The D Brief: Panetta in hot water?; Robots could fight Ebola; How do you recruit civilians to work on the frontlines?; Are airdrops of weapons effective? Mortar rounds in Baghdad; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Will Panetta face consequences for allegedly violating the CIA’s secrecy agreement with the release of his book? Panetta’s publisher has to be loving the amount of press Panetta is getting for “Worthy Fights,” even if not all of it is positive. Weeks after it first came out, it’s still making front-page news. And the splashy book party isn’t even until next week. As we learn today, there was an issue as to whether Panetta got all the security clearances from CIA to go ahead with publication before the book was printed. Such security clearances have haunted other writers who have left Pentagon jobsStan McChrystal’s book, for example, learned first-hand of the onerous process by which his work had to be reviewed and cleared before it could be published. Panetta learned that, too.  

Greg Miller for the WaPo: “…the former Defense Secretary ‘allowed his publisher to begin editing and making copies of the book before he had received final approval from the CIA, according to former U.S. officials and others familiar with the project… others involved in the process said Panetta became so frustrated with CIA delays and demands for redactions that he appealed to CIA Director John Brennan and threatened to proceed with publication without clearance from the agency.”

Publisher’s reax: “A spokeswoman for the publisher, Penguin Press, would say only that Panetta’s book was submitted earlier this year to both the Department of Defense and CIA for the requisite reviews. Secretary Panetta worked closely with both to ensure that ‘Worthy Fights’ was accurate and appropriate for publication.”

The problem with precedent moving forward: “The CIA’s dispute with its former director, and its apparent decision not to pursue the potential violation, could complicate the agency’s ability to negotiate with other would-be authors and avoid accusations of favoritism…” The agency’s secrecy agreement “requires current or former employees to submit any agency-related material that they “contemplate disclosing publicly.” Authors are prohibited from showing their work “to anyone who is not authorized to have access” until they have secured “written permission to do so.” Read more on Panetta’s book, and a host of similar efforts to publish after working at Langley, here.

The Pentagon is looking into how the Islamic State seized weapons it dropped near Kobani for the Kurdish fighters. Islamic State fighters seized at least one “bundle” of weapons the U.S. military dropped near the Syrian border town to help Kurdish fighters battle the Islamic State – the dangers of supplying weapons by air. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby yesterday took pains to say that the Pentagon was still investigating what happened and assessing the authenticity of a video that emerged online that showed the bundle – filled with grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers - that appeared to have been uploaded by a group sympathetic to the IS.

Kirby, on the 28 bundles the U.S. military dropped: “I do want to add, though, that we are very confident that the vast majority of the bundles did end up in the right hands.”

Kirby, on Kobani generally:  “It’s still a very mixed, contested environment.”

Meantime, so why did U.S. attention in the Middle East suddenly turn to Kobani, anyway? Kate Brannen and Gopal Ratnam for FP:Since Oct. 1, the U.S. military has launched more than 135 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around the town, more than in any other location in Iraq or Syria… ‘Kobani has become a token for the campaign’s ability to succeed with airpower alone,’ said Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. ‘I think against their better judgment the U.S. found itself compelled to provide greater and greater airpower, even when that came at the expense of more consequential areas like Anbar province.’” More here.

The Islamic State is outsourcing their kidnapping. WaPo’s Liz Sly has this one, here.

Noting: A source in Baghdad tells Defense One’s Gayle Lemmon that the U.S. embassy there experienced a blackout lasting about a half-hour after mortar rounds struck the massive US Embassy compound.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief, Defense One’s new, first-read national security newsletter, where we thank Ben Bradlee for helping to define what it is to be a modern American journalist and where we note that his death should be a reminder to many of us to always remember to do what we’re supposed to be doing. We hope you’ll stay with us, and if you like what you see and you want us to subscribe a friend or colleague, we’re very happy to do that. Subscribe here or send us a holler at glubold@defenseone.com and we’ll put you on the list. Whatever you do, we hope you’ll follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.

How should the U.S. protect diplomats and aid workers deployed to increasingly “high-threat” environments? A stacked line-up—including former ambassadors Ryan Crocker, James Jeffrey and (ret.) Adm. James Stavridis—tackle the question Friday at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Truman Project’s Doug Wilson to D Brief on the issue of civilians working on the frontlines: “We have always assumed that our men and women in uniform assume risks as part of the job, but we have not given anywhere near the attention to our civilians who are engaging on behalf of the government to engage with foreign publics in these high risk environments,” Wilson told D Brief. “A lot of the most qualified and talented people are leaving or not going into government service because they’re not motivated to do so and they’re not given the resources to deal with the risk.”

Scroll to the bottom to read a bunch more about this issue in D Brief, below, and how the event Friday will address it.

DHS is routing all U.S.-bound passengers from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea to enter through five airports for special screening. National Journal’s Sarah Mimms for Defense One here.

Turns out there are robots that could be used to fight Ebolawho knew? Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has this bit, here: “…On Nov. 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy along with researchers from the Texas A & M University’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, CRASAR, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and others will convene a workshop to explore ways to keep health workers in Africa safe through robotics. But before we can send drones to battle Ebola, we first have to invent the right robots for the job.”

Who’s doing what today?  Chuck Hagel will host Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in town ahead of a trip to the Asia-Pacific region—and a place Hagel holds dear. Mayor Garcetti, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves, requested to meet with Hagel to talk, surprisingly, about the Asia pivot as well as veteran homelessness—a focus of effort for Garcetti in Los Angeles. Garcetti also intends to meet with U.S. troops in Korea while on his upcoming trip.

Also starting tomorrow, Hagel hosts the Korean Minister of Defense for the 46th annual Republic of Korea-United States Security Consultative Meeting. Hagel will have a dinner for Minister Han Minkoo, who was previously the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the white doved-roof of the U.S. Institute of Peace. And on Thursday, Hagel and Minkoo will lead a series of meetings to continue to enhance the alliance. In addition to issues on the Peninsula, they are expected to discuss South Korea’s support for the global effort against Ebola in West Africa.

Marty Dempsey is in the Nutmeg State today. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey is keynoting the Geno Auriemma Leadership Conference at the University of Connecticut’s business school in Uncasville. That gets underway at 8 a.m.

Dempsey talks Ebola, here.

New in Defense One, a story about how 3-D printing could help replace Russian rockets. Crazy, right? Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber with the story here: ”As the Pentagon looks to develop a replacement for the Russian engine that blasts the Atlas V rocket into orbit, two U.S. companies have been working on a little-known project that could speed up the process. Dynetics, of Huntsville, Ala., and Aerojet Rocketdyne, of Sacramento, Calif., are already building a replacement engine that could power the Atlas V for military launches and future NASA manned space launches. Much of the engine has been built using a 3-D printing technique know as additive manufacturing.”

Marcus has a little nugget from that story that’s kind of interesting: He tells us that Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work is convening a special group next week, the “Deputy’s Management Action Group” (formed, we believe, under his predecessor Ash Carter) to discuss the way ahead for the RD-180 replacement program.

Marcus to D Brief: “Replacing the RD-180—which blasts the Atlas V rocket into orbit—has become a priority at the White House, Pentagon and Capitol Hill. Russia has threatened to block sales of the RD-180 to the U.S. military after Washington placed sanctions on Russian firms following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The Atlas V is one of two rockets used by the U.S. launch satellites into orbit. While DOD officials discuss the way ahead, 3-D printing could help U.S. companies build a replacement engine more rapidly. Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne are building a replacement engine that uses this technology and plans to test it before the end of the year.”

Meantime, what sequestration? The arms industry isn’t turning their backs on the Army any time soon. If you’re gonna take anything from last week’s Association of the United States Army convention in D.C., Task and Purpose’s Stephen Carlson says no one should shed a tear over a lack of options for arming and equipping America’s future force.  “AUSA is not merely the province of the large corporations usually associated with Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex… [But] There were also many items displayed that are inherently impractical. A dune buggy style vehicle was touted as being small enough to be transported by helicopter. One look at the cramped interior, with seats and legroom barely sufficient for a child, made me shudder. A soldier in full gear in that buggy would barely be able to walk after a couple hours, and I weep for anyone over five-and-a-half feet.” More here.

North Korea now has one less American in custody. Christi Parsons and Paul Richter for the Los Angeles Times: American Jeffrey E. Fowle, “an Ohio municipal worker who was arrested after leaving a Bible in a hotel, was turned over to U.S. officials by authorities in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. He boarded a U.S. government aircraft sent to retrieve him… Fowle reached his first stop, the U.S. military base on Guam, on Tuesday, but officials declined to say when he would arrive in his hometown of Miamisburg, north of Cincinnati.” More on that positive development, here.

Afghanistan’s troops are taking enormous casualties this year. WSJ’s Margherita Stancati, here.

Monday’s hit-and-run in Canada that killed two was “clearly linked to terrorist ideology.” Ian Austen for The New York Times, here.

The Mexican military executed at least a dozen—including three adolescents—during a shootout with gang suspects in June. The NYT, here.

A sideways launch for the USS Detroit. Catch a short video of the newest U.S. littoral combat ship, which launched Saturday in Marinette, Wis., here.

Energy independence! The military’s best protection against terrorists striking the power grid: making its own energy on site. Rebecca Smith for The WSJ: “Worries about electricity went up a notch last year when assailants disabled an electrical substation in California by shooting at 17 transformers that help power Silicon Valley… Fort Bragg is building a microgrid similar to the one at Twentynine Palms. On a typical day, Fort Bragg makes about half the power it needs…’The endgame is to be able to survive if the grid goes down,’ said Paul Orzeske, who recently retired as president of Honeywell Building Solutions, the company helping build Fort Bragg’s microgrid.” More here.

China’s recent supply dominance in rare earth elements—many of which are key to new defense products—is unlikely to hold back defense innovation as some in Congress thought back in 2010. That report at CFR, here.

One of the lessons learned from the wars of the last decade was that the military can’t do it all. Many of the unsung heroes—civilians—who work in those conflict zones alongside the uniforms have a big impact. But Washington’s culture and bureaucracy don’t always give those civilians the tools they need to be effective in those missions. In a general way, the Benghazi episode pointed this up—civilians working in very dangerous environments and the consequences thereof. But for all the lessons that could have been drawn from that chapter, there has never been a real, public discussion about what lessons could be learned from Benghazi about men and women trying to have an impact: any discussion of Benghazi tends to have pointed political overtones.

This Friday, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the McCain Institute, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy and the Truman National Security Project host a half-day event titled “Risk, Recruitment and Retention: Engaging Foreign Publics in High-Threat Environments” with a number of folks with stature and breadth of experience to talk about all of the issues confronting civilians operating in dangerous environments. Doug Wilson, a former senior official at the Pentagon who now serves as chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Truman National Security Project, told D Brief the event is the centerpiece of a year-long effort premised on an inescapable fact: there is really no such thing as a “zero risk environment” and the U.S. government has to learn how to “recruit, retain and motivate” this new generation of American civilians who want to serve in those zones but encounter a government that tends to be risk averse and culturally disinclined to allow them to do so.

Over the past year, the effort has reached a number of conclusions based on focus groups with about 60 people. Those include folks across the nat-sec spectrum, from junior and senior diplomats to public diplomacy officers to military, security personnel, Hill staffers and NGOs. One such conclusion? Civilians accept the risks in the post-9/11 environment, but there is an imbalance between the risks they’re willing to assume—and the risks Washington is willing to take. “There was certainly a feeling that Washington institutions are very risk averse, but that is not shared by those who are actually on the frontlines,” Wilson said. Friday’s workshop will address that disconnect and make recommendations for policy changes to address it. One other finding that’s particularly interesting? Civilians accept the risks, not only to themselves personally, but to the mission and to their careers. “A lot of decision makers will be surprised at the degree to which civilians on the frontlines are willing to accept risk if it helps them make a difference and achieve the mission goals.”

Who’ll be there on the dais? Includes Bill Taylor, William Hybl, Kurt Volker, Doug Wilson, Fred Barton, Stan Byers, Erik Leklem, Jean Manes, Nathan Puffer, Barbara Smith, Matt Rosenberg, Mike Crowley, Jim Stavridis, Jim Jeffrey, Tom Perriello, Caroline Wadhams, George Moose, Nina Sughrue, Rebecca Zimmerman, Angelic Young, Ryan Crocker and Sim Farar.

The agenda for the event, for which more than 400 have already RSVP’ed, is here.

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