Situation Report

Why “No Drama Obama” might like Joe Dunford

Why “No Drama Obama” might like Joe Dunford

Will Joe Dunford really be "No Drama Obama’s" dream general? Gen. Joe Dunford was confirmed by the Senate last night and will be headed to Kabul soon. You never know what will happen, but all indicators are that Dunford’s deployment may be the first in a while to unfold without incident. He’s a low-key Marine officer who’s more Boy Scout than military rock star, one who’s more likely to be seen standing in line at the Pentagon cafeteria getting his own lunch than zipping around Washington with a slew of Suburbans. Three of the last four ISAF commanders — Allen, McChrystal, and McKiernan — have left or will leave under a cloud. And the fourth is Petraeus.

Dunford is not especially well-known. But his meteoric rise to the top — essentially skipping the rank of two-star general altogether — is still astonishing to many senior officers. And as an officer in Iraq in 2004, he experienced the hard lessons of complacency when four Marines within his area of responsibility were killed when they fell asleep on a rooftop in Anbar province even though they were supposed to be on watch. We’ve told the story before, but we remember during the same deployment, he caught a Marine sleeping on post, jostled him awake and told him, essentially, "complacency kills, wake up."

The Senate also confirmed Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, who will succeed Dunford as AC-MACK.

"Totally unacceptable." President Barack Obama said there would be consequences if Syria uses any chemical weapons and that deploying them would be "totally unacceptable." As rebel forces make advances, new intelligence reports indicate that the Syrian regime is moving weaponry, even if it remains unclear just what Syria plans to do with the chemical munitions. But this doesn’t appear to be Iraq all over again. The WaPo quotes an American intelligence official as saying "we have pretty good visibility" on Syria’s chemical weapons.

Part of the reason why American officials are worried: Danger Room reports on how the Syrian regime has been combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas.

Situation Report Idea Floater. Another novel approach on Syria came over the transom to Situation Report: something called "pre-emptive contract sanctions." The Center for Global Development shot us a blog post that media reps there say is getting some traction by places like the FT, the Daily Beast, CNN and others, as a way to get rid of Assad.

"It’s time to try a new tool that would strengthen existing measures: preemptive contract sanctions. This would take the form of a declaration that any new contracts with the Assad regime are illegitimate and need not be honored by a legitimate successor government. Such a declaration would discourage new contracts with or loans to the regime because of the likelihood that that they would be repudiated by a successor government," write Kimberly Ann Elliott and Owen Barder.

A short video to show how it would work:

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The Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs is axing "strategic communications." It’s now called "communication synchronization." Pentagon Press Secretary George Little recently put out a memo, obtained by Situation Report, that describes how the Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus eliminated strategic communications positions, a layer of people who were supposed to make sure any one department was speaking as one, and instead folded those operations into normal public affairs work.

"[Strategic Communications] was viewed as a means to synchronize communication efforts across the department, however, over the last six years we learned that it actually added a layer of staffing and planning that blurred the roles and functions of traditional staff elements and resulted in confusion and inefficiencies. As a result, this year we stood down these staff elements.

"We also realized that these SC plans mostly contained public affairs planning that we once again expect to come through public affairs channels," Little wrote. "We avoid using the term SC to avoid causing confusion. The more accurate terminology, which will be used in future joint publications, is communication synchronization." But, he said, commanders have to get on board: "Without commander engagement, communication synchronization cannot work."

When will Rod’s confirmation hearing be scheduled? The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron is told the hearing for Gen. David Rodriguez for U.S. Africom has not yet been scheduled, but Pentagon officials are hopeful he will be confirmed in the lame duck session, regardless of what happens with Gen. John Allen’s nomination to be the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and U.S. European Command.

Petraeus in Kabul as "fat Elvis"? FP’s Tom Ricks writes about a recent article by the WaPo’s Greg Jaffe on David Petraeus and how generals get "used up" over the course of multiple jobs. Ricks: "I have heard Petraeus’ tour in Afghanistan referred to as his ‘fat Elvis’ period, an unkind way of saying that he was tired and not on his A-game there." Ricks’ brief post and link to Jaffe piece.

Will war spending over the next five years be $44 billion per year? Gordon Adams argues the administration has no real idea what war costs will be – forecasts are of course forecasts – but how long will it take before the Pentagon sees savings from ending the war in Afghanistan? There might not be huge savings anytime soon, he says.

Adams: "The back of my envelope (which is as good as the number the administration uses) says war spending will disappear by the FY 2015 budget submission (that’s the year after next). Secretary Geithner tried to argue this was not a gimmick, but it is. (Rep. Paul Ryan used the phony savings, too, in his budget proposal earlier this year.)"

John McCain’s early assessment of Benghazi was similar to Susan Rice’s. Ben Armbruster on the Center for American Progress’ "ThinkProgress Security" blog, points this out: "Just three days after the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said there were ‘demonstrations’ at the U.S. diplomatic mission there and that the attackers ‘seized this opportunity to attack our consulate.’ McCain also said during this Sept. 14 press conference on Capitol Hill that he wasn’t certain whether al-Qaeda perpetrated the assault."

Here’s what McCain said on Sept. 14, just two days before Rice made her now infamous appearance on the Sunday talk shows: McCain: "It’s hard to know exactly what took place and how long it was planned, and — I don’t have that information. I know very well that there were demonstrations, that there was a group of either al Qaeda or some radical Islamists who — about 15 of them, armed with RPGs and other lethal weapons, that seized this opportunity to attack our consulate. And it was an act of terror. It wasn’t an act of a mob getting out of control. We should understand that. This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy."

And here’s Rice on "Face the Nation": "[S]oon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that — in that effort with heavy weapons."

What Panetta might leave undone. Kevin Baron looks at what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta might not get finished if new reports indicating he might leave sooner rather than later are true. From cutting top brass to cutting wasteful spending, Panetta may or may not have checked those boxes — depends on who you talk to. But some industry people believe Panetta has been effective during this budgetary transition period.

So stealthy! France joins the drone wars with a new "nEUROn" plane (and yes, it is spelled that way). Killer Apps’ John Reed: "Now, just because the nEUROn has flown, it doesn’t mean that France is about to catch the U.S., which has been flying stealthy drone test jets since the 1990s and operating Lockheed Martin’s stealthy RQ-170 in combat for at least a half-decade. nEUROn is a technology demonstrator; basically it’s a plane used to prove that all the tech Dassault has designed for a stealth, unmanned strike jet will actually work. (To be fair, the nEUROn is significantly more advanced than the U.S.’ first stealthy UAVs.)"

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Twelve Years and Counting