The D Brief: Why the Pentagon confiscates pepper spray; Hagel on Hagel; Jessica Wright, out; More troops for Afg; The Navy and Bill Cosby: like it never even happened; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Well over half of women in the military who reported sexual assault in the last fiscal year said they were retaliated against in some way. Our own Molly O’Toole with more: “The total number of reports of sexual assault increased from 5,518 in FY2013 to 5,983 in FY2014, but the Pentagon says that is due to improvements in reporting, rather than an increase in incident… In FY2014, the services implemented the new regulations that now make it a crime under the UCMJ to retaliate against those who report military sexual assault. Violations of the regulations can result in criminal prosecution in the military justice system.”

Hagel, yesterday: “We must tackle this difficult problem head on because like sexual assault itself, reprisals directly contradict one of highest values of our military: that we protect our brothers and sisters in uniform … [victims] need to be embraced and helped, not ostracized or punished with retribution.”  Read the rest here.

The NYT’s Jennifer Steinhauer: “This week in the Senate, lawmakers again presented different versions of bills that would address sexual assault in the military, potentially setting up a legislative conflict that may well hold up a defense bill. One version, sponsored by Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, which will be included in the broader defense bill, offers various changes to the system to give victims more rights and assistance. Another, which would be offered as a possible amendment and is sponsored by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, would strip commanders of their role in prosecuting the cases.” More here.

Laura Seal, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Defense One’s O’Toole on Thursday regarding legislation: ”Our position has not changed.” 

The Navy did a “Servpro” on Bill Cosby being an honorary CPO yesterday – it’s like it never even happened. The scandal-plagued comedic legend Bill Cosby held the title of honorary Chief Petty Officer in the Navy since 2011—but not anymore. NavSec Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens announced yesterday that they’ve revoked the honorary title “because allegations against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.”

Servpro’ed: Any mention of Cosby’s ever being made an honorary CPO appears to have been completely scrubbed from the Navy’s Web site.

Meantime, is it Security Theater at the Pentagon? At this time in which sexual assault issues are top of mind at the Pentagon, one Defense Department civilian asks why carrying pepper spray to protect herself is against the rules.

The Pentagon has been running random security checks and a week or so ago confiscated a bottle of pepper spray from a woman who had it in her handbag. Seemed a little overkill to her. The woman, a 29-year DoD civilian employee, said Pentagon police officers seemed gleeful when they found the pepper spray in her bag when they discovered it.  

A Pentagon official told The D Brief: Based on recent complaints about confiscating these devices, since they can be used for personal protection, we have decided to allow tenants to bring OC pepper spray in 1 ounce or less commercially produced devices into Pentagon facilities… Individuals who bring in pepper spray exceeding 1oz will be prohibited from bringing it into the facility and may take it back to their vehicle, throw it away, or turn it over to the police officer for destruction.”

But the civilian said she felt as if she was treated like a criminal: “I did not do anything legally wrong, therefore I should not have been treated like a criminal for carrying pepper spray for my own personal protection. Which was within the legal bounds and regulation of the department.”

Here’s the kind of spray she was carrying – it’s less than one ounce, so it should have been OK to carry into the building; Right here.

The civilian employee acknowledged that pepper spray is a weapon of sorts, but she also pointed out that pepper spray isn’t lethal, so it’s not as if it could pose any serious risk inside the building even if it was used for nefarious purposes.

Another woman who works at the Pentagon said if the Pentagon is going to be so picky about what pepper spray it deems regulation-worthy, then why not sell the proper kind inside the building, so women don’t have to guess – or not carry it at all. Hello, Fort America?

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The U.S. is planning to keep hundreds more troops in Afghanistan above the previous 9,800 count targeted for January 1. The WaPo’s Missy Ryan with this important scoop, here.

The Afghan soldier who shot and killed a U.S. general in August fired his weapon from a barracks bathroom window, selecting Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene as he was simply a “target of opportunity.” WaPo’s Dan Lamothe with more from the investigation released by CENTCOM yesterday, here.

A Green Beret from 7th Special Forces Group died Wednesday from small arms fire during a clearance op in south-central Afghanistan’s Zabul province, DOD said yesterday.

Chuck Hagel’s decision to leave the Pentagon was mutual, Hagel said. Defense One’s Lubold: “…Speaking at the Pentagon for the first time since announcing his resignation at the White House last week, Hagel spoke extensively about the circumstances of his departure, but gave few if any clues that would expand the understanding of why he was leaving.

Hagel: “We both came to the conclusion that — I think the country was best served with new leadership, he thought it was, over in this institution, after we had talked through it… I made my contribution during my time, and I’m proud of that, of what we did. And I feel very confident and very secure about — as I leave here, that we, all of us together –- not Secretary Hagel but all of us as a team –- have prepared this institution over the last two years to take on these big issues that are ahead.” Read the rest of the story here.

Today is a big day – Ash Carter will be formally nominated by the White House to become the next Secretary of Defense – at 10:10 a.m. with Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will also be there.

Fareed Zakaria thinks the Pentagon is out of control – will Ash Carter rein it in? Read his op-ed in the WaPo here.

This is Obama’s last chance on defense – his national security reputation is “on the line,” in a story by Politico’s Dan Berman, here.

Meantime, this may be why the White House intends to nominate Carter: Chief of Staff Denis McDonough sees Ash as an action figure. Denis McDonough, the White House Chief of Staff, speaking about Carter a year ago at his retirement ceremony at the Pentagon: “…what became clear to me is that Ash is neither hawk nor dove. He’s a man who just likes to get stuff done. And it’s a guy — he is a guy who’s influenced not by ideology, but by facts. And that’s a hallmark of what he brings to everything we do and have done together, because after all, he’s a man of science, a man of data, and ultimately a man of action.”

“…We used to like to say that, consistent with his training in physics, a Dr. Carter in motion will tend to continue to be a Dr. Carter in motion.”

What others have said about Ash, including Marty Dempsey and Jeremy Bash at Carter’s retirement ceremony at the Pentagon in December 2013:

Panetta Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash: “…You’re really a physics nerd with a very small dog. (Laughter.) Have you seen the dog? It’s a hypoallergenic cottonball of a dog. (Laughter.)”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Marty Dempsey, at the same event: “I think he’s been called the least — the most important, least known figure in Washington, or some language to that effect, and I agree with that.”

Are eel-like drones the future of naval warfare? Defense One’s Patrick Tucker files this one from the world of unmanned underwater vehicles (or, UUVs): “The U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have explored designs that look like actual sea life, such as robotic jellyfish, manta rays, tuna and eels for years.…[but this] eel bot’s most attractive feature is its adaptability. The same undulating movement that propels it through water can move it forward on land as well. It’s one reason why NASA was considering snakebots for future Mars missions and why tomorrow’s amphibious assault weapons may not swim, walk or roll but… slither.” More here.

Who is up to what today – Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, commander of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve and the fight against the Islamic State will brief media live from the Middle East this morning at 10 a.m. in the Pentagon Briefing Room.

“As The Nominations Turn:” On Monday at 2:30 p.m., the Senate Armed Services Committee will “continue to consider” the nominations of Bob Scher, Elissa Slotkin, Dave Berteau and Alissa Starzack for top Pentagon jobs. Remember McCain’s anger over some issues this week? Deets for Monday’s show, here. 

Bahrain—host of today’s 10th annual Manama Dialogue security conference—wants to talk about how to curb extremism in the region. But Brian Dooley of Human Rights First says the region would also be well served by acknowledging Bahrain’s slow-motion, sectarian crackdown: “…the monarchy stepped up its repression of dissent and peaceful activism in 2011 when large pro-democracy protests broke out, and it hasn’t let up. It has detained thousands, including opposition leaders, and tortured many into false confessions for use in bogus trials. Dozens of peaceful activists have been killed during protests or in prisons. The monarchy’s sectarianism plays into the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups, which seek to stoke war between Sunni and Shia… As sectarian tensions grow, so too does the possibility of widespread instability and violence in the island country that hosts the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet and the forward deployed headquarters of Marines in Central Command, directly across the Gulf from Iran…” More here.

Why did America’s second hostage rescue in six months end in failure? The Obama administration allowed 7 days to pass after learning of an American hostage’s possible location in Yemen before launching the rescue mission, WSJ’s Julian Barnes, Adam Entous and Carol Lee report: “…some U.S. officials said they now believe delays in the planning and approval of the operation contributed to its failure to free journalist Luke Somers. Others said there was incomplete intelligence and that the Pentagon and White House moved quickly to approve the operation once it was presented…

JSOC formally presented a plan to rescue Mr. Somers to the Pentagon midmorning on Nov. 21… At the White House, counterterrorism chief Lisa Monaco held a classified video teleconference on the afternoon of Nov. 22 to discuss the raid. At the end of the meeting, Ms. Monaco said the White House would make a decision after senior members of the National Security Council had a chance to weigh in by the morning of Nov. 23… ‘Should it take this long to get approval when you have an operation ready to go,’ asked a U.S. official. ‘We should have approved this in a matter of hours rather than days.’” More here.

Nearly 20 police and militants were killed during clashes in the capital of Chechnya yesterday, just hours ahead of a “State of the Nation” speech by Putin. NYTs’ Andrew E. Kramer and Neil MacFarquhar from Grozny: “Militants traveling in three cars infiltrated Grozny around 1 a.m., killing three traffic police officers at a checkpoint and then occupying the 10-story House of Publishing at the center of the city, according to a statement by Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee… Mr. Putin made a passing reference to the attack, first suggesting that the West was behind the long history of terrorist insurgency in the restive Caucasus Mountains because it wanted to break up Russia, just as it had Yugoslavia… The 20th anniversary of the start of the first Chechen war is Dec. 11.” More here.

Jessica Wright, who heads the Pentagon’s massive personnel shop, announced her retirement yesterday right after the sexual assault survey was released. Wright had agreed to stay in the job two years but has actually been at the Pentagon for five. And we’re told she really wanted to return to her family. She’ll remain in office until the end of March, meaning she’ll be on duty when the big review of military compensation is released at the end of next month.

Wright, in an email to the Pentagon’s Personnel and Readiness department, yesterday provided to The D Brief: “…I am extremely proud of the work that we have done together in P&R… This has been a tremendous experience.  It has been my privilege to work in support of the men and women in uniform, their families, and Department of Defense civilians… Thank you all for your support… Your individual contributions are important to sustaining the freedoms we all value so highly… I will keep you in my prayers as I begin my next adventure – wherever that may take me.”

Two top officials in the Pentagon’s IG office bungled an investigation into allegations about Panetta and the leak on the bin Laden raid, Sen. Chuck Grassley charges. From McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay and Marissa Taylor, here.

The recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures is looking a lot like a previous attack against oil giant Saudi Aramco in 2011, and another that hit South Korean media outlets in 2013. Christian Science Monitor’s Paul F. Roberts lays out nearly everything experts know so far, here.

The Pentagon will soon be able to safely carry a dozen patients infected with Ebola on board its C-17s. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio, here.

How Syria got radios and an American who runs an NGO but with an agenda – to help the U.S. government – got them there.  From the NYT’s magazine this weekend, previewed on the Web machine: “…Jim Hake, is the founder and chief executive of Spirit of America, a nongovernmental organization with the explicit mission to support U.S. military and diplomatic efforts. (He relentlessly asks “What do you need?” The first time he asked it of Fares, Fares answered with withering dryness, “A new country.”)

“…Hake, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who made a tidy profit in the early days of the Internet, used his money to help start Spirit of America in 2003. But instead of operating under the principle of neutrality like most NGOs, his organization explicitly takes sides. Hake believes private citizens have a role to play in supporting U.S. policy, and Fares’s messages appealed to him. ‘Our enemies use private funding to fight everything America and our allies stand for,’ Hake said. ‘Why can’t we use private assistance to help the good guys like Fares win?’” Read the rest here.

Dempsey held a town hall yesterday and at the “Ask the Chairman” event, got some questions, about singing, Army-Navy – and the Islamic State. Thanks to Defense One’s own eagle eye, Kedar Pavgi for a few excerpts.

On ISIL: “I don’t foresee the reintroduction of large “Western” ground combat forces in Iraq for a number of reasons.”

“The Singing General” on why he sings – “Hi Patricia, thanks for the kind words. I sing often, but when I sing publicly it’s to make sure people know that their military senior leaders are really just normal, approachable people, and feel good about serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. I’ll share my family’s holiday video here later this month, we hope you’ll enjoy it. In the meantime, look on YouTube for me singing in New York at Stand Up for Heroes.”

On the Army/Navy game: “I support all of our services every day except for one. Check back here on game day to see a special video message I filmed just for the occasion. Go Army, Beat Navy!”

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