Monday Mourning


1. Looking for leaders. Contributor David Brown offers, “Regardless of whether you were an infantryman or a spy, a computer specialist or an accounting lead, if you have the clearance and the fire, these jobs are waiting for you. None involve carrying a gun, but all require the skills you learned in the military or intelligence community. You’re a leader, and that’s what you should be doing: leading.”

2. Personal conduct—Adjudicative Guideline E. Contributor William Loveridge explains, “Personal Conduct covers an array of conduct, behavior and actions that could reflect negatively on an individual’s ability to protect classified information, including refusal or failure to cooperate in the personnel security process; refusal to provide truthful answers to questions posed by security officials; and deliberate omission or concealment of relevant facts. . . . Personal Conduct can be a clearance killer on its own.”


1. Re-taking Tikrit. Reuters’ Ahmed Rasheed reports, “Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militia fighting the Islamic State took control of the center of a town on the southern outskirts of Saddam Hussein’s home city Tikrit on Sunday . . . . Sending in more troops and fighting fierce clashes, the army and militiamen were still struggling to drive out Islamic State militants entrenched in buildings in the western section of the town of al-Dour . . . . Progress in the offensive, which was launched a week ago, could also affect the timing and strategy for a wider offensive later this year to retake Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State control.” See also, “Top U.S. general optimistic about outcome of Tikrit battle.”

2. ISIS’ foreign fighters deep dive. The Atlantic’s Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger report, “One of the most important questions about the threat presented by ISIS, and the conflict in Syria and Iraq in general, is numerical: How many foreign fighters are there, where do they come from, and what will they do after fighting? The question is nearly impossible to answer with any kind of specificity, due to the dangers that ISIS presents for journalists and intelligence operatives on the ground. In the open-source world, there are only estimates, and the situation does not appear to be much better in the world of secret intelligence. According to one 2013 tally, from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, there were between 17,000 and 19,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, though this count is likely too low.”

3. China’s big budget. Defense News’ Wendell Minnick reports, “China’s 2015 defense budget increase could reflect political strategy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is pushing the military to swear loyalty to the Communist Party while he arrests military leaders on corruption charges . . . . China raised 2015 defense spending by 10.1 percent compared with 2014 to US $141.5 billion. NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying made the announcement during the annual NPC in Beijing on March 4. This marks the 26th time China’s defense budget has seen nominal double-digit increases since 1989.”

4. Boko Haram aligns with ISIS. The Long War Journal’s Thomas Jocelyn reports, “Abu Bakr Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of the Islamic State. Baghdadi’s organizations claims to rule large portions of Iraq and Syria as a ‘caliphate.’ Shekau’s allegiance was made public in an eight and a half minute audio message released on Twitter. Shekau’s announcement, in Arabic, is accompanied by a simple screen shot showing a microphone and is subtitled in both English and French. . . . US officials told The Long War Journal in February that the Islamic State had dispatched a team to Nigeria to negotiate a more formal alliance. Boko Haram’s propaganda has been promoted by Islamic State media operatives in recent months.” See also, “Boko Haram announces it is now allied with Islamic State.”

5. Afghanistan’s A-29 Super Tucanos holding pattern.. DoD Buzz’s Richard Sisk reports, “The Afghan military will be without its own fixed-wing close air support for another fighting season this summer against the Taliban, with the first of 20 A-29 Super Tucano turboprops expected to begin arriving in December. . . . The U.S. Air Force’s $427 million program to provide A-29s to the Afghan military has been caught up in long-running contract disputes and delays in the training of Afghan Air Force air and ground crews, leaving the Afghan military overly reliant on the U.S. for close air support in combat. The aircraft is made by the Brazilian aerospace company Embraer S.A.” See also, “President Ghani faces backlash over ‘hasty’ peace talks with Taliban.”


1. Little Isis Defense wins $7 million big. Nextgov’s Aliya Sternstein reports, “The Defense Department has hired a little-known Virginia startup company – with an unfortunate name – to pull together the military’s most cutting-edge computer and information assets. The ‘Threat Intelligence Platform’ project will help Pentagon analysts sift through big data research to track threats . . . . The Pentagon’s mad-scientist wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will oversee Isis Defense’s development of the Threat Intelligence Platform. Completion of the system is set for March 2016.”

2. Navy looking for ethernet interface. Military & Aerospace Electronics Editor John Keller reports, “U.S. Navy avionics experts are reaching out to industry to find interface boxes that convert MIL-STD-1553 signals to Ethernet for use aboard the Marine Corps UH-1Y utility helicopter and the AH-1Z attack helicopter. . . . Navy experts are trying to identify candidate 1553-to-Ethernet boxes that monitor 1553 data from the aircraft and convert it to an Ethernet interface for use with other aircraft systems.”


1. NSA, New Zealand, and global snooping. The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher reports, “The spying station intercepts data from satellites, and is operated by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA. Waihopai is part of a group of surveillance stations used by the so-called Five Eyes, an alliance that New Zealand is part of alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. The Snowden documents show that Waihopai relies heavily on NSA technology to conduct electronic eavesdropping. . . .”

2. CIA overhaul. New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports, “John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency, a move he said would make it more successful against modern threats and crises.” See also, “CIA Restructuring Adds New Cyber Focus” and “Senate torture report: an exception in CIA oversight.”

3. ISIS hack attacks. NBC News’ M. Alex Johnson reports, “The FBI is investigating the hacking of several U.S. websites by someone claiming to be affiliated with ISIS over the weekend, which spread to Europe on Sunday night. Law enforcement and security analysts said they suspected no link to the Islamist terrorist group, however.” See also, “Are hackers a threat to air traffic control?


1. Famous last words: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he has no interest in another government shutdown. During an appearance on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ the Kentucky Republican reiterated a point he has made many times since voters gave Republicans control of the Senate: Despite his differences with President Obama, McConnell does not wish to see small parts of the government shut down over a debt ceiling fight. ‘I made it very clear after the November election that we’re certainly not going to shut down the government or default on the national debt,’ McConnell said Sunday on CBS.”

2. Regrouping: “With the Department of Homeland Security standoff in the rearview mirror, Senate Republicans are going on offense with proposals that divide Democrats such as an Iran oversight bill and trade legislation. Senate Republicans are desperate to show they can govern after they largely wasted February haggling over a DHS funding bill without winning any of the concessions they hoped for on immigration. After battling among themselves for weeks, Republicans now want to put Democrats on the defensive by pushing issues that split Democratic centrists and liberals.”


1. “Is Russia’s conflict with Ukraine really about trade? If so, this might help.” Reuters contributor Christian Friis Bach argues, “A key reason for the outbreak of hostilities was that Moscow wanted Kiev to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union, not the European Union Association Agreement. Ukraine should not have been forced to choose — or rather should be able to pursue both avenues. It is time to ensure that a country is able to take either path without negative repercussions, domestic or international.”

2. “Russian Economy Was Doomed Before Ukraine.” The Moscow Times contributor Richard Connolly argues, “While Russia may have ‘won’ Crimea, and may even succeed in ensuring that Ukraine is not ‘won’ by the West, the price of victory may be the deterioration of the long-term prospects for socioeconomic development.”

3. “The High Cost of Hacks.” U.S. News contributor Sasha Romanosky argues, “The point . . . is not to expose the cyber insurance industry as behaving badly, but to invite it to step up and use the beautiful data it has to help shape and improve the security posture of its clients. Everyone will benefit.”


1. Sensitive shortstops.

2. One-percenters.

3. Transparency reigns.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.