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.

Dempsey models Afghan Hands program for Asia

The Navy’s Greenert talks rebalancing, Panetta: back to school for ethics training, What a Marine staples to his desk and more.

The Navy's CNO will speak today at the National Press Club to update the Navy's re-emphasis on Asia. Adm. Jonathan Greenert will touch on the myriad challenges the Navy faces as it plans to increase its presence, from 55 percent of its ships and aircraft now, to about 60 percent in the next eight years.

The Navy’s CNO will speak today at the National Press Club to update the Navy’s re-emphasis on Asia. Adm. Jonathan Greenert will touch on the myriad challenges the Navy faces as it plans to increase its presence, from 55 percent of its ships and aircraft now, to about 60 percent in the next eight years.

He’ll speak from bullet points, but will likely talk about assuring access to a region that is now top of mind for the Pentagon.

"We are developing the doctrine, training and know-how to defeat access threats such as submarines and cruise and ballistic missiles through our Air-Sea Battle concept," he wrote on FP in an article posted this week. "We will grow our fleet in the Asia-Pacific, rebalance our basing, improve our capabilities, and focus intellectually on the region."

Greenert’s article on FP, "Sea Change":

Navy’s position report:

Panetta has launched a new review of legal and ethical conduct among senior military officers. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had planned to begin a broad, new ethics review before some of the recent problems among senior officers, from the current scandal to the lavish spending of Lt. Gen. Kip Ward of Africom and others. But the rash of problems likely spurred Panetta to urge his officers to move faster. "As has happened recently, when lapses occur, they have the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership," Panetta wrote in a memo to Gen. Marty Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people."

While the military still sits atop the list of revered American institutions, there have been problems within the ranks for years. While there will always a group known as "the 10 percenters" — those whose performance or integrity or instincts will never be very high — the spate of problems among senior officers of late has raised questions about what is happening and why. Whether it is the stress of a dozen years of war, or a reflection of the times in which they live, Panetta’s review may be the first step in trying to reset the moral and ethical compass of senior officers and hold them more accountable.

Once they reach a certain level, some are treated as rock stars — revered but also insulated — and run the risk of falling victim to "Bathsheba Syndrome," a reference to the moral failures of King David in the Old Testament, as the NYT wrote this week in what could also be a reference to Petraeus’ nickname around the Pentagon. Panetta has stressed that "the vast majority of our senior military officers" do exemplify "strength of character" and high ethics and lead by example. But Panetta wants Dempsey and the chiefs to review how to "foster a better culture of stewardship" among senior officers and report back to him within the next few weeks.

One Army general officer wonders if the review leads to additional ethics training, those who already exhibit high moral standards will be paying for those who don’t:  "It’s the equivalent of punishing the entire class because someone doesn’t do their homework," one Army officer told Situation Report.

NYT story (11/12/12):

Panetta statement:

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Dempsey is expanding the Af-Pak Hands program for the Asia-Pacific. Pentagon officials are now debating how to replicate an effort that built institutional knowledge of Afghanistan and Pakistan by rotating a cadre of officers and staff NCOs through the region. Over the next several months, Dempsey wants to create the roadmap for a program that mirrors the best aspects of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands program in order to deepen the military’s intellectual engagement on Asia issues after its decade-long focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dempsey, a senior defense official told Situation Report, is thinking about a long-term, strategic effort that would far outlast his own tenure in office. "He talks about a 10-year process to pivoting to the Pacific," the official said. "He has talked about the intellectual piece is the piece we need to sort out right."

As resources and operations pivot, rebalance, and return to Asia, defense officials are trying to figure out the best way to make sure they can also deploy their best minds to the unique problems posed by the pivot, from a rising China, to the right balance of platforms and how they are arrayed, to building partnerships with countries with whom the U.S. has not necessarily been actively engaged. Part of the current debate in designing the program is to determine to what extent it should give the military the tools to work with China — or focus on "securing the links" the U.S. military has to South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, and India, the official said.

"The guy who is making decisions about how we deal with Vietnam probably ought to be somebody whose been in that part of the world, as opposed to a dude who just spent his last 12 years in Italy," said the defense official.

Read more below.

A freight train hit a parade float carrying wounded veterans and their families in Midland, Texas, killing four and injuring 17. It was a horrible accident in which two parade floats were crossing train tracks as they ferried wounded veterans and their families to an event held to honor them. "I was on the phone, and I just started screaming," Patricia Howle, who was waiting in her car at a nearby light, told AP. "The truck was on the other side of the train, but I did see the panic on the faces of the people and saw some of them jump off."

Pentagon press secretary George Little: "Secretary Panetta was deeply saddened by news of the tragic accident involving veterans, heroes, and their spouses in Midland, Texas, which occurred as this community was coming together to honor them. His thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, with those injured in this incident, and with the entire community."

Seen taped to a Marine’s desk in the Pentagon: "Mattis 2016."

From the Economic Opportunity = Stability Department: An Afghanistan carpet firm got a boost this week when the Goodweave program, which works to end child labor in the rug-making business, gave its first seal of approval to Ariana Rugs, Inc. Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Eklil Hakimi: "Part of our job in the government is to promote job creation and industry growth, while making sure women receive the same treatment in all industries and their children have the opportunity to get an education. That is why I congratulate and support Ariana Rugs and its model for creating beautiful, high quality carpets while simultaneously improving the industry as a whole."

The more you know: One million knots make up the average 8’x10′ rug, according to Goodweave.

The Army released data that shows an increase in suicides. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 20 "potential suicides," the Army reported yesterday, with five confirmed suicides and 15 under investigation. In September, the Army reported a total of 15. During 2012, there have so far been 166 potential active-duty suicides, up one from the 165 reported in all of 2011.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program moves to Asia, con’t:

The Af-Pak Hands program has not been without its problems, but officials say the kinks have been worked out. The program was started in 2009 with high hopes as the Pentagon injected new operational and intellectual energy into the then eight-year old war. Champions like Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the top war commander in Afghanistan, thought the program could provide officers with regional expertise and then deploy that know-how to the field. After training and then a one-year deployment, they would return home to assignments in the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command, Special Operations Command, and others, bringing with them their experience in Afghanistan — and to a much lesser extent Pakistan — to raise the level of understanding of the region at home. Then, they would return to theater, armed with what they’d learned during their assignments in the States as the final round of a rotation that would reinvigorate the military’s war effort. In all, the program would last as much as 44 months for about 750 officers.

But volunteers for the program were hard to come by, and the services’ personnel cultures didn’t always smile on the  careers of officers who left the normal path to pursue regional expertise. The bigger problem was that in its early days, the program put many round pegs in square holes, sending officers with expertise in one field to jobs requiring skills in another.

"The hate and discontent boiled up, is the best way to put it," the defense official said. At that point the Pentagon created a management program in the field to help direct people and ensure the program was running as effectively as possible. Now they are much more confident in the program, its effects on the ground – and at home.

Defense officials say metrics are hard to come by

The first group of officers in the program will be returning to Afghanistan and Pakistan next month. That group will be the first one to have field experience combined with a job at home and then take their perspective back to the war. Officials are hopeful that the impact of the program, which can be hard to measure outside of billets filled and expertise gained, will be evident.

"We are really looking forward to the second tours of the hands, because we really think the payback is in that second tour," the official said.

But only about 50 percent of the group that already deployed to the field will be returning next month, but lessons learned from this process will inform the next group that returns to the theater in a year, and officials hope that number will increase.

The current model for the program can do great things for the regions in which the U.S. military is engaged, the official said. But the Pentagon knows that officers will be leery of getting stuck in a program that is perceived to be a career backwater. But with the services all trying to get a piece of the Asia pivot, service members may grow more enthusiastic about a program which the defense official says can only help officers’ careers.
"Without a doubt, General Dempsey is a big fan of regional expertise and getting that intellectual piece right for the decision makers and advisers," the official said.

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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

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