The D Brief: Dempsey, Vickers headline Defense One’s Summit; Hagel in D1: the new era at DoD; The fallout of the Uber exec; Mabus’ travel; Thornberry gets the nod; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Today is a big day for Defense One, as the second annual Defense One Summit gets underway this morning with a lineup of current national security leaders who will examine the purpose of today’s military, to borrow a word from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, amid a slate of crises that few forecast at last year’s Summit.

In his first appearance since returning from Iraq this week, Dempsey will sit down with Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron at noon and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno sits with NPR’s Tom Bowman; Vice Adm. Bill Moran, chief of Navy personnel and deputy chief naval officer, talks with Defense One Managing Editor Stephanie Gaskell; UN Ambassador to the U.S. Samantha Power sits with Defense One Contributor Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work talks with Marcus Weisgerber; Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers faces your D Briefer, Gordon Lubold; and DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar meets with resident futurist and technology editor Patrick Tucker.

The Summit is a free event, which allows for federal workers and military personnel to attend unfettered, but also means it’s an exclusive event. The Defense One team hand-selected leaders across government, academia, industry, media and other categories of stakeholders.

Didn’t land an invite this year? No worries, the summit’s mainstage lineup will be livestreamed by clicking right here

Join us on the Tweeter machine #DefOneSummit.

Here’s the lineup: If you're interested in the military commanders and today's conflicts, watch Moran at 0900, Odierno at 0930 and Dempsey at 1200.

If politics is your thing, Sen. Kaine and Rep. Schiff talk war powers and Congress at 10 a.m. (The NYT editorial this morning: military action in Syria requires a new AUMF, here.)

If you're interested in foreign policy and intervention, Amb. Power is 2:45 p.m.

Interested in intel? Vickers is on at 2:15 p.m.

Tech and robot armies got you hooked?  Catch DARPS's Prabhakar at 3:30 p.m.

And if the budget has you intrigued, tune in to Odierno at 9:30 this morning and Work at 4 p.m.

One last minute roster change: Unfortunately, AFRICOM Commander Gen. David Rodriguez had to cancel his appearance due to a scheduling conflict. Gaskell interviews Moran about compensation reform, the civilian-military divide, evolving personnel assumptions and future needs for an all-volunteer force in the age of perpetual conflict instead.

Chuck Hagel penned an op-ed for Defense One appearing this morning in which he makes the argument for the new era at the Defense Department that he has begun to shepherd. His BLUF: “…I am confident about our nation’s competitiveness and creativity. While we live in a more dynamic technological environment than we did four decades ago, the ingenuity of our nation’s entrepreneurs, engineers, strategists and scientists remains unrivaled. But we need stronger support from Congress, more today than ever before.

“We need long-term budgets, not continuing resolutions. We need the flexibility to undertake critical cost-savings measures, from reducing excess basing to reforming military compensation to shedding outdated platforms and systems. We also urgently need Congress to end the threat of sequestration, which would devastate our military readiness, threaten long-term investments in modernization and undermine our ability to execute our nation’s defense strategy.”

Welcome to the Wednesday 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 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.

Our cool new capability - D Brief readers can now hit reply to this email if they want to give us some nasty feedback, tell us we’re all good, or, best… GIVE US A NEWS TIP – or what we like to call “candy” – interesting news nuggets or some great tidbit you heard that no one else has. We look forward to hearing from you.

Who’s doing what today – Many of the Pentagon’s principals, at least, are all at the Defense One Summit. Check out “Today in DOD” here.

…Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Derek Chollet was in Israel yesterday/today for consultations with his Israeli counterparts on a range of regional security issues. Chollet: "The United States has a deep commitment to the security of Israel and our countries maintain a strong defense relationship," said Chollet. Next stop, Chollet heads to Jordan.

The attack in Jerusalem of the synagogue in which three rabbis holding joint U.S. passports, were killed, puts Israel close to the brink, The Guardian this morning, here.

The Pentagon’s five-year budget plan will violate mandatory spending caps for the second straight year, Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reports: “…The fiscal 2016-2020 budget probably will “once again say ‘here’s what we think we need’ and not submit a budget that is directed at the caps” imposed under the spending cuts known as sequestration, Comptroller Mike McCord said in an interview. Though the Defense Department hasn’t received final budget guidance from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, “I would be really surprised if we changed our position at this point and say, ‘Yes, we’ll submit a sequester-level budget and just call it a day,’” McCord said in the Nov. 12 interview. More here.

Yesterday we shared some teasers from a trip Defense One’s own Marcus Weisgerber took to Langley, Va., for the Air Force’s previously hush-hush intelligence center. Marcus has returned from Langley AFB, and sends this report: “Here in a dimly lit room about the half the size of a football field, airmen—some not even old enough to legally drink alcohol—stare at computer screens interpreting people’s movements and producing intelligence reports that could ultimately be read by President Barack Obama. And without those soldiers on the ground in Syria and Iraq providing context, it’s largely up to these intelligence analysts to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys…”

There could one day be a “mothership” for drones. DARPA is exploring the possibility of a “large cargo plane could release drones to spy on or attack an enemy and then return to the flying aircraft carrier,” AFP’s Dan De Luce reports, here.

Also in Defense One, our resident robot expert Patrick Tucker explains how the unmanned rotary aircraft K-Max may have found a new job far from the jagged cliffs and sandy hills of Afghanistan and just over the charred, forested hills of the American West.

If Congress forces the Air Force to save the Warthog, the F-35 could suffer, the WaPo’s Christian Davenport reports this morning, here.

Ray Mabus spent $4.7 million on travel, racking up more than 930,000 miles in his five-year tenure. The AP’s Lita Baldor with this report: “…[Navy Secretary] Ray Mabus, the former Mississippi governor, has taken at least 40 trips outside the U.S as of July 2014, meeting officials and visiting sailors and Marines in more than 100 countries — travel he said is critical to his job in furthering U.S. and Navy interests abroad.

“…According to data obtained and compiled by The Associated Press, Mabus' flights cost $4.6 million for fuel, maintenance and crew. Mabus also spent about $116,000 on hotels, meals and other costs.

The Army leader's trips totaled 126 days and cost about $2 million for the flights. He spent under $33,000 for hotels, meals and other personal expenses on his 18 trips.

“…Mabus is so proud of his travel he even has a mileage ticker on his Navy website, showing he has traveled 932,129 miles as of this week. About 100,000, or one-fifth, of sailors and Marines serve in foreign posts. And, he said, negotiating issues such as basing ships in Rota, Spain, is more effective face to face.

Mabus, to AP’s Baldor: “You could do that in a phone call, I guess. You could send them a note… I don't think they take it nearly as seriously if you're not sitting across the table from them." Read the rest of Baldor’s story here.

Victory for Mac Thornberry, who just got the nod to be chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, in a statement: “…We face a wide array of threats, which means we have to have a wide array of capabilities.  We also face a very volatile security environment.  The only thing we can be sure of is that the unexpected will occur. The United States must be strong.  A weak America – or the perception of a weak, indecisive America – means a more dangerous world.”

Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who was also in the running for the HASC job: “Mac Thornberry’s seniority and well-known expertise in areas like intelligence, cybersecurity and acquisition reform as well as the long-time respect of his colleagues, make him an excellent choice…”

Defense One’s Molly O’Toole sends this along about other selections on the Hill: House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Steering Committee announced their House Committee Chair recommendations for the 114th Congress. The VIPs for Defense watchers include: Appropriations – Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY);  Budget – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA); Foreign Affairs – Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA); Homeland Security – Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Judiciary – Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA); Oversight & Government Reform – Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT); Science, Space, and Technology – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX); Veterans’ Affairs – Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL); and Intelligence – Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Follow up to the big story about the review of how hostages are released… Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., the California Republican and member of HASC, drafted this letter to President Obama to provide recommendations for the review. 

And of course here's Hunter's op-ed in Defense One from September on the dire need to rethink U.S. policy options for rescuing hostages nearly two weeks after sending the letter to POTUS that Wormuth is talking about. 

The USA Freedom Act—a bill designed to curb the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data—died last night in the 113th Congress, Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian, here.

The Pentagon yesterday took pains to distance itself from the comments made by Uber executive Emil Michael. Michael, astute D Brief readers will remember from yesterday morning, is the Uber executive and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board, who said the boneheaded thing about how Uber should hire oppo researchers to go after critics of the company – including one woman journo in particular. Makes you wonder when someone so smart says something so silly… Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, to The D Brief yesterday morning: “We do not associate ourselves with the comments Mr. Michael made or the views they represent. We note that he has expressed his regret over making them.”

Uber also responded: “…In a statement provided to, Uber backed away from Michael’s comments, emphasizing that the ride-sharing company does not do opposition research and has no plans to.

“We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach,” Uber wrote via email.” More here.

FYI: A former defense official who knew Michael, a Presidential Fellow assigned to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ office, emailed us this: “He was very popular with other Gates staffers -- military and civilian -- despite his business accomplishments (and presumed wealth) he pitched in and did whatever was needed -- no pretense or attitude about being a [Presidential Fellow] or tech investor… Emil was a rare case of someone who's presence was actually welcomed on the roster for Secdef trips.”

The Uber story made the Page One of The WaPo and of The NYT this morning but, oddly, not anywhere in the WSJ.   

Defenders of the former Navy SEAL see a double standard. An interesting story by the WaPo’s Joby Warrick we can’t devote as much space to today, but worth the click, here

Here’s why women in combat units is a bad idea. By Anna Simons for War on the Rocks, here.

Jesus Rifles: Mikey Weinstein, the Pentagon’s big critic on religion, gets his day in court. Weinstein goes before the HASC subcommittee on military personnel today to discuss the Pentagon’s policy on religious accommodation. The WaPo’s Dan Lamothe, here.

Hey Marine grunts – get over yourselves! The effort to narrow the divide between Marine riflemen and the people formerly known as POG’s – “Persons Other than Grunts” – POGs!  We remember when a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps tried to do away with the term “EGA.” Not sure it worked for a Corps so steeped in its own traditions. Marine Corps Times’ Hope Hodge Seck, here.  

Reluctance led to 42 years of service: One of the last draftees just retired from the Army: CWO-5 Ralph Rigby, by the WSJ’s Mike Phillips, here.

U.S. troops in Europe have been advised to ditch their camo for “civvies” if they’re leaving base, Military Times’ Jeff Schogol on the increased threat assessment from EUCOM, here.

The U.S. attack sub Jefferson City has been marooned in Guam since June while its 140-member crew wait to find out when they’ll get to go home. Navy Times’ Mark D. Faram with this truly bizarre deployment story, here.

ICYMI (we did): Lose your job on Capitol Hill? Talk to Tom Manatos, who keeps a list of where all the Capitol Hill jobs are, especially those whose bosses lost their re-elects. In the WaPo, here.

CNN’s other national security correspondent, Jim Scuitto, was named a “Hot Dad” by Washingtonian MOM magazine, the pub that brought you the puffy feature on Jay Carney and Claire Shipman and their pancake-flipping kids. Fishbowl DC, here.

What happens to the U.S. strategy if ISIS implodes—or al-Baghdadi is wiped off the battlefield—or if ISIS captures American troops? Former CIA-ers Aki Peritz and Tara Mailer dissect these and four other “low-probability, high-impact game changers” in the battle against ISIS in this provocative hypothetical for Reuters, here.

How the “Angel of Kobane” captured the hearts—and the better judgment—of social media. Digg partnered with Craig Silverman of the “real-time rumor tracker” Emergent for this interesting report on a tangential ISIS story that quickly became too good to be true, here.

Germany and Italy’s defense ministers announced plans yesterday to keep as many as 850 German troops and roughly 500 Italians in Afghanistan next year to help train local forces. Reuters, here.

The Putin romance is fast losing its appeal for Berlin, Der Spiegel says, warning Moscow’s moves in the Balkans are sounding alarm bells for Germany’s Angela Merkel. More here.

The Air Force relies on a company overseen by associates of Russia’s Vladimir Putin to make rocket engines: how a middleman is poised to take in $93 million. Part IV of Reuters’ special report, last night, here.