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: Hagel to make NATO pitch; The deal is doomed, Moscow says; Picking a Marine Commandant; Swiss cheese at the Pentagon; Is Mary Legere’s support for Army intel system a liability?; Life on a sub, revealed; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel The deal is doomed, Moscow says, as Ukraine starts an assault in the East. The NYT’s Neil MacFarquhar and Alan Cowell this morning from Moscow: "The Kremlin said Friday that ‘all hope’ for an internationally negotiated settlement in Ukraine had been destroyed, hours after two Ukrainian helicopters were shot ...

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

The deal is doomed, Moscow says, as Ukraine starts an assault in the East. The NYT’s Neil MacFarquhar and Alan Cowell this morning from Moscow: "The Kremlin said Friday that ‘all hope’ for an internationally negotiated settlement in Ukraine had been destroyed, hours after two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down as government forces launched an assault to dislodge pro-Russian separatists from the eastern city of Slovyansk.

"A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitri S. Peskov, told news agencies that the ‘punitive operation’ against the separatists’ eastern stronghold effectively had destroyed ‘all hope for the viability of the Geneva agreements’ negotiated in the Swiss city on April 17 by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, which were intended to defuse the crisis. The agreements, which never taken deep root, had become increasingly frayed in recent days. Much of eastern Ukraine slipped beyond the control of the authorities in Kiev as militants took control of a string of official buildings and captured a German-led team of military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."

"…The clashes on Friday seemed to sharpen the East-West confrontation. While the European Commission in Brussels said it was watching the situation in Ukraine with growing concern, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged Western powers to abandon what it said was a ‘destructive’ policy of support for the interim government in Kiev. ‘This will allow a real process of de-escalation to begin,’ the ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Russia’s response to the clashes were in keeping with earlier efforts by the Kremlin to steer events in Ukraine while casting the authorities in Kiev, along with their supporters, as obstacles. More here.

NATO countries are planning a communications mission in Ukraine. U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman: "NATO countries may be ramping up their war of words in the coming weeks in Ukraine, where Russian propaganda flows freely into the east while ill-prepared security forces can’t even talk to one another. Multiple officials who spoke with U.S. News say planning is underway to bolster the Ukrainian government’s ability to communicate among its security services and broadcast to the general public. The details are still being worked out, including whether this would require troops from NATO countries on the ground in Ukraine to train and support the effort." More here.

Meantime, Hagel will make a big NATO pitch this morning at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Center. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will appear at Wilson in DC this morning to talk about the future of NATO. We’re told that he intends to talk NATO’s future, the "importance of the moment we now face as an Alliance," and also about the need to work even harder to invest in American and NATO capabilities. "To that end," said one senior defense official, "he will also stress the need for Alliance governments to focus more on defense spending, but wisely and in the context of fiscal pressures we all face."

An excerpt from what he’ll say: "For decades – from the early days of the Cold War – American Defense Secretaries have called on European allies to ramp up their defense investment.  And in recent years, one of the biggest obstacles to Alliance investment has been a sense that the end of the Cold War ushered in an "end of history," and an end to insecurity – at least in Europe – from aggression by nation-states.  Russia’s actions in Ukraine shatter that myth and usher in bracing new realities.

"Even a united and deeply interconnected Europe still lives in a dangerous world.  While we must continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous global order, there is no postmodern refuge immune to the threat of military force.  And we cannot take for granted – even in Europe – that peace is underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power.

"In the short term, the transatlantic alliance has responded to Russian actions with strength and resolve.  But over the long term, we should expect Russia to test our alliance’s purpose, stamina, and commitment. Future generations will note whether, at this moment of challenge, we summoned the will to invest in our alliance.  We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge.  We will be judged harshly if we do." Deets of the event and a live Webcast here.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of Situation Report. If you’d like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we’ll just stick you on. Like what you see? Tell a friend.  And 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, we hope you’ll say something — to Situation Report. Follow us: @glubold and @njsobe4.

Who’s Where When today – Hagel delivers remarks at Wilson; Gen. J.C. Campbell hosts a retirement ceremony in honor of Army Lt. Gen. Ferriter at 10:00 AM at Fort Benning; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Sandy Winnefeld delivers the commencement address at Georgia Tech’s Graduation Ceremony at 7:00 PM… Gen. Marty Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in Afghanistan; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno will travel to Florida to speak tomorrow at Eglin Air Force Base for the EOD Memorial ceremony honoring four soldiers and four Marines.

And, Truman Project and CNP announced their new board of advisers, which includes Madeleine Albright, Michele Flournoy, Gabrielle Giffords, Bill Perry and a bunch more. The full list of the board, here. Agenda for Truman and CNP’s conference today, here.

Read FP’s John Hudson’s story on Flournoy’s return to CNAS and how she’s focused on 2016, here.

We report, they decide: It’s Marine Commandant-Picking Time! Later this year, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos will retire. "Tamer" became CMC in October 2010, but depending on who succeeds him, he could be relieved by as early as late summer. On the short list to replace him: Joe Dunford, now the top commander in Afghanistan, who could return as early as this summer; John Kelly, currently the commander of U.S. Southern Command, and Ron Bailey, now the deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Plans, Policy and Operations, who would become the first African American Commandant. Kelly is a likely contender, but if it was between him and Dunford, most betting Marines put the greenbacks down on Dunford.

But therein lies a question about who will become the next Chairman: Marty Dempsey is expected to retire in 2015. Four names have popped to the top: Dunford, who could serve a year as Marine Commandant and still be in the running for Chairman; Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd Austin, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Sandy Winnefeld and Adm. Bill McCraven of U.S. Special
Operations Command.

Swiss cheese: Meantime, there are plenty of holes in many of the Pentagon’s top jobs. Here’s the list of people who have been nominated for top Pentagon jobs but who are awaiting love from the U.S. Senate, which has yet to take a floor vote on their confirmations: Jessica Wright, nom’ed to be Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel Readiness); Jo Ann Rooney, nom’ed to be Undersecretary of the Navy; Jamie Morin, nom’ed to be Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation; Michael McCord, nom’ed to be Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); Christine E. Wormuth, nom’ed to be Under Secretary of Defense (Policy); David Shear, nom’ed to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs;  Eric Rosenbach, nom’ed to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, and Brian McKeon, nom’ed to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Start next week listening to Gen. Hawk Carlisle, US Pacific Air Forces Commander, on Pacific Air Forces Strategy and Engagement in Asia-Pacific at CISIS at 11:15 AM on Monday.  Deets here.

The White House Correspondents Dinner is tomorrow night – who’s going? Hagel is headed to the dinner as a guest of Atlantic Media; Dempsey isn’t going because he’s in Afghanistan; But Mike Flynn, who just announced his retirement from DIA, is going as a guest of the WSJ – along with Marcel Lettre, the principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, also a WSJ guest. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is headed there, as is Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James. We know we’ve missed quite a few more – fill us in.

In the aftermath of Mike Flynn’s announced departure comes speculation on his replacement at the Defense Intelligence Agency – the Army’s Mary Legere seems poised to get the nod. But will her connection to the Army’s DCGS-A intel system cause a problem? FP’s Shane Harris: "For the first time in history, a decorated female officer is poised to become the next director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military’s main spying organization. If she gets the job, Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, currently the senior intelligence officer in the Army, will become one of the most powerful women in both the intelligence community and the U.S. military. It would also leave her poised to one day ascend to an even more prestigious post. Running the DIA — which has a multi-billion budget and a workforce of more than 17,000 civilian and military personnel — would typically be the last stop in an officer’s decade- long career. But for Legere, it’s conceivably a stepping stone to an even bigger job running the National Security Agency and serving as the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, which oversees all military cyber defense and warfare. Legere has already been on the shortlist for that position, and was passed over not because a lack of qualifications, current and former officials said, but because an Army general was already in the post, and by tradition, it was time for the job to go to a Navy admiral.

"Indeed, Legere’s resume makes her a natural candidate for NSA director — it’s practically a carbon copy of the agency’s previous chief, Gen. Keith Alexander — and there’s precedent for a DIA director finishing up his military career with a final turn at the NSA.

"… Legere’s career has not been without controversy. She, along with other top Army officers, has backed a multi-billion Army cloud computing program called the Distributed Common Ground System, which critics in Congress say costs far too much money and has failed to provide effective intelligence to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has withheld from Congress a report that shows a cheaper, commercial software program can perform many of the same tasks as the Army’s preferred system, undercutting the arguments Legere and other top officers have advanced for years."

Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who has raised questions over the Army’s DCGS-A system, sent a letter to DNI Jim Clapper and Hagel yesterday, raising questions about Legere. Read the letter, here.

Joe Kasper, deputy chief of staff for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who has tracked the DCGS issue closely, to Situation Report last night: "Because it’s a complicated subject, some Members have been slower to latch on than others. But interest is definitely growing all around. Since this is a program of record, change is expected to be incremental but DCGS is a gift that keeps on giving. And a Legere nomination means even more scrutiny on DCGS, for sure."

The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough’s take last night on the Army’s troubled DCGS system here.

Meantime, for Stimson, Russell Rumbaugh and John Cappel take on DoD’s sequester report, here.

Sexual assault report raises ire on the Hill. The Hill’s Kristina Wong: "A new Pentagon report showing a 50 percent surge in sexual assault reports in the military last year is renewing a fight in Congress over whether the military justice system is in need of reform. While administration officials say the report is evidence that changes to the military justice system have encouraged victims to step forward, several lawmakers said the findings call out for further action.

"The report found there were a total of 5,061 cases of military sexual assault in 2013, compared to 3,374 reports the year before. Pentagon officials said the startling increase was a result of growing confidence in the military justice system, rather than an increase in assaults…"

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, Dem from New York: "Today’s report is deeply troubling and shows the scourge of sexual assaults has not been brought under control and our current military justice system remains broken."

But the Pentagon says its good news that sexual assault claims jumped 50 percent in 2013. Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman: "… Pentagon officials say that’s good news because it means more troops are coming forward to report sexual assaults, seeking help and offering information for prosecuting offenders." More here.

Life on a nuclear sub, revealed. The WSJ’s Julian Barnes with this Page One A-Hed: "There are subcultures. And there are cultures aboard a sub. Silently cruising the ocean depths while safely operating a 130-man tin can powered by a mini nuclear-power plant doesn’t leave much room for error. That is why sub culture is built around rules, some dead serious, others completely ridiculous and some that are both.

"There are rules to run the systems that provide the submarine’s oxygen, water and power. And there are rules that keep the crew, whose bunks allow just 14 inches of headroom, somewhat sane. One of the most important rules has every new junior officer teamed with a slightly more experienced officer who watches over the rookie, mentors him and corrects his mistakes. It can be a fractious relationship. Under the hard stare of Lt. j.g. Josh Bergeron, the mentor, Lt. j.g. Tommy Plummer makes a habit of fumbling the basics, such as how to operate a radio, which on a sub is notoriously difficult. Lt. Bergeron watched as Lt. Plummer tried to make sense of a garbled
incoming radio message. As Lt. Plummer struggled, Lt. Bergeron demanded he make his report, both men recall. ‘I am making it,’ Lt. Plummer said. ‘Making it up.’ Read the rest here.

Also: "Whattayou, a Communist?" Watch the WSJ video with Barnes detailing the funny and serious rules aboard a nuclear sub here.

Officials at the V.A. hospital in Arizona have been placed on leave after those allegations that the hospital created a secret waiting list that could have resulted in the death of 40 vets. The NYT’s Richard Oppel here.

Amazing story: An Army paratrooper who lost his leg in Afghanistan two years ago returned to combat. Here’s the Page One story by the WaPo’s Tim Craig about what it took for Lt. Joshua Pitcher to return to combat. Click right here.  

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III presented eight Army Air Corps members with the Prisoner of War Medal on Wednesday at the Pentagon. The WaPo’s Aaron Gregg: "…They were among 143 honored. Gen. Mark Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff, teared up as he pinned the medals on the airmen, now in their late 80s and 90s. Some were in wheelchairs, or hunched over metal walkers as they made their way to Welsh." More here.

Awesome sauce: A twist on the whole veteran-surprises-a-loved-one-by-returning-home-unexpectedly thing. We don’t know if this is totally real, or staged or completely genuine. But it’s too good to check, as they say, as you watch a soldier return home and surprise his German Shepherd as he retrieves a ball. (h/t Doctrine Man!). Watch it here.

The B-52H bomber meets the 21st century. FP’s Dan Lamothe: "The U.S. Air Force’s iconic B-52H bomber has been in service for decades, dropping ordnance everywhere from Vietnam to Iraq. But in a digital world of iPhones, satellite radio, and armed drones, the bomber has remained decidedly old-school, with analog gauges and less brainpower than your average laptop computer. The Air Force is moving to fix that. It just received the first in a series of B-52s retrofitted with a variety of new electronics designed to boost the plane’s brainpower and make it easier for the aircraft to talk to each other and share complicated targeting information. Dozens of other B-52s will get the upgrades in the years to come as part of a $1.1 billion effort known as CONECT, short for Combat Network Communications Technology. Once upgraded, the crew of each Stratofortress, as the B-52 is known, will no longer be forced to write down new targeting coordinates by hand as the information crackles over the radio, the same way such data was shared decades ago." More here. 

U.S. and Germany can’t burry the hatchet. The NYT’s David Sanger: "The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or ‘no-spy’ agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel arrives at the White House on Friday.?

"… After the disclosure, Mr. Obama said the United States would not monitor Ms. Merkel’s communications, but he made no such commitment for any other German officials. And he said nothing about the future of the N.S.A.’s operations in Germany, including whether a listening station based in the American Embassy in Berlin, would stay intact.?

"For a number of months, German officials said the chancellor could not visit Washington until there was a resolution, including what they called a ‘restoration of trust’ between the allies.?

"But the talks hit the rocks as soon as they began. Germany demanded a no-spy agreement that would ban the United States from conducting espionage activities on its soil. That led to a series of tough exchanges between the president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen." More here.

A former general is accusing the U.S. military of not even trying to save the Americans under attack at Benghazi in 2012. The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake: "A high ranking officer in the U.S. Africa Command on the night of the Benghazi attacks is now saying that the U.S. military did not try and was never even ordered to save the Americans under attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost on the September 11, 2012 attack. In explosive testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell, said bluntly about the military’s response on the night of the Benghazi attack: ‘The discussion is not in the ‘could or could not’ in relation to time, space and capability, the point is we should have tried.’ In many ways, this contradicts the testimony of more senior military officers such as former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who have said the assets were not in place on the night of the attack to get to the Benghazi diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex in time to make a difference." More here.

Boko Haram kills again in Nigeria. Reuters’ Isaac Abrak in Abuja: "A blast on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja killed several people on Thursday, witnesses said. The explosion hit the suburb of Nyanya, close to the site of a morning rush hour bomb attack at a bus station on April 14 that killed at least 75 people. ‘There was a loud blast then a ball of fire,’ witness Lateef Adebayo told Reuters by telephone. ‘There were many dead bodies and ambulances were rushing there.’ It was not immediately clear what had caused the blast. Islamist group Boko Haram, which is waging an insurgency against the Nigerian government to carve out an Islamist enclave in Africa’s No. 1 oil producer, claimed responsibility for the April 14 blast in Nyanya, and threatened further attacks.?" More 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

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