January 21, 2014

Pentagon plans for Sochi contingency — Iran disinvited to Syria peace talks — LCS numbers up in the air

Source: Politico

Journalist: Kate Brannen

SNOW DAY: Federal offices in the D.C. area are closed today due to the approaching snowstorm, according to the Office of Personnel Management. http://1.usa.gov/1aMQvpT

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY — THE MILITARY READIES FOR SOCHI: Addressing rising public concerns about security at the Winter Olympics next month in Sochi, Russia, the Pentagon says it’s “conducting prudent planning and preparations should that be required.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said “the United States has offered its full support to the Russian government as it conducts security preparations for the Winter Olympics.”

“Air and naval assets, to include two Navy ships in the Black Sea, will be available if requested for all manner of contingencies in support of — and in consultation with — the Russian government,” Kirby said. But he added, “There is no such requirement at this time.”

— RUSSIA NOT COOPERATING WITH U.S., SAYS MORELL, via CBS’ Rebecca Kaplan:“There's a long history of cooperation between nations who are hosting the Olympics and the United States government and the United States intelligence community, in particular, and we did not get that cooperation with the Russians,” said former acting CIA Director Mike Morell on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” http://cbsn.ws/KzPg7s

IRAN IS INVITED, THEN DISINVITED TO SYRIAN PEACE TALKS, via The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon, Somini Sengupta and Alan Cowell: “Under intense American pressure, the United Nations on Monday withdrew an invitation to Iran to attend the much-anticipated Syria peace conference, reversing a decision announced a day earlier.” http://nyti.ms/1aENBHV

The peace conference is due to begin on Wednesday in Geneva.

NEW REPORT ALLEGES SYSTEMATIC KILLING BY ASSAD: There is new evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s government has systematically tortured and killed about 11,000 men, according to a report first unveiled by The Guardian and CNN yesterday.

The evidence was smuggled out of Syria by a defector and includes “thousands of Syrian government photographs and files recording deaths in the custody of regime security forces from March 2011 to last August,” reports The Guardian’s Ian Black. http://goo.gl/r7xKHb

— ASSAD ALSO ACCUSED OF HELPING AL QAEDA THROUGH OIL DEALS, via The Daily Telegraph’s Ruth Sherlock and Richard Spencer: “Jabhat al-Nusra, and the even more extreme Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), the two al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria, have both been financed by selling oil and gas from wells under their control to and through the regime, intelligence sources have told The Daily Telegraph.” http://goo.gl/RrR7tT

SITTING DOWN WITH THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, is out with a new profile of President Barack Obama. Here are some takeaways for Morning D readers. http://nyr.kr/1jerNI8

— On Syria, Obama told Remnick, “When I hear people suggesting that somehow if we had just financed and armed the opposition earlier, that somehow Assad would be gone by now and we’d have a peaceful transition, it’s magical thinking.”

— On Iran, Obama said, “I don’t think a new sanctions bill will reach my desk during this period, but, if it did, I would veto it and expect it to be sustained.”

— IS AL QAEDA GROWING IN CAPACITY? “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said.

HOW MANY MISTAKES ARE TOO MANY FOR THE MILITARY’S NUCLEAR FORCE? via AP’s Robert Burns: Air Force leaders say the latest discoveries of cheating and drug use by nuclear missile officers are not part of a larger pattern, but clearly some people are worried that something else may be going on. http://goo.gl/aTKXfL

IT’S TUESDAY. Thank you for reading Morning Defense. Will this snowstorm amount to anything in Washington? We shall see. The latest estimate from the Washington Post is 5 to 8 inches for D.C. http://wapo.st/1egtXCA Don’t forget to send your latest defense news and any tips or feedback to kbrannen@politico.com and follow on Twitter at @k8brannen, @morningdefense and @PoliticoPro.

A BUREAUCRATIC STANDOFF ON LCS NUMBERS, via Defense News’ Christopher P. Cavas: “The contentious question of how many Littoral Combat Ships to build has been batted back and forth this year between the U.S. Navy’s top leadership and senior Pentagon leaders. By the end of the day on Jan. 17, a certain kind of standoff appears to have been reached, foregoing — for the moment — a final decision.” http://goo.gl/BjVHIX

NSA REFORM ROUNDUP: Here’s how POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein summed up President Barack Obama’s big Friday speech on reforming NSA surveillance practices: “We’re not really sorry, but we’ll change.” http://politi.co/1hGCf8i

The most attention-grabbing announcement: Obama’s call to end the NSA’s collection of information on vast numbers of phone calls made to, from or within the U.S.

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— WHO’S GOING TO KEEP ALL THE RECORDS? Americans’ phone records would still be collected under Obama’s reforms. The question now is, who would hold them?

“Obama announced Friday he would leave it to the intelligence community and the attorney general to determine within 60 days whether it would be providers like AT&T and Verizon, a new third-party clearinghouse or some other mechanism maintaining access to records about calls made to, from and within the United States,” POLITICO’s Tony Romm reports.http://politi.co/1mog2Mo

This decision “is bound to touch off a political battle among telecom providers, privacy advocates and congressional lawmakers about whether that can work and who should be in charge of holding the data,” Romm writes.

GETTING USED TO LIFE BACK HOME: In Sunday’s New York Times, Thom Shanker reported on what life is like the for the Army’s soldiers who are no longer deploying to war zones.http://nyti.ms/1mkQNuk

Compared to Iraq or Afghanistan, life on base in the U.S. can be boring. Plus, soldiers, who are used to being given a lot of responsibility on the battlefield, are finding their roles somewhat diminished, Shanker reports.

— BUT IS IT TOO SOON TO LABEL IT A ‘GARRISON ARMY’? “Sorry New York Times, we're not a ‘garrison’ Army. We're still at war,” tweeted military blogger Don Gomez (@dongomezjr), linking to a piece he wrote in response to Shanker’s article. http://goo.gl/1Ngt47

AFGHANS AND EXPATS MOURN THE TAVERNA DU LIBAN: There were lots of tributes over the weekend to Kabul’s Taverna du Liban and its well-loved owner, Kamal Hamade, who died Saturday when the Taliban attacked the restaurant.

“One man detonated a suicide vest while two others stormed into the restaurant and fired at those inside, killing 21 people, 13 of them expatriates,” reports CNN’s Khushbu Shah.http://cnn.it/1aii6FV

— NOT A TURNING POINT: “This attack was personal for so many journalists, diplomats, and development professionals for whom Kabul was not just a posting, but in many ways, home — if only for a time,” Mark Jacobson e-mailed Morning D.

But it “was as much an attack on everyday Afghans as it was on U.N. employees or expats,” said Jacobson, who served as an adviser for two years at the NATO International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul. “As much as this pains us, this is not a turning point — just a reminder of how horrible a war like this can be and what the Taliban and those who will support them stand for.”

CNAS IS SEEKING YOUR INPUT: The Center for a New American Security has launched a new task force to study the current state of the defense industry and to make policy recommendations for its future. To kick things off, it’s conducting a short survey to collect input from national security folks. You can find the survey here: http://goo.gl/QLWZpu

And here’s more info on the task force, which is being co-chaired by former Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and former NATO Commander retired Adm. James Stavridis:http://goo.gl/tZPhU2

NEW WEB SITE FOR VETS JOBS ORGANIZATION: The Call of Duty Endowment has overhauled its web site and introduced lots of new spiffy features. “Most importantly, the new site is focused on our mission: helping place veterans into high quality careers,” says Executive Director Dan Goldenberg. Check it out: http://www.callofdutyendowment.org/


— The interim nuclear deal with Iran officially went into effect yesterday, with Iran curbing uranium enrichment and the West rolling back some sanctions. The New York Times:http://nyti.ms/1dpWUs0

— Iranian warships are being sent on a mission in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in the Islamic Republic's history, according to state television. AP: http://abcn.ws/1iiHFZZ

— Eliminating working-age military retirees from Tricare Prime could save the Pentagon nearly $90 billion over the next 10 years. Military Times: http://goo.gl/fyk4IU

— An attack on a military base in southern Afghanistan yesterday left at least one member of U.S.-led coalition forces dead. The Washington Post: http://wapo.st/Ks4EDx

— Jordan says it’s willing to host a U.S. training program for Iraqi troops. AFP:http://goo.gl/5dCSiF

— An Iraqi official says Islamic militants are well-armed enough to occupy Baghdad. AP:http://goo.gl/8yOTjM

— Israeli officials are growing increasingly impatient with Secretary of State John Kerry’s quest for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, which they say is a pipe dream. McClatchy:http://1.usa.gov/1hbttyq


  • Ben FitzGerald

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Defense Program

    Ben FitzGerald is a partner at Lupa, a private investment firm, and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). At Lupa he leads the firm’s inve...

  • Michael Horowitz

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Michael C. Hororwitz is a former Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS. He is currently the Director of Emerging Capabilities Policy Of...