FP’s Situation Report: That plan to move drone ops from CIA to DOD? Not happening right now; A plan forms to replace George Little at the Pentagon; Assad wants him some trucks from the U.N.; Bush’s bromance with Putin; and a bit more.
- 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
In May, the White House leaked word that it would start shifting drone operations from the shadows of the CIA to the relative sunlight of the Defense Department in an effort to be more transparent about the controversial targeted killing program. But six months later, the so-called migration of those operations has stalled, and it is now unlikely to happen anytime soon, Situation Report has learned. The anonymous series of announcements with remarks President Obama made on counterterrorism policy at National Defense University in which he called for "transparency and debate on this issue." A classified Presidential Policy Guidance on the matter, issued at the same time, caught some in government by surprise, triggering a scramble at the Pentagon and at CIA to achieve a White House objective. The transfer was never expected to happen overnight. But it is now clear the complexity of the issue, the distinct operational and cultural differences between the Pentagon and CIA and the bureaucratic politics of it all has forced officials on all sides to recognize transferring drone operations from the Agency to the Defense Department represents, for now, an unattainable goal.
A U.S. official told Situation Report: "The physics of making this happen quickly are remarkably difficult… The goal remains the same, but the reality has set in."
A former senior government official familiar with intelligence matters says part of the reason for the complexity of the issue of migrating operations is because there is a system the Agency has developed over 12 years and it’s not as simple as just handing it all over. "Building function is about moving knowledge as much as it is about moving aircraft," the person told Situation Report.
Another U.S. official told Shane Harris that there has not been some sort of policy reversal, and that the transition is moving forward, "but it obviously takes some time," the official said. "And as the process moves forward we also want to ensure that US capabilities remain robust and do not suffer." Read our exclusive on FP with Harris, here.
The U.S. is losing its advantage in spying. The NYT’s David Sanger: "A congressional panel created long before the recent revelations about government electronic spying operations issued a blistering report on Tuesday charging that the intelligence world’s research-and-development efforts are disorganized and unfocused. An unclassified version of the report, based on two years of work by independent experts and two officials from inside the agencies, concludes that the United States is losing its technological superiority over its rivals, which are gaining ‘asymmetric advantages’ by making their own investments in such efforts and, in some cases, stealing American inventions." Read the rest of his bit, here.
Want to know what the CIA told presidential candidates? Check out the new downloadable audio book by the CIA and Government Printing Office, here.
Tampa’s Jill Kelley (right, the one dragged into the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell-John Allen situation) writes in the WSJ this morning: "How the Government Spied on Me," here. An excerpt: "…We authorized the FBI to look at one threatening email we received, and only that email, so that the FBI could identify the stalker. However, the FBI ignored our request and violated our trust by unlawfully searching our private emails and turning us into the targets of an intrusive investigation without any just cause-all the while without informing us that they had identified the email stalker as Paula Broadwell, who was having an affair with Mr. Petraeus. (I have never understood why she was stalking me and my family. In any event, she was not charged with a crime.)"
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Who will replace George Little at the Pentagon? Unclear, but a list of names – some you might expect and some you might not – have emerged. At the same time, Situation Report is told (Inside Baseball Alert!) that the Public Affairs shop may return to the Doug Wilson-Geoff Morrell model, in which there is an Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and a press secretary/spokesman/talking head/spox who is a different person. (In the case under then Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Doug Wilson served as the ASD and Geoff Morrell as the spokesman. While each man was considered effective in their roles, many cringe at the notion that the Pentagon would return to that two-headed monster. But it’s possible that given the personalities, current demands and everything else that is involved, "OSD Public Affairs" will give that model another go, we’re told.
"Both models can work, but it depends fundamentally on how the new members of the team want to play ball," one insider told us. "Some people prefer management while others prefer media-facing roles." This could include bringing a senior military officer back into the mix in some form. So who’s being considered for one of the civilian roles? Shawn Turner, a former Marine who served in the White House and is now chief spokesman at the Office of National Intelligence, is on a short list. But so is Matthew Miller, a former spokesman at the Department of Justice, and Brent Colburn, former comms director at FEMA who worked on Obama’s re-elect. There are other names, including Jen Psaki, currently at State, Clark Stevens who has been at DHS and Price Floyd, now at BAE. But Floyd, the jocular King of CrossFit said this to Situation Report: "While I have lost weight recently and would therefore look better on camera, I have not been approached by the White House to be DoD Spokesman."
Carl Woog, now Assistant Press Secretary, will likely see an elevated role when everything shakes out. From a DOD official, to Situation Report last night: "Carl is a key senior strategist on Secretary Hagel’s public affairs team. He is relied upon not only to represent critical issues to the press, but to make sure that the Secretary’s public engagements help advance his key leadership priorities."
NPR’s Steve Inskeep was a fly on the wall at Chuck Hagel’s monthly lunch with the rank and file at the Pentagon. "You hear Hagel’s pat on the back of the uniform," it starts out as one lunch begins on the 8:55 minute piece. Then Inkseep and Hagel talk women in combat, domestic partnerships, the limits of American power and the expansion of military benefits. NPR’s bit, which ran just this morning, here.
At CSIS this week, former DepSecDef Bill Lynn, now with Finmeccanica, was interviewed by CSIS’ Sam Brannen, here about national security trends and challenges.
Assad’s plan for transferring chemical weapons abroad for destruction includes a request for heavy armored trucks and advanced comms gear. FP’s Colum Lynch with this exclusive: "… according to a confidential account of the plan reviewed by Foreign Policy, it includes 120 Syrian security forces, dozens of heavy, armored trucks, and an advanced communications network linking Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. The extensive request for equipment with both civilian and military applications has already triggered expressions of alarm from Western diplomats. ‘Let’s just say we will be looking at this list very skeptically, particularly items that could be diverted to a military program,’ said one Security Council diplomat." More here.
How Vlad seduced Bush 43, or how the president of good and evil bromanced Vladimir Putin – and how a warm friendship turned to ice. The NYT’s Peter Baker, writing on FP: "In the summer of 2006, President George W. Bush was relaxing at Camp David with the visiting prime minister of Denmark when the conversation turned to Vladimir Putin. It had been five years since Bush memorably peered into the Russian leader’s soul. But now hope had been replaced by exasperation. Bush regaled his guest with stories of aggravating private dealings with Putin that underscored their growing rift. Bush was astonished that Putin had tried to influence him by offering to hire a close friend of the president’s and he found Putin’s understanding of the world disconnected from reality. ‘He’s not well informed,’ Bush groused. ‘It’s like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong.’"
"…Whether Bush or anyone else ever actually "had" Putin in the first place is debatable at best. But the story of Bush’s eight-year pas de deux with the master of the Kremlin, reconstructed through interviews with key players and secret notes and memos, offers lessons for President Obama as he struggles to define his own approach to Putin and shape the future of the two nuclear powers." Read the rest here.
Nope, says Kerry, the Europe-U.S. missile defense system is on track despite diplomacy with Tehran. The WSJ’s Patryk Wasilewski, in Warsaw: "The U.S. said Tuesday it was going ahead with its missile-defense plans for Europe despite improving relations with Iran, one of the main threats the system is designed to counter. The U.S. expects to put land-based missile interceptors in northern Poland by 2018, three years after a site in Romania is to become operational. The base in Poland will seek to protect Europe and the U.S. from ballistic missile attacks ballistic missile attacks that could be launched mainly from Iran. On the only European stop of a weeklong tour focused on the Middle East, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked in Poland whether that element of the system could be abandoned, considering U.S. diplomacy and international talks with Iran over its nuclear program. ‘There is no agreement with Iran,’ Mr. Kerry told a news conference in Warsaw. ‘Nothing has changed and the plans for missile defense are absolutely on target,’ he added." Read the rest here.
ICYMI: Problems at Shaw Air Force Base and how officers (including two full-birds, five lieutenant colonels and a captain) apparently tolerated sexual harassment and assault. Air Force Times’ Kristin Davis: "A pair of yellow women’s panties hung for months in the mouth of a mounted tiger inside the 79th Fighter Squadron heritage room at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. Pornographic magazines were kept in a drawer in the 77th Fighter Squadron bar and offered as gifts during roll call in the 55th Fighter Squadron. Pictures of scantily clad women showed up on briefing slides there, and offensive images and song lyrics remained on a shared network accessible to hundreds of airmen despite repeated complaints, a command-directed investigation into misconduct within the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw found." More here.
Viral: Soldiers farewell haka in New Zealand, which starts out making you think you’re watching one thing when really you’re watching another, here.
First sergeant with GED tells Corporal: "You’ll never make it on the outside." From The Duffel Blog (and yes, dear readers, we understand TDB is satire but thanks for all your cards and letters informing us of same!): "A First Sergeant with more than 20 years of service in the Marine Corps and a high school equivalency degree told a Corporal being discharged after four years to attend college that there’s no way he’ll ever make it on the outside, sources confirmed. Cpl. Steven Winters, 23, an infantryman who served on multiple deployments and recently accepted to Columbia University in New York, will be ‘crawling back to the Corps within months,’ according to 1st Sgt. Ted Harris." Read the rest here.