National Security

Hagel meets 20 veterans groups today; How North Korea will resort to cyber-attacks; The fate of the DWM; Such a waist: why an AF colonel was relieved; and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold 

North Korea threatened U.S. bases in the Pacific. In retaliation for the U.S. flying B-52 bombers over the Korean Peninsula, the North today threatened to attack U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam, while at the same time the country's state radio blared air-raid warnings, the NYT reports. "Until the 1990s, air-raid drills had been a popular tool for the Pyongyang regime to highlight the perceived threat of an American invasion and to instill in its people a sense of crisis and solidarity. The one-hour air-raid drill on Thursday came amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the North's nuclear test on Feb. 12 and the subsequent United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.
"Nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, taking off from Guam, had previously flown missions over South Korea as part of joint military exercises. But this month, the Pentagon took the rare action of publicly announcing those missions to reaffirm the United States' ‘nuclear umbrella' for South Korea and Japan at a time of rising anxiety over the North's nuclear threats. South Korean news media also carried photos of a U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarine making a port call at a South Korean naval base."
A spokesman of the Supreme Command of the North Korean People's Army, according to the North's state-run news agency:
"The U.S. should not forget that the Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, where B-52s take off, and naval bases in Japan proper and Okinawa, where nuclear-powered submarines are launched, are within the striking range of the DPRK's precision strike means." He added: "Now that the U.S. started open nuclear blackmail and threat, the DPRK, too, will move to take corresponding military actions."
The North Koreans have one card.
Chris Hellman, a senior research analyst at the National Priorities Project, said earlier this week that while the North's threats must always be taken seriously, they also shouldn't be given too much weight. "They have one card -- and they play it repeatedly," Hellman told Situation Report. "And it's the nuclear card." Hellman believes the North Koreans fully recognize that they put themselves at too much risk if they ever were to attack using a nuclear weapon. "It's a card they can never truly play because once it's used, it's gone...if they do this, they will be obliterated." Hellman predicts that there could be further escalation between the North and South and the U.S., but that each side will ultimately go back to its corner. "This scenario has played out over and over again," he said.
MIT's John Park on the North's reaction and the increased use of cyber attacks from one of the world's "least wired countries" against the South - the world's "most wired country." Park:
"We're likely to see more North Korean reactions in the form of cyber-attacks against South Korea.  Investigators in Seoul announced that the recent cyber-attack on South Korean banks, broadcasting companies, and insurance companies was traced to a China-based IP address.  North Korea in the past has used IP addresses and servers spread among several countries in carrying out cyber-attacks on South Korean targets.  South Koreans are largely immune to traditional saber rattling and threats from the North having lived with them since the 1950s.  The use of cyber-attacks presents an asymmetric opportunity for the North Koreans.  It can directly disrupt the lives of South Koreans and create a unique sense of vulnerability... The quandary for the U.S. and South Korea at present is that there is no equivalent of a B-52 over flight in the cyber domain."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. Hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail me. And 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.

This time, with feeling. Many of you continued to have problems accessing the links to FP's event on Iraq with RAND, as well as another piece on FP: the 10 most iconic images of the war. Here are those links once again: The conversation with Steve Hadley, Gen. John Allen, Doug Feith, John Nagl, and more, here. The 10 iconic images can be found here. 

Pivot, rotate, rebalance, whatever you call it! Even the generals get confused about the politically correct way to talk about the, er, move/move back to the Pacific. Gen. John Kelly, U.S. Southern Command commander, at the Pentagon yesterday, talking about sequestration and operations: "[W]hat's the term we use? Rotate... Pivot -- pivot, yeah, rebalance, yeah."  Read the whole transcript of the briefing, which includes his thoughts on Latin and South America, Iranian and Pakistani influences there, and the surge of hunger strikers at GTMO - all here.

BTW, It's John Kelly, not John Kelley. We had Jill Kelley on the brain in our item yesterday about U.S. Southern Command commander John Kelly. Both live in Florida! But apologies for misspelling the Marine's name.

Hagel meets with more than 20 veterans groups today. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet with representatives from about 20 veterans and military groups for a roundtable discussion on a host of issues, from the fiscal 2014 budget to transition assistance to veterans employment to the mental health of the force. 
Who's attending today's meeting?
A who's who of veterans and military groups, Situation Report is told: representatives from the Air Force Association, the American Legion, AMVETS, the Armed Services YMCA, the Association of the United States Army, Blue Star Families, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Marine Corps League, the Military Child Education Coalition, the Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association, the Navy League, Operation Homefront, the Reserve Officers Association, the Student Veterans of America, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the USO, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House Foundation, Inc., and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Hiring Heroes Program).
Then, tonight, Hagel boards a military jet for Tampa
, where he will "RON" (remain overnight). On Friday morning, he'll have a "working breakfast" with Adm. Bill McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. Then he'll preside over the change of command at U.S. Central Command, the combatant command that could be known as the tinderbox command since it's responsible for some of the countries that pose the biggest threats to international security: Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more than a dozen others. Gen. Lloyd Austin is taking over for Gen. Jim Mattis, otherwise known as "Chaos," who is retiring.
Staffers on a plane -
Acting Chief of Staff Marcel Lettre, Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, and chief speechwriter Jacob Freedman.
Reporters on a plane 
- None.

Is the Distinguished Warfare Medal the "New Coke" of medals? Hagel's meeting today with the veterans groups is about budgets and other issues, but the one topic that will generate the most lively discussion will be the Distinguished Warfare Medal. The medal, announced as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta walked out the door, recognizes the contributions of drone pilots -- to many, the unsung heroes of modern day warfare. But it has caused an uproar on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and from groups across Washington. Critics decry less the creation of the medal than its "precedence" -- where it sits in the hierarchy of medals for the hierarchy-heavy military. The new medal will be above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and just below the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Many in the ground service believe its placement denigrates medals recognizing acts of merit, heroism, or valor in a combat zone since it would be typically awarded to a drone pilot who maneuvers planes remotely.

It's likely the award would only be given under rare circumstances -- and for highly classified operations. That may have contributed to the thinking in the Pentagon that its creation wouldn't have caused so many problems.

Still, although the award underwent what one Pentagon official referred to as a "serious process" and the service chiefs all apparently signed off on it, there is now widespread recognition that the vetting process should have been better. "There's a sense that all of the right bases weren't touched and that the degree of opposition was underestimated," the official told Situation Report.

Although it wasn't his doing, Hagel confronted the controversy soon after entering office and, perhaps seeking credibility with the uniforms, directed that a study look at the award and its precedence. But the review does not necessarily mean there will be big changes. "It's not leaning in any direction," the official said.

Some officials suggest the award could be downgraded to below the Bronze Star but, possibly, still above the Purple Heart. Or, the Bronze Star and the Bronze Star with the "V" device for valor could be split into two -- an unprecedented move for awards -- giving the new Distinguished Warfare Medal precedence over the Bronze Star, but not over the Bronze Star with "V," in a move that would still put valor above joysticks. Even some of the award's most ardent supporters think changing the precedence of the medal in some form would probably be acceptable. But Dave Deptula, the retired three-star who oversaw the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program, says the fight over the medal represents legacy thinking.

"We need to be able to award brains as well as brawn," he told Situation Report this week. "And doing so takes nothing away from those who risked their lives in combat. The fact of the matter is that we have moved from an era of industrial age warfare to an information age where the battle space is not defined by lines on the ground and can occur in every domain."

An Air Force 06 was relieved of command -- for failing his PT test. Col. Tim Bush had what was described as an "impeccable resume" but was relieved after he failed his physical fitness test, according to Air Force Times' Jeff Schogol. Bush was the commander of the 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks Air Base, North Dakota. Schogol: "Bush told airmen at a commander's call that he failed the waist measurement component of the PT test, said an Air Force official who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Bush has requested to retire, the official said." The wing's vice commander, Col. Christopher Mann, will serve as interim commander until Bush's replacement can be identified.


  • NYT: Gaza militants fire rockets before Obama meets Abbas.
  • Danger Room: Forget budget cuts, the Air Force is ready for (Fantasy) Football.
  • Duffel Blog: Iraq war retroactively justified by discovery of WMD. 
  • New India Express: The Growth of Al-Qaeda


  • NYT: The number of hunger strikers surge at Guantanamo.
  • Lawfare: The statement on the hunger strikes.  

The Pivot

  • Yonhap: Report: Cyber attack in South Korea came from China.
  • Real Clear Defense: DOD having it both ways on sequester, Asia-Pacific rebalance.

Still Remembering

  • The New Yorker: (Filkins) The other Iraqi legacy.
  • NYT: (Rhode): Iraq legacy: an ailing press and an invade-or-nothing foreign policy.
  • Politico: (Barnicle): Iraq at 10.  


National Security

Dunford, Karzai agree on Wardak; Amazon works for the CIA; Carter reaffirms the pivot; Levin backs no-fly zone; Kelly talks Iran in Southcom; and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold

ISAF and the Afghan government have reached an agreement on Wardak. Gen. Joe Dunford, the ISAF commander in Kabul, announced overnight that he and President Hamid Karzai had reached an agreement over the issue in Wardak after Karzai abruptly declared that U.S. Special Operations Forces were to cease operations and to leave the province. Karzai alleged abuse of Afghans at the hands of the American troops, charges that were never fully explained. Dunford, confronting one of the largest crises with the Afghan government - since taking over recently for Gen. John Allen, met with Karzai in the presidential palace. According to the agreement, Afghanistan will soon begin to move Afghan National Security Forces into Nerkh District in Wardak to provide security, replacing an Afghan Local Police force and U.S. forces. It was a tough situation in which Karzai may have bought a line from local leaders in Wardak. "This was really about local leaders feeding a narrative to Kabul that wasn't exactly on the mark," and American official told Situation Report. "Once the facts were settled, it was possible to move ahead with an agreement."
"I am pleased to announce that following a very constructive series of talks with the President and the leadership of the MOD and MOI, we have come to agreement on a plan for Wardak that continues the transition of this critical province and meets the security needs of the people and the requirements of our mission.
Dunford: What success looks like. "
I want to thank President Karzai for his leadership. This plan meets the President's intent and leverages the growing capacity and capability of the Afghan security forces to meet the security needs of this country. This solution is what success looks like as we continue the transition to overall Afghan security lead."

Obama is visiting Israel today.  In his two-day visit, Obama is expected to strengthen the Obama White House.-Israeli relationship and talk security issues confronting the region, from Syria to Iran to "Israel's neighbor," the Palestinians. He quickly was driven across the airport to see a battery of the Iron Dome air defense system. So proud of the system, credited with intercepting more than 400 rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli towns, the Israelis brought the battery to the airport after it was determined Obama wouldn't have time to go see it closer to the border.
The NYT:
"The president's inspection of the mobile air-defense battery was the first in a series of carefully choreographed stops meant to convey a single message: The president of the United States cares about the Israeli people and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from threats, near and far."
Obama, earlier, on the tarmac:
"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations."
Hagel spoke with the new Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon
. On the eve of Obama's visit to Israel, Hagel spoke by phone with the new defense minister, congratulating him on taking office and generally vowing to work closely with him in the years ahead. From Pentagon pressec George Little's readout: "Secretary Hagel stated that he looks forward to meeting with Minister Ya'alon both in the Pentagon and in Israel in the near future."

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. 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.

Carl Levin likes the idea of a no-fly zone for Syria. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he thought a no-fly zone could work, reports The Cable's Josh Rogin. Levin asked outgoing SACEUR and EUCOM commander Adm. Jim Stavridis what he thought, and Stavridis acknowledged that it was under discussion but said there was no unified NATO position on the issue.
Rogin: Stavridis said that the NATO Patriot missile batteries currently deployed in Turkey have the capability to shoot down Syrian military aircraft in a radius of 20 miles. McCain pressed Stavridis to give his personal opinion as to whether or not establishing a Patriot battery-enforced no-fly zone in northern Syria would speed the end of the conflict." Stavridis: "My personal opinion is that would be helpful in breaking the deadlock and bringing down the Assad regime," Stavridis said.
Levin: "You could protect that kind of a zone with these Patriot missiles, leaving the missiles in Turkey but having the zone inside the Syrian border," he said. "It is a way without putting boots on the ground and in a way that would be fairly cautious, that would put additional pressure on Assad and also create a zone where Syrian people who are looking for protection and safety could come without crossing the border and becoming refugees."

Will the link be unbroken? Yesterday's edition included at least two links to some of FP's coverage of the war in Iraq. We received a number of e-mails from folks who wanted to access the material but couldn't. We're sorry you experienced problems. Here are the unbroken links.
Excerpts of the FP-RAND event on Iraq that included a sharp discussion between folks like Gen. John Allen, Doug Feith, Paul Pillar, John Nagl, and Steve Hadley. Read it here.
FP's 10 most iconic images of the Iraq war,

Amazon is building the CIA a cloud. Apparently Amazon, that giant of commerce, is building a cloud-computing network for the agency in McLean. Federal Computer Week reported the agency will pay Amazon $600 million to develop its own private cloud over the next 10 years. Killer Apps' John Reed writes: "This would make plenty of sense. Amazon is well-known for providing cloud-computing services to the private sector, and government agencies dealing with classified information are pushing to adopt cloud services as a way of consolidating thousands of network ‘enclaves' that are hard to defend. The Pentagon, for example, is building what it says will be a defendable, upgradable network, known as the Joint Information Environment."

Ash is wheels up. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter finished up his Asian tour, leaving Jakarta this morning Washington time. He attended the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue, met with defense leaders from Southeast Asian nations and presented his remarks about the Asia and the "new geopolitics" there. Just two days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new review of the current defense strategy, in which the "pivot to Asia" figures prominently, we're told Carter "reaffirmed the strategic importance of the U.S. rebalance."

On the way home to D.C., Carter will stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and meet with service members there. Hagel's other recent announcement, about the new ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, is bound to be a topic of discussion.

Don't forget about Southcom. Lingering problems in the Middle East, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and the pivot to Asia doesn't mean U.S. Southern Command doesn't face challenges. Today Gen. John Kelly, Southcom commander, briefs reporters at the Pentagon at 3 p.m. We're told Kelley will be talking about the effects sequestration has on the Southcom mission and the impact that Iran and China have in his region, which includes the Caribbean and all countries in the Americas south of Mexico. Kelley, who testified yesterday on the Hill, is expected to take questions about Guantanamo Bay.
Kelly, yesterday on Iran, at the Senate Armed Services Committee: "Who knows where they're going? It's not a huge threat now. But I think anywhere they go, particularly when they go to a region that is completely different than they are culturally, religiously and all the rest, I think they -- they bear watching."
On China: "What's the ultimate goal? I think the ultimate goal is, certainly, commercially is just, they're huge, powerful and they're -- and they're going to penetrate any market they could penetrate. That's not a bad thing, necessarily. It's a good thing for most of the nations that I'm talking about. I don't see it as a huge threat, but as we -- as we back away or -- or it's harder and harder for [partner nations] to buy our military equipment, they go to other, easier-to-deal-with countries, and China is certainly one of them."
And Kelly gives a shout out to Colombia: "There's a great deal of cocaine produced, and all of that cocaine comes to the United States, primarily from Colombia. And I have to give them a shout-out. They have done a tremendous job working shoulder to shoulder with us. They have tremendous appreciation for what the United States government and its people have done for them over the years to -- to defend against the traffickers and the insurgents that they've dealt with. They are now -- they've fallen, if you will, to the number-three producers of cocaine in the world. Number one and number two are Peru and Bolivia. The vast majority, in fact, I would say 100 percent of that cocaine goes into Brazil. Brazil's now the number two consumer of cocaine, and also is the traffic path, if you will, to Africa and then further to, to Europe."

CNP and Truman asked a bunch of veterans and national security experts what the anniversary of the Iraq war means to them. A.J. Gales, a Truman Project member and a Marine: "We, as a nation, have learned so much from the past 10 years. As a nation we have learned what failed leadership and a purist mentality can lead us into. That's why this anniversary isn't just a mile marker for me, but a key pillar in my future. A future where I will always fight to ensure we no longer use the military as a pawn, but as a strategic weapon. That we never view it as weak to utilize both soft and hard power, but rather as the fundamentally right thing to do. Serving in Iraq has forever shaped my future. I have seen firsthand the impacts of the war, and understand the need for public servants who understand America being strong is not just about having the largest military. It's about utilizing all our strategic weapons, from diplomacy to boots on the ground." Here's what others said. 

Can DOD address the "structural drivers of military spending"? Gordon Adams of Stimson, Todd Harrison of CSBA, Clark Murdock of CSIS, and Arnie Punaro of Punaro Group discuss at American Enterprise Institute Thursday morning at 9. Deets here.

CSIS' Maren Leed hosts H.R. McMaster today. Leed speaks with Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the famed counterinsurgency expert and formerly a close aide to David Petraeus, as part of CSIS's "ground forces dialogue." After more than 10 years of two major ground wars, the series explores the issues confronting the Army and Marines, the role they'll play, what capabilities they need, and so on. Today at noon. Deets here.


  • Al Jazeera: Girl activist Malala back at school.
  • Spiegel Online: U.S. backs away from strong role in Middle East.
  • Defense News: McCain, Feinstein, split over shifting strike UAV capability to military.
  • Juan Cole: As Israelis press Obama on Iran, remember they urged Iraq war, too.
  • Danger Room: After the carrier, three alternatives to the Navy's vulnerable flattops. 

Into Africa

  • All Africa: Al-Qaeda in Africa says it beheaded French hostage.
  • BBC: France host talks post-war development in Mali.
  • All Africa: Leaders say deadly car bomb will not stop progress in Somalia.  
  • Time's Battleland: Are today's vets better off?
  • WaPo: After decade of war, troops still struggle to find jobs.
  • AP: U.S. still making payments to relatives of Civil War veterans.
  • NPR: Veterans face red tape accessing disability, other benefits.