidency.” It looks beyond the Defense Department to areas including education, health care, financial management and the environment, among many others.

In the Defense Department section, the Center for Public Integrity says the department “has often been unresponsive or slow to react to the needs of soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the United States when they return.”

In particular, it notes the Pentagon's initially slow procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, something that’s in the news this week, again. has reported extensively on DOD efforts to adapt its acquisition efforts to meet soldier requirements. Most recently, we wrote about Defense Secretary Robert Gates' call for changes to the Pentagon's acquisition system to make it more responsive to the needs of soldiers in theater.

The CPI report singles out Gates, who will stay on under President-elect Barack Obama, for praise.

“Gates made accountability and responsiveness to the current conflicts his signature,” the online project says. “For example, he made MRAP procurement the number one DOD acquisition priority.”

-- Marjorie Censer

December 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The House Republican Conference today selected Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) to serve as the House Armed Services Committee's ranking member in next year's Congress. In a statement, panel Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) said the move was a good one:

My congratulations go to Congressman John McHugh of New York on his election as the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. While we have served together in the House and on this committee for many years, I look forward to working even more closely with Congressman McHugh in the days ahead.

Congressman McHugh is a strong advocate for the soldiers of Ft. Drum and for all of our military services. His experience dealing with critical defense issues, particularly military personnel issues, will serve him, our committee, and our country well. I am confident that Ranking Member McHugh will join me in continuing our committee's long-standing tradition of bipartisan cooperation to support U.S. service members and to protect America's national security interests at home and abroad.

UPDATE: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the current ranking member who will retire from Congress in January, also released a statement:

John McHugh brings a great intellect and strong leadership capabilities to the position of the Ranking Member. The Republican leadership of the Armed Services Committee could not be in better hands.

-- John Liang

December 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Just because the world's economy is down doesn't mean that the aerospace and defense industry is too, according to the Aerospace Industries Association.

As AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey told attendees at the association's annual year-end luncheon at the lavish Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington today:

I’m happy to report that, despite the challenges to our economy, our industry had a strong year in 2008. Total sales are on pace to reach $204 billion, a new record for the fifth straight year. It also represents the seventh year of growth in the last eight years, which is even more remarkable when you consider the widespread financial difficulties in our economy. This figure represents an increase of 2.1 percent, which is less growth than we’ve seen in recent years. The main reason for the drop was not the tough economic atmosphere, but the work stoppage at Boeing that trickled down through the industry. We are more than satisfied that there was continued progress throughout the aerospace industry in 2008.

Like last year, our industry saw modest growth in every sector – civil aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, space and related products. This is noteworthy because over the years these sectors were often on different, distinct cycles. When civil aviation was up, military was usually down, and vice-versa. To see this balanced growth across the sectors again is a good sign for our industry.

As for the upcoming year, Blakey said the industry "is in good position to weather the financial storm" for several reasons:

One is that funding levels for two of our three sub-sectors – defense and space – are largely set for the next fiscal year. The defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2009 was part of the continuing resolution that passed in October. The same bill also provides funding for NASA through March at largely the same levels as fiscal 2008.

While ideally we would like to see increased investment in space exploration, it at least keeps a stable base for NASA funding. Much of the groundwork for the fiscal 2010 budget is being laid right now. And the long lead times on federal budgets mean that we anticipate funding levels to remain steady -- without any major adjustments -- for the next 18 months, or even longer.

That said, defense and aerospace are not necessarily "immune" to the current recession, according to Blakey:

There is some speculation out there that the defense budget will be a source for cutbacks in future years to pay for other needs.

Defense R&D funding is expected to decrease, and supplemental budgets are poised to go down. In civil aviation, orders have decreased, passenger traffic is down and the contracting credit market makes aircraft financing deals more difficult. On top of that, anticipated fleet recapitalization by U.S. airlines does not look like it will materialize in the near-term. And, of course, the bad economic environment has traveled around the globe, and the bulk of existing aircraft customers are foreign airlines.

And lest Congress sees the multibillion-dollar defense budget as a potential till from which to pay for other government programs:

Aerospace and defense should not become a bill-payer for other areas of the federal budget, which would hurt our economy in the long-term for some temporary relief elsewhere.

Our industry provides a strong economic foundation for much of our nation’s advanced technology and innovation, and that would suffer if we don’t make adequate, sustained investment. All this effort is to underscore the message that aerospace is a cornerstone of our economy, and it deserves sustained support from our elected leaders.

-- John Liang

December 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Following the release of the Pentagon Inspector General's report on the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected acquisition effort, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) has issued a statement criticizing the Marine Corps and the overall defense procurement system.

Though the IG report cleared Marine Corps Combat Development Command of criminal negligence in failing to respond to requests from Iraq for the vehicles, it said the command failed to redirect the urgent request to the Pentagon, reported yesterday.

Abercrombie, who chairs the House Armed Services air and land subcommittee, said in today's statement that “Terrible misjudgments were made in not making MRAPs a top priority for Marines in combat in early 2005 when they were first requested by field commanders.

“And even when the MRAP’s ability to survive roadside bomb blasts and save lives was acknowledged, an insufficient number were initially ordered,” he continued.

However, Abercrombie more broadly faults “the entire defense procurement process,” citing a “systemic problem.

“It is ponderous and frequently unresponsive to urgent needs,” the statement says. “It seems unable to anticipate how threats to our troops will evolve. As a result, we are always playing catch-up, rather than getting ahead of new threats.”

-- Marjorie Censer

December 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Members of a U.S. Central Command-led team charged with undertaking a comprehensive review of the command's strategy were scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan late last week to hear from military personnel and diplomats about the situation on the ground there, we're told.

A CENTCOM spokeswoman today declined to confirm or deny plans for the trip, citing security reasons. Officials are keeping a tight lid on the details surrounding the group so members can conduct a "fair and impartial" assessment, said Air Force Maj. Tina Barber-Matthew.

The assessment, led by CENTCOM deputy commander Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen, is slated to produce a report for command chief Gen. David Petraus by February, she added.

Meanwhile, officials from United Kingdom are lending a helping hand in the effort, records show.

British Member of Parliament Keith Simpson recently asked government officials about what exactly his country's involvement is in the drill, according to a Nov. 26 edition of the "Hansard" parliamentary transcript service, which is available online.

Gillian Merron, a parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Foreign Office, told Simpson this:

US General David Petraeus established a Central Command (CENTCOM) Assessment Team (CAT) which began on 4 November and is due to conclude in February 2009. Its aim is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the CENTCOM area of operations -- which spans the greater Middle East and parts of Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The UK was asked to contribute to the review of American defence and security policy during September 2008. Participation in the review is part of the important bilateral relationship with the US. Some costs are being met by CENTCOM while other costs, including salary, will be covered by individual departments. We will write to the hon. Member separately with details. The UK is a key partner in the ongoing international coalition aiming to bring security and stability to this area. The CAT is an integral part of this effort and the UK therefore has a responsibility to participate.

The UK team is drawn from a range of thematic and geographical experience with two personnel from the ((Foreign and Commonwealth Office)), one person from ((the Department for International Development)) and 14 personnel from the ((Ministry of Defence)) and military. The FCO does not routinely release the names of individuals. The UK team began work in the CAT on 4 November following preparation in Whitehall within the policy and research community.

The UK objective for participation is to share our views, and learn those of others, across a very broad spectrum of issues concerning the provision of security, the rule of law and other issues of current global concern. The UK will contribute to a wide discussion and will not publish their contribution separately.

Bill Rammell, minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs in the Foreign Office, wrote this:

The US-led Central Command (CENTCOM) Assessment Team (CAT) will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the CENTCOM area of operations, drawing on US interagency and international partner expertise. The US has invited the UK and other nations to participate. The assessment will include visits by members of the CAT, including UK team members, to Afghanistan for consultation with the Government of Afghanistan and its officials.

Barber-Matthew, the CENTCOM spokeswoman, declined to identify additional countries participating in the assessment.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

December 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are slated to meet with former Vice President Al Gore in Chicago tomorrow to discuss “energy and climate change and how policies in this area can stimulate the economy and create jobs,” the Obama camp just announced.

No word yet whether national security issues will factor into the meeting. There's no mention of such an angle in the brief statement. However, as Inside the Pentagon recently reported, Leon Fuerth, who advised Gore on national security during the Clinton administration, will be among the participants in a new study of climate, energy, and national security that is getting under way at the National Academy of Sciences.

-- Chris Castelli

December 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

As if the incoming Obama administration doesn't already have enough on its plate -- with forecasts of a protracted and deep recession, a half-million workers knocked off the payrolls last month, and the Big Three automakers on the brink of insolvency -- a new Army War College monograph warns that the new leadership team should brace in its early days for a challenge akin to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

That's the the advice of Nathan Freier, visiting professor of strategy, policy, and risk assessment at the U.S. Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Just as President George W. Bush faced a strategic shock in his first eight months, President-elect Barack Obama “would be well-advised to expect the same,” writes Freier, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense preparing the 2005 National Defense Strategy.

Defense-relevant strategic shocks jolt convention to such an extent that they force sudden, unanticipated change in the Department of Defense’s perceptions about threat, vulnerability, and strategic response. Their unanticipated onset forces the entire defense enterprise to reorient and restructure institutions, employ capabilities in unexpected ways, and confront challenges that are fundamentally different than those routinely considered in defense calculations...

They will rise from an analytical no man’s land separating well-considered, stock and trade defense contingencies and pure defense speculation. Their origin is most likely to be in irregular, catastrophic, and hybrid threats of “purpose” (emerging from hostile design) or threats of 'context' (emerging in the absence of hostile purpose or design). Of the two, the latter is both the least understood and the most dangerous.

The 2008 National Defense Strategy, singed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June, warns that strategic shocks “could potentially change the rules of the game and require a fundamental re-appraisal of the strategy.”

For more than two years, the Pentagon’s policy shop has spearheaded a project examining “trends and shocks” looking across a range of non-military disciplines for hints of where the next set of challenges that might require a military response could come from.

In September 2007, we explored that construct, which is poised to play a pivotal role in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, now that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will continue to head the Pentagon during the Obama administration:

The project, led by Thomas Mahnken, deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning in the Pentagon’s policy shop, has been endorsed by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. The goal is to assess the potential defense implications of consequential events -- “shocks” -- that could include major changes in global climate, a nuclear attack against a major western city, a new technology revolution or a financial market collapse that triggers a global depression.

“It really is an effort to get the department to think about long-term trends, particularly those the department hasn’t thought about systematically in the past, and explore their implications for the department,” said a senior Pentagon official in a July (2007) interview with

-- Jason Sherman

December 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Cambridge, MA-based Project on Defense Alternatives has released two new reports on the future of national security, one targeted at the transition and near-term debate over defense and the other more broadly focused.

From "Re-Envisioning Defense: An Agenda for U.S. Policy Debate & Transition":

The United States is entering a critical period of policy transition. Beginning with the advent of a new administration in Washington, and continuing through the end of 2010, all of America's national security and defense planning guidance will be revised. Certainly the need for change is manifest.

Recent defense policy evinces a disturbing paradox: it has been delivering less and less security at ever increasing cost. And, on a world scale, a process of global re-polarization and re-militarization underway. If unchecked, this portends a return to conditions reminiscent of the Cold War, which would add impetus to weapon proliferation, arms races, and conflicts.

Reviewing current US policy, we have identified 25 specific concerns that relate to the problems noted above. These might form an agenda for policy discussion and change. From these we have distilled a “short list” of three overarching topics or concerns that, taken together, capture the fundamental problems in current policy. Alternatives addressing these three core concerns can provide guidance for understanding and addressing the rest. 

And from "Forceful Engagement: Rethinking the Role of Military Power in US Global Policy":

Setting a new course in policy begins with acknowledging that the surge in US military activism that followed the 9/11 attacks has gone too far and has become, on balance, counter-productive. National leadership must become more realistic about what can be reliably accomplished by military means and more sensitive to the costs and chaos that attend war.

Although military primacy has proved less useful than many had hoped, it has become a US security goal in its own right. This distorts US global policy and practice. More relevant than the power balance between the United States and its adversaries is the balance between US power and US objectives.

Military primacy is not sustainable, at any rate. The more it is exercised, the more it invites balancing behavior on the part of others. Notably, present global disparities in military power do not reflect the distribution of human and material resources. This means that other nations have considerable latent capacity to narrow the military gap between themselves and the United States, if they so choose. 

-- Dan Dupont

December 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Federation of American Scientists reports today that surface-to-air missiles, including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), are still being found in weapons caches in Iraq. These shoulder-launched missiles can be used to shoot down low-flying aircraft like helicopters.

After analyzing U.S. military press releases and media reports, FAS determined that at least 121 surface-to-air missiles and four additional launchers have been recovered by U.S. and Iraqi forces. Of these, at least 91, or 73 percent, are identified as Soviet-designed, Warsaw Pact missiles.

The prevalence of these missiles is no surprise because it is well known that Saddam Hussein stockpiled thousands of these types of weapons and that after his regime collapsed, they were looted from government depots, states the report.

Missiles produced by other countries have also been found in Iraq, according to FAS, but in much smaller numbers. There have been two public reports of Iranian MANPADS, the Misagh-1 missile, being discovered.

The good news: No reports of western missiles turning up in Iraq, suggesting that current U.S. and European export controls on MANPADS are "fairly effective," writes FAS.

"Western governments are also, generally speaking, more discriminating regarding whom they sell MANPADS to and what they demand of importers," states the report. "The, U.S. for example, conducts 100 percent on-site physical inventories by serial number of nearly all exported Stinger missiles."

However, the report notes that despite these controls western missiles still find their way to the black market, citing how the CIA lost control of hundreds of missiles it had given to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Despite this analysis, it is still unclear how many illicit missiles are still in circulation in Iraq, writes FAS. The number of missiles seized in raids has held steady over the past two years, but the report suggests that this may have more to do with stepped-up neighborhood patrols than the total number of missiles.

What is definitely down is the number of aircraft crashes resulting from missile attacks and ground fire, according to the report.

"The threat persists, however, as evidenced by reports of missile launches at a C-130 cargo plane carrying a Congressional delegation in August 2007 and at an Apache helicopter flying over Sadr City in May 2008," it states.

-- Kate Brannen