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Pentagon picks Mattis to take over CENTCOM

2010-07-08 16:23:10

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis has been recommended by the Defense Department to lead U.S. Central Command.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed his choice Thursday, during a news briefing with military reporters at the Pentagon.

“The post General Mattis is taking is a critical one at a critical time,” Gates said, adding that he considers it “essential to have a confirmed, full-time commander in place at CENTCOM as quickly as possible, as we confront the challenges posed by the ongoing operations in Afghanistan, our troop withdrawal in Iraq, and Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the threat represented by militant and terrorist groups throughout the region.”

Deputy commanding general Lt. Gen. John Allen, who is currently CENTCOM acting commander, will remain in his position as deputy commander, marking the first time that Marines occupy the command’s top two spots.

Mattis and Allen were named on the heels of the Senate’s June 30 confirmation of Army Gen. David Petraeus as the new Afghanistan war commander, ending his tenure as CENTCOM chief.

Mattis, who will soon hand his post as commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command to Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, was expected to retire following that transfer of authority.

Instead, he will replace Petraeus, who was reassigned by the White House in the wake of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the Afghanistan war commander. McChrystal resigned following controversial remarks he and his staff made in a Rolling Stone magazine article.

CENTCOM is a unified combatant command with responsibility for maintaining relationships, supporting development and assisting with security in more than 20 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The last Marine to head CENTCOM, a four-star command, was Gen. Anthony Zinni, who held the position from 1997 to 2000.

Before his tenure at Joint Forces Command, Mattis led NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from 2007-09. He has also commanded 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command.

For more on this story, see next week’s issue of Marine Corps Times.

Pentagon sends out survey on gay troops

2011-06-02 08:54:24

A confidential survey of 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops’ attitudes on service by openly gay people appears to lean heavily on questions about teamwork, performance, mission completion and morale, according to a draft copy obtained by Military Times.

The actual questions sent out at midday Wednesday remain under wraps. The Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of the draft copy but said it is an earlier version, and refused to spell out what it described as “substantial” changes.

“We want the service members to have the opportunity to open it and read it before they read it in the press,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.

But if the draft version is any guide, the general tone of the survey questions — developed by the independent research group Westat in cooperation with the Pentagon — leans toward the potential impact that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” might have on unit performance.

It underscores Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ March 2 guidance that the 10-month study on the impact of repeal be carried out in a “thorough and dispassionate” manner.

The Pentagon’s top public affairs official, Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Wilson, said Wednesday that officials feel the final version of the survey has met that goal.

Smith did confirm that the survey is broken down into three sections: baseline questions regarding respondents’ overall experiences in the military; respondents’ past experiences serving with individuals they believed to be gay; and respondents’ attitudes and sense of repeal’s impact on retention, unit cohesion and effectiveness, privacy, family readiness and their willingness to recommend military service to others.

Smith said Westat worked with the Defense Manpower Data Center to come up with the list of 200,000 active-duty and 200,000 reserve and National Guard e-mail addresses. Westat sent out the surveys and is charged with maintaining the confidentiality of respondents, including those who fill out a confidential “online dialogue” after completing the survey, which they must do within 72 hours, she said.

The survey itself must be completed by Aug. 15, Smith said.

Smith urged service members to fill out the questionnaires and to take the 20- to 30-minute task seriously.

“We want them to be open, candid and honest,” Smith said.

The survey is one part of the work of the Comprehensive Review Working Group, established by Gates in the wake of President Obama’s call to reverse the 17-year ban on open service by gays, which Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen endorsed during February testimony. Since then, the full House has passed a reversal of the law, as has the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In the draft version of the survey, nearly all of the questions were multiple choice, with 23 of 73 questions concerning teamwork, performance and completing the mission, and seven asking about morale. There were questions on leadership challenges; attitudes toward gay co-workers if repeal takes place; the impact of repeal on the respondent’s unit’s ability to complete missions, both deployed and non-deployed; off-duty social impact; and how repeal will affect the spouse’s, family’s or “significant other’s” attitude toward the respondent’s continued military service.

The draft survey also asked how a repeal will affect the respondent’s likelihood of recommending military service to family members or close friends and their own continued service; and whether they personally know any gays, served with any gays and whether they were a leader or co-worker, and how well the unit performed.

The draft survey included a question widely voiced by troops, including those who took part in Military Times focus groups last winter and whose opinions, along with those of gay service members and poll respondents, were the basis of a February story on the potential impact of repeal: “If Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed and a gay or lesbian service member attended a military social with a same-sex partner, which are you most likely to do?”

The potential answers ranged from “continue to attend” such functions, “cease to attend,” “cease to bring my [fill in applicable partner],” “think about leaving the military” and “not applicable.”

The Military Times poll showed that troops generally are satisfied with the current policy banning open service by gays, but that opposition to repeal is steadily dropping.

In addition to the survey sent out Wednesday, the Working Group continues its visits to various military bases, meetings with pro and con advocacy groups at the Pentagon, and gathers data via an “online inbox” at, which requires a Common Access Card, Smith said.

In early August, a confidential online survey of 150,000 family members will be launched.

Still to be completed, Smith said, is an update of the 1993 Rand Corp. study, “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment.”

The group’s implementation plan is due to Gates by Dec. 1.

Sources: Rolling Stone quotes made by jr. staff

2011-06-02 08:54:55


The impolitic comments that torpedoed Gen. Stan McChrystal's career were "almost all" made by his most junior staff — men who "make tea, keep the principal on time and carry bags" — who had no reason to believe their words would end up in print, according to a staff member who was on the trip to Europe during which the comments were made.
Two other sources familiar with the trip, including Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, McChrystal's personal spokesman, said the quotes that appeared in a Rolling Stone article that got McChrystal in trouble were made in "off-the-record" settings.
All three sources also accused Rolling Stone of publicly misrepresenting its communications with McChrystal's headquarters after the story had been reported but before it went to print. E-mails obtained by Army Times appear to support the McChrystal side's version of events.
Rolling Stone did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
President Obama relieved McChrystal of his command of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan on June 23 in response to the article, which quotes McChrystal and members of his staff making derogatory comments about a range of senior civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who is a retired lieutenant general, and National Security Advisor James Jones, who is a retired Marine general.
Only a few of the quotes were attributed to McChrystal himself: In the opening sentence of the eight-page article, he asks his staff how he got "screwed into" attending a dinner with a French government minister; he imagines responding to a hypothetical question from a French audience about the vice president by pretending not to know who Biden is; the general is described as checking his BlackBerry and groaning, "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke ... I don't even want to open it." In what appears to be the only contentious quote drawn from an on-the-record interview with McChrystal, he says he felt "betrayed" by U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
The remaining quotes have a variety of anonymous attributions:
• Descriptions of Obama appearing "uncomfortable and intimidated" and "not very engaged" in two early meetings with McChrystal are attributed to "sources familiar with the meeting" and "an adviser to McChrystal" respectively.
• "One aide" is said to have called Jones a "clown ... stuck in 1985."
• "A member of the general's team" says his boss describes Holbrooke as "a wounded animal."
• "An aide" makes a crude joke about the Holbrooke e-mail.
• A comment about the dinner with the French minister being "f------ gay" is also attributed to an anonymous "aide."
• A quote that rhymes the vice president's surname with the phrase "bite me" is attributed to "a top adviser."
• A comment that visits by Sens. John Kerry and John McCain are typically "not very helpful" is attributed to "another aide."
Many of the quotes are drawn from banter among staffers that the article's author, freelance writer Michael Hastings, overheard shortly after he joined McChrystal's team when the general was on a speaking trip to Paris.
But although Hastings describes the personnel on the Paris trip as "the most powerful force shaping U.S. policy in Afghanistan," the people he quoted in the article were mostly junior personnel who have no significant role in advising McChrystal, a source who was on the Paris trip told Army Times. "Almost all the offending quotes ... were, in fact, from conversations with the most junior people on the trip," the source said.
Taking issue with Hastings' description of the power of McChrystal's traveling party, the source noted that it included neither Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan and a close McChrystal ally, nor any of the influential three-stars under McChrystal's command, such as Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs the war on a day-to-day basis as the head of ISAF Joint Command; Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who is in charge of training the Afghan security forces; and Vice Adm. Robert Harward, who runs detainee operations in Afghanistan. "These are the powerful folks driving strategy," said the source who was on the trip.
The flag officers who did make the trip, including Rear Adm. Greg Smith, ISAF's deputy chief of staff for communication; Maj. Gen. Mike Flynn, ISAF's intelligence chief; and Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, ISAF's deputy chief of staff for operations, were responsible for none of the offending comments, the source said. "I know the person who said, ‘Bite me,'" the source said. "I wouldn't call them a senior adviser."
To quote young aides in a way that implies that they were officials with more significance is "unfair" of Hastings, the source said.
"Do these young men write policy? Do these young men have an official impact on the working relationships between institutions of government? They make tea, keep the principal on time and carry bags, and they are so in awe of this man [i.e. McChrystal] that they get to work with," the source said.
As an example of Hastings breaking ground rules, the source who was on the Paris trip cited an invitation by Duncan Boothby, a civilian contractor who was special assistant to McChrystal, extended to Hastings to dine with McChrystal, his wife and the rest of the team in an Irish pub in Paris on the night of the McChrystals' wedding anniversary.
The invitation was contingent on Hastings treating "everything" that night as "off the record," to which Hastings agreed, the source said. However, the article includes a description of the staff getting "completely s----faced" at the pub.
But McChrystal was not blaming his men for his downfall. Nor has he denied that any of the remarks was made. "He's a military commander and he will take responsibility for anything that his men do, and that's ultimately what he's done," the source said. "But keep in mind McChrystal did not make the offending remarks quoted in the article."
No matter who uttered the quotes, by using them, Hastings violated ground rules that public affairs personnel had established with him, said a senior military official familiar with the trip.
In an interview on CNN's "Reliable Sources" show, Hastings said there were "no ground rules laid down," which he said "means it's on the record," thus allowing him to quote what he heard freely. Eric Bates, executive editor of Rolling Stone, echoed this claim in a June 22 appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," saying all the quotes that got McChrystal in trouble were spoken when the speakers knew they were on the record.
Neither Bates nor Hastings explained in their interviews how this squared with the fact that one of the most damaging anonymous quotes in the article, in which Jones is referred to as a "clown" by "one aide," is preceded by the following sentence: "In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk s--- about many of Obama's top people on the diplomatic side." The phrase "in private" usually implies an off-the-record conversation, meaning it cannot be repeated in an article.
McChrystal's team saw things very differently from Hastings and Bates. "Many of the sessions were off the record and intended to give him a sense of how we operated as a team," said a senior military official familiar with McChrystal's Paris trip. "Hastings conducted several one-on-one interviews — some of those were on background and others were on the record. I have found no evidence to suggest that any of the salacious political quotes were from any of these one-on-one interviews. They all appear to have been in settings that were off the record."
Hastings' claim that there were "no ground rules" was "an absurd statement," said the senior military official.
"Ground rules varied as appropriate, but significant portions of the time were considered to be off the record or on background," said Sholtis, who did not make the trip to Paris but helped coordinate Hastings' embed with the McChrystal team when it continued in Afghanistan. "Based on my experiences in the job, I'm confident that Gen. McChrystal and his staff believed they were off the record," Sholtis said.
Two sources familiar with what happened on McChrystal's fateful trip to Europe backed him up.
"I don't think most of those folks when they had those conversations with Michael expected those words to show up in Rolling Stone," said the source who was on the trip. "I don't think the young men who were in conversations there thought that they were in an interview in that particular moment."
McChrystal's traveling party of about 10 included two public affairs officials: Smith, who is ISAF's senior public affairs officer, and Boothby. It was Boothby who was in charge of the Rolling Stone project. Smith was aware of it, but left everything up to Boothby, who did not require Hastings to sign a document covering the ground rules of his embed, as virtually all journalists who embed with ISAF units in Afghanistan must. Boothby has resigned in the wake of the Rolling Stone article.
In Hastings' case, all agreements were verbal. This arrangement was not unusual when reporters profiled McChrystal, said the source who was on the trip, but it appears to have left the rules open to differing interpretations, or at least to have left McChrystal's people with no hard evidence that Hastings broke them.
Members of McChrystal's inner circle are also furious at what they perceive as Rolling Stone's false account of events leading up to the publication of Hastings' article.
In his June 22 appearance on "Morning Joe," when asked if McChrystal's staff had known "this was coming for some time," Bates, the Rolling Stone editor, answered, "Yes."
"We ran everything by them in our fact-checking process, as we always do, so I think they had a sense of what was coming, but this was all on the record and they spent a lot of time with our reporter, so I think they knew that they had said it."
These comments infuriated those at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. Army Times obtained a copy of the questions that Rolling Stone's fact-checker sent to ISAF headquarters, along with Boothby's replies. None of the questions discusses the controversial aspects of the article, nor are any of the quotes that cost McChrystal his job included.
"We first learned about sensitive content in the article when reporters called who had received advance copies four days prior to actual newsstand deliver," Sholtis said. Two days later, McChrystal was gone, leaving the men quoted anonymously in the article to rue their actions.
"Those guys are mortified now, because they privately are aware probably of who said what and of the ultimate consequences of those words," said the source who was on the trip. "A number of us ... feel that we have let perhaps the greatest military mind of his generation down in a deeply, deeply personal way and that we have somehow even jeopardized the greater mission."