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Speaking with Dakota Wood

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Here’s the interview with Dakota Wood, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments on VH-71, EFV, MV-22, JSF, Seabasing and distributed operations.


– Christian

Boots on the Ground — Inside the Marine One Program and Other Corps Initiatives

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

You all know by now that Sen. John McCain raised the issue of the VH-71 Kestrel helicopter program — the so-called “Marine One” buy — at the “fiscal summit” yesterday at the White House.

Defense Tech has been on the story for a while but had a hard time getting details on it (sensing the political implications of the program and it’s international component, the program’s been a bit locked down a la F-22).

One thing we did know is that McCain’s defense staff had eyed this program for cancellation months ago. Not sure why they targeted this one in particular, but I have some background on the program from my reporting of the pre-downselect wrangling between Sikorsky and LockMart/Augusta-Westland a few years ago.

I’m not really sure of the urgency of the program — in other words I don’t have a clear sense of how long the VH-3 aircraft are going to be “airworthy” or what the cost-benefit of keeping them in the air vs. buying a new helo really is. My sense was that the award to LockMart/A-W was a bit more risky than the Sikorsky platform, since Sikorsky is cranking out H-60s and was offering an S-92 derivative for the new Prez chopper (it’s just a stretched out version of the 60). How much of the LockMart award was a reach-out to Euro allies is unclear, but more than a few sources say it clearly was.

Program allies have been saying that the increased costs are a result of increased requirements — particularly nuclear hardening and other high-tech add ons. And that may be true. But it seems to me this program was awarded in an environment when these sorts of cost escalations could be expected and accommodated with some grumbling…and I wonder how much the program relied in the idea that “hey, we can’t cut corners with the president’s helicopter” to give them a pass.

Well, looks like the chickens have come to roost.

So, in an effort to give DT readers a bit more perspective, I’m scheduled a live podcast with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ Dakota Wood, a former Marine Officer and subject matter expert on Marine programs and organization. We’ll use the opportunity to talk to him a little bit about this and other Corps initiatives at 1430 EST today.

Hope you’ll listen in…

– Christian

The Weekly Buzz — Episode 2

Saturday, February 21st, 2009


Welcome to the 2nd edition of The Weekly Buzz.

In this episode, DoD Buzz Editor Colin Clark and contributor Greg Grant talk about breaking news on Pentagon acquisition chief John Young’s replacement, the JLTV protest denial, turning Marines into SOF-like units, the satellite intel gap and what a surge could do for Afghanistan.

DoD Acquisition chief:

  • Ashton Carter could face Senate opposition — he’s smarter about nukes than the overall acquisition. community.
  • Sources say he’s a no go, but Obama sources say they’re sticking with him…for now.


  • Pentagon is relieved that GAO overturned — upholding would have crippled all acquisition programs.
  • Still won’t stop the tide of protests — will becoming automatic for most big programs since companies will be looking for any piece they can get of a dwindling acquisition pie.

USMC SOF-like org:

  • Gen. James Mattis, head of JFCOM, is pushing for new organization of some Marine units to get off FOBs and push smaller teams into the bush — thinks it’s a better way to fight “irregular” wars.
  • It’s not about high-priced whistles and bells — it’s about training, organization and manpower structure.
  • Admits that could lead to more Wanat scenarios but depends on support from air and other “cover.”

Sat/Intel gap:

  • Dennis Blair convened a panel of 10-pound brains to individually examine gaps and suggest solutions — each will report to Blair individually.
  • Had a 14-hour meeting to scrub all programs and current systems.
  • Debate between small, cheap satellites — exposes priority conflict between Pentagon which wants intel to ground units and CIA/Intel community that wants the highest resolution intel for the president.

Afghanistan push:

  • Unclear how much will help — surprised it took so long. Could you imagine if Casey or Abizaid had asked for more troops in Iraq and it had taken this long to send them?
  • Stryker units will help guard routes and pound southern insurgents.
  • Aviation brigade most sought after — SOF has been saying “don’t send more men, send more helos.”

Please listen to the entire episode to hear more details and to find out what’s coming up next week.

– Christian