DHS chief Jeh Johnson removed himself from the running for Hagel’s replacement yesterday—leaving Ash Carter and Bob Work high on the list that gets shorter every few days. Although the White House seemed to be floating Johnson’s name pointedly, it was never clear that Johnson, the Pentagon’s former top lawyer, would be a good fit, or if his confirmation process, given Congress’ concerns on immigration, would be very smooth. And, it would have been hard for the White House to get another Department of Homeland Security nomination through Congress. That leaves Ash Carter, the former Pentagon’s No. 2, and a favorite of Sen. John McCain, very much still in the running. AP’s Julie Pace: “Johnson’s decision to stay put at DHS is likely to deepen the impression that the Pentagon post - typically a highly sought-after Cabinet spot -is drawing little interest.” More here.
Did immigration kill Johnson’s chances? Bloomberg’s Phil Mattingly and Margaret Talev, here.
FWIW: Conventional wisdom suggests that if the White House is going to pick Ash Carter, the announcement will be in the next few days; if it’s someone else, it may take awhile. The idea is that Carter is already vetted and essentially ready to go. It will take longer for other candidates not already in the mix to be vetted. Inexplicably, the White House seems to have been caught flat-footed when it comes to replacing the outgoing Chuck Hagel even after it fired Hagel at a time and place of its choosing. Although it’s still not clear if Michele Flournoy passed up on the job or was passed over, it seems increasingly clear the White House never checked with anyone to see if they’d take the Pentagon job before publicly and awkwardly removing Hagel.
Sen. John McCain wants former Sen. Joe Lieberman to take over for Hagel. Lieberman would appear to be a stretch given his hawkish views, and there’s the usual concerns about naming a U.S. senator to the executive job at the Pentagon. But, his name is still floating out there. The Hill’s Martin Matishak reports, here.
An anonymous E-Ring insider explains why Chuck Hagel failed, and it’s not pretty. Of course, being anonymous affords one an opportunity to be nasty without anyone saying anything back. But FP’s Tom Ricks printed this telling bit by the anonymous insider about Hagel, saying Hagel was “lazy” and ill prepared for meetings. This piece is behind a paywall, FYI, but you can read it here.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief, Defense One’s new, first-read national security newsletter. 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 email@example.com or just hit reply to this email and we’ll put you on the list. Please send us your tips, your tidbits, your scoops and stories, your think tank reports and best of all your candy, but send it to us early for maximum tease. And whatever you do, we hope you’ll follow us @glubold and @natsecwatson.
The D Brief is supposed to arrive in your inbox around 8 a.m. If for some reason it appears in your email much later than that, please do let us know.
In Defense One: Congress has about 10 days to make a lot of national security decisions. That includes extending the train-and-equip authorization for Syria; approve funds to fight ISIS so troops on standby can supplement the fight there, and a lot more that our own Molly O’Toole rolled up in this look ahead from the Hill for defense watchers. Read that bit here.
The Senate and the House Armed Services Committee chairs, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Buck McKeon, appear to have settled their differences over a new defense authorization bill. The Hill’s Martin Matishak with more, here.
And HASC and SASC together host a background briefing on the breakthrough from Rayburn’s Room 2117 at noon today.
Better Call Saul: The GOP staffer who criticized the Obama girls for lacking class broke the first rule of politics: keep the kids out of it. She lost her job yesterday. But her criticisms of the teenagers were rich: she was reportedly arrested when she was a teenager. The Smoking Gun, here.
Meantime, Jeb Bush says he’s nearing a decision on running in 2016, Fox News, here.
Meantime, as the U.S. and Turkey sort out their problems, a “safe zone” is under consideration. As relations between the U.S. and Turkey grow stronger, the U.S. is considering a proposal to address Turkey’s long-term concerns: it would create a safe zone in Syria along the Turkish border whereby U.S. backed Syrian rebel forces could flood the area to help create a buffer. The WaPo’s Karen DeYoung: “…Under the plan, U.S. aircraft flying from Turkey’s Incirlik air base would target positions the militants currently hold along the border north of Aleppo, eastward toward the besieged town of Kobane. Turkish special forces would move into the area to assist the targeting and help Syrian opposition fighters consolidate their hold on the territory… The proposal would at least partly address Turkey’s long-standing desire for a protected buffer zone inside Syria along the entire 511-mile border, while providing the faltering rebel fighters with a much-needed boost.
“Although officials said the proposal is not intended to establish a traditional no-fly zone requiring constant patrols against other aircraft entering the area—potentially up to 100 miles long and 20 miles deep inside Syria—its proponents recognize the potential for a ‘slippery slope’ into a far more major operation.” More here.
So don’t think that idea of a Syrian-Turkish buffer zone is anything close to a done deal yet, Voice of America’s Carla Babb cautions, here.
Even ISIS’ army puts its troops on bathroom cleaning detail, reportedly leaving one disillusioned Indian recruit to call it quits and head home. AFP, here.
ISIS also banned birth control for the women of Mosul, Al-Arabiya reported yesterday, here.
Meanwhile in Raqqa, U.S. war planes bombed an ISIS “electronic warfare garrison” over the course of this past holiday weekend, AFP reports here.
Brookings just released a 66-page dossier on ISIS covering the last 15 years of its evolution, along with five recommendations for accelerating their defeat from Charles Lister, visiting fellow at their Doha branch. More here.
Tens of billions of dollars meant for the academic study of terrorism are being squandered through mismanagement and waste, writes military doctrine developer and irregular warfare specialist Richard J. Campbell in this lengthy response to a United States Office of the Inspector General complaint: “The confusing hybrid qualities and intellectual nature of terrorism, the size and scope of the [U.S. Government] and [Intelligence Community], and the fact that no single entity is responsible for terrorism studies are the reasons for the large-scale mismanagement and waste of funds.” More here.
Money problems to the tune of $64 million means the U.N.’s World Food Program is suspending aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees. The WaPo, here.
Take a short tour of the besieged Syrian town of Kobani with a father-daughter team of Kurdish fighters in this AP video, here.
The 82nd Airborne is sending about 250 paratroopers to Iraq “to protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” the Pentagon announced Monday. Jon Harper for Stars and Stripes, here.
Who’s doing what today? President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today… Obama then leaves for a presidential troop visit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center scheduled for 2:40 p.m. … SASC hears the nominations of Robert Scher for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities; David Berteau for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness; Alissa Starzak as the Army’s General; and Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., USN, for PACOM commander, all at 9:30 a.m. …
Also today: Sens. Gillibrand, Collins, Boxer, Grassley, Blumenthal, Cruz, and Hirono will discuss the push for an independent military justice system at 10 a.m. … and the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade along with HFA’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa talk foreign fighters with Robert Bradtke, State’s Senior Advisor for Partner Engagement on Syria Foreign Fighters and DHS’ Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy Tom Warrick… Meantime, Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II at 5 p.m. (Abdullah is set to talk ISIS, Syria and Jerusalem with the President Friday)…
And also today: The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris talks about his new book @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, @New America on L Street at 12:15. RSVP here.
This week: NORAD/NORTHCOM commander Army Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., is retiring—and will pass the colors to former U.S. Fleet Forces Command commander Navy Adm. Bill Gortney this Friday at 10 a.m. at Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base.
ODNI and DARPA’s intel corollary—the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or IARPA—want a better machine to scan the ever-expanding world of recorded speech, according to our tech editor Patrick Tucker: “It seems like an easy challenge for a military in the process of outfitting robotic boats with lasers, but speech recognition, especially in diverse environments, is incredibly difficult despite decades of steady research and funding… It’s a trend with clear privacy implications. But the reliance of groups like the Islamic State on anonymity speaks to an intelligence challenge that will persist in the coming decades. War is changing, whether it is waged by emergent groups like the Islamic State or nations like Russia, more and more, the potential revelation of identity is becoming a liability in conflict zones…” More here.
Drop everything! One of the reasons it’s hard to get people excited about cybersecurity issues is for the inherently dry nature of the issue. It’s titles like this one from the Defense Department’s Inspector General, out yesterday: “DoD Needs to Reinitiate Migration to Internet Protocol Version 6.” More here.
The CIA wants to overhaul the way it retains old emails from departing employees, and some in Congress aren’t too crazy about the idea. Roll Call’s Humberto Sanchez: “The CIA is seeking approval to revamp its email policy to allow all employees and contractors to purge their emails three years after they leave the agency, while the email accounts of the agency’s top officials would become permanent documents. [Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and John Cornyn, R-Texas] argued that the new policy runs counter to their efforts to make the government more transparent…” More here.
The House passed legislation last night requiring DHS to include electromagnetic pulse events to their national security plans. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos, here.
Apropos of nothing: Watch this drone footage of a town evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster, here.
In Defense One: The Navy has some fiscal re-prioritizing to do if it really wants to fund its Ohio-class replacement subs, writes former chief historian of the Navy and CNAS senior fellow Jerry Hendrix: “The need for a replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines is undeniable. The strategic deterrence mission, although little understood or appreciated by the American people, is, as the CNO stated, the number one priority of the Navy in that it ensures the survival of the Republic. However, the challenge of finding the money to pay for these new boats is largely self-imposed. For 10 years the Navy planned to buy a fleet of sports cars like Arleigh Burke class destroyers, even where mission requirements called for pickups, all the while ignoring that there would be a mortgage payment coming due at the same time.” More here.
A former captive held by jihadists in Syria describes the nightmarish experience he had dealing with the U.S. government afterwards. McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef: “Matt Schrier, 36, a freelance photographer held by extremists for seven months in 2013 until he escaped, has told McClatchy that the bureaucracy he endured upon his return home was a second kind of nightmare following the months of abuse he suffered while he was a hostage…” More here.
Boko Haram still enjoys disturbingly easy freedom of movement throughout northern Nigeria, as two attacks on Monday revealed. Adam Nossiter for the NYTs from Senegal, here.
Here’s a headline that has probably been printed before: “Efforts Underway to Improve Pentagon’s Procurement System.” Read that bit, by the WaPo’s Christian Davenport, here.
Bob Work says: “stop the madness.” The WaPo’s Walter Pincus this morning on Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s plea to Congress on the budget Work, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum Nov. 12: “This is the fifth time in five years that Congress has been unable to do their basic business: pass a budget on time so that we can plan… “We’re in the third straight year of zero real growth in defense budgets.” Reading Pincus, here.
Hey, Joes: Careful what you’re sharing about your military status on social media. FBI and DHS issued a rare warning Sunday night, encouraging “current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters.” ABC News’ Brian Ross and James Gordon Meek with more, here.
Navy Times crowd-sourced ideas on how to improve the physical fitness standards, and were not disappointed with the response. Meghann Myers for Navy Times has the results—including some “tough guy” sailors who want to switch over the Marine’s fitness regimen, here.
The Colombian general released by FARC rebels this weekend resigned Monday after admitting he ventured into rebel territory in civilian clothes and without body guards. AP’s Joshua Goodman from Bogota, here.
Does Great Britain have a Pat Tillman? It’s learned that a British war hero who died in Afghanistan may have died at the hands of his countryman’s guns. Toby Harnden for Politico Magazine: “…When I interviewed Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took over as NATO commander in Afghanistan shortly after Evison was killed, in Kabul he compared the young officer’s demise to that of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
“…in what has become a haunting coda to Britain’s latest Afghan adventure, new evidence emerged this month that Evison was killed not by the Taliban but by “friendly fire” from one of his own men. Just like Spc. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who was accidentally killed by men in his own platoon in Afghanistan in 2004, Evison seemed the embodiment of a national ideal. And, as in the case of Tillman, information about how Evison died was either covered up or ignored, perhaps conveniently in order to protect the image of the military. To fully come to terms with the price it paid in Afghanistan, Britain will also have to confront the truth about the death of one of its most celebrated military sons.” Read the rest here.
And your #longread for Tuesday: Celebrated journalist George Packer turned in a door-stopper of a profile on Germany’s three-term chancellor Angela Merkel over at The New Yorker yesterday. Packer superbly articulates the tensions between Merkel and Putin in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine: “As a Russian speaker who hitchhiked through the Soviet republics in her youth, Merkel has a feel for Russia’s aspirations and resentments which Western politicians lack. In her office, there’s a framed portrait of Catherine the Great, the Prussian-born empress who led Russia during a golden age in the eighteenth century. But, as a former East German, Merkel has few illusions about Putin…” A whole lot more, here.