National Security

FP's Situation Report: Syria blocks aid

Chances of war in Ukraine grow; A scramble for intel; Vets storm the Hill today; More troops to get Kony; Sardar Ahmad's final story: about a lion on a roof; and a bit more.  

Syria is blocking aid and ignoring threats from the U.N. FP's Colum Lynch: "... the Syrian government continued over the past month to lay siege to more than 220,000 of its own civilians, block the delivery of life-saving medicines to opposition areas, and maintain bureaucratic restrictions making it extremely difficult for U.N. relief workers to reach hundreds of thousands of needy Syrians, according to an unpublished March 22 report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The impediments to the international relief effort come one month after the Security Council adopted its first ever resolution demanding that Syria's combatants provide immediate access to relief workers or face the threat of 'further steps.' The resolution called on the U.N. chief to report to the 15-nation council on progress every 30 days."

"Ban's report, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy, will present the United States and its European allies with one of the first major tests of their ability to work cooperatively with Russia on a major international crisis since Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula sent relations into a nosedive." Read the rest here.

Ahead of elections, Turkey shoots down a Syrian warplane. Reuters' Daren Butler: "Turkish armed forces shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday that Ankara said had crossed into its air space in an area where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of a border crossing. 'A Syrian plane violated our airspace,' Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally in northwest Turkey. 'Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard.' Syria condemned what it called a 'blatant aggression' and said the jet was pursuing rebel fighters inside Syria." More here.

Welcome to Monday'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? 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.

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Flight 370: The Navy prepares a "black box locator." From a statement provided this morning: "The U.S. Navy is continuing efforts to search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. As a precautionary measure in case a debris field is located, U.S. Pacific Command has ordered U.S. Pacific Fleet to move a black box locator into the region, March 24. If a debris field is confirmed, the Navy's Towed Pinger Locator 25 will add a significant advantage in locating the missing Malaysian aircraft's black box. The TPL-25 Towed Pinger Locator System is able to locate black boxes on downed Navy and commercial aircraft down to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet anywhere in the world. Commercial aircraft pingers are mounted directly on the flight recorder, the recovery of which is critical to an accident investigation."

More U.S. troops to Uganda to look for Joseph Kony. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "President Obama has ordered a sharp increase in U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to Uganda and sent U.S. military aircraft there for the first time in the ongoing effort to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony across a broad swath of central Africa. The CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive in Uganda by midweek, along with refueling aircraft and about 150 Air Force Special Operations forces and other airmen to fly and maintain the planes, according to Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs. At least four Ospreys will be deployed. The White House began to notify Congress, under the War Powers Act, of the new deployments as they began Sunday night.

"Dory and other officials emphasized that the Ospreys will be used for troop transport and that the rules of engagement for U.S. forces remain the same as for about 100 Special Operations troops that Obama first sent to help find Kony in October 2011. U.S. personnel are authorized to 'provide information, advice and assistance' to an African Union military task force tracking Kony and his organization, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), across Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. While combat-equipped, they are prohibited from engaging LRA forces unless in self-defense." Read the rest of DeYoung's story here.

Read The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran's piece on the hunt for Kony from last October, here.

The chances of war in Ukraine grow. FP's Dana Stuster: "With Russia seizing the last remaining Ukrainian military base in Crimea and massing troops along Ukraine's eastern border, a top Ukrainian official warned that the chances of war with Russia were growing higher. Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, said his government was "very much concerned" about the Russian troop deployments and told that the chances of war were 'becoming higher.' Appearing on This Week, the foreign minister said Kiev's fragile pro-Western government preferred to use diplomatic means to settle its dispute with Moscow, but was also prepared to use other means 'to defend their homeland.'" More here.

The U.S. scurries to shore up spying on Russia. The WSJ's Adam Entous, Julian Barnes and Siobhan Gorman on Page One: "U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn't intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade. America's vaunted global surveillance is a vital tool for U.S. intelligence services, especially as an early-warning system and as a way to corroborate other evidence. In Crimea, though, U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.

"Even though there was a warning, we didn't have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen," a senior U.S. official says. To close the information gap, U.S. spy agencies and the military are rushing to expand satellite coverage and communications-interception efforts across Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states. U.S. officials hope the "surge" in assets and analysts will improve tracking of the Russian military and tip off the U.S. to any possible intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin before he acts on them. The U.S. moves will happen quickly. 'We have gone into crisis-response mode,' a senior official says.

"Still, as Russia brings additional forces to areas near the border with eastern Ukraine, America's spy chiefs are worried that Russian leaders might be able to cloak their next move by shielding more communications from the U.S., according to officials familiar with the matter. "That is the question we're all asking ourselves," one top U.S. official says. The Obama administration is 'very nervous,' says a person close to the discussions. 'This is uncharted territory.'" More here.

Putin says he doesn't "need" Ukraine. But he might take it anyway. James Traub's BLUF, writing on FP: "It is a very, very unsettling thought that Ukraine's fate now depends on Putin's calculations of self-interest, or even his whims. The ringmaster of Sochi seems still to be glorying in the vast powers at his disposal. We can only hope that the vapors start to disperse in the harsh light of day." The whole story here.

How Putin has remained a riddle for three American presidents, by The NYT's Peter Baker, here.

Decoded: Romney and Palin, playing a bit of "I told you so" lately. The Christian Science Monitor's Mark Sappenfield: "Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, as we know, have been able to indulge in a bit of "I told you so" lately over the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea...What was more interesting than the obligatory political target practice, however, was the nuance in Romney's comments Sunday. While not new, the comments may prove increasingly prescient as Obama and the world seek to recalibrate how to deal with Russia going forward.

"On one hand, they were classic Romney. One has difficulty imagining Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan - the great political communicators of our time - ever using the words 'geopolitical adversary' on television, much less twice in the space of eight minutes, as Romney did Sunday. It is a phase that bespeaks academic condescension, and Romney, after all, never quite nailed the common man thing in 2012. Yet, at length, Romney found his inner cable guy and hit his point. 'They [Russia] are not our enemy, but they're an adversary on the playing field of the world.'... Obama, Romney said, 'should have had the judgment from the very beginning to understand that Russia was not our friend, it had very different interests and ambitions than we did.' In the wake of Crimea's annexation by Russia last week, it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue with Romney on that point." More here.

Putin in The Onion (not really Putin, FYI) on thanking everyone for being so cool about all of this. "Putin": "It's certainly no easy task to forcefully annex an entire province against another country's will, so I just wanted to thank you-the government of the United States, the nations of western Europe, and really the entire world population as a whole-for being super cool about all of this." Alert for wonks who sometimes don't get it: The Onion is a spoof - it ain't real. Read the rest of it here.

The vet group IAVA will storm the Hill today, no joke, to combat suicides. The WaPo's Josh Hicks: "An emerging veterans group plans to descend on Capital Hill this week to demand new action on veterans issues and launch a national campaign to combat suicide among former troops. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has named veteran-suicide prevention as its top priority for 2014. On Monday, the group will send 31 representatives to discuss mental health challenges with members of Congress and President Obama.

Participants will call for new legislation and executive orders that could strengthen access to mental-health services and improve coordination between government agencies, according to an announcement from the group." Rest of the WaPo post here.  Deets of the IAVA event here.

Patrick Murphy talking about the Storm the Hill event on MSNBC here. 

A delay for the software for the F-35. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio with the scoop: "Delays in testing critical software for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 jet are threatening to delay the Pentagon's most expensive weapon and boost development costs, according to congressional investigators. 'Persistent software problems' have slowed testing to demonstrate the aircraft's war-fighting, navigation, targeting and reconnaissance systems, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said. The Marine Corps F-35 version, designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, has a key milestone next year. While the Marines want the plane to be deemed ready for combat in mid-2015, tests on some of its software might not be completed on time, and possibly 13 months late."

According to a draft of a GAO report obtained by Bloomberg's Capaccio: "Delays of this magnitude would mean that the Marine Corps will not likely have all of the capabilities it expects in July 2015... The effects of these delays compound as they also put the timely delivery of Air Force and Navy initial operating capabilities at risk."

"The Air Force's F-35 version is supposed to meet a similar deadline in 2016, and the Navy model in 2018. Italy and the U.K. are buying the Marine Corps model. The F-35 program is estimated to cost $391.2 billion. While Lockheed Martin officials haven't yet seen the GAO report, they are 'confident we will complete flight testing of the software required for Marine Corps initial operational capability this year,' Laura Siebert, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda, Maryland-based contractor, said in an e-mail statement." More here.

Where the Pentagon gives up, the French and Germans push forward (the search for MIAs): ProPublica's Megan McCloskey (and co-published with The Daily Beast): "U.S. Army Private First Class Lawrence S. Gordon - killed in Normandy in 1944, then mistakenly buried as a German soldier - will soon be going home to his family. But don't thank the American military for this belated return. The Pentagon declined to act on his case, despite exhaustive research by civilian investigators that pointed to the location of his remains. Instead, Gordon's family and advocates used the same evidence to persuade French and German officials to exhume Gordon and identify him through DNA testing. That's right: the relatives of this U.S. soldier, who fought against the Germans, are relying on Germany to bring him back home.

"Gordon's case is another example of breakdowns in the American system for finding and identifying tens of thousands of missing service members from past conflicts." Read the rest here.

Sardar Ahmad was a "charming and talented journalist" for AFP in Kabul who had just told a tale of a lion who lived on a roof. AFP's obit of the senior reporter for AFP in Kabul who was shot dead, along with his wife, Humaira, and two of their three children, in the recent attack by the Taliban at the Serena Hotel (the third child, not quite two, is in a coma): "...An AFP staff photographer identified the four bodies at a city hospital on Friday, and said the family's infant son was undergoing emergency treatment after suffering serious wounds. 'This is an immensely painful and enormous loss for Agence France-Presse,' AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said. He described Ahmad as a 'dedicated and courageous journalist, a cornerstone of our team in Afghanistan who delivered, every day, exceptional coverage of the news in extremely difficult conditions.' 

"Four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security to attack the luxury hotel on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan. The Serena attack was claimed by the Taliban, who have vowed a campaign of violence to disrupt the April 5 election that will decide a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Hired in 2003 to cover daily briefings by the US-led coalition at Bagram airbase, two years after the invasion that drove out the Taliban regime, Ahmad went on to cover all aspects of life, war and politics in his native country.

"He was known among his colleagues for his wit, charm and ebullience. His time covering the briefings at Bagram allowed him to achieve an impressive level of fluency in English -- and a distinctive American accent."

Gilles Campion, AFP's Asia-Pacific regional director, said: "During the 11 years he spent with AFP in Kabul, he always exercised immense courage and objectivity when reporting, despite the risks faced by journalists in that country."

"Ahmad was a versatile reporter with an eye for unexpected stories that opened a window on life in Afghanistan away from the bombs and blast walls. His last feature for AFP, filed on Tuesday, was about a lion called Marjan, who was rescued by animal welfare officials from living on a rooftop in Kabul. That was a follow-up to a story Ahmad himself broke last year, generating headlines around the world.

"He wrote in the feature: "Marjan is named after a famous half-blind lion who lived at Kabul zoo and became a symbol of Afghanistan's national survival after living through coups, invasions, civil war and the hardline Taliban era before dying in 2002."

"Ahmad's second-last story, the day before, covered a threat by the Taliban to attack polling staff, voters and security forces ahead of the April 5 election. Outside AFP, Ahmad showed his entrepreneurial bent by founding Kabul Pressistan, a successful local news agency that has provided fixing and translation services for numerous foreign reporters coming to Kabul." The obit, here.

Sardar Ahmad's final story, about the lion on the roof, here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Sinclair gets no jail time, midshipman acquitted

McCain on Putin's sanctions; Can the Army handle the truth?; Pentagon bets on no sequester; Obama WH cuts Penty program for Ukraine; and a bit more.

A Taliban attack on the Serena in Kabul kills nine, including foreigners. Reuters' Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi: "Taliban gunmen killed nine people, including four foreigners, in an attack on a luxury hotel used by U.N. staff and prominent Afghan politicians in Kabul on Thursday night, before being shot dead by security forces, witnesses and police said on Friday. The assault on the heavily fortified Serena Hotel, which lasted some three hours, was the latest in a string of attacks by the insurgents seeking to spoil a presidential election on April 5, which would mark the first time in Afghanistan's history that one elected government hands power to another. Four Taliban fighters snuck past security early on Thursday evening and hid inside the building for three hours before opening fire on diners inside the hotel's restaurant, according to interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi."

"They then battled Afghan special forces as terrified guests hid in rooms or fled to hotel bunkers. All the Taliban gunmen were shot dead. During the attack guests crouched in bathrooms with the lights turned off as they listened to gunfire and people running up and down the hallways... One of the hotel's main saferooms, which was packed with guests and Afghan members of parliament, filled with smoke from a fire in the kitchen. "It was hard to breathe. People started putting wet napkins on their faces," one witness said.

"French news agency Agence France Presse said its Afghan reporter Sardar Ahmad, his wife and two young children were killed in the attack. The foreigners killed were from Canada, India, New Zealand and Pakistan, the interior ministry said. More here.

Different subject. Some probably saw this one coming: Sinclair gets a $20,000 fine and no jail time. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock: "A disgraced Army general who admitted carrying on a long and sordid war-zone affair with a junior officer and having improper relationships with two other women was reprimanded and fined $20,000 by a military judge Thursday. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, whose court-martial made him the public face of the military's struggle to prevent and police sexual misconduct in the ranks, dodged a jail sentence. Sinclair, a paratrooper and veteran of the Iraq and Afghan wars, hugged his lawyers and friends after the sentence was pronounced by Col. James Pohl, the military judge, according to reporters in the courtroom at Fort Bragg, N.C. ... "He could be punished further financially. His lawyers have said they expect he will have to retire from the Army at a lower rank, which would diminish his pension benefits."

Sinclair told reporters after the sentencing: "The system worked. I've always been proud of my Army... all I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife."

The accuser is devastated. Whitlock: "The accuser's attorney, Jamie Barnett, a retired Navy rear admiral, said he spoke to her after the sentence was announced and that she was "obviously devastated" that the punishment wasn't more severe.

"It's a terrible outcome, and by failing to render justice today, the Army's going to face the reality that this could happen again," said Barnett, now a lawyer in private practice. "It's really beyond disappointing. It's a travesty for the Army and military justice in general."

There's more: A midshipman in a separate case altogether is acquitted of sexual assault in the Naval Academy's sexual assault case. The WaPo's Annys Shin: A military judge on Thursday found a former Navy football player not guilty of sexually assaulting a female classmate in a high-profile case that reverberated far beyond the U.S. Naval Academy's Annapolis campus... Tate, a 22-year-old senior from Nashville, showed no emotion as the verdict was read, while a supporter seated behind him cried. The judge referred lesser charges of lying to investigators back to the academy to handle internally. Cmdr. John Schofield, an academy spokesman, said Thursday that the remaining charges were being dropped in exchange for Tate's agreement "to accept the most serious form of punishment a midshipman can receive through the conduct system: a dismissal from the Naval Academy."

"The case, which initially involved three former Navy football players before charges against two were dropped, has fueled debate about how the military addresses sexual violence in its ranks and whether its legal system is equipped to deal with such cases."

FP's Tom Ricks and how Sinclair's light sentence is likely to be a "disaster for the military." Ricks: "The lack of any prison time for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair in the sexual assault case is a severe setback for the military's efforts to retain control of the military justice system. Even enlisted soldiers are likely to be angered by the light treatment the general got."

Eugene Fidell, an expert in military law and a lecturer at Yale Law School, called the process "a case in point for why the system has to be changed." More here.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report, where we embrace the notion that the future is always pre-decisional, as a friend to SitRep suggested to us yesterday. 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? 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.

There's a reason why you shouldn't celebrate the passing of Westboro church's Fred Phelps, preacher of hate, according to Steve Petrow, the former president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. His BLUF: "So, with Phelps's passing, I suggest we bombard Westboro Baptist with sympathy cards and prayers. Or, as a friend of mine tells me, 'Drive your enemies really crazy: Love them.' Okay, maybe not love, but at least not hate. Never hate."

Army officials, this Bud's for you. (Or, how the Army squared off with Anheuser-Busch over a Super Bowl commercial featuring a soldier's homecoming in a slice-of-apple pie Americana). FP's FOIA Chief Dan Lamothe: "...Behind the scenes, the ad's development bred frustration and legal concerns among Army officials, according to emails released to Foreign Policy through the Freedom of Information Act. Top Army officers even considered issuing a cease-and-desist order against Budweiser's parent company, beer giant Anheuser-Busch, on Jan. 30, just three days before the Super Bowl.

"Their concern: The commercial appeared to clearly violate longstanding service policies that prevent active-duty personnel from endorsing private companies or doing anything that could be construed as glamorizing alcohol... Army officials declined to answer a series of questions posed by FP, including whether Anheuser-Busch had received approval from appropriate service officials to film Nadd for the commercial, whether the lieutenant's chain of command knew there were concerns about him participating, and if anyone was disciplined as a result. They also did not answer the biggest question: Why the commercial was ultimately approved despite the bans on soldiers appearing to endorse products or help sell alcohol. But Col. David Patterson, an Army spokesman, did say in a statement that Defense Department officials "ultimately determined" not to pursue a cease-and-desist order." More here.

Former Syria envoy Robert Ford thinks Assad will stay in power. The NYT's Michael Gordon: " The former American envoy for Syria said on Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was likely to remain in power for the "medium term" and that a year from now the country would probably still be under the control of competing factions." Ford: "It is hard to imagine that Assad is going in the short term, and even in the medium term, to lose control of the area between Aleppo south to Damascus and then over to the coast... He will control that area - geographically it is maybe a fourth of the country... But the other three-quarters will be under the control of different armed elements or contested among different armed elements." More here.

The Obama administration proposed a 28 percent cut to a Pentagon program to modernize Ukraine's military. USA Today's Ray Locker: "... The move could endanger efforts to boost Ukraine's armed forces as they face threats from Russia. The proposed cuts, contained in a detailed budget plan posted online this week, come over the objections of officials with the U.S. European Command, who argue they will hurt U.S. attempts to build armed forces in nations formerly beholden to Russia. Spending on the Warsaw Initiative Fund is set to drop from $34 million in the current fiscal year to $24.4 million in the 2015 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. More here.

Obama expanded sanctions against Russia on Thursday, blacklisting a bank and several wealthy businessmen with ties to Putin. The NYT's Mark Landler, Annie Lowrey and Steven Lee Myers: "...Among those targeted were Sergei B. Ivanov, the president's chief of staff; Gennady N. Timchenko, a billionaire investor with links to Mr. Putin; and Yuri V. Kovalchuk, whom the administration described as the personal banker for Russian leaders, including the president. Mr. Obama also opened the door to more sweeping measures against core parts of the Russian economy, including the oil and natural gas industries, which account for much of Russia's exports. He said the actions could disrupt the global economy, but might be necessary because of what he described as menacing movements by the Russian military near eastern and southern Ukraine. Read the rest here.

Pentagon pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's call with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu: "Today's conversation obviously focused on the situation in Ukraine.  Secretary Hagel was clear and he was firm:  Because Russian forces are in control of Crimea, they bear responsibility for what is happening there.  He also pressed Minister Shoygu to explain Russian intentions with respect to forces they have aligned near Ukraine's eastern and southern borders.  And he reiterated his call that Russia immediately worked to de-escalate the tension and to restore Ukrainian territorial integrity. It was a lengthy call, lasting about an hour, and I think it's fair to say that at times it was direct."

Kirby, on Ukrainian requests for assistance: "The Ukrainian government did submit a list for military assistance material, some we would consider, you know, lethal material and some would -- you know, you'd consider non-lethal.  We're working our way through that request right now here at the department and in the interagency.  I think it's safe to say that right now, the focus of that review is on the non-lethal side of things, but it is very much still an active issue under consideration." Full transcript of the briefing yesterday here.

Are sanctions enough? U.S. News and World Report's Paul Shinkman: "President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled new sanctions against Russia designed to punish and deter the Eastern power from further provocative action in Ukraine. 'Nations do not simply redraw borders or make decisions at the expense of its neighbors,' Obama said Thursday morning in a press conference at the White House Rose Garden.

"...some with experience in the region say the U.S. economic response still falls short. 'My concern is there are a whole range of what technically, what really, are military options,' says William B. Taylor, a former U.S. Army infantry officer and ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. 'The most extreme is we fight, we attack the Russians, or we put troops in Crimea,' he says. 'Nobody is talking about that. And the polar opposite is we do absolutely nothing. And that's absolutely crazy.' Read the rest here.

John McCain's statement on being sanctioned by Putin: "I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen. Nonetheless, I will never cease my efforts on behalf of the freedom, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea."

Why the Pentagon isn't ready for another Cold War with Russia, in The Daily Beast, here.

How's that again? NSA official says holding on to phone records could pose a national security risk. FP's Shane Harris: "A federal judge has ordered the National Security Agency to indefinitely hold onto the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans in a massive database that civil liberties groups have long wanted to destroy and that's been at the center of a legal controversy for months.

"But in a bizarre twist, the NSA itself now says keeping the phone records will impose a heavy toll on the agency and will ultimately distract the NSA from its national security mission.

That assertion came in the form of a public declaration filed by the Justice Department in a hearing before a California district court Wednesday. Teresa Shea, the head of the NSA's Signals Intelligence Directorate, wrote that indefinitely keeping the phone records 'would impose significant financial burdens on the NSA, divert personnel and technological resources from performance of the NSA's national security mission, and present other issues as well.'

Shea said it would take months and several technology personnel who might otherwise be working on intelligence operations to devise the software and storage solutions to retain the data potentially for years to come. Under the rules of the phone records collection program, the records are usually destroyed after they turn five years old, but a judge told the NSA last week to keep them." More here.

The Senate intel panel is "close" on cybersecurity information-sharing bill. Inside Cybersecurity's Chris Castelli: "The leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are 'close' to reaching agreement on a cybersecurity information-sharing bill with liability protection for industry that is designed to win the support of 60 or more senators, according to Jack Livingston, the panel's minority counsel." More here.

ICYMI: Can the Army handle the truth? AUSA's Army Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Rick Maze about a new paper asking the question about Army and candor: "A provocative paper recently published by the U.S. Army War College raises the question of whether the Army can handle the truth. Called "Closing the Candor Chasm: The Missing Element of Army Professionalism" and written by Col. Paul Paolozzi, the paper says speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a way of building professional relationships and a stronger Army. Candor can be intimidating and unwanted in some circumstances, but it should be a key part of professional communication, Paolozzi  says. Paolozzi cites performance evaluations, training, education and counseling as areas in which complete honesty is missing. Candor, he says in the report, 'is messy, hard, creates discomfort, and its presence is most often inversely proportional to rank and organizational size.'" More here.

Pentagon bet: that Congress will roll back sequestration that starts in 2016. Bloomberg's Roxana Tiron and Tony Capaccio: "...That may prove wishful thinking, with little consensus among lawmakers over eliminating the looming defense cuts that were part of the across-the-board reductions, known as sequestration, embedded in the 2011 agreement to lift the federal debt limit. 'I hope there is nobody naive enough to believe that we can just end it for defense," Dick Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said of sequestration in an interview. 'It's going to be ended for both defense and non-defense if it's going to work.'" More here.

Roger Zakheim and Mackenzie Eaglen: Scrap the QDR and use the BUR to do it! The BL of Zakheim and Eaglen, on AEI.org: "...Before deciding on how to overhaul the QDR, Congress should follow the recommendation of five former deputy secretaries of defense to Secretary Chuck Hagel last March and direct another "Bottom-Up Review" (BUR) like that of 1993. The BUR evaluated the 'nation's defense strategy, force structure, modernization program, infrastructure, and the formulation of affordable strategy that addressed the geopolitical threats of the post-Cold War,' as they wrote. Unique to the effort was the examination of 'a range of postures of differing capability and cost' that were explored 'in order to inform the president' about choices. This effort incorporating stakeholders beyond the Pentagon 'led to common understanding of the evolving threat and needed capability, resulting in a widely accepted plan.' The lack of a national security policy consensus means America is today 'less united, and less prepared to meet the challenges of the future, than at any other point since the end of the Cold War,' as stated by former Sens. John Kyl and Jim Talent. A modern day BUR would help advance a needed consensus. After more than 20 years of marginally effective QDRs, it's time to try a new approach." Read the whole thing here.

The U.S. Navy needs more ships! (haven't heard this one before) From the former commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked, Kirk Lippold, writing on Breaking Defense: The US Navy needs more ships. The United States cannot protect the world's sealanes, let alone "pivot to the Pacific," if we further downsize our military. Especially given other nations' growing anxiety about whether the US will still shoulder the leadership role of protecting them, the Navy must grow, not become smaller. Yes, individual ships may be more capable today than in the past, but the harsh reality is that even the most high-tech ships are useless unless the U.S. maintains enough of them to sustain a forward deployed presence in hot spots around the world. Lippold's ideas: one, the nation needs a new naval strategy; two, reorganize, reprioritize and revitalize the Navy's shipbuilding program; three, stop production of the LCS, four, maintain and expand the aircraft carrier fleet, five, fully fund and update the Navy's manpower accounts, and six, cut the number of flag officers and civilian counterparts by 50 percent. Read the rest here.