Situation Report

Sgt. Hagel visits troops in Afghanistan; The remains of the day: civil war sailors to be buried; The Pentagon and the North’s rhetoric; Count ‘em: the total number of cyber warriors, and a little more.

Sgt. Hagel visits troops in Afghanistan; The remains of the day: civil war sailors to be buried; The Pentagon and the North’s rhetoric; Count ‘em: the total number of cyber warriors, and a little more.

By Gordon Lubold

Hagel just arrived in Kabul. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Afghanistan for his fifth trip – but his first as Sec-Def. He will be meeting with senior American officers and civilians, including new ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford, as well as senior Afghan leaders and other officials. He’ll receive briefings on the training of the Afghan National Security Forces, joint counter terrorism operations, and "retrograde" of materiel from Afghanistan. And Hagel, a former sergeant who was combat-wounded in Vietnam, will also visit the troops.

In what aides said was a first, the defense secretary issued a "message to ISAF personnel" upon arrival in Kabul, in which he said he sees this juncture in Afghanistan as a "a very important moment" as the ANSF are "on the verge" of stepping into the lead. Of course, every moment has been critical there, and Hagel’s comments aren’t the first along those lines. But with a new ISAF commander, critical decisions on the slope of the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and pending decisions on what the U.S. presence will look like after 2014, when security transition is complete, Hagel’s visit comes at a significant time. Hagel: "…The ANSF will be doing more and more of the fighting, and relying on you for support, training, and advice.  The choices you make on the battlefield, the professionalism and honor you carry forward, and the relationships and trust you build with our Afghan partners are all essential to the success of this campaign," he said. Hagel said the mission in Afghanistan remains dangerous and difficult and that many will continue to experience "the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle." At the same time, the goal to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans is "clear and achievable."

Hagel to troops: "You are working under stressful and difficult conditions, and you have my profound gratitude, and the gratitude of the American people, for your service and your sacrifices."

Chillin’ on the Doomsday. Hagel is on his first trip on the famed E-4B Airborne Command Post, a 1970s-vintage "survivable" flying command center from which the defense secretary can "execute emergency war orders" and is known affectionately as the "Doomsday" plane for its Cold War-era capabilities, antiquated-looking telephones, leaky roof and oddly-long tail antennae. Hagel, who’s known for vectoring in on whatever enlisted people are around, visited with the Doomsday’s Nebraska-based crew – Nebraska being his home state. "He mingled with them, the press corps, and the traveling DoD delegation," Situation Report is told. And began his remarks to the press with a tribute to the Doomsday’s crew.

Staffers on a plane - Peter Lavoy, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia Pacific policy, David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, Lt. Gen. Tom Waldhauser, Hagel’s senior military assistant, Marcel Lettre, acting chief of staff, Jacob Freedman, chief speechwriter, George Little, press secretary, Carl Woog, assistant press secretary, and J.P. Eby, trip director.

Reporters on a plane – AFP’s Rabechault, Reuter’s Stewart and Reed, NPR’s Welna, CNN’s Lawrence, Umrani and Abdallah, AP’s Baldor, Bloomberg’s Ratnam, NYT’s Shanker, WSJ’s Nissenbaum, LAT’s Cloud, WaPo’s Londono, the Pentagon’s Parrish, the BBC’s Soley, and Stripes’ Carroll.

Welcome to Friday’s late edition of Situation Report, where our tardiness this morning is due to the embargo on the news of Hagel’s arrival in Afghanistan. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at gordon.lubold@foreignpolicy.com. Sign up for Situation Report by sending me an e-mail. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, tidbit or something you want us to flag, send it to us early for maximum tease. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, excessive spending, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings and whatnot.

The Pentagon is starting to make it easier for foreign countries to buy American products.  The administration yesterday notified Congress of the first in a series of changes to the U.S. munitions list that is the first step to putting a new export control system in place. The first notification is for changes to the categories of export control governing aircraft and gas turbine engines – after nearly three years of work by Pentagon officials. The current "Export Control Reform Initiative" overhauls the U.S. export control system, still largely based on Cold War-era requirements. Reforms aim to protect national security by creating "better interoperability with our allies, a healthier defense industrial base, and less red tape for U.S. manufacturers and exports of defense articles," according to DoD spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory, to Situation Report. "The current system treats all items the same and effectively encourages second-sourcing items from non-U.S. suppliers, to avoid the U.S. licensing system.  This harms U.S. manufacturers, especially second- and third-tier suppliers, diminishing their sales and driving up costs to the U.S. military for the same items or causing the U.S. military to source from non-U.S. manufacturers.  That means that currently, the controls applied to an F-16, for example, are the same as the controls for a bolt that is used on that F-16, straining U.S. Government resources without focusing on those items that warrant more scrutiny and control."

Pentagon’s point-man on export reform:  Director of the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration, Jim Hursch.

The future of American military intervention: Speak softly and walk with light footprints. A new report from the Center for a New American Security’s Maj. Fernando Lujan, an active duty Army officer and visiting fellow, argues that the U.S. military’s form of intervention in the next decade could be summed up as walking with "light footprints" and that approach will inform the limited military intervention in places like Yemen, Uganda, Mali or Libya. But he makes three points in the exec-sum: Drones and commando raids are the "tip of the iceberg," that have to be part of a much larger, long-term strategy; "prevention is the new victory," and in this form of light intervention, "the wrong man can do more harm than the right man can do good."

Lujan: "Despite the relative appeal of these less costly forms of military intervention, the light footprint is no panacea. Like any policy option, the strategy has risks, costs and benefits that make it ideally suited for certain security challenges and disastrous for others. Moreover, recent media coverage of drone strikes and SEAL raids may also distort public perceptions, creating a "bin Laden effect" – the notion of military action as sterile, instantaneous and pinprick accurate. Yet for these smaller-scale interventions to be an effective instrument of national policy, civilian and military leaders at all levels should make a concerted effort to under- stand not only their strategic uses and limitations, but also the ways the current defense bureaucracy can undermine their success."

Wanna know how many cyber-troops the Defense Department has? Ask Killer Apps’ John Reed, who used public information to tally up the total number of cyber employees, both military and civilian, after the news that the Pentagon wanted to hire another 4,900 cyber-warriors. Reed: "Here are the numbers that are publicly listed on the web for each service’s dedicated cyber arms. These forces act as each service’s contribution to U.S. Cyber Command and Strategic Command when needed." His list: 24th Air Force: 16,400+ airmen and civilians; Navy Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet: at least 14,000 sailors and civilians; Marine Cyberspace Command: growing to as many as 800 Marines; Army Cyberspace Command: set to exceed 21,000 soldiers and civilians; U.S. Cyber Command, 900 and set to grow to 4,900 troops and civilians, for a total cyber warrior force of as many as 58,000. Next tasker for Reed? Figuring out the total cyber budget.

North Korea’s most recent rhetoric is scaring even some analysts. The U.N. Security Council agreed on new economic sanctions against North Korea after the third nuclear test it conducted last month. That sparked a feisty response from North Korea, which said it had "nuclear tipped" ICBMs "ready to blast off," according to the NYT. South Korea matched the rhetoric, threatening the north would be "erased from the earth" if Pyongyang attacks it. The Security Council deal, negotiated between the U.S. and China, may be putting the North into a desperate situation. John Park, an expert on Korea with MIT, told Situation Report the North may not be bluffing and aims to break up the consensus agreement between China and the U.S. "The most effective way to do that is escalate military tensions like in late 2010," Park told Situation Report.  Park: "For the U.S., the big concern is how South Korea may independently initiate a response under its vague doctrine of ‘proactive deterrence.’ There has always been a worry about South Korean reactions, which under "proactive deterrence" were intended not to be proportional to an attack from the North… most importantly, North Korea knows that by pushing South Korea closer to the point of military action, China will act swiftly to restrain all the parties — North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.   In practice, that will likely translate in North Korea getting away with a limited conventional attack on its southern neighbor."

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron reports: A DoD official said that following a threat from North Korea, there is usually a lot of "intelligence churn" to see if any movements on the ground match the talk from Pyongyang. But the U.S. military does not have to move big weapons, ships, aircraft, nor change alert levels, he writes. "We are always ready to go to war on the Korean Peninsula within a matter of hours," the official told Baron. "The thing to keep in mind with the North Korea situation is … we are always postured as if the balloon could go up within a matter of minutes. If we actually needed to be moving big heavy things around, that would actually indicate we had some serious problems with being postured correctly."

Remains of the day: The Navy yesterday received the remains of two sailors who died aboard the USS Monitor and who will now be buried today at Arlington. The remains were found in the famous ship’s turret after it was raised from the bottom of the ocean off the coast of North Carolina in 2002. The sailors’ remains were finally brought back to Washington for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, where they will go after a ceremony at Fort Meyer. The ship, which engaged in one of the first ironclad ship battles, in 1862, played a crucial role in the Civil War and was thought to have helped to save the Union. After the battle, the ship was being towed out to sea off North Carolina when it got caught in a big storm, capsized and sank. The remains of the sailors came aboard a commercial Delta flight, which arrived at Dulles yesterday morning.

Juan Garcia, an assistant secretary of the Navy, who presided over the arrival of the remains at Dulles, quoted in the WaPo: "It’s delivering on a commitment we make to every one of our sailors… you will to the maximum extent possible, you will be brought home… even if it takes a century and a half."

Carl Levin loved the Senate, hated the partisanship. After his announcement yesterday that he would not run for re-election next year – and thus give up the Senate Armed Services Committee chairmanship he has held for many years – there has been much speculation on whether Republicans would win his seat. But the real loss may be for the Senate, since Levin was an old-school dealmaker, a master of the Senate rules, and well-regarded as a kind and effective Senate leader. Levin was instrumental in getting Chuck Hagel through to confirmation, even if he didn’t prevent a filibuster that delayed the final vote last month. Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press’ Ron Dzwonkowski, now retired, wrote a colorful piece today that Levin enjoyed editorial board meetings with the paper as much as the paper’s editorial writers loved meetings with him. "… he clearly loved the Senate as it was, arcane rules and all, rather than the partisan snake pit it was becoming. The avuncular Levin counted Republican and Democratic colleagues among his close friends — political differences not withstanding — and clearly was unhappy with the chamber’s recent atmosphere. That may have had as much as anything to do with his decision to call it quits. He is a senator from another time, when the Senate really was something of a very exclusive club but also earned its description as ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body.’ No more. And no more of it for Carl Levin."

Sen. John McCain, in a statement late this morning: "Carl and I have served together on the Senate Armed Services Committee since I first joined the Senate in 1987. We have had our disagreements, sometimes passionate, as befits the serious nature of the Committee’s business and our obligation to do right by the men and women of the United States armed forces. Throughout these debates, the Committee has remained a haven of comity and bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized Washington. The fact that we have managed to maintain this through contentious times is a tribute to the steady and principled leadership Carl has provided as Chairman or Ranking Member since 1997. Despite the Committee’s heavy workload, the pressures of the next election, or the partisan quarrels that often roil the Senate, Carl has managed to keep us working together and delivered, for the 51st straight year, the National Defense Authorization Act. Working alongside Carl has been one of the great honors of my career."

Noting

  • BBC: China warns against North Korea escalation.   
  • Danger Room: Taiwan’s massive, mega-powerful radar system is finally operational.
  • Daily Beast: Good news: they hate me in Russia.  
  • Small Wars: Language and culture at DoD: synergizing complimentary instruction and building LREC competency.
  • American Prospect: A blank check for Israel: Bad idea.