The D Brief: Could Ash put the band back together?; Why industry loves the Pentagon trifecta; Iranian jets strike IS; Black Suburbans surround the Pentagon; Bob Work’s sweaters; And a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson

Ash Carter’s expected nomination to become the next Defense Secretary could come as early as today but will at least come by the end of the week. Various schedules, and the fact that the combatant commanders and service chiefs are all in town, dictate that the White House will give the formal nod to the former Deputy Secretary of Defense soon. A physicist who is also a defense manager’s manager with a keen sense of how the Pentagon works, Carter is expected to be able to slip back into the building handily and run the massive Department in a way that will keep the White House happy. And, he may have been the only viable candidate willing to do what amounts to a thankless job in the last few innings of a second term. Read more on Lubold’s brief story here.

Will Ash put the band back together? Some defense secretaries enter the building with an entourage, or at least a few close, personal aides. Bob Gates famously walked in alone, and fell in on staff, including his strongman chief of staff Robert Rangel and created a dynamic that is still considered to have been effective. Hagel came in alone, too, but his front office never quite gelled and had effectively three different chiefs of staff. If Ash Carter is nominated as Defense Secretary as he’s expected to be, and confirmed, it’s unclear who he might bring in with him, but there are a number of trusted aides who he might want to have.

Michele Flournoy, who also appeared under consideration as Pentagon chief, seemed to lead what some called “Michele Nation,” a group of true believers who surround her. Carter’s network may be smaller but is nonetheless filled with individuals who are as motivated as they are educated, many from Harvard, who believe in Carter and make up what could be called a “Carter Culture.” The problem is that when Carter left the Pentagon, many of those individuals moved on as well. It may not make a difference.

“The thing about Carter is even if he doesn’t come in with anybody, he has worked in the building for so long and he has worked with such a broad cross section of the building that everyone knows him,” a former staffer told the D Brief. “He knows so many people.”

Here are some of the folks who peopled the Carter Culture when he was in the Pentagon last:

Jonathan Lachman – Lachman had been with Carter since Harvard, then as a research assistant, and worked for Carter for years. He is a highly trusted aide and is considered family. But after Carter left the Pentagon, Lachman began a senior job at the Office of Management and Budget, potentially making it difficult for him to return.

Eric Rosenbach – Rosenbach is currently the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, and is considered to be an up-and-comer within the Pentagon’s policy shop. He’s close to Hagel, but he has a history with Carter: among other things, he and Carter worked closely on cyber-security issues when Carter was DepSecDef.

Wendy Anderson – Anderson, Carter’s former chief of staff, is departing the Commerce Department, as The D Brief reported earlier this week. But that news, coming as it did the same week that Carter’s nom is expected from the White House, created a false narrative, that her departure was connected in some way to Carter’s expected nomination and that Anderson was leaving Commerce to return to the Pentagon as Carter’s chief of staff. But that was never clear. Multiple sources indicate that her departure from Commerce for parts unknown is purely coincidental.

Zvika Krieger – Carter’s former speechwriter and special assistant who later worked in the Pentagon’s strategy office after Carter left is expected to leave the Pentagon soon for a senior position at State.

James Swartout – Swartout worked as a strategic communications adviser to Carter and now works for the Air Force’s Eric Fanning inside the building.

Rob Berschinski – A former special assistant to Carter, Berschinski now works for U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power in the DC office but could be seen as returning to Carter’s front office.

Brett Holmgren – Holmgren, now at the National Security Council, had joined Carter’s office in May 2013 as a special assistant after serving as the director for counterterrorism on the NSC, where the former CIA analyst specialized in the Middle East and Africa.

Brig. Gen. Eric Smith – Carter’s former military assistant and continues to work in the DepSecDef’s office, now for Bob Work. Well-liked and qualified, Smith may not be senior enough to occupy the slot as the senior military assistant, now held by Lt. Gen. Abe Abrams.

Railroaded? What will happen to Rexon Ryu? Hagel’s new chief of staff is said to have brought discipline inside the SecDef’s front office and to be effective at keeping the trains running on time. But he will likely leave the Pentagon if Carter is confirmed and brings in a new chief of staff. Unless Carter decided he wanted to fall in on Hagel’s right-hand-man, but that is doubtful.

Marty Dempsey, citing what others call Carter, called him – A “middle-aged uber-wonk” at his retirement ceremony last year.

But can a wonk run a war? Politico’s Mike Crowley asks that question here.

Here’s the long profile Carter wrote about himself for Harvard that Crowley cited in his lede about how Carter was fired from his first job at a car wash when he was 11 for mouthing off to the owner. But will he speak truth to power to Obama? Read the 4,726-word personal essay here.

Wanna know how Ash Carter would run the Pentagon? Read his piece in Foreign Affairs, “Running the Pentagon Right,” in which Carter betrays much of his management style, here.  

More on how Carter knows how to say “no” to the military branches – The Globe’s Bryan Bender’s profile on Carter in July 2012, here.

And Politico’s Austin Wright filed this profile on Carter’s history of dissent with President Obama. That, over here.

So what would the Hill say to a Carter nom? We’ve already reported that Sen. John McCain counts himself as a fan of Ash Carter. Then McCain, poised to become Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will either green light or red light Carter’s expected nom, said yesterday he likes Carter as Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reports here.

But while lawmakers largely welcome the Ash Carter nom, they also appear to be eager to turn the confirmation process into a referendum on Obama’s ISIS strategy. Defense One’s politics reporter Molly O’Toole, has that bit here.

Accept no imitations: The second Twitter hoax in the hunt for Hagel’s replacement surfaced early yesterday, bringing to light a small Baltimore company that flags fake military Twitter accounts like Joe Dunford’s. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has this piece: “On Tuesday morning, someone claiming to be former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter went public with an important announcement on Twitter: he was ‘honoured and happy’ [sic] that President Obama had appointed him to the position of secretary of defense… Eventually, Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti revealed himself to be the creator of the account, which he described as a hoax... Minutes after Carter was making news, Chris Cullison, chief technical officer of ZeroFOX, went to his company’s platform and found four more fake Carter accounts that were using official Defense Department photos, posting messages that sounded like Carter, or that were otherwise making a halfway sincere attempt to appear as the new secretary…” More from Patrick here.

Welcome to Wednesday’s 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 glubold@defenseone.com or just hit reply to this email 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.

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Many SecDefs lack the acquisition and business acumen that Ash Carter could bring (back) to the building, and Marcus Weisgerber reports that a Carter-Bob Work-Frank Kendall combo is already looking like a potential boon for the defense industry: “Assuming his confirmation, which is all but a given since he is highly regarded on Capitol Hill, Carter would form a trifecta, joining Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall, two highly regarded Defense Department managers. It’s a team that would dramatically improve the chances of chances to push major reform projects across the finish line, say defense watchers… “You have three really, really smart guys who have a clear vision, who are building off one another,” said [Brett Lambert, who was the Pentagon’s industrial policy chief when Carter was the head of acquisition and deputy defense secretary]. “It’s a great opportunity, finally, for the leadership of the Pentagon to be singing from the same sheet of music.” More here.

The black Suburbans arrive at the Pentagon today in droves. Today Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosts senior commanders and Pentagon leaders for the Senior Leadership Council. High on their agenda for the conference? Risk: how to manage it and, perhaps even trickier, how to articulate it. Yesterday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Marty Dempsey hosted a discussion about risk and looked at pivotal moments in U.S. history – 1919, 1939 and 1979 – to assess what could be learned. Today, uniformed leaders will be joined by the Pentagon’s civilian leadership – Hagel, service secretaries and others, to continue talking about risk with a focus on “budgetary pressure and geo-political pressures around the world,” we’re told. Tonight, everyone will jump back in their SUVs and head to the White House for a dinner hosted by their Commander-in-Chief.

Who’s up to what else today? Rear Adm. David H. Lewis, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, is in San Diego for the Society of American Military Engineers at the Wyndham Bayside at 11:30 a.m. … and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee talks “Dismantling Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program” at 2 p.m.

The fallout continues for the Air Force’s scandal-plagued nuclear corps, with evidence of “synthetic drugs, ecstasy and amphetamines” adding up to a court martial for one missileer from Malmstrom AFB. AP’s Bob Burns this morning, here.    

A car bomb went off at the gates of the Iranian ambassador to Yemen's residence in the capital of Sanaa, killing one guard and wounding 17 others. AFP, here.

An Iraqi official says the alleged ISIS' leader's wife captured in Lebanon is in fact the sister of detained terror suspect in Iraq, Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi. AP this hour, here.

And more on that from Quartz’ Bobby Ghosh writing in Defense One, here.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Iranian warplanes are taking the fight to the Islamic State. The LA Times’ David Cloud, W.J. Hennigan and Ramin Mostaghim: “Iranian warplanes have launched several airstrikes in recent days against Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq, U.S. and Iranian officials said Tuesday, the latest sign that America's longtime adversary is conducting a parallel but largely unacknowledged military campaign in the conflict. At least some of the bombing runs were by F-4 Phantom jets, American-built warplanes provided to Tehran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a close U.S. ally.”

“In the shifting political landscape of the latest Iraq war, Tehran and Washington are in effect aligned on the same side and are conducting dual but separate military operations to back the beleaguered Baghdad government. The U.S. and Iran have sent trainers and advisors to assist pro-government forces struggling against the Sunni Muslim fighters who swept into Iraq from Syria during the spring and summer. Iran's use of airstrikes marks an escalation of its role.” More here.

Iraq's al-Abadi today in Brussels: "I'm not aware there were any airstrikes" by Iran in Iraq. AP's Lara Jakes and John-Thor Dahlburg with more from the anti-ISIS diplomatic meeting at NATO HQs, here.

Sen. John McCain wants American air controllers, or JTACs, in Syria to prevent “the most powerful air force in the world” from squandering gains made in places like Kobani. That from an exchange with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin during a testy Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing yesterday for Slotkin’s pending promotion to Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs. Following a heated back-and-forth with Slotkin on the current ISIS strategy, McCain said: “The most powerful air force in the world has still been unable to allow the opposition to take Kobani back. And you know why that is, Ms. Slotkin? It's because we don't have forward air controllers on the ground. We don't have people identifying targets. We don't have the kind of close-air support that is necessary to win these conflicts..." adding as his time expired,

"I do not believe [Slotkin] is qualified. I believe that she can't articulate a strategy for the defeat of ISIS."

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez says the White House is not cooperating on any new authorization to fight ISIS. The Hill’s Kristina Wong with more, here.

With the U.S. set to send more troops to Iraq, Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis says “it is more important than ever” to admit the counterinsurgency strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan have hardly been success stories. Davis writing in The American Conservative, here.

A new defense bill contains steep cuts to troop pay and housing allowances, Leo Shane III for Army Times reports: “Troops will see a 1 percent pay raise, slowed growth in their housing allowance and a $3 increase in most prescription co-pays… The measure includes authorization for $521 billion in base military spending and nearly $64 billion more in overseas contingency funds, including about $5 billion for the current fight in Iraq and Syria… But the details are likely to irritate outside advocates who pushed against any pay and benefits cuts, arguing that the defense budget should not be balanced on troops' wallets… [including] housing allowance rates next year that cover 99 percent of estimated housing costs, with troops themselves covering the 1 percent shortfall out of pocket.” More here.

The text of the House and Senate’s “breakthrough” defense authorization act posted late last night. The copy, with a joint explanatory statement, can be found here.

The Military Officers Association of America responded to the defense bill yesterday. Their statement, here.

The Navy wants to mothball half of its Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers at a savings of nearly $5 billion, but the new defense bill only authorizes two for that process. U.S. Naval Institute’s Sam LaGrone with more, here.

For War on the Rocks, Stephen Rodriguez looks at the top 10 failed defense programs in the “RMA Era,” here.

The American Trucking Association announced yesterday that it was committing, on behalf of the trucking industry, to hire 100,000 veterans. More on that here.

Today, the Center for a New American Security puts out a report outlining China’s cyber-security strategy. Defense One’s own Patrick Tucker got an advance copy of the paper, compiled by CNAS’ Amy Chang. It’s worth a read, Tucker tells us: “Chang scoured news articles and white papers from China to piece together the past, present, and future of China’s approach to Internet warfare… It’s a serious threat that returns daily to the headlines. On November 20th, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, the head of Cyber Command, speaking at a House Select Intelligence Committee hearing said that China and “one or two others” could effectively shut down electric grids across the United States, warning “All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic.”

Chang’s report takes a more nuanced view. Every aspect of China’s cyber posture, from internal governance to financial data theft and from industrial sabotage to military espionage is motivated by a single objective the continuation of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, for whom threats from within exceed threats from beyond.

Find the report on the CNAS website after 10 a.m., here.

China has launched an estimated 7.7 million cyber attacks against the national security infrastructure of its key economic partner Taiwan, reports U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman in the shadow of Taiwan elections this past Saturday. More here.

A White House official pushed back against Chinese claims the U.S. is bringing “Cold War thinking” along with its Asia-Pacific pivot. AP’s Matthew Pennington with that, here.

Russian antagonism in the air, land and sea toward its European neighbors has turned the Navy’s 6th Fleet from an R&R destination into an operational theater, writes David Larter for Navy Times, here.

NATO formally announced its 2015 advisory mission to Afghanistan—as well as the initial formation of its much-anticipated rapid reactionary “spearhead” force. Stars and Stripes’ Slobodan Lekic from Brussels, here.

Speaking of Afghanistan and sweaters, kinda not really – From Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber: “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has received much attention for his colorful sock selection, not to mention other pieces of his wardrobe. Now his deputy Bob Work is showing off some colorful threads of his own: sweaters! On his trip to Afghanistan last week where the deputy and his wife Cassandra served dinner to American troops at Bagram Airfield and Forward Operating Base Fenty, Work was photographed wearing a bright multicolor sweater that gives Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat a run for its money. A like to the picture, captured by Pentagon photog Glenn Fawcett, is here.

Here’s something different: a report on Nowzad, an animal shelter in Afghanistan that is “humanely neutering” and releasing thousands of stray dogs to help prevent. From Vocativ’s press person: “Sadly, there has been no form of animal control in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban—and dogfighting has become popular again. One former British royal marine tells us what inspired him to found Nowzad, which also employs the first female Afghan veterinarians.” Read that bit here.

What will become of the U.S. military-media embedded program? The WaPo’s Dan Lamothe asks the question, here.

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