National Security

Is South Korea stealing American military secrets? Ike Skelton is dead at 81; NSA on Feinstein: “We’re really screwed now;” Asia series launches; Liposuction for the troops?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Exclusive: Is trusted ally South Korea stealing American military secrets? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel watched a live-fire exercise in South Korea last month in which American and Korean tanks operated side-by-side in a display of military might between two trusted partners fond of describing their relationship as a "blood alliance." But just beneath that relationship's surface is a growing unease. South Korea, one of America's strongest partners in East Asia, is aggressively targeting U.S. advanced technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programs, Situation Report has learned. From anti-ship missiles, electronic warfare equipment, torpedoes, a multiple-launch rocket system, and even components on a Korean-made Aegis destroyer, the United States is concerned about the uncanny resemblance those systems bear to American weaponry. Even the tanks Hagel watched on the range that day may be partial knock-offs: The Korean models have fire control systems that appear to be all-but-identical to the American versions.

Though the United States long has had systems in place to monitor technology-sharing with allies, the case with South Korea has become particularly acute in the last few years. As the United States pivots East and Asia's once sleepy defense industries begin to awaken, it has quietly begun to scrutinize its technology-sharing relationships with such allies, conducting secret but robust "dialogues" to ensure that American secrets stay that way.

"We need people to have good capabilities," said Beth McCormick, the head of the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration, or DTSA, in an interview in her office a few miles from the Pentagon. "But at the same time, when we provide that technology, the United States has the perspective that we want to make sure that it is used for the purpose for which we provide it." McCormick would not discuss any specific platforms on which DTSA is applying additional scrutiny, saying only that the United States is in a robust "dialogue" with Korea and must ensure that the technologies it shares, even with trusted allies, are properly safeguarded. "We really want to have an advanced dialogue with Korea because we saw the fact that Korea has definitely made it very clear that they want to have a bigger, indigenous defense industry," McCormick said. Read the rest of our story here.

Read below for a new series on the Asia Pivot with Randy Forbes.

Welcome to Tuesday'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.

"We're really screwed now." That's what someone from the NSA told FP after Sen. Dianne Feinstein flipped and came out against spying on foreign leaders and called for a review: FP's Shane Harris and John Hudson, with an assist from Matthew Aid and us: "One of the National Security Agency's biggest defenders in Congress is suddenly at odds with the agency and calling for a top-to-bottom review of U.S. spy programs. And her long-time friends and allies are completely mystified by the switch. ‘We're really screwed now,' one NSA official told FP. ‘You know things are bad when the few friends you've got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.'

In a pointed statement issued today, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein said she was ‘totally opposed' to gathering intelligence on foreign leaders and said it was 'a big problem' if President Obama didn't know the NSA was monitoring the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said the United States should only be spying on foreign leaders with hostile countries, or in an emergency, and even then the president should personally approve the surveillance. It was not clear what precipitated Feinstein's condemnation of the NSA. It marks a significant reversal for a lawmaker who not only defended agency surveillance programs -- but is about to introduce a bill expected to protect some of its most controversial activities." The rest of the story here.

Bonus: Dennis C. Blair, Mr. Obama's first director of national intelligence to the NYT today: "in our intelligence relationship with countries like France and Germany, 90 to 95 percent of our activity is cooperative and sharing, and a small proportion is about gaining intelligence we can't obtain in other ways." And, he said, he had little patience for the complaints of foreign leaders. Blair: "If any foreign leader is talking on a cellphone or communicating on unclassified email, what the U.S. might learn is the least of their problems."

Here's the Der Spiegel story about how the NSA spied on Merkel's cell phone, one of a couple different versions of how it went down. Read it here.

Today at AEI, Rep. Randy Forbes announces a new "Asia series" that aims to make sure the "Asia pivot" stays on the map. The Virginia Republican will announce this morning a bipartisan effort to educate Congress and the public about the security dynamics in the Asia Pacific region and identify the budget shortfalls that threaten to undermine the "rebalancing" there. In so doing, it will force the administration's hand to put as much substance as possible behind the rebalancing to Asia. The series will include hearings, briefings and other events that for Forbes and like-minded members will bring the Pivot to the fore. Forbes, to Situation Report: "We are examining and asking the questions to make sure we actually have the capability to buttress what we need to be doing in the Asia Pacific make sure we're not just looking at the next three weeks but at the next three years... we will ask the tough questions."

Democrat Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, on the Asia series, to Situation Report: "Congress has a responsibility to take the lead in facilitating a balance between the needs of today and those that represent the future...The security, prosperity, and vital interests of the U.S. are increasingly tied to other countries, and we must seize the opportunity to cement a comprehensive plan to take on new roles and engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific."

Forbes, who sits on the HASC and chairs the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcomm, asked the White House for an "Asia Strategy Review," but the White House this month rejected the idea. In a statement to Situation Report, Forbes said that was unfortunate. Forbes: "...the White House continues to reject such a proposal and has instead allowed the rest of the U.S. Government and officials in Asian capitals to try and parse policy from a disparate collection of speeches, interviews, and articles. Announcing a rhetorical 'rebalance' to the region served to put the national security bureaucracy on notice, now the White House needs to provide clear guidance to the Congress and the rest of the Government to ensure that our military and operational planning is aligned with our diplomatic and political goals." Read the letter to Forbes from Thomas Sullivan, acting assistant secretary for leg affairs, to Forbes, here.

Yesterday in our rush to deadline we dropped the last name of the two-star quoted in a WSJ piece about why troops wanted to stay in Afghanistan. Of course it's Maj. Gen. Austin Scott Miller, sometimes goes by "Scotty."

Ike Skelton is dead at 81. The former Democratic Congressman from Missouri and longtime chairman of the House Armed Services Committee died Monday in Arlington, according to the NYT. He was remembered as a compassionate and thoughtful leader of another time, a "fierce and relentless advocate" for men and women in uniform, according to Rep. Adam Smith, the Democrat from Washington.

Erin Conaton, the Pentagon's former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, who served Skelton for nine years (part of that time as Skelton's staff director) in an e-mail to Situation Report early this morning: "Chairman Ike Skelton was the definition of a true patriot and a superb legislator. The readiness and exceptional quality of our troops was his first consideration in every decision affecting national defense. And his ability to build bipartisan consensus in support of American national security is his legacy. Many members of Congress have learned from him. And it has been the sincere privilege of many of us to serve as part of his personal and committee staffs. He will be deeply missed for his leadership, his passion for our troops, and his tremendous friendship."

Want to understand better the support Iran is giving the Assad regime? Foreign Policy obtained documents last week that shows that Iran has been "selling" shipments totaling about 4 million barrels of light crude oil over the last year to Syria at a 10 percent discount. Writing on FP, Michael Weiss: "...Documentary evidence has come to light showing that Iran -- which had previously been helping the regime in Damascus sell and ship its own sanctioned oil to international buyers -- is shipping light crude into Syria under terms that practically amount to pro bono petroleum imports. Simply put, the Iranian regime is giving its natural resources away at a time when its own people are starving thanks to debilitating international sanctions on its nuclear program... the discounted cost borne by the Assad regime... appears to be paid out of a long-term $3.6 billion line of credit for energy imports that Tehran issued Damascus a few months ago to help it counteract the economic impacts of a devastating nearly three-year civil war. In reality, however, Assad may never be able to repay this loan -- not that the Iranians likely even expect him to, given that they view his survival as inextricable from their own." Read the rest here.

Fahreal? Some troops turn to plastic surgeons to get liposuction to pass their PFTs. AP: "...Service members complain that the Defense Department's method of estimating body fat weeds out not just flabby physiques but bulkier, muscular builds. Fitness experts agree and have joined the calls for the military's fitness standards to be revamped. They say the Pentagon's weight tables are outdated and do not reflect that Americans are now bigger, though not necessarily less healthy. Defense officials say the test ensures troops are ready for the rigors of combat. The military does not condone surgically altering one's body to pass the test, but liposuction is not banned." The rest here.

We didn't forget - Today is the official pubdate of "You Are Not Forgotten," (The Story of a Lost World War II Pilot and a Twenty-First Century Soldier's Mission to Bring Him  Home) by Bryan Bender, Pentagon correspondent for The Boston Globe. It's already received great reviews from the likes of The Washington Times, The Daily Beast and Army Times. Press release for the book from Doubleday here. Amazon link here.

Stimson's Russell Rumbaugh on "The Coming Cut" (the CR), here.

State refuses Lindsey Graham's demands on Benghazi. Daily Beast's Josh Rogin, here.

USIP is hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday. All the deets here.

DIA's Mike Flynn, in an exclusive interview with DefenseOne's James Kitfield, here.

Maybe Saudi men shouldn't be driving. On FP, by Katelyn Fossett, here.

Four female Marines pass a key hurdle during enlisted infantry training. More here.



National Security

As few as 5K for Afghanistan?; Why do troops want to stay there?; The security descent in Iraq; Will the Pentagon’s Jedi return?; A new breed of NatSecWonk; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Could the U.S. leave as few as 5,200 troops in Afghanistan after 2014? The answer is maybe, yes. NYT's Thom Shanker: "After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered. The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments - amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world - unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption... NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American. That is well below earlier recommendations by commanders, but senior alliance officials say larger numbers are unnecessary given the more limited goals now being set by political leaders." More here.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan want to stay there to bring home the win. The WSJ's Michael Phillips: "U.S. and Afghan politicians are in the middle of a heated debate over whether a small American and NATO force will remain in Afghanistan at the end of next year. But what's a political and strategic question at the negotiating table is an emotional question at bases around Afghanistan, where soldiers watch the discussions with one eye on their sacrifices over the past 12 years and the other on the American withdrawal from Vietnam four decades ago. In short, they don't want to go home without the win... The sense is especially sharp among elite special-operations troops. They were the first U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan in 2001, fighting alongside Northern Alliance rebels to oust the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. And they are the ones likely to form the backbone of any force the U.S. would leave in place to buttress the Afghan military and government after the bulk of coalition forces withdraw by the end of next year."

Says Maj. Gen. Austin Scott Miller, to Phillips: "There's some ownership of this... There are people who have been here since the beginning." More here.

The Taliban Effect: Afghanistan's ban on bikes. WSJ's Nathan Hodge: "In several Afghan provinces, authorities attempting to stem a wave of assassinations and kidnappings by Taliban have recently introduced complete or partial bans on motorbikes. Western Herat province, a once-peaceful corner of Afghanistan that borders Iran, was the latest to impose such a ban. This August, Herat prohibited the carrying of passengers on motorbikes. ‘One of our security problems is motorcycles,' Herat Gov. Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi explained to local reporters. ‘When two men are on a motorcycle, it's suspicious.'" More here.

Iraq is becoming more and more dangerous. The WaPo's Ben Van Heuvelen: "Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaeda affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008. In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing dozens of people. The bloody campaign has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year. Sunday's attacks occurred just three days before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to arrive in Washington, where he will take part in meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. At the top of his agenda is a request for more U.S. help in the fight against the al-Qaeda affiliate, whose scope has grown to encompass neighboring Syria as well."

Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to Washington, to the WaPo: "We need to increase the depth and width of our cooperation, to be more agile and reflect the seriousness of the situation in Iraq... In our discussions, we will highlight the urgent need for the approval and quick delivery of military sales." More here.

Welcome to Monday'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.

Will the Pentagon force 92-year-old Andy Marshall to retire from ONA - or will the Jedi Return? The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "From his office deep inside the Pentagon, Yoda has outlasted the Cold War, countless military conflicts and 10 presidential elections. But can he survive the sequester? Yoda is the reverential nickname for Andrew W. Marshall, a legendary if mysterious figure in national security circles. A bald, enigmatic 92-year-old strategic guru, he resembles the Jedi master of ‘Star Wars' fame in more ways than one. Since the Nixon administration, Marshall has directed the Pentagon's secretive and obliquely named internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, which contemplates military strategy decades into the future. Over his long career, he has foretold the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of China and the spread of robotic warfare. Even so, the mere suggestion that the Pentagon might force its nonagenarian futurist to retire has sparked a backlash among Marshall's heavyweight corps of supporters. Several members of Congress, from both parties, have dashed off letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in protest. Former Pentagon chief Donald H. Rumsfeld tweeted that it would be a ‘serious mistake' to close the Office of Net Assessment and praised Marshall for being at the ‘forefront of strategy & transformation' for 40 years." More here.

There's another @NatSecWonk in our midst: Someone is Tweeting @NicerNatSecWonk. 45 Tweets, 28 followers. Description: "I generally think people in the security policy community in DC care about national security, even if I disagree with them."

Obama's spies may have been bugging world leaders for almost five years - but he didn't know it. The WSJ's Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous: "...The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven't been phased out completely yet, officials said. The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders."

And this [italics ours]: "Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them."

"...They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection "priorities," but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets. The senior U.S. official said that the current practice has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level. ‘These decisions are made at NSA,' the official said. ‘The president doesn't sign off on this stuff.' That protocol now is under review, the official added." The Journal story here.

John Kerry on Assad's war of starvation in Syria. Writing exclusively on FP: "Just days ago in London, I listened with sadness and shock as Ahmad Jarba and leaders of the moderate Syrian opposition described how ordinary Syrians with no links to the civil war are forced to eat stray dogs and cats to survive a campaign of deprivation waged by the Assad regime... Simply put, the world must act quickly and decisively to get life-saving assistance to the innocent civilians who are bearing the brunt of the civil war. To do anything less risks a "lost generation" of Syrian children traumatized, orphaned, and starved by this barbaric war... The U.S. government has undertaken significant efforts to alleviate the suffering. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the United States has led international donors in contributing nearly $1.4 billion for humanitarian assistance. Aid has been distributed to every section of Syria by leading international agencies, including the U.N. Refugee Agency, the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and top-notch non-governmental groups." Read the rest of Kerry's piece on FP here.

ICYMI (on Friday): The Pentagon's Inspector General found V-22 Osprey readiness rates flawed. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "U.S. Marine Corps personnel improperly recorded data used to measure the combat readiness rate of the MV-22 Osprey made by Textron Inc. and Boeing Co. in the three years ending in 2011, according to the Pentagon's inspector general. Maintenance personnel "improperly recorded MV-22 aircraft status information 167 of 200 times on aircraft inventory reports" and "did not adequately prepare 112 of 907 work orders that we reviewed," the watchdog agency said in a summary posted online today from a classified report. While the period coincides with the tilt-rotor aircraft's deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the summary doesn't identify the location of the aircraft for which the inaccurate readiness ratings were compiled." The rest here.