Situation Report

Donilon out, Rice in; POGO releases draft IG report on Panetta, ZD30; Well, that went well: chiefs exasperate senators during sexual assault hearing; Brett Holmgren is a TSA for Ash; PowerPoints gone wild; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold Tom Donilon is stepping down as national security adviser and Susan Rice is stepping up. In what amounts to a major shakeup for President Barack Obama’s national security team, Donilon is resigning as the president’s national security adviser after four years in the job and that Susan Rice, long rumored to replace ...

By Gordon Lubold

Tom Donilon is stepping down as national security adviser and Susan Rice is stepping up. In what amounts to a major shakeup for President Barack Obama’s national security team, Donilon is resigning as the president’s national security adviser after four years in the job and that Susan Rice, long rumored to replace him, will in fact be installed as NSA. It’s seen as a bit of an in-your-face move for the White House to Republicans in Congress, who still fault Rice for the problematic talking points on Benghazi.

Foreign Policy published a piece recently that was highly critical of Donilon. The NYT this morning: "…Mr. Donilon has also hit a rough patch recently, with the publication of an unflattering profile in Foreign Policy magazine that cast him as a sharp-elbowed infighter and a domineering boss, who had strained relationships with colleagues, including his former deputy, Denis R. McDonough, now the White House chief of staff. Mr. Donilon and Mr. McDonough, however, both denied those reports, with Mr. McDonough saying he had a "very good relationship with Tom." He added, ‘It pains me to think anybody would think he’s leaving because of me.’"

An "honest broker." FP’s David Rothkopf writes that Donilon was effective in part because he sought to "remain in the background" and act as an honest broker. But under him, the NSC grew: "Under Donilon not only did the influence of the NSC grow, so too did its size. Today, according to its own estimate, the National Security Staff is over 370, its biggest in history. Donilon is unapologetic about the growth, arguing that the staff needs to be that big to support the needs of the president." FP’s piece on Donilon May 28, here. Read Rothkopf’s June 5 piece on Donilon’s legacy, here. Slideshow of Donilon’s four years, here.

POGO obtained a draft copy of an IG report on Panetta that says the former CIA chief provided TS info to a Hollywood exec. The Project on Government Oversight reported last night that it had obtained an unpublished draft of a DOD Inspector General report detailing how former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had provided top secret information about the Osama bin Laden raid to a Hollywood executive. POGO story: "The Defense Department Inspector General’s office has been sitting on a report that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed ‘TOP SECRET’ information and other sensitive details two years ago at an event attended by a ‘Hollywood executive’ working on the movie Zero Dark Thirty. In June 2011, when he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Panetta discussed the information at a CIA headquarters event honoring participants in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to an unreleased report drafted by the Inspector General’s office and obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)." From the draft IG report: "During this awards ceremony, Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name…. Director Panetta also provided DOD information, identified by relevant Original Classification Authorities as TOP SECRET//SI//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL, as well as, SECRET/ACCM."

Declining comment on the POGO report early this morning from Brussels, where he is accompanying Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who worked for Panetta at CIA before going to DOD. Draft of the IG report, here. POGO’s story, here. 

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Reeeally? Where are Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler when you need them? DOD acquisition PowerPoint writers ran amok on a slide describing the "Integrated Defense Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Life Cycle Management Framework." It has about 50 billion colors and boxes and arrows and competes for one of the worst all-time slides — and we’ve seen our fair share. Look at the slide here.

LOL! (or something). Says the quotable Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, after viewing the slide: "This system may not be broke, but it sure is baroque."

The chiefs didn’t bend much as they faced unrelenting questioning from senators over sexual assault yesterday. Top brass showed up in a rare hearing in which they all appeared — and the A-1 pic in the WaPo barely captured each of the 12 (11 men, one woman). They attempted to demonstrate how serious they are about addressing the sexual assault "crisis" — as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey has described it — while clinging to military policy giving commanders broad authority over the prosecution of all cases.

The NYT today used the word "dismay" in their headline to describe the way senators reacted to the chiefs’ testimony. Here’s Jennifer Steinhauer’s lede: "Senator Roy Blunt sat silently for nearly an hour as his colleagues on the Armed Services Committee questioned one military leader after another on Tuesday about what they were doing to address the problem of sexual assault in the military, and then assessed their responses: ‘Stunningly bad.’ In particular, Mr. Blunt chided Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, for displaying scant knowledge of how military allies of the United States had dealt with sexual assault in their ranks, and for thanking Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, for ‘the tip’ that other countries had grappled with the issue. ‘Has anybody who works for you been asking this?’ Mr. Blunt, Republican of Missouri, asked with clear exasperation." NYT story, here.

Said a friend of Situation Report to Situation Report:  "All the brass lined up against the women in the Senate. Truly a visual for posterity."

Dowd to the military: "Cut the strings to George III." The NYT’s Maureen Dowd said it’s time for the U.S. military to get over itself on loosening command authority over taking cases to court – sexual assault ones or otherwise. It retains what Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale, told Dowd "boiled down to an almost mystical notion of the commanders’ responsibility. Why can’t we cut the strings to the B
ritish system we inherited from George III? The British are baffled at us." Wrote Dowd: "The brass agreed there was a ‘cancer’ in the military, but their rigid, nonsensical response boiled down to: Trust us. We’ll fix the system, even though we don’t really believe it’s broken." Her piece here.

Get smart on SOCOM today (and tomorrow). The Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the International Security Studies Program of the Fletcher School at Tufts is hosting an event at the Ronald Reagan Building in DC June 5-6 on "positioning Special Operations Forces for global challenges in the 21st Century." DepSecDef Ash Carter and SOCOM Commander Adm. Bill McRaven will open with remarks, then a series of panel discussions on topics ranging from Special Operations Forces requirements to "implementing a global special operations network" and other topics. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Mike Sheehan will open the session tomorrow and House Armed Services Committee Rep. Buck McKeon will do the closing. All sessions on the record, except for the last panel today, which will follow Chatham House Rules. Deets here. Agenda, here.

What Ash Carter will say: Situation Report is told that Carter will "hail the past successes of the SOF community as well at their importance in the future," and "will also address the current continued fiscal gridlock and give an update on the work of the SCMR."

Brett Holmgren has joined Carter’s office as a special assistant. Holmgren joined the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s office late last month and will be working with DepSecDef’s Chief of Staff/Special Assistant Wendy Anderson. Since September 2011, he served as the director for Counterterrorism on the National Security Council, where we’re told he managed CT policies in the Middle East and West Africa. Prior to that he was a senior analyst at CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. He began his career in 2003 as a CT analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He’s from Minnesota.

Good luck with that: An Illinois Democrat wants to rein in cammies. After a story in the WaPo recently that detailed the costly proliferation of camouflage uniforms across the DOD — 10 in all — Rep. William Enyart, a freshman Dem from Illinois, is proposing today that the military use just one. But he will face an uphill battle from a Pentagon steeped in the traditions of service rivalry that are in many ways reflected in the different cammies. From a story in the WaPo today: "Enyart said he will offer his measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House Armed Services Committee will mark up on Wednesday. He said the amendment would require the Pentagon to produce a joint camouflage uniform – to be shared by all services — by 2018. Enyart said the joint uniform could vary for different environments, with patterns meant for woods and desert." Said Enyart: "Congress needs to exercise its oversight to make sure we don’t do silly things."


  • Yahoo Voices: The best military branch to enlist in (A veteran ranks the branches).
  • Battleland: How military friendly is your town?
  • Defense News: SMCR on track.
  • AP: Hood shooting suspect’s defense: Taliban were in danger.
  • Duffel Blog: Camp Leatherneck begins hunger strike.

Syria, Year Two

  • BBC: Qusair capture changes Syria conflict dynamics.
  • Boston Globe: (Burns) U.S. is Syria’s only hope.
  • USA Today: France says tests confirm sarin gas used in Syria.  

The Stans

  • WSJ: Coalition deliberates Afghan presence.
  • Boston Globe: As fighting season heats up, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley says newly trained Afghan forces passing the test – so far.
  • USA Today: Soldier to enter plea in Afghanistan massacre.


  • The Atlantic: Why does the American media get big stories wrong?


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