Mattis to commanders: I need you to talk to the press. On Friday, the defense secretary told 4-star admirals and generals, including the combatant commanders in Washington for the closed-door Senior Leadership Conference, that they need to re-engage with the media, Defense One’s Kevin Baron reports. Why? Principally, to persuade the public and the lawmakers who represent them in Congress that the current state of budgetary affairs is militarily dangerous. Many commanders have become increasingly reluctant to talk with the press since Trump’s election, fearing to get drawn into domestic politics.
The Pentagon’s top spokeswoman, Dana White, underlined Mattis’ order in an Oct. 6 email to senior public-affairs officers. “I realize there may be a perception that we have been keeping the media at arm’s length, but that is not the case and we’re doing our best to dispel that rumor and continue to be transparent with our press corps,” White said in the email. “Please communicate to your respective senior leaders that we want them to feel free, even obligated, to speak, in their lane, about their efforts and to use our OSD PA [Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs] team resources to help along the way.” Read the full text of the email at the bottom of the article, here.
“Mattis’s instruction to his 4-star leaders comes nine months into Trump’s presidency, amid some of the worst press relations with elected officials in Washington since Watergate,” Baron writes. “The president continues to bait and berate the American press, especially the White House press corps, including while speaking to U.S. military personnel. It’s a far different tone from how most senior military commanders speak publicly and admirably about the free press, and the military trains rising leaders to engage with media.” He offers a recap, and a look to the future, here.
From Defense One
A New Social-Media Simulator Is Helping US Troops Train for Hybrid War // Marcus Weisgerber: The program harvests and remixes real tweets to generate a convincing online environment for wargames large and small.
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North Korean hackers stole the U.S. and South Korea’s war plans, a lawmaker from South Korea said this morning in Seoul, Financial Times reports. “Lee Cheol-hee, a member of the ruling Democratic party, on Tuesday said hackers had broken into a defence data centre in September last year. He said stolen documents included Operational Plan 5015 — the most recent allied blueprint for war with North Korea. The plans reportedly includes detailed procedures for a decapitation strike against the North Korean regime — a proposal that has infuriated Kim Jong Un, the country’s supreme leader.”
The haul included some “235 gigabytes of data… although 80 per cent of the documents had yet to be identified. Among the files identified were contingency plans for Seoul’s special forces as well as information on key military facilities and power plants,” according to Lee.
“I just pray we never have to shoot down a missile from North Korea because then our ineffectiveness will really show,” an American sailor said in “three command climate surveys taken on the cruiser Shiloh,” Navy Times reported Monday. “The survey reports offer a window into life in the Navy’s 7th Fleet, a Pacific command where leadership has admitted sailors are overworked and often insufficiently trained due to relentless mission pace.” The results are not pretty. Read on — and on and on (it’s a #LongRead) — here.
The State Department’s quiet, pre-Trump counter-North Korea push has paid dividends, The Wall Street Journal reports. The idea — which began being implemented under the Obama administration — is to eventually choke off Pyongyang’s access to any materials that could help continue its antagonistic missile program. “Nations as big as Germany and as small as Fiji” have been pitched “highly specific requests, sometimes based on U.S. intelligence, to shut down North Korea’s foreign links.”
More than 20 nations have “shut down businesses owned by the North Korean government, remove[d] North Korean vessels from ship registries, end[ed] flights by the country’s national air carrier and expel[led] its ambassadors… following a more-than-yearlong effort” by Foggy Bottom. The Journal writes that some nations were initially cool to the idea, but North Korea’s ICBM tests this summer changed that. Read on (paywall alert), here.
Puerto Rico update. The U.S. Army says that 65 of 69 hospitals on the island are now open — 35 working from the country’s still-wrecked power grid and another 30 are working on generators.
- A small fraction of citizens have electricity — 11.7%
- Just 54% have drinking water. And the Army continues to route tanker trucks with drinking water “to each of the 78 municipalities daily.”
- Approximately 7,000 U.S. troops are on the scene lending a hand.
Iran has been trying to get its hands on “illicit technology that could be used for military nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Fox News reports after claiming to get their hands on three German intelligence reports spanning September and October, which document “32 procurement attempts… in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.”
The first report: “The North Rhine-Westphalia agency accused Iran of using front companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China to circumvent international restrictions on its nuclear and missile programs.”
The second, from the German state of Hessen, alleges that “Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Sudan use ‘guest academics’ for illegal activities related to nuclear and other weapons programs. ‘An example for this type of activity occurred in the sector of electronic technology in connection with the implementation of the enrichment of uranium,’ the document reads.”
And a third, “from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, said Iran works ‘unabated’ on its missile program.”
German officials to Fox News: “We have no indication of Iran violating its JCPOA commitments. Quite on the contrary, the recent 2016 Report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution states that there is no evidence of Iran violating the JCPOA. Having said that, we remain worried by Iran’s missile program. The aforementioned report, as well as reports from regional intelligence authorities, shows that Germany is highly vigilant in this regard and will continue to do so. However, this issue is outside the scope of the JCPOA and needs to be dealt with separately.” Read on, here.
Riyadh stocking up, with a little help from Washington and Moscow. The Pentagon’s $15 billion deal with the Saudis for THAAD anti-missile systems will not get in the way of its other anti-missile deal with the Kremlin for its S-400 system, Kremlin spox Dmitry Peskov said Monday. More here.
NATO just added a new Black Sea force to keep better tabs on Russia, Reuters reports. “The force will initially be built around a Romanian brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers, supported by troops from nine other NATO countries, and complementing a separate deployment of 900 U.S. troops who are already in place. The plans are to include additional air and sea assets to give the force greater capabilities.”
The message from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg: “We are sending a very clear message: NATO is here, NATO is strong and NATO is united.” More here.
ICYMI this weekend, Norwegian intelligence officially confirmed that Russia jammed GPS in North Norway during its recent Zapad exercises with Belarus. Full story, in Norwegian, here.
What not to do while pulling security, UK edition. The British army is investigating a soldier who was photographed using earphones “while on duty outside Horse Guards in central London,” The Telegraph reported Monday.
The photo in question — complete with a policeman disdainfully observing the head-phoned soldier — would appear to say it all.
Pentagon says: Give us the F-35… we’ll find a way to make it cheaper, WSJ reports. “The Pentagon has taken over an effort to cut the cost of the F-35 combat jet, after rejecting plans proposed by Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT 0.27% and its partners, as it tries to make a program estimated to cost $400 billion more affordable.”
But how, exactly? Through a “contract vehicle instead of an agreement with industry… to reduce the price of the F-35A model—the plane used by the U.S. Air Force and most overseas allies—to around $80 million by 2020, after adjusting for inflation.” Story, here.
And finally today: The U.S. Marine veteran who commandeered a truck amid the Vegas massacre last week — he’s getting a brand new truck, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Twenty-nine-year-old Taylor Winston was gifted a a $20,000 Ford F-150 from an Arizona car dealer on Monday, LVRJ writes.
What now? “Winston plans to sell his old pickup and donate the proceeds to the shooting victims. ‘I don’t even care if it’s my story,’ Winston said. “Just having a positive story on social media in the darkness — it’s almost my duty to take charge.’” Read the rest, here.