The Navy, Marines don’t have to furlough civilians; Monica Medina leaves the front office; McCaskill isn’t buying what Franklin’s selling on sexual assault case; A Harrier pilot’s best man speech; And at Andrews, the cookie program crumbles; plus a little
- By Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.
By Gordon Lubold
The Navy and Marine Corps don’t have to furlough civilians to balance their budgets, potentially putting the services at odds with the rest of the Pentagon. For months, the Defense Department and the services have been in lockstep on how they each must use furloughs to help balance their shrinking budgets. Under the proposal first floated by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, as many as 800,000 DOD civilians would be forced on unpaid leave between now and October, saving hundreds of millions of dollars. But now, the Navy is trying to find a solution to get to zero furlough days, Situation Report has learned. Unlike the Army and the Air Force, the Navy says it has other ways to cut the roughly $300 million in expenditures it would save by furloughing its 201,000 civilian workers. But this isn’t all budgetary altruism on the Navy’s part: officials believe the cost of forcing unpaid leave on civilian workers, many of whom perform shipyard maintenance and other critical jobs, would be far greater over the long term than the savings they’d realize by sending them home. The Navy, an official said, has a math problem it can’t ignore.
"The Navy is prepared to follow OSD policy, which currently calls for 14 days of furlough beginning [in June], however, the Navy is pursuing an option to realize the $300 million in savings in other areas because the long-term costs of furlough is far more than the savings they’d realize in the short-term."
The Navy official said the "dialogue" between the services and OSD continues. "All involved are working toward a solution that makes the most sense both in terms of fiscal realities and the toll this takes on personnel."
Still, the revelation puts the Navy at odds with the Pentagon’s head shed, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which believes all the services, regardless of the budgetary circumstances in which they find themselves, must all pull together. Even if the Navy and Marine Corps could absorb budget cuts without furloughing their civilians, the Pentagon wants to spread the pain equally.
"There remains a desire for consistency across the department," a defense official told Situation Report. "One department, one DOD family… There has to be fairness on this and on other categories of the budget," the official said.
The Pentagon’s original plan was to furlough as many as 800,000 employees for as many as 22 days. It announced recently that it could cut that down to 14 days. But the defense official said the whole furlough initiative is being examined, and those 14 days could be reduced. Time is running out, however, since furloughs would begin in June and those affected must be notified weeks in advance. "The furlough policy remains very much under review," the official told Situation Report.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings, and military stories of success or excess.
Monica Medina, who worked in Panetta’s front office, has left the building. Medina, a special assistant and one of a small handful of close advisers to Panetta and then, briefly, to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left Friday to be executive director of Penn’s Wharton Public Policy Initiative, in Washington, a move that had been announced in mid-March. She starts tomorrow. Medina was in charge of the health of the force as well as operational energy issues for Panetta. Her departure leaves Bailey Hand and Marcel Lettre, acting chief of staff, in Hagel’s front office.
Sniffle, sniffle: Marine pilot does best man speech using flash cards from the cockpit of his plane. Watch the video of a Marine Harrier pilot who is deployed to Afghanistan giving the best man speech of the year for his brother from inside the cockpit of his Harrier jet. Who is he? He’s Marine Capt. Matthew Krivohlavy, with Marine Attack Squadron 231. Krivohlavy was unable to attend the wedding of his brother Brandon, and bride, Mandy, in Austin, Texas. ‘Everyone in the room was either crying or completely speechless. It was a very moving moment for everyone there,’ Brandon Krivohlavy commented on Reddit, and quoted on the UK’s Daily Mail, here. Watch the vid here.
At Andrews, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. It was a story that was too good to check, but we did anyway. A friend of Situation Report told us that the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies that have awaited the weary traveler in the "Distinguished Visitor Lounge" at Andrews Air Force Base — the special waiting area for the defense secretary, top brass, members of Congress, and other top officials and their entourages — was gone for good. The reaction was quick: sequester had killed the cookie program, which offered warmed chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, and if you were lucky, oatmeal raisin cookies on a faux silver platter as visitors waited to board their jet. But a call yesterday to the 89th Airlift Wing, responsible for the facility at Andrews, proved the too-good-to-be-true story wrong. Without naming Otis Spunkeyer as the company, a spokesman told us that the cookies have all along been donated but that the firm had closed a local distribution plant and thusly could no longer offer the cookies for free. The wing opted not to pay the charge — times is tough — and hence, the warmed cookie program at the Andrews DV Lounge has come to a close.
Claire McCaskill isn’t buying it. Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the Air Force commander who overturned the sexual-assault conviction of a star officer, explained his reasoning in a six-page letter to the service’s top civilian Mike Donley. In the March 12 letter, obtained yesterday by Situation Report and other news organizations, Franklin said that upholding the finding would have been cowardly given the evidence he reviewed. "Accusations by some that my decision was the result of either an apparent lack of understanding of sexual assault on my part, or that because I do not take the crime of sexual assault seriously are complete and utter nonsense," Franklin wrote. He cited a variety of factors which led him to conclude that Lt. Col. James Wilkerson did not assault a woman in his home, as the woman alleged.
But Franklin also said that witness testimony about the Wilkerson marriage "showed no perceptible tension or change in their relationship" after the night in question in what most legal experts would say was a subjective observation. "Had the alleged sexual assault taken place as the alleged victim claimed, it would be reasonable to believe that their relationship would change and that close friends would perceive this change." Franklin also considered the view of a witness who was not allowed to testify in court but who raised questions about the character and truthfulness of the alleged victim" — based on experiences from 10 years earlier. All of this led Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri, to question Franklin’s analysis. McCaskill: "This explanation crystalizes exactly why the convening authority should not have the unilateral ability to overturn a jury verdict — and why we need legislation that
restricts their ability to do so. This letter is filled with selective reasoning and assumptions from someone with no legal training, and it’s appalling that the reasoning spelled out in the letter served as the basis to overturn a jury verdict in this case."
Franklin did not sit in on the Article 32 hearing that found Wilkerson guilty, but under current regulations he has the ability to overturn such a sentence — a power that is now being reviewed under Hagel. Read Franklin’s letter here.
Want to navigate the intelligence community? Read the intelligence community’s new overview. The "IC" is actually composed of 16 intelligence community components, from the CIA to the Defense Intelligence Community to State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research to the Office of National Security Intelligence. This overview, released as part of the budget roll-out yesterday, explains what types of collection there are from HUMINT and SIGINT and MASINT, for the uninitiated, as well as requirements, planning and direction – and what intel can – and cannot – do.
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- BBC: China media: debates North Korea.
- Danger Room: Six weapons that love the new Pentagon budget.
- Battleland: Pentagon budget day: a procurement petri dish.
- WaPo (op-ed): Time to shake up the dysfunctional VA.
- Small Wars: Of ground hogs and ground combat.
- Duffel Blog: Defense Secretary put on restriction for taking duty van on late night beer run.