National Security

FP’s Situation Report: 200 to be cut from Penty over five years; Yoda survives; U.S. appears to accept ADIZ in Asia; 5 billion records mapped a day at the NSA; What happens when an AF band does a flash mob; and a bit more.


By Gordon Lubold

The Obama administration appears to be open to accepting China's ADIZ - sorta. FP's Dan Lamothe and Yochi Dreazen: "Top Obama administration and Pentagon officials signaled a willingness to temporarily accept China's new, controversial air defense identification zone on Wednesday. Those officials expressed disapproval for the way in which the Asian power has flexed its muscles, and cautioned China not to implement the zone. But they also carved out wiggle room in which the United States and China ultimately could find common ground on the issue, indicating that they may be willing to live with the zone for now -- as long as China backs off its demand that all aircraft traveling through it check in first. ‘It wasn't the declaration of the ADIZ that actually was destabilizing,' said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, America's highest-ranking military officer. ‘It was their assertion that they would cause all aircraft entering the ADIZ to report regardless of whether they were intending to enter into the sovereign airspace of China. And that is destabilizing.' That's a change from just a few days ago, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden demanded that China take back its declaration of the zone. And it's another demonstration that China's recent decisions have forced the United States to tread carefully. On Wednesday, Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing for more than five hours, according to a senior administration official. In brief public remarks midway through the marathon session, Biden didn't mention the air defense zone at all." Read the rest here.

John Bolton's answer to the question, "how should the U.S. respond to China's muscle-flexing? His BLUF: "Japan and Israel both live in the real world of threats and dangers, not in the Obama bubble where national-security issues rarely intrude on his efforts to reshape American society. But China's air-defense zone move has pierced the bubble, and Joe Biden's Asia trip could tell us if President Obama now gets it." Read that bit here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  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, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Five billion records: That's how many phone records the NSA maps every day. The WaPo's Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani: The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals - and map their relationships - in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool." More here.

Afghanistan's IG: DOD has not conducted a comprehensive "risk assessment" of the Afghan gov's capacity to manage American funding for its military. SIGAR John Sopko: "The current process does not enable CSTC-A to determine core functional capacity across each ministry, provide trainers and decision makers with a holistic understanding of systemic shortcomings of each ministry's overall financial management capacity, or identify risks associated with capacity weaknesses. CSTC-A does conduct financial risk assessments for some, but not all, Afghan budget requirements for direct assistance, as part of the budget process required by its standard operating procedures. However, these risk assessments are limited to financial risks associated with the procurement of a particular good or service." Read the report here.

SIGAR also announced that it would "restart" its investigation into the $36 million command and control center at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan. "SIGAR is taking this action in response to a recent Army investigation that recommended U.S. taxpayers invest additional money to complete this building." Read the letter SIGAR Sopko wrote to Hagel, Dunford and Austin about the center, here.

So now Afghan militants are joining the fight in Syria, too. FP's David Kenner: "As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gained the upper hand over an internal uprising in the past year, he received a major boost from his allies across the Middle East. The Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, and Iranian military advisors, have all been key in turning the tide of the battle. Now, it appears a new group has entered the fray on the side of the Assad regime: Shiite fighters from Afghanistan. After a dozen years in Afghanistan and thousands of Americans lives lost, the United States also finds itself in an awkward position by the flow of foreign fighters to Syria. While the U.S. occupation of the country was intended to pave the way for the eradication of lawless militias, fighters from Afghanistan are now engaged on both sides of the Syrian conflict. In addition to the Afghan Shiite fighters, a small number of Afghan jihadists have also joined the rebel cause. This dynamic is even clearer in Iraq, where Shiite militias and Sunni jihadists have also joined the Syrian battle - reopening old sectarian wounds and threatening the fragile stability back home."

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, the State Department is stepping up an effort to combat violent extremists' recruiting of English speakers. The NYT's Eric Schmitt: "...The campaign is starting at a time when intelligence officials say dozens of Americans have traveled or tried to travel to Syria since 2011 to fight with the rebels against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen now puts English subtitles on its website propaganda. The Shabab, the Islamist extremist group in Somalia, publish an English-language online magazine. State Department officials acknowledge that the new program is a modest trial run that faces a vast array of English-language websites, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and Facebook pages that violent extremist groups have established largely uncontested in the past few years. But American and European intelligence officials warn that Al Qaeda's efforts to recruit English-speaking fighters could create new terrorist threats when the battle-hardened militants return home." More here.

FP's Micah Zenko argues that Obama's national security strategy aims to avoid wars - but it seems like the White House can't actually get behind its own approach. Read that bit here.

Chinese spy games in the Philippines? The Christian Science Monitor's Anna Mulrine, in Manila: "As residents of a hard-hit Philippine town were being guided onto a cargo plane during the height of the post-typhoon aid effort, one individual refused to be ushered in. He was wearing tattered clothes but, suspiciously, had a brand-new camera. And he was using it to snap photos not of the evacuees he was with, but of the U.S. military aircraft on the runway. US and allied officials concluded that he was a spy for China. Military officers on the ground took the reported spy games in stride... But the episode offers a fascinating window into the high-stakes US-China chess match taking place in the region. As the Pentagon forges ahead with its strategic shift toward Asia, the Philippines is likely to be a ‘key link' in US national security efforts in the region, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report." More here.

Check out this vid of the Air Force band "flash mob" at the Air and Space museum, worth the look, here.

Today on Spouse-buzz: "Save me from my military bitterness!"

"...When I look at Army couples a few years older than we are, I see two kinds of wives:  the bitter and the oh-so-sweet. The bitter ones say things like "The Army doesn't give a damn about families. I am his mistress - he is married to the military." More here.

Chuck Hagel and Marty Dempsey outlined ways to streamline the Pentagon, cut it, and reorganize it. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put a little more meat on the bone of a plan he had announced earlier this year requiring cuts and reorganization across the Department. Hagel's own staff within the Office of the Secretary of Defense will only be cut by about 200 people - over five years - from 2,400 currently to 2,200 personnel by 2019. Other highlights include: restructuring, "strengthening" or otherwise realigning offices across the Department by Jan. 1, 2015. Read the transcript from Hagel and Dempsey's presser here.

Asst. Secretary of Defense Sharon Burke appeared on Federal News Radio talking about the reorganization at the Pentagon with Francis Rose. Burke: "The Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment will be folded under my office...that is a statutory change.  Congress has directed us to eliminate the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense positions which are not Senate-confirmed... Some of [the changes] will be implemented immediately.  We will begin implementing them immediately, and...they should be completed no later than January 2015.  So we have some time to figure out the details, and we will do that." More here.

Yoda is still standing: Andy Marshall's Office of Net Assessment will survive. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "Yoda has won a new lease on life at the Pentagon, although his independence will be curtailed. Yoda is the nom de guerre for Andrew W. Marshall, the 92-year-old futurist who directs the Pentagon's obliquely named internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment. A fixture in national-security circles since the dawn of the Cold War, Marshall contemplates military strategy and apocalyptic scenarios that could emerge in the decades to come."

Temporary Fox: Why Christine Fox was selected for DepSecDef - and who may have ran from a fight.  Breaking Defense's Colin Clark: "...Fox was not the slam-dunk choice. Several likely candidates - former policy undersecretary Michele Flournoy and former BAE CEO Linda Hudson chief among them  - are understood to have declined either because of the demands of the job (you have no life outside work) or because of the horrors of the confirmation process. My personal favorite of the rumored candidates was Dave Oliver, former CEO of EADS North America, and former principal deputy undersecretary for acquisition and logistics. But Dave is male and is not widely known for his diplomatic skills, though he possesses considerable charm and, most importantly, knows how to manage effectively and to force policy decisions. Oliver would be an intelligent choice to manage the Pentagon during times that will only grow tougher and require decisions few will want to make." More here.

At the Veterans Court Conference yesterday, Dempsey suggests that the military give a second chance to social media misfits. Washington Times' Kristina Wong: "Young people, beware: That drunken selfie on your Facebook page or obscene rant on your Twitter feed could come back to haunt you - by killing your job prospects. So says the country's top military officer. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, said Wednesday that young people need to take care about what they post in social media because today's bad behavior can cause tomorrow's job rejection, even in the military. ‘I worry about the next generation of young men and women who are now in their teens, early teens, who probably underestimate the impact of their persona in social media and what impact that could have later in life on things like security clearances and promotions,' Gen. Dempsey said during a veterans conference in Washington. The general said Pentagon officials have long considered giving overexposed would-be recruits a second chance to distance themselves from their youthful indiscretions documented online."

Read the rest, plus see the picture of a woman who was fired for posting a picture of herself flipping off a "silence and respect" sign at Arlington Cemetery, here.

Dempsey praised the concept of veterans courts yesterday. American Forces Press Service's Jim Garamone: "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised the members the Veterans Treatment Court Convention for their work in developing the innovative program designed to help veterans get their lives back on track. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the program, which grew out of a grass-roots effort in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008, is especially needed for a generation of service members that has lived through 12 years of repeated deployments into intense combat." More here.


National Security

FP’s Situation Report: The Army investigates itself after a visit from a Chinese general; Kerry: It doesn’t have to be Karzai; Wheels up for Hagel; Decking the halls for Ash’s last day; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

There are tensions within the U.S. Army after a Chinese delegation visits Leavenworth. No secrets were spilled. And all of the documents in question are publicly available. But the U.S. Army has nonetheless launched an internal review of its administrative practices after members of a Chinese military delegation began asking for U.S. government manuals a bit too aggressively during a September visit to an American base.

The so-called 15-6 investigation reflects the growing unease within some quarters of the U.S. military and the broader American national security community about how best to engage with China's People's Liberation Army.  In recent years, the foundation of the relationship has been an approach best described as you-show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine. But some are questioning that path, especially now that China has sparked an international incident when it declared a so-called "Air Defense Identification Zone" over disputed territory late last month.

At issue in the Army investigation is the behavior of some members of a seven-person Chinese delegation that travelled to the U.S. in late September. The group, led by Maj. Gen. Chen Dongdeng, the PLA's director of so-called "military engagement," visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as part of a two-stop visit that also included Washington, D.C. The goal at Leavenworth: to "participate in an informational exchange" on U.S. Army doctrine and "operational theory," according to an internal Army news story produced at the time. But the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, which hosted the delegation, never sought the approval of the Army's G-2 intelligence directorate and bureaucratic feathers got ruffled as a result. It might have ended there. But during the two-day visit, Dongdeng and members of his delegation asked repeatedly for copies of U.S. Army doctrine documents. Although the documents are "open source" -- meaning they are available to the public -- it was the pointed way in which the Chinese general sought them that raised eyebrows and came off as awkward, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Read the rest of our story, by Lubold and FP's Shane Harris, here.

In Asia, Trade representative Joe Biden is now Ambassador Joe Biden. WSJ's Julian Barnes, Yuka Hayashi and Jeremy Page: "Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Beijing on Wednesday was long intended to boost trade but instead has become an urgent diplomatic mission. Mr. Biden now has the task of calming tensions between China and its neighbors to avoid further escalations and the potential for direct conflict over Beijing's recent declaration of a new air-defense zone over territory also claimed by Japan. His arrival in China is Washington's first chance for high-level, face-to-face discussions about the rising tensions, among other areas of dispute... Mr. Biden, who was scheduled to hold back-to-back meetings with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday before dining with the Chinese leader, preceded the visit with a tone that was firm but cordial-apparently aimed at avoiding a public fight while at the same time assuring jittery allies that the U.S. was weighing in on the territorial dispute." More here.

Biden also said that U.S.-China relations are "full of promise and opportunity" at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. More here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  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, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Kerry is turning the screws on Afghanistan to sign the dotted line. In Brussels, Kerry and other diplomats were stepping up the pressure for the Afghan government to sign the security agreement that would allow American troops to stay after 2014. NYT's Michael Gordon: "In a comment that reflected the Obama administration's frustration with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, Mr. Kerry suggested that if he was reluctant to be associated with the accord another senior Afghan official might sign it. ‘His minister of defense can sign it,' Mr. Kerry told reporters. ‘The government can sign it. Somebody can accept responsibility for this.'

"...A particular concern is that the legal understandings be in place by February when NATO defense ministers are to discuss the details of the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said. With Mr. Karzai presenting additional demands, including the release of prisoners being held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is calculating that a unified NATO response may concentrate minds in Kabul."

But remember what John Allen and Mike O'Hanlon wrote last week, also in the NYT: "...American officials should stay calm. It would be a mistake to let one man -- increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion -- determine the fate of the American role in South Asia. Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the stakes remain high: Extremist groups from Al Qaeda to Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) could easily put down roots again in Afghanistan if the country were to fall to the Taliban after NATO's departure." More on that bit here.

The LAT's David Cloud and David Zucchino reported Nov. 26 that having someone else in Afghanistan sign the document was a possibility.

White elephant? The Army defends the $36 million complex in Afghanistan that sits empty. The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran has written about the 64,000 square foot facility with the new-car smell in southwestern Afghanistan as a prime example of U.S. spending in Afghanistan gone bad - a facility the commander in the region didn't want and was seen as unnecessary. But the Army today is defending its construction. Chandrasekaran: "...the investigation by the Army general concluded that a fellow general's decision in 2010 to erect the massive structure at Camp Leatherneck, over the objection of a previous top Marine commander in Afghanistan, was justified. The decision reflected the U.S. Central Command's "strategic vision" for Afghanistan at the time, which anticipated an "enduring base" in southwestern Afghanistan. That, however, appears to have been an erroneous assumption. The principal long-term force options the White House is considering - assuming Afghan President Hamid Karzai agrees to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States - do not involve keeping Camp Leatherneck open a year from now." More on that here.

The Navy is sending "sub-killing planes" to Asia. FP's Dan Lamothe: "Tensions between the United States, Japan and China took a new turn Monday night when Vice President Joe Biden asked China to rescind the air defense identification zone it established Nov. 23 over contested islands in the East China Sea. Things could soon get even more interesting, however: the Navy's new P-8A Poseidon planes are arriving in Japan this week, offering the ability to destroy submarines, interdict ships and conduct surveillance on open seas. The U.S. military insists the deployment of the P-8s has nothing to do with current friction between China, which has increased since the Asian giant created an area off its coast that it says other militaries must seek permission to use. In fact, the Pentagon first announced the deployment of planes to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in October as part of a broader realignment that will also eventually include the deployment of more MV-22 Ospreys and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters from the Marine Corps and R-Q4 Global Hawk surveillance drones operated by the Air Force." More of that bit here.

Dempsey appears at VetCon this morning. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey delivers remarks this morning at the Veterans Treatment Court Conference, or VetCon, at 8:30 a.m. at the Wardman Park Marriott. Veterans Treatment Courts help veterans with substance abuse issues that can stem from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries or other combat-related illnesses. The Veterans Treatment Court model is an alternative to incarceration for veterans struggling with substance abuse (one in six do) requiring them to make regular court appearances, mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent random testing for use of drugs or alcohol.

Handshakes, no handouts: Dempsey will discuss this morning helping veterans transition from war to success in civilian life a reintegration that is a "timeless challenge." A spokesman tells us that Dempsey "often says vets don't need a handout, but a handshake. He'll talk about vets being adaptable, resilient and having uncommon courage. He'll thank the group for taking on the challenge and advocating for our veterans," we're told. Justice for Vets, here. 60 Minutes piece here. 

Decking the halls for Ash Carter's last day. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, after the roasting, toasting and lavish praise of his retirement ceremony the other day, will leave the Pentagon today. Expect the typical, informal clapping out routine, where colleagues and other officials line the halls as he walks out for the last time.

A Temporary Fox: As we first reported yesterday, Christine Fox will serve as an Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense before a permanent individual can be identified, vetted and confirmed. Our full story on FP, "Meet the Pentagon's Powerful Female Official Ever," here.

Wheels up for Hagel tonight. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel leaves tonight for Manama, Bahrain where he meets with leaders of Gulf countries and delivers an address for the International Institute for Strategic Studies Saturday. The trip, a defense official said, "provides an opportunity to closely consult with leaders following the announcement regarding the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action with Iran. Hagel will also meet with service members at the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet HQ, thanking them for their service and receiving operational briefings from defense officials there.

Staffers on a plane - Chief of Staff Mark Lippert, Senior Military Assistant Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, ASD for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet, DASD for Middle East Affairs Matt Spence, Chief Speechwriter Jacob Freedman, Cruise Director JP Eby and Acting Spokesman for the Secretary Carl Woog.

Reporters on a plane - AP's Lita Baldor, Bloomberg's David Lerman, NYT's Thom Shanker, CNN's James Crawford, NPR's Larry Abramson, Reuters' David Alexander, WSJ's Julian Barnes, Stripes' Chris Carroll, AFP's Dan De Luce, CBS' Margaret Brennan, American Forces Press Service' Karen Parrish, WaPo's Ernesto Londono.

Random Reuters' slideshow of the Secretaries of Defense, from Hagel back to James Forrestal, who served September 1947-March 1949, here.

Seriously Syria: Chemical Weapons experts face grave risks. FP's Colum Lynch: "U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expressing grave concern about the safety of international inspectors overseeing the destruction and removal of Syria's chemical weapons program -- just as the project enters its riskiest phase yet.

Ban voiced his concerns in a letter to the U.N. Security Council, which provides fresh details on international plans for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. A copy of the letter, which had not been made public yet, was posted on the web site of a reporter from Arab language broadcaster Al Hurra. Sigrid Kaag, a Dutch* national who heads the U.N.-backed joint mission overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, will brief the Security Council on Wednesday on Ban's letter." More here.