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Situation Report: $30B Army deal announced; more Gitmo problems for the White House; Iraqi intel investigation; Iraqi economy in trouble; North Korean subs coming home; Pentagon official goes Hollywood; and lots more

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Big dollar day. A program that came close to being scuttled just a few years ago has now become the $30 billion jewel in the U.S. Army’s crown. The service announced on Tuesday it was awarding truck manufacturer Oshkosh the contract to build a whopping 49,100 Joint Light Tactical ...

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Big dollar day. A program that came close to being scuttled just a few years ago has now become the $30 billion jewel in the U.S. Army’s crown. The service announced on Tuesday it was awarding truck manufacturer Oshkosh the contract to build a whopping 49,100 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV), to replace most Humvees in the Army’s formations. The Marine Corps has also committed to buying 5,500 of the heavily-armored troop carriers.

Oshkosh bested Humvee-maker AM General and contracting giant Lockheed Martin to lock down the initial $6.7 billion contract to start work on the program. But the road may be a little rocky at first. Many analysts predict one or both of the losing bidders will protest the hotly-contested award, since this is the last major vehicle program the Army is expected to undertake for years to come.

After years of grinding combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s Humvee fleet proved itself vulnerable to roadside bombs, even with tens of millions poured into up-armoring and modernizing the vehicle. The JLTV is envisioned as a vehicle that has all of the mobility and speed of a Humvee, but with protection akin to the hulking MRAP, which the Pentagon spent $20 billion rapidly procuring between 2007 and 2010.

But it’s not all bad news for AM General and Lockheed. AM General will have plenty of Humvee upgrade work on the thousands of Humvees that will remain in the Army’s inventory for at least the next decade. And for Lockheed, well, being by far the world’s largest defense contractor has its privileges.

Gitmo. Despite President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to close Gitmo as soon as possible, the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay doesn’t look to be in danger of shuttering any time soon. Part of the issue is finding a place to house the dozens of inmates housed there who won’t be released, since only 52 of the 116 in detention have been cleared for (eventual) release.

The other issue, as usual, is politics. While Senate Democrats scrapped Obama’s plans to close Gitmo in 2009, on Tuesday two Republican governors flat out rejected the transfer of detainees to prisons in their states. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sent a scathing letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday, vowing to block any transfer of prisoners to their states. “Simply put, we do not want them in our states,” Brownback and Haley wrote. FP’s Paul McLeary has more on the Pentagon’s reaction to the letter.

Intel wars. By design, the intelligence community engages in a constant argument with itself. But skewing the argument to win the fight is the sort of thing that can, and will, bring the investigators calling. The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo report that the Pentagon’s inspector general is looking into accusations that U.S. military officials tweaked intelligence assessments about the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq, “to provide a more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with the inquiry.”

U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that the Islamic State’s advance has been halted in Iraq and the fight is going in the right direction, but some recent intelligence assessments have concluded that the group is no weaker than it was a year ago, when the bombing campaign started.

Hello again from the SitRep HQ, where Wednesday is just another day to kick out some early morning emails. As always, we’re interested in any tips, notes, or otherwise interesting bits of information that you may have at your disposal. Please pass them along to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.   

Turkey

The Turks are in. The Defense Department revealed Wednesday that it has finalized all of the technical details to bring Turkish aircraft fully into the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The addition of Turkish warplanes to the effort is part of a deal that allowed U.S. fighter planes and drones to operate out of Turkish air bases. Washington and Ankara are still discussing how to lock down parts of the border between Turkey and Syria, however, plans which may or may not be complicated by recent explosive allegations that Turkish intelligence agencies sold out a group of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels to the jihadist al Nusra group.

U.S. Army

The bill has come due for dealing with the fallout from the massive hack of federal employees’ personnel data at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and it looks like the Army is going to be picking up the biggest part of the tab within the Defense Department. Overall, the department will spend $132 million for credit monitoring and identity theft protection for personnel affected by the hack — a move that’s become standard practice lately in the wake of large breaches — and the Army is slated to eat about 40 percent of that cost.

The Army’s quest to develop a capability for launching small satellites into space has encountered some serious problems write the star gazers over at Space News. The service’s latest program to get small sats into low orbit, the Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space, or SWORDS (of course), has been scrapped following a lack of response to requests for information from the private sector. In the meantime, the Army’s small satellites have been looking to hitch rides into space with the National Reconnaissance Office and SpaceX.

Asia exercises

The U.S. is looking to ramp up the number of exercises it conducts in the Pacific as part of the new Asia Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, a move that can be seen as a response to China’s increased construction of islands in the South China Sea. The news comes via the Philippine military, which is hosting PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris for talks. A Philippine military spokesman says the exercise plans will also include joint drills with the country’s armed services.

North Korea

North Korea raised alarm bells earlier this week when it sent the vast majority of its submarine force to sea, deploying over 70 percent of its fleet, thought to be about 50 subs. Now, following talks between North and South Korea to end the recent flare up at the DMZ, South Korean officials tell Voice of America that a large chunk of those submarines are returning to base.

Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the fight to wrest control of the city of Baiji from Islamic State as “crucial” to defeating the group. Fighting between jihadis and Iraqi security forces in the northern city has raged on for months, but Abadi said that taking it back from the Islamic State would provide a critical jumping off point for the eventual fight to take back the city of Mosul.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that a serious currency crisis in Iraq could hinder Baghdad’s ability to fight the Islamic State. The country is already facing an estimated $30 billion budget deficit, and the country’s dollar reserves have fallen about 20 percent to $59 billion over the past year, causing the central bank to sell $4.6 billion of currency to keep the Iraqi dinar stable. “The country will continue to lose reserves until the government of Iraq decides to devalue the dinar,” Frank Gunter, author of “The Political Economy of Iraq,” said.

On the move

Here’s an interesting one. Wendy R. Anderson, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff to former SecDef Chuck Hagel, and Chief of Staff for Ash Carter during his tenure as the Pentagon’s No. 2 official, is taking her talents to Hollywood. Anderson has taken a gig at Strong Eagle Media, an L.A.-based media company focused on making movies about the U.S. military. She told Variety that “Hollywood and Washington DC have a lot in common. It can be its own variety of competition, where you have teams hoping their idea wins the day, wins the funding.”

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has brought on board Olga Oliker to be a senior adviser and director of its Russia and Eurasia Program. Before coming over to CSIS, Oliker had spent time as the RAND Corporation’s director of the Center for Russia and Eurasia.

 

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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