National Security

FP’s Situation Report: A secret spy plane, unmasked; Why Syria’s chemical deadline won’t be met; 4th woman police officer killed in Afg; Remembering Mandela; Benghazi, a no-go zone?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Out of the sky: Aviation Week unmasks a secret spy plane program that'll fly at Area 51. AvWeek's Amy Butler and Bill Sweetman: "A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying-and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015. Funded through the Air Force's classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998.

"Neither the Air Force nor Northrop Grumman would speak about the classified airplane... The RQ-180 carries radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array radar and passive electronic surveillance measures, according to one defense official. It could also be capable of electronic attack missions. This aircraft's design is key for the shift of Air Force ISR assets away from "permissive" environments-such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where Northrop Grumman's non-stealthy Global Hawk and General Atomics' Reaper operate-and toward operations in ‘contested' or ‘denied' airspace. The new UAS underpins the Air Force's determination to retire a version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk after 2014, despite congressional resistance...Beyond the financial disclosures, publicly available overhead imagery shows new shelters and hangars sized for an aircraft with a 130-ft.-plus wing span at Northrop's Palmdale, Calif., plant and at Area 51, the Air Force's secure flight-test center at Groom Lake, Nev." Read the rest of this tale, here.

Welcome to Friday'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.

A "Giant among men" and a sense of loss around the world: The NYT's Lydia Polgreen and Alan Cowell, reporting from Johannesburg: "When Cliff Rosen awoke on Friday to the news that Nelson Mandela had died, he went out to the field of sunflowers growing in his garden and cut down the tallest one. ‘A special flower for a special man,' said Mr. Rosen, a 40-year-old urban farmer, as he wired the towering, six-foot stalk to the fence surrounding the spontaneous memorial that has sprung up just outside the home where Mr. Mandela died Thursday night." More here.

"I am fundamentally an optimist." Mandela in pictures: An FP slideshow, here.

Busting deadline: Why Syria's chemical weapons deadline may never be met. FP's Colum Lynch and Yochi Dreazen: "The Obama administration and its allies are struggling to find a safe place to store Syria's chemical weapons after they've been shipped out of the country, raising new questions about when the U.S. military will actually begin destroying the deadly munitions.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has set an ambitious Dec. 31 deadline for Syria to hand over the deadliest of its chemical armaments, which are supposed to be packed into roughly 150 shipping containers, driven to the Syrian port city of Latakia, loaded onto Norwegian and Danish cargo ships and then transported to a location outside of Syria. Once there, they will be transferred to an American vessel called the Cape Ray for destruction. Senior American defense officials stressed Thursday that the Cape Ray itself won't dock at Latakia and that no U.S. personnel would set foot in Syria.

"That, at least, is how the plan is supposed to work in theory. In practice, the effort faces an array of technical, diplomatic, security, and financial challenges...To say it will be a challenge is the grossest of understatements. One dippo familiar with the U.N.'s internal discussions told FP: "I know we have a deadline in three weeks but the operations have not yet started...It's never going to happen." Read the rest here.

Grim trend: A woman named Massoma is martyred in Afghanistan as the fourth Afghanistan police officer to be killed. The NYT's Alissa Rubin: "Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed a policewoman in western Afghanistan on Thursday, wounding her daughter and two other family members who were with her. It was the fourth killing of an Afghan policewoman in the last six months." Said Gen. Abdul Rahim Chikhansori, the acting police chief for Nimruz Province to Rubin: ""Her name was Masooma, and she was very active in her job... The enemy of Afghanistan didn't tolerate her great service and active approach, and unfortunately she was martyred." Masooma was a 48-year-old widow who was the sole breadwinner in her family and took the job out of necessity. Rubin: "Female police officers, especially in more rural areas, are extremely vulnerable. That is partly because there are so few of them that they are easily spotted, and also because of an ingrained cultural resistance to women taking public roles." More here.

Benghazi is increasingly a no-go zone as dangers mount: an American chemistry teacher from Texas was gunned down while he was jogging near his home. The WaPo's Kevin Sullivan: "An American teacher was shot and killed Thursday while jogging in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed last year. Ronnie Smith, 33, a Texan, taught chemistry at the International School Benghazi, school officials said." The rest here.

France sends reinforcements into the Central African Republic after clashes in the capital. AP: "French troops rumbled into Central African Republic on Friday, trying to quell violence in the capital a day after armed Christian fighters raided Muslim neighbourhoods, leaving nearly 100 people dead. France began sending reinforcements within hours of a U.N. vote Thursday authorizing its troops to try to stabilize the country. But French officials insisted the mission's aims are limited -- to bring a minimum of security to Bangui, where people now fear to leave their homes, and to support an African-led force." More here. Dempsey said on Wednesday the U.S. is poised to help French forces there. The Hill's Carlo Munoz: "U.S. forces are standing at the ready to provide support for French and African troops battling rebel forces in the Central African Republic, according to the Pentagon's top military officer... Paris has yet to make a formal request for American troops or military assets to back up the United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission in the central African nation, Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon." More here.

The Hollande Doctrine, continued: France deploying its soldiers to the Central African Republic boosts the leader's poll numbers, in The Guardian, here.

52 were killed in the al-Qaida attack on the Yemeni ministry of Defense. AP: "Militants stormed the Defense Ministry in the heart of Yemen's capital Thursday, killing 52 people, including at least seven foreigners, in a suicide car bombing and assault by gunmen. The brazen attack claimed by al-Qaida's local branch in Yemen follows a rise in U.S. drone strikes in this key American ally in the Middle East... Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's media arm, al-Mallahem, claimed the attack early Friday morning on its Twitter account, saying it targeted the Defense Ministry building because it ‘accommodates drone control rooms and American experts.' It said security headquarters used by the Americans in their war are ‘legitimate targets.' It was the deadliest attack in Sanaa since May 2012." More here.

A gradual retreat from the standoff in the Asia Pacific. The WSJ's Peter Nicholas, Jeremy Page and Yuka Hayashi: "The U.S. and China both signaled they are backing away from a confrontation over China's new air-defense zone, with both nations moving toward an understanding that the zone won't be policed in ways that threaten the region or endanger the lives of pilots and passengers. Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for more than five hours in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the air-defense zone and other issues. A focus of Mr. Biden in those meetings was to define the "rules of engagement" between China and other nations in the region to prevent a calamity..." More here.

Why China's build-up is accelerating security ties throughout Asia. Richard Fontaine, Patrick Cronin and Ely Ratner in today's WSJ: "...Beijing's attempts to unilaterally change the territorial status quo in Asia is compelling a growing network of regional security ties that is more welcoming to Washington than ever...Often excluding both the United States and China, these new ties are supplementing the traditional U.S.-led ‘hub and spoke' alliance system that has undergirded Asian security for decades. This emerging Asian power web of ever-closer military cooperation among key countries in the region represents a response to worries about China's rise and a hedge against any diminution of America's regional presence. And it is emerging quickly." More here.

Christine Fox had her first day as Acting DepSecDef at the Pentagon yesterday. We're told that Fox, whose first day as the Pentagon's No. 2 was yesterday, plunged right in. "Given Secretary Hagel is currently overseas in Bahrain on the first leg of an international trip, Fox led his morning senior staff comprised of OSD and Joint Staff representatives," we're told by a defense official. "Today Fox will roll up her sleeves and chair a set of high priority meetings focused on programs and the budget."

Hagel is in Bahrain. On the road, Hagel Hagel today visited the Navy's 5th fleet headquarters in Bahrain and toured the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce. We're told that he was "impressed by the flexibility this new platform provides the United States military, especially the integration of U.S. Army Apache helicopters aboard a Naval vessel" by a defense official. He told members of the assembled crew and other personnel assigned to the 5th Fleet that the U.S. force posture in the region would not change as a result of the interim deal with Iran. Hagel is in Manama today, where he participates in a series of consultations with a number of regional Gulf partners, including the King and Crown Prince of Bahrain, the Deputy Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia and the Foreign Ministers from both the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

You can't handle the truth: A grunt-turned-POG insults a POG-turned-Grunt. "...According to eyewitnesses, Lance Corporal Bruno Walz spent the better part of his 2200-0600 shift in the Combat Operations Center eating the contents of care packages and complaining about how much he hates POGs, who according to Walz, ‘can't fucking hack it.'... A POG, or ‘Person Other than Grunt,' is a pejorative term used by infantrymen to refer to non-infantrymen, as well as tank crew and artillery if they are not particular about receiving accurate fire support. It comes from the French word pôgué, meaning "that which will be promoted faster than you." In The Duffel Blog, here.


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.