The Insider

By Dan Dupont
October 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Monday's Inside the Army -- already posted -- carries a good piece on the service's transition efforts.

A taste:

To prepare for a new presidential administration, the Army is prioritizing the issues a transition team would study while its acquisition staff is working to understand each candidate’s procurement approach, according to top service officials.

In an exclusive interview with Inside the Army last week, Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, and Dean Popps, the service’s acquisition chief, said work is already under way for the change of control.

The Army as a whole is selecting the top 10 to 15 issues “that are really important to the Army, that we would want to explain to the transition team and a new administration,” said Thompson.

During the Oct. 8 interview, he said those issues will likely be “big picture” plans.

“It’s growing the size of the Army, it’s things that the chief and the secretary talk about, trying to get the Army back in balance from the standpoint of time at home, time deployed, what it takes to do that, changing the Army to a rotational deployment model with this Army Force Generation model, explaining the logic behind all those,” he added.

See here and here for more of our stellar coverage of DOD's efforts to get ready for the next administration.

By Dan Dupont
October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A bit of a grab bag this morning.

First up, Inside the Pentagon today has a good piece on a draft defense energy strategy:

The document, which has not been publicly released, is an eleventh-hour attempt by outgoing defense leaders to address the sorts of energy concerns identified by Defense Science Board studies, the most recent of which was published in February.

The ultimate fate of the plan -- which proffers four strategic goals, each with implementation steps -- will rest with whoever leads the Defense Department for the next president. If outgoing Pentagon leaders finalize the plan before the transition, it will still fall to the next administration to either embrace or change the goals and to supervise the implementation of energy security priorities. In a nod to the plan’s transitory nature, one paragraph notes “both presidential candidates” advocate enacting legislation to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

More here.

As for that new administration team, the Huffington Post takes a look at the two transition teams and notes that one seems far more prepared than the other.

A taste:

"Government is becoming more complex and the time it is taking to put a leadership team in key departments is taking longer," said P.J. Crowley, who heads the Homeland Security Presidential Transition Initiative at the Center for American Progress. "I think that if a campaign is waiting until November 5 to start the transition process, they are going to be behind. It is not being presumptuous -- it is being prudent to be prepared before the election so that you can at least make the transition process effective as possible and be ready to govern on January 20."

A good taste of our own transition coverage is here.

Next up is a McClatchy Newspapers story on the financial crisis and its impacts on defense:

Congress' decision earlier this month to approve a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry adds to the strain on the federal budget, and the stock market decline and the credit crunch could slow economic activity and eliminate jobs, which in turn could reduce tax revenues.

"How the U.S. government funds its military answers the question of: How committed it is to fighting these kinds of war?" said James Quinlivan , a senior military analyst and mathematician at the RAND Corporation.

The pressure is likely to be felt most acutely by the Army , the military's largest and most expensive branch, which is already strained by the war in Iraq and planning for another decade of sustained conflict. . . .

The Army plans to add about 30,000 soldiers by 2010, and expanding the force to 547,000 would cost at least $5 billion , according to Army estimates.

But as we've reported this week, the Army is actually mulling whether it needs even more troops:

"A lot of people ask me that question, and they say, 'OK, how big an Army do you need?'" ((Army Chif of Staff Gen.)) Casey told reporters. "My first question is, 'What do you want it to do?'; my second question is, 'How much are you prepared to spend on that Army?'"

Casey said the service is "actively working" the question as part of the development of its six-year spending plan covering fiscal years 2010 to 2015. . . .

"So the short answer is: I don't have the answer to the question yet, but I know I'm going to get asked it after the 20th of January” -- Inauguration Day -- “and we're working hard to figure out what the right answer for the country is."

By Dan Dupont
October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

More on the transition -- AP reports the president has signed an executive order designed "to help coordinate efforts already under way to ensure a seamless transition."

Bush's order established a presidential transitional coordinating council whose members include top officials from the intelligence and national security community, as well as the White House budget office, the Justice Department, Homeland Security and other agencies. Even before the election, they will work with the Obama and McCain campaigns "on an equal basis and without regard for party affiliation," the order directs.

"The council shall assist the major party candidates and the president-elect by making every reasonable effort to facilitate the transition between administrations," Bush's order said.

The order itself is here.

By Kate Brannen
October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Amid the extensive discussions of Iraq and the "surge" on the presidential campaign trail, Gen. David Petraeus this week took to the stage at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention and discussed potential "storm clouds" he says have the potential to reverse the progress made recently in Iraq.

He pointed to the challenge of integrating the Sons of Iraq, militia groups recruited by the United States, into the Iraqi Security Forces. He said 50,000 had been integrated so far, while there are close to 100,000 total. (Transcript here.)

Other concerns involve whether al Qaeda will reignite sectarian violence or if efforts by "al Qaeda and Sunni extremists to return to areas that they once controlled" will succeed.

Petraeus said there could be violence during provincial elections, which are scheduled for the end of January, and disagreement over provincial power and region formation. The return of displaced families could fuel various ethnic disputes, especially in Kirkuk, he said.

"So, many challenges. And the reasons that Gen. Odierno and I, and Amb. Crocker and others have cautioned, we think, responsibly, about the possibility of fragility and reversal of some of this progress," said Petraeus. (Video here.)

Petraeus also offered up an interesting take on a key battle in Iraq last year. He laid out how several different systems were used together to give the Army an absolute asymmetric advantage, listing the assets that Col. John Hort, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, had at his disposal 24 hours a day:

Two predator unmanned aerial vehicles, three Shadow, three other lower-level systems -- unmanned aerial vehicles, three teams of two Apaches each. He had counter-fire radars ringing the city that would tell us where they shot at us from. We had guided-missile launch rocket systems primed and ready to launch if we did detect the enemy earlier to put a strike right into the center of Sadr City and kill the group of individuals who were hiding right across in a hospital without breaking a window in that hospital. He had other assets supporting him -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, other governmental agencies, human intelligence operatives . . . and all these other systems -- Global Hawk, ((Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System)), moving target indicators, EP-3s. He had blimps with optics. He had towers with optics. All of this focus, in and support of elements that included tanks, Bradleys, Strykers, snipers and all of that pulled together under one brigade commander over the course of several weeks.

"No other military in the world could devote that level of assets to one theater, let alone one brigade," he added.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 9, 2008 at 5:00 AM

As the Department of Homeland Security gears up for its first-ever transition of administrations, a report by a group of DHS advisers from early this year is worth revisiting.

Members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, in January, noted that terrorist attacks or natural disasters on U.S. soil during the transition period could catch leaders at the behemoth agency at a particularly bad time.

Specifically, the panelists are worried about what they call a “vulnerable period” -- the time frame beginning 30 days before the change in administration until six months afterwards.

“The ((panel)) believes that the incoming and outgoing administrations must work closely together during the administration transition. It is extremely clear that successful transitions require a shared commitment to ensuring a smooth transition of power. This is facilitated by a positive attitude and open mind in both incoming and outgoing administrations, combined with the willingness to respect and listen to each other’s concerns and priorities.”

For one, outgoing DHS leaders should offer “operational briefings” to the presidential nominees aimed at keeping them abreast of homeland security threats, the group recommended.

In addition, Congress and the new administration should closely cooperate to get key DHS staff confirmed and ready to go as soon as possible. Outgoing leadership also should ensure all political appointees have senior-level career personnel in place for backup, the group recommended.

In that context of talk about urgency, “vulnerable period” and “heightened threat,” this report we told you about earlier today is a good read.

The Homeland Security Advisory Panel last month produced another interesting document, titled “Top Ten Challenges Facing the Next Secretary of Homeland Security.”

Not surprisingly, the thorny issue of improving intelligence and information sharing is on that list, at No. 3.

Another tough one, at No. 8: “Find the right balance between secure borders and open doors to travelers, students and commerce.”

By Rebekah Gordon
October 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A long-running fight between the Navy and environmentalists over the use of mid-frequency sonar in a training range off the coast of Southern California, and the potential harm it could inflict on whales, found itself before the nine justices of the Supreme Court today.

According to news reports, the justices seemed split during oral arguments. But Justice Stephen Breyer seemed downright frustrated by the dispute.

“This is -- I want to give you a chance to say what's so terrible about what they're doing,” Breyer told Richard Kendall, the lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has sued the Navy. “I will express a little frustration. Not your fault. But why couldn't you work this thing out? I mean, ((the Navy is)) willing to give you quite a lot of conditions, and you say, well, we have got to have more conditions. And you are asking us, who know nothing about whales and less about the military, to start reading all these documents to try to figure out who's right in the case where the other side says the other side is totally unreasonable.”

“The Navy is focused on having it its way or no way,” Kendall responded. (Full transcript here -- in .pdf.)

Environmentalists argue that sonar use is harmful to whales, disrupting their feeding and migration and in some cases causing injury or even death by beaching. Meanwhile, the Navy argues that sonar training is critical to the hunt for stealthy diesel-electric submarines. At the heart of the question is whether the courts can force the Navy to adhere to environmental laws when the President has deemed the training a “national security emergency.”

A judgment in the NRDC's favor could have far-reaching implications for the Navy, forcing it to alter the way it conducts training and fleet readiness in the future. For now, in its exercises off the Southern California coast, the Navy must adhere to the U.S. district court's requirement to power down its mid-frequency sonar when a whale is spotted 2,200 yards away.

“Legal experts said the case raises broad questions about the military's obligation to obey environmental laws,” The Washington Post reports.

More to come from Inside the Navy and Defense Environment Alert.

By John Liang
October 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Congressional Budget Office yesterday said the federal budget deficit had ballooned to about $438 billion in fiscal year 2008, compared to $162 billion the year before. That number is "about $31 billion higher than the $407 billion deficit CBO projected this summer, primarily due to lower-than-projected revenues and higher-than-expected spending for defense and deposit insurance," CBO said.

Wondering how this might affect defense spending in the near future? While Joseph Campbell of Barclays Capital did an informal survey of defense contractors recently who told him they felt that the recent financial turmoil wouldn't impact their credit ratings, Wall Street folks will get a chance to ask senior U.S. defense contractor officials directly during the upcoming quarterly earnings conference calls.

Here are links to the big ones (all times Eastern):

Lockheed Martin -- Oct. 21, 11am

Boeing -- Oct. 22, 10:30am

General Dynamics: Oct. 22, 11:30am

Raytheon -- Oct. 23, 9am

United Technologies -- Oct. 16, 10am

Northrop Grumman -- Date/time not finalized yet

We'll keep you posted on any major developments.

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

Military leaders are still trying to get their hands around what it means to fight in cyberspace. From the outside, it’s hard to tell exactly how far the Pentagon has come in moving the idea of cyber warfare from a subject of study to a subject of doctrine writing and practice.

According to Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Basla, the deputy in the Joint Staff’s J-6 directorate, the development of the intellectual underpinning of cyber warfare is not yet completed.

Fundamental questions remain to be answered, he told us at AUSA  yesterday, including “What constitutes a cyber attack?” and “How do we integrated cyber in the other warfighting domains?”

Or, put differently, at what point does a cyber conflict turn into a shooting war?

“We don’t have a strong answer to that,” Basla said.

According to the general, officials also are wondering how deterrence, a concept that brings back memories of Cold War nuclear arms racing, could be applied in cyberspace.

“There are huge efforts going on in studying all those different pieces,” Basla added.

At U.S. Strategic Command, where officials know a thing or two about deterrence, that very subject was up for discussion at a January 2008 workshop.

The two-day event produced a collection of papers by attendees, including a piece by defense strategist Tom Barnett, which we’ve posted here.

The military produced two key documents in recent years, both classified, guiding goings-on in the cyberspace arena: The 2006 National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations and the companion implementation plan. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the strategy on Dec. 11, 2006, in one of his last moves as Pentagon chief. His successors signed the implementation plan on Oct. 1, 2007.

The implementation plan contains 42 different “activities” that are being executed by “a number of different organizations,” according to Basla.

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

Despite another punishing day on Wall Street -- where stock prices plummeted more than 500 points, dragging the Dow Jones Industrial Average down to 9,447 -- the Pentagon’s main weapon systems builders report they are well-positioned to weather the credit crisis that is rocking global markets, Joseph Campbell of Barclays Capital told investors today.

Campbell, who analyzes aerospace and defense firms, conducted an informal survey asking firms that he follows to sketch out potential impacts of the credit crisis.

“Nearly all of the companies in our universe responded that they did not expect the credit crisis to have any impact on their financial liquidity or their ability to access credit markets,” he writes in a research note. “Most said they had no plans or expectations of needs to access credit markets and that their current cash on hand, expected cash flows, and credit facilities already in place would likely be adequate for all of their expected needs.”

He concludes:

Nearly all aerospace-defense companies in our universe have very good credit ratings, strong cash flows, and generally large amounts of cash on hand. As a result, we do not expect the credit crisis to have large impacts on the industry’s access to cash. The main impact we believe will be to weaken the global economy and to make credit for aircraft financing harder to find and more expensive to obtain.

By Jason Sherman
October 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Army has unveiled an important new addition to its doctrinal canon: Field Manual 3-07: Stability Operations. Yesterday’s Washington Post summed it up nicely:

The Army on Monday will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" that breed crime, terrorism and religious and ethnic strife as the greatest threat to U.S. national security.The doctrine, which has generated intense debate in the U.S. military establishment and government, holds that in coming years, American troops are not likely to engage in major ground combat against hostile states as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead will frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas to safeguard populations and rebuild countries. (full article)

This new manual is being released today as the annual AUSA convention begins in Washington. It is the latest installment in a wider effort to bring the Army’s doctrine in line with strategic guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to prepare for an array of threats much wider than traditional state-on-state conflicts.

Earlier this year the Army updated its keystone doctrine, Field Manual 3-0: Operations, shifting emphasis from conventional to a “full spectrum” operations, a change that places post-conflict stability operations on par with offensive and defensive engagement. That change was made in accordance with Defense Department directive, 3000.05, issued in November 2005 that defined stability operations as “a core U.S. military mission” to be given “priority comparable to combat operations.”

By John Liang
October 6, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Looks like China didn't take long to respond to the Defense Department's announcement on Friday of a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan:

Beijing has notified the U.S. that it will not go forward with some senior level visits and some other cooperative military-to-military plans, Marine Maj. Stewart Upton, a Defense Department spokesman, told The Associated Press.

"In response to Friday's announcement of Taiwan arms sales, the People's Republic of China canceled or postponed several upcoming military-to-military exchanges," he said.

Sister publication Inside U.S.-China Trade reported last month that the sales had stalled since 2001 because of internal disagreement between political parties in Taiwan over whether the sales were necessary given the fact that they would likely anger China.

Taiwan approved the weapons purchases last December following a compromise in its legislature that limited some of the sales.

In a statement released over the weekend, a Chinese government spokesman called the potential sale "a serious violation of the principles set in the three Sino-U.S. Joint Communiqués, August 17 Communiqué in particular, and gross interference in China's internal affairs, which will undermine China's national security, and create disturbance and obstacles to the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations. The Chinese government and people will definitely respond with strong indignation."

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 5, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Washington Post last week ran a good piece on the Pentagon’s use of information operations in Iraq. The story is based on a contract awarded last month to four public relations firms. Under the contract, the Post reports, the companies are charged with producing “media campaigns” that cast U.S. objectives in Iraq in a positive light and convince residents of the barbarism of the insurgency.

The application of information operations during future wars likely will be near the top of the agenda for the new defense leadership. The field is considered key to irregular warfare, which many defense officials believe to be the predominant type of conflict facing America in the foreseeable future.

An August draft version of a yet-unreleased policy directive governing IW says information ops are crucial for neutralizing “adversary propaganda” during Iraq-style counterinsurgency campaigns, as we reported in September.

Exactly how this should be done isn’t all that clear yet, according to experts and officials, who say some thorny issues remain to be resolved.

For example, one question is who should be in charge of conducting information operations. “IO authorities have been a subject of much contention from the outset over a decade ago,” one expert writes.

While the authority to employ IO initially rested solely with the “national command authority,” which consists of the president and the defense secretary, the combatant commanders were given more power over IO some years ago, this expert said. “Now ((it is)) a bit of pulling and hauling, with many hoping a balanced result will ensue.”

There also were instances of friction among the COCOMs themselves, we’re told. One official described a “food fight” breaking out at one point over operational control of IO forces and equipment between U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Central Command as part of the military’s “Countering Adversary Use of the Internet” program.

That program targets the online propaganda efforts of violent Islamic extremists, we reported last month.

In that context, the now-declassified Rumsfeld-era information operations roadmap, from 2003, remains a great read.

By Marjorie Censer
October 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

During last night's vice presidential debate, Democratic nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) gave a brief shout-out to Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. If you left the room for even a few seconds you might have missed it, but it’s worthy of note given that the blast-proof truck program has long been a priority of Biden’s.

His reminder of his work on MRAPs -- he argued for huge amounts of money for the vehicles -- came during a discussion with Republican nominee Gov. Sarah Palin about troop funding.

“John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPs, those things that are protecting the governor's son and, pray God, my son and a lot of other sons and daughters,” he said during last night's 90-minute debate.

But, these days the MRAP program isn't expected to get a whole lot more funding; in fact, it's winding down. The Defense Department issued what was likely the last program contract last month, this time to International Military and Government.

However, a new effort -- known now as MRAP “Lite” -- is emerging. Check back with Inside the Army next week for more information on that initiative.

By Marcus Weisgerber
October 3, 2008 at 5:00 AM

For the first time in months, the Air Force has a nearly complete senior leadership staff. The Senate voted yesterday evening to confirm Michael Donley as Air Force secretary and Lt. Gen. William Fraser as the vice chief of staff.

Donley -- who has been serving in an acting capacity since June 21 -- becomes the Air Force's 22nd secretary. But his time as the service's top civilian could be limited, though, as a new administration will enter the White House in January and likely make new appointments.

As for Fraser, the president must offer the official appointment to the general before he can assume his new position, according to an Air Force statement released last night. The general -- who now serves as the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- will assume the vice chief of staff position on Oct 9.

The position of under secretary of the Air Force -- which has been vacant since Ronald Sega stepped down in August 2007 -- and assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, remain the only unfilled senior positions. Kevin Billings has been serving in the assistant secretary role since this summer.

In addition, the Senate has confirmed Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley to receive his fourth star and lead the National Guard Bureau. McKinley becomes the first four-star general in the NGB's history, as we reported this morning.

The move reflects changes made in the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which provided a fourth star for the chief of the National Guard Bureau, mandated that at least one deputy head of U.S. Northern Command be a Guard officer and expanded the bureau’s charter.

McKinley, who is the director of the Air National Guard, will succeed Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, who was confirmed on Thursday as the first National Guard deputy commander for NORTHCOM, according to a National Guard Bureau statement.

By Sebastian Sprenger
October 2, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Two stories posted yesterday shed some much-needed light on the goings-on at the Pentagon as the Bush administration winds down.

First up:

Joint Staff officials are beginning a sweeping review of combatant command and service priorities that could lay the groundwork for the next administration’s decisions early next year on everything from Afghanistan to weapons of mass destruction, according to defense officials.

The analysis is part of the military’s second “comprehensive joint assessment,” a little-known process piloted last fall. As part of this year’s iteration, military leaders in June asked the combatant commanders and service leaders to compile a list of resource priorities, concept-development and experimentation plans, and assessments of the security environment in their areas of responsibility.

In response to the data call, the combatant commanders crafted lists of “warfighter challenges” specific to their regions, describing where they want to see increased investment, according to a defense official.

Joint Staff officials now are beginning to comb through the heaps of data, trying to determine trends, we’re told.

This year marks the second time the military establishment is conducting an annual comprehensive joint assessment. The drill will be soon be codified in the upcoming CJCS directive 3100.01B, which governs the Joint Strategic Planning System.

Officials said the timing of the exercise is opportune, as it is expected to flesh out a comprehensive portrayal of all happenings at the COCOMs just when a new president-elect weighs his first defense-related moves.

Cynics could argue the CJA, like many other Pentagon plans and strategies drawn up toward the end of the Bush era, is doomed to have a limited shelf life.

But, officials say, the review is the product of a supposedly apolitical military caste whose advice has merit regardless of who moves into the White House.

The other story of note concerns the transition to that next administration -- and efforts to figure out which issues, according to the current leadership, should matter most to the next:

The Pentagon's top brass are homing in on about 10 issues identified this summer as crucial matters for the next president and his Defense Department transition team to address as they take the reins of the U.S. military bureaucracy early next year, according to Pentagon officials.

Nearly all of the top issues are classified secret, and most deal with geopolitical challenges, these officials say. They are part of a wider package of 90 briefings detailing issues of lesser import that are expected be of interest to an incoming administration.

“They deal with issues such as sustaining the fight and making the appropriate fiscal decisions at the right time,” said one Pentagon official who has seen the briefings. “It’s not a wish list.”

The story adds important details on the work of the Chairman's New Administration Transition Team, led by this general.