The D Brief: Why did the Pentagon send a C-17 to China?; What’s a GOBI?; Hagel’s face; Leaving Afghanistan; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold and Ben Watson

November 12, 2014

The Pentagon sent a C-17 to a China air show this week despite widespread concern that it just wasn’t a great idea. It was planned as a way to strengthen relationships with the Chinese military, but security and policy experts and officials feared it put American technology secrets in jeopardy, cost a lot of money, and also angered an important Asia ally—South Korea.

Defense One’s Lubold with Marcus Weisgerber: “The reasons against sending the plane seemed to policy and security officials to have been enumerable… The American military jet will be participating in the air show with just two other foreign militaries in addition to China: the United Arab Emirates and Russia… to some, the U.S. military’s participation in the air show is a mark of hypocrisy:

Last week, the U.S. denied ally South Korea the ability to demonstrate a Korean jet at the same air show because it possesses U.S. technology and U.S. security officials said demonstrating that plane would be in violation of international agreements… And at a cost of at least  $350,000 to attend the air show, some officials inside the U.S. government raised questions about why the C-17 jet, along with about 15 U.S. Air Force personnel, should participate at all.”

One government official to Lubold:  “It was just bad idea after bad idea.” Read the rest of our story here.

By the way, what is a “GOBI,” you ask? We learned in the course of our reporting that at least one person calls an idea generated by a general officer to be a GOBI—a “General Officer Bright Idea.”

Here’s the story about the U.S. denying South Korea the opportunity to participate in the China air show, Chosun Ilbo, here.

U.S.-China mil-to-mil: There was more to yesterday’s news on the accord between the U.S. and China. Obama and Xi also reached agreements on how to avert military confrontations in Asia, in which one notifies the other of major activities, such as military exercises and “rules of behavior for encounters at sea and in the air.” The WSJ’s Jeremy Page and Carol Lee: “…The need for better military relations has been underscored by China’s efforts to enforce contested maritime claims across the South China and East China seas."

The WH’s Ben Rhodes: “It’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves again having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate a conflict,”

China’s defense ministry said the agreements would have “important effects and significance for promoting China-U.S. strategic trust and building a new type of military relationship.”

…The notification mechanism covers policy and strategy developments, and observation of military exercises and activities, while the rules of behavior include details on encounters between naval surface vessels, according to a White House statement.” Read the rest here.

The two countries reached broad agreement on climate change, USA Today, here.

Russia has a big stake in China’s less and less secretive J-31 stealth fighter. Dave Majumdar for the U.S. Naval Institute, here. 

In New China, the “hostile” West is still derided, by the NYT’s Edward Wong in Beijing on Page One, here.

China calls it the “Asia-Pacific Dream,” the U.S. calls it “The Asia Pivot,” er, “Rebalance.” The WaPo’s Simon Denyer, here.

In Defense One: Look deeper, the Asia Pivot is not dead, John Deni for Defense One, here.

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The Pentagon’s acquisition system is “by almost any measure…broken.” A recent poll showed that more than a quarter of Defense personnel surveyed had no confidence the acquisition process delivers the weapons the military needs. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber with this lovely and sobering explainer on how DOD’s procurement problems are hurting national security.

Who’s doing what today—DepSecDef Bob Work delivers a keynote address at the CSIS Global Security Forum this morning at 8 a.m. And Operation United Assistance Joint Force Commander Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky conducts a call-in press briefing on the Defense Department response to the Ebola outbreak at 1:00 p.m. EST in the Pentagon Briefing Room… The briefing also includes Amb. Debra Malac, U.S. ambassador to Liberia, and Bill Berger, USAID disaster assistance response team leader.

Also today, John Allen, Christine Wormuth and Vice-Adm. Frank Craig Pandolfe testify today, er, tonight before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee6:15pm!—on countering the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Committee deets here and the WaPo’s Al Kamen’s take here.

Kerry heads to Jordan today to talk Middle East tensions and the Islamic State.

U.S. missile strikes in Syria have killed 865 people and 50 civilians, according to a monitoring groupReuters this morning, here.

The battle for Baiji, the LA Times here.

Sunni tribes stumbling in the fight against the Islamic State. The WaPo’s Loveday Morris from Irbil, Iraq, posted two days ago but in today’s paper, here.

In Defense One: Mitt Romney is back on top in the NatSec world, besting Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and more. That according to a survey of federal national security workers and troops commissioned by Defense One. Politics reporter Molly O’Toole has those results and more, including this little bit: “Among the 10 potential presidential candidates in the survey, rising Republican stars garnering much of the media attention—such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Rand Paul, R-Ky.—tanked. The full results of the ‘Defense One National Security Survey’ will be released next week.”

And one last note on Hillary—O’Toole sends this expensive, wonky addition to the 2016 campaign trail, and just in time for the holidays: It’s a $60 nutcracker up for sale at Urban Outfitters (of course). The jokes are already on the packaging; you don’t need us to tell them.

A word of congrats: Baltimore, Washington top MLB’s Manager races. The D Brief would like to extend a hearty congrats to Matt Williams of the Nats and the Orioles’ Buck Showalter on winning the Baseball Writers Association of America Manager of the Year for the National and American leagues, respectively. Well done, gents. And here’s to hoping the two of you see each other in next year’s World Series!

Also today, at the Pentagon: The WaPo’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz will be signing copies of their new book, “For Love of Country,” where-else-but at the Starbucks at the Pentagon food court today between 9:15 and 10:30. (And during the Concert for Valor last night, video clips of some of the stories from Chandrasekaran’s and Schultz’ book were played between acts—produced by none other than Tom Hanks’ production company, Bam.)

What’s up with Chuck Hagel’s face? Al Kamen asked the question after the Defense Secretary appeared at Veterans Day ceremonies yesterday with a bandage on his left cheek. Apparently he stood up too fast in his kitchen and gashed his face with an open door cabinet. Someone should have that cabinet removed. That bit, here.

It’s not about the bandage, but still. The WaPo’s Sarah Larimer worked up this guide to politicians’ injuries, including the most unfortunate of dual shiners and a broken nose after a pickup game of hockey in 2012.

And though Kerry, too, is a veteran with Purple Hearts to his name, that broken nose was nothing compared to Marine Corps Lt. Col. Justin Constantine who survived a sniper’s bullet during fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province eight years ago. "It hit behind my ear and exploded out of my mouth. Causing a lot of damage," he told Pat McGonigle and Elissa Koehl for USA Today, here.

At least 33 people are dead in Yemen after clashes, Reuters, here.

Giving bombs the choice: new smart bombs that can decide whom to kill are creepy and pose dangers. The NYT’s John Markoff on Page One: “…Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.

"As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.” More here.

The Pentagon has agreed to curb the controversial use of live animals for medical training beginning Jan. 1. But, as Bryan Bender writes in The Boston Globe, the decision isn’t an across-the-board ban: “Yet the steps stop short of ending all animal testing by the military. The armed forces will still be allowed to replicate battlefield trauma by shooting and blowing up goats, pigs, and other animals to gauge the impact of particular types of weapons.More here.

NATO’s military chief this morning confirmed the addition of Russian tanks, artillery and combat troops entering Ukraine in the past two days. AFP, this hour.

Following similar action from the Swedes and the Brits, the French parliament will hold a symbolic vote on whether or not to recognize Palestine as a state on Nov. 28. AFP this morning: “A draft of the proposal states that the lower house National Assembly ‘invites the French government to use the recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict.’" More here.

As negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program continue to falter, Moscow just finalized a deal with Tehran to provide as many as eight new reactors. Bloomberg’s Jake Rudnitsky, Elena Mazneva and Kambiz Foroohar with more, here.

The U.S. is now Ebola-free for the first time since Sept. 5. Monte Morin and Tina Susman trace the path from panic to at least temporary reprieve in the pages of the LA Times, here.

Take what you can carry and leave the past behind: Marines’ departure from Afghanistan shows how it’s gonna be. The WaPo’s Tim Craig on Page One: “…In a series of multibillion-dollar decisions, the Marines and Pentagon planners decided what stayed, what went and what got tossed into the trash or burned.

The Marines decided to leave 420,000 bottles of water, which if lined up end to end would stretch for more than 50 miles. They incinerated about 10,000 MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) that might have been used to feed Afghan troops but were nearing their expiration date.

More than 7,500 computers were destroyed or removed. But the television sets remained. What about the 1.6 million pounds of ammunition stored on the base? Afghan soldiers taking over will be lucky to find even a single live bullet.

The Marines’ departure from Leatherneck—the largest base closure to date of the United States’ longest war—offers a view of the decisions U.S. military leaders are making as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Mindful of Afghan forces’ limitations—and seething over the Islamic State’s seizure of former American military compounds and equipment in Iraq—the forces departing Afghanistan appear to be stripping bases to the basics.” Read the rest here.

Foreign militants reported killed in the latest U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, The Long War Journal, here.

The Afghan elections are blamed in part on a record opium production therepoliticos needed some way to fill their coffers. The NYT’s Rod Nordland, here.

Ya me cansé” takes a viral life of its own for Mexico’s fed up citizens on social media. After the country’s attorney general on Friday struggled to explain the gruesome deaths of 43 students whose bodies were thrown into a burn pit by gang members, he ended his press conference with “Ya me cansé,” or “I am tired in Spanish.” McClatchy’s Tim Johnson with more from Mexico City, 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.

November 12, 2014

http://www.defenseone.com/news/2014/11/d-brief-nov-12/98813/