More dems pushing for arms; Obama mulls; Carter’s nod could come today; An ISIS recruiter killed – in Afghanistan; Why did the Pentagon spend $500k?; And a bit more.

The chorus for arming Ukraine includes more Dems than ever. The Obama Administration is still thinking about what it wants to do, but it’s not only hawkish Republicans, former senior policy folks and a former NATO commander who want him to arm the Ukrainians – it’s more members of the president’s own party. The Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef: “…On Capitol Hill there is a renewed sense of urgency: The top-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, will join with his Republican counterpart Mac Thornberry [today] to present a bill that would further pressure the president to give the Ukrainian government weaponry, although legislators have yet to spell out the specifics of the bill. And in the last week, a bevy of Democratic pols and former diplomats have said that the United States should do more.

“…Last Thursday, more than 30 House lawmakers wrote a letter urging the White House to swiftly increase military assistance. Signatories included Democratic heavyweights like Engel, Smith, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Ukrainian Caucus co-chairs Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Sander Levin. That same day, Democratic Sens. Harry Reed, Richard Blumenthal, Joe Donnelly, and Bill Nelson joined with Republican hawks to warn against the Russian threat to Ukraine.” More here.

And Obama’s soon-to-be SecDef, Ash Carter, has already said he’s inclined to recommend arming Ukraine.  And Carter, to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, in written answers obtained by Defense One’s Molly O’Toole: "I reject the notion that Russia should be afforded a 'sphere of influence.' If confirmed, I will continue to encourage U.S. partners, such as Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine, to build their security capacity and military interoperability with NATO."

Obama awaits conclusions from the peace talks as he mulls arming Ukraine and European nations reiterate their reasoning why arming the country is a bad idea. Obama, yesterday: “If, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options…What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin’s calculus? And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined.”

The NYT’s Michael Shear and Andrew Higgins: “…Many leaders in European capitals share the Obama administration’s deep distrust of Mr. Putin, but they continue to hope that the pressure of economic sanctions will lead him to accept some sort of settlement. But the major Western European countries, including Britain, Germany and France, oppose sending arms.

The potential disagreement between the American president and his European counterparts was on stark display as Ms. Merkel said, “I don’t see a military solution to this conflict.” But she appeared to suggest that an American decision to send arms despite Berlin’s objections would not lead to a major break in American-German relations, noting that “on certain issues we may not always agree.” Read the rest here.

And here’s something to ponder: Defense One’s Patrick Tucker writes about technological assistance the U.S. could provide Ukraine without technically “arming” it. Read that bit here.

Meantime, rebels advance in East Ukraine, leaving death and destruction behind. Buzzfeed’s Max Seddon in Vuhlehirsk, Ukraine:  “…The Ukrainian crisis is reaching its most precarious moment yet as Russian-backed rebels encroach further into government-held territory, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Their surprise offensive, now in its third week, has claimed dozens of lives by the day, taking the official death toll to well over 5,000 since the conflict broke out last April, including at least 224 civilians. Over a million people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the United Nations.” More here.

Adding nukes to the Russia-Ukraine conflict would be the wrong move, writes Robert Gard, a retired three-star, and Greg Terryn, in Defense One: Their BLUF:“Deploying additional U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and more dual-capable aircraft in Europe provides no advantage: It would be an expensive initiative that would add nothing to our security, divert funds from higher priority defense expenditures, likely provoke Russia to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea, increase the possibility of nuclear war, and be divisive amongst our NATO allies.”

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The top recruiter for ISIS, in Afghanistan, who had been freed from Gitmo by the U.S., is apparently killed in a drone strike. CBS News: “…U.S. officials said a total of eight people were killed in the drone strike, but could not confirm the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruiter's death. The deputy governor of the southern Helmand province identified the recruiter as Abdul Rauf, saying he and others were killed when a drone-fired missile struck their car. The attack would appear to deal a blow to ISIS' efforts to develop a local affiliate to challenge the long-dominant Taliban.” More here.

The White House could ask Congress for new war powers to fight ISIS as early as today. Our politics editor Molly O’Toole digs into the implications: “What will follow may be one of the first full debates over the president’s power to start war and direct U.S. military intervention in conflicts abroad since Congress approved the invasion of Iraq.” House Speaker John Boehner’s prediction: “This is not going to be an easy lift.” …The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which presides over the authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, is standing by to hold a hearing this week as soon as the request arrives.” More here.

Expect the debate to be a proving ground for 2016 candidates like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham. CQ Roll Calls’ Niels Lesniewski and Humberto Sanchez, here.

As talk of the U.S. exit grows, China asserts itself in Afghanistan. The WSJ’s Jeremy Page, Margherita Stancati and Nathan Hodge on a private meeting in London in December between the U.S., China and Afghanistan: …The previously undisclosed meeting, which came within days of a visit by the Afghan Taliban to Beijing, was a step on a path long resisted by China, wary of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and reluctant to meddle in its neighbor’s affairs. The three countries met again last month at an international meeting on Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates, one participant said.

China’s move toward the role of mediator signals a foreign policy shift in Beijing—for decades focused on domestic issues—that could recalibrate the geopolitics of Central Asia and test China’s capacity as a regional leader, Western officials said.

David Sedney, formerly of the Pentagon: “In a certain sense, they’re competing with the U.S. for success in Afghanistan. They want to prove they can do it better.” Read the rest here.

Bahrain follows the UAE in backing Jordan’s escalated air war against ISIS. AFP, here.

ISIS yesterday carted out its last known Western hostage, British photojournalist John Cantile, in his third video since October, and what he called his “last film in this series.” McClatchy’s Mitchell Prothero from Irbil: “[I]n the most recent videos, one from Mosul posted Jan. 3, and then the Aleppo one posted Monday, Cantlie is dressed in casual Western clothes, walking among people on the streets and even, in the Mosul video, riding a motorcycle… It feeds growing speculation among some observers that Cantlie’s talents as a news presenter have made him more valuable to the Islamic State than just another soon-to-be-executed hostage.” More here.

Purging warzone profiteers: Amid allegations of serious financial misconduct and after being suspended from government work, IRD has begun letting go of senior execs. The WaPo’s Scott Higham and Steven Rich, who were two of the three reporters who broke this story last year: “…International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., allegedly used taxpayer money for Redskins season tickets, personal travel and meals, and alcohol at company receptions and retreats, according to current and former government and nonprofit officials.

IRD, the WaPo reports, has collected $2.4 billion since 2007 to undertake warzone projects for USAID. “…USAID’s inspector general, the FBI and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction are investigating the expenses of IRD’s founder and former president, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, IRD’s director of operations, according to people familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. The couple, who retired from the organization last summer, received $5.9 million in total compensation between 2008 and 2012.” Read the rest here.

A two-year delay in Lockheed’s production of the first of 8 GPS-III satellites on order has the Air Force looking into possible other vendors for future buys. Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio, here.

Meantime, Lockheed—along with BAE—managed to receive high marks from Army and Air Force for the best-performing suppliers. Capaccio once more, here.

After the Navy recently dropped it’s “Global force for good” slogan in favor of its latest “Pin Map” ad campaign, Navy Times wants your input on what the next slogan for America’s sailors should be. Head over here to throw your idea in the hat.

Why did the Pentagon spend $500,000 on Viagra? The Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington: “The Pentagon issued 60 contracts worth $504,816 for the drug in 2014… [and] also ordered $3,505 worth of Levitra, and $14,540 of Cialis, other popular erectile dysfunction drugs. The contracts were filed under ‘Troop Support.’

“‘Defense guidelines allow military physicians to prescribe Viagra only after a thorough evaluation indicates the medication as the optimal regimen for the patient,’ a release outlining the Pentagon’s policy said... ‘There’s also no guarantee Viagra will work,’ DoD added.”

The more you know: “Viagra is still covered by TRICARE, the military’s health insurance system, as well as ‘External vacuum appliances,’ or penis pumps, ‘penile implants and testicular prostheses,’ and hormone injections to treat Erectile Dysfunction.” Read the rest of that one, here.

Who’s doing what today? The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote to affirm the nomination of Ash Carter to be the next SecDef, with a floor vote likely coming in another day or so, putting Carter into the E-Ring at the Pentagon very soon… The House Armed Services Committee is in Annapolis today for a retreat at the Naval Academy… CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert is in Canberra, Australia… SASC, meanwhile, meets at 9:30 a.m. to hear Eric Edelman and Michèle Flournoy talk challenges to America’s national security strategy… Deputy SecDef Bob Work is in San Diego keynoting the AFCEA/USNI Western Conference and Exposition at 11 a.m. (EDT) … the White House’s Lisa Monaco talks threats in the cyber domain at the Wilson Center today at 12:45 p.m. … and NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Adm. Bill Gortney gives the afternoon keynote at San Diego’s AFCEA/USNI Western Conference and Exposition.

With Obama’s new national security strategy calling for better information sharing across the intelligence community, Defense One tech editor Patrick Tucker teamed up with GovExec tech writer Frank Konkel to roll up some lessons of the past year—on topics like cloud computing at the CIA and biometrics at DHS—along with some of the broader IC plans expected to take shape in the months ahead, here.

The popularity of stealth is giving way to intense interest in autonomous swarm drones and overall greater firepower for the Pentagon’s newest weapons systems, Washington Examiner’s Tara Copp reports, here.

Two former Rumsfeldians – Keith Urbahn and Matt Lattimer – are trying to blow up the DC book biz and change the dated author-agent relationship. In Washingtonian by Matthew Shaer, here.

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Battle stars now authorized for GWOT-EM. Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman: “Last year, the Pentagon revived the GWOT Expeditionary Medal as a way to recognize service members deployed to Iraq as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve… Defense officials announced Monday that effective immediately, troops who have deployed more than once in support of a major operation in the Middle East and have earned more than one Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal will be authorized to wear a small silver ‘battle star’ on their GWOT Expeditionary Medal.” More here.