On the Hill today: no good (strategic) choices; The knives are out in the Pentagon; POW/MIA folks to get grilled; Afg. customs issue, settled; A Chinese firm thrives in Africa; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold Today on Capitol Hill, Ash Carter and Sandy Winnefeld lay out the Pentagon’s strategic choices before Congress. At 10 a.m. in Rayburn’s 2118, before the House Armed Services Committee, Carter and Winnefeld will explain to committee members just what the Pentagon is confronting. Personnel versus capabilities: Yesterday, Hagel and Winnefeld explained the ...
By Gordon Lubold
Today on Capitol Hill, Ash Carter and Sandy Winnefeld lay out the Pentagon’s strategic choices before Congress. At 10 a.m. in Rayburn’s 2118, before the House Armed Services Committee, Carter and Winnefeld will explain to committee members just what the Pentagon is confronting.
Personnel versus capabilities: Yesterday, Hagel and Winnefeld explained the choices before the Pentagon. Hagel said the U.S. military can either get smaller, to help pay for more platforms and weapons, or maintain its size and cut back in those areas. NYT’s Thom Shanker: "A decision to trade numbers for capability would involve a large drop in the size of the active-duty Army, which could shrink to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops. The Marine Corps would drop to between 150,000 and 175,000 personnel. (Under current budget orders, the Army already is set to fall over five years to 490,000 from a peak of 570,000, and the Marines are to drop to 182,000 from 202,000. The ground forces still would be slightly larger than they were before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the beginning of a decade-long military buildup.) The largest Pentagon cuts would also require a concurrent reduction in aircraft carrier strike groups to 8 or 9 from 11. In addition, some number of Air Force squadrons could be retired."
But compensation is on the chopping block. Hagel outlined options for what may be some of the most controversial reforms: finding savings within military compensation. That could include changing military healthcare retirement fees – something then SecDef Bob Gates wrestled with some years ago; changing the way housing allowances are calculated to force some service members to pay a bit more for their housing costs – service members in the Washington, D.C. area, can get allowances of up to a few thousand dollars each month to live in the expensive region, for example; and reducing overseas cost-of-living adjustements and limiting military and civilian pay increases, which have grown by more than 20 percent in the last several years.
It’s all pre-decisional, as military folks like to say. Hagel: "And again, we’ve made no choices. We’re not making any recommendations on any of this. This is an honest range of what the review has produced from one end to the other on what we’re going to be looking at here."
Why is Ash Carter testifying today and not Chuck Hagel? A senior defense official tells Situation Report that it makes sense for the Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to brief on Capitol Hill, along with his uniformed counterpart, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the strategic review. "The Vice chairman was sidesaddled with Carter throughout the process," the official said. "Winnefeld will be there for the same reason." The full transcript of yesterday’s briefing, here.
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.
The knives are out. Even casual observers of the dynamic inside the Pentagon can see the anxiety in and among the services over budget cuts. Budgetary rivalry is nothing new in the Pentagon. But a senior officer observed to Situation Report this week that he still thinks sequestration might have brought folks together in some way — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s office likes to talk about the "one-team-one-fight" approach to dealing with cuts. Instead, the officer said, it’s had the opposite effect. Today, the WSJ’s Julian Barnes reports that as the war chest shrinks, the services are fighting over everything from drones to clocks. Barnes: "The emerging debate is expected to be the most intense in two decades as the branches of the military seek to retool their missions to match the needs of future conflicts." An example: "In hindsight, U.S. Army Col. Mark Moser may have inadvertently fired the opening salvo. He was ordered last year to put together a presentation that envisioned stationing Army helicopters aboard Navy warships to support ground troops in far-flung battlegrounds. Word soon reached the Marine Corps, who now piggyback their helicopters on Navy vessels. In April, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Mangum, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala., said in a speech that basing helicopters on Navy ships could "be our ticket for the future." The Army, he added, must not concede the mission to the Marines. The Corps returned fire. "If anyone wants to spend money to duplicate our capability, just give it to us instead as we already know what we are doing," said Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, who commands a new rapid-reaction crisis-response headquarters in Okinawa." And: "There is also the matter of the master clock. The Navy maintains some 80 atomic clocks, many of them at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. One of the most important uses of the master clock is to provide a time reference for the Global Positioning System. The Air Force, which has its own atomic clocks, argues it should take over the job of keeping time, since GPS relies on satellites. The Navy, which has been the U.S. timekeeper since 1845, objects." The rest of the story here.
Claire McCaskill is trying to get answers on the POW/MIA problem. Angered by problems within the command after the AP’s Bob Burns published a story on an internal document that showed the efforts to find the military’s missing was totally dysfunctional, Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat from Missouri who chairs the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight today grills top military officials about the problems within the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
On tap today: Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command; Montague Winfield, a retired two-star, who is now the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs Director, Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office; and John Goines, chief, Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory, U.S. Air Force.
McCaskill spokesman Drew Pusateri to Situation Report: "Senator McCaskill will be asking tough questions to officials in charge of POW/MIA recovery efforts in light of recent reports detailing a startling lack of accountability and coordination-with the goal of ensuring tax dollars are being responsibly spent on an operation that means so much to so many families."
Blind me with science: Read Situation Report’s report earlier this month on what’s at the heart of the matter of the POW/MIA effort. Click here.
The U.S. and Afghanistan have resolved questions over the costly fees Afghanistan wanted to charge as the U.S. pulls out. This morning the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul issued a statement from ISAF Commander Gen. Joe Dunford saying that it had reached an agreement with the Kabul government over retrograde of equipment known as the Military Technical Agreement and Kabul’s Cabinet of Ministers has agreed to waive penalties and fines associated with custom transit documentation, according to the statement. The Afghan government had demanded that the U.S. military pay as much as $1,000 per shipping container leaving the country if it did not have a "validated customs form," according to a report last month in the WaPo. The country said the military had racked up as much as $70 million in fines, according to the story.
Edward Snowden has left the building. Snowden has left the Moscow airport after Russian officials granted him temporary asylum, Snowden’s lawyer said. From the AP: "Anatoly Kucherena said that Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons. The former NSA systems analyst was stuck at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23."
Is Snowden laying it on thick? Is the NSA? FP’s Shane Harris: "When the NSA leaker insisted that low-level employees like him could spy on just about anyone, administration officials and NSA supporters in Congress were quick to call him an embellisher, if not an outright liar. But a pair of classified disclosures on Wednesday – one authorized by government officials, the other most certainly not — lend some credence to Snowden’s claims. They don’t clearly demonstrate that Snowden was right, but they don’t exactly rule out that an analyst could use the powerful tool to spy on Americans without proper authority. A U.S. intelligence official offered a competing explanation of the documents, however: that America’s electronic eavesdropping giant was itself the exaggerator. The documents that were released today? At least one of them looks like a NSA marketing brochure — an attempt to make the agency look like a better spy than it actually was. Read the rest of Shane’s piece here.
After weeks of silence, Booz Allen’s chief speaks on Snowden. Some thought Booz Allen Hamilton’s would have been quicker to speak out publicly about Snowden in a bid to distance the company from the surveillance leaks and ensure the company didn’t get wrongly painted. Maybe his silence paid off. Booz’ CEO Shrader has said nothing publicly until now, just as Booz Allen reported a 13 percent jump in quarterly profits. Shrader, writes the WaPo’s Marjorie Censer, said government customers have been supportive since the Snowden affair first broke this spring. Censer: "Booz Allen’s chief executive, Ralph W. Shrader, rebuked Snowden’s actions on Wednesday in his first public remarks on the topic. Shrader said during a conference call that he has met with Booz Allen employees on the matter. Shrader: "I told our employees Mr. Snowden was on our payroll for a short period of time, but he was not a Booz Allen person and he did not share our values… we cannot and will not let him define us."
The Chinese company Huawei, all but barred in the U.S., is thriving in Africa. FP’s John Reed looks at how Huawei, thought to be an intelligence agency operating as a tech business in the U.S., is doing in Africa. Reed: "From Cairo to Johannesburg, the Chinese telecom has offices in 18 countries and has invested billions of dollars in building African communications networks since the late 1990s. . Just in the past few months, the firm closed a pair of telecommunications deals in Africa each worth more than $700 million, part of an African business that brings in more than $3.5 billion annually for the Chinese firm. According to Huawei’s marketing materials, the projects are all part of a mission of "Enriching [African] Lives through Communication." But current and former U.S. officials — as well as outside security analysts — worry there could be another agenda behind Huawei’s penetration into Africa. They suspect that the Chinese telecom could be wiring the continent for surveillance." Read the rest here.
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
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.