What George Flynn will tell you about cuts at NDU
Insider attacks are the new signature attack in Afghanistan, what Yemen’s Hadi fears, and more.
Welcome to Monday's edition of FP's Situation Report. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at email@example.com. Sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN
Welcome to Monday’s edition of FP’s Situation Report. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for Situation Report here: http://bit.ly/NCN9uN
When George Flynn talks about proposed cuts at NDU, he repeatedly refers to the "new fiscal environment." The Pentagon’s Joint Staff is preparing a final proposal in the next few weeks to cut as much as 12 percent from the budget of National Defense University in Washington. Those cuts would narrow some of NDU’s research and re-emphasize the link between research and education. Lt. Gen. George Flynn, the J-7 on the Joint Staff assembling the proposal, says it would also keep NDU’s budget sustainable at a time when departments across DoD are realizing that after seemingly unlimited growth for the last 10 years, the spending party is over.
"Here’s the reality, we are in a new fiscal environment, so you have to be able to justify everything you do based on the mission you’re supposed to execute," Flynn told Situation Report in what we believe is the first time he’s spoken out on the controversial issue.
Naturally, there are critics to what Flynn is doing. There are those who fear that such proposals could drain the lifeblood of the military’s premier educational and research facility, which animates inter-agency and international research initiatives. Critics, including those on the Hill, say the Joint Staff exhibits an odd zeal to cutting NDU programs and hasn’t put the proper analysis behind the proposals to justify them.
"There is certainly fat there and room for consolidation," said one Senate staffer. But the Pentagon is taking a hatchet to small amounts of money that can have a large impact on vital programs: "We’re not convinced that they are going about this in a way that preserves the missions of some of these organizations," the staffer told Situation Report.
Read more on the NDU cuts below.
Meanwhile, a deadly incident in Afghanistan’s Wardak province over the weekend has raised a number of questions as to whether it was another insider attack or a conventional insurgent attack. Either way, two Americans and three Afghans are dead, and ISAF and Afghan officials are scrambling to figure out what happened. ISAF initially reported the incident as another insider attack, then retracted that on Sunday. Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of ISAF, in a presser yesterday: "We are trying to establish whether it was an insider attack or whether the initial exchange of fire was provoked by insurgent fire. That is not clear. But as I’ve indicated, there is a report of insurgent firing having taken place. So we need to establish the facts."
In a "60 Minutes" interview, Gen. John Allen told Lara Logan to expect more insider attacks. Logan: "Should Americans brace themselves for more attacks, is this going to continue?" Allen: "It will. The enemy recognizes this as a vulnerability. In Iraq, the signature weapon system that we hadn’t seen before was the IED. We had to adjust to that. Here, I think the signature attack that we’re beginning to see is going to be the insider attack."
Karzai, on the attacks: "These attacks are sad, and this is something I’ve discussed in detail, something that I bear responsibility for, to correct."
Taliban commander, to Logan, on using al Qaeda to build IEDs and how they’re using insider attacks: "This is part of our new military strategy. We have our people in the Afghan police and the Army and the orders come from the top."
Forget about the future of warfare being in the air and on the sea. Even though the Army "seems to be struggling to express a coherent narrative about its future," as Doug Ollivant, writing on FP, argues, it is still the service most likely to be called on in future conflicts. http://bit.ly/S77jEC
Yemeni President Hadi believes civil war in Yemen could be "worse than Afghanistan." Hadi praised, even marveled, at U.S. drone strike capability and said that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, had reached "the beginning of the end" of its campaign of terror, but warned that his country could easily descend into civil war if a national dialogue doesn’t address deep political and societal rifts within Gulf States. On FP. http://bit.ly/R2CEng
NDU cuts, continued. For Flynn, it’s a question of maintaining a revered institution but focusing its research in a way that informs its educational components. But it’s also about numbers. He looks at a budget that has grown from $46 million in 2001 to over $120 million (or as much as $143 million, depending) today. Much of that can be attributed to salaries for a growing number of professors and analysts and others — more than 950 in all — at a time when the size of the student body has stayed about the same, Flynn says. In February, he said, NDU was $2 million in the hole in their personnel budget, and the Pentagon had to come up with the shortfall – a sign, he says, of spending gone amok.
That growth in its budget also paid for the creation of new centers — now 20 in all — and five separate colleges. Flynn believes mismanagement of the university allowed programs to multiply like bunnies, each creating its own, redundant administrative and information technology support needs.
"If every center has independent administration, independent budget execution, I mean you have no efficiencies, you can’t understand how you’re spending your money, you’ve created a large overhead bill," Flynn says. As one example of how management of the university was not able to keep up with spending, Flynn pointed to a study that showed NDU failed to address information technology problems 10 years ago, then got a "repeat finding" 10 years later.
"This has been a very deliberate process, we have engaged the key stakeholders to make sure that we’re going to be able to make sure we can do the things we need to be able to do in the projected fiscal environment," says Flynn.
The other side agrees with much of Flynn’s assessment, but clearly not all of it. They don’t like how far he’s taking it, and they don’t believe the way he couches the growth of NDU’s budget is apples-to-apples. Some of the growth in the budget is due to interagency transfers — reimbursable expenses from other Defense Department departments — that muddy a clear-eyed view of NDU’s budgetary growth.
"Some of the numbers the Joint Staff have are misleading because they don’t explain where some of these [additions] come from — it’s a little bogus," said the Senate staffer.
Flynn counters that some of those agencies that were to reimburse NDU don’t always do it, and that that means taking money from the university’s core budget.
But some of the dissension over the NDU budget may have reached its peak. In fact, some of the behind-the-scenes acrimony may be beginning to subside, at least in some quarters.
Another individual familiar with, and concerned about, the cuts says that Flynn’s coming proposals may not be as bad as they were going to be.
"You can trim a bit, but this was not trimming, this was a meat axe, they were not using a scalpel," said the individual of the Pentagon’s original plans. "Having said that, we went through a year long debate about the research program, and much of it will survive. Wiser heads prevailed."
Flynn will present his proposal to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, in about three weeks, he said.
Copy of proposed cuts obtained by FP in a piece that appeared this summer by Michael Peck: http://bit.ly/S2dpFf
- The Daily Beast: The intel behind the Obama administration’s line on Libya. http://bit.ly/Vi3taQ
- Fox: Romney camp joins in calls for clearer explanation on Libya. http://fxn.ws/ScZRb8
- The Cable: Dems Defend Rice. http://bit.ly/JyqV
- New York magazine: Libya issue creates rifts within Romney camp. http://bit.ly/TZ0nuB
- Reuters: Fighting continues in Syria’s Aleppo. http://bit.ly/QFO9DT
- NPR (blog): Syrian-American doctors head to the battle zone. http://n.pr/UBYyyj
- BBC: African Union, Somali troops enter Kismayo. http://bbc.in/R6PSPU
- Reuters: Hundreds of Somali government allied forces enter Ksmayo. http://bit.ly/SfW64C
- All Africa: Kir and Bashir: Brothers in oil. http://bit.ly/PRtGKp
- Angola Press: South Sudan violence means some aid is suspended. http://bit.ly/R6TUIc
Eleven Years and Counting
- CBS: Afghan blast kills 14, including three NATO troops.
- Agenzia Giornalistica Italia: ExxonMobil loses interest in Afghanistan. http://bit.ly/ViIdBL
- DVIDS: ISAF statement on Wardak attack. http://bit.ly/ViIKDU
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. Twitter: @glubold
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.