Tag Archives: Pentagon

Pentagon looking at 3-D technology to revolutionize national defense

WASHINGTON – Last November, the Department of Defense unveiled its Defense Innovation Initiative. A core component of the initiative is the formation of a new Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program that will purportedly target several technology areas, including how to use 3-D printing to revolutionize national defense.

Already, 3-D printing is capable of producing artificial limbs, guns and even cars. But what is limiting its wide-range use in military?

“Just because a new technology can provide a service, like printing new things, doesn’t mean it necessarily should provide us service,” said Brennan Hogan, program manager of LMI Research Institute, a private corporation that provides management consulting, research and analysis to governments.

A lot of concerns should be taken into account before massively applying this technology. For example, what’s the implication of applying it? How to ensure the quality? How to test different parts of a machine? How big the testing scale should be? And where to test — lab or market?

“Next two or three years would be additive manufacturing. And so the democratization of the ability of manufacturing,” said Jim Joyce, manufacturing strategy and operation specialist leader of Deloitte. “The breaking of the tyranny of the scale of capital machine or people who are manufacturing will be the basis of the profound revolution.”

“We do have the taxpayer in mind, but there seems to be a struggle between those of the current leadership on the Hill and their understanding of what the industrial bases is trying to do,” Hogan said.

The government’s procurement system provides lots of protections to taxpayers, but when it comes to additive manufacturing – which basically is able to reach all aspects of people’s life – some of the requirements don’t actually meet the needs of what things are being proposed.

“The potential for revolutionary advancement is absolutely there. Where we are, though, is that we have an acquisition system that is ill-suited to deal with that,” said James Kenyon, director of advanced programs and technology at Pratt & Whitney. “Why? Because these things cost taxpayers’ money.”

The current stage of additive manufacturing is still evolutionary as DoD is working on determining which hardware out of the hundreds of thousands should be replicated using this new technology instead of using them to do something logistically different.

However, we’ve already seen many 3-D printing use in military. The naval dental school has been printing bridges for people in their mouths for almost 30 years. The customization of an individual’s physiology and the lack of infection makes it a perfect alternative for traditional artificial teeth. It is also used in modification of weapons so that they are more customized for individuals, rather than mass produced. Another typical example for its military use is its rapid equipping ability. Whenever troops need something that they didn’t have at the moment, they can just print it out in a short time.

“The revolution comes by when you can certify the results of additive manufacturing,” Joyce said. “We should break the logistic pressure by unleash the technology in various ways.”

Defense Department shows off cutting-edge tech

WASHINGTON — More than 100 display booths popped up in the Pentagon courtyard for the first-ever Defense Department Lab Day. These innovations, most of which are still under development, were designed by about 38,000 scientists and engineers.

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Pentagon to review “drone medal”

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that the Department of Defense would review the newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal aimed at troops who pilot drones, which has drawn considerable criticism from veterans groups and members of Congress because the so-called “drone medal” would outrank combat honors such as the Purple Heart.

The “drone medal” was approved under Leon Panetta, Hagel’s predecessor at the Pentagon, to honor “extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations” without regard for the location of the recipient in relation to the combat operations. This means a drone operator who remotely conducts targeted strikes could be given the award without being in a combat zone.

After the announcement in December, followed by an increase in media attention in February, a number of veterans groups publicly opposed its position as a higher honor than some of the military’s most prestigious awards.

John Hamilton, the commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, sent Hagel a letter outlining the group’s opposition to the rank of the new medal, calling for combat medals to be given priority.

“To create a new ‘war’ medal that doesn’t require physically serving in a war zone, and then to rank it above valor and injury medals that can only be earned in combat, has created a huge morale problem within the ranks,” Hamilton wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by representatives of 18 other national veterans associations.

The new medal also faced a backlash from members of Congress, including those who served overseas. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, told The Huffington Post that he thinks a higher rank should be given to medals honoring those who could have died in battle.

“It’s still different if your lives are on the line. You got to differentiate and we’d like DOD to do that so I don’t have to do this,” Hunter said.

A bipartisan group of 22 senators also sent a letter to Hagel asking the Department of Defense to lower the rank of the medal.

“We adamantly oppose the decision to elevate this award above those earned in direct combat,” the letter said. “We maintain that heroism and personal courage in combat do not change from generation to generation, and should be held sacred and awarded accordingly.”

The Pentagon’s announcement that the medal would be reviewed was applauded by those who opposed the award’s placement, but Hamilton noted in his letter that it was not yet a “done deal” that the medal would be lowered in rank.

CNN reports that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has been charged with reviewing the medal and that his report is expected to be completed by early April.

War on “cyber terror”: The next battlefield

The Pentagon is drafting a formal strategy that will categorize certain cyber attacks as acts of war – -allowing the U.S. to use military force in retaliation to such attacks, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Security experts, however, argue that clear origins of a cyber attack are next to impossible to find.

The WSJ article quoted an unnamed military official saying, “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks.”

Cyber attacks are of varying nature: ranging from phishing and hacking attempts to the use of malicious software. But most of these attacks fall under the category of cyber crime or cyber espionage. So what sort of a cyber attack would constitute an act of war?

“An act of cyber war could be considered one where an actor perpetrates a cyber attack against critical infrastructure systems or national assets in such a way that the effect of the attack causes physical harm, damage, or violence,” said Joseph Giordano, director of the cyber security program at Utica College, in an email. “Severe effects against the economy can also be considered an act of cyber war.”

Severe harm caused by an attack on the nation’s critical infrastructures like the electric power grid, the chemical sector, oil and gas, water supply and transportation, could trigger a military response, according to Giordano.

Under this strategy, the U.S. could use military force to retaliate against a foreign nation it believes has perpetuated a cyber war against it. This might seem like disproportionate use of force, but Catherine Lotrionte, adjunct professor of law at the Institute of International Law and Politics, Georgetown University, says it is justified under international laws.

“The right of self defense and use of force are not limited by what kind of weapon is used and it is not limited necessarily to kinetic vs. cyber,” said Lotrionte in a phone interview. “What it is often constrained by is the effects of the actual initiation of the use of force.”

This is known as equivalence in international laws. If a cyber attack causes similar amount of damage and loss of life as a physical attack would, then the right of self defense could be invoked and a military response undertaken, according to Lotrionte.

But one of the biggest challenges in justifying a military action against cyber attacks is the problem of “attribution.”

In such cases it is almost impossible to accurately determine where the attack originated from and who was behind it.

“In the realm of the Internet (cyber realm), you will fail miserably if you think that you can pinpoint an opponent via an IP address or even collection of addresses, a signature, a comment in an application and so forth,” wrote J. Oquendo, a security expert, in his blog.

Oquendo argues that an attacker can easily hide in cyber space.

“With millions of vulnerable machines worldwide, an attacker can launch an attack from anywhere with almost no attribution. This makes any analysis pretty much useless for the most part, wasted resources,” he wrote.

Giordano agrees, “smart and sophisticated hackers know how to easily obscure the origin of their attack even making it appear as if the attack is coming from a totally different point of origin.”

However, Catherine argues that, because of the difficulty with attribution, states should be able “to work under less than perfect certainty” on where the attack originated from and who is responsible.

“You might not know the original point, but you might know one of the intermediary points. So there is a state and you could track it back to this server which compromised our systems in a foreign nation, then you at least go to that point and hold that state responsible,” said Lotrionte.

Furthermore, she argues that even if the attacker is a non-state actor, the state is responsible for controlling its sovereign territories and could be held accountable.

“The norm of state responsibility will become very important in cyber,” she added.

But if sophisticated attackers can easily disguise traffic and make an attack look like it’s coming from multiple countries – how many unknowing countries will be held accountable for an act that could be perpetuated by non-state actors? And would this strategy lead to unjust wars and wasted resources? Possibly.

The media and the military: ‘dysfunctional marriage?’


When Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last July he would tighten the rules on engagement with media, a long-time dispute resurfaced: to what extent should the military be open to the media?

Gates’ memo requires approval by his Public Affairs office before any military or Defense Department officials can give interviews that may have “national or international implications.”

And many journalists have not been happy with the Pentagon’s raised guard on media engagement.

During an interview with PBS NewsHour on July 8th, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said:

All we’re asking for is, when something rises above one’s individual area of responsibility, that we eventually get visibility on it, … because the reality is, somebody speaks to one thing that they may know about, but it (may) have a ripple effect throughout the rest of our operations, including decisions that are being made in the NSC (National Security Council) or within our department or across the river in other departments.

Christopher Hanson, Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said this will have a chilling effect on access to military officials and information.

“There will be a bottleneck in the Pentagon where these requests for interviews will be sitting,” Hanson said in an interview. “The public will end up getting less information that it needs.”

But the Pentagon’s senior Public Affairs official, Assistant Secretary Douglas B. Wilson, defended the new policy at a panel discussion (Oct. 29) sponsored by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative

Wilson said the new guidelines are not intended to draw an “Iron Curtain” against the media, but rather to alert Pentagon insiders and ensure that when they deal with media “[they] know of what [they] speak and find out what [they] don’t know.”

“Hopefully this memo has not had any discernable effect on how the media works,” Wilson said.

At the panel discussion, journalists also raised concerns about government agencies giving “on-background” interviews more frequently than before. “On-background” means that reporters can use the quotes but may not attribute them to the speaker by name, instead using phrases like “senior defense official.” For example, during the recent confusion about court rulings that affected the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue, the Pentagon held a background briefing with a senior official but did not allow his name to be used.

“The bottom line is (they say) the issue is too controversial, but that excuse is (used) for any number of briefings,” said Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times’ Pentagon correspondent, during the discussion.

In response, Wilson said the Pentagon has a dual responsibility:  to be as transparent and timely as possible with the media, but also to ensure security of the men and women in uniform.

“It’s a hard tight rope to walk, but we walk it,” Wilson said.

The military and the media have long had a love -hate relationship or “a dysfunctional marriage,” as Thom Shanker, a Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, calls it.

“It’s a dysfunctional marriage at times—to be sure—but we stay together for the kids” Shanker said during an interview with Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling in a Military Review article in 2009. Shanker explained that military “kids” are the soldiers and the media’s “kids” are its audience.

Maj. Kirk Luedeke, a senior Army press liaison, that illustrated Shanker’s point. As a brigade public affairs officer, Luedeke was once on a vehicle with a group of young soldiers in Baghdad who were talking about live in the war zone.  The staff sergeant who was the vehicle commander said: “Shh, we have media in the vehicle.” Luedeke had to explain to the soldiers that he was one of them, and not “the media.”

“It reminded me that as much work as we had put into training our soldiers about media awareness, we still have a long way to go,” he said.  “There’s a disconnect [between the soldiers and the media].”

In the magazine interview, Shanker said trust is the key to making this “dysfunctional” relationship work, particularly in the war zones.

“In the information age, the first casualty of war is trust,” he said, “trust between those who fight the wars and those whose job it is to report them.”

Current testing is make or break for new Marine Corps Amphib

Photo by Wikipedia

Amphibious warfare capabilities, the ability to project military power onto a hostile shore, is a unique tactic exclusive to the Marine Corps. Since 1972, the Marines have used Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), a sort of hybrid between a boat and tank, to safely transport Marines directly from ships and up onto land.

In 1988, the Marines decided to initiate an Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) program, which in 2003 was renamed as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program.  In 1996, the Marine Corps awarded General Dynamics a contract to build 573 of the vehicles with full operational capability by 2025.

This 13 billion dollar project substantially upgrades the previous AAV models.  For example, the original AAVs’ high speed in water is about 8 knots.  They carry a 50 caliber machine gun and must be deployed less than two miles from shore.

“In today’s day and age that’s a troubling aspect to have to operate in when missile defenses and rogue terrorists are able to get a hold of shoulder mounted weapons,” said Emanuel Pacheco, public affairs officer of the U.S. Marine Corps EFV Program Office.

The new EFVs can deploy from their mother-ships as far as 25 miles from shore, can reach up to 25-30 knots in the water and come equipped with a stabilized 360 degree turret and a 30mm cannon that can reach targets up to 2,000 meters away.

“It’s a night and day difference,” said Pacheco.

But the program has received strong criticism both from Congress and defense experts, mainly due to an initial testing phase in 2006, which showed various problems associated with the new vehicles.

The Congressional Research Service has expressed concerns about the vehicles vulnerability to IEDs in its report, The Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV): Background and Issues for Congress, released Sept. 1, 2011.

The report states, “The improvised explosive device (IED) threat that has plagued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan was not envisioned in 1988 when the EFV program was initiated. The EFV’s low ground

clearance and flat bottom make it particularly vulnerable to IEDs; this has raised congressional concern that the EFV, as currently designed, would provide inadequate protection to transported Marines.

Other main problems included the frequent jamming of the 30mm cannon, and the average time between operational mission failures was very low, only 4.5 hours.

But Pacheco said important lessons were learned from the initial testing and the whole program has been basically redesigned.

Part of the reason for the high failure rate, he said, was that the vehicles had been put through the equivalent of 20 to 30 years of testing at the bases before actually going through the operational assessment.

So when the EFVs go through the second phase of testing scheduled to begin in November to see if these problems have been resolved, they will evaluate seven brand new prototypes, rather than the originals they used before.

“I think it’s fair to say that this is the litmus test to see if the program goes forward,” Pacheco said.

The testing will last until the end of January.  Each vehicle will have to endure 500 hours of mini-missions and operate 16 hours before experiencing mission failure in order to pass.

“We’re optimistic we’ll be in the low 20s [of hours] just based on all the early testing that we’ve done,” Pacheco said. “We’ve had a lot of success in high water testing and we put more time and effort into the turret system in these new prototypes just to ensure that we work out a lot of the bugs early on.”

But Lawrence Korb, defense budget expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says the EFV program is too costly and is a misuse of tax-payer dollars.

“It’s not that you don’t want them [Marines] to be able to project power from the sea.  They’ll still be able to come ashore and do various things, but you don’t need this expensive vehicle,” Korb said.

Over the past 25 years, the Marines have conducted 106 amphibious operations, most of which have been humanitarian crisis support missions such as those in Rwanda, Somalia and most recently in Haiti.  The Marines also used their amphibious capability to evacuate American citizens from Lebanon in 2006.

“When are you going to do an amphibious landing under fire again?” asked Korb.  “We haven’t done that since 1950.”

But Pacheco says that doesn’t mean the Marines don’t need the capability.

“We’re not going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of our history.  There’s trouble brewing around the corner somewhere and we have to continue to be most ready when perhaps that the nation is the least ready,” Pacheco said, echoing a Corps slogan.  “And part of that requires us to get back to those roots, to be a force in readiness and to be ready to deploy.”

In June 2010, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a group of more than a dozen defense experts, published Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward, a report that recommends canceling the EFV program and refurbishing the older AAVs instead, which it says would save $8 billion to $9 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voted to fully fund the President’s FY11 EFV budget request, but their support, along with that of the Secretary of Defense, will likely end for the next defense budget submission due in February if the EFVs don’t pass this upcoming test.

Media-military relations not improved by Pentagon’s ruling on Hastings embed

Freelance reporter Michael Hastings, whose Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal ended the former top Afghanistan commander’s military career, has been denied an embed slot to join a military unit in Afghanistan, according to news reports.

In a Twitter posting, Hastings wrote, “to clarify @AP story: the embed had already been approved for september. now it has been disapproved.” He apparently was working on a story about helicopters and asked for the embed a month ago. The Pentagon acknowledged Tuesday that it had denied the request.

According to the Associated Press, Col. David Lapan “acknowledged that it’s ‘fairly rare’ for the military to turn way a reporter who wants to embed with front-line troops. ‘There is no right to embed,’ Lapan said. ‘It is a choice made between units and individual reporters, and a key element of an embed is having trust that the individuals are going to abide by the ground rules. So in that instance the command in Afghanistan decided there wasn’t the trust requisite and denied this request.’”

But Hastings says the embed was approved, which would show there was “the trust requisite” for at least someone in the military at one point.

Lapan’s vague use of lack of trust as a reason for denying an embed indicates a Pentagon public affairs office that will use this type of reasoning now and in the future to deny access to the troops in Afghanistan – or elsewhere – to any reporter who has written a story that someone in the chain of command finds annoying.

That is a serious precedent. If the military has no evidence that Hastings violated his embed agreement on a previous trip, the Pentagon ought to follow its own rules on his current embed request and approve it.

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced new rules requiring military officers and Pentagon officials to notify Gates’ public affairs shop before talking to reporters, a policy announced shortly after Hastings’ article was published, the secretary emphasized that he has often found news reports helpful, “a spur to action” to fix problems like the Walter Reed Army Medical Center problems a few years ago.

“This is not about you,” Gates said of those rules. “This is about us.”

The retaliatory attitude toward Hastings would seem to indicate otherwise.

Reporting in Guantanamo

The Pentagon’s “Media Policy and Ground Rules” pamphlet for reporting on Guantanamo starts off badly and quickly veers into silly.

The bad start: Reporters may only fly to Guantanamo to cover the military commissions by using military aircraft, although they can leave on commercial planes. Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald noted that she had to fly via commercial plan to Washington so she could take a military flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Cuba. She used to fly from Miami to report on Guantanamo.

The turn to silly: “Etiquette” rules prohibit chewing gum, standing and stretching or sleeping in the courtroom.

What these examples demonstrate: A military culture that results in arbitrary restrictions on reporters at the whim of a public affairs officer.

The New York Times reported last week about how the media guidelines are enforced at Guantanamo, exposing the public affairs officers as petty, controlling and fearful of journalists. Through the guidelines they established, these PAOs have undermined Defense Department efforts to build relationships with the media. Recently, in announcing rules for military officials’ interactions with reporters, Secretary Roberts Gates stressed the need for aggressive reporting on the military.

He told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that The Washington Post series about problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center “have been a spur to action for me. The kind of reporting you do … is one of the tools I have in trying to lead this department and correct problems.”

Some senior officials at the Defense Department have agreed to meet this week with representatives of several news organizations demanding the some of the Guantanamo rules be rescinded.

Much of the focus is on rules that prohibit reporters from revealing information the Pentagon decides is protected even if that information is learned from non-government sources.

Rosenberg and several other reporters were expelling from Guantanamo in May for publishing the name of an Army interrogator even though that name had been aired in numerous news stories previously – because the rules allowed only an anonymous moniker given to him in court documents.

Rosenberg and lawyers for the media companies say the rules are a violation of the First Amendment.

This week’s meeting offers an opportunity for the Pentagon to acknowledge the obvious as a start in rebuilding a damaged relationship and, more important, allowing Guantanamo reporters to do their job in the best interests of the public.

U.S. military rules the planning roost

WASHINGTON–As Americans, we see ourselves as the best in a number of ways. We have the best governmental framework. We have the best athletes. We have the best way of life.

Whether those are true or not is up for debate abroad, but not within our borders. What is likely an accepted truth across the world is the United States military’s ability to plan for unforeseen disasters is second to none.

“This is an enormous strength of the United States military,” said Dr. David Tretler, a professor at the National War College in Washington. “We probably do this more, and therefore better, than anybody else.

“When events do occur, we have a greater capacity to carry out the planning that’s necessary to try to get everything lined up in the right way and moving at the proper time.”

Indeed, the U.S. military spends a vast amount of time making contingency plans. Each of the individual combatant commands has its own planning division concerned strictly with thinking about the contingencies that need to be in place. For example, one of the contingencies thought about at Pacific Command is what the course of action needs to be if North Korea decides to invade South Korea.

Tretler said planning contingencies for a certain region or deployment used to take about two years, but former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cut the planning cycle to a year or shorter. Once a plan is in place, however, it is constantly revised.

“What it comes down to is assessments by senior leaders that the process in place is working or we see a better way,” Tretler said. “If that becomes fact, we generate a new doctrine.”

It’s an element of the military that receives little attention because for it to be successful, it needs to happen behind closed doors. Military planning gets noticed when something goes wrong, but with the enormity of the task, the planners simply cannot get everything right.

“The military spends so much more time on planning and trying to think ahead, but that takes large staffs and large headquarters,” said Dr. Conrad Crane, director of the Army War College in Carlisle Pa. “The rest of the government doesn’t have the resources to do it.”

Crane also mentioned that the rest of the government tries to play catch-up with the military in this respect, again speaking to the adroitness with which the military plans for anything that can go wrong.

“In terms of trying to develop processes, foundation, skills and cadre of experts we are considerably further ahead than most folks,” Tretler said. “Especially when you talk about big things because, frankly, we’re the only people who have big things.”

It all gets back to being the best, and that’s something our military takes very seriously.

Weapons of mass depression?

Pharmaceutical companies come away winners

WASHINGTON — Military doctors are prescribing more meds to soldiers to treat depression and anxiety, yet there is an increasing rate of suicides among active duty soldiers and veterans. This includes recent veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies – the Big Pharma crowd and an increasing showing from low-cost generic brands – are benefitting from the uptick in business without clear disclosure of just how much each is receiving.

The Military Times and affiliated Army Times Group publications have been doing a series of reports pointing out the liberal distribution of prescription medicine to those in the military and a potential connection to the mental instability that leads to suicide. Although ­a combination of therapy and medication has proven to be of significant help in treating depression, anxiety and trauma, it may be the case that active troops have access to a dangerous variety of drugs without much concurrent therapy. The Times based its report on the government data obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests. Use of antidepressants in the general population itself has exploded, yet it has not come with such a spike in suicide and possibly includes more clinical care.

While the Afghanistan/Pakistan and post-Saddam Iraq battles drag on interminably, the continued presence of terrorism, either independent or organized, assures the continuation of ubiquitous U.S. armed forces and support personnel. Troops are subjected to myriad traumas and stress, only to come back stateside with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in many cases and then even the most iconic among them have struggled in attempts to receive care. This may compound the problems created by the loose dealing of prescription drugs to active soldiers, experts say.

The number of annual suicides per 100,000 troops serving has risen from 8 in 2001 to 14 in 2009, according to the Times analysis of Defense Logistics Agency data. What’s more, citing information from the Veterans Affairs Department, The Army Times reported last week that as many as 18 veterans are committing suicide each day.

Bart Billings, a doctor and retired colonel, recently testified ­ before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that soldiers should not be taking antidepressants at all, let alone at the alarming rate and in such varied combination. “Drug cocktails,” however, have become common in the armed forces despite there being little research to support many of the combinations, according to Billings.

I caught Billings on the phone this weekend while he was at the Annual Combat Stress Conference, which he founded 18 years ago.

Billings is an outspoken critic of the lax oversight of ­what appears to be a huge proliferation of drugs in the field that is not being reported. He said that it’s hard to quantify how much of these kinds of medication are being used in the field , but that there are documented cases of sudden death as a result of so-called medication cocktails.

“It’s easier to figure out how many drugs are coming from Colombia to the U.S. than trying to figure out the number of drugs going to the field,” Billings said, in a reference to cocaine cartels.

Peter Breggin, Ph. D., presented an article to appear soon in a scientific journal in which he draws the clear connection between the use of antidepressants by soldiers put in stressful situations who are taught to use violence and increased incidence of suicide or even homicide.

Following the money

The Pentagon has more than a $6 billion annual budget for prescription drugs. I tried to find out if there is information available about just how much taxpayer money is going to which drug manufacturers, but ran into some road blocks.

The DLA, a part of the DoD, is the place that orders the drugs eventually used by all U.S. armed forces. That agency spent at least $1.1 billion on psychiatric and pain medication between 2001 and 2009, according to the Military Times report. Yet the DLA doesn’t purchase anything directly from the manufacturers such as Ely Lilly, Wyeth, Pfizer and GlaxosmithKline.

Instead, the DLA uses a network of pharmaceutical “prime vendors,” according to DLA spokeswoman Diana Stewart. So they contract with distributors in the pharmaceutical industry to purchase and deliver pharmaceuticals in different geographical regions while the prime vendors purchase direct from the manufacturers.

It’s not yet clear whether those in the DoD have a say in which manufacturers are used or if it would matter whether they are courted by pharmaceutical companies. Yet it is certain that the pharmaceutical industry shells out money for at least the travel of DoD doctors and other medical professionals.

The Center for Public Integrity had previously collaborated with Medill to report on the amount of money drug companies spend on travel for the Defense Department officials. The 2009 report showed that from 1998 to 2007, the medical industry paid more than $10 million for 8,700 trips, or about 40 percent of all outside sponsored travel.

Health care bill sunlight

The momentous Obama administration health care bill recently passed by Congress might actually illuminate how much the Department of Defense pays to each manufacturer, as a sunshine act actually will track the relationship between Big Pharma and physicians to see whether there’s any undue influence in who uses which drugs.

Until then, the DLA is working on gathering the information on its prime vendors, and the Army Times publications are working on another reporting package on the subject.