Inside DOD


Amber Corrin

Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin

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Gates prepares more details on cuts to the defense budget

Secretary Robert Gates tomorrow is expected to discuss the forthcoming fiscal 2012 defense budget, including ongoing and controversial measures to shave over $100 billion in Defense Department spending.

That money, under Gates’ proposals from last summer, was supposed to go toward war spending, but now, it appears there may be a tug-of-war going on as the White House pushes for more saving. The administation apparently wants to have at least some of the money directed toward reducing the federal deficit.

Still, Gates may retain some leverage – though his office has publicly stated he plans to retire in 2011, at least one industry analyst says that President Barack Obama is working to persuade him to stay through the end of Obama’s term, according to a Reuters report.

The offices of top Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate armed forces committees have confirmed a scheduled meeting with Gates tomorrow, and although the Pentagon press office so far does not have a briefing scheduled, numerous published reports say he will address the press after the meeting on Capitol Hill.

According to the Washington Post, the DOD budget will see roughly $12 billion cut from original plans for fiscal 2012.

Unnamed sources told Reuters that tomorrow Gates will announce the cancellation of the Marine Corps’s $13 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program and a Pentagon surface-launched missile program, as well as the extension of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Posted on Jan 05, 2011 at 9:03 AM0 comments


New Army CIO picture coming into focus

The defense IT community has been rumbling with speculation about who will replace retired Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson as Army CIO since he stepped down Nov. 4, but while mum’s the official word, it’s looking increasingly likely that the successor has been chosen.

Inside sources – and signals – are pointing to Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence as the clear front runner for the job.

An Army CIO/G-6 spokesperson has confirmed that Lawrence is working as special assistant to Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff – and that’s a solid (although unofficial and unconfirmed) indication that she has all but landed the Army CIO gig.

It’s not uncommon in the Beltway shuffle to hire a top prospect as a special assistant while awaiting the lengthy Senate confirmation process that’s required for Presidential appointments, which the Army CIO is.

In the interim, Mike Krieger, deputy Army CIO, is filling in.

It could end up being lengthy stints for Lawrence and Krieger in their temporary roles – sources say don’t expect any movement before the new Congress takes over in January.

However, one thing that won’t be holding up the confirmation is Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has released the hold on Pentagon nominations he said he’d execute until he got some more definitive answers about Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to close Joint Forces Command, headquartered in Norfolk, Va.

Posted on Dec 08, 2010 at 9:03 AM0 comments


What would the CIO do in Gates' new DOD?

Guest entry by Michael Hardy, managing editor/daily report.

The August 9 announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates of his detailed plan to reduce the Defense Department budget by $100 billion over the next five years raised more questions than it answered. One of the key questions: What is the proper role of a chief information officer in the leaner, more consolidated information technology infrastructure that Gates envisions?

Gates proposes closing the office of the assistant secretary of defense for network intelligence and integration -- the official who serves as the CIO. Where would the CIO's new home be, organizationally?

Robert Hale, DOD comptroller, said that DOD's IT capabilities and networks are really just one more weapon system. He suggested, at an August 9 news conference, a re-organization that would center on networks.

"If you could move the operational activities under operational control and take the oversight into administrative and policy issues and put them in another organization, that would align us in such a way that what has become the reality in that our networks are really weapons," he said. "We treat them as weapons systems, they go all the way from the tactical edge -- the Aegis or the warfighter in the foxhole -- back to the headquarters."

If the network is a weapon, that implies the leader of the IT organization is really the head of a weapons program, not just a technology strategist.

What is your take on this? What is the proper role for the CIO of the Defense Department? Is it fundamentally different than that of a CIO in any other agency?

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 at 9:03 AM13 comments


Afghanistan documents leak stirs debate, apathy in public opinion on war

The sheer size and the act itself seems to be more shocking than the actual content of Wikileak.org’s release of 92,000 classified reports from U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Although the leak unveils some disturbing accusations – the most damning of which suggest Pakistan’s intelligence agency may be aiding the Taliban insurgency – judging by the thousands of comments that accompany the articles online, it doesn’t seem to be much of a surprise to readers.

The documents that news outlets are characterizing as a snapshot from ground operations in Afghanistan so far appear to have stirred the pot of public conversation more than anything else. Stories covering the release show thousands of comments from readers responding to the news, most of which express little surprise, a dose of sorrow and a lot of bitterness toward the almost nine-year war.

The New York Times, one of three and the only American news outlet to receive access to the documents before the public release, is keeping a running tab of the blogosphere’s reaction to the leak, gauging responses from a vast array of sources including military blogs, Afghan and Pakistani media, and its own readers.

The Defense Department and White House have responded predictably, condemning the release of the documents as a threat to national security. However, the official response, while critical, has not denied any of the accusations culled from the documents. Washington isn’t rushing to defend against any implied wrongdoing, instead suggesting that much of the released information is old news and working to minimize the significance of the leak.

"I don’t know that what is being said or what is being reported isn’t something that hasn’t been discussed fairly publicly, again, by named U.S. officials and in many news stories,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on July 26. “I mean, the New York Times had a story on this topic in March of 2009 written by the same authors.”

In other words, the White House and DOD are seeking to control the spin.

Emerging from the discussion of war policy are mounting comparisons between the Wikileaks release and that of the then top-secret 1971 Pentagon Papers detailing the Vietnam War. As that debate gains momentum in news articles and their discussion threads, the Washington Post takes a critical look at the two leaks.

No doubt the leak has ignited public discourse about a war that has dragged on so long it has perhaps desensitized citizens to a point of nationwide apathy. But another certainty is that only time will tell what the fallout will be in the wake of an information leak that has effectively ripped the band-aid from the wound of two prolonged wars.

Posted on Jul 26, 2010 at 9:03 AM0 comments


Forward march: Army e-mail overhaul still a go

The Army’s ambitious plans for an enterprise-wide e-mail system hit a snag in May when the department rescinded a request for proposals (RFP) for the project, but it is still moving forward, according to one senior Defense Department official.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army's chief information officer who has spearheaded the project, said his office wants the Defense Information Systems Agency to house the system.

“We’re working with DISA to host our e-mail,” Sorenson said today at a breakfast briefing held by the Association of the U.S. Army outside Washington. “The proposal is in, we’ve negotiated the pricing terms and we may start up as early as next quarter.”

The Army said in a March 5 draft RFP it planned to consolidate the various e-mail accounts for nearly 250,000 users over a two-year period to eventually create a managed, enterprisewide e-mail, calendar and messaging system that could eventually serve all the Defense Department.

Sorenson indicated that the RFP created some confusion over the various requirements; the complexity of the project was among the chief reasons the RFP was canceled to begin with. However, he left open the possibility of expanding the project in the future.

“We may look at managed services down the road,” he said.

 

Posted on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:03 AM0 comments


Secrecy could be weighing down military info-sharing

Today’s battlefield looks different from those of the past past for several reasons, not the least of which being the proliferation of technology in combat. The Defense Department is intent on maximizing capabilities of those technologies, particularly in the realm of information-sharing, where being connected is saving lives.

However, the much-needed information-sharing can be complicated by another critical aspect of war: Operational security. And in the name of "op-sec," U.S. military secrecy is second to none.

But what happens when the need to share clashes with the need to know?

“There’s a volume of information being exchanged on the battlefield,” said Mike Eixenberger, deputy director of the Army’s LandWarNet Battle Command. Here, the network is key, he said. “The ultimate goal of the network is to connect people and organizations to share information and knowledge, and to develop common understanding.”

Sometimes, however, important information is sandbagged by the "secret" data classification, even when it’s not necessarily needed.

“There is a difference between making something 'secret' – with all the accompanying encryption and all that – and taking due diligence” to make sure information is going to the right places, Eixenberger said. “There are smart ways of taking caution to protect information.”

The process can be complicated by where the information is being shared – namely, on DOD’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRnet). “Just because you put information or systems on SIPR[net] doesn’t mean it’s secret,” he said.

To best arm servicemembers in dual wars, a balance must be struck between operational security and important information-sharing.

“There are always risks and vulnerabilities, but you have to lay those out next to the benefits,” Eixenberger said. He spoke on June 29 at the Command and Control Summit held by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement in Arlington, Va.

Posted on Jul 02, 2010 at 9:03 AM0 comments


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