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The White House Is Making National Security Decisions Without Telling The Pentagon
I emailed the Pentagon last week, asking them for details of an "international security" agreement Russia was touting after the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, Finland, and a spokesman said they didn't have any information on that.
It's become a familiar game: The White House announces some change in military policy or a major national security decision, and reporters ask the Pentagon what the hell they are talking about. It happened with Trump's "Muslim ban," the creation of a "Space Force," the ending of joint exercises with South Korea, Russian security accords, and the ban on transgender troops that was announced by presidential tweet.
Every time, the Pentagon seems to be caught totally off guard by such announcements. We now know that, in at least one case, they were caught off guard, because the White House didn't think to ask the U.S. military for guidance on something they might need to know about — in this case, the threat of striking Syria if they were to use chemical weapons again.
"We woke up to the statement. [White House] did not coord with us or [Joint Staff] or State from what I can tell," Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, wrote in a June 2017 email upon hearing of the Trump White House's overnight statement that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would "pay a heavy price" if he used chemical weapons against his people.
"Was there any coord traffic on this? This is the first I'm seeing about it," replied a person on the Joint Staff. "Surprised us all," added Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
Another email from White later showed she hadn't even seen the White House statement yet. "White House is putting this out? Do you have the statement?" she asked Tara Rigler, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
The emails among Pentagon officials — which were obtained by BuzzFeed News and a left-leaning nonprofit through the Freedom of Information Act — clearly show the Department of Defense being caught flat-footed by an executive decision. It was a dramatic episode, of course, that would be repeated many times since.
There was Trump's suggestion, uttered at a rally in Ohio, that U.S. troops would be leaving Syria "very soon" — which had Pentagon spokespeople referring questions back to the White House, while State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she was "unaware" of any change of policy.
A similar story would play out after Trump tweeted that transgender troops would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity" while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation. Hours later, a Pentagon spokesman told McClatchy the DoD would "work closely with the White House to address the new guidance," which he said, would be expected "in the near future." Translation: The White House didn't tell us anything about this.
Interestingly, the emails among Pentagon flacks don't just reveal a White House keeping national security decision-making close to the vest; they also confirm that the Pentagon's top spokeswoman was willing to lie to cover for the administration.
Despite her previous email to her colleagues saying there seemed to be no coordination, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White later emailed a Breitbart reporter a statement contrary to her private views: "[Department of Defense] knew about the White House statement and provided edits in advance of its release."
"Anonymous leaks to the contrary," White added, "are false or misinformed."
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The police officer killed during a traffic stop in Newport News on Thursday night was a well-liked young officer who just graduated from the police academy seven months ago, Police Chief Steve Drew said at a somber news conference Friday.