National Security

Hagel to unveil strategic review today; 'Angry' McCain vs. the Navy; Obama, not impressing veterans; Why no decision on post-2014 Afghanistan?; Nikki Ressler, departing, and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Chuck Hagel is going to open the doors today on his "smoky room." Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today will unveil the results of the Strategic Choices Management Review that he ordered upon coming into office in a previously unannounced press conference this afternoon after briefing its results to members this morning on Capitol Hill, Situation Report has learned. The SCMR was designed to help the Defense Department address the range of options as it undergoes an epochal financial transition, from unlimited wartime spending to one in which "every dollar counts," under sequestration and beyond. Hagel won't make any dramatic budget announcements - that would come this winter, likely. But he will reiterate the 20 percent cut to headquarters personnel that he announced informally this month, and may discuss a reorganization of the "organizational chart" within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, streamlining the number of individuals who report to him. He may also address broadly "force structure" and the size of the services, as well as the need to reduce compensation by as much as $50 billion over the next decade, we're told.

Many in and outside of the building believed the SCMR process to be opaque, with one senior military officer calling it a "smoky room." But Hagel and others had pushed for as much transparency as possible. Today he will attempt to address answers to two main questions, Situation Report is told by a senior defense official: how will people be affected by sequester, and how missions and readiness be put at risk as a result of the tightening budget. He'll be on Capitol Hill this morning speaking with key House and Senate leaders on the impacts of the additional cuts just as Congress heads out of town. President Barack Obama received a "sober report" on the SMCR earlier this month. "The timing is designed, in part, to level the playing field and provide one set of facts on Defense for ongoing budget deliberations," the defense official said.

Pentagon officials will tell you that the SCMR was very hard. Why? Despite "efficiencies" being adopted across the Department under Bob Gates and then Leon Panetta, Pentagon officials have reached an inescapable conclusion on spending: "The hard analysis yields there is simply no way to reach sequestration levels without taking away from compensation and military operations," the official said. "Compensation (military and civilian pay and benefits) consumes 48 percent of the defense budget and Congress has all but rejected attempts to slow growth of compensation and benefits. Real world cost of goods and services continue to claim. That leaves DoD leaders with much less room to attain real savings." And the Defense Department's ability to cut infrastructure through the base closing process known as BRAC, as well as other programs, is often stifled by Congress.

Welcome to Wednesday'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.

Manning and Snowden trigger a review of what should be classified - and what shouldn't. A "mixed verdict" for Bradley Manning, according to the WaPo, acquitted of the worst crime for which he was accused - aiding the enemy, but he was found guilty of espionage. He was found guilty of most of the 20 crimes which which he was charged, including several violations of the Espionage Act, and could face up to 136 years in prison. But Manning and Edward Snowden, still holed up in Moscow, has prompted a new look at classifications levels. A scoop from FP's own Shane Harris: "A first-of-its-kind review by the Government Accountability Office will examine whether security agencies are keeping too many secrets and how officials decide what information to deem classified and what to release to the public. Lawmakers and security experts have long complained that the government makes too much information classified and routinely keeps information from public view that poses no risk to national security. But one member of Congress is also concerned that by making so much information secret, the government is increasing the number of people who have security clearances--more than 5 million government employees and contractors today--who could one day decide to reveal classified information without authorization. In effect, the study is asking whether by keeping so many secrets, the government is making leaks more likely." Read all about it, here.

Read Sen. Bob Corker's piece, on FP, about why the U.S. should declassify its foreign policy. Corker: "To ensure the continued availability of covert action -- a highly valuable and effective tool under the right circumstances -- we must make certain that no president misuses, overuses, or employs this tactic simply out of convenience or the desire to avoid oversight and debate. As a result, it is important to ask just how much of U.S. foreign policy is conducted secretly. The answer, unfortunately, appears to be too much." The rest, here.

Obama isn't doing well with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. While President Barack Obama has pledged, in 2009, to fix the VA system and do more to improve the lives of veterans returning from war, a new survey shows they don't think much of his efforts. The new, annual survey from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA, out today, shows that 44 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans think President Barack Obama's performance on improving the lot of new veterans is poor, and 66 percent of respondents to the new survey think Obama doesn't listen enough to veterans of either way. Meanwhile, 55 percent rank Congressional performance on improving their lives as poor. Meanwhile, 80 percent of respondents do not think veterans are getting the care they need from the VA and DOD mental health injuries, and 43 percent said in the survey that they did not seek care for mental health injuries because of a "perceived negative impact" that it might have on their career. That is a 22 percent increase from the number who reported it in 2012. Also: The survey shows that 30 percent of new vets have considered suicides, 45 percent know an Iraq or Afghanistan vet who has contemplated it, and 37 percent know a new veteran who has killed themselves.

The survey also covers education, employment, the VA disability claims backlog, support for women in combat and attitudes toward gays in the military. The IAVA survey, here.

Slightly more suicides in the U.S. Army. The Army released suicide data yesterday that showed that for the month of June there were 14 potential active-duty soldiers, up from 12 potential suicides in May - some are still being investigated. So far in 2013, there have been 77 potential suicides (42 confirmed, 35 under investigation). For 2012, there were 185 potential suicides (166 confirmed, 19 under investigation).

Nice gig if you can get it. Shelly Stoneman, who served as the Pentagon's White House liaison and a special assistant to both Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel - and who was previously a special assistant at the White House for leg affairs in Obama's first two years in office -- started this week as Vice President for international government relations at BAE.

Afghanistan after 2014: the need for troops. The Pentagon's Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Peter Lavoy, spoke on the record to reporters yesterday about the new Afghanistan report, known as the "1230 Report." The talk was of the ANSF capabilities, as well as how many American and coalition troops may need to remain after security responsibility is completely transferred to the Afghans at the end of next year. Lavoy answered a question from Situation Report about why the White House has so far declined to articulate a commitment to keeping troops in Afghanistan after 2014, to the frustration of many in and outside of the building. Lavoy: "It's a critical issue.  It's something that, you know, we get asked about by countries, leaders of countries all around the world.  The U.S. does have a position of leadership.  It's had a position of leadership in Afghanistan.  It does today.  And it's likely to have that position of leadership in the future. We want to make sure that the decisions that -- that are reached are sound and based on full information in a very dynamic environment and something that, you know, Americans can know are the right decisions to provide for that continuing security in the region so that our interests are protected, so that the terrorist threat to the United States, which has diminished significantly in the last decade, will continue to diminish and will not reoccur in the future."

During the briefing, AP reporter Bob Burns, dean of the Pentagon press corps, thanked Lavoy for doing the briefing on the record - something not normally done. Lavoy: "Don't make me regret it, Bob. (Laughter.) " Full transcript, here.

Is the LCS McCain's new tanker? John McCain, the Republican from Arizona who famously helped sink a sweetheart deal to replace the Air Force's aging tankers a decade ago, has turned his sites on the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship. After a leaked GAO report raised questions about the program, McCain yesterday stood on the Senate floor to voice his concerns about the Navy buying too many of the ships too soon - called "excessive concurrency," in which a platform's production takes off while it's still in development. McCain: "The Navy won't know whether LCS meets combatant commanders' operational requirements until it after it has procured more than half of the 52 planned seaframes. This is particularly troubling inasmuch as the LCS fleet will comprise more than one-third of the Navy's surface combatants... the current plan to buy more than half of the total LCS fleet prior to the completion of operational testing plainly contradicts defense acquisition guidelines and best procurement practices - and amounts to a case of ‘buy before you fly,' to borrow a phrase from aircraft acquisitions. 

"The American people are - quite rightly - tired of seeing their tax dollars wasted on disastrous defense programs... LCS must not be allowed to become yet another failed program in an already unacceptably long list of amorphous acronyms that - after squandering literally billions of taxpayer dollars - have long since lost meaning. Mr. President, on the LCS program, the Navy must right its course - today." McCain's full statement, here.

The Navy's Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary, at the HASC Seapower Subcomm, July 25: "The seaframe, designed to Navy vessel rules with an installed combat system capable of meeting the ship's self-defense requirements, provides a level of survivability matched to the threat in which she will operate. And most importantly, the modular mission package design, call it flexibility, call it agility, the LCS's ability to put to sea with the warfare system and crew tailored to meet its assigned mission is a classic force multiplier. Today, the mission packages are on track to deliver the capability needed by the Navy, and they are doing so within the cost targets established for the program. In fact, the greatest risk to our mission package program is not technical. Today the greatest risk is that posed by the disruption and delay caused by stop and start and slowdown caused by continuing resolutions, sequestration and other budget reductions.

McCain, in a new interview published this morning in the New Republic with Isaac Chotiner, addressing how anger drives him: "Have I stepped on some toes? Yes. Have I angered some people that I probably could have avoided? I think so. But I would challenge you to talk-with rare exceptions-to my colleagues, and they would say I treat them with respect. It's maybe interesting that, whenever there is a major issue to be addressed, somehow I am in the mix. You don't get in the mix unless you have the respect of your colleagues. Maybe you can name me a major issue that has come up that I haven't been in the mix about."Read the rest, here.

Peace versus war: Robin Wright on what Hassan Rouhani means for Iran. Wright: "One of the most important questions in the Middle East this year is whether Hassan Rouhani's election will mark a new era -- both for Iranians and the outside world. The answer could mean the difference between peace and yet another war. Rouhani's campaign certainly made lots of promises. One of his most striking posters was a bright blue textograph of his face crafted from a slogan promising ‘a government of good sense and hope.' The Scottish-educated cleric energized an election many Iranians had considered boycotting after pledging that "freedoms should be protected." He also won over key youth and female votes by vowing in televised debates to ‘minimize government interference' in culture and society and to give women ‘equal rights and equal pay.' The upbeat promises have continued apace since the June 14 election, particularly on Rouhani's two English and Farsi Twitter accounts. ‘This victory was a victory of wisdom, #moderation, progress, awareness, commitment and religiosity over extremism & bad behavior,' @hassanrouhani tweeted on June 15. The ‘bad behavior' was clearly a dig at outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose status has plummeted over the past year. He leaves office almost in disgrace. Read the rest here.

If you want to understand Egypt, read the lede to the Christian Science Monitor's story about a man named Essam Elya, who was kidnapped, beaten, threatened and then held for ransom. But here's the nut graf: "As Egypt confronts another hinge moment in its millenniums-old history, a journey down the Nile reveals some of the reasons why political unrest once again engulfs the streets of this country and what challenges any government that ultimately emerges - however democratic - will have to face. Decades of government neglect and more recent failings since the 2011 uprising have left the economy and some of the stanchions of Egyptian society in disrepair: Schools are struggling, railways are crumbling, and social strife is rising as discrimination and sectarian violence grow." Read the rest, here.

Take one of the Monitor's famous quizzes: how much do you know about Egypt? Click here.

Nikki Ressler, departing. After 40 years in government, Nikki Ressler, the Pentagon liaison for DOD's Defense Media Activity, is leaving the Pentagon's press office. In an informal gathering of her co-workers at the Pentagon's press ops, head of media operations Col. Steve Warren bid adieu and thanked her for being the kind, gracious, go-to person who gitter done. She arrived at the Pentagon two months before 9/11 and became known as a fierce advocate for internal communication for the troops - and that advocacy won't be lost on the department after she leaves, we're told. Warren to Situation Report: "Nikki is a total pro and represents the very best of government service.  We'll all miss her dedication but more then that we'll miss her warmth and that unforgettable laugh."

What she's done: a reporter in Minot, North Dakota, school teacher and, amazingly, a phone operator for "Ma Bell." What she's gonna do after a 16-day trip to Turks and Caicos islands in the Bahamas: "Not a damn thing."

In addition to everything else, she was also (almost) always good for: great Dove chocolates on the basket on her desk.

 

National Security

Dunford: U.S. must stay in Afg.; Is the CIA driving away talent?; In the House: Iran sanctions bill; Furloughs may get another haircut; The VA can’t measure GI Bill success; McCain remembers Bud Day; Whither Rosie the Riverter’s factory? And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Joe Dunford says it's simple: Afghanistan still needs the U.S. - and for years to come.  NYT's Matthew Rosenberg: "The problem for General Dunford, the commander of American and allied forces here, is that most Americans no longer seem to believe that the United States needs the war in Afghanistan. In an interview on Sunday that he had requested [italics ours], General Dunford, 58, sought to counter an abundance of disheartening news recently about the war and to make a case for why American troops need to stay in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends next year. A central theme in his pitch: Americans will not be fighting and dying here after 2014. Afghans are already doing most of the fighting, he said, and by the end of next year ‘the actual fighting on a day-to-day basis will all be done by Afghans.' But, Dunford says: "Afghan forces, at the end of 2014, won't be completely independent... Our presence post-2014 is necessary for the gains we have made to date to be sustainable. American forces will be critical behind the scenes for at least another three or four years, he said, to help Afghans master the nuts-and-bolts of running a military: logistics, intelligence analysis, developing the air force. Dunford: "We're not talking about putting people on the ground, in harm's way."

And: "For American generals, running the war effort in Afghanistan has always been as much a diplomatic sales job as a battlefield command. Most often, that has meant managing President Hamid Karzai, whose occasional anti-American outbursts have included a threat to join the Taliban and calling Americans demons. But a steady drumbeat of bad news has forced General Dunford to turn his attention to the home front in an effort to counter the spreading perception that the war is a failed enterprise. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week found that only 28 percent of Americans think the war is worth fighting."

SIGAR, this morning: the Afghan Public Protection Force raises questions about costs, capabilities. The Special Inspector General of Afghan Reconstruction is out with a report this morning about the APPF, which among other things provides security for reconstruction projects. From a statement by SIGAR, this morning: "The audit of the APPF found continuing concerns remain about the force's capabilities and costs.  Implementing partners reported that APPF officers provided little benefit and were unable to perform required duties.   Additionally, relying on the APPF as the sole provider of security services raises concerns for future unrestrained cost increases. As it currently stands, the APPF can unilaterally establish its rates without fear of competition." SIGAR also released its quarterly report to Congress, here. Audit of the APPF, here.

"Expeditionary Airmen:" Read U.S. News' Paul Shinkman's report from Bagram about a new counterinsurgency mission putting "expeditionary airmen" in harm's way, 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.

An internal document shows the CIA has internal management problems and they may be driving the good ones out of the agency. The Los Angeles Times this morning has a story on an Inspector General report that reflects management challenges within the agency. LAT's Ken Dilanian: "CIA officials often assert that while the spy agency's failures are known, its successes are hidden. But the clandestine organization celebrated for finding Osama bin Laden has been viewed by many of its own people as a place beset by bad management, where misjudgments by senior officials go unpunished, according to internal CIA documents and interviews with more than 20 former officers."

According to the IG report: "Perceptions of poor management, and a lack of accountability for poor management, comprised five of the top 10 reasons why people leave or consider leaving CIA and were the most frequent topic of concern among those who volunteered comments" and, according to the report, CIA employees complained of "poor first-line supervision, lack of communication about work-related matters and lack of support for prudent risk taking."

How many respondents to the 2009 survey said they were resigning, or thinking about it, cited poor management? 55 percent.

How long did it take for the LAT to get the heavily redacted report? Two years after a FOIA request. Read the whole LAT story here.

At around 1pm today, Bradley Manning will learn his fate. CNN: "After spending three years in custody, the man accused of the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history will learn Tuesday whether he has been found guilty of aiding the enemy. A verdict from the judge in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning will be announced at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for the military district of Washington. If found guilty on the aiding the enemy charge, Manning could be sentenced to life in prison. He has pleaded guilty to nearly a dozen lesser charges that carry a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars." More here.

The question on Iran: squeeze harder or back off? The Cable's John Hudson: "With the House of Representatives expected to vote on a tough Iran sanctions bill on Wednesday, a cohort of liberal Democrats are staging a last-ditch effort to stop it. In a letter obtained by The Cable, Reps. Jim McDermott, John Conyers, Keith Ellison and Jim McGovern urge the House leadership to delay the vote on the bill which they fear could jeopardize the Obama administration's renewed effort to engage Iran's newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani on the country's nuclear program. The dispute highlights the wide gulf on Iran policy between Congress and the White House. On the one side, you have the Obama administration easing sanctions on Iran last week and planning to engage with Rouhani, a relative moderate, on the nuclear issue in September. On the other side, the Republican-controlled House wants to squeeze Iran's oil exports to a trickle in a bill expected to pass with ease. That bill could then move to the Senate Banking Committee in September." According to the letter: "We believe that it would be counterproductive and irresponsible to vote on this measure before Iran's new president is inaugurated on August 4, 2013... A diplomatic solution remains the best possible means for ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, and the House of Representatives should not preempt a potential opportunity to secure such an outcome with another sanctions bill." Read Hudson's post, here.

Hagel is now considering a larger trim to the number of furlough days. As we first reported July 12, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was looking at trimming the number of furlough days from 11 to as few as eight days, which would represent the third time the Pentagon has reduced the number of furlough days since the initiative was announced earlier this year - for22 days of furloughs. Yesterday, AP reported that furloughs could be trimmed again, to as few as six days. "Officials said no final decisions have been made, but they believe civilian workers will be forced to take six to eight unpaid days off rather than the 11 days that had been scheduled. The move comes as workers begin their fourth week of furloughs -- a decision that riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he visited military bases earlier this month."

The Air Force is expanding across the Pacific - and around China. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of the Air Force's Pacific Command, told reporters yesterday that the Air Force is expanding its military presence across the Asia-Pacific region, sending jets to Thailand, India, Singapore and Australia. Killer Apps' John Reed reports: "For a major chunk of America's military community, the so-called pivot to Asia might seem like nothing more than an empty catchphrase, especially with the Middle East, once again in flames. But for the Air Force at least, the shift is very real. And the idea behind its pivot is simple: ring China with U.S. and allied forces, just like the West did to the Soviet Union, back in the Cold War. U.S. military officials constantly say they aren't trying to contain China; they're working with the Chinese and other Pacific nations to ‘maintain stability' in the region. Still, a ring of bases looks an awful lot like something we've seen before." In Australia, Carlisle said, the Air Force will dispatch "fighters, tankers, and at some point in the future, maybe bombers on a rotational basis" during a breakfast with reporters yesterday. Reed writes that the jets will likely start their Australian presence sometime in the next year at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Darwin (already crowded with Marines), before moving to nearby RAAF Base Tindal, citing Carlisle's remarks at the breakfast. But, Reed writes: "This is just the start of the Air Force's plan to expand its presence in Asia," according to Carlisle.

When would a cyber attack result in a response with real-world weapons? Gen. Marty Dempsey recently took a shot at the question at an event at Brookings. Dempsey: "[T]here is an assumption out there, I think, and I would like to disabuse you of it, that a cyber attack that had destructive effects would be met by a cyber response...That's not necessarily the case...And I think that what the president of the United States would insist upon, actually, is that he had the options and the freedom of movement to decide what kind of response we would employ. And that's why I say I don't want to have necessarily a narrow conversation about what constitutes war in cyber, because the response could actually be in...one of the other traditional domains." Writing for Defense One, CSIS's Vincent Manzo: "In other words, the method of an attack does not dictate the means of reprisal. That Dempsey took care to say a cyber attack with "destructive effects" makes clear that he was not referring to cyber espionage and theft but an operation that causes death and destruction... Dempsey is threatening to respond to attacks in space or cyberspace by using military force against land, air, or sea-based targets and vice versa." Read the rest, here.

John McCain described fellow POW Bud Day as someone who lived such an extraordinary life that it could have filled 10 lifetimes. McCain honored his longtime friend Bud Day, a veteran of WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars yesterday after Day, 88, died over the weekend. Day was one of the two men who cared for McCain after his plane was shot down and he was captured in North Vietnam in 1967. McCain, on the Senate floor yesterday: "I had the honor of being Bud's friend for almost five decades of his 88 years. We met in 1967, when the Vietnamese left me to die in the prison cell Bud shared with Major Norris Overly. But, Bud and Norris wouldn't let me die. They bathed me, fed me, nursed me, encouraged me and ordered me back to life. Norris did much of the work. But, Bud did all he could considering that he, too, had recently been near death - shot, bombed, beaten savagely by his captors, and his arm broken in three places. He was a hard man to kill and he expected the same from his subordinates. They saved my life - a big debt to repay, obviously. But more than that, Bud showed me how to save my self-respect and my honor. And, that is a debt I can never repay. Bud was a fierce - and I mean really fierce - resister. He could not be broken in spirit no matter how broken he was in body."

On Thursday, wish the Post-9/11 GI Bill a happy birthday. The generous tuition assistance plan for veterans has paid some $30 billion for the education and training of about one million service members, veterans and family members. It's an enormously popular program even as some wonder if there should be ways to trim it - namely, the transferability aspect of the bill that allows service members to transfer its benefits to family members. Still, it is considered a success story except for one thing: the VA can't measure its success, Army Times' Rick Maze reports. "VA officials cannot say how many people have graduated from college or vocational schools as a result of the program pushed through Congress on the efforts of former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. It also cannot say how many veterans have found jobs as a result of the program. However, VA is trying to get answers to those questions. Robert Worley, director of VA's education service, said the ability to show graduation and employment rates for students who have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill could become a important issue if the program is targeted for cuts. ‘This is why we are working so hard,' Worley said." Read the rest here.

Ash Carter hosted a Japanese official yesterday at the Pentagon. The readout, from Pentagon pressec George Little, on Japanese Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Akinori Eto: "The two leaders discussed the strategic environment and the possibility of a review of the 1997 U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines in order to meet emerging opportunities and challenges. They agreed that strengthening cooperation with other regional partners, including the Republic of Korea, is an important element of promoting peace and stability...They also discussed progress being made with respect to the Joint Strike Fighter program. The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch to build upon the strong bilateral relationship between their two countries."

Rosie the Riveter's factory might be demolished. AP reports from Ypsilanti Township in Michigan that the factory where Rosie showed "that a woman could do a ‘man's work' by building World War II-era bombers, making her an enduring symbol of American female empowerment, will be demolished if money can't be found to save it. The Willow Run Bomber Plant, a 332-acre former Ford Motor Co. factory west of Detroit that churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II, is slated to be torn down unless a group can raise $3.5 million by Thursday to convert at least some of the structure into a new, expanded home for the nearby Yankee Art Museum." Larry Doe, 70, of Ypsilanti: "The younger generation needs to know what people went through and be able to go and see what they did and how they did it for our country."

Who was Rosie? AP: "Rose Will Monroe, a Kentucky native who moved to Michigan during the war, starred as herself in the film and became one of the best-known figures of that era. She represented the thousands of Rosies who took factory jobs making munitions, weaponry and other things while the nation's men were off fighting in Europe and the Pacific." Read the rest here.