The D Brief: Sexual assault rates up; $100 million dropped from commissaries; Don’t put Dakota in (the social media) corner; NBC’s Kube has a couple of bruisers; And a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Ben Watson
An “inevitable fate” may await an American in captivity in Yemen. The WaPo’s Adam Goldman on 33-year-old Luke Summers, abducted more than a year ago: “Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to kill an American hostage in Yemen after U.S. commandos launched a rescue operation to free him, according to a video obtained Wednesday by SITE Intelligence Group… Last week, U.S. Special Operation forces and Yemeni troops attempted to free Somers, who was being held in a remote part of the country, but they narrowly missed him, U.S. officials said. The joint force managed to save several hostages, including some Yemenis, but Somers apparently had been moved.” More here.
The situation in Yemen, and the weakening pro-U.S. government there, exposes the difficulties for the Pentagon in U.S. strategy. The WSJ’s Maria Abi-Habib: “…The Yemeni government, which had been a bulwark in the fight against the country’s potent al Qaeda offshoot, collapsed in September after Shiite-linked rebels known as Houthis attacked the capital San’a. Since then, Houthi rebels have taken control of towns and cities throughout Yemen and gained political power while the rival al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, mounted some of its deadliest attacks in an effort to thwart the Houthi advance. The Pentagon’s strategy to counter Islamic State in Syria faces similar problems to those confronted in Yemen.” More here.
Saudi suspends aid to Yemen after Houthi takeover. Reuters this hour.
Meantime, at the Pentagon, sexual assault reporting in the military is up 8 percent, with about 1 in every 4 victims filing a report compared to roughly 1 in every 10 two years ago. AP’s Lolita Baldor with more in advance of today’s briefing from Hagel and company later today. Baldor: “…The officials said there were nearly 6,000 victims of reported assaults in 2014, compared with just over 5,500 last year. The Pentagon changed its method of accounting for the assaults this year, and now each victim counts for one report.
Using last year's accounting methods, there were roughly 5,400 sexual assaults reported as of the end of the 2014 fiscal year on Sept. 30, compared with a little more than 5,000 last year. That increase comes on the heels of an unprecedented 50 percent spike in reporting in the previous year. Based on those numbers, and the anonymous survey conducted by the Rand Corp., officials said that about 1 in every 4 victims filed a report this year, in sharp contrast to 2012, when only about 1 in every 10 military victims came forward.
“…Officials said the decision to change the accounting system to have a report for every victim, rather than one report for an incident that could have multiple victims, would provide greater accuracy. Using that system, there were 3,604 victims in 2012, 5,518 in 2013, and 5,983 in 2014.” Read that here.
Will the sexual assault issue snag the defense bill? National Journal’s Jordain Carney and Alex Brown: “A new defense authorization bill will hit the House floor this week, senior House and Senate committee staffers said, but its eventual passage will likely hinge on whether the Senate can avoid controversial amendments—including a high-profile effort to change how the military handles sexual-assault cases—that could derail its support.” Read the rest here.
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Courtney Kube, longtime Pentagon producer and reporter for NBC, finally had those twin boys yesterday around 1 pm. After 38 weeks and what was reportedly a long wait for an operating room at the hospital, Kube delivered Ryan Michael, weighing in at 6lbs, 8 oz. and 20 inches AND Jackson “Jake” Robert, weighing in at 6lbs, 7 oz, and 20 inches long. Kube, who has been working the Pentagon beat up until the last few days, is said to be “beside herself” with joy at the new babies – likely very happy in the extreme that they are now delivered.
From hubby and new dad Lt. Col. Eric Dent, public affairs aide to Marine Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford – “Boys and Courtney are doing great!” DOUBLE congrats to the happy parents.
Maybe you can help the Pentagon find the Next Big Thing in military tech to guide it into and beyond the next decade of investment. DOD issued an RFI Wednesday “to identify current and emerging technologies…that could provide significant military advantage to the United States and its partners and allies in the 2030 time frame,” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports. But if recent history is any indication, the search will be grinding race against the clock—and the Pentagon’s more tech-savvy enemies—to stay ahead of the competition. Feel free to submit your idea, here.
The announcement that Ash Carter will be nominated to become the next SecDef could come today. Or tomorrow. Honestly, it’s unclear. The White House, which has a reputation for letting names of potential nominees float for days before actually nominating them, is completing whatever final vetting the former Deputy Secretary of Defense would need before formally putting his name forward as the next Secretary of Defense. It seems reasonably likely, however, that a formal announcement would come today or early tomorrow. Next question: will Hagel, who reportedly insisted on announcing his (forced) resignation publicly before the White House could nominate his successor, stand beside his former deputy with Obama?
Only in Washington: Ash really is a “policy guy,” longtime colleagues insist. While most people in Washington today know Carter as a budget and acquisitions guy, colleagues say, almost defensively, that he is, was and remains a policy guy first. It’s an interesting point because both hats are hugely important but to two completely separate audiences.
“I never thought of him as a weapons guy who could dabble in policy,” an administration official and longtime colleague told Defense One’s Kevin Baron. “He’s got real policy chops that were somewhat hidden because he was in jobs that weren’t primarily policy jobs. So people don’t fully appreciate the policy chops he’s got.”
From Baron: “It’s a good point. Carter was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy back in the Clinton years of 1993-1996. But his last two DOD jobs are incredibly powerful posts to different people. The DepSecDef is the No. 2 ranking civilian in the building seen as managing the budget portfolio, and before that he was the “Pentagon’s weapons buyer” as under secretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics – or AT&L. Currently that job belongs to Frank Kendall. Said the administration official: “My senior State Department colleagues don’t know who Frank Kendall is… It’s one of the most powerful jobs in Washington, but it’s so not on the policy radar.”
So why were there so few people considered qualified to replace Hagel? After diving into the history of ousted SecDefs, Slate’s Fred Kaplan says: “Whether Carter works out depends on what Obama wants from him. If he wants a placeholder for his final two years in office, someone who can run the Pentagon with an iron hand and a thorough knowledge of the building and the industry, Carter might be the most qualified person out there. If he wants advice on the crises of the day, from the vantage of the top civilian official (an insider-outsider in the Pentagon), then Carter is a bit of a gamble…” More here.
In Iraq, the U.S. and Iran move in separate areas. The news that Iranian jets are conducting strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq mean for strange bedfellows. But they’re working two sides of the street for now. AFP’s Dan De Luce: “Revelations about Iranian air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have illustrated how American and Iranian forces are operating in separate areas to avoid confrontation, part of a fragile alignment fraught with risk, US officials and analysts say. Air raids by Iranian F-4 Phantom fighters over the weekend reflect a pattern in which Iranian or US military advisers have carved out separate spheres in Iraq as the two arch-rivals seek to defeat a common enemy -- the IS group, defence officials said.” More here.
ISIS has set up training camps in Libya, Gen. Rodriguez said yesterday. AP’s Bob Burns with more, here.
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad said the lack of ground troops in the battle against ISIS shows that the U.S. is neither serious nor efficient about its strategy. More from AFP, here.
The U.S. has already helped train approximately 2,000 Iraqi fighters, largely Sunnis from Anbar province. AP’s Lara Jakes and John-Thor Dahlburg with more from the counter-ISIL coalition meeting in Brussels, here.
Prime Minister Abadi wants $$ to help for training and to reconstruct Iraq. The NYT’s Michael Gordon: “…Iraq security forces are planning a major offensive in the spring against the Islamic State. The goal is to restore the Iraqi government’s control over major population centers in northern and western Iraq and its border with Syria by the end of 2015.
“American officials have said that the initial Iraqi force it is now advising will consist of only nine Iraqi brigades and three similar Kurdish pesh merga units, which is roughly 24,000 troops. The Iraqi plan calls for at least doubling that force before mounting the offensive.
In his meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, Mr. Abadi asked for additional help in building up Iraq’s fighting ability against the Islamic State…. In meetings with American and other officials, Mr. Abadi also said that Iraq had a pressing need for reconstruction and humanitarian aid to help displaced civilians get through the winter.” More here.
Who’s doing what today? SecDef Hagel and DOD’s Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright; Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office brief the press on the release of a report investigating sexual assault in the military. That from the Pentagon Briefing Room at 1:30 p.m. … And at the National Press Club in D.C., Deputy Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity Richard Hale sits in on a panel talking “government and industry solutions” at this year’s Security Innovation Network Showcase and Workshops. That’s slated to begin shortly before 4 p.m.
Also today: The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hears the nomination of Leigh A. Bradley for VA General Counsel at 10 a.m. … and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence goes behind closed doors for a hearing at 2:30 p.m.
No bueno: The Navy just hit an obstacle on its otherwise smooth integration of female sailors into its submarine ops: A petty officer secretly filmed a female changing area on the ballistic missile sub Wyoming for more than a year. Navy Times’ Meghann Myers with more, here.
VA whistleblowers get a federal honor. The WaPo’s Joe Davidson: “…The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) honored three Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whistleblowers Wednesday, all physicians who had key roles in uncovering major issues at VA facilities.
Because they and other whistleblowers came forward, problems such as the cover-up of long wait times for veterans seeking medical care were exposed. The wait-time scandal led to the resignation of the VA secretary and legislation providing the department with additional resources to meet patient needs.
So who got the award? “Katherine Mitchell, who ‘disclosed critical understaffing and inadequate triage training in the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room’ … Phyllis Hollenbeck, who ‘blew the whistle on chronic understaffing at the Jackson (Miss.) VA medical center [and] problems with the supervision of nurse practitioners’ … and Charles Sherwood, who ‘brought forward concerns [about] improper practices in the Jackson VA medical center’s radiology department.’” Read the rest here.
Meantime, military spouses face a 25 percent unemployment rate, and DOD just wrapped an event to help bring that number down. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership—which has helped more than 65,000 military spouses find work—hosted an event Tuesday night in D.C., with the CEO of credit card processor First Data, Frank Bisignano, keynoting. Bisignano—whose company increased their hiring of vets or military spouses from 2 to 11 percent in the past year—brought attention to the at times uncertain life of a military spouse, “which makes building a career difficult as they are forced to move from job to job or have experience gaps in their resumes difficult.” Read more about the MSEP career portal, here.
WaPo’s editors: As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the U.S. needs better defenses: “…Networks in the United States remain vulnerable to intrusion, disruption, theft, espionage and attacks that could produce physical damage, all weaknesses that cry out for a more aggressive defense than has been mounted so far. Although the U.S. military is standing up a major cyber effort, both offensive and defensive, private-sector networks in the nation are overly exposed. These networks are the backbone of the economy, health care, education, transportation, energy and countless other critical functions. In the future, attacks are certain to be aimed at them with potentially dire consequences.” More here.
Sony says North Korea was behind last week’s comprehensive cyber attack that caused Sony employees to abandon their computers in favor of pen and paper. WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima, Craig Timberg and Andrea Peterson: “The cyberattack may have come in retaliation for Sony’s upcoming movie ‘The Interview,’ a comedy built around a fictional CIA plot to kill North Korea’s 31-year-old supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, say people familiar with the probe who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is not yet complete.” More, here.
In North Korea, there’s only room for one “Jong-un.” Better change your name. The NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun on how Kim Jong-un is the only one who gets to have that name in the North, here.
The Intelligence Community’s Inspector General found an illegal database hotline claim. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio and Laura Curtis: “The review by Inspector General Charles McCullough triggered by employee of Army Intelligence and Security Command alleging ‘interagency data repository’ that ‘improperly included U.S. person data.’ Slightly more here.
#TBT: Turns out, the CIA played a big role in the ousting of David Lee Roth from Van Halen in 1985. We’re joking, it’s the Onion, here.
The new defense bill drops $100 million in commissary funding next year, writes Karen Jowers of Army Times, here.
Also out: The Pentagon’s round of base closures for 2017. That from Army Times’ Andy Medici, here.
But the $521 billion defense bill also contains a bunch of nonmilitary provisions that could snag it. The WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe: “…Tucked inside the bill’s more than 1,600 pages is language creating six national parks, expanding nine others and establishing a bipartisan commission to explore building a national women’s history museum.” More here.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince has five ideas for streamlining the DOD’s ability to fight wars at cheaper costs, and Newsweek’s Kristina Shevory jives each one with the realities of everyday business at the Pentagon. That, here.
Someone in the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command triggered an IG review of an “interagency data repository” that may illegally contain U.S. citizens’ personal data. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists FOIA’d the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and has this: “The resolution of that complaint concerning improper collection of U.S. person data was not disclosed. But the IC IG evidently found it credible enough to justify a rare report to the White House Intelligence Oversight Board…” More here.
Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer is having none of the FBI’s warnings for current and former soldiers to lay low on social media—even going so far as to challenge ISIS to come to the front door of his Kentucky home. Said Meyer: “When I start having to change my life because I'm worried about something that could happen to me, that means terrorism is winning... I refuse to let these idealistic, radical bullies change the way that I live.” ABC News’ Rheana Murray with more, here.
"Got me on that one, bud." A cringe-worthy video from Ryan Berk, Afghan war vet and former sergeant from the 101st, has been making the rounds since it was filmed last Friday at a Pennsylvania mall. In it, Berk quizzes a man in an Army uniform with simply too many uniform violations to list—and in no time at all smells a fraud. As it turns out, the same impersonator was arrested 11 years ago for impersonating a deceased Philadelphia policeman, Bucks County Courier Times’ Jo Ciavaglia reports, here.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office suggesting that video is now evidence of a federal crime. Army Times’ Kyle Jahner with more, here.