National Security

FP's Situation Report: AF to look at bomber units

Will Obama tweak missile defense posture?; McCain, Flake furious about the VA; Blue Angels commander in hot water; Hagel brings the muscle; Marine regrets crucifying himself; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The Air Force is going to begin nuke bomber units in the wake of the cheating scandal. FP's Dan Lamothe from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with this exclusive: "The Air Force will scrutinize its units that fly dozens of bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons across the globe, the latest aftershock of an embarrassing cheating scandal in its nuclear missile force that led to the unprecedented removal of nine commanders from their jobs and the resignation of a 10th in March.
"The review, which hasn't previously been reported, is the next phase of the service's nuclear ‘force improvement program,' and will operate in a similar fashion to the ongoing assessment of the beleaguered missile units, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, who oversees both forces from here as the chief of the Air Force's Global Strike Command. The general said the first review found an array of areas that needed improvement, from old equipment to poor morale, and that he hopes the new internal study will identify parts of the bomber fleet that can be fixed to avoid future problems. Global Strike Command's forces include Boeing's massive eight-engine B-52H Stratofortress bomber and Northrop Grumman's stealthy, bat-wing shaped B-2 Spirit, each of which can be equipped with conventional or nuclear weapons." Full story here.

Will the Ukraine crisis push the White House to tweak its missile defense posture in Europe? Unclear. But there's talk. Lubold's story: "Four years ago, the Obama administration scrapped plans to install advanced missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic that were seen as part of its efforts to reset relations with Russia. Today, with ties between Washington and Moscow at their lowest point in decades, the question is whether the White House should move new anti-missile equipment to Eastern Europe to reassure jittery allies and stick a finger in the eye of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The initial plan, which dated back to the George W. Bush administration, called for installing 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. Washington said the systems were meant solely to shoot down long-range Iranian missiles, but the Russians harbored deep suspicions that the systems were aimed at them.

"When Obama canceled those plans in September 2009, administration officials said new intelligence showing that Tehran was making progress on shorter range missiles meant that it was important to shift to other, less advanced defensive systems that could be moved to Europe as quickly as 2015. The current White House approach calls for deploying two dozen SM-3 interceptor missiles to Romania and another two dozen to Poland by 2018. In the meantime, the Aegis combat system, mounted on Navy destroyers, would be used to shoot down Iranian missiles.

"But with the U.S. scrambling to figure out how to respond to Putin's aggression in Ukraine, some on Capitol Hill are calling for Obama to accelerate his missile defense plans and move the SM-3 interceptors to Europe as quickly as possible or to deploy portable systems like the Patriot air defense system to Poland once again.

Any such move would be risky for the White House, which has tried to figure out how aggressively to move against Putin given Washington's clear desire to avoid any sort of armed confrontation with Russia and retain Moscow's cooperation on Iran and Syria. Still, there is little question that the push from some quarters in Congress to do something is forcing the administration to consider other ways of bolstering its missile defense plans for Europe. But easy answers remain elusive."

Kingston Reif of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington: "There's plenty of arrows in the quiver in terms of punishing Russia that can be effective and have bite... Then there are counterproductive steps." Read the rest here.

Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association on those who say the U.S. should return to the Bush BMD plan: "The reality is that that system was designed to deal with Iranian ballistic missiles, not Russian ballistic missiles. It would not be able to deal with Russian ballistic missiles and it would validate Russia's erroneous claim that this whole architecture was designed to deal with Russia and not Iran."

After missing deadlines, the world's largest missile maker recovers some cash from the Air Force. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "Raytheon Co. (RTN) has recovered almost 30 percent of about $621 million withheld by the U.S. Air Force since 2012 because it missed deadlines for delivering missiles. Raytheon, the world's largest missile maker, received $179 million of the performance payments that had been held back as of March 5, Ed Gulick, a spokesman for the Air Force, said in an e-mailed statement."

William LaPlante, the Air Force's acquisition chief, to Capaccio: "We've been working very closely with Raytheon...Some things are getting better. We've turned the corner on that, but you are always discovering stuff and these are pretty advanced weapons." More here.

Welcome to Thursday'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. Follow us! @glubold and @njsobe4.

A new CAP report on the budget this morning (and provided to Situation Report early) is a user's guide to the FY 2015 defense budget. From the Center for American Progress: The report "parses out DOD's confused FY15 request, outlining how it's really two requests due to a late OMB decision to plus up the sequester-level FYDP the Pentagon had prepared by $115 billion.  The late decision means there are strange inconsistencies between public statements from DOD officials and budget programming included in the submission.  The brief also breaks the request down by appropriations title, provides historical context, dives into the procurement decisions and personnel/infrastructure reforms included in the Pentagon's plan, and outlines potential tradeoffs Congress might examine." Full report here.

Ray Mabus is speaking at ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability this morning on energy sustainability from a maritime perspective. Mabus has been on the energy security beat since he came to office in 2009. And he'll tell you that you don't have to look far to see the far-reaching national security implications of energy dependence.  An excerpt of the speech provided early to the Situation Report: "As a security challenge, access to energy and fuel can be a diplomatic pressure point and can be, and is used as a geostrategic weapon. Obviously Europe is a large customer for Russia, which depends on oil and gas revenues for over half its government's budget.  Imagine the impact alternative power and conservation measures might have." Deets from ASU here.

SitRep note: remember to think about sending us excerpts of your boss' speech the day before for maximum tease.

A SAIS event at noon today: New Nuclear Policies and Problems after Fukushima. Deets here.

An FBI informant is tied to cyberattacks abroad. The NYT's Mark Mazzetti on Page One: "An informant working for the F.B.I. coordinated a 2012 campaign of hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including some operated by the governments of Iran, Syria, Brazil and Pakistan, according to documents and interviews with people involved in the attacks.
"Exploiting a vulnerability in a popular web hosting software, the informant directed at least one hacker to extract vast amounts of data - from bank records to login information - from the government servers of a number of countries and upload it to a server monitored by the F.B.I., according to court statements.
"The details of the 2012 episode have, until now, been kept largely a secret in closed sessions of a federal court in New York and heavily redacted documents. While the documents do not indicate whether the F.B.I. directly ordered the attacks, they suggest that the government may have used hackers to gather intelligence overseas even as investigators were trying to dismantle hacking groups like Anonymous and send computer activists away for lengthy prison terms." More here.

An internal document accidentally sent to a WaPo editor slams the Navy's Blue Angels commander and alleges hazing and sexual harassment. The WaPo's Craig Whitlock of course has the Page One story: "The Navy has reassigned a former commander of the Blue Angels, its acrobatic fighter squadron, and is investigating allegations that the elite team of pilots was a hotbed of hazing, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, documents show. The Navy announced Friday that it had relieved Capt. Gregory McWherter, a two-time commander of the Blue Angels, of duty for alleged misconduct. At the time, the Navy did not describe the nature of the accusations or provide other details except to say that the case remained under investigation.
"But an internal military document that a Navy official inadvertently e-mailed to a Washington Post editor states that a former member of the Blue Angels filed a complaint last month accusing McWherter of promoting a hostile work environment and tolerating sexual harassment. The complaint described an atmosphere rife with sexually explicit speech, the open display of pornography and jokes about sexual orientation." More here.

Not the Onion, not the Duffel Blog: Discharged Marine regrets crucifying himself in public. "Dude was butt hurt over being court martialed," one commenter said. Read that bit in MC Times, here.

Hagel takes his first trip to Latin America - and he's bringing the ‘muscle.' Reuters' David Alexander filing from the Doomsday plane last night: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday his first trip to Latin America as Pentagon chief would add ‘muscle and sinew' to growing North American defense ties and highlight the importance of helping partner nations improve their militaries. Hagel, who will meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Mexico City before traveling to Guatemala, said the three-day visit will give him an opportunity to focus on relationship-building in a vital area that often receives little attention. ‘The region is important to America,' Hagel told reporters aboard his plane to Mexico City. ‘I don't think over the years we've probably ever done enough to reach out to our Latin American partners.'"
"...The U.S. defense chief
is to travel to Guatemala late on Thursday. He will meet with senior government officials there on Friday and observe military exercises. The U.S. military and other government departments have been active in helping Guatemala develop an interagency task force involving military, police and judicial authorities engaged in the effort to reduce narcotics and people trafficking and other crime. ‘There's nothing like actually coming out and spending some time in these countries so they can see that we're committed to carrying through on some of these programs,' Hagel said." More here.

UN chiefs say diplomacy has failed in Syria. The NYT's Nick Cumming-Bruce in Geneva: "Two months after the United Nations Security Council ordered Syria's warring parties to allow access for humanitarian aid to civilians, the heads of five United Nations agencies warned on Wednesday that diplomacy had failed and that the desperate plight of civilians in many parts of the country was getting worse. ‘The war escalates in many areas,' the leaders of five United Nations agencies that coordinate and deliver humanitarian relief said in a statement released in Geneva. ‘The humanitarian situation deteriorates day after day.'" More here.

Arizona Sens. McCain and Flake are furious about the VA health care system in Arizona and are calling for a probe. The Arizona Republic's Dennis Wagner: "Arizona's two congressional leaders are calling for a U.S. Senate investigation and hearings into accusations of ‘gross mismanagement and neglect' in the Phoenix VA Health Care System in the wake of allegations that up to 40 patients have died awaiting medical appointments. In a Wednesday letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cited Arizona Republic reporting on whistle-blower allegations about the veteran deaths and accusations that VA administrators have kept ‘secret books' and misrepresented wait times for health care." More here.

A Medal of Honor recipient urges PTSD victims to get help. Stars and Stripes' Jon Harper: "Former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor next month, said troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shouldn't suffer in silence. 'There's no shame in going and getting help,' White, who was diagnosed with PTSD before he left the military, said at a news conference Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C." More here.

Former top spook Mike Hayden has turned Washington Times columnist. The Washington Times' announcement: "Gen. Michael V. Hayden, a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general and former director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, will write a new bimonthly column for The Washington Times called ‘Inside Intelligence,' debuting April 30... ‘Gen. Hayden is known as a broad-minded and independent thinker on military and intelligence matters. His columns will be must-reads inside and outside the Beltway,' said John Solomon, Washington Times editor and vice president for content and business development. More here.

TheBlaze's new 25-minute video takes the Pentagon's DCGS-A program to task, calling it ‘a glaring example of overspending' and ‘mostly an operational failure.' Full video here.

Obama and Abe are on the same page. The WSJ's Yuka Hayashi: "U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began their meeting in Tokyo on Thursday by stressing a common message: their alliance is an asset not just for their two countries, but for the entire Asian-Pacific region. Following a tete-a-tete over sushi Wednesday night, the two leaders met for a formal summit meeting Thursday morning to discuss a range of issues. Members of the press were invited to attend for the first 10 minutes, and the two leaders highlighted some of their security concerns in the region. ‘The U.S.-Japan alliance is a foundation not only for our security in the Asia-Pacific region but also for the region as a whole,' Mr. Obama said. ‘We are looking at a whole range of issues that are challenging at this time, including the threats posed by North Korea and the nuclearization that's been taking place in that country.'
"...Even as the Obama administration advances its ‘pivot' to Asia, it wants to see regional allies such as Japan and Australia take on bigger security responsibilities in a region rife with challenges, including China's military buildup and territorial disputes. That's because Washington faces mounting policy challenges elsewhere, from Ukraine to Syria, as well as constraints in its defense budget.
"Mr. Abe, meanwhile, is eager to secure Mr. Obama's endorsement for his push to remove some of the tough constitutional restraints on Japan's military and allow it to play a greater role in the alliance and regional security." More here.

Epic fail: POTUS isn't the only one making news in Japan. In Tokyo, Justin Bieber has once again displayed his talent for seemingly effortless international gaffes. FP's Bethany Allen on the Instagram pic at the controversial shrine honoring war criminals, here.

China plays by its own rules at sea. The WSJ's Jeremy Page in Qingdao: "Beijing won't necessarily observe a new code of conduct for naval encounters when its ships meet foreign ones in disputed areas of the East and South China seas, according to a senior Chinese naval officer involved in negotiations on the subject. The code for maneuvering and communicating between naval ships and aircraft was approved on Tuesday by 21 Western Pacific naval powers, including China, the U.S. and Japan, in an effort to reduce maritime tensions in the region. U.S. naval officials have said they hoped all members of the group would observe the code in all places, including waters where China's territorial claims are contested by its neighbors. But the code isn't legally binding, and it remains to be seen whether China will observe it in what the U.S. sees as international waters and Beijing sees as part of its territory." Full story here.

Advice to POTUS: Don't forget about the U.S.'s commitment to Taiwan this week. Alexander Benard and Paul Leaf for The National Interest: "As President Obama travels throughout Asia this week to revive his stalled pivot there, he should pay special attention to Taiwan-a country that, in recent years, has quietly but steadily drifted deeper into China's orbit. The U.S. military commitment to Taiwan has historically been strong... But recently, Taiwan has had reason to question the U.S. military commitment. First, Taiwan has observed America's fecklessness regarding missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, and Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens, and has concluded that U.S. red lines and security promises carry less weight." More here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: U.S. to resume aid to Egypt

Clapper's gag order; U.S. Troops to exercise in Eastern Europe; Nagl deals with a drug ring; Thumb-wrestling for Hagel, who is also wheels up today; McChrystal talks "career curveballs"; and a bit more.  


The U.S. to partially resume military aid to Egypt. The WaPo's Ernesto Londoño: "The United States has decided to resume delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday, backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the country's military coup and its violent aftermath. The Obama administration opted to go ahead with the delivery of 10 aircraft to help Egypt combat cells of extremists in the Sinai, even though Washington is unable to meet congressional criteria for the full resumption of aid. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Sedki Sobhy, in a phone call Tuesday that the United States is ‘not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition,' Rear. Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement released at 10 p.m. Hagel urged his counterpart to ‘demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians,' the statement said." More here.

Show of force: The Pentagon will conduct exercises across Eastern Europe with about 600 troops. AP's Lita Baldor: "U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland to begin a series of military exercises in four countries across Eastern Europe to bolster allies in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last month. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday that the exercises will last about a month, and initially involve about 600 troops. An Army company of about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, will start the exercises Wednesday in Poland. Additional Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and are expected to arrive by Monday for similar land-based exercises in those countries. Under the current plan, U.S. troops would rotate in and out of the four countries for additional exercises on a recurring basis. 'We're looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year,' Kirby told reporters, adding that over time the exercises could expand to other countries." More here.

From the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw: "On Wednesday, April 23, a company-sized contingent of U.S. paratroopers from US Army Europe's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) will arrive in ?widwin, Poland, to begin exercises with Polish troops. This new exercise is the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.  This action comes at the request of the host nations and demonstrates U.S. commitment to our collective defense responsibilities." Full statement here.

Gag order, ICYMI: DNI Clapper's war on the media and his own intel folks has received scant attention. Will it work or backfire? McClatchy's Jonathan Landay this week: "Employees of U.S. intelligence agencies have been barred from discussing any intelligence-related matter _even if it isn't classified _ with journalists without authorization, according to a new directive by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Intelligence agency employees who violate the policy could suffer career-ending losses of their security clearances or outright termination, and those who disclose classified information might face criminal prosecution, according to the directive, which Clapper signed March 20 but was made public only Monday by Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

"Under the order, only the director or deputy head of an intelligence agency, public affairs officials and those authorized by public affairs officials may have contact with journalists on intelligence-related matters. The order doesn't distinguish between classified and unclassified matters. It covers a range of intelligence-related information, including, it says, 'intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments.' It includes a sweeping definition of who's a journalist, which it asserts is "any person . . . engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security." More here.

From the Global Dispatch: "...If the directive succeeds in chilling employees' speech, the public will have to settle for executive branch talking points, which have been repeatedly revealed as drastically misleading if not outright falsehoods. The directive's thinly-veiled true intent is to silence employees, especially whistleblowers, and give the government absolute control over all public messaging related to the powerful, virtually unchecked, and far too secret national security apparatus. If Clapper is interested in stopping employees from exposing blatant wrongdoing, then he would prioritize creating safe and effective internal channels for whistleblowers, not draconian measures aimed at chilling speech." More 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. Follow us! @glubold and @njsobe4.

Noting: We would love to bring you a couple other great stories from the WaPo today, including one from the WaPo's Craig Whitlock on Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison being reprimanded in a bungled sexual assault case, or another one on Page One, about how the Navy is trying again on the Marine One helicopter. Alas, the WaPo's paywall is extremely funky and won't allow this home subscriber access despite repeated tries. We totally get paywalls. But those who build them have to make it easy to unlock the door. We hope to get the problem fixed soon.

At USIP today, John Allen, Cameron Munter, Pete Lavoy and USIP's Moeed Yusuf talk counterinsurgency in Pakistan.  Deets here.

At CSIS this afternoon, the Iraqi ambassador talks with Jon Alterman on Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Deets here.

Tomorrow at the Atlantic Council, India-Pakistan: The Opportunity Cost of Conflict; more here.

Read the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's report on the State Department's assistance to Afghanistan, here.

You gotta-a se-e the baby: Kim Jong Un's baby pics, revealed. In the WaPo, here.

Vaya con dios: Wheels up for Hagel today. The Defense Secretary is headed to Fort Bragg, N.C., then to Mexico and then on to Guatemala in a short trip that will bring him home by the end of the week.

Staffers on a plane - Wendy Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff; Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams, senior military assistant; Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (who recently took over Western Hemisphere policy from Homeland Defense); Rebecca Chavez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; JP Eby, director of Travel Operations; Brent Colburn, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; John Kirby, Pentagon Presssec; Greg Grant, speechwriter.

Reporters on a plane - Just two! AP's Bob Burns and Reuters' David Alexander.

Yesterday, Hagel toured DARPA and saw five technologies that are under development by the Pentagon's R&D arm. According to a pool report by Stripes' Chris Carroll, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar showed Hagel the latest prosthetics technology as demonstrated by an old friend of Hagel's named Fred Downs, Jr., who lost an arm in a landmine explosion in Vietnam. Carroll: "Hagel hugged him and shook his mechanical hand, with Downs joking 'I don't want to hurt you.'... Downs demonstrated how he controls movements of the arm, which appeared to be partly covered in translucent white plastic, with two accelerometers strapped to his feet. Through a combination of movements, he's able to control the elbow, wrist and fingers in a variety of movements, including the thumbs up sign he gave Hagel. It took only a few hours to learn to control the arm, he said.

Downs: "It's the first time in 45 years, since Vietnam, I'm able to use my use my left hand, which was a very emotional time."

Carroll: "Hagel saw another technology before journalists covering the event were escorted out because the three other technologies DARPA wanted to show Hagel were of a sensitive nature. Those included "Plan X," known as "a foundational cyberwarfare program to develop platforms for the Department of Defense to plan for, conduct, and assess cyberwarfare in a manner similar to kinetic warfare;" and "Persistent Close Air Support," a system to "among other things, link up Joint Tactical Air Controllers with close air support aircraft using commercially available tablets;" and "Long Range Anti-Ship Missile," or "LRASM," which is planned to "reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links, and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments."

Wanna see a pic of Hagel thumb-wrestling fellow Vietnam vet Downs, who has a prosthetic arm? You'd have to click here for that.

John Nagl is dealing with a drug ring as headmaster at the Haverford School on Philadelphia's Main Line that was called "Main Line Take Over Project." Nagl, the former Army officer and expert in counterinsurgency who now heads the Haverford School is relooking at his school's drug policy after two former students set up a marijuana distribution network using current students as dealers. The NYT's John Hurdle and Emma Fitzsimmons: "... They enlisted local students to act as dealers, pushing them to sell at least one pound of marijuana a week, prosecutors said. During an investigation into the operation this year, detectives seized marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and several weapons, including a loaded assault rifle and a semiautomatic pistol, according to the Montgomery County district attorney's office.

Nagl, who said he was "shocked and appalled" by the charges, would re-examine the school's drug policy, and noted that drug use at his school was not widespread: "We will make sure that something like this never, ever happens again." More here.

Apropos of nothing: Wanna just totally feel good? You can't not if you listen and watch to Amadou and Mariam's Senegal Fast Food, a longtime favorite, and h/t to Jim Stavridis' FB post pointing it out some years ago. Youtube song and video here.

Stan McChrystal did an interview with Linkedin and talked about the end of his military career, the Rolling Stone article, and his new life in "Career Curveballs": McChyrstal: "The trick is to pick up the spin. Some pitchers vary their delivery slightly, unintentionally signaling a curve. The 5-ounce leather covered baseball is traveling at 90 mph, but with experience, you stay in the batter's box, confident you can predict the trajectory, and either hit or dodge the pitch. But no matter how good you think you are - you often fail. Sometimes you swing and miss; sometimes the ball hits you in the head. Either way, it hurts.
"In June 2010, after more than 38 years in uniform, in the midst of commanding a 46-nation coalition in a complex war in Afghanistan, my world changed suddenly - and profoundly. An article in Rolling Stone magazine depicting me, and people I admired, in a manner that felt as unfamiliar as it was unfair, ignited a firestorm.

"...I was raised a soldier. I was familiar with weapons, tactics, and war. But years on the battlefield had taught me that soldiering is really about people. Weapons don't dig muddy foxholes - people do. War plans don't evacuate wounded comrades - people do. The Pentagon doesn't create the brotherhood of the Army - people do. What I'd learned, above all other lessons, was the importance of those you surround yourself with. That lesson would be with me forever, uniform or no uniform... From starting a company to teaching at Yale, the past few years have been full of incredible experiences shared, most importantly, with true and lifelong friends." More here.

A camp in Libya meant to train "terror-hunters" is instead a safe haven for terrorists and al-Qaeda. The Daily Beast's Eli Lake this morning: "A key jihadist leader and long-time member of al Qaeda has taken control of a secretive training facility set up by U.S. special operations forces on the Libyan coastline to help hunt down Islamic militants, according to local media reports, Jihadist web forums, and U.S. officials. In the summer of 2012, American Green Berets began refurbishing a Libyan military base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli in order to hone the skills of Libya's first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters. Less than two years later, that training camp is now being used by groups with direct links to al Qaeda to foment chaos in post-Gadhafi Libya." Read the rest here.

State responded to reports that American journalist Simon Ostrovsky has been kidnapped in Ukraine. From State's Jen Psaki this morning: "We are deeply concerned about the reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen journalist in Slovyansk, Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists.  We condemn any such actions... We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine.  We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation in and around Slovyansk." A HuffPo story here.

The OSCE Secretary General tells FP that he's concerned about Kiev's planned offensive in eastern Ukraine. FP's John Hudson: "A Ukrainian military push into the country's restive east after the brutal murder of a local politician would complicate efforts to reduce tensions between Kiev and Moscow and prevent further violence in the country, the head of the international organization charged with helping resolve the crisis said in an interview.
"Last week, major powers meeting in Geneva tasked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with helping end the violence in the country... Lamberto Zannier, the secretary general of the OSCE, said a new Ukrainian effort to oust the militants had the potential to setback international efforts to reduce tensions. ‘The whole spirit of Geneva was promoting de-escalation,' he told Foreign Policy. ‘It's certainly tough at this moment.'" Full story here.

Biden to Ukraine yesterday: ‘We stand with you'. The NYT's Andrew Higgins and Andrew Roth: "Vowing that the United States would never recognize Russia's ‘illegal occupation' of Crimea, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday reiterated America's support of Ukraine, declared that ‘no nation has the right to simply grab land from another' and called on Russia to stop supporting masked gunmen who have seized government buildings across the east of the country. Mr. Biden's remarks, made during a meeting with Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, signaled strong American backing for the shaky new government in Kiev that Moscow does not recognize and condemns as the illegitimate fruit of a putsch engineered by the West." More here.

Also, this: How Russia's president morphed from realist to ideologue -- and what he'll do next. Mark Galeotti and Andrew Bowen for FP: "A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Russian imperialism. When Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, he talked ideologically but acted rationally. He listened to a range of opinions, from liberal economist Alexei Kudrin to political fixer Vladislav Surkov -- people willing to tell him hard truths and question groupthink. He may have regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, but he knew he couldn't re-create it. Perhaps the best metaphor is that while he brought back the Soviet national anthem, it had new words. There was no thought of returning Russia to the failed Soviet model of the planned economy. And as a self-professed believer who always wears his baptismal cross, Putin encouraged the once-suppressed Russian Orthodox Church." More here.

Battlefield deaths decline, but military still has to bring grim news. TIME's Mark Thompson: "The wars are nearly over. So it is time for the U.S. military to reboot for one of its most somber tasks: Telling next-of-kin their loved one has died in the service of his or her country. Over the past 13 years, casualty-notification officers have had to take that long walk up to a family's front door, and make that dreaded knock that changes everything, 6,803 times. But with battlefield deaths down to a trickle, the Marines are seeking a new video to help train its Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (each service has its own title for the job) for a future where more will die in peacetime accidents than combat. ‘The current scenario is 100% war-related,' the corps says in a notice posted Tuesday. ‘A more current version is required to meet today's situations.'" More here.

Military Times' Mike Morones' interview with SecDef Gates, on another former spy named Putin, here.

Army Vs. National Guard: who gets those Apache helicopters anyway? NPR's Tom Bowman: "For decades the National Guard has fought hard against the stereotype that it was the place to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, or that it's a place to get college money rather than combat duty. Guard leaders thought that after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq they had finally earned some respect. So it was a body blow when the Army's top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, unveiled his plan on Capitol Hill to take all of the National Guard's Apache helicopters and move them to the regular Army. The move would shift the nearly 200 Apache attack helicopters from the Guard and replace them with about 100 Black Hawks, the less glamorous, less lethal, troop-carrying helicopter. ‘For me personally, I'm insulted by it. Most guardsmen that I talk to, they feel insulted,' says retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett. He heads the National Guard Association, a lobbying group with a lot of clout on Capitol Hill. ‘They feel like they are now being told after 12 years of war that somehow they are just not the equal to the active guys.'" More here.

Abe's military push may please the U.S. but rattle Japan's neighbors. The WSJ's Yuka Hayashi in Tokyo: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to remove six-decade-old constraints on his country's military, a goal the Obama administration said Monday it supports-but one that could also unsettle the region. When President Barack Obama arrives in Japan on Wednesday, he will find a country fearful of China's rise and worried about America's commitment to protecting its allies.
"To bolster Japan's role in regional security, Mr. Abe wants to change the government's interpretation of the constitution to allow for ‘collective self-defense'-meaning the military could come to the defense of allies such as the U.S. even if the country itself wasn't attacked. In theory, the changes would enable Japan to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile heading toward the U.S. or fire at a Chinese warship scuffling with an Australian cruiser. They would also give it more flexibility in a conflict over Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China." More here.

China's Taiwan reality check. CSIS's Joseph Bosco for the National Interest: "Beijing has long needed a reality check on its Taiwan policy. Recently, that is what it got from both Taipei and Washington. Massive Taiwanese protests against closer economic ties with China make it clear that peaceful unification under Beijing's present rule will never be acceptable to the Taiwanese people. Having discarded an anti-Communist dictatorship, they have no intention of welcoming the Communist Party variety. At the same time, the U.S. Congress celebrated the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). It reaffirmed America's commitment to Taiwan's security and continued existence as a free, democratic country. While the resolution does not have the force of law the iconic TRA does, it reflected Americans' deep emotional and strategic connection to Taiwan. No U.S. Congress, with the power to authorize war, will ever tolerate a Chinese attack on Taiwan without mandating an overwhelming American response. Even a reluctant U.S. administration would be under enormous pressure to react with decisive military action-which, despite current budget constraints, it has the full capability to execute." More here.