Despite stonewalling and sabotage by Democrats, Trey Gowdy’s Special Committee to Investigate Benghazi came out with an important report. He put it in a nutshell–you can’t argue about whether or not help could have arrived in time because no assets, other than military drones overhead, moved to the sound of gunfire.

But it is also clear from the portions of the report that I have read that Gowdy and his committee, including the staffers, really did not know what questions to ask and how to properly press witnesses on discrepancies.

The most problematic testimony in my view is what then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated (I presume under oath):

[T]he Secretary recalls the following guidance:

The President made clear that we ought to use all of the resources at our disposal to try to make sure we did everything possible to try to save lives there.

Immediately following the meeting with the President, at roughly 6:00 p.m., the Secretary and Dempsey returned to the Pentagon and convened a meeting that included Ham who was in Washington D.C. at the time, and relevant members of the Secretary’s staff and the Joint Staff.

During the meeting, three distinct capabilities were identified to deploy in response to the attacks in Benghazi: two FAST platoons, the CIF, and the U.S. SOF, capable of response to crises worldwide.279 Again, the Secretary was not aware, and was not told, of any assets in Tripoli. . . .

According to the Secretary, within an hour of his return to the Pentagon, he issued an order to deploy the identified assets.

Here is the problem with this statement–Panetta does not issue “Deployment Orders.” That is done by CJCS under the authority of Panetta. Key question–Where is the Deployment Order? I want you to recall this Crisis Action Planning chart that I posted in a previous piece:

PHASES OF CAP

To reiterate–a “Deployment Order” is issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the authority of the SECDEF. Panetta could not have issued a Deployment Order.  There will be an actual written message and it should carry a Date Time Group corresponding to the time he claims he issued such an order, but it will be under the signature of the CJCS Martin Dempsey. The Deployment Order is best described as a type of Planning Order (see Phase IV above):

At any time during CAP, the NCA may find it desirable to prepare selected units for possible military action. They increase unit readiness by designating alert conditions or ordering a specified deployability posture to reduce the response time of selected forces. Increased readiness actions may be taken during any phase. Deployment Preparation Orders and Deployment Orders are used to increase . . . deployability posture, deploy . . . forces, establish . . . joint task forces and their headquarters, or signal U.S. intent to undertake . . . action. . . .

(a) The Deployment Preparation Order and the Deployment Order are ad- dressed to all combatant commanders and the National Security Agency/Central Security Services. The Secretary of State, the White House Situation Room, and appropriate oth- ers receive copies.

(b) The format for both of these orders is in JOPES Volume I. They include all necessary information to deploy the forces, if it is not already given in other planning guidance documents from CJCS. The order takes the following overall outline:

1. clear statement that it is a Deployment Preparation/Deployment Order issued under the authorization of the Secretary of Defense

2. situation

3. mission

4. execution

5. administration and logistics

6. command and signal

Here is what the JOPES Manual stipulates about the “Deployment Order:”

2.  When Issued.  The DEPLOYMENT PREPARATION or DEPLOYMENT ORDER will be
issued upon decision of the NCA to commence preparations for the conduct
of a military operation (see Figure G-1).  It may be issued at any point
in the CAP development process.  DEPLOYMENT PREPARATION or DEPLOYMENT
ORDERs may be incorporated within WARNING ORDERs, PLANNING ORDERs, and
ALERT ORDERs, if appropriate, and approved by the NCA.
3.  How Issued.  The DEPLOYMENT PREPARATION or DEPLOYMENT ORDER is
normally issued by record communication using a precedence of IMMEDIATE
or FLASH.  If the situation is sufficiently time-sensitive, voice
communication or WIN teleconference can be used first to pass
information.  A record communication will be forwarded as soon as
practicable.

Here is what a “Deployment Order” should look like (Note–it is issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff not the Secretary of Defense–See G-2-1):

APPENDIX 2 TO ANNEX G
                 SAMPLE FORMAT FOR CJCS DEPLOYMENT ORDER
(PRECEDENCE)
FROM:     CJCS WASHINGTON DC
TO:       USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL*
          USCINCLANT NORFOLK VA
          USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE
          CINCFOR FT MCPHERSON GA
          USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
          USCINCSPACE PETERSON AFB CO
          USCINCSO QUARRY HEIGHTS PM
          USCINCSOC MACDILL AFB FL
          USCINCSTRAT OFFUTT AFB NE
          USCINCTRANS SCOTT AFB IL
          DIRNSA FT GEORGE G MEADE MD
          HQ ACC LANGLEY AFB VA//CC//
INFO    WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM WASHINGTON DC
          SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC
          SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//USDP-CH/ASD:PA//
DISTR:    SJS-N/CJCS:PA/J1/J3/J4/J5/J6/J6Z/J7/J8/NMCC:DDO/NIDS/
          DOCDIV  ____________
     *    AIG 8790 will normally be used in CAP messages.  Action addressees           in the AIG are CINCs and DIRNSA.  The C2 paragraph
          will designate supported and supporting commanders.
          Information addressees will include the Services and other
          interested commands and agencies.  Component commanders may be
          included as information addressees to speed dissemination and
          facilitate planning.
           CSA WASHINGTON DC
           CNO WASHINGTON DC
           CSAF WASHINGTON DC
           CMC WASHINGTON DC
           CDRUSELNORAD PETERSON AFB CO
           HQ AMC SCOTT AFB IL//CC//
           DISA WASHINGTON DC
           DIA WASHINGTON DC
           DLA CAMERON STATION VA
           HQ DMA FAIRFAX VA
           CIA WASHINGTON DC
           CENTRAL IMAGERY OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
           CDRMTMC FALLS CHURCH VA
           COMSC WASHINGTON DC
           COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
           COMUSARCENT FT MCPHERSON GA
           USCENTAF SHAW AFB SC//CC//
           COMUSNAVCENT
           CINCLANTFLT NORFOLK VA
           CG FMFLANT
           USTRANSCOM LO MACDILL AFB FL
           CINCPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI
           CINCPACAF HICKAM AFB HI
           CG FMFPAC
           CINCUSNAVEUR LONDON UK
           CDRJCSE MACDILL AFB FL
           JOINT STAFF ICP MANAGER MACDILL AFB FL CLASSIFICATION
           OPER/BLUENOSE//MSGID/ORDER/CJCS//
           AMPN/SPECIAL HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS//
           REF/A/ORDER/CJCS/211742ZNOV__/-/NOTAL//
           REF/B/MSG/USCINCCENT/242100ZNOV__/-/NOTAL//
           REF/C/ORDER/CJCS/270300ZNOV__/-/NOTAL//
           NARR/CJCS WARNING ORDER, COMMANDERS ESTIMATE OF THE SITUATION, 
           ALERT ORDER//
           ORDTYP/DEPLOYORD/CJCS//
           TIMEZONE/Z//
  
NARR/( ) THIS IS A DEPLOYMENT ORDER. THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAS AUTHORIZED THE DEPLOYMENT OF US FORCES TO BLUELAND IN ANTICIPATION(OR SUPPORT) OF MILITARY OPERATIONS.//

GENTEXT/SITUATION/
1.  ( )  SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.//GENTEXT/MISSION/
2.  ( )  SEE CJCS WARNING ORDER, PLANNING ORDER, OR, IF REQUIRED, WRITE A SHORT, CONCISE MISSION STATEMENT.//GENTEXT/EXECUTION/
3.  ( )  USCINCCENT.  BEGIN DEPLOYMENT OF FORCES AS DEFINED IN
USCINCCENT OPLAN XXXX. EMPLOYMENT OF US FORCES OUTSIDE OF BLUELANDIS 
WITHHELD PENDING NCA DECISION.
4.  ( )  USCINCTRANS.  PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION SUPPORT AS REQUIRED.
PROVIDE AIR REFUELING SUPPORT AS REQUIRED.
5.  ( ) COMACC. AS A RESOURCE MANAGER AND WITH THE CONCURRENCE OFTHE FORCES FOR OWNING AND GAINING COMMAND, SOURCE THE FORCES LISTEDBELOW TO MEET USCINCXXX REQUIREMENTS.
6. ( )  OPSEC GUIDANCE.  SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.
7. ( )  PSYOP GUIDANCE.  SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.
8. ( )  CIVIL AFFAIRS GUIDANCE.SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.
9. ( )  COORDINATING INSTRUCTIONS
     A.  ( )  C-DAY, L-HOUR, 290001Z NOV __.
     B. ( ) ANTICIPATED LENGTH OF OPERATION. IN EXCESS OF 30 DAYS. 
     C. ( ) USTRANSCOM WILL COORDINATE AND/OR MONITOR DEPLOYMENTS AS 
REQUIRED BY THE SUPPORTED AND SUPPORTING COMMANDER.
     D.( )RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER. 
     E. ( ) UNIT MOVE WITH APPROPRIATE MISSION-ORIENTED PROTECTIVEPOSTURE (MOPP) GEAR.
     F.  ( )  DIRLAUTH ALCON.  KEEP THE JOINT STAFF INFORMED.//
GENTEXT/ADMIN AND LOG/
10.  ( )  AIRLIFT MOVEMENT PRIORITY.
11.  ( )  FUNDING FOR TRANSPORTATION COSTS.
12.  ( )  FORCE ACTIVITY DESIGNATOR (FAD) WILL BE ISSUED BY APPROPRIATE SERVICES.
13. ( ) PERSONNEL DEPLOYMENT CRITERIA.SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNINGORDER.
14.  ( )  REPORTING INSTRUCTIONS.  IN ACCORDANCE WITH JOINT PUBS 1-03.8 AND 6-04.  AFTER-ACTION REPORTING IN ACCORDANCE WITH JOINT PUB 1-03.30.
15.( ) CLASSIFICATION GUIDANCE.SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.
16.  ( )  PUBLIC AFFAIRS.  SEE CJCS WARNING OR PLANNING ORDER.
17.  ( )  THE USE OF JOPES IS DIRECTED.
18.  ( )  KNOWN LOGISTIC CONSTRAINTS.//
GENTEXT/COMMAND AND SIGNAL/
19.  ( ) COMMUNICATIONS GUIDANCE. USCINCCENT (THE SUPPORTED 
COMMANDER) WILL ASSIST DEPLOYING UNITS WITH FREQUENCY ALLOCATIONS AS REQUIRED AND WILL BE PREPARED TO RECOMMEND RELATIVE PRIORITIES AND ALLOCATE SATELLITE CHANNELS AND CIRCUITS WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THIS OPERATION, INCLUDINGTHOSE OF DEPLOYING UNITS.  USCINCCENT (THE SUPPORTED COMMANDER) WILL 
PUBLISH COMSEC GUIDANCE TO ALCON.
20.  ( )  COMMAND RELATIONSHIPS.  STATE SUPPORTED AND SUPPORTING CINCS, RESOURCE MANAGERS, AND SUPPORTING AGENCIES, AS APPROPRIATE.ALSO LIST THE NCA-APPROVED (OR THOSE PROPOSED FOR APPROVAL) COMMAND RELATIONSHIPS THE 
GAINING COMMANDER WILL EXERCISE OVER TRANSFERRED FORCES AND THE LOCATIONS WHERE THE TRANSFER WILL BE EFFECTIVE (NORMALLY THE AOR BOUNDARY).//
AKNLDG/Y//DECL/OADR//

It would appear that Panetta, despite his claims to the contrary, never actually saw the real Deployment Order until after 8:50 pm Washington, DC time. More importantly, the Deputies Committee did not recommend moving any troops or assets to Benghazi.

The Gowdy report clearly shows on p. I-21 that the actual Deployment Order was not issued until 8:53pm:

One Point of clarification: the unclassified timeline has the SecDef Vocal Order (VOCO) for moving response forces at 0000-0200. This authorization was relayed and recorded at 0239 for FAST and CIF and at 0253 for [the U.S. SOF]. This is not to imply that timing of the VOC as reflected in the unclassified timeline is inaccurate, but rather that receipt of this vocal order at [sic] was at 0239 and 0253, respectively.”).

At 8:39 p.m., more than five hours after the attacks in Benghazi began, and more than two hours after the Secretary gave his order to deploy the Pentagon finally transmitted orders to the combatant commands regard-ing the FAST platoons, the CIF, and the U.S. Based Special Operations Force.390  Specifically, the FAST platoons were ordered to “prepare to deploy.”391  The CIF and the U.S. Based Special Operations Force were ordered to deploy to an intermediate staging base.392  No asset was ordered to deploy to Benghazi.393

Tidd provided authorization for each of those forces to move in an email transmitting the orders at 8:53 p.m. [2:53 a.m. in Benghazi]. The email reads in relevant part:

discussions at Deputies, and followed up between [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the Chairman –

[The Secretary of Defense] has directed deployment of the CIF to the [intermediate staging base] determined most suitable by AFRICOM …

[The Secretary of Defense] has directed deployment of the [U.S. Based Special Operations Force] to the same [intermediate stag- ing base] as the CIF.

[The Secretary of Defense] has directed FAST to make all preps to deploy but hold departure until we are sure we have clearance to land in Tripoli. We’ll work with State to nail that down, but intent is to get security force augmentation into [Tripoli/Tripoli] (not Benghazi, at least not initially) ASAP. Embassy making ef- forts to move all [American citizens] from [Annex] Compound Benghazi to Tripoli, possibly using same [commercial] Air that 5-pax team arrived on.

Remember [the Secretary of Defense] holds final approval to de- ploy FAST, pending receipt of Tripoli country clearance. But the point is to get the Marines on the ground securing the embassy in Tripoli as rapidly as we can move them.394

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this Crisis Action Planning process is regularly and annually exercised by all U.S. military commands and the inter-agency community. Why? You do not want to wait until the house is on fire to prepare on fighting and preventing a fire.

I personally have participated in the scripting and execution of more 200 such exercises over the last 22 years. I am not offering an opinion here. The process of actually moving U.S. military forces was delayed by the Deputies Committee. And Hillary Clinton and her staff, including Pat Kennedy, the Under Secretary for Management, played a key role in delaying action. That was the body that should have clarified the objectives of the military operation and the rules of engagement. Gowdy’s report, however, makes it very clear that the Deputies Committee spent more time on political spin and preparing for the damage control from what they knew clearly was a terrorist attack. They chose, instead, to portray it as a reaction to a silly video.

I also want to reiterate a point I have made in prior postings–while the Deputies Committee dithered the attacks on the CIA Annex continued. The terrorists did not provide us with a schedule of their planned attacks. They did not announce that they were calling off attacks. And, more importantly, Ambassador Stevens was missing. All of this provided ample justification for moving U.S. military forces to rescue the besieged Americans. That did not happen.

It is unfortunate that Gowdy and his staff lacked the basic understanding of these principles of Crisis Action Planning. I admit it can be pretty esoteric stuff, but it is a process created based on prior experience from other terrorist attacks. There is one obvious conclusion that Gowdy and company failed to identify–the Obama Administration did not take full advantage of the JOPES doctrine and decided not to use the established Crisis Action planning to put U.S. forces into Benghazi. No substantive action was taken to come to the aid of our personnel who were under attack. It is not a matter of someone giving a “Stand Down” order. None were ordered to Stand Up. You cannot Stand Down if you have not first Stood Up.

 

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.