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Politricks

Dicks Best Bet to Follow Murtha as C-HAC-D

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our boy Colin Clark at DoD Buzz gets the gouge…

Rep. Norm Dicks, Boeing supporter extraordinaire, is the “closest thing to a sure thing you get in Washington” to ascend to chairmanship of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, says defense sage and consultant Loren Thompson.

I asked Thompson, who was desperately seeking salt to battle the next winter storm, if Dicks’ ascension would mean that Boeing would have undue influence on the decisions of the House spending body. “They say that becoming chairman has an effect on the way one behaves I guess we are going to see if that’s true,” Thompson said. He pointed out that Dicks comes “from a very different regional political cultural and a very different generation,” obviously referring to Murtha’s time as a Marine in Vietnam and the pretty conservative rural district from which he came in Pennsylvania.

Also, Dicks has defense contractors — Boeing preeminent among them, but not alone — in his district so if he delivers a robust defense budget the companies in his district will almost certainly benefit. Murtha headed the defense spending subcommittee but did not have major defense contractors in his district. That, Thompson said, may have contributed to Murtha’s focus on delivering defense earmarks.

The biggest programmatic winner from Dicks’ donning of the defense cardinal’s mantle will be Boeing’s tanker. Murtha pushed for a dual buy from Northrop Grumman and from Boeing. He wanted to push the buy to 26 from the planned 15 planes. Dicks has absolutely no incentive to push for a dual buy. And Northrop Grumman’s executives have pretty much concluded that they cannot win under the terms of the draft RFP.

[We’ll see if Dicks can rise above his parochial interests as chairman and do what’s best for the entire committee and the nation at large. How he handles the tanker question will surely be a good barometer.]

– Christian

Arms Shipment to Georgia UPDATE

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I received a note from a good friend with connections to the government of the Republic of Georgia late Friday totally denying the rumors about a ganked arms shipment and help for Israel’s strike plans on Iran.

From Batu Kutelia, Georgian Ambassador to the USA, Canada and Mexico:

“The story is categorically false. There was no US arms shipment that was halted in transit for any reason. Furthermore, Georgia is not cooperating with Israel on potential military action against any country. Our military cooperation with our partners is designed to increase our self defense capabilities, our interoperability with NATO, and our ability to contribute to international stability operations.”

–Christian

Dowd’s Bogus Grief Deficit

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: I know it’s not “tech” but I thought I’d throw this Op-Ed I wrote your way as food for thought before I post some techy stuff later today. Hope you like the new layout!

It was a shockingly inaccurate statement that discredited an accomplished columnist. No matter where you stand on The New York Times editorialist Maureen Dowd’s political bent, it’s hard to deny her reach and talent.

But in the reactionary defense of her anointed one — President Obama — on last weekend’s Times op-ed page, she strayed far from reality and embraced a mythology made soft by the facts.

Yes, the president’s Oct. 29 trip to Dover Air Force base in the dark of night to greet a C-17 carrying fallen Americans killed in Afghanistan was a vivid example of the reality of that war and should pause to those who call for increased commitment there. And it was honorable of Obama to see for himself the human cost of his decisions — as every commander and chief should.

But to reflexively defend the photo op engineered to create news about the president’s “sobering reminder” by claiming that the man who got us into Afghanistan in the first place never faced them is just plain bunk.

I had the honor to speak with nearly a dozen families of Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan a few years ago as part of a project with the Military Times newspapers. We wrote a wide-ranging investigative piece on the conduct of the services during the killed-in-action notification process and the support they provided along the way.

It was an intimidating assignment, but one I cherish to this day. For, unlike Dowd, who I doubt has ever spoken with the family of a fallen servicemember, I was forced to confront the world I obliquely reported from afar — to hear the quavering voices of mothers whose sons had been obliterated by roadside bombs.

And you know who else did that very same thing dozens of times in his eight years as president? The same man Dowd falsely accuses of declining to confront the reality of his war dead.

In my conversations with those who sacrificed a son, a husband, a brother, or a boyfriend, all were universally grateful for George W. Bush’s sincere — and private — conversations with them either before or directly after an event or speech at a military base. As a routine, Bush would meet behind closed doors with family members who’d lost loved ones as part of his stop at military installations.

These were not simply pro-war, anti-war, pro-Bush or anti-Bush families — they were all of the above. Some were against the Iraq war; others were steadfast, despite their unimaginable sacrifice, for victory there. But to a man and women, these grieving Americans appreciated the president’s heartfelt compassion and deep understanding of their sacrifice — and of the weight of the decision to send potentially more of America’s young to their deaths.

(more…)

Raptor Fight Shows Limits of Procurement Reform

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

f 22 production line.jpg
There should be little doubt by this point that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is an honest broker. His actions since he’s been in office suggest he has no personal or political agenda. He’s shown he deeply cares about the troops. So when he does a deep dive on the Air Force’s fighter aircraft requirement and emerges with 187 as the right number of Raptors — all things considered — Americans can feel confident that he’s doing the right thing. And taxpayers can actually start to believe that their hard-earned dollars might not ultimately be wasted. Procurement reform just might be possible.

(Cue scary music.) Then Congress shows up and smashes all hope. To wit, AP reports:

Lockheed Martin Corp.‘s F-22 program got an unexpected lift Wednesday after House lawmakers approved $369 million to continue production of the radar-evading fighter jets.
The surprise amendment, likely to reopen a debate over the necessity of the Cold War planes that cost $140 million each, was approved by the House Armed Services Committee. Republicans largely backed the measure and were joined by a handful of Democrats in a 31–30 vote.
The extra funding was adopted as part of the 2010 Defense Department spending bill mark-up. The bill still needs to make its way through the full House and Senate
.

Notice how it’s called a “mark-up” and not “mark-down” or even “mark-sideways”? Same as it ever was …

Read the full AP report here.

– Ward

Obama’s 100 Days Report Card

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The combined reporting and brain power of the entire Military​.com/Defense Tech/DoD Buzz team was brought to bear last week to compile a report card for President Barack Obama’s first 100 days as it related to the military and national security. I invite you to read the excerpt here and continue with the comprehensive story on Military​.com. And I’d also be interested to read your opinion on his performance so far.

In his campaign for president, Barack Obama pledged a swift end to the war in Iraq, a new commitment to the defeat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a strong emphasis on veterans’ care and military families and a critical look at Pentagon spending, strategy and conduct in the war on terrorism.

Since his inauguration 100 days ago, Obama has made good on his promise for sweeping change in the military, a new tone in the White House’s relationship with troops and a personal investment in easing the burden of military service.

But so far his record has been met with controversy, both for its marked consistency with the policies of George W. Bush and for its radical break from the past that some see as reckless.

Obama was quick to apologize for American conduct in the war on terrorism and relations with some of its allies during his trip to Europe in early April. He called for “mutual respect” toward Iran, which commanders in Iraq say supplies deadly roadside bombs to insurgents. And he has agreed to the release of reportedly gruesome photos of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, an action that some insiders claim will worsen morale in a military service only now recovering from the tarnished public perception stemming from that terrible chapter.

(more…)

More on Murtha

Friday, March 27th, 2009

murtha.jpg

I know I’m going to catch flak from the technophiles out there, but I wanted to forward along to you all the story I wrote yesterday on the Navy awarding its highest civilian honor to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). No, this is not specifically “defense tech,” but it does relate to someone who has a lot of influence on who gets it.

Anyway, I reported yesterday in a story that has hit the Drudge Report today that former SecNav Donald Winter awarded Murtha with the Navy’s Distinguished Civilian Service medal. This has rubbed some vet groups the wrong way, since Murtha’s anti-war outrage boiled over in May 2006 when he disclosed private briefings from Marine officials who told him civilians had been killed by grunts in Haditha in 2005 and there was an investigation going on about why.

As you all know, Murtha called the Marines (and one Navy corpsman) “cold blooded” killers and has refused to recant his position or apologize for his remarks despite the Marines’ acquittal in military courts on all counts.

Well, I just got off the phone with a Navy official who gave me a few more details on how the award was bestowed and why.

Bottom line, it was a unilateral decision by then SecNav Donald Winter, who, just days before he left office, gave these awards to key members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel. In other words, he gave them to the folks who gave the Navy money and gear. The official was unable to provide me with a list of exactly whom these medals were awarded to (pretty special award, huh?).

The Navy official told me a typical civilian can be nominated for the award and the nomination goes before a board where it’s forwarded to the SecNav who makes the final call. But that didn’t happen this time.

Also, I asked for official Navy reaction to the outcry from some vets groups and the petition drive to rescind the award from Murtha and he said, “I’m not going to go down that spiral with you.”

Q: Does the Navy stand by the award?…

A: “The Secretary of the Navy has the authority to present this award, and he did so.”

Case closed…

And, even more mysteriously, you’d think that if the Navy was going to bestow its highest civilian award on not just one, but several civilians at one time, they’d have a pretty big ceremony or something, right? Well, the official couldn’t provide me with any information on when the awards were given, where the ceremony — if any — was held, or whether the awards were simply mailed to the recipients with a nice letter.

The official said he’d get back to me when he found that out, so I’ll update you when he does.

– Christian

Dep. SECDEF Out

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

From Defense Link:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said today that he will not be staying with Secretary Gates in the Obama Administration. I congratulate President-Elect Obama for retaining Bob Gates as secretary, angordon england.jpgd I salute Bob Gates for his continued commitment, England said.
However, its time for me to leave. When I came into government in early 2001, I anticipated serving for two to four years. After almost eight years, its now time for me to turn over the reins to a successor. Also, its most appropriate for the new administration to name its own deputy.
England said he will stay for some time past Jan. 20, if requested, to assure a smooth transition.
England added, Its been an astonishing time to serve the nation under President Bush and alongside Secretaries Don Rumsfeld and Bob Gates, each of whom I greatly admire. I thank the brave men and women of our military, and their families, for their service and sacrifice, and for the honor of serving them.

Aside: Probably a fair share of celebrating over at Lockheed right now (and not just because they landed a ginormous satellite contract), England was one of the staunchest opponents of the F-22.
–John Noonan

ABC: It’s Gates (UPDATED)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Robert Gates.jpgJake Tapper: Gates a “Done Deal“

Sources tell ABC News that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be staying on in the top Pentagon job, for at least the first year of the Obama administration. “It is a done deal,” a source close to the process tells ABC News.

Update from Colin: Two sources told me they believe Richard Danzig will be named Deputy Defense Secretary. He will choose the new faces to man the Pentagon, ensuring the Obama people get folks who are loyal to them and reflect their policy inclinations. Apparently, Danzig will hold that slot for up to a year. Then, if all goes well, he will replace Gates.

ALSO:President-elect Obama will introduce his national security team to the public early next week, a seasoned team that will include: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), as Secretary of State; retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as National Security Adviser; retired Adm. Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence; and Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Gates, while a registered independent, has served numerous Republican administrations. President George W. Bush nominated Gates to replace the Donald Rumsfeld after the 2006 midterm elections, when the war in Iraq was spiraling out of control.

The former Eagle Scout is expected to be rolled out immediately after the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend as part of a larger national security team expected to include Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, as Secretary of State; Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as National Security Adviser; Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) as Director of National Intelligence; and Dr. Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

[EDITOR: Okay, I swear, this is the last time a make a political prediction. I dismissed the rumor of Gates’ being retained as ridiculous for weeks. Man am I eating crow now. I still say Danzig will eventually be SecDef…but, wait, there I go again! –Christian]

–John Noonan

The Big Three/National Security Risk Myth

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

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There’s been a lot of talk about the impending collapse of “the big three” automakers over the last two weeks — of course, what people really are talking about is GM…but panic sells better, right?

One angle we’ve explored at Military​.com is the effect a collapse of one or more of the American automakers would have on the defense industry…specifically military vehicles like Humvees, Medium trucks, Strykers, tanks and Bradleys.

The answer from our sources: “not much.”

Now, I have a lot of respect for Sen. Karl Levin, the Democratic icon and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But his pandering to the panic and his Michigan constituents about how GM’s failure would put American national security at risk just isn’t supported by the facts.

Former NATO commander Wes Clark tried to tie the two together the other day with an oped in the New York Times where he said stuff like this:

In a little more than a year, the Army has procured and fielded in Iraq more than a thousand so-called mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. The lives of hundreds of soldiers and marines have been saved, and their tasks made more achievable, by the efforts of the American automotive industry. And unlike in World War II, America didnt have to divert much civilian capacity to meet these military needs. Without a vigorous automotive sector, those needs could not have been quickly met.

Huh? AM General makes the Humvee and isn’t part of the big three domestic market except for its “Hummer” line of vehicles. The armor innovations didn’t come at all from GM, Ford or Chrysler. MRAPS aren’t made by them either. Where does Clark come up with this?

And even the $3,000 watch-wearing, private jet flyin’ CEOs are claiming the Pentagon will suffer if there are no more Suburbans made.

Chrysler’s chief executive, Robert Nardelli, told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that a crippled auto industry “would undermine our nation’s ability to respond to military challenges and would threaten our national security.“

My sources are telling me — and others — that the Big Three pulled out of the defense market a long time ago, not seeing it as a profitable, stable market for their goods. In fact, none of the JLTV downselectees have any ties to the domestic auto business — how’s that for innovation Wes?

Levin has spread his fear dust all over the country, claiming: This is a national security issue as well as an economy issue, Levin said. But first and foremost, its a jobs issue,” according to a report on Crains Detroit Business.

Surely, there could be some downside to the crisis for suppliers to the defense industry. But another source of mine said he’s done some preliminary searches of DoD contracts and couldn’t find a single instance where “this just jumps out at you.” He mentioned that “you need to go way down the supply chain for some widget to find a connection”…but that is very preliminary.

Yes, a collapse of one of the Big Three would suck. But a “national security issue?” That’s a stretch…

– Christian

Madam SECDEF?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Flournoy.jpg
Senator Clinton isn’t the only female in the hunt for a major cabinet position in the Obama administration. Word on the street is that Michelle Flournoy is under strong consideration for the Secretary of Defense post.
Ms. Flournoy, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, made her bones as a DoD worker bee with the Clinton Administration. She went on to teach at the National Defense University and –in 2007– co-founded the respected Center for New American Security. She’s also one of the two principal defense brains assigned to President-elect Obama’s transition team.
Flournoy knows her business, has a strong background in both asymmetrical and traditional state threats, and seems to believe in a moderate approach to any withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. She’s experienced, qualified, and her centrist positions on defense issues would (seemingly) make her a safe choice to head up the DoD.
Unfortunately, Ms. Flournoy’s reasoned approach to Iraq –withdrawal that takes into consideration the efficacy of the Iraqi government and logistical realities– could lock horns with Obama’s ideological “withdraw now, regardless” plan.
Any drawdown that falls short of Obama’s campaign promise of expedited removal of US troops from theater risks upsetting the easily perturbed, zealous faction of the Democratic base. That makes Ms. Flournoy almost as politically risky as continuing the tenure of current SECDEF, Robert Gates.
–John Noonan