AF sacks sexual assault prevention chief for sexual assault; Stavridis to Tufts; Dunford is hopeful in Afghanistan; a painting for Kerry; and a little bit more.
By Gordon Lubold
"Outrage and disgust:" The Pentagon issued an angry statement last night after the head of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention office was charged with...sexual assault. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, of Arlington, Va. was arrested early Sunday in a bar and restaurant area near the Pentagon after he allegedly groped a woman in a parking lot, grabbing her breasts and buttocks. When he attempted to grab her again, she fought him off and called police. Krusinski, who Arlington County, Va. police reported was drunk at the time, is the Air Force's point man on sexual assault and prevention. Krusinski has been removed from the job. The incident occurred in the Crystal City area of Arlington near the Pentagon on 23rd Street, where there are a number of bars and restaurants. The incident comes as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tries to reinvigorate the Defense Department's sexual assault prevention efforts amid worries that not enough has been done. The Air Force, in particular, is confronting high-level concerns that some of its top officers have appeared indifferent to sexual assault. There are now two cases in which an Air Force three-star general has overturned a sexual assault conviction, and that comes after the case at Lackland Air Force Base in which dozens of recruits were raped and assaulted. After Krusinksi's arrest was first reported by a local news site, Hagel spoke with Air Force Secretary Mike Donley and the officer was removed from his job. We're told Hagel was "positively angry" when he heard of the news and he's poised to announce more initiatives to combat sexual assault in the coming weeks. "Other department officials were shocked that someone with responsibility for sexual assault prevention efforts would be arrested on charges connected to the kind of behavior he was sworn to stamp out," said one senior defense official.
The Pentagon's George Little: "Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Secretary Hagel has been directing the department's leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime."
Did another Air Force three-star overturn a sexual assault conviction? The Air Force was already grappling with the case in which Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, reversed a guilty decision in the sexual assault case of an Air Force lieutenant colonel -- a decision that has received high-level scrutiny from Congress and the Pentagon. Then today, WaPo's Craig Whitlock reports that the promotion of Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, an astronaut who was headed to become vice commander of the Air Force's Space Command, has been blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri. McCaskill "wants to examine Helms' previously unpublicized decision to overturn the conviction, on charges of aggravated sexual assault, of a captain at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California," Whitlock writes.
In both cases, the three-stars went against the recommendations of their legal advisers to overrule a military jury's findings. "Neither general was a judge and neither observed the trials, but they intervened to grant clemency before the convictions could be heard by an appeals court," Whitlock writes. A memo written by Helms and obtained by the WaPo indicated that Helms had reviewed the case and found the accused, Capt. Matthew Herrera, to be a more credible witness. "It is undoubtedly true that [the accuser's] feelings of victimization are real and justifiable," Helms wrote in the memo. "However, Capt. Herrera's conviction should not rest on [the accuser's] view of her victimization, but on the law and convincing evidence."
On the hotseat- Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, who appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee today at 9:30. Watch it live here.
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Stavridis is headed to Tufts. Adm. Jim Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander and head of U.S. European Command, is headed to Boston to become the dean of the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University after he retires in July. Stavridis, who will have served in the European job for four years -- about a year longer than a typical combatant commander -- has been eager to retire. Tufts announced his appointment yesterday, with Tufts Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris saying he has the "rare combination of intellectual curiosity, social intelligence, humility, leadership skills and respect from others that have made him one of the great military and political leaders of his generation, and that will make him a spectacular Fletcher dean, and a key member of the university leadership team."
Stavridis, in an e-mail to Situation Report overnight: "I'm very excited to take on responsibilities as Dean of The Fletcher School -- it is a position that will firmly anchor me in the international space, where I've spent so much of my career. After four years at NATO in Europe, with a focus on Afghanistan, the Balkans, piracy, cyber, Libya, and lately Syria, I want to remain engaged. And it will give me a chance to continue my connections in Latin America and the Caribbean from my time in Miami as Commander, US Southern Command." And: "Above all, it is a chance to teach, mentor, and work with younger professionals as they prepare for the global world of the 21st century. It is going to be hard work, but I'm ready to go..."
Watch the Navy's stealth drone make its first arrested landing. Killer Apps' John Reed found a quick vid of the Northrop Grumman-made X-47B drone, here. The drone is meant to prove that the Navy can operate a "fighter jet-sized stealthy drone from aircraft carriers -- paving the way for a fleet of similar aircraft to enter the service around 2020 under a program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS," he writes.
Hagel met with Kerry at the Pentagon yesterday. The two had lunch together yesterday and discussed a "range of national security issues" before Kerry left for Russia last night. Hagel gave Kerry a print of a painting from the Navy's art collection titled "Showing the Flag in Ca Mau (PT-71)," by Gerland Merfeld, who painted it in 1969 as an embedded illustrator. The picture was selected to honor Kerry's service and depicts two Navy Patrol Craft Boats in the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam. Caption contest: What are Hagel and Kerry doing? The E-Ring's Kevin Baron posted this picture, released by the Pentagon, of SecState John Kerry and SecDef Chuck Hagel sharing what we like to call a light moment. Other pics, here.
Same worries, different day: China's military continues its buildup. But the Pentagon acknowledges for the first time that China has targeted U.S. government computer networks. The Pentagon yesterday released its newest "China power report," here, and the assessment is pretty much the same as it was last year: continued growth with little transparency. But this time around, the Pentagon was pointed in its accusations that China was behind a number of the cyber attacks against the U.S. This comes on the heels of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey's trip to China - and American and international efforts to get China to do more to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. From the report: "In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military. These intrusions were focused on exfiltrating information. China is using its computer network exploitation (CNE) capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs. The information targeted could potentially be used to benefit China's defense industry, high technology industries, policymaker interest in US leadership thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis. Although this alone is a serious concern, the accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks. China's 2010 Defense White Paper notes China's own concern over foreign cyber warfare efforts and highlighted the importance of cyber-security in China's national defense."
Dunford is hopeful. ISAF Commander Gen. Joe Dunford sat with the NYT for an interview in which he answered "yes" to all three of the three fundamental questions he has posed about the future of Afghanistan, according to the Times: Will the Afghan troops be able to assume lead responsibility for military operations? Will the Afghan security forces be able to give security to the Afghan people nationwide for the presidential elections scheduled for next April? And, will the international troops be able to transfer all authority to the Afghans at the end of 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission ends?
"The answer is yes," to all three questions, Dunford told the Times' Alissa Rubin and Matthew Rosenberg, noting that there is still much work to be done. The NYT: "Referring to the growth in size and capabilities of the Afghan Army, in particular, he said: ‘You can accuse me of being an optimist and I'll plead guilty. But to those people who think this can't happen, I would just ask them to look at the last two or three years and ask them why they can't imagine that we'll be on the same trajectory that we've been on the last two or three years,' he said referring to the growth in size and capabilities of the Afghan Army, in particular."
Times Correction: The original Times story in print (and in the Pentagon's Early Bird) indicated mistakenly that it was the first interview Dunford had had since assuming command. Not true. At the very least, Dunford spoke briefly to Situation Report, here, on April 8, and also to the AP's Kim Dozier, here, March 14. The Times realized the mistake soon after and corrected it in the online version of the story.Noting
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