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.

Hagel, German defense minister talk Turkey, Afghanistan; 62 percent of Americans don’t favor Syrian intervention; Don’t GoToMeeting: How AMC saves the dough; Justin Mikolay, married; Lapan to Afghanistan, and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold Poll: A hefty majority of Americans do not believe the U.S. should intervene in Syria. A new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria, while 24 percent do think the U.S. should so something – a four ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

Poll: A hefty majority of Americans do not believe the U.S. should intervene in Syria. A new CBS/New York Times poll shows that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the U.S. has a responsibility to intervene in Syria, while 24 percent do think the U.S. should so something – a four percent increase over a month ago, CBS reports.

Their report: "Even as news of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was announced by the Obama Administration, fewer Americans are paying attention to news about Syria than were doing so last month. In March, slightly more than half of all Americans were following news about Syria at least somewhat closely. Now, four in 10 say they are doing so, including just 10 percent who are following it very closely. Still, those following the news about Syria very closely are far more likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there. Nearly half (47 percent) of that group thinks the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there — though about as many do not (48 percent)."

Aid begins to arrive. CBS is also reporting that American aid to the Syrian opposition is just beginning to arrive today. It includes military food rations and medical supplies – aid the Obama administration had promised some time ago, the network reported earlier this morning. That assistance arrives just as the LAT reports of a large blast in Damascus that has killed 13 people and caused dozens of other casualties – the second big one to rock the city in as many days.

Meantime, at the Pentagon today, Hagel will meet with German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere. The two will talk Afghanistan operations – Germany’s work in the north, as well as both countries’ deployment of Patriot missile defense systems to Turkey under NATO. The two will also discuss support for operations in Mali as well as NATO defense planning, Situation Report is told.  Maiziere will arrive at the building a bit after 1pm today.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. If we can get it in, we will. And help us fill our candy dish: news of the military weird, strange trends, personnel comings-and-goings, and military stories of success or excess.

New this morning: Michelle and Jill want more vets hired. CNN Money published an op-ed this morning by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden on the need for companies to hire more veterans. It reads, in part: "These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance. But the challenge of giving them that chance is only becoming more urgent. In the coming years, more than a million service members will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life. That’s on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work."

The world’s most dangerous man whom you’ve never heard of. FP has an exclusive, inside look at the life and death of Imad Mughiniyeh, "the world’s most wanted terrorist not named Osama bin Laden." Mark Perry, writing on FP: "His true identity as the violent mastermind of Hezbollah would have come as a shock to his Damascus neighbors, who thought he was a chauffeur in the employ of the Iranian embassy. A number of them had even called on him, on several occasions, to help tote their bags to waiting taxis. He had happily complied. On this night, he was in a hurry. He exited his apartment building and walked quickly to his SUV, crossing behind the tailgate to the driver’s side door. He never made it. Instead, a remotely detonated explosive, containing hundreds of deadly, cube-shaped metal shards, ripped his body to shreds, lifting it into the air and depositing his burning torso 15 feet away on the apartment building’s lawn. Just like that, the most dangerous man you never heard of was dead, his whole career proof that one person really can reshape politics in the Middle East — and far beyond it. "Both bin Laden and Mughniyeh were pathological killers," 30-year veteran CIA officer Milton Bearden told me. ‘But there was always a nagging amateurishness about bin Laden — his wildly hyped background, his bogus claims…. Bin Laden cowered and hid. Mughniyeh spent his life giving us the finger.’"

Situation Report corrects – We wrote yesterday that an MC-12 was a helicopter even though it’s a twin-engine turbo-prop fixed-wing plane. Hashtag weknowbetter. Thank you to all the readers for pointing this out. Repeatedly! We do regret the error.

Jason Collins, great, but where are all the gay military members? Collins made history with his acknowledgement of being gay, but the E-Ring’s Kevin Baron wanted to know why military officers and staff NCOs haven’t revealed themselves in the same way. Aaron Belkin, executive director of the Palm Center, who was a key figure behind the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell," told Baron: "‘There is no equivalent. There’s no Jackie Robinson,’ for gays in military. ‘There are a lot of people out there, and a lot of those people have come out. But the thing is that because they are military officers and not NBA stars, they came out quietly," he said, "and very often they don’t even come out to all members of their units. ‘We weren’t expecting heroes to step out and become famous. We were expecting business as usual.’"

Did Foreign Policy jump the shark with hairless cats? We must admit "14 Hairless Cats that Look Like Vladimir Putin" by FP’s own Elizabeth Ralph brought a smile. The feature shows pictures of Putin in various poses alongside other ones of hairless cats in similar poses – who knew? Some readers loved; others thought FP had gone too far. What’s next? "Hairy Honey Badgers That Look Like John Brennan?" Not happening. But it was just part of a fun experiment to look at the world through the lens of BuzzFeed, which produces lists on everything. The Moscow Times noticed: "Readers offered mix reviews of the effort, with some saying Foreign Policy had sunk to a low and shouldn’t compare a man with an animal. ‘Foreign Policy: You really lost my respect as "reasonable critical magazine,"’ wrote one reader. But others suggested that those who took offense should lighten up. ‘I feel bad for all the people who cannot accept some humor in a respected publication once in a while,’ a reader wrote."

We like this one, too: "36 Mustaches (and a few beards) that explain why There’s no Peace in the World," here.

Department of Every Little Bit Counts: The Pentagon’
s budget crunch means people are making little changes across the Defense Department. The military used to pay to fly service members all over the country for even the smallest justification. Conferences or military education used to be sufficient reason to spend tens of millions in airfare, lodging, rental cars, and food. But as sequester hit, the services curtailed many of those events — a visible way the DOD could show it was cutting back.

One example is Air Mobility Command, the Air Force’s big logistics command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., which is using teleconferencing to cut down on the number of traditional conferences and on-site education opportunities offered to its airmen. By eliminating just one annual conference of about 118 active, guard, and reserve wing commanders, the command will avoid spending as much as $120,000 this year, Situation Report is told. Instead, this spring AMC will host a virtual conference of wing commanders using two teleconference tools: MilBook, which allows participants to collaboratively nominate, refine, and discuss topics that commanders want to address, and Defense Connect Online, or DCO, which is essentially an online meeting site that allows commanders to talk using voice, text, and video from their computers. "Total cost of the meeting will be zero," Lt. Col. Matt Whiat, chief of the commander’s action group at AMC, wrote in an e-mail. Read more on this below.

Mattis was spotted Saturday at the wedding of Justin Mikolay and Maggie Kropp. Appropriately held at the stunningly refurbished Army Navy Country Club (Mikolay is an Annapolis grad and Kropp is a West Point grad), the two made it legal. Readers may know Mikolay as a member of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s speechwriting team, who also wrote for David Petraeus and Mattis. Mikolay left the Pentagon in February and now works for Palantir. The couple won’t soon forget 20-plus Annapolis grads helping Mikolay’s two older brothers recreate the scene in Top Gun in which Maverick and Goose serenade Kelly McGillis’ character to "You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling." Also spotted, in addition to Gen. Jim Mattis: Mikolay’s speechwriting buds Greg Grant and Jacob Freedman.

Dave Lapan is pulling his retirement papers. Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, was to retire by summer but is rescinding his retirement date so he can deploy to Afghanistan to become a spokesman for another Marine, ISAF commander Gen. Joe Dunford. He’ll deploy in July. Air Force Col. Ed Thomas will replace him at the Pentagon, as we noted last week. Lapan told friends that, like his current job, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, professionally rewarding, and challenging — and all for "an important mission at a historic time."

The jihad will be Tweeted. The most wanted American jihadi in Somalia has been Tweeting as his enemies close in on him. Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman writes an account of it, here. "… the American jihadi in Somalia survived a Thursday assassination attempt only to tweet today that his former allies in al-Qaida’s Somali affiliate are stepping up their efforts to wipe him out. On Monday, according to what Hammami warned might be his last words, Shebab gunmen surrounded his home, marched him to "court" and opened fire in a Somali forest. ‘Even if we die weve won,’ Hammami tweeted from his @abumamerican Twitter account today. ‘May not find another chance to tweet but just remember what we said and what we stood for.’"

Saving money, the virtual way, con’t. Like many others, the command views conferences and military education as key to professional development. AMC has been testing some off-the-shelf communications programs similar to GoToMeeting and SurveyMonkey to conduct virtual meetings, conferences and education to ensure they can operate within government’s security firewalls, Whiat said in an interview. The command is also doing more professional military education virtually. Courses that have in the past required military students to fly to the command or elsewhere for a week of class average about $140,000 per course. Now, two courses, one for mid-level officers and non-commissioned officers, will be held virtually and the cost for both courses will be zip.

Some aspects of professional development do have to be conducted in person. For example, an involved discussion of leadership and ethics doesn’t work online. For these, the command hopes to develop a "hybrid concept" by next year that combines virtual interaction with the minimum amount of "in-person time" needed, sometimes holding portions of a class during a larger conference that participants would need to attend anyway. AMC said it did not have a total cost of the conferences and development courses across the command because each falls into several "directorates and functions," making it difficult to assess the total impact of holding more virtual meetings on the command.


  • Forbes: JIEDDO head sees Boston bombings as part of a pattern.
  • E-Ring: USS Freedom broken down, not going down.
  • AP: Army amputee completes air assault school.
  • Defense News: Pentagon industrial base chief predicts pain.    
  • Real Clear Defense: Congress must address eroding readiness in FY14 budget.
  • Killer Apps: The Air Force wants to protect its spacecraft from attack. 



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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