Situation Report

Kerry mending fences in Egypt; Killing a kitchen in a bomber; Playing it safe on compensation reform; Attorneys: Fat Leonard got Navy secrets in return for Gaga tickets; and a bit more.

Kerry mending fences in Egypt; Killing a kitchen in a bomber; Playing it safe on compensation reform; Attorneys: Fat Leonard got Navy secrets in return for Gaga tickets; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

John Kerry is working to mend fences in Egypt. The Guardian: "The US secretary of state, John Kerry, met his Egyptian counterpart, Nabil Fahmy, on Sunday in an attempt to mend the frayed relationship between America and Egypt two weeks after Fahmy said the two countries’ alliance was in turmoil. US-Egyptian relations have been strained since the July overthrow of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Though the US has consistently stopped short of terming Morsi’s removal a coup, in October it suspended parts of its annual aid package to Egypt in reaction to the new administration’s violent treatment of Morsi’s supporters. The move led some Egyptian officials to disclose that they were looking elsewhere for donors of aid money and military equipment." More here.

The trial of deposed leader Mohammed Morsi began in Egypt, Al Jazeera, here.

The Arab League backs peace talks, urges the opposition to go. Reuters this hour: Arab states formally endorsed proposed peace talks to end the Syrian civil war that have been delayed by disputes between world powers and divisions among the opposition. A final communiqué after an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Sunday called on the opposition swiftly to form a delegation under the leadership of the mainstream Syrian National Coalition, to attend the ‘Geneva 2′ talks. The Arab League’s position indicated Gulf rivals Qatar and Saudi Arabia –  who have backed different rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad – had put their differences aside to urge opposition chief Ahmad Jarba to head to Geneva. But even with regional diplomatic weight thrown behind the talks, it is unclear when they will go ahead and what they can achieve. The mainly exiled political opposition has limited clout over rebel fighters on the ground, who include al Qaeda-linked brigades." More here.

Seven ways Saudi could mess with the U.S., by Simon Henderson on FP, here.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report where we note today in 1979 in Tehran was the beginning of the 444-day hostage crisis. And a special welcome to the scores of folks who asked us to sign them up for Situation Report in the last few days since we first reported that the Pentagon’s Early Bird was dead. We’re very happy to have you. If anyone else out there misses the Bird, we’ll be glad to sign you up to our morning report. Sign up for Situation Report by sending us a note at and we’ll stick you on. 51,000 people can’t be wrong! Thanks for joining us. If you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here.

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A kitchenette was killed on the design of the Air Force’s new top secret plane of the future as the Pentagon "toils to build a bomber on a budget." WSJ’s Julian Barnes: "When a military contractor showed Col. Chad Stevenson a design for the Air Force’s top secret plane of the future, he began to worry.They were showing this really nice fold out bed, this nice refrigerator and microwave, a kind of lounge-provision area," Col. Stevenson recalled of the recent design. The contractor, Lockheed Martin, didn’t offer an estimate for such flying comforts. But Col. Stevenson imagined a publicity nightmare in the making: a $300,000 kitchenette as the latter-day symbol of Pentagon excess-the $600 toilet seat for the 21st century. The kitchenette was killed.

"Such financial considerations are vital to the Air Force’s most important project today: building a new long-range bomber to replace the iconic and aging B-52s and B-1s that have come to represent America’s domination of the sky. It is the job of Col. Stevenson and a small group of Air Force colleagues to guard against improvidence and any untested technologies that could lead the grand project-expected to cost upwards of $55 billion-down the path the Pentagon often travels of cost-overruns and blown deadlines. Read the rest here.

What is it with kitchens? Didn’t a kitchenette kill the new Marine One helicopter? Yup. Then Defense Secretary Bob Gates killed the Marine One replacement largely due to cost – and the existence of a kitchen in the galley. That led President Barack Obama at one point to muse that he didn’t need to cook a meal while under nuclear attack. More here.  

Defense News’ Chris Cavas, the Captain of Navy ship knowledge, interviews Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Mike Petters, here.

Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson, on why multi-year procurements have made acquisition more efficient, here.

When it comes to compensation reform, there don’t seem to be any new ideas. Quietly on Friday, DOD made its official recommendation to the congressional commission charged with tackling military retirement and compensation reform. But as the Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman points out this morning, the recommendation offered no new ideas or detailed suggestions. "They punted," Mike Hayden, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, told Tilghman.

Tilghman: "The three-page letter from Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recycles a few budget-cutting proposals that were floated earlier this year – limiting troops’ annual pay raises, increasing Tricare fees, etc – but makes virtually no mention of the hot-button issue of military retirement. The letter frankly acknowledges that fact. ‘This letter has focused on military pay and benefits other than retirement,’ it states. ‘Our staff also has expertise on military retirement. Although we have not made any specific retirement proposals, we would be glad to discuss our thoughts on the military retirement system informally with the Commission.’ Read the rest here.

Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers air fresh concerns about the NSA on CBS, the WaPo’s Holly Yeager, here. Rogers, quoted by Yeager on Face the Nation: "I think there’s going to be some best-actor awards coming out of the White House this year and best-supporting-actor awards coming out of the European Union."

"How very insulting." A letter to the editor of the WSJ about the allies the U.S. didn’t spy on.

Read FP’s The NSA and State go to War with Each Other, by FP’s Yochi Dreazen, here.

The U.S. spent billions on poppy reduction in Afghanistan but has little to show for it. The WaPo’s Ernest Londono: "…Despite a U.S. investment of nearly $7 billion since 2002 to combat it, the country’s opium market is booming, propelled by steady demand and an insurgency that has assumed an increasingly hands-on role in the trade, according to law enforcement officials and counternarcotics experts. As the war economy contracts, opium poppies, which are processed into heroin, are poised to play an ever larger role in the country’s economy and politics, undercutting two key U.S. goals: fighting corruption and weakening the link between the insurgency and the drug trade." More here.

Karzai criticizes the U.S. for the drone strike that killed Mehsud last week. CNN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the timing of the U.S. drone strike that killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban last week, his office said in a statement. Karzai made the comments when he met with a U.S. congressional delegation in Kabul on Sunday evening, the statement said. The Afghan President expressed hope that the death of the Pakistani Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, would not undermine cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at achieving a successful peace process. Mehsud, who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in a 2009 attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan, was killed Friday in a drone strike in northwestern Pakistan, senior U.S. and Pakistani officials said last week." More here.

So attorneys say a gregarious Malaysian businessman got a Navy commander to pass classified secrets in return for Gaga tickets. You remember the story of Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, suspected of passing confidential information on ship routes? There’s new information. AP’s Julie Watson: "Nicknamed "Fat Leonard," the gregarious Malaysian businessman is well known by U.S. Navy commanders in the Pacific, where his company has serviced warships for 25 years. But prosecutors in court papers say Leonard Francis worked his connections to obtain military secrets by lining up hookers, Lady Gaga tickets and other bribes for a U.S. commander, in a scandal reverberating across the Navy. The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date. Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, according to the court documents." More here.

Did you wonder which Gitmo detainee was heard yelling in the "60 Minutes" piece last night? The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg has the answer: "Guantánamo detainee Shaker Aamer shouts, ‘Tell the world the truth,’ in a rare clip that survived censorship to emerge from the detention center in southeast Cuba, posted on the CBS website Friday. Attorney Clive Stafford Smith identified the former British resident as the prisoner under lockdown who can be heard shouting at a 60 Minutes crew in a story on Guantánamo that’s scheduled to air Sunday. Aamer, born in Saudi Arabia, is 44, has a wife and four children in London, and is among 84 captives cleared for release from the detention center since 2009. CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl described the episode, and aired the clip, in an interview on Friday’s CBS This Morning – but did not identify the prisoner. Aamer is among Guantánamo’s best-known captives because of a campaign to have him reunited with his family in Britain rather than having him returned to Saudi Arabia. Stahl said she experienced "horrible emotions" hearing "that man yelling" at the CBS crew while it filmed inside Guantánamo’s maximum-security Camp 5 lockup in September.

Shaker Aamer shouts during the 60 Minutes segment: "Please, we are tired…Either you leave us to die in peace – or either tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what’s happening."

As of Friday, Rosenberg writes, the Pentagon held 164 captives at the prison in Cuba, just three of them convicted of war crimes – and 14 of them classified by U.S. Navy prison doctors as hunger strikers. Rosenberg’s story here. The 60 Minutes segment, here. 

By the way, the new DASD for Western Hemisphere Affairs, to include South and Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, Rebecca Bill Chavez, starts this week at the Pentagon. The U.S. Naval Academy professor did a year as a strategic adviser at the Office of Secretary of Defense between 2009-2010 and drafted what was ultimately known as the "Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement." The job had been vacant since Frank Mora left almost a year ago for Florida International University.

Help wanted: OSD’s policy shop has seven vacancies, including Kath Hicks’ old job, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Policy; and the top policy job now held by Jim Miller, will soon be vacant as he is expected to be leaving soon. Check the Policy Classifieds here.

ICYMI: A Michigan man claims he was the one who tipped off investigators on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts – and now he wants his money. AP’s Jeff Karoub: A Michigan man claims he tipped federal investigators to the location of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan eight years before his killing and has hired attorneys to help him collect the $25 million reward. The al-Qaida leader was killed in May 2011 during a Navy SEAL raid on the three-story compound. U.S. officials have said the house wasn’t built until 2005, and Pakistani officials have said they believe he moved there in the summer of that year. A letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a Chicago-based law firm representing Grand Rapids resident Tom Lee says the 63-year-old gem merchant reported the location of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in 2003. The letter sent by the Loevy & Loevy law firm to FBI Director James Comey in August says a Pakistani intelligence agent told Lee that he escorted bin Laden and his family from Peshawar to Abbottabad." More here.