National Security

Panetta, putting the band back together; Who instead of Allen? Chuck Hagel isn’t bringing an ‘Entourage’ to the Pentagon; No, Mitch McConnell, Marines in Afghanistan aren’t preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse -- and Gitmo detainees aren’t getting GI benni

By Gordon Lubold

Europe, the final tour: Panetta put the band back together for the last time -- really. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is one place he hoped he'd never be -- back on the so-called Doomsday plane and headed to Europe this morning. He returned to an all-but-empty office, as the E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports, after last week's tearful farewell. But the failure to get Chuck Hagel confirmed before this week's NATO ministerial means Panetta flew back from California to represent the U.S. in Belgium. It's the kind of meeting that top Pentagon officials sometimes joke about since almost every minister feels compelled to make a speech. But the meeting, which runs Thursday and Friday, is an important assembly of allies -- the first since President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next year.

Staffers on a plane: Panetta Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, Military Advisor Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Special Assistant Bailey Hand, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia David Sedney, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, and Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane: AP's Baldor, AFP's Rabechault, Reuters' Stewart, Bloomberg's Ratnam, WSJ's Entous, NYT's Shanker, and VOA's Ramirez.

Wanted: A four-star who knows Europe, can work on a tight budget, a lotta travel required. With Allen stepping aside, Topic A is, who goes to NATO? It's a burning question, at least inside the Pentagon, where Allen's decision to withdraw from consideration for the top military job in Europe results in a scramble for what remains a coveted position. Prerequisites for the job tend to be someone who is already a four-star and ideally it is someone who knows something about Europe. And a love for the road is important: the job requires the commander to be on travel for as much as 25 days per month. Names already being floated for the job in Europe include Gen. Jim Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps; Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, now commander of Air Mobility Command; Gen. Phil Breedlove, the current top Air Force commander in Europe; Adm. Bruce Clingan, the current top Navy commander in Europe; Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby, who commands Northern Command; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnifeld; Gen. Robert Cone, the commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Gen. Gilmary "Mike" Hostage III, commander of Air Combat Command; and Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Fact: Breedlove graduated from Georgia Tech in 1977; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld, graduated in 1978. Breedlove has European experience, is already a four-star, and the Air Force is likely looking at that spot carefully since the service doesn't have any other geographical combatant command jobs at the moment.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where for the record we've removed ourselves from consideration for the job in Brussels - just not a good fit. 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. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

Furloughs. The Pentagon's Comptroller, Tony Hale, and Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright will brief today at the Pentagon at 1p.m. on civilian furloughs.

Allen's decision to pull his name came down to the wire. Situation Report was the first to report last week that Allen was having second thoughts about the top military job in Europe. After a 19-month tour in Afghanistan, he had to weigh his needs and that of his wife, Kathy, who has had chronic health issues, including an autoimmune disorder. The job in Europe would have required him to be away as much as 20 to 25 days per month and that surely played a part in his thinking. Allen had also been swept up in the scandal that felled David Petraeus, after FBI investigators looking into his affair with Paula Broadwell stumbled on e-mails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. That prompted an investigation into the potential impropriety of some of those e-mails, an investigation that ultimately cleared Allen. Had Allen gone forward, there was the potential that those e-mails would have become public. But we're told that wasn't his reasoning.
Marc Chretien, Allen's longtime civilian adviser, told Situation Report in a brief phoner: "Where 100 different people can cite family reasons as the reason for their retirement, General Allen is one out of 100 who is doing it exactly for those reasons."

The WaPo's interview with Allen Monday night included this bit about how Obama and Allen agreed on the 34,000 troop withdrawal:  "The path to the president's decision to withdraw 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by February 2014, announced during last week's State of the Union address, illustrates the relationship between Obama and Allen, according to senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter. Allen's staff had recommended that no more than 25,000 troops be removed this year, an assessment the general initially supported. But when the White House made it clear to Allen that the president wanted to remove half of the 68,000 troops now in the country, the general developed a plan to satisfy Obama: Allen recommended the withdrawal of 34,000 troops, but he also asked Obama to push the deadline back by two months - from the end of the year to February 2014, allowing his successor, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., to avoid pulling out more than 25,000 troops by the autumn, when Taliban fighters typically begin their winter rest. Obama concurred with Allen's plan. That allowed both parties to get what they wanted: White House officials could say that the decision to remove 34,000 troops was in line with Allen's recommendation, while the general could remain close to his initial withdrawal target."

Mitch McConnell, fooled by the Duffel Blog. The good folks over at Danger Room posted something yesterday for our candy dish this morning: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, responding to a letter from a constituent concerned that Gitmo detainees were receiving GI Benefits, seemed to have been fooled by a story in "Duffel Blog," the widely-read military spoof site. On November 14, 2012, McConnell contacted Elizabeth King, the Pentagon's congressional liaison, with an unusually credulous query. "I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits," McConnell wrote in a letter acquired by Danger Room. "I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent's concerns." Danger Room's Spence Ackerman: "Um, Guantanamo detainees getting GI Bill benefits? Yes, that's from the Duffel Blog, as McConnell's constituent clearly states, complete with the reference URL. Said constituent even notes that he or she can't find any information about the alleged government payouts to suspected insurgents and terrorists. The Defense Department does a lot of inexplicable things at Guantanamo Bay -- there's a resume-building workshop for detainees, for real -- but paying detainees GI Bill benefits is not one of them." Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told Danger Room: "The very idea that the U.S. government would extend GI Bill benefits to enemy detainees is a patent absurdity." The letter from McConnell to King. 

Read in the Duffel Blog: Marines in Afghanistan Spending All Their Savings on Zombie Apocalypse

This isn't ‘Entourage': don't expect Hagel to arrive at the Pentagon with a big team. It's early yet -- and of course Chuck Hagel has yet to be confirmed -- but when he does come, he probably won't bring a lot of his own people into the building. The flurry of Hagelians who have supported the boss through the contentious confirmation process -- which really began more than two months ago -- created an impression that Hagel would bring perhaps dozens of people with him to the Pentagon if and when he was confirmed as defense secretary. But some of those former staffers say they were spurred into action to help their former boss simply because of what one described to Situation Report as the egregious character assassination of Hagel.

In reality, there are only one or two people who will go with Hagel - at least for now. So far, the only Hagelian who will play a large role is Aaron Dowd, whom we've described as a quiet, self-deprecating Nebraskan who started with Hagel as an intern from Marquette University. We've been told in the past that he is not only close to Hagel, but knows him well. Dowd will get some job that is somewhere between body man and chief of staff, but probably not either. And Eric Rosenbach, another Hagelian, but one who is already installed as the Pentagon's deputy secretary of defense for cyber, will likely assume a larger role once Hagel rolls up, Situation Report is told.

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports that many of Panetta's people will stay put, including Derek Chollet, Mark Lippert, and Liz King. Marcel Lettre will be acting chief of staff. Baron: Lettre leads a growing list of Panetta holdovers expected to stay in place at the Defense Department under Hagel. Lettre ran Panetta's transition from CIA director to the E-Ring in 2011 and has been a frequent world traveller with the SecDef. Previously, Lettre was principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. Before coming to DOD, he was senior defense and intelligence advisor and, later, senior national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)." And Marine Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser will also remain as senior military adviser to the SecDef, Situation Report is told.

Could Dems lose Levin? In "The Price of Hagel" on FP, Heather Hurlburt writes that there are potential costs to the Dems in pushing Hagel through. One possibility? Sen. Carl Levin, the Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, may not run again in 2014, when he will be 80 and Michigan could turn red. Hurlburt: "No one thinks he would have trouble winning if he wanted, but the ugly back-and-forth with Senator Jim Inhofe, McCain's replacement as ranking member, and Levin's evident frustration with Inhofe's demands for unprecedented levels of documentation from Hagel, cannot have strengthened his desire to stay on."

Bob Work is headed to CNAS. The Center for a New American Security will announce this morning that the Navy's No. 2, Bob Work, who is stepping down from his position at the service, will become the CEO of CNAS. The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, who founded the think tank in 2008 and today sit on its board of directors, chose Work Tuesday. Flournoy, in the release Rogin obtained early: "Bob brings to CNAS his vast substantive expertise on many of the most critical defense issues facing the nation, along with the leadership experience and management acumen gained in running the day-to-day operations of the Department of the Navy. Bob's incisive intellect and strategic vision will be invaluable as he leads CNAS into its next phase. I enjoyed working with him immensely during our time together at the Pentagon and look forward to working with him again as he assumes his new role."

Sink or Swim: Why doesn't State train its people? The Foreign Service has many young officers who aren't adequately trained for the jobs they fill, and some of these officers feel like they are being thrown into the deep end to learn how to swim. Or so writes Nicholas Kralev on FP. From the lede: "Imagine the following scenario: A 29-year-old restaurant manager becomes a U.S. diplomat. Five years later, he is appointed the founding director of the Arabian Peninsula office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a major State Department program aimed at creating and strengthening civil society in a region vital to global stability. Even though he is considered a good officer in general, the young diplomat has little idea how to do his new job. He speaks no Arabic and has never managed people or a budget outside a restaurant -- let alone $2 million of taxpayers' money. He has minimal knowledge of democracy promotion, institution-building, or grant-making, but he is expected to identify suitable NGOs in eight countries and award them grants to build an alternative to the authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. Despite the diplomat's obvious inexperience, he is sent to his new post in Abu Dhabi without a day of training. The State Department expects him to learn how to do his job by osmosis -- to watch colleagues, figure things out on his own, improvise, and rely on luck." Kralev: "There is no need to imagine this scenario -- it actually happened in 2004 to a U.S. Foreign Service officer named Hans Wechsel."

Noting

  • WSJ: A palace rift in Bahrain bedevils U.S. naval base.
  • All Africa: Somalis enjoy first major music concert in two decades. 
  • The Atlantic: The Civil War and WW II: the worst guides to the War on Terrorism.
  • Defense News: Navy paints a bleaker picture on sequester.
  • AP: U.S. to strike back against Chinese cyber attacks.    
  • Foreign Affairs: (registration) McChrystal talks about modern warfare, killing and why mandatory public service makes sense. 

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.