National Security

Fox leaving the Pentagon; Mullen, Pickering, get a little testy with Issa; Benghazi e-mails released; Stevens denied military assistance; Little on the “hook-up” culture; Disconnecting the phones at DOD; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Six Americans killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul this morning, reports Reuters.  The attack killed as many as nine more and injured more than 40 people. The Hezb-e-Islami group claimed responsibility.

Mike Mullen and Thomas Pickering agreed to testify on Benghazi. In a letter released this morning, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and Amb. Thomas Pickering have agreed to testify before a House panel investigating the attacks in Benghazi and the Obama administration's response. Mullen and Pickering served as co-chairs of the Accountability Review Board, charged by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with independently assessing what happened in Benghazi. But the letter says the two do not want a closed-door hearing, but a public one.

To Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, from Mullen and Pickering: "Recently, you seem to have changed your position on the terms of our appearance, apparently asking for a transcribed interview behind closed doors. In our view, requiring such a closed-door proceeding before we testify publicly is an inappropriate precondition. Moreover, notwithstanding what your understanding may be, Ambassador Pickering did not agree to such a closed-door proceeding; his sole focus has been on testifying in an open hearing. If you and he were talking past each other, that is unfortunate."

The letter also berates Issa for public comments about the ARB: "In the past weeks, members of your Committee have publicly criticized -- in both an open hearing and in the media -- the work of the Accountability Review Board. Having taken liberal license to call into question the Board's work, it is surprising that you now maintain that members of the Committee need a closed-door proceeding before being able to ask ‘informed questions' at a public hearing. The Benghazi Accountability Review Board is perhaps the most transparent accountability review board ever." Read the full letter here. More on Benghazi below.

Top Gun Christine Fox is leaving CAPE. Fox, now leading Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Strategic Choices and Management Review, dubbed the "Scammer" by Pentagon types as it attempts to cut billions from the defense budget, is leaving the Pentagon by the end of June, the E-Ring's Kevin Baron reports. Fox, who has served under three secretaries, is the director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE. She was expected to leave at some point soon but will complete her duties as head of the review, due at the end of this month. Fox has been a key player in the development of some of the Obama administration's top national security strategy documents at the Pentagon, including the creation of the current defense strategic guidance, announced by President Barack Obama at the Pentagon in 2012. The CAPE job is considered particularly tiring as, one former defense official told Situation Report, "CAPE pretty much gets all the toughest homework assignments - SecDef's brain trust when he needs a straight answer that he's often not getting from the services or even from his own OSD." Given the charge of SMCR, it may have been the "ultimate homework assignment," we're told, and Fox was ready to move on.

Welcome to Thursday'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. And please follow us @glubold -- it would make our day.

The White House released the Benghazi emails. The administration released more than 100 pages of emails that either show officials brazenly framing the right way to depict the Sept. 11 attack for political purposes in the middle of the campaign or, simply, bureaucracy in action: infighting between a number of agencies over what information to release. From the WSJ: "Administration officials on Wednesday described the emails, written by officials ranging from unnamed career employees to then-Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus, as a mundane set of documents. Officials from across the national-security establishment made suggestions aimed at protecting their own interests and turf, as the talking points were edited to remove a mention of al Qaeda and to delete sentences referring to previous warnings about extremist threats in Benghazi. As the discussion proceeded, frustrations appeared to emerge. ‘Sir -- We've tried to work the draft talking points for [the House Intelligence Committee] through the coordination process but have run into major problems,' a CIA employee wrote in an e-mail explaining that the talking points wouldn't be completed that day." AP's PDF of all the e-mails, here.

But political calculation or not, the e-mails in and of themselves don't change the fact that the military did not have forces close enough to make a difference. And twice, Ambassador Chris Stevens was offered additional military security and said no. Stevens was leery of militarizing the diplomatic mission there. As Fox and McClatchy reported this week and others have before, then-Africom Commander Gen. Carter Ham had phoned Stevens and asked if the embassy needed a special security team from the U.S. military. "Stevens told Ham it did not, the officials said. Weeks later, Stevens traveled to Germany for an already scheduled meeting with Ham at AFRICOM headquarters. During that meeting, Ham again offered additional military assets, and Stevens again said no, the two officials said."

A defense official told McClatchy: "He didn't say why. He just turned it down." And: "The offers of aid and Stevens' rejection of them have not been revealed in either the State Department's Administrative Review Board investigation of the Benghazi events or during any of the congressional hearings and reports that have been issued into what took place there. Stevens' deputy, Gregory Hicks, who might be expected to be aware of the ambassador's exchange with military leaders, was not asked about the offer of additional assistance during his appearance before a House of Representatives committee last week, and testimony has not been sought from Ham, who is now retired." Read McClatchy's Nancy Youssef's story, here.

Will Benghazi keep Susan Rice away as national security adviser? Read The Cable's John Hudson's piece here.

Detaching: George Little distanced Hagel from the "hook-up" statement made by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. As the Pentagon grapples with a deepening sexual assault crisis, Pentagon pressec aimed to distance itself from controversial comments made last week by Welsh in which he said the problems in the military reflect those more broadly in society, in which a "hook up" culture rules.

Little at the "gaggle" of reporters yesterday at the Pentagon: "It is, in my opinion, and I believe the secretary's position, not good enough to compare us to the rest of society. This is the United States military and the Department of Defense. It really doesn't matter if our [sexual assault] rates are similar to the rest of society, quite frankly. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and that's what the American people demand."

For the record: Here's the exchange between Sen. Angus King, the Independent from Maine, and Welsh at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing May 7:

King: "Well, I am delighted to hear you say that. And in dealing with these kinds of problems, often it's a cultural issue. You can do all the law enforcement and all of those things, but the culture is what you have to deal with. You and I grew up at a time when drinking and driving was more or less tolerated in this country. The culture changed and now -- and that's had a really profound impact. So I hope that -- and I'm sure this is the case -- that within the Air Force, it has to become unacceptable culturally and in the -- you know, in the bar -- in the pub after work, that this is just not something that we do."

Welsh:  "Senator, that is clearly what it has to be. You know, roughly 20 percent of the young women who come into the Department of Defense in the Air Force report that they were sexually assaulted in some way before they came into the military. So they come in from a society where this occurs. Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it. The same demographic group moves into the military. We have got to change the culture once they arrive. The way they behave, the way they treat each other, cannot be outside the bounds of what is -- we consider inclusive and respectful."

It all adds up: When it comes to saving money for DOD, most people think you have to save a billion here or there to make a difference. But all the small numbers can make a difference, too. And if nothing else, pinching pennies helps change the mind-set of a bureaucratic culture inculcated with the blank-check mentality of the last decade. The Air Force's "Every Dollar Counts" initiative invites airmen to shoot the service's leadership ideas for saving money. Begun May 1, it has more than 7,000 submissions. Of those 7,000, an Air Force spokesman said, the service has implemented just three ideas so far. More of the suggestions are being assessed and the Air Force plans to implement more of them in the coming weeks and months. The three include:

David Billingly, a telecommunications program manager for Air Force headquarters, recently surveyed all the telecommunication lines in the HQ's leased space. After a four-month analysis, he identified more than 1,260 unused or unnecessary phone lines. Once they were disconnected, the Air Force saw a savings of $332,489.

Master Sgt. Ernest Harrison, deployed to the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, found equipment that was missing from an inventory list and allowed Air Forces Central Command to cancel a pending logistics requirement, saving the service $348,571.

The New York Air National Guard's 103rd Rescue Squadron's para-rescue jumpers used a commercial wind tunnel to practice free-fall techniques instead of using airlift, for a savings of $83,700.

Army Maj. Stephen Snyder-Hill, his husband, Joshua Snyder-Hill, and eight other military couples are headed to DC. to tie the knot. OutServe-SLDN, the LGBT-advocacy group comprised of actively-serving military members, is organizing a trip in which 25 same-sex couples will travel from Columbus, Ohio to Washington, D.C. to get married. Nine of the 25 couples include one service member. The trip is being put on by two plaintiffs in OutServe-SLDN's court challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act: Army Major Stephen Snyder-Hill and his husband, Joshua Snyder-Hill, who are already married. All the couples will ride on the "C-Bus of Love" from Columbus, Ohio, to Washington to get married before the Supreme Court June 21. Situation Report readers may remember Snyder-Hill as the service member who was booed during the GOP presidential debate during the 2012 primary season, SLDN spokesman Zeke Stokes reminded us.

Joshua Snyder-Hill: "Stephen and I had the great privilege of being married in Washington, DC two years ago after the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Act was passed by the Congress, and we wanted to be able to give this unique gift to other committed and loving couples from states where the freedom to marry is not yet recognized. We are especially thrilled that we will be able to do it in front of the Supreme Court during the same month in which the Court may very well strike down DOMA once and for all," said Joshua Snyder-Hill. Why is it called "the C-Bus of Love?" Because it's coming from Columbus.



National Security

David Sedney, leaving the Pentagon; The sexual assault crisis deepens for Hagel; Is the sailor’s kiss on V-J Day a sexual assault? No dressing down at DIA; Chaos aboard the Porter and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Sedney, departing. The deputy assistant secretary of defense for Af-Pak and a longtime Afghanistan hand, will leave the Pentagon May 31, according to the E-Ring's Kevin Baron. He will be replaced by Michael Dumont, a rear admiral in the Navy Reserve, who serves as chief of staff for the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans there. Baron reports that "DOD policy denizen Jennifer Walsh will fill the seat in the short term." Sedney, one of the longest-serving DASDs, was a fixture on the defense secretary's so-called "Doomsday plane" anytime it went to Afghanistan. Pentagon pressec George Little yesterday called Sedney "a national treasure" who will be missed. Baron, on Dumont: "Dumont has extensive Af-Pak experience. He was chief of staff of the Office of the U.S. Defense Representative to Pakistan (ODRP) and then served as deputy chief of staff for stability operations at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command."

Hagel's biggest challenge as SecDef might not be the one he expected. No question the Pentagon's budget woes and regional instability in the Middle East and other operational issues will test Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. But the bigger leadership challenge, for now, will be resurrecting the military's reputation in light of the deepening sexual assault scandal, which took another, darker turn yesterday after revelations that an Army sergeant first class assigned to III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas was under investigation for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault, and maltreatment of subordinates. Investigators are also looking into whether the soldier had forced a subordinate into prostitution, the WaPo and other outlets reported.

Again, it was a case of the person hired to monitor or prevent sexual assault being an alleged perpetrator.  The E-7 was also a program coordinator at the unit's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program -- echoing the case of the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention office, who was recently arrested on sexual battery charges. The sergeant was immediately removed from the job, and As a result of the new case, the Pentagon announced yesterday that Hagel had directed each service to re-train, re-credential, and re-screen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters. Hagel is also "looking urgently at every course of action to stamp out this deplorable conduct and ensure that those individuals up and down the chain of command who tolerate or engage in this behavior are appropriately held accountable," Little said.

Hagel is angry. Little, on Hagel getting the news about the latest incident: "I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger, and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri, who has been vocal on sexual assault issues in the military, says it's time to reevaluate who is being put into sexual assault prevention jobs.

McCaskill, in a statement last night: "Are folks filling these jobs who aren't succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders? These allegations only add to the mounting evidence of the need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault."

Welcome to Wednesday'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. And please follow us @glubold -- it would make our Wednesday.

PC Alert: Is the iconic image of the sailor kissing the nurse on V-J Day amount to a sexual assault? In a word, yes. The kiss seen ‘round the world was captured by crackerjack photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who snapped the picture in New York's Times Square after the Japanese surrendered. Most people assume the sailor was embracing his girlfriend, but in fact, the apparently intoxicated sailor, upon hearing the news of the surrender, ran out into the streets kissing a number of women he didn't know. As a Marine officer noted to Situation Report by e-mail: "If in 2014 when our troops pull out of Afghanistan, a sailor, soldier or Marine were to do the same thing, aggressively kissing strange women in the street with no prior consent, he would be facing charges under the new Article 120 and if convicted could possibly be required to register as a ‘sex offender.'"

Does the Navy celebrate the kiss with a life-size statue on the base near the Battleship Missouri? Yup. There are two known statues recreating the iconic Eisenstaedt image, including a life-sized one near the battleship memorial on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Pic of "Unconditional Surrender," here.

More from the Marine officer on what it all means - "From my perspective this statue seems to embody the disconnect in the messages society is putting out right now. I would say this is a ‘teaching moment' but I think that phrase is too cliché and is often over used by those generating the mixed messages in the first place. There are some adult conversations our whole society needs to have on the state of male-female relations, but I don't think we are mature enough yet to handle such a conversation without devolving into political posturing, name calling, slogans and epitaphs geared at galvanizing our own preconceptions rather than find understanding and consensus for achieving the greater good for all."

No one will be dressed down for the "Dress for Success" presentation at DIA. An informal presentation on how to dress for work was never officially sanctioned, but it caused a stir after US News' Washington Whispers reported about it in February. But now the presentation itself was released after a FOIA request, as reported by US News here. The presentation tells women to dress according to their personality, body types, skin, hair and eye color. US News: "In terms of makeup, the presentation does not ‘advocate the 'The Plain Jane' look' - makeup ‘helps women look more attractive,' after all. But it reminds employees that "too much makeup distracts from a professional look" - you want "just enough to accentuate your features." The presentation also assures women that open toed shoes, as long as they're heels, are ‘no longer a faux-pas' (thank God!). But don't wear any stockings with them." But news of the presentation rose to the top of DIA, where its director, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, has bigger things to worry about. A memo Flynn sent to employees distanced the agency from the presentation. "I apologize to the entire workforce for the unnecessary and serious distraction of this 'Dress for Success' briefing," Flynn's memo says. "I too find it highly offensive." The memo says the agency did not condone the briefing, and, as Flynn says, "even smart people do dumb things sometimes." But, he added, "no one is going to be taken to the wood shed over this."

The Army is committed to the pivot. When it comes to "military diplomacy," senior level exchanges, exercises, and other face-to-face interaction with commanders in the Asia-Pacific region, the Army is on board, Baron reports. Baron: "It's yet another sign of the Pentagon's commitment to the rebalancing and Asian regional security...much of what the Army does in the Pacific is walled-off from the budget cuts required by sequester, including all funds for the defense of South Korea and extending to all of the ‘enabler' forces required to support that mission. That makes cuts in other areas even deeper, especially equipment maintenance," said Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commander of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC). Wiercinski: "We've been able to fence our engagements throughout our theater of operations... Those will continue to move forward."

FOIA in action: Navy Times gets the recording from the bridge of the USS Porter as it collides with a tanker.  Blow-by-blow by NT's Sam Fellman: "The officer of the deck recommended turning right immediately, the standard maneuver. [Porter's commanding officer] Arriola disagreed. The ship slowed instead, the crew weighing their options. But the supertanker continued bearing down. The OOD recognized that the merchant was crossing ahead of them but didn't press the issue. In the confusion, Arriola made a fateful choice -- turn left and streak across a vessel's bow for the second time. ‘Hard left rudder!' Arriola bellowed, according to a pilothouse recording. Arriola ordered five whistle blasts, the danger signal, and full speed to try to make it across the tanker's path. ‘All engines ahead flank,' Arriola ordered. ‘Let's go. Get me up there, flank!' Porter did not make it clear in time. The most complete and vivid picture of these missteps and what happened next has emerged from newly released ship logs and recordings, including a four-minute audio tape of the collision, all obtained by Navy Times via a Freedom of Information Act request." Read NT's story and hear the audio here.

The Navy is pretty proud of the drone it launched off an aircraft carrier. Yesterday, the Navy sent out three press releases touting the launch of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator from the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia, landing about an hour later at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. There was the first release, then the one with pictures, then a final one just to make sure everyone saw it. It was the system's first at-sea, catapult launch, and it went well, apparently. Not to be outdone, images emerged of a new stealth drone being developed by the Chinese. Killer Apps' John Reed reports: "These jets are meant to replace the current crop of slow, low-flying, propeller-driven UAVs that military planners assume will be highly vulnerable in a modern conflict where one nation doesn't have absolute control over airspace. For example, the U.S. Navy envisions these planes doing everything from aerial refueling missions to penetrating advanced air defenses to perform strike and surveillance sorties. Until now, we had only seen Chinese versions of U.S. drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and what appears to be an attempt to field a high altitude, jet-powered spy plane similar to the RQ-4 Global Hawk."

Getting out of your bubble: how cartoonists see the Pentagon's budget woes. It's worth looking at even if not all of them are all that clever because it reflects how people outside Washington see the defense budget. A nod to US News for putting it together. See the slide show here.

A Pakistan election monitor in Lahore writes on Reuters about the election: "...the winners and losers matter less than the historic process. For the first time, the entire nation was galvanized by election fever. A stunning 36 million new voters registered, especially women and young people. Voter turnout was 60 percent compared to 44 percent in 2008. An unprecedented 15,600 people ran for national or regional political office. Many from outside the ranks of Pakistan's traditional leaders," writes Anja Manuel this morning.

John Allen, former ISAF commander, to Situation Report, on the elections, by e-mail: "This was a real victory for the democratic process in Pakistan.  The election is historic, and the Pakistani people are to be congratulated for persevering at the polls. With this vote, the Pakistani people said yes to democracy and no to the forces of extremism and terrorism, which would have had the outcome be otherwise."

Get smart: on cyber. Talk today with cyber experts about how the U.S. government and the private sector can work to protect systems and intellectual property in "The New Spycraft: Cyber Espionage in the 21st Century." Where/when: Noon to 1:15 p.m. at the Truman National Security Project and the Center for National Policy at One Massachusetts Ave., NW. On the panel: CNP President Scott Bates; Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer for Mandiant; Emilian Papadopoulos, chief of staff for Good Harbor. @CNPonline.


  • Defense News: Southcom, where modern ISR was born, wants more assets.
  • The Week: Can the military solve its sexual assault crisis?
  • AP: Two Army generals (Allyn, Colt) to testify in Sinclair case. 
  • Politico: Fixing the VA-DOD health system fiasco.
  • Army Times: Sequestration effects will last for years. 
  • Bloomberg: Russia ousting U.S. official accused of spying.
  • National Interest: Bomb, coerce or contain Iran. 
  • CNN: Israeli military: Syrian rockets hit Golan Heights.
  • Reuters: Syrian Internet is down.