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.

Petraeus gets a salary cut; Is the Pentagon staging a contest for chemical weapons in Syria?; The AF: Like a Phoenix; Soccer balls for Syrian refugees; Command authority and sexual assault cases gets a boost; China, Russia militaries busy; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold From the Department of Petraeus’ Resurrection comes this this morning: The City University of New York, which had jumped at the chance to hire former CIA director David Petraeus, just dropped his salary to just $1 after faculty and politicians criticized the salary as exceeding others. After a possible cover up by ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

From the Department of Petraeus’ Resurrection comes this this morning: The City University of New York, which had jumped at the chance to hire former CIA director David Petraeus, just dropped his salary to just $1 after faculty and politicians criticized the salary as exceeding others. After a possible cover up by the school about the issue, it was revealed by a FOIA requested by Gawker that his original salary was to be about $200,000 for three hours of work per week – and about eight times that of any other adjunct professor. Today, the NYT reports that CUNY has dropped his salary to $1. Robert Barnett, to the Times: "The general never was taking on this teaching assignment for the money." Read the rest, here.

Speaking of Gawker, they have this, too: A 61-year-old Navy from Florida vet woke up earlier this year in a California hospital saying his name is Johan and speaking only Swedish. Read it, here.

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.

Is the Pentagon holding a contest to make Syria’s chem weapons disappear? Unclear. But according to John Ismay, writing on FP, on May 24, an anonymous party posted an odd challenge online in which $50,000 was offered to anyone who can destroy or neutralize large amounts of chemical munitions. Ismay: "The proposal, made on the crowdsourcing website InnoCentive, was odd in a number of ways. First, Innocentive usually asks for ideas on how to solve technical problems, not military ones. Second, the wording of the offer strongly suggests that it was made by someone in the U.S. government who is looking for ways to deal with the Syrian chemical weapons program."

And: "In the InnoCentive challenge, an unnamed ‘Seeker’ asks for ideas on novel approaches to tackling the ‘demilitarization, destruction, or neutralization of a hypothetical stockpile of chemical warfare agents.’ The approximate size of this stockpile: 1,500 tons, which roughly correlates to the U.S. government’s estimates of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s chemical arsenal. According to the proposal: "This size and mobility issues makes it exceedingly difficult to rapidly treat … without either having to build a dedicated facility at the location of the agents (a slow, difficult, and very costly option using current designs) or having to transport the agents to an existing remediation facility (creating the possibility for release of the agents in transport)." Read it all here.

Like a Phoenix: Air Force fighter jet squadrons, and the Thunderbirds, are flying once again. The Washington Times’ Kristina Wong and others reported yesterday that the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, grounded by budget cuts, are flying once again, along with a number of other grounded fighter and bomber squadrons. Wong: "The decision comes after Congress approved a Pentagon request to reprogram about $7.5 billion from lower priority programs to more urgent ones. As a result, the Air Force has $208 million to restart about 16 combat units that had been grounded, such as the 1st Fighter Wing based at the Langley Air Force Base in Virginia." We wrote about the grounded planes in Europe, here. We wrote about the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, here.

Here’s a question: did military investigators investigate sexual assaults across the military the right way? Here’s an answer from the DOD Inspector General: sometimes but not always. The DOD IG’s reported yesterday that showed that 89 percent of "military criminal investigative organizations," like NCIS or others, "met or exceeded" the investigative standards. On the other hand, 11 percent of cases were returned to those "MCIOs" for corrective action.

The DOD IG recommends that investigative unit leaders improve crime scene processing, evidence collection, supervision and documentation to reduce deficiencies; it also recommends evaluating policy on collecting clothes after a sexual assault, better and more timely notification of judge advocates at the start of sexual assault cases, and evaluate existing policy regarding the timely completion of record checks, according to a summary. "Overall, the Commander, CID, agreed with our recommendations. The Director, NCIS, and the Commander, AFOSI, agreed in part with our recommendations, but objected to our assessment in a number of areas in the report." The full report, here.

Strange bedfellows: Politico reported at 12:01 a.m. this morning that conservative Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are backing a measure sponsored by Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to remove the chain of command from military sexual assault cases. That gives Gillibrand and others who support the measure conservative cover on the move that the uniformed military is fighting hard to prevent. Presser today on the Hill. More here.

He’s no longer a "five-star." Late last week, Marine Lt. Gen. Robert "Boomer" Milstead, Jr., relinquished two of his stars. Now he’s just a three-star. It’s kind of a joke: Milstead, the Corps’ deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs has also been covering as the head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, a two-star billet. We’re told he had joked about being a "five star" (three stars plus two stars = five, get it?). But on Friday, a new MCRC commander was sworn in and Milstead returned to his three-star job at Manpower.

But he’s the new three-star – at JIEDDO. Lt. Gen. John Johnson was just sworn in Monday as the new director for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, the Pentagon organization charged with ridding the battlefield of IEDs – or at least mitigating their impact. Johnson replaces Lt. Gen. Mike Barbero, who retired. Johnson heads JIEDDO at a critical time – as the war winds down and budgets constrain even the most critical missions – its future is uncertain. Defense News’ Marcus Weisgerber reported earlier this month that the Pentagon is considering three scenarios for JIEDDO: break it up into smaller pieces, restructure it into a smaller office – or eliminate it altogether.

The Chinese have infantry guys on the ground in Africa. Again. FP’s John Reed: "395 peacekeepers from the People’s Liberation Army just arrived in the Saharan nation of Mali as part of the U.N. mission to help restore order there. Specifically, Beijing has sent engineering, medical and "guard" teams to the Malian capital of Bamako, according to the Chinese defense ministry. These troops are reportedly part of the PLA’s 16th Army, a formation comprised of infantry, armor and artillery divisions. China traditionally sends thousands of engineering, medical and other support troops on U.N. missions each year. Of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China is the largest manpower contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions." Read the rest, here.

Meanwhile, Russia’s military is busy, too. FP’s Elias Groll: "No one seems to be paying much attention, but in the seas off the coast of Japan, the wilderness of Siberia, and little towns north of Moscow, the Russian military is currently engaged in a massive training blitz. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a snap military exercise in the country’s Far East, deploying 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks, 130 aircraft, and 70 ships. If those sound like big numbers, that’s because they are — the exercise has been described as Russia’s largest since the fall of the Soviet Union. But that’s not the whole story. Last week, Russia engaged in an unprecedented naval exercise with China that included live-fire drills and the crown jewel of the Russian Navy’s Pacific fleet — the guided-missile cruiser Varyag. Read the rest, here.

ICYMI: Incredible war photography at the Corcoran in Washington. NPR’s story, here. Deets about the exhibition, here.

Defense One, Atlantic Media’s foray into covering national security issues in a bigger way, is live today. Atlantic Media is trying to elbow its way into a crowded field of well-established niche pubs covering defense and national security issues with a  "disruptive" approach to the beat. Atlantic today is launching "Defense One" in what our former colleague Kevin Baron, now executive editor there, described as being "reporting, analysis, bold ideas" in a Tweet this morning. Of course we wish Kevin and his team -including Stephanie Gaskell (a.k.a. "Defense Two") well, of course. But also: see you in the  funny papers! We kid. Kevin’s piece on Egypt, here and Stephanie’s piece on Afghanistan, here.

It’s soccer balls for Syria. As criticism grows increasingly pointed at U.S. policy in Syria, there’s a small State Department program that’s hard to impugn. State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, part of the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, has provided a $50,000 grant to send coaches and trainers to the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan to teach Syrian kids soccer and citizenship – and how to look for unexploded munitions. A humanitarian group, Spirit of Soccer, and the Arab Mine Action Consultancy Company, or AMACC, is working inside Za’atri – which has swelled to about 120,000 refugees, half of whom are children under the age of 17- to teach munition awareness through soccer. So far, more than 8,000 "at-risk boys and girls" have participated in the program, we’re told. Assistant Secretary of State (Acting) Tom Kelly to Situation Report: "Clearly, there’s a huge need for this in Syria right now. Both in the border areas, but eventually, these kids are going to go back with their families into Syria. Potentially, there is going to be a lot of this nasty stuff lying around."

Scotty Lee, who founded Spirit of Soccer after being inspired by his time in the Balkans in the 1990s, says his program in Jordan is run by coaches who know the region, the complexities of local tribes and families – and who definitely know soccer. They in turn instill in the children a sense of what an athlete is and the kind of "sports heroes" those communities need to nurture in order to persevere.

"By creating those strong role models within the community, you create organized soccer, but create an environment for health and safety," he said, "but also messages of tolerance and fair play. And these are the basic foundations you need in society in which to operate."

He added that his coaches are religiously diverse, he said, including Shiites, Christians, Sunnis and Kurds. "Politically, they couldn’t get together to make a cup of coffee," Lee said. "Yet when they get around a soccer ball, everything’s forgotten."

And if you wonder what it’s like in the refugee camps, Lee will tell you: it’s desperate. Lee, who travels the world for his passion, talks about the refugee camps in Jordan in which "400 people are sharing one toilet," and each and every person there "has seen horrific things." Imagine, he said, living in your house when you hear a knock at the door and someone’s standing outside to tell you you’ve got five minutes to get out – maybe for good. "Now you’re 500 kilometers away in the desert in a country that doesn’t really want you and you’re in a tent and there are like 15 of you sharing that tent that is the size of your shed." Prince Ali’s Spirit of Soccer speech, here.

Food for thought on veterans organizations. Our item yesterday about former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen’s remarks about there being too many vets organizations – undermining their effectiveness – prompted one reader of a veteran organization to say, in effect, "huzzah." They like it when someone like Mullen brings up what they termed "an uncomfortable truth." They also noted that there are fewer veterans organizations than what we reported yesterday (59,000, according to a book about charities) and actually only about 41,340. Here’s a report from May from the Center for New American Security on the issue: Click here. And if you’re really interested, here’s Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ proposal to consolidate and streamline efforts on behalf of veterans. Click here for that. 


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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