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12:39 pm, July 31, 2014

Pentagon & Beyond

National Security Correspondent J.J. Green has traveled three continents covering intelligence, terrorism, and security issues. From Afghanistan to Africa, Iraq to Ireland, there isn't anywhere J.J. won't go, nor anyone he won't talk with, to get the stories affecting the defense and national security communities.

Last Enola Gay crew member dies

The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died. Theodore VanKirk, 93, passed away Monday in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The B-29 Superfortress aircraft dropped "Little Boy," the world's first atomic bomb, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 in Hiroshima. Three days later, 80,000 died in Nagasaki in a second bombing.

Is American sleeping on North Korea's missile tests?

North Korea's frequent testing of ballistic missiles is of great concern to the Pentagon. The testing of ballistic missiles and other weapons is up sharply compared to last year. Adm. Samuel Locklear, who heads the U.S. Pacific Command, is concerned that the regular testing may lull some into thinking it's not such a big deal. But frequent threats to attack the U.S. may prevent that from happening.

The US at risk of coercion

How will the Budget Control Act impact national security? "We will no longer be immune from coercion," said Joint Chief's Chairman General Martin Dempsey, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum. Dempsey borrowed the original quote by Creighton Edwards in 1974 to illustrate concerns about how budget cuts will affect the U.S. Moving forward, Dempsey said, "if we stay on this path, we will no longer be as immune as you think we should be."

Military suicides rise

Suicides among active-duty military rose this year compared with the same period last year, but Pentagon officials indicate more service members are seeking help through hotlines and other aid programs. Pentagon documents obtained by The Associated Press show there were 161 confirmed or suspected suicides as of July 14, compared with 154 during the same time frame in 2013. The increase was among the Air Force and Navy, while soldiers and Marine suicides went down.

Why is Russian President Putin at odds with the rest of the world?

"The President of Russia now has a view of history since 1945 that is completely at odds with how the rest of the world looks at history," says Former National Security Advisor James Jones. The real issue, which many view as a festering problem, is Putin's alleged grudge about the way the Cold War turned out. "He believes and he has said that worst thing that has happened in the last century is the dissolution of the Soviet Empire," says Jones.

Russian sanction could be "catastrophic"

A day after the U.S. hit several Russian arms companies with sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, a top U.S. general is warning that congressional efforts to cut off dealings with Moscow's main weapons exporter could be "catastrophic" for U.S. forces. Marine General Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said 88 Russian helicopters the Pentagon is buying for Afghan security forces were critical for protecting U.S.troops that remain in the country after the end of this year.

Russia hit by new U.S. sanctions

The United States has imposed new sanctions on lucrative Russian energy and defense entities, as well as major banks. The Obama administration is trying disable an insurgency in eastern Ukraine widely believed to be backed by Moscow. Prior U.S. sanctions hit Russian individuals and companies. The new sanctions stop short of fully cutting off key Russian economic sectors.

The F-35 gets good and bad news

The F-35 is back in business, at least on a limited basis. The military is allowing some flying capabilities. It was grounded back in June when part of the engine of a U.S. Air Force F-35 A-model broke apart and ripped through the top of a jet as it prepared for take-off. As a result, the plane will not fly in the Farnborough International Airshow in England.

What's next for Bergdahl?

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has a desk job. This ends the formal phase of his transition from Taliban prisoner back to active duty soldier. This opens the door to an Army investigation into his disappearance and his 5 years in captivity. It's not clear when Bergdahl will face Army investigators, whose finding will determine whether he has to face charges or any other disciplinary action.

Could some of the Benghazi victims have been saved?

The Associated Press is reporting that senior military leaders told Congress in a closed door session that two of the four U.S. deaths in Benghazi might have been prevented. Military leaders say if commanders had known more about the intensity of the gunfire directed at the CIA facility where Americans had taken refuge, they could have taken action. AP reports they thought the fighting had subsided and the Americans who had fled to the CIA base about a mile away were safe.

Convicted spy dies in prison

Pete Earley, author of Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring, reports Walker's brother Arthur Walker, 79, has died. Earley says he died July 4th at the Butner Prison in Butner, North Carolina of acute kidney failure, about one month shy of a parole hearing. In his blog, Earley explains Arthur was the older brother of John Anthony Walker Jr., "who remains in poor health, at the same Butner prison. John, who is 76, is scheduled for parole on May 20, 2015, but is in the later stages of throat cancer, according to a family friend."

Olsen leaving NCTC

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen is leaving his position later this year. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Olsen has led the office for three years, integrating the counterterrorism community by seeking to strengthen key partnerships in the intelligence community. The NCTC is a key tool in the U.S. intelligence arsenal and is designed to warn against terrorist attacks. Its function is also to provide U.S. decision makers the intelligence they needed to counter terror threats.

Chemical weapons destruction underway

The Pentagon says the transfer of Syrian chemicals from the Danish container ship Ark Futura to the Motor Vessel Cape Ray is complete. Cape Ray departed the Italian port of Gioia Tauro on Monday for international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, where neutralization operations will soon begin. The neutralization process should take several weeks to complete. Secretary Hagel expressed his thanks to Danish and Italian authorities for their support in this process and said in a statement he "is enormously proud of everyone who helped make possible this safe and incident-free transfer."

Obama discusses Iraq with Abdullah

President Obama spoke recently with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia to convey his best wishes as Ramadan begins. The two leaders discussed the current situation in Iraq, and the threat that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses to the stability of Iraq and to the entire region. They reaffirmed the need for Iraq's leaders to move expeditiously to form a new government capable of uniting all of Iraq's diverse communities. The President thanked the King for Saudi Arabia's pledge of $500 million to help alleviate the suffering of all Iraqis who have been displaced by the violence. The two leaders agreed to continue to consult closely on regional developments.

Hagel expresses condolences

Defense Secretary Hagel called his Israeli counterpart this week to express his condolences to both the families of the Israeli teenagers who were found dead in the West Bank and to the people of Israel. The Pentagon says Hagel pledged his continued support for finding the perpetrators and urged all parties to refrain from steps that could be further destabilizing. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon thanked Secretary Hagel for his call and updated him on events unfolding in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Female reaches top Navy ranking

The Navy has its first female four-star admiral, Michelle Janine Howard. She was promoted on Tuesday to the service's highest rank. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and in 1999 became the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship. She was a key figure is the real-life rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somalia pirate. The story later became a block-buster movie.

Pacific military talks take place

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, hosted his counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japan on Tuesday in Hawaii to exchange views on regional security issues. They discussed the evolving security environment, in particular the enduring North Korea nuclear and missile threat, as well as ways to promote peace and stability in the region.

Ceasefire expires

What's next in Ukraine? A 10-day ceasefire in eastern Ukraine expired Monday night, with no immediate word from the country's president on whether he would extend it, and no sign that the pro-Moscow separatists had met his demands to ease the violence. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed the situation in a phone call with leaders of Russia, Germany and France. He repeatedly said the rebels had not fulfilled the conditions of the ceasefire.

How many US advisors are in Iraq?

Of the 300 troops authorized by President Barack Obama, 180 have arrived in Baghdad. Half are advisors and the remaining 90 are setting up an operations and intelligence analysis unit. The Pentagon confirms that Predator drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, are now also being used over the capitol for force protection.

Overseas funding request submitted

The White House has submitted an updated Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request to Congress. DoD OCO funding allotted is $58.6 billion and it includes $1.4 billion for State Department programming. President Barack Obama says the request is consistent with the plan he laid out at West Point. The plan called for bringing the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, while ensuring our Armed Forces have the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve.

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