Situation Report

Panetta divulges secrets to make cyber-security come alive

Who will be the next Marine “Ack-Mack?” The scariest moment in history just got scarier, Good-bye to Old Iron Jaw, and more.

Tonight, Panetta will tell a story about what he’s called a "Cyber Pearl Harbor" in an effort to bring the issue front-and-center for the U.S. government and the private sector — and for his own building, in which senior officers are still trying to figure out what DoD’s cyber-security policy should be exactly. In speaking in New York to the Business Executives for National Security this evening, Panetta’s biggest challenge is to tell a story about an decidedly un-sexy issue that is largely based on classified information. And Pentagon officials struggled to get just enough information de-classified to allow him to make a substantive speech. It’s always been difficult: a White House official told Killer Apps’ John Reed that telling the story of cyber-security is an intractable problem.

"Protecting ourselves in cyberspace is an important issue we need to talk about, but it’s exceptionally difficult to be forthcoming and reassuring when so much of our effort is classified or sensitive," the official told John. The last thing the government wants to do is "harm our ability to protect ourselves by putting al of our tactics, techniques and procedures out in the open" for the bad guys to see.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report, where we classify almost anything you send us on a need-to-see basis. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at Sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and we’ll put you on the list.

Foreign policy may well come up tonight during the veep debate. Joe Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will seek to expose Paul Ryan’s lack of foreign policy experience in a debate moderated by Martha Raddatz, herself a seasoned foreign affairs correspondent for ABC. This comes the day after Republicans on the Hill pummeled administration officials with questions about U.S. diplomatic security surrounding the attack in Benghazi — a potential vulnerability that Ryan, if it comes up, is expected to exploit.

Joe Biden thought his influence on foreign affairs would be weakened when he entered the White House but the opposite is true, writes James Traub on the "Biden Doctrine" on FP: "Biden has played a central role in White House decisions on policy in Afghanistan, Russia, China, Israel, and the Arab world, and his worldly pragmatism has helped shape a White House posture less starry-eyed, and perhaps also less hopeful, than many had expected at the outset of Obama’s tenure."

State was "excoriated" by a House panel yesterday for failing to have the proper amount of security in Libya, and witnesses and lawmakers pointed to State Department official Charlene Lamb as the person most directly responsible for rejecting multiple requests for increased security at the U.S. diplomatic missions there prior to the attack on Sept. 11, 2012. The Cable’s Josh Rogin reports: "During the hearing, the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August, placed the blame squarely on Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, whom they said was the official who denied those requests."

New Reuters: The Yemeni chief of security at the U.S. embassy was shot dead by a gunman on a motorcycle. The killing had al Qaeda’s fingerprints on it, Reuters reported.

Who will succeed Joe Dunford as ACMC? Probably Lt. Gen. Jay Paxton, Jr., but of course we’ve been wrong before. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron reports that there are other names as well: Paxton, now the commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune and the former J-3 on the Joint Staff, is in the running with Lt. Gen. George Flynn, currently the J-7 on the Joint Staff, and Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commandant for aviation. Any one of them could be chosen to succeed Gen. Joe Dunford, the sitting ACMC, who was finally nominated yesterday to command ISAF in Afghanistan. Both Paxton and Flynn are ground guys and Schmidle is an aviator. Traditionally the ACMC goes to a fly-guy, but since Commandant Gen. Jim Amos is an aviator, the Corps’ No. 2 position will likely go to a ground officer. Two aviators at the top would be a bridge too far for the tradition-bound Corps.

ISAF’s chief intelligence officer will be replaced by someone who doesn’t have Afghan battlefield experience. The Pentagon announced that the head of ISAF’s intelligence operations, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Jr., will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Gregg Potter. Potter will leave his post at the Army’s Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, Ariz. and head to Kabul; Ashley will leave Kabul and head to Fort Huachuca. Intel historian Matthew Aid writes that Potter doesn’t have any recent battlefield experience.

DoD announcement:

Matthew Aid:

One of the scariest moments in history just got scarier. Unbeknownst to the U.S. in 1962, the Soviets had brought about 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba, including 80 nuclear-armed front cruise missiles, 12 nuclear warheads for dual-use Luna short range rockets, and six nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers — and they were still there in November, long after the Cuban missile crisis was thought to have ended. "Even with the pullout of the strategic missiles, the tacticals would stay, and Soviet documentation reveals the intention of training the Cubans to use them," Svetlana Savranskaya reveals today on FP in documentation that is being published for the first time.

"Old Iron Jaw" takes his last breath. U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Basil Plumley died yesterday at a hospice in Georgia of cancer, a battle one news report said, "he simply could not win." Plumley, of course, was portrayed in 2002’s "We Were Soldiers," which depicted one of the first ground battles of the Vietnam War, with Mel Gibson playing Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Sam Elliot as Plumley, based on "We Were Soldiers Once… and Young" written by Moore and Joe Galloway.

"While I never knew CSM Plumley personally, I am terribly saddened and feel like I lost a true mentor," wrote Kerry Patton, combat disabled veteran, in the Examiner. "He was such a heroic man that many of us veterans aspired to one day be like him. He pushed his troops, loved his family and believed in America’s greatness. He was the epitome of the American soldier."

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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