National Security

The Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, likely to be grounded this year; The PLA’s Hackers: Chinese military unit targets U.S.; Panetta’s back in the building; McCain: Hagel likely to be confirmed, and more.

He's back: Still Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is back in the Pentagon this morning. The confirmation drama last week that kept Chuck Hagel from assuming duties as Pentagon chief means Panetta is still in the saddle. After a long weekend at the walnut farm in California and an emotional good-bye late last week, Panetta is still in charge and planning the trip he never planned on taking - to the defense ministerial in Brussels this week.

A new report says there's a military base in Shanghai just for Chinese cyber warriors and says many attacks against the U.S. come from there. A report out this morning by the American firm Mandiant ties a number of cyber attacks against U.S. corporations, organizations, and government agencies to a military base in Shanghai that houses a Chinese military cyber unit, Unit 61398, that is thought to be behind numerous attacks. The report establishes for the first time what many American cyber and intelligence experts have long suspected -- that China's military is targeting the U.S. "[Mandiant] was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area," according to the NYT, which was given initial access to the Mandiant report Sunday. The American power grid system

Kevin Mandia, founder of Mandiant: "Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398, or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood."

Just a few years ago, Mandiant was not able to determine the extent of the Chinese government's authorization of cyber espionage in 2010. But today, they've changed their assessment: "The details we have analyzed during hundreds of investigations convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them." The Mandiant report says that its analysts have "directly observed" cyber espionage that likely represents only a small fraction of what the Chinese have conducted. And while its view of what the Chinese is doing is "incomplete," it has tracked the Chinese military unit's intrusions against nearly 150 victims over seven years.

Mandiant report execsum: "Our analysis has led us to conclude that APT1 is likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China's cyber threat actors. We believe that APT1 is able to wage such a long-running and extensive cyber espionage campaign in large part because it receives direct government support. In seeking to identify the organization behind this activity, our research found that People's Liberation Army (PLA's) Unit 61398 is similar to APT1 in its mission, capabilities, and resources. PLA Unit 61398 is also located in precisely the same area from which APT1 activity appears to originate."

House Intel Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ohio) told Killer Apps' John Reed just last week that the U.S. must confront China on cyber: "We need direct talks with China and it needs to be at the top of a bilateral discussion about cyber espionage," Rogers told Reed after a speech at CSIS. "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."?

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will.

A protein shake for passwords: DARPA's plan to check your ID. Hacking makes DARPA cringe, so the Pentagon's R&D arm has kicked off a $14 million effort to develop sensors that can monitor computer users' online behavior to determine whether "they are who they say they are," Killer Apps' Reed reports. "This kind of vigilance is going to become all the more important as the Pentagon shrinks the number of networks it runs under its cloud-computing initiative and fields mobile devices capable of handling classified information. Ask any cyber security expert and they will tell you that computer networks will inevitably be compromised and that the best defense lies in constantly monitoring for weird behavior." Something called the Active Authentication program aims to verify the identity of computer users based on their online behavior. "The program focuses on the development of new types of behavioral biometrics focused on the user's cognitive processes," Richard Guidorizzi, DARPA program manager, explained in an email to Killer Apps. Now in English, Reed writes: "That means Active Authentication will monitor your computer habits -- like your typing patterns, the way you use a mouse, and even how you construct sentences -- to assemble an ‘online fingerprint.'"

The Air Force and the Navy will likely ground their demonstration squadrons, but each service has to agree before either can do it. Times is tough, and as the Pentagon looks to trim costs, the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds are seen as low-hanging fruit. The Navy had floated the idea recently, and now the Air Force has agreed that it, too, will likely ground its demo squadron this year. An Air Force official told Situation Report that if sequestration hits, the Air Force would ground the Thunderbirds, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. It is also looking at canceling "aerial support" at air shows, patriotic holiday events, and local and national sporting events, which could top 1,000 events across the country. "It is likely the Thunderbirds...will not conduct their season this year," Wendy Varhegyi, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, told Situation Report. And for the Navy, it's simple math: grounding the squadron for a year is worth about $20 million, which equates to normal maintenance for five small warships, Situation Report is told. While no one in the Navy wants to cancel "the Blues," as a Navy official said, it would be hard not to when the service is looking for trims that will affect shipbuilding and maintenance and operations. "For us, it would be difficult for us to justify not doing shipbuilding and maintenance when we're still flying air shows." The demonstration squadrons are used by both services as a recruiting and "community relations" tool. But with the budgetary axe swinging, they easily fall off the Pentagon's must-have list. The Air Force did not have a dollar amount of what it would save by grounding the Thunderbirds.

Navy and Air Force budget officials have agreed to agree. Under the deal, if one service has to ground its demo squadron, so does the other. The agreement stems from the shared recognition that both services face the same challenge so if one cancels its program, the other one should cancel its program, too. "If one of us has to cancel the flight programs, then the other one has to," a Navy official told Situation Report. "We've agreed we're going to make this decision jointly, we're not going to make it independently from one another."

McCain now says Hagel will be confirmed. Republicans have their pound of flesh from Chuck Hagel and are now confident he'll be confirmed, even if some still won't vote for him. Sen. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Hagel will likely have enough votes to be confirmed, but he won't vote for him himself. McCain: "I don't believe he's qualified, but I don't believe we should hold up his confirmation any further." The 10-day recess will be enough time for the White House to give the answers McCain says he still needs on Benghazi. "I think it's a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered."

Blame Lindsey: Why McCain turned on Hagel, explained. Politico's David Rogers tells the story of why McCain, a fellow Vietnam vet and Senate friend, turned on Hagel in his bid to become defense secretary. McCain, who was poised to end debate and get on with a floor vote -- maybe even voting for Hagel himself, despite the infamous exchange during his confirmation hearing -- changed his mind after a visit with Senate colleague Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who faces a primary challenge from the right at home. Rogers: "For old McCain allies, it was an all-too familiar scenario: Their champion pulled back into the fray by his friend Graham, a likable but impulsive figure caught up in his own political battles with the right in South Carolina. By reversing himself, McCain effectively sacrificed his own credibility to buy Graham more time to continue his campaign against Hagel -- an issue that plays to Graham's advantage as he prepares to run for reelection in 2014."

A Republican insider tells Politico: "This is just a bone thrown to Lindsey Graham, who keeps painting himself into corners and then pleading with friends to crawl in there with him in a vain attempt to save a little face."

Noting

  • Time's Battleland: Pentagon budget hat trickery.
  • USAT: Army plows ahead with troubled aid program.
  • AFP: Yemeni military jet crashes, kills nine.
  • AP: UN: Afghan civilian deaths by NATO, US, are down.
  • Small Wars: Addressing an ignored imperative: rural corruption in Afghanistan.
  • Reuters: Typhoid breaks out in rebel-held eastern Syria.
  • AP: German cabinet approves measure to send 330 soldiers to Mali.  

National Security

Hagel on ice; Panetta has left the building (only to return); Arming Syrian rebels wouldn’t be a good idea; DWM: What a “Spilled Coffee on Crotch Cup Device” would be; and more.

Hagel on ice. Chuck Hagel's move to the Pentagon  may still come, but after the political maneuverings of yesterday, it won't happen for at least another 10 days. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to end debate on the nomination, which requires 60 votes, fell short, thus keeping the Senate's consideration of Hagel in play until after the congressional recess next week. Reid decried Republican obstruction, saying, "This has gone to the absurd," and lamenting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who remains Pentagon chief but who flew home to California last night, was "about as lame as a duck can be" in an effort to shame Republicans into confirming Hagel. The procedural move was, according to Republicans, an effort to extract more information from Hagel about his finances and from the administration about Benghazi. To Dems, the move amounted to a filibuster. Reid: "Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it gets worse. I guess to be able to run for the Senate as a Republican in most places of the country, you need to have a résumé that says, ‘I helped filibuster one of the president's nominees.'"

Though Hagel is expected to be confirmed, opposition to him remains great. Sen. John McCain said at one point yesterday: "He is the wrong person at the worst time for the job."

Assuming Hagel gets in, he'll face a mountain of opposition to whatever it is he does, at least at first. Most believe Hagel would walk into the Pentagon wounded, but also that his street cred as a combat veteran and political fighter gives him the capacity to turn things around. There are those who think otherwise, though. "It's clear Sen. Hagel lacks the kind of political capital he will need in the bank upon assuming office to cut deals and persuade Congress to do things members have little appetite to do right now, like close bases, cancel more weapons programs and absorb budget cuts across the force," the WSJ quoted Mackenzie Eaglen from American Enterprise Institute as saying this morning.

Standing ovation. At-Some-Point-Not-the-Defense-Secretary Leon Panetta and his wife Sylvia and dog Bravo departed through the Pentagon's River Entrance Thursday evening to board a plane for California. Panetta, who travels home most weekends, had made a point of saying he would leave town Thursday to get back to the walnut farm, thus making a statement about the political theater across the Potomac. It's clear now Panetta will have to return to Washington to make the trip to Brussels for the NATO ministerial next week. But that wasn't yet clear earlier yesterday as the Panettas walked out the door. So members of Panetta's close staff and other Pentagon well-wishers formed two lines out the big double wood doors, applauding Panetta as he walked to his black Suburban, many dabbing their eyes. As Irish setter, er, golden retriever Bravo stood patiently in the back seat of the truck, Panetta and his wife made their way down the line. "I don't want to do this again!" he said with his characteristic chuckle. As the black Suburban drove off, someone yelled, "Now what?"

Panetta chief of staff Jeremy Bash, to hearty laughter: "Go call your senator!"

After the Panettas drove away, crackerjack photographer Erin Kirk-Cuomo, her own eyes red, wondered aloud if she'd captured any decent images: "I don't even know if I got anything." But, she did: the Panettas' departure, in pictures.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where the next words you'll read from us is "Welcome to Tuesday's Situation Report," as we'll be dark on Monday. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Odierno speaks on the future of the Army this morning at 11am at Brookings. Information here.

Syrian rebels say they almost control a strategic province. Rebels are claiming that they are close to controlling Hasaka - and its oil production facilities. Rebels already control Syria's largest hydropower dam and have taken over a northern military base, according to the NYT this morning. 

Arming the Syrian rebels would have been a bad idea, argues Marc Lynch on FP. Last week we learned during open testimony that Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey both supported a plan to arm Syrian rebels. Then SecState Hillary Clinton and other top officials also agreed with the idea. It was shot down by the White House, and the episode showed just how much the White House can go its own way on national security issues. But Lynch writes that he doesn't think it was really ever a good idea: "The failure of American diplomacy to end Syria's parade of horrors has rightfully driven the policy community to search for a useful alternative. But arming the rebels was always a classic ‘Option C.' Every bureaucrat knows the trick of offering three options -- one to do nothing, one so outlandish that it is easily rejected, and then one that takes the seemingly sensible middle ground, allowing the decision-maker the illusion that they are resolving the problem."

Lynch continues: "It's difficult to produce a single example in modern history of a strategy of arming rebels actually succeeding. Please, please, don't offer the example of U.S. support for the Afghan jihad in the 1980s -- because I'll just see that and raise you a collapsed state, warlordism, rise of the Taliban, and al Qaeda. Meanwhile, there are plenty of examples of the overt or covert provision of arms to a rebel group prolonging and intensifying conflicts, and lots of cases of rebel groups happily taking our money and guns to ‘fight communists' (or whatever) and then doing whatever they like with them. That doesn't mean that such a strategy couldn't work in Syria, but history is most definitely not on its side."

Former Pentagon communications guru Brian Cullin is retiring today from the State Department, where he had moved to advise Tara Sonenshine, the under secretary for public diplomacy.

Making the inbox rounds at the Pentagon: a prototype for the new Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots -- a gold X-Box controller. OK, it's a joke. But take a look.  Also, as recognition grew around the Defense Department that the new DWM would occupy a higher precedence than a Bronze Star with a combat ‘V' device, another list of proposed devices were making their way into inboxes yesterday. They include: Hemorrhoid Donut Device, a Boil Lance Device, a Carpal Tunnel Splint Device, a Rush Hour Traffic Monopoly Car Device, a Spilled Coffee on Crotch Cup Device, a Sports Page Paper Cut Band-Aid Device, a Cyberwar PacMan Device, a Direct Combat Pressure Tea-Pot Device, and a Flight Suit Looks Snazzy Mirror Device.

The Duffel Blog has this piece about what a Predator drone thinks about his human counterpart getting the DWM: "I hate to say it, but my human counterpart is a droneopotamus. He sits around in the Ground Control Station all day, eating Doritos, and posts a sticker on the door that says ‘Predator Pilot: Toughest Job in the Air Force.'"

Hageling

  • The Daily Beast: The Republicans ugly and shameful Chuck Hagel filibuster.
  • Brookings: Thoughts on the Hagel filibuster and its political implications. 
  • AP:  Hagel confirmation stalled, but still expected.

Into Africa

  • USAT: Still no plans to send troops into Mali.
  • State Department: Johnnie Carson testimony on Hill on U.S. interests in Mali.   
  • Horseed Media: al-Shabab say they executed Kenyan hostage.  

Noting

  • USIP: UN Special Representative calls for end of "scourge" of sexual violence.
  • CSIS: Sen. James Inhofe talks the future of ground forces.  
  • Military Times: Two-star: Shooter knew he'd lose benefits.  
  • Danger Room: DARPA wants teeny tiny fluids to cool down next micro-chips.  
  • Small Wars: Everything I needed to know I learned from the Afghans.