Situation Report

Ash Carter to DOE?

The Pentagon is trimming the brass; Did the Chinese target Mullen? The Air Force’s search for Farah Fawcett posters; Psst: the push for fewer secrets in government, and more.

New trial balloon for Ash Carter: he’s on a short list for DOE. Situation Report is told there is new life on a quiet rumor that Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, whose name has been bandied around for Pentagon chief, may be tapped for the top spot at Energy. An administration official told Situation Report: "That’s a rumor that’s been floated around for a while and he’d be great at the job — but it really is just a rumor at this point." For the Pentagon job, that would leave people like Chuck Hagel, Michele Flournoy, and John Kerry as short-list candidates, unless the administration moves past the list of names that have been floated in recent days. Hagel’s appeal lies mainly in his Republican heritage, and unless his name is being tossed around just to help the administration look bipartisan, it would appear his chances are reasonably good at being named defense secretary.

Flournoy will likely get a post, but it’s unclear yet if the perception that she lacks juice on the Hill would sink her chances — at this juncture — for the top job at Defense. And Kerry’s fate seems to be tied to the soul-searching President Barack Obama is reportedly still doing on filling the job at State. People think that if the White House is feeling feisty, it will ultimately nominate Susan Rice for State and then Kerry could be put up for the job at the Pentagon. Either way, Situation Report hears, and the Pentagon seems to expect, that the administration is likely to begin making Cabinet announcements sometime next week.

The Pentagon did cut the number of generals, it says. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron reports that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in fact following through with a plan to trim the ranks of flag and general officers after a budget watchdog, Ben Freeman of the Project on Government Oversight, told Kevin this week that Panetta had "abandoned" former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ plan to cut the ranks.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said the efficiency program is on track to eliminate 102 general and flag officer positions and reduce 23 additional positions to a lower rank. Of the 102 to be cut, 74 were to be slashed by March 2013, Kevin reports. So far, the Pentagon has eliminated 68 of those 74, and another 28 positions were related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be eliminated "as conditions on the ground warrant."

The FBI took Mike Mullen’s personal computers over fears they had been hacked by a foreign group, perhaps based in China. The WSJ reported last night that the FBI seized personal computers used by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen amid concern that hackers, possibly from China, had targeted it. They took the computers in late October and returned them in mid-November, the paper reported. WSJ’s Devlin Barrett, Julian Barnes, and Evan Perez: "One official said that evidence gathered by the FBI points to China as the origin of the hacking, and that it appeared the perpetrators were able to access a personal email account of Mr. Mullen. The official declined to be more specific." Mullen did not use the computers to view classified data, Situation Report is told.

In the administration’s imminent shuffle, retiring officials beware: The paper reports that the targeting of Mullen’s personal computers appears to be part of a larger pattern of hackers’ targeting former senior officials, who are perceived to possess sensitive (but not classified) information and who typically operate outside government firewalls.

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report, where there is never a firewall between us: 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. And if you have a report, piece of news or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

The curse of our own teasing of stories for the next day: we’ll bring you more on JIEDDO tomorrow instead.

What does cyber even really mean? Killer Apps’ John Reed reports on how the Air Force is asking itself that very question. John: "Right now, the military — and rest of the government — lumps everything from basic antivirus protection and network maintenance work into the ‘cyber’ category, along with high-end operations along the lines of Stuxnet. The looseness of the definition has caused enormous confusion among military officials trying to figure out how to fund and organize themselves for cyber operations."

Clean it up: the Air Force is looking for racy pictures of women. The Air Force Times reports today that commanders and supervisors across the Air Force will perform a massive sweep of offices and cubicles and work spaces "looking for pictures, calendars and other materials that objectify women" after the newish Air Force chief of staff grew alarmed at the number of complaints he heard from women. "Pictures of scantily clad women in calendars, posters or in briefing slides have no place in a professional workplace, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, who ordered the service-wide health and welfare inspection," wrote the Air Force Times’ Becky Iannotta.

Fewer secrets: the Public Interest Declassification Board releases its report today. The board, led by Nancy Soderberg, is releasing a report that urges overhaul of the government’s approach to classifying documents. The rise of digital records is forcing a change to the way the government identifies and protects secrets, Soderberg told The Times’ Scott Shane. "Many people believe the system is collapsing under its own weight and is just not credible," she said.

Times story:

The report:

The board:

What is the cost of sanctions against Iran? The Iran Project is out with a new report on sanctions that looks at some of the benefits or potential benefits, which include: a basis for coalition building, slowing the expansion of Iran’s nuke program and creating distress among the Iranian elite; and, some of the negatives or potential negatives, which include: creating disputes with allies, creating human suffering, and empowering anti-reform voices and "disempowering" civil society.

From the execsum: "The paper does not advocate for or against sanctions, nor does it make specific policy recommendations. It seeks fact-based objectivity whenever possible in describing some of the implications for American interests of international sanctions regime against Iran." Also, the paper’s signers write, it offers some "general observations" about the challenge of making sanctions work, how to leverage sanctions against Iran while mitigating any negative outcomes or impacts. An event today with Greg Newbold, George Perkovich and William Reinsch at Carnegie at 8:30am.

The event:

The paper:

The signers: The signers include not only Greg Newbold, Sam Nunn, James Dobbins, Leslie Gelb, Tom Pickering, Paul Pillar, Mike Hayden, Lee Hamilton, Karim Sadjadpour, William Reinsch, George Perkovich, Paul O’Neill, Edward Djerejian, Joseph Hoar, Gary Hufbauer, James Walsh, John Whitehead, Lawrence Wilkerson, Timothy Wirth, Daniel Kurtzer, Frank Kearney, Ellen Laipson, William Luers, Frank Wisner, Joseph Cirincione, Tony Zinni, Jessica Matthews, Richard McCormack, William Miller, Vali Nasr, Steve Cheney, Suzanne DiMaggio, Hamid Biglari, Faraj Sahgri, Carla Hills, Stephen Heintz, but also…Chuck Hagel.

Another new paper out today: Does the hunt for Kony have any fighters? Not yet, writes Colum Lynch on FP’s Turtle Bay blog. A year after President Barack Obama sent more than 100 elite military advisers to hunt down the charismatic Joseph Kony, the mission remains stalled. "The [task force] is not close to realizing the vision of a multinational force conducting effective offensive operations against the LRA and protecting civilians," Lynch quotes from a paper, "Getting Back on Track," released today by a coalition of human rights groups, including the Enough Project and Resolve. "It exists only on paper and cannot be considered operational."

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 Twitter: @glubold
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