National Security

Did the Saudis warn the US about Tamerlan?; Sorting out Syrian polls; Insurgency nerd alert; P4 to KRR?: “No comment;” Feuding: Odierno-Hunter; Steve Flanagan now at the WH, Anne Marie Squeo joins 30 Point; and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Did they or didn't they? The Daily Mail reports today that Saudi warned the U.S. of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The newspaper says that Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, citing a senior Saudi official the news outlet says has direct knowledge of the document. This would be separate from the correspondence between the Russian government and the FBI and, if true, a significant development in who knew what when. "Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev's plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed," the paper's Web site, MailOnline reported. The NSC's Caitlin Hayden told Situation Report this morning, echoing comments made in the initial report, that: "We and other relevant U.S. Government agencies who deal with this kind of information have no record of any such letter being received."

An "upward trajectory:" Obama appeared to tiptoe closer to providing lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Hours after President Barack Obama said he wanted more concrete evidence that the Assad regime in Syria had used chemical weapons on its people, there were news reports that the administration was considering sending lethal aid to the opposition. Later, NSC spokeswoman Hayden noted, "our assistance to the Syrian opposition has been on an upward trajectory." But it wasn't yet clear just how fast any lethal aid would flow to the opposition, and the WaPo's Karen DeYoung reports that the White House isn't about to pull the trigger right away. "The officials said they are moving toward the shipment of arms but emphasized that they are still pursuing political negotiation. To that end, the administration has launched an effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government - and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke - should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad," she writes. But, DeYoung writes that senior officials described Obama as "ready to move on what one described as the ‘left-hand side' of a broad spectrum that ranged from "arming the opposition to boots on the ground."

FWIW: Sorting out the polls on Syria. Yesterday we cited a new CBS poll that showed that 62 percent of Americans do not think the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria. That contrasts with an earlier poll, from Pew, that shows that 45 percent of Americans favor military action against the regime if chemical weapons are found to have been used against the Syrian opposition. While the polls offer a different conclusion of Americans' views on Syrian intervention, a friend to Situation Report pointed out that the CBS poll showing fewer Americans supporting intervention was taken over a period before and after the U.S. acknowledged April 25 that a U.S. intelligence assessment showed that CW was used, at least on a small scale, between April 24-28. The Pew poll, on the other hand, which shows more Americans supporting military action against the regime, was taken between April 25-28, right after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the announcement. Read the polls for yourself, here.

Welcome to Wednesday's First of May 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 a 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.

Nerd alert for insurgency nerds. The Council on Foreign Relations has produced a new interactive tool called the "Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker," gleaned from material from Invisible Armies, CFR's Max Boot's new book. The tracker presents a visual history, with maps and charts of more than 400 insurgencies, from 1775 to 2012, that attempts to depict the "global distribution of insurgencies" and their outcome. Click on a country or region, and use the little slider to adjust the period. Check it out, here. Info on Boot's book here.

Is Comeback Kid Petraeus headed to KKR? Maybe. Gawker is reporting that as part of David Petraeus' comeback plan he may cash in with a job at private equity firm KKR & Co. It's part of Petraeus' carefully orchestrated plan to re-emerge from the shadows after his disastrous fall last fall. P4 has already attended some quiet-but-splashy events for veterans but is also likely looking at a book deal, a speaking tour and academic affiliations. Gawker:  "The David Petraeus comeback tour may lead the disgraced former general through the cleansing fires of high finance, where your alleged sins can be washed away with a few stellar exits. He has been making the rounds at a number of New York-based venture capital and private equity firms and one very knowledgeable source said Petraeus is slated to announce a relationship shortly. Gawker and other sites have also suggested P4 is looking at the Carlyle Group or Palantir.

Beltway Fixer Robert Barnett, when asked by FP's John Hudson, by e-mail, on the move: "No comment."

The Odierno-Hunter feud, con't. Army Secretary John McHugh yesterday backed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in the public feud between him and Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Republican from California and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who got into a row last week over the Army's Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS. In a moment of emotion, Odierno lashed out at Hunter, a former Marine and son of the former HASC chairman of the same name, at a hearing last week. At a Defense Writers Group breakfast Tuesday, McHugh was clear: "The chief spoke for himself," he said. Read the backstory from Baron, here.  Meanwhile, Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, told Baron that Hunter's office was surprised to see McHugh's remarks. Baron: "Following Thursday's argument in the hearing, Hunter's staff thought they had an agreement with Army officials to avoid any additional public back-and-forth over the issue. However, Kasper argued that the Army ran the clock out on soldiers deployed in Afghanistan who had been begging for Palantir for nearly a year. He also objected to McHugh's assertion that Hunter was mistaken about the request still being active, telling the E-Ring that Hunter was fully aware that the 3ID headquarters at Fort Stewart had ordered a ‘hold' on the request from Afghanistan, and referenced it during Thursday's hearing." Kasper: "There've been repeated requests for it that go back a year,' a frustrated Kasper said, providing a list of requests and denials dating to May 2012."

The video of the civilian cargo plane crashing near Bagram this week is truly disturbing. The crash Monday of a civilian cargo plane bound for Dubai killed all seven crewmembers aboard. While the Taliban claimed responsibility for the downed plane, officials have denied this is true. Meantime, video from the dashboard of a vehicle on the ground shows the entire thing. The plane arcs steeply upward like many planes do when they take off from war zones and then pivots before slamming into the ground. Read Danger Room's take, here.

Steve Flanagan is now at the White House. CSIS' Flanagan is now at the NSC as senior director for defense policy.

Moving on up: Pulitzer-prize winning journalist turned defense flack for Lockheed and Raytheon Anne Marie Squeo joins 30 Point. Squeo, the vice-president of communications at Lockheed, who was the previous director of PR at Raytheon is joining 30 Point Strategies as a managing director May 6. Squeo will lead 30 Point's efforts in "media engagement and crisis communications and build something called "integrated strategies" to advance clients' business goals. From the There is Life After Journalism Department - "Prior to transitioning to corporate communications, Squeo spent nearly 15 years as a journalist, including more than seven years at The Wall Street Journal. In this role, she won the Gerald Loeb Award in 2004 for Beat Reporting and was part of a small team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for National Reporting. She began her journalism career at Bloomberg News, where she led antitrust reporting during a period of heightened government activity," according to a press release.

Hungering

Thinking


  • CFR: Obama to face Bipolar Mexico. 
  • USIP (Heydemann): The way forward in Syria.
  • CSIS: Beyond the last war: balancing ground forces and future challenges.

Noting


  • Battleland: A key step: re-certifying vets for post-military jobs.
  • Defense News: House GOP unveils next move on controversial East Coast missile plan.
  • Duffel Blog: Marine Corps establishes "service utilities" for more professional look. 
  • Danger Room: U.S. looks to re-up its Mexican surveillance system.
  • Air Force Times: Air Force leaders, family honor fallen airmen.

Situation Report

Hagel, German defense minister talk Turkey, Afghanistan; 62 percent of Americans don’t favor Syrian intervention; Don’t GoToMeeting: How AMC saves the dough; Justin Mikolay, married; Lapan to Afghanistan, and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Poll: A hefty majority of Americans do not believe the U.S. should intervene in Syria. A new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria, while 24 percent do think the U.S. should so something - a four percent increase over a month ago, CBS reports.

Their report: "Even as news of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was announced by the Obama Administration, fewer Americans are paying attention to news about Syria than were doing so last month. In March, slightly more than half of all Americans were following news about Syria at least somewhat closely. Now, four in 10 say they are doing so, including just 10 percent who are following it very closely. Still, those following the news about Syria very closely are far more likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there. Nearly half (47 percent) of that group thinks the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there -- though about as many do not (48 percent)."

Aid begins to arrive. CBS is also reporting that American aid to the Syrian opposition is just beginning to arrive today. It includes military food rations and medical supplies - aid the Obama administration had promised some time ago, the network reported earlier this morning. That assistance arrives just as the LAT reports of a large blast in Damascus that has killed 13 people and caused dozens of other casualties - the second big one to rock the city in as many days.

Meantime, at the Pentagon today, Hagel will meet with German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere. The two will talk Afghanistan operations - Germany's work in the north, as well as both countries' deployment of Patriot missile defense systems to Turkey under NATO. The two will also discuss support for operations in Mali as well as NATO defense planning, Situation Report is told.  Maiziere will arrive at the building a bit after 1pm today.

Welcome to Tuesday'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 a 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.

New this morning: Michelle and Jill want more vets hired. CNN Money published an op-ed this morning by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden on the need for companies to hire more veterans. It reads, in part: "These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance. But the challenge of giving them that chance is only becoming more urgent. In the coming years, more than a million service members will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life. That's on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work."

The world's most dangerous man whom you've never heard of. FP has an exclusive, inside look at the life and death of Imad Mughiniyeh, "the world's most wanted terrorist not named Osama bin Laden." Mark Perry, writing on FP: "His true identity as the violent mastermind of Hezbollah would have come as a shock to his Damascus neighbors, who thought he was a chauffeur in the employ of the Iranian embassy. A number of them had even called on him, on several occasions, to help tote their bags to waiting taxis. He had happily complied. On this night, he was in a hurry. He exited his apartment building and walked quickly to his SUV, crossing behind the tailgate to the driver's side door. He never made it. Instead, a remotely detonated explosive, containing hundreds of deadly, cube-shaped metal shards, ripped his body to shreds, lifting it into the air and depositing his burning torso 15 feet away on the apartment building's lawn. Just like that, the most dangerous man you never heard of was dead, his whole career proof that one person really can reshape politics in the Middle East -- and far beyond it. "Both bin Laden and Mughniyeh were pathological killers," 30-year veteran CIA officer Milton Bearden told me. ‘But there was always a nagging amateurishness about bin Laden -- his wildly hyped background, his bogus claims.... Bin Laden cowered and hid. Mughniyeh spent his life giving us the finger.'"

Situation Report corrects - We wrote yesterday that an MC-12 was a helicopter even though it's a twin-engine turbo-prop fixed-wing plane. Hashtag weknowbetter. Thank you to all the readers for pointing this out. Repeatedly! We do regret the error.

Jason Collins, great, but where are all the gay military members? Collins made history with his acknowledgement of being gay, but the E-Ring's Kevin Baron wanted to know why military officers and staff NCOs haven't revealed themselves in the same way. Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, who was a key figure behind the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," told Baron: "‘There is no equivalent. There's no Jackie Robinson,' for gays in military. ‘There are a lot of people out there, and a lot of those people have come out. But the thing is that because they are military officers and not NBA stars, they came out quietly," he said, "and very often they don't even come out to all members of their units. ‘We weren't expecting heroes to step out and become famous. We were expecting business as usual.'"

Did Foreign Policy jump the shark with hairless cats? We must admit "14 Hairless Cats that Look Like Vladimir Putin" by FP's own Elizabeth Ralph brought a smile. The feature shows pictures of Putin in various poses alongside other ones of hairless cats in similar poses - who knew? Some readers loved; others thought FP had gone too far. What's next? "Hairy Honey Badgers That Look Like John Brennan?" Not happening. But it was just part of a fun experiment to look at the world through the lens of BuzzFeed, which produces lists on everything. The Moscow Times noticed: "Readers offered mix reviews of the effort, with some saying Foreign Policy had sunk to a low and shouldn't compare a man with an animal. ‘Foreign Policy: You really lost my respect as "reasonable critical magazine,"' wrote one reader. But others suggested that those who took offense should lighten up. ‘I feel bad for all the people who cannot accept some humor in a respected publication once in a while,' a reader wrote."

We like this one, too: "36 Mustaches (and a few beards) that explain why There's no Peace in the World," here.

Department of Every Little Bit Counts: The Pentagon's budget crunch means people are making little changes across the Defense Department. The military used to pay to fly service members all over the country for even the smallest justification. Conferences or military education used to be sufficient reason to spend tens of millions in airfare, lodging, rental cars, and food. But as sequester hit, the services curtailed many of those events -- a visible way the DOD could show it was cutting back.

One example is Air Mobility Command, the Air Force's big logistics command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., which is using teleconferencing to cut down on the number of traditional conferences and on-site education opportunities offered to its airmen. By eliminating just one annual conference of about 118 active, guard, and reserve wing commanders, the command will avoid spending as much as $120,000 this year, Situation Report is told. Instead, this spring AMC will host a virtual conference of wing commanders using two teleconference tools: MilBook, which allows participants to collaboratively nominate, refine, and discuss topics that commanders want to address, and Defense Connect Online, or DCO, which is essentially an online meeting site that allows commanders to talk using voice, text, and video from their computers. "Total cost of the meeting will be zero," Lt. Col. Matt Whiat, chief of the commander's action group at AMC, wrote in an e-mail. Read more on this below.

Mattis was spotted Saturday at the wedding of Justin Mikolay and Maggie Kropp. Appropriately held at the stunningly refurbished Army Navy Country Club (Mikolay is an Annapolis grad and Kropp is a West Point grad), the two made it legal. Readers may know Mikolay as a member of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's speechwriting team, who also wrote for David Petraeus and Mattis. Mikolay left the Pentagon in February and now works for Palantir. The couple won't soon forget 20-plus Annapolis grads helping Mikolay's two older brothers recreate the scene in Top Gun in which Maverick and Goose serenade Kelly McGillis' character to "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." Also spotted, in addition to Gen. Jim Mattis: Mikolay's speechwriting buds Greg Grant and Jacob Freedman.

Dave Lapan is pulling his retirement papers. Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, was to retire by summer but is rescinding his retirement date so he can deploy to Afghanistan to become a spokesman for another Marine, ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford. He'll deploy in July. Air Force Col. Ed Thomas will replace him at the Pentagon, as we noted last week. Lapan told friends that, like his current job, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, professionally rewarding, and challenging -- and all for "an important mission at a historic time."

The jihad will be Tweeted. The most wanted American jihadi in Somalia has been Tweeting as his enemies close in on him. Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman writes an account of it, here. "... the American jihadi in Somalia survived a Thursday assassination attempt only to tweet today that his former allies in al-Qaida's Somali affiliate are stepping up their efforts to wipe him out. On Monday, according to what Hammami warned might be his last words, Shebab gunmen surrounded his home, marched him to "court" and opened fire in a Somali forest. ‘Even if we die weve won,' Hammami tweeted from his @abumamerican Twitter account today. ‘May not find another chance to tweet but just remember what we said and what we stood for.'"

Saving money, the virtual way, con't. Like many others, the command views conferences and military education as key to professional development. AMC has been testing some off-the-shelf communications programs similar to GoToMeeting and SurveyMonkey to conduct virtual meetings, conferences and education to ensure they can operate within government's security firewalls, Whiat said in an interview. The command is also doing more professional military education virtually. Courses that have in the past required military students to fly to the command or elsewhere for a week of class average about $140,000 per course. Now, two courses, one for mid-level officers and non-commissioned officers, will be held virtually and the cost for both courses will be zip.

Some aspects of professional development do have to be conducted in person. For example, an involved discussion of leadership and ethics doesn't work online. For these, the command hopes to develop a "hybrid concept" by next year that combines virtual interaction with the minimum amount of "in-person time" needed, sometimes holding portions of a class during a larger conference that participants would need to attend anyway. AMC said it did not have a total cost of the conferences and development courses across the command because each falls into several "directorates and functions," making it difficult to assess the total impact of holding more virtual meetings on the command.

Noting

  • Forbes: JIEDDO head sees Boston bombings as part of a pattern.
  • E-Ring: USS Freedom broken down, not going down.
  • AP: Army amputee completes air assault school.
  • Defense News: Pentagon industrial base chief predicts pain.    
  • Real Clear Defense: Congress must address eroding readiness in FY14 budget.
  • Killer Apps: The Air Force wants to protect its spacecraft from attack.