The D Brief: Dempsey says ME strategy will change; A PR war in Kobani; CIA to reorg; A former Marine PAO wins the National Book Award; Hagel doesn’t lose sleep; And a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
Marty Dempsey, just back from Iraq, spoke at the Defense One Summit and said the U.S. has a sound strategy- but at the same time that strategy will change. Defense One’s Lubold: “…Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who returned from the Middle East on Sunday, said he was ‘encouraged’ by what he saw during his trip to Baghdad. But amid concerns that the Obama administration lacks a coherent war strategy or is scrambling to build a better one against the Islamic State, Dempsey said the U.S. has a solid strategy but it will adapt accordingly. For now, it’s sound.
Dempsey: “Here’s what I’ll tell you about that strategy – it will change, it will change often.”
Dempsey said the Pentagon will need more money, since issues like Ebola, Russian aggression and the battle to fight the Islamic State all essentially didn’t exist last year. Dempsey, referring to the baseline budget: “We need additional topline for emerging and additional requirements.”
Dempsey spoke thoughtfully, pondering how to make the Pentagon’s case to Capitol Hill, saying he has struck out twice. “…[The need to fix the Pentagon’s budget woes] will require the Pentagon to reach out effectively to Congress to convince members not only that the Defense Department needs more money, but that it must begin to operate under a new set of rules than the current budgetary deadlock allows. Dempsey was critical of himself, saying the Pentagon needs to do a better job of explaining to Congress why the issue is critical. Over the last couple years, the Pentagon has cast the argument first as one of risk, then one of readiness. Neither argument resonated, he said.
Dempsey: “I’ve failed on two counts,” he said. “Frankly, I’m trying to decide for myself how to adapt my narrative,” he said. Read the rest here.
Dempsey’s laugh lines below and more on the Defense One Summit yesterday in downtown Washington…
U.S. warplanes strike al Qaeda in Syria border town, Reuters this morning, here.
A Syria monitoring group says U.S. airstrikes killed at least two members of the Nusra Front. Reuters this hour, here.
The prisoner-turned-informant is a classic warfare staple—and now Baghdad appears to have one of its own from the ranks of ISIS. Vivian Salama for AP in Baghdad: “Abu Shakr was assigned to Fallujah in 2012. His task was to oversee security for al-Qaida's operations there. That meant in part organizing safehouses and movement between Iraq and Syria, but security officials said he was also responsible for Iraqi deaths from ordering militants in fighting with troops. Fallujah fell completely to the militants in January this year, two months after Abu Shakr's arrest.” More, here.
Kobani is more than a battle, it’s a PR war; The NYT’s here.
A second Frenchman is ID’ed as appearing in a beheading video. Read the rest here.
The Middle East Institute’s Robert Ford, USIP’s Steve Heydemann, ISW’s Kim Kagan and CFR’s Elliot Abrams all testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. Catch the vid here.
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Who’s up to What today – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts an honor cordon with Saudi Arabia's National Guard Minister at the Pentagon's River Entrance at 10:30 a.m. ... And in the afternoon, he returns there for another honor cordon with the Minister of State for Defense Affairs of Qatar, Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Atiyah, at 2:00 p.m…CJCS Gen. Marty Dempsey talks at the Center for a New American Security Conference on the Civil-Military Divide and the Future of the All-Volunteer Force at 11:00 a.m. at the Willard Hotel downtown DC…Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James travels to Yokota AB, Japan, this week, where she’ll meet with US Forces Japan, Japan Air Defense Command and 374th Airlift Wing leadership and Airmen. While in Japan, we’re told, James will conduct an all-call with Airmen and meet with U.S. Embassy and Japan Ministry of Defense officials… Secretary of the Army John McHugh hosts what’s called the Senior Army Civilian Army Profession Symposium at NDU. We’re told: “The symposium's purpose is to develop a shared vision, reinforce guidance, and generate dialogue on ‘Living the Army Ethic.’ Attendees will review the Army Ethic Author's Draft and provide their reaction to its content and format. The attendees will also discuss options for integration of the Army Ethic throughout the professional development process for Army Civilians and provide thoughts on how to strengthen morale, retention, and Esprit within the Army Civilian Corps… Invitees include select Senior Executive Service leaders, Chief of Staff of the Army, Vice-Chief and the Sergeant Major of the Army…
Chuck Hagel appeared on Charlie Rose last night. The link isn’t up yet, and full video goes live this morning, but you can catch the teaser clip from CBS, here. But here are some of the highlights:
Hagel, on Nuclear Negotiations with Iran: "A bad deal is a bad deal, and we won't take it."
Hagel on ISIL: “…that is an incredibly powerful new threat.”
Hagel on Syria: “… There's not going to be a military solution in Syria. There only can be a diplomatic solution... no one wants a completely failed government in Syria. Syria right now has produced millions of refugees. A million and a half are in Turkey. It could get far worse.”
Hagel on Putin: “…I think he's going to continue to challenge us in the West in a lot of areas.”
Hagel on defense spending: “You can't run any institution by the uncertainty of, ‘Maybe you will get funding in six months. And maybe you won't. Maybe it will be the same. Maybe it won't.’ Especially you can't run national security -- national security -- on the basis of hope of a continuing resolution.”
On the Possibility of an Obama Cabinet Reshuffle: "I don't get up in the morning and worry about my job."
From the #DefOneSummit: Is America experiencing intervention fatigue? Washington’s ambassador to the UN Sam Power spoke to what she called the problem of “free riders” in international crises interventions. Defense One’s Molly O’Toole has this: “The American public—particularly its representatives in Congress—are rightfully wary of what she called the ‘free rider problem,’ because ‘too often the United States ends up carrying the lion’s share of the humanitarian effort.’”
Also from the #DefOneSummit: The Navy is looking to save money for sailors who want to train or advance their education in high-tech career fields, Marcus Weisgerber reports from the Defense One Summit chat with Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. William Moran: “This would allow sailors to get a college degree, start a family, get a job and ‘see what the world’s like on the other side,’ Moran said. The Navy could then have an ‘on ramp’ to bring these sailors back into the military.” More here.
And there’s this: Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno explained just exactly how much sequestration is tying his hands in terms of responding to the rapid proliferation of national security threats in just 2014 alone. More on that, here.
Odierno also addressed—reluctantly—recent criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from a former general who had declared both of those conflicts “lost.” NPR’s Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman asked Odierno for his thoughts on retired Lt. Gen. Dan Bolger’s book “Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.” “First of all, I haven’t read the book. I have absolutely zero thoughts on this,” Odierno said. “He’s a three-star general, he’s not some think tank guy,” Bowman said, pressing Odierno. “Who establishes the end states for the missions we do?” the 4-star general asked. “You as generals can go to [America’s] political leaders and say, ‘This is unwise, we shouldn’t be staying there,’” Bowman said. “How do you know we didn’t do that?” Odierno replied. “Did you?” Bowman asked. “I keep those conversations private. I don’t write a book and talk about it. I keep it private.”
Odierno said yesterday assessments on how to best incorporate female soldiers into combat units are going well—and he expects 70 women in Ranger school next year.
At the end of the Summit, Defense One threw a nice little reception for The D Brief, replete with a special drink, “The D Lite,” (renamed after an earlier winner, “The D Bauch,”) and The D Brief was presented with a bag of candy – a reflection of The D Brief’s penchant for getting little sweet news nuggets and other tidbits we like to call “candy.” We saw so many great people out and there were too many to list here. But we thank you genuinely for the love and we hope you’ll read The D Brief and read it often.
Check out The Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein’s interview with The D Brief, here.
Long before there was an Edward Snowden, there was a big debate inside the NSA about collecting phone records, AP’s Ken Dilanian reports: “Years before Edward Snowden sparked a public outcry with the disclosure that the National Security Agency had been secretly collecting American telephone records, some NSA executives voiced strong objections to the program, current and former intelligence officials say. The program exceeded the agency's mandate to focus on foreign spying and would do little to stop terror plots, the executives argued.
The 2009 dissent, led by a senior NSA official and embraced by others at the agency, prompted the Obama administration to consider, but ultimately abandon, a plan to stop gathering the records.
“The secret internal debate has not been previously reported. The Senate on Tuesday rejected an administration proposal that would have curbed the program and left the records in the hands of telephone companies rather than the government. That would be an arrangement similar to the one the administration quietly rejected in 2009.” More here.
John Brennan is considering a historic overhaul of the CIA. The changes could include breaking up spying and analysis divisions that have been set in place for many years and create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats. The WaPo’s Greg Miller on Page One: “… “The proposal would essentially replicate the structure of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and other similar entities in the agency — an idea that reflects the CTC’s expanded role and influence since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”
But if Brennan moves forward, officials said, the changes would be among the most ambitious in CIA history — potentially creating individual centers focused on China, Latin America and other regions or issues for which personnel are now dispersed across difference parts of the agency.” More here.
The UN says Iran is "stone-walling" the IAEA ahead of next week's nuclear talks deadline. Reuters with more from Vienna, here.
Iran's nuclear chief said Tehran has no interest in negotiating any changes to its designs on the Arak reactor--one of the main sticking points in nuke talks. AFP this hour, here.
A U.S. service member falls ill on return from Liberia but an Ebola test pops negative. Nancy Youssef for McClatchy, here.
Deadbeat: How a scammer invoked a soldier’s service in Afghanistan to cheat a woman out of $1,200. The Tampa Tribune’s Howard Altman, here.
Two Republicans argue for why the GOP should be the party of “Smart Hawks.” Republicans may be enjoying an edge on defense issues at the moment, but these two argue for seizing the day and not letting the moment pass. Elbridge Colby and Eric Sayers this morning in National Review: “… this favorable political trend should not be taken as a reason for just doing more of the same. For while the Republicans are usually considered the more hawkish party, the deeper reason for their long-term ascendancy on defense issues is that voters have seen them as more serious in dealing with defense. Republicans have been most successful, in other words, when they have earned the reputation for being the more responsible party on defense — the sober experts on the matter — and not simply for always preferring the more hawkish course.” More here.
Meanwhile, Naval Postgraduate School professor and anthropologist Anna Simons offers up three problems with opening combat units to women—with particular emphasis on a consideration some have dismissed or swept under the rug in the integration debate so far: unit cohesion. Simons’ lengthy take from Tuesday over at War On The Rocks, here.
Dempsey notable lines: To Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron, who asked what Dempsey would ask from his counterpart in Saudi Arabia for the war against the Islamic State: “My preference will be to ask him, not ask you.”
In response to Baron’s hope that Dempsey would speak freely in his “last term” as Chairman: “I’ve learned some things. You also didn’t say ‘your last day.’”
On being Chairman: “I think when you’ve grown in a job like this… not just to provide best military advice to our elected leaders but to stay in touch with our American people.”
We knew him when: Phil Klay, a former Marine public affairs officer, won the National Book Award for fiction. We remember Klay from Iraq in 2007-ish as a thoughtful Marine PAO from New York City who had a manuscript or two in his desk’s bottom drawer. Klay won for his collection of short stories called “Redeployment.” The NYT’s Alexandra Alter, on how the book “captures the terror, boredom and occasionally the humorous side of war: “...In an emotional acceptance speech, Mr. Klay described returning from the war and being treated as if he were unstable, and being asked by children if he had killed anyone… He said writing fiction about his experiences helped him to process it. ‘I can’t think of a more important conversation to be having,’ he said. ‘War is too strange to be processed alone.’ Some of the stories, which were published by Penguin Press, take place in Anbar Province, while others are set in the United States as soldiers struggle to readjust to civilian life.” Read the rest here.
Lockheed and the Air Force take a hit for poor C-5 upgrade management. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio, here.
The Air Force is dropping hundreds of officers through its reduction in force (RIF) board review process. Stephen Losey for Air Force Times, here.
Your long read for the day: Steve Coll—the Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism—has this deep dive into America’s drone wars in Pakistan, investigating the questions: “do drones actually represent a humanitarian advance in air combat? Or do they create a false impression of exactitude?” More here.
NEXT STORY: UN Ambassador Warns Against Intervention Fatigue