Situation Report

FP’s Situation Report: The AF general in charge of ICMBs was drunk in Moscow; Mabus on the hot seat this ayem; Poll: Afghanistan not high on Americans’ list; War fears in South Sudan; Breaking: NSA intercepted Santa messages; and a bit more.

FP’s Situation Report: The AF general in charge of ICMBs was drunk in Moscow; Mabus on the hot seat this ayem; Poll: Afghanistan not high on Americans’ list; War fears in South Sudan; Breaking: NSA intercepted Santa messages; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

A general behaving badly: Air Force Gen. Mike Carey drank too much on an official visit to Moscow, insulted his Russian hosts and hung out with two women he met in a bar. Oh, and he’s also the guy in charge of the Air Force’s ICBMs. The WaPo’s Craig Whitlock: "…Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, who was commander of the Air Force’s arsenal of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, "acted in a manner that exceeded the limits of accepted standards of good conduct" during a four-day visit to Moscow in July, according to an investigation conducted by the Air Force inspector general. Carey’s behavior stunned his aides and other colleagues traveling with him for a nuclear security exercise and meetings with Russian officials. They said he started drinking during a stopover in Zurich and kept it up during three days in Moscow, causing a string of gaffes and embarrassments that led Air Force officials to relieve him of his command.

"Carey was fired in October from his job as commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for maintaining and operating the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the time, Air Force leaders said he was under investigation for ‘personal misbehavior’ but divulged few details because the case was pending.  The Air Force released the partly redacted 44-page investigative report Thursday in response to requests filed by reporters under the Freedom of Information Act… The report says that Carey reported his contact with the foreign women upon his return to the United States and gave their business cards to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. They were not identified in the report. Although Carey defended his actions to investigators, other members of his delegation said they were shocked by his behavior. ‘I realized that this was putting us all at risk, especially Russia and women, and I just wanted nothing to do with that,’ a female U.S. official, whose name was redacted from the report, told investigators."

Wait, wha? Whitlock: "…Carey received a ‘letter of counseling’ for his actions and is now assigned as a special assistant to the commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. Although he was removed from his command job at the 20th Air Force, he retains his rank and does not face any other disciplinary measures, Air Force officials said." Read the rest here.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of Situation Report where we note that we’ll soon be going on holiday hiatus – Monday is our last day for awhile. In the meantime, stay in touch.

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Page One: Obama threatens to veto Iran sanctions. The WSJ’s Carol Lee and Jay Solomon: "The White House issued a rare veto threat in response to a bipartisan Senate bill that would slap Iran with new sanctions if it violates an interim deal reached last month to curb its nuclear program. The threat sets up a standoff in the new year between President Barack Obama and more than two dozen Senate Democrats and Republicans who introduced the legislation on Thursday. The challenge to Mr. Obama is particularly stark because half of the lawmakers sponsoring the new bill are from his own party. The bill could also imperil Mr. Obama’s efforts to reach a diplomatic end to the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, which administration officials hope will be a signature achievement of his second term… Iranian officials didn’t comment Thursday on the introduction of the legislation. But in recent days they have described Iranian President Hasan Rouhani as in a power struggle with hard-liners in Iran’s military and clergy over the November agreement with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, a bloc called the P5+1. Any moves by the U.S. to impose new sanctions on Tehran, said these officials, could weaken Mr. Rouhani’s hand." Read the rest here.

NDAA: Hagel is pleased. The Senate last night gave its final approval to the defense funding bill – the National Defense Authorization Act – by voting for it 84-15. The House had already passed the bill. In a statement from a defense official: "Secretary Hagel is pleased the House and now the Senate has voted to support a bill that grants the Defense Department critical authorities and reforms how the military will be able to prosecute sexual assault cases. The Secretary continues to believe that sexual assault is one of the most vexing challenges facing the military.  We’ll move out smartly to implement these new authorities once they’re signed into law."

The bill changes the legal landscape for sexual assault cases in the mil. The WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe: "Congress passed a broad set of changes to U.S. military personnel policy late Thursday, forcing the Pentagon to revamp how it deals with cases of sexual assault and rape in the ranks. The changes would be a victory for the estimated tens of thousands of troops who have been sexually abused in recent years, as well as a triumph for the growing number of women serving in Congress, who pushed for reform."

What does the legislation do? O’Keefe, con’t: "The legislation would end the statute of limitations for cases of sexual assault or rape; bar military commanders from overturning jury convictions in sexual assault and rape cases; make it a crime to retaliate against people who report such crimes; mandate the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of such crimes; and give civilian defense officials more control over prosecutions. Although significant, the changes would stop short of what some advocates want." More here.

Murray might be backing away from the COLA cut. Politico’s Austin Wright: "Sen. Patty Murray is distancing herself from a cut in military pensions in the budget deal she brokered with Rep. Paul Ryan.

Her unease about a key element of her own deal, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to President Barack Obama, comes amid a backlash from veterans groups and Senate defense hawks that has put her and her colleagues in a tough spot going into an election year. Murray’s response: The pension cut isn’t final.

Murray on the Senate floor: "We wrote this bill in a way that will allow two years before this change is implemented so that Democrats and Republicans can keep working to either improve this provision or find smarter savings elsewhere." More here.

The picture of Afghanistan is falling off America’s piano: 66 percent say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, ac
cording to a new poll.
"Americans express near-?record discontent and regret over the 13-year war in Afghanistan, during which 2,289 U.S. troops have died and more than 19,000 have been wounded, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Fully 66 percent of Americans say the battle, which began with nearly unanimous support, has not been worth fighting. A majority of respondents have doubted the war’s value in each Post-ABC poll since 2010, with current disapproval only one percentage point below July’s record mark. A record 50 percent now "strongly" believe the war is not worth its costs. However, and this is important: "Despite the skepticism, a 55 percent majority favors keeping some U.S. forces in Afghanistan for anti-insurgency operations and training, while just over four in 10 prefer removing all troops." Read the rest here.

Standing at a precipice: War fears mount in South Sudan. The NYT’s Rick Gladstone and Alan Cowell with a London dateline: "The United Nations said on Friday it had sent helicopters to rescue personnel from a base in South Sudan that came under lethal attack as a political crisis worsened significantly and President Obama warned that the world’s youngest country ‘stands at the precipice.’ The number of civilians seeking refuge in the United Nations’ other facilities there exceeded 30,000 and diplomats expressed fears about the potential for a civil war. Britain, which began evacuating its nationals on Thursday, said Friday that it would send a second airplane to Juba, the capital. ‘We strongly advise all British nationals in South Sudan to leave the country if they can do so safely,’ the Foreign Office said, adding that it might become more difficult to escape if the situation worsened further. The United States suspended operations at its embassy in Juba this week and offered similar advice to Americans." More here.

The Navy scandal widens. The NYT’s Chris Drew and Danielle Ivory: "Amid a scandal that has already ensnared two ship supply companies in allegations of overbilling the Navy, a third firm that provides services to the Navy’s fleet has placed one of its senior executives on leave over questions about how he handled Navy contracts at another company. The third firm, Multinational Logistic Services, known as MLS, is the Navy’s largest ship supply company, with $346 million in contracts for ports in Africa, the Mediterranean, Central America and the Pacific…

"The questions about Mr. Khan now mean that companies that provide security and dockside services for the Navy in almost every corner of the globe have been touched by the controversy. The Navy suspended Inchcape last month from winning new federal business over allegations of overbilling the Navy for services in the Middle East and Africa. In September, the Navy arrested the owner of its main ship supply company in the Pacific, Leonard Glenn Francis, on charges that he bribed Navy officials to help him overcharge the Navy. Now, with questions arising about Mr. Khan’s move to MLS, a growing number of government contract experts say that abuses in the ship supply industry are so widespread that the Navy should cancel all such contracts and revamp its contracting system." More here.

Ray Mabus is at the podium today in the Pentagon to talk contracting. The Navy Secretary will brief reporters today at 9:45 a.m. on "husbanding policies and contracting initiatives." Should be able to watch it live here.

Hagel and Dempsey do a year-end briefing for reporters. The two appeared in the briefing room – 25 minutes after starting time in what is becoming SOP – and took questions on a wide variety of topics.

Hagel on military compensation reform: "We also recognize that we can no longer put off military compensation reform. DOD’s leadership, Chairman [Gen. Martin] Dempsey, the service chiefs, the service secretaries, and myself, we all know that we need to slow cost growth in military compensation. Otherwise, we’ll have to make disproportionate cuts to military readiness and modernization. DOD cannot sustain these current programs as they are structured. We will work with Congress to bring the rate of growth of our compensation and benefits programs in line with budget limitations and fiscal realities. We know that many proposals to change military compensation will be controversial and unpopular…Tough decisions will have to be made on compensation. The leadership of DOD is prepared to engage the Congress in achieving compensation reform. But any changes to cost-of-living adjustments should not apply to medically disabled retirees. These retirees need to be exempted from the changes in the budget agreement just passed by Congress."

Dempsey on Pakistan and problems with retrograde at Torkham Gate: "I mean, it is about options. We have the finest logistics architecture and enterprise in the world, that is to say, the Department of Defense, United States military. We’ll get it done. It may be more expensive if it — if this persists. We’re engaged with our Pakistani partners, but it won’t affect our — it won’t affect the way we operate, nor the way we retrograde."
Dempsey on worries that the Afghanistan security forces are cutting deals with the Taliban like what occurred recently in Sangin – and why they need a security agreement: "I think if it — if it spread, if it — if it affected the upcoming elections in any way, it could become malign. It’s somewhat predictable, by the way, as the secretary said, but I want to highlight, this is exactly why we need the BSA [bilateral security agreement] to be signed, because what hangs in the balance, the longer the BSA is unresolved, is the confidence of the people of Sangin questioning whether we’re going to actually be there for them and continue to allow the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] to develop so that it can counter the Taliban’s influence. So if you want an example of why we need the BSA signed soon, there’s one."

Hagel on why a security agreement with Afghanistan is important now and why Afghans need the bilateral security agreement: "…Everything works off of confidence. Markets work off confidence. We all work off confidence.

If there is a drop-dead deadline for signing an agreement with Afghanistan – why is that? Dempsey: "…there’s physics involved, but we continue to assess that based on how the lines of communication are available to us. Yeah, there’s physics."

Hagel on his exchange with Egypt’s Minister of Defense al-Sisi on charges against Morsi: "…what I said to him was, which I have been consistently saying to him, is that every time one of these developments occur, the world sees that. And we see it. And we in the United States, I think, most people in most of the world wants a stable, secure, free, democratic Egypt. And most countries want to help them get there. But when these kind of developments occur, that sets back the effort." Read the whole transcript of yesterday’s briefing here.

Hagel criticized the Chinese Navy for the incident with the Cowpens. The NYT’s Thom Shanker: "The
Chinese Navy has been "irresponsible," and its actions risk escalating tensions with the United States, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday in the highest-level rebuke of Beijing since a Chinese warship came dangerously close to an American guided missile cruiser this month… The defense secretary said that the two ships came within 100 yards of each other, and Pentagon officials disclosed that the Cowpens had to carry out emergency maneuvers to avoid hitting the Chinese vessel. Mr. Hagel, at a Pentagon news conference, said the decision by the Chinese warship ‘was not a responsible action.’ ‘It was unhelpful,’ he said. ‘It was irresponsible.’ More here.

Apropos of nothing: kid channeling Mike Jackson has all the moves on this viral vid. Wanna feel good? Click here.  

Is the A-10 a CAS "wonder weapon" – or is it boneyard bound? The dynamic duo of Colin Clark and Sydney Freedberg team up to help answer the question: "The A-10 Warthog is ugly, tough, lethal, and fairly flexible. Its famous 30mm gun can destroy tanks or other armored vehicles with remarkable efficiency, not to mention enemy troops. Its titanium tub of a cockpit protects the plane’s pilot from most ground fire. Its pilots are trained to fly low and slow and to kill the enemy even when he is within yards of US forces. The Army and Marines love the Warthog. In short, the A-10 appears to be the exemplar of Close Air Support, protecting Marines and Army troops when they face being overwhelmed by the enemy. Some members of Congress, with an eye on bases in their states and districts, love the plane as well and have championed legislation blocking the plane’s retirement.

"Why, then, people ask, is the Air Force seriously considering sending the Warthogs to the great boneyard and their pilots to other missions? The answer is complex, but it boils down to three things: money, smart bombs, and threats." Read the rest of the tale, here.

Merry Christmas: NSA intercepted messages to Santa. The Duffel Blog: "The National Security Agency routinely intercepts children’s letters to Santa, internal agency documents have revealed. The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex…" Read the rest here but note that the url didn’t work at Situation Report blast time – suspicious!