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.
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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."