NO WEDGE: As the two Koreas prepare to sit down tomorrow at the Panmunjom Peace Village in the Demilitarized Zone, expectations are low in Washington in part because the first face-to-face talks in two years are not about dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. “The discussion that's going to go on here shortly … is about the Olympics only,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday. “That is the sum total of subjects that are going to be discussed.” And if North Korea’s Kim Jong Un thinks that by talking to South Korea while threatening the U.S. he can drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, he’s sadly mistaken, Mattis told reporters at another one of his informal availabilities in the press pen. “I will tell you, there is not
Mattis said it’s too soon to know if the opening by North Korea, which up to now has been unwilling to discuss anything, is a real olive branch. “We don’t know,” he said, adding the U.S. would get a “full readout,” from South Korea. “We'll see what they pick up. Right now, it's only about the games.”
DIPLOMACY STILL THE BEST OPTION: In an interview on CNN Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said North Korea needs to understand that any future talks must be aimed at one singular objective: the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “We clearly need a signal from North Korea that they understand these talks must lead to that conclusion,” he said.
“I think the rhetoric that North Korea understands is while it is our objective, and the president's been very clear, to achieve a denuclearization through diplomatic efforts, those diplomatic efforts are backed by a strong military option if necessary,” Tillerson told CNN’s Elise Labott. “That is not the first choice, and the president's been clear that's not his first choice. But, it is important that North Korea
TRUMP SAYS HE’D TALK TO KIM: Despite tweeting three months ago that Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man,” President Trump on Saturday said sure, he’d take a phone call from Kim. “Sure, I always believe in talking,” Trump told reporters at Camp David. “Absolutely I would do that. No problem with that at all.” But the president said he would not back down from his tough rhetoric. “We have a very firm stance,” Trump said, “He knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around — not even a little bit, not even 1 percent.”
And he credited his “firm stance” for bringing North Korea to the table, even if for now they are only talking about the Olympics. “It's a start. It's a big start. If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now. They'd be doing no talking or it would be much more serious.”
NOT SO GREAT EXPECTATIONS: On CBS yesterday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said his assessment is that the Olympic summit is just another smokescreen, but he’s willing to see if it turns into something positive. “Ever the optimist, always the realist. I hope that's the case,” he told host John Dickerson. “But the past history would indicate that this is a
“My guess is that, as he reads it, he is trying to figure out exactly how it is he does what he wants to do, which is keep his nuclear weapons and stay in power,” Pompeo said. “I think that’s what you see happening this week, where he’s now agreed to have some conversations with the South Koreans. He’s looking for a foothold to walk himself back. This would be entirely thoroughly consistent with his historical activity. When he sees the threat, he tries to pacify it.”
In his CNN interview, Tillerson was equally skeptical. “I know some are speculating that this might be their first effort to open a channel, but as you know we've had channels open to North Korea for some time, so they do know how to reach us if and when they're ready to engage with us as well.”
NAILED IT: Pompeo also flatly rejected a New York Times report that the CIA and other U.S. intelligence services blew when it came to predicting the speed with which North Korea would be able to reach its nuclear goals. “Their inability to foresee the North’s rapid strides over the past several months now ranks among America’s most significant intelligence failures,” said the report by David Sanger and William Broad. “They saw it coming, but got the timing wrong.”
“Mr. Sanger just got this one wrong,” Pompeo told CBS. “You are never going to get the day right or the week right. What intelligence can provide to policy-makers is an understanding of capability and capacity, an understanding of motive and intent. We nailed both of those things,” Pompeo said. “And then our best effort to understand how that will proceed at what pace. We, frankly, got that mostly right.”
NO DEEP STATE AT CIA: Pompeo, quizzed by Dickerson about whether there was an entrenched bureaucracy working to undermine the president at the CIA, gave flat denial. “Is there a deep state at the CIA?” asked Dickerson. “No, sir.”
“Has there ever been one?” Dickerson followed up. “So, I have only been there for a little while. I can't believe that it's ever been there. These are professionals who sacrifice so much to serve America. They’re patriots of the truest and highest order.”
STAYING IN THE IRAN DEAL? The Trump administration is working with key lawmakers on a legislative fix that could enable the United States to remain in the Iran nuclear deal, Tillerson told The Associated Press in a separate interview on Friday.
The changes to the U.S. law codifying America's participation in the 2015 agreement could come as early as next week or shortly thereafter, Tillerson said. Trump faces a series of deadlines in the coming days about how to proceed with an accord he describes as terrible and too soft on Iran. While the talks involving administration officials and members of Congress wouldn't strengthen any restrictions on Iran's nuclear activity, as Trump also wants, they could result in face-saving measures that would persuade him to stay in the deal.
"The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it," Tillerson told the AP as he sat in front of a fireplace in his State Department office suite. "We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it."
Good Monday 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 — #METOO DEMONSTRATION: Workers arriving at the Pentagon by bus or subway this morning will be greeted by what’s billed as a “peaceful, nonpartisan stand down” to raise awareness about military sexual assault. Demonstrators say they will gather at the Metro entrance to the Pentagon between 8 and 9 a.m. to hand out literature and encourage survivors to share their stories, say organizers, which include the Service Women’s Action Network, Protect Our Defenders, and the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild,
“We are demonstrating outside the Pentagon to ensure the voices of service women and men are not left behind in the #MeToo movement and that the reckoning that has swept other industries in the nation also takes place in the military,” said Lydia Watts, SWAN CEO. “Despite major efforts undertaken by the military in the last decade, sexual assault and harassment continues to be widespread in the military, victims still face retaliation if they report, and justice for victims remains elusive.”
ANTI-CARTEL MISSILES TO MEXICO: The State Department has OK’d the sale of $98 million worth of missiles and torpedoes to Mexico for the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking. “The sale of these ship-based systems to Mexico will significantly increase and strengthen its maritime capabilities,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. It is now approved to purchase six RGM-84L Harpoon Block II surface-launched missiles made by Boeing as well as 23 Block II RAM tactical missiles and six MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes, which are both made by Raytheon. “Mexico intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its existing naval and maritime support of national security requirements and in its efforts to combat criminal organizations,” DSCA said.
THE AUDIT MAN COMETH: In May, Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist came to his Senate confirmation hearing, laid out a get-tough strategy and declared, “It is time to audit the Pentagon.” It appears he is following through with that promise, and announced last month that the first-ever Pentagon audit had commenced. Now, he is set to return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday and face questions from the House Armed Services Committee on his progress so far. “This financial statement audit is one of the largest ever undertaken in history,” Norquist said last month.
About 1,200 auditors will be dispatched in the effort to account for an estimated $2.4 trillion in assets. Norquist promised an audit report on Nov. 15 and every year after. “Only time will tell if they actually go through with it,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group. Law has required federal agencies to submit to audits annually for more than two decades but the Pentagon alone has not, meaning it cannot fully account for how it spends money and resources. “We have service leaders going up to Capitol Hill all the time saying that they need more resources,” Grazier said. “But we don’t really know that because we don’t know how all of the resources, the abundant resources frankly, that they are receiving are being spent.”
BANNON’S PLAN TO BANISH McMASTER: Among the unverified anecdotes in Fire and Fury is an account of how White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon thought he had outmaneuvered national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on Afghanistan policy, and had in the process found a way to rid himself of McMaster. Bannon saw McMaster as a “PowerPoint general” who was pushing the flawed strategies of the past.
“Bannon believed McMaster would be out by August. He was sure he had the president’s word on this. Done deal,” writes author Michael Wolff. “In Bannon’s scenario, Trump would give McMaster a fourth star and ‘promote’ him to top military commander in Afghanistan.” Wolff quotes a “triumphal” Bannon as boasting, “McMaster want to send more troops to Afghanistan, so we’re going to send him.”
It didn’t work out that way. Instead, three days after Bannon was fired, Trump announced he had approved McMaster’s and Mattis’ recommendation for more troops and a new more robust strategy.
TOO BUSY FOR FURY: Mattis is known as an avid reader, especially history. But when I asked him if he’s been picking up Wolff’s instant bestseller, in which he is mentioned 13 times, he politely said, “No, I'm a little busy, these days, actually doing my job, you know?”
When I pointed out it was a quick read, and I was already halfway through it, he accused me of being “one of those literate intellectuals,” a charge I adamantly denied. But Mattis said he has a policy not to read any books about himself. “If it's a book with my name in it, the aide puts double stickies over it, so I don't read about myself,” he said with a smile.
ROGERS RETIRING: National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers plans to retire in the spring, according to reports. Rogers, who also oversees U.S. Cyber Command, has already notified agency staff of his decision to step down, according to Reuters. Trump is expected to nominate a new NSA director this month, with Senate confirmation coming in the next few weeks, Politico reported.
NAVY LOCATES C-2 WRECKAGE: The U.S. Navy has located a transport aircraft deep on the Pacific Ocean floor where it crashed in November, killing three sailors on board. The C-2A "Greyhound" aircraft was flying to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it crashed the day before Thanksgiving in the Philippine Sea. The wreckage now rests at a depth of about 3.5 miles (18,500 feet), according to a statement Saturday from the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Salvaging it will be the deepest recovery attempt of an aircraft to date, the Navy said.
POLITICIZING TROOP DEATHS: A Gold Star widow has a message for those who post emotional photos of Gold Star families on the Internet: “Learn his name first.” Seana Arrechaga, whose husband died in 2011 during a mission in Afghanistan, said photos from her husband’s funeral have circulated on social media after Trump and other politicians publicly complained kneeling NFL players are disrespectful to the U.S. military.
“I understand why people are kneeling, and I understand why people are upset by that,” Arrechaga told the Washington Post in a piece published Sunday. Arrechaga’s husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, was a Cuban immigrant and Arrechaga said she is troubled that image from his funeral has been used in a way to inhibit free speech.
BAD LIKE: The official Twitter account of the U.S. Army “liked” a tweet from an actress who mocked Trump for saying he’s “like, really smart.” Kaling’s tweet on Saturday included a photo of her character from “The Office” with superimposed text saying, “You guys, I’m like really smart now, you don’t even know.”
An Army spokesperson told the Washington Examiner the tweet had been “inadvertently ‘liked.’”
"An operator of the Army's official Twitter account inadvertently 'liked' a tweet whose content would not be endorsed by the Department of the Army,” the spokesperson said. "As soon as it was brought to our attention, it was immediately corrected."
New York Times: How U.S. Intelligence Agencies Underestimated North Korea
Defense One: Hybrid Star Wars: Lessons from The Battle of Endor
AP: Battle looms for rebel-held Syrian province after IS defeat
Navy Times: Top Officer Aims To Deliver ‘The Safest Navy’ For Sailors In 2018
Wall Street Journal: Iran's Guard Declares Victory Over Protesters, but Signs of Dissent Remain
CNN: US Adds Platform For Stealth Jets To Pacific
Daily Beast: Wanted Dead or Alive: The Frustrating, Failing Hunt for ISIS Leader Baghdadi
USA Today: Stockholm subway station blast leaves 1 dead, 1 injured
Military Times: Marines train Afghans in air support
Reuters: Trump tweet on nuclear button keeps North Korea's Kim 'on his toes': Haley
Stars and Stripes: Warning light causes US helicopter to make ‘preventive landing’ on Okinawa
Defense News: Major US defense strategy review coming Jan. 19
The Diplomat: China's Hypersonic Weapon Ambitions March Ahead
Army Times: Army lawyer’s rape charges stem from kinky sexual relationship allegedly gone wrong
MONDAY | JAN. 8
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. Confronting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs: American and Japanese views of threats and options compared. brookings.edu
1 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. Caught in Conflict: Working to Prevent the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers with retired Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, served as the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. stimson.org
3 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Fourteen Points: World War One and Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy 100 Years Later. csis.org
4 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Discussion of “Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism: U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015” with author Melvyn Leffler. wilsoncenter.org
6 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Book launch of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot. cfr.org
TUESDAY | JAN. 9
7 a.m. 2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy. 30th Annual National Symposium of the Surface Navy Association with a keynote address by Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations. navysna.org
8 a.m. 1919 North Lynn St. Procurement Division Meeting. ndia.org
10 a.m. Dirksen 419. Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight. foreign.senate.gov
12:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. What to Worry About in 2018 with former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. cfr.org
2:00 p.m. Rayburn 2118. Subcommittee hearing on China’s pursuit of emerging and exponential technologies. armedservices.house.gov
2 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Security Challenges in East Asia. wilsoncenter.org
WEDNESDAY | JAN. 10
7 a.m. 2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy. 30th Annual National Symposium of the Surface Navy Association with Rep. Rob Wittman and Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. navysna.org
10 a.m. Rayburn 2118. Full committee hearing and Department of Defense update on the Financial Improvement and Audit Remediation (FIAR) Plan. armedservices.house.gov
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Sustainable security: The transatlantic community and global challenges with H.E. Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway. brookings.edu
10 a.m. Rayburn 2172. Sanctions and Financial Pressure: Major National Security Tools. foreignaffairs.house.gov
12 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Realizing A Free and Peaceful Indo-Pacific. hudson.org
1 p.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. With Great Power: Modifying U.S. Arms Sales to Reduce Civilian Harm. stimson.org
THURSDAY | JAN. 11
7:30 a.m. 2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy. 30th Annual National Symposium of the Surface Navy Association with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. navysna.org
9 a.m. 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. The Past and Future of South Asian Crises with Rep. Ami Bera, vice ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. stimson.org
9:15 a.m. 529 14th St. NW. Iran's Protests and Their Impact on the Arab Region. press.org
10 a.m. Dirksen 419. U.S. Policy in Syria Post-ISIS with Ambassador David Satterfield. foreign.senate.gov
12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Rep. Ron DeSantis discusses President Trump’s “Ultimate Deal”: Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Possible? heritage.org
12 p.m. 1700 Army Navy Dr. AFCEA Washington, D.C. luncheon with Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn , director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. dc.afceachapters.org
2:30 p.m. 740 15th St. NW. Guantanamo Under Trump. newamerica.org
FRIDAY | JAN. 12
11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Assessing the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy. heritage.org
11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. All You Need to Know about Russian Hackers. wilsoncenter.org
1 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Book discussion of “Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony” with author Kori Schake. csis.org