National Security

FP's Situation Report: More officers behaving badly and a new focus on ethics

Frank Kearney: why the Afghan election is important; IAVA: The VA backlog is stalled; Germany ponders military muscle flexing; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The moment the U.S. should be waiting for: After 12 years of war, the presidential election in Afghanistan is in just more than 60 days. With the bilateral security agreement dominating U.S. policymakers' attention, the Obama administration has generally been quiet about the Afghan presidential election in April in which a successor to President Hamid Karzai would be expected to emerge. For months, the administration has chosen to tread softly on the elections, choosing to work in the shadows - if at all - on a central issue involving a sovereign government. But some think the administration has treaded too softly, and experts and Afghan hands have for the last year or so been pushing the administration to elevate its engagement on this issue. Enter a new group, the Coalition for Afghan Democracy, that is pushing American policymakers to focus on the election as an opportunity that shouldn't be squandered. Hamed Wardak, who helps to fund the initiative, to Situation Report: "[The Coalition hopes to] mobilize and raise the public profile of the election, to bring more engagement and more focus on the significance and importance of it given the fact that it's not just an election but a transition to a new administration."

Here's why Frank Kearney, the retired Special Operations three-star, is also supporting the effort (in an e-mail to Situation Report): "First, I am personally invested in Afghanistan, I have spent a great deal of time there, my son has spent over three years there and my nephew was killed there.  Second, the region remains a tinder box of terrorism and nuclear tension when you look at India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and China. It remains a region key to US interests as a result but frankly, the American people are weary of the conflict and may no longer pay attention if a vibrant dialogue and discussion about the importance of this election is ignored in the press and on the national street.  Third, I believe promoting an active discussion which is a primary [Coalition] objective is critical to continued United States and other nations investment in the Afghan Army, Government and other ministries. Fourth, a fair election that represents the will of the Afghani people is required to earn the continued investment of US military men and women and the treasure of our people and partners.  I remain convinced that it is in our best interest to stay involved and insure the terrorists from the ungoverned spaces of the FATA do not pollute the potential opportunity for the Afghan people and that together we continue to deny terrorists a sanctuary from which to operate." See more about the coalition here.

The Afghanistan election begins. The WaPo's Sayed Salahuddin, in Kabul: "Campaigning officially started Sunday in the crucial election to choose Afghan President Hamid Karzai's successor, amid continuing concerns about attacks by the Taliban and the planned withdrawal of most U.S. and NATO troops starting this year. Eleven men vying to win the April 5 election have just two months to sway voters. Among the front-runners are two technocrats, Ashraf Ghani and Zalmay Rassoul, who served in key positions in Karzai's government, which has been in power since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. The election will result in the first peaceful transfer of power through a ballot in the country's history. A former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against Karzai in the 2009 election, and one of Karzai's brothers, Qayoum Karzai, are also considered leading contenders. Even though his brother is running, the Afghan president has vowed not to take sides in the contest." Read the rest here.

Speaking of Afghanistan, heads up you veterans of the Afghan War: the McCain Institute is doing a survey and wants your input. The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State is developing a database for lessons learned from Afghanistan in the hopes that those lessons learned don't have to be re-learned. The "Afghanistan Data Initiative," as it's called, is described as "a robust, fact-based, data-driven analysis of what happened in Afghanistan," but the Institute is doing it "without imposing any preconceived ideological or political framework." As such, the Institute wants to hear from military and civilian veterans of the Afghan war. "We hope to disseminate this raw, fact-based information, providing a resource for future research and study, allowing others to draw conclusions and make better decisions in the future. In the long-term, we expect that this data set will serve as a resource for future research and academic study." They want military and civilian veterans of the Afghan war to participate in the survey. "Please take part in our survey to help ensure that the experiences and sacrifices of you and thousands of others like you are not lost to history, but recorded and learned from for the future." They want honest answers and won't attribute comments of poll participants to the public arena. It takes about 25 minutes to complete. Click here to take it.

It's a rainy post-game Monday and welcome to a very tardy edition of Situation Report. Apologies to Broncos fans who are crying in their Honey Nut Cheerios right now. It was a bad night altogether - even most of the ads didn't play well. Anyway, the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman is what is really making us sad. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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.

Red Tape Alert: The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America will release a new report this morning about the backlog and why reducing it has stalled. The USA Today's Greg Zoroya: "The government's effort to cut a backlog of pending compensation claims for veterans has stalled at about 400,000 cases, and steps are needed to understand what is and isn't working to solve the problem, says a group representing recent war veterans. In a report to be released Monday, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) group recommends several ways it says will speed up claim processing, many of the ideas already supported and sought by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA called the report part of its continued collaboration with veterans groups and said it continues working aggressively to try to end the backlog in 2015."

IAVA's Jacqueline Maffucci, in a statement provided to Situation Report this morning: "In the State of the Union address, President Obama re-affirmed the VA disability claims backlog as a national priority... The VA has made progress since March to reform the system and bring the numbers down, but 400,000 veterans are still waiting and much work remains left to be done. It is not just about bringing the backlog to zero, but keeping it there. The Red Tape Report is vital to understanding how the system left so many disabled veterans waiting for so long - and ensuring that it won't happen again." More here later this morning. 

Scoopage: a new investigation into the Marine Corps and the urination video. FP's Dan Lamothe: "An investigation into whether senior Marine Corps officers attempted to cover up their own misconduct while prosecuting war crimes in Afghanistan has suddenly roared back to life, with a top civilian official now looking into whether the Marine brass unlawfully concealed crucial evidence in the cases, Foreign Policy has learned. "[Maj. James Weirick's] whistle-blower complaint received widespread media coverage last year. It did not, however, appear to get much traction with the Defense Department's inspector general, and it seemed like Amos and other top Marines were out of the woods. In the last few days, however, Weirick's charges have received new attention from a powerful civilian official, John Fitzgerald, the director of the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office in Washington. Fitzgerald's interest in the case, which hasn't previously been reported, means that the probe is far from complete and could yet ensnare top Marine brass.

Weirick, according to letters obtained by FP, met with Fitzgerald on Jan. 22. Fitzgerald and his office aren't widely known among the general public, but he is the top authority on whether evidence like the urination videos should have been classified. In the letter, Weirick thanked Fitzpatrick for the meeting and urged him to hold Amos and other Marine officials accountable for their actions." More here.

Meantime, did these two Marine generals abuse their authority - or were they just a bit careless? Marine Maj. Gen. Angie Salinas really wanted to have an aide with an aiguillette - even though she didn't rate one at the time. And Marine Maj. Gen. Michael Regner was accused of looking the other way when his subordinates did personal tasks for him - like shining his shoes or washing his car. Both are the subjects of DOD Inspector General complaints, the Marine Corps Times reports. Marine Corps Times' Gina Harkins: "To hear at least one Marine describe it, Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas was obsessed with having a subordinate who was readily recognizable as her aide. Specifically, she wanted the individual accompanying her to speaking engagements and other public events to wear an aiguillette, the braided cord worn across one's shoulder to denote he or she is acting as a general's aide-de-camp... The request was denied because, in her role, Salinas did not rate an aide-de-camp. She asked instead if the command's organizational table could be amended so she could have one. No, she was told again. But Salinas bought an aiguillette anyway and authorized the Marine to wear it at one event. That prompted an anonymous complaint to the Defense Department Inspector General's Office in December 2011, which turned over the matter to the Marine Corps IG a month later. A months-long investigation would conclude that Salinas, who retired last year after a trailblazing 39-year military career, inappropriately encouraged the Marine to violate the Marine Corps' uniform policy and that she used subordinates for her personal errands."

And, Harkins continues with Regner: "In April 2012, a similar complaint was filed with the command inspector general for Marine Corps Forces Pacific against Maj. Gen. Michael Regner, then the top Marine in Korea. It, too, was referred to the Marine Corps IG. Among other things, Regner was accused of looking the other way when his subordinates would do personal tasks for him, like shining his shoes and washing his car - claims the IG would substantiate. Regner was the subject of a Marine Corps Times cover story published in October after a 29-year enlisted Marine, Sgt. Maj. Jayme Winders, filed an inspector general complaint alleging he was victimized by the Marine Corps' top leaders after accusing Regner of wrongdoing. In July, the two-star was named staff director for Headquarters Marine Corps, where he continues to serve." Read the rest here.

The two senior Marine officers aren't alone, as we journos are fond of writing. Ethical lapses are beginning once again to flood the inboxes of senior Pentagon leaders and it has, once again, become the 25-meter target for the Pentagon. The issue has "the full attention" of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, who initiated an ethical review effort last year. He sat down with the WSJ's Julian Barnes. Barnes: "The U.S. military is intensifying its focus on ethics training in the wake of a series of investigations of military brass, the Pentagon's top uniformed officer said. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that as part of this new emphasis, the military needs to place more importance on officers' character when weighing promotions."

Dempsey to Barnes: "The Joint Chiefs and I are concerned and committed to ensuring that our military leaders of all ranks uphold the trust that we've established with the American people...This has my full attention."

Barnes: The military has been rocked in recent months by a wide-ranging Navy contracting scandal, involving allegations of bribes, as well as by high-profile sexual assault cases and other probes. Last week, the Air Force announced that a test-cheating scandal involving nuclear missile crews was more widespread than previously thought, with 92 junior officers suspended in connection with cheating allegations. In the interview, Gen. Dempsey said he and the military service chiefs were working together on a series of initiatives that will place a renewed focus on military ethics." Read the rest here.

More Marines could be based in Africa. Marine Corps Times' Gina Harkins again: "Marine units that specialize in crisis response could be based in Africa in coming years as military leaders work with host nations that have shown interest in the U.S. posturing troops in their countries, according to a top general in the region. Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, deputy to the commander for military operations in U.S. Africa Command, said these units would likely be similar to the Special-Purpose Marine-Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response based at Morón Air Base in Spain, which stood up in 2013." Hummer to Harkins: "There's quite a reach from Morón to get to [certain African countries], depending on the operational aircraft... As we look at the future of the environment around the world, and the fiscal challenges impeding the number of ships we would like to have, there's a balancing act we have to achieve between MAGTFs aboard ships and MAGTFs ashore, where they can respond to indications and warnings." Read the rest here.

Hagel returned from the Munich Security Conference over the weekend after appearing with Secretary of State John Kerry. WaPo's Craig Whitlock on the joint appearance:  "[Kerry and Hagel] told European allies Saturday that Washington would depend more heavily on them to tackle a litany of political and security crises, even as the two pushed back against concerns that the Obama administration was abdicating leadership on the same issues."  More here.

Kerry: "This narrative, which has frankly been pushed by some people who have an interest in saying the United States is on a different track, I will tell you it is flat wrong."

Hagel: "In the face of budget constraints here on the continent, as well as in the United States, we must all invest more strategically to protect military capability and readiness.  The question is not just how much we spend, but how we spend together."

And the NYT's Erlanger and Shanker on Munich: "Hagel, sitting alongside Mr. Kerry, sought to reassure Europeans that the United States was not abandoning the Continent as it rebalanced its interests - diplomatic, military and economic - to Asia after more than a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan."  More here.

Meantime, Germany is thinking about building more military muscle mass. The NYT's Alison Smale:  "German leaders are pushing a vigorous new case that it is time for their nation to find a more muscular voice in foreign affairs, even suggesting that Germany should no longer reflexively avoid some military deployments, as it did in Libya almost three years ago... Germany's Nazi and Communist pasts are no excuse for ducking international duties, [German President Joachim Gauck] said. He argued that the current Germany - "the best we have ever known," he said - was well established as a democracy and as a reliable partner and ally, and that it should step out "earlier, more decisively and more substantially" on the world stage.

The president has no power to make policy under Germany's Constitution, but is expected to guide debate. Günther Nonnenmacher, co-publisher of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a center-right newspaper, wrote after the speech that Mr. Gauck 'may well have spoken the authoritative word in the debate over German foreign and security policy.'" More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Epic Fails: DOD's "encyclopedia" of ethical lapses

Hagel getting to the church on time, 132 years later; Wormuth, McKeon to Pentagon Policy shop, McCord to comptroller; China mil's growing muscle mass; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Epic Failures: Turns out, DOD catalogues a huge number of the ethical legal and moral failures of government personnel in The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, who knew? Did you hear the one about the first lieutenant who had to pay $120,000 in fines for accepting bribes from contractors he'd awarded with lucrative Defense Department deals? Or the Navy civilian who asked a defense contractor for a $5,000 payment so the contractor could be "recommended" for a $153,000 contract? What about the four senior officials, including two Air Force generals, a Marine general, and a Navy admiral, who extended their stay in Tokyo to play golf at an illegal cost of $3,000 to the government?

The thing is, those aren't jokes. They're true stories. And they point to a growing problem within the military: a pattern of misconduct, misbehavior, and outright thievery by senior generals, top Pentagon civilian officials and, of course, the rank-and-file. 

The laundry list of wrongdoing in the Defense Department and in various other government agencies, is contained in a surprisingly readable -- but unknown -- document compiled by the Defense Department's equally unknown General Counsel's Standards of Conduct Office. 

The name of the July 2013 report says it all: The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, a 164-page who's who of bureaucratic ne'er-do-wells that details all of those government personnel who have tried to fleece the government, line their pockets with public money, use government property for their own use or demand loans from subordinates.

There is a section on credit card abuse, another on political endorsements. There's one on financial aid disclosures, and others on fraud, gambling, and gift violations. The Defense Department likes to say that most of its personnel are law-abiding, upstanding citizens, and that's true. But the numerous cases listed in the document beg the question: Who does this kind of thing?

"Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct," the introduction reads. "Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real."

And here from the July 2013 update: "A military officer was reprimanded for faking his own death to end an affair.  Worthy of a plot in a daytime soap-opera, a Navy Commander began seeing a woman that he had met on a dating website.  The Commander neglected to tell the woman that he was married with kids.  After 6 months, the Commander grew tired of the relationship and attempted to end it by sending a fictitious e-mail to his lover - informing her that he had been killed.  The Commander then relocated to Connecticut to start a new assignment.  Upon receipt of the letter, his mistress showed up at the Commander's house to pay her respects, only to be informed, by the new owners, of the Commander's reassignment and new location.   The Commander received a punitive letter of reprimand, and lost his submarine command." Read the rest of our story here.

It's Friday's and welcome to a healthy edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com 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.

Mike Rogers just got the worst job in Washington. The White House just nominated Vice Adm. Mike Rogers to lead the NSA and Cyber Command. Chuck Hagel announced the nomination while traveling in Europe, noting that Obama accepted his recommendation of Rogers: "This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Admiral Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama's reforms.  A trained cryptologist, his Navy career spans 30 years.  As commander of the Navy's 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, he has already demonstrated his leadership and deep expertise in this critical domain.  I am also confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age..."

The NYT's David Sanger and Thom Shanker on Rogers: "...But many of the biggest issues, including who will hold the vast database of phone call information and online activity of ordinary Americans that the N.S.A. searches for potential terrorists or nuclear proliferators, remain undecided. And Mr. Obama has deferred decisions on recommendations, also from advisers, that the N.S.A. stop its efforts to weaken commercial encryption and limit its activities to exploiting weaknesses in commonly available software to design cyberweapons." Said one senior adviser to Obama to the NYT: "Mike's now flying right into the hornet's nest of the stuff the president didn't decide...And it's all going to play out in public." More here.

Filling out the Hagel bench, con't: The White House also announced it's "intention to nominate" (why not just do it now?) three big jobs in the Pentagon. Christine Wormuth, long thought to be a replacement for Pentagon Policy Chief Jim Miller, will indeed succeed him, and Brian McKeon will become P-DUSDEE, or Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (replacing Kath Hicks, who departed the Pentagon last year). Wormuth has been the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Force Development and served on the White House's National Security Council staff. She has also helped to lead the QDR process at the Pentagon for Hagel and also coordinates the Senior Leadership Council, or SLIC, groups of all the top commanders and chiefs, so she is thought to have strong relationships with the combatant commanders and service chiefs among others. McKeon, a 20-year veteran in foreign policy circles and now chief of staff at the NSC, is thought to be well-regarded and obviously has close ties to the White House - that could be good for Hagel. Meantime, Mike McCord will be nom'ed to replace the outgoing Bob Hale, the tireless, dry-witted Pentagon Comptroller, who is retiring.

Page One: In Afghanistan, all roads lead to crumble. Read The WaPo's Kevin Sieff's bit on how the U.S. spent billions on highway infrastructure but how many roads are "barely driveable" by clicking here (includes an excellent shot of a yellow Toyota about to drive off the side of a boulder).

Getting to the church on time, 132 years later: Hagel is in Poland at the church where his great grandparents were married. During his three-day trip to Europe, including stops in Poland and Germany for the Munich Security Conference, Hagel is in the village of Kiszkow to pay respects to a bit of family history. Apparently Poland is very excited about Hagel's visit there today. TV is covering the visit live and the stop at the village, near where U.S. airmen are serving in Poland and where Hagel also visited, was organized by the highest levels of the government: Poland's prime minister and foreign minister. Some of Hagel's distant relatives are driving in for the big "homecoming" with the Polish descendant who dun good and became SecDef. Background: "Hagel's great grandparents' names were Tomasz K?kolewski and Katarzyna K?kolewski. Tomasz K?kolewski, born in Wierzonka, lived in Turostów, near Kiszków, worked as a farmhand. Katarzyna Budnikowska (aka Budzi?ska - both names were used in the records) was born in 1861 in Lednogóra. She lived in Gniewkowo, near Kiszków and worked as maid. They were married in 1882 in the parish church in D?brówka Ko?cielna. The parish still exists but the original church burned down in the 1920s and was later rebuilt."

While in Poland, Hagel also laid a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial. It's the week of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and this marks the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where so many Jews were taken from the ghetto so while in town, Hagel commemorated it there.

Scoopage: China's military is building muscle mass. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "China's air force is fielding new precision-guided cruise missiles, long-range bombers and drones as its Navy expands its long-range punch, according to U.S. military intelligence officials. 'While we would not characterize the modernization as accelerated,' it's 'progressing at a steady pace' and is significant, Lee Fuell, a director at the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said in a presentation released yesterday. Fuell's presentation and one prepared by the Office of Naval Intelligence for a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington are the most detailed new public assessments of the Chinese air force's and navy's growing military capabilities. While China's military spending is less than one-fifth of the U.S.'s, President Xi Jinping has vowed to create a strong and disciplined military since he took control of the Central Military Commission when he became party secretary in November 2012." More here.

The nuke scandal widens and Debbie James' brand new leadership is being tested. FP's Dan Lamothe: "The cheating scandal that has rocked the Air Force's nuclear commands has expanded to such proportions that the service has sent extra missile launch officers to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana to account for all of those who have been sidelined, Air Force officials said Thursday. That acknowledgement came as service officials said that nearly half of all launch nuke officers at Malmstrom -- 92 out of about 192 -- are now unable to do their work because of the investigation.

"The officers are charged with safeguarding and operating missile silos containing the United States' arsenal of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The sidelined airmen are accused of either cheating on a monthly proficiency exam, or knowing about others who did and looking the other way. Air Force leaders disclosed the cheating Jan. 15, saying at the time that at least 34 officers at Malmstrom had been implicated."

Secretary of the Air Force James Debbie James: "I believe that a very terrible irony in this whole situation is that these missileers didn't cheat to pass... They cheated because they felt driven to get 100 percent. Getting 90 percent or 95 percent was a failure in their eyes." Read the rest here.

Also, here's Dan's exclusive from Wednesday, where he was the first to report that the service has frozen all promotions for senior officers in the Air Force's nuke community - including at least one colonel nom'ed to become a brigadier. Read that here.

Meanwhile, read "Blame the mission, not the missileers," by Tom Collina of the Arms Control Association; he writes: "...the scope of this review-limited to personnel issues-must be expanded. At its core, the problems facing the nuclear force have little to do with people and everything to do with the declining mission. As Hagel well knows, nuclear deterrence is no longer a high priority mission for defending the United States. It is a backwater, a dead end assignment. As the Pentagon put it in 2010, "The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War...is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons." The rest of that here.

Time's Mark Thompson did a piece about Marine Sgt. David Lindley, who answered his nation's call but then when he needed his nation - his nation let him down. Thompson: "... This is a story about what untreated posttraumatic stress can do to a man, his family, his life and his neighborhood." "A Troubled Marine's Final Fight," here.

Here's something just craaa. Twenty years after Hiroshima, elite American troops trained to stop a Soviet invasion - with nukes strapped to their backs. You read that right, and it's on FP. Adam Rawnsley and David Brown, in "The Littlest Boy:"  "As Capt. Tom Davis stands at the tailgate of the military cargo plane, the night air sweeps through the hold. His eyes search the black terrain 1,200 feet below. He grips the canvas of his reserve parachute and takes a deep breath. 

"Davis and the men who make up his Special Forces A-team are among the most highly trained soldiers in the U.S. Army. It's 1972, and Davis isn't far removed from a tour in Vietnam, where he operated along the Cambodian border. His communications sergeant served in Command and Control North, which was responsible for some of the most daring operations in the heart of North Vietnamese territory. But none of the men has ever been on a mission like this before.

"Their plan: drop into Eastern Europe, make their way undetected through forested mountains, and destroy a heavy-water plant used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Leading up to the operation, during four days of preparation, Army regional experts briefed them on routes of infiltration and anticipated enemy patrols. The team pored over aerial photographs and an elaborate mock-up of the target -- a large, slightly U-shaped building.

"It's situated in a wide, open area with a roving guard, but at least the team won't have to sneak inside. Hanging awkwardly from the parachute harness of Davis's intelligence sergeant is a 58-pound nuclear bomb [italics, boldface, ours]. With a weapon this powerful, they can just lay it against a wall, crank the timers, and let fission do its work." You totally want to read this. More here.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Kinda-sorta: The White House and Congress team up to take aim at Ukraine. FP's John Hudson: "The Obama administration has been fighting with Congress for months, but the two sides are working together to lay the groundwork for punitive new sanctions against Ukraine. With the violent political crisis there gathering steam by the day, the administration is working with powerful members of Congress -- including one of their biggest and most vocal critics -- to identify individual members of the Ukrainian government or security forces that could be targeted down the road. A State Department official said that the administration hasn't determined whether to implement the sanctions. Still, the fact that punitive measures are even under consideration highlights the administration's growing disapproval of the violence spreading throughout the Ukraine -- and its potential willingness to act." Said one congressional aide to Hudson: "It's a shot across the bow to those Ukrainian officials who we believe are responsible for the violence." More here.

Is sick leave a delaying tactic in Ukraine? The WSJ's Alan Cullison and James Marson from Kiev: "Ukraine's president and his opponents accused one another of sabotaging efforts to end the political crisis Thursday, as an unexpected presidential sick leave further damped hopes for compromise. President Viktor Yanukovych's absence was quickly denounced by his opponents as a case of executive malingering in a country where politicians have in the past delayed one another in parliament by throwing eggs, padlocking the doors and body-blocking the rostrum." Read that bit here.

Sexual assault panel: keep power with the commanders. US News & World Report's Paul Shinkman: "A panel that ultimately will advise the Pentagon on how it can stem the shocking trend of sexual assaults within the military released a preliminary finding Thursday, saying senior officers should maintain oversight of sexual assault cases within their chains of command. The 'role of the commander' in sexual assault cases has been one of the most contentious issues facing the military, which in 2012 experienced an estimated 26,000 instances of unwanted inappropriate contact -- the vast majority of which were unreported. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has introduced legislation that would give oversight of such cases to a military lawyer outside the chain of command." More here.

With tears in our eyes (that's a Mattis ref, there): FP's Noah Shachtman, out. Shachtman, FP's Executive Editor for news and a friend to Situation Report, is returning to New York full time to become the executive editor of The Daily Beast. Today is his last day. Shachtman, who arrived last spring, had hired a number of reporters and had put FP's news organization on solid footing. Together, we put together a string of scoops on Syria's chemical weapons, the NSA scandals, and the CIA's drone program, to name a few. We're sorry to see him go. But he had been commuting from New York to Washington each week and it had taken its toll on his young family, who remained up there. FP's own man at the State Department, Yochi Dreazen, a former WSJ reporter and seasoned veteran of foreign policy and national security coverage, has been named to succeed Shachtman. ICYMI, the NYT's Ravi Somaiya on Noah's going to The Beast, from a couple weeks ago, here. We genuinely wish him well.