National Security

Mullen to GM; Hagel, into the breach; What he’s saying right now; Steve Simon begins at IISS; Ash Carter to Europe; Did Hagel drive his Jeep to the hearing? And a little more.

New this hour: Mike Mullen has joined the board of GM, the company announced this morning. Mullen, who retired in 2011 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will assume duties as one of the 15 board members at GM starting tomorrow. We're told Mullen, who teaches at Princeton and has been active elsewhere, wanted to continue contribute in an important way but also to learn from a company whose seen as innovative and whose turnaround is considered a success story that employs thousands of Americans.

Hagel, speaking right now at the SASC: "...But no one individual vote, quote, or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record.  My overall worldview has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world; that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together; and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests.  I believe, and always have, that America must engage - not retreat - in the world.  My record is consistent on these points.

"It's clear that we are living at a defining time.  Our nation is emerging from over a decade of war.  We have brought our men and women in uniform home from Iraq, and have started to bring them home from Afghanistan. That does not mean the threats we face and will continue to face are any less dangerous or complicated.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Recent events in Mali and Algeria remind us of this reality.  Twenty first century complexities, technologies, economies, and threats are bringing the seven billion global citizens closer together.  And as our planet adds another two billion people over the next 25 years, the dangers, complications, and human demands will not be lessened, but rather heightened."

In his opening statement, Hagel pledges that his views square with that of the president's.

On Iran: I am fully committed to the President's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and - as I've said in the past - all options must be on the table to achieve that goal. 

On terrorism: "I will ensure we stay vigilant and keep up the pressure on terrorist organizations as they try to expand their affiliates around the world, in places like Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa.  At the Pentagon, that means continuing to invest in and build the tools to assist in that fight, such as special operations forces and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies."

On nukes: I am committed to maintaining a modern, strong, safe, ready, and effective nuclear arsenal.  America's nuclear deterrent over the last 65 years has played a central role in ensuring global security and the avoidance of a World War III.  I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal.

On Afghanistan: "The President has made clear - and I agree - that there should be only two functions for U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014: counterterrorism - particularly to target al Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and advising Afghan forces.  It's time we forge a new partnership with Afghanistan, with its government and, importantly, with its people."

On the Pivot: "We are in the process of modernizing our defense posture across the entire region to defend and deepen our partnerships with traditional allies, especially Japan, South Korea, and Australia; to continue to deter and defend against provocations from states like North Korea, as well as non-state actors; and to expand our networks of security cooperation throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security."

Read the advance policy questions Hagel answered here.

Today marks the culmination of weeks of political theater over the Hagel nom. In the end, he is expected to be confirmed. If he gets all the Senate Dems and five Republicans, he'll have 60 votes -- enough to avoid any Republican filibuster. The Hagel camp says they'd really like to have at least 70, however. That could come only after his opponents and the fence-sitters cut what they themselves acknowledge is a pound of his political flesh. FP's whip Josh Rogin breaks down the votes or likely votes in The Cable.

The Hagel camp says their guy is ready. He's undergone three formal murder boards in recent weeks with defense and former defense officials and had about 60 meetings with senators. Yesterday, he finished prepping, left the transition office he's been using on the Pentagon's third floor E-Ring, and took a swim at the Pentagon gym, where he's expected to be a regular, Situation Report is told. Then he went home to see his family and rest up for today's klieg lights. "He's upbeat and ready to go," one person close to the confirmation process tells Situation Report.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where we think it's time our auto-correct stopped changing "Hagel" into "bagel." Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. 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.

The more you know -- about Chuck: He owns a 1990 Jeep, painted olive drab with a white star on the hood, and often drives it to work. He's a lover of movies and particularly likes James Bond flicks. Favorite Bond? Roger Moore.

Aaron Rodgers take note: The man nominated to be the next SecDef is a big Packers fan. He  also likes to take his son to Nebraska games.

He cast his first vote in a national election with an absentee ballot sitting atop a tank in the Mekong Delta, marking Republican votes straight down, including...Richard Nixon.

Although the Senate panel isn't expected to re-litigate the decision to surge troops in Iraq, it's what drives much of the GOP's anger at him. CNN had a good look at the close bond shared between Hagel and Republican Sen. John McCain, who each share scars from Vietnam. But they drifted apart and then really diverged over the surge. At the time, Hagel called the decision "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it is carried out." But while Iraq remains extremely dangerous -- and its future remains in doubt -- many see the relative calm there as due in part to the surge.Calm enough anyway that this morning the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was tweeting something about agriculture: "Do you have any questions for the marshlands experts? The panel is live now."

Steve Simon just left the NSC's Middle East staff to join the International Institute for Strategic Studies as executive director. This last stint at the NSC was his second -- he first worked in the Clinton White House, leaving in 1999 after five years. This week is his first real week at IISS in Washington. On the transition, he told Situation Report: "There's a similar ratio of regret to relief that I felt when I left the Clinton NSC. The Middle East team at the WHS is first rate and I'll really miss working with them. And the intensity of course is habituating. But the IISS is a great place -- non-partisan, global perspective, very ‘strategic' approach to problems -- and I'm going to enjoy it. My own focus will be on how the US can best manage the challenges of the Arab revolt, on one hand and, on the other, its relationship with Israel." Simon bio.

Ash Carter is leaving the building -- just temporarily. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who has announced his intention to stay in the Pentagon, is leaving today for a trip overseas, where he'll visit France, Germany, and Jordan. He'll consult with defense officials from those countries "on a range of common security challenges," the Pentagon announced. "His visit will reinforce our strong commitment to our allies and partners in Europe and the Middle East." He'll also participate in the 49th Munich Security Conference. Security Conference "activities."

Dempsey and Panetta will do a joint interview on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.

Department of Who Knew: Hagel's brother Mike is a painter. And 10 pieces of his collection line the halls of the Pentagon after he donated them between 1979-1991. Subjects run the gamut from the history of aviation to World War II battles to fighters, cargo planes, and bombers. His paintings are also displayed at Wright-Patterson, Hickham, Scott, and Robins Air Force bases.

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes: "There's a special place in the E-Ring's heart for awesomely bad Air Force art -- all of those pictures lining the Pentagon's walls depicting of out-of-proportion SR-71 Blackbirds streaking through wispy American eagle-shaped clouds, or the smudged-watercolor faces of hero aviators superimposed over American flags, contrails over rainbows, and harrowing 20th century dogfights in space that never really happened. Among them, it turns out, hang the works of Chuck Hagel's brother."

Mike Hagel once called himself "the poor man's Norman Rockwell."

Mike Hagel's paintings inside the Pentagon: "Simpson Harbor," "Playmate 13 to the Rescue," "The Bats of Sioux  City," "A Heritage That Keeps on Growing," "The Growth of Man's Wings (Wright Brothers)," all on the 4th floor, E-ring between corridors 9-10.

Situation Report corrects: Sen. Thad Cochran is no longer ranking member of the Senate Approps Committee, as we mentioned yesterday in an item about Cochran's support for Hagel. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama now is.

Noting

  • Danger Room: The seven defense companies with transparency problems.
  • All Africa: Washington urged to stress diplomacy in Mali.
  • Haaretz: Israeli strike on Syria to have grave consequences for Tel Aviv.
  • AFP: NATO chief warns of mounting concern over U.S.-Europe spending.
  • Al-Monitor: Iran, Israel and their red lines over Syria. 

National Security

What Chuck Hagel will say; Eighty Hagelians sign letter; The Navy’s new Special Warfare Group; Why “pirouette” was the word of the day at the Pentagon, and a little more.

More than 80 former Hagel staffers have signed a letter in support of their old boss and are submitting it to SASC for Thursday's hearing. The staffers, none of whom are still active in government, wanted to put to rest rumors of staff discontent promulgated by people like Sen. Bob Corker, who mentioned such concerns in an appearance on a Sunday show. The letter, Situation Report is told, will not rebut specific criticisms of the senator, but will outline the ways in which Hagel inspired staff to be bigger than themselves -- and inspired their loyalty.

Hagel is confronting three groups on Thursday: generally supportive Dems, Republicans who are privately supportive but not yet publicly so, and then the Republicans who either have a problem with Hagel himself or distrust the White House when it comes to nukes, budget cuts, or Iran and Israel. Of that last group, some have publicly criticized Hagel before even meeting with him, individuals familiar with the confirmation process tell Situation Report - rendering the subsequent meetings unproductive due to the earlier public posturing. Nevertheless, an individual familiar with the confirmation preparations said that there's been "good progress" in Hagel's many calls to senators. On Thursday, he will attempt to set the record straight on Iran, nuclear issues and budget cuts. "You're going to hear Hagel reject the idea of simply containing a nuclear Iran, as he has done in private meetings with senators," the individual told Situation Report. Hagel has already made many of the same arguments to senators in recent weeks, including in a letter to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. "You begin to see in those pieces the outline of many of the points Hagel is going to make in a forceful way in the hearing."

Sam Nunn and John Warner will introduce Hagel. The two former SASC chairmen will appear before the committee Thursday to tell the panel that Hagel should be confirmed. "This is from two people who no one would accuse of being weak on defense," the person told Situation Report.

From the Department of Retweets: "@pricefloyd: @glubold No one from this era was available?"

The Hagel camp was gratified that Sen. Thad Cochran, the Republican from Mississippi, announced yesterday that he would support Hagel, making him the first Republican to do so. The announcement came after Hagel met with Cochran, ranking member of the powerful Senate Approps committee, who is seen as old-school Senate and willing to build bridges and cut deals when necessary. The Hagel camp needs people like Cochran who will help Hagel to surpass the 60-vote threshold of a GOP filibuster and elevate the final vote to as much as 70 ayes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, said he would block Hagel's nomination until Panetta testifies on Benghazi. The South Carolina Republican and SASC member is demanding that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testify on what happened before and on Sept. 11, 2012, or he will stop Hagel's nomination. SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, (D-MI) said that such a hearing was already "in the works."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. 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.

On his way out the door, Gen. John Allen is calling for a "substantial military presence" in Afghanistan through next year's fighting season. In an interview in Kabul with the WSJ, Allen outlined his thinking for drawing down the force in Afghanistan. "We'd like to maintain our campaign so we're as pervasive in our touch this fighting season, because this fighting season Afghans are going to be moving into the lead operationally," Allen told the WSJ's Maria Abi-Habib. "We'd like to be with them through the fighting season and then you'd see our numbers come down and then stabilize across the election." Allen will leave his post as ISAF commander in Kabul Feb. 10 when another Marine, Gen. Joe Dunford, replaces him after 19 months. There are about 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan now, and the White House has not announced a withdrawal "slope" yet. But the command is expected to want as much of that force as possible for the last leg of the war in Afghanistan. Allen is arguing for as robust a presence as possible, citing the lessons learned from the Soviets years ago. Allen: "What we've sought to do is learn from the post-Soviet experience.... It was as the Soviet Union began to come apart, when the advisers first were withdrawn and...when the resources were ultimately withdrawn, that's when we first began to see that [Afghan security] force polarize along ethnic and tribal lines and then everything began to come apart."

An investigation recently cleared Allen of any impropriety after investigators stumbled onto e-mails between him and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Although the White House has signaled that it will re-nominate him for the top post in Europe, it has yet to do so.

Afghans will not be in charge of all media embeds as some outlets had reported. The Air Force Times' Jeff Schogol writes that, contrary to other reports, NATO will continue to embed U.S. and international reporters who want to cover NATO operations.

The Navy just created a new in-house think tank. It's called the Navy Warfare Group and it's designed to think about the future of the Navy across different disciplines and departments. According to a Navy message it will be dedicated to "evaluate, develop and implement new strategic concepts" that will be useful to the service. The group will mirror a group the Marine Corps created last year called The Ellis Group, named after Maj. Earl Ellis, the "father of amphibious assault," which resides at Quantico, Va. The group, comprised of 10 majors and lieutenant colonels and led by a full-bird, looks at Marine Corps-Navy issues. Now the Navy has its counterpart. The Navy's group had stemmed from a conversation that CNO Adm. Jon Greenert had with Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos more than a year ago. But the Navy had been slower to put this group together, Situation Report was told.

‘Pirouette' was the word of the day in the Pentagon after Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio asked the Pentagon press secretary a question yesterday about how the engagement in Africa seemed to be a turnabout from the pivot to Asia. Capaccio: "How does this engagement fit into the pivot to Asia strategy? ... Secretary Panetta and all the officials who crafted the Asia -- the Asia pivot, did they envision maybe a pirouette to Africa to incorporate some of the aid and the assistance the United States is providing there?" The question followed George Little's introduction to the briefing -- all spoken by Little French before the English portion of the Q&A as he outlined the extent of the public assistance the U.S. has been providing the French in their campaign against Islamic extremists in northern Mali. Little's answer to Capaccio's question: "Tony, I had no idea you were such a dance expert. Look, we have made it very clear that even as we rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region as part of our strategy that we're not going to keep our eye off the ball on security threats that we face in other parts of the world, to include terrorism, terrorism wherever it crops up, in Africa or elsewhere. And it's not zero-sum. It's not Asia and then we withdraw from other places.  We are going to sustain relationships throughout the world on every continent." The two went on to use the word two more times in yesterday's briefing.

$7.3 million and for what? The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report yesterday on the Imam Sahib Border Police station in Kunduz province in Afghanistan, which was designed for 175 people but to which only 12 people have been assigned. "No one was aware of any plans to move additional personnel to the facility," a SIGAR spokesman said. "The personnel did not have keys to many of the buildings and most of the facility appeared to be unused." The report points out apparent waste but also suggests that the series of border stations, a linchpin of Afghan-Pakistan relations, is not that strong. Although the border situation has been characterized as more positive lately, the report doesn't suggest that in Kunduz, at least, there is a very robust cross-border cooperation. Here, a photo of the facility. 

Arab Winter

  • Bikya: Egypt's military says country faces political collapse. 
  • ABC: Who's who in Egypt's latest political crisis. 
  • The Cable: Clinton says Benghazi was her biggest regret. 
  • NightWatch: Egypt, Libya, Mali. 
  • Al-Monitor: Egypt's post-democracy nears point of no return.

Noting

  • Danger Room: Drone investigator: if facts lead to war crimes, so be it. 
  • Battleland: Time for some fearless leadership on women in combat. 

Into Africa

Hardware

  • Bloomberg: F-35B grounding traced to crimped tubing: Pentagon.
  • AFP: Philippines to buy 12 South Korean fighter jets.
  • Jane's: USAF requests proposals for next-gen ICBM.