National Security

Hagel just announced Mark Lippert for chief of staff; Are the Boston bombing suspects Chechen? Hagel to the Middle East, Dempsey to Asia; What will Dempsey talk about?; Jeremy Bash’s last day and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold 

All eyes are glued to the television this morning. The story of the manhunt for the two suspects in Monday's marathon bombing, now potentially identified as Chechen brothers who may have been living in the Boston area for several years, has unfolded so quickly since last night that it's hard to look away. One of the suspected bombers was killed in a dramatic shootout in a suburban area west of Boston and law enforcement are now on a massive manhunt for the other suspect, if not one more as well. The city is effectively under lock down, with schools and businesses closed and mass transit operations suspended. There remains a possibility that the brothers have ties or were inspired by a greater, international terrorist movement - or any potential link to international terrorism could be happenstance. At this point, little is clear.

Who is Tamerlan Tzarnaev? David Kenner, writing on FP, says that a photo album of the slain suspect by photographer Johannes Hirn sheds some light in which he is quoted as saying: "I don't have a single American friend," Tamerlan is quoted as saying. "I don't understand them." "Will Box for Passport," found here. 

Meanwhile, just a bit ago, Hagel announced that he'd hired Mark Lippert to be his new chief of staff, Situation Report has learned. Just this morning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his top staff and uniformed officers that he'd picked Mark Lippert to be his new right-hand man in a series of changes in the front office and beyond as Hagel settles into the job and builds his inner circle.

Lippert is now the Pentagon's assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs and will become chief of staff -- in Pentagon parlance, the special assistant, or TSA -- starting May 1. Marcel Lettre, the former deputy chief of staff who has been serving as acting chief since Hagel arrived Feb. 27, will be given another top job inside the Pentagon. But what job is as yet unclear, a senior defense official told Situation Report.

Hagel also announced this morning that Michael Lumpkin will be appointed as special assistant to Hagel with a "particular emphasis" on personnel and readiness issues starting in early May. Lumpkin had served as the acting assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict and also as deputy chief of staff for operations at the Department of Veterans Affairs and served on active duty with the Navy for 21 years. 

No pressure or anything: the TSA will be the key to Hagel's success. Officials and former officials familiar with front office operations say the selection of a special assistant is critical to the defense secretary's ability to get things done. Senior defense officials said Lippert has the background and experience to help Hagel navigate the Pentagon's bureaucratic waters and enforce Hagel's will across a building that has enjoyed unconstrained resources for more than a decade. The two men have known each other for many years. Before coming to the Pentagon, Lippert, a Navy reservist who served a year in Iraq between 2007 and 2008 as an intel officer with a SEAL team, worked for a string of senators on Capitol Hill -- from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Tom Daschle to Patrick Leahy -- before joining the Senate Appropriations Committee as a staffer. Then, in 2005, he became foreign policy adviser to Senator Barack Obama. Defense officials said Hagel pulled Lippert aside a few weeks ago and began talking to him about the TSA job.

One defense official told Situation Report that Hagel felt this was a good time to "rearrange some of the players on the field," now that he has cleared some of the hurdles he faced during his first two months as secretary -- the release of the budget, the beginning of the strategic review, the Article 60 assessment, and the trip to Afghanistan. Reaction to the choice in and outside of the building was positive.

"Winnow and tee."  Lippert is thought to be bringing the kind of  approach to Hagel's front office that it will need if it is to be effective. "Mark is results-oriented and collaborative and boils it down," said another senior defense official. "I think that is of significant value in the Pentagon, which is prone to bureaucracy."  As assistant secretary of defense, Lippert manages as many as 150 people, including four deputy assistant secretaries of defense. A successful chief of staff must be able to winnow what's important, determine who can handle what task, and tee up decisions that need to be made at the secretary's level, according to those familiar with front-office operations. For the TSA, the task is simple: "Winnow and tee."

Hagel's style so far - Senior defense officials say that Hagel is clear and direct, a quality appreciated by the take-that-hill culture of the uniformed military -- he has a "remarkable ability to cut to the heart of the matter," said one official. One told us that he'll zero in on the one data point in a five-page PowerPoint presentation and dig in on the question that's most important. "He's really signaled to the building that he wants speed, he doesn't want a lot of fluff, and he wants his questions answered," one senior defense official said.

On Lettre -- "Marcel has been honored to serve and wants to keep serving Hagel and the president," said another senior defense official, who said a move out of the front office is a "natural next step" in his career. "It's kind of a natural pivot point for him to move to the next phase," the official said.

Lippert's replacement, for now, will be Peter Lavoy, now a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense working on Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central Asian policy, to serve in an acting capacity as the assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs.

From the e-mail Lettre just sent out at about 9 a.m. this morning to senior Pentagon staff obtained by Situation Report - "With his background on the Hill, as an intelligence officer with multiple tours with Navy special operations units, at the National Security Staff, as a senior official at DOD, and with a history of working with the Secretary going back more than a decade, there is no one more qualified and well-suited to be at the Secretary's side shaping and implementing his priorities."

Today is Jeremy Bash's last day at the Pentagon. Leon Panetta's special assistant, Jeremy Bash, who has been serving in an advisory role for the last several weeks, is leaving the building today. Bash, who likely has a number of career options after directly working for the former defense secretary, has not yet announced where he's headed.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. 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 military stories of success or excess.

Wheels up for Hagel tomorrow.  As the Pentagon announced yesterday, Hagel will be headed to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. The trip comes as the NYT reports this morning that the Pentagon is expected to finalize a huge, $10 billion deal with some of those very countries -- Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- that will provide missiles, warplanes, and troop transports to help them counter threats from Iran. "A weeklong visit to the region by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will culminate a year of secret negotiations on a deal that Congressional officials said will be the second only to the $29.5 billion sale of F-15 aircraft to Saudi Arabia announced in 2010," according to the report by the Times' Thom Shanker. Hagel leaves Saturday.

Staffers on a plane - Marcel Lettre, acting chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, military assistant; Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs; Matt Spence, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East Affairs; George Little, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; Carl Woog, assistant press secretary; Greg Grant, speechwriter; and J.P. Eby, trip director.

Reporters on a plane - AP's Bob Burns; Reuters' David Alexander; AFP's DeLuce and, shooting pool, Jim Watson; NYT's Thom Shanker; WSJ's Adam Entous; WaPo's Craig Whitlock; Bloomberg's Gopal Ratnam; LAT's Shashank Bengali; NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube, Jim Long, and Andy "Scritch" Scritchfield; American Forces Press Service' Cheryl Pellerin; and USAT's Tom Vandenbrook.

And it's wheels up for Dempsey today. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Marty Dempsey, leaves for South Korea, arriving Sunday after a RON (that's remain overnight for the uninitiated) in Alaska on the way over. Dempsey will be there just briefly, then head to China and then to Japan. He will be discussing "regional issues" with his counterparts, we're told, but of course the Korean Peninsula situation will figure prominently. In South Korea, he'll meet Gen. Jung Seung Jo, and in China, where he'll be for about four days, he'll be meeting primarily with Gen. Fan Fenghui of the People's Liberation Army. Although the itinerary during the China visit is a little squishy as of yet, it's likely Dempsey will observe and meet with Chinese military units and sit down with senior political and defense leaders. Unclear as of yet if he will sit with President Xi Jinping.

The CSIS' Bonnie Glaser tells Situation Report that Dempsey will take advantage of an increasingly engaging military-to-military relationship with China. She thinks Dempsey will be talking with the PLA about nuclear and cyber issues and also, of course, about Korea. "I'm pretty sure that one of the things that will be discussed is a very long desire to try to launch a dialogue with the Chinese about the potential for instability in North Korea and what the responses might be," she said. "The potential for chaos, insecure WMD facilities and of course the risk" of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula between the Republic of Korea, the U.S. and the Chinese are all top concerns. Past attempts to address the potential failure of the North Korean regime have failed. But now may be the time because the Chinese have grown impatient at North Korea's noise-making, and talking with the U.S. could send a strong signal to the North Korean leader, she said.

"I think that what we have now is a window of opportunity with China's high level of frustration with the North Koreans and their provocations," she said. "Maybe it is time for [the Chinese] to revisit their calculation on this issue." Read about "General Secretary Xi's mysterious cab ride" here.

Noting: This is Dempsey's first trip to China, second trip to Japan, and third trip to Korea.

Staffers on a plane: Terry Wolff, director, strategic plans and policy, J-5; Joe Donovan, foreign policy adviser; Dave Lapan, public affairs officer; and Troy Thomas, head of Dempsey's chairman's action group, or CAG.

Reporters on a plane: ABC's Bob Woodruff (whose crew is meeting him in China), NHK's Ichiro Kabasawa, and Karen Parrish from the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service. On the step: Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor, who will accompany the chairman as space allows.

After the Boston bombings, hackers are coming out in force. So reports Killer Apps' John Reed on a new FBI warning. Reed: "The Red Exploit Kit is a new hacking tool that allows criminals to surreptitiously find security vulnerabilities in a victim's computer and upload malicious software through those vulnerabilities. ‘Once an exploit has been successful, the user sees a popup asking them to download a file, at which time the malware is downloaded," the warning says.'"

Crowd-sourcing: Reed also reports on how investigators went through images from the Boston Marathon to identify the two bombing suspects. Reed writes that investigators sifting through the flood of cellphone, surveillance camera, and TV footage of Monday's bombings were "aided by technology similar to the software that the military has used to collect intelligence about IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan." Dave Deptula, the retired Air Force three-star who oversaw the service's first Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance headquarters, told Reed, "There's a different twist to it this time. The different twist is the increased degree of crowd-sourcing if you will, in terms of providing information. You have many, many more sensors in the context of people with video devices in their smartphones.... You had many, many more collectors than we had in the past."

National Security

Troops to Jordan; Hagel is wheels up for the ME soon; State’s Andrew Shapiro packs his bags; USIP’s Jim Marshall wants to move Constitution Avenue, and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold 

The U.S. is sending about 100 soldiers to Jordan to create a command post to prepare for "a number of scenarios" in Syria. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told senators Wednesday he is sending an Army headquarters operation to Jordan. The U.S. appears poised to take a more active role in Syria, even as officials said the command post does not preface military intervention there. It could be used to coordinate humanitarian aid or oversee efforts to secure chemical-weapons sites, defense officials told the WSJ. A defense official: "It is a well-trained, well-coordinated team that can be the nucleus of further mission planning and growth of the command and control element, should that be ordered."

Hagel, yesterday, said the U.S. is "developing options" and planning a post-Assad Syria and is continuing to provide the White House and Congress with "our assessment of options for a U.S. military intervention." Then he echoed other military officials and experts in what has long been thought: "The reality is that this is a complex and difficult situation.  The killing of innocents by the Syrian regime is tragic.  The Assad regime is intent on maintaining power, the conflict within Syria has developed along dangerous sectarian lines, and the opposition has not yet sufficiently organized itself politically or militarily... we have an obligation and responsibility to think through the consequences of direct U.S. military action in Syria." He said intervention, however, could hinder humanitarian relief and "embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment"... and could have the "unintended consequence of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war."

And: "Military intervention is always an option, but an option of last resort.  The best outcome for Syria - and the region - is a negotiated, political transition to a post-Assad Syria," he said.

Hagel is wheels-up this weekend for the Middle East. The Pentagon announced that the secretary will board the E-4B "Doomsday" plane to visit Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, leaving Saturday, returning April 27. In Israel he'll meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Shimon Peres to "further the close military to military relationship" between the two countries. On the agenda in Israel: the 10-year foreign military financing agreement announced by President Barack Obama during his own trip earlier this year, as well as, of course, the crisis in Syria and the enduring concern about Iran. "Hagel will then travel to Jordan to receive briefings on international efforts to address the crisis in Syria and discuss U.S. and Jordanian cooperation to prepare for a number of contingencies," according to a Pentagon statement. He'll then head to Saudi, then Egypt, then UAE.

A historic visit today at the Pentagon. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will hit the E-Ring today in what is billed as the first such visit of a sitting U.N. chief. The E-Ring's Kevin Baron has the deets: "The United Nations requested the unprecedented meeting roughly two weeks ago amid growing international tensions stemming from North Korea's threats of nuclear war, a senior defense official told the E-Ring. Pentagon officials behind the scenes rushed to accommodate the request, and Ban's visit was not announced until late Wednesday afternoon."

It's Thursday and welcome to Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. 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 military stories of success or excess.

Why lone wolves are so dangerous.  As investigators continue to sift through nylon shreds and the remains of the bombs made of pressure cookers in Boston, officials say they have made "significant progress" in the investigation. Meantime, the nation's attention has turned to the distinct possibility that the bombing in Boston is not the result of state-sponsored terrorism, but a lone wolf with a deadly plan. An agenda and an Internet connection are all it takes for a lone wolf to stage an effective terrorist attack, and they're pretty hard to guard against. In the nicely titled "An Army of One," Jeffrey Simon, writing on FP, says that because lone wolves aren't part of a group, they are better able to color outside the box. Simon: "Lone wolves are free to act upon any scenario they can dream up. This freedom has resulted in some of the most imaginative terrorist attacks in history. For example, lone wolves were responsible for the first vehicle bombing (1920), major midair plane bombing (1955), hijacking (1961), and product tampering (1982), as well as the anthrax letter attacks in the United States (2001)." And: "Lone wolves also have little or no constraints on their level of violence. Because they are not part of a group, lone wolves are not concerned with alienating supporters (as many terrorist groups are), nor are they concerned with a potential government and law-enforcement crackdown following an attack. Lone wolves are also difficult to identify and capture. Because they work alone, there are usually no communications to intercept or co-conspirators to arrest and interrogate. That is the reason why Theodore Kaczynski, the infamous "Unabomber," was able to send package bombs throughout the United States for nearly 17 years."

USIP's Jim Marshall wants to move Constitution Avenue. The president of the United States Institute of Peace, the government-funded organization dedicated to resolving conflict around the world, is on a new mission. Jim Marshall, the former mayor of Macon, Ga. and a former congressman, wants to have part of Constitution Avenue in front of USIP's stunning new building, located on the corner of Constitution and 23rd, moved 150 feet south to "reduce noise and vibration" inside the building. The lede on Washington's News 4's Web site: "The traffic on Constitution Avenue is creating a buzz at the nearby United States Institute of Peace, and not in a good way." The project would create a temporary, taxpayer-funded traffic snarl on the western end of Constitution -- a street USIP's congressional funders use to commute every day. USIP, which persevered through existential budget battles with Congress as recently as last year, says it expects as many as 500,000 visitors per year in the coming years as it builds out undeveloped portions of its site. "The agreements with respect to who, if and what is going to happen remain to be determined," DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez told the station.

Full disclosure time: In another life, Situation Report worked for USIP. District Department of Transportation documents, here, and News 4 story, here.

Across the street from USIP, Andrew Shapiro is packing up the office. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro is leaving State this week after four years -- the longest-serving, assistant secretary for the Pol-Mil bureau, Situation Report is told. Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns addressed a small gathering at a farewell for Shapiro, a former defense and foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton who was a fixture behind her on the Armed Services Committee, when she was in the Senate. Shapiro worked heavily on U.S.-Israel security relations, presided over large growth in U.S. defense trade -- including a $60 billion arms package to Saudi Arabia -- and a largely successful push to put Somali pirates out of business. (Situation Report reported on that here.) He also worked to secure MANPADS and conventional weapons in Libya, presided over two new defense trade treaties with Australia and the U.K., and began what we're told is "the most comprehensive rewrite" of defense export controls in years. Shapiro has been mum on where he's going next.

Who's taking over for him? Tom Kelly, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, will be Acting Assistant secretary.

On the defense budget, is Obama channeling Bush? So argues Gordon Adams. He writes on FP that the Obama administration's failure to release a real war budget - to fund Afghanistan and other mission in the form of an overseas contingency operations account, or OCO - along with the base budget released last week suggest Obama is playing much the same kind of budgetary shell game as Bush did. Adams: "In delaying the war budget, President Obama has violated a pledge he made before taking office: that he would submit an OCO budget request simultaneously with the overall defense budget submission. During the presidential transition, moreover, the Obama administration negotiated an agreement with DOD that only direct war costs would be included in the war budget." And: "The simultaneous submission of the war budget, and the restrictions on its use, were supposed to end the Bush administration's repeated delays on war funding that allowed DOD to avoid the normal budget planning process -- what is known as the Programming, Planning, Budgeting and Execution System. It also allowed the Pentagon to lard up the war budget with items that were not directly linked to the war, like the costs of modifying ground forces into Brigade Combat Teams, or buying ground equipment that was part of the Army's long-term plan while not replacing equipment damaged in the war."

War hits home: WaPo's Metro section features a large above-the-fold pic of Fox Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin's daughter, Amelia, tearfully reading a tribute to Marine Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, who died in Afghanistan last year. The Marine graduated from John Eaton Elementary school in Washington in 2001 and in a visit last year  "wowed" 50 children, including Amelia, in teaching them Marine-style physical training. He was killed in Helmand Province in June. Griffin, quoted: "It's still stunning that only 1 percent of this nation has served in these wars." The WaPo story, here.

Want to know the real deal on North Korea? Fresh from a three-week trip to Japan, the Truman Project's Rachel Kleinfeld will moderate a discussion about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The panelists are L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation; Laicie Heeley, senior policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and Alexandra Toma, founder of the Fissile Materials Working Group. Deets for the event, at 9:30 Friday morning at the Center for National Policy, here.

ICYMI (we did) and worth noting: The New Yorker's Amy Davidson did a piece this week on one of the many victims of the Boston bombings -- a young Saudi. The man was reported to be a "person of interest" -- and we repeated that reporting here. But in the end, he turned out to be an innocent bystander and helpless victim from a place that invites conclusion jumping under such circumstances. In "The Saudi Marathon Man," Davidson writes that the early reports of him being a potential suspect "suddenly gave our anxieties a form." Davidson: "What made them suspect him? He was running -- so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb -- as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead -- a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?" And: "When there was so much to fear that we were so brave about, there was panic about a wounded man barely out of his teens who needed help.... What's missing? Is it humility?"

Noting

  • The Diplomat: (FPI's Griffin, Zarate) What Kerry is doing right and wrong in East Asia.
  • Defense News: Levin: void 2014 sequester if grand bargain fails.
  • Military Times: Congress more willing to cut military pay, benefits.
  • The Atlantic: When IEDs come home: What Boston looked like to Iraq veterans.  
  • Iran Primer: Iran condemns Boston attack, slams U.S. policy.
  • Danger Room: Don't panic now, but Mexico's Zetas cartel wants to recruit your kids.
  • National Journal: What drones can do for you.
  • Duffel Blog: Predator drone nominated for Nobel peace prize.