National Security

FP's Situation Report: Only measured success on Ukraine political talks

Denny Blair to Sasakawa; Breedlove back to Europe; Why Asia Pacific countries are scared to share; Weapons spending creeps upward; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel 

From Paris, Kerry and Lavrov agree that a political solution is necessary for Ukraine. The LA Times' Paul Richter: "The top U.S. and Russian diplomats agreed Sunday to work with Ukrainian officials to ease the crisis triggered by Russia's decision to annex Crimea, but remained far apart on most other key points after four hours of talks in Paris. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the meeting constructive and said they wanted to continue talks to resolve how the polarized country should be governed. But while Lavrov demanded that the interim government in Kiev rewrite the constitution to allow provinces to exercise broad autonomy, Kerry insisted that any such decisions could only be made by the authorities who ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich one month ago." Full story here.

Hagel sends top NATO commander back to Europe early to reassure allies.  Reuters' Phil Stewart: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has sent America's top general in Europe back early from a trip to Washington in what a spokesman on Sunday called a prudent step given Russia's "lack of transparency" about troop movements across the border with Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove, who is both NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the head of the U.S. military's European Command, had been due to testify before Congress this week. Instead, he arrived in Europe Saturday evening and will be consulting with allies. "(Hagel) considered Breedlove's early return the prudent thing to do, given the lack of transparency and intent from Russian leadership about their military movements across the border," Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters, which was first to report the decision." Read more here.

Ten reasons not to believe Putin won't invade, on FP, here.

And Reuters' Top Five Ways the Ukraine crisis will change the world is 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.

Missing SitRep? Please note: If you regularly receive Situation Report but then miss it here and there on some days and wonder why, do please check your junk or spam filters, as that is typically the cause when readers suddenly don't receive it as usual. And thank you much for reading SitRep.

Good news: we have help for the first time in 19 months. Nathaniel, director of research at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, is giving us an assist. He knows all about making the donuts - he puts together a similar product each morning for the Center. Nathaniel is going to keep his day job but has agreed to help us out here on SitRep for awhile. Welcome Nathaniel by following him on the Tweeters at @njsobe4.

Something you didn't know until now: Denny Blair has a new gig at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the Foundation gets a big lift. Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Pacific Command commander, has been named as the new chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, giving the sleepy non-profit some horsepower and helping to build it as a new go-to think tank for all issues relating to Japan. Sasakawa is a  private nonprofit based in Tokyo that supports public policy programs and research based on the idea that a strong Japan-U.S. relationship brings regional peace and prosperity. But Blair's appointment is a sign that the organization is upping its public policy game in Washington. It's also part of a revived focus on restoring the prominence of the U.S.-Japanese relationship and Tokyo's new emphasis on national security. A big conference in Washington, with Japanese dignitaries and American officials, is planned for April 30.

What's Blair been doing? He participated in a big study on cybersecurity that he co-chaired with Jon Huntsman, and another recent energy report from Securing America's Energy Future, or SAFE, that he co-chaired with former Marine Commandant Mike Hagee along with a number of other projects. More here.

A Fear of sharing: As the search for Flight 370 continues, the countries in the Asia Pacific need to learn how to coordinate and share intel, Vikram Singh and Sam Locklear tell FP. Our story, with an assist from Dan Lamothe: "There are myriad questions surrounding the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but one thing has become crystal clear to U.S. military officials: Asia Pacific countries need to learn how to play together better.
"The search for the jetliner,
now in its 22nd day, would have gone faster and maybe have been more effective had Malaysia, China, India and other countries involved in the search learned better how to share their intelligence and coordinate the information they had, say current and former Pentagon officials.

"While the search for the jetliner shows a high degree of cooperation between countries in the region, there are a number of examples where that coordination fell short. Many of the problems stem from Malaysia's own handling of the disaster. The government in Kuala Lumpur was slow to react or explain to the public or other countries what it was doing in the hours and days immediately following the plane's disappearance.
"But a majority of the issues are the result of countries not working well together. Governments were either too slow to share information, or were reluctant to do so, stifling the search and delaying it by days, American defense officials said."

Vikram Singh, who last month left the Pentagon as a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, to Situation Report: "This is yet another example of the incredible need to share among countries in the Asia Pacific." More here.

Speaking of which: Japan and the U.S. are creating a new defense body for those disputed islands. The Yomiuri Shimbun's Takashi Imai on Stripes: "Japan and the United States plan to create a permanent consultative body to coordinate the operations of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in the face of China's highhanded actions over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japanese and U.S. government sources said. The envisaged body is expected to help Japan and the United States deal quickly with situations in and around the islands that cannot be clearly identified as armed attacks, the sources said. Establishment of the consultative body will be included in revisions to the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation scheduled for the end of the year." More here.

A deeper look at flight and crew amid no real clues about Flight 370. The WSJ's Jake Maxwell Watts and Jeffrey Ng: "Authorities are taking a deeper look at the lives of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after hundreds of interviews and background checks yielded no likely suspects in the investigation of the plane's disappearance. The past week of searching for wreckage in the Indian Ocean turned up only items unrelated to the plane, and without any direct evidence of how the plane disappeared, investigators are redoubling efforts to determine who could have been involved in the 'deliberate act' officials believe took the plane off course. "We cannot zero in on any faults by passengers or crew members so we are focusing on getting into value-added information in order to strengthen our investigative findings," Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters Saturday in Kuala Lumpur. He didn't elaborate." More here.

Naturally: weapons spending creeps upward: a data story with cool charts and graphics. Defense News' Marcus Weisgerber: "The Pentagon's five-year projections for procurement spending on its 63 major weapons programs, submitted to Congress this month, has turned more positive than last year's spending forecast, according to an analysis of the US Defense Department's 63 top weapons programs compiled by analytical firm VisualDoD. The 2014 outlook for these efforts showed an overall 0.6 percent decline across the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). The 2015 FYDP projects a slight growth of 2.5 percent. Despite the slightly more rosy forecast, there is one issue that could throw a wrench into Pentagon procurement plans. DoD's overall five-year spending outlook is $115 billion above federal spending caps, meaning it would need to be heavily modified or cut if sequestration remains in 2016 and beyond. Read that, with a bunch of charts, here.

Also, read the resignation letter of the senior officer at Malmstrom AFB in the wake of the nuke scandal. AP, here.

Drone use is declining in Afghanistan. FP's Dan Lamothe: "A March 6 airstrike in Afghanistan killed at least five Afghan soldiers and wounded eight more - an egregious accident that prompted the U.S.-led military coalition to launch an ongoing investigation into what occurred. Afghan officials allege the attack was carried out by a drone, long the Obama administration's weapon of choice, while the U.S. says it involved a manned aircraft. Either way, the strike highlights an important -- and surprising -- shift:  Both the amount of time drones spend over Afghanistan and the number of total coalition airstrikes are in steep decline, and that trend is likely to accelerate as the U.S. withdraws most of its remaining troops in the months ahead." Read the full story here.

BTW - We told you Friday that the spouses of airmen would be smiling this past weekend as airmen participating in "Moustache March" shed their Tom Selleck-like mustaches for the little morale-building service challenge thrown down by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in February. We misread the calendar by a day. Indeed, some airmen will have shaved their 'staches over the weekend - March 30 being reasonably close to the end of the month when they don't have to look ridiculous anymore. But the wives of airmen will really be smiling today, the last day of March, of course, when, technically speaking, Moustache March is over. Congratulations, ladies, for standing by your (air)man this month.

North Korea Vows to Use ‘New Form' of Nuclear Test. The NYT's Choe Sang-Hun: "North Korea threatened on Sunday to carry out a "new form" of nuclear test, a year after its third nuclear test raised military tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula and prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions against the North. The North's Foreign Ministry did not clarify what it meant by a "new form" in its statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. But Washington and its allies have long suspected the country of trying to make nuclear devices small and sophisticated enough to be delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles it was also developing. Responding to the North's announcement, Cho Tai-young, the spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that "North Korea should bear in mind that if it ignores the stern demand from the neighboring countries and the international community and carries out a nuclear test, it will have to pay a price for it."  Full story here.

Ahead of Afghan presidential vote Saturday, candidates focus on the north. The NYT's Azam Ahmed: "When the presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani took the stage this month before more than 15,000 people in the northern province of Kunduz, his speech about fighting corruption and the need for unity and security was met with polite applause. Then his running mate, the warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, took the stage. The crowd erupted, with his supporters pressing to the edge of a 10-foot-deep trench dug to keep them from rushing the dais.
"In effect, Mr. Ghani, a multilingual technocrat with a doctorate from Columbia University who is considered a front-runner, was relegated to being the warm-up act for his vice-presidential candidate. Despite being seen as a controversial figure, Mr. Dostum is unrivaled in his appeal to Afghanistan's Uzbek population, which lives almost entirely in the north. That Mr. Ghani has featured Mr. Dostum so prominently on his ticket is a testament to how important the north is in the presidential vote set for Saturday.
"...The appeal is clear: In 2009, more voters turned out in the north than in any other region. Traveling is safer here than in other parts of the country, making it easier for voters to get to the polls. And for the winning candidate, good relations with northern power brokers will be crucial to forming a government with broad support."  Read more here.

The things they carried: Ahead of this week's pivotal elections in Afghanistan, a look at what international monitors pack, literally. Jeffrey Stern, on FP: "Established in 2004, [Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan] is an independent NGO that observes elections and works to ensure their transparency. Today, FEFA is gearing up for its most complex mission to date. During the April election, it will deploy 10,000 observers to 399 voting districts to document intimidation, electioneering, and other polling irregularities. If recent history is any indicator, FEFA has its work cut out for it: Afghanistan's last four national votes were marred by endemic bribery, intimidation, and violence... Faraz invited Foreign Policy to FEFA's compound in western Kabul in January, where she showed us what she carries on the job and what a typical poll observer never leaves home without." Read the rest here.

Karzai steps up accusations against Pakistan in call with Kerry. AP's  Kathy Gannon: "In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Hamid Karzai accused Pakistan of being behind a recent series of attacks and of blocking his government from striking a peace deal with the Taliban, the Afghan president's office said Sunday. Karzai routinely makes such accusations against Islamabad, but his tone in recent days has been particularly pointed and direct. They come after three attacks in five days in the capital Kabul, the latest coming on Saturday when assailants fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at the country's electoral commission ahead of next week's general election. Karzai told Kerry on Saturday the attacks were complex in nature and stage-managed by "foreign intelligence agencies," a reference to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. He also told Kerry that he did not accept U.S. arguments that it had no influence "over countries that support terrorism," and said the U.S.'s refusal to go after the Pakistani intelligence agency could further hurt its relations with Afghanistan." More here.

Two weeks after criticizing American policy, Israeli defense minister accepts 10 more years of US aid. Defense News' Barbara Opall-Rome: "Despite misgivings over US President Barack Obama's Mideast agenda and deep-rooted doubts about his ability to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, the Israeli government is taking the US president at his word that it can expect another decade of military aid. In fact, it's banking on it. After many months of internal debate and bureaucratic resistance from the Israeli Treasury, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has government approval to take on more than $2 billion in commercial debt for near-term buys of V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft and other Pentagon-approved weaponry.

"Under a US-approved deferred payment plan (DPP), Israel would pay only interest and fees over the course of the current agreement set to expire in September 2018. Principal will be covered by the new Obama-pledged package that would extend annual foreign military financing (FMF) aid through 2028, US and Israeli sources say." More here.

In first live broadcast from Fort Meade NSA headquarters on Friday, Hagel announces an increase in the U.S. cyberwarfare force. The WaPo's Ellen Nakashima: "The Pentagon is significantly growing the ranks of its cyberwarfare unit in an effort to deter and defend against foreign attacks on crucial U.S. networks, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.
"In his first major speech on cyber policy, Hagel sought to project strength but also to tame perceptions of the United States as an aggressor in computer warfare, stressing that the government "does not seek to militarize cyberspace." His remarks, delivered at the retirement ceremony of Gen. Keith Alexander, the outgoing director of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, come in advance of Hagel's trip to China next week, his first as defense secretary.
"The issues of cyberwarfare and cyber-espionage have been persistent sources of tensions between Washington and Beijing. Hagel said that the fighting force at U.S. Cyber Command will number more than 6,000 people by 2016, making it one of the largest such ­forces in the world. The force will help expand the president's options for responding to a crisis with "full-spectrum cyber capabilities," Hagel said, a reference to cyber operations that can include destroying, damaging or sabotaging an adversary's computer systems and that can complement other military operations.
"But, Hagel said, the military's first purpose is "to prevent and de-escalate conflict." The Pentagon will maintain "an approach of restraint to any cyber operations outside of U.S. government networks." More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: An invasion of Ukraine increasingly likely, intel sources say

Hagel to speechify on cybersecurity today; HRC's Burma problem; Mabus: why Cruz is wrong on "algae fuels;" Why Air Force spouses will smile this weekend; and a bit more.


Intel officials have told Obama there is mounting evidence that Russia is preparing for a possibly imminent invasion of Ukraine. With FP's Shane Hudson, Yochi Dreazen and a small assist from ourselves: "American intelligence agencies have told Obama administration officials and key congressional staffers that there is mounting evidence that Russia is putting the pieces in place for an invasion of eastern Ukraine, and that the possibility of an imminent assault cannot be ruled out, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

"The numbers of troops near Russia's border with Ukraine have been steadily increasing since Russian forces conquered Crimea in February. And near Ukraine's eastern border, troops are reportedly being supplied with food and medical supplies, which they would need in the event of further operations -- a development that U.S. intelligence agencies have noted with alarm. On Capitol Hill, U.S. spy agencies have given Congress increasingly dire assessments of the Russian activity and indicated that the likelihood of an invasion is rapidly growing, according to a participant in the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

"Still, the intelligence officials have been careful not to offer a definitive conclusion that Moscow will invade or to predict the precise timing of a Russian military operation in Ukraine. Assessing the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hampered by the fact that the U.S. has alarmingly little in the way of signals intelligence, or intercepted communications, that would indicate that he had decided to invade or when a strike was scheduled to start, one official said. Despite the tens of billions of dollars given to the intelligence community each year, the United States also has no real-time video footage coming from drones in the region and is relying largely on still photos from satellites, another official said.

"However, two officials said that the intelligence warnings have taken on a more alarming tone in part because the CIA failed to predict Putin's Crimea invasion. At the time, some in the intelligence agencies had determined that Russian forces had no intention of invading Ukraine, despite a massive buildup of troops along the border. That missed call has chastened U.S. intelligence analysts and forced them to reassess their judgments about Putin, one official said.

"...On Thursday Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said "there's no light" between Hagel and Hammond on the issue of trusting Shoygu, saying only that the Pentagon is watching it all very closely -- and hoping Shoygu keeps his word. "I'd say we don't have a full knowledge of their intent," he said. "But regardless of the intent, it does nothing to de-escalate the tension in Ukraine, it does nothing to improve the stability in that part of the world." More here.

Welcome to Friday'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.

Missing SitRep? Please note: If you regularly receive Situation Report but then miss it here and there on some days and wonder why, do please check your junk or spam filters, as that is typically the cause when readers suddenly don't receive it as usual. And thank you much for reading SitRep.

Hagel to speak today on cyber for the first time at Keith Alexander's retirement at the NSA. Hagel will speak at NSA's Fort Meade facility in what will be the first live-televised event on that campus, we're told. Hagel will thank Alexander for his 40 years of service and note the fact that he was the first cyber command commander. But Hagel will also address the assembly of NSA and Cyber command employees to discuss what they do and how they do it.

"It's his first major speech on cyber security, and it won't be his last," a defense official told Situation Report. "For him it's an opportunity to discuss the development of the cyber force and what they will be doing and what he is prioritizing in the [budget]." We're told the speech will focus on improving and developing the capabilities of the cyber force and what Cybercom will be doing to "ramp up those activities" as prioritized in the Pentagon's budget. Hagel isn't expected to delve into the controversial policy issues surrounding the NSA as much as use the time to talk to the men and women who people the two organizations. "It's more of a people speech," we're told. Watch it live at 3pm - the first live broadcast from the NSA ever! - here.

China's angry. The WSJ's Paul Mozur in Beijing: " China's defense ministry said it would take measures to boost cybersecurity after reports this week alleging the U.S. spied on Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies Co. and several Chinese leaders. Speaking at a monthly briefing, defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said the revelations "exposed the hypocrisy and despotism of the U.S. side.' The German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported this week that the U.S. National Security Agency ran cyberoperations monitoring former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the country's trade and foreign ministries, as well as Huawei's email archive, including messages from the company's chief executive, Ren Zhengfei." More here.

Mike Rogers is stepping down, no he isn't - actually, he is. After dueling media reports since last night, some that he is, some that he isn't, the Michigan Republican and House Intelligence chairman said he's leaving Congress at the end of his term to start his own conservative radio show. AP's Todd Spangler: "The seven-term congressman - who has been a key ally of House Speaker John Boehner and frequent guest of Sunday morning political talk shows - said he will step down at the end of his term, which ends early next year. Rogers said he is stepping down to start a radio show to discuss conservative and national security issues. 'I believe in being a conservative media you have to move the ball forward,' Rogers said. He added, 'that voice is missing.' He said the show would begin in January 2015. The announcement was widely rumored Thursday evening but Rogers' office refused to confirm. Rogers made the announcement himself this morning on WJR's Paul W. Smith show." More here.

Ignatius: Obama's amenable to expanding lethal, covert assistance to Syrian opposition. The WaPo's David Ignatius: "The Obama administration, stung by reversals in Ukraine and Syria, appears to have decided to expand its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition, deepening U.S. involvement in that brutal and stalemated civil war. This stepped-up assistance program is likely to be discussed during talks Friday between President Obama and Saudi King Abdullah. U.S. endorsement of the program would tighten America's links with Saudi Arabia after a period of noisy disagreement about Syria policy. But it also would complicate already tense relations with Russia and Iran, the two key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." Read the rest here.

The Saudis' view of Obama: he's got it all wrong. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick: "Over seven decades, the United States and Saudi Arabia forged a strategic alliance that became a linchpin of the regional order: a liberal democracy and an ultraconservative monarchy united by shared interests in the stability of the Middle East and the continued flow of oil. But with President Obama arriving in Riyadh on Friday, the rulers of Saudi Arabia say they feel increasingly compelled to go their own way, pursuing starkly different strategies from Washington in dealing with Iran, Syria, Egypt and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region." Said Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Geneva of the Saudi view: "Their view of Mr. Obama is that his entire understanding is wrong...The trust in him is not very high, so he will not have an easy ride, and a lot of hard questions will be put on the table." Read the rest here.

Speaking of which: sworn in last night - Brad Carson, who was yesterday the Army's general counsel is today the Undersecretary of the Army. Carson had been confirmed some time ago as the service's new undersecretary, but until Joseph Westphal, the man who had been serving as undersecretary, could be confirmed in his new job, as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Carson was in limbo. Now both men are where they are supposed to be.

Heads are rolling at the Air Force over the nuke scandal. FP's Dan Lamothe: "The Air Force has removed nine leaders in the service's nuclear force and watched a tenth officer resign after a broad and embarrassing cheating scandal that exposed systemic problems in the organization that handles the United States' arsenal of nuclear missiles. The shakeup, announced Thursday by top service officials, amounts to an unprecedented overhaul of those in leadership at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, where an investigation found that dozens of officers cheated on monthly proficiency tests.

"The officers who have been fired from their posts at Malmstrom include Col. Mark Schuler, who commanded the 341st Operations Group at Malmstrom that administered the test on which dozens of Air Force missileers were caught cheating. Col. Rob Stanley, Malmstrom's top commander, was allowed to resign his post as commander of the 341st Missile Wing and will retire as a colonel. He had been selected for an advancement to brigadier general, but will not be promoted. Schuler and eight other officers were removed from their positions due to a lack of confidence in their ability to lead, effectively eliminating the bulk of Malmstrom's senior leadership." Read the rest here.

Dempsey: dump PowerPoint slides when it comes to teaching ethics. The WSJ's Julian Barnes, travelling with Dempsey at West Point, N.Y.: "The military needs to rethink how it teaches character and ethics, eschew staid briefing slides and avoid disciplining subordinates via email, the nation's top uniformed officer said Thursday. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy this week, as part of a series of talks emphasizing the need to focus on ethics. In meetings with students, Gen. Dempsey made clear that he thinks the military talks about sexual harassment, sexual assault and ethics in a way that is too abstract.

"'The issue of ethics is personal and to be persuasive, it has to be relational," Gen. Dempsey said in an interview Thursday. "It can't be an issue of abstract values; you have to bring them to life."

"Gen. Dempsey has been pressing the military to find better ways to teach leadership, ethics and character, making the issue more engaging to young leaders. At West Point, Gen. Dempsey said he had considered banning the use of the software in training programs. He said military leaders too often show some briefing slides and think they have emphasized military ethics, and that some think the words 'dignity and respect' on a slide suffices to teach ethics, he said. Sgt. Major David Stewart, a senior adviser at the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic at the U.S. Military Academy, said the center has been developing more interactive and person-to-person educational programs. 'We know PowerPoint doesn't work,' he said. Read the rest here.

Why will so many Air Force spouses be smiling this weekend? Because on Sunday, the thousands of Air Force officers who grew mustaches will finally shave them off on March 28 and begin to look less like something out of American Hustle and more like themselves again. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh had issued a challenge in February for "Mustache March," long a tradition in the Air Force inspired by legendary ace pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, for the entire Air Force to grow mustaches (he was looking mostly at the men).

"I don't think we've ever had an all-in Mustache March, have we?" Welsh said during a Feb. 20 address at the Air Force Association. "I'm putting the smackdown on you guys. Air Force-wide Mustache March, MAJCOM competitions." At the time, Welsh said women in the Air Force's job was to jeer at the men as much as possible.

"Their job is to ridicule us nonstop about the idiotic look that these mustaches will have on most of us, as we try to look like Tom Selleck and end up looking like a three-haired mole," Welsh said in February. "Fight's on." More from the Air Force Times' Flightlines blog here.

Former SecDef and CIA chief Schlesinger dies. The WaPo's Timothy Smith: "James R. Schlesinger, a Republican economist who advanced rapidly to some of the highest positions of government power in the 1970s but whose abrasive leadership style led to conflicts with presidents, bureaucrats and the American public, died March 27 at a hospital in Baltimore. He was 85... He gained a reputation as someone willing to cut jobs and implement unpopular policies with little regard for what other people thought of him.

"[President Gerald Ford] and Mr. Schlesinger never connected, and those around the president described Mr. Schlesinger as prone to lecturing Ford in a condescending way about military strategy. Everything about Mr. Schlesinger seemed to annoy Ford, including Mr. Schlesinger's disheveled attire. Ford took offense that he neither tightened his tie nor buttoned his collar before meeting with the president and often slung a leg over armchairs in the Oval Office. 'His aloof, frequently arrogant manner put me off,' Ford later told historian Walter Isaacson. 'I could never be sure he was leveling with me.' According to military historian Charles A. Stevenson's 2006 history of the secretaries of defense, 'SecDef,' Mr. Schlesinger 'ultimately failed to keep his job because he never developed enough rapport, confidence, or support with people who could defend him when controversy arose.'" More here.

Hagel's statement on Schlesinger read in part ­­- "Secretary Schlesinger was a brilliant economist, and had a keen understanding of defense budgeting, our country's nuclear enterprise, and our most advanced weapons programs. I relied on his counsel when I was a United States senator and as secretary of defense have benefitted enormously from his experience, his guidance, and his strategic thinking as a member of the Defense Policy Board."

Cruz has a hot one: WHY does the Pentagon study algae? Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas, is wondering loudly why the Defense Department is spending money on a study of algae when it's considering eliminating Marine battalions. He questioned Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Cruz, in a statement released by his office from the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday: "Is it your view that the Department of Defense is going to somehow revolutionize the study of algae or alternative energy, is that really the core function of the Navy, at a time when the Navy is proposing, for example, cutting 5,000 Marines, eliminating two Marine infantry battalions? Obviously, your job is to prioritize, and my question is which is a higher priority, preserving those two Marine infantry battalions or continuing to research algae fuel in the hopes that somehow the world energy market can be transformed by the Navy's research?"

Mabus, on why now it's critical to do so: "Senator, now is exactly the time that we have to, have to diversify our energy sources. We are facing in the Navy, in FY '11 and FY '12, we had an unbudgeted, one billion dollar increase in fuel costs, for each year; $2 billion that we had not budgeted for because of the spikes in the prices of oil. If we don't get an American made, more stably-based source of fuel, if we don't get some competition into the fuel, we're looking at fewer soldiers, fewer sailors, fewer platforms. That's exactly why we're doing this. The $170 million you mentioned is not for algae fuel, it is for alternative fuels. You'll be happy to know that we are now working with four companies that are obligated to provide us with $163 million gallons of bio-fuel by 2016 at less than $3.50 a gallon." Watch the video that Cruz' office provided here.

So HRC has a bit of a Burma problem. It was a crowning achievement of her Foggy Bottom tenure, but now it's coming apart. FP's Catherine Traywick and John Hudson: "...Today, the promise of a free and democratic Myanmar is rapidly receding as sectarian violence escalates and the government backslides on a number of past reforms. That's causing genuine alarm on Capitol Hill among lawmakers from both parties. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a resolution this week calling on Myanmar's government to respect the human rights of all minority groups in the country and end the persecution of the Rohingya people, an essentially stateless and largely Muslim ethnic group that has been singled out by both Rakhine Buddhists and the government of Myanmar.

"As the government of Burma transitions from decades-long military rule to a civilian government, it is important to hold them accountable for persistent human rights abuses," New York Congressman Eliot Engel, the most senior Democrat on the House panel, said Tuesday.

"What happens in Myanmar has implications for Clinton as she prepares for a potential presidential bid for the White House in 2016. Until now, the Myanmar portfolio has been widely viewed as the "one clear-cut triumph" of her tenure as secretary of state -- a tenure in danger of being viewed as underwhelming and overly cautious when compared to that of her successor, John Kerry, who has taken on the Gordian knot of the Mideast peace process." Read the rest here.

A muppet app for brats. DOD announced a new app, developed with the Sesame Workshop, to help kids "create a muppet friend to help them through the moving process." The average brat moves between six and nine times between kindergarten and high school, according to the Pentagon. "Moving can be stressful, and kids need to express feelings and say goodbye to people and things," said Dr. Kelly Blasko, psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. "The muppet characters in this app help make the move a fun experience." Deets for "The Big Moving Adventure app" here.