Ash Carter sees the war against ISIS as one that is long-term but needs sustainable, “lasting” solutions. Carter, nominated to be the next Defense Secretary, will appear tomorrow to explain not only the Obama Administration’s policies in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere – but also his own. As Obama’s fourth defense secretary, he may have room to express himself a little. But anyone who believes Carter is going to take a militaristic, hawkish view of addressing those threats may be wrong. Instead, he will take a longer, wider more nuanced view on countering Islamic extremism. According to answers Carter gave to the Senate Armed Services Committee that will take up his nomination tomorrow and were provided early to The D Brief, Carter will talk about how the military can’t do it alone. That’s not new, of course – outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others have said the same before. But Carter, who is already seen positively by Senate leaders like Sen. John McCain, may emphasize the wider approach all the more in an effort to seek lasting solutions, not short-term fixes.
Carter, in an answer to a question posed by the Senate in what are called “Advance Policy Questions:” “The U.S. is at the beginning of what could be a long campaign to degrade and inflict a lasting defeat on ISIL. DOD’s contributions are one part of a whole-of-government strategy and an effort that includes many of the coalition partners to create both the political and military conditions needed for success… political inclusion in Iraq is a key element of countering ISIL in a lasting way.”
Rarely do candidates before the Senate make huge news in the “APQs,” or questions that are customarily sent the Senate beforehand. But his answers to some of those questions give us a peek into his thinking and may hint at themes he will address verbally with more depth during the hearing.
Carter on the challenges the next SecDef face: “The challenges include preserving and enhancing the finest fighting force in the world and taking care of their families, providing a strategic perspective to the threats and the opportunities in the world; and implementing significant reforms that are crucial at a time of budget uncertainty.”
Carter on the national military strategy: “…any strategy must continue to protect this nation’s interests within the resources the nation is willing to commit to national defense.”
Carter would lean forward on sexual assault: “… It is reprehensible in any aspect of society, but particularly consequential in the military which must operate quickly with complete trust and delegate so much authority to commanders and where missions often require long deployments in austere environments… I believe DOD needs to do better in its prevention efforts and in responding to the needs of survivors, compassionately, quickly and effectively… If confirmed, I will personally continue to make this a top priority.”
Carter on doing more to combat retaliation against victims: “Based on the recent report to the president, they are not adequate.”
Meantime, beware shipbuilders: Carter on the Navy’s need for more boats: “Ship count is only one metric to measure, to evaluate fleet effectiveness.”
And, Carter may alter the pace and size of the Afghan drawdown of forces, according to AP’s Lita Baldor, who also got her hands on some of the advance policy questions, reports. Read her bit here.
FYI-ing you: As of yesterday, Carter has met personally with each member of the Senate Armed Services Committee in preparation for tomorrow’s hearing.
Welcome to Tuesday’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 email@example.com. 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.
The Pentagon is pushing for a surge of MQ-9 Reapers. Our own Patrick Tucker gets into the nitty-gritty of what Reapers can do for the Pentagon’s new wars—and what additional MQ-9s can’t do in the face of a drone pilot shortage. That bit here.
More on the Pentagon budget below.
Welcome, National Journal Early Bird readers. The D Brief just brought on thousands of new readers with the end of NJ’s Early Bird last week. We wish the best to Early Bird author Jordain Carney who, like us, has been waking up to make the doughnuts each morning, and we’d like to welcome those NJ Early Bird readers into The D Brief fold. We’re so very happy to have you. Send us your compliments, complaints and best yet, story tips, any time day or night - the inbox is always open.
About face and classification remorse: After last week abruptly announcing the classification of data on Afghanistan’s U.S.-trained soldiers and police, NATO’s command in Kabul yesterday announced it has de-classified much of the information once more. NYT’s Matthew Rosenberg: “The command, explaining its reversal, said that much of the information had been deemed secret because it was combined with ‘related classified information.‘ But that same information, ‘when viewed alone, is suitable for public release,’ it said. More here.
Andrew Exum on the reversal via the Twitter machine: “Good call to reverse a boneheaded move… When classifying information, we don't consider the merits of transparency nearly as much as we should…”
More unclass ...and a Super Bowl first? Northrup Grumman teased its classified Long-Range Strike Bomber before a record-setting Super Bowl audience Sunday night. WaPo’s Christian Davenport with more on what’s at stake for Grumman—and what may have been a first for a defense contractor, here.
Also: For a bit of background on the Pentagon’s less and less secretive LRS-B from our own Marcus Weisgerber just last month, head over here.
Only in The D Brief: Casey Celske, 94, is one of the veterans of the elite unit who will be honored with nation's highest award for distinguished achievement today as part of The Devil’s Brigade, a World War II special forces unit made up of American and Canadian service members, who will receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill…
But listen to the cool thing Adam Kinzinger did for Celske, according to Defense One’s own Marcus Weisgerber, who was on the same flight: “For today’s event, Celske needed to get to DC from Chicago, which was blanketed with more than 19 inches of snow on Sunday. Luckily Celske made it out on a flight from O’Hare to Reagan National on Monday afternoon. But Celske got a little extra treat. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Republican from Illinois, who was also on the flight, gave Celske his first class seat. The congressman, who is also an Air Force pilot, sat toward the back of the crowded flight. More on the Devil’s Brigade here. And more on Celske, here.
Blowing past the caps with the new defense budget: This year’s White House budget would give the Pentagon $38 billion more than last year, with slightly less devoted to America’s overseas wars. Defense One’s Lubold and Weisgerber on the Pentagon’s budget release yesterday: “The Pentagon’s nose-snubbing to budget caps is a political move aimed to send a message to many members of Congress that defense spending can’t be cut easily, or certainly in the way the Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates…
“[T]he budget proposal amounts to a second (or even third) ask for other budget proposals it has failed to get through Congress in recent years, like changes to the number of troops and structure of the Armed Forces, base closures, sexual assault prevention programs and other programs for troops and their families... Big-ticket items in this year’s budget proposal include $10.6 billion for 57 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters; $3.4 billion for 16 P-8 maritime patrol aircraft; $1.3 billion for five E-2D command-and-control planes; $3 billion for development of the KC-46 tanker; and $1.2 billion for a new Air Force bomber.”
Read the rest of that story, along with four charts by Defense One’s Kedar Pavgi to save you time comparing numbers and desired airframes, here.
What’s in it for the tech junkies? The White House’s budget sets aside money for spy satellites, laser weapons and the comic-book-sounding “space fence,” and a serious drop in funding for carrier-based drones. Our tech editor Patrick Tucker dives into the fine print, here.
And for a look at how the Pentagon wants to set itself up to fight battles of 2020 and beyond, Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio has this one, here.
Let the battle on the homefront begin: Obama urged lawmakers to move beyond the “mindless austerity” of sequestration and pass the $4 trillion budget. Republicans, meanwhile, made clear they’re still not reading from the same sheet of music as the White House. WaPo’s Lori Montgomery and Steven Mufson, here.
Rep. Mac “Thumbs Down” Thornberry fired back at Obama with this official HASC chair reply: “There is no doubt that the nation’s security requires more spending than is permitted under the current levels… Overall, the President’s budget includes many proposals that he knows will never pass in Congress. And yet, in spite of the growing threats to our national security, the President continues to give speeches that polarize the country and Congress." Read the rest of that short statement in full, here.
The fate of the Jordanian pilot remains unclear, McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero, here.
Pulled: After a short run on Baghdad’s only movie theater, “American Sniper” has been pulled thanks to the central government’s position that the film is insulting to Iraqis. WaPo’s Liz Sly from Baghdad, here.
Wowza: Since 2003, the Army has fired 129 battalion and brigade commanders. The Navy is the one that is always seen as accountability-happy, firing commanders at will. Army Times’ Michelle Tan with some stats: “The Army has administered non-judicial punishment (Article 15s) to 1,472 officers since 2008; It has court-martialed 41 lieutenant colonels or higher, including two general officers, in the last six years; Seven general officers have been relieved from their positions since 2008; Since 2010, 29 general officers were referred to Army Grade Determination Review Boards; Since 2001, the Army vice chief of staff has issued 100 memoranda of reprimand, 147 memoranda of concern and conducted 45 verbal counselings of general officers.” More here.
Average soldiers don’t trust their generals, and former Marine Duncan Hunter, the California Republican, argues that they have a point. Header: “A survey last year showed only 27% of the military felt senior leaders looked out for their best interests. To fix the morale crisis generals need to stop acting like politicians.” Read that bit in The Daily Beast, here.
For Dunford’s Marine Corps, it seems like back to the future. Marine Corps Times’ Hope Hodge Seck: “…According to the commandant's planning guidance, released Jan. 23, the West Coast-based I MEF would prioritize major operations and campaigns, while II MEF, on the East Coast, would focus first on crisis response at the Marine expeditionary brigade level. The Japan-based III MEF would remain ‘regionally oriented’ as the first response force for all operations in the Asia-Pacific region and would be designated a standing joint task force headquarters for U.S. Pacific Command.
Former Marine three-star Jan Huly: “Back before 9/11… that’s kind of the way MEFs were oriented,” said Huly. More here.
Our own Molly O’Toole with more on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act: Not enough lawmakers came back to town on Monday to vote on the Clay Hunt Act, a bill expected to pass handily when it gets its vote today at noon. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that the bill is looking like it might just be the very first to pass the 114th Congress and be signed into law by President Obama—a powerful statement of support for veterans.
Who’s doing what today? The Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the military compensation commission’s findings at 9:30 a.m. … the Army goes into greater detail on its FY16 budget at 10 a.m. at the Pentagon … the House Armed Services Committee talks worldwide threats with the Joint Staff’s Acting Director of Intelligence Mark Chandler, Joint Staff’s Ops Director Lt. Gen. William Mayville and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart; that’s at 10 a.m. … the Senate has slated a noon vote on the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act … and HASC’s Subcommittee on Personnel talks about Wounded Warrior programs at 3:30 p.m. More on that line-up, here. … Navy Secretary Mabus has arrived in Colombia where he will meet with the country's Minister of Defense and Chief of Defense and Chief of Naval Operations, as well as meet with the U.S. Marines assigned to protect the U.S. Embassy… Marine Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford is headed to North Carolina today to observe Ground Combat Element Integration Task Force training today; back by tonight…
The Defense Intelligence Agency’s Lt. Gen. Vince Stewart is expected to explain ISIS growth from Iraq and Syria to affiliates popping up across North Africa. Read a preview of his prepared testimony courtesy of David Lerman and Tony Capaccio for McClatchy, here.
Apropos of nothing: Bad lip-reading, NFL style, is always fun. Watch that bit here.
USIP has a new prez. Nancy Lindborg, most recently of USAID, became the U.S. Institute of Peace’s fifth president yesterday. From the press release: “…In its 30th year, the Institute works in Washington and in some of the world’s most volatile regions, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan.
Lindborg told dignitaries and Institute staff that her 20 years of working in and around conflict has led her to an “unshaken conviction that we must be focused on all the ways to prevent, to mitigate, to help people in communities around the world recover from violent conflict.”
Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and USIP board chairman introduced Lindborg. “As USIP works to advance the cause of peace in fragile democracies from Afghanistan to South Sudan, Nancy is the ideal leader to take the organization forward.”
Qatar’s Foreign Minister says: there is no white or black hat. Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiya, before a standing room only crowd at the Atlantic's Watergate headquarters on Monday evening, said, "There is no white hat and black hat. We have a destiny together in our region."
Defense One’s Kevin Baron, who attended, sent this to D Brief: “Qatar has become a key ally to U.S. interests in the Middle East, but in one evening its emissary expressed sympathy for Hamas, discomfort with Iran, opposition to ISIS, and wouldn't even go near any mention of Saudi Arabia. He claimed Qatar does not pay ransoms for hostages, and his advice to reporters like the Atlantic's Steve Clemons? "It's better to stay here in Washington." Clemons asked about Qatar's role in hostage negotiations knowing that Qatar and Atlantic Media's David Bradley worked together to secure the 2014 release of journalist Peter Theo Curtis.
“Qatar, he said, valued its reputation as mediator in regional disputes as a ‘gift from God.’ But as for ISIS, despite hosting a U.S. air base and participating in the air campaign, he said ‘Air bombardment is not the solution,’ and called for education and jobs and treating the root causes that lead people into terrorism. Syria, he said, was caused by Assad. As for Iran... well, he said, coyly, "We cannot change geography."
DC Scene at the event: Bill Cohen, AOL Huffington Post's Howard Fineman, Yahoo's Michael Isikoff, NYT's Eric Schmitt, Bloomberg's Josh Rogin, the WaPo’s Greg Jaffe, NYT's Michael Gordon, BBC's Tara McKelvey and McClatchy's Jonathan Landay.
Ukraine’s separatist commander said his impressively well-armed local militias are ready to increase the size of their army by 100,000. NYTs Rick Lyman was with the rebels at Horlivka, here.
Meanwhile, 40 kilometers east in Artemivs'k, 8,000 Ukraine soldiers are surrounded by rebels who are quite possibly have their eyes on one of Europe’s largest weapons arsenals. Mashable’s Christopher Miller from Horlivka: “More than merely a dot on the regional map, Artemivsk is of strategic and economic importance due to its highways and railway lines, as well as its salt mines… But it is deep inside one of them that the real prize exists. Stashed hundreds of meters below ground is a weapons arsenal of more than 3 million arms, one of the largest in Europe. Created during the Soviet Union, much of what exists there (and the Ukrainian military is tight-lipped about what exactly is kept inside) are old Kalashnikov rifles and machine guns... If the rebels seized control of the cache, “it would change the game,’” a Ukraine security official told Miller. Read the rest, here.
See also Miller’s report from yesterday on many of Ukraine’s helpless—and aged—civilians trying in vain to flee fighting, including “96-year-old Vera Martinovskaya [who] recalled the Second World War, saying it reminded her of what is happening now.” That here.
And for those angling for an escalation of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, “this crisis requires strategic thinking and patience, not tit-for-tat tactical reactions which are insufficient to achieve a balance of power in eastern Ukraine and unlikely to foster a diplomatic resolution,” writes the Eisenhower Institute’s Sean Kay over at War on the Rocks, here.
Delete! China tries to put a lid on it: An “overenthusiastic local government” office inadvertently leaked news of China’s plan to build a second aircraft carrier, WaPo’s Simon Denyer reports from Beijing: “The government in Changzhou, in eastern Jiangsu province, boasted Sunday on social media that a local firm had won a contract to supply electrical cabling for the carrier. It later deleted the post, but not before it had been widely circulated. A report in a local newspaper was also withdrawn.
“Although China has made no secret of its desire to expand its navy and add to its sole aircraft carrier, the news is a reminder of Beijing’s growing military might and the assertive way it has gone about staking its territorial claims in the East and South China seas in recent years.” More here.