The Insider

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

President Obama today marked the 40th anniversary of a major arms control agreement with a statement that ties the old with the new -- as in ongoing talks with Russia on a new START treaty, among other efforts:

Forty years ago today, in the midst of a Cold War, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force, becoming the cornerstone of the world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Today, the threat of global nuclear war has passed, but the danger of nuclear proliferation endures, making the basic bargain of the NPT more important than ever: nations with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, nations without nuclear weapons will forsake them, and all nations have an “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear energy.

Each of these three pillars -- disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses -- are central to the vision that I outlined in Prague of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and seeking a world without them.

To promote disarmament, the United States is working with Russia to complete negotiations on a new START Treaty that will significantly reduce our nuclear arsenals. Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. In addition, we will seek to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiate a treaty to end the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

To prevent proliferation, we will build on the historic resolution that we achieved at the United Nations Security Council last September by bringing together more than 40 nations at our Nuclear Security Summit next month with the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. At this spring’s treaty review conference and beyond, we will continue to work with allies and partners to strengthen the NPT and to enforce the rights and responsibilities of every nation, because the world cannot afford additional proliferation or regional arms races.

. . . It took years of focused effort among many nations to bring the NPT into force four decades ago and to sustain it as the most widely embraced nuclear agreement in history. On this 40th anniversary, the United States reaffirms our resolve to strengthen the nonproliferation regime to meet the challenges of the 21st century as we pursue our ultimate vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

By Dan Taylor
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been awarded contracts worth $15 million and $17.4 million, respectively, for the development of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) shipboard network, according to a Defense Department announcement today.

The two contracts cover the initial system development and demonstration phase for the program, and could end up being worth $775 million for Northrop or $936 million for Lockheed. Work under the contract should be complete by April 2011, and the winning contractor will continue work on the program until September 2014, according to the announcement.

“The primary goals of the CANES program are to build a secure afloat network required for naval and joint operations, and consolidate and reduce the number of afloat networks,” the announcement states.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

“U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said Wednesday in a much-publicized speech at Kansas State University.

It is too dependent upon the generals and admirals who lead major overseas commands, he said, adding, “It’s one thing to be able and willing to serve as emergency responders; quite another to always have to be the fire chief.”

The full speech is online.

By Marjorie Censer
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization will later this month hold "cross briefs," a three-day event meant to provide a chance for "JIEDDO customers and partner nations to participate in an interactive forum focused on countering" IEDs.

"The intent is for all IED defeat stakeholders to provide key issues, allow time to prepare initial plans to address these issues and synchronize future efforts," says a Web notice on the event.

The March 16-18 meeting is only open to government and military personnel of the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Canada and will be held at the University of Maryland University College Marriott in College Park, MD.

By Marjorie Censer
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus are calling on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to nominate a new Army National Guard director.

In a March 3 letter, senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Kit Bond (R-MO) write that the "vacuum of leadership at the three-star level places the Army National Guard at a disadvantage, not only in the day-to-day decision making process inside the Army, but also during deliberations regarding future budget, force structure, equipping, and personnel issues.

"If this vacancy in senior-level leadership and advocacy is allowed to persist, the future decisions may be made in ways disproportionately and inappropriately disadvantageous to the strength and capabilities of the Army National Guard within the Total Force," the document warns.

The president of the National Guard Association today released a statement backing the senators' effort. "Ten months would be a long time for the Army National Guard to go without a director even in peacetime," writes retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett. "But we are a nation at war. We rely on the Army National Guard every day -- at home and abroad."

He notes that Maj. Gen. Ray Carpenter is acting director of the Army Guard.

"General Carpenter is doing an outstanding job under difficult circumstances, but he is a two-star general functioning in an interim capacity," Hargett writes. "The Army National Guard urgently needs a permanent, three-star director."

By Pat Host
March 4, 2010 at 5:00 AM

UPDATED 6:15 p.m.: Sen. Levin succeeded in obtaining "a unanimous consent agreement on the Senate floor this afternoon to approve six Department of Defense nominees," his office announced.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said today at a Senate hearing on the Air Force’s fiscal year 2011 budget request that he will work to move the Senate to vote on the nomination of Erin Conaton as Air Force under secretary. Levin also wants holds lifted on other Obama administration picks for Pentagon positions.

“I intend to seek . . . unanimous consent to move those nominations through the Senate,” Levin said. “They've been stalled far too long and it is unconscionable what these holds are doing (to) those that are nominated to fill the central positions. I would hope my colleagues . . . would join in this effort to get these nominees unanimously approved by this committee. It makes it much more difficult for the agencies, in this case the Air Force, to carry out essential functions.”

Conaton’s nomination, as well as those of several other picks for Defense Department posts, has been put on hold by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Levin also said he wants votes on the other defense nominees: Frank Kendall for principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and technology, Jackalyne Pfannenstiel for assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and environment, retired Lt. Gen. Malcolm O’Neill for assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and Paul Sanz as Naval general counsel. The nomination of Terry Yonkers as assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations and environment has also been held up.

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Because so much at the Defense Department depends on contractors, Pentagon leaders fear the work of private contractors may not get done during times of crises. That is why Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn issued a memo last week relaying new acquisition regulation language that would ensure defense contractors craft some kind of fall-back plans for continued operations if, say, an influenza epidemic would afflict large portions of the population.

The Feb. 26 memo tasks DOD's contracting officers to weed through their contracts and determine which services should be considered “critical to the support of mission essential functions that, if interrupted, may seriously impair the government.” Where applicable, a new clause must be added to contracts and solicitations, Lynn wrote.

By John Liang
March 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Attendees of today's memorial ceremony for the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) heard a number of anecdotes about working with the congressman, including from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser James Jones.

Gates:

In October 2008, about a month before the election, Jack and I were meeting alone, and he showed me a press article he had marked up. It was a piece speculating about whether Senator Obama, if he won, would ask me to stay at Defense and, if he did, whether I'd agree. In his inimitable way, Jack put his hand on my arm and said, "If he asks, you have to do it. I say I want you to stay." Now, coming from Jack, that had a real impact on me, even though I've somewhat edited his language for this occasion.

Jones:

I accompanied him to Sarajevo in 2003 (sic), which was not a real good time to visit Sarajevo. As we were getting off a C-130 and hurrying quickly to the shelter, a piece of shrapnel flew past us and impacted on a -- on some sandbags about 20 or 30 feet in front of us, and he turned and looked at me and he says, "Well, I guess they know we're here."

By Sebastian Sprenger
March 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper appeared before the Senate Budget Committee last week to offer his views on the defense budget and the Quadrennial Defense Review. Van Riper sits on a congressionally mandated commission charged with critiquing the Pentagon's recently released QDR, so his opinions on these topics carry some weight in defense circles.

One of Van Riper's criticisms centered around the training and education of those in uniform.

I find strong evidence in the defense budget request that it supports both acquisition and refurbishing of needed weapons and equipment. Unfortunately, I cannot find the same support for the professional education and training essential to reacquiring and building the knowledge and skills required to fight regular nation- state enemies. The joint forces and the Services too often look to training and education accounts as bill payers when funds and personnel are short in other areas.

Van Riper also had candid advice for countering what Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) dubbed an “utterly unsustainable course” in federal spending, a large part of which goes to the Defense Department and, more specifically, to the Military Health System.

“I started from humble circumstances . . . I worked hard both as a Marine and since retirement," Van Riper said. "But my wife and I are blessed that we probably, in terms of income, are in the top 3 percent of the citizens. You need to tax us; you need to tax all of us more. So you need to pass health care reform because you won't fix military health care until you fix health care reform in general."

By Jason Sherman
March 3, 2010 at 5:00 AM

Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, on Thursday will for the first time take questions from the press about the “compressive” restructuring of the Joint Strike Fighter program he recently directed.

The forum for this discussion of major changes to DOD's costliest weapons program? A telephone conference call from JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, TX, offices.

Who invited reporters to speak with Carter? Not Carter's staff, but Lockheed Martin -- which will also make available Robert Stevens, its chief executive officer, for questioning.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month fired the two-star general responsible for managing the JSF program. Tomorrow, reporters will get to ask whether Lockheed plans a corollary shake-up of its JSF leadership team, which includes Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager; and Tom Burbage, Lockheed executive vice president and F-35 general manager for integration.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

President Obama yesterday changed the order of succession within the Defense Department, reversing revisions made by the Bush administration in 2005, when Donald Rumsfeld was the defense secretary.

The 2005 guidance put the under secretaries of defense for intelligence, policy and acquisition matters ahead of the secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy. But Obama has restored the service secretaries to the spots just behind the deputy defense secretary. The Army secretary is third in line, followed by his counterparts in the Navy and Air Force.

Obama issued an executive order to make the change, just as his predecessor did in 2005.

By Marcus Weisgerber
March 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

It's the $35 billion question: Is Northrop Grumman going to bid for Air Force's lucrative KC-X next-generation tanker contract?

We still don't know the answer, but Air Force Secretary Michael Donley shed some light on a recent powwow he, Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn and Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter had with Northrop CEO and President Wes Bush and tanker boss Paul Meyer. The group met on Feb. 24 to discuss changes made to the finalized KC-X request for proposals, which was released the same day.

“Northrop indicated that they were appreciative of the changes that we made on the business side of the RFP and that they would take a careful look at the contents,” Donley said at a breakfast with reporters this morning in Washington.

After the release of the draft RFP last September, Northrop -- which has partnered with EADS North America in pursuit of the $35 billion tanker contract -- said it would not bid unless “meaningful” changes were made to the finalized proposals document.

This morning, Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said in an e-mail that he company “we continue to analyze the document and are deferring further comment until we have completed our analysis.”

Pentagon officials last week said they have a plan in place should Boeing be the only company bidding for the KC-X contract. Donley echoed those comments again this morning.

In addition to meeting with Bush and Meyer, the Pentagon officials met with Boeing Chairman, President and CEO James McNerney and Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

By Christopher J. Castelli
March 2, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Obama administration's push to kill unnecessary, troubled weapons programs has launched a new era at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said today.

"We have a lot on our plate," he said at an American Legion conference. "And in this fiscal climate, we simply can't afford to waste defense dollars. So we have begun a new era of greater accountability at the Pentagon. The poor performance of programs and budgets will not be tolerated -- nor will advocating for systems and weapons that we don't need."

Last year the Defense Department canceled or curtailed lower-priority or under-performing programs that would have cost taxpayers $330 billion, Lynn said, noting this year DOD wants to cut seven more major systems.

"The department needs to be a smarter buyer,” Lynn added. "To ensure the warfighter gets the best equipment and support we can provide, we are strengthening and enlarging our acquisition workforce. We are bringing in-house much of the expertise we used to contract out. And as directed by new bipartisan legislation, we will rely on cost estimates conducted by independent parties."

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

The Governmental Accountability Office today released briefing slides from a presentation given to lawmakers last October on the Defense and Commerce departments' assessments of "supplier-base availability for future defense needs."

In its introductory letter to the chairmen of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs economic policy and security and international trade and finance subcommittees, GAO notes:

Both DOD and Commerce conduct assessments of supplier-base availability for defense needs that generally focus on the next 5 years. Several offices within DOD and Commerce’s Office of Technology Evaluation have a role in assessing supplier-base availability, primarily conducting short-term assessments of selected sectors or existing weapon programs. In 2004, DOD’s Office of Industrial Policy conducted a one-time series of comprehensive DOD-wide assessments of supplier-base availability that forecasted 10-20 years into the future. According to DOD and Commerce officials, assessments of future supplier-base availability for defense needs beyond a 5-year time frame can have limitations, in part, because it can be difficult to predict technologies and whether investment in the supplier base will be needed to support these technologies. Recently, the National Research Council and an industry association recommended that DOD continually assess the supplier base from a more strategic perspective to include its availability for long-term defense needs. DOD has not acted on these recommendations; however, DOD plans to incorporate industrial-base considerations into its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review to raise awareness of long-term, future, supplier-base availability for defense needs.

In fact, InsideDefense.com reported in late January:

The QDR notes the Pentagon recognizes the value of not only the U.S. industrial base but also the industrial capacities of allies. “We will continue to value our allies' capabilities, ensure that when they bid on U.S. contracts that they are treated fairly, just as we expect our firms to be treated fairly in international competitions, and deepen our collaborative effort to innovate against 21st century threats,” the report states.

In order for the defense industry to remain a source of strategic advantage well into the future, DOD and the nation require a consistent, realistic, long-term strategy for shaping the structure and capabilities of the defense industrial base, according to the QDR. Toward this end, the Pentagon is “committed to being more forward leaning in its ongoing assessments of the industrial base -- refocusing our efforts on our future needs, not just our past performance; working much more closely with the services to foster an integrated approach to the overall industrial base; and placing transparency and dialogue with industry at the forefront of our agenda.”

By Tony Bertuca
March 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The Army announced today the start of "Apps for the Army” -- or A4A -- a web-development challenge that asks Army personnel to demonstrate their technological skills and creativity by producing a software application for the service's information network.

A4A submissions may tackle any aspect of Army information technology, including distributed battle training, battle command, career management, continuing education and news and information distribution, according to a statement released by the service.

The contest is limited to the first 100 who register. Top submissions will be recognized at an August LandWarNet conference, and winners will receive $30,000, the statement says.

“Soldiers and Army civilians will be creating new mobile and web applications of value for their peers -- tools that enhance warfighting effectiveness and business productivity today," Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson said in the statement. "And, we're rewarding their innovation with recognition and cash.”

All Apps must be submitted by May 15.