Situation Report

Air Force general dies in crash; Hagel gets to within 5 kms. of Syrian border; Dempsey in Beijing; Was Boston an intelligence failure?; And a little bit more.

Air Force general dies in crash; Hagel gets to within 5 kms. of Syrian border; Dempsey in Beijing; Was Boston an intelligence failure?; And a little bit more.

 

By Gordon Lubold

Air Force Maj. Gen. Joe Brown and his wife were killed. Brown, a bomber pilot with more than 4,300 flight hours under his belt and a recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross, was killed along with his wife, Sue, as he attempted to land a single-engine Cessna 210 near Williamsburg, Va. on Friday. Brown, who was apparently visiting his father in the area, was the commandant of the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at National Defense University in Washington – the former Industrial College of the Armed Forces, renamed last year. Brown was said to be well regarded on the NDU campus. NDU employees received an e-mail from Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin, president of the school, on Saturday, but the cause of the crash is as yet unclear. From Martin’s e-mail, obtained by Situation Report, in which Martin said the NDU family had lost "two of the brightest lights in the constellation that is the National Defense University:" "I have no words to capture my emotions right now.  General Joe Brown was simply the epitome of Air Force style, professionalism and grace.  There was no better leader here at NDU, and no better friend on our team.  I can’t get his ready smile and easy laugh out of my mind just now. Joe and Sue were deeply loved, admired and respected by all."

Brown’s career was marked by a historical flight over Iraq in March 2003 for which he received the Flying Cross. The WaPo: "On March 22, 2003, Brown, then a colonel, was tasked with flying his B-1 over classified locations in Iraq to destroy six Global Positioning System jamming towers, according to the citation. Coursing through ‘lethal airspace,’ Brown’s ‘extraordinary airmanship and bravery,’ allowed him to outmaneuver three surface-to-air missiles and dense antiaircraft fire to successfully bomb enemy towers. The strikes were crucial to the early stages of the war because they allowed other bombers to find their targets with greater accuracy. During the mission, Brown became the first B-1 pilot to penetrate Baghdad’s airspace."

Also killed in the crash: The Browns’ dog, Jackson.

The IDF is giving Hagel a tour of Tel Aviv and Golan. Chuck Hagel is on his first trip to Israel as defense secretary, where he is finalizing aspects of a $10 billion arms deal and reinforcing America’s commitment to Israel — and his own. The Israel Defense Forces just gave Hagel and his entourage a helicopter tour that included Tel Aviv and Golan, and they will return him to Jerusalem tonight. The tour, on Israeli Blackhawks, took the group to within five kilometers of the Syrian border to highlight the security challenges Israel confronts from the Syrian conflict. Earlier today, Hagel met with his counterpart, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Tel Aviv, and later today, he’ll meet with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. Tomorrow, he’ll meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the trip — Ziller Hagel, the secretary’s college-age son. Hagel, to reporters: "I particularly wanted him to accompany me here for this experience."

Hagel said he doesn’t think "there’s any daylight" between Israel and the U.S. over Iran. On the Doomsday plane ride overseas for his five-country tour, starting in Israel, Hagel was asked by a reporter if there were any differences between the way the U.S. and Israel sees the threat. "I think it’s clear in what I’ve seen in this job the last two months, that Israel and the United States see the threat of Iran exactly the same as do many other countries, not just in the Middle East.  So I don’t think there’s any daylight there," he said. "When you break down into the specifics of — of the timing of when and if Iran decides to pursue a nuclear weapon, there may well be some differences, but our — generally — …intelligence is — is generally pretty close to each other, as well as other intelligence agencies. But the bottom line is that Iran is a threat.  It’s a real threat.  And the United States’ policy has been very clear on this.  And I think everyone knows it.  As other nations, the — the Iranians must be prevented from developing that capacity to build a nuclear weapon and deliver it.  And you work it out from there."

Welcome to Monday’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.

Dempsey is in China. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey arrived in Beijing, where he was expected to be welcomed by a "full honors arrival" at the Defense Ministry and then immediately meet with his counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, hold a joint presser, and attend a dinner.

Dempsey: a "prolonged period of provocations" and a need for "sustained readiness" with North Korea. Yesterday, the chairman met with Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces, Korea, and the two met with Gen. Jung Seung-jo, Dempsey’s counterpart in South Korea. Dempsey received an update on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and was briefed on the Foal Eagle exercises, under which the U.S. has deployed ships and planes, countering the saber rattling from the North. Situation Report is also told that Dempsey wanted to "calibrate" the intel picture he gets regularly in Washington with Jung’s and Thurman’s on-the-ground perspectives. The meeting lasted about two hours.

From Col. Dave Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman: "General Dempsey noted that Seoul was rather normal, with life at normal patterns. However, he was told the ROK military remains at a heightened state of readiness.  The ‘newest insight,’ as he described it, was that the situation with NK seems to have moved from cyclical provocations to a ‘prolonged period of provocations,’ and with that comes the requirement for US and ROK to maintain and sustain heightened readiness." [The original post misidentified Col. Dave Lapan as a lieutenant colonel.]

Lapan also told us that interoperability between the U.S. and Republic of Korean forces and exercises are "two important elements" as the two countries look to create "sustained readiness" due to the tensions. 

Slipping in and out of consciousness: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Investigators are still waiting on the 19-year-old suspected bomber, who remains in a Boston hospital in critical condition, to get to the point where they can begin questioning him. Meanwhile, the WSJ reports this morning that "growing interest in religion" had begun to split the Tsarnaev family, with the division between Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, and the rest of the family.

The WSJ: "A close examination of the Tsarnaev family shows that, over the past five years or so, the personal lives of the family members slipped into turmoil, according to interviews with the parents, relatives and friends. The upheaval in the household was driven, at least in part, by a growing interest in religion by both Tamerlan and his mother."

Do the Boston bombings represent an intelligence failure? As investigators continue to sift through clues and await Tsarnaev’s recovery to the point where he can be interviewed, the issue of what was missed or not missed has become central to t
he discussion in the wake of last week’s bombings. Rep. Peter King, the Republican from New York who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, has called the FBI’s handling of the case an "intelligence failure." Russian officials tipped off the FBI’s legal attaché in the American Embassy in Moscow in 2011 to concerns about the older Tsarnaev, and investigators spoke with the older Tsarnaev and looked for other evidence of terrorist activity, but couldn’t find any, according to reports. That has prompted criticism like King’s. But Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican from Michigan who heads the House Intelligence Committee and is a former FBI agent, defended the agency on NBC’s "Meet the Press" yesterday. Rogers: "…the FBI did their due diligence, and did a very thorough job about trying to run that to ground and then asks some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification and, unfortunately, that intelligence service stopped cooperating. So what happens is that case gets closed down. He, we believe, may have actually traveled on an alias to get back to his home country and that seven months– six and a half months or so becomes extremely important. So you know he had some radicalization before he left. You know that he didn’t probably travel on his own name or some variation of his own name. And when he comes back, he has a renewed interest in that radicalization belief process, so he’s very devout. We know he was very religious, devout, and very active in the Boston Islamic society and a devout attender of– of prayers and mosque on Fridays. So you see something happening, and you can see it happening after that travel. And so that six and a half months becomes incredibly important. And it would lead one to believe that that’s probably where he got that final radicalization to push him to commit acts of violence and where he may have received training on what we ultimately saw last Monday." Full transcript of the show, here.

Pivoting

  • CS Monitor: North Korea: U.S. military braces for heightened readiness.
  • Reuters: Frustration mounts after Chinese earthquake.
  • FT: Resentment at North Korea turns to alarm.

The Stan

  • CNN: Taliban capture 10 after helicopter makes emergency landing.
  • National Review: (Bing West) Afghanistan the unknown.
  • Daily Mail: Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls taken to hospital after poison attack by Taliban.

Noting

  • WSJ: Prank and file: these military reports are out of line (Duffel blog).
  • Defense News: DOD request would redirect $7.5 billion. 
  • Battleland: The VA’s disability distress. 

Bombing

  • WaPo (blog): How the bombing will affect Washington.
  • 60 Minutes: The inside story of the Boston bombing investigation.
  • NBC:  Seven unanswered questions from bombing.
  • Reuters: Bombing suspect awaits charges.