National Security

Flournoy on women in combat: it’s the right thing to do; Why Chuck Hagel could teach Girl Scouts a thing or two; Military intelligence to get more House oversight; John Allen is breathing again, and more.

In a parting act before leaving the Pentagon, Panetta will announce today that he's lifting the ban on women in combat. After years of contemplating the expanded warfighting role women could play, the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that women are already on the front lines. Now on his way out the door, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is looking to cement his legacy by announcing the beginning of what will be a long process to open up some of the 230,000 some military jobs now closed to women. He'll formally make the announcement today at the Pentagon with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey by his side. News of the impending announcement, broken yesterday by the AP's Lita Baldor, caught everyone by surprise; each of the services was scrambling last evening to find their talking points for today. The change won't be as clean as the lifting of the ban against gays in the military - this one will take years - giving the change time to steep across the military. But there will be pockets of deep resistance: Ryan Smith, a former Marine infantryman, writes in today's WSJ about the "absolutely dreadful conditions" in which grunts live, which can include defecating into an MRE bag with your battle buddy immediately beside you.

Smith: "Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex."

Michele Flournoy says it's "absolutely the right thing to do." In an interview Wednesday, Flournoy told Situation Report that lifting the ban is recognition of the dangers women have been facing in a counterinsurgency battlefield for many years. "If someone is physically and mentally qualified to do the job, they should be able to do the job," said Flournoy, who was on the short list for SecDef before the White House nominated Chuck Hagel. "It's another step on the journey for women in the military." Although this is in effect an executive decision, not requiring congressional approval, the decision to lift the ban may face opposition in some quarters. But Flournoy and others indicate the Pentagon has "real data" that shows the change won't be a problem. "The force is already adapting, it's already happening," she said.

The Marines were the holdout. The Smith op-ed this morning isn't a surprise. Each of the services brings a different set of issues when it comes to allowing women to serve in combat roles. But it is the Corps that had been the most assertive in raising concerns about lifting the ban. Corps officials had quietly pointed to data that shows the physical differences between men and women and the difficulties those differences could pose in combat. Corps officials had also pointed to the two women who failed to complete the Corps' Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Va. as part of a study the Corps conducted - the only two women ever to take the course. At the beginning, one of the women was quoted by NPR as saying this to Marine leaders: "I see it as an incredible opportunity that has never been open to women. I want to try and open up a door, maybe, for women after me. I don't know how far it will open, but I'm hoping to make a difference for women down the road." October NPR story by Tom Bowman on women washing out of the Corps' Infantry Officer Course.

One friend of Situation Report e-mails: "Rape, assault and harassment within the ranks against women must now be prosecuted seriously, and promotion schedules will have to be readjusted and women promoted on the basis of their talents and achievements, not outmoded social conventions and boys club politics."

Irony alert: Lifting the ban comes at the end of more than a decade at war. Even as it takes years to completely open up combat roles for women, it's unlikely they'll see large-scale "boots on the ground" warfare anytime soon.

One female Marine officer e-mails Situation Report: "I'd like to see women having the opportunity to be assigned to combat units that were formally off limits to them, but let them do their [military occupational specialty] i.e., supply, admin, law, logistics, communications, aviation maintenance, etc., not infantry, artillery, recon, tanks, or LAVs. Most women didn't join the Marine Corps to do those specialties. Just ask them."

Jane Harman on "Morning Joe" this morning: "I think the timing relates to the fact that Leon Panetta's about to leave and I think this has been cooking for years, certainly as a former member of Congress and one who was in a group of women arguing for this for a decade, I'm pleased that it's happening now."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report where there is never a ban on your input.. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just drop 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.

Tony Blinken to replace McDonough. The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that Blinken will likely replace McDonough at the NSC.

More oversight of military intelligence on the Hill. Military intelligence matters will see perhaps greater oversight after a reshuffling of subcommittees under the House Armed Services Committee, Situation Report is learning. Military intelligence oversight had fallen under various subcommittees. As of last week, mil intel will get more emphasis from one renamed subcommittee. "The chairman's feeling was that we needed more focus on military intelligence issues, intelligence issues as they affect the warfighter," Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told Situation Report in an interview Wednesday. Thornberry chairs what had been the HASC Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities; now that's called Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

Thornberry said there are a host of issues the newly charged subcommittee will examine. "You take Global Hawk. Is it being built on schedule? That continues with the [Tactical Air and Land Forces]; but whether we need Global Hawk, is it meeting the needs of the warfighter -- those are the kinds of questions" the subcommittee will tackle, he said. "Is the warfighter getting what he or she needs.... That is going to be the key to the questions that I ask."

What will you call the new subcomm? The IETC, or "IT-CHI," or the "ITCH?" Nothing sounds quite right to Thornberry yet. "It's still under discussion how you pronounce the acronym," Thornberry said with a snicker.

Ding dong, it's Chuck Hagel calling. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron notes that in his door-to-door campaign to secure votes for his confirmation, Chuck Hagel will have visited about half the U.S. Senate before his hearing next Thursday. That's a lot -- and far more than Leon Panetta or Bob Gates visited before their hearings. But with a sustained, aggressive campaign against Hagel -- the WSJ just ran a critical op-ed by Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso this morning -- Hagel wants to set his opponents and friends alike straight on his record. Kevin: "A second official close to Hagel's confirmation process tells the E-Ring that the decision to extend offers to meet with all 100 members of the Senate was Hagel's own, and a product of his being out of government for some time, since retiring from the Senate in 2008, and his own ‘due diligence.'"

Allen's re-nomination for the job in Europe is imminent. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the WH hopes the Senate will act on Allen's nom to the SACEUR/EUCOM job quickly. McCain tweeted yesterday: "I look forward to his confirmation hearing"; and Sen. Carl Levin told Situation Report through a spokeswoman that "Gen. Allen is a fine and capable person, and I'm not surprised that he has been cleared of wrongdoing."

Allen spokesman Maj. Dave Nevers on Allen's reaction to being exonerated: he's breathing again. JK! Here's what Nevers really said: "General Allen has been informed that the Defense Department's Office of the Inspector General has completed its investigation, determining that the allegations against him were unsubstantiated and concluding that he did not violate the requirement of exemplary conduct or the prohibition against conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. From the outset, the general placed his faith in -- and fully supported -- the investigative process. He's obviously pleased by the outcome. But more critically, he is grateful for the support he received throughout this process from his chain of command, friends, family and colleagues. He remains focused, as he has always been, on leading the brave men and women of the ISAF team."



National Security

Panetta never read the Allen e-mails; The U.S. military begins Mali airlift; Hagelians push back on nuke critics; CSIS gets some love; Kaplan at Politics and Prose tonight, and a little more.

Panetta didn't read the Allen e-mails. The DOD inspector general's exoneration of Gen. John Allen means his promotion to the top job in Europe can move forward if the White House re-nominates him. With Pentagon press secretary George Little expressing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's "complete confidence in the continued leadership" of Allen, it seems unlikely the White House would think twice about sending his name back to the Senate, where there has been no indication that Allen would face substantive opposition. One indication that Allen was expected to be cleared: there never was a Plan B -- another person who was being seriously considered for the job in Europe -- and still isn't, an American official told Situation Report. (There are other options, however -- the Air Force's Gilmary "Mike" Hostage being just one.)

Still, defense officials told us there was a sigh of relief when the news came that Allen had indeed been cleared and they are hopeful his career will move forward. "This news came as a relief to Pentagon insiders and people are rooting for him to head to Europe as SACEUR," one Pentagon official told Situation Report this morning. "He's a stand-up guy who commands great respect from civilian and military officials alike."

Allen was caught up in the scandal with David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell when the FBI stumbled onto emails between him and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, but it quickly seemed that Panetta had acted out of an abundance of caution in calling for an investigation. In private, U.S. officials conceded they thought Allen would be cleared. At no point did Panetta even read the e-mails, Situation Report is told, leaving it to "legal professionals" and investigators to determine if there was wrongdoing.

But it was still unclear which way it would go for Allen. It took more than two months for the DOD IG to investigate the emails -- and the clock was ticking for Allen because if he hadn't been cleared in the next month or so, he would have risked reverting to a two-star rank, since federal regs dictate that a senior officer can't be unassigned for more than 60 days, and his career may not have recovered. But investigators were taking care to avoid the perception that they had rushed through an investigation of a senior officer and then cleared him, perhaps mistakenly. "The last thing you want is to go through an investigative process that clears someone only to have someone pop back up and say, 'Well, what about this?'" one U.S. official told Situation Report.

The U.S. military got off its hands on Mali. After days of wrestling over how it could legally support France in its bid against Islamic extremism in Mali's north - since the U.S. severed ties with Mali's government after its most recent coup -  U.S. military operations are now in full swing. We're told that there have been five C-17 sorties from France to Bamako, moving more than 120 tons of equipment and supplies and more than 80 troops. Pentagon officials expect 2-3 sorties or mission-trips, per day for the duration of the U.S.-supported airlift. And the expectation, Situation Report is told, is that the mission will be completed in the next two weeks.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where lip-synching is not an option. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just drop 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.

HRC testifies this morning on Benghazi. Watch:

Fred Kaplan is at Politics and Prose tonight. The author will read from his new book, "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War," at the Washington bookstore at 7 p.m.

Rising star goes to work for the military's special operators. Maj. Gen. Mike Nagata has been assigned to command special operations forces at U.S. Central Command. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that Nagata has been one to watch, first gaining attention when he was the head U.S. military officer in Islamabad. "Operating from the shadows in support of the fight against al Qaeda and the affiliate's senior leaders," said Frank Kearney, now retired, who at one time had the job Nagata is about to step into. "General Nagata has developed inter-agency, country team and U.S. embassy relationships throughout CENTCOM and the Horn of Africa," he said, describing him as "unassuming and affable." His experience makes him the "perfect choice" to lead, Kearney said.

CSIS gets some love from Penn. CSIS was chosen for the second time as the world's "top security and international affairs think tank" by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies program. For more:

The most worrisome fight against Hagel is now about nukes. As Situation Report reported Jan. 9, some critics of Chuck Hagel have targeted things he has said about disarmament. His signing on with Global Zero, an advocacy organization that supports the elimination of nuclear weapons, was seen as a problem by some of his critics, including Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican from Ohio,, even though the group has many notable backers.

The attacks, however, are concerning to the Hagel camp, who say those individuals are "totally misrepresenting" his record on nuclear policy. They have now begun to defend his record by actively promoting his record. "The fact of the matter is that his views are perfectly in line with the President's," we were told. "He believes in an effective deterrent and a strong arsenal as long as America faces nuclear threats." Hagel's confirmation hearings are scheduled for next Thursday.

The Stan


Into Africa