Situation Report

The Pentagon point men on transition; Hagel and the nuclear option; Jim Cartwright honored for arms control; Is the Zero Option a bluff? Truman and CNP: a meeting of the minds; Why Retired Marine James Howcroft likes Hagel, and more.

Hagel has begun his transition prep in the Pentagon. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s choice for SecDef, was in the building yesterday and begins a series of briefings on transition this week, Situation Report was told. "The focus is now on getting Senator Hagel immersed in the issues of the Department and briefed up," a ...

Hagel has begun his transition prep in the Pentagon. Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s choice for SecDef, was in the building yesterday and begins a series of briefings on transition this week, Situation Report was told. "The focus is now on getting Senator Hagel immersed in the issues of the Department and briefed up," a senior defense official told Situation Report. Transition really began Monday evening with a private dinner with Panetta and Hagel over corn chowder, filet mignon, and chocolate cake — more Nebraska than California-Italian.

Panetta Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash is the head of transition. Situation Report is also told that Marcel Lettre is running the day-to-day issues around the transition effort, coordinating content and briefings, and Mike Rhodes, who had been tasked with building binders and binders for Mitt Romney had he won election, is in charge of the administrative issues surrounding transition — starting with who parks where on the enormous Pentagon "reservation."

Meet the Hagelians. Situation Report and the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron teamed up to look at the group of loyalists around Hagel who may return in one form or another in a Hagel Pentagon. They include Aaron Dowd, described to Situation Report as a quiet, self-deprecating Nebraskan who started out as an intern from Marquette University and is not only close to his boss but is thought to know him well. Hagel has stayed as loyal to Dowd as Dowd has to Hagel. Look for him not to disappear.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report, where we eagerly await Lance Armstrong’s "no holds barred" appearance on Oprah Jan. 17. 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.

Meanwhile, another Republican senator said no. A fellow mid-westerner, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), said he would oppose Hagel’s confirmation. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he would delay confirmation of John Brennan for CIA until he is satisfied the administration has answered more questions on Benghazi, the WSJ and others report.

New blocking maneuver: nukes. It’s the new thing when it comes to raising Cain on Hagel. New rumblings from congressional members opposed to his nomination say his positions on nuclear arms are a worry as is his membership in Global Zero, which is considered pretty mainstream and is evident by its list of supporters, including Hagel.

Rep. Mike Turner, chair of HASC’s subcommittee on air and land forces, says in an emailed statement that Hagel’s positions are "at odds with mainstream thinking and the President’s stated choices." In red ink: "This includes drastic and possibly unilateral reductions in U.S. nuclear forces, eliminating the ICBM leg of our nuclear deterrent and cancelling our other nuclear modernization programs." Turner calls such proposals "a dangerous, ideological agenda."

The Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball tells Situation Report, "Like President Obama, [Chuck Hagel] clearly supports a balanced and energetic U.S. leadership role in reducing the role, number and spread of nuclear weapons, and his record in the Senate shows that his views on the subject are quite mainstream."

In 2007, Hagel and Obama co-sponsored S. 1977, which Kimball characterized as a "blueprint" for Obama’s speech in April 2009 in Prague that called for a "step-by-step process" toward a nuclear weapons free world consistent with what the likes of Kissinger, Nunn, Perry, and Shultz called for in a 2007 op-ed in the WSJ.

Obama, in March 2012: "My Administration’s nuclear posture recognizes that the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War is poorly suited for today’s threats, including nuclear terrorism," Obama said. "We have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."

The Arms Control Association gave the nod to "Arms Control Person of the Year" to Jim Cartwright, the retired vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for calling on the U.S. to reduce nuclear forces to 900 total warheads, scale back multi-billion dollar plans to modernize the nuclear triad and reduce the alert status of deployed nuclear weapons. Cartwright’s May 2012 report says the U.S. and Russian arsenals "vastly exceed what is needed."

Cartwright’s report for Global Zero:

Membership list of Global Zero:

Situation Report corrects. Bum scoop. It wasn’t Thom Shanker who was a guest at Chuck Hagel’s Georgetown class, as we were told, but another NYT journalist – Eric Schmitt. SitRep regrets the error.

Panetta is headed to Europe next week. It’s his first trip to places like London, Lisbon, and Rome — and definitely his last as defense secretary. Asked by Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio if it was basically a "farewell junket" for a retiring defense secretary at a time of budgetary woe, George Little defended the trip as an important ally-maintaining measure.

Little: "The secretary of defense wants to see very strong NATO allies who have fought and died in Afghanistan. He wants to see our foreign counterparts to reaffirm our very strong commitment to transatlantic defense alliances. This is a trip that is about trying to drive even deeper relationships with very close allies. There is a lot of work to be done with our European allies, and I would remind you, Tony, that this is his first major swing through these capitals," he said. "He has made several trips to Asia at this stage and to other parts of the world, but this is his first swing through Europe."

The "Zero Option": bluff or possible policy? Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai is in Washington this week for what may be a historic visit in which the two countries will hash out, in broad strokes, what their post-2014 partnership will look like. Key is the number of troops for the "enduring presence," an issue over which there is intense negotiation on either side. No one wants to blow it: Afghanistan needs U.S. assistance desperately, and the United States can’t be seen as abandoning a country and region in which it has expended blood and resources for more than 10 years. Now comes the Zero Option — that is, leaving no troops at all — which the White House’s Ben Rhodes said yesterday in a conference call with reporters was an option: "I’d just say a version of what I said before, which is that would be an option that we would consider, because the President does not view these negotiations as having a goal of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He views these negotiations as in service of the two missions, security missions identified post-2014 — again, counterterrorism particularly focused on al Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and equipping of ANSF."

U.S. to Karzai: Maybe it’s no troops for you! Writing on FP this week, Dave Barno, argues why Karzai has to get past the notion that the U.S. won’t seriously toy with the idea of leaving Afghanistan with nothing. Barno argues that the U.S. experience with Iraq, better intelligence networks, budgetary pressures, war weariness and the U.S. "stand off" abilities mean it doesn’t have to cave to Karzai’s pressures on immunity issues for American troops and what not.

The Kagans don’t like the options on the table for Afghanistan. Writing in the WSJ today under the headline "How to Waste a Decade in Afghanistan," the analyst duo of Fred and Kim argue that Pakistan’s inability to "govern, police or control" the border region is reason enough to keep enough forces in the area; and they say the creation of the ANSF was never predicated on having no outside assistance. Indeed, that would take decades, the pair argue: "If a much-reduced U.S. force level is announced, Afghans will say that the Americans have abandoned their country. They will be right. With a drastically reduced U.S. presence, the Afghan government and army will fracture, warlords will begin fighting each other and the insurgents and terrorists in ungoverned spaces. The conditions will be ideal for al Qaeda’s return. That’s failure. And it will matter."

Truman and CNP: a meeting of the minds. It is a big day for the Truman National Security Project and the Center for National Policy, which formally announce a new partnership today. The two organizations are joining forces, with a combined staff of about 30 people and a budget of about $5 million. No question that "synergies" can be created in these times of budgetary worry for non-profits. Folks there say that the new partnership joins the "political power, community building and leadership development strengths" of the Truman Project with the "policy heft and heritage" of the Center for National Policy.

Mike Breen is the executive director the Truman Project and CNP: "This is a natural integration of policy and political leadership that will craft, advocate for and implement policies that strengthen American security, our nation’s economy, and human rights and democracy at home and around the world. This partnership unites generations of innovators in forging a stronger America."

Retired Marine Col. Jim Howcroft, a former defense attaché in Georgia between 1995 and 1998, e-mails directly from the Department of FWIW. "I met Senator Hagel when he came through the Republic of Georgia in the mid 1990s. He impressed me as a humble and focused guy who asked tough, but insightful questions who understood the significance of what I was telling him about the Caucasus. As a somewhat recently retired Marine, I think he is a great choice to be SECDEF." He adds: "During my years in Moscow and Tbilisi, we had many senior visitors that either left you shaking your head wondering  ‘how in the heck did that guy ever got to his position’ or folks that when they left you thought, ‘boy am I glad we have people like that in charge and making decisions.’ Hagel was in the second group." 



 Twitter: @glubold

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