National Security

Why JIEDDO is not only about Afghanistan

The 15 people who don’t want to kick the can down the road on debt, SecDef Watch: what’s not completely crazy, and more.

To Lt. Gen. Mike Barbero, JIEDDO ¹Afghanistan. With budgetary knives out everywhere, many of the war-time programs across the Pentagon run the risk of being tucked away into bureaucratic obscurity or closed down altogether. That is, if they don't reinvent themselves first. That's what the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which occupies a suite of offices in Crystal City, and has spent $18 billion since 2006, is attempting to do today. Barbero, the three-star Army general who today leads JIEDDO, the end of the war in Afghanistan in the next year or two does not mean the capability JIEDDO provides should go away. The future, he says, is dangerous - and global. Some believe JIEDDO is a hammer looking for a nail, and want to see it folded into a permanent, albeit separate set of capabilities peppered across the Defense Department. But Barbero contends JIEDDO is still a much needed capability because IEDs and the threat the networks who build them pose aren't going away. The U.S., he says, must retain the ability to counter the threats from IEDs. And JIEDDO, started in 2006 to stop the number one killer of troops in both war zones, is the organization for the job.

"It's about a global challenge," Barbero told Situation Report in a recent interview.

The IED threat is growing stronger as groups converge operations. In Africa, for example, the convergence of groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria and Mali, al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, in Northern Africa, at least in terms of the operations in which they work together, represents a strengthening of the IED threat, Barbero says. The mounting evidence that groups such as these communicate with each other to plan operations has resulted in a number of high-profile attacks from Nigeria to Algeria to Somalia and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.

"We see the convergence of these networks in Africa," he said, "coordinating on sharing [information], but also setting up training facilities and starting to work in direct coordination between them. And that is a pattern." Barbero said he sees a similar trend on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "I think it is a trend that is going to continue." Continued below.

By the way, a new Global Terrorism Index, released yesterday, shows the top 10 countries affected by terrorism: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Thailand, Russia, Philippines. FP's Passport blog's Josh Keating on the report: "The good news in the study is that the number of attacks seems to have leveled out since peaking in 2007. The bad news is that there were still more than four times more attacks in 2011 than in the first full year of the war on terrorism."

Amanda Dory will talk about restoring democracy to Northern Mali this morning. Dory, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary for Africa, will speak before Senate Foreign Relations' subcomm on African affairs at 9:00 to talk about the latest developments in Mali and how to "reclaim the north." We're told she'll be echoing much of what Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, said at an event Monday (in which the moderator was said to have big-footed the Q&A). The U.N. today, meanwhile, considered a mission for African forces in Mali early next year.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where we always feel as if we have big shoes to fill. 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.

"Do I have to change my business cards now because we're no longer using the term "strategic communications"? Asked a strategic communications official in a voicemail after yesterday's piece on how the Pentagon is ending use of the term "strategic communications."

SecDef Watch. A big decision from President Obama on a slew of jobs is coming, though water-cooler wisdom suggests it won't be this week, but next. Of course, we've been wrong before. For the Pentagon's number one job, most short lists now include Chuck Hagel, who has appeal as a no-nonsense Republican, but for whom the Pentagon learning curve would be rather steep. Sen. John Kerry is still in the mix as well, but his sights are on SecState, and Obama said this week he had not made a decision on that job as of yet. Ash Carter, now the Pentagon's number two, is still thought to really want the job, but may not get it. And Michele Flournoy, a favorite among some, is still seen by many others as not-yet-ready-for-primetime. But a strong surrogate for Obama during the campaign, she'll likely land somewhere, perhaps south of the Pentagon's top job.

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes: "Who is Chuck Hagel, again?" A quick primer.

This is not a completely crazy idea: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is still in play.

In the dark. People inside the Pentagon seem to be as much in the dark about who will replace Panetta as their civilian overseers across the river. "We're wondering all that ourselves," said one. "We're not being consulted on this, believe it or not," the person half-joked.

The WSJ reports that Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough is a candidate for WH chief of staff. Why is this important? It may suggest a focus on foreign policy in Obama's second term, despite his pledge to do "nation-building at home." The WSJ's Peter Nicholas and Colleen McCain Nelson write: "Recent presidents have spent second terms pursuing foreign-policy breakthroughs. President Bill Clinton sought peace agreements in the Middle East. President Ronald Reagan pursued arms-reduction agreements with the Soviet Union in international summits aimed at smoothing superpower relations."

Part of Panetta's speech at Walter Reed yesterday seemed to be about Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog. In a speech about praising leaders at Walter Reed for the work they do, Panetta touched on a problem he sees in society -- people unable to reach out and talk to each other. "Now, this -- in many ways, it's a changing society. This is my theory and my theory alone, but, you know, part of the problem of working off BlackBerrys and working off computers is that you're focused on that element and you don't reach out as much to talk to one another, and to just communicate with one another. And it's when you do that, when you talk to one another, that you understand what the problems are."

At that moment, Woog was seen thumbing out answers to queries on his own BlackBerry.

What do Adm. Mike Mullen, Bob Gates, Madeleine Albright, Jim Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Harold Brown, Samuel Berger, Frank Carlucci, Sam Nunn, Ike Skelton, Paul Volcker, John Warner, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and Paul O'Neill all have in common? They all signed a letter, published in a full-page ad in the WSJ this morning titled, "Addressing our debt is a national security imperative." The message from the Coalition for Fiscal and National Security is essentially that: the nation's debt must be stabilized if the U.S. is to maintain global leadership and anything short of that goal is "insufficient." The ad includes this line: "Our leaders should use the consensus against going over the fiscal cliff as an opportunity to agree now on a framework for significant fiscal reform in 2013. Another ‘kicking of the can' --  the lowest common denominator of what both parties can currently accept, without any structural reforms that truly address the nation's problems -- is not acceptable."

Seen on Ridge Road near the Pentagon: "0-200mph" on the back of a red ‘Vette. License plate holder: "U.S. Navy Master Chief."

If our scooter had a license plate: "0-37mph"

JIEDDO, continued. Barbero likes a PowerPoint slide that shows the IED trends for October and the work JIEDDO is doing for each of the combatant commands. Excepting Afghanistan or Iraq, a chart on the page shows that Southern Command actually topped all the other commands in October in terms of the number of IED incidents -- with 24 detonations, 114 finds, and 22 caches. Central Command comes in second, with 105 detonations, 46 finds, and six caches found in October (again, not including IED events in Afghanistan or Iraq). Pacific Command and Africa Command come in third and fourth. More than 500 IED events occur outside Iraq and Afghanistan monthly, according to JIEDDO - a data point that he uses to help make his case for JIEDDO's future. He'll testify this month on Capitol Hill.

Coming tomorrow: Why JIEDDO says "whole-of-government" shouldn't make people roll their eyes, and the fight to use dye in Pakistan to prevent homemade explosives material from crossing the border into Afghanistan.



National Security

Why “No Drama Obama” might like Joe Dunford

McCain made similar points as Rice on Benghazi; Why “strategic communications” just became “communications synchronization” at the Pentagon; Petraeus as “Fat Elvis”? And more.

Will Joe Dunford really be "No Drama Obama's" dream general? Gen. Joe Dunford was confirmed by the Senate last night and will be headed to Kabul soon. You never know what will happen, but all indicators are that Dunford's deployment may be the first in a while to unfold without incident. He's a low-key Marine officer who's more Boy Scout than military rock star, one who's more likely to be seen standing in line at the Pentagon cafeteria getting his own lunch than zipping around Washington with a slew of Suburbans. Three of the last four ISAF commanders -- Allen, McChrystal, and McKiernan -- have left or will leave under a cloud. And the fourth is Petraeus.

Dunford is not especially well-known. But his meteoric rise to the top -- essentially skipping the rank of two-star general altogether -- is still astonishing to many senior officers. And as an officer in Iraq in 2004, he experienced the hard lessons of complacency when four Marines within his area of responsibility were killed when they fell asleep on a rooftop in Anbar province even though they were supposed to be on watch. We've told the story before, but we remember during the same deployment, he caught a Marine sleeping on post, jostled him awake and told him, essentially, "complacency kills, wake up."

The Senate also confirmed Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, who will succeed Dunford as AC-MACK.

"Totally unacceptable." President Barack Obama said there would be consequences if Syria uses any chemical weapons and that deploying them would be "totally unacceptable." As rebel forces make advances, new intelligence reports indicate that the Syrian regime is moving weaponry, even if it remains unclear just what Syria plans to do with the chemical munitions. But this doesn't appear to be Iraq all over again. The WaPo quotes an American intelligence official as saying "we have pretty good visibility" on Syria's chemical weapons.

Part of the reason why American officials are worried: Danger Room reports on how the Syrian regime has been combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas.

Situation Report Idea Floater. Another novel approach on Syria came over the transom to Situation Report: something called "pre-emptive contract sanctions." The Center for Global Development shot us a blog post that media reps there say is getting some traction by places like the FT, the Daily Beast, CNN and others, as a way to get rid of Assad.

"It's time to try a new tool that would strengthen existing measures: preemptive contract sanctions. This would take the form of a declaration that any new contracts with the Assad regime are illegitimate and need not be honored by a legitimate successor government. Such a declaration would discourage new contracts with or loans to the regime because of the likelihood that that they would be repudiated by a successor government," write Kimberly Ann Elliott and Owen Barder.

A short video to show how it would work:

Welcome to Tuesday'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.

The Pentagon's Office of Public Affairs is axing "strategic communications." It's now called "communication synchronization." Pentagon Press Secretary George Little recently put out a memo, obtained by Situation Report, that describes how the Pentagon's public affairs apparatus eliminated strategic communications positions, a layer of people who were supposed to make sure any one department was speaking as one, and instead folded those operations into normal public affairs work.

"[Strategic Communications] was viewed as a means to synchronize communication efforts across the department, however, over the last six years we learned that it actually added a layer of staffing and planning that blurred the roles and functions of traditional staff elements and resulted in confusion and inefficiencies. As a result, this year we stood down these staff elements.

"We also realized that these SC plans mostly contained public affairs planning that we once again expect to come through public affairs channels," Little wrote. "We avoid using the term SC to avoid causing confusion. The more accurate terminology, which will be used in future joint publications, is communication synchronization." But, he said, commanders have to get on board: "Without commander engagement, communication synchronization cannot work."

When will Rod's confirmation hearing be scheduled? The E-Ring's Kevin Baron is told the hearing for Gen. David Rodriguez for U.S. Africom has not yet been scheduled, but Pentagon officials are hopeful he will be confirmed in the lame duck session, regardless of what happens with Gen. John Allen's nomination to be the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and U.S. European Command.

Petraeus in Kabul as "fat Elvis"? FP's Tom Ricks writes about a recent article by the WaPo's Greg Jaffe on David Petraeus and how generals get "used up" over the course of multiple jobs. Ricks: "I have heard Petraeus' tour in Afghanistan referred to as his ‘fat Elvis' period, an unkind way of saying that he was tired and not on his A-game there." Ricks' brief post and link to Jaffe piece.

Will war spending over the next five years be $44 billion per year? Gordon Adams argues the administration has no real idea what war costs will be - forecasts are of course forecasts - but how long will it take before the Pentagon sees savings from ending the war in Afghanistan? There might not be huge savings anytime soon, he says.

Adams: "The back of my envelope (which is as good as the number the administration uses) says war spending will disappear by the FY 2015 budget submission (that's the year after next). Secretary Geithner tried to argue this was not a gimmick, but it is. (Rep. Paul Ryan used the phony savings, too, in his budget proposal earlier this year.)"

John McCain's early assessment of Benghazi was similar to Susan Rice's. Ben Armbruster on the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress Security" blog, points this out: "Just three days after the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said there were ‘demonstrations' at the U.S. diplomatic mission there and that the attackers ‘seized this opportunity to attack our consulate.' McCain also said during this Sept. 14 press conference on Capitol Hill that he wasn't certain whether al-Qaeda perpetrated the assault."

Here's what McCain said on Sept. 14, just two days before Rice made her now infamous appearance on the Sunday talk shows: McCain: "It's hard to know exactly what took place and how long it was planned, and -- I don't have that information. I know very well that there were demonstrations, that there was a group of either al Qaeda or some radical Islamists who -- about 15 of them, armed with RPGs and other lethal weapons, that seized this opportunity to attack our consulate. And it was an act of terror. It wasn't an act of a mob getting out of control. We should understand that. This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy."

And here's Rice on "Face the Nation": "[S]oon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that -- in that effort with heavy weapons."

What Panetta might leave undone. Kevin Baron looks at what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta might not get finished if new reports indicating he might leave sooner rather than later are true. From cutting top brass to cutting wasteful spending, Panetta may or may not have checked those boxes -- depends on who you talk to. But some industry people believe Panetta has been effective during this budgetary transition period.

So stealthy! France joins the drone wars with a new "nEUROn" plane (and yes, it is spelled that way). Killer Apps' John Reed: "Now, just because the nEUROn has flown, it doesn't mean that France is about to catch the U.S., which has been flying stealthy drone test jets since the 1990s and operating Lockheed Martin's stealthy RQ-170 in combat for at least a half-decade. nEUROn is a technology demonstrator; basically it's a plane used to prove that all the tech Dassault has designed for a stealth, unmanned strike jet will actually work. (To be fair, the nEUROn is significantly more advanced than the U.S.' first stealthy UAVs.)"

Extra Extra

Twelve Years and Counting