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.

A “sense of urgency” on sexual assault; Turkish PM on CW; Rising stars: the Pentagon trims the brass; Does the Army need a therapist?; Gen. O: Army needs agile leaders;” Did dude look like a lady?; and a little bit more.

By Gordon Lubold The Turkish government is testing patients from Syria for chemical weapons as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told NBC news last night that his government will support a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone. "Right from the beginning … we would say ‘yes’," Erdogan told NBC’s Ann Curry in an interview that aired last night. ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

The Turkish government is testing patients from Syria for chemical weapons as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told NBC news last night that his government will support a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone. "Right from the beginning … we would say ‘yes’," Erdogan told NBC’s Ann Curry in an interview that aired last night. "We want the United States to assume more responsibilities and take further steps. And what sort of steps they will take, we are going to talk about this." Obama and Ergodan will meet May 16. Meanwhile, other news reports say that about 12 patients from Syria are being tested in Turkey for exposure to chemical weapons after the prime minister announced that his government believes the Syrian regime used them, but isn’t yet sure if sarin was a chemical weapon used. A Turkish source told CNN: "They were not injured by any kind of conventional arms. Tests showed excessive results which produced findings to let us make that statement."

Top senators ask Obama to strike Syria. The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron writes: "The top two Democratic and Republican senators on national security issued a new bipartisan plea for President Barack Obama to lead a military campaign against Syria, including missile strikes and arming opposition rebels, in pointed floor speeches. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took the floor with a long list of limited U.S. military interjections into the conflict. They argued such moves were not only possible, but necessary to save lives and prevent spillover instability in the Middle East."

Welcome to Friday’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. And please follow us @glubold — it would make our day.

Odierno tells his Army officer corps he needs "agile and adaptive leaders." Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno sent an e-mail to all of his officers via the Army’s internal notification system yesterday to tell them the Army must adapt. The e-mail, obtained by Situation Report, begins: "While the Army continues the fight in Afghanistan and maintains a range of global engagements, we must simultaneously begin transitioning from a decade focused on counterinsurgency operations to a smaller, more versatile Army that will take on a broader range of missions in support of national defense objectives. Critical to effectively managing this transition described in the Army Training Strategy is the development of agile and adaptive leaders. These leaders must be agile enough to rapidly adjust from conducting stability operations in a counterinsurgency one day to conducting offensive operations against a large conventional force the next."

Odierno is giving an old program new life in Project Warrior, first created in 1989 to fill the void left by the departure of Vietnam-era combat veteran instructors, that he will use once again to build the Army’s new captains. "Our current generation of company grade officers is fully proficient at counterinsurgency operations. However, they lack experience conducting simultaneous offense, defense, and stability operations against hybrid threats, which include conventional and irregular forces, terrorists, and criminal elements. With the [maneuver combat training centers] currently transforming to Decisive Action training against these types of threats, we need to once again take advantage of the experience and doctrinal expertise [observer coach trainers] gain while serving at the [combat training centers]," Odierno wrote.

Only top 10 percenters need apply: Project Warrior will be for a "top 10 percent leader" destined to command a battalion and potentially a brigade, he said. "He or she is the captain we want training the next cohort of company commanders in the Captains Career Course," Odierno wrote. The program will only have 66 officers serving at the combat training centers and another 66 serving at Training Command’s Center of Excellence centers. "While there’s always a tendency to want to retain our best officers in our MTOE formations as long as we can, I need Commanders making the tough calls and doing what’s best for these high performers and our Army by supporting the Project Warrior program to the fullest extent possible." Odierno signed the e-mail: "Army Strong!"

The Army’s identity crisis: Tanks versus "the uniform on my back." After more than 10 years fighting counterinsurgencies, the Army is at a crossroads, trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. On one hand, smart Army people don’t want to forget the COIN lessons drawn from the last decade that would suggest the need for large numbers of highly-trained soldiers; on the other, it’s fairly clear the U.S. won’t send large numbers of boots on the ground to anywhere anytime soon. Unless, of course, it has to. But as the service with probably the biggest identity crisis confronts the future, and with a smaller budget, it is forced into a dilemma. The WSJ‘s Julian Barnes, on page one today illustrates the dichotomy: the small and nimble Army of the future in which one battalion commander half-jokes that all he’ll really need is the uniform on his back, versus the 68-ton Abrams tanks that that commander also has at his disposal at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. where he’s training. Barnes: "As it prepares for peacetime budget cuts, the Army must shrink. But Pentagon officials say reducing ground forces too much would leave the U.S. vulnerable to threats by such countries as North Korea or Iran. That means continuing to train with tanks, heavy weaponry and big formations — and, in the view of some military analysts, pulling the Army back to its roots and away from its promised future." And: "The Army is seen by some military analysts as a force from a past age, when wars were decided by tanks and artillery and the U.S. had the luxury of weeks or months to transport men and materiel to war zones." An Army official told the WSJ: "It is almost like the Army needs a therapist…go lie down in a dark room and think about what does the nation expect of me and how am I going to do that?"

The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste doesn’t like the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System, the very system that got Odierno fired up on Capitol Hill the other day in a heated exchange with Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Republican from California. Defense Tech’s story here.

A pro-Israeli think tank might cancel an event at the Newseum for honoring two slain Hamas journalists. Buzzfeed has this: that the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ Cliff May is considering pulling its annual policy summit at Washington’s News
eum because it is honoring slain journalists May 13 that include two who were killed in Gaza who worked for what Buzzfeed says is Hamas-funded al-Aqsa Television. May: "I know the difference between a reporter and a terrorist propagandist. I’m hopeful that the folks at the Newseum also are able to make such distinctions."

Brass tacks update: The Pentagon expects to eliminate more than 30 more general and flag officer positions by next year. The Defense Department continues to trim its brass as part of an effort begun under then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates to reduce the size of the senior officer corps, which had grown significantly over the course of the last decade. In March 2011, Gates blessed a plan to eliminate, reduce, or reallocate 140 general or flag officer positions. Of those, 102 were designated as eliminations — complete removal from the rank structure or a downgraded position to an 0-6 level or below. So far, Situation Report is told, DOD has eliminated 70 general or flag officer positions (nine for the Army, 10 for the Navy, 17 for the Air Force, and 34 joint positions) and reduced 23 positions to a lower rank, for a total of 93 reductions. That leaves another 47 positions that still must be eliminated, reduced or reallocated under the Gates plan. Some of that will occur between now and August, but many more are tied to the war in Afghanistan. Pentagon planners say they expect the number of eliminations to increase mostly between late 2013 and through 2014. "The department has made significant progress cutting the general and admiral positions identified for elimination in 2011," Pentagon spokesman Nate Christensen told Situation Report by e-mail.

On top of that, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey has indicated to the NYT that the DOD may make further reductions in its officer corps, but there is no timeline yet associated with this additional reduction, a spokesman for Dempsey told Situation Report.

Rising stars: The number of general and flag officers grew 12 percent between October 2001, the month the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, and October 2010. There were 870 GO/FOs in October 2001; 874 in October 2002; 873 in October 2003; 876 in October 2004; 876 in October 2005; 894 in October 2006; 902 in October 2007; 913 in October 2008; 962 in October 2009; 973 in October 2010; 966 in October 2011; 936 in October 2012; and 924 as of February 2013.

A high-level meeting at the White House about the way ahead on sexual assault in the military. Obama top adviser Valarie Jarrett led a big White House meeting of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers as well as top White House officials to talk sexual assault in the military and if commanders should be stripped of their authority over such cases — a move the Pentagon opposes thus far. "The group discussed various legislative proposals as well as actions that the administration could take to hold offenders accountable, improve the reporting process, support victims, and work towards the prevention of sexual assault," a White House official told Situation Report. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Senate leaders yesterday, some at the Pentagon, and the DOD and White House will continue working hard on the issue with the aim to "ultimately eliminate sexual assault in the military," we’re told.

Who attended yesterday’s meeting (no one from the military): Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, Liz Sherwood-Randall, Kathryn Ruemmler, Miguel Rodriguez, Lynn Rosenthal, Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Deb Fischer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kay Hagan, Amy Klobuchar, Claire McCaskill, Patty Murray, and Jeanne Shaheen, Reps. Susan Davis, Chellie Pingree, Tim Ryan, Jackie Speier, Niki Tsongas, Michael Turner, and Jackie Walorski.

The NYT quoted Sen. Klobuchar, the Democrat from Minnesota, who has for years tried to improve record keeping of sexual assault reports: "People felt a real sense of urgency….[White House staff members] are completely committed to turning this around."

The sexual assault case against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski: Did dude look like a lady? We thought the story about the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault office who was charged with sexual assault was about to take a new turn when a friend of Situation Report sent us this story: "World Exclusive: Did Air Force Colonel Get Ass Kicked by Tranny?" by the military conspiracy website militarycorruption.com. The subhed, in part (caps theirs): "ANGRY DRAG QUEEN COULD HAVE WHUPPED UNSUSPECTING SIX FOOT TALL OFFICER."  The piece suggests that since the incident Sunday morning took place near an establishment that Krusinksi’s alleged groping might have targeted a guy in drag. The source tells militarycorruption.com: "In his drunken state, the colonel might not have realized he was grab-assing a tranny instead of a real female, and got smacked down hard for his mistake." Would that it were true for militarycorruption.com. But it doesn’t appear to be. The Arlington County police report already identifies the victim as "female." But just to be sure, we double-checked. Arlington County police department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said indeed the victim was female, noting that there is an "alternative lifestyle bar" in the area. "They were having a specific event there that night," Sternbeck said. Krusinski, meanwhile, appeared in court yesterday amid the media circus to receive a trial date. It’ll be July 18.

The Pentagon must address "ingrained inefficiencies." On Monday, the Stimson Center will release a new report about how the military can better understand the options for tackling "ingrained inefficiencies in defense spending," according to the Center. Barry Blechman will host and moderate a panel discussion on Stimson’s new report, "Managing the Military More Efficiently: Potential Savings Separate from Strategy," from 2 p.m. – 3:30, with a presentation by Matthew Leatherman and a subsequent discussion with Erin Conaton, the former Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (and an appointee to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force); David Oliver, from EADS North America (and former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics and retired Navy rear admiral). Deets here.

Why Jim Mattis thinks reading is important. E-mails that surfaced years ago from the retiring CENTCOM commander, Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, show why he thinks reading is so important. Today a military historian reprints some of them and takes a fawning look: "Much is written and [believed to be] known about the General as a warrior. Less is known about? him as a true student of his profession. I would submit that it is quite impossible to correctly?understand the former without a proper interrogation of the latter. By this I mean that one must?first accept that a significant body of intellectual material sustains his actions and opinions -?as is indicated in the messages, he devotes real effort to this aspect of his work. So, there is a?base of knowledge that is always growing. On top of that are the benefits which accrue to those?who think and critically engage with such material. Furthermore, there is his consideration of?the views of others – as in the breadth of his reading or response to my comments – su
ggesting?that he had not fallen prey to the hubris of the powerful, which is to believe they have all of the?answers. Good leaders don’t only hear "yes" from the people around them. Thus, the insight?these words give to his thinking and interests is invaluable." Read Jill Russell’s Strifeblog post here

  • Noting RandomlyReal Clear Defense: Hagel must rein in DOD civilian workforce.
  • McClatchy: Crackdown on military sexual assault may have unintended consequences.
  • CS Monitor: DOD’s top four worries about China’s military.
  • Defense News: Army may push back JLTV, rethink armed aerial scout program.
  • Battleland: The Army, "a learning organization." 
  • Military Times: General orders extra review of nuke crew failings.
  • Duffel Blog: New urinalysis tests whether military members "actually give a shit." 

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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