National Security

FP’s Situation Report: The AF general in charge of ICMBs was drunk in Moscow; Mabus on the hot seat this ayem; Poll: Afghanistan not high on Americans’ list; War fears in South Sudan; Breaking: NSA intercepted Santa messages; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

A general behaving badly: Air Force Gen. Mike Carey drank too much on an official visit to Moscow, insulted his Russian hosts and hung out with two women he met in a bar. Oh, and he's also the guy in charge of the Air Force's ICBMs. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "...Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was commander of the Air Force's arsenal of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, "acted in a manner that exceeded the limits of accepted standards of good conduct" during a four-day visit to Moscow in July, according to an investigation conducted by the Air Force inspector general. Carey's behavior stunned his aides and other colleagues traveling with him for a nuclear security exercise and meetings with Russian officials. They said he started drinking during a stopover in Zurich and kept it up during three days in Moscow, causing a string of gaffes and embarrassments that led Air Force officials to relieve him of his command.

"Carey was fired in October from his job as commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for maintaining and operating the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the time, Air Force leaders said he was under investigation for ‘personal misbehavior' but divulged few details because the case was pending.  The Air Force released the partly redacted 44-page investigative report Thursday in response to requests filed by reporters under the Freedom of Information Act... The report says that Carey reported his contact with the foreign women upon his return to the United States and gave their business cards to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. They were not identified in the report. Although Carey defended his actions to investigators, other members of his delegation said they were shocked by his behavior. ‘I realized that this was putting us all at risk, especially Russia and women, and I just wanted nothing to do with that,' a female U.S. official, whose name was redacted from the report, told investigators."

Wait, wha? Whitlock: "...Carey received a ‘letter of counseling' for his actions and is now assigned as a special assistant to the commander of the Air Force's Space Command. Although he was removed from his command job at the 20th Air Force, he retains his rank and does not face any other disciplinary measures, Air Force officials said." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report where we note that we'll soon be going on holiday hiatus - Monday is our last day for awhile. In the meantime, stay in touch.

And if you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. 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.

Page One: Obama threatens to veto Iran sanctions. The WSJ's Carol Lee and Jay Solomon: "The White House issued a rare veto threat in response to a bipartisan Senate bill that would slap Iran with new sanctions if it violates an interim deal reached last month to curb its nuclear program. The threat sets up a standoff in the new year between President Barack Obama and more than two dozen Senate Democrats and Republicans who introduced the legislation on Thursday. The challenge to Mr. Obama is particularly stark because half of the lawmakers sponsoring the new bill are from his own party. The bill could also imperil Mr. Obama's efforts to reach a diplomatic end to the decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear program, which administration officials hope will be a signature achievement of his second term... Iranian officials didn't comment Thursday on the introduction of the legislation. But in recent days they have described Iranian President Hasan Rouhani as in a power struggle with hard-liners in Iran's military and clergy over the November agreement with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, a bloc called the P5+1. Any moves by the U.S. to impose new sanctions on Tehran, said these officials, could weaken Mr. Rouhani's hand." Read the rest here.

NDAA: Hagel is pleased. The Senate last night gave its final approval to the defense funding bill - the National Defense Authorization Act - by voting for it 84-15. The House had already passed the bill. In a statement from a defense official: "Secretary Hagel is pleased the House and now the Senate has voted to support a bill that grants the Defense Department critical authorities and reforms how the military will be able to prosecute sexual assault cases. The Secretary continues to believe that sexual assault is one of the most vexing challenges facing the military.  We'll move out smartly to implement these new authorities once they're signed into law."

The bill changes the legal landscape for sexual assault cases in the mil. The WaPo's Ed O'Keefe: "Congress passed a broad set of changes to U.S. military personnel policy late Thursday, forcing the Pentagon to revamp how it deals with cases of sexual assault and rape in the ranks. The changes would be a victory for the estimated tens of thousands of troops who have been sexually abused in recent years, as well as a triumph for the growing number of women serving in Congress, who pushed for reform."

What does the legislation do? O'Keefe, con't: "The legislation would end the statute of limitations for cases of sexual assault or rape; bar military commanders from overturning jury convictions in sexual assault and rape cases; make it a crime to retaliate against people who report such crimes; mandate the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of such crimes; and give civilian defense officials more control over prosecutions. Although significant, the changes would stop short of what some advocates want." More here.

Murray might be backing away from the COLA cut. Politico's Austin Wright: "Sen. Patty Murray is distancing herself from a cut in military pensions in the budget deal she brokered with Rep. Paul Ryan.

Her unease about a key element of her own deal, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to President Barack Obama, comes amid a backlash from veterans groups and Senate defense hawks that has put her and her colleagues in a tough spot going into an election year. Murray's response: The pension cut isn't final.

Murray on the Senate floor: "We wrote this bill in a way that will allow two years before this change is implemented so that Democrats and Republicans can keep working to either improve this provision or find smarter savings elsewhere." More here.

The picture of Afghanistan is falling off America's piano: 66 percent say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, according to a new poll. "Americans express near-?record discontent and regret over the 13-year war in Afghanistan, during which 2,289 U.S. troops have died and more than 19,000 have been wounded, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Fully 66 percent of Americans say the battle, which began with nearly unanimous support, has not been worth fighting. A majority of respondents have doubted the war's value in each Post-ABC poll since 2010, with current disapproval only one percentage point below July's record mark. A record 50 percent now "strongly" believe the war is not worth its costs. However, and this is important: "Despite the skepticism, a 55 percent majority favors keeping some U.S. forces in Afghanistan for anti-insurgency operations and training, while just over four in 10 prefer removing all troops." Read the rest here.

Standing at a precipice: War fears mount in South Sudan. The NYT's Rick Gladstone and Alan Cowell with a London dateline: "The United Nations said on Friday it had sent helicopters to rescue personnel from a base in South Sudan that came under lethal attack as a political crisis worsened significantly and President Obama warned that the world's youngest country ‘stands at the precipice.' The number of civilians seeking refuge in the United Nations' other facilities there exceeded 30,000 and diplomats expressed fears about the potential for a civil war. Britain, which began evacuating its nationals on Thursday, said Friday that it would send a second airplane to Juba, the capital. ‘We strongly advise all British nationals in South Sudan to leave the country if they can do so safely,' the Foreign Office said, adding that it might become more difficult to escape if the situation worsened further. The United States suspended operations at its embassy in Juba this week and offered similar advice to Americans." More here.

The Navy scandal widens. The NYT's Chris Drew and Danielle Ivory: "Amid a scandal that has already ensnared two ship supply companies in allegations of overbilling the Navy, a third firm that provides services to the Navy's fleet has placed one of its senior executives on leave over questions about how he handled Navy contracts at another company. The third firm, Multinational Logistic Services, known as MLS, is the Navy's largest ship supply company, with $346 million in contracts for ports in Africa, the Mediterranean, Central America and the Pacific...

"The questions about Mr. Khan now mean that companies that provide security and dockside services for the Navy in almost every corner of the globe have been touched by the controversy. The Navy suspended Inchcape last month from winning new federal business over allegations of overbilling the Navy for services in the Middle East and Africa. In September, the Navy arrested the owner of its main ship supply company in the Pacific, Leonard Glenn Francis, on charges that he bribed Navy officials to help him overcharge the Navy. Now, with questions arising about Mr. Khan's move to MLS, a growing number of government contract experts say that abuses in the ship supply industry are so widespread that the Navy should cancel all such contracts and revamp its contracting system." More here.

Ray Mabus is at the podium today in the Pentagon to talk contracting. The Navy Secretary will brief reporters today at 9:45 a.m. on "husbanding policies and contracting initiatives." Should be able to watch it live here.

Hagel and Dempsey do a year-end briefing for reporters. The two appeared in the briefing room - 25 minutes after starting time in what is becoming SOP - and took questions on a wide variety of topics.

Hagel on military compensation reform: "We also recognize that we can no longer put off military compensation reform. DOD's leadership, Chairman [Gen. Martin] Dempsey, the service chiefs, the service secretaries, and myself, we all know that we need to slow cost growth in military compensation. Otherwise, we'll have to make disproportionate cuts to military readiness and modernization. DOD cannot sustain these current programs as they are structured. We will work with Congress to bring the rate of growth of our compensation and benefits programs in line with budget limitations and fiscal realities. We know that many proposals to change military compensation will be controversial and unpopular...Tough decisions will have to be made on compensation. The leadership of DOD is prepared to engage the Congress in achieving compensation reform. But any changes to cost-of-living adjustments should not apply to medically disabled retirees. These retirees need to be exempted from the changes in the budget agreement just passed by Congress."

Dempsey on Pakistan and problems with retrograde at Torkham Gate: "I mean, it is about options. We have the finest logistics architecture and enterprise in the world, that is to say, the Department of Defense, United States military. We'll get it done. It may be more expensive if it -- if this persists. We're engaged with our Pakistani partners, but it won't affect our -- it won't affect the way we operate, nor the way we retrograde."
Dempsey on worries that the Afghanistan security forces are cutting deals with the Taliban like what occurred recently in Sangin - and why they need a security agreement: "I think if it -- if it spread, if it -- if it affected the upcoming elections in any way, it could become malign. It's somewhat predictable, by the way, as the secretary said, but I want to highlight, this is exactly why we need the BSA [bilateral security agreement] to be signed, because what hangs in the balance, the longer the BSA is unresolved, is the confidence of the people of Sangin questioning whether we're going to actually be there for them and continue to allow the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] to develop so that it can counter the Taliban's influence. So if you want an example of why we need the BSA signed soon, there's one."

Hagel on why a security agreement with Afghanistan is important now and why Afghans need the bilateral security agreement: "...Everything works off of confidence. Markets work off confidence. We all work off confidence.

If there is a drop-dead deadline for signing an agreement with Afghanistan - why is that? Dempsey: "...there's physics involved, but we continue to assess that based on how the lines of communication are available to us. Yeah, there's physics."

Hagel on his exchange with Egypt's Minister of Defense al-Sisi on charges against Morsi: "...what I said to him was, which I have been consistently saying to him, is that every time one of these developments occur, the world sees that. And we see it. And we in the United States, I think, most people in most of the world wants a stable, secure, free, democratic Egypt. And most countries want to help them get there. But when these kind of developments occur, that sets back the effort." Read the whole transcript of yesterday's briefing here.

Hagel criticized the Chinese Navy for the incident with the Cowpens. The NYT's Thom Shanker: "The Chinese Navy has been "irresponsible," and its actions risk escalating tensions with the United States, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday in the highest-level rebuke of Beijing since a Chinese warship came dangerously close to an American guided missile cruiser this month... The defense secretary said that the two ships came within 100 yards of each other, and Pentagon officials disclosed that the Cowpens had to carry out emergency maneuvers to avoid hitting the Chinese vessel. Mr. Hagel, at a Pentagon news conference, said the decision by the Chinese warship ‘was not a responsible action.' ‘It was unhelpful,' he said. ‘It was irresponsible.' More here.

Apropos of nothing: kid channeling Mike Jackson has all the moves on this viral vid. Wanna feel good? Click here.  

Is the A-10 a CAS "wonder weapon" - or is it boneyard bound? The dynamic duo of Colin Clark and Sydney Freedberg team up to help answer the question: "The A-10 Warthog is ugly, tough, lethal, and fairly flexible. Its famous 30mm gun can destroy tanks or other armored vehicles with remarkable efficiency, not to mention enemy troops. Its titanium tub of a cockpit protects the plane's pilot from most ground fire. Its pilots are trained to fly low and slow and to kill the enemy even when he is within yards of US forces. The Army and Marines love the Warthog. In short, the A-10 appears to be the exemplar of Close Air Support, protecting Marines and Army troops when they face being overwhelmed by the enemy. Some members of Congress, with an eye on bases in their states and districts, love the plane as well and have championed legislation blocking the plane's retirement.

"Why, then, people ask, is the Air Force seriously considering sending the Warthogs to the great boneyard and their pilots to other missions? The answer is complex, but it boils down to three things: money, smart bombs, and threats." Read the rest of the tale, here.

Merry Christmas: NSA intercepted messages to Santa. The Duffel Blog: "The National Security Agency routinely intercepts children's letters to Santa, internal agency documents have revealed. The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex..." Read the rest here but note that the url didn't work at Situation Report blast time - suspicious!


National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Why a one-eyed militant is a threat to the U.S. in the Sahel; South Sudan unravels; Did diplomacy force an F18 to crash?; Karzai’s CoS got $100k per year from USAID; a sizing chart for the Army; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Mokhtar Belmokhtar leads a new threat in Africa. The NYT's Michael Gordon: "The State Department warned Wednesday that a new terrorist group linked to an Algerian militant has emerged as "the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests" in the Sahel region of Africa. The State Department's move underscored the resilience of the militant factions and their ability to forge new terrorist alliances, even in the face of Western pressure. ‘We are seeing a dangerous mutation of the threat,' said Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terrorism at Georgetown University. ‘Splinters can become even more consequential than their parent organization.' The source of much of the concern is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian militant who has long been a notorious figure in the Sahel region - a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Chad - and who appears to have become more dangerous even as his ties to Al Qaeda seem to have become more tenuous. Known as Laaouar, or the one-eyed, after losing an eye to shrapnel, Mr. Belmokhtar fought against a Soviet-installed government in Afghanistan. After returning to Algeria in the 1990s, he joined a militant Algerian group and took refuge in Mali, where he was involved in smuggling and kidnapping for ransom, including the abduction of a Canadian diplomat in 2008. Mr. Belmokhtar became a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or A.Q.I.M., the Qaeda affiliate in North Africa. But in 2012, he split with the group to lead the Al Mulathameen Battalion, which was officially designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department on Wednesday."

Said Dan Benjamin, former counterterrorism official at State and now at Dartmouth: "He is a more adventurous, perhaps even more reckless operator than the A.Q.I.M. leadership has shown itself to be... and that translates into a threat.'" More here.

Losing control: Fighting is spreading in South Sudan. BBC: "South Sudanese rebels have taken over a key town, the military has said, as fighting continues after Sunday's reported coup attempt. ‘Our soldiers have lost control of Bor to the force of Riek Machar,' said army spokesman Philip Aguer. President Salva Kiir has accused Mr Machar, the former vice-president, of plotting a coup - a claim he denies. The unrest, which began in the capital Juba, has killed some 500 people and sparked fears of widespread conflict. The UN has expressed concern about a possible civil war between the country's two main ethnic groups, the Dinka of Mr Kiir and the Nuer of Mr Machar. The United Nations has called for political dialogue to end the crisis, and the Ugandan government says its president has been asked by the UN to mediate between the two sides. A delegation of East African foreign ministers is due to fly to Juba to try to arrange talks." More here.

NYT's Alan Cowell in London: "In a sign of mounting international concern about fighting in South Sudan, Britain said on Thursday that it had dispatched an airplane to evacuate British nationals as clashes were reported to have spread following claims of an attempted coup. The Foreign Office said that around 150 of the estimated 500 Britons in the newly created country had been in touch with British officials, many of them wanting to leave the country." More 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.

Page One: A panel says Obama should curb NSA spying. The WaPo's Ellen Nakashima and Ashkan Soltani: A panel appointed by President Obama to review the government's surveillance activities has recommended significant new limits on the nation's intelligence apparatus that include ending the National Security Agency's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records. It urged that phone companies or a private third party maintain the data instead, with access granted only by a court order. The President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies also recommended in a wide-ranging report issued Wednesday that decisions to spy on foreign leaders be subjected to greater scrutiny, including weighing the diplomatic and economic fallout if operations are revealed. Allied foreign leaders or those with whom the United States shares a cooperative relationship should be accorded ‘a high degree of respect and deference,' it said." Read the rest here.

The Pentagon is on its way to having more budgetary space. Defense News' John Bennett: "The Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial bipartisan budget plan that erases over $30 billion in across-the-board spending cuts in 2014 and 2015. The former round of cuts would have kicked in next month. Pentagon leaders support the plan, as do defense industry executives. They say while it does not completely undo the ‘meat ax' of sequestration, it does provide much-needed relief. Nine Republicans joined 53 Democrats and two independents in supporting the deal, which passed 64-36. Among those GOP ‘yays' were Senate Armed Services Committee members John McCain of Arizona and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, as well as former SASC member Susan Collins of Maine." More here.

Exclusive: Diplomacy might have caused an F-18 to crash in April. FP's own Dam Lamothe: High over Afghanistan, a two-man team of U.S. naval aviators found itself in trouble April 8 after an aerial refueling mishap damaged their supersonic F/A-18F Super Hornet. Turbulence ripped the fighter away from an Air Force KC-135's refueling hose, leaving a piece of the tanker's refueling apparatus attached to the Super Hornet and causing the fighter to suck airborne fuel through its right engine. It began to stall, and a piece of the tanker plane remained stuck to the fighter as the aircraft parted ways.

"What followed was a series of miscommunications and judgment mistakes that ultimately forced the $60 million fighter -- call sign ‘Victory 206' -- into the North Arabian Sea. The aviators safely ejected about 1.5 miles from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aircraft carrier to which they were trying to return, according to the findings of a new Navy investigation. And while the primary causes of the mishap were attributed to the aircrew failing to recognize the severity of the damage and land their plane in Afghanistan, officers aboard the aircraft carrier effectively took one of their options -- landing at the closest airfield in Oman, a U.S. ally with ties to Iran -- off the table because it would have caused diplomatic headaches for the United States, according to documents obtained by Foreign Policy, through the Freedom of Information Act." Read the rest here.

The three things you should know about the Max Baucus pick to go to Beijing for Obama. Some are lamenting the choice of a 72-year-old Senator to go to China - "some pivot, right?" Indeed, there are some important takeaways from the White House's choice for the U.S. ambassador to China. FP's Issac Stone Fish says the pick could give the U.S. the upper hand in the U.S.-China relationship, it could improve Beijing's relationship with Congress and "it's an uncontroversial and unsexy choice for China." Read his bit here.

USAID paid Karzai's chief of staff 100k per year to get Western technocrats into the GIRoA. The Daily Beast's Eli Lake and Josh Rogin: "The chief of staff to Afghanistan's president drew a salary from two U.S. government contractors in 2002 and early 2003 as he was managing President Hamid Karzai's office, serving as his spokesman and advising him on foreign affairs, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast and subsequent interviews. The contractor salary provided to Said Jawad was part of a U.S. initiative to directly pay high salaries to Western-educated Afghans who helped rebuild a government from scratch in the midst of an ongoing civil war and foreign occupation. While some current and former U.S. officials say these measures were necessary in the first months and years of the Afghan reconstruction to attract top talent to a daunting project, other experts say it's no different from the kind of corruption the Bush and Obama administration have publicly criticized inside the Afghan government. Two separate contracts for Jawad, one reviewed by The Daily Beast and the other mentioned in an email to Jawad, total more than $100,000 per year when taking into account stipends for housing, food, and health insurance that were included in the contracts.

"Larry Sampler, the current USAID Assistant Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said these types of transactions were a necessity during the initial phases of Afghanistan's reconstruction. "If the U.S. policy interest was a functioning interim Afghanistan administration, USAID would look for ways to creatively support that. That might include using one of our contract mechanisms to provide temporary salary support to attract qualified employees. To my recollection, in 2002, I'm familiar with about half a dozen people for whom we did that," he said. "We would do this for high impact players who were essential for the new administration." More here.

Situation Report corrects - Eric Rosenbach isn't going to the Department of Homeland Security as our hastily assembled item indicated yesterday. Rosenbach, who is close to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and worked for him when he was in the Senate, will be nom'ed to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense - at the Department of Defense. Duh. Apologies for the confusion we caused.

Red wedding: What the botched drone strike in Yemen means for the U.S. fight against al-Qaida in the AQAP. "...Whatever happened on Dec. 12, it was not a "targeted killing" -- the language President Barack Obama's administration often uses to describe drone strikes -- nor was it consistent with the White House's claim that the strikes are only carried out when civilians will not be caught in the crossfire. It's not just a matter of the morality of the drone program: The confirmed deaths of noncombatants in this strike will set back anti-al Qaeda efforts everywhere in Yemen, and its effects will only be exacerbated by the restive area where it occurred... It's going to take more than drone strikes to eliminate al Qaeda from its strongholds in this Yemeni province. The militants killed, locals say, are largely replaceable, while the tens of civilians killed over the past two years has only heightened distrust of the central government among noncombatants, pushing some young men into al Qaeda's arms. However, the long-term solution to combatting the militants' presence -- ameliorating pervasive poverty and underdevelopment -- is far easier said than done." Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, stop calling drones, names, yo. The U.K.'s Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology starts off his piece in the HuffPo as follows: "For too long, the term "drone" has been used to scandalise and smear the activities of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The most commonly propagated falsehood is that UAS are robots flying around the world indiscriminately firing on, often innocent, targets. It's time to sort the fact from the fiction." And so it goes. More here.

Love 2 shop: The Pentagon's Frank Kendall talks about how to change the spending culture inside the building. Kendall, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, appeared on "In Depth with Francis Rose" on Federal News Radio to talk about how the building has to reform. And an example of that is the use-it-or-lose-it budgetary mind-set doesn't work anymore and Kendall, whose name has been floated as a permanent replacement to DepSecDef Ash Carter, says that has to change. Kendall to Francis Rose: "I go back a long ways in the Defense Department, and I think there's always been this sense that you were going to be punished if you didn't spend all your money," Kendall said. "We want people to feel that if they don't spend all their money, if they divert it to higher priorities for the department or for the service or even if they return funds to the Treasury, that's a positive thing. We have not done that, I think, historically." He talked about a whole lot more. Read more or listen to the invu, here.

An Army in search of a sizing chart. FP's Kori Schake: Our Army is really struggling to define its mission and its force structure going forward. With the president and defense secretary having ruled out sizing the force to fight a sustained counterinsurgency, and with intelligence assessments rendering implausible the need for a quick-trigger large-scale land war, the Army is in a bind. It doesn't want to reclaim the strategy, but it has yet to offer an argument that justifies the 490,000 active-duty end strength in its Future Years Defense Program. So it is experimenting with amphibious deployments in the Pacific -- but America already has a land force optimized to that role and it's by no means clear the Army can best the Marine Corps at its core competency. If the strategy requires more amphibious capability, why not plus up the Marine Corps instead of retool the Army? That's the argument in a post I wrote for War on the Rocks, a blog that debates defense issues. While the Ryan-Murray budget deal takes some of the pressure off in the near term, the Army really needs to find a persuasive mission for such a large and expensive active-duty force, because if the administration budgets to its strategy, Army end strength will come dramatically down. If I were betting my own money, I'd wager the Marine Corps will enthusiastically support the argument for an expanded expeditionary force and then take the Army's lunch money." More here. Her full piece on War on the Rocks, "The Army Needs a Better Argument," here.