The Insider

By Thomas Duffy
February 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

If you read USA Today today, you saw two stories that may have looked familiar. One dealt with a Defense Department inspector general's report on the Army and Marine Corps Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program. If you are a regular reader of ours you saw that report, marked "official use only," here in December.

And you also read USA Today's other story here first. That story was about the new, lighter weight, all terrain MRAP. You can link to our January story here.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Department officials can no longer "categorically" deny Government Accountability Office investigators access to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information, according to a new Pentagon instruction.

"Such information may be furnished to GAO representatives having a legitimate need to know. Therefore, denials of access to such information must be carefully considered and supported legitimately," the Jan. 27 document states.

According to the Secrecy News blog, where the tidbit was first unearthed, there is a history of haggling over the issue.

GAO access to intelligence information has long been a subject of dispute and controversy. By law (31 U.S.C. 716d), the Comptroller General who directs the GAO cannot compel executive branch agencies to disclose intelligence information. The Central Intelligence Agency has generally refused to cooperate with GAO auditors, while defense intelligence agencies have historically been somewhat more forthcoming.

By Sebastian Sprenger
February 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Thanks to Google Maps and Google Earth, satellite imagery analysis has become a treasured pastime of armchair generals worldwide. But making extensive use of Google Earth images to construct an entire briefing about the technical effectiveness of missile defense systems in Europe -- featuring radar ranges, earth curvature and all -- that's taking it to the next level.

Stanford University professor Dean Wilkening has done just that, and his graphics don't make the proposed Poland- and Czech Republic-based missile shield look good, we reported earlier today.

We can't say whether the plots are meant to be accurate or merely intended to be illustrative. But they sure look cool.

The briefing slides are making the rounds on Capitol Hill and at NATO headquarters in Brussels, we're told. And not for their graphics.

By John Liang
February 4, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) wants a piece of the $800 billion economic stimulus package under debate in the Senate this week to go to defense.

To that end, Inhofe introduced an amendment today that would add $5.2 billion to the Defense Department's procurement accounts via the stimulus bill to manufacture or acquire vehicles, equipment, ammunition, and materials required to reconstitute military units, he said on the Senate floor.

"Investing in our nation’s defense provides thousands of sustainable American jobs and provides for our nation’s security," he added. "Major defense procurement programs are all manufactured in the U.S. with our aerospace industry alone employing more than 655,000 workers spread across over most of the U.S."


It is clear that infrastructure investment, along with defense spending and tax cuts, has a greater stimulative impact on the economy than anything else the government can do.

If our infrastructure needs repair, we equally need the tools to reconstruct military readiness. . . .

So we're accomplishing two things here: We're providing the jobs, we're also rebuilding our military.

Specifically, Inhofe's amendment would allow the buying of "aircraft, tracked and non-tracked combat vehicles, missiles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, maintenance equipment, naval coastal warfare boats, salvage equipment, riverine equipment, expeditionary material handling equipment, and other expeditionary items."

Inhofe emphasized that his amendment doesn't increase the cost of the bill because it also includes the following offsets that he said "highlight a part of the frivolous spending" included in the legislation that many Republicans have criticized. Those offsets include:

* $20 million for fish passage barrier removal,
* $20 million for trail improvements,
* $25 million for habitat restoration,
* $34 million to renovate the Commerce Department,
* $600 million for the federal government to buy cars – specifically hybrid and battery cars,
* $13 million to research volunteer activities,
* $650 million in coupons for digital TV (DTV) transition,
* $70 million for a support computer for climate change research,
* $1 billion for the Census,
* $850 million for Amtrak, and
* $2 billion reduction from $6 billion to use 'green technology' to revamp federal office buildings.

"This is a common sense amendment with real stimulative impact," Inhofe said. His spokesman told that a vote on the amendment could come later this afternoon.

UPDATE (Feb. 6): The amendment was defeated Feb. 5 "on a budget point of order" by a 38-59 vote, according to Inhofe's spokesman.

By Jason Simpson
February 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The GE Rolls-Royce team building the secondary engine to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has begun testing its first production-configuration F136 engine a month ahead of schedule, the companies announced this week.

The engine began testing Jan. 30 and represents the first complete engine assembled following government validation of the design in 2008, according to a GE Rolls-Royce statement. Several more engines are scheduled to be tested by the end of the year.

The statement touts: “The F136 engine is a product of the best technology from two world-leading propulsion companies. The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team has designed the only engine specifically developed for the F-35 aircraft, offering extra temperature margin and affordable growth.”

This program is one that the Defense Department has refused to fund in previous spending budgets, even though Congress has mandated the funding for the JSF's alternate engine and has time and time again re-infused F-35 coffers with monies to go to the GE Rolls-Royce power plant.

The question now is whether the F136 has similar issues as the fifth-generation jet's primary power supply, the Pratt & Whitney F135. Though the JSF program office has said repeatedly -- after the fact -- that officials were expecting it, a Pratt engine suffered “high-cycle fatigue” when it failed and a blade broke off during a test for the Marine Corps' short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant almost a year ago. This incident occurred roughly half a year after a similar incident on an engine for the Air Force's conventional takeoff-and-landing variant.

Program Executive Officer Maj. Gen. Charles Davis has said that these types of issues occur when testing new jets and engines, and has not come out to say that any of the F135 incidents were huge deals. But with all the Pentagon has done to try to kill the program, will it be more critical with problems on the F136?

By John Liang
February 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Aerospace Industries Association is calling on the new administration and Congress to consider "rational reform of the current system and avoid specific complex and unique government acquisition processes that were unsuccessful in the past," according to a report released today.

In a statement, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey called the report "industry's blueprint to be a constructive voice and partner with the government in achieving that goal."

Consequently, the White House and Congress should focus on three overarching themes this year, according to AIA:

Stability and fairness in contracting and financial policies;
Reform of the major elements of the defense acquisition system; and
Competitiveness and efficiency of the aerospace and defense industry.

In her foreword to the report, Blakey writes:

There has been substantial expansion of acquisition-related legislation in the national defense authorization acts passed during the past 10 years. Since the late 1990s, the number of acquisition provisions put in place by Congress has increased by three-to-four fold. In the past two years alone, the number has approached 100.

At the same time, there has been growth in the defense budget along with a dramatic reduction in the acquisition workforce-making it almost impossible for acquisition officials to perform their jobs efficiently and in compliance with all rules and laws. Moreover, there is a commensurate cost of compliance on the part of the defense industry included in the prices of goods and services.

The Aerospace Industries Association believes that now is the time to recalculate the imbalances in the defense acquisition system and take action for positive reform to ensure that the policies and processes that govern it are fair, reasonable and flexible.

The detailed AIA paper herein provides an overview of the acquisition system and offers recommendations for improvement. We welcome your comments and suggestions on this positive agenda.

But acquisition reform is a term that has been in use for decades by the Defense Department, and a White House national security paper issued not long after President Obama's inauguration has acquisition reform listed as one of the new administration's defense priorities:

Create Transparency for Military Contractors: President Obama and Vice President Biden will require the Pentagon and State Department to develop a strategy for determining when contracting makes sense, rather than continually handing off governmental jobs to well-connected companies. They will create the transparency and accountability needed for good governance, and establish the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible prosecution of any abuses committed by private military contractors.

Restore Honesty, Openness, and Commonsense to Contracting and Procurement: The Obama-Biden Administration will realize savings by reducing the corruption and cost overruns that have become all too routine in defense contracting. This includes launching a program of acquisition reform and management, which would end the common practice of no-bid contracting. Obama and Biden will end the abuse of supplemental budgets by creating a system of oversight for war funds as stringent as in the regular budget. Obama and Biden will restore the government's ability to manage contracts by rebuilding our contract officer corps. They will order the Justice Department to prioritize prosecutions that will punish and deter fraud, waste and abuse.

The Army's vice chief of staff thinks that the service's Rapid Equipping Force makes an excellent model for future acquisition reform by accelerating solutions that meet operational commanders' needs, Inside the Army reported this week:

The REF, as it is commonly known, streamlines procurement by focusing less on defining requirements and more on “finding point solutions to capabilities shortfalls on the battlefield,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli at a Jan. 27 Institute for Defense and Government Advancement conference in Washington.

It does this by canvassing the military, government, industry and academia to see what is already available or nearly available that can be delivered in a short time frame to commanders in the field.

Chiarelli praised the organization’s contributions to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and argued that the regular procurement system should try to follow its example.

“It provides a great model for how we might improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the current procurement system in the future,” said Chiarelli. “Rather than waiting seven years for 95 percent solutions, we should work to get capabilities out to warfighters as quickly as possible.”

By Jason Sherman
February 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Listening to Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell's comments at the Defense Department podium this afternoon, one might be left with the impression that DOD was largely looking to shift recurring war costs to the base budget last year when the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the top brass tacked on roughly $60 billion to a draft fiscal year 2010 budget request:

There was an internal exercise done on budgeting matters.

And it reflected two things that are important to note, or three things: number one, the notion of 4 percent of GDP being dedicated to defense spending; number two, trying to be responsive to the desires of the Congress that more and more supplemental spending be moved into the base budget -- and by that, I'm speaking of things like Wounded Warrior, the JIEDDO program, you know, Army and Marine Corps growth, as well as some operational spending to reflect sort of the persistent-presence reality that we find ourselves in; and lastly, and most importantly, it was done at a time in which you could probably go through such an exercise.

That is not exactly a full accounting of the increase the Pentagon sought to allocate to itself last year, in incorporating $57 billion in extra spending on top of the $523 billion which the Bush White House Office of Management and Budget authorized the Pentagon for FY-10.

In fact, recurring war costs amount for probably less than $10 billion of the amount. More than $20 billion would go to fund new aircraft and other weapons, and the largest portion -- more than $30 billion -- would finance activities related to the “long war,” including a boost for JIEDDO. These “long war” spending targets would pay for “presence” missions by all the services that presumed policies on Afghanistan and Iraq by the Obama administration.

For more details on where the Pentagon was planning to spend the extra money, see this story from last fall. We also reported last fall how the $57 billion boost was an effort to boost an inflation-adjusted defense spending plan advanced by the Bush administration built last year that was set to shrink through FY-13.

Last week OMB directed the Pentagon to build its FY-10 budget to the $523 billion topline set by the Bush administration, guidance that will force the Defense Department, in the words of one military official, to “rip the guts” out of the detailed spending proposal prepared for the Obama administration. Morrell said the Pentagon is backing away from its bid to push the FY-10 base budget north of $580 billion.

So this department is well aware of the fact that times are tough, and we are prepared to do the belt-tightening that is required and responsible of us.

He added:

The reality is, the economic situation has deteriorated dramatically since we undertook that exercise, and you can -- we today can probably not be as ambitious as we were in that exercise in moving funding from supplementals into the base budget. But that was an internal exercise, not a proposed budget, and not a starting-off point for any negotiations.

By Dan Dupont
February 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

So, what’s the next big thing for the Navy?

That was the question asked last year by the “Navy’s Next Big Thing subcommittee” of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Executive Panel. What’s that, you ask? Like the Defense Science Board, it’s a board of outside advisers set up under the Federal Advisory Committee Act -- a law designed to ensure the public has a means of seeing what such advisory panels do.

Unless, of course, it’s classified. As are the Next Big Things, apparently; last October the subcommittee met in closed session to talk about “what actual threats and opportunities are ‘Navy’s Next Big Things’ for the United States Navy in terms of ‘game changers’ and technology disruptors.

Got that?

They also talked about “ways to ameliorate the effects of these ‘Navy’s Next Big Things’ or to develop/enhance them for Navy’s own use.”

And that’s the sum total of what the Navy deems it appropriate for the public to know about that meeting, according to the official minutes. Though to be fair, they do tell you who was there.

By Thomas Duffy
February 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In one of his last acts as director of the Missile Defense Agency last November, Lt. Gen. Trey Obering (now retired) signed out a new testing plan for the agency. We recently got hold of the plan, which Obering signed Nov. 21.

The new plan cancels out what had been the agency's testing roadmap that had been in place since March 2005. In response to questions posed by, MDA said the change was made “to reflect the natural evolution of the agency's testing policy, which has occurred with the maturation of the ((ballistic missile defense)) system.”

The document makes it clear that the MDA director -- now Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly -- is fully in charge of agency testing. All testing issues and decisions flow through him. The new policy, though, sets up a three-headed body consisting of a deputy for test, a deputy for engineering and a mission director to shepherd each test through five different stages: test event requirements phase; test event planning and design phase; test event readiness phase; test event execution phase; and test event analysis and evaluation phase.

MDA tells us the deputy for test is Air Force Maj. Gen. Chris Anzalone. The new deputy for engineering is Keith Englander. O'Reilly will appoint a mission director for specific tests. Interestingly, the deputy for test is in charge of only the test event and planning phase. The deputy for engineering is in charge of the requirements phase (the first phase in the process) and the analysis and evaluation phase (the final phase). The mission director is in charge of the readiness phase (the third of the five phases).

Despite the title, the deputy for test assumes a supporting role during four of the five phases, MDA tells us.

Exceptions are made for test events in which the (deputy) for test is also the mission director. For these tests, the (deputy) for test has the primary responsibility for the test event, planning and design phase, the test event readiness phase and the test event execution phase.

Philip Coyle was in charge of the Pentagon independent operational testing office during the Clinton administration. He told us the new MDA testing organization looks “very flat” and has everything running through O'Reilly.

"This puts the director in the position of managing every little detail, and nearly every decision of any consequence ends up having to go to the director," he says. "The Missile Defense Agency is too large for that."

Coyle has some questions about the deputy for test/engineering/mission director setup, too.

I understand that MDA tests can be quite expensive, but breaking each one into five parts and then having a troika of three deputies manage each of those five parts separately from the others is unnecessarily complicated. Yes, I'm sure MDA will tell you that those three managers in the troika must coordinate, and let's hope they do because otherwise this new organization will be dysfunctional.

 MDA told us that every test carried out since the new policy was signed has been done so under the new setup: “Some tailoring was accomplished to ensure continuity and efficiency of work that was already in progress.”

By Zachary M. Peterson
January 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's latest 39-page 2009 Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review, released yesterday, is notable for numerous reasons, including this oddity: It does not specifically mention the Navy or Marine Corps in the text.

This may bear repeating: In a congressionally mandated report the defense secretary says "lays a foundation for understanding the department's roles and responsibilities in today's complex security environment," the words "Navy" and "Marine Corps" do not appear (save for photo credits, a photo caption and one "Navy" in a chart).

And in case you are wondering, both the Army and the Air Force are cited in the text of the thing many times.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department's budget presentation, which usually happens on the first Monday in February, has been postponed. Though this was expected, we decided to check with the good Pentagon press folks just to make sure.

While there won't be a budget briefing on Monday, we might see information in February about a bare-bones kind of defense budget request that would essentially amount to an unveiling of the Office of Management and Budget's topline for the Pentagon, DOD spokesman Cmdr. Darryn James told us.

The detailed defense budget, then, will be presented to the public sometime in April, he said.

By John Reed
January 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

After more than a year's worth of discussions, Air Force officials have decided to scrap their once-vaunted plan to build a multibillion-dollar coal-to-liquids (CTL) synthetic jet fuel refinery at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

Service officials claim the decision not to move forward with the privately owned plant was spurred by security concerns surrounding the base's role as home to dozens of Minuteman III ICBMs.

“The Air Force reviews cited possible conflicts with the wing's mission, including degradation of security in the vicinity of weapons storage area; interference with existing missile transportation operations; and issues with explosive safety arcs and operational flight safety,” the service said in a Jan. 29 statement.

The Air Force was supposed to make a decision on whether to build the plant on Jan. 16 after reviewing bids from industry vying to build the facility. The service delayed this decision by two weeks due to “technical issues and clarifications.”

The plant would have provided the Air Force with coal-based synthetic jet fuel at a significant discount in exchange for an inexpensive lease on the Air Force property. However, Congress has barred the service from buying large quantities of the fuel because its production pollutes far more than standard jet fuel. CTL industry officials have long maintained that they would need long-term contracts from the Air Force to offset the mammoth start-up costs associated with building and operating coal-to-liquids refineries.

Coal lobbyists tried unsuccessfully this year to get this ban overturned. They claim “clean coal” technology is right around the corner. Interestingly enough, the Air Force just announced a brand-new effort to certify its planes to fly on algae-based biofuels -- just as it's been doing with coal-based synthetic fuel for the last few years.

Questions remain: Did this have anything to do with the decision to abandon the Malmstrom CTL project? Also: What does the decision mean for the overall health of the service's plan to fly half its stateside missions using CTL fuel by 2016?

By Jason Sherman
January 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today sent Congress the Pentagon's 2009 Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report, an assessment that examines the division of labor among the services in a number of areas, including: irregular warfare, cyberspace operations, unmanned aircraft systems, and intratheater airlift.

We'll have a story on the entire 39-page report soon. Meantime, here are some of the conclusions Gates highlights in the foreword:

Together, we have concluded the Department must improve how we organize, train and equip our forces for these areas.

And Gates points to a finding that is clearly in step with President Obama's stated goal of beefing up the civilian side of the government to support national interests overseas (italics added).

One of the most important lessons from recent operations is that military success does not equate to victory. As a result, during the Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review we considered opportunities that will help strike a better balance between our nation's hard and soft power capabilities.

The Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review concludes we must improve our soft power: our national ability to promote economic development, institution-building and the rule of law, internal reconciliation, good governance, training and equipping indigenous military and policy forces, strategic communications, and more. Doing so requires exploring whole-of-government approaches for meeting complex security challenges.

By Sebastian Sprenger
January 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Reports of new directions from NATO's top general about the conduct of counterdrug operations in Afghanistan have begun making huge waves in Germany.

According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, U.S. Army Gen. Bantz Craddock earlier this month issued secret guidance instructing commanders in Afghanistan "to attack directly drug producers and facilities" in that country.

According to the document, deadly force is to be used even in those cases where there is no proof that suspects are actively engaged in the armed resistance against the Afghanistan government or against Western troops. It is "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective," Craddock writes.

The article further says ISAF Commander Gen. David McKiernan, also an American, already has signaled he would not follow Craddock's order.

McKiernan's recent statements indicate he objects to overly heavy-handed military action in the campaign against insurgents in Afghanistan.

In response to the Spiegel article, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hopp Scheffer announced today he had initiated an investigation into the leak of the classified guidance document to the magazine reporter.

Whether or not the Spiegel's reporting is accurate, German politicians are up in arms about it, according to a follow-up story posted on the magazine's Web site today.

What the European media might not know is that Craddock actually mentioned his new counterdrug guidance during a breakfast with reporters in Washington earlier this month. That Jan. 9 breakfast took place only days after he transmitted the guidance document to senior NATO commanders.

His comments offer some much-needed nuance to what could become a major debate in the days ahead.

In essence, Craddock argued, decisions reached at an October 2008 NATO defense ministerial in Budapest, Hungary, changed the game for NATO counterdrug operations. Coalition forces, previously restricted to providing logistical and intelligence support to Afghan-led counterdrug missions, now are allowed to act in a leading role, Craddock said.

"We asked for authorities to be able to attack their facilities . . . where the value is added ((by)) turning poppies to . . . heroin, and the facilitators, the traffickers, who move the drugs from the labs out of the country," Craddock said. "We were granted that authority."

"There's now work in progress to translate that authority into implementation procedures. The guidance has been issued. I have done that. Now we have to move that into new plans and operations to be able to intercept, intercede, destroy facilities ((and)) precursor chemicals" imported from outside the country, Craddock said.

By Marcus Weisgerber
January 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

EADS North America announced today that it will not compete to build the Air Force's VC-25 replacement, better know as Air Force One, opting to focus on the more lucrative next-generation tanker competition.

Earlier this month, the Air Force put out feelers to industry to determine interest in building the next presidential transport aircraft. The Jan. 7 notice to industry states that an Air Force analysis of alternatives has determined it would be less costly to replace the service’s VC-25s in the next decade instead of trying to maintain the aging Boeing 747-200 jets, mainly because part suppliers no longer exist and maintenance times are increasing.

Some in the defense community believed another Boeing-Airbus showdown was in the works, similar to the Air Force's stalled tanker competition.

But it appears top EADS officials have opted against bidding to build less than a handful VC-25s when they can instead focus on selling nearly 180 KC-X aircraft. Below is a copy of an e-mail sent to reporters this morning about EADS decision to abandon the Air Force One competition:

In 2007 at the USAF’s request, EADS North America provided technical information and answered questions regarding several Airbus widebody commercial aircraft as the service conducted its Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to recapitalize the current fleet of presidential aircraft.

EADS North America’s strategy for growth in the US is based on bringing value to the US warfighter; making industrial investments in the US and insourcing high technology defense and aerospace jobs. After careful review, we’ve determined that participation in the AF-1 program will not help us meet these business objectives."

Though the company will not respond to this RFI, we remain focused on once again winning the KC-X competition with Northrop Grumman, delivering the UH-72A LUH to the US Army and meeting the needs of our US defense and homeland security customers.

We reiterate our strong commitment to the US Department of Defense and to supporting the warfighter with our products and services.