National Security

Meet the guy who’s been told he’s non-essential – three times; South Korea wants more time; No Early Bird today; The Pentagon spent billions before shutdown; Trashing memories at Arlington; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold 

Oh, to be termed "non-essential." Three times. You gotta feel for a guy named Erik Brine. Brine, a major in the Air Force Reserve and a C-17 pilot, normally works on the Air Force staff as a civilian general service employee. But for part of this year, he is on loan to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine's office as a Presidential Management Fellow. Meanwhile, as a member of the Air Force Reserve, he spends about two months of the year working at the Pentagon's public affairs shop. Bad week to be so uber. Brine just got done finding out he's "non-essential" in all three jobs.

It's tough, said the father of four, "to be non-essential, essentially everywhere I work," he told Situation Report this morning. Yesterday, he first reported to the Air Force at the Pentagon to fill out paperwork to enter furlough status. Then he went to Capitol Hill to be formally furloughed from that job. (Because of the government shutdown, all three of Kaine's advisers on national security are furloughed. That's a tough one - Kaine serves on both the Senate Armed Services and the Senate Foreign Relations committees.) Then Brine headed back to the Pentagon yesterday, only to be told that his orders to report as a Reservist at the public affairs shop had also been cancelled, since Reservists are also not considered essential. In fact, Brine was expecting to be promoted this week to lieutenant colonel at the Pentagon while on duty - by Kaine. He'll still get promoted, but his plans have to be scrapped. Yesterday was a tough one at the office.

"I spent a very full day getting temporarily canned all over town," Brine told Situation Report. "So now the joke is that I got the furlough hat trick. I've got a bunch of jobs and no income. So much for hard work paying off."

You know what else is furloughed at the Pentagon? The Early Bird. Yup, the daily must-read compendium of defense stories that usually arrives in inboxes at about 5:40 a.m. each day has been shut down. And that's why you didn't get it e-mailed to you this morning.

The Department of Defense has had to furlough about 18 percent of its workers. Look at this cool bar chart that shows which federal agency is hardest hit by the government shutdown (NASA the worst, with 97 percent furloughed; Veterans Affairs only about 4 pecent.)  Check it out, here.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is receiving updates about the furlough as he winds up a weeklong trip to Asia. Hagel told reporters yesterday that he was working with top Pentagon officials to determine if the pool of those being furloughed - about 400,000 civilian workers - could be reduced. Meantime, a senior defense official told us: "Secretary Hagel spoke by phone from Tokyo today with senior Department leaders in Washington to discuss the shutdown.  He remains deeply concerned about our furloughed civilian employees, impacts to our mission, and our credibility with foreign partners."

Buck McKeon thinks Hagel's on to something. Hagel's attempt to work through the Pentagon's general counsel to see if the Pentagon can expand the list of excepted employees - thereby shrinking the number of defense civilians who have to be furloughed is the right tack, Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a letter to Hagel yesterday. "I believe the legislation provides you broad latitude and I encourage you to use it," McKeon wrote in a letter provided to Situation Report. "...I strongly encourage you to use the authority Congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keeping defense civilians at home when they are authorized to work."

Buzzfeed's listicle of 23 things that aren't shut down in the U.S. Capitol - includes ugly artwork, coffee shop. Check that out here.  

Commissaries in CONUS are closed, but open overseas. Click for that 411 here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report where we're still in Asia with Hagel and running a bit late on this government shutdown day. We're in Tokyo for the next couple days, returning with the Secretary Friday. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. Remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Situation Report corrects - Dave Helvey, who is the senior policy person traveling with Hagel in Asia is no longer in an "acting" position, as we said earlier this week. Indeed, Helvey is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for East Asia, confirmed earlier this year.

BTW: On the eve of the government shutdown, the Pentagon spent billions. FP's John Reed: "The Pentagon pumped billions of dollars into contractors' bank accounts on the eve of the U.S. government's shutdown that saw 400,000 Defense Department employees furloughed. All told, the Pentagon awarded 94 contracts yesterday evening on its annual end-of-the-fiscal-year spending spree, spending more than five billion dollars on everything from robot submarines to Finnish hand grenades and a radar base mounted on an offshore oil platform. To put things in perspective, the Pentagon gave out only 14 contracts on September 3, the first workday of the month." Read here to see some of the more interesting purchases from what Reed terms "Monday's dollar-dump."

Bloomberg analysts say the defense industry could lose $1 billion per day during the shutdown. Bloomberg Government's senior defense analyst Rob Levinson and senior budget analyst Cameron Leuthy, earlier this week but still relevant: "What is iffy is the big weapons stuff like Lockheed Martin's F-35 or General Dynamics submarines or other big new weapons systems. It seems it is all up to the Secretary under the bill.?Under a traditional shutdown, some payments to federal government contractors stop. Expenditures on new defense contracts aren't allowed, and payments could stop flowing on previously-funded contracts, because government employees that pay bills could be sent home.? But the impact of a government shut-down on business depends on the nature of the business. Federal contractors have the most at stake but the funding sources, contract terms and nature of the work all matter -- not all contractors face the same risks." More on what they said here.

Guess what? Odierno doesn't like the shutdown, either. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on Wednesday urged a quick resolution to the shutdown issue, saying it was wreaking havoc on the Army's day-to-day operations. Odierno, to Reuters: "It is going to be difficult for us to do anything. We won't be doing training like we normally would, we won't be travelling, we won't be doing the coordination necessary, only mission-essential tasks." Odierno told Reuters that the shutdown "impacts significantly day-to-day operations". Odierno continued: "The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. Every day that goes by, we are losing manpower, we are losing capability, so in my mind it is important we get this resolved." Full story here.

Seoul says: give me just a little more time. When it comes to taking charge of coalition forces on the Korean Peninsula, the Republic of Korea has been a little gun shy. The ROK and the U.S. this week are celebrating the 60-year anniversary of an alliance forged after the Korean War that was much-heralded this week in Seoul, where there were two parades, a big dinner, video retrospectives and a lot of talk of katchi kapshida, - "we stand together." The alliance, a centerpiece of the Pentagon's pivot to Asia, is more dynamic than ever, Republic of Korea and American officials took pains to say this week. "We can't underestimate the true strength of this -- of the blood alliance," Gen. J.D. Thurman, the retiring commander of forces in South Korea, told reporters on Monday.

But after decades of confidence building, joint exercises and billions in military assistance, it's time for the South Koreans to step up and assume what's called "operational control" of all forces in South Korea if war should break out. The problem is, the South Koreans aren't quite ready.

Currently the U.S. retains authority of all forces in South Korea. If there were to be a significant provocation from the North, for example, the American commander in South Korea would assume control not only of his own force of about 28,000, but South Korea's as well. For years, the U.S. has wanted to hand over control of the forces - "op-con" in military parlance - to the the ROK. But past efforts to formalize the transfer of control, in 2009 and 2012, never went through. Now the transfer is scheduled again for 2015. But once again, the South Koreans want to delay it.

On Wednesday, South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan Jin and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in town for talks with the South Koreans, issued a joint statement that formally accept an approach long sought by South Korea to a "conditions-based" transfer - diplomatic code for giving the South Koreans as much time as they need. Now neither side will commit to saying just when operational control might occur.

The two countries also signed a new pact to deter North Korean's potential use of nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction as concerns grow about what North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un is capable of. That pact was also a little vague, and defense officials trying to explain what it did used words like "framework" to describe the new approach, which itself was a work in progress. In the end, it will be seen as a confidence-building measure for the South Koreans at a time when they need it. "It's a new strategy that creates enhanced deterrence," said a military official in briefing reporters.

Read our full story later today on FP here.

Trashing memories: cleaning up Arlington National Cemetery's "Section 60" means throwing mementos in the dumpster. After years of allowing family members of loved ones killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave mementos on or near the headstones, the caretakers at Arlington decided to clean the place up, discarding the mementos not "deemed worth of retention." The WaPo's Greg Jaffe: "Over the past weeks, a quiet transformation has taken place in Section 60, leaving family members of the dead feeling hurt, saddened and bewildered. Today, Section 60 resembles the quiet cemetery of an older generation's war, not the raw, messy burial ground of one still being fought. Even within the hallowed ground at Arlington, Section 60 is special, a living memorial to an ongoing war." Arlington spokesperson Jennifer Lynch: "The policy hasn't changed... The policy is the same, but the enforcement is different." Read the rest here.



National Security

Hagel on Operation Shutdown; 400k civilians to get furloughed; Amos sacks Gurganus, Sturdevant over Bastion; 363 problems for the JSF; What Terminal Lance thinks about #shutdown; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Chuck Hagel says 400,000 defense civilians will be furloughed today. Last minute legislation will keep paychecks flowing to the uniformed military, but Congress' failure to cut a deal means the shutdown of the American government for the first time in 17 years will force as many as 400,000 defense civilians on furlough starting today. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters traveling with him here in Seoul that he and other top Pentagon officials are working on a plan to expand the definition of an "excepted" worker - thereby shrinking the pool of civilians who would be forced on furlough - which could save tens of thousands of civilians from more forced vacations. "Our lawyers are now looking through the law that the President signed... to see if there's any margin here or widening of the interpretation of the law," Hagel told reporters traveling with him in a hotel conference room here. "Our lawyers believe we can expand the exempt status; we don't know if that's the case, but we are exploring that."

Hagel has been on conference calls since last night. Hagel left a gala event last night celebrating the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Korean alliance early to talk with the Pentagon's deputy, Ash Carter, and Comptroller Bob Hale and Acting General Counsel Bob Taylor to plan for the shutdown. Tonight in Seoul, he is expected to speak with them again. It's unclear, though, if the Defense Department will determine if it can shrink that number of defense civilians it will have to furlough anytime soon.

His exasperation. The secretary didn't want to weigh in when asked about the wrangling on Capitol Hill. But as he attempts to sell Asian leaders on the "rebalancing" to Asia, he said he is keenly aware of just how bad the shutdown looks out here. "It does cast a very significant pall over America's credibility with its allies. It's nonsensical. It is completely irresponsible. It's needless, it didn't have to happen," Hagel said. But the former Republican senator from Nebraska said Congress must begin to understand the pernicious effects of such a shutdown and "what it's doing to our people." Congress, he said, must find "a new center of gravity of responsibility" to govern properly.

Hagel's in Asia. The government is shut down. Is the Doomsday plane on which he's traveling grounded? Not exactly. The "mission" that is ferrying Hagel from one stop to another will continue, and personnel assigned to the trip will remain on the job. After Hagel returns home, however, some of the personnel supporting the trip might be told to go home. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little: "They're supporting a Secretary of Defense mission overseas, which is by definition an excepted activity. Their status could change upon return to the United States."

Obama made a vid to assure members of the military and their families as well as defense civilians that he would have their back. President Barack Obama, in remarks for the military and defense civilians: "...I know this shutdown occurs against the background of broader changes. The war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan will end next year. After more than a decade of unprecedented operations, we're moving off a war footing. Yes, our military will be leaner and as a nation we face difficult budget choices going forward. But here's what I want you to know. I'm going to keep fighting to get rid of those across-the-board budget cuts, the sequester, which are hurting our military and our economy. We need a responsible approach that deals with our fiscal challenges and keeps our military and our economy strong. I'm going to make sure you stay the greatest military in the world, bar none. That's what I'm fighting for. That's what you and your families deserve..."

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report where no one has shut us down yet - we're still reporting from Hagel's trip to Asia. One more day in Seoul then it's off to Tokyo on the Doomsday. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at and we'll stick you on. And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease. And remember, if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold.

Shutdown isn't going to shut down foreign policy and national security. Not right away. FP's Ty McCormick and Yochi Dreazen: "Four hundred thousand Defense Department employees, sent home. Internal watchdogs, defanged. Congressional investigations, stymied. A billion dollars a day in government contracts, stopped up. If there's a government shutdown on Tuesday, the United States will continue to be able to conduct its key foreign policy, national security, and intelligence missions -- at least for a little while. But beyond that, well, it's not going to be pretty. The effects of political dysfunction in Washington are already reverberating across the globe. Markets in Europe and Asia took a hit on Monday and both the NASDAQ and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell sharply this morning when trading got underway in New York. But rattling global markets is only the first of many potential effects of the shutdown...A government shutdown would also affect U.S. foreign policy more subtly by delaying critical foreign-policy related hearings in Congress, paring back nuclear and other critical energy programs to the bare minimum, and interfering with the State Department's ability to police itself.

A retired senior CIA official, to FP: "Spies will still spy. The machinery will go on...The problem is if something extra falls into the system. If guys are worried about their paychecks, they're not concentrating on their job." More here.

Jim Amos just fired a pair of two-stars over the attack at Camp Bastion last year. The Marine Corps' commandant has sacked of a pair of two-star generals for failing to prevent a massive attack on a base in southern Afghanistan that left a dozen troops dead. It's a stunning, beyond-rare move that Gen. Jim Amos made only after he found the two "did not exercise the level of judgment expected of commanders of their grade and experience." Amos announced Monday that he was requesting that the promotion of Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, pictured above, be rescinded and asked Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant to retire. That effectively ends the careers of two senior officers who are widely respected, and it will shock a close-knit service that prides itself on battlefield leadership. During the last dozen years of war, generals have been regularly disciplined for inappropriate sexual and financial behavior. Few, if any, have been let go for screwing up on the battlefield; today's announcement marks the first time an American general has been relieved for combat incompetence since 1971, according to FP's Tom Ricks, author of The Generals, a military history.  

But there have been few attacks on U.S. forces like the September 2012 strike on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province. More than a dozen Taliban fighters penetrated the base and killed two Marines, a lieutenant colonel and a sergeant. The coordinated strike also destroyed six Harrier AV-8B jump jets, one of the largest losses of U.S. aircraft in decades.

In a conference call with reporters Monday, including Situation Report, Amos praised both general officers, saying they were both "close friends" and that forcing their retirement was "the hardest decision I've made in the Marine Corps." But he also argued it was the right thing to do. "I do not expect my commanders to be perfect, and I do not expect them to make perfect decisions all the time," Amos wrote in a memo detailing his decision.  However, he wrote, "the fog of war, the uncertain risks of combat, and the actions of a determined foe do not relieve a commander of the responsibility for decisions that a reasonable, prudent commander of the same grade and experience would have made under similar circumstances."

We just saw Gregg Sturdevant here in Seoul on Monday. Sturdevant currently serves as the director of strategic planning and policy at U.S. Pacific Command. On Monday, he attended a major event at a hotel in Seoul in which South Korea and the U.S. were celebrating the 60-year anniversary of their partnership. Sturdevant, well-respected and accessible, had long been seen as an up-and-comer. On Monday, he was seen chatting with other military officers and guests at the reception preceding the dinner, likely aware that the dramatic turn his career in the Corps was about to take would soon be made public. 

Our full story, including the executive summary of the investigation from U.S. Central Command, and the memo written by Amos, here.

The new number that Lockheed is stressing: 363. The Pentagon Inspector General found 363 problems in the way JSF-maker Lockheed Martin and five other defense contractors build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. FP's very own John Reed: "Hundreds of production errors  "could adversely affect aircraft performance, reliability, maintainability, and ultimately program cost" of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to an IG report published today. The flaws largely consist of the companies' failure to follow safety and quality control techniques while building the stealth fighter jets. Contractors failed to make sure that manufacturing spaces were clear of harmful debris or that glues used to hold parts of the jets together had not passed their expiration dates. Instructions telling workers how to install parts on the airplane were incorrect. These production flaws likely contributed to each jet in a recent batch of F-35s needing an average of 859 ‘quality action requests' before they were ready for delivery, according to the IG. This means that about 13-percent of all work done on a brand new F-35 is ‘scrap, rework and repair work' to fix problems built into the planes, according the 126 page report.

So what does this mean? "This was a wake-up call that we had to be more rigorous," Eric Branyan, Lockheed's F-35 vice president of program management, told Reuters. More here.

Coolness: The Army graduates its first enlisted - and observant -- Sikh soldier. U.S. Army: Spc. Simranpreet Lamba joins 12 other Soldiers in a naturalization ceremony Wednesday morning at Fort Jackson. Lamba, a Sikh whose articles of faith include having unshorn hair covered by a turban and keeping a beard, is the first enlisted Sikh Soldier in at least 26 years who has been granted religious accommodations by the Army, allowing him to adhere to his articles of faith. Lamba graduated from Basic Combat Training Wednesday." Full here.

Ask a Terminal Lance Corporal if he cares about the shutdown.

First Marine: "I heard there's some kind of government shut down going on."

Second Marine: "Are we still getting paid?"

First Marine: "Yeah."

Second Marine: "Can we go home early?"

First Marine: "No."

Second Marine: "Then who cares?"

See "Terminal Lance" here.