SPLIT DECISION: The White House, after months of internal deliberations, confirmed last night President Trump will fulfill a campaign promise by announcing today that the U.S. officially recognizes Jerusalem to be the “political capital” of Israel. But officials attempted to temper the expected blowback from the decision by insisting that the planned move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv is still years away. “It will take some time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility, and build it — so this is not an instantaneous process,” an official said.
The split-the-baby approach is designed to mute criticism from European and Arab allies who say that moving the American embassy would upend the peace process and anger U.S. allies in the region. No other country has an embassy in Jerusalem.
Briefing reporters last night, administration officials said Trump believes his speech, set for 1 p.m., is simply “a recognition of reality,” and won’t derail peace efforts by his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. The president’s declaration, the officials argued, will stop short of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future independent state. “We are leaving space for the Palestinians for this peace process to move forward,” one of the officials said. Meanwhile, Trump will direct the State Department to begin scouting possible locations for an embassy in Jerusalem, while also signing a national security waiver delaying the move for now.
MATTIS MUM: Speaking to reporters as he wrapped up a five-day, four-nation trip, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the president's decision was the subject of spirited discussion last week. “It was an open discussion, went on for some time. As always, my advice to the president I keep confidential,” Mattis told reporters on the plane ride back to Washington from Kuwait. “I gave to the president what I thought. You have to look at the world in different parts and pieces too. So, as you do that, you have to have a lot of information. I collected the information. I made my recommendation, and I'll just leave it at that.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert gave a similar response yesterday when a reporter asked whether Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on board with the president’s decision. “I think the secretary has communicated clearly, as have all the members of the interagency who have a role in making this decision or being a part of the decision, he’s made his positions clear to the White House. I think the Department of Defense has as well. But it’s ultimately the president’s decision to make. He is in charge.”
PREPPING FOR VIOLENCE: The declaration of the intent to move the embassy in the coming years is expected to spark protests, and in anticipation the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem is ordering all American government workers in Israel to keep a low profile, and to limit movement in Jerusalem to “essential travel and with additional security measures."
"With widespread calls for demonstrations beginning Dec. 6 in Jerusalem and the West Bank, U.S. government employees and their family members are not permitted until further notice to conduct personal travel in Jerusalem's Old City and in the West Bank, to include Bethlehem and Jericho," the American Consulate General for Jerusalem announced late Tuesday local time.
NO WINS FOR REX: Tillerson is in Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, and while in the Belgian capital made the traditional drop-in on U.S. diplomatic staff to give a pep talk. Tillerson, hobbled by administration leaks suggesting he may soon be replaced, acknowledged that he has had limited success since Trump tapped him to be the chief diplomat on the first day they met.
“It was a bit of a shock for me, but it’s been a real honor to serve,” Tillerson told workers at the U.S. embassy. “While we don’t have any wins on the board yet, I can tell you we are much better positioned to advance America’s interest around the world than we were 10 months ago, and it’s all attributable to the great men and women of this department,” Tillerson said according to a State Department transcript.
State Department morale has been flagging, especially as so many nominees sit unconfirmed and their jobs remain filled by acting officials. “The State Department is not missing a beat just because we’ve got some nominees that are still working through the process, and I’m very grateful for their service,” Tillerson said. “I’m so blessed and impressed with the people that we have that are willing to step up in these acting roles. These are superb individuals, highly qualified for what they’re doing.”
Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
HAPPENING TODAY: CR DEBATE CONTINUES: Congress is gearing up for votes this week on a stopgap budget measure to keep the Pentagon and the rest of the federal government temporarily funded from Friday to Dec. 22. The House has already released the text of the two-week-long continuing resolution that it and the Senate will likely vote on. Even if the CR passes, it still remains to be seen whether Republicans and Democrats can come together before Christmas to solve one central issue: Raising a $549 billion cap on defense spending for 2018. “Congressional leaders continue to work with the administration on a long-term funding proposal to help agencies accomplish their goals and plan for the future,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are all slated to meet with Trump Thursday to discuss a potential deal.
Without a budget deal, the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act passed last month by Congress will be slashed. The precarious situation and likelihood of another CR is not sitting well with Sen. John McCain, who spearheaded the NDAA. “We need real, predictable growth in order to rebuild our military — as the president has repeatedly called for, our military leaders have consistently asked for, and an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of both sides of Congress has voted to authorize — and we need that growth both this year and next year,” McCain said. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Saturday that an overarching two-year agreement on defense and nondefense top lines is the current goal of the negotiations.
AL-QAEDA HIT IN AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. has confirmed that a joint U.S.-Afghan operation has killed a senior al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, along with “multiple other al-Qaeda operatives” over the past few weeks. A release from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan credited Afghan Special Security Forces with killing Omar bin Khetab, a senior al-Qaeda leader, as well as multiple other al-Qaeda operatives, after operations in Ghazni, Paktia and Zabul provinces. “Khetab was the second senior leader of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. He was directly involved in fighting against the Afghan government and foreign troops and had a role in advising in the use of heavy weapons such as rockets, mortars and training for Taliban night attacks,” the release said.
"This operation is a testament to the real growth the Afghan forces have achieved over the past year,” said Gen. John Nicholson, US Forces-Afghanistan commander. "It is also another example of the lethality of the undefeated Afghan Special Forces and the success of working side by side with our Afghan partners.”
The U.S. also announced the death of Taliban leader Mullah Shah Wali in a Dec. 1 airstrike that also killed one of Wali's deputy commanders and three other insurgents. Afghan officials say all told, some 80 militants were killed and 27 captured over the past few weeks.
TANKER’S MAIDEN FLIGHT: The first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker set to be delivered to the Air Force successfully flew for about three and a half hours in Washington state today, Boeing said in a statement. Boeing has flown six other tankers, but those were for testing purposes and the specific airframes weren’t destined for the Air Force. Boeing pilots flew the Pegasus at 39,000 feet and performed engine checks. The plane will be delivered to the Air Force next year.
“We’re very proud of this aircraft and the state-of-the-art capabilities it will bring to the Air Force,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. “We still have some tough work ahead of us, including completing our FAA certification activities, but the team is committed to ensure that upon delivery, this tanker will be everything our customer expects and more.”
FINGERPRINT FAIL: The Pentagon’s Inspector General has found a widespread failure by the U.S. military to file fingerprints of service member convicted of criminal offenses, as required by DoD regulation. “We determined that the Military Services did not consistently submit fingerprint cards and final disposition reports as required. Overall, of the 2,502 fingerprint cards required to be submitted, 601 (24 percent) were not submitted. Of the 2,502 final disposition reports required to be submitted, 780 (31 percent) were not submitted,” said the DoD IG report.
The Army, Navy and Marine Corps were the worst offenders. The Air Force performed better, but still had missing fingerprint cards and final disposition reports, the report said. The report comes after the Air Force acknowledged that it failed to forward Texas church shooter Devin Kelley's criminal past to federal authorities, which would have barred him from buying guns as a civilian.
PENTAGON PREPS FOR TRANSGENDER RECRUITS: In August, Trump ordered Mattis to drop his plans to begin enlisting and commissioning transgender troops on Jan. 1. But a series of federal lawsuits and court orders may force it to happen anyway. The Pentagon told the Washington Examiner it is now planning for that possibility and preparing to accept transgender recruits on Jan. 1 following recent court orders. “While reviewing legal options with the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense is taking steps to be prepared to initiate accessions of transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018, per recent court orders,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Dave Eastburn said.
Last month, district court judges in Maryland and Washington, D.C., issued preliminary injunctions in two federal lawsuits that prohibit the Pentagon from moving ahead with Trump’s directive to phase out transgender service and gender reassignment surgeries. The Justice Department had indicated in legal filings that it may seek an emergency stay in the D.C. judge’s ruling, allowing Mattis to delay the recruiting, and said last week it was still reviewing its options. But it would also likely have to contend with an injunction in the Maryland case, which also bars Mattis from moving ahead with Trump’s order.
MCFARLAND ON ICE: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has halted its consideration of former White House aide K.T. McFarland for ambassador to Singapore due to new concerns about her contacts with Russian officials. "Her nomination is frozen for awhile until that gets worked out. We'll deal with it in appropriate time," Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the committee, told reporters on Tuesday. "She has to know that herself.”
McFarland was heavily involved in the presidential transition and later became deputy White House national security adviser under Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to perjury charges late last week. Flynn admitted to lying to federal investigators about his correspondence with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition.
THAT GLOBAL SPY NETWORK: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she’s not aware of any plans by the Trump administration to set up a private global spy network to circumvent U.S. intelligence agencies. "I haven't asked [Trump], but it's not something that's currently in the works," Sanders said at the daily White House press briefing.
The denial followed a report in The Intercept that the administration is considering reliance on private spies to avoid "deep state" biases against Trump and to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo supplemental information. The idea reportedly was being considered at the urging of Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Oliver North, the Iran-Contra figure turned conservative political commentator.
MAY PLOT THWARTED: An Islamist terror plot to assassinate British Prime Minister Theresa May was foiled by MI5 and local police, according to a report Tuesday by Sky News. Police believe the suicide attack would have involved the detonation of an improvised explosive device on Downing Street in London, which is where the prime minister's office is located. In the aftermath of the explosion, amid the disarray, May would be killed. Armed police arrested two men last week who were charged Tuesday with preparing acts of terrorism.
FORGED FOR CENTENNIALS: The Navy spent two years working on a new slogan it hopes will appeal to "centennials," the 17- to 21-year-olds who are the follow-on to millennials. In the end, the service says focus groups overwhelmingly settled on what will be at the core of a massive new Navy marketing campaign: “Forged by the sea.” The recruiting and branding effort is set to kick off Saturday during the Army-Navy football game with a television commercial, Facebook live game day show, and sailors reacting to the slogan in real time on Twitter. That will be followed by digital and social media marketing through the winter and a full Navy rollout in March. The entire rebranding effort is being led by the company Young & Rubicam, which was paid $10 million for the work, Lt. Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a Navy spokeswoman, said.
"The Navy is now recruiting young men and women of the centennial generation, who have different goals, expectations and information-gathering habits than their millennial predecessors,” Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, the head of Navy Recruiting Command, said in a release. The Navy said it has had nine taglines over the past 45 years, including “America’s Navy: A global force for good” and “Navy: Accelerate your life.” But those were not particularly popular and the service said its inconsistent branding was making it hard to recruit and “build internal pride.” You can see the new ad here.
Reuters: Canada scraps plan to buy Boeing fighters amid trade dispute: sources
Breaking Defense: US Navy Is NOT Ready For Major War: Ex-Skippers, Bob Work
USA Today: Russia 'increasing oil exports' to North Korea
Stars and Stripes: NATO, EU agree mobilizing troops faster is a priority
Defense News: Vance resumes T-6A flights, but cause of hypoxia remains unknown
Politico: Elite terrorist interrogation team withers under Trump
New York Times: Tillerson, Visiting Europe, Gets Cold Shoulder
Foreign Policy: Lawmakers Take Aim At Tillerson’s Botched State Department Redesign
Defense One: North Korea’s New Missile Is a Game-Changer
War on the Rocks: Playing Zone Defense: Niger and the Risk Versus Reward of Remote Operations
USNI News: James ‘Hondo’ Geurts Sworn In As Navy Acquisition Chief
Wall Street Journal: Why the U.S. Considers North Korea's Kim a 'Rational Actor'
Los Angeles Times: Escalation Of Air Attacks Has Raised Civilian Toll In Afghanistan
WEDNESDAY | DEC. 6
9 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. U.S. Army Futures Forum with Maj. Gen. William Hix, deputy chief of staff. atlanticcouncil.org
10 a.m. Dirksen 342. Full committee hearing on adapting to defend the homeland against the evolving international terrorist threat. hsgac.senate.gov
10 a.m. Dirksen 406. Hearing on the nomination of R.D. James to be assistant Secretary of the Army for civil works. epw.senate.gov
10:30 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. NW. Launch of the study The Leverage Paradox: Pakistan and the United States. wilsoncenter.org
11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Egypt in the wake of terror. wilsoncenter.org
11:15 a.m. 1777 F St. NW. Hacked Elections, Online Influence Operations, and the Threat to Democracy: Building a Foreign Policy Response. cfr.org
12 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. The nuke ban treaty: Now what? stimson.org
12 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Is Ukraine on the right course? cato.org
2:30 p.m. Dirksen 419. Beyond ISIS: Countering terrorism, radicalization and promoting stability in North Africa. foreign.senate.gov
THURSDAY | DEC. 7
8 a.m. 1575 I St. NW. NCPPP’s Federal P3Bootcamp with Lucian Niemeyer, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment. p3bootcamp.org
8:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Finding consensus for a new authorization for the use of military force with Reps. Mike Coffman, Ruben Gallego, Don Bacon and Jimmy Panetta. csis.org
9:30 a.m. Rayburn 2172. Counterterrorism efforts in Africa with John Sullivan, deputy secretary of defense, and Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. foreignaffairs.house.gov
10 a.m. Dirksen G-50. Department of Defense acquisition reform efforts with Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; Army Secretary Mark Esper; Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer; and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. armed-services.senate.gov
10 a.m. House Visitor Center 210. Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Homeland Security’s organization and ability to meet the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction. homeland.house.gov
10:30 a.m. Shared threats and a common purpose: U.S.-Romania missile defense cooperation with Romanian Ambassador George Cristian Maior. hudson.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Realism and democracy in American foreign policy after the Arab Spring. heritage.org
3 p.m. 529 14th St. NW. Lessons from the Syria crisis: Old rivalries, new dynamics. press.org
FRIDAY | DEC. 8
8 a.m. 300 First St. SE. The Mitchell Space Breakfast Series with Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command. mitchellaerospacepower.org
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: Does it have a future? brookings.edu
11:30 a.m. 929 Long Bridge Dr. Missile defense luncheon. ndia.org
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave NE. The terrorist argument: Modern advocacy and propaganda. heritage.org
12 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Emerging challenges in cybersecurity: A conversation with former NATO Assistant Secretary General Sorin Ducaru. hudson.org
MONDAY | DEC. 11
9 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. U.S.-Korea defense acquisition and security cooperation. csis.org
5:30 p.m. Book discussion of “Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War it Starts?” with author Harlan Ullman. atlanticcouncil.org
TUESDAY | DEC. 12
8 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. CTTSO advanced planning briefing for industry. ndia.org
9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. U.S.-UK Relations in a changing world with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House national security advisor. policyexchange.org.uk
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Yemen: A country in crisis. cfr.org
1 p.m. 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Live Power Problems podcast recording: “All I Want for Christmas is an F-35: Trump, the Generals and the Defense Budget.” cato.org
2 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Revisiting lessons of the Vietnam War. brookings.edu
5 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Book launch of “Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts.” csis.org
WEDNESDAY | DEC. 13
8 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special topic breakfast with Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. navyleague.org
10 a.m. Russell 222. Update on research, diagnosis and treatment for traumatic brain injury and concussion in service members. armed-services.senate.gov
1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Ballistic missile defense: Evolving threats and new priorities with Rear Adm. Jon Hill, deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency. csis.org
1:45 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The future of combating terrorism and countering the use of WMD: A Conversation with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. hudson.org