The Insider

By John Liang
October 14, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Great Falls International Airport in Montana will be the "preferred alternative" to base C-27J aircraft, the Pentagon announced yesterday. The airport would be the seventh C-27J operational location for bedding down four aircraft, the statement continues. Further:

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz announced in July 2010 two candidate bases that included Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station (AGS), Idaho, and Great Falls International Airport.  Site survey teams evaluated the two candidate sites for feasibility, timing, cost and planning purposes to meet initial operational capability requirements.

The C-27J is a twin turboprop engine aircraft designed to meet the Air Force requirement for a rugged, medium size airland transport.  The C-27J gives U.S. military troops a unique, short-take-off-and-landing capability, providing access to airstrips otherwise unreachable by fixed-wing aircraft.

The first six operational bases announced in July 2008 were Martin State AGS, Baltimore, Md.; W.K. Kellogg Airport, Battle Creek, Mich.; Bradley International Airport AGS, Bradley, Conn.; Hector Field AGS, Fargo, N.D.; Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, Mansfield, Ohio; and Key Field AGS, Meridian, Miss.

The final basing decision for the seventh operational base is pending completion of environmental impact analysis, expected by May 2011. A final announcement is expected in June 2011 with aircraft delivery expected in mid-2014.

As Inside the Air Force reported in September:

The Air Force has no plans to purchase more than 38 C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft, which will perform the direct-support airlift mission, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Raymond Johns told a small group of reporters after a Sept. 14 presentation. "If I need to service more locations, more units then the way we'll do it is with C-130s," he said.

The Air Force plans to deploy its first C-27J next spring, U.S. Transportation Command chief Gen. Duncan McNabb said during a Sept. 14 presentation. The first C-27J was delivered to the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield Lahm Airport, OH, on Aug. 14 according to the service statement.

. . . and in June:

The Air Force is retaining ownership of its intratheater cargo-haulers in Afghanistan despite conducting Army-run missions with the aircraft, according to an air service official.

The closely watched mission was among the major topics discussed during the June 2 Air Force-Army warfighter talks at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington. Top brass, including 40 general officers -- eight of which were Air Force four-stars -- attended the meetings.

Under the new direct-support construct, aircraft -- primarily C-130 Hercules -- are being tasked through a process called "general support-apportioned," according to an Air Force official. Under this construct, the aircraft remain property of the Air Force, but the Army owns the mission. . . .

The Army conducts its own direct-support with C-23 Sherpa cargo haulers. The ground service intended to replace those planes with the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft, however, that program was transitioned to the Air Force last year. Shortly after, the Pentagon announced the Air Force would conduct the direct-support mission with the C-27J. The Air Force faced immediate criticism -- particularly from Army field-grade ranks -- that it would not be responsive enough to the ground service's battle needs. More recently, it was announced the air service would conduct direct support using C-130s, as well.

"This is a way of giving them that control without the burden on them of owning the aircraft and having to pay for the tooth-to-tail of that aircraft," the official said. "The Air Force still takes that and supports and maintains the aircraft, but the Army gets control of a set number of missions."

By John Liang
October 13, 2010 at 6:50 PM

The Missile Defense Agency's Sea-Based X-Band Radar will undergo modifications and maintenance at the Todd Shipyard in Seattle, WA, next year, according to an agency statement. The decision "was made in order to accommodate available shipyard space with required maintenance schedules. Work on the vessel's thrusters and other modifications must begin in March 2011 to maintain its Certificate of Inspection issued by the American Bureau of Shipping," the statement continues. Specifically:

Work is expected to start in March and will be ongoing for about 90 days, and the estimated cost of the work is expected to be about $9.4 million.

Maintenance to the vessel requires a port with water depth of at least 50 feet. There are only three facilities on the West Coast with water deep enough for this type of work. The other two are Naval Station Everett, Wash., and Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

SBX encountered problems during an MDA intercept test in January. The radar "did not perform as expected," according to a statement issued at the time. "Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept."

As Inside Missile Defense reported in February:

Last month's intercept attempt, labeled FTG-06 and originally scheduled for the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009, was delayed to January "due to recently updated target model and simulation predictions," MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told Inside Missile Defense in an e-mail last November.

According to MDA's justification document accompanying its FY-10 defense budget request, the FTG-06 test was meant to "demonstrate the engagement of a target" launched from Kwajalein Atoll with an Aegis AN/SPY-1 radar system "providing initial track" guidance along with updates from the Sea-Based X-Band radar. MDA Executive Director David Altwegg said at a Feb. 1 briefing, though, that SBX was the only sensor used during the intercept test.

Altwegg said it was "premature" to attribute the intercept failure to the SBX. "I'm not exonerating the SBX, but I am not saying it was solely an SBX problem. Speculation is something I shouldn't be doing here. Let's find out what the data says. Let the Failure Review Board analyze it," he added.

MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told IMD in an e-mail today that he has not "received any information for public release regarding SBX's participation in the 31 January [2010] GMD test." He added that the agency still plans to use SBX in the next GMD test scheduled to take place by the end of this calendar year.

By John Liang
October 13, 2010 at 4:03 PM

High-level Pentagon officials last month approved staff recommendations to downgrade the munitions ingredient perchlorate from a high priority among chemicals the department evaluates to determine the impact to military readiness, people and the environment, Defense Environment Alert reports this week. The decision was made in light of expected future regulatory restrictions. Further:

The decision comes even as EPA has decided to set a drinking water standard for perchlorate, but signals the maturity of DOD's program to get under control the various risks related to the chemical, according to a DOD official. "Basically, we felt our risk management options were mature enough" that now it is time to move the focus to other emerging contaminants, Shannon Cunniff, director of DOD's Chemical and Material Risk Management Directorate, said in a Oct. 6 interview. So if DOD has perchlorate under control, "what is the next emerging problem?" she said.

In addition, Cunniff downplayed the likelihood of any significant impacts on DOD from the new drinking water standard EPA will set.

In an annual meeting held Sept. 16, DOD's Emerging Contaminants Governance Council endorsed a slew of recommendations made by the chemical risk management directorate regarding priorities for the next year. Among them was a proposal to move perchlorate from the program's high-priority "action" list a notch down to its "watch" list of emerging contaminants. She says it is important to go back to the original purpose of the priority lists, which were to put an intense focus on chemicals DOD needed to take progressive actions on, noting that over the past six years, DOD has characterized the nature of the risks related to perchlorate, found substitutes and has regulator-sanctioned cleanups underway. At the same time, she said downgrading the chemical does not mean DOD will stop undertaking risk management options for it, and does not forgo moving it back up as a priority, she said.

The program identifies chemicals without human health standards or for which regulatory standards are changing, and attempts to more effectively manage their risk, thereby lowering lifecycle costs, driving innovation of substitutes, and avoiding "the need for future crisis-driven retooling to comply with the new regulations," DOD says on a website about the program.

The Governance Council is co-chaired by DOD installation and environment chief Dorothy Robyn and DOD readiness head Samuel Kleinman and includes other high-ranking officials from programs across DOD. The council's endorsements of staff recommendations give them a higher priority in the department.

Cunniff said EPA's upcoming drinking water standard, a maximum contaminant level (MCL), will have little effect on driving additional cleanups at DOD sites. EPA recently decided to regulate perchlorate under the Safe Drinking Water Act, reversing a controversial Bush administration decision not to regulate, after finding that setting a drinking water standard would provide a meaningful opportunity to reduce risks posed by the ubiquitous chemical, according to a federal source. Perchlorate - which is present in drinking water sources in dozens of states - is one of several substances that inhibits the thyroid's uptake of iodine, a deficiency that can lead to developmental delays and reduced IQ among the children of women who were iodine deficient during pregnancy.

The impact of the MCL on DOD "is not expected to be significant," Cunniff said, noting that the department is already conducting cleanup of the chemical under EPA's existing risk number. MCLs can be used to drive cleanups. But she noted that DOD perchlorate cleanups are based on a risk number - the reference dose - followed by a site assessment. And in terms of the MCL's effect on DOD drinking water supplies, she said that in DOD's database of sampling, which includes over 50,000 samples, only one DOD installation has reported a perchlorate level in drinking water above 4 parts per billion.

By John Liang
October 12, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week met with the head of the Chinese military, seeking to renew defense talks between the two nations. As The New York Times reports:

At the sidelines of a conference for Asian defense ministers, Mr. Gates spent about half an hour behind closed doors with Gen. Liang Guanglie of China, and emerged to say he had explained how arms sales to Taiwan were a decision by Washington’s civilian leadership, not one made by the Pentagon or the armed forces.

“It is fundamentally a political decision,” Mr. Gates said. “Why the military relationship should be held hostage to what is essentially a political decision seems to me curious. And I believe it should not be.”

Restoring communications between the Chinese and American militaries is an urgent need, Mr. Gates said, because “having greater clarity and understanding of each other is essential to preventing mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”

Restoring communications between the Chinese and American militaries is an urgent need, Mr. Gates said, because “having greater clarity and understanding of each other is essential to preventing mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”

Military relations between the two nations lag far behind their diplomatic and economic ties. Exchanges between the armed forces were completely frozen by China earlier this year in retribution for a decision by the United States to sell $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province. reported last week that the Obama administration is keeping its latest thinking on Taiwan's security under wraps, declining to release remarks delivered by senior Pentagon and State Department officials at a recent annual defense conference of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. Specifically:

Pentagon and State Department officials denied requests from for the texts of remarks delivered to an audience that included Taiwan's deputy defense minister for policy, Andrew Yang, at the Oct. 4-5 conference in Cambridge, MD. Media are barred from the otherwise public gathering, conducted since 2002 as an off-the-record event.

In prior years the Pentagon has made public the text of speeches delivered by its senior representative at council meetings.

“I think that what is going on is a desire to reactivate mil-to-mil contacts with China,” said one conference attendee with expertise in Asian regional security issues. The source noted that media coverage of high-level Pentagon participation the conference on Taiwan's defense needs could draw protests from Beijing, which vehemently objects to Washington's military support of Taipei.

A recent Congressional Research Service report obtained by outlines the issues Congress may look into regarding U.S.-Chinese military-to-military relations:

Issues for the 111th Congress include whether the Obama Administration has complied with legislation overseeing dealings with the [People's Liberation Army] and pursued contacts with the PLA that advances a prioritized set of U.S. security interests, especially the safety of U.S. military personnel. Oversight legislation includes the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-FY1991 (P.L. 101-246) and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65). Skeptics and proponents of military exchanges with the PRC have debated whether the contacts have significant value for achieving U.S. objectives and whether the contacts have contributed to the PLA’s warfighting capabilities that might harm U.S. security interests. Some have argued about whether the value that U.S. officials have placed on the contacts overly extends leverage to the PLA. Officials believe talks can serve U.S. interests that include conflict prevention and crisis management; transparency and reciprocity; tension reduction over Taiwan; weapons nonproliferation; strategic nuclear/space talks; counterterrorism; and accounting for POW/MIAs.

Policymakers could review the approach to mil-to-mil contacts. U.S. defense officials have reported inadequate cooperation from the PLA, including denials of port visits at Hong Kong and aid to U.S. Navy ships in distress (Thanksgiving 2007). The PLA has tried to use its suspensions of exchanges while blaming U.S. “obstacles” (including arms sales to Taiwan, legal restrictions on contacts with the PLA, and the Pentagon’s reports to Congress on the PLA). The PRC’s harassment of U.S. surveillance ships (in 2009) and increasing assertiveness in maritime areas have shown the limits to the results of mil-to-mil talks and PLA restraint. Still, at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July 2009, President Obama called for military contacts to diminish disputes with China. The NDAA for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84) amended the requirement in P.L. 106-65 for the report on PRC military power to expand the focus to security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, and fold in another requirement to report on mil-to-mil contacts, including a new strategy for such contacts (but the report is late in 2010).

By Tony Bertuca
October 12, 2010 at 3:18 PM

In a bid to emphasize the importance of energy efficiency and security, the Army has kicked-started the Defense Department's energy awareness month by renaming a key leadership post and increasing the scope of the office.

Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, can now add “energy” to her title. Army Secretary John McHugh made the change effective Oct. 1 -- the first day of energy awareness month across DOD.

“With energy becoming a bigger and bigger priority, we have the flexibility to change our name at the pleasure of the secretary of the Army,” she said during an interview with Inside the Army last week. “I was asked to implement an increased focus on energy and energy efficiency and energy security. We can't do anything without secured energy resources. Making energy a priority and the efficient use of energy a priority is certainly critical to the mission of the Army.”

Hammack, who has been on the job for four months, is short on specifics when it comes to talking about requirements reform, but she did point to several places where she thought the Army was making great strides.

For instance, she said, Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey recently received a federal energy and water management award for reducing water consumption for two large boiler plants and installing energy-efficient equipment and heat-recovery systems.

Hammack said the Picatinny project saved 110 billion BTUs of energy, 19 million gallons of water and about $900,000 in fiscal year 2009.

“The recent name change recognizes energy is an important role,” she said. “The Army can't run without it. We can't deliver weapons, we can't communicate, we can't house our soldiers.”

DOD leaders from across the services will be participating in panel discussions about defense energy policy at the Pentagon throughout the day tomorrow.

By Marcus Weisgerber
October 8, 2010 at 3:57 PM

President Obama is expected to announce today that White House National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones is resigning, according to multiple newspaper reports. His deputy Thomas Donilon is expected to assume the post.

There has been buzz around Washington since the early summer that Jones would leave his position. At one time, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was seen by many within the defense community as one of the leading candidates for the job.

In August, reported that should the White House name Cartwright national security adviser, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz would be a leading candidate for the vice chairman position.

Air Force and defense officials are bracing for a cascade of senior service leadership moves that could open the door for Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz to become the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to active and retired Air Force general officers.

Time magazine reported Aug. 12 that National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones may step down soon after the Nov. 2 midterm elections, and that Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright is a candidate to replace him. That could open up a spot for Schwartz.

Senior Pentagon officials have been eying Schwartz for about a month to fill the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position, current and retired Air Force general officers with knowledge of the discussions tell Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli -- who in his last assignment served as Defense Secretary Robert Gates' senior military assistant -- is also on the short list for the vice chairman position, according to these sources.

But over the last month, talk of Cartwright's ascension to the White House post has dwindled and a number of defense officials have said he and Schwartz are likely to eventually retire in their current positions.

A number of Air Force senior leadership moves detailed in the Aug. 13 article have since come to fruition.

One scenario under discussion has Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements (A3/5), becoming the vice chief of staff. Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle -- commander of 13th Air Force and a former head of the service's legislative liaison division -- could fill Breedlove's slot on the Air Staff. Current Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Howie Chandler is expected to retire.

Last month, Chandler announced his retirement and the Pentagon nominated Breedlove for the vice slot and Carlisle to the top A3/5 position on the Air Staff.

By John Liang
October 8, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Out of approximately $142 billion in contract awards planned by the government for fiscal year 2011, more than 80 percent of that amount will be spent by defense agencies, according to a new report released this week by INPUT, a market research firm:

"Several major defense procurements, including the Army's Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise (EAGLE) program -- valued at $50 billion -- are planned," said Kevin Plexico, senior vice president at INPUT. "These represent significant opportunities for the government contracting community."

The report also reveals some notable trends that provide increased prime contract opportunities for vendors, especially small businesses. Agencies are shifting a number of single-award contracts to multiple-award contracts; including, in some cases, setting aside a separate set of awards for small businesses of varying socioeconomic classes. In the report, five out of 20 are expected to be awarded to a single vendor. "The government is clearly trying to increase prime contract opportunities for small businesses, in an effort to increase their engagement. The challenge ahead for agencies is to ensure that the work procured under these contracts is distributed in sufficient volume to make it meaningful for those small businesses that significantly invested in the development proposal," said Plexico.

Vendors from the community will, however, find an increasingly competitive landscape. Only two of this year's top 20 procurements represent brand new initiatives. The remaining 18 opportunities are all replacements or reconfigurations of existing contracts with an established set of vendors. "In this budget environment, there are a few brand new programs. Agencies are leaning toward replacing existing contracts with incumbent contractors, making the competitive environment rather intense for the vendor community," said Plexico.

To read the full report, prospective readers will have to shell out $995. Click here to buy it off the company's website.

By John Liang
October 7, 2010 at 8:43 PM

A new Government Accountability Office report issued today finds that the National Nuclear Security Administration "has been unable to overcome the technical challenges it has experienced producing tritium," a key nuclear weapons component. Specifically:

To produce tritium, stainless steel rods containing lithium aluminate and zirconium -- called tritium-producing burnable absorber rods (TPBAR) -- are irradiated in the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Watts Bar 1 commercial nuclear power reactor. Despite redesigns of several components within the TPBARS, tritium is still leaking -- or "permeating" -- out of the TPBARs into the reactor's coolant water at higher-than-expected rates. Because the quantities of tritium in the reactor coolant are approaching regulatory limits, TVA has been significantly restricting the number of TPBARs that it will allow NNSA to irradiate in each 18-month reactor fueling cycle, and, consequently, NNSA has not been producing as much tritium as it planned. NNSA and TVA officials are continuing to develop plans to increase the number of TPBARs that will be irradiated, as well as, if necessary, the number of reactors participating in the program. However, these plans have not been coordinated with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which ultimately must approve any changes to the operation of the TVA reactors.

The GAO report states that NNSA's ability meet the nuclear weapons stockpile requirements for tritium in the future is "in doubt." Further:

NNSA officials told us that they will be able to meet future requirements through a combination of harvesting tritium obtained from dismantled nuclear warheads and irradiating TPBARs. Although the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile is decreasing, these reductions are unlikely to result in a significant decrease of tritium requirements and will not eliminate the need for a reliable source of new tritium because of the need to periodically replenish it in the remaining nuclear weapons stockpile due to tritium’s decay. While NNSA has not, to date, been required to use tritium from a reserve that it maintains, use of this reserve in the relatively near future may be necessary if NNSA is unable to increase tritium production beyond its current level.

GAO found a pair of "problems" with NNSA's efforts to ensure a long-term tritium supply:

First, NNSA could not provide us with evidence that it adhered to the appropriate contracting procedures when purchasing components and services for the program. Second, due to, among other things, the way the program’s contracts with its suppliers are structured, the program is spending its funds more slowly than planned and is accumulating large unexpended balances. The program is subject to thresholds established by the Department of Energy of acceptable levels of unexpended funds that may be carried over from one fiscal year to the next. However, the program exceeded these thresholds by more than $48 million in 2008 and by more than $39 million in 2009. While large unexpended balances are not necessarily an indication that the program is being mismanaged, it does indicate that the program is requesting more funding than it needs on an annual basis -- funds that could be appropriated for other purposes.

Consequently, GAO recommends that "NNSA develop a plan to manage tritium releases from reactors, analyze alternatives to its current tritium production strategy, ensure its contracting complies with appropriate contracting procedures, and ensure its future budget requests account for the program’s large unexpended balances." The agency "generally agreed" with GAO's recommendations, according to the report.

By John Liang
October 7, 2010 at 4:29 PM

The Marine Corps' Expeditionary Energy Office (E20) plans to host an "Expeditionary Energy Water and Waste (E2W2) Integrated Process Team" workshop from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22 in Reston, VA, according to an Oct. 1 service administrative message.

The E2W2 Integrated Process Team "will conduct the final of three facilitated workshops for the development of a Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) capabilities-based assessment (CBA) on USMC E2W2," the notice states. That assessment "will provide the analysis needed to support the development of a USMC E2W2 Initial Capabilities Document (ICD).

"The E2W2 IPT will leverage existing analysis, studies, and ICD work done on energy requirements for the USMC. The IPT will use the expeditionary energy concept of operations being developed by Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The E2W2 IPT will establish the analytical baseline necessary to articulate future requirements for expeditionary energy," the notice continues. During the workshop:

Participants will review E2W2 gap and risk assessment results and make any required revisions prior to beginning the solutions assessment. Using the prioritized gap list, participants will: evaluate potential solutions, both non-materiel and materiel, to mitigate the identified gaps; evaluate and prioritize solutions to mitigate the highest priority gaps; establish recommendations for potential non-materiel solution approaches -- doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, or facilities; and establish recommendations for materiel solution approaches. For capability gaps requiring a materiel solution, recommended solutions will be aligned with the appropriate categories outlined in the manual for the operation of JCIDS.

The Navy will hold an energy-related forum of its own next week. According to a service statement:

The 2010 Navy Energy Forum will be held Oct. 12 through 13 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The theme for this forum is "Seapower Repowered: Energy as a Force Multiplier and Strategic Resource."

The forum will bring together military, government, and industry leaders to discuss the importance of energy to the warfighter and combat capability. Energy and environmental organizations are encouraged to participate.

Distinguished Navy speakers include the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. Guest speakers include Former Senator John Warner (R-Va), Dr. George Friedman, international affairs expert and chief executive officer of STRATFOR, and Dr. Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Pulitzer Prize winner for his bestseller, "The Prize."

Building on a year of progress toward the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals announced in fall 2009, participants will focus on policies, partnerships, technologies, and culture change needed to move these goals forward. Issues such as reducing lifecycle energy costs, grid security, and alternative fuels will be addressed. The forum will also address the "Navy Energy Vision for the 21st Century," which identifies the Navy's way forward for increasing energy security.

"Energy is a national security issue, both for the Navy and the nation, and our use of this critical resource must be looked at in strategic terms. Reforming energy use within the Navy will, first and foremost, increase our combat capability, while it also advances our energy security and promotes environmental stewardship," stated Rear Admiral Philip Cullom, director of the Navy's Energy and Environmental Readiness Division and director of the Navy's Task Force Energy.

By John Liang
October 6, 2010 at 8:21 PM

Fifty-six House Republicans want Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to avoid including earmarks in any appropriations bills that are passed after the congressional elections next month. In a letter sent to Pelosi this week, those GOP members write:

Beyond sending a short-term continuing resolution to the president, Congress will likely take no further action on fiscal year 2011 spending bills until after Nov. 2. Unfortunately, this sets up the potential for an end-of-year omnibus spending bill. While Congress should finish its business by considering appropriation bills, we write to urge you at a minimum to resist the temptation of including earmarks in any other post-election appropriations scenario.

Earmark lists made available coincident with Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations Subcommittee markups include thousands of earmarks worth more than $3 billion. Due to the Republican earmark moratorium, all but the slightest fraction of these earmarks were requested by members of the majority. Consistent with previous years, the benefits of this year's earmarking process have unfortunately been showered on powerful members. Democrat leadership, committee chairs and Appropriations Committee members made up slightly more than an eighth of the House. However, they were associated with more than 40 percent of the earmarks included in this year's earmarks lists and, at more than $1.5 billion, greater than half of their dollar value. In addition, thousands of earmarks, worth billions of dollars, have yet to receive even the perfunctory review provided by a full committee mark-up. This is particularly troublesome given the persistent controversy surrounding Fiscal Year 2011 earmarks. In July, The New York Times reported that, despite the ban on earmarks for for-profit companies, "the pay-to-play culture in Washington has once again proved hard to suppress" and that it appears non-profit companies have been incorporated specifically to skirt the ban. In addition, many projects raise the specter of government waste and the need for a thorough review.  For example, a $300,000 earmark intended for the city of Bell, California is among the earmarks yet to be thoroughly vetted. The city of Bell has been in the news recently, with the arrest of eight current and former city officials on multiple charges including misappropriating $5.5 million.

Taxpayers deserve to have appropriations legislation considered under an open and transparent process. At a minimum, taxpayers should be protected from thousands of unvetted earmarks, produced by a process driven by a spoils system, being stuffed into any end-of-year appropriations measure and shielded from review. Having made the decision to leave earmarks out of the final Fiscal Year 2006 spending plan, there is precedent for the majority taking such a step. We appreciate your consideration of this matter.

Inside the Pentagon reported in August that Shay Assad, the Pentagon's director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, had urged the armed services to follow acquisition rules when handling contracts tied to congressional earmarks. Specifically:

In an Aug. 10 memo to the services, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and defense agencies, Assad notes the Defense Department inspector general recently found DOD did not always heed federal and Pentagon rules when awarding contracts with funds earmarked in the fiscal year 2005 budget.

By John Liang
October 6, 2010 at 4:01 PM

A new Defense Department inspector general report finds that DOD has not managed the drawdown of equipment from Iraq very well.

"As of May 2009, DOD estimated that the drawdown from Iraq would include the withdrawal of approximately 3.4 million pieces of equipment," the cover letter attached to the Sept. 30 report states. "The Theater Retrograde at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, is responsible for receiving and processing containers of equipment and ensuring the equipment's proper disposition."

As for the IG's specific findings:

DOD officials did not effectively manage Theater Retrograde operations. Specifically, Army and Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) officials did not ensure that contractor personnel complied with contract requirements and applicable regulations when processing materiel at the Theater Retrograde. Army and DCMA officials also did not ensure the contractor had sufficient staffing at the Theater Redistribution Center to meet container processing requirements.

This occurred because Army officials did not develop and implement effective policies and procedures for processing materiel at the Theater Retrograde. In addition, Army and DCMA officials did not resolve all deficiencies identified during performance reviews and did not perform administrative functions in accordance with their appointment letters and the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

As a result, DOD remains at an increased risk that a foreign country or adversary could gain a military or economic advantage over the United States, which could impact national security. In addition, officials will continue to be exposed to increased safety risks and serviceable materiel may not be reused to its maximum potential. DOD may also be receiving a reduced value for the services performed, paying undue award fees, and wasting resources by purchasing the same materiel in the unprocessed containers for use in other overseas contingency operations.

We commend the Army and DCMA for taking immediate action to address issues identified during the audit.

What We Recommend

Among other recommendations, we recommend Army officials develop applicable, auditable, and measurable performance requirements for processing materiel and clearly define the requirements and limitations for officials providing contract administration and oversight. We also recommend Army and DCMA officials determine the staffing required at the Theater Redistribution Center to process the current and increased number of containers.

Inside the Navy reported in August that the Marine Corps has conducted both formal and informal reviews of the withdrawal from Iraq and has gleaned valuable lessons regarding logistics that can be applied to the situation in Afghanistan:

In May and June, officials from Marine headquarters who deal with installations and logistics went through face-to-face discussions about what they could learn from leaving Iraq.

"I would bet 70 percent of the lessons learned [from the Iraq drawdown] have to do with equipment, have to do with logistics," Berger said, "and that plan for Afghanistan is already going on right now, not knowing the timeline, but knowing the steps to take and what we learned out of Iraq."

Berger said one of the key lessons from the end of the U.S. Marine involvement in Iraq was that it would behoove logisticians to determine how much of the equipment on hand is already unnecessary so that it can be sent out of the country early, making the process easier when everything else is shipped home. In Iraq, Berger said, commanders were often too busy to make such an examination, and the Marine Corps gave them no incentive to do so. Now, logisticians in Afghanistan are being directed to start the process, he added.

By Cid Standifer
October 6, 2010 at 12:27 PM

As if swimming tanks and tracking gear on every Marine wasn’t enough like science fiction already, Navy Under Secretary Bob Work said yesterday that he sees technology right out of dystopian cinema in the future for the Navy and Marines.

After one audience query at the Expeditionary Warfare Conference, Work quipped, “The question was: When does Skynet take over?” a reference to the artificially intelligent system that declares war on humanity in the Terminator movies.

Turning serious, he went on: “Over time, more and more of our operational battle networks will become automated. I don’t believe it’s going to be 20 years. Now, in 19, 20? In 2020 I think you’re going to be able to get a 40 terraflop computer, which is about the capacity of a human brain, but how that is implemented inside the force, that’s going to be a competition that we don’t want to lose, but I think it’s going to be gradual.”

Work said that the battle network is going to be increasingly populated by unmanned systems, a process that has already begun. However, he said he doesn’t see a bipedal android army, a la the Battle Droids in recent Star Wars films, in the near future.

On the other hand, he noted that scientists are surprisingly close to creating exoskeleton armor that can essentially give troops superhuman abilities -- an innovation reminiscent of gear described in Starship Troopers. “I could easily see that within 20 to 25 years, where force recon has a suit which allows him to go all-out for 48 hours -- I mean all-out, cover ground like you used to be able to cover it with tanks. That’s going to be something our enemies are not going to want to see. I think the Marines are going to be in the forefront of that perspective.”

Work told reporters after his speech that scientists have already begun to develop an exoskeleton suit that a Marine could sit inside of that would walk for him and allow him to carry 250 pounds of gear. “It’s kind of bulky and it looks kind of funky,” he added, “but it’s not as far away as you might think.”

Asked if the success of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire in Star Wars gave him any doubts about going down that path, Work said, “We are going to have more unmanned systems in the future and more automated battle systems, but we never ever ever want to lose the human element in our thinking about warfighting, because that is what makes I think this force so special.”

By Jason Sherman
October 5, 2010 at 7:30 PM

The F-35 program office is expected today to resolve a software glitch responsible for halting test flights last week, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters, adding that Defense Department leaders do not believe the issue to "be a serious setback."

Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program manager, said in a statement that the "aviation development process discovers technical challenges that force programs to pause, reassess, resolve, and continue. As always, our primary concern is safety."

Venlet's office last week suspended flights tests of all three F-35 variants until software that controls the flow of fuel into the engine's three fuel boost pumps could be corrected, Morrell said today.

The incorrect sequencing was discovered during laboratory testing. It could possibly trigger a shutdown of all three boost pumps, potentially further causing engine stall. Such a simultaneous shutdown is unlikely, but prudence dictated a suspension of operations until the fuel boost pump signal timing was corrected. A software update has been developed, and is planned to complete required functional and safety tests prior to installation in test aircraft beginning Tuesday, October 5th.

Morrell added: "This is precisely why we have a test program: to try to encounter problems early, fix them and move on from there."

By Carlo Muñoz
October 4, 2010 at 7:08 PM

Japanese military leaders are mulling plans to introduce the Northrop Grumman-built RQ-4 Global Hawk into its aviation fleet, according to recent news reports by the Japanese press. Citing unnamed government and military sources in Tokyo, the Kyodo News reported that senior officials with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) are looking to acquire three Global Hawks total. According to those sources, Japanese military officials want the unmanned aerial vehicles to keep tabs on China's growing military arsenal, as well as North Korea's burgeoning nuclear weapons program.

Inside the Air Force first reported plans of possible Global Hawk sales to Japan, as well as Australia, last month. A senior company official said that Japanese military leaders were considering a three- to four-plane buy, while the Australians were eying procurement of six to 10 Global Hawks modified for maritime use.

These efforts come shortly after the arrival of the first Global Hawk to U.S. Pacific Air Forces in September. The first of three RQ-4s arrived at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam on Sept 20.

When asked about the level of international interest on the RQ-4, particularly by the Australians and Japanese, Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of 13th Air Force -- who has command-and-control authority for all U.S. Pacific Command's air operations -- acknowledged that "there is international interest in the capabilities of this airplane," but declined to go into detail on specific countries.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 4, 2010 at 5:44 PM

With fall approaching fast, Pentagon leaders are keeping a close eye on Turkey. Members of the high-powered Defense Policy Board met Sept. 13-14 at the Pentagon to “receive classified briefings and have discussions” on just that topic, according to a brief notice filed by the committee as a justification for keeping the meeting closed.

Participants included intelligence community folks, academic experts, U.S. European Command chief Adm. James Stavridis, the under secretaries for policy of the State and Defense departments and four former U.S. ambassadors to Turkey (sans Eric Edelman), according to the agenda. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was also scheduled to make an appearance.

“The committee concluded with a classified executive session and made recommendations to the secretary of defense,” DPB Chairman John Hamre wrote in a one-paragraph note, required by law even for closed meetings. There ends the information available to the public.

From what we're told, “economic growth, political development, NATO alliance, growing regional power -- how should we respond?” were some of the issues that came up. Of concern, says one person with knowledge of the matter, is the European Union's continued refusal to let Istanbul join its ranks -- a position that some U.S. officials fear could lead to country to align itself more and more with the Arab world instead of the West.