The Insider

By John Liang
May 20, 2011 at 7:19 PM

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) is reminding President Obama that the U.S. military cannot indefinitely continue conducting operations in Libya without formal congressional authorization. In a letter sent today to Obama, McKeon writes:

As the United States military's involvement in Libya approaches 60 days without congressional authorization, I must reiterate concerns expressed at the outset of this operation regarding our strategic objectives, the length of America's commitment, the funding mechanism for this operation, and the potential effect of this operation on other more vital interests.

There continues to be an apparent disconnect between our stated political objectives and the military mission. Although United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized member states "to take all necessary measures" to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack" in Libya, you have stated clearly that Gaddafi must be removed from power. Although this may be necessary and strategically desirable, it is not clear that the means chosen to achieve this outcome are adequate. History has demonstrated that an entrenched enemy like the Libyan regime can be resilient to air power. Moreover, by targeting command and control sites not directly threatening civilian populated areas, NATO operations may have prompted Gaddafi to use civilian shields as a countermeasure to our air superiority. This may put NATO and U.S. pilots in the paradoxical position of firing on civilians in order to save civilians. Consequently, I believe the Administration should present a fuller explanation to Congress of the connection between strategic ends and operational means.

This disparity between means and ends suggests the conflict is heading toward a protracted stalemate, as neither Gaddafi nor the opposition appears capable of gaining the upper hand in the near term. Moreover, the recent indictment of Gaddafi and senior Libyan regime officials for "crimes against humanity" - although likely justified from a legal standpoint - removes any incentive those individuals would have had to abdicate power short of a complete military defeat, an outcome that appears far from imminent. Thus, the Administration should explain how long the United States intends to pursue the current strategy, and whether the intention is to engage in a prolonged conflict over Libya similar to Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch over Iraq.

Furthermore, greater clarity needs to be provided to Congress regarding the role of U.S. forces within NATO operations. Although Administration officials have provided Congress with some data regarding the percentage of sorties flown by U.S. pilots in Operation Unified Protector, the specific nature of our role in NATO operations remains unclear. Do U.S. forces continue to be engaging in hostilities, or are they merely playing a supporting role? Congress must receive additional information regarding the extent to which U.S. assets -- whether manned or unmanned -- deliver munitions on Libyan targets in order to exercise appropriate oversight of these operations.

By Amanda Palleschi
May 19, 2011 at 4:11 PM

A Huntsville, AL-based defense contractor has acquired a cyber security and information assurance program from EADS-North America, which counts the Defense Department and other government agencies among its customers.

In a statement issued Thursday, Camber Corp. announced its acquisition of EADS-North America Defense Security and Systems Solutions, Inc (DS3). The system provides cyber security, information assurance, information technology and secure satellite communicate services for DOD and operates and supports Joint Cyberspace Operations Range (JCOR) -- a major DOD cyber range, according to the statement.

A dollar figure was unavailable at press time.

The DS3 program serves customers including the Air Force, Navy, U.S. Strategic Command, the National Guard Bureau, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Defense Contracting Management Agency and commercial satellite companies, according to the statement.

"DS3's participation in large-scale joint exercises also facilitates Camber's communication with key participants in the Federal cyber community, providing its National Security Group with unique insight into the latest cyber attacks, vulnerabilities, mitigation measures and defensive techniques," said DS3 chief executive officer Ron Moore.

By John Liang
May 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM

The Navy yesterday made the official announcement that its newest Lewis and Clark-class of underway replenishment cargo ships would be named after labor organizer Cesar Chavez. According to the Pentagon statement:

Continuing the Lewis and Clark-class tradition of honoring legendary pioneers and explorers, the Navy's newest underway replenishment ship honors the memory of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.  Chavez served in the Navy from 1944-1946 after which he became a leader in the American Labor Movement and a civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.

"Cesar Chavez inspired young Americans to do what is right and what is necessary to protect our freedoms and our country," said Mabus. "The Cesar Chavez will sail hundreds of thousands of miles and will bring support and assistance to thousands upon thousands of people. His example will live on in this great ship."

Designated T-AKE 14, Cesar Chavez is being built by General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.  Eleven of the T-AKEs are slated to serve as combat logistics force (CLF) ships, and three are slated to be part of the maritime prepositioning force (MPF).  Cesar Chavez will serve the CLF missions, helping the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships at sea.

That decision, however, didn't sit well with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who said in a statement:

This decision shows the direction the Navy is heading.  Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navy’s history and tradition.

If this decision were about recognizing the Hispanic community’s contribution to our nation, many other names come to mind, including Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor for action in Iraq.  Peralta is one of many Hispanic war heroes -- some of whom are worthy of the same recognition.

And we cannot forget about John Finn, a lifelong San Diego resident who won the Medal of Honor for what he did during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Finn is another worthy candidate that was evidently overlooked in the selection process.

According to an April 1 Congressional Research Service report on Navy ship names:

Rules for giving certain types of names to certain types of Navy ships have evolved over time. There have been exceptions to the Navy’s ship-naming rules, particularly for the purpose of naming a ship for a person when the rule for that type of ship would have called for it to be named for something else. Some observers in recent years have perceived a breakdown in, or corruption of, the rules for naming Navy ships. . . .

Congress has long maintained an interest in how Navy ships are named, and has influenced the naming of certain Navy ships. The Navy suggests that congressional offices wishing to express support for proposals to name a Navy ship for a specific person, place, or thing contact the office of the Secretary of the Navy to make their support known. Congress may also pass legislation relating to ship names. Measures passed by Congress in recent years regarding Navy ship names have all been sense-of-the-Congress provisions.

By John Liang
May 18, 2011 at 3:43 PM

The vessel that carries the Missile Defense Agency's Sea-Based X-Band Radar is docked in Seattle and will undergo thruster maintenance over the next three months, work that was originally scheduled for last year.

According to a recently released environmental assessment of maintaining the vessel, the ship was due for thruster maintenance in 2010, but MDA received a waiver extension to May 31, 2011. Agency spokesman Rick Lehner told Inside Missile Defense in an email that the "operational schedule of the SBX prevented getting into a suitable shipyard until after the initial maintenance period. The waiver was obtained in order for the SBX to continue operations until the work could be performed."

According to the report:

The SBX Radar Vessel became operational in 2005. As with any vessel, it requires routine maintenance as well as mandatory recertification of structural and propulsion components. Both the hull and the four thrusters require a 5-year maintenance cycle and certification in order to continue operation.

As for where the thruster maintenance work would take place, the report states:

MDA is currently planning for the maintenance work to be done at Todd Pacific Shipyards, a commercial shipyard in Seattle, WA beginning in May of 2011. MDA must conduct this maintenance around the SBX Radar Vessel’s scheduled participation in BMDS flight testing planned throughout the year. Therefore, MDA is also developing contingency plans to potentially utilize other locations should the test schedule change or other unforeseen circumstances occur that would affect the ability to obtain the required maintenance at Todd Pacific Shipyards. MDA is proposing to perform necessary maintenance activities on the SBX Radar Vessel at one of two proposed contingency locations (Naval Station Everett [NSE], WA or Naval Base Coronado-Naval Air Station North Island [NASNI], San Diego). This work could commence in the Spring/Summer of 2011, if Todd Pacific Shipyards becomes unavailable, and would require approximately 3 months to complete. However, due to the operational requirements of the SBX Radar Vessel and shifting world events, the commencement date could change. NSE and NASNI are not typically used as maintenance and repair facilities. Although minor maintenance and repair activities are currently performed at NSE and NASNI, they are not functioning shipyards and do not perform shipyard-type work. Therefore, this Environmental Assessment (EA) is being prepared to examine the potential for impacts to the environment as a result of the proposed maintenance activities associated with the SBX Radar Vessel at NSE and NASNI only.

Lehner told IMD that the thruster maintenance work would indeed be done at Todd Pacific Shipyards, now known as Vigor Shipyards Seattle. "Work has already begun and will continue for about three months," he wrote.

By Sebastian Sprenger
May 17, 2011 at 7:34 PM

Two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked panel Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to “significantly restrict funding” for the Medium Extended Air Defense System in his mark of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill.

Defense leaders have put MEADS on a “proof-of-concept” trajectory through FY-13, to the tune of $800 million. In a joint May 16 letter to Levin, Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) argue the plan is unreasonable because the United States and its program partners Germany and Italy would not get “any tangible benefit” out of MEADS.

They propose authorizing only $265 million -- which, they write, would be enough to cover the U.S. share of termination costs in the event of a mutual decision by all three countries to cancel the program.

By Cid Standifer
May 17, 2011 at 6:30 PM

The Navy made it official today: As expected, Rear Adm. James Murdoch has been tapped to lead the recently created program executive office for the Littoral Combat Ship.

The LCS program has been divided between a program office for the seaframe and another for mission modules since its inception, but as Defense News reported earlier this month, the Navy plans to unite them under one PEO.

The Navy confirmed that today in its flag officer announcements, which said Murdoch will be transferred from his post as Fleet Forces Command fleet maintenance officer to the head of the new office.

This is not Murdoch's first run-in with the LCS beast. Until mid-2010, he was program manager for the LCS shipbuilding program under Naval Sea Systems Command.

By Jordana Mishory
May 17, 2011 at 2:31 PM

The Pentagon is on track to become audit ready by the 2017 deadline set by Congress, according to the latest version of a biannual audit readiness report released this week.

Signed by Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, the report states that audit readiness is a top priority for the Defense Department and lays out a series of incentives to encourage components to get their books ready. The DOD has still not complied with a two-decade-old law requiring all federal agencies be audited. On May 16, Hale, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Mark Easton and Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Director Joseph Quinn presented elements of the new report to a Defense Audit Advisory Committee.

By Amanda Palleschi
May 16, 2011 at 8:41 PM

The White House unveiled a "U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace" today that explains the administration's agenda for partnering with other countries to secure cyberspace.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn presented the strategy along with Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The release comes just after the White House unveiled a legislative cybersecurity proposal.

The proposal states that military force can be used in the cyber realm along with other means to defend the nation's networks as well as allied nations:

All states possess an inherent right to self-defense, and we recognize that certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners.We reserve the right to use all necessary means -- diplomatic, informational, military, and economic -- as appropriate and consistent with applicable international law, in order to defend our Nation, our allies, our partners, and our interests. In so doing, we will exhaust all options before military force whenever we can; will carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs of inaction; and will act in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, seeking broad international support whenever possible.

By Gabe Starosta
May 16, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Lockheed Martin, the Joint Strike Fighter's prime contractor, has responded positively to an invitation to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. Tom Burbage, the company's top fighter aircraft official, will appear alongside Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35's program executive officer.

Burbage will be part of the hearing's second panel, according to the committee's website. Burbage, a retired naval aviator, held the same position in the company's F-22 Raptor program office before taking over JSF activities. He will join Venlet and Michael Sullivan, the director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, in front of the committee late Thursday morning.

The committee will first hear testimony from some of the Defense Department's top officials involved in the JSF program: Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter; Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Director Christine Fox; Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation; and David Van Buren, the Air Force's acting acquisition executive. They make up the first panel of the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

The Senate Armed Services Committee hosted a similar hearing to review the status of the F-35 program in March 2010, but Venlet had not yet been put in charge of the program and no Lockheed officials testified that day.

By John Liang
May 16, 2011 at 3:55 PM

With the killing of Osama Bin Laden by Navy SEALs earlier this month, special operations forces have stepped into the limelight like never before. Coincidentally, the Pentagon last month updated its official joint doctrine on special operations. The April 18 Joint Publication 3-05, the first big update since December 2003, incorporates a host of changes, including:

* Subsumes sections of special operations and the principles of war, special operations and the principles of military operations other than war, and the nature of special operations into one discussion of special operations across the range of military operations.

* Discusses the following as part of command and control of special operations forces (SOF): SOF as the lead for a joint task force, integration and interoperability of conventional forces and SOF, interorganizational coordination, and multinational coordination.

* Introduces the concept Special Operations Joint Task Force (SOJTF) through which United States Special Operations Command will present all theater SOF under one special operations commander.

* Incorporates a stand-alone section on geospatial information and services support of SOF into a general discussion of support considerations.

* Adds sections on operational contract support, host-nation support, protection, maritime support, information operations support, and multinational support.

* Deletes an appendix on SOF education and training.

* Implements the change from the term "psychological operations" (PSYOP) to "military information support operations" (MISO).

* Revises and updates numerous definitions in accordance with current directives and practice.

* Deletes discussion of SOF truths.

* Reflects the development of a United States Marine Corps SOF capability.

One big point of emphasis in the document is special operations forces' capability to carry out irregular warfare (IW):

From the United States perspective, IW encompasses a level of conflict that is less than traditional warfare and involves an adversary seeking to disrupt or negate the military capabilities and advantages of a more powerful, conventionally armed military force, often representing the regime of a nation. However, the strategic objectives of IW are no less significant than those of traditional warfare. Unlike the force-on-force orientation of traditional warfare, IW focuses on the strategic purpose of gaining and maintaining control or influence over, and the support of a relevant population through political, psychological, and economic methods. IW requires a different mindset and different capabilities than those focused on the conventional military defeat of an adversary. The SOF mindset and capabilities make them particularly well suited for all forms of IW. Further, SOF capabilities complement those of CF, whom the Department of Defense (DOD) also has tasked with gaining a core competency in IW.

By John Liang
May 13, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter recently issued a revised "management plan" to tighten ties with federally funded research and development centers.

In a May 2, 2011, memo, first reported earlier this week by Defense News, Carter announced a revised plan "that provides improved clarity to better assist your oversight and management of the FFRDCs you sponsor." Additionally, the DOD acquisition chief has released so-called "How-to-Guides" that "provide detailed guidance in areas that frequently present procedural questions and challenges."

Inside the Pentagon reported in December that FFRDCs were established to provide the Defense Department "with unique analytical, engineering and research capabilities in many areas where the government cannot attract and retain personnel in sufficient depth and numbers," as Carter wrote in a Dec. 9, 2010, memo.

"They also operate in the public interest free from organizational conflicts of interest and can therefore assist us in ways that industry contractors cannot," his December memo added. FFRDCs maintain core competencies in domains that continue to be of great importance to DOD, the memo noted.

Given the centers' special relationship with the rest of the defense enterprise, "I view them as a vial component of the overall acquisition workforce, along with the government's acquisition workforce and the for-profit contractor expertise," Carter's May 2 memo states. "All three are critical to a strong acquisition process. In using FFRDCs, we must take advantage of their freedom from organizational conflicts of interest and of their long-term capabilities that are not available to us elsewhere.

"I urge you to focus them on the department's most pressing matters, and educate your workforce to the unique capabilities this resource brings to the department," the memo continues.

Carter's memo cites "topics requiring additional work that will be addressed in subsequent How-to-Guides, such as overarching FFRDC Non-Disclosure Agreements, recognition and handling of FFRDC employees deploying overseas, and Post-employment Restrictions for FFRDC employees that return from DOD Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) 'detail' assignments."

"Several changes were made" to the management plan, according to the Carter memo, "to emphasize the long-term, strategic nature of the relationship between the department and the FFRDCs. This plan contains a change in wording on the typical period of performance for FFRDC contracts compared to the May 2003 version of the plan."

Carter emphasizes that the wording change "does not reflect a change in law or policy, rather it connotes that, consistent with current law and regulation, the long-term strategic relationship between the FFRDC and their respective sponsor should be addressed in the sponsoring agreement."

By John Liang
May 13, 2011 at 3:55 PM

In case you missed the mark-up earlier this week of the House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill and wanted a taste of the individual panel members' priorities, we now have the amendments that were offered during that debate:

Order of Debate

Seapower and Projection Forces Amendments

Emerging Threats and Capabilities Amendments

Readiness Amendments

Tactical Air and Land Forces Amendments

Stategic Forces Amendments

Military Personnel Amendments

Full Committee Amendments

By Amanda Palleschi
May 12, 2011 at 7:48 PM

The White House today sent Congress a highly anticipated legislative proposal that addresses the federal government's cybersecurity strategy and authorities.

The proposal puts the Department of Homeland Security squarely in the lead in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure and federal computers and networks, leaving a supporting role for the Defense Department and other agencies.

A senior White House official was asked during a conference call with reporters whether the administration's proposal would change U.S. Cyber Command's lack of authority to defend private infrastructure against an attack from abroad.

“DHS has long been the primary organization working with the private sector for a long time, but drawing on the positive resource we have in the rest of government, including DOD, Department of Energy, Department of the Treasury,” the official replied. “Consequently, we think this is the best way forward and also gives us the authority to help the private sector in all various circumstances.”

The proposal had been anticipated by lawmakers as a response to Senate cybersecurity legislation, which calls for President Obama to “assess cyber risks and prevent, detect, and robustly respond to cyber attacks against the government and military”and “incentivize the private sector to quantify, assess and mitigate cyber risks to their communications and information networks.” Those responsibilities fall primarily to DHS in both the White House and Senate proposals.

The Pentagon is due to release a new cybersecurity strategy, known as Cyber 3.0, in the coming weeks. It is expected to coordinate DOD's initiatives across the defense agencies and with international partners.

By Christopher J. Castelli
May 12, 2011 at 5:38 PM

The U.S. military's intervention in Libya has so far cost roughly $750 million, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this morning.

Noting Congress routinely pays for cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the overseas contingency operations account -- which the House Armed Services Committee voted yesterday to fund at a level of $118 billion in fiscal year 2012 -- Gates said the Defense Department is having to pay for operations in Libya out of hide.

"In the case of Libya, unfortunately, we're fundamentally having to eat that one," Gates said at Camp Lejeune, NC. "And so it's probably at this point somewhere in the ballpark of $750 million, and we'll find the money. But in terms of our operations overseas, the budgetary problems that the country is facing and the deficit I think will not have an impact in terms of funding the operations that we're in."

With the exception of some rebel leaders in Libya, U.S. officials do not know who the rebels are, Gates said, adding, "And I think this is one of the reasons why there has been such a reluctance, at least on our part, to provide any kind of lethal assistance to the opposition."

By Cid Standifer
May 12, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Marines this morning that he believes units will reach a two-to-one or three-to-one dwell ratio in the next few years, despite the Marine Corps' intent to cut back on end strength, but some low-density high-demand specialties likely will continue to experience low dwell time.

At a town hall meeting in Camp Lejeune, NC, Gates said he expects the decline in the number of troops to balance out with the drawdown in Afghanistan. “The goal is to get to one-to-two, so for every, let's say, every six months deployed, you get at least a year at home,” he told Marines. “I think as we draw down in Afghanistan over the next three years, the dwell will probably increase beyond that.”

However, he said there was “no question in [his] mind” that some specialties would not reach that goal. Specifically, he named military police, intelligence analysts, ordinance disposal personnel and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance experts. "We just don't have enough of those specialties to fill the requirement,” he said, “so we're still having to deal with a fair amount of individual augmentees.”

Gates said he hopes that before he steps down from his position, he can “tee up” some of the difficult budgetary decisions the Defense Department will have to make. He said he fears cuts that would maintain today's force structure without providing the proper manpower and training to sustain it. “Across-the-board cuts, as far as I'm concerned, represent managerial cowardice,” he said.

Instead, he pledged to focus on “third-rail issues” like compensation for working-age retirees and Tricare premiums, as well as forcing commanders to accept some force-structure risk. For example, he questioned the likelihood that the United States could someday simultaneously be at war in two regions against enemies like Iran and North Korea.

“If you want to change the size of the budget in a dramatic way, what risk are you prepared to take in terms of future threats to the country?” he asked.

Gates noted that the budget cuts may not proceed in a logical and sensible manner as politics impacts the process. As an example, he pointed to the continuing resolutions on the fiscal year 2011 budget that Congress renewed multiple times earlier this year before passing an appropriations bill last month. “[They] were incredibly irrational and caused us to do incredibly stupid things,” he said.