Morning Defense



KICKING THE LOBBYING UP A NOTCH – In a letter Monday to Sens. McCain and Graham, Panetta detailed what would happen if the debt-reduction supercommittee failed to do its job, triggering deep defense cuts. Here are some highlights:

— The U.S. ground force would be the smallest since 1940 and the Navy would shrink to the size it was at the beginning of World War I. DOD’s civilian workforce would be the smallest in its history.

— The F-35 JSF and strategic bomber programs would face cancellation, along with the LCS, the Army’s ground combat vehicle and helicopter modernization programs. The ground-based leg of the nuclear triad would face elimination, as well as the European missile defense shield.

“UNFORTUNATELY, WHILE LARGE CUTS are being imposed, the threats to national security would not be reduced. As a result, we would have to formulate a new security strategy that accepted substantial risk of not meeting our defense needs,” Panetta wrote. “A sequestration budget is not one that I could recommend.”


ANOTHER LETTER SIGNED BY NINE RETIRED USAF GENERALS to Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the HASC Readiness Subcommittee, urges lawmakers to keep in mind that the Air Force needs the F-35 and other modernization programs because its fleet is rapidly wearing out from age and hard use. “The Air Force now finds itself in a situation where another acquisition deferment will lead to the eventual cessation of key missions,” the generals wrote. See their letter here:

HAPPY MONDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING DEFENSE. Please keep the feedback and tips coming to, and follow us on Twitter @morningdefense for updates between briefings.

AMID THE LOBBYING, TALK IS INCREASING that the supercommittee may try to punt on its requirement to find $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years without triggering automatic cuts. The panel could for example order the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to find a specific amount of savings and rewrite the tax code, avoiding one of the tough issues that has held up agreement. POLITICO’s Manu Raju and Jake Sherman have the story here:

PANETTA AND DEMPSEY WILL BE ON THE HILL TODAY to talk about Iraq and the circumstances surrounding the inability to get a deal to keep some U.S. troops there after the end of the year. McCain – the panel’s ranking Republican and a supporter of keeping troops in Iraq – requested the hearing after Obama announced last month that U.S. military operations would end. The hearing is at 9:30 a.m. in Hart 216.

ONE OF THE ISSUES SHADOWING WITHDRAWAL PLANS is what to do about key detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq. NPR today reports on one such detainee, Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior explosives expert captured five years ago whose case is complicated by the fact that he’s tied to Hezbollah and not Al Qaeda. Read the story here:

OBAMA IS ON HIS WAY TO AUSTRALIA TODAY, where he and Prime Minister Julia Gillard are expected Wednesday to announce an agreement allowing expanded U.S. access to Australian military bases as the United States seeks to bolster its presence in the Pacific.

THE HOUSE MEANWHILE continues discussion of a Coast Guard authorization bill that includes a contentious proposal to retire the nation’s last two heavy icebreakers.

AFGHAN TRIBAL LEADERS ARE GATHERING IN KABUL for Wednesday’s Loya Jirga, a traditional assembly of elders which Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes will help build domestic support for a long-term strategic partnership with the United States.

COALITION OFFICIALS DISMISSED TALIBAN CLAIMS to have obtained classified security plans for the gathering, but Afghan police Monday killed a suicide bomber trying to enter the area where it’s set to be held.

TALIBAN SPOKESMAN ZABIBULLAH MUJAHID meanwhile is angrily denying reports that he’d been captured by coalition troops, telling the New York Times, “I am safe and sound and living in a safe place.” Read about it here:

AFGHAN OPS UPDATE – Afghan and coalition security forces killed two insurgents Monday and seized a narcotics cache in Kajaki district of Helmand province, ISAF spokesman Lt. Gregory Keeley said. The patrol seized and destroyed 6,600 pounds of morphine base, drug processing equipment, two AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition.

A SUSPECTED U.S. DRONE STRIKE today in northwestern Pakistan killed seven militants, Pakistani intelligence officials told the Associated Press.

THE FUROR OVER A NEW BOOK ON THE BIN LADEN RAID CONTINUES, with the Special Operations Command telling Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press that the book is “a lie. … “It’s just not true,” USSOCOM spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. “It’s not how it happened.” Her story is here:

AOL DEFENSE REPORTS TODAY that “the Army’s strategy to close long-term readiness gaps stemming from its rush to rebuild war-torn equipment is falling woefully short of expectations, leaving service units to come up with their own solutions.” Read about it here:

THE AIR FORCE HAS TAKEN DELIVERY from Boeing of the new 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb, Bloomberg Government reports. Deliveries began in September and continued through last month. The story by Tony Capaccio is here (subscription required):

THE UNITED STATES PLANS TO BUY Britain’s decommissioned Harrier jets for spare parts, the British website reports. The Defense Ministry confirmed to the website that the deal for the 74 aircraft, plus $50 million in spare parts, is being finalized.

WHO’S WHERE WHEN – Panetta and Dempsey are at SASC. Panetta also welcomes Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon to the Pentagon at 3 p.m. Donley has meetings in the building. Schwartz is traveling in the CENTCOM AOR.