The D Brief: Derek Chollet to German Marshall; Montel Williams: Coburn jumped the shark; Stewart to DIA; A skinny puppy sues DoD; Stavridis: arm the Ukrainians; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Sydney remains in lockdown mode in what appears to be a politically motivated attack at a chocolate shop – raising terrorist fears. Reuters just this morning: “Australian police locked down the center of the country's biggest city on Monday after an armed man walked into a busy downtown Sydney cafe, took hostages and forced them to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.

“Police said they knew of one armed assailant involved in the incident at the Lindt chocolate cafe in the heart of Sydney's financial district, but there could be more.

Police, including paramilitary officers, cordoned off several blocks around the cafe as negotiators tried to defuse one of the biggest security scares in Australia for decades. Snipers and a SWAT team took up positions around the cafe and police helicopters flew overhead. At least five hostages have been released or escaped since the mid-morning siege began, with terrified cafe workers and customers seen running into the arms of paramilitary police.” More here.

Five have escaped thus far. NBC, here.  

Meantime, Derek Chollet is headed to the German Marshall Fund. The GMF of the United States will announce later this morning that Chollet, the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, who had announced his intention to depart this summer, is joining GMF as a counselor and senior advisor in February.

Chollet, who has one of the most senior policy jobs at the Pentagon, has been with the Obama Administration since transition six years ago and is thought to be ready for a break. He’s thought to have chosen GMF for its growing “global footprint” and for the opportunity to think more about the issues the U.S. confronts as well as to help influence the discussion of foreign policy in Washington, as most think tanks are wont to do. He’s also expected to begin working on a book soon. Chollet will be replaced, presumably, by Elissa Slotkin. But while she may well get through the nomination process ultimately, Sen. John McCain has held up her nomination.

GMF President Karen Donfried on Chollet: “Derek’s broad experience in and out of government, together with his impressive knowledge of security and defense policy, will be enormous assets to GMF’s work in strengthening transatlantic cooperation… I am delighted Derek will be joining GMF in the new year and look forward to having him as a key member of my team.”

Done Deal: Vince Stewart is now formally headed to the DIA. After long last, Marine Lt. Gen. Vince Stewart, now authorized by the Senate to pick up a third star, is headed to the Defense Intelligence Agency. He’ll succeed Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who retired way back in August. At the time, Flynn was to be replaced by another Army officer, Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, but as we first reported elsewhere this summer, Legere’s expected nom was pulled by the White House. That left a long period in which no nomination was formally or publicly made even though most observers expected it to be Stewart. Now he’s in.

Mike Vickers, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, in a statement to The D Brief last night, who said DoD is “very pleased” with the Senate’s action: “…Lt. Gen. Stewart will be the first Marine Corps officer and first African American to lead a major national intelligence agency.  He is a talented and dedicated professional whose proven leadership makes him ideally suited to take DIA to the next level.” 

Our story on Legere in June with Shane Harris, also formerly of Foreign Policy, here.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has elected to block the passage of the so-called veterans suicide-prevention bill, the Clay Hunt SAV Act, citing excess costs. National Journal’s Jordain Carney with more, here.

In Defense One: Tom Coburn just jumped the shark with his blocking of the military suicide bill, writes Montel Williams, the TV personality who also spent 22 years in uniform: “Put simply, while veterans have grown accustomed to being ignored or otherwise put second to legislators own political agendas, nothing in my recent memory compares with the sheer ego-fueled hypocrisy of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., using his last days in the Senate to block the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.  In fact, this is now at least the second time Coburn has stood alone to block valuable legislation that stood to help veterans…”

Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief, Defense One's new, first-read national security newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to The D Brief, reply to this email and let us know, subscribe here or send us a holler at 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.

Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show on Friday, during his “card-writing” skit on Ash Carter, the SecDef nominee: Thank you, Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter, for having the name of a boy band member - and the hair of a Lego man." Carter’s former bio page and pic, here.

Happening today: President Obama heads to New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst with what the White House says is a message of gratitude for the troops and their families. That’s scheduled for 2:45 p.m.

Happening tomorrow:  Ryan Crocker, Dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, joins Lincoln Bloomfield, the chairman of Stimson, to talk U.S. foreign policy for an “informal, strategic conversation” at Stimson, 1111 19th Street, NW, 12th Floor, in D.C. on Tuesday at 12:30.

About last week’s last announcement from the Pentagon re: the upgraded Littoral Combat Ship, here’s our own Marcus Weisgerber and Patrick Tucker teaming up to cover exactly what’s being updated and why, including this rather key consideration from Frank Hoffman, a former deputy director of the Navy’s Office of Program Appraisal: “If the Chinese obtain surveillance and tracking parity, which I think they can, and can launch land-based bombers, ballistic missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles in numbers, then I don’t want to be on a gray painted ship in the East China Sea, certainly not in a 100,000 ton steel target.”

Boeing’s Tim Keating spoke at the Arlington County Chamber the other day about sequestration. An excerpt: “…Companies like Boeing saw the writing on the wall and made some difficult, at times wrenching, changes to our workforce and geographic footprint to prepare for the defense downturn.  The Department of Defense, by contrast, has been prevented from making the strategy-guided management choices necessary to maximize the funding available to sustain our military readiness and technology superiority.” His remarks on sequestration, here.

Has Brennan “gone native” with the CIA’s response to the torture report? The White House could be seeking to stave off a “broader partisan blood bath over the Bush White House’s involvement in torture” by doubling down on agency director John Brennan. Peter Baker and Mark Mazzetti with this bit about Obama and the director for The New York Times: “Current and former colleagues said Mr. Brennan had an institutional responsibility to guard his building... But guarding the building is a markedly different role than Mr. Brennan played as Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser in the first term, when he helped recalibrate the terror war by trying to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by reining in perceived excesses…” More here.

Former CIA officials call it “hypocrisy” that lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee and those in the so-called “Gang of Eight” have come out against the program they were briefed on years ago. Kristina Wong for The Hill, here.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, don’t seem eager to prosecute, despite talk of possible legal proceedings from abroad. The Hill’s Julian Hattem with that, here.

Tehran could be a little too excited over the report’s findings, U.S. News’ Paul D. Shinkman reports, here.

And here’s former Marine intel analyst Halen Allison arguing why the report should make veterans uncomfortable. That over at Task and Purpose, here.

Meantime, whycome are the National Reconnaissance’s Office’s mission patches kind of nutty? From Rachel Nuwer for the Smithsonian Magazine in a piece titled, “The Creepy, Kitschy and Geeky Patches of U.S. Spy Satellite Launches: “A purple-haired sorceress holding a fireball. A three-headed dragon wrapping its claws around the world. A great raptor emerging from the flames… They are avatars depicted on the official mission patches made for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)… But while NASA patches tend to feature space ships and American flags, NRO prefers wizards, Vikings, teddy bears and the all-seeing eye. With these outlandish designs, a civilian would be justified in wondering if NRO is trolling.” More here.

While the Shia Houthi militia consolidates its hold on Yemen's capital of Sanaa, a Reuters investigation asserts that Iran has been arming and training the Houthi in a broadening exploitation of the Sunni-Shia rift in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and now Yemen. Reuters this hour, here.

ICYMI: Americans and Belgians gathered at the Ardennes to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. AP’s Yves Logghe from Bastogne on Saturday, here.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a decisive victory that bodes well for his plans for the military. The WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi and Jacob Schlesinger: “…Sunday’s win gives Mr. Abe a chance to pursue longtime goals beyond economic policy, such as revising Japan’s pacifist constitution to give its military a greater role. “…Sunday’s election results created a new obstacle for a plan to build a new U.S. military base in Okinawa, as all of the four local candidates from Mr. Abe’s ruling party lost their races to opposition members who are against the base. That follows a defeat of an LDP-backed candidate in November’s gubernatorial race in Okinawa. Read the rest here.

So Skinny Puppy is suing the DoD. Spotted on the InterWeb by Defense One’s own Patrick Tucker (we call him “PT”): “Industrial punk band Skinny Puppy is suing the Department of Defense to the (violent and atonal) tune of $660,000. Cevin Key, the band's keyboardist said he was contacted by a fan who worked at the military installation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The fan informed him that DoD interrogators used the band's music to torment prisoners.

Skinny Pup’s Key to CTV News: “I wouldn’t want to be subjected to any overly loud music for six to 12 hours at a time without a break," Key told CTV News. Read the rest here.

Afghanistan had a terrible weekend. The Atlantic’s Allen McDuffee: “Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen unloaded a volley of violence across Afghanistan Saturday, killing two U.S. soldiers, assassinating a Supreme Court official, picking off 12 men working to clear land mines, and killing seven Afghan soldiers on a bus—continuing the pace of what has been a particularly bloody few months in the country.” More here.

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani suggests Kabul may need a revision of its intelligence structure. Reuters’ Frank Jack Daniel and Hamid Shalizi: “The Taliban's increasingly bold attacks in Kabul have led to the government being criticized for serious security failures.

Ghani said he was seeking to revive a security body last seen during a Soviet-backed government in the 1980s. He did not give more details, but his spokesman said the new body would coordinate between police, military and intelligence agencies.” More here.

And down in Helmand, The Independent’s Bilal Sarwary (frequent contributor of #AfghanistanYouNeverSee) says the province is in tatters only weeks after the Brits left: “…There is no government whatsoever as soon as you travel around 12 miles away from any district centre in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The British and the US forces left the southern area at the end of October, and in just over a month, vast swathes of the countryside have seemingly been lost to the Taliban.

“With the pull-out, Afghan security forces have lost their air power. Air intelligence is now close to zero and there is constant uncertainty over resupply of weapons and ammunition. All this has emboldened the Taliban. ‘Government forces are losing ground,’ admits Hazrat Bedal Khan, police chief in Marjah. ‘The frontline is now just 15km from Marjah district headquarters.’” More here.

Kabul’s Hipsters: It’s not the Oscar Meyer truck, but it’s found success hawking frankfurters from a hot dog-themed food truck in Kabul. Shashank Bengali for The LA Times, here.

So, how much has Kabul changed? NPR’s Sean Carberry files this postcard—here—right as he’s closing down the network’s Kabul bureau. He takes you to his favorite bakery, barbershop and even Kabul’s own version of gentrification as real development happens under the city’s recent cloud of violence.

Uniting Anbar’s Sunni tribes against ISIS is proving a bloody and uncertain prospect as villages are lost and tribesmen are slaughtered by the hundreds. Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson from Baghdad, here.

Turkish police just rounded up the editor of the largest-selling newspaper in a wider crackdown on his political rivals ahead of elections in June. Ayla Albayrak and Emre Peker for The Wall Street Journal, here.

Syrian regime troops fought back “a range of insurgents, including al Qaeda's Syria wing, Islamist brigades and Western-backed rebels” to regain territory just north of Aleppo yesterday, Reuters reports. More here.

Deconflict your airspace: Another near-collision between a Russian plane and this time a Denmark-to-Poland airliner near Sweden on Friday. David Cenciotti from The Aviationist, here.

The Pentagon’s IG just opened a case on a logistics company that can’t seem to ship troops’ personally owned vehicles overseas on deadline. Mike Fitzgerald for southern Illinois’ Belleville News-Democrat, here.

America just promoted its first Vietnamese-American to the rank of general. NBC News’ Lakshmi Gandi with more on Fort Hood's Brig. Gen. Viet Luong, here.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander (what better title these days?) James Stavridis says it’s time the alliance sends arms and military advisors to Ukraine. The Guardian’s Julian Borger from Friday: “… [Stavridis] said during a visit to London: “I think we should provide significant military assistance to the Ukrainian military. I don’t think we should limit ourselves to, non-lethal aid. I think we should provide ammunition, fuel, logistics. I think cyber-assistance would be very significant and helpful, as well as advice and potentially advisers.” More here.