General Mattis Declares Strategic Atrophy

How can anyone argue with General Mattis, former Commander of CENTCOM when he tells the audience there is no strategy and the cost of blind leadership causes a full tilt of the balance across the globe.

On Russia:

Mattis: U.S. Suffering ‘Strategic Atrophy’

Because the United States lacks a global strategy, “volatility is going to get to the point that chaos threatens,” a former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander told a Heritage Foundation audience Wednesday.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis said, “the perception is we’re pulling back” on America’s commitment to its allies and partners, leaving them adrift in a changing world. “We have strategic atrophy.”

He said Russia’s military moves against its neighbors—taking Crimea and backing separatists in Ukraine is “much more severe, more serious” than Washington and the European Union are treating it.

The nationalist emotions that Russian President Vladimir Putin has stirred up will make it “very, very hard [for him or his successors] to pull back from some of the statements he has made” about the West. At the same time, Putin faces problems of his own with jihadists inside Russia’s borders that threaten domestic stability.

But Putin also demonstrated Russia’s nuclear capability with long-range bomber flights near NATO countries. His intent is “to break NATO apart.”

Mattis said China “is doing a pretty good job of finding friction points between our allies,” such as Korea and Japan.

While Putin creates instability along Russia’s border, China’s approach is a “tribute model,” Mattis said, executing a “veto authority in each of the countries around their periphery.”

In the Middle East, he described a Sunni and Shi’ia civil war where “terrorism is only part of the problem.” He said there is a more important question: “Is political Islam [in both sects] in our best interest?”

Mattis said it is important “to find the people who want to stand with you.” He cited the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, stepping forward to help fill the gaps in Afghanistan when the United Kingdom and France began removing forces there.

He said since World War II the United States helped create a world order—diplomatically [United Nations] , economically [World Bank and International Monetary Fund], culturally and militarily.

By renewing that combination of inspiration and intimidation, “I have no doubt we can turn this around.”

Outside the scope of Russia and militant Islam sweeping the globe, there is China. Many months ago, the White House announced an Asia Pivot. The pivot to Asia was obscured under the real guise of trade and not a security strategy even while China has continued to threaten U.S. allies over control of the South China Sea. China is not impressed and the disputed waters and islands in the South China Sea are still being challenged.

Meanwhile it is important to telegraph what China is doing while the National Security Council, the White House and the State Department look the other way.

Report: China Hacked Two Dozen U.S. Weapon Designs

Chinese hackers have obtained designs for more than two dozen U.S. weapon systems — including the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship and electromagnetic railguns. A partial list of stolen U.S. military technologies by China is found here.

Making matters worse, at the Pentagon is under sequestration which stifles innovation, repair, weapons systems, defensive systems and acquiring advanced technology keep a competitive edge of adversaries, the U.S. is lagging while China has advanced beyond the scope and imagination of the Department of Defense and contractors.

Pentagon: China Developing New Anti-Satellite Weapons, Jammers


China is designing weapons to counter advanced Western satellite technology using directed energy weapons and jammers and may have already tested some, according to a Friday Chinese military assessment to Congress.

The West — particularly the U.S. — relies on ever expanding constellations of communications and surveillance satellites to maintain its information edge over potential rivals and China is seeking ways to erode that advantage in the event of a conflict, according to the Military and Security Developments
Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015 report to Congress.

“China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space- based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers,” read the report.

Dubbed counterspace, the efforts follow several demonstrations of China’s capabilities to interdict satellites with ground-based missiles in the last several years.

Perhaps the most well known is Jan. 11, 2007 test in which a modified Chinese ballistic missile successfully destroyed a defunct weather satellite in polar orbit — littering Earth’s orbit with debris and surprising the West.

Since then, the Pentagon report has cited several instances in which it appears the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted similar — albeit non-destructive — tests.

A July 2014 missile test “did not result in the destruction of a satellite or space debris, read the report.
”However, due to the evidence suggesting that this was a follow-up to the 2007 destructive test, the United States expressed concern that China’s continued development of destructive space technologies represented a threat to all peaceful space-faring nations, and was inconsistent with China’s public statements about the use of space for peaceful purposes.”
Additionally, in 2013 a suspicious Chinese launch sent an object into an orbital neighborhood crowded with geosynchronous communications satellites.

“Analysis of the launch determined that the booster was not on the appropriate trajectory to place objects in orbit and that no new satellites were released,” read the report.

After a little more than nine hours, the mystery object landed, leaving the rest of the space faring world puzzled to what the object was.

“The United States and several public organizations expressed concern to Chinese representatives and asked for more information about the purpose and nature of the launch. China thus far has refrained from providing additional information,” read the report.

The report feared the test could “have been a test of technologies with a counterspace mission in geosynchronous orbit.”

The U.S. relies heavily on satellites for communications and some targeting of its weapons a fact that has not been lost on the PLA.

“PLA writings emphasize the necessity of ‘destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance … and communications satellites,’ suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to ‘blind and deafen the enemy’,” read the report.
“PLA analysis of U.S. and coalition military operations also states that ‘destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors … will deprive an opponent of initiative on the battlefield and [make it difficult] for them to bring their precision guided weapons into full play’.”

The report to Congress comes as some in the Air Force have called for a more robust defense of U.S. space assets, according to a Monday analysis from Jane’s Defence Weekly.

“The USAF’s outgoing military acquisition chief recently acknowledged that the Pentagon is devising new concepts for protecting its space assets, hinting at the need for new types of deterrence. ‘We have to put some resources and some focus on protection capability,’ Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said in April,” read the Monday report.


Formal Court-Martial for Bergdahl in Question

The matter of the Taliban, Qatar and Bowe Bergdahl is on a collision course in coming weeks. The Taliban 5 released in secret but after years of collusion by the White House are set to go free on June 1. The United States has been in talks with Qatar regarding any further measures to contain or monitor the former Gitmo detainees and any of those details are not forthcoming.

The Bergdahl swap for Gitmo detainees was part of a larger White House plot.

Meanwhile, many within the military declare we are at war with the Taliban, while Obama administration officials say otherwise. Then there is the pending case of the deserter, Bowe Bergdahl where he has been officially charged but plea deals are under way to forego the court martial process.

This case has become the issue of epic proportions within certain ranks of the military as several died looking for Bergdahl and others were wounded. Honestly it boils down to Admiral Mullen, at the time was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and General Milley who handled the Bergdahl case and was just himself promoted to Army Chief of Staff. The official charges against Bergdahl is found here.

The actual Federal register text on Barack Obama’s remarks at the White House regarding Sgt. Bergdahl that included his parents are found here.

The collision course is being launched by members of Congress.

Congress Expanding Inquiries Into Bergdahl Swap

by: Josh Rogin

The court-martial proceeding for accused Army deserter Bowe Berghdal won’t begin until July, but the Republican Congress plans to put him back in the headlines much sooner by expanding investigations into the deal to swap him for five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Representative Mac Thornberry and Senator John McCain, have been top critics the Obama administration’s ransoming Bergdahl last May without notifying Congress in advance. Now, following the Army’s decision to indict him for desertion and misbehavior in the face of the enemy — and weeks before the five Taliban leaders are to be released from their one year of house arrest in Qatar — they tell me they will ramp up and broaden their investigations of the swap.

Their effort received an unexpected boost Wednesday when Obama decided to nominate General Mark Milley as the next Army Chief of Staff. Milley, the officer who decided to charge Bergdahl, will face a hearing and confirmation vote in McCain’s committee, where the prisoner swap will doubtless become a focus.

The Milley hearings will be only one part of the Republican offensive. “I plan on doing a full Bergdahl investigation,” McCain told me in an interview. “We need to look at that whole thing. I understand that next month the Taliban commanders will be released.”

McCain said that while his committee had already been looking into the issue, the staff will now expand the investigation to include several more aspects of the administration’s handling of the case, including why National Security Adviser Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows after Bergdahl’s release and said he served “with honor and distinction.”

The committee will also look into reports that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Admiral Mike Mullen, had long known the circumstances of Bergdahl walking off his base in Afghanistan in 2009. There’s no firm timeline on when the Senate committee’s investigation might be complete, McCain said.

The House, for its part, on Wednesday passed its version of a comprehensive defense policy bill for next year that would restrict the Office of the Secretary of Defense from spending $500 million — 25 percent of its budget — until it hands over every piece of correspondence it has related to the Bergdahl-Taliban swap.

A Thornberry spokesman, Claude Chafin, told me Wednesday that Thornberry has not been satisfied with the Pentagon’s cooperation so far, especially that the documents the committee has received were heavily redacted with no explanation.

At a hearing with then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last June, Thornberry criticized the administration for failing to notify Congress of the trade 30 days in advance, which is required by law for the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. He also scored points when he took issue with Hagel’s contention that they had “not been implicated in any attacks against the United States.”

“Your point was, they didn’t pull the trigger, but they were senior commanders of the Taliban military who directed operations against the U.S. and its coalition partners?” Thornberry asked Hagel.

“That’s right,” Hagel responded. “As I said in my statement, they were combatants, and we were at war with the Taliban.”

In addition to withholding the funds, the new House bill also includes nine separate restrictions or reporting requirements designed to stifle the administration’s ability to release more prisoners from Guantanamo, restrictions that would last until the end of Obama’s presidency and effectively squash his campaign promise to close the facility.

McCain’s Senate committee is marking up its version of the defense policy bill this week behind closed doors. He told me it would probably not include Thornberry’s provision withholding a portion of the defense secretary’s budget. But he said that restrictions on moving more prisoners from Guantanamo are needed, citing reports that one of the released Taliban commanders has already made contact with his former militant associates.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure people are not released that will pose a threat for further attacks,” he said.

The case against Bergdahl may never go to trial — desertions usually end in a plea bargain. But the controversy over the administration’s handling of it is not going away. The White House really has no choice but to be more forthcoming about what it did last year if it wants all of the Defense Department’s funding back and its man confirmed as the next head of the Army.

Bergdahl’s service abbreviated GPO record and swap details are:

Afghanistan : Former regime
Afghanistan : Reconciliation efforts
Afghanistan : Sgt. Bowe R. Bergdahl, USA, release from captivity by Taliban forces
Afghanistan : U.S. military forces :: Deployment
Armed Forces, U.S : Servicemembers :: POW/MIA remains, recovery efforts
Cuba : Guantanamo Bay, U.S. Naval Base :: Detention of alleged terrorists
Qatar : Amir
Qatar : U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Station detainees, transfer to Qatari custody
Terrorism : Transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay
Albrecht, Sky; Bergdahl, Bowe R.; Bergdahl, Jani; Bergdahl, Robert; Fazi, Mohammed; Khairkhwa, Khirullah Said Wali; Noori, Norullah; Omari, Mohammed Nabi; Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani; Wasiq, Abdul Haq
Washington, DC
The President spoke at 6:16 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Sky Albrecht, sister of Sgt. Bergdahl; Amir Hamad bin Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar; and Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mohammed Fazi, Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammed Nabi Omari, members of the Afghan Taliban released from the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station detention center in Cuba to Qatari custody in Doha in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl. Mr. Bergdahl referred to Prime Minister Abdallah bin Nasir bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar.



Billion$ Leave the U.S. by Immigrants

Ah, but all those immigrants in our country today are here with families right? Not so much. Further, wide debates circle around re-patrioting U.S. currency stashed in foreign countries, but can that really happen or keep pace with what foreign nationals are sending out of the country? We are talking billions here. They are pointing to Mexicans, but there should be a real challenge, are they all really Mexicans? How much is terror money or narco-dollars?

Imagine if the Mexicans are doing this, then are the militant Islamic factions that support Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad doing the same thing? Combine these dollars with those that are own federal government is doing at the behest of the White House, the State Department, USAID and secret grants. The Palestinians are hostile to Israel and the United States but the Federal government sends them billions. The Obama administration supported militants in Gaza, not to mention Hezbollah.

If Mexico was not a failed state, then why the billions in just the cooperative agreement called the Merida Initiative?

Mexicans in U.S. sent home $5.7 billion in remittances in first 3 months of 2015

Mexican living in the United States sent $5.7 billion in remittances back home in the first three months of 2015 alone, the highest amount of money sent to the country by expats since 2008, Banco de Mexico reported.

The amount of money that Mexicans living abroad sent to their family and friends back home between January and March of 2015 is 5 percent higher than it was in the same period last year, with remittances in March increasing 7.6 percent to $2.26 billion.

This averages out to each Mexican family living in the U.S. sending around $312 back to Mexico in March – or around $9 more than in March of 2014. The only time this number was higher was in July 2012, when Mexican families sent home an average of $314 that month.

“We hope that the slight increase in remittances in 2015 gives a brighter indication for growth and employment in the U.S. perspective,” said Alberto Ramos, an economist at Goldman Sachs report, according to Univision.

Ramos added that “a weaker Mexican peso and low domestic inflation increase the real purchasing power in local currency remittance flows.”

Banco de Mexico reported that 97 percent of remittances to the country came from the United States, with the other 3 percent coming from Canada, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Spain. The U.S. states where the majority of remittances came from were California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Georgia and New York.

Some 11 million Mexicans live in the United States and many of them work in the construction sector. In this economic context, remittances are the main source of foreign exchange in Mexico, after oil and foreign direct investment, and also represent a vital income for millions of people.


Kerry Ignores ALL Iran Violations

Iran is a known and verified state sponsor of terror, of this there is no dispute. Iran has violated sanctions, agreements, hidden nuclear operations from inspectors and worse the United States has fought against Iran militia factions in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan at least since the 80’s.

Exactly how much slack is Barack Obama, John Kerry and even the other members of the P5+1 going to give Iran at the expense of the continue threat and nuclear operations of this rogue nation? Is there no red-line anywhere? Oh wait…every other country appears to have a red-line but that of the Obama administration either moves, changes color or is simply rhetoric. When foreign nations are leading the charge on stopping Iran, the West needs to take notice.

John Kerry was in Moscow this week meeting with the Russian leadership over Syria, Iraq and most of all Iran. Russia is not going to cooperate with the United Nations resolutions or with any sanctions against Iran. Kerry failed to gain Putin’s agreement.

A Russian official on Wednesday bluntly rejected claims that sanctions on Iran would be restored immediately should the Islamic Republic violate the terms of an agreement to curb its nuclear program, poking a hole in a central White House plank meant to soothe critics of the deal. The Obama administration has stated that Russia agreed “in principle” on the need to reimpose sanctions if Iran fails to comply with the agreement, but the Russian government has never confirmed that it agrees with such a stance.

Exclusive: Czechs stopped potential nuclear tech purchase by Iran – sources

The Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions, U.N. experts and Western sources said.

The incident could add to Western concerns about whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal being negotiated with world powers under which it would curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

The negotiators are trying to reach a deal by the end of June after hammering out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and agreeing to other long-term nuclear limitations.

Some details of the attempted purchase were described in the latest annual report of an expert panel for the United Nations Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee, which has been seen by Reuters.

The panel said that in January Iran attempted to buy compressors – which have nuclear and non-nuclear applications – made by the U.S.-owned company Howden CKD Compressors.

A Czech state official and a Western diplomat familiar with the case confirmed to Reuters that Iran had attempted to buy the shipment from Howden CKD in the Czech Republic, and that Czech authorities had acted to block the deal.

It was not clear if any intermediaries were involved in the attempt to acquire the machinery.

There was no suggestion that Howden CKD itself was involved in any wrongdoing. Officials at Prague-based Howden declined to comment on the attempted purchase.

The U.N. panel, which monitors compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime, said there had been a “false end user” stated for the order.

“The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions,” it added.

The report offered no further details about the attempted transaction. Iran’s U.N. mission did not respond to a query about the report.

CONTRACT WORTH $61 million

The Czech state official said the party seeking the compressors had claimed the machinery was needed for a compressor station, such as the kind used to transport natural gas from one relay station to another.

The official declined to say exactly how the transaction was stopped, provide specifications of the compressors or confirm the intended purchaser. However, he made clear it was the Czech authorities who halted the deal

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the total value of the contract would have been about 1.5 billion Czech koruna ($61 million).

This was a huge amount for the company concerned, the previously named CKD Kompresory, a leading supplier of multi-stage centrifugal compressors to the oil and gas, petrochemical and other industries.

The firm was acquired by Colfax Corp. of the United States in 2013 for $69.4 million. A spokesman for Colfax declined to comment.

The United States and its Western allies say Iran continues to try to skirt international sanctions on its atomic and missile programs even while negotiating the nuclear deal.

The U.N. panel of experts also noted in its report that Britain informed it of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to blacklisted firms.

While compressors have non-nuclear applications in the oil and gas industry, they also have nuclear uses, including in centrifuge cascades. Centrifuges purify uranium gas fed into them for use as fuel in nuclear reactors or weapons, if purified to levels of around 90 percent of the fissile isotope uranium-235.

“Such compressors can be used to extract enriched uranium directly from the cascades,” Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a nuclear expert currently at Harvard University, told Reuters.

“In particular, they are useful when working with higher enrichment such as 20 percent enriched uranium,” he said, adding that precise specifications of the compressors in question would be necessary to make a definitive assessment.

Iran has frozen production of 20 percent enriched uranium, a move that Western officials cite as one of the most important curbs on Iranian nuclear activities under an interim agreement in 2013.

Tehran rejects allegations by Western powers and their allies that it is seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA and the United States have said repeatedly that Tehran has adhered to the terms of the 2013 interim deal.




Pentagon not Nimble to Challenge ISIS PR

The Pentagon has sought the assistance of DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to collaborate on how best to cultivate the social media success of Islamic State, ISIS.

Social media, propaganda and public relations used by Islamic State is so advanced, effective and cutting edge that our own technology, resources and imagination has not kept pace with the successful methods broadcasted by the terror group.

DARPA developed software technology called MEMEX that can see and access something known as the ‘dark-web’, but dynamic encryption codes stifle efforts to capture communications used by all recognized terror groups where they collaborate on money, planning, movement, people and operations. Further our own government agencies are back to infighting on who takes the lead, what the strategy is and further what powerful countermeasures can be applied to stop the ISIS public relations/marketing machine. Enemies are nimble, the United States intelligence community is not.

Bureaucracy stifles counter-jihad info war

The Pentagon is struggling to counter the information warfare efforts of the Islamic State terrorist group that are effectively exploiting U.S. social media and Western press freedoms to recruit jihadists and communicate among themselves.

Bureaucratic red tape within the military, specifically the U.S. Central Command and Pentagon, is preventing rapid responses to IS propaganda and activities, Inside the Ring has learned from knowledgeable sources.

One problem is the cumbersome approval process needed before U.S. information warriors can carry out counter-actions online. Prior to doing so, they’re required to go through several layers of approvals along a lengthy chain of command.

As a result, in some cases U.S. information operations against IS propaganda were delayed for days or weeks, often making the responses ineffective or useless.

Additionally, U.S. information operations have been weakened and limited in conducting counter-information attacks because of concerns the American hand will be exposed. Another problem has been fear among U.S. higher-ups that IS will step up both information and kinetic attacks in response.

Outright lies — such as false reports of U.S. troops deployments — are more easily countered. But those cases are infrequent. Aggressive online programs to dissuade would-be jihadists and expose IS propaganda programs and activities have been stifled. Counter cyber attacks against known IS operators also have been limited.

The U.S. information warfare effort has been hampered by officials have said is a cultural bias against propaganda activities, which are sometime regarded as contrary to U.S. freedoms. That is said to be changing, however, as terrorist groups like IS and al Qaeda are increasing their use of soft power methods to attack the West. Nation-state information warfare, particularly by China, Russia and Iran, also is gradually being recognized as a growing strategic threat.

The IS information threat was highlighted by the alert issued last week raising the security threat level on U.S. military bases. The alert was prompted by an IS-linked hacker group that posted a notice online warning of an “another surprise for America” — interpreted as a possible attack.

As a result, U.S. Northern Command commander, Adm. Bill Gortney, ordered military bases to tighten security from “Alpha” to “Bravo” level around the country. Force-protection level Bravo is ordered in response to a somewhat predictable terrorist threat.

The group making the threat was the same hacker group that successfully conducted a cyber attack on Central Command’s social media accounts in January, replacing web pages with IS propaganda and the name “Cybercaliphate.”

The group conducted some low-level cyber attacks against several Pentagon web sites last week in attempted “denial-of-service” cyber strikes whose impact was limited.

One example of IS’s online agility is its use of Twitter. IS operatives and supporters are using multiple Twitter accounts to send well-crafted videos and propaganda materials. Usually, IS terrorists open up to six Twitter accounts, with successive accounts being used after one or more of the accounts are shut down by the social media giant, often at U.S. government urging.

One effective propaganda and recruiting video was posted on a Russian Internet site and targeted Central Asia Muslims. The five-minute video was described as extremely professional in both content and production values.

Another trend is a recent shift by IS away from Web-based social media sites to mobile devices that are being used to communicate through text messaging, and propagandize by mobile videos shared directly between hand-held devices.

Additionally, IS information operations to inspire Islamists to conduct attacks in the United States also are shifting to the so-called “Dark Web,” the gray Internet underworld used by criminals to share information and software.

IS also appears to have studied information dissemination methods used by neo-Nazi groups, in order to communicate and spread their message in the English-speaking world.

The target audience for IS includes Islamist sympathizers who are not directly linked to the Syrian/Iraqi based IS terror group.

New Net Assessment chief

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has selected a candidate for the influential post of director of the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s future warfare and worst-case scenario think tank.

The selection is said to be James. H. Baker, currently the principal deputy director for strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, and a key aide to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. In the past Mr. Baker was head of Joint Chiefs chairman’s action group under then-Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

Some military and defense officials expressed concern that Mr. Baker will reverse decades of innovative work inside the secretive Net Assessment office led by Andrew Marshall, the 93-year-old academic who stepped down in January.

Mr. Marshall was known as the Pentagon’s “Yoda” and was the only official to hold the director’s post since the office was created in 1973.

Mr. Marshall appointed his deputy, Andrew May, as acting director who was a candidate for the top post. A third candidate who lost out in the selection process was Thomas Ehrhard, currently an aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.

What concerns several China hawks is Mr. Baker’s reputation as a left-of-center analyst who has sought to minimize foreign threats, especially those from China. Mr. Baker disclosed his conciliatory views on China and advocated for greater unrestricted engagement at a 2013 speech to the Naval War College.

As ONA director, Mr. Baker would be in charge of the office’s annual $15 million budget, and have direct access to Mr. Carter. The Pentagon sought to downgrade the office last year by placing it within the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy. But Congress passed legislation blocking the move and added an additional $5 million for assessments.

Another problem for critics is Mr. Baker’s past role as senior official in the costly F-35 development program. The stealth jet program suffered cost overruns amounting to tens of millions of dollars and left the new frontline fighter with the dubious reputation of being the most expensive aircraft ever built. Unit costs for the three-version jet skyrocketed to between $98 million to $116 million per aircraft.

A Republican foreign policy adviser predicted to Inside the Ring: “James H. Baker will be fired on Jan. 20, 2017 if a Republican is elected president. He’s too partisan and too left wing. Frankly, Hillary Clinton may fire him too.”

A defense official confirmed Mr. Baker will be the next ONA director but declined to comment on his critics.

State issues foreign booze warning

The State Department’s security office recently sent out a warning notice to U.S. companies operating facilities overseas urging Americans to avoid drinking local booze.

The May 5 notice from the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a public-private entity that works with State’s Office of Diplomatic Security, stated that the warning followed the deaths last month in Nigeria of 23 people poisoned after drinking a local gin called ogogoro that apparently was tainted with a pesticide.

“The deadly situation in Nigeria underscores the need for awareness that consuming alcohol abroad comes with various risks that are not necessarily prevalent in the U.S.,” the four-page OSAC notice said.

The alert advised travelers or workers abroad to avoid drinking homemade or counterfeit alcoholic drinks around the world often made with varying levels of toxicity. For example, last year, 24 people died and dozens were injured from drinking a Kenyan bootleg alcohol called kathuvuria, and some 31 people died and 160 injured in India from drinking booze tainted with methyl alcohol.

The alert also warns Americans not to engage in drinking competitions with locals: “Even Australian PM Tony Abbott was celebrated ‘skolling’ (chugging) a schooner (2/3 of a pint) of beer before flipping the empty glass on top of his head at a pub,” the report said.

In South Korea, Americans were warned to avoid getting drunk at parties with business partners, often on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, as part of South Koreans’ efforts to learn “true personalities in a tradition known as hoesik,” the report said.

“This level of inebriation can lead to cultural misunderstandings, ruined business relations or, worse, an increase in exposure to criminality,” the report added.