National Security

Sgt. Hagel visits troops in Afghanistan; The remains of the day: civil war sailors to be buried; The Pentagon and the North’s rhetoric; Count ‘em: the total number of cyber warriors, and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold

Hagel just arrived in Kabul. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Afghanistan for his fifth trip - but his first as Sec-Def. He will be meeting with senior American officers and civilians, including new ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford, as well as senior Afghan leaders and other officials. He'll receive briefings on the training of the Afghan National Security Forces, joint counter terrorism operations, and "retrograde" of materiel from Afghanistan. And Hagel, a former sergeant who was combat-wounded in Vietnam, will also visit the troops.

In what aides said was a first, the defense secretary issued a "message to ISAF personnel" upon arrival in Kabul, in which he said he sees this juncture in Afghanistan as a "a very important moment" as the ANSF are "on the verge" of stepping into the lead. Of course, every moment has been critical there, and Hagel's comments aren't the first along those lines. But with a new ISAF commander, critical decisions on the slope of the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and pending decisions on what the U.S. presence will look like after 2014, when security transition is complete, Hagel's visit comes at a significant time. Hagel: "...The ANSF will be doing more and more of the fighting, and relying on you for support, training, and advice.  The choices you make on the battlefield, the professionalism and honor you carry forward, and the relationships and trust you build with our Afghan partners are all essential to the success of this campaign," he said. Hagel said the mission in Afghanistan remains dangerous and difficult and that many will continue to experience "the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle." At the same time, the goal to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans is "clear and achievable."

Hagel to troops: "You are working under stressful and difficult conditions, and you have my profound gratitude, and the gratitude of the American people, for your service and your sacrifices."

Chillin' on the Doomsday. Hagel is on his first trip on the famed E-4B Airborne Command Post, a 1970s-vintage "survivable" flying command center from which the defense secretary can "execute emergency war orders" and is known affectionately as the "Doomsday" plane for its Cold War-era capabilities, antiquated-looking telephones, leaky roof and oddly-long tail antennae. Hagel, who's known for vectoring in on whatever enlisted people are around, visited with the Doomsday's Nebraska-based crew - Nebraska being his home state. "He mingled with them, the press corps, and the traveling DoD delegation," Situation Report is told. And began his remarks to the press with a tribute to the Doomsday's crew.

Staffers on a plane - Peter Lavoy, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia Pacific policy, David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Hagel's senior military assistant, Marcel Lettre, acting chief of staff, Jacob Freedman, chief speechwriter, George Little, press secretary, Carl Woog, assistant press secretary, and J.P. Eby, trip director.

Reporters on a plane - AFP's Rabechault, Reuter's Stewart and Reed, NPR's Welna, CNN's Lawrence, Umrani and Abdallah, AP's Baldor, Bloomberg's Ratnam, NYT's Shanker, WSJ's Nissenbaum, LAT's Cloud, WaPo's Londono, the Pentagon's Parrish, the BBC's Soley, and Stripes' Carroll.

Welcome to Friday's late edition of Situation Report, where our tardiness this morning is due to the embargo on the news of Hagel's arrival in Afghanistan. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. Sign up for Situation Report by sending me an e-mail. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, tidbit or something you want us to flag, send it to us early for maximum tease. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, excessive spending, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

The Pentagon is starting to make it easier for foreign countries to buy American products.  The administration yesterday notified Congress of the first in a series of changes to the U.S. munitions list that is the first step to putting a new export control system in place. The first notification is for changes to the categories of export control governing aircraft and gas turbine engines - after nearly three years of work by Pentagon officials. The current "Export Control Reform Initiative" overhauls the U.S. export control system, still largely based on Cold War-era requirements. Reforms aim to protect national security by creating "better interoperability with our allies, a healthier defense industrial base, and less red tape for U.S. manufacturers and exports of defense articles," according to DoD spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory, to Situation Report. "The current system treats all items the same and effectively encourages second-sourcing items from non-U.S. suppliers, to avoid the U.S. licensing system.  This harms U.S. manufacturers, especially second- and third-tier suppliers, diminishing their sales and driving up costs to the U.S. military for the same items or causing the U.S. military to source from non-U.S. manufacturers.  That means that currently, the controls applied to an F-16, for example, are the same as the controls for a bolt that is used on that F-16, straining U.S. Government resources without focusing on those items that warrant more scrutiny and control."

Pentagon's point-man on export reform:  Director of the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration, Jim Hursch.

The future of American military intervention: Speak softly and walk with light footprints. A new report from the Center for a New American Security's Maj. Fernando Lujan, an active duty Army officer and visiting fellow, argues that the U.S. military's form of intervention in the next decade could be summed up as walking with "light footprints" and that approach will inform the limited military intervention in places like Yemen, Uganda, Mali or Libya. But he makes three points in the exec-sum: Drones and commando raids are the "tip of the iceberg," that have to be part of a much larger, long-term strategy; "prevention is the new victory," and in this form of light intervention, "the wrong man can do more harm than the right man can do good."

Lujan: "Despite the relative appeal of these less costly forms of military intervention, the light footprint is no panacea. Like any policy option, the strategy has risks, costs and benefits that make it ideally suited for certain security challenges and disastrous for others. Moreover, recent media coverage of drone strikes and SEAL raids may also distort public perceptions, creating a "bin Laden effect" - the notion of military action as sterile, instantaneous and pinprick accurate. Yet for these smaller-scale interventions to be an effective instrument of national policy, civilian and military leaders at all levels should make a concerted effort to under- stand not only their strategic uses and limitations, but also the ways the current defense bureaucracy can undermine their success."

Wanna know how many cyber-troops the Defense Department has? Ask Killer Apps' John Reed, who used public information to tally up the total number of cyber employees, both military and civilian, after the news that the Pentagon wanted to hire another 4,900 cyber-warriors. Reed: "Here are the numbers that are publicly listed on the web for each service's dedicated cyber arms. These forces act as each service's contribution to U.S. Cyber Command and Strategic Command when needed." His list: 24th Air Force: 16,400+ airmen and civilians; Navy Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet: at least 14,000 sailors and civilians; Marine Cyberspace Command: growing to as many as 800 Marines; Army Cyberspace Command: set to exceed 21,000 soldiers and civilians; U.S. Cyber Command, 900 and set to grow to 4,900 troops and civilians, for a total cyber warrior force of as many as 58,000. Next tasker for Reed? Figuring out the total cyber budget.

North Korea's most recent rhetoric is scaring even some analysts. The U.N. Security Council agreed on new economic sanctions against North Korea after the third nuclear test it conducted last month. That sparked a feisty response from North Korea, which said it had "nuclear tipped" ICBMs "ready to blast off," according to the NYT. South Korea matched the rhetoric, threatening the north would be "erased from the earth" if Pyongyang attacks it. The Security Council deal, negotiated between the U.S. and China, may be putting the North into a desperate situation. John Park, an expert on Korea with MIT, told Situation Report the North may not be bluffing and aims to break up the consensus agreement between China and the U.S. "The most effective way to do that is escalate military tensions like in late 2010," Park told Situation Report.  Park: "For the U.S., the big concern is how South Korea may independently initiate a response under its vague doctrine of ‘proactive deterrence.' There has always been a worry about South Korean reactions, which under "proactive deterrence" were intended not to be proportional to an attack from the North... most importantly, North Korea knows that by pushing South Korea closer to the point of military action, China will act swiftly to restrain all the parties -- North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.   In practice, that will likely translate in North Korea getting away with a limited conventional attack on its southern neighbor."

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, the E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports: A DoD official said that following a threat from North Korea, there is usually a lot of "intelligence churn" to see if any movements on the ground match the talk from Pyongyang. But the U.S. military does not have to move big weapons, ships, aircraft, nor change alert levels, he writes. "We are always ready to go to war on the Korean Peninsula within a matter of hours," the official told Baron. "The thing to keep in mind with the North Korea situation is ... we are always postured as if the balloon could go up within a matter of minutes. If we actually needed to be moving big heavy things around, that would actually indicate we had some serious problems with being postured correctly."

Remains of the day: The Navy yesterday received the remains of two sailors who died aboard the USS Monitor and who will now be buried today at Arlington. The remains were found in the famous ship's turret after it was raised from the bottom of the ocean off the coast of North Carolina in 2002. The sailors' remains were finally brought back to Washington for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, where they will go after a ceremony at Fort Meyer. The ship, which engaged in one of the first ironclad ship battles, in 1862, played a crucial role in the Civil War and was thought to have helped to save the Union. After the battle, the ship was being towed out to sea off North Carolina when it got caught in a big storm, capsized and sank. The remains of the sailors came aboard a commercial Delta flight, which arrived at Dulles yesterday morning.

Juan Garcia, an assistant secretary of the Navy, who presided over the arrival of the remains at Dulles, quoted in the WaPo: "It's delivering on a commitment we make to every one of our sailors... you will to the maximum extent possible, you will be brought home... even if it takes a century and a half."

Carl Levin loved the Senate, hated the partisanship. After his announcement yesterday that he would not run for re-election next year - and thus give up the Senate Armed Services Committee chairmanship he has held for many years - there has been much speculation on whether Republicans would win his seat. But the real loss may be for the Senate, since Levin was an old-school dealmaker, a master of the Senate rules, and well-regarded as a kind and effective Senate leader. Levin was instrumental in getting Chuck Hagel through to confirmation, even if he didn't prevent a filibuster that delayed the final vote last month. Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press' Ron Dzwonkowski, now retired, wrote a colorful piece today that Levin enjoyed editorial board meetings with the paper as much as the paper's editorial writers loved meetings with him. "... he clearly loved the Senate as it was, arcane rules and all, rather than the partisan snake pit it was becoming. The avuncular Levin counted Republican and Democratic colleagues among his close friends -- political differences not withstanding -- and clearly was unhappy with the chamber's recent atmosphere. That may have had as much as anything to do with his decision to call it quits. He is a senator from another time, when the Senate really was something of a very exclusive club but also earned its description as ‘the world's greatest deliberative body.' No more. And no more of it for Carl Levin."

Sen. John McCain, in a statement late this morning: "Carl and I have served together on the Senate Armed Services Committee since I first joined the Senate in 1987. We have had our disagreements, sometimes passionate, as befits the serious nature of the Committee's business and our obligation to do right by the men and women of the United States armed forces. Throughout these debates, the Committee has remained a haven of comity and bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized Washington. The fact that we have managed to maintain this through contentious times is a tribute to the steady and principled leadership Carl has provided as Chairman or Ranking Member since 1997. Despite the Committee's heavy workload, the pressures of the next election, or the partisan quarrels that often roil the Senate, Carl has managed to keep us working together and delivered, for the 51st straight year, the National Defense Authorization Act. Working alongside Carl has been one of the great honors of my career."

Noting

  • BBC: China warns against North Korea escalation.   
  • Danger Room: Taiwan's massive, mega-powerful radar system is finally operational.
  • Daily Beast: Good news: they hate me in Russia.  
  • Small Wars: Language and culture at DoD: synergizing complimentary instruction and building LREC competency.
  • American Prospect: A blank check for Israel: Bad idea.

National Security

Filibuster ends, Brennan’s CIA confirmation closer; How Assad lost the COIN; A “disservice” to combat vets: the push to demote the DWM; What Congress is doing for the Pentagon; Arming cyber warriors, and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold 

Rand Paul ends his "old school" filibuster. The senator from Kentucky and other Republicans ended their filibuster against John Brennan's nomination to become CIA director early this morning after 12 hours and 52 minutes. Paul and others, concerned over the administration's use of lethal drone strikes, kept the Senate from voting on the otherwise imminent confirmation. From a 1:27 a.m. post on the NYT: "Mr. Paul finally wound down shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday, surrounded by a group of Republican senators and House members who had joined him on the Senate floor in a show of solidarity. ‘I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond's record, but I've discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I'm going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here,' Mr. Paul said to knowing laughter as he referred to the legendary South Carolina senator known for his 28-hour filibuster. (Mr. Paul could not leave the floor to use the bathroom, making his filibuster at a certain point seem less a standoff between the senator from Kentucky and the administration than a battle between Mr. Paul and his own bladder.)"

Talking Points Memo: The Wall Street Journal slams Paul's filibuster. The Atlantic put together a condensed version of what he said, here.

Rand Paul isn't the problem. Micah Zenko writes on FP that while the drone program has a lot of issues, Senate Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky isn't one of them. Zenko, who calls for an independent commission on lethal drone force: "Over the past few months, many stakeholders in and out of government have offered recommendations about how the Obama administration should change, limit, end, or enhance its targeted killing policies. However, there have been no calls for an official government study into the history and evolution of non-battlefield targeted killings. This is essential..."

The House is helping to avoid the Pentagon's "Sequestria" and extend its survival. Writing on FP, Gordon Adams says that a bill the House passed yesterday doesn't fix sequester, but does make it easier "for the Pentagon to survive." Adams: "In writing a full appropriations bill, [House Approps Committee Chairman Harold Rogers] gave the Obama administration pretty much all the money it asked for in its request for crucial operational accounts. The bill increases the funds for operations and maintenance by more than $10 billion above the FY 2012 (and, thus, the continuing resolution) level. That doesn't eliminate the sequester, but it raises the baseline from which sequester is measured for the accounts most directly affected. That gives some relief to the services, easing about 25 percent of the pain they see coming. And, who knows, if there is actually progress on the broader budget negotiations the president is lobbying for, the whole sequester thing itself might become meaningless."

North Korea ramped up its rhetoric ahead of a U.N. vote. The North vowed to exercise its right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against its aggressors, saying in a video posted this morning by the BBC (which includes theatrical Superman music) that "since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our rights...in order to protect our supreme interests."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report, where "My Jihad" is to bring you the best each day. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. Sign up for Situation Report by sending me an e-mail. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, tidbit or something you want us to flag, send it to us early for maximum tease. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, excessive spending, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot. 

Chuck's day. Today, after routine morning meetings and briefings, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be briefed up on sexual assault issues at the Pentagon.

How did Assad lose the COIN? The Assad regime in Syria failed to quell the opposition when it started to rise up against it but is well-suited to conduct a protracted civil war against rebels, writes the ISW's Joseph Holliday in a piece the Institute just published yesterday. Holliday: "Bashar al-Assad's reliance on a small core of trusted military units limited his ability to control all of Syria. He hedged against defections by deploying only the most loyal one-third of the Syrian Army, but in so doing he undercut his ability to prosecute a troop-intensive counterinsurgency campaign because he could not use all of his forces. Defections and attrition have exacerbated the regime's central challenge of generating combat power. These dynamics have weakened the Syrian Army in some ways but also honed it, such that what remains of these armed forces is comprised entirely of committed regime supporters."

Instant street-cred for Hagel with the uniforms: demote the DWM. Former defense secretary Leon Panetta did a solid for the Air Force and other drone pilots by creating the new Distinguished Warfare medal that honors their work and, most agree, rightly so. But here's the problem: in the hierarchical world of military awards, the Distinguished Warfare Medal sits atop the Bronze Star (and just below the Distinguished Flying Cross) and that has plenty of folk up in arms. As the E-Ring's Kevin Baron writes, its precedence is "far higher than the lowest-ranking combat medals awarded to troops who actually put their lives on the line, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, for those wounded in action." They'd like to see Hagel put on his sergeant hat and reduce the precedence of the award. Doing that, some will tell you privately, would earn him all kinds of stripes with the uniforms. Nearly 50 members of the House also see it that way. They signed a letter that urges Hagel to take action. "We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart," the note, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, reads. "The current order of precedence for the DWM is a disservice to Purple Heart recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country or were wounded while serving in combat."

The letter's last line: "We thank you for your consideration on this matter and look forward to an open and positive relationship moving forward."

A counter cyber-force armed with bombers and stuff? Yeah, maybe: "The Defense Science Board's new report on protecting the Pentagon's computer networks calls for the development of a special force armed with its own bombers, cruise missiles, and cyber weapons to respond to a devastating cyber attack," Killer Apps' John Reed reports. "Kind of like a mini, conventionally-armed Strategic Command for cyber deterrence." From the new document: "Cyber offense may provide the means to respond in-kind. The protected conventional capability should provide credible and observable kinetic effects globally. Forces supporting this capability are isolated and segmented from general-purpose forces to maintain the highest level of cyber resiliency at an affordable cost. Nuclear weapons would remain the ultimate response and anchor the deterrence ladder."

BTW: Our own John Reed appears on a cyber panel today. Rescheduled because of yesterday's massive storm -- we're still digging out -- the Truman Project/CNP will hold a panel discussion on cyber, "The Spy who Hacked Me," today at their offices at noon. CNP President Scott Bates hosts a panel to discuss cyber espionage with CNP cyber-security expert Jessica Herrera-Flanigan and FP's Reed.

Speaking of which: The NSA's work helping ward off Chinese hackers is about to get slightly more transparent. The National Security Agency, which works with American companies to assess Chinese cyber techniques, is about to launch a new initiative. Writing on FP, Marc Ambinder: "In the coming weeks, the NSA, working with a Department of Homeland Security joint task force and the FBI, will release to select American telecommunication companies a wealth of information about China's cyber-espionage program, according to a U.S. intelligence official and two government consultants who work on cyber projects. Included: sophisticated tools that China uses, countermeasures developed by the NSA, and unique signature-detection software that previously had been used only to protect government networks." Ambinder writes that very little that China does "escapes the notice" of the NSA, and "virtually every technique it uses has been tracked and reverse-engineered."

Interesting: For years, Ambinder writes, and in secret, the NSA has used the cover of American companies (and with their permission) to determine more about Chinese hackers to assess their patterns and better figure out how to attribute the origin of attacks.

"Now, though, the cumulative effect of Chinese economic warfare -- American companies' proprietary secrets are essentially an open book to them -- has changed the secrecy calculus. An American official who has been read into the classified program -- conducted by cyber-warfare technicians from the Air Force's 315th Network Warfare Squadron and the CIA's secret Technology Management Office -- said that China has become the ‘Curtis LeMay' of the post-Cold War era: ‘It is not abiding by the rules of statecraft anymore, and that must change.'"

 

Noting

  • Haaretz: The End of the Chavez-Ahmadinejad love affair.
  • Press TV: U.S. starts Afghan pullout through Pakistan.
  • The Guardian: Talks underway to free 21 U.N. peacekeepers in Syria.
  • Reuters: French defense minister, in Mali, says mission is not over.
  • Jerusalem Post: Hagel to Barak: I hope to visit Israel soon.
  • Weekly Standard: Obama's damaging indifference to Asia.
  • Brisbane Times: No embassy for North Korea in Australia.
  • Small Wars: Why UAV strikes should belong to the military.