National Security

Chinese arms biz expands at American expense; A Loya Jirga forms; Hagel is wheels up; AUSA kicks off; Bye-bye Manas; Boko Haram gets shown the door; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

More validation for Asia Pivoters: China is making huge inroads when it comes to building its arms industry and the U.S. is losing out. Look at this NYT Page Oner today, by Edward Wong and Nicola Clark, reporting from Beijing: "From the moment Turkey announced plans two years ago to acquire a long-range missile defense system, the multibillion-dollar contract from a key NATO member appeared to be an American company's to lose. For years, Turkey's military had relied on NATO-supplied Patriot missiles, built by the American companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, to defend its skies, and the system was fully compatible with the air-defense platforms operated by other members of the alliance. There were other contenders for the deal, of course. Rival manufacturers in Russia and Europe made bids. Turkey rejected those - but not in favor of the American companies. "Its selection last month of a little-known Chinese defense company, China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation, stunned the military-industrial establishment in Washington and Brussels.

"...Industry executives and arms-sales analysts say the Chinese probably beat out their more established rivals by significantly undercutting them on price, offering their system at $3 billion. Nonetheless, Turkey's selection of a Chinese state-owned manufacturer is a breakthrough for China, a nation that has set its sights on moving up the value chain in arms technology and establishing itself as a credible competitor in the global weapons market. Peter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Institute, which tracks arms sales and transfers: "This is a remarkable win for the Chinese arms industry." More here.

But China has other problems, of course. Today, it just shut down a city of 11 million: AP: "Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter. An index measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), reached a reading of 1,000 in some parts of Harbin, the gritty capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and home to some 11 million people. More on that story, here.

Welcome to Monday'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.

Know someone who's missing The Bird? Send ‘em our way - we'll put them on the distro for Situation Report - we know a guy. [Note to all of you who ask - the Early Bird is the Pentagon's daily compendium of news stories distributed to DOD personnel only; it remains on hiatus for now.]

Chuck Hagel is wheels up this morning for Brussels. The Defense Secretary is headed to Brussels for a series of defense ministerial meetings, including on Afghanistan, returning Wednesday. Tomorrow, Hagel will meet with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and participate in two NATO "working group" sessions. The Secretary has seven "bi-lats," one-on-one meetings with allies, including with Australia, Netherlands, Afghanistan, Canada, Hungary, Germany and Russia. The big NATO-Russia Council and the "ISAF-50" nation meetings will both take place on Wednesday. Updates @glubold.

Staffers on a plane - Senior military assistant Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, Presssec George Little, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy Jim Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia Evelyn Farkas, Chief speechwriter Jacob Freedman and "cruise director" J.P. Eby; Joining in Brussels: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn Creedon and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan-Pakistan Michael Dumont.

Reporters on a plane - AP's Lita Baldor, Reuters' Phil Stewart, NYT's Thom Shanker; WaPo's Ernesto Londono; VOA's Luis Ramirez; Pentagon's Karen Parrish and Bloomberg's David Lerman.

Meanwhile, a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan will determine the fate of that country - and the American role in it - for years to come. Its conclusions won't come until after the Oct. 31 date for when the U.S. has said it wants a security agreement, but it's likely that deadline will be extended as needed. The Guardian: "A national meeting to discuss the fate of a future security deal with the United States will be held in the third week of November, Afghan officials said on Saturday. The key gathering will decide if America and its allies will keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014 or pack up and leave. Sadeq Mudaber, a member of the convening commission, said the consultative assembly of tribal elders, or Loya Jirga, will start at some point between 19 and 21 November and could last as long as a week. He expected up to 3,000 people may attend. A week ago, the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, and President Hamid Karzai reached an agreement in principle on the major elements of a deal that would allow American troops to stay after combat troops serving with a NATO-led international military coalition depart at the end of 2014. But in making the dal, Karzai said a potentially deal-breaking issue of jurisdiction over those forces must be debated by the Loya Jirga before he makes a decision." More here.

Also in the air this week: John Kerry. Secretary of State Kerry is doing a European city tour, with stops in Rome, Paris and London. Before he left Washington, he spoke about Pakistan.

AP's Lara Jakes, who is on the trip: "America's top diplomat says the U.S. relationship with Pakistan "could not be more important" as the Islamic republic grapples with economic and security woes and regional stability. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Sunday as he sat down with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in Washington this week for talks with the White House. Kerry declined to answer questions after brief remarks to reporters at the State Department. But U.S. officials say the Obama administration is posed to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to help bolster ties with Islamabad that have deteriorated over deadly American airstrikes and the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. ‘We have a lot to talk about, and the relationship with Pakistan could not be more important,' Kerry said as his meeting with Sharif began. ‘On its own, (Pakistan is) a democracy that is working hard to gets its economy moving and deal with insurgency, and also important to the regional stability.' Sharif did not speak during the brief session with reporters.

What's at stake in the U.S. exit strategy in Afghanistan. The NYT's Ed Board: "As it winds down its 12-year-old military commitment in Afghanistan, the United States is still looking for a face-saving way out of a conflict that seems headed, at best, for a stalemate. The new bilateral security agreement between the two nations is part of that exit strategy. So is a hoped-for political settlement with the Taliban, on which there has been no progress, and a 2014 presidential election process that is also having problems." And in conclusion: "Now, just when the country needs to elect and unite around a new president, the political process, which is controlled to a large extent by Mr. Karzai, seems as vulnerable to corruption as ever. According to Reuters reports, voter cards, which are used to cast ballots, ‘have become a form of currency,' selling for about $5 each. American troops, no matter how long they stay, cannot compensate for this kind of self-inflicted damage." More here.

Is this what happens when you don't have a security agreement? Hard to know, but a suicide bomber in Baghdad drove a minibus into an outside café in the Shi'ite Muslim district of Amil today, killing at least 38 people. Reuters: "At least 12 people were killed in a spate of suicide bomb attacks on security personnel and government buildings earlier in the day, police said. Violence in Iraq, which had eased after reaching a climax in 2006-07, is now rising again, with more than 7,000 civilians killed this year, according to monitoring group Iraq Body Count." More on that here.

The American experience in Afghanistan, sold as scrap: the WaPo's Kevin Sieff, on all the materiel being sold in the biggest garage sale ever. Sieff, reporting from Bagram: "The armored trucks, televisions, ice cream scoops and nearly everything else shipped here for America's war against the Taliban are now part of the world's biggest garage sale. Every week, as the U.S. troop drawdown accelerates, the United States is selling 12 million to 14 million pounds of its equipment on the Afghan market." That story here.

AUSA - the Army's massive trade show, kicks off in Washington today. Agenda and live streaming, here.

Vigilantes score a win against Boko Haram in Nigeria. The NYT's Adam Nossiter: "The men from Boko Haram came tearing through this rural town, setting fire to houses, looting, shooting and yelling, ‘God is great!' residents and officials said. The gunmen shot motorists point-blank on the road, dragged young men out of homes for execution and ordered citizens to lie down for a fatal bullet. When it was all over 12 hours later, they said, about 150 people were dead, and even one month later, this once-thriving town of 35,000 is a burned out, empty shell of blackened houses and charred vehicles. Boko Haram, Nigeria's homegrown Islamist insurgent movement, remains a deadly threat in the countryside, a militant group eager to prove its jihadi bona fides and increasingly populated by fighters from Mali, Mauritania and Algeria, said the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima.

"But about 40 miles away in Maiduguri, the sprawling state capital from where the militant group emerged, Boko Haram has been largely defeated for now, according to officials, activists and residents - a remarkable turnaround that has brought thousands of people back to the streets. The city of two million, until recently emptied of thousands of terrified inhabitants, is bustling again after four years of fear. More here.

'The juice wasn't worth the squeeze.' The U.S. finally pulls out of Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. After years of tense negotiations and more than a hundreds million dollars in payoffs, the U.S. military is finally giving up on a massive air base that served as a critical logistical hub for the Afghanistan war. The Pentagon announced late Friday that the U.S. would return the Manas Transit Center air base to Kyrgyzstan by next July, just as the U.S. attempts one of its most complex logistics challenges yet -- returning people and gear from Afghanistan as that war draws to a close at the end of next year. The relationship between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan has been bumpy for years as Bishkek demanded more and more money from the U.S. for using a base they knew to be critical to the logistics operations surrounding the Afghanistan war. In the end, the U.S. may have been essentially outbid, as the base -- built with American "global war on terrorism dollars" as one officer put it -- became a gold mine to Kyrgyzstan and other countries, like Russia and China, became interested in its use. But Friday's announcement appeared to reflect that the U.S. was fed up with the demands for more cash, and wouldn't pay any more for use of the base. "It became too complicated," a senior defense official told FP. "The juice wasn't worth the squeeze." Read the rest of our story, with a helpful assist from FP's Yochi Dreazen, here.

The Obama WH wins over a key hawk on Iran: Eliot Engel. The Cable's John Hudson: "Following a round of high-stakes talks on Iran's nuclear program in Geneva, the Obama administration is seeking to reassure lawmakers it won't give away the house in its negotiations with Tehran. On Friday, its chief nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman won over a key Iran hawk, Rep. Eliot Engel, during a round of calls to the Hill. "Under Secretary Sherman told me that the Iranians appeared serious in the recent nuclear talks in Geneva, but cautioned that the devil's in the details, and made clear that U.S. negotiators will remain clear-eyed as they seek to negotiate a deal to end Iran's nuclear weapons program," Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Cable. More here.

The Navy's largest destroyer, headed into the water. AP, from Bath, Maine: "After embarrassing troubles with its latest class of surface warships, the Navy is hoping for a winner from a new destroyer that's ready to go into the water. So far, construction of the first-in-class Zumwalt, the largest U.S. Navy destroyer ever built, is on time and on budget, something that's a rarity in new defense programs, officials said. And the Navy believes the ship's big gun, stealthy silhouette and advance features will make it a formidable package." More here.

D'oh! A newly minted lieutenant promises "not to screw up" in first address to wrong platoon. From The Duffel Blog: "A commissioned officer fresh from training and recently arrived at the 1st Cavalry Division made a promise to "not screw up" to soldiers of the wrong platoon, sources confirmed today. Eyewitnesses barely restraining laughter reported that the visibly flustered 2nd Lt. Matt McGuffin, assigned to 3rd Platoon, stood in front of the 40-strong Headquarters Platoon for several seconds before being able to speak, attempting vainly to wipe his glasses on his ACU blouse." Read all about it here.

National Security

Hagel: Morale is the issue here; Little leaves the Penty; FP: Shabab targeting the U.N.; Does Mike Rogers have what it takes for NSA? Amos, reawakening the Corps; Want 10 percent of $5m? And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

FP Exclusive: Shabab is targeting the U.N. compound in Mogadishu. FP's Colum Lynch: "The United Nations recently uncovered a ‘credible' plot by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab to mount a major terrorist attack against the U.N. compound in Mogadishu, according to senior U.N. officials briefed on the plan. It's another sign that the militant outfit, once thought to be all-but-expired, has once again become a major force for terror in East Africa.

"The warning, one of several threats against the U.N. in recent months, drove home the harsh risks of life in Somalia for the United Nations nearly three months after the Islamist movement attacked the organization's humanitarian compound in downtown Mogadishu, killing eight U.N. employees. It also reinforced the fact that al-Shabab, which widely considered to be organizationally spent earlier this year, has regrouped. Late last month, Shabab killed dozens at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. ‘U.N. premises in Mogadishu may come under direct terrorist attacks,' according to a confidential security assessment of Somalia produced jointly by the African Union and the United Nations. The report, which was shared with U.N. Security Council members, said the ongoing ‘risk of asymmetric attacks has significantly curtailed the mobility of U.N. staff in Mogadishu and hampers delivery of critical UN programs in support of [Somalia's] Federal government.'

... But can the U.N. be truly safe in Somalia?"

J. Philip Pham, a specialist on Somalia at the Atlantic Council, isn't convinced it is: "Yes, more troops will provide more security for those already present in Somalia... We can clear out some more space from Shabab controlled areas. But in a year, we will be asking for more troops and airpower. This is a never ending cycle." Read the rest of Luynch's piece here.

Reuters this hour: Two corpses recovered from the mall in Kenya are believed to be Shabab attackers. Reuters' Richard Lough: "...Automatic AK-47 rifles of a model not used by Kenyan security forces and a rocket-propelled grenade were found close to the two bodies, said Gethenji, who is co-chairing the parliamentary investigation into possible intelligence failures... Al Shabaab have said they carried out the mall attack because the Kenyan government had ignored its warnings to pull Kenyan peacekeeping troops out of Somalia. Uganda, which also has troops in Somalia, warned on Friday of a possible ‘imminent terror attack' on its territory. Al Shabaab attacked Uganda in 2010 in a twin bombing." More here.

From yesterday's Antiwar blog: "U.S. Inflating Threat in Africa to Justify Expansion." Read that here.  

New: George Little is leaving the Pentagon. Pentagon Pressec George Little announced just a few minutes ago that he is leaving his podium perch in the Pentagon briefing room soon, looking forward to a BlackBerry-free Thanksgiving dinner. Little was there for the end of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, the rise of the Arab Spring -and winter; the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, taking the flag down in Iraq and numerous other major muscle movements over the last several years. "He has been a leading voice on every national security crisis for the entire Obama presidency," one administration official told Situation Report this morning.

Little, who will be out by Nov. 15: "I have reached the difficult decision, after long consultation with my wonderful wife and two young sons, to step away from the podium and return to private life and the private sector.  After over two years as Pentagon Press Secretary and over four years as CIA spokesman, I simply need to turn more of my focus to weekend soccer games, helping with school homework, and building Lego sets that demand a higher level of engineering expertise than I currently possess."

Then the U of Virginia alum quoted Jefferson: "The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure."

Welcome to Friday's late 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.

Hagel talks about the impact of the shutdown when civilian workers are told they are "non-essential." The Pentagon estimates that it lost $600 million in productivity during the 16-day shutdown, including from the four days in which about 400,000 civilians were furloughed before the majority of them were brought back. Yesterday in the Pentagon's briefing room, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, followed by Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale, talked about the bigger cost: a loss of morale. Chuck Hagel: "All of our leaders, civilian and military alike, deeply regret what this shutdown has done to our people, and we'll work to repair the damage beginning today. Echoing what President Obama said earlier today, I want all of our civilian personnel to know that the work they do is critically important to this department and this country. It matters to this department, and it matters for the country. The military simply cannot succeed without our civilian employees, and the president and I appreciate their professionalism and their patience throughout this very trying period. Now that this latest budget crisis has become history, and we have come to an end, we have an opportunity to return to refocusing on our critical work."

Asked about the longer-term "reduction in force" of civilians that are inevitable, Hagel deferred to Bob Hale. Bob Hale, speaking in the third person: "Well, you know, [Hagel] said he'd defer to Bob Hale. Bob Hale is going to defer to the future, because we haven't decided."

Bob Hale expanded on the question nonetheless: "But, look, if we face budgets at the BCA cap level, roughly $50 billion less in '14, we're going to have to get smaller. I can't tell you exactly how much. Yes, that will mean fewer civilians. We will try to avoid reductions in force. We'll keep them at an absolute minimum. We would look to do this, if we have to, through attrition, but, yeah, we're going to get smaller. I just can't tell you exactly how much." Full transcript here.

BTW, why no Early Bird? Although the shutdown ended Wednesday around midnight, the Pentagon is still working on getting the daily e-mail of defense stories distributed to DOD personnel up and running. First Bird should be coming soon, we're told. In the meantime, if you want to us to sign you up for Situation Report, send us a note at Gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com.

Read Robert Hormats, writing on FP, about why another debt crisis would be a national security disaster, here.

Why Mike Rogers, "a card-carrying crypy," is on the very short list to replace Keith Alexander and what might be his handicap. FP's Shane Harris, with an assist from Situation Report: "Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers, the odds-on favorite to be nominated by President Obama as the next director of the National Security Agency, has all of the intelligence and military credentials for the position. "A walking resume for this job," said retired Admiral James Stavridis, who recently served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and has known Rogers for more than a decade. But is Rogers a master politician? That may be the more important question if he takes over the helm of the country's biggest spy agency at one of its most perilous moments, when leaks about the the NSA's inner workings have damaged its credibility in the eyes of a large number of lawmakers and the public. Those who know the Chicago native and have tracked his rise to admiral don't doubt his professional qualifications for the NSA job. Over a career in the Navy spanning more than 30 years, Rogers has worked in cryptology, signals intelligence (or electronic eavesdropping), and recently helped write the Navy's strategy for cyber warfare and ‘information dominance' in the Internet age...

"But he has a less demonstrable track record when it comes to interacting with members of Congress -- some of whom want to scale back the NSA's surveillance authorities. It's unclear how he'd deal with the NSA's bureaucratic partner -- and arguably its rival -- in cyber security operations, the Homeland Security Department...

[Former CNO Gary Roughead] acknowledged that Rogers would be taking over the NSA at an unusually sensitive time, when some lawmakers have questioned whether the NSA's surveillance activities, such as the collection of Americans' phone records, violate the Constitution. But he predicted that the admiral would carefully examine all the legal and political issues surrounding the NSA's missions and ultimately make a credible leader."

Retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norty Schwartz, for whom Rogers worked on the Joint Staff, told Situation Report that the key thing about Rogers is that he is a "card-carrying crypy," and that will make a difference at the NSA. "He is a siginter by profession and is well respected and that is an important credential," Schwartz told us. But he will also confront a learning curve in the job, perhaps more so than Alexander, who had academic or even technical credentials going into the job.

"My view is that while he might not have academic credentials that Keith Alexander has, I think that Mike has the operational experience, the field experience, both with sigint and cyber," Schwartz told Situation Report. Where Rogers might have a learning curve is sussing out how to communicate externally, with the media and Capitol Hill, where he has less experience, he said.

Rogers was described by Schwartz as having "relentless energy" while at the same time maintaining a steady calm. Another senior officer told Situation Report: "With Mike Rogers, the wheels never stop." Read the rest of our story here.

Speaking of The Replacements: Jeh Johnson, Obama's expected pick to lead DHS. The Pentagon's former top lawyer, Jeh Johnson, rumored at one point to replace Attorney General Eric Holder or be given the nod for another top position in the Obama administration, is now thought to be headed to the Department of Homeland Security to replace Janet Napolitano. As the Pentagon's general counsel, Johnson oversaw the end of "don't ask, don't tell" that barred gay and lesbian service members from serving openly, legal issues surrounding the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, legal complexities surrounding the administration's reliance on drone warfare and other critical issues. Well liked within the administration, his selection, which should be announced by the White House later today, still comes as a surprise since he wasn't among those thought to be under consideration. The Daily Beast's Daniel Klaidman: "Johnson's experience dealing with counterterrorism and cyber-security threats will comfort many on Capitol Hill. He is less versed in the areas of disaster relief and immigration enforcement, also key elements of the DHS mission. Still, administration officials do not expect the nomination to be especially polarizing and are hopeful Johnson will receive a relatively warm reception in Congress.  

A senior administration official to Klaidman: "The president is selecting Johnson because he is one of the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders, having served as the senior lawyer for the largest government agency in the world." That full story here.

John Kelly's defense of a Marine captain didn't help him: Capt. Clement is (probably) done. A Marine Corps Board of Inquiry in the case of Capt. James Clement concluded yesterday that Clement should be honorably discharged from the Corps for his role as the commander of the unit from which four Marines urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in July 2011. Despite the testimony of Gen. John Kelly, now the commander of U.S. Southern Command, the three-colonel panel substantiated allegations that Clement exhibited substandard performance, misconduct and professional dereliction related to the incident. "The Board members recommended separation from the Marine Corps with a discharge characterized as Honorable," a statement from the Corps said. [Correction: The original post incorrectly referred to Kelly's command as U.S. Central Command].

It's not over yet, necessarily. Senior officers will review the decision before making a final recommendation to higher-ups. And Clement's attorneys, have indicated they will appeal the decision. Clement wasn't present during the urination incident, which was filmed and seen widely across the Internet, inflaming anti-American sentiments across the region. Kelly had testified this week that it wasn't so much Clement's misconduct as the loose culture of the battalion of which his unit was a part. But Kelly's testimony apparently didn't sway the colonels on the board.

Meanwhile, Jim Amos is trying to reawaken the soul of the Marine Corps. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos issued a letter to his Corps's noncommissioned officers, directing them to refocus on the Corps' core values and ethos as he attempts to get his service back on track after 12 years of war.

"By soul, we mean those timeless attributes and habits that have defined our Corps for 238 years: persistent discipline, faithful obedience to orders and instructions, concerned and engaged leadership (24/7), and strict adherence to standards from fire team leader to general officer," Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett wrote in the letter to NCOs, published yesterday. "These habits, these attributes, our undeniable belief in ‘who we are and what we do' form the soul of our Corps."

Amos went on to say that he knows "98 percent of our Marines are doing the right thing," but, he said, "we also know there are some who aren't living up to our sacred title." The Corps is confronting a small but troubling trend of disciplinary problems, from issues with senior officers - two two-stars were just relieved this month - to problems among the rank-and-file, like allegations of rape and sexual assault at the Marine Barracks in Washington, the historic and ceremonial home of the Corps that also literally serves as the doorstep to the home of the Commandant. Amos himself is being investigated for exhibiting improper command influence in the case of the urination incident in a bid to ensure the men were punished for their role in it.

"Sergeant Major Barrett and I need every one of you in this fight," Amos and Barrett concluded in the letter. "NO greater a compliment can be bestowed to a fellow Masrine than to say ‘I can count on you always!' Never forget who we are and what we do for our country. Move to the decisive point in this battle and through your presence, professionalism and tenacity... turn the tide of this fight for the sake of Corps and country."

BTW, We counted six exclamation points in the one-page letter to NCOs! Not that there's anything wrong with that! The NCO letter, here. Here is the Oct. 9 letter Amos sent to his general officers outlining what he wanted to see done. See it here.

The Army's training chief says the military should train on ability, regardless of gender. Read Robert Cone's piece on DefenseOne, here.

State's internal watchdogs were few and far between during the shutdown. The Cable's John Hudson: "As hundreds of thousands of federal employees returned to work on Thursday, the headcount at the State Department barely changed thanks to a clever use of rainy day funds preventing mass furloughs. But one office in Foggy Bottom wasn't so lucky: The Office of the Inspector General. During the 16-day government shutdown, the internal government watchdog tasked with investigating fraud, waste and mismanagement was reduced to a skeleton crew unlike the vast majority of offices in the building. The disproportionate furlough allotment has led critics to accuse the department of undervaluing the watchdog office, though the department strongly disputes that. ‘On day one, they sent home the IG's office without knowing how long the shutdown would last,' a Congressional staffer familiar with State's shutdown planning told The Cable. ‘I think the Department's action speaks for itself about its commitment to transparency, accountability, and oversight.' Read the rest here.

The e-mail we didn't expect. The scam e-mails usually come from inside a palace of a country you've never heard of, written in flowery but broken English. This one was a first. A person claiming to be a U.S. Army officer stationed in Iraq wants Situation Report to help him invest $5 million in the U.S. and my take would be a whopping 10 percent. Calling Charles Schwab! Or maybe not. The person identifying himself as U.S. Army officer "Major Bruce" (West): "I will appreciate it if you can assist me urgently in securing and investing the money in your country pending when I will disengage from my military assignment. I promise to compensate you with 10% of the funds for your assistance while hoping that you assist me as soon as possible. I await your urgent response." We're passing on this intriguing opportunity. Interested? Write brucewest2013@gmail.com