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.

Are the chiefs swimming upstream on sexual assault?; 73 percent of victims are junior enlisted; Happy birthday, Southcom! Jill Kelley, suing; What caused that cargo plane to crash in Kabul in April; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold The chiefs will make their case today for addressing sexual assault their way. Amid momentum to give military prosecutors outside of command the authority to pursue sexual assault cases, the Pentagon’s service chiefs will address how to get at the issue without making that change. Their preference is for military commanders to ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

The chiefs will make their case today for addressing sexual assault their way. Amid momentum to give military prosecutors outside of command the authority to pursue sexual assault cases, the Pentagon’s service chiefs will address how to get at the issue without making that change. Their preference is for military commanders to maintain authority over such cases, saying removing it will reduce unit cohesion and undermine good order and discipline. But it will be difficult for them to make their case given the widespread push to change it, fueled by vocal members of Congress and a deepening crisis. The WaPo reports this morning: "The service chiefs… made clear in recent letters to the Senate panel’s leadership that they do not favor a leading proposal that would give uniformed prosecutors, instead of commanders, the authority to open criminal investigations into sexual-assault cases and bring them to trial. Such a change, they argued, would undermine the foundation of military culture by sending a message that commanders cannot be trusted to make good decisions." All the chiefs, as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 this morning in Hart 216.

According to prepared remarks, Dempsey will say: "As we consider further reforms, the role of the commander should remain central. Our goal should be to hold commanders more accountable, not render them less able to help us correct this crisis. The commander’s responsibility to preserve order and discipline is essential to affecting change…Of course, commanders… and leaders of every rank… must earn trust to engender truth in their units. Most do. Most do not allow unit cohesion to mask an undercurrent of betrayal. Most rise to the challenge of leadership every day even under the most demanding physical and moral circumstances."

Who else is testifying? Adm. Robert Papp, commandant of the Coast Guard, the chief advocates general for each of the services, as well as a number of others. Click here to see who.

Not surprisingly, 73 percent of victims in military sexual assault cases are E-1s to E-4s. Junior enlisted servicemembers account for most victims in "completed" investigations of unrestricted reports, according to the DOD. Some believe that in addition to other solutions, focusing on that demographic within the military — say, by stressing the prevention of alcohol abuse, which is common among young people and is linked to a majority of sexual assault cases — could be key to reducing the number of sexual assaults. But Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for rape and sexual assault victims in the military, says such statistics don’t mean much. "I just don’t see it as relevant," Parrish, who is testifying today, told Situation Report in an interview last week. "The reason we have a sexual predator problem in the military is because the military has been dealing with this as a public relations problem, instead of an epidemic." Parrish’s group is pushing for more command accountability since she says more than 60 percent of sexual assault victims are retaliated against.

See the breakdown of cases in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report from DOD, page 82, here.

"Don’t Trust the Pentagon to End Rape" is the title of an op-ed by a filmmaker in this morning’s NYT. The pullquote? "The U.S. military has a problem with embedded sexual predators." Kirby Dick writes: "There is a way to stop these predators: we should prosecute and incarcerate them. But here the military fails entirely. Though the Defense Department estimates that there were 26,000 sexual assaults in the military last year, fewer than 1 percent resulted in a court-martial conviction. Why? There is a deep institutional bias in the military’s justice system; senior officers can — and often do — intervene to prevent cases from being investigated and prosecuted. Victims of sexual assault know this well, which is why fewer than 15 percent of sexual assaults in the military are ever reported."

Welcome to Tuesday’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.

Patriot batteries to remain in Jordan after Eager Lion. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has decided to leave the Patriot missile system in Jordan after the big training exercise there in order to give the United States options to play a more active role in Syria, like creating a no-fly zone. The missile defense system plans for Jordan were first reported over the weekend by the WSJ.

Hagel is in Brussels for his first NATO ministerial. Afghanistan and the post-2014 commitment may well get some attention — even though the U.S. is not expected to make any major announcement. Instead, a potential training mission for Libya is getting all the buzz. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced today that the alliance will send an "expert mission" to Libya to determine what the country may need as it confronts the flow of insurgents from Mali, the AP reports. Experts have worried for some time that the squeeze of insurgents out of Mali after the successful French-led mission has sent more enemy combatants into Libya. But, Rasmussen said, this is not about boots on the ground. "This is not about deploying troops to Libya. If we are to engage in training activities, such activities could take place outside Libya." Full AP report on Libya deployment here. 

A senior defense official tells Situation Report that the Secretary General is expected to raise the issue at a dinner this evening. Two formal meetings today are focused on NATO capabilities as well as the first-ever defense ministers meeting on cyber issues. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for that meeting in his farewell address at King’s College in London in January, we were reminded. "Secretary Hagel will also have a special multilateral meeting with Defense Ministers from the UK, France, and Canada," we’re told by the official.

It’s Southcom’s 50th anniversary. And Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is on hand this morning in Miami to celebrate. In a speech at about 10:30 this morning, he’s expected to say that Southcom is doing a good job and is probably here to stay. Carter, on Gen. John Kelly, head of Southcom, who lost a Marine son in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2010 (prepared remarks): "John is someone who truly embodies what it means to be a general in the United States military. He’s a soldier, but also a scholar. He’s been a platoon commander and a Commanding General on the
battlefield — and held every position in between. And finally, he’s tough and demanding, but compassionate and caring. And nowhere is this more evident than the love and devotion he shows towards his family. John and Karen have already sacrificed as much for this nation as any family should ever be asked to sacrifice, yet they continue to give, as does their son John, an active duty Marine officer."

Carter, on Southcom’s AOR: "It’s a region from which millions of immigrants and Americans trace their roots, and a region whose importance to the U.S. economy and national security is only growing. The President’s and Vice President’s recent trips to Central America underscore our Nation’s commitment to being a strong and reliable partner to our allies in the Americas. And so it’s only fitting that SOUTHCOM’s motto is, ‘Partnership for the Americas.’"

Speaking of Florida: Jill Kelley, back in the headlines. The Tampa socialite at the center of the investigation that led to David Petraeus’ downfall at CIA and jeopardized John Allen’s career is suing the FBI, DOD, and others. Kelley and her husband, Scott, say investigators violated their privacy when they read her e-mails without her permission and "disclos[ed] personal information to the media," reads a WSJ story on the suit today. "According to the suit, the FBI agents told Ms. Kelley that to check the information, they needed the login and password for the account, which she gave them after receiving assurances that it was ‘for the specific and limited purpose of accessing the sender’s IP information.’ Agents later asked the Kelleys for authorization to access other emails in various accounts, according to the suit. The Kelleys say they ‘specifically denied’ the agents’ request."

The death of Frank Lautenberg, the last WWII veteran in the Senate, leaves Congress with even less military experience. The WaPo reports that as recently as January 2011, there were 26 members of the Senate who were veterans, but today there are only 14. Only 19 percent of House members were active-duty military as of January 2011 as well, amounting to — "the lowest percentage of veterans since World War II, a decline fueled in part by the end of the military draft in the early 1970s. The highest percentage was in 1977, when eight in 10 members of Congress had some form of military service." Read an interview Lautenberg gave at Rutgers University in 2005 about his experiences during World War II, here.

Shifting cargo likely contributed to a civilian plane’s horrific crash this April in Afghanistan. The cargo jet that rose up, pivoted, and smashed to the ground — all caught on video — was probably doomed by heavy vehicles inside that shifted so quickly during takeoff that they damaged parts of the jet, the NYT reports: "As the Boeing 747 began to take off from the Bagram Air Base, the vehicles slammed into the back of the cargo space so hard that parts of the plane broke off and were left on the runway, officials said. With the center of gravity pushed too far backward, the nose rose too high for the plane to fly."

The White House scales back the American military commitment to Afghanistan. USA Today reports: "The U.S. military has scaled back the support American troops will provide for their Afghan counterparts after 2014 when the coalition finalizes its shift to an advisory role, reflecting pressure from the White House to keep the American presence there small. U.S. commanders had initially considered providing some level of air support, such as medical evacuation, and other support for Afghanistan’s military, since it will be several years before Afghanistan’s air force is capable of providing wide-scale medical evacuation and bombing. But the pace of withdrawal ordered by the White House ruled that out. Instead the U.S. residual force will be limited mostly to advisers at high-level commands and a counterterrorism force that can be used against al-Qaeda targets." Retired Marine four-star John Allen on providing air support to the Afghans: "It wasn’t in the cards…. The drawdown was going to prevent that from happening."


  • Battleland: Growing concern over Hagel’s SCMR.
  • McClatchy: DOD reveals details of missile base Israel wanted kept secret.
  • SF Chronicle: (Bates) U.S.-China relations need an overhaul. 
  • ABC: Obama signs stolen valor act into law. 
  • Stripes: Some ‘involuntarily separated’ sailors miffed amid recruiting push.
  • Duffel Blog: Soldier assigned to AFRICOM angry, confused, after landing in Germany.  

The Stans

  • National Journal (blog): Obama reluctant to commit troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
  • Reuters: Red Cross to withdraw foreign staff following attack.
  • Reuters: In Afghanistan, grief for a husband who shouldn’t have died.

Turkey Erupts

  • Sky News: Turkey apologizes to protesters as strike starts.
  • CNN: What’s driving unrests in Turkey? 
  • USA Today: Anti-government protesters hold onto square. 

Reading Pincus

  • WaPo: The right worker mix.  



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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