National Security

FP's Situation Report: Where's the Navy's CHINFO?

Wheels up for Hagel; The Budget, the Day After; Wall Street had its own @natsecwonk; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Just hours after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a budget yesterday that includes changes to the military's compensation package, vets groups jumped on, taking a sort of any-change-is-unacceptable stance. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Paul Rieckhoff, in a statement: "Here we go again. Washington is trying to balance the budget on the backs of those who have sacrificed the most. We know the Defense Department must make difficult budget decisions, but these cuts would hit service members, making it harder for them and their families to make ends meet. Last week we learned that members of the military redeemed nearly $104 million in food stamps at commissaries in the previous year. Now the Defense Department wants to cut subsidies that service members use to pay for diapers for their kids and to put bread on the table."

But a senior defense official, hinting at the toxicity that surfaces any time any change to military benefits are discussed, at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, said: "My sense is that there is a growing recognition that we -- every time that we are not able to achieve these modest changes to compensation, it continues to impact our ability to be ready and modern. And so the balance that we've got more details, I think, in this budget about between the quality of life and quality of service I feel is -- it's starting to be communicated effectively.  People are starting to understand that that's a trade.  We can have the best quality in life as a service member, but if you report to you, your unit or your ship, and you can't operate, you don't have the spare parts, you're undermanned, the reasons you got into the service in the first place are not fulfilled and our needs as a department are not fulfilled. So I think there's growing recognition that this is a direct tradeoff, and I'm hopeful that that's going to create more of an opportunity to talk about these... changes."

Reading Pincus: An elephant in the room is the rising cost of military health care. WaPo's Walter Pincus: "A new series of critical reports highlights the need to speed up unification of the military services' separate approaches to health care, which is one of the fastest-growing budget items but still lacks common standards for dealing with some medical issues. The Military Health System, which provides care to more than 9.7 million active, retired and service-family beneficiaries worldwide, cost $51.4 billion in fiscal 2012, or 9.7 percent of Pentagon spending. That was up from $19 billion in fiscal 2001, or 6 percent of spending.: More here.

Hagel's budget includes a smaller Army. But a smaller Army, a bigger risk: The NYT's Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker: "In shrinking the United States Army to its smallest size since 1940, Pentagon officials said Monday that they were willing to assume more risk the next time troops are called to war. But assuming more risk, they acknowledged, meant that more of those troops would probably die. 'You have fewer troops, fewer ships, fewer planes,' Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a Pentagon news conference on Monday as he formally unveiled the department's $496 billion budget for the 2015 fiscal year. 'Readiness is not the same standard. Of course there's going to be risk.' More here.

After years of war, career soldiers given one more order - you're no longer needed. USA Today's Gregg Zoroya: "For thousands of career-military troops who endured combat and family separations during a dozen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the end of hostilities brings a new directive from the government - your services are no longer needed. Even as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that future budget reductions cut "so deep, so quickly, that we cannot shrink the size of our military fast enough," pinks slip were already on their way to soldiers. In its first slice at reducing its force under budget pressure, the Army is letting 3,000 G.I.s go in order to thin ranks to 490,000 by the end of next year." Full story here.

Look on foreignpolicy.com a bit later for our story about the role Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, will play in the "accelerated drawdown" of the Army given Hagel's announcement that the service will drop to 440,000 (and 420,000 under sequester if need be).

Speaking of which - the press briefing scheduled for 10:30 today at the Pentagon for Army's budget planning has been cancelled.

Good-bye to Dragon Lady. FP's own Dan Lamothe: "As the United States got its bearings after World War II, it began building a massive spy plane designed to slip into Soviet airspace without being detected to snap photos of military bases, government buildings, and other facilities of interest.

"Fifty years later, the Pentagon is pressing to retire the U-2 'Dragon Lady.' Unveiling their controversial fiscal 2015 budget Monday, top Defense Department officials said they intended to basically replace the historic aircraft with more of the plus-sized Global Hawk drones. The drone can't do everything the U-2 can - the drone doesn't have as many sensors, for instance, so it can't monitor as much from the sky at the same time as the plane - but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Global Hawk was a better option for the future." More here.

This is a cool set of charts by Pew Research on defense spending. Click 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 gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com and we'll just stick you on. Like what you see? Please 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 do follow us @glubold.

A big day at the Pentagon yesterday for Hagel. A senior defense official tells us that Hagel yesterday was busy socializing the budget on the Hill and with veterans service organizations and all around town. He ended the day with a session with the Council of Governors about steps that he's taking to prepare the Guard to become "a more relevant and effective operational reserve" for the future. Hagel, who aides say like to take challenges head on, is pushing the controversial budget to all stake holders "to look beyond parochial interests and look at core issues facing the nation's security."

Today, Hagel is wheels up. The Defense Secretary is headed first to the Norfolk, Va. area, to Fort Eustis, to deliver remarks about the Army's future force structure, today at 4 p.m. Then he'll visit U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command HQ to meet soldiers and talk with Army leaders there, where training happens for the Army's future force. Then he his headed to Brussels for the NATO defense ministerial for the next couple of days. Unclear if there would be big news on Afghanistan during the meeting, but the war there will be Topic A.

Staffers on a plane -Wendy Anderson, deputy chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, senior military assistant; James Eby, Director of Travel Operations, Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of Defense for International and Security Affairs; Jim Townsend, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO; Michael Dumont, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia; Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary; Carl Woog, assistant press secretary; Jacob Freedman, chief speechwriter.

Reporters on a plane ­- AP's Bob Burns, Reuters' Phil Stewart, Bloomberg's Gopal Ratnum, NYT's Helene Cooper, WSJ's Julian Barnes, LAT's David Cloud, CBS' Cami McCormick, AFPS's Cheryl Pellerin, WaPo's Karen DeYoung, Military Times' Andrew Tilghman and Stripes' Jon Harper.

Buck McKeon: Obama needs to talk about Afghanistan more. Stripes' C.J. Lin: "Continuing his criticism that President Barack Obama isn't talking enough about the Afghan War, the retiring chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Monday lauded the progress troops have made there while emphasizing the need for more support. Obama 'has talked about Afghanistan only a handful of times during his presidency,' Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon (R-Calif.)  said at a National Press Club luncheon.

McKeon: "And each time, President Obama praised his run for the exits or pitied our wounded, instead of lauding the accomplishments of our troops and the importance of the mission they were given to fight." Read the rest here.

Page One: Obama hesitates to unleash cyberweapons on Assad. The NYT's David E. Sanger: "Not long after the uprising in Syria turned bloody late in the spring of 2011, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency developed a battle plan that featured a sophisticated cyberattack on the Syrian military and President Bashar al-Assad's command structure. The military's ability to launch airstrikes was a particular target, along with missile production facilities. ‘It would essentially turn the lights out for Assad," said one former official familiar with the planning.'
"For President Obama, who has been adamantly opposed to direct American intervention in a worsening crisis in Syria, such methods would seem to be an obvious, low-cost, low-casualty alternative. But after briefings on variants of the plans, most of which are part of traditional strikes as well, he has so far turned them down.
"Syria was not a place where he saw the strategic value in American intervention, and even such covert attacks - of the kind he had ordered against Iran during the first two years of his presidency - involved a variety of risks.
"...But to many inside the administration, who declined to speak for attribution about discussions over one of America's most highly classified abilities, Syria puts the issue back on the table. Mr. Obama's National Security Council met Thursday to explore what one official called ‘old and new options.'" More here.

Arms deal brings Baghdad closer to Tehran. Reuters' Ahmed Rasheed: "Iran has signed a deal to sell Iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million, according to documents seen by Reuters - a move that would break a U.N. embargo on weapons sales by Tehran. The agreement was reached at the end of November, the documents showed, just weeks after Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki returned from lobbying the Obama administration in Washington for extra weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants.
"Some in Washington are nervous about providing sensitive U.S. military equipment to a country they worry is becoming too close to Iran. Several Iraqi lawmakers said Maliki had made the deal because he was fed up with delays in U.S. arms deliveries. A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister would not confirm or deny the sale, but said such a deal would be understandable given Iraq's current security troubles." More here.

A standoff in Venezuela. FP's Daniel Landsberg-Rodriguez: Ángel Vivas is a retired former general from Venezuela's armed forces. He's also, increasingly, a thorn in the regime's side, first drawing ire as a blogger, then as an opposition Twitter star, and now as a modern day Lamarque. Vivas has holed himself up in his Caracas home, which is currently under siege by authorities looking to arrest him over allegedly treasonous tweets. But a swelling crowd of his neighbors and supporters has interposed itself between the general and the police, blocking his arrest. The arrest was ordered on Saturday and, since that time, he has remained bunkered inside." Full story here.

A North Korean ship crosses into South Korean waters. The WSJ's Jeyup S. Kwaak: "South Korea said Tuesday a North Korean warship strayed into South Korean waters late Monday, in the first reported maritime incursion of 2014. South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said a 420 metric-ton vessel made three cross-border trips during the night and left after 2 a.m. without responding to warnings given by the South's navy. There wasn't an exchange of fire." More here.

War on the Rocks has a conversation with Marty Dempsey. And they usually always ask a question about booze. Listen to the new bit here.

Hey so where IS the Navy's new CHINFO? Good question. Situation Report has learned that the Navy promotion board scheduled last month to pick the Navy's new Chief of Information, or CHINFO, a one-star admiral, was scrubbed at the last minute, cancelled - with no explanation given as to why. For those who follow this sort of thing, Rear Adm. John Kirby, who had been the CHINFO, was tapped to become Hagel's press secretary. That left an opening at the top of the Navy's massive public affairs pyramid, the person who is both the Navy's strategic communicator and manager of more than 250 public affairs officers and 1,200 enlisted sailors who serve as "mass communication specialists." Navy Captain Dawn Cutler is now in the acting position of CHINFO. But the special board to pick Kirby's permanent successor for the coveted job was cancelled and the more than dozen Navy captains to be considered are in limbo. RUMINT indicated that Navy leadership was thinking about scrubbing not only the board - but the job itself. Perhaps, the Navy was re-thinking the job and would install a civilian to run Navy public affairs. We're told by a senior Navy official that that's not the case - CHINFO is not going anywhere. But with Kirby's unexpected departure, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert decided to revaluate the job before they give a nod to the new one to make sure the precept for the job - part strategic communicator for the Navy, part manager of the public affairs "community" is the right mix. "This is a complicated job," said a senior Navy official. But, the person said, "there's no consideration to dumping that position."

Clarifying - We referred to a report published yesterday on Afghanistan but it should be clear that it was completed by ATR Consulting, and the Center for National Policy only just hosted a discussion about it yesterday. Link to its findings here.

Lawmakers are threatening to put brakes on Michelin's Pentagon contracts because of an Iran visit.  The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: "International firms racing to do business with post-sanctions Iran could jeopardize their contracts with the United States military. Three Republican lawmakers who serve on the House Armed Services Committee warned French firms last week that dealings with Iran could make it impossible to do business with the Pentagon in the future... The lawmakers noted that over 100 French business executives traveled to Iran in early February, including representatives from Safran, Airbus, Total, GDF-Suez, Renault, Alcatel, Alstom, Amundi and L'Oréal. Iranian President Rouhani's chief of staff said during the visit, ‘A new chapter has begun in relations between Iran and Europe.'... The lawmakers singled out Michelin and called their participation in the Iran trip ‘greatly troubling.'" Read the full story here.

Wall Street has it's own @natsecwonk - kinda-sorta. Remember @natsecwonk, the nasty tweeter who called out folks in the national security world and made snarky comments about people and policies anonymously? He was finally revealed to be Jofi Joseph, a well-known and up until then a reasonably well respected National Security Council staffer. When he was found out he was fired and to our knowledge, has all but disappeared. Turns out Wall Street had one of its own, at least a little bit, The NYT reports today on Page One. @GSElevator repeated anonymously all kinds of stuff thought to be overheard in the elevators of Goldman Sachs in New York. Choice tweets of what @GSElevator heard Goldman employees apparently saying: "I never give money to homeless people. I can't reward failure in good conscience," and here's another: "Groupon... food stamps for the middle class."

The NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin: "...The Twitter account, which has an audience of more than 600,000 followers, has been the subject of an internal inquiry at Goldman to find the rogue employee. The tweets, often laced with insider references to deals in the news, appeal to both Wall Street bankers and outsiders who mock the industry. Late last month, the writer sold a book about Wall Street culture based on the tweets for a six-figure sum. There is a good reason Goldman Sachs has been unable to uncover its Twitter-happy employee: He doesn't work at the firm. And he never did. The author is a 34-year-old former bond executive who lives in Texas. His name is John Lefevre. He had tried to remain anonymous, scrubbing the Internet of mentions of his name and pictures of himself on all but a handful of sites. Some people had already speculated that @GSElevator was not hanging around the halls of Goldman." More here.

Pentagon budget preview wins two cheers, not three. FP's own Kori Schake: "...Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deserves considerable credit for owning up to the fiscal reality that defense spending will no longer have galloping rates of increase. Specifically, he deserves credit for bringing the department's budget into compliance with the law. An obvious point, one would think, is that the budget request ought to be in line with the Defense Department spending cap legislated in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Not something we loyal opposition should applaud, since it ought to be standard practice.
"...The second cheer is for attempting to curtail the rate at which benefits are being expanded for troops. By DOD's own calculations, the average pay and benefits for the military have increased from $44,200 per person in 2001 to $81,600 in 2014. The country simply cannot afford to continue raising the salary and benefits packages to its forces at anything like that rate -- the all-volunteer force is becoming unaffordable.
"...I withhold a third cheer, though, because it does not appear that Hagel has done the essential spade work to get authorization and appropriation for anything near what the Department of Defense is asking. "Cutting benefits to our troops" -- even though DOD's proposal continues to increase benefits -- is woefully unpopular in Congress, especially in an election year." More here.

 

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Hackers may have snagged credit card #s from Pentagon employees

Budget day at the Pentagon; What is a "toggle?"; U.S. working to aid Ukraine; How fake poker chips could fell a naval officer; and a bit more.

 

It's a big budget day at the Pentagon. Today Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveils a $496 billion budget almost exactly a year after he arrived at the Pentagon, a budget that reflects the true post-war thinking of the Defense Department after more than 12 years of war. Hagel's budget includes dozens of decisions, including changes that "slow the growth" to military compensation in the future, but really can't be described as cuts, a senior defense official told Situation Report today.

A year ago, the Pentagon was criticized because the administration told it not to plan for sequestration since no one thought it would really happen. The budget deal in December prevented sequestration this year. However, if sequestration returns, the budget Hagel is proposing today will have a built-in feature essentially to allow Pentagon bean counters to reduce funding for the budget overall and for individual programs. "We've done the work that will show exactly what we're prepared to do should sequestration come back," a senior defense official told Situation Report.

What's a "toggle?" It's the internal word Pentagon folks are using to describe a program that may have to "toggle" from the proposed funding figure to a sequestration-level spending amount.

Will there be a separate part of the budget for overseas operations - a war budget? Nope. Still waiting on resolution to the security agreement issue with Afghanistan.

Pentagon budget marks historic shift in US priorities abroad. The NYT's Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001... The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel's budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will - at least for one year - maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11." Read more here.

For military compensation growth, it's the end of an era: The budget Hagel reveals today will reflect limits on military pay raises, higher fees for health-care benefits and less generous housing allowances, per the WSJ's Don Nissenbaum and Julian E. Barnes: "...Faced with steadily increasing military personnel costs that threaten to overwhelm an ever-tighter budget, Mr. Hagel is also expected to include a one-year freeze on raises for top military brass-a gesture meant to show that the best-compensated leaders also will make sacrifices.
"...Pentagon officials say that they recognize the political realities, but emphasize that declining military spending makes trimming costs even more important this year." Personnel costs reflect some 50% of the Pentagon budget and cannot be exempted in the context of the significant cuts the department is facing," said Adm. John Kirby, the Defense Department's top spokesman. "Secretary Hagel has been clear that, while we do not want to, we ultimately must slow the growth of military pay and compensation.
"Veterans organizations are expected to oppose many of the proposals. Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said veterans groups understand there is a "finite amount of money," but would like to see the Pentagon focus more on other cost cuts it is seeking, such as closing unnecessary bases and scaling back weapons programs, rather than targeting personnel costs." More here.

FYI, Big meeting: Hagel is meeting with veterans service organizations today to discuss the budget and military compensation issues and essentially ask veterans groups to help him socialize a budget that does reduce compensation for the military over time to help make it more sustainable, Situation Report is told.

"The very key thing, from the start, the promise that Secretary Hagel made to the chiefs - as we make changes to military compensation, we will reinvest them back into the force - we're not going to take cuts and send them over to something completely different in the government," a senior defense official told Situation Report.

New subject: On the Pentagon's big budget day, something quick you didn't know that has nothing to do with the budget: Situation Report has learned that Pentagon police are investigating possible credit card fraud inside the Building that could affect anyone who has used a credit card at any of the Pentagon's shops or restaurants within the last three months. From a message sent out to Pentagon employees Friday from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency Corporate Communications Office: "ALL [Caps theirs] Pentagon Government and Contractor Employees: The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) is currently investigating a case of fraudulent use of credit cards belonging to Pentagon personnel. These individuals had fraudulent charges to their account soon after they had legitimate transactions at the Pentagon.  PFPA is working with partner federal and local law enforcement agencies to determine where the credit card numbers have been compromised, as it may ultimately have no connection to the Pentagon.  If you received a fraudulent charge on your credit card bill within the last 120 days that occurred within 48 hours of a purchase at the Pentagon, please report this to us at 571-256-0000."

But PFPA didn't want to comment on the matter, citing it as an "active investigation" and thusly couldn't apparently describe for Situation Report the scope of the investigation, or how many people the agency thinks might be affected, to provide any context for an issue that, potentially, affects thousands of people who use credit cards in the Pentagon every day.

Welcome to Monday's laden 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. Like what you see? Please 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 do follow us @glubold.

The Obama administration is now weighing 3k troops for Afghanistan. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: ne of the four options President Obama is considering for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond this year would leave behind 3,000 troops, based in Kabul and at the American installation at Bagram, U.S. officials said. Military commanders have recommended 10,000 troops, with more installations across the country. But the military has spent the past several months studying what kind of reduced counterterrorism and training operations it could conduct under the smaller option, which some in the White House favor. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to brief his NATO counterparts in Brussels this week on the status of U.S. decision making. A senior administration official said that no announcement of specific troop numbers was planned but added that 'we'll have to tell people where we stand in our thinking and planning.'" Read the rest here.

21 Afghan solders were killed by the Taliban. The WSJ's Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil: " A Taliban attack on an army outpost killed at least 21 Afghan soldiers, a military setback that prompted President Hamid Karzai to put an overseas trip on hold. The attack Sunday morning in eastern Kunar province followed a weekend of backroom political intrigue in the capital. Two leading presidential candidates held talks about uniting their campaigns, which would give them a significant edge in the contest to succeed Mr. Karzai. The president must step down this year. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on an outpost near the village of Shirghaz in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar." Read the rest here.

This morning, a new report provides some understanding about the Afghan population's thinking as 2014 unfolds. The "Perception Survey of the Afghan People Towards the Taliban and their Future Role in Afghanistan" goes online today at the Center for National Policy. Surveyors interviewed 4,219 men and women in 11 provinces. Key findings: 80 percent of the Afghan population perceives the Afghan government to be in control of their area, and 72 percent of Afghans trust the Afghan National Army - and, surprisingly, 64 percent of the Afghan National Police. And - 80 percent of Afghans think there should be a role for the international community within the country. There will be a discussion today at noon at the Center for National Policy. Deets here.

A suicide bombing yesterday takes war among jihadi factions in Syria to a new levelReuters' Mariam Karouny: "A Syrian rebel commander who fought alongside al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to its current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed by a suicide attack on Sunday, intensifying infighting between rival Islamist fighters. The Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said Abu Khaled al-Soury, also known as Abu Omair al-Shamy, a commander of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham was killed along with six comrades by al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It said al-Soury had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Soury's death will fuel the infighting among jihadis fighting President Bashar al-Assad, a violent rivalry that has killed hundreds of fighters in recent months, rebels said." Read more here.

Page One: United States, Europe and Russia continue to jockey for influence in Ukraine. The WSJ's Jay Solomon, Vanessa Mock and Stephen Fidler: "The Obama administration worked Sunday with the European Union to forge a much-needed financial bailout of Ukraine, but also extended an olive branch to Russia by inviting it to join the effort. The U.S. response to the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych drove home the delicate balance the White House is seeking to strike as it tries to cement Ukraine's future with the West without provoking a Russian intervention in a country it has long considered a strategic ally.
"Although the Ukrainian opposition's success in ousting Mr. Yanukovych suggests the West has gained the upper hand for now, the West has studiously avoided a declaration of victory out of recognition that doing so could fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin's determination to bring about a reversal.
"...Ukraine's parliament, after it took steps to weaken Mr. Yanukovych's powers, released on Saturday his staunchest political foe, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed on corruption charges in 2011. The 53-year-old became a darling of the West following the "Orange" revolutions that gripped Ukraine and other former Soviet republics in the mid-2000s. Officials say Washington had grown wary of Ms. Tymoshenko due to widespread allegations of corruption surrounding her government.
"...An EU official said a summit with Ukraine could be convened as early as next month, during which the stalled trade deal with the country could be signed. That pact could come with a large aid package that could exceed the almost €20 billion ($27.5 billion) over seven years that EU officials had previously considered tying to the EU political-and-trade agreement." Read more here.

Yanukovych left without packing his bags. FP's own Shane Harris: "It appears that in his rush to get out of Kiev, embattled Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych left behind quite a paper trail. Protesters arriving at his opulent estate, the Mezhyhirya, a kind of Swiss chalet-meets-Neverland Ranch about 12 miles from Kiev, found hundreds pages of accounting files, receipts, and dossiers on Yanukovych's political opponents floating in a river. The incriminating records were apparently dumped there by whomever was last at the palace before Yanukovych fled for parts unknown, according to multiple reports on social media Saturday and in the Ukrainian press.... The most intriguing piece of paper may be a receipt for a cash transfer of $12 million dated September 2010, about seven months after Yanukovych took office. It's not clear who gave the money, or whether Yanukovych was the recipient." Read the full story here.

The former auto mechanic who steered Ukraine away from civil war. Our story from Saturday: "The man who may be responsible for helping to keep the violence in Ukraine from escalating has reportedly left Kiev and gone to Crimea. But Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev's work may essentially be done: by helping to keep the Ukrainian military on the sidelines during the massive protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks, he set the stage for a what could be a relatively peaceful transition to a new government.
"...But despite the battles between security forces and protesters in recent weeks -- fighting that left at least 100 people dead -- the Ukrainian military never got involved. That may be largely due to the efforts of Lebedyev, a thick-necked former auto mechanic and businessman whose complete lack of defense-related experience sparked intense public criticism when his appointment was announced in December 2012. Lebedyev was derided as a Yanukovych crony, which makes his refusal to use military force of behalf of his former benefactor all the more striking."  Read the rest of our story here.

How a naval officer's story about fake poker chips could ruin his career. From the Omaha World-Herald's Steve Liewer: "Playing three phony poker chips last summer at a Council Bluffs casino started Rear Adm. Tim Giardina's troubles. But when Giardina told conflicting stories about how he wound up with the counterfeit $500 chips, things got worse. 'I was not forthright in my response about how I came into possession of the chips in question,' Giardina acknowledged in a signed statement to prosecutors last August. Now Giardina's distinguished Navy career is in limbo. He has lost his job as deputy commander for the U.S. Strategic Command. His retirement and possibly even his freedom are in jeopardy. Until now, authorities had released few specific details of what happened at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs last June 15. In an interview Wednesday, Giardina, too, declined to answer questions about those events, but he did talk about the tension and uncertainty in his life ever since." Read the rest here.

Listen and read NPR's Tom Bowman's piece on how the new ethics officer at the Pentagon - yet to be named - will have a full plate, here.

Randy Forbes takes issue with the QDR in the National Interest. Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes' BLUF: ...The challenges here today and just over the horizon are real, but I am afraid our government's intent to plan and resource for them is far from serious. If this coming QDR again fails to meet expectations, it may be time to seriously consider alternative approaches to requiring the Pentagon to conduct long-term planning. Whatever the future of the QDR, I remain a strong supporter of the 2010 Independent Panel that successfully forged a bipartisan consensus on this nation's strategic outlook and the resources required to achieve objectives consistent with the demands of the coming decade. I look forward to reviewing both the coming QDR and QDR Independent Panel, and I will continue to look for new ways for the Congress to work with the Department to successfully construct a long-term national defense strategy consensus." Read the rest here.

The QDR focuses on the Middle East, by Defense News' John Bennett, here.

Can you hear me now? The high failure rate of the Air Force's $1,800 sat phone. Time's Mark Thompson on Swampland: "...Take the Air Force's new URT-44 personnel locator beacon (PLB), designed to help pinpoint aviators who eject or otherwise leave their plane under emergency conditions so they can be rescued. The Air Force has spent $30 million buying 17,000 of the devices since 2009 and deployed them in ejection-seat survival kits and parachute pockets. They're about the size of a fat iPhone (2.6 inches wide, 4.9 inches high, 1.28 inches thick), and weigh a little more than a pound. Mind you, this isn't intended to locate downed pilots behind enemy lines, because it transmits signals to search-and-rescue units via satellite that the bad guys could intercept. The URT-44 is basically an $1,800 satellite phone that automatically rings for aid once a pilot or crew member goes down, and needs help getting home.

That's what made its failure rate during testing last year-100%-so disconcerting." Read the rest of Thompson's bit here.

Marine Corps Times just got some e-mails that show exchanges between Marine officials about what to do with the newspaper amid its coverage of Commandant Gen. Jim Amos. Military Times' Lance Bacon: "The initiative to ban or bury the independent newspaper Marine Corps Times originated in May "on a rather tight timeline" at the behest of Gen. Jim Amos, the service's commandant, newly obtained emails show. The exchange occurred just days before Marine Corps Times published an investigative report spotlighting allegations Amos abused his authority. Marine Corps Times authenticated the internal discussion from May 15, 2013, that contradicts official statements offered recently in response to the service's abrupt and questionable decision in December to relocate the newspaper away from checkout lines at Marine Corps Exchange stores worldwide. Officials have described the move as an effort to 'professionalize' checkout counters, refuting the suggestion it was retaliation for the newspaper's ongoing coverage of allegations surrounding Amos." Read the rest, including exchanges between Marine officials, here.

Hagel's E-Ring is filling up, with more nominees en route. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The team of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel - who's entering his second year in office - is finally taking shape. Hagel has surrounded himself with a team of experienced managers tasked with reshaping the Pentagon as defense spending declines following more than a decade of war, experts say. One senior defense official said Hagel has been pumped and energized in recent staff meetings about the prospect of having a full-up staff as he begins chapter two of his tenure at the Defense Department. Some of these undersecretaries and assistant secretaries will begin the confirmation process Feb. 25 when they appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The list of nominees includes: Robert Work, nominated for deputy defense secretary; Michael McCord, for comptroller; and Christine Wormuth, for undersecretary for policy. Also scheduled to testify are Brian McKeon, nominated to be principal deputy undersecretary for policy; David Shear, to be assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; and Eric Rosenbach, to be assistant secretary for homeland defense. Other nominations pending in the Senate include Jessica Wright, to be the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, and Jamie Morin, to be the director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office (CAPE)." More here.

No Medal of Honor for Peralta, the Pentagon announced late Friday. The Union Tribune's Gretel Kovach: "A years-long battle to upgrade the posthumous combat award for Sgt. Rafael Peralta to the Medal of Honor appeared to end in defeat Friday, when the Pentagon announced it will not reopen the nomination for the fallen Marine. The 25-year-old San Diegan was awarded a Navy Cross, the nation's second highest medal for valor in combat, after he smothered a grenade blast during house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, Iraq in November 2004.

"Supporters in Peralta's hometown, on Capitol Hill and in the Navy have persistently campaigned for the top award, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, a Marine combat veteran who submitted additional evidence in support of a Medal of Honor. The entire California congressional delegation pushed to reopen the nomination, which seems unlikely now that a third defense secretary has declined to upgrade Peralta's medal.

"'Secretary (Chuck) Hagel and the department remain forever grateful to Sgt. Peralta for his selfless service to our nation,' the Pentagon said in a news release. But an 'exhaustive' review of the evidence by Hagel - as well as the armed forces medical examiner, the Defense Department general counsel, the acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, and several high-ranking military officers - concluded that the totality of evidence in Peralta's case did not meet the "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for the Medal of Honor, defense officials said." Read the rest here.