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.

Dear [insert name here]: you’re gonna be furloughed; Can furloughed workers sue?; Petraeus cashes in; What do John Abizaid and drones have in common?; Have we been lying to ourselves about nukes over Japan for 70 years?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold Military giant joins private equity giant: David Petraeus cashes in. Petraeus has signed on with the large private equity firm KKR, part of his carefully managed return to public life. The WSJ reports: "KKR, known for large debt-fueled corporate takeovers, hopes Mr. Petraeus’s experience and Rolodex will help the firm seek and ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

Military giant joins private equity giant: David Petraeus cashes in. Petraeus has signed on with the large private equity firm KKR, part of his carefully managed return to public life. The WSJ reports: "KKR, known for large debt-fueled corporate takeovers, hopes Mr. Petraeus’s experience and Rolodex will help the firm seek and size up deals, said people familiar with the move. The former general will be chairman of a new internal ‘institute’ focused on macroeconomic forecasts, communications, public policy and advice on investments in emerging markets, they said." And: "Mr. Petraeus has traveled the world and knows military, economic and political leaders. Those connections could help KKR land deals in some foreign countries where the firm has less experience and better evaluate the risks and rewards of offbeat investments, the people said."

Petraeus’ "Act II" was first reported by Situation Report March 15. 

It’s a slower world for Paula Broadwell. She’s embracing the concept of "slowing down in life and finding purpose" after attending a prayer breakfast in Charlotte, N.C. a few weeks ago. Said her, after the May 1 breakfast: "It really touched my heart; I’ve made some mistakes in the past but I’m trying to look forward with my family." Watch that local CBS report here.

The Pentagon began to deliver furlough notices this week to more than 650,000 DOD civilians. The controversial furlough program forces civilian employees on unpaid leave to help the Pentagon balance its budget. They face 11 days of lost wages between July 8 and Sept. 30. Notices and in-person consultations are occurring across DOD now. So far, the WaPo reports, the Merit Systems Protection Board, through which federal workers can appeal their furloughs, has received 127 appeals from furloughed or soon-to-be-furloughed workers. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 270,000 defense workers, is urging its members to appeal the Pentagon’s decision. "We are highly encouraging every employee to exercise that right," the paper quoted J. David Cox, the union’s national president, as saying. "They lose absolutely nothing by trying."

But attorney Joe Kaplan told Situation Report it will be pretty hard for individuals to succeed in a legal challenge against DOD. As long as DOD complies with the 30-day notice required by law, and there is no basis for an employee to feel as if he or she has been "singled out," the Pentagon has done all it needs to do. "Were employees given the 30 days and the right to reply? If they were, then there really isn’t going to be any merit to the employees’ claims," said Kaplan, of Passman & Kaplan, which specializes in labor law in D.C. 

"Showing the pain." Navy and Marine Corps officials decry the fact that they are being forced to furlough workers and cut programs when the sea services could absorb many of the cuts by reallocating resources. But after much last-minute agonizing, the Defense Department decided on a "one team, one fight" approach that requires all of DOD to confront the Pentagon’s budget squeeze together. As a result, the sea services say they are paying, in part, for the larger budgetary shortfalls of the Army and to a lesser extent the Air Force.

"We’re being stuck with someone else’s bar tab," one naval officer quipped to Situation Report. The officer said the Pentagon furloughing workers creates the optics DOD wants: a high-profile way of showing what it is being forced to do because of cuts imposed by others. "It’s about showing the pain," the officer said.

But the fact that some services had other options probably won’t change anything for Navy or Marine Corps civilians who might make legal claims. Kaplan says that even though a furloughed worker from the Navy, say, could argue that the Navy had other budgetary options than to furlough him, he’s still stuck. "I don’t think the Merit System Protection Board will second-guess how an agency is allocating scarce resources," Kaplan said. "There are a lot of discretionary things an agency can do, but the Merit System Protection Board is not going to second guess how it is going to save money."

The talking points: how do you tell someone you’re cutting   their pay? This way. Situation Report was provided the talking points the Pentagon issued to help supervisors provide furlough notices. We’re told the range of responses from employees runs the gamut, from "whatever, dude" to anger that they are being forced on unpaid leave to balance the Pentagon’s massive budget. Regardless, no one is surprised.

"[Employee name] as you know, the Department of Defense is facing serious budgetary challenges due to sequestration and is making hard decisions that will impact all of us. Most immediately, DOD is proposing administrative furloughs for its civilian employees around the world in order to avoid a deficit of funds in fiscal year 2013. Today, it is necessary for me to provide you with a copy of your proposed furlough notice. Please understand that this proposed action is not a reflection on you, your performance or your conduct, but is a consequence of across-the-board DOD budgetary reductions…. For administrative purposes, I need to ask you to sign and date both copies of this memo. I will provide one copy to you. Your signature simply acknowledges your receipt of this notice; it does not indicate that you agree with the proposed action. Thank you for your attention to this very important matter [Remember to give them their signed copy.]"

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something — to Situation Report.

Robert Ford is stepping down from his perch as U.S. ambassador to Syria this summer. Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen reported yesterday: "Ford, who was confirmed as US Ambassador to Syria in 2011 after serving there since 2010 under a recess appointment, saw his job transformed by the unrest that has long since escalated into a full scale civil war. Earlier this month Ford traveled into Syria from Turkey with a convoy of US food aid, to meet with Syrian rebel commanders and urge them to support transition talks planned to be held in Geneva next month." Her story is here.

Odierno: Don’t assume anything. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno appeared at the Atlantic Council yesterday to talk future of the Army and his basic line was: it’s dangerous to assume the future won’t require ground forces. Stripes’ Chris Carroll wrote: "The Army is reducing toward an active-duty end strength of 490,000 troops by 2017, Odierno told an audience at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. If Congress doesn’t co
me up with a solution to sequestration – automatic budget cuts that will reduce planned defense spending by $500 billion over a decade – the Army must shrink even further, he said."

Odierno: "The thing I worry about is that in everybody’s declaration that there’s going to be no more ground wars, we need no more ground forces, that we’re going to make the Army too small…I see nothing on the horizon yet that tells me that we don’t need ground forces."

Marine two-star under investigation. The military has launched an investigation into the Taliban attack that killed two Marines and resulted in the destruction of nearly an entire squadron of Harrier jets in southern Afghanistan last fall. It is part of Commandant Gen. Jim Amos’ push to hold commanders accountable and comes after a number of high-profile reliefs across the Corps. The investigation looks to see if Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus and subordinates bear some responsibility for lax security that allowed the attack to take place. The Wapo reports: "Although the attack last year resulted in the largest loss of allied materiel in the Afghanistan war, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, the top U.S. commander on the base at the time, did not order a formal U.S. military investigation into the security lapses."

Click bait: Killer drones from around the world from Killer Apps, thanks to our own John Reed. Click here.

For the results of CSBA’s interesting budget scenario exercise that we teased yesterday, click here. Also, we should note that there were only four teams in the exercise: AEI, CNAS, CSIS, and CSBA. We wrote that there were five teams! Apologies for the confusion.

Want to better understand transnational threats — and how we arrived at the world we confront today? Stimson tonight hosts FP’s own Christian Caryl for a discussion titled "Transnational Threats in a Globalized World."  He’ll be joining Stimson’s Brian Finlay for the talk at 5 p.m. today. Deets for tonight’s event, here.

Plug: Order Caryl’s new book, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century here, or buy one at the event (cash only). According to the Economist: "Anyone who wants to understand how this new world came into being needs to read Mr. Caryl’s excellent book."

Speaking of Stimson: Stimson Center has launched a new task force on drone policy that will be headed by former CENTCOM Commander John Abizaid. He is currently the distinguished chair at the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point. Vice-chair of the task force is FP’s own Rosa Brooks, a former counselor to the undersecretary of defense for policy and now a professor at Georgetown University. From Stimson’s PR: "The task force will conduct a 15-month study that will bring together legal, national security, political and military experts, as well as representatives from the defense industry and civil society groups, to formulate nonpartisan policy recommendations regarding drone use by the United States." Abizaid: "Drones have become a complex and divisive technology…. While they can be an effective means of protecting against a terrorist attack, the rule of law must be considered. I look forward to leading an effort that can lay the foundation for drone policy in the United States." Brooks: "Bringing together vital stakeholders and experts in one room, this nonpartisan effort will set a standard and inform the U.S. government about what steps need to be taken to ensure our national security and uphold our country’s ideals." Other task force members: Dave Barno, John Bellinger, Missy Cummings, Peter Lichtenbaum, and Jeffrey Smith. More deets, here.

Nukes against Japan: Ward Wilson wonders if we’ve been lying to ourselves for 70 years. There are problems with the way history has assessed the effects of dropping the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a move that handed President Harry Truman credit for ending World War II. But historians have long questioned that thinking, saying that while the bombs may have put an immediate end to the war, the Japanese wanted to surrender anyway, and throwing into a bad light Truman’s historic decision. Wilson, writing on FP: "Both schools of thought, however, assume that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with new, more powerful weapons did coerce Japan into surrendering on August 9. They fail to question the utility of the bombing in the first place — to ask, in essence, did it work? The orthodox view is that, yes, of course, it worked. The United States bombed Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, when the Japanese finally succumbed to the threat of further nuclear bombardment and surrendered. The support for this narrative runs deep. But there are three major problems with it, and, taken together, they significantly undermine the traditional interpretation of the Japanese surrender."


  • AP: Syrian opposition won’t participate in peace talks. 
  • National Defense: Amos sees a future of perpetual war.
  • WaPo(book review): "Sparta" is a tour de force about a troubled Marine returning from Iraq.
  • Small Wars: Afghanistan and lessons learned from an ISAF perspective.
  • AP: Obama to nominate Comey for FBI.
  • Battleland: An old Marine on "social engineering" at the Naval Academy.
  • The Atlantic: Establishing a no-fly zone is an act of war. 
  • CS Monitor: Why the Pentagon has doubts about a  no-fly zone.
  • Duffel Blog: Marine still trying to perfect signature block after promotion to staff sergeant. 


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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