Situation Report: Ash Carter talks with billionaires; U.S. Army general deployed to Poland; border control is all the rage in the Middle East, and lots more
By Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley Jet set. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is on the road again, this time jetting off to Sun Valley, Idaho Thursday to address a so-called “billionaire’s summer camp” hosted each year by Allen & Co. The small, privately held investment bank has been holding the elite meeting for years, and ...
By Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley
Jet set. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is on the road again, this time jetting off to Sun Valley, Idaho Thursday to address a so-called “billionaire’s summer camp” hosted each year by Allen & Co. The small, privately held investment bank has been holding the elite meeting for years, and it has become a must-attend event for media and tech moguls, and apparently, the defense secretary. This year, Tesla’s Elon Musk is attending, along with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Carter’s remarks — which are closed to the press — will focus on his plan to bring Silicon Valley entrepreneurs into the national security fold, a Pentagon spokesperson says. The move would allow the military to begin playing a bit of catch up with the breakthroughs in communications and information technology being pushed by the private sector. Officials at the nearest airport to the conference say that they’ve already seen about 200 private jets land since Tuesday, making it one of the biggest private jet events of the year.
Twitter, the root of all evil? Case in point when it comes to the U.S. government’s uneasy relationship with the latest coming out of the tech world are FBI director James Comey’s comments on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Comey said that Twitter has become the main conduit for Islamic State recruitment, FP’s John Hudson writes. The social media site amounted to the “devil on their shoulder” for extremist sympathizers around the world, he said, criticizing companies like Apple and Google for installing default encryption on their latest phones that even the companies can’t break. Without the ability to look into people’s phones, Comey and other critics of encryption argue, the government can’t snoop on those people it considers threats.
Training day. While the U.S.-led military training programs in Iraq and Syria are struggling to bring in the number of recruits that Washington had envisioned, things look quite a bit different in Ukraine, where officials are working with the U.S. Army to actually expand their train and advise efforts. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Ukrainians want to add infantry and special operations troops to the training program in the western part of the country, where U.S. soldiers have been training the country’s National Guard forces. But we also see a sliver of good news from Iraq. There are now 3,500 Iraqis in training with U.S. forces, finally equaling the 3,500 American trainers in the country.
The Situation Report is working through this busy week of potential nuke deals, ramped up training programs, and Twitter fights. Have anything noteworthy to share? Pass it along at firstname.lastname@example.org or send along a shout or DM on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley.
On the move
Now that Eric Rosenbach has moved on to become Ash Carter’s chief of staff, his old job as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security has been filled by former Raytheon exec Tom Akin, SitRep has learned. Akin, who retired from the Coast Guard as a Rear Admiral in 2012, was director of business development for homeland security at Raytheon until coming over to the Defense Department, where he’s responsible for countering WMD, cyber ops, homeland defense, and antiterrorism.
For the first time in history, there’s a U.S. Army general stationed full-time in Poland. Brig. Gen. Frank Tate, is the deputy chief of staff for operations for the NATO Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, near the German border.
Back in May, the Defense Department admitted that it had accidentally been sending samples of inert anthrax to dozens of government and private labs around the world. At the time, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said that he was leading an investigation into what happened with the control processes at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, where the samples originated. That report was supposed to have been completed by the end of June, and newly minted Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis confirms that the report is done, and may be released next week.
No one has yet been held accountable for shipping the samples to a host of facilities that has grown to include 85 labs in 20 states and six countries: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, the U.K., and Italy. It is unclear how many more labs will be added to the list, but two people in particular are likely in the hot seat — Army Col. Ronald F. Fizer, who commands Dugway, and Douglas Andersen, who runs the facility’s Life Sciences Division, from which all of the anthrax originated.
Who’s where when
8:00 a.m. U.S. Army Vice Chief, Gen. Daniel Allyn speaks to the Association of the United States Army Institute for Land Warfare breakfast at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va.
9:00 a.m. The Defense Department’s Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen delivers the opening keynote address at the DoD Chief Information Office Mobility Industry Day at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
9:30 a.m. Nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, has his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Bloomberg has gotten a hold of some of Dunford’s written answers to questions posed by Senators, where he warns that any U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East could empower Iranian aggression.
9:30 a.m. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Dr. William LaPlante provides remarks on Air Force acquisition priorities, and long-term acquisition strategies, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
There’s been a spate of border security-related foreign military sales to countries in the Middle East in recent days, for reasons that shouldn’t surprise anyone watching the fury and reach of the Islamic State over the past year.
On Wednesday, Raytheon announced that it had delivered on a $79 million contract brokered through the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) with Jordan, to provide radars, infrared cameras, command and control software, vehicles, and solar-based renewable power systems to help the country secure its borders with Syria and Iraq.
The State Department also announced a $100 million deal with Egypt for a U.S. company (which has not been specified) to provide mobile surveillance sensor towers, and mobile command and control systems. The description is somewhat vague, but the “Security Mobile Surveillance Sensor Security System” sounds an awful lot like the equipment that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been deploying — with varying degrees of success — to the southwest border with Mexico.
In less high tech, but still important, news, Tunisia also announced this week that it is building a 100-mile long wall along its border with Libya in order to keep jihadists out. The radicalized gunman who recently killed 38 people in an attack on a beach resort is believed to have received training in Libya.
For a few days now, a story has been making the rounds claiming that German Patriot missiles deployed to the Turkish border with Syria had recently been hacked and taken over by unknown attackers. Now the German Defense Ministry has weighed in to say that the thinly-sourced claim is bunk. “This story doesn’t exist” a spokesman told Deutsche Welle, adding that “we’ve found no evidence.”
Prosecutors say that a former Navy fighter pilot and Top Gun school graduate in prison on child pornography charges tried to arrange his escape by offering to sell secrets to China. An Assistant U.S. Attorney alleges that Lt. Daniel Chase Harris wrote a letter to the Chinese embassy offering information in exchange for a breakout — and threatening to proposition the Russian embassy if his correspondents didn’t act soon enough. Harris’s attorney denies the allegations.
Russia’s domestic intelligence agency has a new Batmobile. Witnesses have spotted a new FSB tactical vehicle dubbed ‘the Punisher’ on the roads of Tatarstan. The truck, which looks like something fresh off the production line at Wayne Enterprises, is reportedly based on the chassis of a Kamaz-4911 and is armored to resist gunfire up to 7.62 caliber bullets and sports a ring of cameras for 360 degree visibility.
U.S. Air force secretary Deborah James said that Russia represents the top national security threat to America right now. During a visit to Europe, James said that the U.S. will keep sending F-16 squadrons to Europe to cope with the Russian threat and that NATO countries need to try harder to reach the alliance’s defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP.
For its part, the U.K. pledged to make good on those defense spending requirements. Britain’s finance minister told parliament that the country plans to meet its goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense for the next five years, capping off 2020 with an expected defense budget of $73 billion.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department has quietly been shifting resources in the defense budget to hedge against Russia. In documents sent to Congress, the Pentagon has asked for permission to shift millions of dollars in spending towards projects that revolve around the Russian threat. The spending includes $160 million to upgrade Stryker armored fighting vehicles, $5 million for improvements in submarine sensors and roughly $57 million for infrastructure upgrades at nuclear and missile-related facilities inside the United States.
FBI Director James Comey testified yesterday that over 200 Americans have either gone or attempted to go to Syria and Iraq in order to join Islamic State.
The U.S. will be working with the United Arab Emirates in order to counter Islamic State’s much talked about messaging prowess online through a new outlet in the UAE. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel traveled to the UAE for the opening of the Sawab Center, a new headquarters that aims to push back against Islamic State recruitment propaganda on social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter. It’s still unclear how the Sawab Center’s counter messaging against jihadis will differ from other, similar social media engagement projects launched by the State Department, including the ‘Think Again, Turn Away’ social media accounts.