Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Intelligence on President Obama’s Forthcoming Fundamental Defense Review

Charles Knight. Project on Defense Alternatives Note, 12 May 2011.

Word is that two principals in the production of 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review will be charged with producing the “fundamental” defense review President Obama ordered in his April 13th speech on the deficit. They are Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Planning, who was the lead 2010 QDR author and David Ochmanek, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development, who headed the “analysis and integration cell” which pulled together all the analytical aspects of the last QDR.

Update

Defense News reports (23 May 2011) that “The missions and capabilities review will be led by Christine Fox, director of cost assessment and program evaluations [and formerly the President of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA)]; Michele Flournoy, defense undersecretary for policy [and the Pentagon official in charge of the 2010 QDR]; and Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Editor’s Comment:

Putting the same people who did the 2010 review in charge of producing the new review raises an obvious question of whether we should expect anything much “new” or “fundamental” from this review. QDRs in the past have certainly failed to be “fundamental” in any meaningful sense of the word.

One suspects that the foregone sub-text of what Ms. Hicks writes into the new review will be, “We got this pretty much right when we did it last year. Now, of course, if you are willing to take greater security risks you can cut some pieces out of the force posture, but that is a political decision…”

If the new review makes such a smug presentation it will serve the President and the nation poorly. The 2010 QDR did not make any real effort to set clear priorities among the many military requirements it listed, failing one of the principles of strategy development which is to set a practical path within resource constraints. A new fundamental review must present a variety of low-risk options that can be achieved at various resource investment levels. Its authors should not be allowed to simply push the matter of security risk into the political domain.

President Obama would be smart to solicit ideas from a wide variety of sources, reaching far beyond the Pentagon’s strategy, policy and force planning staff. If a fundamental review is needed, it is wise to hear and consider diverse voices.

“Red Team” Report in 2009 Raised Concerns about Fiscal Constraints

Sebastian Sprenger writing in Inside Defense on 21 April 2011 reports that the QDR Red Team headed by Gen. James Mattis (USMC) and Andrew Marshall, director of the Office of Net Assessment, raised concerns in 2009 about the fiscal restraint effects of the deep recession on military plans to be represented in the QDR.

The Red Team report was not made public. When the QDR was published in early 2010 it did not include a presentation of the effects of fiscal constraints.

Last week, a little more than a year later, President Obama asked Secretary Gates to find $400 billion in additional security budget cuts over a twelve year period and called for a new review of military roles and missions.

The effect of this development will be an update of the 2010 QDR which will likely now heed the concerns of the 2009 Red Team concerning fiscal constraints.

News Analysis: Obama’s Proposed $400 billion Security Spending Cut

On Wednesday April 13th 2001, President Obama announced an initiative to roll back planned security spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years. The nature of these “savings” is not yet clear. Nor is it clear how much will be subtracted from the Pentagon’s spending plans.

Nonetheless, Secretary Gates and the Chiefs are not pleased and have begun to make noise about risks to security. Apparently, they were not briefed on the proposal until Tuesday.

Part of the initiative is to begin a “fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.” What and how much is subtracted from the Pentagon will depend on this review. Notably, the United States just completed a Quadrennial Defense Review last year. What the President proposes is some sort of “second look.” The President, Secretary Gates, and the service chiefs will be the prime movers of this process. How deep their “second look” will go is unclear. And it seems battle lines are already being drawn.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said the review would likely affect the 2013 budget. It will not be ready by June, when congressional debate of the 2012 budget commences.

How open will the review process be? We don’t yet know. But the experience of recent defense reviews is not encouraging. Still we should welcome this first step and strive to open up the process. The need for a rethinking our defense strategy and posture was emphasized in the 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force:

[I]n order to ensure significant savings, we must change how we produce military power and the ways in which we put it to use. Significant savings may depend on our willingness to:

    Rethink our national security commitments and goals to ensure they focus clearly on what concerns us the most;
    Reset our national security strategy so that it reflects a cost-effective balance among the security instruments at our disposal and uses those instruments in cost-effective ways; and
    Reform our system of producing defense assets so it.

News links on President Obama’s proposed rollback in planned security spending, his call for a strategic review, and the Pentagon’s reaction:

DOD: Finding More Savings In Defense Budget Means Nixing Missions. Christopher J. Castelli. Inside Defense, 13 April 2011.

Obama Calls for Sweeping Review of U.S. Military Strategy. Sandra Erwin. National Defense, 13 April 2011.

Pentagon warns on big defense cuts. Missy Ryan and Jim Wolf. Reuters, 13 April 2011.

Defence chief warns against planned cuts. Daniel Dombey and James Politi. Financial Times, 14 April 2011.

Events frequently overtake long-term Pentagon planning. Megan Scully. Government Executive, 14 April 2011.

Army Budget Share Will Grow

Greg Grant. DoD Buzz, 09 April 2010.
http://www.dodbuzz.com/2010/04/09/army-budget-share-will-grow/

Excerpt:

In DOD’s funding forecasts, future costs to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are vastly understated as are personnel and healthcare costs. “Reset” costs for Army and Marine equipment returning from Iraq are also vastly understated, as all are new aircraft programs, e.g. F-35, tanker. The shipbuilding plan is also underfunded. Cost overruns in the F-35 and satellites continue due to immature technologies, the analysis says, and risks shifts to existing platforms.

The biggest future growth areas will be in networked communications and overhead surveillance, followed by repair, maintenance and training. The future requirements process will be driven more by combatant commanders than service bureaucracy, more joint and fewer overall contracts and programs. There will be further monopolization of large platform primes, e.g. one tank builder, one aircraft tanker builder and one shipbuilder.

Air Force Strategists Say US Should Unilaterally Cut Nukes By 90 Percent

Max Bergmann. The Wonk Room, 17 March 2010.
http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2010/03/17/air-force-strategists-say-us-should-cut-nukes/

Excerpt:

Noting that during the Cold War “the actual marginal utility of additional forces was quite small,” the authors conclude that a significantly smaller arsenal of nuclear weapons will be more than enough to maintain an effective deterrence and to assure allies without any cost to our security. The article backs the far reaching report from the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which called for reductions of US forces to 500 nuclear weapons by 2025. Forsyth, Saltzman, and Schaub argue that it is possible to go even further.

We’ve met the enemy in Afghanistan, and he’s changed

Roy Gutman. McClatchy Newspapers, 14 March 2010.
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/03/14/90083/weve-met-the-enemy-in-afghanistan.html

Excerpt:

Today, although the United States and more than three dozen NATO allies and other countries are supporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Taliban dominate a growing swath of territory, and their power trumps the government’s in three-quarters of the country.

Although they’re often portrayed as mindless fanatics, the militant Islamists’ “life experience” from their years in the wilderness, their study of American military tactics and their analysis of the Karzai government’s shortcomings have helped reverse their fortunes, U.S. intelligence experts say.

Why The Nuclear Review Is Delayed

Marc Ambinder. The Atlantic Online, 26 February 2010.
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/02/why-the-nuclear-review-is-delayed/36660/

Excerpt:

… the release of the long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review will be delayed well into March because the basic issue — when, and why, the U.S. would use nuclear weapons, remains a contentious subject of debate.

Continuing and sometimes deteriorating nature of the delays at Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 production facility

Winslow Wheeler. Straus Military Reform Project, 24 February 2010.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Straus Military Reform Project has obtained almost two years of monthly reports from the Defense Contract Management Agency on Lockheed-Martin’s production of the F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter.” The most recent of those reports show deterioration from previous reports in several respects.

The Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) most recent reports cover the months July through November, 2009. These will soon be available at the Straus Military Reform Project website.

Major elements of the July through November reports can be summarized as follows:

The F-35 assembly line at Forth worth is being cannibalized for parts to support flight testing. This may be the first time an assembly line has been cannibalized for parts for such a tiny number of flight test aircraft as Lockheed-Martin has been able to get into the air. See summary of August report below.

Continuing and sometimes deteriorating nature of the delays at Lockheed-Martin’s (L-M) Fort Worth plant refutes the L-M contention that things are getting better and that the F-35 program learned from the past and with new design techniques is avoiding the kinds of problems experienced by “legacy” aircraft programs.

The cause, nature and implications of the “stand down” mentioned in the November report could well be important, but details are redacted in the DCMA reports and the press is yet to uncover the nature of the “stand down.” It is a matter looking for an explanation.

Some details from the reports follow:

July Report: Page 4 talks about a new DCMA estimate to complete System Design and Development, but the numbers are redacted. DCMA calls the L-M estimate “inadequate.” This DCMA estimate is before the Pentagon’s second independent Joint Estimating Team (JET II) estimate was finished and available, and is presumably independent. Most importantly, it clearly was available for SecDef Gates Forth Worth visit in August. Was it briefed to him? If so, why was Gates so positive about the program at that visit; if it was not, is that an example of why the F-35 program manager, General Heinz, was fired: i.e. that troubling information was not getting to Gates on this high visibility program.

Page 4 also mentions without further discussion a “BF-4 STOVL Upper Lift Fan Door incident.” The context is the rising costs of the overall system, but there are no details. Given that the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B is on a short schedule to deployment, is this a problem that will further complicate the schedule for the F-35B?

Page 4 identifies a “Corrective Action Plan” to address “EVMS,” “Earned Value Management system” or the system that LM uses to measure and report execution of the program and its budget. I understand it to be the core method DOD uses to monitor and manage the program. Results of the plan are due to DCMA in August. (The October Report states that the plan was submitted, but no specifics are reported. It is only stated that “a more focused Review will occur in three to five months by the DCMA….” [Page 4 of October Report.]). There has been some reporting on the failure to meet EVMS criteria in the press. The threat to L-M is that it will have to maintain its “certification” to perform EVMS calculations—if it is lost, L-M could end up not legally eligible to be a contractor to the federal government.

August Report: L-M is cannibalizing the production line to provide spare parts for the flight test program (pp. 3 & 4). These cannibalizations are “causing significant workload to supply chain personnel and are disrupting the production line.” There is no further discussion or explanation. This may be the first time a development aircraft’s production line was cannibalized for spares.

September Report: “Execution of the Flight Test Schedule continues to be a significant Program concern.” (Page 3.)

“The volume of major CR’s [Change Requests] is projected to continue.” “…the number of major changes has exceeded projections. Additionally, the impact of timing these changes and the disruption to the floor were not anticipated.” (Page 3.) This would seem to be exactly the kind of thing that L-M promised would not happen: i.e. that they had learned from previous programs and with the benefits of advanced computer design, the F-35 would not have the kinds of design disruptions so common with “legacy” aircraft.

Page 4 addresses another delay issue: ”Wing-at-Mate” problems. These, I understand, have to do with the decision to mate the wing to the fuselage before the wing is “stuffed”. The plan was to mate the completed wing to the fuselage. But, because of delays, L-M decided to add wing components after mating, which – being inefficient — slows things down more.

“Composite production is not meeting the demands of the production operations – composites for the AFT and Empennage assemblies are paced by the availability and quality of composites.” (Page 4.) Again, the modern design feature of composites, said to not just reduce weight (of the over weight aircraft) but to facilitate design and fabrication is proving to be a source of delay and complication.

October Report: Flight test schedule still “a significant Program concern.” “AF-1 continues to be in a maintenance period as of this report, progressing towards taxi tests and first flight.” (Page 3.) This is an example of a problem addressed in earlier DCMA reports: aircraft coming off the production line incomplete and incapable of flight. They are sent to adjacent hangars for post-production production. This pre-first flight “maintenance” would seem to be a misleading misnomer.

Mentions that the program is about to get its “sixth schedule revision.” (Page 3.)

More on the “Wing-at-Mate overlap” which appears to be improving. (Page 3.)

November Report: Due to the need for the sixth schedule revision — coming in early 2010 — “Recent Program summary charts, scorecards, and management briefings do not consistently depict performance to the master schedule baseline.” (Page 3.)

The graph on page 6 shows Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft delivery rate is on average 80 days late. The rate significantly deteriorated in April and stayed at that deteriorated rate. Individual aircraft deliveries are significantly above that: AF-6 will be 92 days late; AF-7 will be 142 days late. A sentence presumably explaining the increased delay was redacted. (Page 6.) This category is rated “red” by DCMA. On the other hand, DCMA confirms public reports that while LRIP 1 & 2 aircraft are months late, the “risk” that LRIP 3 aircraft will be late is rated as “low.”

Suppliers’ Delivery Rate (Page 8.) is also getting worse, now down to about 75% on-time. This category is also rated “red” by DCMA.

The Management Reserve of money is gone, “further straining the financial management of the Program.” Amounts are redacted. Given USATL Carter’s decision to used LRIP production money for SDD, how much of that will go to L-M’s management reserve slush fund, rather than directly to SDD activities?

A section is titled “Maintenance and Quality Verification Stand-Down” immediately followed by several redacted lines. Later the section states “This incident triggered a maintenance and quality verification stand-down to determine systemic root causes for increasing aircraft impoundment and suspension of operations incidents to date.” And later, “The focus areas are Software, Rework/Repairs, System Check Out Procedures (SCOPs) and Aerospace Equipment Instructions (AEIs).” (page 4.) The discussion in the section titled “Improve Software Productivity” refers to “F-35 stand-down events” and explains that a “Joint Process Review” effort to address software issues was “postponed until further notice as it was overcome by F-35 stand down events that took precedence.” (Page 18.)

This “stand down” would appear to have some significance, but has not been reported to the public by L-M or DOD.

Note: for links to the DCMA reports cited here see Winslow Wheeler, Pentagon Reports Document Continuing Lockheed-Martin Failures, Center for Defense Information, 24 February 2010.