PRESSURE BUILDS ON KABUL TO SIGN THE BSA: The Obama administration wants Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement — or else. Before the holidays, U.S. officials danced around their preferred timeline for wrapping up the deal. There were assurances that it would get done in a “timely manner,” whatever that meant.
But, now as 2014 gets underway, the pressure is on. Yesterday, newly bearded White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters, "Look, I don't have specific deadlines or other policy decisions to announce today. But I can tell you that we are talking about weeks, and not months. And, you know, the clock is ticking.”
— NOT HELPING MATTERS: The Afghan government is going ahead with its plan to free 88 prisoners, despite U.S. concerns about security threats, Reuters’ Hamid Shalizi reports.http://reut.rs/1gcAO0a
BREAKING OVERNIGHT — KIM JONG UN’S AUNT NOW BELIEVED DEAD, via Fox News:“The South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a government source, reported Monday that Kim Kyong-hui — the aunt of Kim Jong Un, had either committed suicide or died of a heart attack after being out the public eye for some time.” http://fxn.ws/19OYusT
Kim Kyong-hui, 68, is the widow of the recently executed Jang Song-taek.
THE HOUSE AND SENATE COULD REACH AN AGREEMENT THIS WEEK ON THE 2014 SPENDING BILL, via POLITICO’s David Rogers: During a short hallway talk yesterday, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski told Rogers that “she is ‘very encouraged’ by the progress made in talks with the House and believes the two sides are within ‘striking distance’ of reaching agreement this week on a long-sought omnibus bill to keep the government funded through September.” http://politi.co/1lyhvlJ
— HEY, WHAT ABOUT THE 2015 BUDGET? WHEN ARE WE GOING TO SEE THAT? Not until late February at the earliest, Defense News’ Marcus Weisgerber reports.
“The White House Office of Management and Budget is preparing to send the Pentagon its 2015 ‘passback guidance’ as soon as this week, according to DoD officials and defense observers. The guidance, which includes specific budget and policy marching orders, is one of the final steps before the Obama administration sends its 2015 spending plan to Congress,” Weisgerber reports. http://goo.gl/lifmhP
RISKY BUSINESS — WHAT’S AHEAD IN 2014? The Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, outlines the top 10 risks for the new year. Folks no longer need to be preoccupied with financial implosion, the company says. “That’s over. In 2014, big-picture economics are stable if not yet comforting … But geopolitics is very much in play.”http://goo.gl/cldC71
The No. 1 risk: America’s troubled alliances. “U.S. allies perceive a poorly defined and vastly reduced U.S. role in the world. They question old assumptions about U.S. commitments and worry about Washington’s reluctance to deploy military, economic and diplomatic capital,” the authors write.
— DON’T FORGET THE RED HERRINGS: For the Eurasia Group, they are U.S. domestic politics, Europe, Syria and North Korea.
— SPEAKING OF RISKS, WHAT’S THE MOST SERIOUS THREAT FACING THE U.S.?According to a new poll of leaders in national security policy, the military, congressional staffs and the defense industry, cyberwarfare is the obvious answer, reports Defense News’ Zachary Fryer-Biggs.
As for the No. 2 threat? Well, that depends what political party you’re in.
“Terrorism is viewed as the next greatest threat by leaders who identified themselves as Republicans, while climate change was cited by those identifying as Democrats,” Fryer-Biggs reports. United Technologies sponsored the Defense News poll. http://goo.gl/SNWlqo
IT’S TUESDAY. Thank you for reading Morning Defense. It’s hovering in the single digits this morning here in Washington, so seriously, don’t forget your hat and gloves. And while you’re at it, please send your latest defense news, tips and feedback to email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @@k8brannen, @morningdefense and @PoliticoPro for the latest national security news.
TRACKING THE MONEY with POLITICO’s Austin Wright: The big story in defense lobbying circles: protecting “establishment Republicans in their struggle to rein in the far-right wing of their party,” Wright reports in his latest edition of Defense Influence, available exclusively to Pro subscribers.
“Year-end campaign filings are due Jan. 31. And we’ll be scouring them for any signs the defense industry is working to oust anti-establishment Republicans, whose rise over the past few years spelled the collapse of a once-powerful coalition of strong-on-defense centrists.”http://politico.pro/1cIlGDk
SENATE DEBATE OVER MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT COULD RETURN IN FEBRUARY:Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri may see floor votes next month on their stand-alone bills pushing the Pentagon on sexual assault, a Senate Democratic leadership aide told MD on Monday. Gillibrand's proposal would remove commanders from making the decision on prosecuting cases, while McCaskill's approach would create new rules for how military sexual assault victims and defendants should be treated.
DIGGING INTO THE NDAA, with a little help from The Washington Post’s Marjorie Censer: The National Defense Authorization Act just signed into law by President Barack Obama is a daunting piece of legislation with many tidbits of news and policy changes for defense contractors. Censer outlines five provisions “that will be of interest to companies that work with the federal government,” including changes to contractor compensation and cloud computing. http://wapo.st/KsvrPT
BBC REPORTER BOOTED OFF THE NORWEGIAN BOAT BOUND FOR SYRIA: Yesterday, we told you to check out Anna Holligan's coverage from on board the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad, which has been tasked with transporting Syria's chemical weapons from Syria to the U.S. ship, where they will be destroyed.
Well, around the time you were reading yesterday's Morning D, Holligan (@annaholligan) was kicked off the ship. According to her Twitter feed, the decision to remove journalists was "a joint agreement between the UN/[Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] and #Syria government."
‘BRAVE BEYOND BRAVE’: An Army soldier who died Saturday in Afghanistan was on his fifth deployment and was scheduled to come home in less than two weeks, reports The Associated Press. http://goo.gl/yVM0bN
The Pentagon said Sgt. First Class William K. Lacey from the Florida Panhandle died Saturday when his unit was attacked by rocket propelled grenades in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
“He was brave beyond brave,” said his father, John Lacey.“He was out there in the middle of nowhere, in hell, and he kept doing it over and over and over ... I’m just so proud of him.”
HASC STAFFER JOHN CHAPLA DIES: John Chapla, the lead staffer for the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, died Sunday after a long fight with cancer, the committee announced yesterday. He was 66.
“It is with unimaginable sadness that I mourn the passing of longtime HASC staffer John Chapla,” committee chairman Buck McKeon said in a statement. “He was a friend and sage counsel to all members, Republican and Democrat, who sought his input.
— The U.S. and Iran are being drawn together by their mutual opposition to an international movement of Sunni militants. The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1ibVKpd
— New research suggests there may be a link between toxic leaders and soldier suicides. NPR:http://n.pr/1hrqJjC
— The Chinese government denies reports it plans to establish a joint operational command structure for its military. Reuters: http://reut.rs/K0XCF3
— Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton drone has passed nine initial flight tests, writes our Leigh Munsil of POLITICO: http://politico.pro/1druUow
— In an excerpt from his new book, the CIA’s former top lawyer, John Rizzo, gives his account of how the CIA began waterboarding suspected terrorists, saying former President George W. Bush’s version of events doesn’t compute. POLITICO Magazine: http://politi.co/1a9C7wn
— The U.N. confirms Iran is not among the first round of nations invited to attend Syria peace talks later this month. Al Jazeera: http://aje.me/1lMilc3
— Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the Middle East without a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace solution. AFP:http://goo.gl/8CT1Hr
— The Coast Guard is going to take on the last of the Air Force C-27J cargo planes. Defense News:http://goo.gl/1krQd4
— Iran will provide military equipment to the Maliki government in Iraq, but won’t send troops. The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1aCdXqN
— CNAS ADDS FOUR: The Center for a New American Security has added four experts to its national security team: Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden; Paul Scharre, special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy; Elbridge Colby, former analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis; and Vance Serchuk, executive director of the KKR Global Institute and former senior foreign policy adviser to former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
— WONG JOINS THE HILL’S DEFENSE TEAM: Kristina Wong is joining The Hill newspaper as a staff writer covering defense and politics. She had covered the Pentagon for The Washington Times. “Kristina is taking over for Carlo Muñoz, who left the pub to freelance and do more ‘boots on the ground stuff,’ and finish a master’s degree at Georgetown University,” Fishbowl DC’s Patrick Tutwiler reports. Congrats, Kristina, and best of luck to Mr. Muñoz!http://goo.gl/X8o53N