National Security

The Pentagon’s sequestration bubbas sit on their hands

A “fundamentalist con artist” cancels visit to Pentagon; Mattis, off the record?; Where a general shops for shoes; Is Tom Ricks rude? And more.

On sequestration, the Pentagon's still waiting for the call. The budgeters at the Defense Department, who you'd think would be scrambling like cartoon characters about to drop off the waterfall, have not been given direction from OMB yet, reports the E-Ring's Kevin Baron.

The Pentagon's Lt. Col. Beth Robbins: "The Department has not received detailed planning guidance on sequestration from [the White House Office of Management and Budget], and we are not planning for it. We are still hopeful that Congress will pass a balanced deficit-reduction plan for the president to sign, and sequestration is averted."

Kevin: "After all this time, after a year's worth of doomsday warnings about the ‘catastrophic' effects of a budget stalemate on the military, even in this eleventh hour the Pentagon's top budget teams are left waiting and wondering. Without the green light from OMB, they are not allowed to begin."

The Pentagon was to be hosting a prayer breakfast tomorrow with Ray Giunta, who has been "publicly called out" for illegally taking more than $10k from a cemetery's trust fund, falsely claiming to have advanced degrees, and diagnosing young people with mental disorders even though he is not a doctor, writes the HuffPo. "But on Wednesday, he will get a coveted perch at the Pentagon, as a guest speaker at the Defense Department's prayer breakfast," Amanda Terkel writes.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation's Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, on the Pentagon's invite: "Arming a well known Christian fundamentalist scam-artist like Giunta with an homage so profound as to be the designated special guest speaker at this highly visible Pentagon religious event is simply beyond the pale of acceptability and literally strains credulity."

Last minute cancelation: An Army spokesman tells Situation Report: "Mr. Guinta has respectfully declined the invitation to speak.  The Pentagon Prayer Breakfast is a weekly event and will go on as scheduled."

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we covet our perch here and take our inbox privileges seriously every day. 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.

HRC urged Morsi to share power in Egypt. Secretary of State Clinton called Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr on Monday to tell him the U.S. wants to see Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi figure a way to share power after a power grab last week that would place his decisions above judicial review.

McClatchy's Nancy Yousef wrote last night from Cairo that the Muslim Brotherhood canceled demonstrations scheduled for Tuesday to support Morsi's original decree, "assailed by secular political leaders and judges alike as giving Morsi dictatorial powers." But she reports that massive anti-Morsi protests are scheduled for today.

State's Victoria Nuland on HRC's discussion with the Egyptian foreign minister: "[Clinton] took that opportunity to reiterate some of the points that you saw in our statement [last week], that we want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protection of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld, et cetera."

Josh Rogin's story:

McClatchy story from Cairo:

DC Seen: It's not Saks or the Nordy's shoe department for one Marine general. The presumptive new ISAF commander, Joe Dunford, shops shoes at the Henderson Hall PX just up the hill from the Pentagon. That's when he's not in line for lasagna at a DoD cafeteria.

How will Jim Mattis be off the record? The Central Command commander will speak tonight at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on "perspectives on warfare." Curiously, Mattis' remarks are off the record for the press, yet the event is open to the public. We often say we failed strategic communications class, but how does that work again?

Somehow this reminds us of the NFL disclaimer that would appear to be violated every time a sportswriter puts fingers to keyboard: "The NFL prohibits any use of the pictures or descriptions of this game without its express written consent".

Is Tom Ricks rude? The author of The Generals gave it to Fox for overdoing the Benghazi story in an interview that was cut short. Ricks, when asked about the attack: "when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight, I think number one, I've covered a lot of firefights, it's impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes, and second I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party." That's when Fox news anchor Jon Scott gave Ricks the hook.

The NYT's Brian Stelter reported afterward that a Fox News staffer told Ricks that he had been rude; Ricks said he had told the producer prior to the segment -- which lasted about half its allotted time -- that the Benghazi attack had been "over-covered" and thus the producer shouldn't have been surprised.

The Pentagon seemed to yawn at the news that China conducted its first-ever landing of a J-15 fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier. Over the weekend, China's military apparently made Chinese naval history by landing the plane on the carrier, the Liaoning. As Killer Apps' John Reed writes, this could be a huge moment -- or not such a big deal. At the Pentagon, there was little excitement. "This would come as no surprise. We've been monitoring Chinese military developments for some time," said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

I'll take "China's Navy" for 100, Alex: Factoids: John writes that the carrier was built using the hull of a never-completed Soviet carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 1998, saying it would turn the ship into a casino. But the Chinese opted to refurbish the ship completely, installed new engines, modern electronics and sensor systems and turned it into a starter carrier.

John: "It's worth noting that the Chinese ripped off the design of Russia's Sukhoi Su-27 fighter, which Shenyang Aircraft Corporation used to then develop the J-11 land-based fighter and now the J-15. Interestingly, the Chinese engineer in charge of the J-15 program died of a heart attack just after watching yesterday's test flights aboard the ship." Also, he writes that China is reportedly expected to unveil its first domestically-made carrier within a couple of years.

The Foreign Policy Initiative begs a big rhetorical question today with an event at the Newseum titled "The Price of Greatness." The hawkish policy group is hosting a day-long discussion on Syria, the pivot to Asia, American allies, and human rights, featuring perspectives from "emerging national security leaders" Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Congressman-elect Tom Cotton, a former Army ranger. "In the next four years, the United States will face a wide array of international challenges," according to FPI. "Iran continues to progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, China is expanding its military and economic power, and uncertainty over the outcome of the Arab Spring persists. These challenges will require substantial American leadership and a willingness to confront the looming budgetary crisis that underpins our involvement in the world."

Moderators, panelists, speakers, and other guests include: Dan Senor, Eric Edelman, an escaped prisoner from a North Korean prison, John McCain, Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, Jon Kyl, Jamie Fly, ambassadors from the embassies of Australia, the Philippines, and India, Kelly Ayotte, and Joe Lieberman.

See "The Oath of Tobruk" on the fall of Qaddafi tonight at the French embassy. The Foreign Policy Initiative and the French-American Global Forum will host a viewing tonight of the documentary by Bernard Henri-Levy as part of their event today, with the Daily Beast's Eli Lake moderating a discussion after.



Speaking of which: Adios, tres amigos. The NYT takes a look back at the foreign policy phenomenon of Sens. Lieberman, McCain, and Graham, dubbed "the three amigos" by David Petraeus, and the impact they've had together over the years. Lieberman is retiring. "Though he frustrated many Democrats with his interventionist ideas, Mr. Lieberman gave Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham, both Republicans, a veneer of bipartisanship that lent credibility to their policy goals," writes the Times' Jennifer Steinhauer. "The question is whether the group, whose profile rose after the Sept. 11 attacks, will be able to maintain an influential voice without Mr. Lieberman or will become isolated on an island of partisan poking."


Department of Emerging Conflicts

Twelve Years and Counting

Your Opinion Counts

National Security

WH might leave 10k in Afghanistan

The push for diplomacy on Iran; McRaven on FP’s Top Global Thinkers list and a little more.

The U.S. military's long-term presence in Afghanistan could range between 6,000 and 15,000 service members. The White House is debating how many troops should stay in the country after 2014, when the security transition is complete and the bulk of American forces are scheduled to return home. Both the NYT and the WSJ report this morning that the White House is considering leaving approximately 10,000 troops in the country after 2014. That number represents a midpoint, the WSJ reports, of the range of 6,000-15,000 troops that Gen. John Allen has recommended to the White House.

Any of these numbers is significantly smaller than the 25,000 troops that Pentagon water-cooler wisdom dictated could stay past 2014. And it's one-third smaller than what some military experts suggest the post-transition mission needs. Kim and Fred Kagan believe America's enduring presence should be closer to half the size of what is there now -- 66,000 troops -- and that the White House must be careful to leave a force large enough to carry out the tasks it is assigned. Conducting drone operations, engaging in specialized ground missions, and dropping precision-guided munitions from manned aircraft -- all likely part of U.S. security operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 2014 -- requires a sizeable residual force, they argue.

"I think it's imperative the White House understand that there is a real science behind assigning troops-to-task," Kim Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, told Situation Report on Sunday. "There are specialized planners who do that, and generating force levels by extrapolation and imagination leads to unsound strategy and extraordinary risk to the forces that remain behind."

But a significant question remains: what size force will stay in Afghanistan up to 2014? The "glide path," the rate at which troops withdraw from Afghanistan over the next 18 months, will set the tone for military operations until the war "ends" at the end of 2014. That is a critical period as the U.S. takes one last stab at stabilizing the country before turning security over fully to the Afghans. It is this question that remains under broader consideration, and Allen has reportedly not yet made his recommendations for how many troops he'd like in country up until 2014.

Allen spokesman Maj. Dave Nevers to Situation Report this morning: "General Allen's recommendations are still in formulation and will be forwarded to the President before the end of the year."

It has been long thought that Allen would like to keep as robust a fighting force as possible in Afghanistan through the 2013 fighting season, which ends about a year from now. Panetta has told Foreign Policy's National Security channel that there is little light between Allen and the White House on this issue.

Panetta to FP in September: "My view is that the president of the United States will rely a great deal on the recommendations of General Allen as to what he needs to accomplish the mission."

The FP Interview with Panetta:

The Kagans' piece in the WaPo over the weekend:

Allen has returned to Afghanistan and remains in command of ISAF as the DoD Inspector General investigation continues its investigation into the e-mails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, Allen will remain in command until he is relieved - in a transition that was planned long before the investigation was launched - by Gen. Joe Dunford, if he is confirmed, by early winter.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report. 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.

A representative from the Pentagon's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations e-mailed us to clarify something we wrote last week. The task force does assist the Afghan Ministry of Mines with tenders, but according to David Bolger, a spokesman for the task force, "The Task Force does not participate in the evaluation of the bids other than to provide the Ministry of Mines with legal and other counsel as the Ministry determines preferred bidders."

Brzezinski and former head of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, Rolf Ekeus, will talk this morning in Washington about how to renew "stalled diplomatic efforts" between the U.S. and Iran given that a new round of negotiations may begin by the end of the year. "With the conclusion of the U.S. presidential election behind us and a brief window before Iran enters its own election season, it is essential that the key parties renew stalled diplomatic efforts to prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran," according to a release from the National Iranian American Council and the Arms Control Association, which is hosting a conference this morning at 101 Constitution Avenue.

FP's new list of "top 100" Global Thinkers is out and it includes Adm. Bill McRaven of U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa. Overseeing the operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden of course puts him in the history books, but it's not all high-speed and high-tech: "The raid presented a compelling vision for the 21st-century U.S. military: fast, networked, and deadly. But though the modern-day warrior has tools at his disposal that his ancestors could only dream of, McRaven doesn't discount the old-fashioned virtue of a soldier's dedication to the mission. "In an age of high technology and Jedi Knights we often overlook the need for personal involvement, but we do so at our own risk," he has written.



Twelve Years and Counting