National Security

Obama doubling the number of Marine guards for embassies; POTUS reduces the max sentence for rape in the military; Hand leaves the Pentagon; No free coins for the Navy; Not much carpooling to the White House; Russia sends warships; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Obama is calling for stepped up security at embassies. The President wants Congress to work with him "as a partner" to fully fund the State Department and step up security at embassies around the world. State has asked to reallocate $1.4 billion to address security "vulnerabilities" at its embassies and diplomatic posts, and the fiscal 2014 budget request would provide over $4 billion for the department's security programs. As part of that, the President Barack Obama wants $2.2 for embassy security construction as suggested by the Accountability Review Board headed by former Amb. Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.

The White House has attempted to shift some of the focus on the ongoing Benghazi controversy to the funding for diplomatic security provided by Congress. "So I want to say to members of Congress in both parties, we need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world," Obama said during a joint appearance with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

That will mean funding for a lot of things, but for embassies, it means adding as many as 1,000 new Marines to guard American embassies over the next three years. That would nearly double the number of Marine guards, which now stands at about 1,200, who currently serve in or support 152 "detachments" in 130 countries. As part of that plus up, the Marines are creating as many as 10 "squad-sized" Security Augmentation Units. These units of about a dozen Marines each will be based at Quantico, Va., and deploy to embassies as needed, Situation Report is told. Such units would be designed to reinforce the Marine guards at an embassy, but the thinking is that they would deploy in anticipation of a security threat based on intelligence, not necessarily in the heat of the moment, if an embassy were under fire, for example. The Security Augmentation Units would be fully-trained Marine Security Guards and be trained and oriented toward specific regions, Capt. Greg Wolf told Situation Report. The Corps hopes to have the new units in place by the end of summer.

Separately, the Corps has assigned a new Crisis Response Task Force to Moron Air Base, Spain for deploying to hotspots within U.S. Africa Command. The unit, composed of about 500 Marines, arrived at the air base in Spain about three weeks ago. It is designed to respond to a Benghazi-like attack. That unit has six MV-22 Ospreys and two C-130 refuelers available to it. The concept has become a popular one for the Corps, which has pushed for the mission as it seeks to return to its kick-down-the-door roots after years of being used as a second land army. Both U.S. Central and Southern commands have requested a similar unit for their "areas of responsibility."

Bailey Hand is leaving Hagel's front office next week. Hand, who has served as a special assistant to defense secretaries Gates, Panetta, and Hagel, is leaving the Pentagon for what was described to Situation Report as a "top management consulting firm." She was first brought to the building by Robert Rangel, Gates' strongman special assistant. Hand leaves the job after serving on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and, for the last couple years, "coordinating highly-sensitive policy issues" on behalf of all three men. Top Pentagon leaders bid her adieu with a toast at Jaleo last night in Crystal City. No word yet on her replacement.

Who threw down? The group included Marcel Lettre, Wendy Anderson, Liz King, Bob Taylor, Rangel, David Sedney, Andy Weber, James Eby, Jacob, Freedman, Greg Grant and Carl Woog.

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 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 weekend.

Muscle flexing: Russia has sent at least a dozen warships to the region to counter a threat to the Syrian regime. The WSJ reports this morning that the deployment of the warships to Syria in the Mediterranean looks like an aggressive move meant to warn the West and Israel not to intervene in Syria. It's one of the largest "sustained naval deployments" since the Cold War, the paper reports. Meanwhile, the NYT reports that Syria is falling apart and whenever the Assad regime ultimately falls, the many factions within the country are at odds with each other. "A constellation of armed groups battleing to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs," according to the article.  

Obama reduced the sentence for rape in the military. Amid what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey called a "crisis," Obama on Wednesday signed an order making a number of routine changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, that included downgrading the maximum sentence for rape in the military from a capital crime to life in prison. The press release, which was sent out by the White House on Wednesday, received scant attention. The change merely aligns military punishment for rape with the federal statutes for civilian crimes, but it comes at a time when the White House and Pentagon are looking for ways to address an increasing problem marked by a number of embarrassing episodes.

From a defense official - "The executive order signed by the President in part updates maximum punishments for offenses that Congress creates through law in the UCMJ. The FY12 National Defense Authorization Act reorganized sexual assault offenses in Section 120. The maximum allowable punishments in the [executive order] are guided by current federal civilian statutes. The death penalty for rape is not in the current federal statute. The Supreme Court has challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty for rape offenses making capital punishment highly unlikely for any rape case in any court -- military or civilian."

Read up on military executions at the Death Penalty Information Center, here.

Recently, two service members, an officer and an enlisted man, who were playing critical roles to prevent sexual assault in the military were themselves charged with crimes of a sexual nature. Yesterday, there was yet another one. AP reported last night that the manager of the sexual harassment and assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky., was arrested in a domestic dispute and relieved from his post. Lt. Col. Darin Haas turned himself into police on charges of violating an order of protection and stalking. Maximum punishments for other sexual crimes: The current maximum punishments for sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact and abusive sexual contact are as follows: Sexual assault: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 30 years; aggravated sexual contact: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 20 years; and abusive sexual contact: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 7 years.

Big meeting at the White House on sexual assault. Change is coming, and it's likely that some of the modifications to the military's legal system the Pentagon had initially been concerned about will happen in one form or another. Obama, during public comments after a meeting at the White House: "Now, the good news is I am absolutely confident that everybody in this room and our leadership, starting with Chuck Hagel and Marty Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs, as well as our top enlisted men and women, they care about this. And they're angry about it. And I heard directly from all of them that they're ashamed by some of what's happened."

Brownie points for Army Secretary John McHugh. Obama singled out Army Secretary John McHugh for incentivizing leaders to prioritize the issue of sexual assault. Obama: "I think [he] made a very good point, which is I'm not sure we've incentivized some of our top people to understand this is as core to our mission as anything else. And we've got to reward them, not think of this as a sideline for anything else that they do, but incentivize ambitious folks in the ranks to make sure that they understand this is important. So that's part of accountability." 

Who attended: Hagel, Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean J. Stackley, Army Secretary McHugh, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Mark Ferguson, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Jay Paxton (representing the Marine Commandant), Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh, Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Frank Grass, Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, director of the SAPRO, Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior enlisted adviser to Dempsey, Sgt. Maj. Of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael Leavitt, Jessica Wright, Acting Under Secretary of Personnel & Readiness, Michael Lumpkin, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. And from the WH: Biden, Denis McDonough, Tom Donilon, Valerie Jarrett, Rob Nabors, Kathy Ruemmler, Jen Palmieri, Tony Blinken, Tina Tchen, Liz Sherwood-Randall, and Lynn Rosenthal.

Carpool to the White House? Not so much. There was a black SUV traffic jam outside the Pentagon yesterday as the Pentagon's leadership left to go to the White House for the big meeting with the boss on sexual assault. A long line of black SUVs and sedans awaited the principals outside the Pentagon's River Entrance, and a bus was used for those meeting attendees who don't rate a driver, like the top enlisted advisers and the vice chiefs. Pentagon guards directed the chaos, made slightly more challenging by the presence of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for whom there was an "honor cordon" hosted by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Where's Dempsey on sexual assault? In the last month, Chairman Dempsey has published two Facebook posts and a video on the sexual assault issue, and some have noticed that as Hagel sought to own this issue and the White House and the Pentagon scramble to come up with a meaningful, sustained response- Dempsey has said little so far, apparently preferring to keep his reactions mostly private. But on a return from a trip overseas, he told reporters that the sexual assault situation across DOD amounts to a "crisis" and that "we're losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem." Dempsey's been focused on this issue since he led the Army's training command in 2008 and in subsequent Army leadership jobs.

"I tasked those around me to help me understand what a decade-plus of conflict may have done to the force. Instinctively, I knew it had to have some effect," he said, adding that more than 10 years of war has contributed to the rise in sexual assaults, which reflect broader issues with the health of the force. "This is not to make excuses," he said. "We should be better than this. In fact, we have to be better than this." Read Jim Garamone's story here.

Derek Chollet reflects: from Dayton to the Pentagon. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs sat down with the E-Ring's Kevin Baron to talk about Bosnia, his work with the late Richard Holbrooke and how Bosnia, which once consumed Washington, had faded over the years. On Wednesday, Chollet sat across the table from Bosnia-Herzegovina's minister of defense, Zekerijah Osmic, along with Hagel. Read Kevin's piece here.

The Navy is suspending funding for command coins. The Navy yesterday announced that it would no longer allow appropriated government funds to be used to buy the popular coins that commanders typically give as recognition for a job well done or to important visitors. The coins have become ubiquitous and typically cost between $3 and $10. The Army announced April 1 that it would no longer pay for the coins, either. That announcement surprised some and didn't appear to be coordinated with any of the other services. Yesterday, the Navy announced that it would no longer pay for the coins, as well as caps, plaques, and similar items -- until further notice. "In the current fiscal environment, we have significantly reduced our rate of expenditure of appropriated funds to preserve mission essential operations," according to an internal Navy administrative notice. Previously purchased items can still be distributed, and the new restriction does not apply to items purchased with personal funds.

No, Fox News isn't leaving the Pentagon. Our item yesterday about Christine Fox, the director of the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, leading Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's strategic review caused a minor stir because of the headline: "Fox leaving the Pentagon." Some thought Fox News was abandoning its Pentagon perch. Jennifer Griffin and producer Justin Fishel aren't going anywhere, and rumors of their demise are exaggerated and in fact completely untrue.

Rumsfeld's Rules: queue up. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was back in the Pentagon yesterday to sign copies of his new book, "Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life," and folks were lining up for the privilege, we're told. Buy it on Amazon, here.

On FP: Keeping the U.S. in the game when enemies are trying to shut it out (or, the Air-Sea Battle, explained) by Greenert and Welsh. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh teamed up to write a piece on FP, just published, on anti-access capabilities and strategies, or, put more interestingly, how to break the "kill chain." They write: "Air-Sea Battle defeats threats to access by, first, disrupting an adversary's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems; second, destroying adversary weapons launchers (including aircraft, ships, and missile sites); and finally, defeating the weapons an adversary launches. This approach exploits the fact that, to attack our forces, an adversary must complete a sequence of actions, commonly referred to as a ‘kill chain.' For example, surveillance systems locate U.S. forces, communications networks relay targeting information to weapons launchers, weapons are launched, and then they must hone in on U.S. forces. Each of these steps is vulnerable to interdiction or disruption, and because each step must work, our forces can focus on the weakest links in the chain, not each and every one. For example, strikes against installations deep inland are not necessarily required in Air-Sea Battle because adversary C4ISR may be vulnerable to disruption, weapons can be deceived or interdicted, and adversary ships and aircraft can be destroyed." Read the whole piece here.

$80 billion for war operations. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio and Gopal Ratnam report that the Pentagon will request that Congress approve a budget for combat operations of about $80 billion, the least since 2005. The proposal could be submitted as soon as today, according to administration officials. War spending, which is separate from the Pentagon base budget, peaked in fiscal 2008 with a request of $187 billion. "The new request, the lowest amount since $75.6 billion in fiscal 2005, reflects President Barack Obama's decision to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan with the goal of removing most of them by the end of next year. The U.S. force in Afghanistan is projected to decline to 34,000 by February from 63,000 today," the two write. "Spending of $79.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would be an 8 percent decrease from the $86.5 billion approved by Congress for the current year. It's also down from the $88.5 billion the administration offered as a ‘placeholder' estimate last month, when it sent Congress a combined $615 billion budget for war and other Pentagon spending for fiscal 2014."




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.