Situation Report

A weekly digest of national security, defense, and cybersecurity news from Foreign Policy reporters Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer, formerly Security Brief. Delivered Thursday.

Panetta: al Qaeda in Mali has to be stopped

The Army’s green movement, Dakota Meyer on being told “no,” and more.

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

Leon Panetta believes the U.S. and its partners have to go after al-Qaeda wherever it lives — including Mali. But that doesn’t mean it will send troops there; it has to be a joint effort with local governments, Panetta said yesterday at the Pentagon. Panetta: "we have to ensure that al Qaeda has no place to hide and that we have to continue to go after them wherever — wherever they are, wherever they try to develop a command-and-control capability from which they could conduct attacks, either in Europe or on this country," he told reporters. "I believe the effort now ought to be to work with nations in that region to ensure that al Qaeda does not develop that kind of base in Mali. But it ought to be an effort that is developed in conjunction with other countries in the region that share the same concern."

Mali may need 3,200 troops to fight al Qaeda in the north. The African Union pledged to mobilize troops to fight Islamic radicals in Mali’s north and is writing a "final operational plan" for the African-led force to be completed by the end of the month. But the numbers of troops needed is high, and preparing those troops and actually sending them there to begin the offensive might not happen for many more months.

Meanwhile, It’s no longer enough to train soldiers to have strong leadership and combat skills. They now need to be "good power and energy managers." The Army is changing the way it thinks about energy use in war and at home to save money and, ultimately, to mitigate the perils soldiers face in the field. From insulating tents to ending the practice of obsessively changing flashlight batteries, the Army is seeing the (green) light, officials tell Situation Report.

Across the military, officials have been mandated to come up with more sustainable weapon and mobility systems that meet higher energy-use standards and slowly, gradually force the military into using less energy. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has pushed the idea of creating "the Great Green Fleet," using bio-fuels to fuel ships. That effort has had mixed results, in part because Congress remains dubious about the investment it will take for the military to create more sustainable systems. Indeed, the up-front costs are high, but there is increasing acceptance in the military that it has to change the way it thinks about energy. In the long run, the bill payers are paying either way.

"It’s pay me now, or pay me later," says Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, the Army’s top logistician.

More on the Army’s green movement below.

MOH recipient Dakota Meyer, the former Marine sergeant, describing what he did during the firefight of Ganjgal in 2009 on Jon Stewart last night after not getting the response he needed from higher-ups and acting on his own: "Finally we just [went in] because it’s simple. We were taught obedience to orders, but I can tell you what we’re taught more importantly is a brotherhood, and it’s about doing what’s right…"

On that day: "You take your worst day you could ever imagine, then multiply it by a million, and it’s just like, we just started laughing."

On working autonomously: "It’s so frustrating for us over there because you’ve got a guy like me that’s on the ground… if you’re going to send me out on a patrol and you’re going to trust me enough to go on a patrol without you coming with me, then let me make my own decisions, and if you’re not there, then if you want to make the decision, then how about you get up and get on the patrol with me because you’ll make a different decision when you’re getting shot at then you would sitting in a room drinking coffee."

Meyer’s new book, "Into the Fire," was written with Bing West, the author and former assistant secretary of defense.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

Who said what? Read 15 statements on foreign policy and national security and figure out if Romney said it or Obama did.

Tara Napier, formerly of the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs and longtime assistant to Geoff Morrell, is on leave from her job at BP doing press for the Romney campaign.

The pre-election reticence continues. It’s increasingly clear around Washington and the Pentagon that no one is saying much of anything just days ahead of the election. For some Washington hands, that elicits a big "Duh:" of course it’s a dumb time for anyone to say anything unless they want it construed politically. But even some of the most innocuous of queries are still being back-burnered. This year is probably no different than any other year or administration. But one individual joked that the "unconstipation" would begin sometime soon (i.e., after Nov. 6). Which is why expectations are low for the press conference today at the Pentagon with Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey. No word on what if anything they may say, but there is plenty going on in the world: Syria, Lebanon, Mali, the "disposition matrix," Afghanistan…

It takes five years to train a cyber-warrior to conduct "high-end offensive" cyber operations for the Army and its military intelligence brigade, a top Army intel official said, reports Killer Apps’ John Reed. The brigade is a "custom-made cyber warfare unit" at Fort Meade, Md. and Fort Gordon, Ga. to conduct what Reed says are some of the most sophisticated cyber operations around the world. Their work is described as defensive — but they are supposed to hunt down enemy hackers and develop cyber weapons to use against a "host of online targets."

The Army’s green movement, con’t.

The costs of moving to sustainable energy across the military are high. And it’s unclear how interested Congress is in long-term savings when there is so much talk of fiscal cliffs and sequestration. But if nothing else, the military is changing its approach, even in small ways.

Vehicles need to be more economical. Tents need to have a greater "R value" for insulation, and the one-generator-a-tent approach is over.

It all makes sense, Mason said during a panel discussion at AUSA this week.

"You’ll consume less fuel, which requires less fuel trucks on the battlefield, which requires less maintenance to fix those trucks, which reduces exposure to those soldiers on those lines of communications to [improvised explosive devices]," he said.

AUSA this week was full of vendors trying to sell big trucks, personal equipment for soldiers, and other combat systems — some of which use green technologies. But they are typically more expensive, and it means the Army has to consider paying more for some of those systems as it attempts to make a transition to greener technologies. In the end, though, the costs are neutral, Mason said.

"You can invest up front in some energy saving technologies… but the amount of money it’s going to save you and resources it’s going to save over the life of that weapon system is going to be incredible."

It’s hard to say how much the military can save because energy costs fluctuate so dramatically says, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Katherine Hammack.

"Fuel cost is an uncontrollable expense, it is subject to what is going on in the global environment, what is going on in different parts of the world, it has to do with logistics on a grand scale of oil around the world, so expense is something that is uncontrollable," she said. "So the better focus we have on our consumption, that’s the only way we have to control our budget."

The Army’s green movement is already underway in Afghanistan, and it will continue there through 2014, when combat forces are expected to be completely out of the country. That is enough time to reduce some exposure to the dangers troops face in the field by making operations more sustainable, officials said. For example, the Army is looking at installing more efficient generators and hooking them together instead of simply putting one next to each tent or building — and then adding solar panels and other sustainable energy systems where possible.

"2014 means we still have another 27 months that we’re going to be fighting in Afghanistan. I mean the war is not over, and combat operations haven’t ceased," she told Situation Report in an interview yesterday. "So since we’re going to be there for awhile, if something has a return on investment in six months and we’ve scheduled it for closure 18 months out, that makes sense."

Hammack is a mechanical engineer by trade who is now the primary adviser on energy security and management to Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

How Hammack got the job: She was at an airport when the White House called and said, in effect, "Your country needs you." She had to hop on a plane but called WH personnel people back afterward. She started at the Pentagon in the summer of 2010.

The thing that surprised Hammack the most about working within the Army: She lost her first name. She is now, she says jokingly, "ma’am," not "Katherine."

Her bio:




The Pivot

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

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