National Security

FP’s Situation Report: Army intel system, slashed

By Gordon Lubold

Slash: The $1.1 trillion budget deal announced last night by House and Senate negotiators includes a bludgeoning of the procurement budget of the Army's troubled DCGS-A intel system. Situation Report has learned that the budget deal cuts by $156 million the procurement budget of the Distributed Common Ground System that the Army has fought hard to protect and defend even as officials and members of Congress raise questions about its effectiveness - and its cost. The nearly 60 percent reduction in the system's procurement budget clearly amounts to a major defeat for the program.

At the same time, the NDAA budget bill, already passed last year, includes new reporting requirements on the system and breaks it up.

Philip Breedlove: Trim bases, not boots in Europe. The U.S. military will continue to close buildings and bases in Europe, the top American commander there told Situation Report. But U.S. troops should remain on the continent in about the same numbers they are today. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who is both commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, said budget reductions will force European Command to continue cutting back its footprint, closing smaller bases and shuttering facilities. But cutting personnel is another matter.  If the command is to continue working with America's European allies -- and responding to potential missions in places like North Africa  -- the military must maintain the boots on the ground to do it, he said. Maintaining personnel means being able to build and maintain relationships that are as critical now as they ever have been.  Breedlove noted that more than 250,000 Europeans have deployed to Afghanistan since the war began. Of those, some 42,000 had been trained by U.S. Army advisers in Germany.

"As I look at the size and type of our Army in Europe, the size and type of our Air Force in Europe, what I'm most keen on is to remain engaged with our military partners so we can train with them across the full gamut because this gives us partners who will go to war with us when we need them," he said. 

Breedlove also said, re: Afghanistan: Since he took the job, one of Breedlove's top concerns has been the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. It's a mission that is making America's European allies increasingly nervous, he said. The lack of a decision by the Obama administration and the Karzai government over what the size and role of the post-2014 mission isn't exactly helping.

"Clearly there is concern about where the U.S. is going and what the numbers look like," Breedlove said. "Clearly the nations would love to have those decisions now." 

But, he said, there is "relative calm" at the moment. Germany, which operates in Afghanistan's northern region, and Italy, which oversees operations in the West, have coordinated with other countries to give them a sense of what to expect. "The conversations settle expectations," he said. Breedlove added that after decisions are made on Afghanistan, the composition of forces, U.S.-to-coalition, will be about where they are now - 2/3rds American, ½ coalition.  Read the rest of our piece based on our sit-down with Breedlove yesterday, here.

BTW: Amid the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. is pouring $500 million into the Kajaki dam project. FP's "Dam" Lamothe: "...The U.S. Agency for International Development recently announced it will negotiate a sole-source contract for the installation of the dam's third and final hydroelectric turbine with Black and Veatch, the Kansas-based engineering company that has worked there for years. The project will likely cost about $75 million, according to a recent letter from John Sopko, the U.S. special inspector for Afghanistan. And it won't be completed until 2015, well after the last U.S. combat forces leave the country. But the work to install the final turbine, said to be collecting dust at the dam since it was delivered in late 2008, will come at a tenuous time. The U.S. military no longer has control of the region, or the road they cleared in 2011 to make way for the supplies needed to complete the project. The U.S.-led military coalition has ceded control of security across most of the country to Afghan forces despite serious questions about their long-term viability." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Tuesday'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.

Inside page: Read what Carter Ham thinks about poaching terrorism and "great meetings" below.

Expect delays: Bob Gates signs copies of his new book - did you hear he has one out? - at the Pentagon Thursday afternoon. And more on Gates below, too.

Heresy: Pentagon officials are thinking about doing away with housing allowance. As budgets thin, there is an undeniable push to re-examine the comprehensive package of military benefits offered to the uniforms. The reduced cost of living adjustment for military retirees was just one. Today, Military Times' Andrew Tilghman reports on another in the paper's cover story. Tilghman with the news: "Defense officials are considering doing away with Basic Allowance for Housing in favor of a new ‘locality allowance,' according to several officials familiar with the plan. Unlike BAH, which is linked to average rental housing costs in various areas, the new allowance would be linked to the cost of living in the areas where individual troops are assigned.

"The concept under discussion in the Pentagon also would eliminate Basic Allowance for Subsistence, offering troops a combined tax-free stipend on top of basic pay that would vary by paygrade and location, officials said. Preliminary proposals also suggest scrapping the ‘with-dependents' rates under the current BAH program, moving instead to a simpler, flatter benefit that makes no distinction between single troops and those with families, officials said. The locality allowance concept is gaining traction at a time when top Pentagon officials have been blunt about their desire to carve long-term savings from the $20 billion spent annually to cover the off-base housing costs of about 1 million service members.

"The proposal remains in its early phases, too early to spell out in detail what the impact might be for individual troops or for the Pentagon's budget at large. Moreover, experts say, saving money may not be the primary motivation for changing the current allowance system." More (behind one of those $%^*$ paywalls!) here.

Potato Diplomacy: Kerry gets spuds in Paris. AP's Lara Jakes in Paris: "For some watchers of international diplomacy, the somber road to Syrian peace was overrun Monday by potatoes and furry pink hats. A swapping of delegation gifts between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov served as a distraction from predictions of elusive success in Syria...The more bizarre bout of diplomacy came over a pair of Idaho potatoes. After pictures of Kerry handing Lavrov the tubers during talks Monday morning surfaced on the Web, reporters pressed both leaders for an explanation hours later. Kerry quickly sought to disavow any deep diplomatic meaning from the spuds, explaining that he was in Idaho over the holidays when he and Lavrov spoke by phone. The Russian, it seemed, associated Idaho with potatoes." More here.

The U.S. and U.K. to the Syrian National Coalition: join us or else. BBC this morning: "Britain and the US have warned they will rethink support for Syria's main opposition group if it fails to join peace talks, a Syrian source has said. The official from the Syrian National Coalition told reporters that the UK and the US were adamant the group must go to Geneva for next week's talks. The coalition will hold a vote on Friday on whether or not to attend." More here.

This Just In: Rand Paul introduces bill to end the Iraq War authorization. FP's John Hudson: "It's been more than two years since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. But a loophole in the 2002 Iraq War Resolution allows future presidents can re-invade Iraq anytime they want. Now, Republican Senator Rand Paul wants to change that. Today, the Kentucky libertarian is set to formally introduce a bill to repeal the Authorization of the Use of Military Force in Iraq. The bill, obtained by The Cable, has the support of a handful of Republicans and Democrats. But, in a bit of a surprise, it also has the support of the White House -- at least in principle. ‘The Administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF since it is no longer used for any U.S. Government activities,' White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. ‘We understand that some in Congress are considering legislation related to the Iraq AUMF, and we will certainly examine these proposals as they come forward.' "The war in Iraq is officially over," Paul said in a statement. "With the practical side of the mission concluded, I feel it is appropriate to bring this conflict to an official, legal end."  More here this morning.

Maliki's deputy: it's Maliki's fault - and the Americans'. FP's David Kenner, who interviewed Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq in Jordan recently: "Maliki has blamed the war in neighboring Syria for the upsurge in violence, and vowed to launch a countrywide ‘cleanup' campaign against al Qaeda after the army drives the jihadists from Anbar. For Anbar's top politicians, however, Maliki himself is the cause of the country's most dangerous political crisis since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq -- a former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party before being expelled in 1977 - told Foreign Policy that the government in Baghdad was using al Qaeda as a pretext to crack down on its political opponents...

‘Yes, I do blame [the Americans],' he said. ‘And I expect them to do some changes in Iraq now. Not necessarily through military operations, but through political pressure and economic pressure on Iraqi politicians, to make sure that Iraqis feel that they are equal in their own country.'" Read the rest here.

George Casey on Iraq: patience, patience. The WSJ's Julian Barnes: "The head of U.S. forces in Iraq at the time of the critical second battle of Fallujah said he shares the frustration of many military veterans as the city falls under the control of militants, but counseled patience. Casey, in his first invu since the start of the crisis in Anbar: "The men and women of the American armed forces did everything they could for the Iraqi people in the time we were there and Fallujah was the exclamation point on that whole effort." More here.

Hillary is a Hawk: How Gates' book shows HRC to be a "strikingly hawkish voice" in the Situation Room. Time's Mike Crowley: "As Secretary of State, Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels, and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime. She backed intervention in Libya, and her State Department helped enable Obama's expansion of lethal drone strikes. In fact, Clinton may have been the administration's most reliable advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues-Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid-Clinton took a more aggressive line than Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.

"Former administration officials also tell TIME that Clinton was an advocate for maintaining a residual troop force after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq-an issue of renewed interest given al Qaeda's resurgence there. They also describe her as skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, and firmly opposed to talk of a "containment" policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail. Jane Harman on Hillary: "The Democratic party has two wings-a pacifist wing and a Scoop Jackson wing. And I think she is clearly in the Scoop Jackson wing." Read the rest here.

Tom Ricks writes on the way Gates rolls. Here are a few gems from Gates' book, per FP's Ricks: "Don't always show your hand: ‘I believed that I would maintain maximum leverage in the process ... if the other players did not know exactly what approach I supported.' And: Get real. ‘I'd been around long enough to know that when the head of a cabinet department says his organization has no problems, he is either lying or delusional.' And: "Not new, but well put: ‘This tactic of using high-level reviews to buy time was one I would use often as secretary.' And: Know what you want out of a meeting before you go into it. ‘A meeting in the Situation Room was never just another gathering for me: outcomes were important, and I always had a strategy going in.' And: Get on top of acquisition. If you don't, ‘Congress will fuck it up.'" Read the rest of ‘em at Ricks' blog, The Best Defense, here.

Former Africa Command commander Carter Ham spoke at Stimson the other day about poaching in Africa, what the military's contribution could be, and why "great meetings" can undermine the cause. Ham, at Stimson: "Now I'm not arguing that countering poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking ought to be viewed through a military lens, though I do believe there is a role for the military in this effort."

"...I don't suggest that I have all the answers, or even many of them. I do know that without what we military types have come to call a ‘plan of action with milestones' we'll continue to work hard, in good faith, but won't achieve what all of us in this room so desperately desire."

There is "growing evidence" of the connection between poaching and illicit networks and international crime, he says: "I think the other change, and one that, at least to me necessitates urgent action, is the growing evidence of the linkages of poachers and traffickers with other illicit networks and international crime. There is clear evidence that Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army is killing elephants, at least in part, to fund their activities. My guess is that other terrorist and extreme organizations, if they are not already profiting from poaching, will find the potential for money irresistible. It's just too attractive. And at present, it's a lucrative, relatively low-risk endeavor that offers high payoff. If I'm right, that will bring the resources of national and international law enforcement and intelligence capabilities to the fight. And, they are needed."

Ham on why he hates "great meetings" and why a big meeting in London soon on poaching shouldn't be one:" During his talk the other day, Ham told the story of a high-level meeting he attended in Baghdad during the early days of the Iraq war. Afterward, staffers all gave each other notional high-fives, congratulating themselves on holding such a tremendous meeting, taking on all the big issues and working through the agenda. Ham didn't agree: "No directions had been issued, no decisions had been made. Well, that's probably not entirely true. I think they decided when the next meeting would be."

"Is that what we want from London? I think not. There is too much at stake. There are too many committed leaders. The urgency has never been greater. And, the time is now."

Ham's favorite African proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." His parting thought on combatting poaching: "It is time for us to go far to stop this dangerous, destructive criminal activity. It is time for us to go together." Intro page to Stimson's new report on poaching, here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: Iran Nuke Accord Advances

By Gordon Lubold 

Agreement advancing: Negotiators are putting the finishing touches on Iran accord. FP's Colum Lynch and John Hudson: "On Sunday, Iran and six world powers finally announced an agreement on how to implement their nuclear deal struck back in November. The question now becomes: will the U.S. Congress wind up torpedoing the deal by piling on new economic sanctions against Tehran? First announced by Iranian officials on Sunday morning, the agreement starts the clock on a six-month period to reach a final deal on Iran's nuclear program beginning Jan. 20. In this interim period, the U.S. will begin easing financial sanctions against Iran while the Islamic Republic grants the United Nations' atomic agency access to its nuclear infrastructure so that it can verify compliance. Meanwhile, hawks in Congress continued to add cosponsors to sanctions legislation -- legislation that President Obama has threaten to veto. A senior U.S. official warned reporters Sunday that new Congressional measures against Tehran would undercut international efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program -- and risk upending the painstakingly constructed sanctions regime that helped force Iran into nuclear talks in the first place. ‘Our intelligence community has assessed that new sanctions enacted during negotiations are likely to derail' the talks, the official noted." Read the rest here.

The White House is going to war with Dems to save the peace talks with Iran. The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: "The White House is now openly declaring that Senate Democrats who support new sanctions against Iran are itching for war, but their campaign to pressure their own party members has been going on for months and has done little to dissuade Democrats from supporting sanctions. The White House brought their fight with Congressional Democrats out in the open Thursday evening when National Security Staff member Bernadette Meehan sent an incendiary statement lashing out at pro-sanctions Democrats to a select group of reporters, accusing them of being in favor of a strike on Iran." More here.

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report where your credit card is safe. 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.

Disabled military retirees will be protected from the reduced COLA. We've confirmed from a Hill source that the fiscal 2014 omnibus budget bill to be released tonight will indeed include language that will protect medically retired veterans and their survivors from the reduced cost of living adjustment in their military pensions. The issue has haunted veterans and other advocacy groups in recent weeks after the bipartisan budget deal reached by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. That plan, announced in December, had included a reduction in the cost of living adjustments for military retirees, including medically retired ones. But there was pressure to protect disabled veterans. The broader issue of whether the reduction in COLA affecting all retirees is an open question, but officials expect that will remain in the bill. The House is expected to vote on the budget bill this week and the Senate by the end of next.

Ed Snowden was in India three years ago -- taking "ethical hacking" classes.  FP's own Shane Harris: "He spent six days taking courses in computer hacking and programming at a local professional school, according to school officials and people familiar with Snowden's trip. Working with a private instructor, Snowden, who was then a contractor for the spy agency, took a course in "ethical hacking," where he learned advanced techniques for breaking into computer systems and exploiting flaws in software. The class's ostensible purpose is to train students to protect computers and their contents from thieves and spies. But in order to do that, they learn how to break into computers and steal information. Snowden also inquired about methods to reverse-engineer the world's most popular kits for committing widespread online crime." More here.

Icebreaker: The Arctic Passage opens challenges for the mil because it means it has a new ocean to patrol - for the first time since 1846. WSJ's Julian Barnes on Page One: "The 40-year-old Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star returned to the Arctic Ocean this summer after seven years in semiretirement, charging into a thinning polar ice sheet that U.S. defense officials predict will give way to new commercial waterways and a resource-rich frontier by midcentury... As the ice surrounding the North Pole retreats, officials say, commercial shippers will be able to eventually move goods faster between Asia and Europe. More open seas will also give energy companies greater access to offshore oil and gas in regions controlled by the U.S. and estimated by military officials to be worth $1 trillion. ‘The inevitable opening of the Arctic will essentially create a new coast on America's north,' said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy's top officer. Even though the anticipated change is years away, Navy and Coast Guard officials say the U.S. needs to prepare now to patrol and defend the new waterways-designing ice-resistant ships and expanding Arctic naval exercises-when military scientists predict a new expanse of water freed of ice." Read the rest here.

Abrupt departure: Jim Marshall out at the U.S. Institute of Peace. USIP announced Saturday that USIP President Jim Marshall, installed just 16 months ago, is out. (His predecessor, Dick Solomon, served 19 years.) Marshall, the former mayor of Macon, Georgia and a four-term congressman, was installed by the USIP board in August 2012. Marshall had reorganized the internal structure of the Institute and had brought other needed changes to the organization. But the former Army Ranger had also gained a reputation for being prickly, and there were signs that he had emphasized the wrong things, like pushing to have part of Constitution Avenue in front of the grand USIP building moved away from the structure -- as a security measure. Board Chairman Robin West, Vice-Chairman George Moose and Board members Eric Edelman and others had been part of the decision to hire Marshall in part because the Institute needed a kind of centrist Democrat like Marshall to appeal to Congress for its funding." We were told by an official at USIP: "The Board and Jim agreed now was a time for a change. During Jim's time at USIP he brought on top notch staff, people like Kristin Lord who is acting president, and brought a tremendous amount of energy and focus to USIP. Now Jim is heading off to the next challenge." Full disclosure: In another life, Situation Report worked at USIP. Read our squib about Marshall's effort to move Constitution Avenue here.

ICYMI on Friday: The U.S. has deployed about two dozen troops to Somalia for advising. They are the first uniforms to be there since 1993. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "A cell of U.S. military personnel has been in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to advise and coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from the al-Shabab militia, an Islamist group whose leaders have professed loyalty to al-Qaeda, according to three U.S. military officials. The previously undisclosed deployment -- of fewer than two dozen troops -- reverses two decades of U.S. policy that effectively prohibited military 'boots on the ground' in Somalia. Even as Somali pirates and terrorists emerged as the top security threat in the region, successive presidential administrations and the Pentagon shied away from sending troops there for fear of a repeat of the Black Hawk Down debacle. In recent years, the Obama administration has slowly and cautiously become more directly involved in Somalia." More here.

Fallujah Free Fall: Arms sales at the heart of the matter. Defense News' Paul McLeary and John Bennett: "Weapon sales to Iraq have become entangled in sharply escalated political debate after al-Qaida affiliated forces regained partial control of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi... Often lost in the heated debate over aid and recent US policy is the fact that the United States has already sold or donated billions worth of equipment to the Iraqi security forces. In July 2013 alone, the US announced more than $4 billion in arms sales to Iraq, including 50 Stryker infantry vehicles, helicopters, missiles, communications equipment and a proposed $750 million logistics and maintenance contract that would ensure the health of all of the equipment into the future." More here.

Read FP's Yochi Dreazen and John Hudson's piece on why the U.S. won't ship weapons to Iraq, from Jan. 6, here.

Clashes between militants and the Army continue in Iraq, the NYT's here.

Idea Lab: Send P4 back to Iraq. John McCain, on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, said the U.S. should send David Petraeus back to Iraq to fix the mess there. McCain: "I would suggest perhaps sending David Petraeus and Ambassador (Ryan) Crocker back over there... (Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri) Al-Maliki trusts them." More here.

NYT's Ed Board's bottom line on non-lethal aid to Syria: "...There is a danger that American aid could backfire, as it did in the 1980s when support for Mujahedeen fighters battling the Soviets helped to create fertile ground for terrorist movements years later. But the risk may be worth it. Syrian extremists are already trying to recruit and train Americans and other Westerners to carry out attacks in the United States, senior American officials say." More here.

He's not acting: Larry Sampler = new Assistant to the Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID. Sampler, a longtime Afghan hand, was officially sworn in as Assistant Administrator to the Af-Pak Affairs office Friday. Sampler has been in an Acting role in the same job since June 2013 when Alex Thier went to a new job. He's traveled to the region more than 60 times since 2001 and used to live in Kabul for several years. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah: "Larry is the perfect fit to lead our work in the region at this important time. With a military background and substantial experience in conflict environments, Larry appreciates better than anyone the intricate and indispensable link between national security and human security. And he knows better than anyone that long-term stability and peace require not only the reassurance of security, but also the promise of a good education and the hope of a steady job."

Slippery Slope: Pentagon leaders issued internal guidance to put the Army on a glidepath to go to 420K soldiers by 2019. Inside Defense's Sebastian Sprenger: "...The guidance, signed at the beginning of [last] week, also sets in motion an Army plan to reduce the service's National Guard from 354,000 to 315,000 soldiers and the Army Reserve from 205,000 to 185,000, these sources say. Those reductions are in line with what Army leaders had recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as part of various FY-15/19 program objective memorandum proposals crafted since the fall of last year. Reserve component leaders had proposed a different course for achieving budget cuts mandated by sequestration, arguing the Guard need only be cut to 345,000... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno has previously argued that 450,000 soldiers is the absolute minimum number of active-duty troops needed to ‘fully' implement the Obama administration's defense strategic guidance. But while publicly arguing against the steeper cut to 420,000, service officials had resigned themselves to that figure if it was accompanied by requisite cuts in the Army Guard and Reserve." More behind the paywall here.

The National Guard: preparing to maintain readiness amid budget cuts. The News Journal (Delaware)'s Bill McMichael: "The National Guard must find a way to maintain a ready posture despite the inevitability of federal budget cuts over most of the next decade, the Guard's director told senior leaders of the Delaware National Guard Saturday. Gen. Frank Grass told state Guard leaders gathered at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino that December's federal budget agreement provided some relief over the next two years from the automatic ‘sequestration' budget reductions that went into effect last March. But the Guard will have to take its share of future spending cuts. 'We're gonna be OK this year,' Grass said following his remarks. 'But for the long term, and as long as the Budget Control Act is law, the Guard has to take reductions in our appropriations. So we're trying our best ... to manage that inside the services. And we've got some more work to do.'" Read the rest here.