National Security

Too smart to study, too cute to care: GS-12s-15s without a high school degree; File denial: CIA’s dossier on Noam Chomsky; Dempsey gets a map of Jerusalem; Dakota Meyer, (trying to) leave no one behind; USIP gets the nod for a QDR panel; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Iraq is becoming more violent.  Reuters: "A series of bomb attacks killed at least 22 people across Iraq on Monday, part of the country's worst wave of violence in around five years. At least 16 people died and 41 others were injured when a suicide bomber targeted a crowded cafe in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. Two roadside bombs - one planted near a playground and another near a school - also killed six people and wounded dozens, some of them children, in the town of Muqdadiya, 50 miles northeast of the capital. Those blasts underlined a shift in tactics by suspected Islamist militants, who are increasingly targeting not only military checkpoints and marketplaces, but also cafes and recreational areas used by families and children. The latest bloodshed came as al Qaeda claimed responsibility for weekend bombings across Iraq which killed dozens of people during Eid al-Fitr, the festive end to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, heightening fears of even wider sectarian slaughter." More here.

Foreign Military Sales amid violence: the U.S. is poised to sell billions of dollars of equipment to Iraq. As Baghdad confronts a new wave of terrorism and violence, the Syrian conflict unfolds to the west and the Kurdish independence movement plays out in the north, the Pentagon has notified Congress of more than $4 billion worth of FMS to Iraq that includes everything from infantry carriers to ground to air rockets. Defense News' Paul McCleary: "And while these equipping, logistics, and maintenance deals are hardly small change, one US Army officer has recently said that dozens of deals worth billions of dollars more are in the pipeline. When taken as a whole, analysts say that the sales can be seen as a hedge against a variety of threats both internal and external, the most pressing of which remains the recent series of al-Qaida in Iraq-sponsored bomb attacks against Shia targets in Baghdad which have killed hundreds of Iraqis." Read the rest 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.

There are 148 senior civilians at DOD who never finished high school. The vast majority of GS-12 to GS-15 workers across the Defense Department are well-schooled. A handful aren't. According to the Pentagon, there are 148 DOD civilians who do not possess a high school degree or its equivalent. That's despite the fact that GS-12 workers can make, if they live in the greater Washington area, between $75,000 and $97,000 per year; GS-15 workers make between $124,000 and $156,000 annually in the same locale.  It's not clear where the individuals who didn't finish high school reside across DOD, and it may not be in the D.C. area. But at a time when the Pentagon is furloughing civilian workers and examining compensation issues among the uniformed military, even the small number of civilian workers making such high salaries without completing high school is striking. According to DOD data provided to Situation Report, there are 105 GS-12 employees with no completed high school degree; there are 36 GS-13 workers with no high school degree; Among GS-14 workers, there is five. And among GS-15s, there are two individuals in the DOD work force who never finished high school. "There is not a general policy on education requirements for General Schedule (GS) positions ranging from 12 to 15," according to a Pentagon spokesperson, who pointed out that many GS positions - such as engineers and psychologists - have "positive education requirements."

GS qualifications and standards, here.

2013 GS payscale, here. 

Other factoid: Out of roughly 800,000 defense civilian workers, only about 533 individuals received this rating: "did not meet expectations."

The File Denial Ends Here: the CIA did have a dossier on Noam Chomsky. The Cable's John Hudson: "For years, the Central Intelligence Agency denied it had a secret file on MIT professor and famed dissident Noam Chomsky. But a new government disclosure obtained by The Cable reveals for the first time that the agency did in fact gather records on the anti-war iconoclast during his heyday in the 1970s. The disclosure also reveals that Chomsky's entire CIA file was scrubbed from Langley's archives, raising questions as to when the file was destroyed and under what authority. The breakthrough in the search for Chomsky's CIA file comes in the form of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For years, FOIA requests to the CIA garnered the same denial: "We did not locate any records responsive to your request." The denials were never entirely credible, given Chomsky's brazen anti-war activism in the 60s and 70s -- and the CIA's well-documented track record of domestic espionage in the Vietnam era. But the CIA kept denying, and many took the agency at its word. Now, a public records request by FOIA attorney Kel McClanahan reveals a memo between the CIA and the FBI that confirms the existence of a CIA file on Chomsky. Dated June 8, 1970, the memo discusses Chomsky's anti-war activities and asks the FBI for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam. The memo's author, a CIA official, says the trip has the "ENDORSEMENT OF NOAM CHOMSKY" and requests "ANY INFORMATION" about the people associated with the trip. Read the rest at The Cable, here.

Dempsey is in Israel. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey is in Jerusalem and met with Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and had a "frank and wide-ranging discussion" on Syria as well as Iran and Egypt. Dempsey is also meeting today with Bibi Netanyahu.

USA Today's Jim Michaels, traveling with Dempsey: "America's top military officer said he remains concerned about Islamic extremist groups among the opposition in Syria but the United States and its allies are getting a clearer picture of the moderate groups they support. Dempsey: "I am concerned about the potential that the extremist ideologies will hijack what started out to be a kind of a popular movement to overthrow an oppressive regime." Read the rest here.

Staffers on a plane - Lt. Gen. Terry Wolf, Vice Admiral Harry Harris, Brig. Gen. Tom Cosentino, Joe Donovan, Cols. Ed Thomas, Dave Horan, John Novalis.

Reporters on a plane - NYT's Thom Shanker, Reuters' Phil Stewart and USA Today's Jim Michaels.

It's Old Home Week for Kerry before peace talks. The Globe's Bryan Bender: "The State Department's would-be arms control chief, Plymouth native Frank Rose, was once John Kerry's 17-year-old intern. Harvard Kennedy School scholar Sarah Sewell, who was first enlisted for his 2004 presidential run, has been nominated to take the reins of human rights policy. From the agency's chief of staff to its Mideast peace envoy, the new secretary of state has filled the top rungs of the State Department with numerous advisers from his 30-year political career in Massachusetts, according to a review of his six-month tenure. Secretaries of state have always had leeway to name their own top officials, but Kerry, like Hillary Rodham Clinton before him, is one of the few politicians to hold the top diplomatic post in modern times. That gives him a deep network of loyal political supporters and experts to take on leadership positions." Read Bender's piece here.

Irony alert: Pentagon sees "big data" as a national security risk. FP's Shane Harris: "The data divers at the Defense Department know better than most how to track down someone just by looking at his phone records. Now they want to know if America's enemies could cause a fiscal meltdown or a massive cyber attack by combing through Netflix queues, Uber accounts, and Twitter feeds.

The doomsday thinkers over at DARPA are looking for researchers to "investigate the national security threat posed by public data available either for purchase or through open sources." The question is, could a determined data miner use only publicly available information -- culled from Web pages and social media or from a consumer data broker -- to cause "nation-state type effects." Forget identify theft. DARPA appears to be talking about outing undercover intelligence officers; revealing military war plans; giving hackers a playbook for taking down a bank; or creating maps of sensitive government facilities. And: "The irony is delicious. At the time government officials are assuring Americans they have nothing to fear from the National Security Agency poring through their personal records, the military is worried that Russia or al Qaeda is going to wreak nationwide havoc after combing through people's personal records." The rest, here. Who says mil-to-mil between the U.S. and Russia ain't swell: Intel from the Hagel-Kerry talks with Russia. During the talks late last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu not only invited American troops to observe Zapad 13, Moscow's annual military exercise with the Belarussians, but he also invited the U.S. to participate in a "tank competition" next year - on Russian soil, no less - in which American and European armor would be matched against Russian tanks. Backatcha: Shoygu announced that Russia had the best tanks in the world, and Kerry reminded him that Dempsey is himself a tanker, so the U.S. takes its tanks pretty damn seriously, too.

US Institute of Peace chosen by the Pentagon to facilitate the National Defense Panel, part of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. A review panel called the National Defense Panel has been appointed by the Pentagon to review the QDR, now getting underway now that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's strategic review is complete. As it did for the 2010 QDR, USIP will facilitate the review led by USIP's Paul Hughes, a retired Army colonel. As part of the Congressionally-mandated QDR process, the National Defense Panel is charged to review the QDR's finished product - due next year - and assess its assumptions, strategy, findings and risks. The panel will also conduct an independent assessment of a variety of possible force structures within the services, review resource requirements and provide recommendations to Congress and Hagel, according to a USIP statement.

On the panel: Co-chairs Bill Perry and John Abizaid; Eric Edelman, Jim Talent, Jim Marshall, Frank Kearney, Jim Cartwright, Michele Flournoy, Greg Martin, Michael Maples. For full release, click here.

Dakota Meyer, fighting to get his terp out of Afghanistan. Fox News' Justin Fishel and Jennifer Griffin: "Never leave a fallen comrade behind. That's the creed Sgt. Dakota Meyer -- later given the Medal of Honor for his actions -- was living by when he recovered four dead Americans in the Ganjgal Valley of Afghanistan during a deadly Taliban ambush. And it's the creed he cites today as he speaks out to try to save the life of a friend and comrade trapped in Afghanistan. An Afghan translator, who goes only by ‘Hafez' to protect his identity, fought alongside Meyer that day in September 2009 and has been waiting three years for a special visa that would allow him to live in the United States. Meyer fears that his application is being caught up in bureaucratic red tape and that if Hafez doesn't leave Afghanistan soon, he will be left behind." Read the rest, here.

Dan Prieto to OSD. Dan Prieto, a former senior staffer on the House Homeland Security Committee and until recently an executive at IBM, is heading to the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Penty. We're told he will be the Director for Cybersecurity and Technology in the office of the DoD Chief Information Officer. Among the things he's likely to focus on are working to help implement the requirements of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, deepening cyber engagement with Silicon Valley, and work to further strengthen relationships with Defense Industrial Base partners.

Stripes' Meg McCloskey, moving on: she's one of three new investigative reporters at ProPublica. McCloskey was hired to cover the military and DOD for ProPublica, the non-profit, investigative journalist organization that pursues subjects of exploration that are considered in the public interest. McCloskey, a former reporter for the Las Vega Sun before doing investigative journalism for Stars and Stripes, is headed to NY. Read more here.

 

 

National Security

AQAP: “victory is imminent;” Reassessing the AQ threat; Maybe sequester wasn’t so bad after all; Dempsey lands in Israel; ICYMI: Changes for COCOMS?; Hooray for WH transcribers; and just a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

AQAP's chief  promises more jailbreaks, telling them "victory is imminent." AP: "The leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot has vowed to free fellow militants from prisons everywhere and urged them to remain faithful to the terror group's ideology. The message by Nasser al-Wahishi, posted on militant websites Monday, warns al-Qaida prisoners not 'to be lured by their jailers' and promises that 'victory is imminent' to ensure their freedom. The note by al-Wahishi, a onetime aide to Osama bin Laden, comes after last week's closure of 19 U.S. diplomatic missions triggered by the interception of a secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and the Yemeni branch's leader about plans for a major attack." More here.

American embassies are back open - except the one in Sana - as the U.S. reassesses al-Qaida and the new, diffuse threat. The NYT's Eric Schmitt, on Page One: "Senior American counterterrorism and intelligence officials say the lack of certainty about the effectiveness of the latest drone strikes is a sobering reminder of the limitations of American power to deal with the array of new security threats the turmoil of the Arab Spring has produced. These doubts come even as lawmakers in Washington debate whether to restrict the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. And Yemen is not their only concern..."

And: "The United States carries out strikes only against terrorists who pose a "continuing and imminent threat" to Americans, he said, and only when it is determined it would be impossible to detain them, rather than kill them. But the increased reliance on drones in Yemen suggests the limit of the resources the United States can employ in combating the new threats. A senior American official said over the weekend that the most recent terrorist threat "expanded the scope of people we could go after" in Yemen. An American official to the NYT: "Before, we couldn't necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it'd have to be an operations director... Now that driver becomes fair game because he's providing direct support to the plot."

Schmitt: "Senior American intelligence officials said last week that none of the about three dozen militants killed so far in the drone strikes were ‘household names,' meaning top-tier leaders of the affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But the American official said the strikes had targeted "rising stars" in the Yemen network, people who were more likely to be moving around and vulnerable to attack. ‘They may not be big names now,' the official said, ‘but these were the guys that would have been future leaders.' The rest of the story, here.

Reporting from Yemen, al-Monitor has this piece about how the U.S. loses the Yemenis in the drone war. Click here.

How the U.S. Navy helps Yemen's military (psst: they dig light spy planes). Killer Apps' John Reed: "U.S. drones have been battering Yemen, killing at least 28 people, and American spy planes watch from overhead. And now, Yemen's skies are looking to get even more crowded. The U.S. Navy is helping the Yemeni air force buy 12 light spy planes, adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid the U.S. given to the Sana'a regime. The Navy's Light Observation Aircraft for Yemen program aims to buy 12 small planes -- or maybe choppers -- equipped with infrared and night vision cameras and the ability to beam the images collected by those cameras back to a ground station. (The image above shows one of the Iraq air force's CH2000 light observation planes.)The contractor shall also provide pilot, sensor operator, and maintainer training and associated training materials all in Arabic,' reads an Aug. 8 U.S. Navy notice to potential suppliers. The Navy wants to buy the aircraft on the cheap, too. This is a ‘Low Price Technically Acceptable source selection, ‘ which means the lowest bidder who meets the bare minimum technical requirements for the Yemenis will get the contract.

Situation Report's report last week (with FP's own Noah Shachtman) on how the U.S. helps Yemen, here.  Reed's report on the light spy planes, here.

Welcome to Monday'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.

Didja hear? The sequester is a success. So writes Stephen Moore in the WSJ this morning.  "...Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency. If the country sees any normal acceleration of economic growth (from the anemic 1.4% growth rate so far this year), the deficit is on a path to drop steadily at least through 2015. Already the deficit has fallen from its Mount Everest peak of 10.2% of gross domestic product in 2009, to about 4% this year. That's a bullish six percentage points less of the GDP of new federal debt each year..."

... "And defense hawks won't be happy that at least half of the fiscal retrenchment has been due to cuts in military spending. The defense budget is on a pace to hit its lowest level (as a share of GDP) since the days of the post-Cold War ‘peace dividend' during the Clinton years. These deep cutbacks could be dangerous to national security, but as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were winding down, defense would have been cut under any scenario." Read the rest here.

Dempsey lands in Israel. From ynet news this hour: [Dempsey] landed at Ben Gurion Airport as part of a visit in which the general will be a guest of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. During the visit, Dempsey will meet with senior IDF officers, and will discuss the strengthening of military cooperation between the two armies and other security issues. Dempsey will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon." Dempsey will also visit Jordan, where Syria will be Topic A. Read about the secretive visit to Israel last week by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, here.

What's a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table? The Hyperloop, silly. Space.com's Mike Wall reports on the secretive Hyperloop project by visionary Elon Musk: "The fevered speculation about billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's mysterious "Hyperloop" transport system is about to come to an end. Musk, the visionary behind electric-car firm Tesla and the private spaceflight company SpaceX, has said he will unveil a Hyperloop design on Monday, Aug. 12, after teasing the world about the superfast travel technology for more than a year. The solar-powered Hyperloop would allow passengers to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than 30 minutes, Musk has said, meaning it must travel at speeds greater than 600 mph. The system would be cheap and convenient, he added, with tickets costing less than a seat aboard a plane or train and Hyperloop vehicles departing frequently from their various stations." Read it here.

ICYMI: DOD is considering a major realignment of geographical combatant commands to include dissolving Africa Command. Defense News published over the weekend a story about how the budget squeeze might force Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to consider realigning combatant commands and thus eliminate thousands of military and civilian positions. DN's Marcus Weisgerber: "While the plans for combatant command (COCOM) realignment and consolidation are still notional, sources say some options include: Combining Northern Command and Southern Command to form what some are calling "Americas Command" or "Western Command;" Dissolving Africa Command and splitting it up among European Command and Central Command; and Expanding Pacific Command to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are part of Central Command. In all, the realignments could shutter two COCOMs and eight service-supporting commands, totaling more than 5,000 people both uniformed and civilian. [Hagel] for the first time hinted at the consolidations of the COCOMs during a July 31 press conference when he announced significant budget-cutting options the Defense Department would have to make should federal spending cuts remain in place across the decade." Read the rest here.

Corporate suicide over NSA demands. FP's Shane Harris: "When the U.S. government orders a communications company to give up its data, the firm has two basic choices: resist, and risk its leaders going to jail, or comply, and break faith with its customers. On Thursday, Aug. 8, however, two privacy-minded businesses chose a third and unprecedented option: They committed corporate suicide rather than bend to the surveillance state's wishes. It could just be the opening battles in a new front of the surveillance war. In a move that blocks governmental monitoring of private email accounts, two secure email providers closed shop on Thursday rather than divulge information about their users to the authorities. The first Dallas-based Lavabit -- which reportedly counts among its users NSA-leaker Edward Snowden -- stopped operations after apparently fighting a losing battle to resist a federal surveillance order. (Snowden called the decision "inspiring" in a note to the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.) A few hours later, Silent Circle, headquartered outside Washington, D.C., announced it was suspending its encrypted email service as a preemptive measure before ever receiving a command from the government to spy on its users." For more, click here.

How Obama wants to make you comfortable with NSA spying. Friday's big presser at the White House gave the President an opportunity to make folks feel a little better about NSA surveillance policies. FP's Shane Harris on that and washing dishes: "In reality, the White House briefing was the start of a marketing campaign for the spy programs that have turned so controversial in recent months. And the president's message really boiled down to this: It's more important to persuade people surveillance is useful and legal than to make structural changes to the programs. ‘The question is, how do I make the American people more comfortable?' Obama said. Not that Obama's unwilling to make any changes to America's surveillance driftnets -- and he detailed a few of them -- but his overriding concern was that people didn't believe him when he said there was nothing to fear. In an awkward analogy, the president said that if he'd told his wife Michelle that he had washed the dishes after dinner, she might not believe him. So he might have to take her into the kitchen and show her the evidence.'" Read the rest here.

Oorah for WH transcribers. After Marine Corps Times' Dan Lamothe took White House transcribers to task for writing that Marines chanted "hooray!" after President Barack Obama's visit to Camp Pendleton, transcribers got a little military culture on and the offending word was removed from the official transcript of the remarks. The appropriate one, oorah, was inserted in its place. This of course, would make any Marine say but one thing: "Hooah." JK! "Oorah."