The D Brief: Todd Harrison takes the military to task; An Uber exec on a Pentagon board suggests oppo research on journos; Thornberry: no more defense cuts; Dental trouble at Langley; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Niiice: An Uber executive who serves on the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board is under fire for outlining a plan to go after journalists who are critical of his company. Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith: “A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media—and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.” More at Buzzfeed, here.

Emil Michael used to work as a special assistant to then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates…

The WSJ article about Emil Michael, a senior exec at Uber, being appointed to the Defense Business Board, here.

There was no initial response this morning from the Pentagon on the matter, but we’ll be following up.

President Obama directed a comprehensive review of the U.S. government’s policy toward hostage cases, according to a letter (now one week old) from the Under Secretary of Defense Christine Wormuth to California Republican and Iraq war vet Rep. Duncan Hunter, broken by The Daily Beast's Shane Harris. 

Meanwhile, the latest ISIS video—in which American Peter Kassig was shown murdered in a marked departure from form for the terrorist group—“is a reminder of how feckless U.S. efforts to free American hostages have become,” writes Shane Harris over at The Daily Beast. Harris reminds us of the last known U.S. hostage in ISIS hands, a 26-year-old female, and glances behind the negotiation process where “State Department and the White House have been opposed to paying ransoms, but the FBI and the Justice Department have taken a more nuanced position, according to people involved in the efforts.” More here.

Defense One’s own Molly O’Toole has been tracking the chatter about a possible new AUMF out of Washington, and finds: If there is a new AUMF in the works, neither the Pentagon nor Capitol Hill know anything about it: “In the absence of a blueprint from the White House, several lawmakers have drafted their own versions of a new AUMF… Members of both parties have suggested that the president should be the one to draft an AUMF—in no small part because lawmakers remain unclear on what they would be authorizing.”

And speaking of debates, Just Security’s Ryan Goodman adds to the broader discussion about a new authorization to use military force against ISIS as “co-belligerents” of al-Qaeda—debunking the “Vichy France” precedent which some say allows POTUS to sidestep Congress. More here.

Just Security is looking for a comms director, FYI. More on that here.

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Have you ever wondered how many flying hours it takes to kill a terrorist? Or tank miles – or steaming days? Measuring what’s called “readiness” in the military with greater fidelity means rethinking the way the military assesses its readiness – especially in an age of budget cuts, argues Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Defense One today. Harrison’s position on thisoutlined in an article he wrote back in Augustgot a lot of pushback from the U.S.  military, including in a two-page memo from the Marine Corps that went after him for what he wrote back then.

Harrison in Defense One today: “…The military, like baseball, tends to be a self-populating institution that sets up barriers to resist outside influence. Many in the military think they can judge readiness by its inputs, much like baseball scouts thought they could judge players by their appearance. I am merely suggesting that we look at the stats. I don’t know how many flying hours it takes to kill a terrorist, but I have an idea for how we could figure that out. Unfortunately, it only takes one memo to kill a good idea.” Read the rest here.

Terrorist attacks increased by 44% last year and claimed nearly 18,000 lives, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2014 report from the Institute for Economics and Peace. More on the report over at the BBC, here.

Also, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker assesses the drone and robotics angle in SecDef Hagel’s tech initiative announced this past weekend: “The inclusion of robotic and autonomous systems in the Hagel’s remarks is the clearest indication yet that the Pentagon is rekindling its romance with drones. In 2013, when drone spending was near its height, the Pentagon allocated $5.7 billion for unmanned aerial vehicles. Compare that to $2.4 billion set aside for drones in the FY 2015 budget (as well as a 15 percent reduction in Predators and Reapers.) Hagel’s comments suggest that trend is about to reverse.”

Who’s up to WhatDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel finishes his domestic trip with a stop to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he’ll observe training for what’s known as the “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” which helps the Corps facilitate “standards base assessments” of physical performance of Marines as part of the integration of women into ground combat arms jobs.

Hagel will also deliver remarks and take questions from Marines who just returned from Afghanistan before returning to DC this afternoon.

Meantime, also today - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey attends the National Defense University change of leadership ceremony this morning at 10:30… Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert will host the Chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy for a counterpart visit today  - day will entail a full honors ceremony plus meetings… Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is hosting Gen. Raheel Sharif, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff…

President Obama credentials 10 U.S. ambassadors today… Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James travels to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam this week to conduct an All Call with Airmen and to receive a first-hand look at the 36th Wing and the continuous bomber presence mission… While visiting Andersen AFB, Secretary James will tour the base, facilities, and also meet with Airmen and civic leaders.

Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James wants to open all of the service’s jobs to women. AP’s Audrey McAvoy with more from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, here.

"This isn't the way to do business for your 2 million-plus military employees." Advocates like Norb Ryan of the Military Officers Association of America are disturbed by the lack of debate on the new defense authorization bill, Leo Shane III reports for Military Times, here.

Defense One’s own Marcus Weisgerber went to Langley, Virginia yesterday to learn about the Air Force’s secret intelligence center. There, analysts monitor feeds from dozens of manned and unmanned aircraft conducting surveillance of the Islamic State using the Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS. Marcus learned a couple things – one, that there is an insatiable demand for intelligence. And two, that the airmen there have to stay on top of their dental work. Marcus: “The airmen who work here often rotate on 12-hour shifts. What do you do when you’re trying to remain focused on a computer screen, looking for something suspicious? Chug energy drinks. And what does that mean? ‘We have the worst cavity rate in the Air Force,’ Lt. Col. Cameron Thurman, the wing’s doctor, said. ‘We’re working on that.’”

We’ll pick up Marcus’ actual story on the visit to Langley soon.

Defectors from Assad’s military comprise a “monument to missed opportunities in the Syrian civil war,” growing larger and less happy with each passing day in exile. WSJ’s Adam Entous on Page One from one of those exile camps in Turkey: “Rather than forming the vanguard of a Western-backed fighting force, they follow the war next door on TV and a Wi-Fi network funded by the Turkish government... The former Syrian military men, about a fifth of whom were high-ranking Assad-regime officers, live here with wives and children in one-room prefabricated housing units—1,181 of them lined up in rows… [and] guarded by Turkish soldiers and ringed by watchtowers.

“Obama administration officials disputed the idea that the defectors in Camp Apaydin represented a ‘huge opportunity’ missed, citing divisions among them. The men sparred over who should take the lead and sent mixed messages about their willingness to return to Syria, according to the officials, who said they wouldn’t have been a perfect solution even if mobilized.

“’We’ve heard about the U.S. plans, but the trust has been lost, Col. Kurdi in Camp Apaydin said. ‘The public now trust the radicals more than they trust the West.’” More here.

Also, in Defense One today, former Pentagon analyst and adviser to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Oubai Shahbandar, along with former Army intel officer Michael Pregent say it’s time to move past fears of Tehran because the Free Syrian Army need formal U.S. backing now more than ever before.

Apropos of nothingShe’s our favorite rapper today, getting lost in the moment, and so will you, watch it here.

PBS Newshour ran a 10-minute segment last night investigating Iraq and Afghanistan burn pit exposure, here.

Real Clear Defense re-pubbed an article by Tony Carr on the A-10: “Discrediting the Forrest Gump Argument for Killing the A-10. Read that here.

The British army is quite pleased with their new drone in the skies of Afghanistan. The Elbit Systems/Thales WK450 Watchkeeper took its maiden flight there in early September. More from FlightGlobal, here.

JINSA gave Mac Thornberry an award last night along with six amazing people. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs gave Rep. Thornberry, the Texas Republican who could be the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Award for Distinguished Public Service. JINSA, whose slogan is “Securing America, Strengthening Israel” honors folks with the award who believe the U.S. needs a strong military. In accepting it last night, (we were told since we unfortunately had to miss it) Thornberry noted that the US faces huge national security challenges and that terrorism has become even more challenging. The U.S. faces new threats in cybersecurity and biological threats, but he also noted that he stood against any more defense cuts. "A weak America means a more dangerous world,” he said.

JINSA also gave “Grateful Nation” awards to six U.S. military personnel, including some special operators: The Army’s Capt. James Boston, the Marine Corps’ Staff Sgt. Adel Abudayeh, the Navy’s Lt. Andrew Boyden, the Coast Guard’s Chief Boatswain’s Mate Douglas Schneider, the Air Force’s Capt. Daniel Beirne, and U.S. Special Operations Command Maj. Timothy Rott. More on that award, here.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard for the second time this year in anticipation of the grand jury decision on the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in August. The NYTs Monica Davey from Ferguson, Mo., here.

FARC rebels abducted a Colombian general and two of his aides Sunday evening, bringing the two-year peace talks with the government to an abrupt halt. AP’s Joshua Goodman from Bogota, here.

The GAO released two separate reports on the VA yesterday: The first (here) pinpoints 8 recommendations for the agency’s Network and Security Operations Center in response to a “significant incident detected in 2012.” The second report (here) investigates the dynamics behind—and counter-measures to help correct—shortages in nursing staff at 7 different VA facilities.

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