National Security

How does the Pentagon stop Syria?

Panetta bids Johnson adieu; Austin to Central Command; The Pakistanis and the fertilizer problem; Those crazies at the Naval Academy, and more.

How will the Pentagon stop chemical weapons in Syria? The short answer is there are no good answers. Amid mixed reports that Damascus was or maybe was not poised to fall to the opposition, U.S. reports indicate the Syrian military is loading precursor chemicals for the nerve gas sarin into bombs -- inching closer to red lines that President Barack Obama has said would change his "calculus" on intervention there. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron spoke with Leonard Spector of the Monterey Institute for International Studies, who believes that the fact that chemical weapons have "pariah status" across the international community could make military intervention more palatable.

Spector: "These weapons are so outlawed, they're so disfavored, they're so abhorred by the international community that they resonate in a different way than explosives."

Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy on Syria is advocating a diplomatic resolution that would push President Bashar al-Assad aside and pave the way for a transitional government. Lakhdar Brahimi met last night in Dublin with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

There's still a good chance Assad will not use his chemical weapons. But that's not actually the real threat. Writing on FP, Charles Blair: "The greater threat remains terrorist acquisition of chemical weapons if the military loses control over relevant sites and facilities. The Pentagon estimated earlier this year that it would take more than 75,000 troops to secure Syria's chemical weapons against theft -- and that assumes that U.S. intelligence knows precisely where they all are. After the fall of Baghdad, looters gained access to Iraq's Al-Qaqaa military installation, and close to 200 tons of military grade explosives vanished, even though there were 200,000 coalition forces available and the International Atomic Energy Agency had specifically warned of the explosives' vulnerability."

USIP's Paul Hughes to Situation Report on military options to counter Syria's chemical weapons: "In a nutshell, there aren't any good options; those that exist vary from worse to terrible. If we could control the weather, things might be better."

Welcome to Friday's Army-Navy edition of Situation Report, where picking sides does us no favors. 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.

In the run-up to the big game tomorrow, it's getting a little crazy at the Naval Academy. Here's what a bunch of people read from Vice Adm. Mike Miller, USNA's superintendent: "Greetings, In preparation for the humiliating defeat Army will be dealing to us in the near future, I have some guidance to pass down. First: when we stage for march-on, we need to clean up our act. The Internet has us pegged as dirty slobs (see: -- this year, we need to bring trash bags and clean up after ourselves. From what I understand, Army is embarrassed to even be associated with us. Second: clean up the actual march-on (see: Please at least pretend to be in the military. Dress right dress, don't talk at attention, etc. Seriously, this one is too easy. Third: we need to have better accountability of our goats (see:, This is also very embarrassing. Fourth: when Army sings second, we will be respectful and professional. Fifth: we need to be better at cyber. [Italics mine.] Finally, I award you all with PMI [sleep-ins] until Christmas. Maybe even a little longer, depending on how morale is going after Army defeats us on Saturday. Cheers. Go Army, Sink Navy!"
USNA public affairs: "Vice Adm. Miller's email was not hacked and there was no damage to USNA systems. A spoofed email was sent which appeared to be from Vice Adm. Miller.... There was no need to correct the record as the email was recognized by all as an Army-Navy Spirit Week prank. Go Navy! Judy Campbell."

Surprise, surprise: Lloyd Austin is going to Central Command. Today, the Pentagon announced that Austin would in fact be nominated to go to U.S. Central Command, as long thought, to succeed Gen. Jim Mattis, who is expected to retire to Walla Walla, as he's joked for years. There were different names suggested for Central Command, but Austin's was considered the most likely. Kevin Baron: "The Pentagon will rely on Austin's thinking far beyond Afghanistan as the military becomes increasingly entangled with local militaries and security forces across the Middle East and North Africa, chasing the spread of al Qaeda and other extremists groups."

Panetta bids adieu to Jeh Johnson. The Pentagon's lawyer, Jeh Johnson, announced he was leaving the post at the end of the month. Panetta: "Jeh is one of our nation's most respected legal minds, and he's taken on a number of important public service responsibilities throughout his career, including as a federal prosecutor and as General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force."

Johnson, who had been rumored to be a candidate for attorney general, has "guided me and the Department through some tense, real-world developments," according to Panetta's statement. Johnson helped develop policy on the use of force, detention, prosecution, and cyber-security; and his "persuasive analysis" also played a big role in the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which has "allowed gay and lesbian service members to serve with integrity and honor."

Rosa Brooks writes on FP: "Confessions of a strategic communicator" after the Pentagon's decision to axe "strategic communications," at least as a term. "This latest memo is just another shot fired in the ongoing skirmish between those who believe that strategic communication is merely an unnecessary euphemism for "communications" -- meaning, basically, press statements and talking points -- and thus should be controlled by public affairs offices, and those who believe strategic communication is a confusing term, but one that has nonetheless come to stand for something complex and important, something that has more to do with "strategy" than with "communications." I'm in the latter camp."

The frustrating fight against the Pakistanis and their bags of fertilizer. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization is pointing to a record numbers of IED "events" in Afghanistan last year, but also the declining number of IEDs that are effective against troops - the number of those attacks has dropped 62 percent over last year and has steadily decreased for 15 straight months. And, the percentage of those killed in action from IEDs has dropped from 55 percent last year to 46 this year; the lowest in four years, JIEDDO says. It's evidence JIEDDO points to that it is itself effective against what remains the number one killer of troops in the war zone, thanks to a surge of equipment for troops, better training and other factors.
But Lt. Gen. Mike Barbero, the head of JIEDDO, tells Situation Report he struggles with one thing that is much harder to control: stopping the flow of ammonium nitrate, used to make the overwhelming majority of the homemade explosives used against troops in Afghanistan, from entering the country from Pakistan.

Homemade explosives account for 83 percent of IED "events," defined as found, cleared or detonated, and of that, 72 percent is made with ammonium nitrate. One bag of it can produce seven or eight IEDs, he said. "It's a supply issue," Barbero said.
The problem is not new. But there is increasing frustration among American officials that the Pakistanis seem unwilling to help do anything about the problem. "They can and need to do more," Barbero said. "The bottom line is, I know they could do more, it is an area so open for cooperation."
Among other efforts to slow the flow of the ammonium nitrate, Barbero has asked Pakistani fertilizer supplier FATIMA to add dye to their product, a relatively low-cost additive that will help border guards between Afghanistan and Pakistan identify the bags as bomb-making material. Even with an extremely porous border, that could make it harder for insurgents to transport the material, Barbero says. But efforts to get the Pakistani government to push the firm into adding the dye have not been successful, Barbero says.
"On the network and IED cooperation point there has been a lot of talk about cooperation with us, but there hasn't been any real cooperation," Barbero said of the Pakistanis.

A model for the future? Meanwhile, Barbero co-chairs an interagency group called the Homemade Explosive Task Force, which Barbero says should inform the way U.S. governmental agencies tackle other problems - in concert. The task force cuts across a number of agencies, from Treasury to Homeland Security to Justice and Commerce, and meets every six weeks or so to get after what Barbero calls the lifeblood of bomb makers: money.  The group employs a number of "non-kinetic actions" from defense trade controls to designating bomb making facilitators -- the banks or businesses that help them -- and attempts to better understand the financial networks that keep bomb makers in business. Barbero pointed to the arrest of an Afghan currency dealer recently who was accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of using his chain of money transfer shops to funnel "significant funds for the Taliban commander leading operations in the province," according to a story in The Telegraph Nov. 30.
"In looking at this, I think we need to develop what I call financial intelligence," Barbero says. "My take is in the U.S. government, everybody does a little financial intelligence, nobody does enough. What we need is a holistic approach to these networks," he said.

JIEDDO's future remains in doubt, however. The organization, begun in 2006, has been funded to the tune of more than $18 billion. Some believe that as the war in Afghanistan winds down, so should the funding of JIEDDO, if not the organization itself. And as Pentagon budgeters look at places to cut, JIEDDO is an obvious target. Funded entirely by the supplemental war accounts, Pentagon leaders are considering if the organization should be folded into a permanent structure -- perhaps under Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, or maybe make the Army executive agent of the organization, thus giving it a permanent bureaucratic home. JIEDDO, which has asked for funding of $1.9 billion and has made cuts to its underperforming programs and will reduce its staff by 25 percent, believes it must stay intact to counter the IED threat around the world, not just Afghanistan. And for his part, Barbero says he is not trying to preserve the organization, just the capabilities it provides.



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."

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