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H.R. McMaster: Trump national security strategy to be based on ‘principled realism’

H.R. McMaster: Trump national security strategy to be based on ‘principled realism’
What exactly is an illegal nuclear attack order?
What exactly is an illegal nuclear attack order?

‘PRINCIPLED REALISM’ UNDERGIRDS NEW NSS: The Trump administration is about to roll out its National Security Strategy, a formal document months in the making that is intended to flesh out the practical aspects behind Trump’s bumper sticker of “America first.” At the Reagan National Security Forum over the weekend, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said the strategy would help America regain its “strategic confidence,” and compared today’s threat environment to the world President Ronald Reagan faced when produced the first such formal strategy in 1987.

“The Soviet Union appeared to be on the rise and America, it seemed, was in decline,” McMaster told the gathering. “President Reagan ushered in a dramatic rethinking of America’s role in the world and a dramatic renewal of American confidence. … Today as we approach the unveiling of the Trump administration’s national security strategy, we are at a similar crossroads,” he said, in remarked quoted by the Pentagon’s internal news service.

“These national security challenges also require a dramatic rethinking of American foreign policy from previous decades,” McMaster said. The strategy will be based on “principled realism,” and “will focus on protecting our homeland, advancing American prosperity, preserving peace through strength … and finally enhancing American influence.”

BUDGET WOES DOMINATE THE FORUM: Top military officials, industry leaders and defense experts gathered at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California over the weekend to discuss the big defense issues facing the United States, but most conversations kept swerving to budget woes on Capitol Hill. Amid North Korean missile tests and Russian aggression, attendee after attendee lamented federal budget caps passed by Congress that have held down defense spending since 2013 and are now threatening the Trump administration’s effort to rebuild the military.

Word also came during the forum — as if on cue — that Congress is poised to pass another in a long line of stopgap budget measures before funding expires this Friday as lawmakers wrangle over the defense spending and the Budget Control Act caps. “Operating without a budget is not normal. Doing so every year for nine years is really not normal,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, a first-time forum attendee who closed out the forum by focusing on the issue.

A CR TO END CRs: House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Saturday that the Pentagon and rest of the federal government can expect a two-week extension to the current continuing resolution to give lawmakers more time to strike a wider spending deal. McCarthy says negotiations are underway on a deal to raise the $549 billion cap on base defense spending for 2018, though Democrats have indicated an agreement may not yet be in reach.

A deal to lift the caps, which McCarthy said could cover next year as well, would allow Congress to finally pass legislation that funds the National Defense Authorization Act passed in November that proposes $634 billion in base spending. “I cannot tell you there will not be another CR, because there will be another CR next week,” said McCarthy at the Reagan forum. “But this is the difference: It will be a two-week CR, so we can stop having CRs in the future.”

POMPEO SAYS TRUMP TWEETS HELP, NOT HURT: CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former CIA Director Leon Panetta had very different takes on President Trump’s recent tweets of far-right, anti-Muslim videos, as Pompeo insisted the president’s tweeting is not making his job harder. “I have actually seen it help us. I have seen things the president has put on his Twitter account actually have a real-world impact on our capacity to understand what is going on in other places in the world. That is, our adversaries responded to those tweets in ways that were helpful to us to understand command and control issues, who’s listening to what messages, how those messages are resonating around the world,” Pompeo said. Though he allowed that social media not an “unambiguous good.”

Panetta, who also served as defense secretary and former White House chief of staff, said it was “dangerous” for Trump to retweet videos allegedly showing Muslims committing violence. “Once it goes out, what it does is it inflames people that are out there,” Panetta said. He recounted Koran burnings that sparked a backlash in the Muslim world during the Obama administration. “When those Koran burnings went out in a video it resulted in several demonstrations taking place at various embassies. The problem is that lives can be jeopardized. I just think it’s really important that the president understand and I’m not sure he fully understood maybe the implications when he was doing it. But it is clear it is not something he should do.” Panetta said he could not imagine being chief of staff for a president with Trump’s Twitter habits. “Frankly, if I had my way, I’d take that tweeter and throw it out the window,” he said.

PETRAEUS: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN TWEETS: Another former CIA director had a word of advice to U.S. allies who want to understand Trump’s approach to U.S. defense and foreign policy during his first year: pay more attention to what his administration does than what he tweets, said retired Army Gen. David Petraeus.

“What I often offer to foreign leaders and so forth is certainly you have to read the tweets but don’t get mesmerized by the tweets,” Petraeus said during a Saturday session. Trump has questioned and criticized longtime allies and military alliances, often on Twitter, and has shaken up U.S. policy like few presidents before him. “But if you follow the troops, follow the money, and follow the substance of the policy you’ll actually conclude that we are pursuing a national security policy that is more characterized by continuity than by change, despite some of the occasional lack of message discipline,” Petraeus said.

ABOUT THE REAGAN FORUM: Perched on a peak in the arid, sunny hills of Simi Valley, Calif., the Ronald Reagan national library has become the premier gathering spot over the past five years for top figures in the world of defense. Senate lawmakers still weary from the late-night tax reform vote, House defense hawks, military brass and civilian leadership, industry CEOs, think tankers, national security luminaries from past administrations all spent Saturday and Sunday in panels and on the sidelines of the annual Reagan National Defense Forum discussing the biggest security issues of our time. “We have an awesome responsibility and opportunity and this forum today is about how well we are going to fulfill that responsibility to defend our country and protect our people,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Armed Services Committee chairman who heads the forum steering committee, standing on a stage beneath former Reagan’s Air Force One jet, now a museum piece.

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: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Pakistan, third stop on a five-day trip that took him to Egypt, Jordan and wraps up tomorrow with a visit to Kuwait. In Pakistan, Mattis is looking to get commitments to end the havens used by the the Taliban and other groups along the border with Afghanistan. But Mattis told reporters traveling with him that he’s not going to be  strong-arming Pakistan’s Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. “That's not the way I deal with issues. I believe that we work hard on finding the common ground, and then we work together, so that's the approach I want to take,” Mattis said before landing in Islamabad. “They have lost hundreds, thousands of their troops killed and wounded by terrorists. They have lost hundreds, thousands of their innocent people murdered and wounded by terrorists, so we know that there is common ground,” Mattis said, adding, Bajwa has said he wants no havens for terrorists anywhere, so the two will work together.

VIGILANT ACE, IN YOUR FACE: Ignoring warnings from North Korea that a planned major U.S.-South Korea air exercise could bring the region to “the brink of nuclear war,” the U.S. dispatched a half-dozen F-22 stealth fighters to South Korea for a new round of war games dubbed “Vigilant Ace.” The four-day joint military exercise comes just days after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears capable of reaching the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

“It will be the first time for six F-22 stealth fighter planes to fly over South Korea at one time,” according to Yonhap News Agency. “The U.S. also plans to send F-35A and F-35B stealth jets, F-16C fighter planes and others including an unspecified number of B-1B bombers. The South Korean Air Force will dispatch F-15K, KF-16 and F-5 fighter jets and other planes for the exercises with about 230 aircraft at eight U.S. and South Korean military installations being mobilized.”

China’s foreign minister said it was “regrettable” that all parties had not “grasped the window of opportunity” presented by two months of relative calm before the North’s most recent test, according to Reuters.

TAKING ON 'MAD': Speaking on Fox News Sunday, McMaster rejected the idea that the Cold War doctrine of “MAD,” mutually assured destruction, could be used to deter North Korea from ever using its nuclear weapons once they are operational. “I don't think you or anybody else is willing to bet the farm, or a U.S. city on the decision-making, rational decision-making of Kim Jong Un,” McMaster told host Chris Wallace. “This is a regime that's never met a weapon that it hasn't proliferated. It's a regime who's said clearly what its intentions are … to use that weapon for nuclear blackmail, and then, to, quote, you know, ‘reunify’ the peninsula under the red banner.” McMaster was appearing on Fox from the Reagan library, where he told the forum that the U.S. is assessing reports that while the latest North Korea ICBM test was a success of the launch system, the mock warhead atop the missile did not survive reentry, a key requirement for a functional nuclear weapon. “Whether it is a success or failure isn’t as important as understanding that over the years he’s been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us,” McMaster said.

TIME TO GET OUT OF DODGE: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — who keeps talking about the nightmare scenario of all-out war on the Korean Peninsula as if it’s about to happen — is suggesting it’s time to pull the families of U.S. service members out of South Korea.

“We're getting close to military conflict because North Korea's marching towards the technology of [an intercontinental ballistic missile] with nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America but deliver the weapon,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

“We're running out of time, Gen. McMaster said that yesterday. I'm going to urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea, South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour. It's crazy to send thousands of children to South Korea. I want them to stop sending dependents, I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of the South Korea.”

HELP FROM RUSSIA: North Korea is willing to negotiate with the United States on its nuclear program, as long as Russia plays a role in those talks, according to a Russian lawmaker. “North Korea is currently ready to conduct negotiations with the U.S. with the participation of Russia as a third party," Vitaly Pashin, a member of the Russian legislature, told state-run media following a trip to the Korean Peninsula.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has indicated the U.S. is not ready for direct talks with Pyongyang until the Kim regime stops testing ballistic missiles and agrees that the negotiations would lead to a denuclearization of the peninsula.

ALL QUIET ON THE REXIT FRONT: Speaking of Tillerson, after a flurry of reports last week predicting his impending departure, which were fueled by leaks directly from the White House, Tillerson himself dismissed the speculation as “laughable.” After initially declining to knock down the story, first reported by the New York Times, Trump tweeted Friday, “He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” adding “FAKE NEWS!”

UNMASKING LEGISLATION: The House Intelligence Committee on Friday passed legislation that renews a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act used to gather intelligence on foreigners abroad, with new language aimed at making it harder for the government to "unmask" Americans caught up in that surveillance.

That language is a Republican response to the unmasking of several Trump administration officials, which led many Republicans to worry that the Obama administration had politicized the program. The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 was passed along party lines, as all Democrats voted against it. It would reauthorize the surveillance provision, Section 702, for four years.

BOEING TANKER DELAY: Bloomberg News reported last week Mattis sent a note to his staff saying he was “unwilling, (totally)” to accept KC-46 tankers that didn’t meet all contract specifications. The directive follows serious delays in the $44.5 billion program, under which which Boeing was expected deliver first 18 of the refuelers in August, but now is not expected until next October.

Bloomberg has a reporter traveling with Mattis, who asked about the delay. “I reinforced that Air Force was not going to accept tankers that weren't completely compliant with the contract,” Mattis said, adding that the promise to deliver tankers by the end of the year was a “self-imposed goal” by Boeing. Mattis said Boeing is working to fix things. “We need the tankers, but I want the tankers done right. The Air Force needs tankers done right. The American taxpayer expects tankers done right, and Boeing is committed to delivering tankers that are done right,” Mattis said.

BETTER THAN THE STOCK MARKET: Investments that pay 1,200 percent interest are unheard of, but the latest report to Congress from the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General claims that’s the return to taxpayers as a result of its investigations, audits and reviews. “For every dollar in our budget, we return nearly $12 to the taxpayer,” said Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General.

The watchdog agency’s semi-annual report to Congress covering April 1 through Sept. 30. is replete with examples of classic Pentagon waste, fraud, abuse and general incompetence, which represent a $2.14 billion "return on investment” once the budget for the office is subtracted.


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8 a.m. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Defense Forum Washington 2017 with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer. usni.org

12:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Rebuilding Syria: A localized revitalization strategy. atlanticcouncil.org

5 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Book discussion of “1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder” with author Arthur Herman. hudson.org

6 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Book discussion of “Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace” with author Paul Stares. cfr.org


8 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd. Security Cooperation Management Industry Course. ndia.org

8:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. PONI 2017 Winter Conference. csis.org

9 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Waging war in the 21st Century. heritage.org

9:30 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Military readiness and early childhood: What is the link? aei.org

9:30 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. NW. Turmoil across the Middle East: What does it mean? wilsoncenter.org

10 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Press Briefing: Journalists' perspectives on the North Korean nuclear crisis. atlanticcouncil.org

10 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Public perspectives on the North Korean nuclear crisis. atlanticcouncil.org

1 p.m. 529 14th St. NW. Gulf crisis and Qatar blockade: Finding solutions and upholding human rights. press.org

2:30 p.m. Dirksen 419. The president, Congress, and shared authority over the international accords. foreign.senate.gov

6:45 p.m.  901 Massachusetts Ave. NW. U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's 2017 Tribute Dinner with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. usglc.org


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

10:30 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

2:30 p.m. Dirksen 419. Beyond ISIS: Countering terrorism, radicalization and promoting stability in North Africa. foreign.senate.gov


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


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


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