The D Brief: Did an Army contractor misrepresent himself?; Hagel to decide quarantine issue soon; Pentagon lives for today; Jeh Johnson ups security; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
A former Army contractor central to the controversial DCGS system appears to have misrepresented his academic credentials. The AP broke a story last night about Russ Richardson, who reportedly earned millions of dollars as an Army intel contractor before taking a six-figure job inside the Army’s intelligence and security command two years ago and who “allowed himself to be portrayed” as having a Ph.D. in engineering even though he does not hold such a degree. The AP’s Ken Dilanian: “Russell Richardson, who earned a master's degree from Ohio State University in 1984, says he never sought to misrepresent his credentials. Yet from 2003 to as recently as September, Richardson consistently has been characterized in news stories, company websites and his own internal Army resume as having a doctorate.
“…Before he left the government in July, he was the architect of a failed effort to fix the Army's Distributed Common Ground System, a troubled intelligence program."
… Richardson introduced himself as ‘Dr. Richardson’ and passed out documents listing himself as ‘Dr.,’ according to three Army officials who were not authorized to discuss a personnel matter by name and requested anonymity. All said it was commonly believed at INSCOM that Richardson was a Ph.D. Richardson responded, ‘I never introduce myself as 'Dr.' Never, ever. ... I never represented that I had a Ph.D.”
If this story seems a little in the weeds, this is why it may not be: Richardson was the chief architect of the DCGS intelligence system that is now in peril, raising more questions about the credibility of the program, putting another black eye on the expensive system that the Army has struggled to defend on Capitol Hill and even inside the Pentagon. Read the AP story here.
Meantime, it’s decision time for Chuck Hagel on Ebola quarantines. The top-of-mind issue at the Pentagon now is what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will decide on military quarantines after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno decided that the first unit returning from Liberia would be quarantined for 21 days in Italy. The Joint Chiefs have recommended Hagel commit to the same for all troops returning from the region, even if that does not square with what other arms of the U.S. government, like the Centers for Disease Control, recommend. It remains unclear if the chiefs could decide this issue on their own, as Odierno did, anyway. Hagel is now confronted with deciding if he should side with his senior officers or not.
When will Hagel make a decision? Unclear, but we were told this morning it would be “very soon.” Kirby said there is no re-deployment of military personnel from Liberia that would happen anytime soon that would force Hagel to make a decision quickly.
Obama spoke to the military quarantine yesterday, saying the military is different because it is not treating patients and because it isn’t in West Africa voluntarily, even if his logic for supporting a military quarantine seemed a little off. Obama: “So we don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for our civilians. They are already, by definition, if they’re in the military, under more circumscribed conditions."
Then Obama said that quarantines could potentially scare off volunteers. “When we have volunteers who are taking time out from their families, from their loved ones and so forth, to go over there because they have very particular expertise, to tackle a very difficult job, we want to make sure that when they come back that we are prudent, that we are making sure that they are not at risk themselves or at risk of spreading the disease. But we don’t want to do things that aren’t based on science and best practices…”
We heard from a Marine spouse who took exception yesterday to a quote we used yesterday from an officer about how spouses would greet the notion of a 21-day quarantine with a shrug or a “whatever.”
From the Marine spouse to D Brief on the quarantines: “It sucks when my husband just has to go out into the field for two weeks, so a quarantine that amounts to a deployment extension of nearly an extra month is definitely more than a ‘whatever.’ I'm sure the families and soldiers do appreciate the fact that they were told ahead of time, so they could prepare, but homecomings are a big deal: Many people spend a lot of time and money getting ready for their spouse to come home (making signs, trying to lose weight/get their hair done/buy some new outfit, cleaning or re-decorating the house, flying back from an extended period staying with family, etc.), and even those who don't do anything special do generally DO make plans with their spouse in mind… Obviously, no one wants to get Ebola or give their families Ebola, but if they haven't been exposed at all, it seems like overkill.”
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New in Defense One: The Pentagon’s expectations of a lame-duck Congress are about as high as your boots. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber has this: “[DOD Comptroller Mike McCord, in his first public speech since taking the post after Bob Hale retired in June] said Pentagon officials are focusing more on the debt ceiling expiration next spring as ‘a more likely’ time when Congress could inject some longer-term budget guidance… 'We in DOD don’t live in yesterday’s world. We live in today’s world. We have to react to today’s events. We have adversaries today who are clever and adaptive, like ISIL among others.'”
The politics of military records continues in Montana, as Republican U.S. House candidate and former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke released his records on Monday. The AP’s Lisa Baumann, here.
PBS’ Frontline broadcasted an extended investigation into the ascent of the Islamic State last night. The former FBI agent first assigned to al-Qaeda at the end of the 20th century, Ali Soufan of The Soufan Group, compiled an extensive report to go along with the broadcast. That, here. Watch “The Rise of ISIS” here.
Meantime, it remains unclear who is investigating the suspected chlorine gas attack in Iraq by the Islamic State…
Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby, last week on investigating the potential chlorine gas attack:
“We obviously—it's OPCW's role to investigate those allegations. We certainly—and we've been very clear that all credible allegations of the use of chemical weapons, we want to have investigated, and I know that there are agencies that are looking into this particular allegation.”
Kirby, yesterday, on investigating the potential chlorine gas attack: “…I'm not aware of any decision that's been made here in the Defense Department to ask or not to ask OPCW to do it. What I said last week is that this would—this is a—this is a typical OPCW function, not something that the Defense Department would normally do.”
Kirby to D Brief this morning on who’s doing what investigating: “Don’t have that answer yet.”
It’s actually here: the U.S.-Israeli crisis. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “…By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.
“The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet. Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has “written off” the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached.” More here.
So what’s changed in a year? Here’s a look back at Iran nuclear talks—from the vantage point of 2015. The Director of the Iran Initiative at the New America Foundation, Suzanne DiMaggio, writing for Tom Ricks over at Ricks’ Best Defense on FP, here.
America’s foreign military sales grew by nearly 15 percent in 2014 to $34.2 billion, Defense News, here.
Who knew you could dance like this in boots? Here’s a cheerfully surreal video from Afghanistan. TheBreastCancerSite.com’s blog shared this one out of Logar’s FOB Shank from two Summers ago but still worth the click, here.
Who’s doing what today? Chuck Hagel and Susan Rice are both at the Washington Ideas Forum today. Hagel’s up at 10:55 a.m. talking with The Atlantic’s James Fallows; and Rice talks with WSJ’s Jerry Seib at 12:35 p.m. And moments before Rice and Seib get under way, Adm. Mike Rogers is scheduled to be the “fireside chat host” at the CyberMaryland 2014 Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center at 12:30 p.m.
Also today, in Riga, Latvia, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet is meeting with senior Latvian government officials to discuss a range of security issues and talk defense cooperation between the two militaries. From the Pentagon: “Chollet will also meet with Policy Directors for each of the Baltic States. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian forces have served in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as other NATO, EU and UN missions in Africa and the Balkans. Secretary Chollet will also visit the Ādaži Training Area, to visit with Latvian soldiers and U.S. First Cavalry Division troops deployed there for joint training. U.S. soldiers have served in the Baltics and Poland since April, conducting joint training events and participating in multilateral exercises.”
And also today: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Evelyn Farkas will meet with senior Albanian defense officials and delegates from the Ministry of Defense and the Albanian Armed Forces for U.S.-Albania bilateral defense consultations. These discussions, held every 18-24 months, will focus on the changing security environment, Albanian defense transformation and continued defense cooperation. Albanian is also a member of the 60-some country coalition fighting the Islamic State and has also committed to the mission in Afghanistan post 2014.
Hagel and Dempsey are expected to meet Pakistan’s Army Chief in mid-November. Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol, here.
In the wake of Ottawa, DHS’ Jeh Johnson ups security at more than 9,500 federal buildings. CNN: “…Johnson said in a statement Tuesday that the Federal Protective Service's new security measures are a precautionary guard against ‘continued public calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere’ after two attacks last week on Canada's government... A Homeland Security official told CNN there is ‘no new intelligence’ suggesting that U.S. government buildings face additional threats, and emphasized that the changes are a 'precautionary measure' that only apply to buildings secured by the Federal Protective Service.” More here.
Also at DHS, the hunter becomes the hunted: A Department of Homeland Security official who investigated the Secret Service prostitution scandal in 2012 resigned after he was suspected of hiring a prostitute in Florida. The NYT here.
Speaking of bad behavior and ICYMI: The Fort Benning O-5 in charge of pre-Ranger, Pathfinder and Air Assault training for Guard soldiers was removed from his post earlier this month. Kevin Lilley for Army Times, here.
“I’ve never met the guys.” Blackwater founder Erik Prince spoke with The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe shortly after four of his former employees were found guilty of killing 14 Iraqis in 2007. Read that here.
Pentagon confirms second troop death in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. RIP Marine Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal, 19—who died in Baghdad last Thursday in a “noncombat incident”—and Marine Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, who Military Times' Josh Stewart reminds us was "lost in the Persian Gulf on Oct. 1 when he jumped from an MV-22B Osprey that nearly crashed shortly after taking off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship Makin Island." More here.
The French have been pounding jihadist training camps in Iraq and Syria, Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss report, here.
The AP this morning posted fresh video of Iraqi Kurdish soldiers en route to Kobani through Turkey, here.
Here is an amazing first-person account of the torture and release of American journalist Theo Padnos in Syria. That just went live this morning at The New York Times, here.
ICYMI (we did): “Children of the Caliphate.” FP’s Kate Brannen had this great and alarming story about the way the Islamic State recruits children: “…The Islamic State has put in place a far-reaching and well-organized system for recruiting children, indoctrinating them with the group's extremist beliefs, and then teaching them rudimentary fighting skills. The militants are preparing for a long war against the West, and hope the young warriors being trained today will still be fighting years from now.” More here.
Libya’s “rogue general” Khalifa Haftar—who last popped up on our radar two weeks ago—is stoking fears of genocide with his campaign against Islamist militias in Benghazi. The Libya Herald has this: “"The Geneva-based Libyan Human Rights Solidarity (LHRS) has warned that the targeting of families related to members of the different battalions that form the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shoura Council (BRSC) by forces loyal to Khalifa Hafter is a war crime and must be stopped by the United Nations..." More here.
Here’s a bit from Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, from his interview with British vice-chief of British Defense Staff Chief Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach. From Marcus: [Peach] was in town last week for meetings at the Pentagon with his counterpart, Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also attended meetings at the United Nations in New York. In an interview with Defense One, Peach touted the decades-long partnership between the American and British militaries and collaboration on a host of defense projects, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. “That is an expensive investment for the U.K., but a very important investment for the U.K.” He also touted the high-quality manufacturing work being conducted by British defense companies. “There are sectors where the U.K. can literally say we are as good as many in the world.”
An operational example of this is the MDBA-built Brimstone air-to-ground missile, which has been dropped by British Tornado fighter jets during air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Peach said the missile is ‘ideally suited for the environment we’re in in Iraq and the Middle East today.’ Peach learned to fly the Tornado in 1981, but the jets—like many U.S. fighters built in the 1980s—have been incrementally upgraded with new equipment over the years allowing them to drop smart weapons and gather higher quality reconnaissance. “The platform may well be venerable … but the effect that that platform can now deliver is very different from when I learned to fly it,’ Peach said.
And large defense firms are not the only ones who should be building state of the art systems for the military. ‘We have to accept and acknowledge there is a serious role in defense for start ups, for small-medium-scale enterprises, and we have to find ways in which they can be brought in to understand problems and help us to create solutions,’ Peach said. The U.K. Defence Ministry has created a portal for small and medium-sized business to pursue military work, he noted.