National Security

U.S. watches French intervention in Mali warily; Hagel is no Luddite on cyber; Why the DOD IG feels ignored; Mil suicides exceed combat deaths; Wal-Mart to hire 100k veterans, and more.

The Pentagon is facing legal hurdles as it attempts to assist the French fight against Islamic extremism in Mali. A defense official told Situation Report that, as the Pentagon readies support, it is swimming through legal issues stemming from the fact that it severed ties with Mali after a military coup in March. But it expects to resolve the issues soon to provide airlift for troops and materiel from France to Mali and also to provide intelligence support.

Panetta said no ground troops in Mali, but maybe some planes. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, traveling in Europe, said the fight in Mali is important but that the U.S. was not planning to put any American military personnel into the mission. He didn't rule out using American aircraft on the ground in Mali to help with France's logistical needs. "There is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time," he told reporters at a press conference in Lisbon this morning.

The U.S. ignored Mali. The successive elections in Mali over the years may have contributed to the notion that the U.S. could ignore it as a place that could become a haven of Islamic extremism, experts say. And despite fears that terrorism and the extremism from which it feeds could create regional instability, the U.S. has been hesitant to get involved, even as militants gathered strength there. Now the West may be stuck, as neither forces in Mali or in the region are as yet incapable of wresting the north back from the extremists. "The U.S. perhaps didn't engage on that aspect enough, or call out the former president, [Amadou Toumani Toure], who hadn't been taking a very proactive engagement in the north," Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa Program at CSIS in Washington, told Situation Report.

French officials maintain that they don't want to get mired in an operation in northern Mali, but they may not have a choice, Cooke said. "It may get more and more pulled in and entangled in this and have a more longer term role in support of the African Union when they do go in," she said.

"There is layer upon layer of problems in dealing with this," she said.

Panetta in Europe. The SecDef is wheels up from Lisbon this morning, headed for a day-stop in Madrid and then staying overnight in Rome. In Madrid, he will meet with the crown prince, the president, and the minister of defense, and he will hold his second press conference of the day, Situation Report is told. In Portugal, Panetta visited Air Base Lajes, a base with about 1,100 U.S. and Portuguese personnel that is shrinking and will be further affected by the downsizing of the mission in Afghanistan at a savings of $35 million per year, Situation Report is told. Panetta also visited Strike Force NATO, a U.S.-led command in Portugal that conducts maritime security operations.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report, where we are struck by Indonesia's plan, in the name of Sharia, to require women to ride motorcycles side-saddle, increasing dramatically the risk to their safety. 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.

"Answering All Bells." The Surface Navy Association's national symposium begins today at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City.

Why the DOD IG feels ignored. The Pentagon's inspector general has a roster of 63 cases of mismanagement, poor accounting, and other issues that have not been resolved, sometimes for several years, writes the E-Ring's Kevin Baron. "The list reveals how the inspector general is trying to make the Pentagon a somewhat more efficient $600 billion-a-year behemoth. It also is a microscope into bureaucratic minutiae preventing it from happening. At DOD, the IG does not publish full reports until the corrective actions are completed, so the public has no way of knowing exactly what actions have been taken as long as the case remains ‘pending.'"

Michael Smallberg, who tracks inspector general performance for the Project on Government Oversight: "Our position is agencies should either implement IG recommendations in a timely fashion or make very public in the record why they disagree."

Hagel has his work cut out for him on cyber, but he's not a Luddite, we're told. If he's confirmed, Hagel is expected to jump right in and begin making decisions on cyber issues, including whether to elevate Cyber Command into an independent combatant command and iron out final deets on the military's rules of engagement in cyberspace, Killer Apps' John Reed tells us. Hagel, who made millions founding and then running Vanguard Cellular, a cellphone provider later purchased by AT&T, will make buying the right cyber technology and capabilities a priority, according to two officials with whom Reed spoke. An Obama administration official told Reed: "Senator Hagel gets cyber, he's not a guy who thinks the Internet is a series of tubes, he's going to be a leader here."

The campaign against Chuck Hagel took form in another full-page ad, this time on page A-7 of the NYT this morning, quoting former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Rep. Eliot Engel, Alan Dershowitz, Rep. Shelley Berkley, and the WaPo editorial board. The ad is paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel. It urged readers to call New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to urge a no vote. Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) met with Hagel and issued a statement of support: "I asked him about a number of issues -- including America's special relationship with Israel, the threats posed by Iran to the world and the treatment of women and gay and lesbian members of our military -- and his answers were reassuring and show a sensitivity and understanding of these issues." On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said while he had concerns about Hagel, he would not block his nomination.

In 2012, military suicides exceeded the number of combat deaths in Afghanistan, and the trend could get worse, AP's Bob Burns in the Pentagon reports. Pentagon figures show that there were 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year -- up from the 301 the year before. That was more than the 325 the Pentagon had projected. "Last year's total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP's count. Some in Congress are pressing the Pentagon to do more." Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA): "This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today's news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks."

Wal-Mart today will commit to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years -- and hire any veteran who wants a job as long as they have left the military within the previous year and did not receive a dishonorable discharge. The NYT: "The company has also been aggressive about hiring veterans because it views them as good employees, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of the book ‘The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.'"

William S. Simon, a Navy veteran and president and CEO of Wal-Mart, will say this today in a speech to the National Retail Federation, according to the NYT: "Let's be clear: Hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make. These are leaders with discipline, training and a passion for service."

Hagel's contentious nom could actually be good for foreign policy and national security, writes John Arquilla on FP. In "Less Beef, More Chuck," Arquilla says: "This could be just the sort of confirmation fight that is needed to raise the level of public discourse about military and security affairs. These matters were hardly discussed, much less debated, in the nearly substance-free presidential campaign last fall. It is high time that we should shift our gaze back to the Iraq war once again, that we should parse its key lessons for Afghanistan, and that we should think very hard about whether to keep the Pentagon spending spigot wide open."



National Security

U.S. prepares to support French effort in Mali; Hagel wasn’t right 100 percent of the time, Panetta and crew are wheels up; Welsh cracks wise on sling, and more.

After months of international resistance to military action, France boldly pushed forward against extremist Islamists in Mali yesterday, and the U.S. may not be far behind. French fighter jets struck Islamist militants inside northern Mali on Sunday, targeting training camps and other positions in the northern region of the country, which has been under Islamic militant control. Meanwhile, the White House prepared to potentially deploy surveillance drones and other "air-intelligence assets" over Mali in coming days, the WSJ and others reported this morning. WSJ: "The limited American response to France's request for military support reflects White House concerns about being drawn into a new conflict when it is focused on extricating itself from the 11-year-old war in Afghanistan. The White House also has balked at intervening militarily in Syria. Any deployment in support of France's campaign in Mali would be the first U.S. involvement in a new military campaign since Libya in 2011."

NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor, to the WSJ: "We noted that the government of Mali has asked for support, and we share the French goal of denying bterrorists a safe haven in the region. We will stay in close touch with the French and other international partners as the situation develops."
Also, U.S. forces helped in a failed rescue attempt of a French intelligence agent. The White House announced Sunday evening that the American military had provided "limited technical support" to a French military operation in Somalia, in which commandos attempted to rescue an intelligence agent who has been held by al-Shabaab for years. President Barack Obama authorized the use of American fighters to provide indirect support of the operation, but the fighters never dropped any munitions and left Somalian air space soon after. The French military operation was described as bloody and failed to rescue
Denis Allex, a French intelligence agent using a cover name, according to the WaPo, who is believed dead. One other French soldier was killed in the operation, which took place about 75 miles northwest of the capital Mogadishu, and another is missing; 17 Islamic soldiers were also killed.
Obama, in a letter to Congress - "I directed U.S. forces to support this
rescue operation in furtherance of U.S. national security interests, and
pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive."

Welcome to Monday'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. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Ask the Air Force's Mark Welsh about why his arm is in a sling and you'll get a few wise answers. Secretary of the Air Force Mike Donley and CoS Gen. Mark Welsh appeared in the Pentagon Friday to talk sequestration, budget issues, the JSF and other issues. The two announced ways in which they were cutting costs, from freezing civilian hires to curtailing non-essential travel to canceling furniture purchases. But Welsh, who appeared in the Pentagon briefing room with his arm in a sling, was also asked about what happened. First he jokingly blamed his injury on Donley. Then he fingered Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno as the culprit. Welsh: "We were struggling for resources between the service chiefs the other day, and I think it was the first time I realized just how big Ray Odierno really is. So I'm recovering slowly."

The real answer: Welsh is recovering from surgery after an injury suffered after about "10 face plants" in Florida about a year ago while he and his wife were wakeboarding. His wife, he said, is a much better wakeboarder than he is.

John Reed in E-Ring -

CSPAN video of the briefing -

Briefing transcript -

Panetta left at 5 a.m. this morning for Lisbon. It's the first stop on a five-day trip that will take Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, and London. Over the course of this week, Panetta is expected to meet with 12 national leaders, including heads of state, to "engage on bilateral defense issues" as well as those pertaining to NATO. In London on Friday, he'll speak about the transatlantic alliance and the focus it should have. He's expected to link the relationship to his key priorities as secretary, including the new emphasis on Asia, cyber-security, and counter-terrorism.

Staff on a plane ­- Chief of staff Jeremy Bash, senior military assistant Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for NATO/Europe Jim Townsend, special assistant to the defense secretary Shelly Stoneman, chief speechwriter Jacob Freedman, Pentagon press secretary George Little, assistant press secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane - AP's Baldor and Martin, Reuters' Alexander, Bloomberg's Ratnam, NYT's Bumiller, WaPo's Whitlock, WSJ's Barnes, BBC's Soley, Stripes' Hlad, Defense News' Weisberger, CBS's McCormick.

Hagel supporters released a Hagel fact sheet. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron had the seven-point myth-versus-fact sheet on Friday. It has details on Hagel's stance on Iran and Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas, nukes, gay rights, and his management experience.

Friends of Chuck: Thomas Pickering and Colin Powell defended Hagel's record. Hagel backers continue their campaign in support of his nomination as secretary of defense. Despite worries that a potential no-vote from people like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) could cripple his chances, Democrats tell Situation Report they believe he'll ultimately get 65 or more Senate votes and be confirmed.

Amb. Thomas Pickering told Situation Report that he was confident Hagel would be confirmed and didn't think the opposition or the political theater in recent weeks would impede Hagel's ability, once in office, to get the job done.

"It is what it is. Even the most controversial nominations that have succeeded have allowed people to operate. They have a little cloud from time to time, but I don't think it is a disadvantage. Even if his fellow Republicans vote against him, that is not going to impair his capacity to carry out the office," said Pickering, a trustee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Pickering acknowledged that Hagel's opposition to the surge in Iraq, which many think was effective, is a fair topic for questioning. Pickering said Hagel's opposition to an openly gay ambassador was wrong -- he has since apologized for it and his apology was accepted. "Nobody is guaranteed to be right 100 percent of the time, as Hagel showed us on the Hormel issue," Pickering said.

Much of the Sunday shows yesterday were used to either defend Hagel's record or impugn it. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell  was asked on NBC whether Hagel thinks "the military option" against Tehran was "feasible," and he responded that any military option is feasible -- but that it depends on what you want to accomplish. Overall, the military is happy with President Obama's choice, if the wave of support from the retired community is any judge, he said.

Powell, to David Gregory on NBC's ‘Meet the Press': "For the last three weeks, we have had dueling op-eds and dueling blogs and dueling different groups coming forward, but most of the national security community in retirement that I know and many of the secretaries of defense and state that I know, and national security advisers, and very distinguished ambassadors who served in the Middle East, think that Chuck Hagel is a solid guy who speaks his mind. He's a good supporter of Israel. He has been there and the record will show that, but he is not reluctant to disagree when he thinks disagreement is appropriate."

John McCain was non-committal. Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," McCain deferred judgment to the confirmation hearings, expected even by the end of this month. "My questions about him, and they will be raised in the [confirmation hearings], are, what his view of America's role in the world?" McCain said. "Whether he really believes that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War? That clearly -- that's not correct. In fact, it's bizarre. Why would he oppose calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization?"

McCain also said this White House doesn't check with Congress to see where members are on a particular nominee. Even some Democrats have told Situation Report they are not sure why the White House isn't better at working with Senate leaders prior to a nomination. This one in particular, coming as it did weeks after Hagel's name was first seriously floated by the White House, allowed opponents to mount a well-organized campaign. McCain: "Usually with previous presidents, both Republican and Democrat, when they're considering nominations, they call in the other side and say -- the key members on the other party -- and say, 'Hey, I'm thinking about nominating Mr. X, what do you think about that? There's been none of that with this administration." CBS's Face the Nation:

Bob Corker raised the issue of Hagel's temperament as a manager. On ABC's "This Week," he suggested former staffers were coming out to raise questions about Hagel's temperament, though he never explained what he meant and host George Stephanopoulos seemed puzzled but didn't quiz him on it. "I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them. I have, certainly questions, about a lot of things," he said. ABC "This Week:"