As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising faster than the US military can add it. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address that need, and close the gap.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record – and TSAT is certainly significant. The final price tag on the entire program has been quoted at anywhere from $14-25 billion through 2016, including the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each won over $600 million in risk reduction contracts to develop key TSAT SS satellite system technologies, and TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract was already underway.
The TSAT constellation’s central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment – but its survival was never assured. There was always a risk that outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end, just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium project. This FOCUS article examines that possibility, even as it offers an overview of the US military’s vision for its communications infrastructure, how TSAT fits, the program’s challenges, and complete coverage of contracts and significant events.
The latest developments revolve around the end of the program. Despite a positive recent report from the GAO, TMOS/TSAT are being canceled outright as part of the program’s planned termination:
“Across the entire ADF, an alarming amount of expensive military equipment is not in a suitable upgraded condition to be sent to war… the legacy of project mismanagement and a Defence Department mindset that focuses more heavily on the defence force of tomorrow than on the force of today.”
One critical element of both today’s and tomorrow’s force is Australia’s submarine fleet. The 2009 White Paper aims to increase Australia’s fleet to 12 submarines, but current reports put the number of operational boats at… 1.
This animated Flash presentation has been making the rounds lately. It shows the structural changes to the American defense procurement process since 1971, as 14 waves of iterative reforms have changed the defense procurement process. It is also available from the Center for Public Integrity, in PPS Power Point format.
Despite these successive changes, the American defense procurement spiral of weapons whose generational replacement cost rises faster than inflation has continued apace. So, too, has the time required to design and field weapons systems, a fact that makes the tendency toward gold-plated or poorly-conceived requirements even worse. The result has been a spiral of shrinking force sizes despite equal or higher costs, a phenomenon that has become widespread around the world.
In 2009, the Ottawa Citizen’s defense reporter David Pugliese reported that the US military was about to spend $100 million to upgrade the facilities at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in order to accommodate up to 26 aircraft for a local “Task Force ODIN”. At first glance, this might seem like just another infrastructure play – unless one realizes that Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify & Neutralize) may be the second-most underrated fusion of technology and operating tactics in America’s counter-insurgency arsenal.
Task Force ODIN was created on orders of Gen. Richard A. Cody, the US Army’s outgoing vice chief of staff. Its initial goal involved better ways of finding IED land mines, a need triggered by the limited numbers of USAF Predator UAVs in Iraq, and the consequent refusal of many Army surveillance requests. Despite its small size (about 25 aircraft and 250 personnel) and cobbled-together nature, Task Force ODIN quickly became a huge success. Operating from Camp Speicher near Tikrit, it expanded its focus to become a full surveillance/ strike effort in Iraq – one that ground commanders came to see as more precise than conventional air strikes, hence less likely to create the kind of collateral damage that would damage their campaigns. From its inception in July 2007 to June 2008, the effort reportedly killed more than 3,000 adversaries, and led to the capture of almost 150 insurgent leaders.
The Scone Foundation Archivist of the Year Award is presented annually by The Scone Foundation to recognize an archivist who has made considerable contributions to his or her profession or who has provided significant support to scholars conducting research in history and biography. This year, the award has a military winner.
Dr. Conrad Crane’s title is Director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, following 26 years of military service that concluded with 9 years as Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 2003, he became Director of the Military History Institute – and also co-authored “Reconstructing Iraq,” which drew heavily on archival material relating to past military occupations throughout history. It predicted failure without early and adequate post-conflict planning, and warned that: “A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time”. Dr. Crane’s contribution did not stop there, however. His West Point classmate Gen. David Petraeus has spoken of foreign occupation having a “half-life,” and in 2006 he asked his old colleague to be the lead author of the Counter Insurgency Field Manual for Iraq Forces [US Army release | Amazon.com].
Even this achievement is only part of Dr. Crane’s legacy. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson has praised Dr. Crane “for professionalizing one of the nation’s most priceless repositories of military records, and in making the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute more accessible to both scholars and curious citizens. He combines the best instincts of historian, archivist, and public servant.”
The event will be held on Nov 17/08 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm, in the Teatro Casa Italiana at Columbia University’s Morningside Campus, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC, NY. In addition to receiving the award, Dr. Crane will also deliver a lecture: “From Past to Policy: Using History to Make History.”
“In the mid to late fifties, a fighter pilot could earn himself a quick forty bucks and perhaps a nice steak dinner in Vegas – not to mention everlasting renown, which is to fighter pilots what oxygen is to us lesser beings – by meeting over the Green Spot at thirty thousand feet and taking position just 500 feet behind an arrogant and unpleasant man with precisely zero air-to-air victories to his credit. From that perfect kill position, you would yell “Fight’s on!” and if that sitting duck in front of you was not on your tail with you in his gunsight in forty seconds flat then you would win the money, the dinner and best of all, the fame… To be challenged in such a manner is an irresistible red flag to men like this, and certainly no less of one because the challenger was a rude, loud, irreverent braggart who had never been victorious in actual air-to-air combat. And yet that forty dollars went uncollected, uncollected for many years against scores of the best fighter pilots in the world.
In the above Jan 10/08 photo, an Afghan soldier with the Afghan National Army Air Corps directs a newly delivered AN-32 light tactical transport plane to its spot on the ramp of Kabul Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan, just 65 days from receipt of original tasking from the Navy International Program Office. This plane was the first of 4 refurbished AN-32s that were purchased from the Ukraine by the ANAAC, which now has 7 An-32s in inventory. The ANAAC also flies 2 related AN-26 transports.
US Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Support and Commercial Derivative Aircraft Program Office bought the AN-32s from Ukranian commercial firms, after inspecting the aircraft…
Royal Engineers LCpl Tom Glinn, Spr “Cookie” Cook and Spr Jay Coombes needed to cool Basra’s Cobra radar system when it began to fail in Iraq’s heat. The unit’s initial solution of placing the unit in an inflatable tent has a structural and thermal failure – but a crude sketch, some scrap wood, discarded plastic tubing and even cling film worked, drawing air from an air conditioning unit and feeding it to the radar via a set of insulated tubes. Cost GBP 20 (about $41). Winner, one Gems cash prize.
Nor are they alone. Royal Engineer Sgt Jim Randall designed a metal hook attached to an adjustable metal pole, that can be dragged along the ground to identify command wires leading to roadside IED land mines. It worked so well that explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams use them now. Craftsmen Steve Whiting and Phil Ashby noticed that ISO containers on the back of some of the Army’s larger trucks were snagging power lines and creating power outages. Locals not happy. Army not happy. Response? An angled metal frame that allows the cables to glide over the containers. Simple, effective little… Gems.
Lord Paul Drayson was an accomplished man when he entered government. The founder of the needle-free vaccination firm PowderJect reaped over GBP 80 million, rose to a seat in the House of Lords, and went from an under secretary position to a full Ministry. He then went on to accomplish a great deal over 30 months as Britain’s Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support. Britain has become the world’s leading practitioner of availability-based support contracts for a wide range of weapons systems, major mergers of government departments have been undertaken to move that approach forward, and NAO audits have confirmed the effectiveness of the new approach. A Defense Industrial Strategy has been put in place that outlines key technical skills Britain believes it must retain, and industry consolidation and changes have followed in its wake as the industrial base moves to adjust. The country is now on track to buy full-size aircraft carriers for the first time in decades, and other shifts have begun, albeit slowly, in the land sector.
How do you top that? How about by submitting the most unusual, way-out, and flat-out interesting senior official government resignation letter we’ve ever seen. Or are likely to see in our lifetimes…
The American Office of the Secretary of Defense sent this on to DID, and we thought we’d pass it on to all of our readers in the Washington area. The American Veteran Center’s 10th Annual Conference begins today, and will take place November 8-10 at the Renaissance Washington Hotel. there is still time to register and attend.
The AVC conference is one of the largest annual gatherings of decorated military combat veterans, and will host some of the greatest heroes of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. It features 3 days of speaker panels, wreath laying ceremonies at the World War II, Korea, and Vietnam memorials and an awards banquet. The conference also features salutes to Medal of Honor recipients and service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the participants include: