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The Fiscal Cliff is Here Again Along with Cyber Insecurity

February 2013
Joe Mazzafro

Greetings Fiscal Cliff Dwellers!  By the time you read this there will be less than two weeks before automatic sequestration cuts take effect - - - a week of which the Congress will be in recess!  What was meant to be a “poison pill” to force the legislative and executive branches to compromise on rational budgets so the government could reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years now appears inevitable.  Since January we have been fed a steady stream of increasingly dire consequences from Navy aircraft carriers not deploying, to Army readiness declining, to Air Force airplanes not being maintained, to civilian workers being furloughed, and to contracts being canceled unless there is some relief from the automatic 9.4% sequestration of funds scheduled for March 1st.   Yet none of this doom and gloom was in evidence as late as Thanksgiving of 2012 when the reflexive answer from DoD consistently was “the Congress won’t allow sequestration to happen!”

Dramatics to Drama: From the Fiscal Cliff to “Zero Dark Thirty”

Joe Mazzafro

Unless we are existing in a weird parallel universe, the Mayan’s were clearly wrong about the world ending last month,  but the National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds” does warn the U.S. will likely lose its status as the planet’s only superpower by then.  And how about that fiscal cliff?!?  Lots of drama for New Year’s Day legislation that only raised taxes on those making $400k or more without any meaningful impact on reducing the deficit or dealing with sequestration.  More or less a two month “U” turn at the fiscal cliff or a demonstration of “Democracy Inaction!”
The White House and the Congress “agreeing “ to defer dealing with either the debt ceiling or sequestration for two months only insures that budgetary uncertainty for almost all national security accounts will continue until “March Madness.”  Sequestration will then join raising the debt ceiling and extending the Continuing Resolution (CR) for the rest of FY 13 as requiring legislative action of some type in March.  While there could be some kind of grand bargain providing a comprehensive solution to all three of these separate but related tectonic fiscal issues, I remain unable to see what will change between now and March given the political posturing that has been going since 2010 without any significant increases in revenues or cuts in spending.  And as we heard the President and the Republican leaders of Congress publicly “trash talking” with each other on January 14, any discussion about raising the debt ceiling is an opportunity for political brinkmanship regarding shutting down the government.

The Information Age is Changing the Metaphysics of Intelligence

Joe Mazzafro

Given the unknowns about whether the world will end on 21 December as foretold by the Mayan Calendar or if the US government will find itself mired at the bottom of “Fiscal Cliff Washington” come New Year’s Day, any discussion about what will hold the Intelligence Community’s (IC) attention in 2013 seems premature. However, despite the notoriety of both of these “black swans,” I remain unabashedly optimistic the Mayan Astrologers have miscalculated and that the IC can muddle through 2013 on $65 billion even if most of it is borrowed money.
Before we get into any soothsaying for 2013 we probably should check my homework on this subject for 2012 when I fearlessly predicted six things that I thought would demand the IC’s attention.

Petraeus, Benghazi, the DNI and IC-ITE

November 13, 2012
Joe Mazzafro

My initial intent was to discuss with you the intelligence related issues associated with the September 11th Benghazi attack and offer my views on the proceedings of AFCEA’s Fall Intelligence Symposium that focused on the importance of implementing  the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE, pronounced “eye sight”).  This train of thought, however, was jarringly  interrupted Friday (9 Nov) afternoon with  the mind bending announcement that the President had accepted (reluctantly) David Patraeus’ resignation as CIA Director because of an extra-marital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell (“ALL IN - - - The Education of General David Patraeus” with Vernon Loeb).  Ironically, Patraeus’ necessary but unforced departure from the seventh floor at Langley will vector us back to Benghazi and IC ITE.
My first reaction to the bulletin “Petraeus Resigns” was this probably is related to Benghazi being cast as an intelligence failure and somebody with sufficient name recognition had to fall on their sword post election to placate administration critics and get this story out of the media.  My next thought was what does unexpectedly having to find a new CIA Director means for IC?

I&W Cyber and Otherwise

Joe Mazzafro

Last month when we gathered around the browser, I was expressing my concerns about a “guns of October” scenario emerging in the Middle East and assuring you that I did not believe the attack in Benghazi on September 11 represented an intelligence failure.  Within days of posting, the conflict in Syria expanded to Turkey retaliating with cross border fire against Assad’s government forces.  Then on September 28th the DNI issued a statement clarifying that subsequent intelligence showed the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi was not a spontaneous reaction to the YouTube “Innocence of Muslims” film trailer but rather it was a planned terrorist attack meant to kill Americans and embarrass the United States (  As I started to write this edition, Secretary of Defense Panetta spoke at Business Executives for National Security (BENS) dinner on October 11th aboard the INTREPID Museum in New York City laying out the cyber threat to national security and how DoD is preparing to deal with it (

Bad Movies and Threats to CONUS

September 17, 2012
By: Joe Mazzafro

I started over Labor Weekend to write about my increasing concern about the escalating number of Green on Blue attacks in Afghanistan during August, and even though they are continuing they seem to have receded in importance relative to raising level of violence in Cairo, the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens (along three other Americans) in our Benghazi Consulate, and anti American demonstrations in 20 other countries all triggered by the offense taken at an amateurish YouTube video that seems to mock the Prophet Muhammad.  As with the Danish cartoons from years past, Arab Muslims again seem to be looking for the opportunity to be offended so they can blame the West for what ails their societies.  Or perhaps there is latent Arab anger that the US never relented in its efforts to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.  Meanwhile unrelated to the YouTube clip (it’s a trailer not movie) titled the “Innocence of Muslims” Assad is ramping up his violence against Syrian rebels offended by his secular dictatorial regime while Israel’s Prime Minister is publicly insisting the US articulate for all to know its conditions for taking military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.

I don’t agree with the view expressed by some that the IC not warning of violent demonstrations at the American Embassy in Cairo or the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi represents an intelligence failure.  The political volatility in both Libya and Egypt seems to have been understood and conveyed by the IC; however, at least in Cairo the IC along with the news media continue to be challenged by extracting actionable intelligence from social media.

October Surprises?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
By: Joe Mazzafro

Since my last interaction with you just before the 4th of July quite a bit as transpired - - - - most of it troubling to me - - - - but the Olympics, the preseason début of the Redskin’s RG III, and the Nationals pennant run, all seem to be acceptable diversions in the swelter of the dog days of July and August in DC.

Stopping Leaks---A Good First Step

Tuesday, July 03, 2012
By: Joe Mazzafro

When we left off in June we were discussing the implications of the New York Times’ [not so] Secret Kill List article of 29 May about how the President singularly decides who will be targeted for termination by CIA launched drone strikes and how he alone can give the execute order. What I offered for your consideration was a discussion about whether these drone strikes could be justified under generally accepted Laws of War and even more importantly whether or not they were effective in making the United States safer. After almost a month long barrage of media reporting only staunched by the Supreme Court Decision upholding the Affordable Care Act on June 28th, I now understand the real interest in this story is the debate about whether it was leaked to effect presidential electoral politics or not. Wow did I miss that!

Droning On

Monday, June 11, 2012
By: Joe Mazzafro

Having spent most of May reading Tim Weiner’s recent book “ENEMIES a History of the FBI” and Jose Rodriguez’s “HARD MEASURES How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Save American Lives” I thought discussing my “takeaways” from these two books would be interesting material for this edition. However, not examining the in-depth media reporting on the use of armed drones for targeted killing of terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen juxtaposed with the wholesale execution of civilians in Syria strikes me as tone death. Finding the confluence of technology and ethics personally fascinating, the more I thought about how the President is personally engaged in selecting targets and giving the “shoot order” for targeted drone killings I found myself informed by Weiner’s and Rodriquez’s narratives with implications for Syria.

The Second Oldest Profession

Monday, April 30, 2012
By: Joe Mazzafro

Is it just me or is the Secret Service hard partying prostitute scandal in Cartagena Columbia like a NSCAR pile up that you shouldn't be fixated on, but just can't bring yourself to stop watching? As a Tailhook era sailor who spent his life in and around Naval Aviation, I am not surprised that anything to do with drinking, partying and hookers would hold my attention (how about those GSA partiers; who knew!?!?), but the mainstream media stays with stories because they are either important or they provide the numbers that matter to advertisers. I am guessing the Secret Service scandal has what journalists call "legs" because it is both salacious and involves the security of the President.


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