National Security

Why John Allen’s investigation could take months

The firing at the Naval Postgraduate School: it wasn’t all about the barbecue and lawn chairs; The drop in the Pentagon’s R&D budget, Are Micah Zenko’s criticisms beyond the pale? And more.

Give that man a medal. Panetta will give retiring Israeli MOD Ehud Barak the medal for distinguished public service at a Pentagon ceremony today, the highest award the secretary can bestow, Situation Report was told. The citation will mention Barak's work on Iron Dome, which has figured prominently in Israel's defense over the past weeks. Panetta and Barak visited an Iron Dome site last summer.

John Allen's investigation could take six months. The sense is that the DOD inspector general investigation against Gen. John Allen, ISAF commander, will be speedy because so much is riding on it. Perhaps. But a former senior defense official familiar with government investigations tells Situation Report that the investigation is far more complicated and time-consuming than just reading what are said to be several dozen e-mails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. "It's not that someone has to just sit down and reads all these," said the former official. Investigators are culling through the e-mails now but are likely finding "new players" from whom they may need to obtain interviews. Those additional interview subjects will create more legwork.

"They will open new avenues that need to be investigated, and that's where the time-consuming part comes in. If the e-mails alone could be read and decisions made, then it could be done fairly quickly, but normally the e-mails create new allegations and many more people to be interviewed," the official said. "Frankly, I would be surprised if they had this done in six months. I know that sounds like a long time."

The I's need to be dotted and the T's crossed. "The acting IG over there is not going to want to submit a report that is this sensitive unless she knows it is 100 percent accurate," the official said. "I guarantee that right now she is getting additional allegations that are probably coming out of the wall.... When people smell blood, they start writing in and giving you additional things to think about."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where the cheesy holiday commercials for luxury cars are already grating. 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.

Mabus fired the president and provost of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Citing an investigation by the Navy's inspector general, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus had the two top officials at NPS fired for waste and mismanagement and ducking federal hiring rules. President Daniel Oliver and Provost Leonard Ferrari were let go. Among other issues, the IG cited the purchase of a barbecue grill and lawn chairs from Pier One Imports for Oliver's official home, Stanley House, on the school's grounds, and the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation. In another instance, a woman hired as the vice president for finance and administration at the school was paid $275,000 -- about $87,000 above federal salary limits at the time -- after turning down Oliver's initial offer of $162,000 plus a $25,000 one-time bonus, circumventing federal salary and incentive limitations.

But we're told it wasn't all about the lawn chairs, barbecues, and hiring practices. The dynamic created by Ferrari, seen as an extremely poor manager by those very familiar with the situation, is what brought down Oliver, thought to be a good person who was blind to the problems Ferrari was causing. The nearly 100-page report on the president and the nearly 30-page report on the provost reflect the wrong focus, we're told -- the investigation should have centered on the provost. Navy IG Report:

The Monterey Herald writes about how the Naval Postgraduate School mission differs from war colleges.

Is there wrongdoing among senior officers that we should be writing about? Let us know.

The Pentagon strikes back. Pentagon pressec George Little writes FP to respond to columnist Micah Zenko's contention that Panetta is undermining democracy. Zenko's piece takes Panetta to task for, among other things, highlighting the impact of cuts to the defense budget and suggesting cuts to entitlements.

Little: "That's precisely what a secretary of defense should do, especially when this secretary is implementing $487 billion in defense spending reductions based on a strategy developed by the department's military and civilian leaders."

Little's letter:

Zenko's piece:

Mackenzie Eaglen to the Pentagon: don't be cutting R&D. In a new report, AEI's Mackenzie Eaglen, along with Julia Pollak, argues that the Pentagon's "technological supremacy" is under threat and that the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation account has declined by 17 percent since Obama was sworn in. "[It] will decline by another 12 percent, or $8 billion, in real terms, from 2013 to 2017," the report says. "This largely follows a sustained trend of the modernization accounts bearing the largest burden of cuts. From 2010 through 2013, procurement experienced a real decline of over 24 percent and will further drop by over 5 percent through 2017." By comparison, military personnel costs were cut by 6 percent between 2010 and 2013 and will fall another 9 percent through 2017, the report states.

Why do we care? The report's authors: "Political pressure is mounting from lawmakers who believe that government money could be better spent elsewhere and that defense R&D ‘crowds out' private-sector R&D efforts. Such opposition to defense research, however, ignores the larger picture: that military research and development, as a foundation of national security, is a constitutionally mandated public good as broadly articulated in the Preamble."

Is it Hagel's time? The Cable's Josh Rogin reports Chuck Hagel is being vetted for a national security job. Last month, Situation Report quoted Andrew Schwartz, senior vice-president at CSIS on the Hagel Notion: "He cuts the right figure, he's a Republican, Obama likes him a lot, he provides the administration with cover on the Hill, he has a really big name, and I think he wants it."

State's Shapiro: International defense sales, DoD-State cooperation, both up. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andy Shapiro told the Defense Trade Advisory Group yesterday that the "collaboration between State and DoD is truly unprecedented," citing the expansion of State's Foreign Policy Advisor Program, or POLAD, which has "dramatically increased" the number of people exchanged between the two departments. (Joe Donovan is Dempsey's POLAD and the two attended the same high school, John S. Burke Catholic High School, in Goshen, N.Y., but not at the same time.) But what Shapiro really wanted to talk about is the growth in the number of defense sales abroad.

Shapiro: "When it comes to Direct Commercial Sales, by the end of October of this year, we had already received more than 73,000 license requests, which is 2,000 more than the same period last year. Despite the case load, we are maintaining efficiency. Fifty percent of the license requests have been adjudicated in less than 10 days and 80 percent in less than 30 days. We are averaging about 18 days overall for all license types. We are projecting that by year's end, the State Department will have received and reviewed over 85,000 DCS cases -- the most ever."

Shapiro's office has told Congress that Japan intends to make a $5 billion purchase of the F-35 and that the UAE and Qatar are seeking to purchase the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, or THAAD, in a buy that is worth nearly $8 billion. His speech:

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National Security

News flash: the Pentagon’s in fiscal hot water

Role reversal: Panetta plays it different than he did in 1991; Why the SecDef may stay longer; Women want combat roles; and a little more.

People don't get how much fiscal trouble the Pentagon is actually in. Sequestration ain't nuthin'. The real problem stems from the Pentagon's internal cost growth, which has been hollowing out the force for decades. While that realization is not new -- the cost of personnel, health care, operations and maintenance, and acquisition has been raising the price tag for defense for decades -- it's now forcing the Pentagon to make choices between end strength and modernization, says CSIS's Clark Murdock.

"The reason why the Pentagon has been screaming about the catastrophic effect of sequester dollars is because it really will have catastrophic effects because it's exacerbated by the effects of the internal cost inflation," Murdock tells Situation Report.

What does he mean? The combination of the $487 billion the Pentagon must cut between now and 2021 and the additional $500 billion in cuts it will need to make if sequestration happens in January alone represents a 31 percent reduction in Pentagon spending. That is not as large a decrease as other drawdowns (36 percent after the Cold War, 33 percent after Vietnam, and 43 percent after Korea); but in combination with the rising internal costs the Pentagon confronts, taxpayers are paying way more for much, much less.

"We're paying more for a smaller force," Murdock says. So what would seem like a reasonable post-war cut is actually far more bloody. "What looks like only a 30 percent drawdown is really more like a 50 percent drawdown.... Plus the dollar is weaker."

What to do? Murdock isn't the only one to see the sky falling. But the demand now is to find a way to develop a national security strategy the U.S. can actually pay for. That means determine the topline then decide what the strategy is. And if that Pentagon requires modernization, and it always will, a significant reduction in the size of the force is required. To Murdock, who has been around the defense block for years, that means saying good-bye to 455,000 troops and putting DOD's end strength at a svelte 845,000. That, he says, is required to maintain a modernization budget of around 32 percent of overall spending. But getting the Pentagon's modernization budget back to that level will force not only that huge reduction in size of the force, but a major recalibration of its defense posture, Murdock says.

"We're getting into an era, because of internal cost growth, where you really do have to make zero-sum choices between how much equipment you have, how many people you have, and what strategy you can pursue."

Panetta's been here before, albeit on the other side of the fence. In 1991, Panetta was in the role currently played by Paul Ryan, when, as House Budget Committee chairman, he stared down Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and said: "The days of big spending, free-wheeling defense budgets are clearly over." And Cheney stared back, saying: "We've already cut the living daylights out of the defense budget, Mr. Chairman."

Writing on FP, Micah Zenko notes that today Panetta is playing Cheney's role, with some key differences: "Like Dick Cheney 21 years ago, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has engaged in an exhaustive effort to avoid both sequestration and any further reductions in the Pentagon's budget. The distinction between Panetta and his predecessors, however, is in the tactics he has employed to protect his bureaucratic turf. Panetta has belittled the process of deliberative democracy, told Congress how it should reduce the federal debt, and declared that the Pentagon cannot survive another penny in cuts," Zenko writes.

In the FP piece, Zenko continues to take the secretary to task: "Last week, [Panetta] further remarked: ‘I have to tell you one of the most disturbing things that I talk about -- one of the national security threats is the question of whether or not the leaders we elect can, in fact, govern.'"

Zenko: "This is an absurd and dangerous charge, and one that Panetta should answer for if he ever appears before Congress again. Panetta acts as if it is his role to provide oversight of Congress, rather than the other way around."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where we invite you to provide us oversight by telling us what we should be thinking and writing about. 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.

New water cooler wisdom: Panetta's departure may not be as soon as we think. The thinking had been that if Obama won a second term, the former congressman turned budgetary chief turned White House chief of staff turned CIA director turned defense secretary was finally ready to return to California to grow walnuts on his farm. Although neither Panetta nor his aides will ever discuss the topic, most people thought he would stay until the budget issue was resolved and then be gone by spring. But the abrupt resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director is throwing a wrench in the plan. And Hillary Rodham Clinton's expected departure -- Susan Rice has been practically nominated to succeed her -- may mean there is too much movement at the top. Now folks expect him to stay until summer.

China asks: What's the Asian pivot all about? Mabus explains. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is in China for high-level meetings with Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and other PLA officials. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron: "Mabus kicked off his China tour quickly by meeting Rear Adm. Zhang Jianchang at the airport in Beijing. He later plans to visit other sites outside the capital. Mabus is the first U.S. Navy secretary to visit China in 28 years, Chinese media noted proudly, while boasting that Mabus was briefed on China's recent inaugural aircraft carrier landing."

Move out! Women tell Panetta he isn't moving fast enough to get them into combat. The ACLU and four women are suing Panetta to move faster to lift historic bans on women in combat. Earlier this year, the Pentagon opened about 14,000 positions to women after acknowledging that many have already served in combat over the last 10 years. The services are studying physical standards, leadership, and other factors to see how to allow more women into combat roles. Meanwhile, some 238,000 military combat jobs, by DOD's own count, remain closed to women.

Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, providing legal counsel to the plaintiffs: "It's sort of unbelievable that the policy that has remained largely unchanged since 1994 is still the same policy, even though so much of these wars has changed how women fought."

The suit:

E-Ring's Kevin Baron has the rest of the story: