WASHINGTON: The nation’s top military cyber commander offered his version of how government and military agencies are likely to work together when America suffers cyber attacks, and warned that industry needs to take a greater role.

“We have laid out lanes of the road,” Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency said, sketching them out in broad terms for an audience of security professionals yesterday at a symposium sponsored by Symantec here. Keep reading →

If the election results are pretty clear next week, expect to hear two things: the sounds of snoring from an exhausted Washington political class and the first tentative mentions of the shape of a solution to the dire fiscal cliff our country may fall off of in January. Given the enormity of the repercussions facing the country, I asked Mackenzie Eaglen at the American Enterprise Institute to spell out the larger national security implications at stake. Tea Party devotees should read this dedicated Republican’s analysis closely. The Editor.

The session of Congress after next week’s elections has been dubbed “the mother of all lame ducks.” Given how lame Congress has been so far this year, what will be different after the election? Keep reading →

As troops pull out of Afghanistan and Congress looks for fat to trim from the federal budget, future Pentagon spending will dip and then flatline, with money going to the Air Force and Navy while ground forces see reductions in troops and equipment, a new report predicts.

It’s not the kind of news that the Army or its supporters want to hear on the opening day of the annual AUSA conference but one hears little hopeful chatter among defense contractors or Army officers about the ground forces next few years. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: The stalemate over sequestration just got deeper today with horribly predictable political posturing over the tardy release of the Office of Management and Budget’s congressionally-mandated report on how the drastic automatic cuts would be implemented.

The 394-page report set the stage for the mutual denunciations in its preamble, declaring House Republican proposals to avert the sequester as “particularly irresponsible.” House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon declared “the Administration failed to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law” mandating the report. HASC’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith, tried to get inside the news cycle by preempting McKeon’s statement with his own that blamed the whole disaster on “a group of Congressional Republicans [who] held the U.S. economy hostage during last year’s debt ceiling debate.” The non-partisan Aerospace Industries Association, which has sounded the alarm as loud as anyone, carefully avoided political finger-pointing but reiterated its warning that sequestration would stagger the economy, saying that the report is “the final nail in the coffin for pollyannas still pretending that sequestration wouldn’t be that bad.” Keep reading →

CAPITOL HILL: Congress and the Obama administration should thank their lucky stars that hardly anyone watched this morning’s House Armed Services Committee hearing about sequestration.

Everyone in the political arena will try to paint this one as the other’s fault. The GOP will blame the Democrats. The White House will blame the GOP. The GOP will blame the White House and the Democrats. And our country will remain mired in the same quagmire: our elected representatives lack the courage to fix our nation’s books. Keep reading →

Washington: The White House Office of Management and Budget wants the Navy to reduce the number of SSBN-X submarines it buys from 12 to 10 boats but also to boost the number of missile launching tubes from 16 to 20.

On the face of it, this might save the Pentagon $7 billion over the 15-year life of the program. But there are many buts. Increasing the number of tubes will cost something like $300 million per boat, according to a source familiar with the program. And reducing the number of boats poses an operational challenge. The Navy aims to keep five boats on station around the globe. Normally, that would require 12 SSBN-Xs given the normal rotation. A boat goes on station, comes back, prepares for another mission and undergoes maintenance.

The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio class boomers. They entered service beginning in 1981 and the last boat entered service in 1997. The first boat will reach the end of its 42-year service life in 2027.

“If you go down to 10, then, to meet the station requirements those ships will have to be in maintenance for shorter periods of time. If that’s your goal then you’ll have to engineer them to be in maintenance for shorter periods,” said a Pentagon source.

On the question of costs, the calculus is difficult to perform without access to the OMB analysis. But the source familiar with the program told me that the cost probably work this way. You save $7 billion by cutting two boats. You add $3 billion by boosting the number of missile tubes. Now you’re down to $4 billion in savings. Divide that by 10 and you get to this question: “Could you do it by increasing the costs of each ship by less than $700 million for a $5 billion boat?” Our source was not sure. The most likely way to reduce the time a ship of any kind spends in maintenance is to use better materials. Better materials cost more. Better materials are often harder to work with, which increases your labor costs.

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Washington: The top defense and budget leaders in the House of Representatives want the director of the Office of Management and Budget and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to tell them more about the administration’s top-level defense review and clarification about just what will happen if the Super Congress can’t cut $1.2 trillion from the budget.

The heads of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, the Armed Services Committee and the House Budget Committee made their wishes known in an Aug. 10 letter to Panetta and to OMB Director Jack Lew. Breaking Defense obtained a copy of the letter. It’s important to note that the letter precedes the Aug. 17 OMB guidance to government departments to prepare to cut 5 percent from their fiscal 2011 appropriations as they prepare their requests for fiscal 2013. “Unless your agency has been given explicit direction otherwise by OMB, your overall agency request for 2013 should be at least 5 percent below your 2011 enacted discretionary appropriation,” budget chief Jack Lew said in the memo released Thursday. Keep reading →