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“We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.” (George Washington)
Written By LtGen. George Flynn, Commander, Marine Corps Combat Development Support.
There is no guarantee we will learn from the bloody combat lessons of the last century. The current penchant by some for questioning the Marine Corps’ need for an amphibious tracked vehicle suggests an ignorance of history and a lack of understanding of the future; it is unsupported by hard lessons learned, world trends, and a security environment characterized by a high degree of uncertainty. Our Nation will most certainly require continued global access from the sea, and just as certainly there are forces at work that are actively and aggressively attempting to deny us that much needed access.
The Secretary of Defense clearly stated that his decision to cut the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program does not call into question the amphibious assault mission of the Marine Corps. Moreover, he stated the requirement of developing a more affordable and sustainable amphibious tractor to provide the Marines a ship-to-shore capability into the future.
As America’s expeditionary force in readiness, the Marine Corps specializes in rapidly deploying anywhere in the world to develop access through partnership building activities, to create access in response to crises, and to provide the ability to force access to deter and/or defeat threats. The Corps will never be defined by a program, but rather by the capabilities we bring to the fight.
As a maritime Nation the tyranny of distance, geography, and topography remain constant challenges to our global influence. As demonstrated countless times, our ability to come from the sea and overcome the challenges of natural and manmade barriers allows us to protect and defend U.S. interests. Our continued ability to respond is dependent on our ability to operate in uncertain environments, create opportunities and ensure freedom of action regardless of access challenges.
The Marine Corps has learned that amphibious operations should avoid fixed defenses whenever possible. This option is not always available, however. In such cases the amphibious tracked vehicle is essential to success. The tracked amphibious vehicle provides the ability to perform three critical tasks: ship-to-shore movement, breakout from the beach and protected land mobility and firepower. As a result, the amphibious tracked vehicle has been a mainstay of amphibious capability. It has often proven the indispensible, enabling capability that Marines employ to both solve the sea/land mobility challenge and to gain advantage over our enemies.
Recent operational experience and history attest to the effectiveness of amphibious tracked vehicles in providing the capability and capacity demanded by numerous operating environments—permissive, uncertain, or hostile. Most recently, amphibious tracked vehicles assisted in overcoming the devastated infrastructure in Haiti. These same vehicles were used to rescue stranded citizens and deliver relief supplies following Katrina’s devastation of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. In the 1990s these vehicles enabled relief efforts in Somalia during Operation RESTORE HOPE and subsequently provided the key capability necessary to safely withdraw U.N. forces in UNITED SHIELD. During the Korean War they allowed us to project power from the sea at Inchon to reverse the looming defeat of U.S. forces trapped at Pusan. Given the proliferation of area denial weapons among both state and non-state actors, we believe that future operations—even those conducted for benign reasons—will be conducted under uncertain and highly dangerous conditions.
Amphibious tracked vehicles employed from ships at sea provide the means to assure littoral access that no other capability can provide. They are the only combat vehicles built to operate effectively in the littorals: a complex environment of salt and fresh water, muddy marshes and estuaries, and dry land; rural, suburban and urban landscapes; wildly varying terrain; high to low population densities; and temperature extremes. They can quickly and seamlessly transit from ship-to-shore as well as swim rivers and negotiate inland water obstacles, providing the ability to achieve tactical and operational surprise. They protect their occupants as they maneuver on sea and land to a position of advantage and can close with an enemy or rescue our friends. Their known presence off shore historically has been a powerful deterrent and effective capability across the range of military operations.
A modern amphibious tracked vehicle uses the sea as maneuver space, creates opportunities in the littorals, optimizes employment of amphibious forces, and enhances survivability in the face of area denial threats. An amphibious tracked vehicle is the proven means to overcome access challenges, natural or manmade, ranging from tsunami-ravaged infrastructure to an armed aggressor seeking to oppose our maneuver. Amphibious tracked vehicles empower a flexible, ship-borne force to wait off shore for the opportunity to shape the security environment or alter an outcome. This unique capability provides our Nation with a critical power projection asset.
There is no doubt that the sustainment and further development of our Nation’s amphibious capability is important for continued access to strategically vital regions of the world. We see a clear mandate to be ready to shape, influence, deter, and if necessary defeat would be forces that seek to deny us access. Meeting this mandate will allow us to profit “by dear bought experience” rather than repeat the errors of the past.
This article was provided by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Va.
Cutting over $100 billion in U.S. defense spending in the next five years could be an opportunity to turn the Defense Department into a leaner, more efficient organization, eliminating fat, dust and rust that developed through the system in decades. At least this is what Defense Secretary Robert Gates is hoping for, however, as Gates will leave office soon, someone else will have to bring this hope into reality.
Bowing under budget pressure across all government levels, the Defense department, intelligence and military services are called to share this effort, mainly through streamlining operational logistics and support, shedding unnecessary positions, improving information and communications systems through modern enterprise networks, and eliminating redundant command levels that are not suitable for today’s operations.
The Air Force was asked to save about $34 billion, the Navy $35 billion and the Army will share $28 billion of the saving costs. 0f 70% of these cuts will be reinvested in procurement of new equipment, modernization and reset of existing systems and new development programs.
Sharing the Burden
The Air Force plans to saving its share by consolidating two air operations centers in the U.S. and two in Europe, reducing fuel consumption within the Air Mobility Command, improving supply chain and business processes at depots centers and reducing the cost of communications infrastructure are parts of these measures.
The Army proposes eliminating over 1,000 civilian and military positions, and consolidating six installation management commands into four, saving billions in construction costs and sustainment. Consolidation of the service’s email infrastructure and data centers is also planned.
The Navy plans reducing manpower ashore and reassigning 6,000 personnel to operational missions at sea; shifting new airborne surveillance, jamming, and fighter aircraft procurement to multi-year programs that could yield $1.3 billion in saving and disestablishing staffs for submarine, patrol aircraft, and the destroyer-squadrons plus one carrier strike group staff. The Navy also proposes to disestablish the headquarters of Second Fleet in Norfolk. During the Cold War, this command had distinct and significant operational responsibilities. Today its primary responsibility is training and mission preparation, a function that will be transferred to the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command. This change would affect approximately 160 military positions. And no ships will depart Norfolk as a result.
Trimming at the Top
Cuts will also affect the highest level of command at the Joint Staff and DoD, eliminating 11% of the current 900 general officer and flag officer positions. Some of these positions were created in the past decade to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will be reduced as major troop deployments wind down. Other positions will be downgraded to save costs and streamline command structures, along with 200 civilian Senior Executive Service or equivalent positions out of a total of 1,400 civilian executives. Gates said that the primary purpose behind this shift is to create fewer, flatter, more agile, and thus more effective organizations. These commands will be reduced to the three star-level, with concurrent streamlining in the headquarters and personal staff. The change to U.S. Navy Europe will take place over a longer period because of that command’s unique role in the NATO transformation effort.
Gates said that the proposed elimination of the Norfolk based Joint Forces Command has been reviewed, and according to Gates, a number of missions should be retained in the Norfolk/Suffolk, Virginia area, while roughly half of the command’s capabilities will be assigned to other organizations.
The DoD-wide freeze on the number of civilian positions and government-wide freeze on civilian salaries has yielded about $54 billion in additional savings over the next five years. “Overall, we will cut the size of the staff support contractor cadre by 10 percent per year for three years and realize nearly $6 billion in total savings.” gates said during a briefing at the Pentagon today.
Reshuffling Intelligence Responsibilities
Following comprehensive review of national intelligence services DOD Intelligence services will also experience downsizing and budget cuts for the first time since 9/11. The U.S. government as a whole has seen a proliferation of new intelligence organizations, many that are excess and duplicative, many that are spread out among the different services, agencies, task forces of various kinds, and combatant commands. Gates emphasized that the proposed cuts will downsize the new intelligence organizations that have grown up around a number of the combatant commands in recent years – most of which are not directly engaged in the post-9/11 military conflicts. “In place of having a large, permanent organic apparatus staffed on a wartime level, the department will transition to an arrangement that can surge intelligence support as needed from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).” Gates explained. The department is also proposing to consolidate activities of multiple intelligence organizations operating under different commands and focusing on counter-terrorism and terrorism finance. These activities will consolidate into two task forces operated within DIA.
Introducing Enterprise IT Infrastructure
DOD spends over $37 billion each year on information technology. Each service runs an independent “our bases and headquarters have their own separate IT infrastructure and processes, which drive up costs and create cyber vulnerabilities” Gates explained “the department is planning to consolidate hundreds of data centers and move to a more secure enterprise system, which we estimate could save more than $1 billion a year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is recommending to cancel the procurement of the Marine Corps $15 billion amphibious ‘Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle’ (EFV) program. After spending $3 billion in the development of this vehicle, the program is currently at a crossroad, transitioning into production, terminating it at this phase represent a ‘bargain’ to the bean counters, as everything spent on the program is sunk cost while future year-outlays are still minimal.
The EFV’s aggressive requirements list has resulted in an 80,000 pound armored vehicle that skims the surface of the ocean for long distances at high speeds before transitioning to combat operations on land. Meeting these demands has over the years led to significant technology problems, development delays, and cost increases. Gates mentioned that the EFV will cost about $12 billion to build – all for a fleet with the capacity to put 4,000 troops ashore. “If fully executed, the EFV – which costs far more to operate and maintain than its predecessor – would essentially swallow the entire Marine vehicle budget and most of its total procurement budget for the foreseeable future.” Secretary Gates warned.
Gates mentioned recent analysis by the Navy and Marine Corps suggests that the most plausible scenarios requiring power projection from the sea could be handled through a mix of existing air and sea systems employed in new ways along with new vehicles – scenarios that do not require the exquisite features of the EFV. “As with several other high end programs cancelled in recent years, the mounting cost of acquiring this specialized capability must be judged against other priorities and needs. ” said Gates. In 2009 Gates instructed the U.S. Army to cancel the Future Combat Systems’ program along with seven types of armored vehicles, destined to become the core of the Army’s Future Force.
“This decision does not call into question the Marine’s amphibious assault mission.” he added, “We will budget the funds necessary to develop a more affordable and sustainable amphibious tractor to provide the Marines a ship-to-shore capability into the future. The budget will also propose funds to upgrade the existing amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments to ensure that the Marines will be able to conduct ship-to-shore missions until the next generation of systems is brought on line. It must be judged against other priorities and needs.”
Other land systems program cancellations mentioned in today’s briefing included the SLAMRAAM surface to air missile the Non-Line of Sight Launch System, both programs were already ‘announced dead’ several months ago.
The Army plans to use the available funds from these cuts to fund the modernize its M-1A2 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Stryker wheeled vehicles. The Army is also planning to accelerate fielding of a soldier level tactical communications network. The Navy will use part of the money to reset and repair Marine equipment returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of the Pentagon’s wide scale budget cuts reducing military spending by over $100 billion over five years, the Air Force expects to share $34 billion of the total amount, mostly by improving operating efficiencies. Consolidation of two air operations centers in the U.S. and two in Europe, reducing fuel consumption within the Air Mobility Command, improving supply chain and business processes at depots centers and reducing the communications infrastructure costs are part of these measures.
The cuts will finance future development, modernization and procurement plans, including the development of a new long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber, enabling the Air Force to establish flexible force projection into the future. According to Gates, this ‘optionally piloted’ bomber will be designed and developed using proven technologies, an approach that should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity. “It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service. The follow on bomber represents a key component of a joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities – an area that should be a high priority for future defense investment given the anti-access challenges our military faces.” Gates said.
Bill Sweetman has commented in Aviation Week Ares Blog: “The bomber program could well follow the lines set out in the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) report issued in September. It is very likely to draw on next-generation stealth research carried out in the classified world in the past decade, and represents a major success for bomber advocates, who have been pessimistic about their chances of overcoming high-level preference for smaller aircraft and missiles. Gates and Pentagon leadership have apparently settled a number of controversial issues about the bomber – manned versus unmanned, nuclear-capable or not, and penetrating versus standoff-missile carrier.”
The savings will enable the Air Force to get more of the most advanced Reaper UAVs, moving essential Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) programs from the temporary war budget to the permanent base budget. It will also get the funding for the modernization of F-15 radars into AESA types, contributing to further operating cost saving, and buy more simulators for JSF air crew trainers.
“Going forward, advanced unmanned strike and reconnaissance capabilities must become an integrated part of the Air Force’s regular institutional force structure.” Gates stressed. The Air Force will also increase procurement of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) to assure access to space for both military and other government agencies.
The Navy is also expected to cut $35 billion by reducing manpower ashore, shifting new airborne surveillance, jamming, and fighter aircraft procurement to multi-year programs that could yield $1.3 billion in saving and disestablishing staffs for submarine, patrol aircraft, and the destroyer-squadrons plus one carrier strike group staff.
These savings will be used to support the accelerated procurement of littoral combat ships and destroyers, and accelerate the development of several aviation related programs including the Next Generation Jammer, improving the Navy’s ability to fight and survive in an anti-access environment, and fund the development of a new generation of sea-borne unmanned strike and surveillance aircraft. They will also buy more F/A-18E/Fs and extend the service life of 150 of F/A-18 aircraft, as a hedge against more delays in the deployment of the Joint Strike Fighter.
These resources will also support several Army Aviation programs. These include embarking on the development of a new vertical unmanned air system to support the Army in the future, sustain the procurement of MC-12 type special mission aircraft (EMARSS?) and Gray Eagle UAVs.