The Insider

By Thomas Duffy
November 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Last Friday the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued his latest quarterly report on Iraq. The report takes a close look at what needs to be done as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw from the country it has occupied since March 2003.

In an overview of the report, the IG says the following:

In January 2010, Iraq will conduct its first parliamentary election in five years. The citizens of Iraq will seat a new Council of Representatives (CoR) and electorally judge Prime Minister al-Maliki’s performance for the first time since he took office in spring 2005. The new CoR will confront several key unresolved issues, including enhancing security, stabilizing relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and developing Iraq’s economy.

The security picture in Iraq remains mixed. Although the number of attacks in August 2009 was down 85% from August 2007 levels, 456 Iraqis were killed during the month -- the highest total in more than a year. On August 19, terrorists displayed their continuing capacity to strike at the heart of Iraq’s government when they detonated two massive car bombs that partially destroyed the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs.

In July, the Kurdistan Region conducted successful presidential and parliamentary elections that saw opposition parties make substantial inroads into the ruling coalition’s grip on KRG governance structures. The region’s new government is faced with the compelling need to reach an accord with the GOI on how to equitably share oil revenues and how to resolve the Kirkuk problem.

By Sebastian Sprenger
November 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Here's a novel idea from a Joint Special Operations University report: Establish something like a "National Manhunting Agency."

Such a focused organization would counter the U.S. government's tendency for mere "ad hoc" operations when it comes to killing or capturing terrorists and criminals, argues report author George Crawford, a former military interrogator who now does consulting for a "client in the Washington, DC, area."

So important are quality "manhunting" skills that they should, in fact, be seen as a critical instrument of national power, the author argues.

Of course, the business requires swift action. Unfortunately, the author finds that the "glacial progress of national affairs" and the "tectonic pace" with which the international community moves are a bit of an impediment.

The solution could be some sort of quasi-official international coalition, according to the report. "A strategic-international organization could be facilitated by a treaty-level document or accord that would allow enforcement of international manhunting-related law," the report proposes.

We'll have to look that one up -- "international manhunting-related law."

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

President Obama will meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Afghanistan and Pakistan this afternoon in the Situation Room.

Here’s the expected attendance list, released by the White House:

Vice President Biden
Defense Secretary Robert Gates
National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey
Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz
Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon
Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan
Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 30, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Intelligence Program received $49.8 billion in taxpayer money during fiscal year 2009, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair disclosed today. The number is the third publicly available NIP topline figure since Congress legislated that the number be revealed, starting in 2007. The figure for FY-08 was $47.5 billion, and $43.5 billion for FY-07.

Blair told reporters last month the government's overall intelligence budget was $75 billion. That figure includes the other program making up the intelligence budget: the Military Intelligence Program.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate yesterday confirmed Christine Fox to be director of the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation shop. Fox, who recently stepped down as president of the Center for Naval Analyses, has nearly 30 years of experience as an analyst and research manager focused on defense issues.

And get this: She was also the inspiration for Kelly McGillis' character Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood in "Top Gun."

The original script called for McGillis’s character to be a Navy officer. “The admiral assigned by the Navy to oversee the production had script approval,” Fox recalls, adding that of course, the officer–officer romance was a no-go. “Then ((Bruckheimer)) suggested that the character could be an aerobics teacher at the Officer’s Club,” Fox says. “((The admiral)) replied, ‘How about ((modeling the character after)) my CNA rep?’” . . .

“I later read a review panning ‘Top Gun,’ as being completely unrealistic that a civilian woman would work in such a macho environment,” Fox says, laughing. “I thought about writing that reviewer a letter to set him straight.”

The Senate also confirmed Gladys Commons to be the Navy's comptroller. From 2002 to 2004, Commons served as comptroller of Military Sealift Command where she directed the programming, budgeting, and execution of a $2.4 billion annual budget that provided resources to operate a fleet of 131 logistics force, special mission, strategic sealift and prepositioned ships.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency today announced a novel way to win $40,000: Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the Internet, agency officials will deploy 10 tethered, red balloons all over the continental United States in early December. The idea for participants in the challenge is to mobilize social media-savvy friends who will supply location information through Facebook, or Twitter or what-have-you whenever they spot one of the specimens.

The spectacle will "explore the role the Internet and social networking plays in the timely communication, wide area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broad scope, time-critical problems," DARPA said in an announcement today.

Bets are still being taken for how long it will take for the first participant to get all 10 locations right.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 28, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, the outgoing director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, yesterday told reporters a bit about how a few general IED-related topics are treated in the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review.

"Build and plan for institutionalized counter-IED capabilities" -- that's one of three goals listed on a briefing slide presented by the general. The term-of-art "institutionalization" has long been a favourite of defense leaders in that context.

The goal of increasing "partner capacity" and information sharing also made the QDR list. With billions spent, the United States is perhaps the best equipped among the coalition forces in Afghanistan when it comes to countering makeshift bombs. But what about the rest of NATO troops and Afghan security forces?

While JIEDDO can offer training to others, organization officials lack the legal authorities to give their international brothers-in-arms actual equipment, Metz said. He steered clear of saying whether he sees this as an impediment, noting U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus would to have be the one initiating any change.

"I'm not in the business of spending any funds given to me by Congress on anything other than U.S. forces," Metz said.

Finally, another goal in the QDR is to "ensure counter-IED is part of the cultural fabric of DOD," the briefing reads. "I believe we are in the counter-IED fight for years, for decades," Metz said.

In Afghanistan, IEDs now account for 70 to 80 percent of coalition casualties, he noted.

By Thomas Duffy
October 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This morning at Camp Lejeune, NC, and the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, warfighters from the United States and 10 allied countries start a nine-day exercise to assess air-to-ground identification systems with an eye toward reducing friendly fire incidents.

Called “Bold Quest 09,” the exercise is being run by U.S. Joint Forces Command. This is the seventh consecutive annual Bold Quest event organized by the command.

The command provided the following description in a statement issued yesterday:

In 2008, U.S. and allied consensus endorsed the continuation of Bold Quest assessments on a recurring basis. Bold Quest 2009 (BQ09) is scheduled in October and November 2009 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Four U.S. services, U.S. Special Operations Command and 11 nations’ militaries will deploy ground and aviation elements to assess air-to-ground target identification solutions for fixed wing aircrew, forward air controller and joint terminal attack controller employment. Concept development for future Bold Quest initiatives in 2010 and beyond is in progress.

The BQ09 technical initiatives include prototype systems that enable aircrew and controllers to digitally exchange position information with friendly ground elements relative to their presence in the vicinity of potential ground targets. The expected outcome will improve the engagement process and reduce the risk of fratricide.

The command said that past Bold Quest exercises looked at the ability of ground forces to work with and identify each other. This year's event will assess how aircrews carry out the same duties.

By John Liang
October 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Chinese government announced this week that it would hold an international military air forum dubbed "Harmonious Skies" next month to coincide with an air show to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the country's air force.

According to the government news agency Xinhua:

This year marks the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China, its naval forces on April 23, and its air force on Nov. 11.

An international military forum themed "harmonious skies" will also be held in Beijing in November. More than 300 senior air force officers from China and more than 30 other countries are expected to attend the forum to mark ((People's Liberation Army)) air force's 60th founding anniversary, He ((Weirong, deputy commander of the PLA air force)) said.

"The forum is aimed to build a platform for air forces of different countries to enhance mutual understanding and exchanges, to discuss how to maintain safety in the skies, and to know about China and its PLA air force better," He said.

As for the air show, the country plans to showcase its Kongjing-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft, J-11 fighters, H-6 bomber jets, and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, according to Xinhua.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Industry officials today got a chance to show off their wares at a technology conference sponsored by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. At one of the tables at the University of Maryland Conference Center, interested passers-by could see a display of some trigger devices insurgents have used in Iraq and Afghanistan to blow up coalition troops.

Next to the samples of command wire, trip-lines and pressure plates, a mock explosively formed projectile bomb was also on display. A JIEDDO official used the EFP exhibit to demonstrate how sophisticated some bomb makers had become, manipulating the device to stabilize its trajectory, or aiming charges to target specific vehicle occupants.

We also learned that the EFP design is actually patented.

A subsequent search in the online database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals a surprising plethora of patents on these weapons, each filed complete with drawings. The inventors hail from all over the world.

For example, the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in 1990 filed a patent in the United States, titled “Producing explosive-formed projectiles.” There is also a "Performance explosive-formed projectile" patent, filed by two Frenchmen. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, holds a patent titled "Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) and fragmenting warhead."

By Marjorie Censer
October 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration today announced the president has nominated Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon operational test and evaluation director, to serve as associate director for national security and international affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Coyle, in the DOD DOT&E director position from September 1994 to January 2001, was the office's longest serving director, according to the announcement. He now works as a senior adviser to the president of the World Security Institute and its Center for Defense Information. In 2005 and 2006, Coyle served on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission and was also a member of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Base Support and Retention Council.

From 1959 to 1979 and from 1981 to 1993, Coyle worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA, and was later named by the University of California laboratory associate director emeritus, the announcement adds.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Afghanistan, Pakistan and naval matters are on President Obama’s agenda today.

This morning, Obama holds a Situation Room meeting on AfPak issues -- with fewer participants than related meetings held in recent weeks, according to the White House.

Today’s participants will include Vice President Biden (via videoconference), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, according to the White House.

This afternoon, Obama will fly to the naval air base in Jacksonville, FL, to speak to Navy and Marine Corps personnel there.

By Jason Sherman
October 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Big news over the weekend from London. The U.K. Ministry of Defence, the Pentagon's steadfast -- and single largest -- international partner in developing the Joint Strike Fighter, is apparently having second thoughts about how many of the aircraft it can afford.

Britain's Royal Navy is slashing by half its planned purchases of the JSF aircraft, The Sunday Times reported Oct. 25, a move that would trim the size of the British Navy's JSF fleet from 138 to 50, saving 7.2 billion pounds -- about $11.8 billion.

The paper, citing unnamed senior Royal Navy officials, said the “soaring cost of the American-produced Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft” has forced the sea service to change plans for how it plans to employ one of two aircraft carriers under construction to launch JSF fleets. The second carrier will be used as an amphibious commando ship, flying only helicopters.

The paper also said the Royal Air Force, which had planned to replace its frontline Tornado aircraft with JSF, “will now equip all its frontline squadrons with Eurofighter aircraft instead.”

The decision to cut the number of JSF aircraft has been agreed by senior navy and air force commanders in discussions preparing for the strategic defence review.

Both Labour and the Conservatives are committed to conducting a strategic defence review after the general election, which must be held by the late spring.

A senior Royal Navy officer said: “We always knew that the real cost of the carrier project is the JSF fleet to go on them. It would cost us at least £12 billion if we bought all the aircraft we originally asked for. We are waking up to the fact that all those planes are unaffordable. More than half of the £5 billion contracts to build the two new carriers have been contracted, so it is too late to get out of building the ships.”

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission -- the Chinese equivalent to the U.S. secretary of defense -- spoke today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The think tank promoted the event as a rare opportunity to hear from a high-ranking Chinese defense official in Washington.

The audio from the session is online.

Reuters reports he advocated increased cooperation with the Pentagon.

The general is reportedly slated to meet tomorrow with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

By Dan Dupont
October 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has announced its revised lineup of subcommittee members for the 111th Congress.

According to a statement sent out late yesterday by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking Republican, the changes "reflect the appointment to the Committee of Senator George S. LeMieux (R-Fla.) on September 22, 2009 and Senator Paul G. Kirk (D-Ma.) on September 29, 2009."

You can find the whole lineup here.