The Insider

January 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Gen. Victor "Gene" Renuart, head of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, weighs in on today's main event with a statement issued through his press office:

Today marks an historic event, and we view the inauguration of our new commander-in-chief with hope and purpose. Our mission continues … Our task clear …Our leadership resolute. The people in our commands commemorate this historic transition with renewed focus on the families we protect, on the communities we protect and on the Nations we protect. We are the defenders of our democracy and of the Democracy of all in this Hemisphere … as Canadians and Americans today, we are proud of the efforts of our two militaries and proud of what we do each day. We are looking forward, anticipating our Nations' needs and ready to respond at a moment's notice. We are honored to participate as just one of myriad local, state and federal agencies working hard to make today's events safe and secure.

NORTHCOM is the lead Defense Department element tasked to support civilian agencies in the event of an attack on the homeland.

His expression of "hope" with today's changing of the guard is uniquely informed. Renuart operated in the highest precints of the Bush administration's national security team before taking his current job -- he was senior military assistant to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

-- Jason Sherman

January 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Count NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as one of the international dignitaries delivering congratulations to the newly inaugurated President Obama.

"On behalf of the Atlantic Alliance, I warmly congratulate Barack Obama on his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America," de Hoop Scheffer said, according to a note posted on the NATO Web site today.

"President Obama takes up his responsibilities at a time when the international community faces great challenges, but also great opportunities to build a safer, more secure world.  The NATO Allies, including the United States, stand together to help reach that goal.

"The United States has played a leading role within NATO since the Alliance was founded in 1949.  I have no doubt that President Obama will carry on that tradition.  We look forward to welcoming him to his first NATO Summit in April, in Strasbourg and Kehl, as we will celebrate NATO's 60th Anniversary and chart the way forward for the Atlantic Alliance," de Hoop Scheffer said.

In the search for that new way forward, alliance members must be encouraged by Obama's pledge to work through international organizations in tackling security problems worldwide.

But the Obama presidency could also force some uncomfortable issues for the European NATO members. With the hugely unpopular Bush administration now over, countries like Germany might find it more difficult to deny requests for more troops or more operational flexibility of their forces in Afghanistan.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

January 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Steve Kosiak, an expert on the defense budget and national security spending, has been tapped by the new administration to be associate director for defense and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. He is the vice president for budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Kosiak is also a professor for the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, where he teaches graduate-level courses on U.S. defense budgeting and strategic planning.

And he is no stranger to readers of

-- Chris Castelli

January 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Amid the buzz about the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review and deliberations about the Pentagon's strategic realignment in an Obama administration, the congressionally mandated Space Posture Review marks another review worth watching this year.

Michèle Flournoy, in line to be the under secretary of defense for policy, considers the topic important enough that she said she would play a "leading role" in the drill. This is according to written answers she provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee in preparation of her confirmation hearing yesterday.

Lawmakers requested the Space Posture Review, a joint effort between the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in the fiscal year 2009 defense authorization legislation. A final report is due to Congress on Dec. 1.

The ten-year outlook is supposed to touch on virtually everything space-related, including the topics of space situational awareness, offensive and defensive space operations, acquisition and arms control, according to the legislation.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

January 16, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Sure, the Joint Strike Fighter could be set up as a manned-unmanned fighter jet, but is it worth it?

This rhetorical question was raised by Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis this week at a briefing on the F-35 Lightning II.

When asked if the JSF would be the last manned fighter jet, the F-35 program executive officer began his answer thusly:

When you're ready to hop on a United airplane going from Dulles to London without anybody in the cockpit, I'll tell you we've built our last manned fighter.

There will always be a role for a man in the loop for combat missions, he said, even if the requirement for 9-G maneuvering capabilities no longer exists; the Air Force will forever need someone to be able to push information in a real-time setting and “be able to get in and out of the places it needs to go without being destroyed."

“I don't ever see the requirement for some manned capability totally going away,” he said.

The Lightning II could easily be configured to fly unmanned missions through a ground control station similar to those used for target drones like QF-4s and QF-16s, but the JSF office is not working on those kinds of plans, Davis said.

What's to be gained by taking a man out of the cockpit? If you look at what we're spending money on primarily for what it costs to support that platform ((for manned flight)), it's the ejection seat and the separation system on the canopy. Beyond that, everything that would be in the cockpit today would be required for an unmanned system.

One difference: The plane's color displays would be irrelevant.

But, Davis said having a fighter drone for the sake of having one is trumped by the reality of what a manned jet carries with it: The creativity and adaptability of the human brain right in the thick of the action.

I consider us ((pilots)) a pretty cost-effective tool. In the flexibility that brings in a real-time situation -- the real-time thinking -- is probably worth the amount of money that it costs to build that ejection seat. Short of some of the long-endurance missions . . . there's always going to be a requirement for some guy to do something.

-- Jason Simpson

January 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

William Lynn, president-elect Obama's nominee to be the Pentagon's No. 2 official, said today that the new Defense Department leadership plans three large-scale reviews of program and budgets including a scrub of war costs, the base budget and the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Lynn told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his opening remarks at his confirmation hearing this morning that, if confirmed by the Senate for the job, he plans to examine the balance of the fiscal year 2009 war cost request, look at the fiscal year 2010 defense budget proposal and ensure “expeditious completion” of the Quadrennial Defense Review.

He said the QDR will be used to set a new blueprint to “lay out an effective force” to deal with a wider range of security challenges, including boosting capabilities to deal with irregular operations.

More on the QDR:

-- Jason Sherman

January 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

We'll have a story soon on the budget and program news made during the confirmation hearing this morning for William Lynn, Michele Fournoy, Robert Hale and Jeh Johnson. Meantime, the session wrapped up without any issues surfacing that would appear to threaten any of the nominations. Sen. Levin, the committee chairman, wrapped up the meeting with a pledge to move to a vote as soon as possible.

-- Jason Sherman

January 15, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has begun its hearing to consider William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense; Robert Hale to be Pentagon comptroller; Michèle Flournoy to be under secretary of defense for policy; and Jeh Charles Johnson to be the Pentagon's general counsel.

While introductions are being made, we're perusing the written responses to advance policy questions from the committee.

A big question for the incoming Obama Pentagon team -- which during the presidential campaign was highly critical of the practice of funding operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with  supplemental appropriations -- is how they will handle war costs.

Robert Hale, nominee for the comptroller job, in his prepared responses says:

If confirmed, I would hope to work with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to try to move away from supplementals. The feasibility of moving away from supplementals depends on the budget year.
* For FY 2009, DoD needs a supplemental, because the base budget has been enacted.
* For FY 2010, with limited time available for submission of a base budget request, and with continuing uncertainty about changing war requirements, the President may decide he will need to have a supplemental.
 * In later budgets, we should be better able to minimize dependence on supplementals.
* Regardless of the year, we should avoid including predictable costs in supplemental requests.

Can supps be fully integrated into base budgets, the committee asks?

*  Full elimination of supplementals would require substantial reduction in the uncertainties associated with wartime operations. However, the negative aspects of supplementals can be minimized by ensuring DoD scrutiny of supplemental requests similar to that afforded the base budget (a policy endorsed by the President-elect) and by providing Congress with early information regarding supplemental requests.
The committee notes that in "recent years the department has had to prepare a base budget and two separate supplemental funding requests each year.
Do you believe the Comptroller organization has the personnel and other resources needed to adequately manage this increased workload?"
* I am concerned about the adequacy of resources in the Comptroller organization to manage the increased workload associated with wartime operations.
• If confirmed, I will carefully review the staffing and organization and recommend any changes that I believe are required.

-- Jason Sherman 

January 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The El Paso Times has discovered the Joint Operating Environment -- that's JOE for short. In a story that's getting some attention, the paper cites JOE in asserting that Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse."

"In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

"The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."

We of course had news on the JOE last year -- and the document itself.

JFCOM Study Examines Potential Military Challenges Over Next 25 Years, Dec. 3, 2008 -- Over the next 25 years, the world is likely to see a global military buildup, increased tensions surrounding the demand for natural resources and a further need for the United States to create partnerships with other countries, according to a U.S. Joint Forces Command study.

DOCUMENT: JFCOM's 'Joint Operating Environment'
The Nov. 25, 2008, report from U.S. Joint Forces Command, subtitled "Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force" and nicknamed the "JOE," examines likely scenarios the U.S. military might confront over the next 25 years.

-- Dan Dupont

January 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Participants of this year's Munich Conference on Security Policy could soon get a chance to mingle with some of President-elect Obama's new -- and old -- national security big-wigs.

For one, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already confirmed he'll be there, according to an announcement made this week by conference host Wolfgang Ischinger, a former ambassador of Germany to the United States.

The three-day conference is scheduled to begin on Feb. 6.

Other confirmed participants include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former presidential hopeful U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), according to Ischinger's announcement.

NATO Secretary General Jaap the Hoop Scheffer is also expected to attend, as is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissenger, who will deliver a speech on nuclear weapons, according to the announcement.

Obama's designated national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, and/or Hillary Clinton, nominated to be Secretary of State, also are rumored to consider attending, we're told.

-- Sebastian Sprenger

January 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force awarded C-17 Globemaster III-builder Boeing a $1.1 billion aircraft support contract yesterday, according to a service announcement. The award comes amid uncertainty about the future of C-17 production line.

Whether to by more C-17s -- not to mention Lockheed Martin-built F-22A fighters and new tankers -- is one of the major procurement decisions President-elect Barack Obama will face upon taking office next week.

Tens of thousands of jobs are associated with C-17 production, which in these economic times likely will factor in the decision.

In the meantime, the future on international C-17 production got a bit brighter yesterday when British Defence Secretary John Hutton told Parliament that delays to the Airbus A400M cargo hauler program have prompted London to consider purchasing more Globemaster IIIs.

“We cannot accept a three- or four-year delay in the delivery of those aircraft,” Hutton said. “That would impose an unnecessary, unacceptable strain on our air assets. We, along with all our partner nations, will have to consider very carefully what the right response to the problem is.”

 Reuters has this report about Hutton's comments.

-- Marcus Weisgerber

January 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz recently announced that Brig. Gen. Clyde Moore, a career test pilot, will be the next deputy director of the Joint Strike Fighter program office. And, if trends continue, Moore will take over top slot in two years.

Moore will take the job this spring, when Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David Heinz takes over the head position, currently held by Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis. As a multiservice outfit, the JSF office gets a new leader every two years -- either an Air Force general officer or a Navy or Marine Corps officer. Typically, the deputy ascends to the director's slot after two years.

Moore is the director of special programs at the Pentagon's weapons-buying shop. In the late 1990s, he was an F-22A test pilot and the director of the Raptor's combine test force and the chief of the jet's test and evaluation division.

He, like Davis, also has had a career as an experimental test pilot for the F-15 Eagle, the F-16 Viper and the T-38 Talon. Though they operated out of different bases, many of Moore's assignments came just after Davis moved to a different post.

Once reassigned, Davis will become the commander of the Air Force's Air Armament Center and the program executive office for weapons at Air Force Materiel Command, Eglin Air Force Base, FL.

-- Jason Simpson

January 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The White House held a "facilitated exercise" today for incoming Obama administration officials and senior staffers.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel late last week described the exercise as follows:

. . . And then next week, our work with the president-elect's transition team continues on Tuesday, January 13th, when we host a series of orientations and briefings, culminating with a facilitated exercise for senior, current and incoming officials. We are mindful that this is the first transition since September 11th and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Homeland Security Council, Office of Director of National Intelligence, and the National Counterterrorism Center, and U.S. Northern Command.

So in keeping with the president's commitment to ensure a complete and smooth transition to the next administration, we have invited incoming senior members of President-elect Obama's team to attend 90-minute orientations and briefings, followed by a three hour exercise intended to familiarize the incoming administration with domestic and international instant management procedures used by the current administration. And the format of these sessions is intended to provide an opportunity for senior members of the incoming administration to discuss instant management practices and challenges with their outgoing peers.

The White House today released a statement listing the participants:

Cabinet Level

General Jim Jones (Ret), National Security Adviser-designate
Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence-designate
Governor Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security-designate
Tim Geithner, Secretary of Treasurer-designate
Lisa Jackson, Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency-designate
Senator Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior-designate
General Eric Shinseki (Ret), Secretary of Veterans Affairs-designate
Governor Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture-designate

Senior Staff

Rahm Emanuel, incoming White House Chief of Staff
John Brennan, Homeland Security Adviser- and Deputy National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism-designate
Rand Beers, Counselor to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
David Axelrod, incoming White House Senior Advisor
Jim Messina, incoming White House Deputy Chief of Staff
Robert Gibbs, incoming White House Press Secretary

Officials from Vice President-elect Joe Biden's office and senior executive branch staffers from the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Health and Human Services, Justice, and State departments also participated, according to the statement.

-- John Liang

January 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama's Defense Department transition team has largely completed its work and left the Pentagon, according to a DOD official.

The transition team -- headed by John White, former deputy defense secretary, and Michele Flournoy, who Obama is nominating to be the under secretary for policy -- has prepared a report for the incoming administration that surveys the current state of affairs in the military bureaucracy and includes options for charting a new course for the Defense Department, according to a source who has seen the document.

-- Jason Sherman

January 12, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force today officially stood up the command that will oversee all of the service’s nuclear bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile activities.

The provisional Global Strike Command (AFGSC) will be led by Brig. Gen. James Kowalski -- a combat bomber pilot extensive time in the B-52 and B-1B -- and will call Bolling Air Force Base in Washington its temporary home. Air Combat Command and Air Force Space Command will house supporting detachments.

The command is slated to reach initial operational capability in September. The provisional shop will “lead preparation activities for the establishment of a major command (MAJCOM) that will consolidate nuclear operations under a single organization,” according to a service statement.

This includes assisting in identifying a final location, and identifying manpower and resource requirements that will transfer to the newly established AFGSC.

The provisional command will also work closely with Headquarters Air Force Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Office (A10), Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command, Air Force Materiel Command and U.S. Strategic Command as it refines the roles and responsibilities of this MAJCOM.

The Air Force will inactivate the provisional command upon the stand-up of the MAJCOM.

Headquarters Air Force and MAJCOMs provided temporary personnel to fill a core HQ element of 55 personnel who are subject matter experts capable of developing the functional requirements for AFGSC.

The service announced it would stand up a major command to oversee its nuclear enterprise last fall in response to several high-profile gaffes involving the services’s handling of nuclear weapons and components.

-- Marcus Weisgerber