Obama at Fort Hood; Hagel comes home; A dangerous legacy in Afg; The effort to build the Iron Man suit; Party like a four-star; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel
On Syria, the Dems are getting restless. FP's John Hudson: "Republican critics have long accused the Obama administration of having no Syria strategy. But with tens of thousands dead and millions more fleeing the country, even some of the White House's closest allies are calling for the administration to do more to lessen the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Sen. Tim Kaine, Dem of Virginia, to Hudson: "I don't hesitate to point out that we're not happy with the way things are going... I don't view it as a criticism, but I do view it as a prod."
"In recent weeks, Kaine has joined forces with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to demand that the administration outline a plan that will address the growing humanitarian disaster in the country. Kaine's resolution requires the president to submit to Congress within 90 days a "more robust U.S. strategy for addressing the Syria humanitarian crisis." He introduced it in March and it passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 1. The resolution coincided with a wave of criticisms by Rubio and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that the administration has no Syrian strategy." More here.
Hezbollah says: Assad will remain in power. Reuters this morning: " Bashar al-Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill - a 'reality' to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned. Echoing recent bullish talk coming out of Damascus, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia which is supporting Assad in combat, told Reuters that the president retained popular support among many of Syria's diverse religious communities and would shortly be re-elected." More here.
Syria is missing its chemical weapons deadline. FP's David Kenner: "Amid opposition claims of new Syrian chemical weapons attacks, President Bashar al-Assad is fast approaching an important deadline for removing his stockpiles of the deadly armaments from from the country. It doesn't appear that he's going to meet it." More here.
Welcome to Thursday's we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore edition of Situation Report. We're back in DC but we thank Steve Boylan and the good folks at Leavenworth for inviting us to participate in the military-and-the-media panel. There are a few sure things in life: death, taxes and a robust dialogue between the military and the press. Our message: if there was ever a time when the military has to tell its story, when budgets are shrinking, the wars are all but over and the yellow ribbons are falling off the backs of peoples' cars, it's right now. Good convo. Also - pitch Situation Report all your good stories.
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Hagel is coming home today. He'll make a quick stop in Mongolia before he hits D.C. Before he left Beijing, he asked the Chinese to work harder to reign in North Korea. The WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum, traveling with Hagel: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrapped up a three-day visit to China on Wednesday by urging President Xi Jinping to play a larger role in containing the dangers posed in the region by North Korea. The amicable meeting with Mr. Xi came in contrast to a series of pointed discussions the day before with top Chinese military officials, who criticized U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific. While Tuesday's military talks cast a pall over Mr. Hagel's first trip to China as defense secretary, U.S. officials characterized the trip as a modest success overall in bridging differences between the nations." More here.
Excerpt from the readout Hagel had with South Korea Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin from the Doomsday plane: "Secretary Hagel discussed with Minister Kim the meetings he had in China, noting that on the whole, the talks were substantive and constructive both in terms of the potential for U.S.-China military-to-military cooperation as in the management of differences between the two sides. Secretary Hagel told Minister Kim that his discussions in China included a focus on North Korea, and the threat to the United States and the region posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile developments. In this context, he also noted his recent decision to send two additional BMD capable Navy destroyers to Japan by 2017."
Hagel, via Mike Allen's Playbook this morning: "While in China, Hagel met with President Xi, visited China's National Defense University. He discussed his own time as a sergeant over lunch with students, receiving praise on his use of chopsticks. Hagel also became the first foreign dignitary to visit China's new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning." Trip pics here.
Some in the Navy question whether the LCS has the speed, range and EW capabilities it needs for Asia. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio, here.
Meet the companies building the new Iron Man suit for military. FP's Dan Lamothe: "Will Tony Stark wear Air Jordans? Almost anything seems possible now that United States military has been in discussions with companies ranging from Nike to Boeing as it works to develop a new space-age suit for elite Special Operations troops that could include super-human strength, sophisticated sensors that respond to brain functions, and an exoskeleton made of liquid armor. The system is commonly known as the 'Iron Man' suit, a nod toward the futuristic technology worn by the wise-cracking comic book hero popularized in a series of hit movies starring Robert Downey Jr. With no public notice, the military's Special Operations Command just unveiled a list of collaborators on the project that includes traditional defense contractor titans like Lockheed Martin, athletic apparel companies like Under Armour and Adidas, and a bevy of smaller firms whose specialties range from developing robotics to producing underwater breathing equipment for divers. "Read the rest of it here.
The U.S. Air Force's year-old Special Victims' Counsel Program, which provides legal assistance to victims of sexual assault, won the DOJ's Federal Service Award, here. Our report on the Air Force's possible solution to the sexual assault crisis, the SVCP, in June 2013, here.
FBI report reveals that Russia didn't share all the details on the Boston bombing suspect. The NYT's Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt: "The Russian government declined to provide the F.B.I. with information about one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects two years before the attack that would most likely have prompted more extensive scrutiny of the suspect, according to an inspector general's review of how American intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing." Full story here.
Will Swenson is back on duty. Military Times' Michelle Tan: "Medal of Honor recipient Capt. William Swenson is back on active duty. Swenson, who originally left the Army in 2011, is assigned to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., corps spokesman Col. David Johnson confirmed to Army Times." More here.
John Nagl and Gian Gentile just debated the Iraq war at Lewis & Clark College and they don't totally see eye to eye. Read all about it here.
Obama was at Fort Hood yesterday to honor the victims at last week's shooting. A somber Obama, via the NYT: "Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before... This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more, soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they're supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why. But we do know this: We must honor their lives not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth." The story here.
Is this the fix to prevent another shooting? Lift the ban on weapons on military installations, argues Arthur Berg in the WSJ here.
Among its legacies in Afghanistan, he U.S. is leaving about 800 square miles of land littered with undetonated grenades, rockets and mortar shells. The WaPo's Kevin Sieff on Page One: "...The military has vacated scores of firing ranges pocked with the explosives. Dozens of children have been killed or wounded as they have stumbled upon the ordnance at the sites, which are often poorly marked. Casualties are likely to increase sharply; the U.S. military has removed the munitions from only 3 percent of the territory covered by its sprawling ranges, officials said." More here.
War costs: Iraq and Afghanistan have caused service members a laundry list of other injuries you don't hear about. More than half of the 2.6 million service members who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11 report that their physical or mental health is worse than before they deployed, according to a poll. The WaPo's Rajiv Chandrasekaran yesterday, ticking off a number of veterans with a number of maladies ICYMI: "... Because their injuries were not the direct result of an enemy attack, Crowell, Birdzell, Villavicencio and Meyer were not awarded Purple Heart medals, nor do they show up in the Defense Department's tally of nearly 62,000 service members wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. But their ailments, and similar non-hostile injuries suffered by legions of fellow troops, have become a profound and enduring consequence of the wars." It's something to read, here.
Jim Miller goes cyber. Defense News' Zachary Fryer-Biggs: "Endgame, the cybersecurity firm most famous for selling information about system vulnerabilities, has added former Pentagon policy chief James Miller to its advisory board, the company will announce today. Miller, speaking before the announcement, said that after leaving the Pentagon earlier this year, he wanted to focus on cyber issues." More here.
After an explosion in Islamabad killed 24, vendors say they won't be deterred. Reuters, here.
SitRep book report: Christine Fair's book on the Pakistan military is out. From Amazon: Why does the army persist in pursuing these revisionist policies that have come to imperil the very viability of the state itself, from which the army feeds? In Fighting to the End, C. Christine Fair argues that the answer lies, at least partially, in the strategic culture of the army. Through an unprecedented analysis of decades' worth of the army's own defense publications, she concludes that from the army's distorted view of history, it is victorious as long as it can resist India's purported drive for regional hegemony as well as the territorial status quo. Simply put, acquiescence means defeat. Fighting to the End convincingly shows that because the army is unlikely to abandon these preferences, Pakistan will remain a destabilizing force in world politics for the foreseeable future." Oxford University Press. Amazon here.
Drink like a four-star. A D.C. hotel has a booth its named after Gen. Pershing and that's where you go to drink. Urban Daddy: "You know the saying: old soldiers never die, they just get tables named after them where you can get bourbon-centric, four-course tasting menus. Yup, that's what they say. Introducing The General's Booth, a new semiprivate table at the St. Regis Bar inspired by General Pershing and serving up a parade of bourbon cocktails, taking reservations now. First, the history: after winning WWI, John J. Pershing lived at the St. Regis, where he liked to defy Prohibition by mixing himself a pre-dinner cocktail out of his flask." h/t to Todd Breasseale for his post. Deets here.
Trip Advisor totally offers ratings on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. There are some choice reviews from folks who have been to the beautiful base. Here's one: "I could not suggest a better place to visit in beautiful Afghanistan. North dfac has the best omelets. Warrior Green Bean has the warmest coffee. Yelner dfac has the smelliest TCN's. Dont forget to shop til ya drop at the outdoor bazaar, and get some fresh air over by the burn pit." See all of the reviews of Bagram here. h/t to FP's Elias Groll for the heads up.
It reminds FP's Lamothe of the "Camp Leatherneck Resort and Spa" in Helmand. "If it's night life you're looking for, it doesn't get any hotter... than the smoke pit." Watch that here.