Welcome to Tuesday's edition of FP's Situation Report, where we always try to avoid bumps in the road. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at email@example.com.
Obama heads to the U.N. to condemn the anti-Muslim video and will speak out against slander, not only against Muslims, but also Christians and Jews. He'll re-affirm his commitment to keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and speak to the conflict in Syria and the state of finding an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It all comes at a time when Mitt Romney is attempting to slam the president on foreign policy and Obama's lead on that issue has begun to drop. WSJ's story on how the race focuses on foreign policy: http://on.wsj.com/RTUihC
JIEDDO is still having an impact but its future is uncertain. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, now more than six years old, faces the possibility that it might not remain whole amid a defense budget squeeze and a drawdown from Afghanistan.
That could be a blow to an organization whose mission is to save the lives of service members fighting in Afghanistan, where IEDs cause 60 percent of all casualties.
Here's the data: a JIEDDO official told Situation Report that the "effective attack rate" is down by more than 30 percent from two years ago. Meanwhile, the rate of IEDs that are found and cleared without injury is up: the found-and-cleared rate for IEDs designed for mounted patrols are up from 54 percent a year ago to 65 percent today; the rate for IEDs designed to kill or mail service members on "dismounted" patrols are up from 76 percent a year ago to 78 percent today.
Yet IEDs remain a fearsome constant, even as the U.S. looks to wind down the mission in Afghanistan.
At a hearing late last week, JIEDDO head Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero told a panel that this past July saw the highest number of monthly IED events recorded. "In the past two years, IED events have increased 42 percent, from 9,300 in 2009 to 16,000 in 2011," Barbero testified before the defense subcommittee of the House's Committee on Appropriations. "While the overall number of IED events is high, our ability to find and neutralize them before detonation has improved steadily and significantly -- helping to reduce U.S. casualties by more than 40 percent since last year," Barbero said.
JIEDDO sees the fight against IEDs as a "Darwinian Conflict" in which every success in defeating such killers grows harder as the enemy grows smarter. "As we kill off the dumb ones, the smart, adaptive ones live to fight another day," a JIEDDO official told Situation Report.
But after years of defeating IEDs, JIEDDO itself could be defeated. Read more below.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is behind on predicting another kind of threat: chem-bio. A Pentagon official told E-Ring's Kevin Baron that there's no crystal ball for anticipating how enemies could misuse biotechnology and chemical advances. Gerald Parker, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, is worried about the need to find vaccines that fight not just one thing, but many diseases or pathogens at one time. http://bit.ly/PWNCgx
Simon Klingert deconstructs the attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan that killed two Marines and damaged a number of Harriers in what one aviator blogger claims is the "greatest loss in U.S. combat air power since the Vietnam war." A Taliban view of the attack. http://bit.ly/ULRsKk
Meanwhile, don't let us hear you call it a ‘pivot.' It's very clear these days that when you walk around the Pentagon and chat up folks about the big move to Asia, you'll be quickly put right. It ain't a pivot, we keep being told. It's a rebalancing. We've been corrected enough times during the last week -- while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Asia -- that it seemed we should ask why we can't call it a pivot. And even some defense officials catch themselves saying "pivot" when of course they mean "rebalance." We knew the answer, but since we failed strategic communications class, we had to ask.
"We use the word rebalance to signal a few things, one we haven't forgotten and we never left the Asia Pacific region," one defense official told Situation Report. "We've been a Pacific nation and our presence has helped security security and prosperity for 60 years... so we're talking about a rebalance." On Asia, the official said, "we never left."
Speaking of Asia (again)... As if to prove that the pivot, er, rebalancing, is for real, a defense official pointed out yesterday that there will be a series of high-level engagements in Asia. Indeed, Panetta, who on Saturday returned to the U.S. from a week in Japan, China and New Zealand, will go to Australia in November and visit Asian nations following that stop. Details and itinerary, of course, still being worked out, a defense official told Situation Report.
Will the Chinese say ‘I do'? During Panetta's stop in China last week, American defense officials invited the Chinese to RIMPAC, the big Rim of the Pacific Exercise that takes place every two years. Next one is in 2014, and the Chinese are invited. Word is the RSVP may be returned. Read Kevin's post here: http://bit.ly/PWNCgx
Blasphemy! 10 books that are better than ‘The Art of War.' West Point recently released its list of the top 10 military classics, replete, as John Arquilla writes on FP, with "doorstop-sized accounts of conflict" that ignore the more timely topics of insurgency, terrorism, and irregular warfare. So he has his own list, which includes but isn't limited to Sallust's "The Jugurthine War," Glubb's "The Great Arab Conquests," Callwell's "Small Wars" and Reed's "Insurgent Mexico." Arquilla's list also includes "War of the Flea" in which Robert Taber argues that little can stop the weak from wearing down the strong with insurgent warfare. Seems just a wee bit relevant. http://bit.ly/VzFDqk
JIEDDO, continued. The defense funding crunch, the tightening of wartime budgets, and a bureaucratic desire in the Defense Department to transition JIEDDO into a long-term capability that is resourced accordingly, is underway. One official tells Situation Report that the decision sits on Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's desk. While the decision doesn't appear imminent, many options are being considered.
JIEDDO could be broken into pieces, possibly assigning its intelligence-gathering operation to another, larger intel organization within the military. Its training mission, integral to its success, could be farmed out to one or more of the services. And its ability to assist in rapid acquisition -- the protective under-garment, or PUG, which protects service members' genitals and was fielded in six months and seen as a rapid acquisition success story -- could be assigned to the Defense Department's office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. All of these are possibilities that have been bandied about for some time, even under Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But as funding cuts threaten programs -- like JIEDDO, which began in 2006 as a task force to address the number one killer of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- defense officials are having to reevaluate a number of programs. JIEDDO is one of them. And its funding, which primarily comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations ("supplemental") account, forces the issue as that funding begins to dry up, too. By the way, JIEDDO's annual funding has dropped from a high of $4.5 billion in 2007 to $2.4 billion this year.
No Rest for Unrest
- Lebanon's The Daily Star: Gunmen kill Yemeni intelligence officer. http://bit.ly/SjPUqr
- Bloomberg: Saleh resists retirement in Yemen. http://buswk.co/RcZeLX
- All Africa: No success in talks in Sudan. http://bit.ly/RdOYTR
- CNN: Clinton offers more help to Libya as it tries to rein in militias. http://reut.rs/Vzt2Dk
- Lebanon's The Daily Star: Libyan leader insists his country will not be a burden. http://bit.ly/UsQoIv
- Jerusalem Post: Obama to warn Iran U.S. will do what it takes to stop nukes. http://bit.ly/Qh9ZgE
- Bloomberg: Obama to confront roots of Muslim rage. http://buswk.co/UCnJVR
- YouTube: Obama's U.N. speech last year. http://bit.ly/raOCMd
- Fox: Stakes high for Obama speech. http://fxn.ws/QgSWv9
- Defense News: Market slide could force Congress to face "fiscal cliff." http://bit.ly/SOofKt
- The Cable: The blame game between Dems and Republicans stalls the defense bill. http://bit.ly/JyqV
- The Hill: Lockheed Martin CEO thrust into sequestration debate. http://bit.ly/Pj3vLr
Your Opinion Counts
- Haaretz: The U.N.'s charade over Ahmedinejad. http://bit.ly/RYiCJt
- The Nation's editors: What's really behind Muslim rage against the U.S. http://bit.ly/SEzQvq
- National Review's Victor Davis Hanson: Islamists are taking advantage of the U.S.' failure to grasp their intent. http://bit.ly/RRf4yt
- WSJ's Hillman: The first military-science class is being taught at Harvard starting this month. http://on.wsj.com/RdANOr