The D Brief: Was the Turkey basing announcement premature?; Hagel seizes climate change; Surprise! Industry is courting Army leaders, big time; Jacob Freedman gets a new gig and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold and Ben Watson

October 14, 2014

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The D Brief, Defense One’s new, first-read national security newsletter. We may be familiar to you from other national security newsletters. Indeed, The D Brief is nat-sec newsletter version 3.0 for us. Just like before, we’ll deliver to your inbox our brand of news, analysis, tidbits, inside scoops and “candy” from inside the Pentagon and around Washington and around the globe - each morning.

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Was the White House premature on the Turkey air basing agreement touted Sunday? Looks like it. The biggest issue confronting the Pentagon in the fight against the Islamic State is, at least at the moment, the role Turkey will play. But the news over the weekend that there was a new military basing agreement, which was a major development on that front, now seems premature. Liz Sly and Craig Whitlock for The Washington Post: “A statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said talks are continuing between Ankara and Washington over whether to permit U.S. forces to use Incirlik in the fight against the Islamic State…However, ‘there is no new agreement on the Incirlik issue,’ the statement said…U.S. officials said Sunday that Turkey had agreed to allow the coalition to use Turkish military bases for the fight against the Islamic State and to use Turkish territory as part of a training program for moderate Syrian ­opposition fighters…Turkey has insisted it will not allow attacks from its soil unless the war is also extended to include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Turkish leaders believe is responsible for creating the conditions that have enabled the extremists to flourish.” More here.

The ISIS-in-Afghanistan rumors return. WSJ’s Nathan Hodge and Margherita Stancati: “Afghan officials said the extremist group now is testing the waters here, pointing to leaflets in the local Dari and Pashto languages emblazoned with the Islamic State logo that appeared in small numbers last month in Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad…The pamphlets, seen by The Wall Street Journal, call for Afghans to join Islamic State as a broader front against the U.S. and its allies, including the Afghan government.” More here.

Meantime, AUSA, the Army’s big trade show, is happening this week, and defense firms are courting Army leaders at a critical turning point. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber: The Army had scaled back or canceled major weapons programs in an effort to keep the remaining force properly trained and prepared to fight should a conflict arise. A smaller budget, combined with fewer soldiers, meant fewer acquisition projects and scaling back of ones on the books. These cuts, experts say, still could change the landscape of the defense companies…[But] firms that can build smaller quantities of items more efficiently will be successful down the road.” More here.

AUSA’s Gordon Sullivan writes for Defense One on 'the new Army Drawdown.' Sullivan: “Prevailing wisdom, which often isn’t at all wise, holds the Army shouldn’t face any problems downsizing because we’ve been down this road before. That’s wrong. As one who served as the Army chief of staff during the post-Cold War drawdown, I can say, unequivocally, this time is far worse.” More here. 

The Army’s need for more powerful helicopters appears to be sparking a new ‘engine war.’ Marcus Weisgerber for Defense One: “The Army is looking to field a stronger, more efficient engine for its Sikorsky Blackhawks and Boeing Apache attack helicopters, which could create a massive, multi-billion dollar competition down the road for American engine makers…Although the Army has not announced plans to move forward with the replacement effort, three companies — General Electric and a team of Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney — have been positioning themselves to compete…The goal is for the replacement engines to produce 3,000 shaft horsepower each which are also 25 percent more fuel efficient and fit in the current aircraft.” More here.

Meantime, the Army is trying to boost the number of minority officers. USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook: The Army, concerned about the lack of African American and other minority officers, plans to expand recruiting efforts in major metropolitan areas, top officers said Monday. Black and other minority officers are virtually absent from leadership of the Army’s combat units — the main avenue toward the service’s highest ranks, USA Today reported in August. The Army has responded to the shortage by implementing a strategy that includes enhanced recruiting and mentoring of young minority officers.”

Lt. Gen. James McConville, the Army’s top personnel bubba, to Vanden Brook: It takes us about 25 years to make a senior officer… So we’ve got to start now. As we look at the demographics moving forward, our country is going to be much more diverse. The demographics are changing as we go forward. And we’re going to need to reflect those demographics and we need to start right now.”

More here.

Here’s a fascinating story of the haunting war photo that shooter Kenneth Jarecke thought would help people understand what war looked like. But the media wouldn’t publish it. The Atlantic’s Torie Rose DeGhett’s story here.

Exclusive to The D Brief: Hagel Chief Speechwriter Jacob Freedman will have a new email address very soon (he’s gotta new gig). Freedman, who penned speeches for Defense Secretary Bob Gates before being promoted to chief speechwriter under Leon Panetta and then continued in that job under Hagel, is leaving the building. He’ll become a Senior Director at the Albright Stonebridge Group starting Oct. 27, and he’ll be working directly for Madeleine Albright (and staying in D.C.) His last day? Friday.

One of the taskers for which Freedman was proudest while working at the Pentagon? Researching the story of Chuck Hagel’s company commander in Vietnam, a West Point grad who was killed there, for a speech Hagel did at West Point in May 2013. Freedman and the speechwriting team reached out to the officer’s family, including his brother, and his roommate from West Point, who came to the commencement.

Hagel, who rarely speaks about his own Vietnam experience, on his company commander, per Freedman: In preparing for today, I reflected on many of my own experiences… That reflection brought me to a concluding observation. It’s a reflection not about my own experience, not about me, but rather, it’s about someone else. A professional soldier who walked these grounds as a young cadet fifty years ago. Robert George Keats was a member of West Point’s Class of 1965… A few months after arriving in Vietnam, Captain Keats took command of my company – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.  Within ten days of taking command, on February 2, 1968 – shortly before his 24th birthday – he was killed. I was there…” Read that whole speech here.

But there’s also this: a joke Freedman wrote for Panetta for a Gridiron Club Dinner during the political season: “Speaking of advanced weaponry, DoD recently completed a sixty-five-year project to develop a cutting-edge robot. Initial testing wasn’t good, but Mitt Romney’s performance is improving.” Bam!

First in The D Brief: At AUSA today, Department of Homeland Security’s Jeh Johnson is going to talk about 'Defense Support to Civil Authorities: Responding to America’s Worst Day.' Johnson has directed DHS to embark on a “common, department wide Southern Border campaign plan” with goals will be “effective enforcement and interdiction across land, sea and air; the degradation of transnational criminal organizations” and achieving these ends “without impeding the flow of lawful trade, travel and commerce across our borders,” according to a government official to The D Brief.

Here’s what Johnson is thinking about today before he speaks at AUSA: DHS will establish three new task forces in the coming months, including a Joint Task Force-East, responsible for maritime ports and approaches across the Southeast; also a Joint Task Force-West, which is responsible for the Southwest land border and the West Coast of California; finally, DHS will create a standing Joint Task Force for Investigations to support the work of the other two. From an official: “This approach is consistent with the overall Unity of Effort initiative that the Secretary announced last April – an initiative that is maturing DHS into a stronger and more efficient organization, more agile and more vigilant.”

More info on AUSA, here.

AUSA’s agenda click, here. 

Newsflash! The Air Force needs more people, and more money to keep its aging fleet GTG. Air Force Times Brian Everstine: More than a decade of constant combat and the oldest airframes in the history of the service has degraded the Air Force’s mission capability to the lowest in recent memory, meaning more work for airmen who must keep them safe to fly and less flying time for planes in need of constant work. Add to that the devastating effects of sequestration on readiness and flight hours and it’s no wonder Air Force leaders are sounding the alarm to Congress and just about anyone who will listen.

The fleet is old. One in four planes is out of service at any given time. And new planes can’t come soon enough, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.” More here.

A U.S. Marine is being held in connection with the death of a transgender woman in the Philippines; CNN, here.

Apropos of nothing: this fan loves/loves Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” #guyhaspassion. Worth the click, here.

Climate change could be a legacy issue for Chuck Hagel. Hagel, who has struggled to define his own agenda and burnish a list of achievements in the first 18 months or so in office, is genuinely passionate about the role climate change could have on national security, terrorism and the U.S.military. Yesterday, Hagel, who is traveling in Peru, released a new report that, according to the NYT, “asserts decisively” that climate change poses a risk to national security. Hagel has mentioned climate change in a number of speeches, and he has shown signs of owning this issue like no other. The so-called roadmap issued yesterday looks at the issue of how climate change affects U.S. military installations, but also how climate change could feed operational and security issues around the globe.

Hagel’s piece on the WH website, here and his speech on the issue at the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the America’s, here. 

The roadmap/report, here.

The NYT’s Coral Davenport, on release of the roadmap: “The report lays out a road map to show how the military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts. The Defense Department will begin by integrating plans for climate change risks across all of its operations, from war games and strategic military planning situations to a rethinking of the movement of supplies.

Hagel: “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere… Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.” More here.

Just saying: there is some irony in the fact that Hagel was a co-sponsor, while in the Senate, of a bill that killed the Kyoto climate accord in the 1990s. But perhaps that is a reflection of the change in thinking about the issue – including Hagel’s own perspective.

Are Arkansas voters ready to embrace an Army vet’s assertive foreign policy in the Senate? Patrick O’Connor for the WSJ: “…Monday, the [Rep. Tom] Cotton campaign unveiled a new ad warning about the dangers posed by ‘radical terrorists’ who are ‘destabilizing our allies and beheading Americans.’ In a debate between the candidates Monday afternoon, Mr. Cotton said the U.S. has to ‘stop terrorists before they strike us here.’… Most polls have shown the Republican with a narrow but persistent lead over the incumbent [Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor]. Democrats hope to convince voters that the larger military footprint that Mr. Cotton prefers would come at the expense of local education, infrastructure and health care…Pryor, 51 years old, says national security is his ‘No. 1 priority,’ but he outlines a more cautious use of military force than does Mr. Cotton.” More here.

More from Over There –

Yemen has a new prime minister. The fight in Iraq and Syria has drawn much attention away a quiet hotspot in Yemen. Now, amid a political and security crisis, Yemen has a new leader. Read about it in Al Arabiya, here.

Russian hackers are using a Microsoft Windows security flaw to spy on NATO and a host of other ‘national security targets.’ The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima: “[Cyber security firm ISight Partners] dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel ‘Dune.’ There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance. The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability — known as a 'zero-day' — in August, Ward said. The flaw is pres­ent in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.” More here.

The U.K. is one step closer to recognizing Palestinian statehood. Jill Lawless for the AP: “Legislators in the House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to support a motion calling on the British government to ‘recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.’ Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained, and more than half of the 650 Commons members did not participate in the vote.” More here.

Turkish jets go on the offensive against PKK positions inside TurkeyFrom Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish fighter jets have bombarded positions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) following militant attacks on military outposts in southeastern Turkey, in a first since the start of the peace process. The Turkish General Staff ordered the bombing of the PKK’s positions in the Dağlıca district the southeastern Diyarbakır province late Oct. 13, Hürriyet has learned. The bombarded targets had reportedly been involved in “assassination, armed incidents and attacks on security bases” after last week’s nationwide protests.” Read more here.

An appearance by North Korea’s Kim Jong Un tamps down the rumors—for now. The AP’s Foster Klug: “Kim, who was last seen publicly at a Sept. 3 concert, appeared in images released by state media Tuesday smiling broadly and supporting himself with a walking stick while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, part of his regular 'field guidance' tours. The North didn’t say when the visit happened, nor did it address the leader’s health.” More here.

Iraqi commander requested reinforcements for Mosul back in June, to no avail. Reuters has the story: “With Iraq’s military overstretched, the senior officers scoffed at the request. Diplomats in Baghdad also passed along intelligence of an attack, only to be told that Iraqi Special Forces were in Mosul and could handle any scenario… An investigation by Reuters shows that higher-level military officials and Maliki himself share at least some of the blame. Several of Iraq’s senior-most commanders and officials have detailed for the first time how troop shortages and infighting among top officers and Iraqi political leaders played into Islamic State’s hands and fueled panic that led to the city’s abandonment.” More here.


By Gordon Lubold and Ben Watson // Gordon Lubold is a senior military writer for Defense One. Before that, he was a senior national security writer for Foreign Policy magazine and foreignpolicy.com, where he launched and authored the widely-read Situation Report newsletter, sent to 150,000 readers in the foreign policy and national security community each day. Prior to that, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he writes 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 and Latin America. 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 CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN and others, and radio programs such as “Diane Rehm" and “To the Point,” a syndicated broadcast on NPR. // Ben Watson is news editor for Defense One. He previously worked for NPR's “All Things Considered” and “Here and Now” in Washington, D.C. Watson served for five years in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning combat cameraman and media advisor for southern Afghanistan's special operations command during the 2010-11 surge.

October 14, 2014

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