National Security

Mattis to Dartmouth, Stanford; Syria could cost a billion a month; What Dempsey could have said at the hearing; Navy launches transparency offensive; Is the U.S. fighting a secret war in Somalia?; Stabbing her way out of a PT test; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Dempsey says that military options for Syria could cost as much as a billion dollars per month. Using lethal force to strike high-value targets inside Syria would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines, while establishing a no-fly zone would cost as much as a billion dollars per month over the course of a year, according to a new analysis of military options there by the nation's top military officer. Another option, in which the U.S. attempts to control Syria's chemical weapons stock, would first require thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces, wrote Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey.

Under pressure to publicly provide his views on military intervention in Syria, Dempsey told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin in a memo released yesterday what most people already knew: there are few good options. But for the first time, Dempsey provided an analysis of each option and its cost, providing new fodder for thinking about a conflict that has waged for more than two years, killed nearly 100,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Dempsey outlined five options, including training, advising and assisting the opposition; conducting limited stand-off strikes; establishing a no-fly zone; creating a buffer zone to protect certain areas inside Syria; and finally, how to control Syria's chemical weapons. Any of those options would likely "further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime," Dempsey wrote. But any or all of them could slip the U.S. into another new war. "We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state," Dempsey wrote Levin in the memo, a copy of which was released publicly. "We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action." Read Dempsey's analysis of the Syrian problem, in his letter to Levin, here.

A classified briefing the Pentagon provided to senior Senate staffers told them what one said many on the Hill already suspected: the White House doesn't have a plan. The Pentagon held a briefing for senior Senate staffers early last week in which it became clear, according to one who attended the meeting, that the guidance the Pentagon is receiving from the White House on Syria is simply unclear. As the Pentagon, and Dempsey in particular, remain on the hot seat on Syria, some on the Hill believe the White House has left them twisting in the wind. "There's no clear solution because there is no policy" from the White House, the staffer told Situation Report.

What should Dempsey have done at the hearing last week? Thursday's hearing in which Dempsey got into a heated exchange with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, prompting, in part, the memo on Syria, probably could have been avoided, senior officers, officials and others say. Some believed Dempsey did the right thing by taking a stand, refusing to be bullied into providing a public answer on a sensitive topic. Others think he came off as arrogant, even cocky, at one point firing a question back at McCain  - something that is rarely done. Senior officers, experts and other observers all believe that Dempsey's number one job was to obey what anyone will tell you is the Golden Rule of confirmations: don't filibuster, don't grandstand and get confirmed. If Dempsey was being asked an uncomfortable question he couldn't avoid, he should have politely asked to answer it in private session, they say. Said one, to Situation Report, regarding the standard question all officers are asked about providing their personal opinions: "Military leaders, when they answer that question ... in the affirmative, they are absolutely committing themselves to providing their personal views to members of Congress." But those personal views aren't always appropriate for a public setting such as a confirmation hearing, the officer said, and Dempsey did the right thing - even if he didn't do it in the right way. "In my view, it was not inappropriate for Dempsey to withhold his views in that particular setting." Others agree, too. Some officials who are familiar with the process of preparing for testimony say commanders should be able to retain their best military advice for their commander-in-chief - not the public or members of Congress. Dempsey wasn't "appointed to give advice to Congress, nor does he feel compelled to tell, in advance, what his advice and views are to anyone besides the president," said another official to Situation Report. Read the rest of our piece, here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

Jim Mattis has signed on with Dartmouth and Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Former Central Command commander Jim "Chaos" Mattis will not, so far as we can see, be cashing in right away. Instead, we can report this morning, he is headed to Dartmouth, where he will be a Distinguished Visitor at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, starting in late September or early October. Dan Benjamin, the former counterterrorism official, got to know Mattis while he was at Central Command and then asked him to Dartmouth. The program will add a bit of practical thinking to global challenges, bringing internationally known practitioners and scholars to Dartmouth for two weeks at a time this fall to interact with students and faculty. Mattis has also just signed on as a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, Situation Report is also told.

Engage! Speaking of Mattis, he told CNN from the Aspen Security Forum that it was time to engage Iran's new leadership in under-reported remarks there. Mattis, thought to have been hawkish on Iran - and perhaps one of the reasons why he seemed to leave Central Command some months early - spoke on CNN from the Aspen Security Forum last week. Mattis, on whether newly elected President Hassan Rowhani is a moderate: "I don't believe he is a moderate but that would not moderate my support for engaging with him and exhausting all alternatives at this point... Check and see if he can find some maneuver space ...I don't think he will get much... where he might be able to walk the nuclear weapons program back...Try it, talk with him, have very modest expectations... but at least try."

Is the U.S. engaging a secret war in Somalia? FP's Colum Lynch: "The Obama administration earlier this year expanded its secret war in Somalia, stepping up assistance for federal and regional Somali intelligence agencies that are allied against the country's Islamist insurgency. It's a move that's not only violating the terms of an international arms embargo, according to U.N. investigators. The escalation also could be a signal that Washington's signature victory against al-Qaeda's most powerful African ally may be in danger of unraveling. Just last year, Obama's team was touting Somalia as unqualified success. Now, according to a report by the U.N. Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea, "the military strength of al-Shabaab, with an approximately 5,000-strong force, remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline and communications ability... By avoiding direct military confrontation, it has preserved the core of its fighting force and resources." Read the rest here.

Wait, wuh? Air Force Times headline: "Former Staff Sergeant Stabbed to Avoid PT Test," by Oriana Pawlyk. Her lede: A former staff sergeant at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., tried to get out of her physical training test by recruiting someone to stab her in the stomach." Read the rest, here.

Hagel to VFW: Four principles: Prioritize DOD's mission, maximize military combat power, preserve and strengthen military readiness and honor the service and sacrifice of "our people." Hagel, to the VFW, yesterday in Louisville, Ky.: "America must always have a strong, capable, and ready military, a military that is always prepared to defend our national interests.  But fulfilling that obligation now and in the future will require us to fundamentally reshape defense institutions that were designed for different strategic and budgetary realities and times..."

Hagel, on sequestration: "Sequestration is an irresponsible process, and it is terribly damaging. I hope that our leaders in Washington will eventually come to policy resolution, a resolution that stops sequestration.  But all of us who have the responsibility of leading our Defense Department cannot lead the Department of Defense based on hope, based on ‘we think,' based on ‘maybe.' We have to prepare our institution for whatever comes.  To that end, these cuts are forcing us to make tough but necessary decisions to prioritize missions and capabilities around our core responsibility, which is the security of our country."

On readiness: "Readiness cuts aren't always visible, but these cuts are having and will continue to have very damaging effects.  During a visit to Fort Bragg last week, I heard from infantrymen whose units were short on training rounds for their weapons.  Each of the services has curtailed activities - flying hours have been reduced, ships are not sailing, and Army training has been halted.  These kinds of gaps and shortages could lead to a force that is inadequately trained, ill-equipped, and unable to fulfill required missions."

On tooth-to-tail: "An organization of the Department's size and complexity will always require a back-office.  But every dollar we spend on large staffs, large headquarters, and overhead, or facilities that we don't need, is a dollar that we don't have available to spend on readiness, training, and equipment for our troops - or on sustaining other vital programs that help to support our people and their families."

On those who have made sacrifices: "Chairman Dempsey has correctly observed that the country is now at a defining time in our relationship with our newest generation of veterans.  He's correct.  Despite the many challenges facing our defense enterprise, we will get through this together and be stronger in the end - but only if we are prepared and willing to make wise and difficult decisions and be much more disciplined about setting our priorities." Read the whole speech, here.

Hagel is on leave this week, a vacation with his family.

Dempsey is winding up a trip overseas. Today he is in Warsaw, where he was met by the CHOD and an honor guard at the airport after stops in Afghanistan earlier this week. Later today, Dempsey will meet with the DCM and Polish officials.

Ash Carter met with Israeli senior security officials yesterday. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was there to "reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel," and to discuss Syria and Iran, according to a readout from Pentagon pressec George Little yesterday. Carter met with Defense Minister Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon, National Security Adviser Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror (retired) and other senior officials; Carter was hosted by the Director General of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, also retired.

We demoted Ash Carter. In yesterday's edition, we inadvertently called him a "deputy assistant secretary of Defense," when of course he's not. Carter is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon's No. 2. Apologies. Hashtag weknowbetter.

The Ten Percenters: the Navy has begun publishing the results of special and general courts-martial, to include sexual assault cases. It's an effort to increase transparency. Rear Adm. John Kirby, U.S. Navy Chief of Information, on an online video - "The idea here is to show the judicial system is working, we are prosecuting these crimes, and that we're able and willing to be transparent about what the results are... It's really about being accountable and transparent about a very serious problem and a very diligent judicial process in the Navy." First batch, January-June 2013, here. Navy story, here.

Is the U.S. buying weapons with "enemy access" built right in? Maybe. FP's John Reed, just back from the Aspen Security Forum, reports on U.S. weapons buying and the "back doors" they contain: Reed: "It's bad enough that U.S. intelligence officials are constantly discovering new plans to insert spyware and back doors into the Defense Department's supply chain. But what may be worse is that American analysts are only discovering indirect evidence of this infiltration, according to a senior DOD intelligence official. The back doors themselves remain maddeningly hard to find. ‘Our adversaries are very active in trying to introduce material into the supply chain in ways that threaten our security from the standpoint of their abilities to collect [intelligence] and disrupt' U.S. military operations, said David Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency during a speech at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on July 19. DIA is finding more and more plots to deliver these parts through front companies that are "the instrument of the hostile service that's guiding and directing them," Shedd told Killer Apps during the forum. ‘My concern is that our adversaries -- and they're multiple in the supply chain context -- have been very active for a very long time...We're finding things, not in the supply chain itself but plans and intentions through' front companies posing as legitimate DOD parts suppliers." Read the rest here.

What are the next steps for missile defense? Glad you asked. Today the Foreign Policy Initiative hosts Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the Republican from New Hampshire, and Trey Obering, the retired Air Force three-star, for a talk about missile defense with FPI's Chris Griffin, at 2:30  in the Senate's Dirksen building. Deets here.

SIGAR suspects the U.S. spent $1 million on Afghan contractors to install IED-busting systems in culverts in Afghanistan - but they are either not functioning or may never have been installed. SIGAR issued a report this morning raising the concern. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko: "In October 2012, SIGAR issued a safety alert letter informing DOD of the results of our preliminary investigation, which found that Afghan contractors either had failed to properly install culvert denial systems, rendering those systems ineffective and susceptible to compromise by insurgents, or did not install them at all. Our preliminary investigation found that at least two Afghan contractors-with a total contract amount of nearly $1 million-in one Afghanistan province have committed fraud by billing the U.S. government for the installation of 250 culvert denial systems that were either never installed or incorrectly installed. The ongoing investigation is looking into whether this apparent failure to perform may have been a factor in the death or injury of several U.S. soldiers. To date, an Afghan contractor and his sub-contractor have both been arrested and charged with fraud and negligent homicide. Our investigators are working with the Afghan Attorney General's Office to arrest the second contractor." Read the rest here.


National Security

Hagel to VFW today: readiness matters; Dempsey met with Karzai; Ash in Israel, State’s Friends problem; European spooks, spooked by NSA; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Chuck Hagel today talks readiness at the VFW, an organization he first joined in December 1968 when he came home from Vietnam. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been listening and talking in recent weeks and months about the DOD budget and the impact of cuts. But he's talking to key "constituents" or stakeholders - active duty veterans, defense civilians and contractors among them  - and military families. He's also been engaging with veterans groups, including regular meetings between him or his staff with an informal advisory group of veterans service organizations that we first reported about here and expanded upon here. Part of explaining the impact of sequestration and cuts is getting veterans accustomed to the fundamental change. This morning at 11 a.m. EST, he'll be at it again, in Louisville, Ky., where he'll speak at the 114th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. We're told that Hagel will give "an honest assessment of the challenges facing DOD," lay out a series of principles that he and other DOD leaders will use to navigate them as he makes all these tough decisions. One principle with which it is hard to argue? Preserving military readiness. We're told he'll be looking for the VFW's help in explaining to Americans and Congress the importance of preserving military readiness.

He'll say, in part, according to an advance excerpt provided to Situation Report: "Going forward, preserving and strengthening our readiness must be a key priority.  Unfortunately, when compared to other areas in DoD's budget, military readiness does not have a vocal constituency. You all have fought and put your lives on the line for this country.  You did so with the expectation that you would be given the equipment, training, and support you needed to succeed.  Many of you - especially those veterans of the Korean War - have seen the costs, measured in precious American lives, that come with sending a hollow force into battle. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past.  To avoid a prolonged readiness crisis, and the lasting damage it would inflict on our defense enterprise, I have given clear guidance to the services - that they should not retain more people, equipment, and infrastructure than they can afford to keep trained and ready."

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we slightly sliced the top of our middle finger - pardon typos. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report.

Syria turns Dempsey and McCain into pen pals.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey and his staff delivered an unclassified letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee - and in particular Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Dempsey had a particularly heated exchange over Syria on Thursday.

McCain and SASC Chairman and Michigan Democrat Carl Levin asked that Dempsey provide a more thorough response to his thinking on Syria after Dempsey refused to provide his personal opinion on military intervention publicly. We understand the first letter with answers has been delivered. But McCain on Sunday said he and Levin were demanding more information from Dempsey and his staff, saying on CNN's State of the Union: "Senator Levin and I have sent over additional questions. I hope he will answer those. They are required and agree to give their honest opinion even if it disagrees with the administration's opinion. General Dempsey didn't do that. I'm confident that we can work this out."

Meanwhile, Dempsey is in Afghanistan. Dempsey just this morning, EST, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the palace (hope he didn't bring in his own pen). Earlier in the day, spokesman Ed Thomas tells Situation Report that the Chairman flew into ISAF's headquarters in Kabul in a CH-47 Chinook, presumably to meet with Joe Dunford and other top ISAF officials, after meeting yesterday with U.S., German and Swedish troops in Mazar-i-Sharif. Dempsey, pictured here on the Tweeters with Karzai, along with Amb. Jim Cunningham and Joe Dunford and others.

Dempsey will to Poland in the next day or so.

Staffers on a plane include - Lt. Gen. Wolff and Foreign Policy advisor Donovan (and other key staff).

Reporters on a plane - none.

Ash is in Tel Aviv.  Assistant Secretary of Defense Ash Carter left Sunday for a five-day trip to Israel, Uganda and Ethiopia. He arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday, where he is met with U.S. Embassy officials, including Amb. Dan Shapiro, who accompanied Carter for the day to a number of stops. That included a meeting at the Defense Ministry, where Carter met with the Minister and the Deputy Defense Minister. Carter also met with Israeli troops, thanking them for their service and reinforced the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Carter stays in Israel through today before leaving for Uganda and then Ethiopia, according to spokesman James Swartout. [The original post referred to Carter's title incorrectly as being a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.]

Staffers on a plane - Special Assistant Wendy Anderson, senior military assistant Brig. Gen. Eric Smith, special assistant Rob Berschinski, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Matt Spence, Country Director Caitlin Costello, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amanda Dory, Country Director Greg Pollock and spokesman James Swartout.

Reporter on a plane - Cheryl Pellerin, the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service.

Today, U.S. intel community reps will meet with European Commission in Brussels to talk NSA surveillance -- and maybe figure out new ways to swap data from the controversial (and recently-leaked) spy programs. Our own John Reed reports from the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that the European Union's counterterrorism coordinator said they want to know more about what the NSA has been up to. Gilles de Kerchove, in Aspen: "We want to learn more about this system, how does it work, what does it do, and then make a sort of assessment and we'll see where all this leads... What we would like to have . . . is reassurance that these programs [have] limits, safeguards, are proportional, that they are for counter terrorism only and not economic intelligence... We want to see if there is room for improvement, we don't reject" the idea of the program. Kerchove: EU officials want to make sure that "if, through PRISM, the US intelligence community gets some relevant information -- which, together with satellite interception, human source or some other program -- leads to something that is meaningful for one member state in Europe, they will share it." Kerchove told Killer Apps.

Read the WaPo's Dana Priest's Page Oner about why the NSA, in square footage, is bigger than the Pentagon: "Twelve years later, the cranes and earthmovers around the National Security Agency are still at work, tearing up pavement and uprooting trees to make room for a larger workforce and more powerful computers. Already bigger than the Pentagon in square footage, the NSA's footprint will grow by an additional 50 percent when construction is complete in a decade. And that's just at its headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. The nation's technical spying agency has enlarged all its major domestic sites - in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas and Utah - as well as those in Australia and Britain.

"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, its civilian and military workforce has grown by one-third, to about 33,000, according to the NSA. Its budget has roughly doubled, and the number of private companies it depends on has more than tripled, from 150 to close to 500, according to a 2010 Washington Post count. The hiring, construction and contracting boom is symbolic of the hidden fact that in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the NSA became the single most important intelligence agency in finding al-Qaeda and other enemies overseas, according to current and former counterterrorism officials and experts. ‘We Track 'Em, You Whack 'Em' became a motto for one NSA unit, a former senior agency official said.

"The story of the NSA's growth, obscured by the agency's extreme secrecy, is directly tied to the insatiable demand for its work product by the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, military units and the FBI." Read the rest here.

Is State's social media bureau a "red-headed stepchild of public diplomacy?" One former Congressional staffer familiar with the bureau says "yes" to that question in a story by The Cable's John Hudson. "Best known as the bureau that blew $630,000 on Facebook "likes," [State's Bureau of International Information Programs] finds itself at a crossroads, sources tell The Cable, as it prepares to announce a new coordinator next month. This new technocrat will attempt to address a scathing Inspector General report from May describing a "pervasive perception of cronyism" at the bureau where "leadership fostered an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty" and where staff "describe the ... atmosphere as toxic and leadership's tolerance of dissenting views as non-existent." One might assume a massive overhaul is needed, but employees already complain of ‘reorganization fatigue' from previous attempts to reorganize the bureau. Foggy Bottom spokespeople vigorously defended the bureau. IIP's many internal and external critics have a different view. The first among the bureau's many problems, they say, is the lack of a clear mission. The State Department defines IIP as the ‘foreign-facing public diplomacy communications bureau,' but its role amid the U.S. government's sprawling diplomacy apparatus remains a mystery to many in Washington. A former Congressional staffer to Hudson: "It's the redheaded stepchild of public diplomacy... The head of it isn't even an assistant secretary. That doesn't sound like much. But when you're trying to throw your weight around the State Department, it matters. Why should people take you seriously? You have a shitty budget, you have a crappy product and you don't even have to be congressionally confirmed."

Former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Tara Sonenshine told Hudson the recent IG report was "tough but not completely fair." "OK, they spent time acquiring too many followers. They built up the traffic to their site. Is that really such a sin? They moved quickly into social media at a time when Secretary of State Clinton said we should have 21st century statecraft. I don't know why that's such a bad thing." Read the rest here.

You'll never guess what Panamanians found under all that sugar in that North Korean cargo ship after it left Cuba: the two MiG-21 fighter jets the Cubans said were in there. Reuters: "Alongside the two supersonic planes, originally produced by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, officials found two missile radar systems on board the Chong Chon Gang, President Ricardo Martinelli told reporters in the Atlantic port of Colon. The discovery, which included cables and electrical equipment, was made inside containers on the ship Panama had feared might contain explosive material. None was found.

After stopping the vessel bound for North Korea last week, Panama revealed it had found weapons in the cargo hold late on Monday. In response, Cuba said the shipment contained a range of "obsolete" arms being sent to North Korea for repair." Reuters story here.


Defense News: Doubts loom about Hagel's plan to cut staff. 
National Defense: For the Navy, sequester means fewer ships at sea.
Al-Jazeera: Family accuses Egyptian army of kidnapping Morsi. Reuters: Rebels in Syria seize town in Aleppo.
NBC: Egyptian panel begins amending Constitution despite divisions.  
Marine Corps Times: Pentagon revises course; will make Marine available to talk Benghazi.
WaPo: In Afghanistan, a quest to save the snow leopard.
Duffel Blog: VFW opens membership to military fakers due to lack of interest of young veterans.  


  • LA Times: Report questions cost of villas and mansions for top military brass.
  • Foreign Policy: (Stavridis): Will conflict in the Middle East trigger the next great power war? 
  • Foreign Policy: (Caryl) Why organized crime is a growing force in global politics.