National Security

Why DOD investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers

Pentagon's Jeh Johnson to AG?; Release the trial balloons: Flournoy as SecArmy; PAO John Kirby on the military and the media, why close relationships matter, and more.

Deadlines, deadlines. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has until tomorrow to send the White House the review of ethics standards among senior officers recently completed by his top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. A senior defense official tells Situation Report that Panetta has not yet reviewed it but will soon. Panetta's call for the review emerged in the aftermath of the scandal that forced the resignation of retired Gen. David Petraeus from the CIA and put on hold the promotion of ISAF commander Gen. John Allen. But the Pentagon insisted Panetta was thinking of conducting the review long before the scandal broke. Here's partly why:

Pentagon investigators are finding more wrongdoing among senior officers. Investigators at the DOD inspector general's office have seen a rise in the number of investigations against senior officers, typically three- and four-stars (as well as many top civilians) since 2007 - as well as the rate of investigations that actually find that they did something wrong. And the so-called substantiation rate -- meaning that investigators found at least one allegation to be substantiated -- rose from 21 percent in fiscal 2007 to as high as 52 percent in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2011, it was 39 percent. The number of actual cases only went up a little bit between fiscal 2007 and 2011 - 33 in 2007 to 38 in 2011, for a total number of 155 cases investigated over that period. But it is the substantiation rate for each year that took DoD officials by surprise.

"Over the period of years since July 2008, there has been a gradual increase in the number of allegations that were coming in for misconduct," a former senior defense official familiar with the investigations told Situation Report. "Clearly this was going up, [the DOD IG] was getting more." Moreover, the number of allegations against four-star officers in high-profile positions was on the rise, too, the official said. This did not go unnoticed by then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or, after he arrived, Panetta. Asked what might be behind the rise, the former senior official told Situation Report that often it was a lapse in knowing the rules, or common sense, or just bad bookkeeping.

There have been some cases, the official said, in which general or flag officers simply got too big for their britches: "There are people who actually believe that ‘gee, I'm so big, that nobody can touch me.'"

Continued below.

FP partied hard last night with "global thinkers," politicos, foreign policy nerds, and about 300 of its closest friends at a schwank party at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. Adm. Bill McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, named by FP as one of its "Top 100 Global Thinkers" was there and led an informal discussion in one of the conversation pits over tasty but unidentifiable chocolate pods. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at FP's "Transformational Trends" event at the Newseum, co-sponsored by the State Department's Office of Policy Planning.

The Cable's Josh Rogin covered Hillary's speech: http://bit.ly/JyqV

FP's Global Thinkers: http://bit.ly/eVJVeg

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report where our hat is off to party planners everywhere but especially those at FP for putting on such a lively one. Apologies to the one hostess who had to clean up a broken dish -- even if we weren't the ones to make the mess. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list.

What Leon Panetta wrote on the photo he gave to Ehud Barak yesterday at the Pentagon: "To my friend Ehud - With deepest thanks and appreciation for your friendship and leadership in building a strong military to military relationship between the united states and israel-- working together, we have kept our countries safe and our people secure. Regards, Leon Panetta."

How about a Hispanic in Obama's cabinet? Still unclear if Susan Rice gets the nod for SecState. Meanwhile, if there was one takeaway from the election -- and certainly the GOP is considering this carefully -- it is the rising influence of the Hispanic vote in American politics. So a friend of Situation Report and former government official wrote yesterday to say the Obama administration needs to be "saved from themselves": "Didn't the election highlight the need to appoint at least one more Hispanic to the cabinet? Why not Maria Otero as SecState?" Otero is now the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights at State. The former official also suggests: John Hamre to the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel to CIA, and former Pentagon policy chief and Obama surrogate Michele Flournoy? "Flournoy to SecArmy -- she needs that before she ascends to the top job." And don't forget about Richard Danzig: "He's the one with the brainpower," the former official said.

Otero's wiki-bio: http://bit.ly/IYLIFl

Clarification-ito: Dempsey and his foreign policy adviser, Joe Donovan, attended the same high school in Goshen, N.Y. at the same time, but they were one year apart. They did, however, run track together.

Could Jeh Johnson be tapped? The Pentagon's top lawyer might be asked to follow Eric Holder as attorney general, reports the E-Ring's Kevin Baron. "Folks at the Pentagon would love to see him stick around, but they also realize that he might be tapped for any number of roles in the second term. He's on anybody's short list for attorney general, for starters," a senior administration official told Kevin. "The sky is basically the limit for someone with his experience and reputation. He's the consummate straight shooter and everyone loves working with -- and for -- him. That's not exactly a mix of skills and traits that a lot of people have in Washington these days." http://bit.ly/ToRsgC

Navy public affairs officers just got some new required reading: A Forbes magazine piece published last week on "How David Petraeus Mastered the Media" by Willy Stern. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby sent a link to the story to the entire Navy public affairs community of about 2,500 PAOs (plus retirees). The story says a number of things, including that top officers should ignore their PAOs, build relationships with the press on their own, and go to off-the-record lunches to cultivate reporters -- without their public affairs officers.

Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/QotxSs

Kirby, the former senior public affairs officer to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent the link to the story with a long note about how he sees the military, the media, and the job of public affairs officers.

"In my view, commanders and PAOs both need to improve.  We need to trust each other more. We need to challenge each other more. And we need to make each other better at our individual responsibilities.

As his Special Assistant for Public Affairs, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs trusted me to provide him the context he needed when dealing with the press. And I trusted him to use that context wisely. He never went behind my back to communicate with a member of the media. And I never stood in his way to have that communication when it was the right thing to do. We kept each other informed, always. I can't remember too many times, when a reporter wanted to know what Adm. Mullen was thinking, that I had to go to him and ask. I already knew, because he made sure I knew.

That's really the key and the one thing Mr. Stern seems not to understand. If the commander and the PAO have access to one another and to one another's thinking -- if they talk freely and unreservedly with each other -- relations with the media will flow naturally and appropriately from both individuals. It need not be one or the other. It need not be a shell game or the sort of Machiavellian pursuit Mr. Stern seems to prefer. It should be a team effort, just like everything else we do in the military."

Investigations against senior officers, con't.

"Sometimes, in my opinion, these officers had every intention to always do everything right, but they became so focused on the mission or what they were doing that the issue of crossing the line of misconduct, I think it wasn't always on their minds," the former defense senior official told Situation Report. "But sometimes, they would push the envelope. These are aggressive, highly-talented individuals, that's how they got to where they are, and sometimes, they would push the envelope beyond what they even realized."

Not lost on anybody is the fear that in some cases, no one around a four-star or even a three-star officer will speak truth to power if they see something that might be wrong, the former official said.

By 2010, by the way, the number of DoD IG investigators was increased by half to keep up with the demand and to attempt to accelerate the length of the DoD IG investigations, which are notoriously long.

The More You Know: The DOD inspector general in the first half of 2012: the DOD IG completed 142 cases against senior officials (officers and civilians), dismissed 130 of them, investigated 12, and substantiated three. Across the services, for the first half of 2012:

Army: DOD IG completed 53 cases, dismissed 49, investigated those four, and of those, substantiated one.

Navy: DOD IG completed 16 cases, dismissed 15, investigated one but failed to substantiate it.

Air Force: DOD IG completed 20 cases, dismissed 18, investigated those two, and substantiated only one of them.

Marine Corps: DOD IG completed one case and dismissed it.

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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 gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN 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: http://bit.ly/Tk3tns

The Monterey Herald writes about how the Naval Postgraduate School mission differs from war colleges. http://bit.ly/V7TTEf

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: http://bit.ly/10WUGhb

Zenko's piece: http://bit.ly/V0GyNz

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." http://bit.ly/Ri6Xv3

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." http://bit.ly/TmdEIg

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: http://1.usa.gov/QNwHPS

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