National Security

Dunford to take over Feb. 10; Why Wolfowitz likes Flournoy (it’s not just over Afghanistan); Death toll mounts in Syria; The fiscal cliff leaves the Pentagon sour; Kristin Lord to USIP and more.

ISAF's change of command ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 10, Situation Report has learned. Commander Gen. John Allen will be succeeded by Gen. Joe Dunford, who has been the Marine Corps' No. 2 officer and who will now preside over the withdrawal of tens of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan more than 12 years after they first arrived. Meanwhile, Allen awaits the outcome of the Pentagon investigation into e-mail exchanges he had with Jill Kelley of Tampa. Many believe he will be exonerated and be re-nominated to head U.S. European Command since his initial nomination essentially lapsed after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta initiated the investigation. The timing of the change of command in Kabul is unrelated to the investigation, defense officials have said.


Even as Americans are focused elsewhere, two big questions remain: the size of the force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and the "slope" of the drawdown over the next year -- i.e., how quickly the approximately 66,000 American service members now there come home. Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters yesterday that the administration is focused on answering the first question first. The NYT this morning reports that Allen provided three options to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, likely with risk factors for each: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000 troops. President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington next week may provide him and President Obama an opportunity to announce the size of the post-2014 force jointly. Otherwise, Obama may announce the number during the State of the Union address. NYT:


Not the Onion (The Duffel Blog): "U.S. Military Divorcing Afghanistan for Hotter, Sexier War," a headline this morning on the joke site, written by "G-Had," who writes: "The U.S. Military has already released a statement saying, ‘While we appreciate all the love and support Afghanistan has given us, particularly in justifying our defense budget, after over a decade together conflicts sometimes just get boring and stale. We're not a one-war kind of service.'"


Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report and Happy 2013. It's good to be back. 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.


Fiscal cliff deal leaves Pentagon sour, the E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes. Baron: "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a former White House budget director and chairman of the House Budget Committee, in a statement wryly thanked Congress for finding additional time to avoid sequestration, which was due to take effect on Jan. 2. Congress has had more than one year to find a way to address the 2011 Budget Control Act's call for across-the-board defense spending cuts totaling $600 billion over 10 years, or nearly $60 billion this year alone, which military officials have said would cripple national security functions."

Panetta, on Congress' move to avoid the fiscal cliff: "For more than a year, I have made clear that sequestration would have a devastating impact on the [Defense] Department," Panetta said, in a statement. "Over the past few weeks, as we were forced to begin preparing to implement this law, my concerns about its damaging effects have only grown."


The Pentagon will make only a cameo appearance in the coming fiscal cliff sequel, Gordon Adams argues. For the Defense Department, this week's fiscal cliff "resolution" was a little anti-climactic, after fears that the New Year would bring devastating cuts for DOD. But the issue of spending was kicked down the road to March 1, about the same time that the United States will once again come up against its debt ceiling.

"This is not going to be the same kind of fight," Adams writes on FP. "The markets are not going to bounce up and down about the spending issue, not in the ecstatic way they bounded up today. The economic consequences of billions of dollars in added taxes are not the same as the consequences of spending cuts this year ($109 billion) that are less than 1 percent of overall federal spending."


Panetta in pictures. The Pentagon posted a link to a slideshow of the secretary's past year on the job, from briefings in the building, to talking to Jay Leno, to chatting up wounded warriors, to traveling to six continents -- and staring down Kiwi warriors.


Paul Wolfowitz isn't pushing Flournoy for SecDef per se, he tells Situation Report, despite the laudatory op-ed he published in the WSJ on Dec. 30. But the former Pentagon policy chief likes Flournoy -- herself a former Pentagon policy chief -- whose name is still being bandied for secretary of defense. Conservatives who dislike Hagel may be out to boost Flournoy's chances, but Wolfowitz says he's not exactly taking a position, at least a public one, on which of the current slate of candidates should be the next Sec-Def.


Wolfowitz's admiration for Flournoy started over a Saturday morning breakfast in Washington -- with Gen. Bill Caldwell. The op-ed stemmed from a conversation he had with Caldwell when the general, then in charge of training Afghan troops, told Wolfowitz that Flournoy had pushed for more resources to build the Afghan force. Struck by what she had done, Wolfowitz called the Pentagon switchboard that very morning to see if he could be patched through to Flournoy, but he didn't expect her to pick up. To his surprise, she did. He thanked her for what she had done to help build the Afghan forces. After a brief conversation, she asked him if that's all he wanted, and he told her yes, all he wanted to do was to thank her.


Wolfowitz to Situation Report: "To my surprise, she got on the phone, then she was surprised that I was calling only to say ‘thank you.' She thought I was calling her on a Saturday morning to complain about something."


Chuck Hagel is still thought to top the list to replace Panetta, but the White House has been unable to make a decision. Criticisms of Hagel from the right and the left, including concerns about his stance on Israel, is keeping other options for secretary alive -- Flournoy being the primary alternative (in addition to the Pentagon's No. 2, Ash Carter, who may otherwise go to lead the Department of Energy). Wolfowitz said he doesn't know enough about Hagel either way -- though he likes Joe Lieberman for the job. Whoever goes to the Pentagon, it should be someone who cares about the mission in Afghanistan, Wolfowitz said, adding that this administration has done more to train the Afghan force than the Bush administration ever did (though he mostly gave credit to Caldwell, who served as his military assistant when he was in the Pentagon). ICYMI: Wolfowitz' op-ed.


The U.N. says new estimates put the number killed in Syria at about 60,000. The new estimate shows that 59,648 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011. "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," said U.N. High Commissioner Navi Pillay. U.N. news story on new analysis:


Enduring image of the impact of the fighting in Syria: a man holding the body of his dead son in Aleppo in October:


CNAS's Kristin Lord is headed to USIP. The U.S. Institute of Peace announced Wednesday that Kristin Lord, now executive vice president at the Center for a New American Security, will become USIP's executive vice president. She starts at the big 23rd Street building with the "dove" roof on Jan. 28. Former special assistant to President Obama Linda Jamison, who has been in the acting role as EVP at USIP since April, will stay on at the Institute as a senior adviser.


Lord: "At a time when Americans seek to understand a world that grows ever more complex, and to prevent and mitigate violent conflict that is all too frequent, the mission of the United States Institute of Peace could hardly be more important," Lord said. "It is a tremendous honor to join the Institute at this critical moment and be part of an organization that strives to represent America at its very best."


Former CNAS-er John Nagl, to Situation Report, on Lord: "Dr. Kristin Lord has been an unsung hero at CNAS for the past four years. Kristin was one of the first people I brought on board the team, and her intelligence and dedication to excellence show in everything CNAS has done since. USIP is gaining a dynamic talent who will make everything she touches better."

Full disclosure: Situation Report used to be a USIP-er, where we even became a blue badger.


The Stans


Think tanking



National Security

Is Chuck Hagel now being swift-boated on the gay issue? Can Dems handle the Pentagon? The ‘dance performance’ on the fiscal cliff; What Panetta wants for Bravo’s stocking, and more.

Does Chuck Hagel have a gay problem? Maybe, but it might not be enough to foil his nomination, at least in and of itself. Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups have begun to raise questions about comments that Hagel, who remains on the extremely short list for Pentagon chief, made in 1998 about an "openly, aggressively gay" man who was nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg and his fitness to represent the U.S. Chad Griffin, president of the HRC, said that "Senator Hagel's unacceptable comments about gay people, coupled with his consistent anti-LGBT record in Congress, raise serious questions about where he stands on [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] equality today," according to a report in the WaPo last night. Griffin also demanded that Hagel repudiate his remarks, according to the story. But Nathaniel Frank, author of the book "Unfriendly Fire," about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, tells Situation Report that his views fall more on "the forgiving side." Hagel would have to show that he understands the Pentagon still confronts challenges of equal treatment, however.

Frank to Situation Report: "There's no question that Sen. Hagel's comments about [diplomatic nominee James Hormel] were craven and wrong-headed, and his past opposition to LGBT equality would put him out of step with mainstream opinion today, if he holds the same views. But given the pace of change in this area just since the 1990s, we're living in a very different world. The question is where does he stand now? Can he make it clear that he's evolved, that he understands where the 21st-century Pentagon is on these issues, and that he's ready to meet the ongoing challenges it faces with respect to equal treatment in the military?"

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report where it doesn't feel like the end of the world today, but the edge of the cliff sure does seem slippery. 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.

FYI - Situation Report is spending the next week or so with family, but we'll be back early next year. We're thankful for the tremendous support in 2012 and really do look forward to an exciting 2013. But at any time, we're two minutes away by e-mail. So keep us in your thoughts and if you have news to impart, have at it and let us know. Enjoy the holidays.

If Obama noms Hagel, does it validate fears that Dems can't run the Pentagon? Perhaps. If you don't count Panetta, the last Democrat to sit in the E-Ring was Bill Perry -- in 1997. Since then, Bill Clinton appointed Bill Cohen, the Republican from Maine, followed by Bush 43's Rumsfeld and then Gates, all Republicans; and of course Obama kept Gates on. If Hagel gets the nom, Obama will be overlooking other prominent Dems who, Dems say, could easily do the job: Carter, Flournoy, Reed, etc. But the Lexington Institute's Loren Thompson tells Situation Report that he doesn't think the Pentagon chief is that important to this White House. Obama has made it clear that his focus is not fighting wars overseas, but nation-building at home. "SecDef is not a priority. When the White House thinks about what it wants in a defense secretary, it's looking for a long-term Panetta, a person who will keep the Pentagon off the front page."

ICYMI: Yochi Dreazen's piece in the WaPo about the Dems' shallow bench:

Is there still hope for Michele or Ash? Very much so. If the delay in announcing Obama's nominee for Pentagon chief is because Hagel really was just a trial balloon, then the president could move ahead with nominating the Pentagon's No. 2 -- Ash Carter -- or former Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy. In that case, the better money is on Carter, says Thompson. "If Hagel is not available, just elevate Ash Carter to the top job," he told Situation Report. "You could do a lot worse than Ash Carter for the secretary of defense. He is a smart guy, he's easy to get along with, and he's a Bill Perry protégé." Then, Thompson and others say, Flournoy could slide into Carter's old job as No. 2 -- or as a service secretary. With Susan Rice out of the running for State, there will be a push to make sure Obama's national security team is gender inclusive.

Will he or won't he? It's unclear if President Barack Obama will announce Cabinet appointments today, but it's looking less likely. The delay in making an announcement on Hagel and Sen. John Kerry for State is beginning to make Obama look indecisive or, as the criticisms mount against Hagel, politically timid. Former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen told Politico's Mike Allen that if Obama is going to name Hagel, he'd better do it fast. "You leave someone hanging in the wind out there, and people can make allegation and marshal opposition, and it's very difficult to defend yourself until you're actually named," Cohen said. "It's not fair to Senator Hagel. He ought to name his team, and then go fight for them."

Panetta's best friend Bravo wants a drone for Christmas. Panetta tells Situation Report through a spokesman what he wants in his Christmas stocking: "a deal to end sequestration." But he also wishes for a drone for his dog, Bravo, the golden retriever to whom he seems tied at the hip. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos wants "he same thing that every Marine wants...a crust of bread, a full magazine, the eternal friendship of fellow Marines...and the sound sleep that comes with the satisfaction of serving the greatest nation on earth!" And Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says his holiday wish list includes: "stronger allies, weaker enemies and the continued commitment of the American people to our military in case the first two don't work out."

Read FP National Security's holiday wish list on the E-Ring and keep sending them to us at The list:

Panetta comforts his Pentagon charges with a pre-holiday, pre-sequestration message of hope - even if he fears the dark clouds are forming. In a message to the Pentagon work force about the "implications for fiscal cliff negotiations," Panetta writes: "Our civilian employees should keep in mind that the administration remains focused on working with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan that avoids such cuts. Sequestration was never intended to be implemented, and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario." Nonetheless, eh wrote, even if it does occur, there should be no immediate effect on the workforce - no furloughs, etc. "But let me assure you that we will carefully examine other options to reduce costs within the agency before taking such action, taking into consideration our obligation to execute our core mission."

Gordon Adams: the fiscal cliff follies and defense. As the "dance performance at the edge of the cliff continues," Adams, writing on FP, says the Pentagon is getting nervous: "In the defense world, nails are being bitten. Secretary Panetta warns of a cataclysm if the president and Boehner fail to agree. Buck McKeon steps to the mike in a redux of the performance he has been executing for 18 months (isn't he tired?), decrying the fact that the Boehner tax bill left the sequester on the table, and our national security open to the barbarians. In response, Boehner added a provision that would protect defense from at least part of the sequester. (Though sequester would take only 10 percent of the resources from one of the highest defense budgets America has seen since the end of World War II.)"

The Marine who donned his old uniform and stood guard outside an elementary school in Modesto, Calif. to protect the children inside was accused of fakery. Craig Pusley thought he was doing something positive by donning a set of borrowed desert cammies and standing outside the school in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. Problem is, though he is a former Marine, he never reached a rank past PFC and never deployed, according to Marine officials -- but he had a sergeant's insignia on his uniform and he was quoted in a report in the Modesto Bee saying he had deployed multiple times. Pusley blamed the Modesto Bee reporter for screwing up the facts, but the Corps says he is a phony. Marine Corps Times' Dan Lamothe has the story.

Pusley told Lamothe: "I feel horrible about this," he said. "My intention was for the kids. I don't understand why everyone has to find a negative in every situation."

And, as some will do when they find themselves in hot water, blame it on the press: Pusley: "There's a lot of fabrication to this story that didn't come out of my mouth," Pusley said. "All I know is that I talked to a Modesto Bee lady, and everything went crazy."

MCT Story: