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Missile Defense Wins in Policy Bill

Updated (1:28 p.m.) with some missile defense details. The 2009 defense authorization bill cleared most hurdles last night. There were a number of issues in need of resolution but the chairman and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees hammered out agreements and the bill is now “moving fast” said one congressional aide.

It should be cleared by the end of the week. Details on some likely compromises follow.

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911 Remembered

In honor of those who fell and in defiance of those who murdered the innocent, Christian and I are sharing our experiences of 911. Please post your own experiences or just remember.

I was editor of Defense News on 911. On the drive to work I heard a report on NPR that a small plane had apparently blundered into one of the twin towers. I called my wife, reminding her of the B-25 that careened through thick fog and slammed into the Empire State Building in 1945.

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Former AF Leader on Georgia: What Must be Done

In one of our periodic commentary pieces, former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne tells us what the US and its allies should do in the wake of the Russian incursion: “Russian actions challenge the West to revisit its ability to defend the states bordering Russia, including the new states of NATO, against Russian military petro-power. Beyond Georgia or Europe, there is the question of the credibility of Western responses to states like Russia that take into their own hands the fate designing borders. After all, the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein led to a unified Western response to restore the territorial integrity of Kuwait. But to do this required a 6-month military buildup before a response could be generated.”

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Obama’s Defense Team and Its Priorities

Cozier relations with allies. Use all America’s levers of power — not just the military — to address global problems. Fix the broken defense acquisition system. Stable and robust investment in defense programs. Withdraw from Iraq and move more people into Afghanistan. Enlarge the Army and Marines. Transform the system controlling the export of military technologies. Rebuild America’s military space programs.

In a nutshell those would probably be Sen. Barack Obama’s defense priorities should he be elected.

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House Bill Threat to DoD Innovation?

A bill in the House may result in what some defense small businessmen are calling a “revolutionary change” in small business investing. The small business programs administered by the federal government are up for reauthorization this year and the hedge fund and venture capitalists of the world have gotten together and convinced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that change is needed.

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ONR Wants Game Changers

The Office of Naval Research is funding research into a variety of enabling capabilities and futuristic weapons systems as part of its fighting at “hypervelocity and light speed” efforts.

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CSIS Says Navy Rudderless

The Navy does not have a workable strategy or know how to handle its shipbuilding plans, and senior Navy officials should be held accountable for this, says one of Washington’s most august strategic thinkers, Tony Cordesman. “Unrealistic force plans, overoptimistic cost estimates, unrealistic projections of technical feasibility, and inadequate program management have created an unaffordable ship building program, led the Navy to phase out capable ships for new ships it cannot fund, and threaten the US Navy’s ability to implement an effective maritime strategy.” write Cordesman and his co-author.

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New and Secret Threats Drive DDG 1000 Decision

New threats, including some that are classified, drove the Navy’s remarkable decision to whack the DDG 1000 program down to two ships and to restart the DDG 51 line.

While no mention was made at last Thursday’s hearing about Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, I understand this is the most likely threat. Observers of the Chinese military have been increasingly concerned that China might deploy such a capability.

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Why System Costs Go Sky High

A RAND study shows that weapons system cost growth most often results from changes made to the program by either OSD, the services or Congress. Changes in the quantity of systems built, either cutting numbers or adding on to the original buy, was far and away the most significant factor, accounting for 22 percent of all cases of runaway costs.

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Poles Reluctance May Mean Biz for SM-3s

The Czechs may have agreed today to accept a missile defense radar site, but Poland is very unlikely to sign an agreement with the United States to base missile defense interceptors on its territory. Ironically, Congress now appears ready to accept that the interceptors set for Poland now have an acceptable test plan.

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Pentagon Programs Still Cost Too Much, Too Slow

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office said once again that too many weapons programs have “cost increases that add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, schedule delays that add up to years, and capabilities that fall far short of what was promised.” This over-promise, under-deliver culture turns program managers into less than straightforward product marketers.

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Navy Spends to Save Whales, Thinks Sonar Issue Overblown

Who would have thought it! It turns out there is money to be made in the Navy budget from saving the whales.

The service has spent about $100 million over the last five years, with $26 million going out the door this year, Rear Adm. Larry Rice, director of the Navy’s environmental readiness division, told me a few days ago (with all the tanker news it’s been difficult to post on other topics).

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Lawmakers Say Build More Killer Subs To Counter China

The United States Navy is building too few attacks subs needed to counter an aggressive Chinese effort, members from both sides of the partisan aisle said today.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, led the charge for more subs. The Chinese are building 3.4 attacks subs for every one the U.S. Navy is building.

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Naval Combat Drone Could Save Carrier Fleet

If fully realized, the N-UCAS could “provide the Navy’s future carrier air wings with the organic, extended-range, survivable, and persistent surveillance-strike capability needed to meet a number of emerging 21st century security challenges,” including emerging nuclear powers, homeland defense threats and the emerging anti-access strategy from China.

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EFV Stumbles Along; Young Signs ADM

John Young, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition technology and logistics, has approved the newest Nunn-McCurdy review, signing a June 18 acquisition decision memorandum that allows the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle to proceed at all-slow.

Young is allowing the Marines to build seven prototypes of the EFV over the next four years.

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Missile Defense on the Skids

It’s been an entire fiscal year since the Groundbased Midcourse [missile] Defense system underwent a flight test, a congressional aide told me this morning. That failure of the Missile Defense Agency to perform tests for an entire fiscal year has got both Republican and Democratic staff and lawmakers pretty warm under the collar.

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Shakeup at OSD Acquisition Complete

John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (in the picture), is trying to do something lasting about it by signing a memo by the end of the week creating a new director-level position –- one of only seven in the department reporting directly to him –- for space and intelligence capabilities.

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Top Congressional Money Man Dismisses Gates Heritage Speech

Gates’ May 13 message was heard loud and clear on the Hill. A few days later, the top defense appropriator — read money man — in the House of Representatives boldly stepped in front of the nation (also known as the floor of the House) and said Gates’ speech was “simply a rationalization of short-term budget decisions made in the waning months of this Administration.

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Roles and Missions Review Underway

At a Pentagon briefing May 9, two senior defense officials discussed how they will approach the new roles and missions work, outlining the seven main areas of focus. The one issue Congress told the Pentagon to study is whether there are unnecessary duplications of capabilities among and between the four services and other arms of the Pentagon.