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.

FP’s Situation Report: DOD mulls a new DepSecDef; A Navy scandal widens; What Forbes wants members to know; Why is the MCC sending money to corrupt countries?; Little’s last briefing; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold The Pentagon says no need for "rotational troops" for the Philippines. Stripes J. Taylor Rushing: "Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Tuesday that he did not see a need for a rotational presence as part of U.S. troop aid to the Philippines, even as the aircraft carrier USS George Washington closes in ...

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

The Pentagon says no need for "rotational troops" for the Philippines. Stripes J. Taylor Rushing: "Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Tuesday that he did not see a need for a rotational presence as part of U.S. troop aid to the Philippines, even as the aircraft carrier USS George Washington closes in on the embattled region. U.S. officials are negotiating with officials in the Philippines to ensure greater access for troops to areas damaged by last week’s typhoon that left casualties in the thousands. The Washington, which carries about 5,000 sailors and more than 80 planes, left from a port in Hong Kong and is expected in the Philippines within the next three days. At least 250 Marines have delivered more than 100,000 pounds of relief supplies in the Philippines as well, he said." More here.

The next DepSecDef might be… we don’t know yet. But with Sen. Lindsey Graham’s hold on nominations still holding, there’s a good chance the Pentagon is coming up with a Plan B for its Number 2 to fill the Deputy Secretary of Defense job now held by Ash Carter. We’re told by multiple officials that the Pentagon may identify a candidate who can serve in an Acting role — but who would not likely ever be installed permanently — until the real nominee can be vetted, named, nominated and confirmed by a Senate process that has not shown signs of efficiency and speed. It’s possible Christine "Top Gun" Fox, who was the director of the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, or CAPE, office could be named in the interim. Fox — who inspired the Kelly McGillis character in the movie "Top Gun" led the popular Strategic Management Choices Review, a top-to-bottom look at Defense Department spending in light of billions of dollars of cuts the Pentagon confronting. Because that process — nicknamed the "Scammer" for its shotgun-style approach to evaluating programs — hasn’t earned Fox widespread love across the Defense Department. But she is well-regarded and is thought to possess the requisite skills to be the Pentagon’s Number 2 at least for a period of time.

Another option may be naming one of the Service Secretaries to the post for a period of time. Since there is no sitting Air Force secretary – only Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning who is also the Undersecretary of that service – Fanning is an unlikely pick. That leaves Secretaries Ray Mabus of the Navy and John McHugh of the Army. Either could be seen as filling that role as a bridge until the permanent person was selected, Situation Report is told. But the clock is ticking: Carter leaves the Department Dec. 4. Also, former Marine Bob Work, now the CEO at the Center for a New American Security and a former Undersecretary of the Navy before leaving that job earlier this year, is on a not very long list of candidates to replace Carter.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Situation Report. If you’d like to sign up for Situation Report, send us a note at and we’ll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend. Register free for Situation Report and other FP products here. As always, if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, you gotta say something — to Situation Report. One more thing: please follow us @glubold. Attention readers with yahoo addresses: we’re working on the issue that delays the arrival of Situation Report each day.

The Navy’s corruption scandal continues to widen, now to a new, second case. The WaPo’s Craig Whitlock "Federal authorities are investigating three senior Navy intelligence officials as part of a probe into an alleged contracting scheme that charged the military $1.6 million for homemade firearm silencers that cost only $8,000 to manufacture, court records show. The three civilian officials, who oversee highly classified programs, arranged for a hot-rod auto mechanic in California to build a specially ordered batch of unmarked and untraceable rifle silencers and sell them to the Navy at more than 200 times what they cost to manufacture, according to court documents filed by federal prosecutors. The purpose of the silencers remains a mystery. According to the court papers, one of the intelligence officials told a witness in the case that the silencers were intended for SEAL Team 6, the elite commando unit that killed Osama bin Laden. The case is the second ­contract-fraud investigation to entangle senior Navy intelligence officials in recent weeks.

"There is no known connection between the two corruption cases, but both reach high into the Navy hierarchy and, based on prosecutors’ filings, expose how easy it can be for contractors and insiders to defraud the service of millions of dollars. The investigations also call into question the Navy’s ability to prevent fraud.

"In April 2011, after yet another contracting scandal, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus pledged a crackdown and appointed a special panel to improve oversight. ‘We will not accept any impropriety, kickbacks, bribery or fraud,’ he promised at the time. A few months later, however, civilian intelligence officials at Navy headquarters began circulating e-mails that set into motion the scheme to purchase the firearm silencers, according to affidavits from investigators and other documents filed recently by prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Alexandria." Read the rest of the unfolding tale, here.

Why is this U.S. foreign aid agency poised to send hundreds of millions of dollars to flawed, corrupt and undemocratic countries – in violation of its own rules? FP’s Yochi Dreazen looked into it in this exclusive: "The Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency dedicated to ‘advancing American values’ by reducing poverty, advancing good governance, and weeding out corruption. But people familiar with the matter say that the MCC — led by Colorado banker Daniel Yohannes — is seriously contemplating giving money to Sierra Leone and Benin, which fail to meet its "control of corruption" requirements, and Liberia and Morocco, which meet less than half of the organization’s 20 requirements for civil liberties, sound economic policies, and other measures. If approved, each country could receive hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. government funding over the next few years." Read the rest here.

Randy Forbes is looking to educate members on readiness in that classified briefing we told you about last week. Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, told Situation Report yesterday that the classified briefing on Thursday will be a way to illustrate to members who may not be familiar with readiness issues the degree to which sequester and other "Draconian cuts" damage the military. Forbes, to Situation Report: "The bottom line is that we are decimating the national defense of this country. If you assume that I’m correct on that and I think the Joint Chiefs would ag
ree, I think that if that’s going to happen, our members need to at least know what they’re doing before they continue casting these votes that decimate the military… Very few [members] have looked at the consequences of what they’re doing. Those consequences are startling." Forbes said he’s not trying to lobby members in that sense – but that the information they’ll learn at the briefings will speak for itself.

Why is Rand Paul being so careful when he talks about the military? The NYT’s Jim Rutenberg on Sen. Rand Paul’s remarks at the Citadel yesterday in which he tried, carefully, to step away from the interventionist "Bush Doctrine:" "On Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul went [to the Citadel], effectively to describe just how far he would go in moving the nation away from that doctrine, another step in his effort to position himself as part of the ever-earlier maneuvering of presidential politics, while establishing his place in the continuing fight over his party’s direction. As a face of the emergent strain of libertarian-leaning Republicanism, Mr. Paul has drawn suspicion from members of the party’s hawkish wing, which has held sway for decades. Some of them consider him an isolationist.

Speaking at the Citadel, on the Ashley River here, Mr. Paul declared his support for the ‘peace through strength’ approach of President Ronald Reagan but, true to form, called for an audit of the Pentagon." Paul: "America must be engaged in the world, commercially, diplomatically and, when necessary, militarily… But to be engaged doesn’t mean to always be engaged in war… As a senator, I will, if I have to, not hesitate to vote for war,’ he said but added that ‘an America that did not seek to become involved in every conflict of the world could do things to make us safer at home and abroad." More here.

Today at the Pentagon – Hagel hosts Slovenia’s Minister of Defense at 10:45 a.m. and then Kazakhstan’s Minister of Defense at 2:15. Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Sandy Winnfeld and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno attend the USO 16th Annual Salute to Military Chiefs at 6:30pm. at Pentagon City’s Ritz-Carlton.

What happened yesterday at the Pentagon: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel convened all the combatant commanders and other military leaders to talk about "the current budget uncertainty and its impact on force readiness and management" during a five-hour meeting, a senior defense official tells us. Commanders provided brief reports to Hagel on their areas of responsibility, and Hagel noted that the mix of fiscal and strategic challenges they face is "unlike any they have faced in their careers," the defense official told Situation Report. Hagel thanked Adm. Sam Locklear of U.S. Pacific Command for the command’s efforts after the typhoon in the Philippines and Gen. Bob Kehler of Strategic Command for his years of service.

Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey and the commanders then crossed the river to brief POTUS.

Jon Stewart and MOH recipient Sal Giunta attended a "Heroes Gala" last night put on by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. See them here.

The security agreement with Afghanistan is tied to the situation with military workers. The WSJ’s Nathan Hodge: "…The engineers, Clarito Bansale and Jay-Jay Esguerra of the Philippines, were finally released on Saturday following intense diplomatic pressure, in an incident that foreign officials here say points up a disturbing trend: the criminalization of commercial disputes… The question of whether U.S. personnel and contractors would be immune from Afghan prosecution is the last major issue of contention in talks for a continued U.S. military presence here after next year. A traditional Afghan gathering, known as the Loya Jirga, is set to meet in Kabul this month to decide on the issue, which Washington sees as a nonnegotiable condition to stay." Read the rest here.  

Afghan opium production reaches record high, AFP, here.

Raytheon and Lockheed are trying to sweeten the offer to build a Patriot system for Turkey since Ankara is on the fence about the $3.4 billion deal with China. Reuters’ Andrea Shalal-Esa, citing one source who said there are "internal discussions" happening about the Patriot offer, cited a second source who confirmed the preliminary discussions "about how the offer could be adjusted to be more competitive with bids submitted by the Chinese firm, and a European group," she wrote. "Both sources said no decisions had been made and it was important to allow Turkey – a member of NATO – time to make up its mind. Turkey announced in September it had chosen China’s FD-2000 long-range air and missile defense system against rival offers from Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and Raytheon. It said China offered the most competitive terms and would allow co-production in Turkey, but the decision caused alarm in NATO countries worried about China’s growing clout." Read the rest here.

Is the LCS in trouble? The WSJ’s Nissenbaum in this Page Oner today under the eyebrow "Ripe Target:" Nissenbaum: "When the USS Freedom’s report card came in last week from Singapore, it didn’t provide great news for Navy brass trying to keep Pentagon budget cutters away from the experimental warship. The U.S. Navy had sent the vessel to Asia this spring, hoping the innovative Littoral Combat Ship would prove its detractors wrong and live up to the Navy’s belief that it can be the backbone of America’s future fleet. Instead, the narrative was marred by generator meltdowns, burst pipes and propulsion troubles that delayed the Freedom’s participation in international war games. When Navy leaders were given an expedited assessment on the ship’s performance last week, they found the scope of those problems to be ‘a little stunning,’ says Rear Adm. Tom Rowden, the Navy’s director of surface warfare. It was an unwelcome review for the Navy, at a particularly bad time. The service is running into mounting high-level Defense Department resistance to the Navy’s plan for a ship that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says ‘represents the future of the Navy-and the future of warfare.’" Read the rest here.

The Navy is going to keep its carrier-hopping killer drone flying until 2015 (with video!) War is Boring’s David Axe, writing on FP:

"Pratt & Whitney turbofan whining, tires slamming on the steel deck in puffs of white smoke, the X-47B killer drone prototype arrived on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Nov. 9. Over the next several days the kite-shaped X-47B launched, landed and taxied in increasingly complex wind conditions, racking up test data and bringing the Navy closer to deploying the world’s first jet-powered robotic bombers. Lots more tests are still to come. 1,092 feet long and displacing 104,600 tons of water, the 29-year-old, nuclear-powered Roosevelt is the third of the Navy’s 10 flat
tops to test the pair of X-47B drones that Northrop Grumman built under a roughly billion-dollar contract starting in 2007. After six years of design, production and ground testing, the pair of 62-foot-wingspan drones — known to the Navy as "Salty Dogs" and to Northrop engineers as ‘Doritos’ — took to the sea in December 2012." Read the rest here.

Snowden is reportedly running out of cash. UPI: "Nearly all the money U.S. secrets leaker Edward Snowden had since he fled the United States in May is gone, his attorney in Russia said.

‘The savings he had, he has almost entirely spent on food, rent, security and so on,’ attorney Anatoly Kucherena said in an interview published Tuesday in Rossiiskaya Gazeta." Read the rest here.

The White House blasted new efforts to place more sanctions on Iran. The Cable’s John Hudson: "In its most forceful language to date, the White House and State Department blasted Congressional efforts to place new sanctions on Iran as delicate negotiations continue on the country’s nuclear program. Without mincing words, U.S. officials warned that spoiling diplomatic talks with Iran would be a ‘march to war.’" Carney: "It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?… The American people do not want a march to war."

George Little had his last briefing – at least he thinks so. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, leaving the building Friday, held what is likely his last briefing in the Pentagon before joining the private sector for an undisclosed position somewhere. At the briefing the former CIA spokesman-turned-Pentagon-spokesman was asked by CNN’s Barbara Starr what the public didn’t yet know about the Osama bin Laden raid – what the news media never asked – and what the administration’s response would have been had the mission gone south. Little acknowledged there might be a deet or two out there that no one has unearthed, but settled on "you and the American people know a great deal about what happened on that very important day."

As for what would have happened if the mission hadn’t gone well: "I think that the likelihood is that, just given the way these things work in this day and age, that we would have had to be truthful and accurate about what happened. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go that route and it was a successful operation… the fact of the matter is that we did have a plan for success and we had a plan for failure, in terms of what we would have said publicly."

Hey, why you lookin’ at me? Longtime NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski had one more question based on Little’s final answer. 

Little: "Yes, Mick?"

Jim Miklaszewski: "Why — why did you look directly at me when you suggested that some of us might disagree?"

Little: "I wasn’t glancing with any particular purpose or person in mind."

JM: "Just checking."

Little: "Yeah, no, not at all. Not at all."

The section of the briefing in question between the two in which Little talks about "over-classification" and Mik noticed Little staring at him.

Little: "In some cases, is there over-classification? I don’t know any government official in their right mind who would say there’s never over-classification. I think that is an issue from time to time. But overall, I think that this department does a very good job of trying to be as transparent as possible about as many issues as possible. That’s certainly been a goal of mine since coming here, and I hope it continues. That’s the right thing to do. Transparency is critical for this department and its legitimacy. One of the reasons that we in the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, have a very high approval rating with the American people is because we are transparent. Even when it’s bad news, quite frankly, we tend to come forward quickly and own up to it and talk about the measures we’re taking to ensure that the problem doesn’t occur again. Some people may disagree with me about that, but that’s our general orientation. And we’re going to, I think, continue to do that, and whoever succeeds me I’m sure will carry that banner forward." Read the transcript here.

Meanwhile, Little is still mum about his successor. Asked by a reporter if he’d like to name that person right then and there, Little passed up on the opportunity. "I don’t think a decision has been made, so I can’t. You want me to come up with a cover story, Barbara?" [JK!]

Where is he going? "My immediate goal is to spend a little time with my boys, to actually drop them off at school and maybe even pick them up, and I look forward to spending a little bit more time with them and with the entire family. And then I’ll pick up from there and see what the options are."

The press: "Well, good luck." 

Little said the press had become like a second family to him and that he "will forever cherish the relationships we’ve built, both here at the Pentagon and on the many trips we’ve taken together around the world."  Little’s last words: "Thank you very much. Nice working with all of you. Thank you."

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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