New Space Service ‘Inadvisable,’ Senator Warns
It would be “inadvisable” to set up a new bureaucracy
to manage the military space program, said Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Co.
A congressionally chartered commission is looking at whether the
Air Force should keep that mission or hand it over to a separate
Allard is a member of the Armed Services Committee and chairs the
subcommittee on strategic forces.
“This is not the time to be setting up a new agency,”
Allard said during a breakfast with reporters in Washington, D.C.
The main reason, he said, is a tight budget. “We have better
places ... to put our resources.”
Allard, meanwhile, is closely involved with another commission,
which is reviewing the role of the National Reconnaissance Office
(NRO) vis-à-vis the military community. The NRO’s traditional
role as keeper of the nation’s spy satellites is being challenged,
Among the issues being probed, Allard said, are the growing need
for real-time intelligence by the services and the future role of
commercial satellites for intelligence collection.
The commission is considering, for example, the potential benefits
of “public-private partnerships” for space ventures.
Agency Focuses on Chem-Bio Homeland Defense
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency currently spends about $800
million out of its $2 billion yearly budget on chemical and biological
defense programs, said Director Jay Davis.
Even though the program focuses on chem-bio protection for troops
in the battlefield, “homeland defense also is a part of it,”
Davis told a recent industry briefing sponsored by the Army’s
Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). “Our emphasis
is on events that overwhelm local resources,” Davis said.
According to DTRA estimates, “1,000 casualties would overwhelm
any U.S. metropolitan community.”
One key problem is the lack of connectivity between various detectors,
said Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, commander of SBCCOM. “If I can
do video teleconferencing across the United States, we ought to
be able to network the sensors that we currently have, and change
them from being point sensors into providing information across
the battlefield,” he said. “We ought to be able to do
reconnaissance from a distance, detect chem-bio agents from space
and from the air.”
“We are looking for ‘upfront’ industry participation,”
explained Army Lt. Col. Mark Weitekamp, who manages chem-bio defense
programs at the Department of Energy.
Changes Under Way @ DFAS
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is getting a makeover
to help it better meet its customers’ needs—who include
almost everybody receiving a check from the Defense Department—according
to the organization’s director, Thomas Bloom.
First off, Bloom told a recent gathering of the Armed Forces Communications
and Electronics Association, DFAS—which annually pays out
$288 billion to 5.4 million military personnel, Defense Department
civilian employees, retirees and contractors—has changed its
slogan to “your financial partner @ work.” This reflects
DFAS’s commitment to e-commerce and e-business, said Bloom.
Note the “@” symbol, used in e-mail addresses.
Next, the service is working to make its vision of becoming a “world-class
provider with a corporate identity” a reality. “We’re
not world-class,” said Bloom. “We need to get there.”
One step that DFAS is taking is to establish an advisory board,
including four members from the commercial sector, said Bloom. The
new board, he explained, is intended to help both public and private
sectors understand how each side works.
Bloom said he hopes this “DFAS business evolution”
will strengthen the organization’s relationships with its
customers, provide high-quality products and lower the costs of
Too Thin on Supervisors
The maintenance component of Air Force units in Europe is “thin
on supervisors,” said Gen. Gregory S. “Speedy”
Martin, head of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. “We have a large
number of very energetic young guys and gals, who are doing great
work, but the supervisory ranks are thinner than we’d like.”
This, he said, is having a negative impact on junior maintenance
personnel. “When you don’t have good supervision to
train these people right, then they begin to doubt their own ability
Recent budget increases, after years of decline, are beginning
to make it easier to retain supervisors, Martin said. “I think
people are seeing that the country is behind them, and it is making
Coping with Mobile Targets
Among the lessons that the Air Force learned from Kosovo is that
its “most significant challenge is mobile targets,”
noted Gen. Gregory S. Martin, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
“If we don’t have the ISR (intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance) structure to get them, then we have to find
another way.” Perhaps other elements—Army, Navy or Marines—can
be used to force mobile targets into areas where they are more vulnerable
to air weapons, Martin said.
“We are doing everything we can to integrate our ISR capability,
our fusion of information, our decision-making ability and the execution
of combat assets toward those targets,” Martin said. “It
is a problem. We are not there yet.”
Foreign Military Students
Increasing numbers of foreign military personnel are coming to this
country for training. In 1999, a total of 9,500 foreign students
attended Army schools throughout the continental United States,
John F. Daniele, chief of the strategic planning and program development
division at the U.S. Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation
Command (STRICOM), told an industry conference. The training is
meant to increase the ability of U.S. armed services and foreign
counterparts to work together in coalition operations, such as Kosovo.
Unnoticed Relief Effort
The largest humanitarian operation in Africa in a decade went largely
unnoticed in the United States earlier this year, while public interest
riveted instead on the plight of a young Cuban castaway named Elian
Gonzales, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Wehrle Jr.
The U.S. Third Air Force—which Wehrle commanded at the time—helped
deliver 2 million pounds of sorely needed relief supplies to flood-stricken
Mozambique. The effort eventually involved 800 U.S. military personnel,
lasted 30 days and cost $34 million, he told a recent Capitol Hill
C-130s could only land at two places in the country, and C-5s could
get no closer than neighboring South Africa, Wehrle said. As a result,
all available cargo space was needed for relief supplies, leaving
no room for satellite communications dishes, he said.
U.S. Air Force Ready in Europe, Commander Claims
Gen. Gregory S. “Speedy” Martin, commander of U.S. Air
Forces in Europe, briefing a group of Pentagon reporters recently,
defended the readiness of his pilots.
“I’ve had the opportunity, in the last several months,
to fly with many of our units, either in the front seats of the
fighters or in the back seat, if I wasn’t qualified,”
he said. “There is absolutely no question about the capability
of our airmen today. They are working with the most capable systems,
and they are good.”
Martin also spoke highly of other NATO air forces. ‘Just
last Monday, I flew in the back seat of a Dutch F-16 that had gone
through the mid-life update.” The Dutch, he said, have “good
systems, and they’re proud of them. ... We have very capable
allies on the systems that have been modernized.”
Brits Funding ‘Significant’ Defense Modernization
Unlike most European nations, the United Kingdom recently has been
increasing its defense spending, according to Air Vice Marshall
John H. Thompson, defence attaché of the U.K. embassy to
the United States. The money is going to fund a “significant”
modernization of the British military force, Thompson told the ComDef
2000 Conference, in Washington, D.C. The United Kingdom does not
plan to become “part of a pan-European Army,” Thompson
said. “For us, NATO remains the only game in town.”
Nevertheless, he said, the United Kingdom supports the idea of
the European Union (EU) establishing its ability to act on its own,
militarily, “when the United States does not wish to contribute
forces.” Taking such a step, he said, will not undermine NATO’s
role in Europe in any way. “It’s not reasonable, practical
or affordable for the EU to duplicate NATO. There is only one set
of forces available in Europe.”