The Cable

Situation Report: New Navy and Army bosses expected; Rubio looks overseas; China looks to Africa and a bunch more

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson Big guns. We’re expecting a pretty big day at the Pentagon today, as Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to announce President Barack Obama’s nominees to be the next Chief of Staff of the Army and Chief of Naval Operations. Word is that Adm. John Richardson, head of the ...

By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson

Big guns. We’re expecting a pretty big day at the Pentagon today, as Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to announce President Barack Obama’s nominees to be the next Chief of Staff of the Army and Chief of Naval Operations.

Word is that Adm. John Richardson, head of the Navy’s nuclear program, is getting the nod to lead the sea service. Richardson would be the second submariner in a row to run the Navy, following in the wake of current boss Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who also spent much of his career serving on submarines.

The nuke billet that Richardson currently fills lies at the heart of the Navy’s modernization plans, and his confirmation would give the service an experienced voice up top to sell the Ohio submarine replacement program, which is slated eat up the Navy’s shipbuilding budget in the 2020s. At a cost about $4.9 billion apiece and at a building rate of one sub per year starting in 2021 for 12 years, it’s something that needs to get fixed right away.

In a recent conversation with FP, Robert Hale, former Defense Department comptroller, said that the sub fight will be key for the next Navy chief. Hale, currently a fellow at Booz Allen, said that all of the services face a “bow wave” of budgetary pressures arising from modernization programs and reset activities early in the next decade, but the sub program will need to be straightened out soonest.

Pounding ground. The Army job is a surprisingly wide open, with a number of top officers in the running who boast years of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with pretty substantial Beltway chops. At the top of the list comes Gen. David Perkins, the highly-regarded head of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which gives him the service’s top perch for developing doctrine and force structure plans for the future. Perkins also has a hell of a back story. As a colonel in 2003, he took a big risk and led the now-infamous “Thunder Run” in Iraq, punching American armored columns of only a few hundred soldiers straight into the heart of Baghdad, capturing several government buildings.

Then there’s the current head of the war in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, who also served as the vice chief under Odierno until heading to Kabul late last year. Campbell generally has a good reputation among the press for being willing to talk, even hosting an informal roundtable with journos in his Pentagon office days before leaving for Kabul to talk about whatever was on their minds.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, the U.S. Central Command chief whose purview includes the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, is also considered a solid pick. The highly press-adverse Austin was the last U.S. commander in Iraq, and also was briefly the vice chief of the Army under Odierno until March 2013.

Several other officers have been mentioned by Defense officials in conversations over the past several months. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who commands U.S. forces in Korea, and Gen. Vincent Brooks, who oversees Army forces in the Pacific, would each bring experience with allies in Asia; Gen. Dan Allyn, the current vice chief of the Army.

There’s also, of course, the dark horse candidate Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who rose from being the controversial and innovative ground commander in Iraq who was blocked from pinning on his first general’s star until then-Gen. David Petraeus stepped in, to now being the three-star head of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, essentially making him the service’s resident futurist. But tapping a sitting three-star to become chief would be a highly, highly unusual move, and bets also are ongoing that he’ll be picked as Carter’s senior military assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Welcome to the Situation Report as we work our way through this week. Things have started to pick up, no? Give us a shout at, or on Twitter at: @paulmcleary

Who’s Where When

9:00 a.m. The Atlantic Council’s Steven Grundman and Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, join University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Michael Horowitz, and former FP’er Kate Brannen to discuss “DOD’s Silicon Valley Outreach: What to Expect?” 10:00 a.m. the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, to discuss current capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces. 2:30 p.m. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on safeguarding American interests in the East and South China Seas. 3:30 p.m. in his first major policy speech as a presidential candidate, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan.


Following a recent trend for U.S. troops deployed in Eastern Europe, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade, participated in a military parade in Jelgava, Latvia, May 4. In February, American troops riding in Stryker infantry vehicles participated in Estonia’s national liberation day parade, just a few hundred years from the Russian border.


Radio Free Europe reports that “Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said Pakistan and Afghanistan are due to launch ‘coordinated operations’ against militants along the joint border.” Pakistan is committed to the Afghan-led peace process, Sharif said, and added “any efforts by anyone to destabilize Afghanistan will face a strong response from us.”


Data from Russian opposition advocates — including politician Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in February — have concluded that 220 Russian troops died in two major battles in Ukraine, the BBC reports. Russia has denied sending any regular troops or armor to the region.


Breaking Defense’s Colin Clark confirmed that the People’s Republic of China is “seriously pursuing,” a strategically advantageous position in Djibouti. An official who spoke with Clark would not give his name or his nationality, “making clear just how sensitive this issue is right now.”

And then there’s all of China’s other activities. Phil Stewart, David Alexander and David Brunnstrom for Reuters report that the Pentagon is “considering” sending ships to the Philippines to “assert freedom of navigation,” through the Spratly Islands. This is pretty in-line with past DOD “Freedom of Navigation” operations; the Pentagon has made no official comment.

The business of defense

For Fortune, Clay Dillow writes on the effect spreading global conflicts have had on the aerospace industry — specifically a big boost in fighter jet contracts with foreign nations.

It’s not just U.S. companies that are benefiting from the increased demand. France has gained a significant amount of business in the Middle East, and is looking for more. Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab met French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday in a visit to Paris that signals the potential for further arms sales between the increasingly outward-looking French defense industry and an Egyptian government that may be looking for suppliers that are not as prickly as Washington has recently proven itself to be, The Cairo Post reports.

A lawsuit filed by Raytheon Co. over U.S. Air Force radar systems has been dismissed by a federal judge, “freeing the U.S. Air Force to re-evaluate bids it got for a new long-range radar won by Raytheon but challenged by rivals Lockheed Martin Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp.,” reports Andrea Shalal of Reuters. “The decision marks a setback for Raytheon, which hopes to hold on to a contract that could be worth $1 billion, given the Air Force’s plan to buy 30 of the new systems in coming years.”


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