The D Brief: The “wave” isn’t a national security mandate; Hagel abruptly cancels Vietnam trip; 10th Mountain ends ops in Afg; and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
If you think the mid-terms are a national security mandate, you might want to think again. Defense One’s Molly O’Toole on the elections: “Don’t expect a sudden, dramatic shift in direction on national security in Congress after Tuesday night’s midterm elections. On Wednesday morning, the U.S. military will still be barraging the Islamic State from the air in Iraq and Syria, doctors and soldiers will still be deploying to West Africa, and Washington will still be Washington—that is, dysfunctional and gridlocked.”
“Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, also a member of the Armed Services Committee, held on against former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who recently retired after serving almost 35 years in the Army National Guard. During the campaign, Brown hit Shaheen for not being serious on national security. Just days before the election, McCain accused his colleagues Hagan and Shaheen of lacking seriousness on national security.
“But other Republican veterans earned expected victories. In Arkansas, Rep. Tom Cotton, an Ivy League-educated Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, defeated incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor, whom he hit during the campaign for flip-flopping on key national security votes, such as training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, a key prong of the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State
“In Iowa, Joni Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, made her service central to her campaign. Ernst, who will serve as the first woman senator for the state, won a narrow victory against Rep. Bruce Braley just before midnight.
Joni “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm” Ernst, the former soldier, in her victory speech last night, touting how she’ll cut pork: “We are headed to Washington and we are gonna make ‘em squeal.”
Harry Reid’s chief of staff blasts the White House, The Hill, here.
The lede to the WaPo’s main story on the election: “Republicans scored a stunning electoral rout in the midterm elections, taking control of the U.S. Senate after a bitter campaign in which anger at Washington gridlock was turned against a president who took office promising to transcend it.”
The headline of the story just below it on Page One: “New majority likely to mean same gridlock.”
Will the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence become friendlier now? Citing two articles, one in Politico and another in Foreign Policy that suggest it might be, now that Dianne Feinstein will have to give up the gavel, former CIA-er Marshall Erwin says no in a new blog post in Overt Action: “I disagree with the basic premise here that, 'The intel community has spent years being bashed by Senate Democrats.' These articles are confusing the narrow politics of the SSCI Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) report, a subject about which Senate Democrats have certainly clashed with members of the IC, with the actual substance of intelligence oversight. We shouldn’t expect the relationship between SSCI and the intelligence community to change all that much because the relationship was already in better shape than these articles suggest.” Read the rest here.
Some Dems will quietly rejoice over last night, however. Some politicos have been saying for awhile that if the Republicans win—and stumble in their attempts to lead from Capitol Hill—that will only pave the way for Hillary come ’16.
Last minute schedule change for POTUS: The White House announced this morning President Obama will hold a presser from the East Room at 2:50 p.m.
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Who’d have thought? There’s interest in a “Cybersecurity CDC,” Inside Cybersecurity’s Chris Castelli has this (though it’s behind a paywall.)
Who's doing what today: Gen. Marty Dempsey is in NYC to keynote a Veterans on Wall Street event at Goldman Sachs HQs… Dempsey is at the Stand Up for Heroes show later in the evening at Madison Square Garden—with Bruce Springsteen along with comedians Louis C.K., Jim Gaffigan, John Oliver and Jon Stewart… ISAF’s Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson updates the Pentagon press corps on the situation in Afghanistan via VTC at 9 a.m. … Under Secretary for Defense for AT&L Frank Kendall keynotes November Navy League Special Topic Breakfast at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, where business gets under way shortly after 7:30 a.m. … and DISA’s Small Business Director Sharon Jones is set for a panel discussion on “Developing a Sustainable Cyber Workforce for Small Business and State/Local Government" at the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Conference at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center at 2:30 p.m.
Also today: Secretary of the Air Force Debbie James will be a featured speaker at the Air Force Global Strike Command Technology and Innovation Symposium in Bossier City, La.
James’ remarks will focus on the importance of overcoming adversity and the Air Force's subsequent force improvement program successes in the nuclear mission set, we’re told. More from the AF: “James will also recognize the dedication and professionalism of those who conduct the nuclear deterrence mission by presenting the first nuclear deterrence operations service medals to airmen. The event is held in conjunction with the Global Strike Challenge score-posting competition, recognizing Airman bomber and missile operations, maintenance, and security forces mission excellence.” James will also participate in recognizing “airman excellence” at this event.
The AP’s Bob Burns, who’s covered the nuclear officer misconduct issue in the Air Force like the dew covers Dixie, with a story today about how the Air Force has disciplined a total of 16 officers: “This string of leadership lapses has best a force that remains central to American defense strategy but in some respects has been neglected.” Read the rest via the WaPo, here.
Hagel scrubs plans for Vietnam trip. He was to go to Vietnam and Myanmar Nov. 15 through Nov. 24, with stops out West, but “scheduling demands” in Washington, including pop-up Congressional hearings, will keep him home in what amounts to a rare postponing of a trip in which Hagel was to be wheels up in less than two weeks. One hearing, at the House Armed Services Committee, is already on the docket. But that is for Nov. 13, to talk about Iraq and Syria. Others may surface in coming days, including the possibility that Congress wants to talk about the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, we were told.
Lubold in Defense One: “…Congressional hearings are usually scheduled weeks or months in advance and don’t typically interfere with official travel in this way. When they do, the Pentagon usually sends someone in the secretary’s place—say, the Deputy Secretary of Defense or the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy—the Pentagon’s No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
“While the Pentagon changes travel plans all the time, once a trip is scheduled, it is more or less set in stone. The postponement of Hagel’s Asia trip indicates that whatever is keeping him in Washington is particularly important.” Lubold’s story, here.
Hey military, stop “recalling” emails. Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that the trip would be cancelled but immediately “recalled” the e-mail. But that only points up the mistake louder. The D Brief makes mistakes, but we give our pledge: We will never recall an email.
British spy warns of terrorists’ use of social media, in the NYT, here.
The rift grows between rebel groups in Syria as Qaeda-backed group makes gains, also in the NYT, here.
SpotRep on the long siege of Baiji, where “Iranian militias” are helping hold the ground alongside the Iraqi army. Mitchell Prothero and Jonathan Landay for McClatchy in Irbil: “’The army and the Iranian militias have been in the town (of Baiji) for almost a week,’ said Abu Ahmed al Baiji, a local resident reached by phone.” Adding: “Iranian militias are a common description of Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups used by Sunnis, in reference to their anti-Sunni attitudes and Iranian training and, in some cases, direct Iranian leadership in combat… He added that the advent of the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes had reduced the number of Islamic State fighters in the area, leaving behind a majority of local tribal fighters less concerned about the caliphate and more afraid of Shiite-led massacres of the mostly Sunni residents.” More here.
Kiwis join the “no combat boots on the ground” in Iraq mission—sending personnel to train ISF behind the front lines. AP, here.
Terror threat rising in India? A spokesman for the group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat Ahrar (TTP-JA) that claimed responsibility for a bombing on the India-Pakistan border is now threatening India’s new leader. New Delhi’s The Indian Express with more, here.
Amnesty International says Israel committed war crimes in its Gaza offensive this Summer. AP this morning, here.
And in Jerusalem this a.m., a Palestinian man rammed his car into a crowded train station and began attacking people with an iron bar before being shot dead by police. AP’s Ian Deitch this hour, here.
Suspected Boko Haram militants robbed a bank and stole dynamite in Nigeria’s Gombe state yesterday, killing at least 10. AFP this hour.
Thicker Wallet Department: Former NSC spokesman and deputy press secretary (under Bush 43) Gordon Johndroe has left Lockheed Martin to join Boeing to lead that firm’s Government Operations communications team. Make him buy the first few rounds if you see him out. More here.
If you were a Kurdish tycoon living in Irbil, what would you do? Build a replica of the White House, natch. Bloomberg, here .
Yes, Jim Amos will retire as a four-star, Chuck Hagel said, (and the story that shows why Amos won’t likely be a Marine Corps Times subscriber in retirement) here.
And speaking of ‘Nam: A 71-year-old Vietnam veteran was just reunited with a class ring he lost in Gia Lia back in 1965. The man who found it? Another Vietnam vet who’d walked the same ground a year later. That over at New York Daily News, here.
A chef from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be on Guy Fieri’s Food Network reality show “Guy’s Grocery Games.” The 25-year-old Chef Randy Mulder said he wanted to “show that Army meals don’t have to ‘come out of a scoop’ in a cafeteria line.” Here’s to wishing Randy the best of luck for Sunday’s 8 p.m. broadcast. More from Tacoma’s The News Tribune, here.
Breaking it down for America, Barney-style. NPR’s Tom Bowman shared this bit of civ-mil relations from Public Radio International: Seven words and phrases “veterans picked up over the last 13 years of war and boredom.” Included: “soup sandwich,” “goat rodeos” and a couple phrases you’ve already spotted right here in The D Brief. The rest from PRI, here.
An audit revealed the Army doesn’t have eyes on some $420 million worth of gear—including weapons and encrypted comms equipment—in Afghanistan. Maintaining 100% accountability can be difficult on a battlefield with thousands of folks flying in and out of remote camps and large bases like Bagram. But with the U.S. troop presence slated to decline by half come January, gathering up all this unaccounted-for gear could imperil a clean and proper drawdown, the report said. Tony Capaccio has the story for Bloomberg, here.
A Pentagon task force sought investment from Iran in Afghanistan. The WSJ’s Joel Schectman and Dion Nissenbaum on Page One, behind a paywall, here.
The 10th Mountain Division concludes operations in Afghanistan an amazing 13 years after it arrived. The WaPo’s Tim Craig: “…After five tours in Afghanistan since 2001, four of which included operations in the country's volatile and dangerous eastern provinces, most of the soldiers from the division will be en route to Fort Drum in New York by Wednesday afternoon. A few dozen soldiers will stay behind for another week or two, but division commanders said their work in Afghanistan was complete, at least for now.” More here.
The head of Naval Intelligence is leading in the blind. David Larter for Navy Times: “Vice Adm. Ted Branch, the director of naval intelligence, had his security clearance suspended in November 2013 after being investigated for possible misconduct… [including] connections to [Glenn Defense Marine Asia] and its larger than life CEO, Leonard Glenn Francis, [Fat Leonard] who is accused of bribing Navy officers to steer ships to ports where he allegedly overcharged the Navy in exchange for junkets, prostitutes, even ‘Lion King’ tickets… Navy intelligence, meanwhile, is anchored by a civilian deputy and Rear Adm. Elizabeth Train, a two-star who heads the office of naval intelligence.” More here.
Walking away from Iraq now is better than the “half-measures and the slow slide toward failure we are on today,” writes former Marine Osprey pilot Carl Forsling over at Task & Purpose: “The plan is apparently that if we bomb long enough, then somehow ISIS will … get tired of it? … Our strategy is based on magical thinking and public relations… We have thrown away the lessons of Vietnam, as expressed in the Weinberger and Powell doctrines. Fighting with no hope of victory is fighting with the assurance of failure.” More, here.
We call this candy: WSJ reporter Julian Barnes, whose devotion to his chickens is well-known in the halls of the Pentagon, has experienced the highs of being a chicken owner—and the deepest lows, when tragedy struck repeatedly and Mr. Fox absconded with them over a series of dark nights. But Barnes got some new chickens, a new, safer coop and a little encouragement from the Pentagon.
Pentagon Pressec Rear Adm. John Kirby announced the re-arrival of the chickens at Barnes’ new barn (ok, coop) yesterday at the briefing and offered some help from the DoD. Kirby, yesterday at the briefing: “I don’t have any announcements, other than to say that the entire OSD public affairs team joins me in congratulating you on the newest additions to your family, Julian. Two new chickens, I understand, for the—for the coop.”
Barnes, at the presser: “Absolutely.”
Kirby: “I’m hoping that there will be better force protection measures in place for these youngsters. We’re pretty good at that. If you need any advice, just let us know. We don’t talk about it publicly, but maybe we can help you a little bit.”
What are the new chickens’ names, you ask? Daisy and Mrs. Patmore, inspired by the hit show Breaking Bad. We kid.
ICYMI, read Politico’s Phil Ewing’s bit about Kirby, the “two-star message man,” here.