Tag Archives: Pentagon

The Unaffordable Pentagon Audit

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Unaffordable Pentagon Audit

“THE NATIONAL INTEREST”

“To perform this audit is both expensive and time-consuming, and in many cases duplicates already-existing proven DOD oversight mechanisms.

The audit is larger in scope and size than any other attempted of its kind, dissecting a vast global enterprise of more than two million people.

The total cost of the 2018 audit will be an eye-popping $847 million. That’s a lot for an already cash-strapped Pentagon—the equivalent of eight Air Force F-35 fighter jets.”


 “Who can forget the Pentagon hammer that cost $600? It may be apocryphal, but it has symbolized inefficient spending for more than two decades. And last year a newspaper headline breathlessly shouted, “Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste.”

So seemingly only a heretic would question the need to audit the Department of Defense. But what if a Pentagon audit represents a pyrrhic victory—a quest where the results won’t justify the cost?

The Pentagon is cooperating, having recently announced that it’s ready to undergo a financial audit after years of preparation, with DOD budget secretary David Norquist noting, “It is important that the Congress and the American people have confidence in DOD’s management of every taxpayer dollar.” Norquist went on to describe how annual audits will now become part of everyday life at DOD.

To be sure, DOD is to be commended for the hard work to get to this point. But before going too far down this road, we should assure ourselves that a costly and laborious annual financial audit of DOD, performed using commercially derived strict Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), will result in a better-functioning DOD. It’s not at all clear it will.

Congress was the driving force behind the Pentagon audit, and has long bemoaned the fact that it has never been audited. Starting in 1990, and then again in 2010, Congress passed laws that required the Pentagon to undergo a full financial audit starting in fiscal year 2018.

Since then, elected officials rarely miss an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the audit. Sen. Chuck Grassley, for example, said in a recent speech on the Senate floor that “26 years of hard-core foot-dragging shows that internal resistance to auditing the books runs deep,” while in April, eight U.S. senators told Defense Secretary Mattis that they were concerned, statingthat “clean audits inherently provide controls that guard against fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Reasonable, right? But at what cost? Norquist also noted that to conduct the annual examination will require a small army of auditors—some 1,200—to examine every nook, cranny and ledger of the Pentagon’s sprawling bureaucracy. Norquist also estimated that the total cost of the 2018 audit will be an eye-popping $847 million. That’s a lot for an already cash-strapped Pentagon—the equivalent of eight Air Force F-35 fighter jets.

Why so expensive? Because, like corporate audits following similar standards, the Pentagon audit looks at much more than financial “books.” It also spot-checks property records and estimated values of millions of pieces of equipment and facilities, such as vintage armored personnel carriers and World War II–era armories, verifies data in personnel records for accuracy, such as marriage certificates and birthdays, and examines thousands of other records and systems.

The audit is larger in scope and size than any other attempted of its kind, dissecting a vast global enterprise of more than two million people. To perform this audit is both expensive and time-consuming, and in many cases duplicates already-existing proven DOD oversight mechanisms.

So why do it? Good question. U.S. corporations by law undergo annual strict financial audits to assure potential investors in capital markets of the soundness of their offerings as described in their financial statements. But DOD is not a corporation, and has no corresponding need.

And, perhaps most significantly, financial audits are not the best tools for discovering inefficiencies, waste or fraud. For those purposes, there are far better methods such as zero-based budgeting, contract or waste audits, strong management and continuous process-improvement techniques. Indeed, the few U.S. companies that don’t have to undergo a financial audit usually avoidit, since it usually does not result in significant reductions in waste or fraud compared to the costs involved.

U.S. taxpayers deserve confidence that the Defense Department operates in an honest and efficient manner. But at a time when our military is deteriorating for want of adequate resources, highlighted daily by ship accidents, crushing maintenance backlogs and munitions shortages, an $847 million annual audit—accompanied by, at best, modest expectations for improvement—is a mistake the Pentagon can ill afford.”

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-unaffordable-pentagon-audit-23784

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentagon Accidentally Exposes Web Monitoring Operation

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Pentagon Cloud Leaks

“PC MAGAZINE”

“The Department of Defense accidentally exposed an intelligence-gathering operation, thanks to an online storage misconfiguration.

It neglected to make those storage servers private, collecting billions of public internet posts from social media, news sites, and web forums and storing them on Amazon S3 repositories.

‘The data exposed in one of the three buckets is estimated to contain at least 1.8 billion posts of scraped internet content over the past 8 years’, UpGuard said in a Friday report –  So anyone with a free Amazon AWS account could browse and download the data.”


“Much of the data was scraped from news sites, web forums, and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. The information includes content relating to Iraqi and Pakistani politics and ISIS, but also social media posts made by Americans.

In a Twitter direct message, Vickery told PCMag he “made sure the [storage] buckets we discovered were secured before anything was brought to media attention.” However, he has no idea if anyone else, like malicious parties, ever accessed the data.

DOD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But the Pentagon confirmed the accidental leak to CNN.

Why the Defense Department was collecting this information isn’t clear. But it certainly raises eyebrows at a time when concerns persist about US surveillance programs. It also comes as US agencies are struggling on the cybersecurity front. The National Security Agency, for instance, failed to stop breaches of its own classified hacking tools.

“Even the most sensitive intelligence organizations are not immune to sizable cyber risk,” UpGuard said in its Friday report.

The Defense Department isn’t the only one to commit the security slip-up with AWS cloud storage. Earlier this year, UpGuard found that Verizon and Dow Jones made the same mistake, effectively exposing their private customer data to the public.

Update: In an email, US Central Command commented on the accidental leak.

“Once alerted to the unauthorized access, CENTCOM implemented additional security measures to prevent unauthorized access,” said Major Josh Jacques, a spokesman for US Central Command.

The purpose of the data collection still wasn’t made clear. But Jacques told PCMag: “The information you are asking about is not sensitive information. It is not collected nor processed for any intelligence purposes.”

The data was actually provided by a contractor using “commercial off-the-shelf programs,” according to Jacques.

“U.S. Central Command has used commercial off-the-shelf and web-based programs to support public information gathering, measurement and engagement activities of our online programs on public sites,” he added. “The information is widely available to anyone who conducts similar online activities.”

https://www.pcmag.com/news/357465/pentagon-accidentally-exposes-web-monitoring-operation

 

 

 

Top DoD Buyer Shifts Programs To The Services

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Adquisition Shift

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“Revealed today in her first public appearance since her confirmation that she is making fundamental changes in how the Office of Secretary of Defense starts and manages military weapons programs.

These moves could begin a significant shift of power away from the Office of Secretary of Defense to the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.”


“Until today, only new major programs were managed by the four services. “I am relooking at the decisions  that have been made on older programs too. We are right in the midst of discussing that. There may well be others that go back and are relegated to the services,” Lord told me. She hasn’t decided yet, she said, how many of the OSD acquisition workforce will migrate to the services to help manage them: “We are actively talking about people moving.”

Breaking D readers know better than about anyone how this all started. Sen. John McCain hired Bill Greenwalt, a top acquisition expert, to change the laws governing Pentagon acquisition. Greenwalt wrote legislation, later passed as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, that shifted the balance of power from OSD to the services. All new programs, it says, will be managed by the services. Lord’s decision to shift most programs to the services may mean the beginning of the ascendancy of the services in starting and managing weapons programs.

Lord also said she expects to see a 50 percent cut in the time it takes to get a program started, the time it takes the Pentagon to turn a requirement into a Request for Information (RFI) or for Proposal (RFP). “No kidding — we’re going to get there on that,” she told the conference. How exactly she’s going to measure that wasn’t clear. “I know it’s way too long,” she told reporters. “I learned that on the other side.”

Lord also declared that, while she didn’t want to regularly meet with individual CEOs, she did plan to meet individually with the heads of the top six defense primes twice each year. She met yesterday with Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics‘ CEO. Generally, she said she preferred to work with the defense industry groups, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the Aerospace Industries Association(AIA), and the Professional Services Council (PSC).

A key driver for her push to speed acquisition is the need for weapons to be useful for multi-domain battle. “We need to be interoperable,” Lord said We have to have all the systems communicate with one another, and they have to share data and we have to be able to mine that data.”

Finally, Lord also told reporters after her talk that “I’m not sure that” a Space Corps— pushed by Rep. Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Committee –would help improve space acquisition, noting there is “a very healthy debate” underway about it.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/10/top-dod-buyer-lord-shifts-programs-to-services/

Pentagon Product Acquisition Focus Must Be On Requirements Document

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Pentagon requirements

“DEFENSE NEWS” By Gen. John Michael Loh (retired)

“The most important, yet most overlooked product in the defense acquisition system is a succinct operational requirements document.

The Defense Department’s acquisition process is so overloaded with Office of the Secretary of Defense as well as Joint Staff bureaucracy, unqualified personnel, multiple reviews and councils, and duplication of the service’s requirements organizations, the requirement gets lost.”


“The operational requirements document, or ORD, is the foundation of the acquisition process from concept development through system development.That series of processes — the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System, or JCIDS — in place since 2003, adds little value and never focuses on the ORD as the centerpiece.In fact, the requirements document isn’t called the “requirements document” in JCIDS. As the lengthy JCIDS process proceeds at a snail’s pace, what substitutes for a requirements document goes by various names like “initial capability document,” then, the “capability development document,” then the “capability production document,” without having a clear owner for each. An end-to-end ORD just doesn’t exist in JCIDS.

Instead of the top-down, JCIDS-based requirements process, the requirements process should be bottom-up with single ownership by the service’s major operating commands throughout. Putting together and managing an airtight, bulletproof ORD should be the first priority and main focus of activity during concept development leading to milestone one. After milestone one, the ORD should stay in the forefront of every decision and remain unchanged. That is the way the system worked before JCIDS.

We need to learn from the past and get back to basics in the acquisition system starting with the requirements process. From the start of the F-15 and F-16 programs in the early 70s through the F-22 start in the late 80s, concept development began with small, smart teams working together from the operating and developing commands; understanding the need; conducting trade-off analyses to assess risk and cost, in continuous dialogue, producing a requirements document unfettered by top-down micromanagement or wall-to-wall reviews and nitpicking.

The teams were manned by smart operators from the major operating command, who understood the capability needed, and by technical experts from the development command, who understood the state of the art and the risk to go beyond it. They worked in harmony in horizontal dialogue, not having to go through vertical chains of command to communicate with each other, as is the case today. Nor did the Pentagon interfere.

This process worked to produce remarkably well-constructed ORDs in less than a year in most cases. The ORD, approved by the operating and development command, went directly to the service chief and secretary for validation, then to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, which made sure it included joint service support.

Typically, the work in the Pentagon took less than six months to validate the requirement and put it on the street to industry. The key was the work done by the small teams, freed from bureaucratic tyranny and micromanagement by non-experts.

The ORD served as the main product and basis for the system specification, request for proposals and the source selection process. It kept discipline in the acquisition system throughout all pre-full-scale development milestones.

However, building small, smart teams is essential but difficult. Experience and expertise are prerequisites. Experts in development command teams must know technical and cost risks, and have a working knowledge of operational matters. Experts in the operational command teams must know threats and concepts of operations, and a working knowledge of acquisition matters. But, these experts must be trained and educated for their roles.

Today, particularly in the major operating commands, the officers defining requirements are good operators but not expert in the requirements business. To make matters worse, the responsibility for defining requirements has been subordinated in many operational commands under the plans and programming functions.

Many things need fixing in the defense acquisition system. Reform should start with eliminating JCIDS and returning to what worked — making the ORD the foundational document and driving force in acquisition programs created by small, smart teams from the responsible commands in the services The result will be an acquisition cycle that is years shorter than JCIDS, and systems that meet needed capabilities on cost and schedule.”

https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/2017/07/26/defense-acquisition-focus-on-the-requirement-document-not-the-process-commentary/

About the author: (wikipedia)

“John Michael Loh (born March 14, 1938)[1] is a retired four-star general in the United States Air Force who last served as Commander, Air Combat Command from June 1992 to July 1995. His other four-star assignment include being the 24th Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force from June 1990 – March 1991, and Commander, Tactical Air Command from March 1991 – June 1992.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Loh

John Loh, official military photo.JPEG

Industry/Pentagon Revolving Door Featured in Deputy Secretary of Defense Confirmation

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Industry Pentagon Revolving Door

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“Mr. Shanahan, you’re not making me happy,” the chairman said. “You just ducked basically every question Sen. Fischer asked you.”

After Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer tried to elicit the nominee’s position on how to respond to Russian violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, McCain stepped in.

McCain’s biggest objection to Shanahan, however, was the nominee’s 31 years at America’s second largest defense contractor, Boeing. (Only Lockheed Martin sells more to the Pentagon. And Sen. McCain, thanks to the long-running scandal over Boeing’s former tanker deal, is believed to harbor a deep suspicion of Boeing’s conduct).

“Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning,” Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain told the administration’s nominee for deputy secretary of defense this morning. “Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or I will not take your name up for a vote before this committee. Am I perfectly clear?”

“Very clear,” said Patrick Shanahan, enduring a rocky confirmation hearing for the No. 2 position in the Pentagon, which remains unusually short on senior officials. Other senators at the hearing asked Shanahan about Pentagon procurement, especially about nurturing innovation, continuing the Third Off Strategy for high-tech weapons, and starting the Pentagon’s long-awaited audit this fall. But McCain repeatedly took the mike to berate the Trump nominee for non-answers on Russia and for potential conflicts of interest after his 31 years at Boeing.

In that initial exchange, Shanahan’s specific offense was giving a vague non-answer in his written testimony to the committee’s question on whether he supported providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine. In the hearing, ironically, when McCain asked Shanahan to clarify, he stated his support for arming the Ukrainians so swiftly and unequivocally that the irascible but aging senator seemed momentarily thrown before returning to the attack.

“I want to move forward as quickly as I can with your nomination,” McCain told Shanahan at the hearing’s end, “(but) I am concerned. 90 percent of defense spending is in the hands of five corporations, of which you represent one. I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.”

“Mr. Shanahan, I think you’re a fine man; you have an outstanding record; (but) take a look at your responses that you sent to this committee,” McCain said. “Some of them were less than specific, at least one of them (was) almost insulting.”

Citing US casualties in Afghanistan, Ukrainian casualties against Russian-backed separatists, and the US shoot-down of a Syrian jet, McCain made it clear he wants clear answers on administration policy — and if the committee doesn’t get them, it will find answers of its own as it works on the annual defense policy bill.

“I want some answers, I want some straightforward answers, (and) if they don’t give us a strategy from the people that I admire most, we’re going to put a strategy in,” McCain warned. “I want to work with this administration, I want to work with this president, I want to work with the new secretary of defense, — who I happen to be one of the most ardent admirers of — but I have to tell you, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to mark-up up the defense authorization bill….The president has two choices: Either give us a strategy or we will put a strategy that we develop into the defense authorization bill.”

“Somehow over the last several years, this committee seems to have been treated as sort of a rubber stamp,” McCain concluded. “That’s not what the Constitution of the United States says. The Constitution of the United States says that the Senate would provide advice and consent.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/mccain-hammers-depsecdef-nominee-shanahan-on-russia-boeing/

Revolving Door Picking Up Speed at the Pentagon and Homeland Security

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Pentagon Revolving Door

“THE INTERCEPT”

“Defense firms have eagerly watched as Trump recently unveiled a budget calling for $54 billion in additional military spending next year.

President Trump has weaponized the revolving door by appointing defense contractors and their lobbyists to key government positions as he seeks to rapidly expand the military budget and homeland security programs.”


“The spending spree will provide a brand new opportunity for defense lobbyists to get business for their clients. And the most effective lobbying generally involves contacting former colleagues in positions of power.

Two Department of Homeland Security appointments Trump announced Tuesday morning are perfect examples.

Benjamin Cassidy, installed by Trump as assistant secretary for legislative affairs, previously worked as a senior executive at Boeing’s international business sector, marketing Boeing military products abroad. Jonathan Rath Hoffman, named assistant secretary for public affairs, previously worked as a consultant to the Chertoff Group, the sprawling homeland security consulting firm founded by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The firm has come under fire for advising a variety of firms seeking government contracts, including for full-body scanners deemed invasive by privacy activists. Hoffman also led a state chapter of a neoconservative military-contractor advocacy organization during the 2016 presidential campaign. Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

Personnel from major defense companies now occupy the highest ranks of the administration including cabinet members and political appointees charged with implementing the Trump agenda. At least 15 officials with financial ties to defense contractors have been either nominated or appointed so far, with potentially more industry names on the way as Trump has yet to nominate a variety of roles in the government, including Army and Navy secretaries.

Before their confirmations, Jim Mattis and John Kelly, the secretaries of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, were primarily paid by defense firms.

Mattis was paid $242,000, along with up to $500,000 in vested stock options, as director of General Dynamics, a company that produces submarines, tanks, and a range of munitions for the military. Mattis also received speaking fees from several firms, including Northrop Grumman. Kelly previously served in a number of roles at defense contracting consulting and lobbying firms and worked directly as an adviser to Dyncorp, a company that contracts with the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Major lobbying groups for the arms companies, including the National Defense Industrial Association and the Aerospace Industries Association, welcomed the selection of Secretary Mattis, who has already scheduled meetings with industry executives. Secretary Kelly has pledged to work more closely with the private sector, promising greater collaboration with private firms to accomplish his agency’s goals.

To carry out this private-sector friendly agenda, defense officials have taken major roles throughout Trump’s administration.

Pat Shanahan, nominated last week by Trump to serve as deputy secretary of defense, is a vice president at Boeing who formerly led the company’s missile defense subsidiary. Disclosures show that Elaine Duke, the nominee for deputy secretary of homeland security, previously consulted for Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics, and the Columbia Group, a small contractor that builds unmanned naval drones.

The nominee to lead the Air Force, former New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson, worked as a consultant to a Lockheed Martin subsidiary after retiring from public office. The company sought Wilson’s help to maintain a $2.4 billion a year contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, the premiere nuclear weapons research facility, and to keep the contract closed to competition. “Lockheed Martin should aggressively lobby Congress, but keep a low profile,” Wilson urged the company in a memo revealed later by an inspector general report.

Trump’s pick for national security council chief of staff, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, has worked at a variety of defense contracting companies. After serving in senior roles in Iraq’s provisional government after the 2003 invasion, Kellogg left the government for the private sector. He told the Washington Post in 2005 that he joined Oracle to “establish a homeland security business unit” at the firm, and later joined CACI International, a company with major contracts in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following CACI, Kellogg joined Cubic Defense in 2009 to develop the company’s combat training business.

A list of temporary political appointees recently published by ProPublica reveals a number of less-known influence peddlers who have taken senior roles in the administration.

Chad Wolf and Lora Ries, two recently appointed advisers at the Department of Homeland Security, are formerly registered defense lobbyists. Wolf lobbied for Harris Corp. and the United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Ries previously lobbied for a range of defense and homeland security contractors, including Altegrity, Boeing, Implant Sciences Corp., General Dynamics, L1 Identity Solutions, and TASC Inc.

In the White House, one of the newest members of the National Economic Council staff is Michael Catanzaro, formerly a registered lobbyist working for both Boeing and Halliburton.

Palanatir Technology’s Justin Mikolay, formerly a chief in-house lobbyist for the company who worked to win over billions of dollars in Army contracts, was quietly appointed to serve as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Several appointees are associated with SBD Advisors, a consulting that firm that advertises its ability to facilitate “engagements between the technology and defense sectors,” and is advised by a high profile team of former government leaders, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired Adm. Mike Mullen and former National Security Agency Director of Operations Ron Moultrie.

SBD Advisors’d Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino work as temporary political appointees at the Office of the Defense Secretary, according to the list assembled by ProPublica. Kristan King Nevins, recently appointed as chief of staff to Second Lady Karen Pence, also previously worked at SBD Advisors as the director of communications.

The Trump administration is the “military-industrial complex personified,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung noted that while the administration is bringing arms industry officials into government, it is also demanding a massive increase in military spending and appears to be escalating conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

In short, the Trump proposals are an armsmaker’s dream come true,” he said. “

https://theintercept.com/2017/03/21/revolving-door-military/

 

 

What Mark Thompson Has Learned Covering the Military for 40 Years

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Image:  “Otherwords.org”

“Scant public interest yields ceaseless wars to nowhere”

 

“Straus Military Reform Project – Center for Defense Information at POGO”

“It turns out that my spending four years on an amusement-park midway trying to separate marks from their money was basic training for the nearly 40 years I spent reporting on the U.S. military.

Both involve suckers and suckees. One just costs a lot more money, and could risk the future of United States instead of a teddy bear.

But after 15 years of covering U.S. defense for daily newspapers in Washington, and 23 more for Time magazine until last December, it’s time to share what I’ve learned. I’m gratified that the good folks at the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight, through their Straus Military Reform Project, are providing me this weekly soapbox to comment on what I’ve come to see as the military-industrial circus.

As ringmaster, I can only say: Boy, are we being taken to the cleaners. And it’s not so much about money as it is about value. Too much of today’s U.S. fighting forces look like it came from Tiffany’s, with Walmart accounting for much of the rest. There’s too little Costco, or Amazon Prime.

There was a chance, however slight, that President Trump would blaze a new trail on U.S. national security. Instead, he has simply doubled down.

We have let the Pentagon become the engine of its own status quo.

For too long, the two political parties have had Pavlovian responses when it comes to funding the U.S. military (and make no mistake about it: military funding has trumped military strategy for decades). Democrats have long favored shrinking military spending as a share of the federal budget, while Republicans yearn for the days when it accounted for a huge chunk of U.S. government spending. Neither is the right approach. Instead of seeing the Pentagon as the way to defend against all threats, there needs to be a fresh, long-overdue accounting of what the real threats are, and which of those are best addressed by military means.

The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which is supposed to do just that every four years, has become an engine of the status quo. The Pentagon today is little more than a self-licking ice cream cone, dedicated in large measure to its growth and preservation. Congress is a willing accomplice, refusing to shutter unneeded military bases due to the job losses they’d mean back home. The nuclear triad remains a persistent Cold War relic (even former defense secretary Bill Perry wants to scrap it), with backers of subs, bombers and ICBMs embracing one another against their real threat: a hard-nosed calculus on the continuing wisdom of maintaining thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

Unfortunately, it’s getting worse as partisan enmity grows. It’s quaint to recall the early congressional hearings I covered (Where have you gone, Barry Goldwater?), when lawmakers would solemnly declare that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” The political opposition’s reactions to Jimmy Carter’s failed raid to rescue U.S. hostages held in Iran in 1980 that killed eight U.S. troops, and to the loss of 241 U.S. troops on Ronald Reagan’s peacekeeping mission in Beirut in 1983, was tempered.

But such grim events have been replaced Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi and Donald Trump’s Jan. 29 special-ops raid in Yemen. Rancid rancor by both sides cheapens the sacrifice of the five Americans who died. It only adds a confusing welter of new rules designed to ensure they aren’t repeated. Yet mistakes are a part of every military operation, and an unwillingness to acknowledge that fact, and act accordingly, leads to pol-mil paralysis. It’s amazing that the deaths of Glen Doherty, William “Ryan” Owens, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods seem to have generated more acrimony and second-guessing than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which 6,908 U.S. troops have died.

There is today a fundamental disconnect between the nation and its wars. We saw it in President Obama’s persistent leeriness when it came to the use of military force, and his successor’s preoccupation with spending and symbolism instead of strategy. In his speech to Congress Feb. 28, Trump mentioned the heroism of Navy SEAL Owens, but didn’t say where he died (Yemen). Nor did he mention Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, where nearly 15,000 U.S. troops are fighting what Trump boldly declared is “radical Islamic terrorism.”

But he did declare he is seeking “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” His $54 billion boost would represent a 10% hike, and push the Pentagon spending, already well beyond the Cold War average used to keep the now-defunct Soviet Union at bay—even higher.

“We are going to have very soon the finest equipment in the world,” Trump said from the deck of the yet-to-be-commissioned carrier Gerald R. Ford on Thursday in Hampton, Va. “We’re going to start winning again.” What’s surprising is Trump’s apparent ignorance that the U.S. military has had, pound-for-pound, the world’s finest weapons since World War II. What’s stunning is his apparent belief that better weapons lead inevitably to victory. There is a long list of foes that knows better.

It’s long past time for a tough look at what U.S. taxpayers are getting for the $2 billion they spend on their military and veterans every day. It would have been great if Trump had been willing to scrub the Pentagon budget and reshape it for the 21st Century. But the U.S. has been unwilling to do that ever since the Cold War ended more than 25 years ago. Instead, it simply shrunk its existing military, then turned on a cash gusher following 9/11.

I know many veterans who are angered that their sacrifice, and that of buddies no longer around, have been squandered in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I recall flying secretly into Baghdad in December 2003 with then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The bantam SecDef declared on that trip that the U.S. military had taken the “right approach” in training Iraqi troops, and that they were fighting “well and professionally.” Last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the fifth man to hold that job since Rumsfeld, declared in Baghdad that the U.S. training of the Iraqi military is “developing very well.” His visit, like Rumsfeld’s 14 years earlier, wasn’t announced in advance.

Even as Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, tries to chart a path forward in Iraq, it’s worth remembering that he earned his spurs 26 years ago as a captain in a tank battle with Iraqi forces.

If we’re going to spend—few would call it an investment—$5 trillion fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Syria, and Yemen), don’t we, as Americans, deserve a better return?

The problem is that the disconnect between the nation and its wars (and war-fighters) also includes us:

  • Our representatives in Congress prefer not to get their hands bloodied in combat, so they avoid declaring war. They prefer to subcontract it out to the White House, and we let them get away with it.
  • Through the Pentagon, we have subcontracted combat out to an all-volunteer force. Only about 1% of the nation has fought in its wars since 9/11. We praise their courage even as we thank God we have no real skin in the game.
  • In turn, the uniformed military services have hired half their fighting forces from the ranks of private, for-profit contractors, who handle the critical support missions that used to be done by soldiers. The ruse conveniently lets the White House keep an artificially-low ceiling on the number of troops in harm’s way. We like those lower numbers.
  • Finally, we have contracted out paying for much of the wars’ costs to our children, and grandchildren. We are using their money to fight our wars. They’ll be thanking us in 2050, for sure.

Until and unless Americans take responsibility for the wars being waged in their name, and the weapons being bought to wage them, this slow bleeding of U.S. blood and treasure will continue. “We have met the enemy,” another Pogo once said, “and he is us.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/03/military-industrial-circus-national-security-column.html

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2By: Mark Thompson, National Security Analyst

Mark Thompson Profile

Mark Thompson writes for the Center for Defense Information at POGO.

 

Silicon Valley’s Pentagon Ties Stay Strong

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Image:  “Wired”

“WIRED”

“On the surface, left-leaning Silicon Valley and the more conservative US military seem worlds apart.

But the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board continues to bring the two together.

Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter created the board in March 2016 so that the Pentagon could tap some of the best minds in science and technology. It counts among its members prominent Silicon Valley leaders such as Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Instagram’s Marne Levine and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman.Despite uncertainty about its future under Trump’s administration, all the board members plan to remain until the end of their terms. They’ve also dodged the public controversy swirling around Silicon Valley leaders who maintain advisory ties to the Trump White House.

“There is a real contrast between the enthusiasm of tech leaders to serve on the Pentagon’s Innovation Board and the positive public atmosphere that surrounds it and the controversy that surrounds Trump’s CEO advisory group, which CEOs from companies such as Uber have bailed from,” says Peter Singer, a defense expert at the New America Foundation and coauthor of the 2014 book “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

The fact that Silicon Valley’s current advisory role to the Pentagon has proven substantially less controversial than its White House parallel is not without irony. “It points to how the Defense Department is now viewed as the bastion of sanity and respect for law and science, versus the White House as a space of controversy,” Singer says.

Calling All Geeks

To date, the board’s “seemingly nonpartisan ideas” have been “well-received within the defense policy community,” Singer says. But he cautioned that ordinary bureaucratic resistance could slow adoption of its recommendations, unless Mattis and senior Pentagon leaders make them a priority.

Still, the Silicon Valley approach has some momentum within the military, particularly around open source initiatives. The Forge.mil program—founded by the Defense Information Systems Agency in 2009—has enabled collaborative work on open source and community source software across the Pentagon. Separately, the Military Open Source Software (Mil-OSS) community has connected developers in the military and civilian worlds since its creation in 2009. Such open source approaches could help the Pentagon move faster and innovate inexpensively, says Joshua Davis, senior research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and co-founder of the Mil-OSS community.

On Jan. 9, the Defense Innovation Advisory Board voted to approve 11 recommendations that covered issues such as boosting cybersecurity for advanced weapons, and funding new research in artificial intelligence. Outside experts such as Davis and Singer especially lauded the board’s recommendation to make computer science a “core competency,” by creating a specialized career track for military service members and recruiting fresh talent from both the military and civilian worlds. The Pentagon previously announced its commitment to this recommendation during an interim proposal period in Oct. 2016.

“That right there is a multi-decade kind of thing that’s not going to happen overnight,” Davis says. “But it’s probably one of the first things you can do to build a culture to accept innovation happening this way.”

Training a generation of troops on computer science would have outsized impact because many of the other board recommendations will not succeed without it, says David A. Wheeler, an expert on developing secure software, open source software, and software innovation. “The [Department of Defense] already has tracks for lawyers and doctors,” Wheeler says. “Sadly, software expertise is thin within government, even though modern systems are completely controlled by software.”

A Few Good Recs

Other recommendations clarify existing Pentagon practices. For example, the board suggested that the Pentagon “require all systems purpose-built for the military to have their source code available to the Department,” so that the government retains the rights to and can modify the code when needed. That helps ensure military software remains up-to-date and relatively secure. (Davis describes source code as the equivalent to the recipe that the computer “kitchen” relies upon to cook up the executable software.)

Standard contracting clauses for custom-developed military software already give the government such rights, Wheeler says. But he notes that officials sometimes waive those rights because they don’t realize the systems they’re purchasing have custom software, and fail to specify the software as a contract deliverable.

An interim recommendation calling for a new “global and secure” online system that would hold “all or most” of the Pentagon’s data has yet to be approved—and will likely prove very tricky to implement. Many companies in Silicon Valley and other industries already have their own internal systems to collect and share data in a way that boosts efficiency and productivity. But companies typically don’t worry about devastating national security consequences if they get hacked by foreign powers or malicious agents. “Security isn’t just part of the problem, it is the fundamental problem,” Wheeler says.

The best commercial security products can’t protect the Pentagon’s data from determined adversaries backed by foreign governments, Wheeler says. As a result, the Pentagon has intentionally kept its many systems and networks isolated, to limit the damage that can be caused by breaches of security. But the board has discussed using so-called “formal methods” that can mathematically prove a computer system is immune to entire classes of cyberattacks—a promising approach that still requires much more development.

It’s still unclear how Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s Secretary of Defense, will handle the board’s recommendations. He has the final say on whether the Pentagon fully embraces the board’s ideas.

“At the staff level, we have had very productive conversations with the President’s transition team,” says Joshua Marcuse, Executive Director at Defense Innovation Board.

The US military’s mission will likely never be fully compatible with the Silicon Valley culture that Singer describes as “fast, flat in structure, and happy to fail and fail rapidly.” But it’s still refreshing to see a collaboration between government and tech that’s not fraught with controversy, and that may actually yield some positive results. After all, if the military’s going to meet the technological demands of 21st-century warfare, it’s going to need a few good geeks.”

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/despite-trump-silicon-valleys-pentagon-ties-stay-strong/

Budget Control Act and the Pentagon – The Elephant in the Room

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Image:  Vestedway.com

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”`

“The Elephant in the room is the Budget Control Act [BCA] that imposes strict limits to federal discretionary spending.

Mattis’ budget guidance goes out the window if the BCA is not repealed.

Defense pundits and industry watchers were surprised this week when the Pentagon released extensive new “budget guidance” from Secretary James Mattis that spells out the process for how the Pentagon will justify its upcoming funding request to Congress. The proposed budgets will seek to plug immediate funding holes but also set in motion the military buildup that President Trump promised.

Photo: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon (DEFENSE DEPARTMENT)

“It’s our hope and intent that we can operate in a budget environment outside of sequestration,” said Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. “We’ll continue to work these budget submissions very closely with the Office of Management and Budget.”

Mattis has held private discussions with members of Congress on the issue but Davis would not comment on whether the secretary is confident that the BCA caps will be lifted any time soon.

The restrictions in the Budget Control Act are in effect until fiscal year 2021. “We have not seen any plan to lift or strike the BCA and foresee difficulty getting a major hike through fiscal conservatives and Senate Democrats,” noted industry analyst Roman Schweizer, of Cowen Washington Research Group. “OMB’s budget blueprint is expected this month and the reaction to it will be the first indicators of likelihood.”

It is noteworthy that the Pentagon is putting out documents on its budget “sausage-making” when there are no top-line targets yet from OMB, Schweizer observed.

Davis said Mattis intends to build the budget request from the ground up, based on legitimate needs rather than artificial targets. “We don’t just pick a number and fill it in with capabilities,” he said. “We’ll come up with very real capabilities we need to restore readiness and balance programs. Then we’ll work to get the appropriate price tag for it.”

This will not be a free-for-all, Davis said. “Secretary Mattis has said he wants to be a faithful steward and get maximum value for the taxpayer dollar. That’s what this process is designed to do.”

According to the three-phase plan, the Pentagon will request by March 1 an emergency budget amendment for fiscal year 2017 to fund immediate needs like precision-guided munitions and pilot flying hours. The fiscal year 2018 budget proposal due May 1 would seek longer-term investments to increase the size and capability of U.S. forces. The foundation for the 2019-2023 five-year budget would be a new National Defense Strategy that the Pentagon is now drafting. The Trump administration also has ordered a nuclear posture review and a missile defense review, both of which could add significant new expenditures.

The Pentagon’s budget not only faces huge political and fiscal pressures but also practical constraints such as a narrow window of time on the congressional calendar.

“There is lots to do, and not much time,” said Bloomberg Government analyst Rob Levinson. A deadline to increase the national debt limit looms March 16. Federal funding for fiscal year 2017 runs out April 28, when the current continuing resolution expires and action will be needed to prevent a government shutdown.

There are larger variables at play, too, Levinson said during a Bloomberg webinar. “Trade-off decisions could be affected by changes in relations with Russia,” he said. The Pentagon’s ambitious “third offset” strategy is predicated on the need to counter rising powers like China and Russia. “Trump appears to feel differently about Russia than many in Washington, but is concerned about China, which could steer more money to the Navy and Air Force at the expense of the Army.”

Trump, like every president, will be forced to make tradeoffs between spending plans, tax cuts and deficits, said Levinson. “A most likely outcome is increases — not necessarily equal — for defense and domestic spending with resulting deficit growth. No faction will get everything they want: not the fiscal hawks, defense hawks, Democrats or the president.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2411

Pentagon Playing Key Role in Reshaping U.S. Industrial Future

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Photo: 3D Manufacturing – US Marine Corps

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Federal agencies led by the Defense Department have been quietly laying the foundation for a high-tech manufacturing surge.

The Pentagon, notably, has been assembling a large network of government, private-sector and academic players in a bid to secure access to critical technologies the military needs, while also trying to motivate corporations to invest in advanced manufacturing research.

The Defense Department last week announced it awarded a contract to American Robotics Inc., based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to manage the “Advanced Robotics Manufacturing,” or ARM Institute, the eighth DoD-led hub that becomes the 14th member of the “Manufacturing USA” network.

Defense officials and industry analysts have hailed this business model because it spreads the financial burdens across many players and puts both the government and the private sector in a position to win big, if projects end up developing successful products that can be commercialized.

American Robotics — a consortium of state and local governments, industry, universities, community colleges and non-profit organizations from across the country — contributed $173 million to the ARM Institute. That will be combined with $80 million in federal funding.

The Pentagon is showing growing interest in these public-private partnerships at a time when it fears the U.S. military is seeing its technological edge slipping, and worries that private-sector innovations are moving far too rapidly for the government procurement bureaucracy to keep pace.

The ARM Institute will “organize the current fragmented domestic capabilities in manufacturing robotics technology and better position the United States, relative to global competition,” said a Pentagon news release.

The goal is to promote a democratization of sorts in the industry so manufacturing robots becomes less expensive and more accessible even to small businesses. “The use of robotics is already present in manufacturing environments, but today’s robots are typically expensive, singularly purposed, challenging to reprogram, and require isolation from humans for safety.” Robotic systems are viewed as essential to “achieve the level of precision required for defense and other industrial manufacturing needs, but the capital cost and complexity of use often limits small to mid-size manufacturers from utilizing the technology.”

The Pentagon for years has made it known that low-cost, multifunctional autonomous systems are at the top of its wish list. The manufacturing hubs are one vehicle to make that vision a reality.

The ARM consortium is one of the largest, with 123 industry participants, 40 members from academia and 64 government and nonprofit partners. The group will be directed to “create and then deploy robotic technology by integrating the diverse collection of industry practices and institutional knowledge across many disciplines — sensor technologies, software and artificial intelligence, materials science, human and machine behavior modeling and quality assurance.”

The Manufacturing USA network started out three years ago, when Congress authorized it in the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014. The program was previously known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The legislation was passed with bipartisan cooperation and has drawn praise from politicians for supporting small and mid-sized manufacturers, and for creating venues to train the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Each Manufacturing USA institute focuses on a technology area, such as additive manufacturing, integrated photonics or smart sensors. The federal government has committed over $1 billion, matched by more than $2 billion in non-federal investment. The Pentagon noted that the hub in Youngstown, Ohio, attracted over $90 million in new manufacturing investments and is poised to train 14,000 workers in the fundamentals of 3D printing.

In a move aimed at building awareness and shoring up support for manufacturing consortiums, the Pentagon funded an independent study that looked at the overall performance of Manufacturing USA.

The study, conducted by the consulting firm Deloitte and released last week, reported that the first eight advanced manufacturing institutes were able to bring together 1,200 companies, universities and government agencies. The value of these massive networks is that they can help to “accelerate innovation,” the Deloitte study said. Over time, these centers would be the launch pads for the future technically trained manufacturing workforce and for a “sustainable national manufacturing research infrastructure.”

The first eight Manufacturing USA institutes were established by the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. There are early signs that the organizations are reaching “tipping points” where the benefits for both the government and the private sector are self-evident, the study said.

The private-sector members include influential U.S. companies such as Boeing, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin and Ford. The study found that the institutes have created “true public-private partnerships that are successfully uniting academia, industry and government across the country.”

Deloitte analysts noted that Manufacturing USA addresses the so-called “valley of death” between research and commercialization, a problem that has plagued defense technology for decades. “By breaking down market barriers in the right technological areas, the program facilitates the acceleration of U.S. manufacturing R&D.” The institutes also focus on ensuring that there are enough workers with the right skills to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers.

The study compliments the program too for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing access to expensive equipment, pooling project costs, creating technology roadmaps and promoting knowledge exchange.

One project at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, in Chicago, linked researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology and several businesses that were seeking to commercialize wearable technologies. At the Power America advanced electronics institute in North Carolina, a member company called AgileSwitch applied a newly patented switching technique for use in high-power silicon carbide applications. The technology has applications in solar and wind turbine energy, and electric vehicles.

The Defense Department believes it has a huge stake in the success of these ventures as the Pentagon continues its pursuit of low-cost systems such as drones and surveillance sensors. One plan, for instance, is to deploy swarms of minidrones to overwhelm enemy forces and weapon systems. That will require systems that cost a fraction of current products, so they can be deployed in large numbers and used as disposable gear. Buzzwords like “distributed, persistent sensor networks” have been used to describe that vision.

Deloitte warns that Manufacturing USA should increase collaboration with the Pentagon’s own labs and avoid overlapping efforts. “Manufacturing USA was designed, in part, to complement the national labs and propel their work through the manufacturing innovation process,” the study said. “In practice, however, by focusing institute efforts on technology development, the program risks creating non-strategic overlap with these peer entities.”
http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2400