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: Epic Fails: DOD’s “encyclopedia” of ethical lapses

Hagel getting to the church on time, 132 years later; Wormuth, McKeon to Pentagon Policy shop, McCord to comptroller; China mil's growing muscle mass; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

By Gordon Lubold

Epic Failures: Turns out, DOD catalogues a huge number of the ethical legal and moral failures of government personnel in The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, who knew? Did you hear the one about the first lieutenant who had to pay $120,000 in fines for accepting bribes from contractors he’d awarded with lucrative Defense Department deals? Or the Navy civilian who asked a defense contractor for a $5,000 payment so the contractor could be "recommended" for a $153,000 contract? What about the four senior officials, including two Air Force generals, a Marine general, and a Navy admiral, who extended their stay in Tokyo to play golf at an illegal cost of $3,000 to the government?

The thing is, those aren’t jokes. They’re true stories. And they point to a growing problem within the military: a pattern of misconduct, misbehavior, and outright thievery by senior generals, top Pentagon civilian officials and, of course, the rank-and-file. 

The laundry list of wrongdoing in the Defense Department and in various other government agencies, is contained in a surprisingly readable — but unknown — document compiled by the Defense Department’s equally unknown General Counsel’s Standards of Conduct Office. 

The name of the July 2013 report says it all: The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, a 164-page who’s who of bureaucratic ne’er-do-wells that details all of those government personnel who have tried to fleece the government, line their pockets with public money, use government property for their own use or demand loans from subordinates.

There is a section on credit card abuse, another on political endorsements. There’s one on financial aid disclosures, and others on fraud, gambling, and gift violations. The Defense Department likes to say that most of its personnel are law-abiding, upstanding citizens, and that’s true. But the numerous cases listed in the document beg the question: Who does this kind of thing?

"Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct," the introduction reads. "Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real."

And here from the July 2013 update: "A military officer was reprimanded for faking his own death to end an affair.  Worthy of a plot in a daytime soap-opera, a Navy Commander began seeing a woman that he had met on a dating website.  The Commander neglected to tell the woman that he was married with kids.  After 6 months, the Commander grew tired of the relationship and attempted to end it by sending a fictitious e-mail to his lover – informing her that he had been killed.  The Commander then relocated to Connecticut to start a new assignment.  Upon receipt of the letter, his mistress showed up at the Commander’s house to pay her respects, only to be informed, by the new owners, of the Commander’s reassignment and new location.   The Commander received a punitive letter of reprimand, and lost his submarine command." Read the rest of our story here.

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Mike Rogers just got the worst job in Washington. The White House just nominated Vice Adm. Mike Rogers to lead the NSA and Cyber Command. Chuck Hagel announced the nomination while traveling in Europe, noting that Obama accepted his recommendation of Rogers: "This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Admiral Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama’s reforms.  A trained cryptologist, his Navy career spans 30 years.  As commander of the Navy’s 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, he has already demonstrated his leadership and deep expertise in this critical domain.  I am also confident that Admiral Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age…"

The NYT’s David Sanger and Thom Shanker on Rogers: "…But many of the biggest issues, including who will hold the vast database of phone call information and online activity of ordinary Americans that the N.S.A. searches for potential terrorists or nuclear proliferators, remain undecided. And Mr. Obama has deferred decisions on recommendations, also from advisers, that the N.S.A. stop its efforts to weaken commercial encryption and limit its activities to exploiting weaknesses in commonly available software to design cyberweapons." Said one senior adviser to Obama to the NYT: "Mike’s now flying right into the hornet’s nest of the stuff the president didn’t decide…And it’s all going to play out in public." More here.

Filling out the Hagel bench, con’t: The White House also announced it’s "intention to nominate" (why not just do it now?) three big jobs in the Pentagon. Christine Wormuth, long thought to be a replacement for Pentagon Policy Chief Jim Miller, will indeed succeed him, and Brian McKeon will become P-DUSDEE, or Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (replacing Kath Hicks, who departed the Pentagon last year). Wormuth has been the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Force Development and served on the White House’s National Security Council staff. She has also helped to lead the QDR process at the Pentagon for Hagel and also coordinates the Senior Leadership Council, or SLIC, groups of all the top commanders and chiefs, so she is thought to have strong relationships with the combatant commanders and service chiefs among others. McKeon, a 20-year veteran in foreign policy circles and now chief of staff at the NSC, is thought to be well-regarded and obviously has close ties to the White House – that could be good for Hagel. Meantime, Mike McCord will be nom’ed to replace the outgoing Bob Hale, the tireless, dry-witted Pentagon Comptroller, who is retiring.

Page One: In Afghanistan, all roads lead to crumble. Read The WaPo’s Kevin Sieff’s bit on how the U.S. spent billions on highway infrastructure but how many roads are "barely driveable" by clicking here (includes an excellent shot of a yellow Toyota about to drive off the side of a boulder).

Getting to the church on time, 132 years later: Hagel is in Poland at the church where his great grandparents were married. During his three-day trip to Europe, including stops in Poland and Germany for the Munich Security Conference, Hagel is in the village of Kiszkow to pay respects to a bit of family history. Apparently Poland is very excited about Hagel’s visit there today. TV is covering the visit live and the stop at the village, near where U.S. airmen are serving in Poland and where Hagel also visited, was organized by the highest levels of the government: Poland’s prime minister and foreign minister. Some of Hagel’s distant relatives are driving in for the big "homecoming" with the Polish descendant who dun good and became SecDef. Background: "Hagel’s great grandparents’ names were Tomasz K?kolewski and Katarzyna K?kolewski. Tomasz K?kolewski, born in Wierzonka, lived in Turostów, near Kiszków, worked as a farmhand. Katarzyna Budnikowska (aka Budzi?ska – both names were used in the records) was born in 1861 in Lednogóra. She lived in Gniewkowo, near Kiszków and worked as maid. They were married in 1882 in the parish church in D?brówka Ko?cielna. The parish still exists but the original church burned down in the 1920s and was later rebuilt."

While in Poland, Hagel also laid a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial. It’s the week of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and this marks the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where so many Jews were taken from the ghetto so while in town, Hagel commemorated it there.

Scoopage: China’s military is building muscle mass. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio: "China’s air force is fielding new precision-guided cruise missiles, long-range bombers and drones as its Navy expands its long-range punch, according to U.S. military intelligence officials. ‘While we would not characterize the modernization as accelerated,’ it’s ‘progressing at a steady pace’ and is significant, Lee Fuell, a director at the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said in a presentation released yesterday. Fuell’s presentation and one prepared by the Office of Naval Intelligence for a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington are the most detailed new public assessments of the Chinese air force’s and navy’s growing military capabilities. While China’s military spending is less than one-fifth of the U.S.’s, President Xi Jinping has vowed to create a strong and disciplined military since he took control of the Central Military Commission when he became party secretary in November 2012." More here.

The nuke scandal widens and Debbie James’ brand new leadership is being tested. FP’s Dan Lamothe: "The cheating scandal that has rocked the Air Force’s nuclear commands has expanded to such proportions that the service has sent extra missile launch officers to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana to account for all of those who have been sidelined, Air Force officials said Thursday. That acknowledgement came as service officials said that nearly half of all launch nuke officers at Malmstrom — 92 out of about 192 — are now unable to do their work because of the investigation.

"The officers are charged with safeguarding and operating missile silos containing the United States’ arsenal of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The sidelined airmen are accused of either cheating on a monthly proficiency exam, or knowing about others who did and looking the other way. Air Force leaders disclosed the cheating Jan. 15, saying at the time that at least 34 officers at Malmstrom had been implicated."

Secretary of the Air Force James Debbie James: "I believe that a very terrible irony in this whole situation is that these missileers didn’t cheat to pass… They cheated because they felt driven to get 100 percent. Getting 90 percent or 95 percent was a failure in their eyes." Read the rest here.

Also, here’s Dan’s exclusive from Wednesday, where he was the first to report that the service has frozen all promotions for senior officers in the Air Force’s nuke community – including at least one colonel nom’ed to become a brigadier. Read that here.

Meanwhile, read "Blame the mission, not the missileers," by Tom Collina of the Arms Control Association; he writes: "the scope of this review-limited to personnel issues-must be expanded. At its core, the problems facing the nuclear force have little to do with people and everything to do with the declining mission. As Hagel well knows, nuclear deterrence is no longer a high priority mission for defending the United States. It is a backwater, a dead end assignment. As the Pentagon put it in 2010, "The massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the Cold War…is poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorists and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons." The rest of that here.

Time’s Mark Thompson did a piece about Marine Sgt. David Lindley, who answered his nation’s call but then when he needed his nation – his nation let him down. Thompson: "… This is a story about what untreated posttraumatic stress can do to a man, his family, his life and his neighborhood." "A Troubled Marine’s Final Fight," here.

Here’s something just craaa. Twenty years after Hiroshima, elite American troops trained to stop a Soviet invasion – with nukes strapped to their backs. You read that right, and it’s on FP. Adam Rawnsley and David Brown, in "The Littlest Boy:"  "As Capt. Tom Davis stands at the tailgate of the military cargo plane, the night air sweeps through the hold. His eyes search the black terrain 1,200 feet below. He grips the canvas of his reserve parachute and takes a deep breath. 

"Davis and the men who make up his Special Forces A-team are among the most highly trained soldiers in the U.S. Army. It’s 1972, and Davis isn’t far removed from a tour in Vietnam, where he operated along the Cambodian border. His communications sergeant served in Command and Control North, which was responsible for some of the most daring operations in the heart of North Vietnamese territory. But none of the men has ever been on a mission like this before.

"Their plan: drop into Eastern Europe, make their way undetected through forested mountains, and destroy a heavy-water plant used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Leading up to the operation, during four days of preparation, Army regional experts briefed them on routes of infiltration and anticipated enemy patrols. The team pored over aerial photographs and an elaborate mock-up of the target — a large, slightly U-shaped building.

"It’s situated in a wide, open area with a roving guard, but at least the team won’t have to sneak inside. Hanging awkwardly from the parachute harness of Davis’s intelligence sergeant is a 58-pound nuclear bomb [italics, boldface, ours]. With a weapon this powerful, they can just lay it against a wall, crank the timers, and let fission do its work." You totally want to read this. More here.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Kinda-sorta: The White House and Congress team up to take aim at Ukraine. FP’s John Hudson: "The Obama administration has been fighting with Congress for months, but the two sides are working together to lay the groundwork for punitive new sanctions against Ukraine. With the violent political crisis there gathering steam by the day, the administration is working with powerful members of Congress — including one of their biggest and most vocal critics — to identify individual members of the Ukrainian government or security forces that could be targeted down the road. A State Department official said that the administration hasn’t determined whether to implement the sanctions. Still, the fact that punitive measures are even under consideration highlights the administration’s growing disapproval of the violence spreading throughout the Ukraine — and its potential willingness to act." Said one congressional aide to Hudson: "It’s a shot across the bow to those Ukrainian officials who we believe are responsible for the violence." More here.

Is sick leave a delaying tactic in Ukraine? The WSJ’s Alan Cullison and James Marson from Kiev: "Ukraine’s president and his opponents accused one another of sabotaging efforts to end the political crisis Thursday, as an unexpected presidential sick leave further damped hopes for compromise. President Viktor Yanukovych’s absence was quickly denounced by his opponents as a case of executive malingering in a country where politicians have in the past delayed one another in parliament by throwing eggs, padlocking the doors and body-blocking the rostrum." Read that bit here.

Sexual assault panel: keep power with the commanders. US News & World Report’s Paul Shinkman: "A panel that ultimately will advise the Pentagon on how it can stem the shocking trend of sexual assaults within the military released a preliminary finding Thursday, saying senior officers should maintain oversight of sexual assault cases within their chains of command. The ‘role of the commander’ in sexual assault cases has been one of the most contentious issues facing the military, which in 2012 experienced an estimated 26,000 instances of unwanted inappropriate contact — the vast majority of which were unreported. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has introduced legislation that would give oversight of such cases to a military lawyer outside the chain of command." More here.

With tears in our eyes (that’s a Mattis ref, there): FP’s Noah Shachtman, out. Shachtman, FP’s Executive Editor for news and a friend to Situation Report, is returning to New York full time to become the executive editor of The Daily Beast. Today is his last day. Shachtman, who arrived last spring, had hired a number of reporters and had put FP’s news organization on solid footing. Together, we put together a string of scoops on Syria’s chemical weapons, the NSA scandals, and the CIA’s drone program, to name a few. We’re sorry to see him go. But he had been commuting from New York to Washington each week and it had taken its toll on his young family, who remained up there. FP’s own man at the State Department, Yochi Dreazen, a former WSJ reporter and seasoned veteran of foreign policy and national security coverage, has been named to succeed Shachtman. ICYMI, the NYT’s Ravi Somaiya on Noah’s going to The Beast, from a couple weeks ago, here. We genuinely wish him well.

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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