The Insider

By Christopher J. Castelli
April 6, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review, released today, directs the Pentagon to retire the nuclear-tipped version of Tomahawk cruise missile, as expected.

"This system serves a redundant purpose in the U.S. nuclear stockpile," the report states. "It has been one of a number of means to forward-deploy nuclear weapons in time of crisis. Other means include forward-deployment of bombers with either bombs or cruise missiles, as well as forward-deployment of dual-capable fighters. In addition, U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs are capable of striking any potential adversary. The deterrence and assurance roles of TLAM-N can be adequately substituted by these other means, and the United States remains committed to providing a credible extended deterrence posture and capabilities."

Inside the Pentagon reported in February that the nuclear Tomahawk would likely be retired.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 5, 2010 at 5:00 AM

White House officials plan to roll out the much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review tomorrow. The document will be heavily scrutinized for any indications of how President Obama plans to implement his vision of a nuclear weapons-free world -- or at least diminish the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security policy toolbox.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, on its Web site, editorialized about the potential outcomes of the review today. According to the UCS blog entry, a lot will hinge on subtleties in the final text, for example when it comes to the stated purpose of nuclear weapons. Options here, UCS folks write, range from characterizing atomic weapons strictly as a deterrent force to reserving the right to use them on a pre-emptive basis in certain circumstances.

Other points warranting attention will be sections on the U.S. arsenal size, stockpile maintenance plans, tactical weapons in Europe and the alert status of the U.S. arsenal, according to UCS.

By John Liang
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency plans to brief potential contractors next week on its nascent space-based, missile-launch-tracking system, envisioned as a follow-on to the experimental, dual-satellite Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

The unclassified industry day on the Precision Tracking Space System will take place on April 9 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Eastern time at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA, According to an April 1 Federal Business Opportunities notice.

The agency plans to incorporate lessons learned from the two STSS demonstration satellites currently in orbit to inform its decisions while it develops the PTSS capability, according to MDA's fiscal year 2011 budget documents. Consequently, MDA is asking Congress for $67 million in FY-11 to fund the PTSS effort, reported in February.

The agency's objective for the PTSS program "is to deliver an operational space-based system to address the ascent phase midcourse tracking challenge facing the MDA," the notice states, adding:

To meet this objective, MDA plans to first develop a prototype system, followed by an operational PTSS. The PTSS prototype and operational system are planned to consist of a constellation of spacecraft and associated ground control and processing equipment that is integrated with the developed Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) elements to support command and control, track generation, fusion, and transfer of data through the entire fire-control loop. The operational PTSS will integrate into the BMDS.

As for the industry day itself, MDA has four goals, according to the notice:

(1) to familiarize participants with MDA’s efforts in the Precision Tracking Space System,
(2) share the acquisition approach for the prototype and operational PTSS,
(3) discuss the planned timing and content of solicitations related to PTSS, and
(4) answer questions.

By Sebastian Sprenger
April 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter spoke enthusiastically this morning about plans for a significant increase in the number of camera-equipped aerostats over Afghanistan as a cost-effective way of looking out for insurgent fighters and IED emplacers. Then, this afternoon, the Defense Logistics Agency said it is looking for a contractor to run a facility in the country where liquid helium is converted into gas -- just the kind often used in blimps and tethered balloons.


To be sure, the request for information doesn't say specifically what the gaseous helium would be used for. But the circumstances suggest a connection.

The contractor would be required to always have gas on hand -- even in the event that the conversion is for some reason unavailable, the RFI reads. "To satisfy this no-single-point-of-failure requirement, the contractor may provide on-site storage containers to store gaseous helium previously produced at the facility," according to the RFI. The production schedule is simple: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Defense officials prefer a portable facility, like one mounted on a skid, that the government would lease on a monthly basis, the RFI reads.

By John Liang
April 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

A new Senate Republican Policy Committee paper is taking the Obama administration to task for not doing enough to compel Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"The United Nations Security Council has been demanding for years that Iran cease its uranium enrichment program," the paper notes. "Barack Obama made clear when he was a candidate for President that diplomacy without precondition was his preferred policy to address Iran’s nuclear program. As President he implemented that policy, saying he would give it until the end of 2009 to see 'serious movement on the part of the Iranians.' Secretary of State Clinton agreed that 'crippling sanctions' should be the consequence if diplomatic offers to Iran 'are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.'"

Has that process been successful? Republicans sure don't think so, according to the report:

There is little more to show for the year of engagement than an additional year’s worth of enriched uranium and functioning centrifuges. A publicly revealed covert uranium enrichment facility is just the most recent evidence Iran has no intention of halting its nuclear program.

Tough sanctions are intended to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program in defiance of international demands. If the U.S. does not impose them after insisting it would, both allies and enemies will question our credibility.

By Marjorie Censer
March 31, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The first increment of the Army's brigade combat team modernization effort is slated to face a Defense Acquisition Board interim review Friday (April 2), program executive office integration spokesman Paul Mehney confirmed Tuesday.

The review is the first of two required by Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter in a Dec. 24 acquisition decision memorandum signed last year. According to the memo, the review will address the network, including a maturity plan through fiscal year 2017; the Army’s plan for an open, scalable architecture; and a network technology readiness assessment to be prepared by the director of defense research and engineering. Additionally, the meeting is to provide an update on reliability growth plans, a reevaluation of the threshold and objective reliability requirements for the program and an update on the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System flight limited user test.

The memo also says the review will include a “comprehensive precision mix cost-effectiveness analysis for the BCT” intended to “demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the NLOS-LS, in EIBCT relevant scenarios, with appropriate augmentation by other Army and joint platforms.”

Meanwhile, Mehney said the Army has identified all of the fixes needed for Increment 1 based on last year's LUT and will implement the corrections by the next LUT, slated for the fourth quarter of FY-10. At a March 10 hearing, an Army official said the service had identified 94 percent of the required fixes.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 30, 2010 at 5:00 AM

June promises to be a decisive month for the military space community. For one, Pentagon leaders plan to release the final version of their space posture review during that month. In addition, officials plan to wrap up an initial capabilities document for the National Space Situational Awareness program, according to a recent Air Force note on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Such documents are created as part of the Defense Department's Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System. In the case of the National SSA program, any information coming out of the effort will likely highly classified, given that military space activities are closely guarded secrets in the face of competition from countries like China and Russia.

Reliable situational awareness of all objects and goings-on in space is considered a prerequisite for any offensive and protective military space capability, Pentagon officials have said. Work on the National SSA ICD is co-led by the Air Force Space Command and the National Security Space Office, according to the March 16 FedBizOpps notice.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Army-led Biometrics Task Force now goes by the name Biometrics Identity Management Agency. Army Secretary John McHugh ordered the name change in a March 23 general order, noting his authority as the Defense Department's executive agent for biometrics. The one-page order was flagged by the Secrecy News blog.

"The Biometrics Identity Management Agency shall have fund certification authority while remaining in the deputy chief of staff, G–3/5/7 and OA–22 organizational structure, along with manpower management authority to establish and acquire resources needed to fulfill executive manager responsibilities," McHugh wrote.

The "executive manager" designation is an internal Army title conferred upon the former BTF director, and now the BIMA head.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said today the department has not yet decided whether to extend the May 10 deadline for industry responses to the Air Force's KC-X tanker request for proposals.

Carter made the comment in response to a reporter's question at a National Aeronautics Association luncheon.

EADS, which is weighing whether to compete against Boeing for the lucrative contract, would like the Defense Department to significantly extend the deadline. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Senate appropriators that DOD had received a letter from EADS formally requesting an extension, but Gates said DOD had not yet decided what to do.

By John Liang
March 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama has nominated Teresa Takai to become the Defense Department's assistant secretary for Networks and information integration, the administration announced this afternoon.

According to her White House bio:

Since December 2007, Teri Takai has served as Chief Information Officer for the State of California. As a member of the Governor's cabinet, she advises him on the strategic management and direction of information technology resources as the state works to modernize and transform the way California does business with its citizens. Prior to her appointment in California, Takai served as Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state's Chief Information Officer. In this position, she restructured and consolidated Michigan's resources by merging the state's information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Before serving in state government, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company's information technology strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2005, Takai was named "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine. She is Past-President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as Practitioner Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

By John Liang
March 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The State Department's top legal adviser this week gave a speech at the American Society of International Law's (ASIL) 104th annual meeting that touched on, among other topics, the lawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare. According to an ASIL statement, Koh's speech "included a specific affirmation of the administration’s approach to the use of force, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which has recently come into question by some legal experts."

Specifically, Koh said:

(It) is the considered view of this administration . . . that targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war. . . . As recent events have shown, Al Qaeda has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks. . . . (T)his administration has carefully reviewed the rules governing targeting operations to ensure that these operations are conducted consistently with law of war principles, including:

- First, the principle of distinction, which requires that attacks be limited to military objectives and that civilians or civilian objects shall not be the object of the attack; and

- Second, the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

In U.S. operations against al Qaeda and its associated forces – including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – great care is taken to adhere to these principles in both planning and execution, to ensure that only legitimate objectives are targeted and that collateral damage is kept to a minimum.

In response to arguments by opponents of using UAVs in warfare, Koh defended the Obama administration's policy:

(S)ome have suggested that the very use of targeting a particular leader of an enemy force in an armed conflict must violate the laws of war. But individuals who are part of such an armed group are belligerent and, therefore, lawful targets under international law. . . . (S)ome have challenged the very use of advanced weapons systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, for lethal operations. But the rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system involved, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapons systems in armed conflict – such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs -- so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war. . . . (S)ome have argued that the use of lethal force against specific individuals fails to provide adequate process and thus constitutes unlawful extrajudicial killing. But a state that is engaged in armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force. Our procedures and practices for identifying lawful targets are extremely robust, and advanced technologies have helped to make our targeting even more precise. In my experience, the principles of distinction and proportionality that the United States applies are not just recited at meeting. They are implemented rigorously throughout the planning and execution of lethal operations to ensure that such operations are conducted in accordance with all applicable law. . . . Fourth and finally, some have argued that our targeting practices violate domestic law, in particular, the long-standing domestic ban on assassinations. But under domestic law, the use of lawful weapons systems -- consistent with the applicable laws of wear -- for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination.’

By John Liang
March 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

With the news this morning that the United States and Russia had finally reached agreement on a follow-on pact to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expired in December, the jockeying has begun to get the treaty ratified by the respective countries' parliaments.

Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had this to say about the pact in a statement released this afternoon:

This treaty makes significant reductions to the numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, will renew verification arrangements that would otherwise be unavailable, and provides a major tangible result since the President reset relations with Russia. I look forward to seeing the details of the treaty in the weeks to come. The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold hearings on the treaty provisions to determine whether the verification measures are sufficient to monitor treaty compliance. This will be among the most scrutinized issues in ratification process, and I intend to make sure the Intelligence Community is capable and adequately resourced to carry out its responsibilities.”

According to a White House transcript of a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Iowa, administration spokesman Robert Gibbs said:

We're hopeful to have a call with President Medvedev in the next few days and hope that we can wrap up a new treaty on the next call.

Again, the President has been enormously involved personally in moving this process along. The two Presidents last spoke on the 13th of March and we think we’re getting -- moving toward good progress on something that will be important for the American people.

Q Is that call on the 13th kind of a breakthrough?

MR. GIBBS: It certainly helped move a number of issues along, yes.

The follow-on pact, scheduled to be signed in Prague in the first week of April, "is not diminished by the fact that it provides for very modest reduction of the two countries' strategic nuclear arsenals compared to the 2002 Moscow Treaty (also known as SORT, or Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty)," Center for Nonproliferation Studies analyst and former START negotiator Nikolai Sokov writes in a commentary on the center's Web site:

Its purpose has been limited from the very beginning: the Treaty of Prague is meant to preserve the essential elements of transparency that were embodied in the expired START I. Essentially, it is a bridge that will provide predictability about the strategic arsenals of the United States and Russia as they engage in more complex and lengthy negotiations on a new treaty that will provide for deeper reductions.

Further, Sokov writes that some issues were "not tackled at all," including two key ones:

* Accounting for and limitation of nuclear warhead stockpiles. START I, like all other U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian treaties, only truly limited delivery vehicles whereas warheads were limited indirectly — through agreed accounting rules. It is high time to change the focus and fully address warheads themselves, including non-deployed warheads. Among other advantages, this method will help to solve the problems of uploading capability and of conventionally armed delivery vehicles. Yet the new focus will require very delicate and probably lengthy negotiations to develop brand-new rules and verification procedures.

Tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons were not covered in START I at all and consequently have remained outside the Treaty of Prague as well. These weapons are not subject to any legally binding limits or verification. This is also a novel task that will require much time and effort. Leaving them out of the "bridge" treaty is justifiable, but this element of nuclear postures cannot be kept in limbo for very long.

* Other nuclear powers. As the United States and Russia continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals, experts and many officials are beginning to contemplate when and how other nuclear powers (in particular the "official" ones listed in the Nonproliferation Treaty) will join arms reduction talks. The Russian military has been particularly insistent that the next stage of talks should be multilateral.

By Dan Dupont
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ran smack-dab into the train that is the Republican effort to defeat health-care reform efforts today. It seems the Republicans have invoked an obscure Senate rule that basically shuts down Senate business in the afternoon -- which today meant Levin’s hearing on U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea had to be scrapped.

And his office wants the press to know he’s not happy about it, judging by this statement sent to reporters:

It is astounding to me that Republicans have taken a step of such pointless, blind obstructionism. It cannot achieve their goal of obstructing health care reform. Instead, they are obstructing a hearing that has nothing to do with the health care debate and everything to do with the defense of our nation. And they have disrupted the schedules of senior commanders who in two cases have traveled thousands of miles from their troops, and who would be providing the Senate with information on pressing national security topics such as North Korea’s nuclear program, Chinese military capability and the threat of cyber-warfare. Our national security should not be held hostage to Republican pique over health care.

In an addendum to the press release, Levin’s office later pointed out that ranking member John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to hold the hearing, too.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) yesterday queried a senior defense official about the prospects of Pentagon leaders meeting their target of achieving a clean financial audit for the entire Defense Department by 2017.

"Do you think they'll make that?" he asked Elizabeth McGrath at her nomination hearing to become DOD's deputy chief chief management officer. McGrath currently serves as the assistant deputy CMO and DOD's performance improvement officer.

McGrath apparently was in no mood to give a yes-or-no answer: "I think that each year they'll make progress against that goal," she replied, noting renewed leadership attention to the issue would result in a "higher probability" of meeting the deadline.

McCain tried to draw her out again. "So you think we'll make the goal?" he asked.

"I think that they will make progress against the goal," McGrath responded. "I think time will tell as to whether or not they are able to hit the 2017 goal." Later, she described the target deadline as an "aggressive goal."

Clean audit opinions essentially are proof that an organization's financial books are balanced and that all money flows are traceable. DOD currently achieves clean audits for roughly half of its $3.8 trillion in combined assets and liabilities, according to Pentagon data.

By Jason Sherman
March 24, 2010 at 5:00 AM

UPDATED 2:25 PM: Pentagon officials said that DOD has not yet changed the May 10 deadline for KC-X bids. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning that DOD will not modify the request for proposals for the KC-X competition, which EADS executives and their former U.S. partner Northrop Grumman believe favor a small aircraft, tilting the competition to rival Boeing. Pentagon officials have previously said DOD would consider extending the deadline in order to encourage European defense giant EADS to participate in the potential $35 billion competition.