The Insider

By Carlo Muñoz
November 14, 2008 at 5:00 AM

With recent news reports speculating his tenure as the nation's top intelligence official is all but over once the Obama administration takes power, CIA Director Michael Hayden had one piece of advice for those about to take over at the agency: Leave it alone.

While noting the agency still suffers flaws in its overall operations, Hayden said during his Nov. 13 speech at the Atlantic Council, the organization cannot withstand another massive overhaul like the one in 2006 when former CIA Director Porter Goss took office.

"This community has been inspected, investigated, reviewed and commissioned to death over the last six or seven years," Hayden said. "Is it perfect? God no, nothing is perfect."

However, he added, "another major look, another major restructuring I think would be catastrophic."

The key for the incoming Obama administration would be to plug in its own people into the existing CIA structure and "let them work," he added.

"I would say this: The structure we currently have is fine, good people can make it work. . . . Pick people to head these structures who have the confidence to run these complex organizations and who have the confidence of the political leadership . . . people you can trust, people who you think can do ((the job)), give them a mission and let them work."

While the current intelligence chief was adamant on how the next administration should proceed with current and future intelligence operations, he was less candid on whether he would remain at the agency to oversee that process. Citing senior intelligence officials, The Washington Post reported that Hayden and current National Security Advisor Mike McConnell would not continue in their current posts under an Obama White House.

"We clearly serve at the pleasure of the president," Hayden said of his future at CIA, adding that whoever takes the top spot at Langley, "there has to be a personal relationship between the president and that person."

By John Liang
November 14, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Today's Inside the Air Force reports that President-elect Barack Obama's transition office has yet to respond to repeated questions dating back to September regarding his military space strategy, even though his campaign Website posted a broad summation of the soon-to-be commander-in-chief’s defense initiatives. As ITAF reports:

Among Obama’s initiatives to “build defense capabilities for the 21st century” is ensuring “freedom of space,” according to the post.

“America’s ability to use space as a location for its satellites and communications grid is critical to our national security and economy,” it reads. “Unfortunately, this issue has been ignored and many nations are preparing to threaten space as a commons available to all nations. An Obama administration will:

“Restore U.S. leadership on space issues by seeking code of conduct for space-faring nations, including a worldwide ban on weapons to interfere with satellites and a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons. Initiating and stating a willingness to participate in a regime protecting access to space will help the United States return to a position of leadership in promoting global stability.

“Thoroughly assess possible threats to U.S. space assets and the best options, military and diplomatic, for countering them. This will include establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack.”

In June, Nancy Gallagher -- co-author of the book “Reconsidering the Rules for Space Security” -- briefed congressional staffers that the United States should start serious diplomatic discussions in which it is clear the country is looking to talk about force security issues and that it is open to the idea of legally binding rules regarding space protection and military use of satellites.

The story also reported that retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey this week called for the United States to initiate new international agreements for space activities and for the nation to better resource its space capabilities program in light of incidents such as the Chinese anti-satellite test as well as the growing number of space-faring nations.

In a separate story, ITAF quoted McCaffrey as saying that the most pressing matter for the incoming Obama administration is not ending the Iraq war or planning a way ahead for combat in Afghanistan, but creating a military that is "appropriate" for the next two decades.


McCaffrey: Next President has a Year to Make Important Space Decisions

McCaffrey: U.S. Counterinsurgency Ops Not Solution in Iraq War
-- McCaffrey Report on 2008 Iraq and Kuwait Visit

McCaffrey: Next 24 Months Are Key to Winning War in Afghanistan
-- McCaffrey 2008 'After-Action Report' on Afghanistan Trip

McCaffrey: Success in Iraq Will Require 10 Years of U.S. Involvement

McCaffrey Gives Good Marks to Troops in Iraq, Blasts Interagency Support
-- McCaffrey's 2006 After-Action Report on Iraq Trip

By Dan Dupont
November 14, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Obama transition team has issued an expanded list of "team leaders" for its agency reviews. Already announced were Michèle Flournoy and John White; here's the full lineup:

Sarah Sewall
Tom Donilon
Wendy R. Sherman
Michèle A. Flournoy
John P. White
Robert R. Beers
Clark Kent Ervin
Gayle E. Smith
Aaron Williams
John O. Brennan
Judith A. (“Jami”) Miscik

And here's what they'll be doing:

The Agency Review Teams for the Obama-Biden Transition will complete a thorough review of key departments, agencies and commissions of the United States government, as well as the White House, to provide the President-elect, Vice President-elect, and key advisors with information needed to make strategic policy, budgetary, and personnel decisions prior to the inauguration. The Teams will ensure that senior appointees have the information necessary to complete the confirmation process, lead their departments, and begin implementing signature policy initiatives immediately after they are sworn in.

By Marcus Weisgerber
November 14, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II blasted through the sound barrier for the first time yesterday, according to a company official.

On its 69th test flight, Air Force Joint Strike Fighter test jet AA-1 flew above Mach 1 four separate times, logging about eight minutes at speeds around Mach 1.05, Lockheed's F-35 program General Manager Dan Crowley said during a telephone interview this morning. The jet carried two inert 1,000 pound bombs and two air-to-air missiles during the flight.

“These aircraft rely heavily on advanced flight controls to maintain their stability,” he said. “As you transition from sub-sonic to super sonic flight, the airflows around the aircraft change dynamically."

The supersonic flight test “allows us to validate the flight control laws, the air data, . . . the propulsion system ((and)) the computers that are continuously recalculating the aircraft's flight performance,” Crowley said.

The next test milestone will likely come before the end of November, when officials plan to open the weapons bay doors in flight, according to Crowley

The first short take-off vertical landing aircraft is slated to begin hover-pit tests in February 2009 and short take-off flight tests in May. The “official” vertical landing tests will take place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, Crowley noted.

The flight test came one day after the Defense Acquisition Board -- chaired by Pentagon acquisition executive John Young -- met to receive a briefing on the third installment of F-35 low-rate initial production, as reported today.

By Dan Dupont
November 13, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Lots of transition news today to tell you about. We'll be getting to that shortly.

One highlight to start the day:

Report Lays Out 10 Priorities for Obama's Defense Secretary

Improving the Pentagon’s acquisition performance as well as its processes for strategic guidance, programming and budgeting should be top priorities for the new administration, according to a new report on transition issues from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Inside the Pentagon reviewed an advance copy of the report, which says the study team focused on crafting recommendations that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the next defense secretary.

Kathleen Hicks spearheaded the review for CSIS. The think tank is led by John Hamre, who also chairs the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and is reportedly being considered for an Obama administration post.

Michèle Flournoy, who co-chairs the Obama camp’s DOD transition team, was one of the defense experts consulted by CSIS during the review.

The study lays out 10 top priorities in order of what is most important to fix at the Pentagon. Bolstering acquisition performance leads the list. The defense secretary “must focus the acquisition community on institutionalizing recent guidance, restoring a defense acquisition workforce, and providing cost realism in setting program requirements,” the report says.

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 13, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman says he will not be among the Bush administration officials sticking around for the transition at the Defense Department, but many DOD officials are willing if the Obama camp asks.

At a breakfast with reporters in Washington today, Edelman noted he will not stay beyond Jan. 20, 2009, when the next president is sworn into office. But he said numerous DOD officials said yes when Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked who would be willing and able to stay on for a while.

"A very high percentage of people have said . . . that if asked they would be willing to stay," Edelman said. "I think that's very encouraging." He did not cite specific names. Now it's up to the new team to decide whether to retain these officials, he said, noting it would also be understandable and appropriate if the new team wants to bring in its own people.

In September, spoke with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who predicted “over 90 percent” of DOD political appointees would stay until at least Jan. 20.

“And a lot of people will stay beyond that if they are asked to, to make sure the transition goes properly, including myself,” England added. “I’ve said I’ll stay to make sure it works.”

By Marjorie Censer
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A new RAND Corp. study is calling for the next administration to approach nation-building with a willingness to hear multiple and opposing views, particularly urging the new president to bring together civilian and military agencies in the effort. The report -- "After the War: Nation-Building from FDR to George W. Bush" -- says post-conflict reconstruction must rely on the entire national security establishment.

“This is not a responsibility that presidents can afford to delegate, nor is it one that any single department of government can handle,” the document says.

Consequently, the report authors write that the Defense Department should work with the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to discuss options and all involved “should be allowed significant latitude to disagree.”

“Once the president chooses or endorses a particular option, a fully integrated political-military plan should be generated,” the report continues.

An integrated planning effort would give civilian agencies the opportunity to comment on war plans and military agencies to provide diplomacy advice, and it should establish a division of labor.

Additionally, the RAND report suggests that the country look to rebalance civilian and military staff sizes and budgets, noting that the military's end strength and resources have far outweighed those of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of State.

“Whatever approach to decision making presidents may adopt -- formal, competitive, collegial, or some combination thereof -- it is important that they foster debate among their principal advisers and value disciplined dissent as an essential aid to wise decision-making,” the report contends.

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Though the Associated Press reported last night that former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) will "help shepherd" the incoming administration's Pentagon transition effort, Obama camp spokesman Nick Shapiro tells us that Nunn will not be the Defense Department transition team leader. Instead, Nunn will have an informal role.

Also, Stephanie Cutter, the chief spokeswoman for the Obama transition effort, issued a statement about the AP story, torpedoing both the Nunn talk and the suggestion that former Secretary of State Warren Christopher would aid transition efforts at the State Department.

"Senator Sam Nunn will play an informal senior adviser role throughout the defense transition process," she said. "His expertise and the respect he has earned will be invaluable to ensure a smooth transition. Secretary Christopher is deeply respected in the United States and throughout the international community. However, he is not playing a role in the transition process. There's a lot of disinformation out there. We're working hard to put the agency review teams together and expect they'll be announced this week and inside the agencies by the end of the week."

By Thomas Duffy
November 12, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department today issued its first set of Small Business Innovation Research proposals for fiscal year 2009. The package includes projects for the Air Force, Army and Navy, chemical and biological defense, the Defense Advanced Research Agency, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Special Operations Command.

The SBIR program looks to harness the technical innovation of small companies in areas in which a major defense contractor would be unlikely to invest research dollars.

Companies apply first for a six-month to nine-month phase I award of between $70,000 to $100,000, allowing DOD to judge the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of their ideas. If that phase proves successful, a company may be asked to bid on a two-year phase II award worth between $500,000 and $750,000.

That work usually results in the development of a prototype.

If all of that goes well, small companies are then expected to secure funding from the private sector or non-SBIR government sources to turn their concept into a product that can be sold to the military on or the commercial market.

DOD will begin accepting ideas Dec. 8.

By Dan Dupont
November 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post today looks somewhat skeptically at President-elect Obama's plans to "reverse years-long trends, including pork barrel spending by Congress, the tendency of government employees to leave to work for government contractors and a sharp rise in the use of no-bid contracts."

Obama "also wants to make federal buying systems more efficient," the Post writes, with the Pentagon an obvious target.

Contracting specialists, former federal procurement officials and trade group representatives said that to fulfill those promises, the Obama administration will have to summon the will to effect a huge cultural change inside the government to take procurement more seriously.

Government acquisitions programs have long been plagued by delays and cost increases, but experts say the problems have worsened in recent years as the size of the federal workforce has barely grown even as the amount of spending on services, technology and other goods more than doubled. The Clinton administration cut the number of procurement workers as part of an effort to trim red tape, and the Bush administration accelerated the trend with a philosophical commitment to outsourcing and small government.

An annual Government Accountability Office assessment of Defense Department weapons programs helps illustrate some of the problems. Planned commitments on systems rose from $790 billion in 2000 to $1.6 trillion in fiscal 2007, the report found. At the same time, the amount that programs exceeded cost estimates soared from $42 billion in 2000 to $295 billion last year. Average delays of the programs examined by the GAO increased from 16 months to 21 months.

"They're inheriting an almost broken procurement system" said Charles Tiefer, a contracting law professor at the University of Baltimore Law School. "During the last eight years, a lot of the critical oversight machinery was undercut or neglected."

By Christopher J. Castelli
November 11, 2008 at 5:00 AM

John Podesta, co-chair of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, spoke to reporters this afternoon about the status of the transition effort.

He said the Obama camp will name transition team leaders for departments later this week. Some teams will begin their work as early as next Monday (Nov. 17), he said.

When asked whether Obama intends to retain Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Podesta said Obama has "great respect" for Gates. He said Obama intends to engage across the board with the federal agencies, noting a transition team will be sent to the Pentagon.

Obama will "render a judgment" on the defense secretary post after those briefings and after he has a chance to meet with his advisers, Podesta said.

By Marjorie Censer
November 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Inside the Army this week has a good look at what to expect from the transition, according to former officials who suggested keeping a close eye on the new administration's plans for the size of the force and how it handles the Future Combat Systems program -- the Army's sweeping modernization effort.

Some, including former Army acquisition chief Paul Hoeper, suggested the next administration may have to choose between growing the force and improving equipment.

Despite the hard choices ahead, Arnold Punaro, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, told ITA he expects the upcoming transition to be smooth.

“The Pentagon is more prepared than I’ve seen for transition,” he said, lauding the experience of the Defense Department's transition team and Obama's team.

“You’re not going to have any amateurs or rookies involved in this,” he said.

The transition may be even smoother if the current Pentagon acquisition executive sticks around -- which could happen, reported late last week. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked political appointees to consider staying in their posts until the Senate confirms their replacements to smooth the transition process. Whether John Young will be among those holdovers remains to be seen.

During a media roundtable on Oct. 30, John Young said he would stay in his post “((u))ntil they tell me to leave.”

Over on the Navy side, Inside the Navy reports today that service leaders are looking to the new Pentagon team -- and lawmakers -- for help:

On the eve of a new presidential administration, the Navy continues to conduct myriad missions at sea and ashore around the globe at a rate that is over-stressing portions of the force and requires continued support from the new administration and Congress, the sea service’s director of strategy and policy said in an interview last week.

“We’re pretty close to running at the margins,” Rear Adm. Robert Thomas said Nov. 4. “You can see where we’re overstressed in some areas in our steady-state posture and then you throw a contingency on it, now we’re cutting into bone.”

By John Liang
November 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon has released its latest "Enterprise Transition Plan" to help the new administration continue to make the Defense Department's business operations more efficient and effective.

The plan "has become part of the business operations culture of DOD and is the framework that integrates capabilities across the department," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England writes in the document's foreword.

The 398-page plan's first chapter lays out the DOD enterprise's conceptual foundation, including a "primer" divided into three sections: "Approach," "Progress" and "Challenges," which are "intended for incoming DOD leaders to acquaint them with the current context and approach to Business Transformation, recent progress and the near-term challenges ahead."

The second chapter talks about what the Pentagon needs to do to enable that enterprise, and Chapter 3 describes DOD's six "enterprise priorities":

  • Personnel Visibility
  • Acquisition Visibility
  • Common Supplier Engagement
  • Materiel Visibility
  • Real Property Accountability
  • Financial Visibility

The remaining chapters deal with business transformation within the individual services as well as the Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

To read the 2007 plan, click here, and for the 2006 one, click here.

By Sebastian Sprenger
November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama should pick a “confidential adviser” to help him fill science and technology-related jobs quickly, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine.

Before Obama’s inauguration, the adviser should help the incoming president “identify and recruit” candidates for key S&T appointments, according to a Nov. 5 National Academies statement.

After the inauguration, Obama should give the adviser the title of special assistant to the president for science and technology and nominate the person for job of Office of Science and Technology Policy director, reads the statement.

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take the helm, he should use the best available science and scientists to help manage the nation’s current and future issues, such as climate change, alternative energy, veterans' health, and the nation's infrastructure.

The report itself lists 80 high-level government positions deemed crucial for advising the new president on S&T matters, and it suggests ways of attracting qualified personnel for these jobs.

By Jason Sherman
November 7, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) announced today that he plans to step aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and hand the gavel to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). The statement does not address what, if any, changes might be in store for the defense subcommittee, which Inouye chairs. A Senate source on the appropriations committee said that Inouye may hold both positions if he chooses. Byrd, who has served as chairman for 10 of the 50 years he has served on the appropriations committee, will remain on the panel and continue to chair the homeland security subcommittee. In a statement, Byrd said:

A new day has dawned in Washington, and that is a good thing. For my part, I believe that it is time for a new day at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. I will step away from the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee effective January 6, 2009. I want to stress that this is a decision I made only after much personal soul searching, and after being sure of the substantial Democratic pickup of seats in the Senate. I am now confident that stepping aside as Chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia.