Situation Report

Panetta expands cyber force; The secretive campaigns against Hagel; The wrong runway for Mattis; Why piracy is down in Somalia, and a little more.

Panetta expands cyber force; The secretive campaigns against Hagel; The wrong runway for Mattis; Why piracy is down in Somalia, and a little more.

The Pentagon is dramatically expanding its cyber force if it can hire nearly 5,000 people to do it. In Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s remaining days at Pentagon chief, he is knocking out a number of initiatives. Last week, it was women-in-combat. This week, it’s cyber-security. He has approved a major expansion of the force of cyber-troops over the coming years to make it more than five times the size it is today, the WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima reported yesterday. "The move, requested by the head of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command, is part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force. The command, made up of about 900 personnel, will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians," she wrote. An incident last year in which a virus wiped data from more than 30,000 computers at a Saudi Arabian oil company particularly concerned Panetta, who has warned of a "cyber Pearl Harbor" during his tenure in office. WaPo story: http://wapo.st/Yy0H5j

Killer Apps’ John Reed’s piece on what the Pentagon asked the services to do for cyber. http://atfp.co/VhaqI0

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where the Pentagon actually feels cozy on this cold and rainy DC morn. But also empty, since the feds called for a delay due to weather. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. And sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN or just drop me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

The anti-Hagel campaign continues even though Washington wisdom dictates he’ll be confirmed. Groups on the left and the right continue to hit Hagel. "We’re making a substantial buy in our targeted states and are looking to increase our paid advertising campaign as the nomination process continues," one official from Americans for a Strong Defense, one such group, told Situation Report on Friday. Unlike some of the other national campaigns against Hagel, Americans for a Strong Defense, headed by a handful of Republicans, is this week running state campaigns through a "six-figure buy" and a grass-roots campaign in North Carolina, Utah, Alaska, Louisiana, and Arkansas to target undecided senators, Situation Report is told.

ICYMI: NYT piece on how secret donors are funding the anti-Hagel campaign over the weekend: "Those groups are joining at least five others that are organizing to stop Mr. Hagel’s confirmation, a goal even they acknowledge appears to be increasingly challenging. But the effort comes with a built-in consolation prize should it fail: depleting some of Mr. Obama’s political capital as he embarks on a new term with fresh momentum." http://nyti.ms/X48S4b

Republicans are bummed about Obama’s second term Cabinet picks. Republicans aren’t digging some of President Barack Obama’s nominees, including Hagel, whose confirmation hearings are Thursday. The WSJ reports this morning that Obama’s picks appear to have been made without acknowledging Republican "sensitivities." Peter Nicholas: "Senate Republicans are expected to zero in on Mr. Hagel’s vote in opposition to naming the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and to question a comment he once made about the ‘Jewish lobby.’" http://on.wsj.com/WqXpOu

Want to know what experts make of the Brennan, Hagel, and Kerry team? Attend the first big event hosted by the newly merged think tank that is the Truman Project and the Center for National Policy. Doug Wilson, former Pentagon assistant secretary of defense for public affairs; Charles Stevenson, professorial lecturer in American foreign policy at SAIS; and the WaPo’s Karen DeYoung will talk tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at the Truman Project and CNP’s offices on the Hill. One Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 333.

Remember the C-17 that landed at the wrong airport? Probably you don’t. But it was carrying Jim Mattis. Killer Apps’ John Reed spotted the Tampa Bay Times story: "The pilots were apparently so tired after a 12 hour flight from Italy that they landed the giant plane at an airport frequented by small propeller planes — leaving the C-17 stranded for several days until its cargo could be offloaded, making the jet light enough to take off from the 3,580-foot runway, which is maybe a third the length of the runways at MacDill. But the best part of the story just became public. Among the C-17’s cargo? Centcom boss Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who was flying into, or trying to fly into, Centcom headquarters at MacDill." Apparently, it’s not the first time mil pilots have gotten confused, either. http://atfp.co/WYF1Kx

Piracy has plummeted off the coast of Somalia. This month there were reports of a pirate called "Big Mouth" who quit the biz — holding a press conference to announce it, no less — and giving the American government and the international community reason to feel good that the combination of measures taken by the shipping industry and international governments, to include increased prosecution even of low-level pirates, has paid off.

"This multi-pronged strategy has led to results," Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told Situation Report in a recent interview. "We’re seeing more pirates prosecuted, fewer ships being attacked, the statistics are striking."

According to the Navy, there has been a 75 percent decline in overall pirate attacks in 2012 over the year before. And the number of attacks in 2011 were half that what they were in 2010. Independent sources, Shapiro’s office points out, substantiate the same trend. Last year, pirates captured 10 vessels, compared to 34 in 2011 and 68 in 2010, according to data provided Situation Report by State; and the last successful attack of a commercial vessel was in May of last year.

More stats: In January 2011, pirates held 31 ships and 710 hostages; today, pirates are holding four ships and 108 hostages.

Despite fears that putting armed guards on ships would create a Wild West, cowboys-at-sea climate, violence has not increased significantly, Shapiro told Situation Report. And since the skiffs pirates used only have so much capacity to hold heavy weapons, the pirates have not tried to one-up the guards aboard commercial vessels. Once the pirates realize that many ships are a "hard target," they refrain from attacking it, he said. Shapiro also said he was impressed also with the discipline that many commercial vessels exhibit when it comes to using weapons. In at least one shipping company, Shapiro said the ship’s master controls the weapons and determines when they will shoot at a pirate skiff and when they won’t. "It was clearly under control of the master, and it was not these teams running around, shooting in the water at anything that moved," Shapiro said. "There were clear lines of authority, lines of control." Efforts against the pirate facilitators and the financial networks have had an equal impact, he said.

Big Mouth’s exit was a huge symbolic boon to the trend. "The investment is not paying off in the same way that it once did, so there are people who are exiting the business," Shapiro said.

Building up indigenous ground forces has also helped. What has really thwarted pirate networks is a ground force known as the Puntland Maritime Police Force, according to an expert who has worked on the ground in Somalia. The PMPF is about 400 men, recruited locally and trained to be a professional anti-piracy police force. And it’s worked, says former Green Beret Roger Carstens, who is working on a project about Somalia and the maritime force and has spent much time on the ground there in recent months. "They basically went in and chased the pirates to keep them out," Carstens told Situation Report. "That kept the pirates out of the pirate towns, where they staged their attacks, and it screwed [their] investors," he said. But he warns that if support and resources ebb for the ground force, it could falter. That would be a good thing for the pirates.

"If they fail, you could easily see a resurgence of piracy writ large," Carstens said, emphasizing that the concentration of pirate activity emanates from Puntland, an area of northeastern Somalia that was declared an autonomous state in 1998.

 

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