National Security

FP's Situation Report: DOD report undermines Army position on intel system

Could the Navy Yard shooting have been avoided?; A Sinclair morality play; A "Chilly Rivalry?" with Russia; A class act leaves the Pentagon; and a bit more.

An unreleased report on the Army's intel system known as DCGS-A shows an alternative to the troubled program isn't so bad after all, FP learns. Our story, with FP's own Shane Harris: The Army has spent years defending a multibillion-dollar intelligence system that critics say costs too much and does too little. A new internal report has found that there's a simple, relatively inexpensive program that could handle many of the same jobs at a fraction of the cost. For the past eight months, though, the Pentagon has kept the report hidden away.

Members of Congress have been asking Defense Department officials to send them the assessment, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy, but the Pentagon has yet to do so. At issue is the Army's Distributed Common Ground System, expected to cost nearly $11 billion over 30 years and built by a consortium of major Beltway contractors, including Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics. The system is meant to give troops on the ground an easy way to collect intelligence about terrorists and enemy fighters, and then create detailed reports and maps that they can share with each other to plan and conduct operations. But critics -- and even some troops -- have long complained that the system doesn't actually work. They say it's too slow and hard to use, and that it has left them searching for alternatives in the war zone.

The system's high cost and technical failings prompted a search for other options. Palantir Technologies, a fast-growing Silicon Valley firm, told the Pentagon that its off-the-shelf systems could accomplish most of the same tasks but cost far less -- millions, rather than billions. The Marine Corps, Special Operations forces, the CIA, and a host of other government agencies already use it. Army officials, though, said Palantir wasn't up to the job. Now, a 57-page report by the Pentagon's acquisitions arm basically says the Army was wrong to dismiss the Palantir system. The study instead gives Palantir high marks on most of the Army's 20 key requirements for the intelligence system, including the ability to analyze large amounts of information, including critical data about terrorist networks and the locations of explosive devices, and synchronize it in a way that helps troops on the ground combat their enemies more effectively.

The report is likely to sharpen concerns about the Distributed Common Ground System, which has been facing mounting criticism on Capitol Hill. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), one of many long-time detractors, had asked the Pentagon for its findings as recently as last month.

Rep. Jim Moran to FP: "It's a scandal that commercially available, battlefield-proven technology is ready to go at a fraction of the billions of dollars the Pentagon is spending to build a similar analysis tool in-house. I appreciate [Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics] Frank Kendall taking this issue seriously, and look forward to hopefully resolving it once and for all when the long overdue report's findings are finally released." Read the rest of this story here.

Welcome to Wednesday'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. 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 do follow us @glubold.

NYT: If it's not a return to a Cold War, it's a return to a "chilly rivalry." The NYT's Peter Baker on Page One: "A month ago, most Americans could not have found Crimea on a map. But its lightning-quick takeover by Moscow has abruptly redrawn the geopolitical atlas and may have decisively ended a 25-year period of often tumultuous yet also constructive relations between the United States and Russia. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Washington and Moscow had struggled to replace their Cold War rivalry with a new form of partnership, one that was tested by crisis after crisis but that endured in its own peculiar way. After each rupture, whether over Kosovo or Iraq or Georgia, came another reset that put the two powers back onto an uneasy equilibrium.

"The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin to snatch Crimea away from Ukraine, celebrated in a defiant treaty-signing ceremony in the Kremlin on Tuesday, threatens to usher in a new, more dangerous era. If it is not the renewed Cold War that some fear, it seems likely to involve a sustained period of confrontation and alienation that will be hard to overcome. The next reset, if there ever is one, for the moment appears far off and far-fetched." Read the rest here.

Bad Romance: What will become of France's $1.7 billion warship deal with Russia? FP's Dan Lamothe: "French officials have spent years defending a $1.7 billion arms sale to Russia, a deal Paris won after beating out rival nations like Germany and Spain. The United States and its Baltic allies have spent just as long warning that selling powerful amphibious warships to the Kremlin risked giving Russian strongman Vladimir Putin powerful new weapons to use against his neighbors.

"With Russia showing no signs of ending its military occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, the deal is suddenly facing new scrutiny. French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that France will review its military cooperation with Russia if Moscow doesn't begin to pull its forces from Crimea and drop its threats against Ukraine's fragile central government. The tough language was a first for the French leader: Hollande had previously given no indication that he was willing to suspend or cancel the deal. Earlier this month, in fact, he said it was still on track. Barring something unforeseen, the first French-built ship, the Vladivostok, will be delivered to Russia this fall. The second is under construction in France." More here.

"Missed opportunities for intervention": The Navy Yard shootings might have been prevented. The WaPo's Ernesto Londono and Christian Davenport: "The Defense Department is likely to reduce the number of employees who hold security clearances by at least 10 percent and has vowed to overhaul the way it screens personnel, officials said Tuesday as they released the results of several inquiries into the Sept. 16 mass shooting at the Navy Yard.

The reviews offered a damning assessment of the department's ability to monitor the trustworthiness and reliability of a workforce that grew exponentially in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They also made clear that the Pentagon has issued security clearances to many employees and contractors who are not required to access classified information in the course of their jobs. Investigators found that Navy personnel and supervisors who later employed gunman Aaron Alexis as a defense contractor "missed opportunities for intervention" that could have barred the former sailor from retaining a secret security clearance and unfettered access to military installations.

Hagel on the review: "The reviews identified troubling gaps in the Department of Defense's ability to detect, prevent and respond to instances where someone working with us decides to inflict harm on this institution and its people." Read the rest of the WaPo story, including an interesting graphic, here.

Transcript of Hagel and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus from yesterday  here.

Fish, it's what's fir dinner. At the Pentagon last night, Hagel hosted National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, an annual affair. The dinner conversation was "frank, open and serious," we're told by a senior defense official. "It focused on the situation in Ukraine and how that situation impacted the Alliance, NATO-Russian cooperation, and European security." The four also discussed the upcoming NATO Summit this fall. On the menu? Fish, we're told.

Speaking of which, is NATO back? The NYT's Steven Erlanger: "Russia's annexation of Crimea has suddenly revived the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's central role as a counterweight to Moscow, and with it questions about the alliance's options and ability to act. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. swept into Poland and the Baltic nations on Tuesday with a message of reassurance that their membership in NATO carries the protection of the United States. But given deep Western reluctance to use military force in response to Russia's aggression, it remains unclear what the alliance's commitment to collective security means for Ukraine and other nonmembers should President Vladimir V. Putin continue to try to expand Moscow's influence in the former Soviet bloc...

Since the Ukraine crisis began, the United States, in the context of the alliance, has sent more F-16 fighters to Poland and F-15 fighters to the Baltics. It has begun Airborne Warning and Control System, or Awacs, flights over the Polish and Romanian borders, and has ordered more exercises with warships in the Black Sea...

Jan Techau of Carnegie Europe: "The Ukraine crisis "is a complete reminder of why NATO is useful... If NATO were not in place, this would be a real existential struggle for Eastern and Western Europe, and it isn't." More here.

No drawing outside the lines: The Pentagon will not redraw cocom boundaries. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The Pentagon is not looking to redraw the boundaries of its geographical war-fighting commands, but is exploring the possibility of realigning forces around the world, a senior US military official said Tuesday. The Defense Department had been looking at a major reorganization of the combatant commands (COCOMs) for more than a year, however that effort lost steam in recent months, according to sources. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last summer that budget cuts might force DoD to cut a COCOM. 'On the heels of the concern around that world that the US may be doing less, the last thing ... we want to do right now is kind of add more uncertainty there,' Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, deputy director of joint strategic planning on the Joint Staff, said Tuesday during a presentation at a Precision Strike Association conference in Springfield, Va. 'Does that mean we won't look at that in the future? No, we will continue.' More here.

Karzai picks a former Northern Alliance leader as Veep. The NYT's Matthew Rosenberg: " Moving to preserve the political and ethnic balance at the top of his government, President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday nominated a prominent former Northern Alliance figure to fill the vice-presidential post left vacant by the death of Muhammad Qasim Fahim last week. The nominee, Yunus Qanooni, is - like his predecessor - an ethnic Tajik who rose to prominence through the old Northern Alliance, which resisted the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in the 1990s. Mr. Qanooni served as interior minister after the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001, and was widely seen as a political rival of Mr. Karzai. But there was little expectation that Mr. Qanooni could fill the void left by Mr. Fahim, who was among the country's most powerful and influential figures before he died of a heart attack on March 9." More here.

A class act departs the Pentagon. Longtime Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker, who has covered the building for the NYT for 13 years, is leaving the beat. Shanker, known for being one of the most gracious and magnanimous reporters on what he has called "the best job in journalism," was treated to a farewell late yesterday at the Pentagon briefing room. Hagel even dropped by and gave Shanker a pair of made-in-the-USA gym socks. We won't violate the off-the-record nature of such events, but suffice it to say that colleagues gathered to say nice things about Shanker. The WSJ's Julian Barnes talked about his qualities as a gentleman reporter, always willing to help others, give credit to others' work when it's due, and be polite when reporting the truth. But it's Shanker's refrain as a reporter that most strikes us. He often says that "the truth lies in constant reporting." That's a good reminder in this age of reporting-on-the-cheap and reporters who surf the Internet instead of actually walking the beat.

Read this speech Shanker gave at Stanford in 2007 on covering the wars and why some think getting lost is worse than being killed, here.

From a memo by NYT Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan: "As you know, the Washington bureau boasts one of the strongest editing desks at The New York Times. And it is about to get even stronger. Thom Shanker, a gifted and intrepid Pentagon correspondent for the last 13 years - who has covered the beat during 9/11, two wars, and four secretaries of defense - will join our desk as weekend editor. Thom's savvy and smart judgment will help guide our coverage, and be of great benefit to us on the weekends, when it often seems the world is exploding or about to explode." We wish Thom well.

Malaysia, learning to let go. The WSJ's Mark Magnier, Trefor Moss and Jake Maxwell Watts: "Malaysian authorities began ceding some control of the search for Malaysia Airlines  Flight 370 to several other nations after operations in some areas ground to a halt for lack of guidance. Few doubt the challenges involved in a search that now encompasses 2.24 million square nautical miles, 26 nations, and a mystery over what happened to the flight after it vanished from radar March 8. But confusion over the effort spread Tuesday, with several nations, including India, Thailand, Japan and Indonesia, saying they had ships and aircraft sitting idle while they awaited instructions from Kuala Lumpur, which has been overseeing the international operation.

"...Some aviation experts welcomed Malaysia's more-decentralized approach. "They are beginning to do what they should be doing," said David Learmount, an aviation security and safety expert with Flightglobal, a trade publication. But for some others, the delays signaled the task may be too big for the midsize country to manage. 'No one wants to find the plane more than the Malaysians, but they need to streamline their crisis management,' said Singapore Management University professor Bridget Welsh." More here.

Morality play: Soldiers staged a skit based on the Sinclair affair - for Sinclair. AP's Jeffrey Collins: "Suspicions of an Army general's extramarital affair with a subordinate had circulated widely enough that soldiers portrayed the two in a sexually suggestive skit at a 2010 party, according to witness testimony Tuesday. Lt. Col. Benjamin Bigelow testified at a sentencing hearing that the skit was performed during a party at which Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was being honored in Germany. It involved a soldier dressed up as Sinclair and a soldier dressed as a woman in a brown wig to represent the captain who was his primary accuser, Bigelow testified... During the skit, the character in the wig 'moved in front of the Sinclair character's crotch and offered to do something for him,' Bigelow said. 'There was absolutely no question.' Bigelow said Sinclair's wife attended the party and was "clearly shocked, angered and dismayed." He said the accuser was not at the party." More here.

Naval Academy sexual assault trial begins, and a prosecutor said a midshipman laughed off sexual assault. Reuters' Tom Ramstack: "A former U.S. Naval Academy football player laughed off his suspected sexual assault of a woman midshipman who had passed out at an alcohol-fueled party, a prosecutor said at the start of the man's trial on Tuesday. In the case, among a spate of sexual misconduct allegations in the U.S. armed forces, Midshipman Joshua Tate from Nashville, Tennessee, is the only one to be court-martialed among three Academy football players initially accused of assaulting the woman in April 2012. During opening arguments, Navy prosecutor Lieutenant Commander Ryan Stormer said that after the woman passed out, Tate 'made the decision to do exactly what he wanted to do.' Not until the next day did the woman realize she had been sexually assaulted, he said. When the woman confronted Tate about their alleged encounter, 'everything to him was a big laughing matter,' Stormer said. 'He laughingly told her yes, we did have sex.' More here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: Syria is in free fall

24 MOHs today at the WH; The FOIA-Unfriendly Administration; Asian countries don't want to reveal security weaknesses; An Army three-star earns a black belt; and a bit more.

It's done: Putin prepares to annex Crimea.  The WaPo's Will Englund, Carol Morello and Pamela Constable: "President Vladimir Putin put the annexation of Crimea on a fast track Tuesday morning, ordering the drafting of an accession agreement between Crimea and Russia. Later in the day he will be making an unusual address to a joint session of the Russian parliament, where he will lay out his plans for the region.

"The speech comes as a defiant Russia shows no sign of bending to American or European pressure over the Crimea crisis, which has turned into the sharpest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Crimean parliament voted Monday to request "reunification" with the Russian Federation, and Putin officially recognized its independence from Ukraine a few hours later. This was a first step toward formal accession." More here.

FP's John Hudson and Jamila Trindle, on sanctions: "Earlier in the day, President Obama warned Putin not to take such action. "We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity and government of Ukraine," President Obama said Monday. 'We're making it clear there are consequences for their actions.'

"The U.S. sanctions will block the assets of seven Russian officials and four Ukrainian leaders, among them ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and separatists in Crimea. Congress is considering legislation that would go even further.

A punishing, if double-edged, weapon to use against Russia would be to target the country's energy powerhouses, especially Gazprom and Rosneft. The two companies dominate Russia's energy production and exports, and are the key levers by which Putin wields energy as a geopolitical weapon. German newspaper Bild reported last week that top Russian energy officials, including the chief executives of both firms, are on the long list of possible European sanctions targets." More of Hudson and Trindle's bit here.

Putin: Crimea has always been part of Russia. CNN's Alla Eshchenko and Laura Smith-Spark: "Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed this weekend's referendum in Crimea on Tuesday, saying the 96% who voted to join Russia was 'an extremely convincing figure.'

Putin, speaking to a joint session of Parliament in Moscow, also stressed the historical and cultural ties between Russia and Crimea, and said Crimea is an inalienable part of Russia. 'In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia,' he said." More here.

Tit for tat:  The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin: "Putin is set to respond to Obama's sanctions of Russian officials with his own list. Several U.S. Senators and officials will be banned from visiting Russia, including Sen. Dick Durbin. U.S. senators, congressmen and top Obama administration officials are sure to be on Vladimir Putin's sanctions list; a response to the Obama Administration's announcement on Monday that 7 Russian officials and 4 Ukrainian officials would be barred from holding assets or traveling to the United States." More here.

NATO plans to help Ukrainian forces. The Hill's Kristina Wong: "NATO officials don't expect to see near-term military "stand offs" with Russia as President Vladimir Putin appears poised to annex the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, but are planning to bolster Ukrainian forces in the long-term, a NATO official told the Hill. NATO plans to help Ukrainian forces build capacity via joint exercises, advice and other unspecified things, the official said on background. Although the official did not specify exact exercises, the U.S. Army is planning to conduct an exercise in Ukraine this July, according to the Army Times. Exercise Rapid Trident 2014 is expected to take place near L'viv, Ukraine, and will involve units from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, Lt. Col. David Westover Jr. told the Army Times." More here.

Reading Rosa: How politicians mis-read a 'city on a hill' and butcher the real meaning of American exceptionalism. Rosa Brooks, on FP, 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. 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 do follow us @glubold.

Count 'em: 24 individuals, three of them living, will receive the Medal of Honor today. Army Times: "... President Obama will present the awards in recognition of their actions in World War II, Vietnam and Korea. The Medal of Honor will be presented posthumously to the families of 21 soldiers who have died. Each of the soldiers previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military award. That award will be upgraded to the Medal of Honor in recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty. Congress, through the Defense Authorization Act, called for a review in 2002 of Jewish American and Hispanic American veteran war records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to ensure those deserving the Medal of Honor were not denied because of prejudice.

"During the review, records of several soldiers of neither Jewish nor Hispanic descent were also found to have criteria worthy of the Medal of Honor. The 2002 Act was amended to allow these soldiers to be honored with the upgrade, in addition to the Jewish and Hispanic-American soldiers." More here.

Another chapter for the Big Red One: The 1st Infantry division's Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston will receive the medal on behalf of the family of Sgt. Candelario Garcia, who passed away more than a year ago. Garcia's story here. Meantime, the granddaughter of a Korean War recipient will receive the medal on his behalf - and she's an active duty sergeant in 3rd Infantry Division. More here about the story of Sgt. Ashley Randall and her grandfather here. More from the Army on all the MOH recipients here.

Free fall: Syria war enters its fourth year and 150,000 people are dead. The NYT's Anne Barnard reporting from Beirut on Page One: "Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political center of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cruelty on a nearly incomprehensible scale. Families are brutalized by their government and by jihadists claiming to be their saviors as nearly half of Syrians - many of them children - have been driven from their homes. At the start of the fourth year since Syrians rose up in a peaceful movement that turned to arms after violent repression, a snapshot of the country presents the harsh truth that Syria's descent is only accelerating, with nothing to check it.

"The government bombards neighborhoods with explosive barrels, missiles, heavy artillery and, the United States says, chemical weapons, then it sends in its allies in Hezbollah and other militias to wage street warfare. It jails and tortures peaceful activists, and uses starvation as a weapon, blockading opposition areas where trapped children shrivel and die.

"The opposition is now functionally dominated by foreign-led jihadists who commit their own abuses in the name of their extremist ideology, just last week shooting a 7-year-old boy for what they claimed was apostasy. And some of those fighters, too, have targeted civilians and used siege tactics... All the while, Syria is falling apart. Last weekend, another vital center of opposition life - the city of Yabrud, near the Lebanese border - fell to pro-government forces. As each such haven has been shattered, like Homs and Qusayr, it has become a watchword for civilian suffering, and more are displaced." More here.

The new envoy for Syria promises to support anti-Assad forces but isn't specific about how he'll do that. The WaPo's Anne Gearan: "... Rubinstein is expected to follow Ford's model of frequent contact with opposition groups, despite the current impasse. Announcing Rubinstein's appointment Monday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Rubinstein would travel to the region soon but gave no details. 'This week is indeed a somber occasion and a sober reminder to all of us of the work still ahead - and the United States will stand with you,' Rubinstein said in his message, also posted on the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Damascus." More here.

Not good at sharing: A lack of radar points to security weaknesses in the search for Flight 370. The WSJ's Tefor Moss: "A dearth of useful radar data in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines  Flight 370 has exposed both the weaknesses of regional air-defense systems and also a deep-seated reluctance to share military information.

"While Malaysia's air force has drawn ire for its failure to track Flight 370 effectively in the early hours of March 8, military and aviation analysts say that other Asian countries have similar deficiencies. They also say that governments continue to view one another with suspicion in a part of the world characterized by historical tensions that make countries disinclined to share military data, even in a crisis. The mistrust includes nearby neighbors and China, which remains highly secretive."

"...Malaysia's neighbors "would be as helpful as they could be without giving away anything about their own weaknesses," Mr. Huxley said. Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said last week that Malaysia was divulging unprecedented national security information and invited other nations to overcome their reluctance and help find the plane. India and China, which Flight 370 would have crossed if it moved along the northern corridor plotted by investigators, have more capable air-defense networks than Malaysia and its neighbors." Read the rest here.

James Fallows' interactive map on The Atlantic: Where Flight 370 Might Have Landed, here.

Reading Pincus: Hagel turns up the heat on excess military bases. The WaPo's Walter Pincus: "The third time may be the charm for the Defense Department in getting Congress to start the procedure that ultimately could close more excess military bases.

That would mean authorizing the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Past and proposed reductions in force numbers have created what defense officials say is more than a 25 percent surplus of military bases and facilities that are wasting billions of dollars each year. A separate Army analysis found that its excess capacity within the United States ranges between 12 and 28 percent, depending upon the facility. That figure will grow, because the Army is shrink by an additional 70,000 troops in the next five years.

"This year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Pentagon colleagues may be trying to mount their own political pressure to begin a BRAC process that could lead to approval by 2017 of a list of installations to be closed. At hearings and in news conferences, Hagel and his team have referred to a section of law that they say gives the secretary unilateral authority to take some steps. As he put it on March 6 before the House Armed Services Committee, 'As you probably know, in Title 10, I think it's Section 2687, the secretary does have some authorities in reorganizing different bases.' That section of the law says in part that the secretary can act 'if the President certifies to the Congress that such closure or realignment must be implemented for reasons of national security or a military emergency.'" More here.

The FOIA-Unfriendly administration: The WaPo's Erik Wemple: "A new report from the Associated Press is tearing the stuffing right out of the Obama administration's pledge to be remembered the most transparent ever. An AP investigation into the handling of Freedom of Information Act requests found administration 'has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records.' Headlining the categories of information subject to denial is anything related to national security." AP with the stats: "In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times - a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama's first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once."  Wemple noted: "Reporters seeking documents on breaking news "fared worse than ever last year." Among the examples of such stories are the Navy Yard shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and Benghazi." 

Wemple here. The AP report, by Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum, here.

Sinclair's accuser stands by her testimony that he sexually assaulted her. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "The female accuser in the sex-crimes trial of an Army general is satisfied with the plea deal that was reached in the case, but she stands by her assertion that he sexually assaulted her, according to her lawyer. Jamie Barnett, a retired Navy rear admiral who serves as an unpaid lawyer for the general's accuser, said Monday that the accuser stands by her testimony that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair forced her to perform oral sex on two occasions and threatened to kill her and her family if she reported their three-year affair." Read the rest here.

The Sinclair case was the worst thing for defenders of the current military justice system, and the best thing for the McCaskills and the Gillibrands of the world. The NYT's top editorial today, "A Broken Military Justice System: "On Monday, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair avoided prosecution on sexual assault charges that could have brought him a life sentence. In an agreement with the prosecutor, General Sinclair pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including mistreating his accuser, an Army captain and his former mistress. The deal followed a stunning ruling by a military judge last week suggesting that by holding out for more severe punishment, and by rejecting an earlier plea deal, the senior Army officer overseeing the prosecution might have been improperly influenced by political considerations in bringing the most severe charges against the general because of a desire to show new resolve in the military against sexual misconduct. The prosecution had also been badly shaken by revelations that the general's accuser may have lied under oath.

"The episode offers a textbook example of justice gone awry, providing yet another reason to overhaul the existing military justice system, which gives commanding officers with built-in conflicts of interest - rather than trained and independent military prosecutors outside the chain of command - the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. In the Sinclair matter, the commanding officer appears to have ignored his colleagues' reservations in an effort to look tough on sexual assaults and avoid criticism at a moment when the military is under pressure to address its sexual assault crisis." More here.

So this Army three-star just became a black belt. Army Times' Michelle Tan: "The general officer who shepherded the creation of the Army combatives program has earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he credits the service with introducing him to a discipline that grows leaders and builds confidence and competence. Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, the commanding general of Installation Management Command, said he got his first taste of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1997, when he was a lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The regimental commander, then-Col. Stanley McChrystal, called on his battalion commanders to renew their emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, and the leaders and their soldiers began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Ferriter said.

Said Ferriter: "I was a baseball player, a basketball player... I used to look at wrestlers and grapplers and think, ‘I guess they can't catch a ball, so they just grab people.'" More here.