The Insider Attack In Syria That The Pentagon Denies Ever Happened

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK AND PURPOSE’ NEWS)

 

Exclusive: The Insider Attack In Syria That The Pentagon Denies Ever Happened
T&P ON FACEBOOK

It was a pitch black Saturday evening at a remote outpost in Syria last February when Sgt. Cameron Halkovich and Cpl. Kane Downey began their rounds, checking Marines on perimeter security.

As sergeant and corporal of the guard, their job was to set up the watch schedule, man the radios, and most importantly, ensure Marines on post were watching for signs of ISIS fighters, who for months had been under blistering attack from artillery at the small, Army-run base in Deir al-Zour Province. Besides an Army Special Forces team, it hosted a forward surgical team, more than dozen Marine infantrymen, and a platoon-sized element of Syrian Democratic Forces allied with the U.S.

But on that late-winter night, one of the Americans’ SDF partners would turn on them and fire two shots — marking the first known instance of an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve. And while the Pentagon often announces when service members are killed or wounded during these “insider” or “green on blue” attacks, it made no such announcement for Halkovich, a combat engineer, who was shot twice in the leg and survived.

This account of the Feb. 17 shooting of a U.S. Marine by a member of the Syrian militia he was supporting is based on interviews with multiple sources, military award documents, and scant details released by the Pentagon. It has also become an open secret among the 1,000-plus Marines and sailors of the unit Halkovich was attached to — 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, California.

“It’s kind of ridiculous that a Marine gets shot and nobody hears about it,” said one source familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “It kind of blows my mind.”

In fact, when asked by Task & Purpose whether there had ever been an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve, a coalition statement flatly denied it: “We have no recorded incidents of insider attacks during OIR.”

* * *

halko wounded

The small contingent of Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment had a boring and often thankless job providing security at the outpost, a so-called “mission support site” which Task & Purpose has chosen not to name for operational security reasons. Though they occasionally left the wire, the Marines spent most of their time on rooftops or in the turret of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck, as Army artillerymen safely pounded ISIS positions and Special Forces soldiers trained and supported the SDF in battle.

They settled into a familiar routine after about five months in Syria: Some Marines slept or ate, while others manned a vehicle-mounted .50 caliber machine-gun or looked for infiltrators in the surrounding desert with night vision and thermal imaging devices. Meanwhile, the SDF had their own routine, manning a gate that served as the main entry point into the camp.

The Marines mostly kept to themselves, except to share an occasional cigarette with the Kurdish-dominated SDF. Sometimes the Kurds would slaughter a goat and cook it up for their American patrons. But for reasons that remain unclear, relations began to deteriorate in early February.

“There was an incident with an SDF guy racking his AK… but the Marine somehow deescalated the situation and nothing was fired,” the source said of a Kurdish soldier who chambered a round in his AK-47 rifle, threatening a Marine about a week prior to the Halkovich shooting. That SDF soldier was subsequently kicked off the base.

“Tensions were super high at this point,” the source added.

But just as one potential insider threat was removed, a new one seemed to present itself just a week later, illustrating the fragile nature of some of America’s partnerships with foreign militaries — which are increasingly being used to fight terror groups through a strategy of “advise and assist.”

2-7marines

It began with a radio call. Alerted to a commotion at the SDF-manned gate, Halkovich and Downey ran to check it out. When they got there, SDF soldiers told the Marines a truck outside the gate was just having car trouble.

It was a lie, one that was quickly exposed when a Syrian civilian in the vehicle held up a dead child that was “soaked in blood,” according to the source. Looking closer, the Marines saw a truck bed filled with about eight dead or wounded civilians. It was a mass-casualty incident, and they knew they had to help.

The SDF told the Marines no, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which strictly prohibits withholding medical assistance or discriminating in providing care.

“SDF was trying to tell us that we weren’t allowed to treat them, but… we’re going to help anybody we can,” the source said, adding that the partner force “was super upset about it.”

Another source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, said the injured group, comprised mostly of women and children, was turned away by the SDF because they were not Kurdish.

The first source gave a similar account: “It was purely racial. They refused to give them an ambulance.”

Halkovich and Downey pushed the SDF soldiers out of the way and opened the gate, amid screaming from both sides in English and Arabic. They moved concertina wire aside while another Marine called in a mass casualty to the Army surgical team. Others placed victims on litters and shuffled them in.

halkovich

Army medics managed to save four of the victims, according to the first source. But the SDF “was not happy,” the other source said. The Kurds even threatened to kick the Marines out of the compound for their humanitarian act.

Eventually, tensions settled and things went back to normal — until dark.

Around 9 p.m. that night, Halkovich and Downey decided to check on Lance Cpl. Jay Smith, who was stationed in the MRAP turret behind a .50 caliber machine gun.

After walking the 100 meters or so from their quarters, Halkovich stopped to urinate. Not thinking anything of it, Downey kept going. But as he crossed an intersection between buildings near the main gate, he realized something seemed strange.

At the entry control point, at least one SDF soldier normally watched the gate at all times. But nobody was there.

Neither Marine was aware that hidden in the shadows, one of the SDF soldiers had abandoned his post and was lying in wait.

Downey got to the door of the MRAP and reached for the handle. But before he opened it, he heard two gunshots, the distinctive report of an AK-47.

He turned around and saw Halkovich on the ground, his face obscured. Downey would later recount to his fellow Marines and military investigators that he saw a lone SDF soldier, standing over Halkovich with a rifle.

Downey then aimed in with his M4 rifle and dropped the attacker with a “hammer pair” — a well-aimed series of two quick shots to the chest. With the SDF soldier now dead, Downey kicked his weapon away and yelled to Smith in the turret: “Halko was shot! Halko was shot!”

Halkovich took two 7.62mm bullets to the left leg that went clean through — though, in the darkness, Downey initially thought his comrade was dead. With Downey’s red-lens headlamp shining down on his face, Halkovich looked up. Then he looked at his leg, then back at Downey, and finally, he screamed.

According to the award citation for the Joint Service Commendation Medal that Downey would receive in March for what was called a “shooting incident,” the Marine “acted decisively to eliminate the threat to his comrade” before applying a tourniquet to Halkovich’s leg and fireman-carrying him to the surgical facility. (The citation, signed by OIR Commanding General Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, however, takes pains to avoid identifying “the shooter.”)

Smith, for his part, remained at his post and called in the shooting on the radio, prompting the rest of the Marines to respond to the scene. Just as the Marines had done earlier in the day for civilians, they now watched as one of their own was brought to the Army surgeons stationed nearby.

Halkovich was medically evacuated from the post soon after, while Downey was brought back to a larger camp to explain what had happened to military investigators.

But for months afterward, the Marines continued to live side-by-side with the Syrian partners they had come to fear.

“It’s really terrifying,” the first source said. “You’re literally surrounded.”

Spokesmen for the Syrian Democratic Forces did not respond to a request for comment.

purpleheart halko

The Marines of 2/7 returned with little fanfare from their combat deployment in April. Halkovich received the Purple Heart that same month and is still recovering from his wounds at the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California. At Marine Corps Base 29 Palms in March, Downey would receive his Joint Service Commendation Medal for saving Halkovich’s life.

Meanwhile, a new group of Marines has taken 2/7’s place on the Corps’ Special Purpose MAGTF Crisis Response-Central Command, where, like their counterparts, they could potentially deploy to a theater of war where friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye.

Were they warned of the shooting in February? Told to prepare for the possibility of an insider attack by the SDF? A spokesperson for the unit did not respond to those questions.

“They said it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country and yet no justice was ever done for my wounded brother,” the second source told me. “That is the only reason I’m telling you this because no one knows what happened out there… and nothing came of it.”

Is There Ever A ‘Right Time’ To Assassinate A Head Of State?

Is There Ever A ‘Right Time’ To Assassinate A Head Of State?

Those of you who know me know that I am a person who wishes only peace and kindness in a world of absolutely no violence at all, for any reason. Now is the problem, in that violence is a very excepted form of our reality today. That first sentence was more like ‘fantasy land’ I know, I know that as long as there are humans in our current form, there will be hate and violence. Today I am asking you to consider the assassination of a Head of State (hopefully not your own), if you think there is ever such a thing as a case where you would give the order or even pull the trigger yourself? The on purpose taking of any life, even the life of a rabbit a cat or a dog should never be done carelessly, or thoughtlessly.  The taking of a human life is sometimes a necessity, at least in my mind. Have you heard the question (I didn’t create this question, nor do I know who did), “if you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler while he was still a baby, would you do it, could you yourself do it”?

 

For purpose of argument I want to take us back to pre-Iraq invasion in March of 2003. The people of Iraq hated their leader “Saddam” yet they themselves never struck him down, why? Were Saddam’s security forces that good? There is no doubt that Saddam was a very bad person and that his own people were scared of him, for good reasons. My question with this example is if the American Government (George W. Bush) wanted to bring Saddam to justice (end of a rope) why not have spread out a few of our well-trained snipers and find an opportunity to give Saddam a little gray pill between his ears? Wouldn’t one well placed bullet have been better than an open-ended war where hundreds of thousands have died?

 

Now let us go to the modern-day situation’s we find ourselves in. Today I am only going to concentrate (for an example) on the ‘living god’ President of North Korea. If you have paid any attention to the world going on around your/our little space, the very evil and obviously insane President of North Korea has been threatening to attack other nations (U.S., Japan, South Korea) with nukes. A Head of State who makes such statements is equivalent to declaring war on you! So, when, if ever, is it okay to give the ‘god king’ a splitting headache?

 

At what point will the government of China get tired of backing this man and get rid of him themselves? Is there such a point? If China’s President, Xi Jinping were to summon Kim Jung Un to China and once there give Kim personal guarantees of China keeping him in power in North Korea as long as Kim ‘plays ball’ with the U.S. and doesn’t start a war on the Korean Peninsula. There could easily have been offered the two edge sword, Xi could promise Kim that if Kim did not ‘play ball’ that either China would totally shut down all commerce in and out of North Korea and that China would back North Korean assassins to put in a Regime change.

 

For a moment let us consider Terrorist groups like Hamas who control the Gaza Strip in Israel, should their very top leaders be considered as untouchable Heads of State, or mass murdering wild dogs? Do you doubt that some of/all of, these terrorist groups would kill your country’s leader if they could get the chance to? How about ‘The Supreme Ruler’ in Iran, does he count as a Head of State? The taking of another life should never be done lightly, but my question is whom decides who the order is given to pull the trigger on someone by? Your President, CIA Director, NSA Director, a General at the Pentagon? How about the E-1 Army private who has one of these evil people in their cross-hairs? I did not say that I was giving any answers on this subject matter today, like always, I am just trying to get people to think for themselves. Folks, life is a conversation piece, live it.

Navy pilot recalls encounter with UFO: ‘I think it was not from this world’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC)

 

Navy pilot recalls encounter with UFO: ‘I think it was not from this world’

ABC News
WATCHDetails about Pentagon’s secret UFO hunters

Retired Cmdr. David Fravor spent 18 years as a Navy pilot, but nothing prepared him for what he witnessed during a routine training mission on Nov. 14, 2004.

“I can tell you, I think it was not from this world,” Fravor told ABC News. “I’m not crazy, haven’t been drinking. It was — after 18 years of flying, I’ve seen pretty much about everything that I can see in that realm, and this was nothing close.”

PHOTO: An unidentified flying object shown in a photo first obtained by the New York Times.Obtained by ABC News
An unidentified flying object shown in a photo first obtained by the New York Times.

Fravor’s stunning retelling of his encounter off the California coast with what appeared to be a 40-foot-long wingless object that flew at incredible speeds in an erratic pattern comes as the Pentagon revealed the existence of a secret program to investigate sightings of UFOs.

The program was shut down in 2012 because of other budget priorities, according to the Pentagon.

“I have never seen anything in my life, in my history of flying that has the performance, the acceleration — keep in mind this thing had no wings,” Fravor said.

He recalled flying his F/A-18 fighter on a training mission on a beautiful Southern California day 13 years ago when things started to get strange.

Controllers on one of the Navy ships on the water below reported objects that were dropping out of the sky from 80,000 feet and going “straight back up,” Fravor said.

PHOTO: Former Navy Commander David Fravor told ABC News about his encounter with what he believed was a UFO.Obtained by ABC News
Former Navy Commander David Fravor told ABC News about his encounter with what he believed was a UFO.

“So we’re thinking, OK, this is going to be interesting,” he said.

As they were looking around for the object that appeared on the radar, another aviator spotted something. “I was like, ‘Dude, do you see that?'” Fravor recalled saying.

“We look down, we see a white disturbance in the water, like something’s under the surface, and the waves are breaking over, but we see next to it, and it’s flying around, and it’s this little white Tic Tac, and it’s moving around — left, right, forward, back, just random,” he said.

The object didn’t display the rotor wash typical of a helicopter or jet wash from a plane, he said.

The planes flew lower to investigate the object, which started to mirror their movements before disappearing, Fravor said. “As we start to cut across, it rapidly accelerates, climbs past our altitude and disappears,” Fravor recalled.

“When it started to near us, as we started to descend towards it coming up, it was flying in the elongated way, so it’s [like] a Tic Tac, with the roundish end going in the forward direction … I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I saw. I just know it was really impressive, really fast, and I would like to fly it,” he said.

The disturbance in the water also vanished with object, he remembered.

“So we turned around — we couldn’t have been more than about a couple miles away — and there’s no white water at all in the ocean,” Fravor said. “It’s just blue.”

At that point, they decided to return to complete the training exercise when they were told the object or something similar reappeared.

“And the controller comes up and says, ‘Sir, you’re not going to believe this. That thing is at your half point,’ which is our hold point,” Fravor added. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, great.'”

Another plane that launched from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz around the same time had its radar jammed and was able to pick up the object on an infrared channel.

“He gets close enough to see a couple of objects come out of the bottom, and then all of a sudden it takes off and goes right off the side of the screen and, like, takes off,” Fravor said.

He recalled that the speed of the object, which he said had no exhaust trail in infrared scanning, was stunning.

“No aircraft that we know of can fly at those speeds, maneuver like that and looks like that,” ABC News contributor and former Marine Col. Stephen Ganyard said.

Fravor said there is no rational explanation for what they saw that day.

“I don’t know if it was alien life, but I will say that in an infinite universe, with multiple galaxies that we know of, that if we’re the only planet with life, it’s a pretty lonely universe.”

There was no further investigation into the incident, he said.

“You know, you see a lot of interesting things,” Fravor said. “But to show up on something that’s a 40-foot-long white Tic Tac with no wings that can move, really, in any random direction that it wants and go from hovering over the ocean to mirroring us to accelerating to the point where it just disappears — like, poof, then it was gone.”

NY Times: Pentagon study of UFOs revealed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

NY Times: Pentagon study of UFOs revealed

Former Sen. Harry Reid speaks at a rally in Nevada in 2016. The New York Times says it was his interest that spurred the creation of the UFO program.

(CNN)Beyond preparing for the next field of battle, or advancing a massive arsenal that includes nuclear weapons, the Pentagon has also researched the possible existence of UFOs.

The New York Times reported Saturday on the once completely classified project that began because of the intense interest in the subject by former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
According to the Times, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program was launched in 2007 after the Nevada Democrat spoke to his longtime friend, Robert Bigelow, the billionaire founder of an aerospace company. Bigelow has spoken about his belief in UFOs visiting the United States as well as the existence of aliens.
Among the anomalies the program studied, the paper said, were video and audio recordings of aerial encounters by military pilots and unknown objects, as well as interviews with people who said they had experienced physical encounters with such objects.
In one instance, the program looked at video footage of a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet surrounded by a glowing object of unknown origin traveling at a high rate of speed in a location that officials declined to identify, the paper said.
close dialog
Tell us where to send you Five Things
Morning briefings of all the news & buzz people will be talking about
Activate Five Things
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.
The Pentagon says the program has since been shuttered.
“The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program ended in the 2012 timeframe,” Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson told CNN. “It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”
But according to the Times, certain aspects of the program still exist with officials from the program continuing to investigate encounters brought to them by service members, while these officials still carry out their other duties within the Defense Department.
The former director of the program told the paper that he worked with officials from the Navy and CIA from his office in the Pentagon until this past October, when he resigned in protest. He said a replacement had been named, but he declined to identify them.
Reid, the Times says, was also supported in his efforts to fund the program by the late Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and John Glenn of Ohio, the first American to orbit the Earth, who told Reid the federal government should take a serious look at UFOs.
And working to keep a program that he was sure would draw scrutiny from others, Reid said he, Stevens and Inouye made sure there was never any public debate about the program on the Senate floor during budget debates.
“This was so-called black money,” Reid told the Times regarding the Defense Department budget for classified programs.

Air Force Admits Its Failure To Report Texas Church Shooter Was ‘Not An Isolated Incident’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK AND PURPOSE’)

 

devin patrick kelley texas church shooting air force background check

NEWS
Air Force Admits Its Failure To Report Texas Church Shooter Was ‘Not An Isolated Incident’

on 

T&P ON FACEBOOK

 

179

shares

 

An Air Force review has found that the branch failed to report “several dozen” service members found guilty of violent offenses to the federal gun background check database, with representatives of the service telling the New York Times that the reporting failure that allowed disgraced airman Devin Patrick Kelley to purchase the firearms he used to murder 26 parishioners in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church on Nov. 5 “was not an isolated incident.”

In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting, the Department of Defense determined that Kelley’s 2012 court-martial conviction for beating his wife and infant son should have disqualified him from purchasing firearms, but he was not reported to the FBI for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the database for firearms-related background checks for private dealers and state outlets. The Air Force review found that since 2002, a whopping 60,000 incidents involving airmen that “potentially” merited inclusion in NICS went unaddressed, according to the New York Times.

sutherland springs church texas church shooting hero corrigan devin patrick kelley air force background check

“Similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations” besides Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where Kelley was stationed, the Air Force said in a statement. “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”

Under federal law, anyone dishonorably discharged from the armed forces is prohibited from possessing or receiving firearms or ammo transported across state lines. The 1996 Lautenberg amendment that extends that prohibition to military personnel with domestic violence convictions.

RELATED: HOW SEVERE MILITARY PUNISHMENTS (ARE SUPPOSED TO) BAR GUN POSSESSION »

The Air Force has experienced major lapses in reporting serious crimes committed to essential law enforcement databases like NICS for decades. In 1997, a DoD IG report found that the Air Force had failed to report 38 percent of fingerprint cards and 50 percent of criminal case outcomes to the FBI over a six-month period from 1995 to 1996, according to a Nov. 7 Associated Press report; a 2015 follow-up found the branch didn’t report 39 percent of its fingerprint data over a two year period between 2010 and 2012.

The causes of that the gap?  “Ambiguous Pentagon guidelines and a lack of interest among the military services in submitting information to an FBI viewed as chronically overburdened with data,” according to the AP report, language echoed in the Air Force’s Nov. 28 statement.

devin patrick kelley texas church shooting background check

In the wake of Kelley’s rampage and subsequent revelations regarding his troubled history, the Pentagon has been racing to overhaul its background check and criminal reporting procedures. Among the new measures pushed by branch officials, according to the New York Times: a mandate that Air Force Office of Special Investigations personnel “confirm that reportable cases have been entered in the federal database by seeing either a printout or a screenshot from the database.”

Time will tell how AFOSI plans on actually interpreting and implementing that mandate.

WATCH NEXT:

U.S. On Collision Course With Syria, Russia And Iran Once De-Facto ISIS Capital Falls

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. on collision course with Syria and Iran once de facto Islamic State capital falls

June 21 at 7:42 PM
Trump administration officials, anticipating the defeat of the Islamic State in its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, are planning for what they see as the next stage of the war, a complex fight that will bring them into direct conflict with Syrian government and Iranian forces contesting control of a vast desert stretch in the eastern part of the country.To some extent, that clash has already begun. Unprecedented recent U.S. strikes against regime and Iranian-backed militia forces have been intended as warnings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran that they will not be allowed to confront or impede the Americans and their local proxy forces.

As regime and militia forces have begun advancing eastward, senior White House officials have been pushing the Pentagon to establish outposts in the desert region. The goal would be to prevent a Syrian or Iranian military presence that would interfere with the U.S. military’s ability to break the Islamic State’s hold on the Euphrates River valley south of Raqqa and into Iraq — a sparsely populated area where the militants could regroup and continue to plan terrorist operations against the West.

Officials said Syrian government claims on the area would also undermine progress toward a political settlement in the long-separate rebel war against Assad, intended to stabilize the country by limiting his control and eventually driving him from power.

The wisdom and need for such a strategy — effectively inserting the United States in Syria’s civil war, after years of trying to stay out of it, and risking direct confrontation with Iran and Russia, Assad’s other main backer — has been a subject of intense debate between the White House and the Pentagon.

Some in the Pentagon have resisted the move, amid concern about distractions from the campaign against the Islamic State and whether U.S. troops put in isolated positions in Syria, or those in proximity to Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, could be protected. European allies in the anti-Islamic State coalition have also questioned whether U.S.-trained Syrians, now being recruited and trained to serve as a southern ground-force vanguard, are sufficient in number or capability to succeed.

One White House official, among several who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Syria planning, dismissed such concerns, saying: “If you’re worried that any incident anywhere could cause Iran to take advantage of vulnerable U.S. forces . . . if you don’t think America has real interests that are worth fighting for, then fine.”

The official said the expanded U.S. role would not require more troops, comparing it to “The Rat Patrol,” the 1960s television series about small, allied desert forces deployed against the Germans in northern Africa during World War II.

“With our ability with air power . . . you’re not talking about a lot of requirements to do that,” the official said. “. . . You don’t need a lot of forces to go out and actually have a presence.”

This official and others played down reports of tensions over Syria strategy. “No one disagrees about the strategy or the objectives,” said a second White House official. “The question is how best to operationalize it.”

The Pentagon, not the White House, made the decision to shoot down Iranian drones and a Syrian fighter jet in response to their approaches to or attacks against U.S. forces and their Syrian allies, this official said. “They shot down an enemy aircraft for the first time in more than a decade. That’s accepting a high level of risk,” the official said. “. . . We’ve done quite a lot since April that the previous administration said was impossible without the conflict spiraling.”

Ilan Goldenberg, a former senior Pentagon official now in charge of the Center for New American Security’s Middle East program, agreed that the Obama administration “over-agonized” about every decision in Syria.

But Goldenberg faulted the Trump administration with failing to articulate its strategy. “It has been the worst of all worlds,” he said. “A vagueness on strategy, but a willingness to deploy force. They are totally muddying the waters, and now you have significant risk of escalation.”

“I know the president is fond of secret plans,” Goldenberg said. “But this situation requires clarity about our objectives and what we will or won’t tolerate.”

Trump promised during his campaign to announce within his first month in office a new strategy for defeating the Islamic State. That strategy remains unrevealed, and for several months Trump appeared to be following Obama’s lead in avoiding Assad, Iran and Russia and continuing a punishing assault on Islamic State strongholds elsewhere in Syria, as well as in Iraq.

In April, Trump broke that mold with a cruise-missile attack on regime forces after their use of chemical weapons against civilians. Assad and his allies protested but did little else.

More recently, however, there have been direct clashes between the United States and the regime. Trump’s campaign calls to join forces with Russia against the Islamic State have largely disappeared amid increased estrangement between Washington and Moscow and investigations of Trump associate’s contacts with Russian officials.

Despite U.S. warnings, regime and militia forces have moved toward the Syrian town of At Tanf, near the Iraq border, where U.S. advisers are training Syrian proxies to head northeast toward Deir al-Zour, the region’s largest city, controlled by the regime and surrounded by the Islamic State. It is a prize that the regime also wants to claim.

At the end of May, Syrian and Iranian-backed forces pushed southward to the Iraq border, between At Tanf and Bukamal, where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. In Iraq, Iranian-backed militias have, in small but concerning numbers, left the anti-Islamic State fight and headed closer to the border, near where regime forces were approaching.

On at least three occasions in May and June, U.S. forces have bombed Iranian-supported militia forces approaching the At Tanf garrison. Twice this month, they have shot down what they called “pro-regime” armed drones, including one on June 8 that fired on Syrian fighters and their American advisers.

On Sunday, two days before the most recent drone shoot-down near At Tanf, a U.S. F/A-18 shot down a Syrian air-force jet southwest of Raqqa.

In response, Russia said it would train its powerful antiaircraft defense system in western Syria on farther areas where U.S. aircraft are operating and shut down the communications line that the two militaries have used to avoid each other in the crowded Syrian airspace.

“The only actions we have taken against pro-regime forces in Syria . . . have been in self-defense,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week.

Dunford also made clear that victory against the Islamic State in Raqqa, and in Mosul, where the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces are in the last stages of a months-long offensive, will not mark the end of the war.

“Raqqa is tactical. Mosul is tactical,” Dunford said. “We ought not to confuse success in Raqqa and Mosul as something that means it’s the end of the fight. I think we should all be braced for a long fight.”

In a report Wednesday, the Institute for the Study of War, referring to intelligence and expert sources, said that the Islamic State in Raqqa had already relocated “the majority of its leadership, media, chemical weapons, and external attack cells” south to the town of Mayadin in Deir al-Zour province.

Neither the U.S.-led coalition and its local allies nor what the institute called the “Russo-Iranian coalition” can “easily access this terrain — located deep along the Euphrates River Valley — with their current force posture,” it said.

At the White House, senior officials involved in Syria policy see what’s happening through a lens focused as much on Iran as on the Islamic State. The Iranian goal, said one, “seems to be focused on making that link-up with Iran-friendly forces on the other side of the border, to control lines of communication and try to block us from doing what our commanders and planners have judged all along is necessary to complete the ISIS campaign.” ISIS is another name for the Islamic State.

“If it impacts your political outcome, if it further enables Iran to solidify its position as the dominant force in Syria for the long haul,” the official said, “that threatens other things,” including “the defeat-ISIS strategy” and “the ability to get to political reconciliation efforts.”

“For us,” the official said, “that’s the biggest concern.”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed to this report.

Now Even The Pentagon Is Investigating Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn

 

Now Even The Pentagon Is Investigating Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn

on April 27, 2017

T&P ON FACEBOOK

Michael Flynn just can’t catch a break.

On Thursday, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced that the Department of Defense’s inspector general had launched an investigation into money the former national security adviser and retired Army lieutenant general received from foreign organizations, the Washington Post reports.

On April 11, acting DODIG Glenn Fine notified the House committee’s chairman, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, in writing that the Pentagon had initiated an investigation to determine “whether [Flynn] failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving any emolument from a foreign government.”

Flynn has now been subjected to investigations by the Pentagon IG, FBI, the Army, the House Intelligence Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and “U.S. counterintelligence agents” we can only presume work for the CIA and NSA.

Flynn was fired from his position as national security adviser to President Donald Trump in February after revelations he misled the White House, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. His tenure as chief security adviser to the president was the shortest in modern political history.

RELATED: MIKE FLYNN MADE A LOT MORE MONEY IN RUSSIA THAN HE DISCLOSED BEFORE »

The Pentagon investigation appears focused on the $45,000 Flynn received in 2015 to appear alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Russia Today-sponsored gala, as well as his work as the he collected $530,000 between last August and November from Turkish government interests while working for Trump’s presidential campaign (his Turkish contract reportedly concluded on November 15, 2016, three days before he was named national security adviser). Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign lobbyist with the Department of Justice in March.

Flynn, through a lawyer, has vehemently rebuffed allegations of wrongdoing. “Notwithstanding his life of national service, the media are awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo directed against him,” Flynn’s lawyer said in March, as the former sought immunity in exchange for congressional testimony. (His request was denied.) “He is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by Members of Congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated.”

Well, with good reason! According to documents released by HOC’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, was warned by Pentagon officials as early as October 2014 “not to take foreign government-sourced money without ‘advance approval’ from the Pentagon,” the Associated Press notes. Yet Flynn reportedly continued to take on foreign contracts without clearing his connections with the appropriate channels.

“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”

The letter comes just days after both Chaffetz and Cummings announced that Flynn “may have broken the law” by receiving payments from foreign groups.

RELATED: LT GEN FLYNN CONFIRMS HE WAS A FOREIGN AGENT DURING THE 2016 CAMPAIGN »

Let’s remember for a second that, during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, Flynn made a big show out of grilling then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about her mishandling of classified information as Secretary of State. “Lock her up, that’s right!” Flynn chanted along with the crowd. “Damn right, exactly right… And you know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because, if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

Karma’s a bitch, Mike — and according to these documents, you should have known better.

Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups

April 27 at 10:59 AM

The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into money that former national security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups, members of the House Oversight Committee said Thursday.

The Pentagon office will try to determine whether Flynn “failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving” the payments, according to an April 11 letter from Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman. In the past, the Pentagon has advised retiring officers that because they can be recalled to military service, they may be subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments.

Flynn received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization. He also worked as a foreign agent representing Turkish interests for a Netherlands-based company, Inovo BV, which paid his company, Flynn Intel Group, $530,000 in the fall.

Defense Department guidelines warn that the department’s top financial officer, the comptroller, “may pursue debt collection” if a retired officer does not seek permission to accept foreign payments before doing so. Any debt collection due to an emoluments clause violation is capped at no more than what an individual makes in retirement pay during a period of unauthorized employment. In Flynn’s case, that is more than $35,000 for the three months of the Inovo project.

Flynn was fired as national security adviser in February after revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States. The pugnacious retired officer, who once led “lock her up” chants about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during Donald Trump’s White House campaign, filed paperwork as a foreign agent about three weeks later, on March 7.

Top Pentagon watchdog opens investigation into payments to Flynn

 

 
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released a letter from the Defense Department Inspector General on April 26, saying that they launched an investigation into the money Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups. (Reuters)

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, has argued that the retired general briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, from which he retired in 2014, before and after his 2015 Russia trip.

But a letter DIA sent the House committee said that the agency has no record of Flynn seeking permission or approval to accept money from a foreign source, potentially countering Kelner’s argument. He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Flynn also did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests, U.S. defense officials said last month, raising the possibility that the Pentagon could dock his retirement pay. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said then that the Defense Department was reviewing the issue.

The issue involving Turkey emerged after Flynn retroactively registered in March with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his company, Flynn Intel Group, carried out on behalf of Inovo BV. It is owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who is not a part of the Turkish government but has links to it.

Flynn’s company received three payments between September and November from Inovo BV before Trump was elected president and the arrangement was discontinued, according to Flynn’s filings. Flynn is the majority owner and chief executive officer of the Flynn Intel Group.

Rep. Cummings releases letters on Flynn’s foreign payments

 

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) released letters on April 27, showing that Gen. Michael Flynn was warned and did not report payments from foreign groups. (Reuters)

On Thursday, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, also released an Oct. 8, 2014, letter in which a Defense Department lawyer warned Flynn upon his retirement from military service that he was forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources without receiving permission from the U.S. government first.

“These documents raise grave questions about why Gen. Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” Cummings said. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation.  I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”

Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the Defense Department inspector general, said Thursday that the investigation into Flynn began April 4. The watchdog’s office did not discuss the investigation publicly until after the House Oversight Committee released documents about it, and it typically does not disclose what it is reviewing while an investigation is underway.

Related stories:
He was one of the most respected generals of his generation. Then he started leading ‘lock her up’ chants.

Congressional Oversight Committee: No Evidence General Michael Flynn Obeyed The Law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser did not properly disclose payments from Russia and does not appear to have complied with the law, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings said Tuesday after reviewing Michael Flynn’s application for a security clearance.

Chaffetz and Cummings announced their findings to reporters on the Hill following a classified gathering of the committee in which they reviewed documents that Cummings described as “extremely troubling.”
“I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,” Chaffetz said, referring to whether Flynn received permission from the Pentagon or the State Department or that he disclosed the more than $45,000 he was paid for a speech he gave to RT-TV in Russia.
The request comes after the White House declined to provide documents related to Flynn that the panel investigating him had requested, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short outlined in a letter to the House oversight committee how it would not complete the request from the panel, referring some requests to the Department of Defense, saying the office doesn’t have custody of some of the other documents or simply stating “we are unable to accommodate” others.
Whether Flynn properly disclosed payments from foreign governments on his security clearance application is the subject of a House oversight committee meeting Tuesday, as members reviewed the first batch of documents related to the investigation coming from the Pentagon.
The committee is gathering Tuesday morning at the Capitol to review classified material provided by the Department of Defense in response to its March 22 request for more information on Flynn, according to MJ Henshaw, a spokeswoman for House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
The committee has sent additional requests for information about Flynn to the White House, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, Tuesday’s meeting will only include responses from the Pentagon.
Oversight investigators also revealed last month that Flynn had received $530,000 for work his lobbying firm did that, according to the committee, likely benefited the Republic of Turkey.
The House and Senate intelligence committees have been leading the primary investigations into Russia’s interference in the US elections and possible coordination with top aides to the Trump campaign. However, the House oversight panel has taken a particular focus on Flynn’s work — drilling down in a series of requests.
Flynn was forced to resign from his role as Trump’s national security adviser after it was discovered he withheld information about discussions he had with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. Flynn is one of four former Trump aides at the center of the FBI’s probe and is a top target for House and Senate investigators as well.
Since he resigned, Flynn has retained a lawyer and has offered to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution — an offer nobody has apparently taken him up on.

Pentagon Buries Internal Report Showing 23% Of Their Budget Is Wasted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.

The data showed that the Defense Department was paying a staggering number of people — 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel — to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines. That workforce supports 1.3 million troops on active duty, the fewest since 1940.

The cost-cutting study could find a receptive audience with President-elect Donald Trump. He has promised a major military buildup and said he would pay for it by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”

For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money. We proposed a way to save a ton of money,” said Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, a private-equity investor from Jacksonville, Fla., who served as chairman of the Defense Business Board.

Stein, a campaign bundler for President Obama, said the study’s data were “indisputable” and that it was “a travesty” for the Pentagon to suppress the results.

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he added.

The missed opportunity to streamline the military bureaucracy could soon have large ramifications. Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon will be forced to stomach $113 billion in automatic cuts over four years unless Congress and Trump can agree on a long-term spending deal by October. Playing a key role in negotiations will probably be Trump’s choice for defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.

The Defense Business Board was ordered to conduct the study by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking official. At first, Work publicly touted the efficiency drive as a top priority and boasted about his idea to recruit corporate experts to lead the way.

After the board finished its analysis, however, Work changed his position. In an interview with The Post, he did not dispute the board’s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as “unrealistic” and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector.

“There is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization,” he said. “Although there is a little bit of truth in that . . . I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs — members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts — or to renegotiate defense contracts.

He said the Pentagon is adopting some of the study’s recommendations on a smaller scale and estimated it will save $30 billion by 2020. Many of the programs he cited, however, have been on the drawing board for years or were unrelated to the Defense Business Board’s research.

Work acknowledged that the push to improve business operations lost steam after then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was replaced by Ashton B. Carter in February 2015. Carter has emphasized other goals, such as strengthening the Pentagon’s partnerships with high-tech firms.

“We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization,” Work said. “We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”

‘Dark matter’

Work, a retired Marine officer, became deputy defense secretary in May 2014. With the military budget under the most pressure since the end of the Cold War, he sought help from the Defense Business Board, an advisory panel known for producing management studies that usually gathered dust.

Work told the board that the outcome of this assignment would be different. In a memo, he directed the board to collect sensitive cost data from the military services and defense agencies that would reveal how much they spent on business operations.

Pentagon officials knew their back-office bureaucracy was overstaffed and overfunded. But nobody had ever gathered and analyzed such a comprehensive set of data before.

Some Defense Business Board members warned that exposing the extent of the problem could have unforeseen consequences.

“You are about to turn on the light in a very dark room,” Kenneth Klepper, the former chief executive of Medco Health Solutions, told Work in the summer of 2014, according to two people familiar with the exchange. “All the crap is going to float to the surface and stink the place up.”

“Do it,” Work replied.

To turn on the light, the Pentagon needed more outside expertise. A team of consultants from McKinsey was hired.

In a confidential August 2014 memo, McKinsey noted that while the Defense Department was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” it had never “rigorously measured” the “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” of its business operations.

Nor did the Pentagon have even a remotely accurate idea of what it was paying for those operations, which McKinsey divided into five categories: human resources; health-care management; supply chain and logistics; acquisition and procurement; and financial-flow management.

McKinsey hazarded a guess: anywhere between $75 billion and $100 billion a year, or between 15 and 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual expenses. “No one REALLY knows,” the memo added.

The mission would be to analyze, for the first time, dozens of databases that tracked civilian and military personnel, and labor costs for defense contractors. The problem was that the databases were in the grip of the armed forces and a multitude of defense agencies. Many had fought to hide the data from outsiders and bureaucratic rivals, according to documents and interviews.

Information on contractor labor, in particular, was so cloaked in mystery that McKinsey described it as “dark matter.”

Prying it loose would require direct orders from Work. Even then, McKinsey consultants predicted the bureaucracy would resist.

“This is a sensitive exercise conducted with audiences both ‘weary’ and ‘wary’ of efficiency, cost, sequestration and budget drills,” the confidential memo stated. “Elements of the culture are masterful at ‘waiting out studies and sponsors,’ with a ‘this too shall pass’ mindset.”

Overstaffed chow hall

From the outset, access to the data was limited to a handful of people. A $2.9 million consulting contract signed by the Pentagon stipulated that none of the data or analysis could be released to the news media or the public.

Moreover, the contract required McKinsey to report to David Tillotson III, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer. Anytime the Defense Business Board wanted the consultants to carry out a task, Tillotson would have to approve. His office — not the board — would maintain custody of the data.

“Good news!” Work emailed Tillotson once the contract was signed. “Time to cook.”

In an Oct. 15, 2014, memo, Work ordered the board to move quickly, giving it three months to produce “specific and actionable recommendations.”

In a speech the next month, Work lauded the board for its private-sector expertise. He said he had turned it into “an operational arm” of the Pentagon leadership and predicted the study would deliver transformational results.

In an aside, he revealed that early findings had determined the average administrative job at the Pentagon was costing taxpayers more than $200,000, including salary and benefits.

“And you say, hmmm, we could probably do better than that,” he said.

The initial results did not come as a surprise.

Former defense secretaries William S. Cohen, Robert M. Gates and Chuck Hagel had launched similar efficiency drives in 1997, 2010 and 2013, respectively. But each of the leaders left the Pentagon before their revisions could take root.

“Because we turn over our secretaries and deputy secretaries so often, the bureaucracy just waits things out,” said Dov Zakheim, who served as Pentagon comptroller under President George W. Bush. “You can’t do it at the tail end of an administration. It’s not going to work. Either you leave the starting block with a very clear program, or you’re not going to get it done.”

Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers block even modest attempts to downsize the Pentagon’s workforce because they do not want to lose jobs in their districts.

Without backing from Congress, “you can’t even get rid of the guy serving butter in the chow hall in a local district, much less tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.

‘Time to hunt!’

The Defense Business Board assigned five members to conduct the study alongside consultants from McKinsey. Scott Rutherford, senior partner at McKinsey’s Washington office, declined to comment.

The team ran into resistance as several Pentagon offices delayed requests for data, according to emails and memos. Work and Tillotson had to intervene to get the data flowing. At one point, more than 100 people were feeding data from different sectors of the bureaucracy.

Laboring under its tight deadline, the team hashed out an agreement with Pentagon officials over which job classifications to count in their survey. The board added a sixth category of business operations — real property management. That alone covered 192,000 jobs and annual expenses of $22.6 billion.

On Christmas Eve, Klepper emailed Work and Tillotson to thank them for putting their muscle behind the project. Without it, he said, “this would all have been DOA and the naysayers would all have been right.”

He hinted the board would make some eye-catching recommendations and expressed relief its work had not been torpedoed.

“I have to admit, with all the caution, negative reaction and pushback,” Klepper said, “I had a bit of concern at the end of the analysis some form of censorship would stop us from showing the true opportunity.”

Work replied that he could not be happier.

“Time to hunt!” he said in an email, adding that he was “very excited about 2015” and ready to make “some bold moves.”

The year kicked off with promise. On Jan. 21, 2015, the Pentagon announced Stein, the private-equity investor, had been reappointed as the board’s chairman and praised him for his “outstanding service.”

The next day, the full board held its quarterly public meeting to review the results of the study. The report had a dry title, “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change,” and was packed with charts and jargon. But it began plainly enough.

“We are spending a lot more money than we thought,” the report stated. It then broke down how the Defense Department was spending $134 billion a year on business operations — about 50 percent more than McKinsey had guessed at the outset.

Almost half of the Pentagon’s back-office personnel — 457,000 full-time employees — were assigned to logistics or supply-chain jobs. That alone exceeded the size of United Parcel Service’s global workforce.

The Pentagon’s purchasing bureaucracy counted 207,000 full-time workers. By itself, that would rank among the top 30 private employers in the United States.

More than 192,000 people worked in property management. About 84,000 people held human-resources jobs.

The study laid out a range of options. At the low end, just by renegotiating service contracts and hiring less-expensive workers, the Pentagon could save $75 billion over five years. At the high end, by adopting more aggressive productivity targets, it could save twice as much.

After a discussion, the full board voted to recommend a middle option: to save $125 billion over five years.

Hordes of contractors

Afterward, board members briefed Work. They were expecting an enthusiastic response, but the deputy defense secretary looked uneasy, according to two people who were present.

He singled out a page in the report. Titled “Warfighter Currency,” it showed how saving $125 billion could be redirected to boost combat power. The money could cover the operational costs for 50 Army brigades, or 3,000 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, or 10 aircraft-carrier strike groups for the Navy.

“This is what scares me,” he said, according to the two people present. Work explained he was worried Congress might see it as an invitation to strip $125 billion from the defense budget and spend it somewhere else.

A few weeks later, Carter replaced Hagel as defense secretary. Carter sounded as though he would welcome the kind of revolutionary change the board was urging.

“To win support from our fellow citizens for the resources we need, we must show that we can make better use of every taxpayer dollar,” Carter said in an inaugural message in February 2015. “That means a leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practices.”

In briefings that month, uniformed military leaders were receptive at first. They had long groused that the Pentagon wasted money on a layer of defense bureaucracies — known as the Fourth Estate — that were outside the control of the Army, Air Force and Navy. Military officials often felt those agencies performed duplicative services and oversight.

But the McKinsey consultants had also collected data that exposed how the military services themselves were spending princely sums to hire hordes of defense contractors.

For example, the Army employed 199,661 full-time contractors, according to a confidential McKinsey report obtained by The Post. That alone exceeded the combined civil workforce for the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

The average cost to the Army for each contractor that year: $189,188, including salary, benefits and other expenses.

The Navy was not much better. It had 197,093 contractors on its payroll. On average, each cost $170,865.

In comparison, the Air Force had 122,470 contractors. Each cost, on average, $186,142.

Taking fire

Meantime, the backlash to the $125 billion savings plan intensified.

On Feb. 6, 2015, board members briefed Frank Kendall III, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer. Kendall’s operations were a major target of the study; he oversaw an empire of purchasing agents and contractors that were constantly under attack from Congress for cost overruns and delays.

Kendall put up a stiff fight. He challenged the board’s data and strenuously objected to the conclusion that his offices were overstaffed.

“Are you trying to tell me we don’t know how to do our job?” he said, according to two participants in the meeting. He said he needed to hire 1,000 more people to work directly under him, not fewer.

“If you don’t believe me, call in an auditor,” replied Klepper, the board’s restructuring expert. “They’ll tell you it’s even worse than this.”

In an interview, Kendall acknowledged he was “very disappointed” by the board’s work, which he criticized as “shallow” and “very low on content.” He said the study had ignored efforts by his agencies to become more efficient, and he accused the board of plucking the $125 billion figure out of thin air.

“It was essentially a ballpark, made-up number,” he said.

Still, Kendall knew that lawmakers might view the study as credible. Alarmed, he said, he went to Work and warned that the findings could “be used as a weapon” against the Pentagon.

“If the impression that’s created is that we’ve got a bunch of money lying around and we’re being lazy and we’re not doing anything to save money, then it’s harder to justify getting budgets that we need,” Kendall said.

More ominously, board members said they started to get the silent treatment from the Pentagon’s highest ranks.

Briefings that had been scheduled for military leaders in the Tank — the secure conference room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff — were canceled. Worse, the board was unable to secure an audience with Carter, the new defense secretary.

Stein, the board chairman, accused Carter of deliberately derailing the plan through inaction. “Unfortunately, Ash — for reasons of his own — stopped this,” he said in an interview.

Peter Cook, a spokesman for Carter, said the Pentagon chief was busy dealing with “a long list of national security challenges.” He added that Work and other senior officials had already “concluded that the report, while well-intentioned, had limited value.”

The fatal blow was struck in April. Just three months after Stein had been reappointed as board chairman, Carter replaced him with Michael Bayer, a business consultant who had previously served on the panel and clashed with Stein. Bayer declined to comment.

A few weeks later, Klepper resigned from the board. The $125 billion savings plan was dead.

In an interview, Tillotson, the Pentagon’s acting deputy chief management officer, called the board’s recommendations too ambitious and aggressive. “They, perhaps, underestimated the degree of difficulty we have in doing something that in the commercial sector would seem to be very easy to do.”

Yet he acknowledged that its overall strategy for scaling back the bureaucracy was sound and that, given more time, it would be possible to realize huge savings.

“If we had a longer timeline, yes, it would be a reasonable approach,” he said. “You might get there eventually.”

Ending the debate

Frustration, however, persisted in some corners over the Pentagon’s unwillingness to tackle the inefficiency and waste documented by the study.

On June 2, 2015, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He complained that 20 percent of the defense budget went to the Fourth Estate — the defense agencies that provide support to the armed forces — and called it “pure overhead.”

He singled out the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency, which together employ about 40,000 people, as egregious examples.

When a reporter in the audience asked whether he thought the agencies should be abolished, Mabus resisted the temptation to say yes.

“Nice try on getting me into deep trouble,” he replied.

But trouble arrived in Mabus’s email the next day.

“Ray, before you publicly trash one of the agencies that reports through me I’d really appreciate a chance to discuss it with you,” wrote Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons-buyer, whose management portfolio included the Defense Logistics Agency.

He said that if Mabus had a complaint, he should raise it directly with their mutual bosses, Carter and Work, and copied the email to both.

In his interview with The Post, Kendall said he was “completely blindsided” by the Navy secretary’s criticism, “so I sent him what I thought under the circumstances was a pretty polite note.”

Mabus did not back down. In an emailed retort to Kendall, he referred to the ill-fated Defense Business Board study.

“I did not say anything yesterday that I have not said both publicly . . . and privately inside this building,” he said. “There have been numerous studies, which I am sure you are aware of, pointing out excessive overhead.”

That prompted a stern intervention from Work.

“Ray, please refrain from taking any more public pot shots,” Work said in an email. “I do not want this spilling over into further public discourse.”

Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

authorsinterviews

My interviews with many authors

theblackwallblog

Let's work together to overcome PTSD, panic, anxiety, depression in ourselves and others.

Santa's Reindeer

The world through my lens.....

Spiritual Enlightenment

Awakening of the mind

Our Evolution

Culture & Spirituality

Course of Mirrors

the phenomenon of reflection

cakeordeathsite

What would you choose?

Newslinegh.com

Telling the Stories from an Ethical Perspective

My Paranormal Photography

I am not here to convince you of anything, I am just sharing my personal experiences

%d bloggers like this: