National Security

Ash Carter to DOE?

The Pentagon is trimming the brass; Did the Chinese target Mullen? The Air Force’s search for Farah Fawcett posters; Psst: the push for fewer secrets in government, and more.

New trial balloon for Ash Carter: he's on a short list for DOE. Situation Report is told there is new life on a quiet rumor that Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, whose name has been bandied around for Pentagon chief, may be tapped for the top spot at Energy. An administration official told Situation Report: "That's a rumor that's been floated around for a while and he'd be great at the job -- but it really is just a rumor at this point." For the Pentagon job, that would leave people like Chuck Hagel, Michele Flournoy, and John Kerry as short-list candidates, unless the administration moves past the list of names that have been floated in recent days. Hagel's appeal lies mainly in his Republican heritage, and unless his name is being tossed around just to help the administration look bipartisan, it would appear his chances are reasonably good at being named defense secretary.

Flournoy will likely get a post, but it's unclear yet if the perception that she lacks juice on the Hill would sink her chances -- at this juncture -- for the top job at Defense. And Kerry's fate seems to be tied to the soul-searching President Barack Obama is reportedly still doing on filling the job at State. People think that if the White House is feeling feisty, it will ultimately nominate Susan Rice for State and then Kerry could be put up for the job at the Pentagon. Either way, Situation Report hears, and the Pentagon seems to expect, that the administration is likely to begin making Cabinet announcements sometime next week.

The Pentagon did cut the number of generals, it says. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in fact following through with a plan to trim the ranks of flag and general officers after a budget watchdog, Ben Freeman of the Project on Government Oversight, told Kevin this week that Panetta had "abandoned" former Defense Secretary Bob Gates' plan to cut the ranks.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said the efficiency program is on track to eliminate 102 general and flag officer positions and reduce 23 additional positions to a lower rank. Of the 102 to be cut, 74 were to be slashed by March 2013, Kevin reports. So far, the Pentagon has eliminated 68 of those 74, and another 28 positions were related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be eliminated "as conditions on the ground warrant."

The FBI took Mike Mullen's personal computers over fears they had been hacked by a foreign group, perhaps based in China. The WSJ reported last night that the FBI seized personal computers used by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen amid concern that hackers, possibly from China, had targeted it. They took the computers in late October and returned them in mid-November, the paper reported. WSJ's Devlin Barrett, Julian Barnes, and Evan Perez: "One official said that evidence gathered by the FBI points to China as the origin of the hacking, and that it appeared the perpetrators were able to access a personal email account of Mr. Mullen. The official declined to be more specific." Mullen did not use the computers to view classified data, Situation Report is told.

In the administration's imminent shuffle, retiring officials beware: The paper reports that the targeting of Mullen's personal computers appears to be part of a larger pattern of hackers' targeting former senior officials, who are perceived to possess sensitive (but not classified) information and who typically operate outside government firewalls.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where there is never a firewall between us: 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. And if you have a report, piece of news or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

The curse of our own teasing of stories for the next day: we'll bring you more on JIEDDO tomorrow instead.

What does cyber even really mean? Killer Apps' John Reed reports on how the Air Force is asking itself that very question. John: "Right now, the military -- and rest of the government -- lumps everything from basic antivirus protection and network maintenance work into the ‘cyber' category, along with high-end operations along the lines of Stuxnet. The looseness of the definition has caused enormous confusion among military officials trying to figure out how to fund and organize themselves for cyber operations."

Clean it up: the Air Force is looking for racy pictures of women. The Air Force Times reports today that commanders and supervisors across the Air Force will perform a massive sweep of offices and cubicles and work spaces "looking for pictures, calendars and other materials that objectify women" after the newish Air Force chief of staff grew alarmed at the number of complaints he heard from women. "Pictures of scantily clad women in calendars, posters or in briefing slides have no place in a professional workplace, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, who ordered the service-wide health and welfare inspection," wrote the Air Force Times' Becky Iannotta.

Fewer secrets: the Public Interest Declassification Board releases its report today. The board, led by Nancy Soderberg, is releasing a report that urges overhaul of the government's approach to classifying documents. The rise of digital records is forcing a change to the way the government identifies and protects secrets, Soderberg told The Times' Scott Shane. "Many people believe the system is collapsing under its own weight and is just not credible," she said.

Times story:

The report:

The board:

What is the cost of sanctions against Iran? The Iran Project is out with a new report on sanctions that looks at some of the benefits or potential benefits, which include: a basis for coalition building, slowing the expansion of Iran's nuke program and creating distress among the Iranian elite; and, some of the negatives or potential negatives, which include: creating disputes with allies, creating human suffering, and empowering anti-reform voices and "disempowering" civil society.

From the execsum: "The paper does not advocate for or against sanctions, nor does it make specific policy recommendations. It seeks fact-based objectivity whenever possible in describing some of the implications for American interests of international sanctions regime against Iran." Also, the paper's signers write, it offers some "general observations" about the challenge of making sanctions work, how to leverage sanctions against Iran while mitigating any negative outcomes or impacts. An event today with Greg Newbold, George Perkovich and William Reinsch at Carnegie at 8:30am.

The event:

The paper:

The signers: The signers include not only Greg Newbold, Sam Nunn, James Dobbins, Leslie Gelb, Tom Pickering, Paul Pillar, Mike Hayden, Lee Hamilton, Karim Sadjadpour, William Reinsch, George Perkovich, Paul O'Neill, Edward Djerejian, Joseph Hoar, Gary Hufbauer, James Walsh, John Whitehead, Lawrence Wilkerson, Timothy Wirth, Daniel Kurtzer, Frank Kearney, Ellen Laipson, William Luers, Frank Wisner, Joseph Cirincione, Tony Zinni, Jessica Matthews, Richard McCormack, William Miller, Vali Nasr, Steve Cheney, Suzanne DiMaggio, Hamid Biglari, Faraj Sahgri, Carla Hills, Stephen Heintz, but also...Chuck Hagel.

Another new paper out today: Does the hunt for Kony have any fighters? Not yet, writes Colum Lynch on FP's Turtle Bay blog. A year after President Barack Obama sent more than 100 elite military advisers to hunt down the charismatic Joseph Kony, the mission remains stalled. "The [task force] is not close to realizing the vision of a multinational force conducting effective offensive operations against the LRA and protecting civilians," Lynch quotes from a paper, "Getting Back on Track," released today by a coalition of human rights groups, including the Enough Project and Resolve. "It exists only on paper and cannot be considered operational."

Extra Extra

Think Tanking



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.