Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Major breach

pentagonIn this post-9/11, ultra-high security era, it is hard to believe that the bomb-proofing specs of a new Defense Department building in the DC area would be on public view. Then again, the Internet is a tough beast to manage.

Reuters reporters Mark Hosenball and Missy Ryan discovered the sensitive information about Mark Center — where 6,400 Defense Department personnel are scheduled to move later this year — on a public website maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Out of concern for the security of personnel who will work there, Reuters is not disclosing most of the details in the 424-page document stamped “For Official Use Only.”

But Hosenball and Ryan found an alarming detail on Mark Center: It is designed to resist threats posed by vehicle bombs detonated outside the building’s security perimeter carrying the equivalent of 220 pounds of TNT. That is far less than the amount of explosive used in the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center and 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City.

A Corps spokesman said the public posting was a mistake and that the government was working to take it down. But he acknowledged that it might have been sitting there since the document’s date -2009. Little comfort to 6,400 employees.

Just the right tavern to celebrate 200 years of U.S.-French military ties

Not every U.S. ally who visits the Pentagon needs to be treated to a dinner that evokes more than 200 years of peaceful military relations.

France is the rare exception.

So when Defense Minister Alain Juppe traveled to Washington this week for talks with Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary found just the right venue: Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the few establishments in the United States that can boast of “fine dining since 1770.”

Its historical guest list includes the likes of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe.

Congress scraps plan for new executive jets

Remember when members of Congress embarrassed auto executives who flew to Washington aboard private jets when their companies were looking for bailouts?

The public grilling that was replayed over and over again came back to haunt the lawmakers, reappearing in television news stories about the House adding four executive jets to a defense appropriations bill despite Pentagon objections.

Late Monday, House leaders reversed course and dropped plans to spend $550 million to upgrade the Air Force fleet used by senior government officials and members of Congress for world travel. The Pentagon had only requested $220 million to buy four passenger jets. So, the House leaders are reverting to the the original request.

First draft: If it’s Monday, it must be Turkey

President Barack Obama is on the final leg of his first European trip as president, traveling to Turkey for a two-day visit. On his first stop in a predominantly Muslim country, Obama sought to rebuild ties with Turkey – a country spanning Asia and Europe which the United States needs to help solve confrontations from Iran to Afghanistan.

OBAMA-TURKEY/He vowed to help Turkey resolve its differences with Armenia and said the United States was willing to provide further support against Kurdish separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.

In a nod to Turkey’s regional reach, economic power and diplomatic status Obama will spend the day in Ankara speaking to parlaiment and meeting with Turkish leaders before traveling to Istanbul in the evening.

What’s the difference between Obama and Bush?

If you want to know if there’s a difference between working for President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, ask the man who’s worked for both: Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates faced that question on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

OBAMA/

Gates, a former CIA official, first responded without really responding. “That sounds like the subject of a good book,” Gates said, and declined to say whether he plans to write one.

When pressed, the Pentagon chief said, “I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical and we makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue and if they don’t speak up, he calls on them.”