National Security

Obama: Open, sesame; Hagel to Swenson: mistakes were made and “we’re sorry;” The NSA, drone strikes and Heritage; Rubio likes more sanctions on Iran; Who makes John McHugh nervous; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Obama just opened the government. After the 16-day closure or partial closure of the federal government and a tense political standoff finally ended last night, President Barack Obama signed a directive to re-open the government and get hundreds of thousands of civilians back to work at federal agencies, parks, museums and monuments around Washington. Congress voted late last night to fund all agencies, recalling civilians back to work, and agreed to raise the debt ceiling to $16.7 trillion. The move keeps the government open through Jan. 15 and raises the debt limit until Feb. 7.  All that ended a stalemate after Tea Party conservatives pushed to block funding of the federal healthcare law by using the threat of a government shutdown to do it. The WaPo's Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman: "That campaign succeeded mainly in undermining popular support for the Republican Party, however. By late Wednesday, dozens of anxious GOP lawmakers were ready to give President Obama almost exactly what he requested months ago: a bill to fund the government and increase the Treasury Department's borrowing power with no strings attached.

The lede of the WaPo's David Fahrentold, referring to conservative Republicans' bid to shut down Obamacare: "It was over. They lost."

Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan's lede: "If these last two weeks have proven anything, it's that House Republicans haven't yet mastered the art of using their majority. Many House Republicans believe they've gained next to nothing from a two-week government shutdown and near debt default."

The Pentagon had recalled most of its furloughed civilians already, but as of today all of them will be back, including all the folks in the Inspector Generals' offices, legislative and public affairs.

"The Pentagon," a senior defense official told Situation Report, "is open for business."

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. 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, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Why the debt fight revealed American vulnerabilities overseas. American Security Project's August Cole: "Asia's nations need the personal reassurance that the U.S. is economically, militarily and politically committed to supporting a historic rise in Pacific prosperity that mutually benefits America. That kind of touch can only come from the top. Moreover, Japan and China together hold more than $2 trillion in U.S. debt - for now. Their view on the long-term value of what should be the world's safest investment has ramifications throughout the financial markets and at central banks around the world. This is one of those times when President Obama has to try and think more like a corporate executive trying to manage his board of directors than a politician who thinks he can outsmart his most irrational foes." More of that bit, here.

Reports from Geneva reflect a generally positive view of the talks with Iran. Iran and the group of six world powers said they had engaged in positive discussions on Iran's nuke program, pledging to meet again next month. But Marco Rubio wants more sanctions, not less. FP's Ali Gharib and John Hudson (with Gharib in Geneva): "...Back in Washington, the enthusiasm is not shared by Congressional hawks who immediately dismissed the talks and proposed a new round of sanctions against Tehran -- even though the administration had yet to reveal details about the progress of discussions. ‘No one should be impressed by what Iran appears to have brought to the table in Geneva,' said Sen. Marco Rubio in a statement attached to a new resolution calling for additional sanctions. Rubio added earlier: ‘Now is not the time to suspend sanctions, but to increase them on the Iranian regime.'"

And: "To a number of more dovish lawmakers in Congress, additional sanctions threaten to erode the already minimal amount of trust between Washington and Tehran. "There are very hawkish voices being raised and there is a push for additional sanctions in the Senate," Rep David Price (D-NC) told The Cable. "I think it's ill-timed." Read the rest here.

Page Oner in the WaPo: Documents reveal big NSA role in drone srikes. Greg Miller, Julie Tage and Barton Gellman: "It was an innocuous e-mail, one of millions sent every day by spouses with updates on the situation at home. But this one was of particular interest to the National Security Agency and contained clues that put the sender's husband in the crosshairs of a CIA drone. Days later, Hassan Ghul - an associate of Osama bin Laden who provided a critical piece of intelligence that helped the CIA find the al-Qaeda leader - was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan's tribal belt. The U.S. government has never publicly acknowledged killing Ghul. But documents provided to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirm his demise in October 2012 and reveal the agency's extensive involvement in the targeted killing program that has served as a centerpiece of President Obama's counterterrorism strategy." The rest here.

The NSA scandal is tearing apart the Heritage Foundation. Fahreal. FP's Shane Harris: "Ever since ex-senator and Tea Party kingmaker Jim DeMint took over the Heritage Foundation earlier this year, mainstream Republicans have been fretting that he'd turn the prominent conservative think tank into a political proxy for the most extreme elements of the GOP. The debt-deniers and defund-Obamacare die-hards who propelled the government into a shutdown have found a political, if not quite intellectual center of gravity at Heritage. Now, hawkish Republicans who have long embraced strong national security authorities have reason to believe that Heritage is mounting an opposition on that front, too. Recently, Heritage refused to publish two papers about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs written by a prominent conservative attorney. Why? Because he concluded that the programs were legal and constitutional, according to sources familiar with the matter. It was a surprising move for a think tank that has supported extension of the Patriot Act -- which authorizes some of NSA's activities -- and has long been associated with right-of-center positions on national security and foreign policy. But the paper's conclusions did not sit well with DeMint, the sources said. More here.

FP just hired two new writers, Dan Lamothe, from the Marine Corps Times and Jamila Trindle, from the WSJ. They're both award winning journos with a rep for digging out great stories. Starting October 30, they're with FP. Lamothe has written for MCT (Situation Report's alma mater from five jobs ago) and the Military Times newspaper chain since 2008 and has covered the war in Afghanistan extensively. He broke the story that Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer would receive the Medal of Honor and, with a team of other reporters, has exposed potential wrongdoing among the senior Corps leadership. He'll continue that deep-dive coverage, investigating the technologies, people, plans, and budgets that make up the national security landscape for FP.

Jamila Trindle has covered financial regulation, the economy and breaking news for the Wall Street Journal for the past three years and has also reported for PBS' Nightly Business Report. She's been a freelancer in China, Indonesia and Turkey for NPR, Marketplace and the Guardian. She'll be covering global finance, international market-makers, and the nexus of Wall Street and Washington for FP.

John McHugh fixed a problem in the Army. Army Captain Will Swenson, who received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, was in the Pentagon yesterday for the military ceremony there. But that's where officials made a much more public acknowledgement of the tough road his MOH nomination took, a botched process after he criticized his senior officers during the investigation into what went wrong in the battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan in 2009 for which he received the medal. Following the battle, he told investigators that the rules of engagement were wrong, senior officers didn't send help fast enough and that he was second-guessed for requesting fire support. That contributed in some way to the protracted process to nominate and award Swenson the medal. So Army Secretary John McHugh announced yesterday that the Army was fixing the problem. Yesterday McHugh issued a directive requiring that all Medal of Honor noms be sent immediately to the awards and decorations branch of the Army's Human Resource Command. McHugh: "As soon as an honors packet is created at battalion level, we will have immediate visibility at Army headquarters. Each subsequent command's review will also be required to be immediately forwarded to HRC; and in return, HRC will follow up with the original command every 30 days until that award packet reaches its final review. A parallel process that will provide greater oversight; a way by which we can ensure that no future award packet is lost along the way, or paperwork misplaced or somehow forgotten in the fog of war," McHugh said. Then he added: "Our heroes have always taught us many things, and that's true here, today. Sometimes our heroes teach us how to make ourselves better. And Will, for that as well, I -- we all -- want to thank you."

Chuck Hagel apologized to the family of Army Capt. Swenson. Also appearing at the Pentagon ceremony was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said that in addition to Swenson's valor on the battlefield, he exhibited courage and character by questioning authority when he criticized senior commanders during the battle. Hagel: "He questioned -- he dared to question the institution that he was faithful to and loyal to.  Mistakes were made in his case...As the institution itself reflected on that same courage and integrity institutionally, the institution, the United States Army, corrected the mistake.  They went back and acknowledged a mistake was made and they fixed it." Hagel, eschewing his prepared remarks and speaking off the cuff, also said: "Another great dimension of our republic, of our people, we have an inherent capability to self-correct.  Free people have that capability if they have the will and the courage to self-correct.  And we all do in our own personal lives.  Institutions don't always. Eventually they will be forced to.  In this case, the United States Army was not forced to.  It did self-correct.  It was a wrong.  They corrected it.  They fixed it. We're sorry that you and your family had to endure through that, but you did and you handled it right."

What made McHugh nervous yesterday: Will Swenson's mom, an English teacher. McHugh, at yesterday's Pentagon ceremony: "Will's mom's presence that has me a little nervous... more frightening, [Will Swenson's mother, Julia's] field was English. And as the President noted, she made sure that even at a young age, Will not only dotted his i's and crossed his t's, but he practiced perfect grammar at all times. So, Julia, ma'am, I have done my best today and will continue to ensure correct usage and correct syntax. Or, as we say back home where I'm from, I hope I got good English." Full transcript of McHugh's remarks, here.

Joe Peters is the first Army Criminal Investigation Command agent to be killed in combat since 1971. Special Agent Peters "wanted to do the exciting thing," Stripes Nancy Montgomery quoted Special Agent Brian Mason as saying. "You feel good that you're out there helping, risking your life to protect our nation." Peters died Oct. 6, just as his deployment to Afghanistan was ending, in a "devastating series of blasts from suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices" in a compound in Afghanistan west of Kandahar as he accompanied Army Rangers on a night raid.  Peters was soon to be reassigned to an Army protective unit that provides security for VIPs like the Secretary of Defense. He left behind a 20-month old son, Gabriel. Montgomery's story in Stripes, here.

Don't pigeonhole the San Antonio. The amphib isn't just the ship that briefly housed Abu Anas al-Libi, the suspected al-Qaida surveillance and computer guru nabbed by Army commandoes in Libya and interrogated on the ship. Yesterday, it provided assistance to the Maltese government, picking up 128 people "in distress" who were for some reason found themselves on a raft in high seas. Navy story here.

John Kelly defended a Marine captain in connection with the Marine urination incident in Afghanistan. Marine Corps Times' Hope Hodge Seck: "Marine Gen. John Kelly, the four-star head of U.S. Southern Command, testified during an administrative hearing here Wednesday that it is the battalion and unit leadership - not Capt. James Clement - who should answer for failing to properly supervise the scout snipers who made a video of themselves urinating on dead insurgents in Afghanistan. Kelly testified for the defense before a board of three senior officers overseeing the hearing. They will determine whether Clement, who is accused of substandard performance and misconduct, keeps his military career or is thrown out of the Marine Corps." Kelly: "I would say that it was a battalion that was, in my estimation, loose in the way it did business... a lot of people doing great things but general confusion in how people were organized for combat." Her whole story here.

Next week, the Foreign Policy Initiative holds its 2013 Forum with David Petraeus, John Allen, Dov Zakheim, Eric Edelman, Seth Jones, Eliot Engel and Mike Rogers. FPI's 2013 Forum this Tuesday Oct. 22 between 9-4 includes discussions about "What Defense Does America Need?" the crisis in Syria, post-2014 Afghanistan - "What are the Stakes?" and "Assessing the Asia Rebalance." The forum, to be held downtown, will include a number of national security folks and panels will be moderated by the likes of CBS's Lara Logan, the WaPo's David Ignatius, Armed Forces Journal's Brad Peniston and the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin. Make a contribution and attend the private, off-the-record dinner with David Petraeus - the same one that John Allen will be joining as well. Info and RSVP here.

Rosa Brooks: "It really was nice while it lasted." She's talking about the idea that is America. Writing for FP, Brooks wonders how this episode will be remembered in the year 2060. Brooks: "It was nice while it lasted. Having a government, I mean. You grandkids don't remember the government, of course: We got rid of it long before you were born. I don't remember why, exactly. Some people got angry because they thought the government was going to force them to get health insurance, which they didn't want because -- well, I'm not sure why they didn't want it. No, no -- the government wasn't going to send them to prison or anything if they didn't get health insurance. It was just a tax: The people who could afford to get health insurance but refused to buy it were going to be taxed a little more than people who bought health insurance. The tax was to pay for giving health care to people who couldn't afford to buy their own insurance. But the same people who didn't want to be told to get health insurance didn't want to be taxed to pay for something that would help someone else. Yes, those were the people who called themselves the Tea Party, after the Boston rabble-rousers who threw several boatloads of British tea into Boston Harbor in 1773. Though there was a big difference between the two groups: The Tea Party of 1773 was protesting the imposition of taxes by the British Parliament, in which the American colonies had no elected representatives. The Tea Party of 2013 was protesting taxes voted on by the American Congress. Our own government.

"You didn't know that? Well, no reason you would. Somehow the Tea Party managed to make it sound like the law requiring people to get health insurance or pay a tax had been foisted on them by an undemocratic, alien entity, but that's not how it was. I'm not saying President Obama -- you've heard of that guy -- was perfect, but the American people voted for him twice, and Congress voted to pass the health care legislation Obama wanted, and the Supreme Court said it was constitutional. The Tea Party people in Congress kept trying to get everyone else to vote to overturn that law, but they kept on losing, vote after vote after vote. "And you know what happened? They shut the government down."The rest here.




National Security

Where did $230 million in parts go?; Iran inches toward a deal, Afghans make inroads; Welsh cancels a media visit; Swenson gets a medal, Arlington makes an exception; Tea Party Baby: no peas; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Iran outlines a possible deal in PowerPoint - which could amount to a big deal. The NYT's Michael Gordon and Thomas Erdbrink: "Speaking in English and using PowerPoint, Iran's foreign minister outlined a proposal to representatives of the big powers on Tuesday that would constrain his country's nuclear program in return for a right to enrich uranium and an easing of the sanctions that have been battering the Iranian economy. After the discussions, Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, and his team met for about an hour at the United Nations headquarters here with the American delegation, led by Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official. The substance was not disclosed, but the meeting itself was unusual. The proposal presented by the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at negotiations on Iran's disputed nuclear program, called for "an end to an unnecessary crisis and a start for new horizons," according to Iranian officials. In a possible sign that the negotiations have turned serious after years of delay and obfuscations, a senior State Department official suggested that the discussions had been workmanlike. A State Department official, to the NYT: "For the first time, we had very detailed technical discussions, which carried on this afternoon... We will continue the discussions tomorrow." The rest of the Times story here.

But Dems at home may be a stumbling block to lifting sanctions on Iran. FP's Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson: "The White House has already signaled a potential openness to that kind of deal, but a wide array of powerful Democrats -- including the top members of both the Senate and House foreign affairs committees -- strongly oppose lifting any of the existing sanctions on Iran unless Tehran offers concessions that go far beyond anything Zarif has talked about in Geneva. 'If the president were to ask for a lifting of existing sanctions it would be extremely difficult in the House and Senate to support that,' Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told FP. 'I'm willing to listen but I think that asking Congress to weaken and diminish current sanctions is not hospitable on Capitol Hill.'" The rest here.

How much are sanctions really hurting? The Christian Science Monitor's Ariel Zirulnick: "Most observers say that the punishing sanctions have brought the Iranian economy to its knees, and that dire conditions were the catalyst for Iran's rapid push for a nuclear agreement since the June election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as president. But there are others who argue that Iran is coming from a much stronger economic position than world powers are acknowledging, and scoff at the growing chorus warning of a collapse. The new leadership sees much to gain from making concessions to regain access to the global financial system - something that will play well among Iranians who want to return to business as usual." More here.

But, is America's prestige diminishing because of its current dysfunction? Writing for the WSJ today, Thomas Catan: "...observers say that prestige may have been badly dented by Washington's latest display of fiscal dysfunction, limiting the U.S.'s ability to get things done abroad." The CEO of the world's largest asset manager said a few days ago that he detected ‘a pronounced sadness from our trading partners and our friends' as he tried to explain the fiscal impasse during his recent travels abroad," according to the Catan. Laurence Fink, CEO of the New York-based asset manager BlackRock at a conference of banker recently: "It is embarrassing for me to have these conversations."

Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. 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, because if you see something, say something -- to Situation Report. That and please follow us @glubold on the Tweeter machine.

Is it over yet? Fox News this morning, on the deal to re-open government and figure out the debt ceiling. Fox: "Senate leaders scrambled to restart talks on a plan to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and end the partial government shutdown after efforts by House Republicans to advance their own proposal dramatically fell apart late Tuesday. House GOP leaders, after initially planning to vote on their plan sometime before midnight, shelved the proposal Tuesday evening after leaders struggled to round up the votes. ‘It is over,' one GOP aide told Fox News late Tuesday. With that decision, focus shifted back to the Senate and talks between Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell. A spokesman for Reid issued a statement late Tuesday saying, ‘Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach.'" More here.

There's no such thing as a (Marine) runner scorned. If the government doesn't re-open by Saturday, Marine Corps Marathon organizers say they may have to shut down the Marathon, scheduled for Oct. 27.  A statement from organizers: "Since the government shutdown occurred, the Marine Corps Marathon continues its coordination with hopes of a conclusion in time to host the event without impact. Without a resolution to the government shutdown this week, the MCM as planned is in jeopardy of being canceled," officials said in a statement on his Facebook page. Saturday, the organizers said, is their go/no-go decision time, at which point they'll notify runners.

Why did the Air Force's Mark Welsh cancel tomorrow's DeeDubyaGee? Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh was supposed to appear tomorrow morning at a breakfast meeting with reporters, part of a long-running media-and-the-military breakfast forum in Washington known as the Defense Writers Group, or DWG. But Welsh cancelled due to the government shutdown. We wondered why the shutdown would stop a service chief from eating breakfast with a bunch of scribblers. Air Force officials tell Situation Report that shutdown-related guidance dictates that the general should not appear. Indeed, some public affairs activities are not covered under the Pay Our Military Act and therefore some PA-supported events may be cancelled. But Col. Steve Warren of the Pentagon's Office of the Secretary of Defense's public affairs office tells us that "there's no specific guidance that tells military officers and/or civilian leaders not to appear in media forums or events during the shutdown.  That said, public affairs is not an excepted activity so leaders make their own judgment calls on what to participate in and what to cancel." The Pentagon's guidance on #governmentshutdown, here.

ICYMI: Leon Panetta rebuked Obama. The former Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, did not spare President Barack Obama in his assessment of the current crisis, calling him out for not reaching out. He told a group at an event sponsored by the WSJ: "We govern either by leadership or crisis. .?.?. If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis... Clearly, this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis." The rest of Ruth Marcus' piece today in the WaPo, here.

The Tea Party, peas, carrots and getting your way or the highway. A video short of negotiations that we would call "There's a Fire in the House," on Upworthy, here. (thanks, Doctrine Man.)

Afghan forces are fighting a hard fight - and maybe they're winning. The NYT's Page Oner today, by Rod Nordland, Thom Shanker and Matthew Rosenberg: "When the Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive, they saw few limits to their ambitions: to kill top Afghan officials across every major ministry, to plot even more infiltration attacks against Americans and to bloody, break and drive off the Afghan security forces who were newly in charge across the country. Now, Afghan and American officials are cautiously celebrating a deflation of the Taliban's propaganda bubble, the militants' goals largely unmet. With this year's fighting season nearly over, the officials say the good news is that the Afghan forces mostly held their own, responding to attacks well and cutting down on assassinations. But at the same time, the Afghans were unable to make significant gains and, worse, suffered such heavy casualties that some officials called the rate unsustainable." Read the rest here. 

A whole new set of Pentagon hammers, Afghanistan version. The Center for Public Integrity reports on what Pentagon auditors have found but what many folks already suspected: when it comes to buying spare parts, the Defense Department buys more than what they need. And guess what? They also pay too much for them. Writing on FP, the Center for Public Integrity's R. Jeffrey Smith: "A partly-plastic roller wheel for an aircraft ramp worth a bit more than $7 is billed to the Pentagon at $1678. "Commander" seats for Stryker armored vehicles are purchased long after they became obsolete. A 38-year supply of parts is stocked for an aircraft with a much shorter lifespan. ‘Do we have enormous warehouses sitting around with stuff that no one is going to use?; asked a senior defense official who briefed reporters over breakfast on these and other episodes earlier this year. ‘Yes.'

"Now, in an act of generosity, the Pentagon has successfully exported its spare parts mismanagement to Afghanistan. It seems that a multinational, U.S.-led military office called the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) spent $370 million from 2004 through the middle of this year on spare parts for vehicles operated by the Afghan National Army. But last year, it confirmed that it could not account for $230 million worth of the spare parts, according to an Oct. 16 report by the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction." Read the rest of his bit here.

The link to a story we referenced on ProPublica yesterday was broken - here it is again. The story by Cora Currier, "In Big Win for Defense Industry, Obama Rolls Back Limits on Arms Exports," can be found here.

Validation in Section 60: Arlington reverses itself on its cleaning procedures after a WaPo story. A few weeks ago, the WaPo's Greg Jaffe wrote about how maintenance crews at Arlington National Cemetery had abruptly removed pictures, worry rocks, love letters and other mementos left by the loved ones by the headstones of fallen service members in the area of the cemetery where the recently fallen - from Iraq and Afghanistan - are buried. Despite a notice on the cemetery's Web site, few people saw it until they arrived to visit their service members' gravesite to see, to their horror, that everything had been removed and most of it discarded. Seems like someone could have imagined the inevitable headlines. Now they've reversed course, sort of. Jaffe: "Arlington National Cemetery officials, responding to complaints from upset families, will allow small photos and other mementos to be left next to headstones in Section 60, where the Iraq and Afghanistan war dead are buried... Cemetery officials apologized to the family members for throwing out their mementos at a three-hour meeting held recently on the Arlington grounds. The cemetery's executive director also offered to temporarily suspend Arlington's cleanup policy in the section. For the next seven months, when the cemetery's grass is cut less frequently, family members will be permitted to leave small photos and other handmade mementos as long as they are not taped to the headstones." Scrambling to find "flexibility:" "We are looking for flexibility within Arlington's current policies to meet their needs," Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the cemetery, told Jaffe.  Read the rest of the story here.

Will Swenson was the first Army officer since Vietnam to receive the Medal of Honor yesterday. He is the sixth living person from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive it. ICYMI: The backstory of the controversial MOH for Swenson, in the WaPo, here. An excerpt, from the WaPo's David Nakamura: "But for Swenson, the award stands for more than his personal bravery during the seven-hour battle in the Ganjgal valley, near the Pakistan border, on Sept. 8, 2009. It is also a measure of vindication. After returning from the battlefield, Swenson engaged in a lengthy and bitter dispute with the military over the narrative of one of the Afghan war's most notorious firefights. The questions he raised resulted in reprimands for two other officers and what he and others say was an effort by the Army to discredit him. His account also cast doubt on the exploits of another Medal of Honor recipient from the same battle, Dakota Meyer of the Marine Corps. United in war, the two men have taken far different paths since. Meyer has found celebrity and success, with a book and a personal assistant, boosted by a story that Swenson considers an inflated and misleading account of that harrowing day."

Meet the NSA's new Codebreakers: they're hackers, break-in artists, corporate liaisons and shadow salesmen, as Matthew Aid writes on FP. Aid: "Even so-called "hacktivists" play an unwitting role in helping the NSA gain access to computer networks -- both hostile and friendly. Just about the only place that's somewhat immune to the NSA's new style of codebreaking attacks? North Korea, because it's so disconnected from the rest of the world's networks. Former U.S. intelligence officials confirm that the more than 1,500 cryptanalysts, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and computer technicians who comprise NSA's elite cryptanalytic unit, the Office of Cryptanalysis and Exploitation Services, have had a remarkably large number of codebreaking successes against foreign targets since the 9/11 attacks. But these wins were largely dependent on clandestine intelligence activities for much of their success in penetrating foreign communications networks and encryption systems, and not the more traditional cryptanalytic attacks on encrypted messages that were the norm during the Cold War era." Read the rest here.

Hill to Penty: Please don't take away the Office of Net Assessment. It's a perennial issue. Congress hates to see the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, essentially the Pentagon's internal think tank, messed with; the Pentagon, now in a particular budget crunch, must find ways to cut costs. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The Pentagon is considering reorganizing its internal think tank, an organization credited with helping the US win the Cold War, according to defense sources. The office has been around since 1973, and is the ultimate rarity in Washington, where senior officials come and go like the seasons. Andrew Marshall, who is over 90 years old, was its boss on Day 1 and continues to be its boss. But now as the Pentagon looks to build itself for the decade ahead, a period with fewer spending cash, the revered office could be reorganized or, as some have suggested, eliminated. Defense officials stress that no final decision has been made, however DoD is in the midst of reducing its headquarters staffs by 20 percent over the next five years, a move intended to save the Pentagon billions of dollars. Any change in the office's status has prompted concern on both sides of the political aisle."

For example... "Forbes told Hagel that the Marshall-led office "has been at the forefront of the most innovative defense strategies of the last two generations." Forbes:  "Given the critical contributions to U.S. national security made by the office during its forty-year history and its role as a central repository for long-range strategic thinking, we believe it would be a serious error to further consider its abolition." Defense News' article here. The letter written to Hagel from Reps. Forbes, Courtney, Wittman and Hanabusa, here.