Michèle Flournoy is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors, and former Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), where she currently serves on the board.
Michèle served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations. She led the development of the Department of Defense’s 2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the Department in dozens of foreign engagements, in the media and before Congress.
Prior to confirmation, Michèle co-led President Obama’s transition team at the Defense Department.
In January 2007, Michèle co-founded CNAS, a bipartisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies. She served as CNAS’ President until 2009, and returned as CEO in 2014. In 2017, she co-founded WestExec Advisors, a strategic advisory firm.
Previously, she was senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for several years and, prior to that, a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU).
In the mid-1990s, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy.
Michèle is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including: the American Red Cross Exceptional Service Award in 2016; the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1998, 2011, and 2012; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 2000 and 2012; the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service in 1996; and CARE’s Global Peace, Development and Security Award in 2019. She has edited several books and authored dozens of reports and articles on a broad range of defense and national security issues. Michèle appears frequently in national and international media, including CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, BBC News, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered and PBS’ News Hour, and is frequently quoted in top tier newspapers.
Michèle serves on the boards of
- Booz Allen Hamilton,
- Amida Technology Solutions,
- The Mission Continues,
- Spirit of America,
- The U.S. Naval Academy Foundation,
- CARE, and sits on the Honorary Advisory Committee of
- The Leadership Council for Women in National Security. Michèle is also a former member of the
- President’s Intelligence Advisory Board,
- the CIA Director’s External Advisory Board, and the
- Defense Policy Board, and is currently a member of the
- Council on Foreign Relations and the
- Aspen Strategy Group, and is a
- Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Michèle earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Harvard University and a master’s degree in international relations from Balliol College, Oxford University, where she was a Newton-Tatum scholar.
The investigation into Russia’s suspected operation is said to focus in part on the killings of three Marines in a truck bombing last year, officials said.
American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.
The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.
The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.
But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.
Moreover, a description of the intelligence assessment that the Russian unit had carried out the bounties plot was also seen as serious and solid enough to disseminate more broadly across the intelligence community in a May 4 article in the C.I.A.’s World Intelligence Review, a classified compendium commonly referred to as The Wire, two officials said.
A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, did not answer when pressed by reporters on Monday whether the intelligence was included in the written President’s Daily Brief, and the National Security Council spokesman pointed to her comments when asked later about the February written briefing.
Late Monday, John Ratcliffe, the recently confirmed director of national intelligence, issued a statement warning that leaks about the matter were a crime.
“We are still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting, and we will brief the president and congressional leaders at the appropriate time,” he said. “This is the analytic process working the way it should. Unfortunately, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”
The disclosures came amid a growing furor in Washington over the revelations in recent days that the Trump administration had known for months about the intelligence conclusion but the White House had authorized no response to Russia.
Top Democrats in the House and Senate demanded that all members of Congress be briefed, and the White House summoned a small group of House Republicans friendly to the president to begin explaining its position.
The lawmakers emerged saying that they were told the administration was reviewing reporting about the suspected Russian plot to assess its credibility. They also said the underlying intelligence was conflicting, echoing comments from Ms. McEnany that the information in the assessment had not been “verified” because, she said without detail, there were “dissenting opinions” among analysts or agencies.
“There was not a consensus among the intelligence community,” Ms. McEnany said. “And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.”
Later Monday, Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, echoed her insistence that the reports were unsubstantiated.
But in denying that Mr. Trump was briefed, administration officials have been coy about how it is defining that concept and whether it includes both oral briefings and the President’s Daily Brief. “He was not personally briefed on the matter,” Ms. McEnany told reporters when asked specifically about the written briefing. “That is all I can share with you today.”
Mr. Trump is said to often neglect reading that document, preferring instead to receive an oral briefing summarizing highlights every few days. Even in those face-to-face meetings, he is particularly difficult to brief on national security matters. He often relies instead on conservative media and friends for information, current and former intelligence officials have said.
American intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan began raising alarms as early as January, and the National Security Council convened an interagency meeting to discuss the problem and what to do about it in late March, The New York Times has previously reported. But despite being presented with options, including a diplomatic protest and sanctions, the White House authorized no response.
The administration’s explanations on Monday, in public and in private, appeared to be an attempt to placate lawmakers, particularly Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans, alarmed by news reports in recent days revealing the existence of the intelligence assessment and Mr. Trump’s insistence he had not been warned of the suspected Russian plot.
The assessments pointing to a Russian scheme to offer bounties to Taliban-linked militants and criminals were based on information collected in raids and interrogations on the ground in Afghanistan, where American military commanders came to believe Russia was behind the plot, as well as more sensitive and unspecified intelligence that came in over time, an American official said.
Officials said there was disagreement among intelligence officials about the strength of the evidence about the suspected Russian plot and the evidence linking the attack on the Marines to the suspected Russian plot, but they did not detail those disputes.
Notably, the National Security Agency, which specializes in hacking and electronic surveillance, has been more skeptical about interrogations and other human intelligence, officials said.
Typically, the president is formally briefed when the information has been vetted and seen as sufficiently credible and important by the intelligence professionals. Such information would most likely be included in the President’s Daily Brief.
Former officials said that in previous administrations, accusations of such profound importance — even if the evidence was not fully established — were conveyed to the president. “We had two threshold questions: ‘Does the president need to know this?’ and ‘Why does he need to know it now?’” said Robert Cardillo, a former senior intelligence official who briefed President Barack Obama from 2010 to 2014.
David Priess, a former C.I.A. daily intelligence briefer and the author of “The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents,” said: “Many intelligence judgments in history have not had the consensus of every analyst who worked on it. That’s the nature of intelligence. It’s inherently dealing with uncertainty.”
Both Mr. Cardillo and Mr. Priess said previous presidents received assessments on issues of potentially vital importance even if they had dissents from some analysts or agencies. The dissents, they said, were highlighted for the president to help them understand uncertainties and the analytic process.
Lawmakers demanded to see the underlying material for themselves.
“This is a time to focus on the two things Congress should be asking and looking at: No. 1, who knew what, when, and did the commander in chief know? And if not, how the hell not?” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, each requested that all lawmakers be briefed on the matter and for C.I.A. and other intelligence officials to explain how Mr. Trump was informed of intelligence collected about the plot.
The White House began explaining its position directly to lawmakers in a carefully controlled setting. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Mr. Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence; and Mr. O’Brien briefed a handful of invited House Republicans. A group of House Democrats was scheduled to go to the White House on Tuesday morning to receive a similar briefing.
There was no indication after the session with Republicans whether they had been told that the information was included in Mr. Trump’s written briefing four months ago. But afterward, two of the Republicans — Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Mac Thornberry of Texas — said that they “remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces” and would need additional briefings.
“It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan,” they said in a joint statement. “We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces.”
Other Republicans who attended the briefing were more sanguine. In an interview, Representative Chris Stewart of Utah said he saw nothing unusual about the purported decision not to orally inform Mr. Trump, particularly when the situation did not require the president to take immediate action.
“It just didn’t reach the level of credibility to bring it to the president’s attention,” he said, adding that military and intelligence agencies should continue to scrutinize Russia’s activities.
The Associated Press first reported that the intelligence community was examining the deaths of the three Marine reservists: Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Del.; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, N.Y.; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa.
They were killed near Bagram Air Base when a vehicle laden with explosives hit their truck, wounding an Afghan contractor as well. The huge blast set fire to the truck, engulfing those inside in flames, while their fellow Marines tried to extricate them, a defense official said. A brief firefight ensued.
Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the former police chief of Parwan Province, where Bagram Airfield is, said that the Taliban there hire freelancers from local criminal networks, often blurring the lines of who carried out what attacks. He said the Taliban’s commanders were only based in two districts of the province, Seyagird and Shinwari, and from there they coordinate a more extensive network that largely commissions the services of criminals.
The Taliban have denied involvement. And a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitry Peskov, told NBC News on Monday that reports of the Russian scheme were incorrect. He said that “none of the American representatives have ever raised this question” with their Russian counterparts through government or diplomatic channels.
The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, declined to comment on any connection between the Marines’ deaths and the suspected Russian plot. He also declined to say whether or when Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was briefed on the intelligence assessment and whether the deaths of American troops in Afghanistan resulted from the Russian bounties. But later Monday, Mr. Hoffman issued a statement saying that the Defense Department was monitoring intelligence on the matter and that it “has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
Col. DeDe Halfhill, a spokeswoman for Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also declined to comment on the same questions.
In a speech Sept. 10, national security adviser John Bolton slammed the International Criminal Court, saying those who cooperate with a probe of U.S. actions would be punished. Here are key moments from that speech. Read more: https://wapo.st/2QkfLB5. Subscribe to The Washington Post on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2qiJ4dy
A look at the tragic consequences of underestimating the enemy. During the Second World War, the British commander of Singapore believed it to be an impregnable fortress until a numerically inferior Japanese Army overran it. Similarly, 12 years on, the French lost the mountain garrison at Dien Bien Phu after failing to anticipate the resourcefulness of General Giap and his Vietmanese peasant army.
We have long saluted military genius and bravery. But the other side of the coin is military incompetence – a largely preventable, tragically expensive, yet totally absorbing aspect of human behaviour.
From the Crusades to Vietnam, history is littered with examples of stupidity, obduracy, brutality and sheer breath-taking incompetence. Lack of communication, technological failure and a misplaced sense of superiority have led to the deaths of thousands of ordinary soldiers, let down by their masters and betrayed by arrogance. Using a combination of history, human interest and archive footage underpinned by powerful story-telling, Great Military Blunders charts man’s folly and cruelty in a series of stunning debacles, spanning almost a thousand years of conflict.
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The Fulda Gap (German: Fulda-Lücke), an area between the Hesse-Thuringian border (the former Inner German border) and Frankfurt am Main, contains two corridors of lowlands through which tanks might have driven in a surprise attack by the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies to gain crossing(s) of the Rhine River. Named for the town of Fulda, the Fulda Gap became seen as strategically important during the Cold War of 1947-1991. The Fulda Gap roughly corresponds to the route along which Napoleon chose to withdraw his armies after defeat (16 – 19 October 1813) at the Battle of Leipzig. Napoleon succeeded in defeating a Bavarian–Austrian army under Wrede in the Battle of Hanau (30 – 31 October 1813) not far from Frankfurt; from there he escaped back to France.
Oct. 12, 2019 – 3:53 – President Trump defends his decision to pulling U.S. troops out of Syria because of the ultimate sacrifice those troops are making in the Middle East.
The mob threatens the army: it would be a shame if something happened ..
(Stock film of the amy. Tanks rolling, troops moving forward etc. Stirring military music.)
Voice Over: In 1943, a group of British Army Officers working deep behind enemy lines, carried out one of the most dangerous and heroic raids in the history of warfare. But that’s as maybe. And now . . .
(Superimposed Caption on Screen : ‘AND NOW . . . UNOCCUPIED BRITAIN I970′ Cut to colonel’s office. Colonel is seated at desk.)
Colonel: (Graham Chapman) Come in, what do you want?
(Private Watkins enters and salutes.)
Watkins: (Eric Idle) I’d like to leave the army please, sir.
Colonel: Good heavens man, why?
Watkins: It’s dangerous.
Watkins: There are people with guns out there, sir.
Watkins: Real guns, sir. Not toy ones, sir. Proper ones, sir. They’ve all got ’em. All of ’em, sir. And some of ’em have got tanks.
Colonel: Watkins, they are on our side.
Watkins: And grenades, sir. And machine guns, sir. So I’d like to leave, sir, before I get killed, please.
Colonel: Watkins, you’ve only been in the army a day.
Watkins: I know sir but people get killed, properly dead sir, no barely cross fingers sir. A bloke was telling me, if you’re in the army and there’s a war you have to go and fight.
Colonel: That’s true.
Watkins: Well I mean, blimey, I mean if it was a big war somebody could be hurt.
Colonel: Watkins why did you join the army?
Watkins: For the water-skiing and for the travel, sir. And not for the killing, sir. I asked them to put it on my form, sir – no killing.
Colonel: Watkins are you a pacifist?
Watkins: No sir, I’m not a pacifist, sir. I’m a coward.
Colonel: That’s a very silly line. Sit down.
Watkins: Yes sir. Silly, sir. (sits in corner)
Colonel: Awfully bad.
(Knock at the door, sergeant enters, and salutes.)
Sergeant: (John Cleese) Two civilian gentlemen to see you sir!
Colonel: Show them in please, sergeant.
Sergeant: Mr Dino Vercotti and Mr Luigi Vercotti.
(The Vercotti brothers enter. They wear Mafia suits and dark glasses.)
Dino: (Terry Jones) Good morning, Colonel.
Colonel: Good morning gentlemen. Now what can I do for you.
Luigi: (Michael Palin) (looking round office casually) You’ve… you’ve got a nice army base here, Colonel.
Luigi: We wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.
Dino: No, what my brother means is it would be a shame if… (he knocks something off mantel)
Dino: Oh sorry, Colonel.
Colonel: Well don’t worry about that. But please do sit down.
Luigi: No, we prefer to stand, thank you, Colonel.
Colonel: All right. All right. But what do you want?
Dino: What do we want, ha ha ha.
Luigi: Ha ha ha, very good, Colonel.
Dino: The Colonel’s a joker, Luigi.
Luigi: Explain it to the Colonel, Dino.
Dino: How many tanks you got, Colonel?
Colonel: About five hundred altogether.
Luigi: Five hundred, eh?
Dino: You ought to be careful, Co1onel.
Colonel: We are careful, extremely careful.
Dino: ‘Cos things break, don’t they?
Luigi: Well everything breaks, don’t it Colonel. (he breaks something on desk) Oh dear.
Dino: Oh see my brother’s clumsy Colonel, and when he gets unhappy he breaks things. Like say, he don’t feel the army’s playing fair by him, he may start breaking things, Colonel.
Colonel: What is all this about?
Luigi: How many men you got here, Colonel?
Colonel: Oh, er… seven thousand infantry, six hundred artillery, and er, two divisions of paratroops.
Luigi: Paratroops, Dino.
Dino: Be a shame if someone was to set fire to them.
Colonel: Set fire to them?
Luigi: Fires happen, Colonel.
Dino: Things burn.
Colonel: Look, what is all this about?
Dino: My brother and I have got a little proposition for you Colonel.
Luigi: Could save you a lot of bother.
Dino: I mean you’re doing all right here aren’t you, Colonel?
Luigi: Well suppose some of your tanks was to get broken and troops started getting lost, er, fights started breaking out during general inspection, like.
Dino: It wouldn’t be good for business would it, Colonel?
Colonel: Are you threatening me?
Dino: Oh, no, no, no.
Luigi: Whatever made you think that, Colonel?
Dino: The Colonel doesn’t think we’re nice people, Luigi.
Luigi: We’re your buddies, Colonel.
Dino: We want to look after you.
Colonel: Look after me?
Luigi: We can guarantee you that not a single armoured division will get done over for fifteen bob a week.
Colonel: No, no, no.
Luigi: Twelve and six.
Colonel: No, no, no.
Luigi: Eight and six… five bob.
Colonel: No, no this is silly.
Dino: What’s silly?
Colonel: No, the whole premise is silly and it’s very badly written. I’m the senior officer here and I haven’t had a funny line yet. So I’m stopping it.
Dino: You can’t do that!
Colonel: I’ve done it. The sketch is over.
Watkins: I want to leave the army please sir, it’s dangerous.
Colonel: Look, I stopped your sketch five minutes ago. So get out of shot. Right director! Close up. Zoom in on me. (camera zooms in) That’s better.
Luigi: (off screen) It’s only ‘cos you couldn’t think of a punch line.
Colonel: Not true, not true. It’s time for the cartoon. Cue telecine, ten, nine, eight…
(Cut to telecine countdown.)
Dino: (off screen) The general public’s not going to understand this, are they?
Colonel: (off screen) Shut up you eyeties!