National Security

FP's Situation Report: Hagel to make NATO pitch; The deal is doomed, Moscow says; Picking a Marine Commandant; Swiss cheese at the Pentagon; Is Mary Legere's support for Army intel system a liability?; Life on a sub, revealed; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The deal is doomed, Moscow says, as Ukraine starts an assault in the East. The NYT's Neil MacFarquhar and Alan Cowell this morning from Moscow: "The Kremlin said Friday that 'all hope' for an internationally negotiated settlement in Ukraine had been destroyed, hours after two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down as government forces launched an assault to dislodge pro-Russian separatists from the eastern city of Slovyansk.

"A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitri S. Peskov, told news agencies that the 'punitive operation' against the separatists' eastern stronghold effectively had destroyed 'all hope for the viability of the Geneva agreements' negotiated in the Swiss city on April 17 by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, which were intended to defuse the crisis. The agreements, which never taken deep root, had become increasingly frayed in recent days. Much of eastern Ukraine slipped beyond the control of the authorities in Kiev as militants took control of a string of official buildings and captured a German-led team of military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

"...The clashes on Friday seemed to sharpen the East-West confrontation. While the European Commission in Brussels said it was watching the situation in Ukraine with growing concern, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged Western powers to abandon what it said was a 'destructive' policy of support for the interim government in Kiev. 'This will allow a real process of de-escalation to begin,' the ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Russia's response to the clashes were in keeping with earlier efforts by the Kremlin to steer events in Ukraine while casting the authorities in Kiev, along with their supporters, as obstacles. More here.

NATO countries are planning a communications mission in Ukraine. U.S. News' Paul Shinkman: "NATO countries may be ramping up their war of words in the coming weeks in Ukraine, where Russian propaganda flows freely into the east while ill-prepared security forces can't even talk to one another. Multiple officials who spoke with U.S. News say planning is underway to bolster the Ukrainian government's ability to communicate among its security services and broadcast to the general public. The details are still being worked out, including whether this would require troops from NATO countries on the ground in Ukraine to train and support the effort." More here.

Meantime, Hagel will make a big NATO pitch this morning at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Center. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will appear at Wilson in DC this morning to talk about the future of NATO. We're told that he intends to talk NATO's future, the "importance of the moment we now face as an Alliance," and also about the need to work even harder to invest in American and NATO capabilities. "To that end," said one senior defense official, "he will also stress the need for Alliance governments to focus more on defense spending, but wisely and in the context of fiscal pressures we all face."

An excerpt from what he'll say: "For decades - from the early days of the Cold War - American Defense Secretaries have called on European allies to ramp up their defense investment.  And in recent years, one of the biggest obstacles to Alliance investment has been a sense that the end of the Cold War ushered in an "end of history," and an end to insecurity - at least in Europe - from aggression by nation-states.  Russia's actions in Ukraine shatter that myth and usher in bracing new realities.

"Even a united and deeply interconnected Europe still lives in a dangerous world.  While we must continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous global order, there is no postmodern refuge immune to the threat of military force.  And we cannot take for granted - even in Europe - that peace is underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power.

"In the short term, the transatlantic alliance has responded to Russian actions with strength and resolve.  But over the long term, we should expect Russia to test our alliance's purpose, stamina, and commitment. Future generations will note whether, at this moment of challenge, we summoned the will to invest in our alliance.  We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge.  We will be judged harshly if we do." Deets of the event and a live Webcast 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. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who's Where When today - Hagel delivers remarks at Wilson; Gen. J.C. Campbell hosts a retirement ceremony in honor of Army Lt. Gen. Ferriter at 10:00 AM at Fort Benning; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Sandy Winnefeld delivers the commencement address at Georgia Tech's Graduation Ceremony at 7:00 PM... Gen. Marty Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Afghanistan; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno will travel to Florida to speak tomorrow at Eglin Air Force Base for the EOD Memorial ceremony honoring four soldiers and four Marines.

And, Truman Project and CNP announced their new board of advisers, which includes Madeleine Albright, Michele Flournoy, Gabrielle Giffords, Bill Perry and a bunch more. The full list of the board, here. Agenda for Truman and CNP's conference today, here.

Read FP's John Hudson's story on Flournoy's return to CNAS and how she's focused on 2016, here.

We report, they decide: It's Marine Commandant-Picking Time! Later this year, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos will retire. "Tamer" became CMC in October 2010, but depending on who succeeds him, he could be relieved by as early as late summer. On the short list to replace him: Joe Dunford, now the top commander in Afghanistan, who could return as early as this summer; John Kelly, currently the commander of U.S. Southern Command, and Ron Bailey, now the deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Plans, Policy and Operations, who would become the first African American Commandant. Kelly is a likely contender, but if it was between him and Dunford, most betting Marines put the greenbacks down on Dunford.

But therein lies a question about who will become the next Chairman: Marty Dempsey is expected to retire in 2015. Four names have popped to the top: Dunford, who could serve a year as Marine Commandant and still be in the running for Chairman; Central Command's Gen. Lloyd Austin, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld and Adm. Bill McCraven of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Swiss cheese: Meantime, there are plenty of holes in many of the Pentagon's top jobs. Here's the list of people who have been nominated for top Pentagon jobs but who are awaiting love from the U.S. Senate, which has yet to take a floor vote on their confirmations: Jessica Wright, nom'ed to be Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel Readiness); Jo Ann Rooney, nom'ed to be Undersecretary of the Navy; Jamie Morin, nom'ed to be Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation; Michael McCord, nom'ed to be Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); Christine E. Wormuth, nom'ed to be Under Secretary of Defense (Policy); David Shear, nom'ed to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs;  Eric Rosenbach, nom'ed to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, and Brian McKeon, nom'ed to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Start next week listening to Gen. Hawk Carlisle, US Pacific Air Forces Commander, on Pacific Air Forces Strategy and Engagement in Asia-Pacific at CISIS at 11:15 AM on Monday.  Deets here.

The White House Correspondents Dinner is tomorrow night - who's going? Hagel is headed to the dinner as a guest of Atlantic Media; Dempsey isn't going because he's in Afghanistan; But Mike Flynn, who just announced his retirement from DIA, is going as a guest of the WSJ - along with Marcel Lettre, the principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, also a WSJ guest. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is headed there, as is Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James. We know we've missed quite a few more - fill us in.

In the aftermath of Mike Flynn's announced departure comes speculation on his replacement at the Defense Intelligence Agency - the Army's Mary Legere seems poised to get the nod. But will her connection to the Army's DCGS-A intel system cause a problem? FP's Shane Harris: "For the first time in history, a decorated female officer is poised to become the next director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military's main spying organization. If she gets the job, Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, currently the senior intelligence officer in the Army, will become one of the most powerful women in both the intelligence community and the U.S. military. It would also leave her poised to one day ascend to an even more prestigious post. Running the DIA -- which has a multi-billion budget and a workforce of more than 17,000 civilian and military personnel -- would typically be the last stop in an officer's decade- long career. But for Legere, it's conceivably a stepping stone to an even bigger job running the National Security Agency and serving as the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, which oversees all military cyber defense and warfare. Legere has already been on the shortlist for that position, and was passed over not because a lack of qualifications, current and former officials said, but because an Army general was already in the post, and by tradition, it was time for the job to go to a Navy admiral.

"Indeed, Legere's resume makes her a natural candidate for NSA director -- it's practically a carbon copy of the agency's previous chief, Gen. Keith Alexander -- and there's precedent for a DIA director finishing up his military career with a final turn at the NSA.

"... Legere's career has not been without controversy. She, along with other top Army officers, has backed a multi-billion Army cloud computing program called the Distributed Common Ground System, which critics in Congress say costs far too much money and has failed to provide effective intelligence to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has withheld from Congress a report that shows a cheaper, commercial software program can perform many of the same tasks as the Army's preferred system, undercutting the arguments Legere and other top officers have advanced for years."

Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who has raised questions over the Army's DCGS-A system, sent a letter to DNI Jim Clapper and Hagel yesterday, raising questions about Legere. Read the letter, here.

Joe Kasper, deputy chief of staff for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who has tracked the DCGS issue closely, to Situation Report last night: "Because it's a complicated subject, some Members have been slower to latch on than others. But interest is definitely growing all around. Since this is a program of record, change is expected to be incremental but DCGS is a gift that keeps on giving. And a Legere nomination means even more scrutiny on DCGS, for sure."

The Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough's take last night on the Army's troubled DCGS system here.

Meantime, for Stimson, Russell Rumbaugh and John Cappel take on DoD's sequester report, here.

Sexual assault report raises ire on the Hill. The Hill's Kristina Wong: "A new Pentagon report showing a 50 percent surge in sexual assault reports in the military last year is renewing a fight in Congress over whether the military justice system is in need of reform. While administration officials say the report is evidence that changes to the military justice system have encouraged victims to step forward, several lawmakers said the findings call out for further action.

"The report found there were a total of 5,061 cases of military sexual assault in 2013, compared to 3,374 reports the year before. Pentagon officials said the startling increase was a result of growing confidence in the military justice system, rather than an increase in assaults..."

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Dem from New York: "Today's report is deeply troubling and shows the scourge of sexual assaults has not been brought under control and our current military justice system remains broken."

But the Pentagon says its good news that sexual assault claims jumped 50 percent in 2013. Military Times' Andrew Tilghman: "... Pentagon officials say that's good news because it means more troops are coming forward to report sexual assaults, seeking help and offering information for prosecuting offenders." More here.

Life on a nuclear sub, revealed. The WSJ's Julian Barnes with this Page One A-Hed: "There are subcultures. And there are cultures aboard a sub. Silently cruising the ocean depths while safely operating a 130-man tin can powered by a mini nuclear-power plant doesn't leave much room for error. That is why sub culture is built around rules, some dead serious, others completely ridiculous and some that are both.

"There are rules to run the systems that provide the submarine's oxygen, water and power. And there are rules that keep the crew, whose bunks allow just 14 inches of headroom, somewhat sane. One of the most important rules has every new junior officer teamed with a slightly more experienced officer who watches over the rookie, mentors him and corrects his mistakes. It can be a fractious relationship. Under the hard stare of Lt. j.g. Josh Bergeron, the mentor, Lt. j.g. Tommy Plummer makes a habit of fumbling the basics, such as how to operate a radio, which on a sub is notoriously difficult. Lt. Bergeron watched as Lt. Plummer tried to make sense of a garbled incoming radio message. As Lt. Plummer struggled, Lt. Bergeron demanded he make his report, both men recall. 'I am making it,' Lt. Plummer said. 'Making it up.' Read the rest here.

Also: "Whattayou, a Communist?" Watch the WSJ video with Barnes detailing the funny and serious rules aboard a nuclear sub here.

Officials at the V.A. hospital in Arizona have been placed on leave after those allegations that the hospital created a secret waiting list that could have resulted in the death of 40 vets. The NYT's Richard Oppel here.

Amazing story: An Army paratrooper who lost his leg in Afghanistan two years ago returned to combat. Here's the Page One story by the WaPo's Tim Craig about what it took for Lt. Joshua Pitcher to return to combat. Click right here.  

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presented eight Army Air Corps members with the Prisoner of War Medal on Wednesday at the Pentagon. The WaPo's Aaron Gregg: "...They were among 143 honored. Gen. Mark Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff, teared up as he pinned the medals on the airmen, now in their late 80s and 90s. Some were in wheelchairs, or hunched over metal walkers as they made their way to Welsh." More here.

Awesome sauce: A twist on the whole veteran-surprises-a-loved-one-by-returning-home-unexpectedly thing. We don't know if this is totally real, or staged or completely genuine. But it's too good to check, as they say, as you watch a soldier return home and surprise his German Shepherd as he retrieves a ball. (h/t Doctrine Man!). Watch it here.

The B-52H bomber meets the 21st century. FP's Dan Lamothe: "The U.S. Air Force's iconic B-52H bomber has been in service for decades, dropping ordnance everywhere from Vietnam to Iraq. But in a digital world of iPhones, satellite radio, and armed drones, the bomber has remained decidedly old-school, with analog gauges and less brainpower than your average laptop computer. The Air Force is moving to fix that. It just received the first in a series of B-52s retrofitted with a variety of new electronics designed to boost the plane's brainpower and make it easier for the aircraft to talk to each other and share complicated targeting information. Dozens of other B-52s will get the upgrades in the years to come as part of a $1.1 billion effort known as CONECT, short for Combat Network Communications Technology. Once upgraded, the crew of each Stratofortress, as the B-52 is known, will no longer be forced to write down new targeting coordinates by hand as the information crackles over the radio, the same way such data was shared decades ago." More here. 

U.S. and Germany can't burry the hatchet. The NYT's David Sanger: "The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or ‘no-spy' agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel arrives at the White House on Friday.?

"... After the disclosure, Mr. Obama said the United States would not monitor Ms. Merkel's communications, but he made no such commitment for any other German officials. And he said nothing about the future of the N.S.A.'s operations in Germany, including whether a listening station based in the American Embassy in Berlin, would stay intact.?

"For a number of months, German officials said the chancellor could not visit Washington until there was a resolution, including what they called a ‘restoration of trust' between the allies.?

"But the talks hit the rocks as soon as they began. Germany demanded a no-spy agreement that would ban the United States from conducting espionage activities on its soil. That led to a series of tough exchanges between the president's national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen." More here.

A former general is accusing the U.S. military of not even trying to save the Americans under attack at Benghazi in 2012. The Daily Beast's Eli Lake: "A high ranking officer in the U.S. Africa Command on the night of the Benghazi attacks is now saying that the U.S. military did not try and was never even ordered to save the Americans under attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost on the September 11, 2012 attack. In explosive testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell, said bluntly about the military's response on the night of the Benghazi attack: ‘The discussion is not in the ‘could or could not' in relation to time, space and capability, the point is we should have tried.' In many ways, this contradicts the testimony of more senior military officers such as former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who have said the assets were not in place on the night of the attack to get to the Benghazi diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex in time to make a difference." More here.

Boko Haram kills again in Nigeria. Reuters' Isaac Abrak in Abuja: "A blast on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital Abuja killed several people on Thursday, witnesses said. The explosion hit the suburb of Nyanya, close to the site of a morning rush hour bomb attack at a bus station on April 14 that killed at least 75 people. ‘There was a loud blast then a ball of fire,' witness Lateef Adebayo told Reuters by telephone. ‘There were many dead bodies and ambulances were rushing there.' It was not immediately clear what had caused the blast. Islamist group Boko Haram, which is waging an insurgency against the Nigerian government to carve out an Islamist enclave in Africa's No. 1 oil producer, claimed responsibility for the April 14 blast in Nyanya, and threatened further attacks.?" More here.

 

National Security

FP's Situation Report: Lippert to Seoul; Flynn out at DIA; Sexual assaults up across DOD; A Navy midshipman elected president at Yale; Bob Work to get to work; and a bit more.

 

Hagel Chief of Staff Mark Lippert is going to Seoul's Habib House. For months, it was the worst kept secret in the halls of the Pentagon that Lippert would get the nod from the White House to become the top envoy for the U.S. in South Korea. Now it's official, Situation Report has learned, that Lippert, a close confidante of President Obama's, will be nominated in the next day or so and assuming he's confirmed, move into the official residence of the U.S. ambassador in Seoul known as Habib House. Lippert, who is now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's chief of staff, is an Asia guru who had also served at the Pentagon as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. Lippert just arrived at Hagel's side in April 2013. Even as head of Hagel's front office, Lippert had double-timed inside the Pentagon as both chief of staff and as a senior Asia policy person. That's because the White House has been unable to get its nominee for Lippert's old job as ASD for Asia, Michael Shear, confirmed, along with a number of other spots.

CSIS' Victor Cha, a former NSC official to Situation Report regarding Lippert: "Lippert is a great choice.  He is one of the most knowledgeable policy people on Asia in this administration and he is well-networked within the White House, [the Defense Department] and State. Every country wants an ambo that can pick up the phone and get the President's attention. Mark can do that."

Harvard Kennedy School's John Park: "South Korean policy elites see Mark Lippert -- who'd be a major political appointee in Habib House  -- as their direct line to both the White House and the Pentagon.  Lippert's close ties to President Obama and Secretary Hagel would bode well for Seoul as the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region unfolds amid looming crises emanating from North Korea. It may take a while for the South Korean public to get to know Lippert, however, given that his career advanced so quickly through largely behind-the-scenes senior advisor roles."

But Lippert's departure from Hagel's front office leaves a void and it's yet unclear who will fill it. Short list to replace Lippert: Wendy Anderson, formerly Ash Carter's chief of staff and now serving as a deputy chief of staff for Hagel; Rex Ryu, a former State Department official, or Elissa Slotkin, whose official Defense Department bio, in a sign of how nobody's home at the Pentagon's policy shop at the moment because of confirmation trouble, is titled: "Performing the Duties of the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy."

Meantime, finally confirmed by a Senate voice vote last night around 6pm: Bob Work, as the Pentagon's No. 2. Work has been working for some time in an unofficial capacity. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox has been in the position for several months and may remain working in the building for a short time while Work gets to work. Work, a former Marine who served as the Navy's No. 2 before leaving the Pentagon last year to go to the Center for a New American Security, is expected to be sworn in at the Pentagon on Monday.

Mike Flynn, and his deputy, have been pushed out of DIA. The Army three-star, who has run the Defense Intelligence Agency since July 2012, will be leaving this summer about a year prior to what would be considered a normal tour there. His deputy, David Shedd, in that job since 2010, is also leaving. Although Flynn, seen as both an innovative and revolutionary but whose management style was thought to alienate those who didn't share his views, seemed to be pushed out by Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper and perhaps Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers.

FP's Shane Harris: "... When Flynn came to his job in 2012, he was seen as an innovator, and even a gadfly, who would help take the DIA forward as wars wound down in Afghanistan and Iraq and the agency searched for a new mission. But Flynn butted heads with senior Pentagon officials and has been criticized for failing to follow through on some of the plans he set out for the agency, such as focusing more on social and cultural analysis on the battlefield and trying to provide more strategic insights for senior leaders. 'He has been regarded as relatively ineffective in that job,' a former intelligence official said. 'There's a big challenge with the end of two wars, and where does the DIA go now, and he really didn't come to grips with that.'" More here.

Army Lt. Gen. Mary Legere is expected to be a likely successor.

Here is the CNAS essay Flynn wrote in January 2010 that put Flynn on the map, called "Fixing Intel." Many believe it is still relevant today. Read that here.

New subject: The Pentagon will announce today that sexual assault rates across numbers are up. Reuters' David Alexander and Patricia Zengerle: "The Pentagon is expected to announce a 50 percent jump in sexual assault reports on Thursday when it releases its annual study of the problem amid continuing revelations of questionable behavior by military officers responsible for dealing with the issue. The annual study was expected to show a 50 percent jump to about 5,000 reports of sexual assault in the military in the 2013 fiscal year that ended on September 30, congressional aides said, a figure in line with preliminary numbers released by the Pentagon in December.

"By comparison, the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office said 3,374 cases of sexual assault were reported in the 2012 fiscal year. Sexual assault is a hugely underreported crime, and a separate military survey conducted in 2012 concluded there were some 26,000 sex crimes in the military that year, from rape to abusive sexual contact.

"The survey is conducted every two years, so there will be no survey with the annual report this year to use as a basis for projecting total sex crimes in the services, congressional aides said." 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 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. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who's Where When - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon today at 1:45 at the Pentagon for Montenegro's Minister of Defense. At 5pm, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld delivers remarks at the Heroes of Military Medicine Awards Dinner at the Andrew Mellon auditorium in DC.

Also, tonight, The Truman Project and the Center for National Policy will honor Sen. Dick Durbin with the Edmund S. Muskie Award at the Army Navy Club at 6pm in DC. Then, the organization will announce the establishment of a new board of advisors, to include former Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, retired senior military leaders, former and current Members of Congress, and "rising stars" in the national security field, according to the organization. Tomorrow, the organization will hold its annual conference. More deets here.

Meantime, this afternoon, Dr. Richard Haass, president of CFR, will preside over a discussion on Syria with Ryan Crocker, Paul Pillar, and Charles Dunne. CFR events are only open to CFR members and members of the press, but you can watch the live stream, here. 

Ukraine says militants won the East. The NYT's Alison Smale and Andrew Roth on Page One: "It is by now a well-established pattern. Armed, masked men in their 20s to 40s storm a public building of high symbolic value in a city somewhere in eastern Ukraine, evict anyone still there, seize weapons and ammunition, throw up barricades and proclaim themselves the rulers of a 'people's republic.' It is not clear who is in charge or how the militias are organized. Through such tactics, a few thousand pro-Russian militants have seized buildings in about a dozen cities, effectively establishing control over much of an industrial region of about 6.5 million nestled against the Russian border.

"Day by day, in the areas surrounding the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, pro-Russian forces have defied all efforts by the central government to re-establish its authority, and on Wednesday, Ukraine's acting president conceded what had long been obvious: The government's police and security officials had lost control.

From the Reducing Dependence on Russian Rocket Engine Department: Replacing the Russian rocket engine ain't easy, the Pentagon says. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: " The Pentagon has no 'great solution' to reduce its dependence on a Russian-made engine that powers the rocket used to launch U.S. military satellites, the Defense Department's top weapons buyer said. 'We don't have a great solution,' Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, said yesterday after testifying before a Senate committee. 'We haven't made any decisions yet.'

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Air Force to review its reliance on the rocket engine after tensions over Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region prompted questions from lawmakers about that long-time supply connection. United Launch Alliance LLC, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., uses the Russian-made RD-180 engine on Atlas V rockets. Among the options the Air Force is outlining for Hagel are building versions in the U.S. under an existing license from the Russian maker or depending only on Delta-class rockets that use another engine, Kendall said. The U.S. also could accelerate the certification of new companies to launch satellites that don't use the Russian engine, he said." More here.

Don't forget all about Al-Qaeda - says the State Department. TIME's Noah Rayman: "Al-Qaeda and its affiliates still present a ‘serious threat' to the U.S. despite losses among its core leadership in Pakistan, the State Department said in its annual report on global terrorism. The report said the al-Qaeda terrorist threat "has evolved" and is now dispersed across the Middle East and North Africa, where some operationally autonomous affiliates are growing increasingly aggressive and taking advantage of instability in the region. The groups are also increasingly financially autonomous from the core al-Qaeda leadership, raising their own funds through illegal operations like kidnapping for ransom and credit card fraud... The report also found a ‘resurgence' of activity by the Iranian intelligence and security forces connected primarily to Iran's support for the Assad regime in Syria and for its ally in Lebanon, Hizballah, which is a designated terrorist group that has sent fighters to Syria to back Assad." More here.

Children were the main victims of a strike in Aleppo that activists attribute to a Syrian government jet. The WSJ's Maria Abi-Habib: "A Syrian government fighter jet fired a missile at a school in the northern city of Aleppo that killed 47 people, mainly children, as students were preparing an art exhibition to depict the horrors of Syria's civil war, activists said. Antigovernment activists in Aleppo posted photos showing blood splattered across the school's concrete walls and staining a remnant of the art exhibition: a drawing of soldiers and rebels beheading or shooting children and throwing their corpses in a pit of skeletons. Later footage showed a makeshift morgue, children laid out in brown and blue body bags on a tile floor as women wailed and screamed in the background." More here.

Western intel suspects Assad has a secret chem weapons stockpile. The Daily Beast's Noah Shachtman: "Concerns are growing among Western intelligence services that Syria still has a significant and undeclared arsenal of chemical weapons, including crude chlorine-filled bombs, secret stockpiles of sophisticated nerve gasses or their components-and the scientific know-how to rebuild a larger-scale, higher-grade chemical weapons effort once the Bashar al-Assad regime has escaped the international spotlight... But it's not the only worry. Within the U.S. intelligence community, there's also lingering unease about the Assad regime's biological weapons program that has never been the focus of international inspections and that American officials confess they just don't have the resources to track down." More here.

When Iraqis went to the polls yesterday something was missing from the streets of Baghdad: cars. FP's David Kenner: "... In a sign of Iraq's struggles to tackle rising violence and terrorist attacks, authorities banned all private vehicles from the streets of the capital and other Iraqi cities in an effort to prevent the type of catastrophic car bombings that have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in recent years. Though that ban appears to have been successful in preventing car bombs, the elections were still marred by violence. As the polls closed, Agence France-Press (AFP) had recorded at least 53 attacks throughout the country -- including mortar attacks, roadside bombs, and suicide bombers -- leaving at least 14 people dead and 36 wounded. It was just the latest sign of how violence is surging to levels not seen since the height of the country's civil war." More here.

New Army regs on tattoos mean folks are rushing for the parlors. The NYT's Kirk Johnson in Lakewood, Washington: "An Army soldier walked into Brass Monkey Tattoo last month and told Dan Brewer, the tattoo artist, to go for it. 'He dropped a thousand bucks,' Mr. Brewer said, standing in the shop here, about five minutes from the gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Ten hours under the needle later, an ex-girlfriend's name from a previous tattoo had been covered up, and a memorial to six buddies lost in the war in Afghanistan had been inked across the soldier's back and ribs. 'It was a good day,' Mr. Brewer said. The military tattoo has a deep history, with reports going back at least to the Roman legions, historians say. Images of adventure or battle - if not a haunting beauty from the frontiers of Gaul - could be captured forever on a bicep. Declarations of unit loyalty or individuality, or both, could be sealed through rituals of ink and pain.

"But now a tightening of the Army's regulations on the wear and appearance of uniforms and insignia - issued on March 31 with a 30-day window of unit-by-unit enforcement - have driven a land rush here and at other Army posts to get 'tatted,' as soldiers call it, while the old rules still applied. About 40,000 active duty and reserve personnel are stationed at Lewis-McChord, about an hour south of Seattle, making it one of the United States military's largest bases." More here.

The search for Flight 370 goes completely underwater.  FP's Dan Lamothe: "The U.S. Navy is pulling its P-8 Poseidon planes away from the hunt for the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean in March, a clear sign that the Pentagon is dramatically curtailing its role in the flagging effort to find the jetliner. The planes were recalled from Perth, Australia, to Japan along with the USNS Cesar Chavez, a cargo ship that had been assisting in the search, Navy officials said. It comes as the search for the massive Boeing 777 jetliner moves almost exclusively underwater." More here.

A new email shows how the White House sought to shape the narrative after Benghazi. The NYT's Michael Shear: "... The email dated Sept. 14, 2012, from Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, to Ms. Rice was obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request... The email from Mr. Rhodes includes goals for Ms. Rice's appearances on the shows and advice on how to discuss the subject of the protests that were raging in Libya and at other American diplomatic posts in the Middle East.

"Among the goals that Mr. Rhodes identified: 'To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.' In a section called 'Top-lines,' Mr. Rhodes added: 'Since we began to see protests in response to this Internet video, the president has directed the Administration to take a number of steps. His top priority has been the safety and security of all Americans serving abroad.'" More of that story here.

New legislation allows the Pentagon to go after and kill the Benghazi attackers. FP's Dan Lamothe: "In the roughly 19 months since Islamic militants launched deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, federal investigators have promised to never give up the manhunt to find those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, strikes. But the effort has been treated differently than missions targeting extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries. U.S. officials say they don't have authorization to kill the attackers in Libya because they are not officially connected to al Qaeda, riling those who want justice for the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in Benghazi.

"In response, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said Wednesday that he will introduce new legislation that would clear the path for U.S. troops to directly target the Benghazi attackers. Doing so would require a change in the Authorization of Use of Military Force legislation that was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that allowed the president to target 'nations, organizations or persons' that were determined to have had a direct role in the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York or to have harbored those terrorists." More here.

Remember the fight to get ROTC back into schools like Yale?  Vietnam war protests drove the ROTC from Yale University years ago. But then in the fall of 2012, the Naval ROTC returned to the school for the first time since those protests had driven it out. Many worried how the ROTC program would fare at Yale after so long. But a friend to Situation Report sent us what was described as "a pretty good data-point." Last week, a Navy midshipman was elected as Yale's student body president. More here.

An Army nurse who died a hero. The News Tribune's Adam Ashton: "In her last moments of life, Army nurse Capt. Jennifer Moreno heard two orders. One was a call to help a wounded soldier struck by a blast in a booby-trapped killing field at an Afghanistan bomb-making compound. The other was a command to stay put lest she strike another mine in the bomb belt. The nurse from Madigan Army Medical Center chose to help the wounded soldier, and gave her life trying. In the words of her commander, Moreno ran 'into hell' to rescue a comrade on the night she was killed. Newly released narratives of the Oct. 5 battle reveal the kind of hell Moreno and dozens of Army special operators found while trying to disrupt a plot to kill civilians in the city of Kandahar." Read the tale here.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. pledged to invest $20 million over the next five years to support U.S. military veterans and their families, here.

FLOTUS and SLOTUS marked the third anniversary of Joining Forces with a joint op-ed on supporting vets at home. They announced pledges in excess of $150 million from foundations and corporations to help veterans and their families get the services they need in the places where they live as the country adjusts to a post-war footing.  Michelle Obama and Jill Biden for Military Times: "We've all seen those wonderful surprise videos from when one of our troops comes home from a long deployment - the father bear-hugging his family at mid-court at a basketball game or the little boy with tears in his eyes sprinting into his mother's arms at the front of his classroom.

"These scenes make us feel good. They tug at our heartstrings and often move us to tears. And they remind us of the sacrifices our military families are making for our country every single day.

"And for most of us, it's easy to assume that surprise homecoming - that feel-good moment - is the happy ending to the story. But in so many ways, for so many of our troops, veterans and their families, it's really just the beginning.

"After the cameras are turned off, will that father find a job once he leaves the service - a job that allows him to support his family? Will he have the support he needs to deal with any mental or physical challenges that he may face? And what about the families - will that spouse finally be able to pursue his or her own career when the family is transferred across the country again? How are the kids going to adjust to yet another new home, another new school, and another new set of friends?

"These questions come at a pivotal moment for our military families - and for our country. By the end of this year, after 13 long years, our war in Afghanistan will finally be over. More and more of our newest veterans - the 9/11 generation - will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life." More here.

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An authentic Navy fleet dukes it out with Godzilla. Navy Times' Jeff Schogol: "The filmmakers for "Godzilla" were given access to Navy flattops and other support from the Defense Department to make sure the movie's portrayal of sailors and other U.S. service members was as accurate as possible, said Navy Capt. Russ Coons, of the Navy Office of Information West. ‘The thematics of the storyline are supported by our core values; and so you see in every instance the honor, courage and commitment of DoD men and women as they realize that certain tactics, techniques and procedures don't have an effect on their ability to counter the effects of the monster, so they improvise, adapt and overcome,' Coons told Military Times on Wednesday." More here.