National Security

Talking nukes today; Wendy Sherman’s March; A potential deal? #shutdown; A military coalition, angry; Uniform waste: the Army’s universal cami; What’s up with European mil spending?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

New this hour: The death toll in the earthquake in the Philippines is reaching 100; 7.2 magnitude. More, with videos and stills, here.

Talks begin today in Geneva on Iran and nukes.  The NYT's Michael Gordon and Thomas Erdbrink, reporting from Geneva: "Iran is expected to make an offer on Tuesday to scale back its effort to enrich uranium, a move that a year ago would have been a significant concession to the West. But Iran's nuclear abilities have advanced so far since then that experts say it will take far more than that to assure the West that Tehran does not have the capacity to quickly produce a nuclear weapon. With thousands of advanced centrifuges spinning and Iranian engineers working on a plant that will produce plutonium, which also can be used in a weapon, Iran's program presents a daunting challenge for negotiators determined to roll back its nuclear activities.

Both sides enter the nuclear talks that began here on Tuesday morning with inherent strengths and weaknesses. Iran walks in with a nuclear program that cannot easily be turned back, while the West has imposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy."

And: "And if Iran is going to maintain the right to enrich uranium to even low levels, as it continues to insist it must, the West will surely demand highly intrusive inspections - far more than Iran has tolerated in the past. How these matters are resolved will go far in deciding the success or failure of the talks." Read the rest here.

U.S. diplomats wary on Iranian talks. Joby Warrick and Jason Rezaian: "U.S. and Iranian officials both sought to lower expectations for the talks while also warning that time for diplomacy could be short. Rouhani faces pressure at home to quickly win relief from economic sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy, while Israeli officials have threatened a military strike to stop what they see as a steady march to a nuclear weapons capability." The rest of that bit here.

Meet State's Wendy Sherman, who is central to those nuke talks. FP's Yochi Dreazen: "Wendy Sherman, the U.S. State Department's chief nuclear negotiator, held talks 13 years ago with the leaders of one opaque, mercurial country prone to deception and rabidly anti-American rhetoric. Those talks were ultimately a bust. This week she'll hold talks with the leaders of another opaque, mercurial country prone to deception and rabidly anti-American rhetoric. The success of those new negotiations could spell the difference between a long-term peace and a perilous showdown -- and give Sherman a rare second chance to prevent a U.S. adversary from getting a nuclear weapon.

Sherman, a highly regarded diplomat known for her steely demeanor and attention to detail, travels to Switzerland holding both a carrot and a stick. In Senate testimony this month, she said Barack Obama's administration is prepared to offer Iran some short-term sanctions relief if Tehran takes "verifiable, concrete actions" to delay its nuclear program. Sherman also urged lawmakers to hold off on imposing new sanctions on Iran until she can gauge how seriously the Iranians are prepared to negotiate. If they don't appear genuinely willing to accept far-reaching limits on their nuclear program, she said the administration would support a congressional push to put hard-hitting new restrictions on Iran's mining and construction sectors." Sherman, on what her team expects today from its Iranian counterparts: "Come on the 15th of October with concrete, substantive actions that you will take, commitments you will make in a verifiable way, monitoring and verification that you will sign up to, to create some faith that there is reality to this, and our Congress will listen." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

By the way, are you missing the Early Bird? We are, too. The shutdown has kept the Bird from its daily chirp. We won't pretend to be as comprehensive as the Pentagon's morning compendium of defense stories, but if you know of someone going through information withdrawals each morning - tell that friend to sign up for Situation Report - or let us know and we'll stick them on.

Today a military coalition marches on Washington to demonstrate the absurdity of the government shutdown. The Washington Times' Susan Ruth: "Less than 24 hours after one group of veteran's marched on Washington D.C. to protest the effect the federal government shutdown has had on them in terms of war memorials being closed, another group of retired military personnel is preparing for their arrival on the nation's capital. The military coalition rally to end the government shutdown is scheduled to take place on Tuesday October 15, 2013 from 9:45 a.m. until 11 a.m., originating at the National World War II memorial." More here. The Eventbrite link to today's event, here.

The Senate, reportedly on the verge of a budget deal. The WSJ's Kristina Peterson and Janet Hook: "Top Senate leaders said they were within striking distance of an agreement Monday to reopen the federal government and defuse a looming debt crisis just days before the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said on the Senate floor that the leaders had made "tremendous progress" toward a deal and that he was hopeful Tuesday would be a ‘bright day.' The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, seconded Mr. Reid's optimism. ‘We've had a good day,' he said.

"The White House postponed a planned afternoon meeting of congressional leaders with President Barack Obama, saying the schedule change would give Senate leaders time to hash out a deal. The latest proposal would reopen the government at current spending levels until Jan. 15 and extend the federal borrowing limit until early February, according to aides familiar with the talks. Lawmakers also would begin longer-term negotiations on the budget, with the task of reaching an agreement by Dec. 13." Read the rest of that bit here.

Leave it to the (New England) women. The NYT's Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer: "As the government shutdown dragged on, Senator Susan Collins of Maine was spending another weekend on Capitol Hill, staring at C-Span on her Senate office television as one colleague after another came to the floor to rail about the shuttered government. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Ms. Collins, a Republican, two Saturdays ago quickly zipped out a three-point plan that she thought both parties could live with, marched to the Senate floor and dared her colleagues to come up with something better. A few days later, two other Republican female senators eagerly signed on - Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who overcame the Tea Party to win re-election in 2010, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who benefited from the Tea Party wave." More here.

A governor in Afghanistan is assassinated. LAT: "A bomb placed in a mosque that detonated during morning prayers Tuesday killed the governor of eastern Logar province, Afghan officials said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assassination of the governor, Arsallah Jamal, but suspicion fell on the Taliban. The group has been targeting Afghan officials, police, military and NATO troops in the run up to late 2014, when foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country. The bombing took place at around 9 a.m. as Jamal gave a speech to hundreds of people attending prayers for Eid al-Adha -- one of the year's most important Islamic holidays marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage -- said Hasibullah Stanikzai, Jamal's secretary." More here.

Votes in Afghanistan sell for about $5 per. Reuters: "Sayed Gul walked into a small mud brick room in eastern Afghanistan, a bundle wrapped in a shawl on his back. With a flick, he plonked the package onto a threadbare carpet and hundreds of voter cards spilled out. ‘How many do you want to buy?' he asked with a grin. Like many others, Gul left a routine job - in his case, repairing cars in Marco, a small town in the east - to join a thriving industry selling the outcome of next year's presidential elections. Gul, who had a long, black beard and was dressed in the traditional loose salwar kameez, said he was able to buy voter cards for 200  Pakistani rupees ($1.89) each from villagers and sell them on for 500 rupees ($4.73) to campaign managers, who can use them in connivance with poll officials to cast seemingly legitimate votes. From each card, Gul said, he made enough money to pay for a hearty meal like kebabs with rice, and maybe even a soda." More here.

The NSA is totally harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging - many of which are American. The WaPo's Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, on Page One today: "The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and "buddy lists" from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers. Rather than targeting individual users, the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world's e-mail and instant messaging accounts. Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets." More of that bit here.

Turns out, Abu Anas didn't spend a long time on the USS San Antonio. There was reason to believe that Abu Anas, the IT and surveillance guru of al-Qaida accused of plotting attacks against Western targets in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia - as well being linked to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa - didn't spend a lot of time on that ship in the Med. He's been transferred to New York already only after about a week or so after he was picked up in Libya by U.S. commandos. His chronic health problems contributed to the transfer over the weekend. The NYT's Benjamin Weiser, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt: "Officials said that Mr. Ruqai, known as Abu Anas al-Libi, had been cooperating with the interrogation since his capture on Oct. 5. The decision to move him into the criminal justice system would not prevent prosecutors from seeking additional cooperation. But when he appears in Federal District Court on Tuesday, he will be appointed a lawyer, through whom the government will have to work if it wants to communicate further with him. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced Mr. Ruqai's arrival in a brief statement on Monday. Mr. Bharara's office also wrote to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has been overseeing the conspiracy cases in which Mr. Ruqai and other terrorism defendants have been charged, notifying him of the arrest and of Mr. Ruqai's coming court appearance." More here.

Will YOU get an invite to the "Defense One Summit" Nov. 14? Story by Defense One's Kevin Baron, here.

What can't the Brits do or do well anymore? War is Boring's Robert Beckhusen tells us what ails the Brits these days. Beckhusen: "In late September, the Royal Navy unveiled its latest nuclear-powered Astute-class submarine, HMS Artful, and also "christened" the hefty but sleek Daring-class destroyer HMS Duncan -- the sixth and last of its class. Aside from the United Kingdom's aircraft carrier program, these represent the two most significant naval shipbuilding programs happening in Britain at the moment. And two of the most controversial. The vessels are impressive on the surface, but each ship originates from troubled development programs which -- although coming with creature comforts and advanced technology -- turned out to be less than impressive when put to the test. New submarines running aground, older subs breaking down and destroyers put into service without adequate defenses against enemy submarines. It's not completely surprising.

"The Ministry of Defence's budget is half that of 30 years ago. [italics ours.] Perhaps more troubling for the Royal Navy: the vessels tasked with carrying Britain's military into the 21st century have sacrificed key systems needed to defend against attacks, while suffering limitations in their ability to strike back at enemy planes and missiles. Meanwhile, Royal Air Force ocean patrol planes that once buzzed the ocean scooping every signal they could detect have been cut altogether, meaning the surface ships are sailing blind -- and Britain's nuclear-missile force is sailing without escorts. Here's what Britain's military can't do. Or if it does do it, it doesn't do it well. Click for that, here.

Meanwhile, here are a few headlines coming out of Europe in recent months: "Britannia's 19 Ships Can't Rule a Single Wave" (London's Sunday Times); "France To Cut 34,000 Military Personnel Under A Proposed Six-Year Defence Budget" (Reuters); "UK Armed Forces Smallest Since the Napoleonic Wars" (London's Daily Telegraph). Andrew Roberts, writing for the Hoover Institution: "...Meanwhile the NATO ‘rule' that every member country spends at least 2% of its GDP on defence is now recognized more in the breach than the observance, with Germany running at roughly 1.5%, Italy at 1.2%, and Spain less than 1%. Yet taken as a whole, the European Union has a GDP that outstrips either China or the United States. Never in the field of human conflict avoidance has so little been given by so many for so much. With the United States spending over 4.2% of her GDP on defence-there are any amount of ways the numbers can be presented, so it's not impossible to get the figure up to nearly 5%-what becomes very clear is that NATO is something of a European racket. President Obama has rightly said-and it's very rare I ever start a sentence with those five words-that it's high time that Europe becomes an overall ‘provider' rather than just a ‘consumer' of security." Read the rest here.

Changes to the controls that govern U.S. military exports could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world's conflicts. It could also make it harder to enforce arms sanctions, argues a piece by Cora Currier in ProPublica. Currier: "Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight - even to some countries subject to U.S. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries. Critics, including some who've worked on enforcing arms export laws, say the changes could undermine efforts to prevent arms smuggling to Iran and others. Brake pads may sound innocuous, but "the Iranians are constantly looking for spare parts for old U.S. jets," said Steven Pelak, who recently left the Department of Justice after six years overseeing investigations and prosecutions of export violations."

William Hartung, author of a recent report on the topic: "It's going to be easier for these military items to flow, harder to get a heads-up on their movements, and, in theory, easier for a smuggling ring to move weapons." Read the rest here.

From the Department of Comically-Wasteful-Spending-on-Military-Uniforms: The Daily Beast does this bit about the Army's $5 billion program to build a new universal cami that didn't turn out so well. Caitlin Dickson: "In 2004, the Army decided to scrap the two traditional camouflage uniforms that had long been used by the military-one meant for woodland environments, another for the desert-and claimed to have come up with a universal pattern that could be worn anywhere and blend in with any environment. The $5 billion dollar experiment with the universal pattern is over as the Army is phasing out the uniform after less than a decade of use. But many soldiers and observers are wondering why it took this long and cost this much to replace an item that performed poorly from the start during a period when the money could have been spent on other critical needs, like potentially life saving improvements to military vehicles and body armor. Less than a decade after the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, was introduced the Army is back to the drawing board, set to announce a new camouflage pattern and standard uniform to be worn by the more than million members of the active duty and reserve forces.

"Evidence of the UCPs inadequacy as a combat uniform is easy to find-just look at pictures of soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, they're not wearing the UCP, which was deemed unsuitable for operations there, but a different uniform known as the MultiCam." The rest of that piece here.

National Security

Ash Carter, departing; Who’s arriving, Flournoy? What about Bob Hale or Christine “Top Gun” Fox?; NSA: WH leaving us out to dry; Kerry in Afg; Is the Warthog the best plane ever?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Ash Carter to Hagel: "time for me to go." Ash Carter, the Pentagon's Number Two who longed to be tapped to be defense secretary, is stepping down as his boss, Chuck Hagel, looks to bring on more of his own team. The departure of Carter, considered to be one of the most powerful and effective deputy secretaries of defense in recent history, was expected even if the timing of his resignation today caught even some Pentagon insiders by surprise. In the letter he submitted to his boss Thursday, Carter said he has "loved every minute" working for the Defense Department, "now as in previous times in my career." But Carter -- who had long coveted the top job, and whose camp had occasionally clashed with Hagel's -- had signaled that he would leave sometime after Hagel found his bearings.

Carter had planned to announce his resignation weeks ago, but the budget and the government shutdown prevented it. As neither crisis showed signs of abating, he decided now was the right time to say good-bye after more than two years on the job. "I have decided that this situation might well continue and I don't want any more time to pass before giving you the opportunity to begin a smooth transition within the office of the Deputy Secretary," Carter wrote in the resignation letter he gave to Hagel today. "It is time for me to go." Carter will step down Dec. 4.

The divorce between Hagel and Carter seemed inevitable. As much as Hagel relied on Carter's undisputed expertise navigating the massive defense bureaucracy, Hagel has wanted to make his own mark on the department -- and with his own people. It was in fact Carter's deep institutional knowledge -- and the fact that Carter was passed over for the top job -- that contributed to the sense that there was little room for both men on the Pentagon's E-Ring. Although the two worked effectively together on a number of pressing issues, the awkward dynamic was a poorly-kept secret in and outside of the building, as Foreign Policy reported in August. Carter left on his own, however, and got a standing ovation yesterday after it was announced at a staff meeting yesterday mid-afternoon in the Pentagon's E-Ring.

...Carter agreed to stay on to help Hagel, telling friends that he'd been asked personally by Obama to stay, as the novice Hagel attempted to get his hands around the Defense Department bureaucracy. And after a bruising confirmation battle, most observers thought Hagel needed all the help he could get.

Carter quickly became Hagel's right-hand-man, leading a top-to-bottom review of Pentagon resources as budget cuts neared. Carter also managed a big portfolio -- larger than the one given to his predecessors -- conducting high-level policy discussions with world leaders and routine interaction at the White House as he remained in control of major budget and weapons issues. One former senior staffer likened his role to that of Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy under Donald Rumsfeld, who was a forceful personality in the days after 9/11 and the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Who's on the step to replace him? The first name that comes to mind is Michele Flournoy, the policy guru who resigned from the Pentagon's top policy job in February 2012 and was also on the short list to replace Panetta. She is again high on the list... She might wait out Obama's second term, passing on the Number Two job. Or, some believe, Flournoy, who has not had vast management experience on the Defense Department's scale, would be wise to jump at the chance to serve as Deputy Secretary. That would put her in line to succeed Hagel when the time comes.

Said one former senior defense official to Situation Report re: Flournoy: "She's dialed in at the White House, she's respected on the Hill, had a good run as Under Secretary for Policy. The DepSecDef job is the final, developmental job to become SecDef, and she's young enough that she can hang around."

But also under consideration: BAE's Linda Hudson, the Pentagon's Frank Kendall, CIA's General Counsel Stephen Preston. Surprise names: Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale, CAPE's Christine "Top Gun" Fox.

Float your ideas for DepSecDef to us here or @glubold.

Also expected to announce departure at some point: Jim Miller, head of the Pentagon's policy shop.

Our story, here.

Our original story about Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter - "Two's a Crowd at the Pentagon," here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report - we'll see you again Tuesday morning. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Keith Alexander and his senior leadership team at the NSA are angry and dispirited. FP's Shane Harris reports that the National Security Agency feels as if it's been left out on its own, having to defend itself against criticism of its surveillance programs without backup from the White House. Harris: "The top brass of the country's biggest spy agency feels they've been left twisting in the wind, abandoned by the White House and left largely to defend themselves in public and in Congress against allegations of unconstitutional spying on Americans. Former intelligence officials closely aligned with the NSA criticized President Obama for saying little publicly to defend the agency, and for not emphasizing that some leaked or officially disclosed documents arguably show the NSA operating within its legal authorities."

Here's the key line: "There has been no support for the agency from the President or his staff or senior administration officials, and this has not gone unnoticed by both senior officials and the rank and file at the Fort," Joel Brenner, the NSA's one-time inspector general, told Harris, referring to the agency's headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Why this is could be important - Harris: "The Obama administration has long relied on America's intelligence agencies to carry out its most important foreign policy objectives, from killing Osama bin Laden to undermining Bashar al-Assad. The White House's embrace of the dark world of spycraft has been near-absolute. A rift between America's intelligence and political leaders could be more than fodder for Beltway cocktail parties. If left unchecked, it could start to erode the trusted relationships that have been at the heart of how the U.S. government handles global threats since 9/11." Read the rest of Harris' piece here.

Remember Afghanistan? It's a critical month, with a deadline looming for resolving negotiations on the security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan after Obama gave President Hamid Karzai a warning that it had to be done by the end of this month or else (or else = the possibility that no troops will stay after 2014). But there is no good news from Kabul. WaPo's Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono: "...With that deadline less than three weeks away and deep rifts persisting, the White House appears increasingly willing to abandon plans for a long-term, costly partnership with Afghanistan. Despite the Pentagon's pleas for patience, much of the rest of the administration is fed up with Karzai and sees Afghanistan as a fading priority amid far more ominous threats elsewhere in the world...

"Meanwhile, serious new irritants in the relationship have convinced Karzai that he was right to question American good faith in year-old negotiations on a deal. The accord is considered critical for the international community to continue funding the Afghan government and shoring up its nascent security forces." Their bit here.

Kerry is in Afghanistan. AP: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Afghanistan Friday for urgent talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as an end of October deadline looms for completing a security deal that would allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the NATO-led military mission next year. Kerry's unannounced visit to Kabul comes as talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement have foundered over issues of Afghan sovereignty despite a year of negotiations." More on that from AP's Matthew Lee, in Kabul with Kerry, here.

Speaking of which: The movie "Lone Survivor," about SEALS in Afghanistan, screened last night as the culmination of yesterday's "Hero Summit." It was dramatic, graphic and ultimately moving. It's the story of the four Navy SEALs from SEAL Team 10 in Afghanistan in 2005. The team went on a reconnaissance mission in July of that year in the mountains of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border to monitor al-Qaeda leader. Only one, Marcus Luttrell, returned alive after a brutal ordeal that is hard to comprehend but whose live was ultimately saved by an Afghan man with whom he remains in close touch. Luttrell wrote "Lone Survivor" with ghostwriter Patrick Robinson. Now it's a big movie, starring Mark Wahlberg. Last night at Tina Brown's Hero Summit at the Newseum in Washington last night, it was screened. Afterward, Luttrell, with his guide dog, appeared for a panel discussion with Brown, actor Taylor Kitsch and writer/director/producer Peter Berg. Luttrell, at one point, on serving and the American public: "We don't want a thank you, a pat on the back or anything like that, we just want you to enjoy your life. Everybody's made different. You've got guys who are ... accountants, and you got warfighters, the guys who know how to fight and are good at it... we know how to make those decisions. So, stay out of our way, we'll stay out of yours." [Laughter, applause].

Hero Summit's agenda from yesterday, here.

Link to Luttrell's book on Amazon, here.

Arnold Fisher blasted Congress yesterday at Brown's summit. Arnold Fisher, the former top officer at Fisher House - in the news this week after the Fisher House Foundation agreed to front the Pentagon the money to pay death gratuities for fallen service members - also attended the "Hero Summit" yesterday. He made a point of venting about the absurdity of Congress and the government shutdown. Fisher, at yesterday's Hero Summit: "It's the worst thing this country has ever done: Allowing these families to come to Dover Air Force Base on their own money...Stop the nonsense," he said of the president and members of Congress. "And never -- it doesn't matter what the excuse is -- take it out on the military." Read the rest from U.S. News' Paul Shinkman, here.

Prescription rates for vets have shot up. Also from U.S. News, this one from Elizabeth Flock: "In the months before Joseph Petit, a trained Army airborne ranger, died in a bathroom at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, his sister Brandie watched her brother age far beyond his 42 years. ‘He would twitch and run his fingers through his hair in the manner of an old person when their motor skills are slowing. It took him physically longer to think. Because of the medication, he wasn't there,' she says. The medical examiner's report on Petit's death, which was obtained by U.S. News, ruled the death a suicide, by plastic bag asphyxiation. But the report also listed six anti-psychotic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs in Petit's system, including the drug duloxetine, which has failed at least one use-approval in the U.S. because of incidents of suicide among its users. Petit suffered from knee pain as a result of an injury during parachute training, as well as mental health issues, according to his sister.

"For years, veterans groups and advocates have warned that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was dangerously medicating returning soldiers, while the VA has said it wasn't... A CBS records request of VA data in mid-September revealed that while the number of patients at the VA had risen by just 29 percent in the last 11 years, narcotics prescriptions written by VA doctors and nurse practitioners have risen 259 percent. Days later, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the number of VA prescriptions for four major opiates - hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and methadone - had spiked by 270 percent in the past 12 years. On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs sought to move on the new data, hosting a combative hearing to investigate the VA's ‘skyrocketing prescription painkiller rate.'" That piece here.

Fahreal? There's a new Syrian weapons plan: send them to Scandinavia.  The scramble to find a place to dispose of Syria's more than 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, nerve agents and precursors has begun. FP's Colum Lynch: "Much of the legwork is being carried out by the United States, which has been sounding out governments from Europe, the Middle East, and Russia about the prospects of taking on the task. So far, there are no apparent takers. U.S. officials have even approached Norway about disposing of the agents -- even though the country has neither the technology nor the expertise to do so." More here.

Doctrine Man Weighs In: The Five Stages of a Pentagon Assignment. Click here.

Some would argue the A-10 is the Air Force's "most awesome warplane" - of course that's why the brass want to get rid of it. Robert Beckhusen, from War is Boring on Medium: "Starved of funding and saddled with a bunch of redundant Cold War-era airbases by an incompetent Congress, the U.S. Air Force is fast running out of money and needs to cut back.

But instead of eliminating expensive new technologies that demonstrably don't work, the flying branch is proposing to permanently ground arguably its most useful warplane-one that's been heavily upgraded and could fly cheaply for at least another 25 years. I'm talking about the A-10 Warthog, of course, that iconic 1970s-vintage tank-killer with the Mickey Mouse engine layout and a powerful nose-mounted 30-millimeter cannon the size of a Volkswagen Bug. The low- and slow-flying Warthog, heavily loaded with missiles and bombs, has flown top cover for American ground troops in three wars.

"In July, two A-10s  zoomed to the rescue of 60 American soldiers pinned down by a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. Protected by their jets' titanium armor, the Warthog pilots flew low, spotted Taliban attackers by eye, fired thousand of 30-millimeter rounds and dropped three bombs. Three U.S. troops were injured; the Taliban left 18 dead on the battlefield. ‘I think that day the enemy knew they were going to die,' one of the fliers mused. Despite the A-10's impressive combat record, simplicity and low cost-just $17,000 per flight hour, the lowest of any Air Force jet fighter-the flying branch's generals want to eliminate all 326 Warthogs by 2015 in order to protect three complex, pricey new planes still in development: the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the secretive Long-Range Strike Bomber and the KC-46 aerial tanker." More of his bit here.