Hagel nom to need 60 votes; Panetta, looking for a fat lady; Allen to meet with POTUS; Mike Rogers: confront China over cyber-stealing, Panetta’s new medal takes precedence over a Bronze Star with a ‘V;’ and a little more.
60 by Friday? Hagel will require a supermajority after all. Chuck Hagel's confirmation will now require at least 60 votes to overcome a potential Republican filibuster, despite Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's recent insistence that no such supermajority would be required. Depending on whom you talk to, the Hagelians either already have the votes they need or they don't, but it is close. There are at least 55 Democratic votes plus as many as four Republican ones, including Sens. Thad Cochran from Mississippi and Mike Johanns from Nebraska. "There will be others," an individual close to the process told Situation Report.
Some Republican senators may be swayed to vote for Hagel if they are confronted with the possibility that their no-vote would mean the White House wouldn't get its nominee confirmed. Either way, the vote is expected Friday, and Situation Report is told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) may "keep people here as long as it takes" to get Hagel confirmed.
Meanwhile, ABC's Jonathan Karl reported this morning that an aide to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who opposes Republican efforts to filibuster, says the Senate should not vote this week, according to a tweet.
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Panetta is beginning today by thanking actor Gary Sinise - a.k.a. "Lt. Dan," for what we're told is his "tireless support" of wounded warriors. Panetta will present Sinise, one of the enduring celebrities who has aligned himself with the military and veterans, with the DoD Spirit of Hope Award in a private meeting.
Panetta, who is nothing if he's not a proud Italian-American, said he feels as if he's in the last act of an Italian opera. "...not sure exactly when it would end and when the fat lady would sing," he said at yesterday's press conference. "But you know, I think that the Congress will act and that they will confirm Chuck Hagel this week."
But he's feeling confident: Despite the drawn out political drama over the Hagel nom, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to roll out this afternoon to return home to California, where he will remain Defense Secretary. His walnut farm will in effect become Pentagon West until Hagel is confirmed, we're told. Panetta, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, will today present Hillary Rodham Clinton with a public service award - DoD's highest - and then visit his old colleagues at the CIA. He'll also visit Arlington cemetery before boarding the plane for home.
John Allen is still mulling his options on the job in Europe until he meets with POTUS. Officials close to Gen. John Allen say he really is still trying to decide if he wants to pursue the job in Europe or not and that no decision will be final until he meets with President Barack Obama, as early as this week or as late as next week. We first reported yesterday that Allen's re-nomination was an issue, and that he was weighing the needs of his family as he contemplated his expected next assignment as commander of European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Allen, who turned over command of ISAF in Kabul last weekend, returned to Washington Sunday evening. Last month, he was exonerated after an investigation into potentially improper e-mails between he and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. But while he was cleared, the specter that the e-mails might become public if he pursued the job in Europe may deter Allen from seeking the nomination for that job. There are two schools of thought on the e-mails. Some believe that if the e-mails became public it would weaken Allen in the performance of his duties at the top U.S. commander in Europe, which requires extensive work with allies. Others suggest that the fact that he was cleared means there is nothing substantively concerning in the e-mails - some of which Allen's wife Kathy was included in on. Instead, they believe, what Allen is doing now is considering the needs of his family after 19 months as Afghanistan war commander and three years before that at Central Command in Tampa, and whether another job as a combatant commander is in his and his family's best interests.
Brain Drain: Dave Barno writes on FP that the military's top brass is driving all the smart people out of the military. Barno writes: "A colleague told me of a recent meeting with a roomful of senior generals in which he outlined the looming ‘talent drain,' highlighting the prospect that the most exceptional officers will flee the force in droves over the next five years. Their response echoed the one I hear all too often from both active and retired generals: ‘If they want to leave the team, we'd be better off without them.'" Barno: "Astonishing."
When it comes to cyber, it's time to deal with China, says Mike Rogers. The Republican congressman from Michigan and chair of the House Intelligence Committee told Killer Apps' John Reed that it's time to confront China about its cyber attacks. "We need direct talks with China and it needs to be at the top of a bilateral discussion about cyber espionage," Rogers told Reed. "This is a problem of epic proportions here and they need to be called on the carpet. There have been absolutely no consequences for what they have been able to steal and repurpose to date." A soon-to-be-released National Intelligence Estimate is expected to detail the scope of the perils posed by cyber attacks and theft of U.S. intellectual property by the Chinese. Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, has called the Chinese theft "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."
Feinstein: About that transparency on the drone program... John Brennan's confirmation as CIA director has now been delayed by at least two weeks as the Senate Intelligence Committee demands that President Barack Obama make good on his promise to make the administration's use of drones and the lethal targeting program as transparent as possible. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat from California and chair of the committee, wants the administration to provide seven memos from the Justice Department that describe the targeted killing program.
Feinstein, in a statement: "Last week, senators on the committee were finally allowed to review two OLC opinions on the legal authority to strike U.S. citizens. We have reiterated our request for all nine OLC opinions -- and any other relevant documents --in order to fully evaluate the executive branch's legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff."
Isn't it ironic? WH: Brennan actually wants more transparency. "The thing these guys need to understand on John is that he has been one of the foremost voices in this administration pushing" for the release of more information on targeted killings, one official told the WaPo.
Combat is changing, and so are the forms of its recognition. Leon Panetta announced the creation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal to recognize the achievements of those who fly unmanned -- make that "remotely piloted" -- vehicles in what may amount to his parting act as secretary. What may ignite some controversy among the rank-and-file is that the new medal will take precedence over the Bronze Star with Valor device, given to troops for specific heroic acts performed under fire in combat. The new medal will rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The civilian world sometimes takes a dim view of the military's zeal for ribbons and medals, but they represent a long tradition of achievement and public recognition of a job well done. Drone pilots and operators of other remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems "have changed the way wars are fought, and they've given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar," Panetta said. The new medal recognizes significant achievement on the battlefield even if those efforts don't require acts of valor or physical risk.
Panetta: "I've always felt, having seen the great work that they do, day in and day out, that those who performed in an outstanding manner should be recognized. Unfortunately, medals that they otherwise might be eligible for simply did not recognize that kind of -- of contribution."
The Military Times' Andrew Tilghman writes: "The order of precedence came as a surprise to Doug Sterner, a military medals expert and the curator of the Military Times Hall of Valor, the largest database of military medal recipients. ‘It's got me puzzled,' Sterner said in an interview Wednesday. ‘I understand the need to recognize the guys at the console who are doing some pretty important things. But to see it ranking above the Bronze Star [with] V?'"
Panetta, in what will probably be his last press conference in the Pentagon yesterday, spoke forcefully about the need to bridge the gaps between the Pentagon and Congress. He was talking mostly about the budgetary impasse. But he was also asked about how Chuck Hagel, given the difficulty he is experiencing getting confirmed, will be able to rebuild the relationship. Panetta: "The thing that makes the Congress work is that you'll always have differences. There will always be party differences, there will always be political differences, there will be ideological differences. That's the whole purpose of our forefathers fashioning that legislative branch, is to -- is to debate fully those differences. But there are also some lines that are there that make that process work, lines that involve mutual respect, lines that involve, you know, courtesy and a degree of respect for each other, despite whatever their decisions are. And you kind of see that breaking down in this process. It becomes too personal; it becomes too mean."
- NotingHaaretz: Report: Iran ordered banned materials to expand nuclear program.
- CS Monitor: One step forward, one step back on Iran's nuclear program.
- Dawn: Suicide attack at Hangu checkpoint kills seven.
- London Review of Books: From Syria, how to start a battalion in five easy steps.
- The Australian: North Korea's blast tests unity in fractured region.
- Danger Room: As France leaves Mali, now what?
- Colombia Reports: Colombia suspends military ops to make way for hostage release.