Situation Report

The Pentagon’s sequestration bubbas sit on their hands

A “fundamentalist con artist” cancels visit to Pentagon; Mattis, off the record?; Where a general shops for shoes; Is Tom Ricks rude? And more.

On sequestration, the Pentagon’s still waiting for the call. The budgeters at the Defense Department, who you’d think would be scrambling like cartoon characters about to drop off the waterfall, have not been given direction from OMB yet, reports the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron.

The Pentagon’s Lt. Col. Beth Robbins: "The Department has not received detailed planning guidance on sequestration from [the White House Office of Management and Budget], and we are not planning for it. We are still hopeful that Congress will pass a balanced deficit-reduction plan for the president to sign, and sequestration is averted."

Kevin: "After all this time, after a year’s worth of doomsday warnings about the ‘catastrophic’ effects of a budget stalemate on the military, even in this eleventh hour the Pentagon’s top budget teams are left waiting and wondering. Without the green light from OMB, they are not allowed to begin."

The Pentagon was to be hosting a prayer breakfast tomorrow with Ray Giunta, who has been "publicly called out" for illegally taking more than $10k from a cemetery’s trust fund, falsely claiming to have advanced degrees, and diagnosing young people with mental disorders even though he is not a doctor, writes the HuffPo. "But on Wednesday, he will get a coveted perch at the Pentagon, as a guest speaker at the Defense Department’s prayer breakfast," Amanda Terkel writes.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, on the Pentagon’s invite: "Arming a well known Christian fundamentalist scam-artist like Giunta with an homage so profound as to be the designated special guest speaker at this highly visible Pentagon religious event is simply beyond the pale of acceptability and literally strains credulity."

Last minute cancelation: An Army spokesman tells Situation Report: "Mr. Guinta has respectfully declined the invitation to speak.  The Pentagon Prayer Breakfast is a weekly event and will go on as scheduled."

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we covet our perch here and take our inbox privileges seriously every day. 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.

HRC urged Morsi to share power in Egypt. Secretary of State Clinton called Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr on Monday to tell him the U.S. wants to see Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi figure a way to share power after a power grab last week that would place his decisions above judicial review.

McClatchy’s Nancy Yousef wrote last night from Cairo that the Muslim Brotherhood canceled demonstrations scheduled for Tuesday to support Morsi’s original decree, "assailed by secular political leaders and judges alike as giving Morsi dictatorial powers." But she reports that massive anti-Morsi protests are scheduled for today.

State’s Victoria Nuland on HRC’s discussion with the Egyptian foreign minister: "[Clinton] took that opportunity to reiterate some of the points that you saw in our statement [last week], that we want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protection of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld, et cetera."

Josh Rogin’s story:

McClatchy story from Cairo:

DC Seen: It’s not Saks or the Nordy’s shoe department for one Marine general. The presumptive new ISAF commander, Joe Dunford, shops shoes at the Henderson Hall PX just up the hill from the Pentagon. That’s when he’s not in line for lasagna at a DoD cafeteria.

How will Jim Mattis be off the record? The Central Command commander will speak tonight at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on "perspectives on warfare." Curiously, Mattis’ remarks are off the record for the press, yet the event is open to the public. We often say we failed strategic communications class, but how does that work again?

Somehow this reminds us of the NFL disclaimer that would appear to be violated every time a sportswriter puts fingers to keyboard: "The NFL prohibits any use of the pictures or descriptions of this game without its express written consent".

Is Tom Ricks rude? The author of The Generals gave it to Fox for overdoing the Benghazi story in an interview that was cut short. Ricks, when asked about the attack: "when I see this focus on what was essentially a small firefight, I think number one, I’ve covered a lot of firefights, it’s impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes, and second I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political, partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican Party." That’s when Fox news anchor Jon Scott gave Ricks the hook.

The NYT’s Brian Stelter reported afterward that a Fox News staffer told Ricks that he had been rude; Ricks said he had told the producer prior to the segment — which lasted about half its allotted time — that the Benghazi attack had been "over-covered" and thus the producer shouldn’t have been surprised.

The Pentagon seemed to yawn at the news that China conducted its first-ever landing of a J-15 fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier. Over the weekend, China’s military apparently made Chinese naval history by landing the plane on the carrier, the Liaoning. As Killer Apps’ John Reed writes, this could be a huge moment — or not such a big deal. At the Pentagon, there was little excitement. "This would come as no surprise. We’ve been monitoring Chinese military developments for some time," said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

I’ll take "China’s Navy" for 100, Alex: Factoids: John writes that the carrier was built using the hull of a never-completed Soviet carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 1998, saying it would turn the ship into a casino. But the Chinese opted to refurbish the ship completely, installed new engines, modern electronics and sensor systems and turned it into a starter carrier.

John: "It’s worth noting that the Chinese ripped off the design of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 fighter, which Shenyang Aircraft Corporation used to then develop the J-11 land-based fighter and now the J-15. Interestingly, the Chinese engineer in charge of the J-15 program died of a heart attack just after watching yesterday’s test flights aboard the ship." Also, he writes that China is reportedly expected to unveil its first domestically-made carrier within a couple of years.

The Foreign Policy Initiative begs a big rhetorical question today with an event at the Newseum titled "The Price of Greatness." The hawkish policy group is hosting a day-long discussion on Syria, the pivot to Asia, American allies, and human rights, featuring perspectives from "emerging national security leaders" Rep. Adam Kinzinger and Congressman-elect Tom Cotton, a former Army ranger. "In the next four years, the United States will face a wide array of international challenges," according to FPI. "Iran continues to progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, China is expanding its military and economic power, and uncertainty over the outcome of the Arab Spring persists. These challenges will require substantial American leadership and a willingness to confront the looming budgetary crisis that underpins our involvement in the world."

Moderators, panelists, speakers, and other guests include: Dan Senor, Eric Edelman, an escaped prisoner from a North Korean prison, John McCain, Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol, Jon Kyl, Jamie Fly, ambassadors from the embassies of Australia, the Philippines, and India, Kelly Ayotte, and Joe Lieberman.

See "The Oath of Tobruk" on the fall of Qaddafi tonight at the French embassy. The Foreign Policy Initiative and the French-American Global Forum will host a viewing tonight of the documentary by Bernard Henri-Levy as part of their event today, with the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake moderating a discussion after.



Speaking of which: Adios, tres amigos. The NYT takes a look back at the foreign policy phenomenon of Sens. Lieberman, McCain, and Graham, dubbed "the three amigos" by David Petraeus, and the impact they’ve had together over the years. Lieberman is retiring. "Though he frustrated many Democrats with his interventionist ideas, Mr. Lieberman gave Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham, both Republicans, a veneer of bipartisanship that lent credibility to their policy goals," writes the Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer. "The question is whether the group, whose profile rose after the Sept. 11 attacks, will be able to maintain an influential voice without Mr. Lieberman or will become isolated on an island of partisan poking."


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