The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
August 26, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has plenty of advice for the Army when it comes to the restructured Future Combat Systems program.

In a recent report, CSBA president Andrew Krepinevich and research fellow Evan Braden Montgomery called on the Army to develop a modernization strategy that would "avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."

And today, in a new report, Montgomery warns the service against rushing ahead on the ground combat vehicle effort only to prepare platforms that are outdated by the time they are built.

Montgomery predicts the new GCVs "will almost certainly be larger, more heavily armored, and have V-shaped hulls for better protection against improvised explosive devices."

However, he says "sunk costs and time constraints" might keep the Army from coming up with designs that significantly improve on the previous MGV plans.

He particularly stresses the need to ensure a strong link between the new vehicles and the network. To address this challenge, Montgomery recommends the Army "prioritize developing and testing the components of the network and making sure they work together before any new vehicle designs are completed and production begins."

Yet, he warns that the Army's time line of five to seven years for production poses challenges.

According to the backgrounder, "rushing to judgment on a new generation of ground vehicles makes little sense, because it sharply increases the risk that the Army will not adequately resolve the many problems which led to the FCS program's cancellation."

Montgomery argues the Army may be racing ahead for budgetary reasons -- to ensure it can hold onto its funding -- more than strategic ones.

"Because its advantage in conventional warfare is likely to persist for some time, the Army should prioritize developing a modernization plan correctly rather than quickly," he concludes. "At the same time, ((Defense)) Secretary ((Robert)) Gates should maintain his pledge that funding previously earmarked for the FCS program's manned ground vehicles over the next several years will be reserved for the Army's new vehicle modernization program, while also providing the Army with additional time to develop and refine that program -- especially if the results of its soon-to-be-concluded assessment fall short of expectations."

By Marcus Weisgerber
August 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force last week conducted a successful test of a Lockheed Martin long-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, adding to the weapon's flawless test-flight record, according to a service official.

Unlike the baseline missile, which experienced test issues prompting a retrofit of a fuze cable, the JASSM-ER has flown successfully in all five of its test flights dating back to 2006. The extended-range missile can fly more than 500 nautical miles, or twice as far as the baseline.

“The B-1 landed before the weapon impacted the target successfully,” Col. Michael Fantini, the service's chief of combat force applications at the Pentagon (A5RC), said of the Aug. 20 JASSM-ER test during a presentation at a munitions conference in Vienna, VA this morning.

Last month, the Air Force awarded Lockheed a $23 million contract to build 12 JASSM-ER test missiles. Six of the weapons will be used for the development test flight program, while the remaining six will be used in operational tests.

By John Liang
August 25, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department has gone viral.

The Joint Staff released a YouTube video today, calling for questions to be submitted via video to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. According to a Pentagon statement:

The chairman intends to use social media to expand the two-way conversation with service members and the public. Mullen expects this conversation to be interactive, similar to the all-hands meetings he conducts in person at bases all over the world.

Those with questions for the Chairman are encouraged to submit videos by visiting The deadline for video submission is midnight EDT, Aug. 31, 2009. The chairman will answer selected video questions after Sept.1, 2009, through a video podcast posted on YouTube and an interview which will air on the Pentagon Channel.

By Thomas Duffy
August 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon recently issued the latest request for project nominations for the Coalition Warfare Program, this one covering fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

The idea behind the program is to promote closer working relationships between U.S. and overseas coalition partners through cooperative research and development efforts. The program is looking for projects that address critical needs across the range of conflict, from humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping contingencies to high-intensity combat.

The memo, released Aug. 19 by the office of the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, lays out how the Coalition Warfare Program office will proceed:

The CWP funding element supports coalition interoperability solutions that can be fielded rapidly. CWP is a key part of the Department's Building Partnerships initiatives. The program provided supporting funds on a competitive basis to projects that conduct collaborative RDT&E with foreign government partners. CWP can provide up to $1 million per year over two years to individual projects; however, CWP funding will provide only a portion of the overall investment associated with any given initiative and is limited by fiscal constraints. Proposals must include financial and non-financial (e.g.; manpower, facilities, innovative technology) commitments from the sponsor's Service or agency and other DOD activities along with an equitable contribution from committed foreign government partners(s).

The AT&L office also wants a transition plan for each proposal. This plan should show military service or agency funding for follow-on fielding and sustainment.

The first round of proposals are to be submitted by Jan. 15, 2010. Final nominations are due by Feb. 26, 2010. Notification of those selected will go out in late spring or early summer 2010.

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

White House officials yesterday kicked off the annual data collection effort mandated under Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002.

While the reporting requirements for federal agencies haven't changed much, the mechanisms of submitting data are new this year, according to a memo from U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients.

"This year, rather than using spreadsheets, the annual FISMA report data collection will occur via an automated reporting tool," they wrote.

In addition to reporting on the status of their information security programs, agencies must also submit updated plans for eliminating "unneccessary use" of social security numbers and reducing the "holdings" of personally identifiable information, the memo states.

By John Liang
August 21, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army announced today a bunch of unit changes that "are a part of the integrated force structure changes that support Army transformation," according to a service statement.

The moves will take place at four installations, including "an increase of 2,440 soldiers at Ft. Riley, KS; an increase of 418 soldiers at White Sands Missile Range, NM; a decrease of 295 soldiers at Ft. Irwin, CA; and a decrease of 376 soldiers at Ft. Carson, CO," the Army statement reads.

The service says it expects to complete the implementation of these changes by September 2011.

Related changes, according to the statement, include:

For unit relocations; the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Brigade will move from Ft. Carson to Ft. Riley and the 70th Engineer Battalion will move from Ft. Riley to White Sands Missile Range and be re-designated as the 2nd Engineer Battalion.

At Ft. Riley, the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (1/1 ID), will convert to a modular, Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) formation. The 2nd Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, Delta Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 5th Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, and 101st Combat Support Battalion will convert to modular force structure design to support 1/1 ID HBCT.

At Ft. Irwin, the 79th Ordnance Company will activate, the 557th Maintenance Company will inactivate, and the 669th Maintenance Company will convert to a modular design.

These force structure actions are a part of the integrated force structure changes that support Army transformation. These actions are not expected to change Army civilian authorizations at each installation.

By Sebastian Sprenger
August 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Looking for the data about the factions involved in the Angolan civil war of 1975 to 1988? The Center for Army Analysis can probably help out. As we learned recently, the organization has built a database with detailed descriptions of 100-some irregular conflicts since World War II, designed to help defense officials understand the nature of this type of warfare.

Researchers, using data from open sources, have grouped the information about these wars in nine categories: Basic country data, conflict characteristics, force fighting patterns, force availability and force peaks, annualized data, conflict outcomes, incident and casualty totals, narratives and chronology, and list of factions.

Of course, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israel-Hezbollah conflict of 2006, are included in the database.

"The U.S. forces were strong enough to rout the Iraqi army but could not occupy all of the territory they had liberated," reads the narrative of the Iraq war. "Armed groups quickly formed and attacked the occupiers. The U.S. leadership wrote off the early insurgents as 'dead-enders,'" it adds.

The text credits the George W. Bush administration's 2007 troop "surge" with helping to reduce violence. It also acknowledges that “aggressive negotiations" with tribal leaders and local factions helped pacify Sunni areas.

As of May 2008, when the last change was apparently made to the Iraq war data records, the conflict's outcome is listed with “No definitive winner.”

(The same applies to the Afghanistan war.)

The database identifies Hezbollah the "binary winner" of the 2006 Lebanon War, although whoever made the entry acknowledges this assumption as "arguable."

"Unlike the negotiated end of the previous major Israeli incursion in Lebanon, which resulted in Fatah evacuating Lebanon, Hezbollah is still intact and operational in Lebanon, holds seats in the Lebanese legislature and is still a viable threat to Israel. Further, Hezbollah was able to put up a credible defense against the Israeli attack and were never really threatened with destruction, as was Fatah, so achieved something of a propaganda victory as well, the Hezbollah 'David' versus the Israeli 'Goliath'. On the other hand, Israel agreed to withdraw without achieving its end."

International opinion played a big role in the conflict, according to the narrative in the database.

"The large number of civilian casualties (30% children), the use of cluster bombs and the targeting of the civilian infrastructure quickly drew international condemnation against Israel," it reads. "Although some Hezbollah attacks resulted in civilian casualties, the percent of civilian deaths caused by Hezbollah was much lower than Israel’s, drawing less criticism from abroad."

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The National Governors Association complained again today about efforts to give the Pentagon expanded authorities to respond to domestic disasters.

"Governors remain concerned regarding proposed changes to the military’s authority to engage independently in domestic emergency response situations," the group writes in an Aug. 20 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Republican John McCain (AZ). The proposal should not be included in the final version of this year's national defense authorization bill, the governors argue.

"We strongly believe the consideration of any such proposals should be preceded by a discussion regarding the tactical control of forces serving inside a state during a disaster response," the letter adds.

On Aug, 7, the group sent a similar letter to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs Paul Stockton. Both missives urge DOD to quickly establish the Council of Governors, as required by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, to foster talks and coordination on homeland defense and emergency response issues between DOD, the Department of Homeland Security and governors.

By John Liang
August 20, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser program this week fired the megawatt-class, Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) in flight for the first time, except for one little detail: The laser beam never left the Boeing 747.

That was on purpose, as lead contractor Boeing said in a statement:

During the test, the modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and fired its high-energy laser while flying over the California High Desert. The laser was fired into an onboard calorimeter, which captured the beam and measured its power.

"This was a significant test of the Airborne Laser's capabilities, demonstrating that the system has truly moved from the drawing board to reality," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "We have seen that the Airborne Laser's high-energy laser is functioning aboard the aircraft and that ABL is ready for more flight tests to further validate its viability as a mobile missile defense system."

Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director, said, "This test shows that ABL is on track to shoot down a boosting ballistic missile later this year. After years of development, the team is excited to be so close to delivering this transformational and unique directed-energy weapon system. We think ABL will be a game-changer for weapon systems the same way stealth technology transformed aerial combat."

Before the upcoming missile shoot-down demonstration, ABL's high-energy laser will undergo a series of additional flight tests, building toward lethal capabilities. It will advance from being fired into the onboard calorimeter to being sent through the beam control/fire control system, exiting the aircraft through a nose-mounted turret. This will represent a major achievement in directed-energy technology because it will be the first time a megawatt-class laser has been coupled with precise pointing and atmospheric correction in an airborne environment. The team will follow this milestone with the firing of the high-energy laser against a variety of increasingly challenging targets, culminating with an airborne intercept test against a ballistic missile in the boost phase of flight.

The ABL aircraft is a modified Boeing 747-400F whose back half holds the high-energy laser. The front section of the aircraft contains the beam control/fire control system, developed by Lockheed Martin, and the battle management system, provided by Boeing. Northrop Grumman developed and built the COIL.

According to a Northrop statement:

Maintaining the precise alignment of optical components within the laser while in flight ranks among the program's notable accomplishments, according to Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts - Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"ABL has to keep all of the powerful laser's optical components perfectly positioned as the aircraft vibrates and flexes during flight," Hixson said. "Since we were unable to fly the kind of large concrete pads used to hold a ground-based laser's optics in place, we had to isolate the COIL's optics from the structure but also maintain alignment. So the team developed an optical bench isolation system that isolates disturbances caused by normal aircraft operations while maintaining alignment to the gain medium, or the source of a laser's optical power. It's like an automobile's 'smart suspension' that keeps the car riding smoothly at the same level over a bumpy road."

The ABL is scheduled to attempt an intercept of a boosting ballistic missile sometime this fall, after years of delay and billions of dollars spent on the effort. In June, House and Senate authorizers approved Defense Secretary Robert Gates' $1.2 billion cut to MDA's fiscal year 2010 budget request, which included the cancellation of the second planned ABL aircraft.

Instead, Gates directed MDA to look at technologies beyond intercepting in the boost-phase and into the "ascent" phase of a ballistic missile's flight.

Inside Missile Defense reported in June that MDA would give the ABL program three chances to intercept a boosting target missile before deciding whether to cancel the effort entirely:

"What we’ve set up in our budget is, we're giving it a chance for three strikes," Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly said at a conference sponsored by the National Defense University. "It's going to fly in September/October, that time frame, and if it is not successful there, we’re going to fly it again in the middle of the ((fiscal)) year, and if it's not successful, we’ll fly it again next spring, and after that third one, I am committed to come back to the . . . under secretary of defense for acquisition and make a recommendation: Should we continue with this project?"

According to MDA's latest budget justification summary, the agency is requesting $187 million for fiscal year 2010 for the ABL program, down from the $401 million appropriated in FY-09.

"This scaling back of the ABL program retains funding for the lethal shoot-down later this year with the Tail #1 aircraft; retention of critical skills needed for optics and fire control; and continued test flights and de-commissioning of the aircraft if the flight tests are unsuccessful," the summary reads. The agency also -- under the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- is canceling the design and purchase of a second ABL aircraft.

By John Liang
August 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The two Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, next month are fully fueled and awaiting their marriage onto their booster, according to a Northrop Grumman official.

The satellites are scheduled to be launched on Sept. 15 aboard a single Delta II booster rocket between 8 pm and 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time, according to a Northrop fact sheet.

"We've stacked them on each other and on top of their orbit insertion stage, so this configuration is now ready to be mounted onto the booster and moved out to the launch pad, so we're very close," Fred Ricker, vice president of military systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' Space Systems Division, said in a telephone interview this morning from the Space and Missile Defense Command's annual conference in Huntsville, AL.

The two satellites will be placed in the same orbit, one in advance of the other, according to Ricker, who added:

So there'll be a leader and a follower, and what that allows us to do, then, is to become participants in ((Missile Defense Agency)) tests that will be carried out over the Pacific primarily. We'll be able to view target missiles that are launched from both satellites, and in doing so we'll be able to create a stereo viewing. That stereo view will be converted into an accurate, three-dimensional track that's describing the trajectory of the target missile, and that's what allows us to pass on the information about that track to the ((Ballistic Missile Defense)) System that will be taking that information, providing it to other parts of the system so that you can coordinate ultimately an intercept.

By Kate Brannen
August 19, 2009 at 5:00 AM

On the day before national elections take place in Afghanistan, country experts emphasized the uncertainty surrounding tomorrow's results as well as their inability to predict what those results -- whatever they may be -- will mean for Afghanistan's security.

J. Alexander Thier, senior rule of law adviser at the United States Institute for Peace, said today that risk and instability would likely follow the election due to the high perception of fraud and corruption. These perceptions have been exacerbated by the recent controversial election in Iran, he said, adding that many Afghans also believe that the United States will have a hand in who wins.

Thier spoke, along with retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, at the Center for National Policy.

Both men agreed that all outcomes would invariably be accompanied by a level of risk and turbulence in the country.

"I expect tomorrow is going to be a violent day in Afghanistan," said Barno.

The speakers also said it would take time for the security situation to improve and for the Obama administration's multipronged strategy to produce results.

By next summer, Barno said all arrows currently pointing down would have bottomed out and start to turn upward, particularly the security indicators. But, he predicted a lot of violence between now and then.

Paul McHale, former assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and the discussion's moderator, said he believed it would take longer -- three to five years -- for real improvement to show. McHale said he agrees with David Kilcullen's recent assessment of two years of fighting left, followed by three years of transitioning operations to the Afghan security forces.

By John Liang
August 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Environmentalists are weighing the possibility of new litigation against the Army in light of a recent environmental assessment that proposes to re-start a controversial project that would relocate more than 1,000 desert tortoises, an endangered species, to make way for expanded training at the Army's Ft. Irwin, CA, National Training Center, Defense Environment Alert reports this week:

The Army last year suspended an initial translocation project at its National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA, after it saw a high mortality rate among translocated desert tortoises. A spokesman for Ft. Irwin says the predation number was a surprise. The Army also had been sued by environmentalists in 2008 over the project, but the suit was dismissed after the Army and other federal agencies reinitiated consultation under the Endangered Species Act over the impacts of the relocation project, and the Army agreed to revise its recovery plan for the tortoise.

Now the Army is looking to fulfill plans to relocate the tortoises from two training expansion areas at the NTC. But predation is an issue environmental activists believe should still be addressed under the latest relocation project.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) late last month released a draft environmental assessment analyzing the impacts of an Army plan to translocate desert tortoises from the Southern Expansion Area (SEA) and Western Expansion Area (WEA) of the NTC to BLM and other Army-managed lands. The SEA is approximately 24,000 acres of new training land, while the WEA is approximately 70,000 acres of new training property. The Army wants to transfer the desert tortoises out of the new training areas in order to protect them from training impacts. The military intends to use the new areas for both air and ground training. Both of these areas had been designated as critical habitat in 1994 for the desert tortoise. In order to allow the training use, the Army must comply with certain conservation measures and conditions.

Inside the Army reported in July 2008 that the service has planned to add 5,000 soldiers and increase training rotation capacity to 12 at Ft. Irwin, and prepared a draft programmatic environmental impact statement considering the “impacts associated with the stationing and training of new soldiers at Fort Irwin,” according to a June 2008 Federal Register notice. As ITA reported:

The move stems from an April 2002 record of decision that opted to go forward with the 30-year phased implementation of the service’s transformation from a division-based force to a modular, brigade-based Army.

“The Army leadership determined that the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) should transform over a period of several years to become a MultiComponent Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT), deployable throughout the world,” the notice explains. “Other smaller units would also be stationed at Fort Irwin.” The document, dated June 27, explains that training rotations would increase, as would the number of soldiers stationed at the base.

“Additional cantonment and range construction would be necessary to support the increase in rotations and troops,” it adds.

By Christopher J. Castelli
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said today that a cargo ship that mysteriously disappeared has been found near the Cape Verde archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, according to wire service reports.

He said details would be forthcoming about what happened to the ship, which is called the Arctic Sea, as well as why communications with it were lost and why it changed its itinerary.

Why we point this out: Search efforts over the last past 10 days reportedly involved rare coordination between Russia and NATO.

And: Yesterday, Finnish authorities dismissed talk that the vessel was carrying nuclear cargo.

By Jason Sherman
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Defense Department today unveiled a major overhaul of its main Web portal, incorporating a number of social networking tools in a bid to begin a new form of communication with the American public, according to a senior Pentagon official.

“We need to embrace these technologies. We need to use them because that’s what the young people use these days. We need to communicate with them,” said Price Floyd, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told American Forces Press Service, a Pentagon new service.

In addition to a new domain name -- -- the Pentagon's embrace of Twitter and Facebook is intended to encourage commanders to launch their own social networking sites, Floyd said.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, twitters regularly, as does Floyd. U.S. European Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan also have Facebook sites.

The new site invites visitors to propose questions to ask the defense secretary as well as to express an interest in learning more about select policy issues.

But: Will this embrace by DOD of social networking be short-lived?

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn last month commissioned an assessment -- due in two weeks -- of security risks associated with military-sponsored social networking sites. That report -- and, possibly, the early returns on the Web site unveiled today -- is expected to influence a formal policy by the end of September.

By Marjorie Censer
August 17, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Army is in standing up a new center intended to improve the efficiency of its unmanned aircraft system efforts, service officials said last week.

At a conference in Washington, Tim Owings, the Army's deputy program manager for UAS, told reporters that the Army is relocating a number of its unmanned systems, including Shadow, Hunter and Sky Warrior, to Dugway Proving Ground, UT.

The consolidated site at Dugway is called the Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center, Owings said, and will include acceptance testing, logistics support, contractor training and quick reaction fielding, among other capabilities, according to his briefing slides.

Owings said he expects the consolidation at RIAC to "reduce the time line by about 75 percent in terms of integration time lines."

His briefing slides indicate that RIAC will be activated this fall, and Owings said the consolidation effort there will be complete 12 to 18 months from now.