from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 88
September 4, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


Throughout much of this year, the U.S. military has been conducting joint military exercises with Israel or planning such exercises. A descriptive listing of 2012 U.S. exercises with Israel bearing codenames like NOBLE MELINDA and RELIANT MERMAID was recently published in a House Armed Services Committee hearing volume on the FY2013 budget request for U.S. European Command (EUCOM). The listing was current as of March 2012; the schedule has shifted somewhat since then.

Whatever their intrinsic military value may be, the exercises also serve a messaging function. They constitute signals to internal and external audiences concerning the state of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

The "robust bilateral and multilateral military exercise program offers the Israel Defense Forces strong reassurances of the United States' strong commitment to the security of Israel," said Adm. James G. Stavridis, the EUCOM Commander.

However, the specific content of the messages being sent by the exercises is sometimes ambiguous and subject to contrasting, divergent interpretations.

Time Magazine reported on Friday that the pending exercise known as AUSTERE CHALLENGE was going to be reduced in scale. The downsizing of the exercise was perceived by some as an effort to discourage any unilateral Israeli attack on Iran as well as a signal of a U.S. loss of confidence in Israel. "Basically what the Americans are saying is, 'We don't trust you'," an Israeli official told Time. ("U.S. Scales-Back Military Exercise with Israel, Affecting Potential Iran Strike" by Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein, August 31.)

But the New York Times reported Sunday that pending military exercises were meant to reassure Israel, to strengthen military pressure against Iran and to reduce incentives for unilateral action. ("To Calm Israel, U.S. Offers Ways to Restrain Iran" by David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, September 2.)

In the newly published responses to questions for the record from the House Armed Services Committee, US EUCOM Commander Adm. Stavridis disputed the assertion by Rep. Robert J. Wittman (R-VA) that threats to Israel had "increased in the last year."

"While Israel is certainly in a volatile region of the world, I would argue that the threats to Israel have not increased in the last year," Adm. Stavridis wrote.

"If you take the broad view of the history of the modern state of Israel, it is certainly more secure now that it was in 1948, 1967, 1973, or even during the First or Second Intifadas. Israel currently has signed peace treaties with two of its four neighbors. A third neighbor, Syria, is currently undergoing a period of serious internal unrest and is in no position to threaten Israel militarily. The terrorist threat posed by Lebanese Hezbollah from within the fourth neighbor has been deterred from overt attacks since the war in 2006. Moreover, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has renounced violence. Unrest in the West Bank has subsided significantly over the last few years," Adm. Stavridis wrote.


"DoD security policy is fragmented, redundant, and inconsistent," according to a new report from the Department of Defense Inspector General. This is not a new development, the report noted, but one that has persisted despite decades of criticism.

There are at least 43 distinct DoD security policies "covering the functional areas of information security, industrial security, operations security, research and technology protection, personnel security, physical security, and special access programs," the Inspector General report noted.

"The sheer volume of security policies that are not coordinated or integrated makes it difficult for those at the field level to ensure consistent and comprehensive policy implementation."

The solution to this fragmentation and incoherence is the development of a comprehensive and integrated security policy, the IG report said.

Lacking an integrated framework and an "overarching security policy..., [the] resulting policy can be stove-piped, overlapping and contradictory."

The issuance of such an overarching security policy, described as "the necessary first step," is expected later this year.

See "Assessment of Security Within the Department of Defense -- Security Policy," DoD Inspector General report DoDIG-2012-114, July 27, 2012.


Newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made publicly available include the following.

Promoting Global Internet Freedom: Policy and Technology, updated August 30, 2012:

Vulnerable Youth: Background and Policies, updated August 29, 2012:

Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff, updated August 31, 2012:

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress, updated August 27, 2012:

War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance, updated August 30, 2012:

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, updated August 30, 2012:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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