Gates vs. Webb

A few months ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the Department of Defense would close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk as part of his sweep of budget cuts. Since then, he has been facing some blowback from a variety of sources, including Democratic Senator Jim Webb, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Senate Committee on Armed Services. And Webb is taking action, trying to get information out of the administration about why Gates chose to close JFCOM. He has already accused the Department of Defense of “stonewalling,” but this time around, the senator intends to freeze all civilian and flag officer nominations until DOD complies.

An internal CIA review of the deadly attack by a Jordanian information on its base in Khost, Afghanistan, wrapped up this week. CIA Director Leon Panetta came to the conclusion that responsibility lies not with any one person or group, but a larger failure within the agency. Communication both on the ground and at headquarters was bad and security measures were insufficient.

Special envoy Richard Holbrooke was in Afghanistan yesterday popping in on a training center for the Afghan National Security Forces in Kabul. He’ll also take part in a Rehearsal of Concept drill, which is a review of the next year’s military and civilian efforts in the country.

And for the past three years, a free trade agreement with South Korea has been in limbo because of cars and beef. The administration has pushed Seoul to give U.S. automakers a greater chance in the Asian market, but South Korea has said that its citizens simply don’t like American cars. Washington also wants the U.S. beef industry to have greater access to the country, but South Koreans are worried about safety issues. In the lead-up to the G-20 Summit, Washington has been attempting to boost relations with Seoul, the host of the meeting. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell said that the time for an deal is now—“we cannot afford to fail. I think it's absolutely essential that we are successful on the Korea free trade agreement.” Ron Kirk, the U.S. trade representative, will meet with South Korea’s trade minister today to work out the last details of the agreement. India and the European Union have already reached trade deals with South Korea, and proponents of the pact say Washington is losing out. Opponents say that the agreement puts corporate interests ahead of those of the general populace.