National Security

U.S. has “strong concerns” about Iranian warplane shooting at drone

Stavridis cleared of any wrongdoing, Service associations to Congress: get off your bum, the Washington parlor game of Obama’s cabinet continues, and more.

Iranian fighters belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot at an American Predator drone flying near Iran last week. The administration just confirmed the incident Thursday, after CNN's Barbara Starr first reported it yesterday. The Pentagon said the drone was in international airspace and that it was the first time they were aware that an unmanned aircraft had been shot at over international waters in the Arabian Gulf. But Pentagon press secretary George Little would not describe it as an act of war. "I'm not going to get into legal labels," he said at a Pentagon briefing yesterday. "The reality is that we have a wide range of protect our assets and our forces in the region and we'll do so when necessary."

The U.S. expressed its "strong concerns" about the incident to Tehran through the Swiss embassy.

Steve Hadley on Fox last night: "It's a very dicey situation at this point."

A lack of "attention to detail": Adm. Jim Stavridis has been cleared of any wrongdoing after the Pentagon's inspector general investigated Stavridis, the head of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, for travel and record-keeping issues. The DoD IG concluded that Stavridis had used military aircraft for unofficial travel without obtaining approval on one occasion and had claimed per diem expenses to which he was not entitled, among other findings. In one instance, he allowed an employee and a family member to accompany him on a military aircraft in connection to a trip to Dijon, France, but didn't follow DoD directives on reimbursing the government.

However, the transgressions were not considered serious and seemed to amount to bad record keeping and poor administrative work on his staff's part. The investigation was begun in February 2011. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus found that Stavridis did not misuse his office and found that most of the problems amounted to reporting and accounting missteps that the admiral corrected. The AP reported that Mabus concluded in a memo: "I have determined that Adm. Stavridis never attempted to use his public office for private gain nor did he commit personal misconduct," Mabus wrote. The problems "reflect poor attention to administrative detail by the office."

Mabus did discuss the issue of oversight with Stavridis, who is well-liked and respected by many and was expected to retire next year after three years in the job. Gen. John Allen has been nominated to replace him.

The investigation, which individuals close to Stavridis had long held would not turn up anything substantive, nonetheless may have contributed to his not getting the nod as the top naval officer, a job he was widely thought to have sought.

Redacted IG report:


The Pentagon will soon announce what will happen to Gen. Ward, the former AFRICOM commander whom the DoD IG was also investigating. George Little, yesterday: "The process is being finalized, and the Army is done what it needs to do in the process. So I think we'll reach resolution relatively quickly."

Greetings from Milwaukee and welcome to the Friday edition of Situation Report, where we give a shout out to Bob Simi, the first Marine officer we ever met in the field -- in Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- in 1999, and thank him for allowing us to drone on at a Marine Corps Birthday event here. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list.

Apologies for yesterday misstating that a single roadside bomb went off in Helmand Province in Afghanistan; there were multiple explosions in different locations, including in Zabol province.

Seven insiders engage in what George Little calls the "parlor game" of guessing who Obama's new dream cabinet will be. Nonetheless, here goes, for national security positions, these insiders make these picks:

Leslie Gelb: Ash Carter for Sec-Def, Tom Donilon for NSA, David Petraeus for DNI, Joseph Nye for CIA;

Grover Norquist: Dov Zakheim for Sec-Def, a wounded warrior for NSA, David Norquist for DNI, Petraeus for CIA;

Dennis Ross: Carter for Sec-Def, Flournoy for DNI, Petraeus for CIA, Donilon for NSA;

Danielle Pletka: Jack Keane for Sec-Def, "Nobody" for DNI, Petraeus for CIA, Flournoy for NSA;

Andrew Bacevich: Gates for Sec-Def, "GOP Benghazi critic" for DNI, Petraeus for CIA, Chas Freeman for NSA;

Rosa Brooks: Flournoy for Sec-Def, Harold Koh for DNI, John Brennan for CIA, Tony Blinken for NSA;

Mark Leonard: Kurt Campbell for Sec-Def, Anne-Marie Slaughter for DNI, Susan Rice for CIA, Denis McDonough for NSA.

The service associations to Capitol Hill: get off your bum. Sequestration is bringing the services, which clearly work to protect only their own equities, together to tell Congress it must act. The heads of the Air Force Association, the Navy League, and the Association of the United States Army sent a letter yesterday to congressional leaders, urging them not to balance the budget on the "backs of our military." The military is already absorbing $487 billion in budget reductions and sequestration would in effect double that amount at a time when forces are balancing "a broad array of missions with aging equipment and failing personnel strength," according to the letter, obtained by Situation Report.

The Army and Marine Corps "are in desperate need of equipment reset, having been in combat for more than a decade";

The Air Force "has been at war continuously since Desert Storm in 1991, resulting in high-flying time inventory of aircraft that average 25 years in age";

The Navy "attempts to conduct its global missions with a fleet that is its smallest in almost 100 years";

The Coast Guard "is active in 11 mission areas with an aging fleet."

"Ending the specter of sequestration hovering over our defense industrial base and manufacturing sector must occur immediately, and the solution must be a balanced one that acknowledges that our nation faces a wide array of security threats," the letter states.

It was signed by Gordon Sullivan of AUSA, George Muellner of the AFA, and Dale Lumme of the Navy League.

Jim Amos would take a few more ships. Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos appeared at CSIS yesterday to say among other things that the small, flexible Marine Corps is a good return on investment, but that the Corps will have a hard time keeping up with global demands for amphibious forces in the coming years as its operations wind down in places like Afghanistan and wind up in the Pacific. As an example, if you listed the amphibious requirements of any regional combatant commander, he said, it would exceed by almost four times the amount of force the Corps can provide. "The requirements are real, we just can't support it. We don't have enough ships. We don't have enough forward deployed forces to be able to satisfy the appetite of the combatant commanders," he said.

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron listened in on the whole speech:

Vets: you get free admission all this weekend to all national parks for Veterans Day.

 Twelve Years and Counting





National Security

The cliff that could happen

How the election shook up committees on the Hill, The national security team that might have been, Billability versus vulnerability: law firms and the cyber threat, and more

A roadside bomb in Helmand Province in Afghanistan killed 18 Afghans this morning, BBC reports.

ISAF commander Gen. John Allen, just now: " These attacks are the most recent examples of how insurgents intentionally target, kill and injure those who want a brighter future for Afghanistan."

With the election behind the White House and Congress, the focus of effort in Washington will be the sequester and its impact on defense spending, some $500 billion over the next 10 years that worriers warn would hollow out the Defense Department. And while President Obama said sequestration won't happen, there are those who argue that sequester is increasingly likely.

The Center for a New American Security's Dave Barno, Nora Bensahel Joel Smith and Jacob Stokes, writing on FP this morning: "[I]t's time to admit there is a strong possibility that sequestration will take effect -- because both the president and Congress could benefit politically."

The three options as they see it:

The grand bargain (unlikely): This would require an agreement between Democrats and Republicans over taxes and government spending that is not likely given current gridlock and a tight deadline of Jan. 2, 2013. "Barring an unforeseen change, the cumulative effect of partisan gridlock and a lack of time should squelch expectations for a grand bargain in the lame duck."

An agreement to delay (also unlikely). The bargaining over a possible delay could resemble a scaled-down version of trying to reach a grand bargain, Barno and Bensahel argue, and would face a "difficult and contentious, if not impossible, path."

A drop off the fiscal cliff (increasingly likely, they argue). If a grand bargain doesn't happen and pushing the deadline back doesn't work, then there is no other option than to make the massive defense cuts designed under the Budget Control Act, the two write. This could result in widespread furloughs or layoffs among the DoD civilian workforce and cuts to military healthcare.

The Pentagon might mitigate the cliff by asking for reprogramming authority, to shift from lower priority accounts to other, higher priority ones, and thus soften the blow. Or, it might defer cuts to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, assuming that Congress would first find a way to reverse the sequestration cuts. Of course, if Congress failed, the effects would then be devastating.

Read more of their argument on FP:

Speaking of CNAS, Nate Fick is leaving it. Fick, the former Marine officer who rose to become the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, will step down at the end of this month to become the CEO of Endgame, Inc., "a leading venture-backed provider of advanced cyber security solutions." Want Fick's old job? CNAS Chairman Richard Danzig wants to hear from you. Apply here:

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Situation Report, where we're headed to Milwaukee to talk to a group of retired Marines and Naval Academy grads. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list.

The election brought changes to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that will contribute to a new dynamic between the Hill and the Pentagon. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) are all retiring. And term limits dictate that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will have to give up his seat as ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, giving Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) a spot along side committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). But Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was able to hold on to her seat, which means the panel retains one of the biggest voices on contracting and oversight.

The House Armed Services Committee lost conservative Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, who lost his seat in a newly redrawn district, but, as the E-Ring's Kevin Baron points out, Bartlett, known for marching to his own beat, had sometimes been an ally to the Obama administration, supporting the Defense Department's efforts to develop alternative energy initiatives. And Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), who was the fifth-ranking member of the committee, lost his seat when he gave it up to run against McCaskill. That means the Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee chairmanship he occupied is now open, critical at a time of the move to Asia. Others on the HASC lost their seats, including Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL), and Rep. Todd Russell Plats (R-PA) is retiring. Committee assignments for new members will unfold over the next few weeks. Read Kevin Baron's full story:

Military Times reports there will be six fewer veterans in the Senate as a result of Tuesday's election, bringing the total number to 20. Little change in the House so far, as some races are not yet determined, but three incumbent veterans lost their seats on Tuesday, and 12 veteran challengers won. There are currently 92 vets serving in the House.

Panetta told the troops they should remain "squarely focused" on their mission, now that the election is over. "America's elected leaders, in turn, now have the responsibility to do everything possible to ensure that we succeed in our mission. As the country moves beyond the 2012 election, DoD personnel should take heart in one thing that will always unite the American people, and that is their strong support for the millions of men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line to defend, to keep our country safe."

The Romney national security team that could have been. The Romney team had been planning a transition from the Obama national security apparatus to a Republican-led one that was called "Project Readiness," reports The Cable's Josh Rogin. Numerous people were involved, including former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, former State Department official Philip Zelikow, former Navy Secretary William Ball, Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan, and the Foreign Policy Initiative's Jamie Fly.

"Confidence in Romney's victory persisted until the last minute and the planning was extensive," Rogin writes. "In recent weeks, preparations included the drive to prepare drafts of agency transition plans and policy papers coordinated by interwoven task forces that focused on specific issues." Those drafts were due on Election Day, multiple sources told Rogin.

The transition team for the Pentagon included three co-equal co-chairs: former senator Jim Talent, who was thought to have a good chance at being named Pentagon chief, and former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who was also in the running for SecDef, as well as former Pentagon policy chief Eric Edelman. Roger Zakheim, who works on the House Armed Services Committee for Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), was the Pentagon transition team leader. Rogin's story here:

How much are you paying your law firm? Cyber villains may be invading your company through your law firm, Killer Apps' John Reed reports. Companies with top-notch IT security may think they're all good, but hackers may be slipping in through subsidiaries, suppliers, and even law firms that "don't practice good network defense," Reed writes.

Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer with cyber security firm Mandiant to Reed: "The bad guys have really switched to things like going after third parties, places where the company's data is stored or manipulated. That's why we've seen, over the last couple of years, [hackers targeting] law firms. You can't get the data from the original source, so get it from somebody that has a copy or is processing it."

On tap today: Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos appears at CSIS this morning to talk the future of the Marine Corps.

Wonk world fun: count the number of times Amos says the words "littorals," "amphibious operations" and "Asia."

Members of the Pentagon press corps aren't good at picking a winner but our own Kevin Baron won the Tuesday Election Day Prognostication Game on electoral tallies for each candidate. "Kevin clearly has the best political crystal ball of a group that by and large had absolutely no clue who was going to win the election," Game Master Julian Barnes of the WSJ told Situation Report. Kevin was also the only person to correctly guess each of the tiebreakers: the victors in four battleground states and in two Senate races. Second place: Andrew Tilghman, Military Times. Third place: Gopal Ratnam, Bloomberg.


Fiscal Cliff Notes

In Your Business