National Security

FP's Situation Report: Heightened security for jets; Secret troops in Somalia; How Iraq could flood; Hunter wants to put the band back together; Hagel, Dempsey to brief; What does MRFF's Mikey Weinstein make?; and a bit more.


DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is imposing new aviation security measures based on intel that suggests al-Qaeda is looking to get creative against Western targets. A new warning from the Department of Homeland Security's Jeh Johnson on aviation travel didn't make any Page Ones this morning that we saw, but the concern that al-Qaida militants may be newly targeting Westerners is an animating factor for the White House as it deliberates just what to do in Iraq - and Syria. Militants with American passports have long been a concern but as the region's stability gets shakier, that small number of U.S.-passport holding militants grows ever more concerning. While the White House can't ignore the violence there, it's also quietly alarmed by the number of militants who could access the U.S. legally.

Reuters' Mark Hosenball: "The United States said on Wednesday it would increase security at overseas airports with nonstop flights to the country and U.S. officials cited concerns al Qaeda operatives in Syria and Yemen were developing bombs that could be smuggled onto planes. The new security measures would be required at airports in Europe, Africa and the Middle East that have direct flights, the U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The Department of Homeland Security said 'enhanced security measures' would be implemented in the next few days at 'certain overseas airports with direct flights into the United States.'"

"...Bombmakers from the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, are believed to be working together to try to develop explosives that could avoid detection by current airport screening systems, U.S. national security sources said. The main concern is that militant groups could try to blow up U.S.- or Europe-bound planes by concealing bombs on foreign fighters carrying Western passports who spent time with Islamist rebel factions in the region, the sources said.

"...A U.S. official told Reuters some of the new measures would involve additional inspections of passengers' shoes and property."

What Johnson said in part in a statement: "... We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry. These communications are an important part of our commitment to providing our security partners with situational awareness about the current environment and protecting the traveling public. Aviation security includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment."

Read how DHS awarded a contract to the security firm that vetted Ed Snowden, below.

Meantime, the violence is widening between Israelis and Palestinians. The dueling abductions of teenagers have wreaked havoc and the violence is widening there as Israeli troops and Palestinians clash in eastern Jerusalem. The WaPo's Ruth Eglash this hour: "The abduction ... [raised] the specter of wider violence two days after three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found dead in the occupied West Bank. Israeli police said late Wednesday that they had yet to confirm the circumstances of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khieder's disappearance or the identity of a badly burned body found in a forested area of Jerusalem, but Israeli news media, citing anonymous security officials, said authorities had determined that Khieder was probably killed by Jews in a 'nationalistic crime.'

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for restraint as he convened his security cabinet for the third straight night to discuss a response to the kidnappings and killings. Israel has blamed the slaying of the Israeli teens on the militant Islamist group Hamas, and on Wednesday, Palestinian leaders accused extremist Jewish settlers of killing Khieder." More here.

Herald Standard: Palestinians say Israeli extremists killed the teen. Read that here.

Haaretz: In teen's death, Palestinian public opinion does not wait for the coroner; Read that here.

And from Aspen, our own Shane Harris reports that Martin Indyk, the former peace envoy to the Middle East, believes that the trust between Israeli and Palestinian leaders has completely dissolved. FP's Harris says Indyk is "exceptionally pessimistic about the prospects of restoring negotiations over a lasting peace settlement between their two peoples."

"'There is a deep loathing of each leader for the other that has built up over the years,' Martin Indyk told an audience of several hundred people at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado in his first public remarks since stepping down as the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations on June 30. The distance between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said, seems unbridgeable. 'There is no trust between them. Neither believes that the other is serious,' Indyk said." Read that bit right here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. We're going dark tomorrow but Happy Fourth and see you come Monday. If you'd like to be one of our subscribers, we'd love to have you. Sign up for Situation Report by just sending 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, you, send it to us early for maximum tease. And the more shovel-ready, the better. And hey! Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

The U.S. has quietly maintained a number of troops in Somalia and it's planning to up its role. Reuters' Phil Stewart with this exclusive scoop: "U.S. military advisors have secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007 and Washington plans to deepen its security assistance to help the country fend off threats by Islamist militant group al Shabaab, U.S. officials said. The comments are the first detailed public acknowledgement of a U.S. military presence in Somalia dating back since the U.S. administration of George W. Bush and add to other signs of a deepening U.S. commitment to Somalia's government, which the Obama administration recognized last year.

"The deployments, consisting of up to 120 troops on the ground, go beyond the Pentagon's January announcement that it had sent a handful of advisors in October. That was seen at the time as the first assignment of U.S. troops to Somalia since 1993 when two U.S. helicopters were shot down and 18 American troops killed in the "Black Hawk Down" disaster." More here.

"The plans to further expand U.S. military assistance coincide with increasing efforts by the Somali government and African Union peacekeepers to counter a bloody seven-year insurgent campaign by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab to impose strict Islamic law inside Somalia.

Irony alert? Peacekeepers in Africa like drones, too. The NYT's Somini Sengupta: "...In an age of ubiquitous surveillance, even rebels in the bush can expect to be tracked, as United Nations troops cautiously deploy a tool familiar to most modern militaries around the world: the drone. The United Nations insists on calling the aircraft unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles, the term drone having acquired a bad reputation because of the armed versions that American forces use against targets in Pakistan and elsewhere.

"United Nations officials insist that they do not plan to use drones to kill anyone, only to get a picture of trouble and grief on the ground, to protect civilians and their own troops. More and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations' intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data." More here.

Nigeria launched a "safe schools initiative." More on that below.

Who's Where When today - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon to welcome Latvian Minister of Defense Raimonds Vejonis at 1 p.m. at the Pentagon... Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey is back in town after a first-ever "tri-CHOD" meeting with the chiefs of defense of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. in Honolulu.

Also today: For the first time since F-b-r-u-a-r-y, and amid the flow of troops into Iraq, a decision on Afghanistan post 2014, Ukraine, the VA and a host of other issues, Hagel and Dempsey are expected to appear together in the briefing room for a presser sometime this morning It's a peculiar time - just as everyone rushes to get out of town, including reporters - but it is what it is. Watch it here.

How two dams in Iraq threaten security big time. FP's Keith Johnson on their vulnerabilities: " The turmoil in Iraq already has the world worried about the safety of the country's mammoth oil fields. Now Iraqis must imagine massive waves of water crashing downriver from the country's shaky dams, which are smack in the terrorists' crosshairs. On Monday, Islamist insurgents in the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, renewed their offensive in Iraq's Anbar province, moving toward the key hydroelectric dam of Haditha.

"The dam's security has concerned U.S. officials for years and protecting the country's second-biggest dam was a priority objective during the 2003 invasion. Meanwhile, Iraq's biggest dam, the Mosul dam, is right next to a hotbed of Islamic State activity and poses catastrophic risk even if the terrorists don't open the floodgates or blow it up. If the dam fails, scientists say Mosul could be completely flooded within hours and a 15-foot wall of water could crash into Baghdad." More here.

John Brennan is neither a Republican nor a Democrat - he's what he calls himself an equal opportunity offender. The WSJ's Siobhan Gorman, in her profile-ish piece on CIA Director Brennan on Page One today: "... Partly as a result, relations between the CIA and Congress are more fraught than at any point in the past decade. The source of the tension is the Senate intelligence committee's classified report on the CIA's controversial post-9/11 interrogation program-and the agency's response to it. The bad blood could get worse in coming weeks, when portions of the report and CIA response are expected to be declassified. Mr. Brennan made it clear he had no plans to back down in the face of congressional criticism." More here.

Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby on the completion of the transfer of Syrian chems to the ship the Cape Ray: "...Cape Ray departed the Italian port of Gioia Tauro this afternoon for international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, where neutralization operations will soon begin..."

Hagel talked to U.S. Men's National Team Keeper Howard, you know, the guy who could be Defense Secretary. Politico's Phil Ewing: "...Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel phoned Howard on Wednesday, the Pentagon said, to congratulate him and the rest of the U.S. men's soccer team on their run in the World Cup, which ended with a 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time.

"...Howard's performance in Tuesday's game prompted users of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit his entry to describe him as "Secretary of Defense," and Hagel acknowledged Howard has shown he has what it takes to become a potential successor.

"He told Howard that with some training, he could someday become the real secretary of Defense," Kirby said. More here.

Hagel talking to Howard, soccer ball in hand, here.

Howard made the most saves by any keeper in a World Cup since 1966. The NYT does a little image reconstruction overlay of his handy work, here.

DHS just issued a lucrative contract to USIS, the security firm that vetted Edward Snowden.  In Washington you can be up, you can be down, you can be really down - then you can be up again, all Phoenix-like. Such is the case apparently with U.S. Investigations Services, or USIS, the vetting firm that helped bring you Snowden, and who just got a lucrative contract - worth $190 million - from the Department of Homeland Security. The WSJ's Dion Nissenbaum on Page One: "...USIS was able to win the contract because regulations require agencies to follow strict procurement procedures unless a bidder has been suspended or barred by the government from contracts. Despite questions about its work on background checks, USIS was never blocked from federal work.

"Unless a company is suspended or barred, 'by law and policy, we have to go with the lowest bidder,' said an official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of Homeland Security said it takes 'allegations of wrongdoing against its workforce and contractors extremely seriously,' but 'at this time there is no conduct that has resulted in suspension or debarment of USIS.'" Read the rest here.

The NYT editorial board on Japan's military muscle-flexing: "...It is difficult to overstate the significance of what Mr. Abe has done. Since 1947, Japan's Constitution, written and imposed by the American Army, has permitted the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to engage only in self-defense. That meant the large and technologically advanced armed forces was barred from 'collective self-defense' - aiding friendly countries under attack - and thus was far more constrained than those of other nations.

"With the reinterpretation, Japan's military would still face restrictions on what it could do, but it would be allowed for the first time, for example, to help defend an American ship under attack, destroy a North Korean missile heading toward the United States or play a larger role in United Nations peacekeeping operations. More here.

A suicide bomber killed eight members of the Afghan air force. The Globe and Mail's pickup of AP: "...The Defence Ministry confirmed the number of casualties in a statement updating a previous toll. Army Gen. Kadamshah Shahim said the bomber was stopped before he could enter the bus, likely limiting the number of casualties. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman for the insurgents, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirming that the air force bus was the target." More here.

Pakistan passes sweeping anti-terrorism bill, raising concerns among human rights groups; the NYT's Salman Masood and Saba Imtiaz, here.

Pakistan's Dawn: "We're dying from apathy, not terrorism." Read that bit here.  

Another official steps down from the VA; The NYT's Richard Oppel on the medical investigator who's out, here.

Duncan Hunter wants to put the band back together. We missed this earlier but it's notable so we're picking it up today. California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter wants Chuck Hagel to assemble a bunch of the usual suspects - David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, Sean MacFarland, Jim Mattis and others, like Dale Alford, William Jurney to begin advising on the crisis in Iraq. The WaPo's Dan Lamothe, earlier this week: "...Hunter says Petraeus should serve as a liaison to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But he also focuses on lower levels of command, highlighting individuals who aren't nearly as famous as Petraeus or Marine Gen. James Mattis, who retired last year as perhaps the most popular general of his generation." More here.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein made $273,355 in 2012 - that's nearly half the amount of money the non-profit brought in that year, according to an Air Force Times investigation. AFT's Stephen Losey: "Over the last decade, Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder and president Mikey Weinstein has become one of the most persistent and vocal activists in the military community, ferociously arguing for the separation of church and state in the military.

"...Weinstein founded MRFF out of his own pocket in 2005, around the same time other prominent military-related nonprofits such as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project began. But as the size and bank accounts of all those charities grew, Weinstein, an attorney, quickly became one of the best-compensated nonprofit executives in the country - taking a percentage of his group's receipts that is unheard of in the military community."

"...Weinstein's compensation is well more than double the typical compensation for nonprofit CEOs, according to the most recent study by the watchdog group Charity Navigator, released in October. Charity Navigator found the typical charity CEO nationwide received a median $125,942 in compensation in 2011.

By comparison, Losey wrote: "[Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America]... paid its founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff $145,000 in 2012, or a little more than 2 percent of the $6.1 million IAVA raised that year. Wounded Warrior Project CEO Steven Nardizzi received $311,538 in 2012, or 0.2 percent of the nearly $155 million that charity raised that year. Nardizzi was paid more than Weinstein in actual dollars, but Wounded Warrior Project's revenues far exceed the $584,351 MRFF brought in during 2012." More here.

Voice of America's journalists are concerned the VOA will become a mouthpiece of the government - and they're fighting their own union on it. The NYT's Ron Nixon, here.

Yesterday, Nigeria's Finance Minister addressed the U.K. Parliament and announced enhanced counter-terrorism efforts. From a press release sent us before Nigeria's Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addressed U.K.'s Parliament yesterday, on the recently launched Safe Schools Initiative: "The Safe Schools Initiative aims to prevent future attacks on schools by installing modern alarm systems and proper fencing, facilitating community participation in protecting the schools, and training security guards. The Initiative will also fund the reconstruction of schools that have been damaged or destroyed by terror attacks. Lighting for renovated schools is planned to include the introduction of modern and environmentally friendly sustainable systems such as solar power. To ensure program success, the Federal Government of Nigeria will work closely with state governments, local communities and the international community -- led by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown.

"Funding for the Safe Schools Initiative is provided by the Government of Nigeria's contribution of $10 million, with a matching contribution of $10 million from the Nigerian private sector. Additional financial support is expected from the African Development Bank, the Government of Norway, the World Bank and UK Department for International Development..." 


National Security

FP's Situation Report: The retreat of the ISF; Hellfires to Baghdad; Lukman Faily: help us or else; Dobbins retiring; Bergdahl's restless path; Mabus' pinning trouble; the Pentagon gets Fresh; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

After a retreat, Iraqi soldiers blame Iraqi officers. President Barack Obama's read-my-lips moment on not putting boots-on-the-ground in Iraq means the growing number of American military personnel now flowing into Iraq won't be serving in combat roles. They are there to assess and advise the Iraqi security forces who must take the fight. But the White House's faith in the ISF that the U.S. left to fend for itself in 2011 is a risky gamble and the coming weeks may show the degree to which Iraq's military won't be up to the task - at least not alone. The NYT's C.J. Chivers on Page One: "The forlorn scenes in the ancient Al-Ukhaidir fortress tell of a government force in deep disarray. Flies circle beneath its high ceilings, above dozens of demoralized men who pass the day sleeping on dusty stone floors. Until late June, this eighth-century redoubt in the Shiite south of Iraq had been a tourist and heritage site. Now the remnants of the Ninth Brigade find shelter within its walls. These men have no pressing duties, even at a time of Iraq's grave need.

"...The account of the Ninth Brigade of Iraq's border guards, confirmed by an official who witnessed many of the events, is a portrait of generals unfit to lead in war and of mismanagement, incompetence and ultimately treachery under the patronage of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki." More here.

Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., says the Washington better help Baghdad - or else. FP's John Hudson: "The Iraqi ambassador to the United States pleaded for more military assistance to combat Sunni militants on Tuesday and issued a blunt warning to the White House: If America doesn't provide the help Iraq needs, it will reach out to U.S. adversaries such as Iran, Russia, and Syria instead.

Iraqi Ambassador Faily told Carnegie, referring to Iran and Russia: "Because of the precarious situation now facing us, it is difficult for us to decline offers from other countries that share our perceived danger... We have always tried to resist that but the situation on the ground may push us to acquire more support from our neighbor[s]." More here.

The U.S. is planning to sell as many as 4,000 Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "...Sale of the laser-guided missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. would be in addition to 500 previously purchased, of which about 400 have been delivered." More here.

As the Iraqis fumble to create a new, inclusive government, a lot of bickering. Washington's approach is to force the Maliki government to fix its governance problems with the idea that the political problems in Baghdad are the source of the violence and fixing them would go a long way to addressing the problems that's tearing the country apart. But that's not going particularly well. The WaPo's Liz Sly and Loveday Morris: "The inaugural session of Iraq's parliament collapsed Tuesday after heated exchanges and a walkout, dampening hopes that the country's fractious politicians will rise to the challenge presented by the insurgency tearing their nation apart. Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers left the at times chaotic meeting after less than two hours, with no progress made on forming a new government. After their exit, Mahdi Hafidh, the acting speaker of the newly elected parliament, adjourned the session until next week, citing the lack of a quorum in the 328-member chamber." More here.

The discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager sparks an investigation to see if it is in retaliation of the three Israeli boys who were killed. USA Today, here.

Not a surprise: Muslims hate terrorism, too. A new Pew study, here.

In the wake of the revelations about the State Department and Blackwater, a look at "Blackwater's Children" on FP the descendants of Blackwater are still raking it in from the U.S. government believe it or not - Our own Kate Brannen's first story for FP, 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.

Meantime, violence is escalating in Ukraine as the cease-fire there expires. The WaPo's Michael Birnbaum in Moscow: "...Both sides appeared to be readying for a protracted battle after days in which the fighting diminished but did not disappear. It remained unclear whether the Ukrainian military, which has battled pro-Russian separatists since mid-April, would be able strike a decisive blow against the rebels, who have seized territory in eastern Ukraine. The longer a conflict drags on, the greater the risk of further civilian casualties and the harder it will be for Ukraine's new government to stitch the society back together." More here.

BTW, Russia totally vetoed the idea that House of Cards could use the UN. FP's Colum Lynch with this exclusive: " Russia's United Nations delegation on Tuesday blocked a request by the producers of the popular Netflix political drama to film two episodes in the U.N. Security Council, citing the need to keep the world's leading security chamber available for unanticipated crises, according to a series of confidential email exchanges between a Russian diplomat and his Security Council counterparts. The emails were obtained by Foreign Policy." More here.

And in Asia, Japan's Abe declares a major policy shift: a change to the military pacificism that characterized its approach since WWII. Time's Kirk Spitzer: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a major revision to Japan's pacifist postwar defense policy amid wide public protests Tuesday - but don't expect to see Japanese troops sweeping across foreign battlefields anytime soon. Under the new policy, Japan's powerful but low-profile military would be allowed to defend friends and allies under attack for the first time, even overseas. It's part of a new interpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution that Abe has pushed since taking office 18 months ago." More here.

Jeepers, keepers: Tim Howard for SecDef. The U.S. ended its emotional bid to snag the World Cup without getting it. But Keeper Tim Howard was still a hero - making 16 saves against Belgium yesterday. Someone thought he needed recognition and so changed the Wikipedia citation for Secretary of Defense for the United States of America from "Chuck Hagel" to "Tim Howard" - incumbent since July 1, 2014. It was quickly changed back, but still. Click bait here.

A lot of "Gooooooooaaaaallllllls." Naturally, there wasn't a lot of work getting done while the U.S. played Belgium. The cable carrier that serves the Pentagon doesn't carry ESPN for whatever reason, so defense types were stuck watching it on Univision, denying them the play-by-plays in English and yet we figure they got the idea overall.

Who's Where When today - Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, is in Boston today for a series of meetings with organizations who support wounded warriors and then he'll participate in a discussion at the Fletcher School of Tufts University - now led by Jim Stavridis, the retired Navy admiral and Supreme Allied Commander - that will be focused on one of Mabus' favorite topics: energy and its importance to our national security... otherwise, it's a quite week for Pentagon principals in terms of public events.

But speaking of Mabus, he attended the promotion of the Navy's first female four-star ever, Michelle Howard, as we reported yesterday he would. But he had a little trouble actually pinning her new rank insignia on.  The WaPo's Dan Lamothe, who can spot SitRep "candy" a mile away, has the story: "At one point Tuesday, Mabus struggled to put Howard's new four-star shoulder boards on her uniform. With good nature, however, he refused to give up, drawing laughter from the crowd. In her remarks on stage, Howard joked about it...'It is a remarkable sign of leadership,' Howard said, 'to be persistent in your goals and to achieve them.'

"...Howard is perhaps best known for leading Task Force 151, which oversaw counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. After Somali pirates attacked the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama and captured its top officer, Capt. Richard Phillips, in April 2009, she devised a plan with others to get him back, dispatching the USS Bainbridge, a destroyer, to help. Navy SEAL snipers eventually opened fire on a small lifeboat carrying Phillips and three pirates, killing the bandits and freeing him." More here.

FP's John Hudson went Hollywood yesterday. Hudson appeared on CNN's Jake Tapper to talk about his Blackwater story from FP yesterday. Watch him here.

State's James Dobbins, 72, to retire this month from being the SRAP. The NYT's Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt: Mr. Dobbins, 72, will be succeeded by his deputy, Daniel F. Feldman, whose ties to Secretary of State John Kerry date back to Mr. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In an interview, Mr. Dobbins took a hopeful, if somewhat guarded, view of the troubled political situation in Afghanistan."

Dobbins, to the NYT: "I think this election impasse at the moment is serious and could present a real danger of a division in the country... It is not unusual for countries at this level of development. They don't tend to have a tradition of good losers." The NYT story here. Pakistan's Dawn piece by AP, here

Want to know more about the Pentagon's new restaurant by celebrity chef Robert Irvine and opening in "early 2015?" Read the memo distributed this week by Washington Headquarters Services, the facilities manager for the Pentagon and provided to SitRep, that went to Defense Department employees, DIA and NSA: Turns out it's going to have three concepts: "Fresh Express, Fresh Kitchen and Fresh catering.  FRESH Express: This concept will open at 6 A.M. serving espressos, crafted coffee drinks, pre-prepared breakfast sandwiches, hot cereals, fruits, yogurts, and more. The Express offerings continue throughout the rest of the day with an array of to-go offerings, including soups, salads, sandwiches, and healthy snacks. FRESH Kitchen: This full-service dining room concept serves breakfast options in the morning and freshly made soups, salads, and sandwiches, along with Neapolitan-style pizzas and build-your-own burgers for lunch. Chef Irvine's Fit and signature recipes will round out the menu with an in-house bakery for breakfast and dessert items. To expedite service for busy Pentagon employees, take-out from the dining room is available in-person, via a Self Tablet selector. FRESH Catering: The catering program concept offers a creative selection of FRESH favorites packaged in large formal platters for meetings or group gatherings. They are available for delivery or pick up.

Listen to Kool and the Gang's "Fresh," here.

Restless energy and fanciful plans: Bowe Bergdahl's path to the Army, on Page One in the NYT, here.

The U.S. military is going to be way smaller than you think. CSIS' Clark Murdock and others have a new report out tomorrow, provided to Situation Report early, that explains how the "double whammy" of the topline drawdown and the decreasing purchasing power of defense dollars will create a smaller force in 2021 than anyone realizes. From the Exec Sum of the report by Murdock, Ryan Crotty and Angela Weaver: "...The question is whether [that force] will be effective as well. To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, DoD needs to adopt a dramatically different approach to force planning- one that is grounded in the acceptance of budgetary caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). By adopting the 'cost-capped' methodological approach described in this report, DoD can minimize the impact of deep budgetary cuts and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2021 and beyond (2020+).

"To cope with a drawdown of this magnitude, the CSIS study team developed over the course of two years a methodological approach for how DoD could minimize the impact of a deep budgetary reduction and provide the military capabilities needed for the strategic realities of 2020+. The CSIS study team also built cost calculators for making trade-off decisions in 2021 with respect to force structure and weapons systems. In this report, the study team uses "cost-capped" methodology and the 2021 cost calculators to generate a set of 2021 alternative militaries, each of which reflects a different strategy, and recommends one. That said, possibly the most important aspect of this report is that it demonstrates the cost-capped methodology in action." The group's "cost-capped methodology" consists of five steps. Go here to read more.

As the Army downsizes, an Army officer is let go after he is ordered to move.'s Brendan McGarry: "...Even officers who escaped the current round of dismissals criticized the move, saying it encourages talented leaders to leave the service. 'It really is disheartening to see the Army engaging in force shaping in the manner that it is,' one said. 'I've seen many of my fellow company-grade officers decide to get out because of the uncertainty over pay and future promotions. We're losing those who can get jobs, which means the Army is losing the talent it should be retaining.'" More here.

Washingtonian magazine did a great profile of CBS' Cami McCormick, injured in Afghanistan in 2009. " Alex Horton: "...McCormick, 52, has spent countless months reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. War zones have become her natural environment. Landing in Kabul with Panetta, she was less worried about mortar strikes or suicide attacks-though on Panetta's previous arrival in Afghanistan, an insurgent set himself on fire and drove a truck toward a line of officers waiting to greet the plane-than about the seas of gravel outside official buildings and the steep ramps of military aircraft. McCormick's difficulties with terrain the rest of us consider manageable is one more thing she shares with battlefield veterans from the past decade. Like many of them, she took a ride in a convoy in Afghanistan and woke up in the United States with a piece of her body missing." More of the Washingtonian piece here.

The Washingtonian piece begins with an anecdote about how McCormick returned to Afghanistan on a trip with SecDef Panetta in December 2012 - her first trip back there since her injury - and how she was mistreated at the Presidential Palace of Hamid Karzai. SitRep was on that trip, and we told her tale in Situation Report at the time. Afghan security officials asked her to remove her prosthetic leg so it could be put before bomb-sniffing dogs in yet another indignity. But McCormick remembers it with a grin: "That was the second time an Afghan took my leg." Our story of hers at the Presidential Palace, at the time in SitRep, here.

Sebastian Junger's new movie, the sequel to Restrepo, isn't about war necessarily, and it's not about Afghanistan or Afghans. It's about Americans. Doug Ollivant's review of Korengal for FP, and his BLUF:  "In this sequel to Restrepo, Junger turns his cameras inside to look less at the interaction between the American soldiers and the Afghans and more -- through this sampling of middle class America -- at ourselves. While transplanted to the remote wilderness of the Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, these soldiers remain deeply, unalterably American. The stripping away of many layers of veneer -- through isolation, boredom, terror, and loss -- help us better understand them. And, by extension, us." Read the whole thing here.