The Insider

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March 3, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), head of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, announced yesterday that he would hold a two-part hearing series on ensuring military readiness.

"When it comes to our military," Forbes said, "Congress must be able to answer one simple question: 'Are we ready?'" The U.S. government must "avert the impending 'train wreck' that defense experts have said is coming," he said, adding:

The first step is assessing the long term strategic capabilities of our armed forces in a two-part hearing series, which will include a candid dialogue with independent experts and an open discussion with Department of Defense officials.

By John Liang
March 2, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Hindsight is a wonderful thing when it comes to multibillion-dollar defense programs that should have been canceled a long time ago, according to Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall.

"We need to make those judgments up front," Kendall said during a talk he gave this afternoon at a Credit Suisse conference. "We need to constrain our requirements by what we have available . . . and then derive programs that way, and then manage them."

Kendall used the Marine Corps' recently canceled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program as an example:

We should have recognized a decade ago that we were not going to be able to afford it. Instead we spent 10 or 15 years -- more than 15 years, I remember seeing a prototype of the EFV . . . in 1993. We should have realized back then that the Marine Corps was not going to be able to afford that platform. But we went on with it anyway. And we have a tendency to stretch these things out forever and not stop [and look at the program's eventual cost].

By Cid Standifer
March 2, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Work on the San Antonio LPD-17 will be completed in April and the ship will re-enter the fleet after three weeks of sea trials, according to the head of U. S. Fleet Forces Command.

Adm. John Harvey wrote in a blog post on Feb. 28 that of the 32 corrections recommended by Judge Advocate General Manual Investigations, 20 have been completed and the remaining 12 are in progress.

“Work will be completed on San Antonio in April followed by three weeks of rigorous sea trials where she will be fully tested for everything she is supposed to do,” Harvey wrote. “I believe we’ve learned a lot over the past two years. We brought in the right talent and our actions are having the desired effects -- we’re now seeing a big difference between how San Antonio was originally delivered to the Navy and what we now have with New York.”

Harvey said the New York, LPD-21, went through final contract trials in February and received the highest scores to date of any ship in the class.

“Successfully completing the FCT on her first attempt was a significant milestone for this ship,” he added, “and I believe it’s a sign we’re making good progress resolving many of the big issues with the San Antonio class we’ve seen in the past.”

By Andrew Burt
March 2, 2011 at 9:37 PM

The Navy launched the Unmanned Combat Air System System Demonstration platform for the second time yesterday, according to chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.

Speaking at a conference in Arlington, VA this morning, the CNO waxed enthusiastic about the effort. “We just yesterday at 17:00 did our second flight of that airplane,” he said, “and as you would expect precise landing is really important on an aircraft carrier and it nailed it perfectly.”

The platform completed its first successful launch early last month after earlier failed attempts. That attempt had the carrier-launched unmanned aircraft flying for 29 minutes.

Roughead called unmanned carrier aviation a platform that “will change carrier aviation,” saying that its endurance was one of its principal benefits.

“I think there are many opportunities there,” he said. “And not only are we doing the demonstrator, but we've put a marker down to have a squadron on unmanned carrier air in service in 2018 and we're pressing that pretty hard.”

Stay tuned for more information on the second launch. When asked to comment on the test, a Northrop Grumman spokesman declined to comment, saying that a press release would be forthcoming.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 2, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Army leaders are using the recommendations from an outside study on acquisition as a "blueprint" for improvements, service Secretary John McHugh told lawmakers during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today. The topic came up when Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) read from an Inside the Army article that broke the news of the study's results.

Canceled programs have eaten up between $3.3 billion and $3.8 billion per year since 2004, according to a set of mid-December briefing slides marked for presentation to Army Secretary John McHugh. The numbers represent an average of 35 percent to 45 percent of the Army's annual budget for development, testing and engineering, or 25 percent when factoring in the cancellation of the hugely expensive Future Combat Systems program.

McHugh said he had tasked Army acquisition chief Malcolm O'Neill with developing an implementation strategy for the study's recommendations.

By John Liang
March 2, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in the past month has "criticized what he called 'parallel structures' operating outside the law in Afghanistan, such as foreign aid organizations and private security firms," according to news reports:

Karzai said some foreign-run private institutions do more harm than good for Afghanistan.

"The parallel structures are there in order to help Afghanistan … in order to help Afghanistan's improved governance. Unfortunately, the real effect of that is in reverse of the objectives," he said.

Karzai said in the coming year he intends to focus on the “drivers of corruption" by enforcing laws and working out land-management programs as part of his goal to take over full security in the country by 2014.

That criticism may be justified, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning, saying the United States had done a "lousy job" of listening to Karzai's concerns. Specifically:

Every issue that has become a public explosion from President Karzai has been an issue that he has talked to American officials about repeatedly in private. He, like the Iraqis before him, complained a long time about the private security companies and how they were out of control, and nobody had oversight over them. He told us that repeatedly, and he didn’t go public with it and didn’t make it a dramatic issue until he finally reached the end of his tether.

Civilian casualties. It wasn't until Gen. McKiernan and then Gen. McChrystal got there that we actually started taking the issue of civilian casualties really seriously, but it was something he raised every single time.

And so, these issues that have ended up in him having these explosions, these critical comments that he has, in my view, in most instances, there is a basis for that. Maybe he overdoes it, maybe he carries it too far, but that's a reality, and you know, the truth of the matter is, again, this is one of the things the administration has looked at, and spent a lot of time over the last several months on: Where do we set the standards, in terms of our goals? We are not there to build a 21st-Century Afghanistan. What do we need to do in terms of development -- both in terms of governance and also in terms of their capabilities and so on that, frankly, gives us a path out, having accomplished our objectives?

So the idea -- there isn’t a developing country and particularly anywhere near as poor as Afghanistan in the world that delivers services outside the capital. There isn’t a government like that that isn’t corrupt. So . . . how do we establish objectives that allow us to accomplish our national security objectives within the framework of the reality of the history and culture of Afghanistan -- and at the same time, help begin to build a relationship with them that we have with dozens of other developing countries that will last long after 2014 in terms of helping them modernize and develop some of these capabilities?

But figuring out how to balance what our objectives are, and what we actually need to do in Afghanistan is one of the things that I frankly think that this administration has done a better job of than I've seen during the entirety of the Afghan war.

By John Liang
March 2, 2011 at 3:57 PM

The House has rejected an attempt by a freshman Republican to cut funds for Defense Department alternative energy research in fiscal year 2011, despite the lawmaker's citation of a recently released think-tank study that drew criticism from the Navy and others for arguing against DOD continuing large-scale research in the near-term on certain biofuels, Defense Environment Alert reports this week. Further:

The House's vote on the measure comes as a key Democratic appropriator plans to push "more aggressively" to fund energy efficiency measures and alternative fuel projects at DOD in the FY12 defense appropriations bill, according to a spokesman for Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), who is ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and also serves as ranking member on the defense appropriations subcommittee.

A spokesman for Dicks sees the attempt by freshman GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS) to cut funds from DOD alternative energy research as "largely symbolic" and doubts there will be a trend toward cutting such defense programs despite the findings by the think tank RAND that certain biofuels such as hydrotreated renewable oils derived from seeds and algae do not hold promise right now to meet military fuel needs. RAND suggested that DOD in the near-term drop large-scale testing and certification of such oils.

Additionally, the current price of oil at around $100 a barrel -- higher than when the RAND report was released Jan. 25 -- makes it doubtful there will be as large an appetite to cut energy accounts at the moment, the Dicks spokesman says. He points out that higher oil prices spell greater savings attributable to biofuels when they are used to replace a percentage of conventional petroleum.

During floor debate Feb. 15 on the House version of the full-year FY-11 continuing appropriations bill, Pompeo sought to cut $115 million from DOD's alternative energy research budget, saying President Obama has billions of dollars aimed toward such research in other parts of the budget and therefore it is not needed in the Pentagon budget and added it would not benefit military troops, citing the recent RAND report. RAND released a study "talking about alternative energy research in the defense budget and they concluded it was not helping our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, and our fighters," he said.

The RAND report dismissed hydrotreated renewable oils as a fuel to research on a large scale in the short term, saying they are not an affordable or cleanly produced option for the military, citing problems over commercial viability, including affordability and lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, RAND generally endorsed Fischer-Tropsch (FT) fuels as a promising near-term alternative fuel for the military. FT fuels, which often are derived from coal or a mixture of coal and biomass, are controversial because of the high GHG emissions from the use of coal.

A high-level Navy energy official, however, has blasted the report, saying it was poorly researched, contained errors and would not convince the Navy to change its course in pursuing biofuels as it tries to find alternative sources to fuel half its needs by 2020 (Defense Environment Alert, Jan. 31).

Democrats, including Appropriations Ranking Member Dicks, as well as long-time alternative energy advocate GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD), objected to Pompeo's amendment, which failed on a vote of 207-223.

On the floor, Dicks argued that fuel transport has been a high-risk endeavor in Iraq and Afghanistan, with reducing the demand for operational fuel being the single best way to lower that risk. But the Defense Science Board (DSB), a key advisory body to DOD, has found DOD lacks the ability to make a decision on the best way to do that. Rather, the DSB recommended increasing investments in energy efficient and alternative energy technologies on a level commensurate with their operational and financial value, Dicks said. The alternative energy research DOD conducts is the type of research the DSB recommended, he noted.

"The Defense Subcommittee has made a conscious and dedicated effort to advance the Department's efforts, searching for better ways to reduce consumption and alleviate the costly and complicated logistics," Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (D-NJ) said in remarks opposing the amendment. Pompeo's amendment "however, would unnecessarily erase that progress and further the Department's dependence on fossil fuels."

By Jason Sherman
March 1, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is urging Senate leaders to draw up an FY-11 appropriations package for the Defense Department, warning the consequences -- in particular for the Navy's near-term shipbuilding plans -- could be dire if the Pentagon is forced to operate under a yearlong continuing resolution.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and more than a dozen House lawmakers recently sent their leadership a similar letter, warning that thousands of jobs will be lost if the Navy's plan to build a second Virginia-class submarine is derailed by a budget impasse later this month.

By John Liang
March 1, 2011 at 8:03 PM

Spending on unmanned aerial vehicles will nearly double over the next 10 years, according to a new analysis from the Teal Group, which also finds that UAVs "have been the most dynamic growth sector of the world aerospace industry" during the past decade.

"Teal Group's 2011 market study estimates that UAV spending will almost double over the next decade from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $5.9 billion annually to $11.3 billion, totaling just over $94 billion in the next ten years," according to a company statement.

"The UAV market will continue to be strong despite cuts in defense spending," Philip Finnegan, Teal Group's director of corporate analysis and one of the report's authors, said in the statement. "UAVs have proved their value in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be a high priority for militaries in the United States and worldwide."

The United States will account for 77 percent of the worldwide research and development spending on UAV technology over the next 10 years, along with 69 percent of procurement, according to Teal.

"We expect that the sales of UAVs will follow recent patterns of high-tech arms procurement worldwide, with the Asia-Pacific representing the second largest market, followed very closely by Europe," Teal Group senior analyst Steve Zaloga, another study author, said in the statement, adding: "Africa and Latin America are expected to continue to be very modest markets for UAVs."

By John Liang
March 1, 2011 at 8:01 PM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates just announced his recommendations to nominate three senior military officers to their next posts:

Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, Gates' senior military assistant, has been recommended to become the deputy chief of U.S. Southern Command, the secretary said during a Pentagon briefing this afternoon.

Navy Vice Adm. William McRaven, the head of Joint Special Operations Command, has been recommended for nomination to become chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, according to Gates.

Thirdly, the secretary has recommended the president nominate Army Gen. James Thurman, who heads the service's Forces Command, to become chief of U.S. Forces Korea.

By John Liang
March 1, 2011 at 6:39 PM

The Army is asking the defense industry to provide ideas on the potential development of a datalink for small unmanned aerial systems, according to a notice published today on Federal Business Opportunities.

"This solicitation is issued for the purpose of obtaining information to serve as a market survey to aid in research associated with the potential development of a Small Digital Data Link (SDDL) for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions," the Army's request for information reads.

"The Government does not presently intend to award a contract, but desires information on risk, capability, price, innovative research and development methodology and other information in planning the development of a[n] SDDL," the notice states. The Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL, posted the request.

The service is seeking information from industry "to serve as a market survey to aid in research associated with the development of a[n] SDDL designed to provide a secure data link for control and sensor data for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions over the operating temperatures ranges from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to +140 degrees Fahrenheit and withstand storage from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to +140 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity shall not degrade operations."

Consequently, "the Government expects to receive technical data describing the proposed concept and innovative methodology information to assist in the following: (1) Determine the ability of current and near term emerging technology to support an SDDL, (2) Identify feasible alternatives that meet the objectives stated below, (3) Determine the approximate research and development cost and schedule, and end-item cost information for each alternative, and (4) Determine the estimated performance characteristics and risks associated with each alternative," the notice states, adding: "Interested and capable sources are asked to submit a white paper containing a description of the above areas of interest. Information on available, emerging, or required technologies and how these technologies could be applied to this project should also be included."

The Army wants interested contractors to submit a white paper "containing a description of the above areas of interest," according to the notice. "Submissions should focus on information concerning available, emerging, or required SDDL technologies, circuit miniaturization technology and information assurance technologies for which proof-of-concept has been demonstrated at least at the subsystem/component level, and for which an implementation roadmap for a form-factored system solution has been identified and is clearly communicated.

"The white paper responses shall be written from a system solution perspective showing how the technologies identified above would be integrated into an SDDL materiel solution, tested, and qualified for military application in a typical military operating environment," the notice continues. Furthermore:

Interested and capable sources may respond to one or all of the following technical areas.

1. Complete SDDL system solution including all technical aspects.

2. Circuit miniaturization. - Respond with technologies for reducing size and weight of the device.

3. Information Assurance (IA) - Respond only with algorithms, methods and device solutions for implementing cryptographic requirements.

Technical objectives: This section enumerates the high-level functional capabilities for SDDL. The contemplated SDDL would provide the ground combatant Soldier a NLOS day/night all weather capable secure data link for control and sensor data for small unmanned aerial systems and munitions. SDDL provide secure uplink and downlink real time full motion downlink video between the GCS and munitions by means of digital data link.

SDDL will provide at least two frequency bands that will be used to transmit and receive data from a ground control station. Transmit and receive circuitry should be modular to allow for future frequency bands. Power requirements for the system must be less than 5W while transmitting. Transmit and receive range will be greater than 5KM including environmental effects.

A significant reduction in circuit size and weight beyond current fielded units shall be achieved. Advanced materials and processes may be used to achieve the desired size and weight. Total volume of all components must be less than 2 cubic inches. Total weight of SDDL shall be less than 2 oz.

The IA portion of the SDDL solution requires the link to include a method to prevent unauthorized parties from gaining control of the SDDL platform and ensures that uplink commands and downlink video in the channel is secure. The IA solution includes NSA Certified Type 1 encryption for all control and video traffic, encryption keying scheme, and node authentication system.

By Thomas Duffy
March 1, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale are testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today on the trouble the Defense Department will face if Congress approves a full-year continuing resolution or, in the worst case, completely shuts down government operations.

The current continuing resolution ends at midnight Friday.

Lynn told the subcommittee that a yearlong continuing resolution "is not a workable approach." The continuing resolution funds the government at fiscal year 2010 levels. For DOD, that would $23 billion less than the $549 billion base budget the department asked for in FY-11, he said.

The department would have to play "a shell game" by moving money around in various accounts and by paring back on training and operations, Lynn said. The Army would have to cut the three Brigade Combat Teams that coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy would cut back on flying hours and steaming days, and the Air Force would have to cut its flying hours by 10 percent.

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) asked Lynn what would happen if the government were shut down. Lynn said the department has a plan for that possibility, noting that the most immediate problem would be how to pay both military and civilian personnel. The first payday looming would be in mid-March, he said.

Hale told the subcommittee that the department would have to pull off "a brutal reprogramming" if the government were shut down and paychecks had to be cut. "We'd have to look at acquisition programs," Hale said -- and those programs would end being cut or canceled outright.

Today marks the start of the sixth month the Pentagon has been operating under a continuing resolution. "We can hold our breath so long and we are starting to turn blue," Hale said.

By John Liang
March 1, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Senior Navy and Marine Corps officials are testifying before the House Armed Services Committee this morning on the services' fiscal year 2012 budget request. While committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) is encouraged by the capabilities the services have gained through the Pentagon's overall efficiencies initiative, "many of the efficiencies identified by your department are cost-avoidance initiatives and not clear-cut savings," he said in his opening statement, warning: "As such, they may not materialize." Specifically:

Furthermore, over the 5-year period that this budget request covers, your Department harvested over $42 billion in so-called 'efficiencies,' yet had to sacrifice approximately $16 billion of that amount, or 38 percent, back to the Treasury.  In order to generate much of this savings, you have been compelled to make significant force structure cuts -- but your requirements haven’t changed.  For example, the amphibious assault mission remains valid, but you cancelled the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Likewise, the strike fighter inventory requirement to support the current National Defense Strategy is 10 aircraft carrier air wings containing 50 strike fighter aircraft each. We do not currently meet this requirement, but the budget request puts the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter on a two-year probation and you have shuttered an aircraft carrier air-wing.  Similarly, the budget request assumes savings as a result of a decrease in Marine Corps end-strength of 20,000 personnel -- before the Marine Corps could even complete its Force Structure Review.  Now the Marine Corps suggests it cannot live with that number and can only reduce end-strength by 15,000.  Finally, you propose to design the OHIO-class replacement ballistic submarine with fewer missile tubes than envisioned by the New START Treaty or STRATCOM.

Adding to my concern is that the current battle-force inventory is at least 25 ships below your stated 313-ship floor.  Although we have not seen the results of the Force Structure Assessment you indicated was underway last year, one can only imagine that the requirements for ships will grow as missions such as anti-piracy and sea-based missile defense expand.  'Just-in-time' replacements for legacy force structure, such as the Ford-class aircraft carrier program and the Joint Strike Fighter program, are currently behind schedule and over cost, causing even more resources to be required to sustain legacy platforms.

Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) had this to say:

I am encouraged to see what looks like positive efforts by the Department of the Navy to spend money more effectively. However there remain areas concern, such as the future of the Marine Corps F-35B and the decision to reduce the number of Carrier Air Wings from 10 to 9 to support an 11 carrier force. I am curious to hear the Navy leadership's thoughts on the process for how those decisions were made.

As the other services begin to draw down their deployment cycles over the next several years, the Navy will continue to operate at the same deployment cycle or at a potentially increased rate due to continued unrest in the Middles East, piracy and the 1.7 carrier requirement in the CENTCOM AOR. I would be interested to hear how the Navy plans to ensure their Navy families are not adversely affected by current or increased deployment rates, especially as budget resources continue to decline.

I understand that the current continuing resolution and the potential for a yearlong continuing resolution could seriously affect the Department of the Navy’s ability to function. I am hopeful that we will be able to pass an FY11 defense appropriations bill, but would be interested in hearing in greater detail from our witnesses today how a continuing resolution affects the Navy's ability to operate.

While the Navy provides assets and personnel to the current conflicts, the United Sates also depends on the Navy to provide worldwide force projection, rapid crisis response and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, the burden will increasingly shift to the Navy and Marine Corps to confront growing threats such as the military buildup of the Chinese, ballistic missile defense, and the disruption of maritime commerce by piracy. It is critical that during this time of constrained budgets, the Department of the Navy carefully analyzes how they plan to resource themselves in order to effectively meet their broad range of responsibilities.

By Cid Standifer
February 28, 2011 at 9:51 PM

Despite expectations that the request for proposals for the Ship-to-Shore Connector would be posted by the end of February, there was still no solicitation posted by the end of business on the last day of the month.

"They're working through the administrative steps to get it up," Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Chris Johnson assured Inside the Navy today.

The program has been slow to get out a solicitation, though officials have said there is nothing seriously wrong with it. In December, a post on Federal Business Opportunities said an RFP would be released in January. At the very end of January, a new FedBizOpps post pushed that deadline back into February, citing "unforeseen events."

Initial operational capability for the SSC is slated for FY-19, and the Navy plans to completely replace the LCAC by 2030.

By John Liang
February 28, 2011 at 7:34 PM

A senior German military official penned an essay for the most recent issue of the National Defense University's Prism magazine, offering lessons learned from Germany's experiences as part of the NATO force patrolling Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Rainer Glatz, head of Bundeswehr Operations Command based in in Potsdam, writes that an effective counterinsurgency effort "requires comprehensive measures and adherence to fundamental guidelines advancing legitimacy and unity of effort, taking into account political factors, establishing rule of law, and isolating insurgents. NATO must strengthen its intelligence capacity, promote unity of effort, and prepare for a long-term commitment."

Here's an excerpt from the essay:

From today's perspective, the international community failed to develop the necessary benchmarks for the measurement of success when debating the endstate. Currently, we are trying to make up this default by defining benchmarks to evaluate the transition process.

The international community would perhaps have enjoyed greater success in Afghanistan had it ensured sufficient integration of the whole population and a better degree of institutional coordination and unity of effort together with a clear vision of what to achieve with increased effort on security at the start of the mission. To summarize my thoughts on the strategic-level lessons learned, I would like to ask some maybe provocative questions.

With regard to the start of the mission, was it right to exclude some Afghan key players in the Petersberg process? Would it not have been better if we had integrated the Taliban at the outset instead of starting today -- nearly 10 years later -- in the attempt to foster reconciliation at the strategic and the reintegration process at the tactical level?

If we agree that success in Afghanistan cannot rely on the use of military means only, then we have to ask: Was the Comprehensive Approach -- unity of effort -- really established in the early stages of the ISAF mission?

Talking about the availability of intelligence at the strategic level, we can see that there is a large amount of information available. Nevertheless, we failed to develop efficient mechanisms to exchange this information among the different organizations dealing with the Afghanistan challenge.

And finally, regarding the ongoing discussion about transition in Afghanistan, I would suggest that it is crucial to develop an endstate and benchmarks as soon as possible before proceeding to timelines for withdrawal.