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6:37 am, September 23, 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.

Israel launches strike

Israel said it would not allow advanced weapons to fall into the hands of Hezbollah, after a raid on Syria that opposition sources said had hit an air force garrison believed to be holding Russian-made missiles destined for the militant group. Israel has a clear policy on Syria and will continue to enforce it, officials said on Friday, after U.S. and European sources said Israel had launched a new attack on its warring neighbor.

Manning to take gender issue to court

The Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea, has written a letter to her lawyer saying she'll go to court if necessary to get treatment for gender identity disorder. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for sending more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Pentagon budget cuts hanging in the balance

The Associated Press is reporting negotiators from the House and Senate are promising to try to reach an agreement that would spare both the Pentagon and domestic agencies from automatic spending cuts, the result of Washington's failure to strike a budget deal. But taxes, again appear to be in the way -- with top GOP negotiator Paul Ryan taking a firm stance against using tax revenues to ease the automatic cuts.

HASC trying to reform Pentagon Spending

The House Armed Services Committee is going to try again to change the way the Pentagon buys weapons and services. The committee's chairman, California Representative Buck McKeon, said some successful efforts were already under way to institute meaningful reforms, but the U.S. military acquisition system faces significant challenges including cost overruns and schedule delays. He predicts the problems will get worse because of mounting pressure on U.S. budgets.

U.S. and New Zealand military heads meet

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and New Zealand Minister of Defense Jonathan Coleman met in Washington Monday to discuss expanding defense cooperation between two countries. During the gathering, both Hagel and Minister Coleman highlighted the decade long cooperation between the two during the war in Afghanistan. And they confirmed that cooperation on peacekeeping will be expanded into capacity building activities in the Asia-Pacific region.

India and China defuse border tension

India and China are close to an agreement to end their strife over their contested border while they try to figure out a way to break decades-old stalemate on overlapping claims to long stretches of the Himalayas. A border defense cooperation pact could be finished before India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China this week. That is said to be a small step forward in a complicated relationship marked by booming economic ties and growing distrust.

Blackwater employees charged again

The Justice Department has filed new charges against four former Blackwater security contractors. This revives an internationally charged case over a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad. The men were hired to guard U.S. diplomats. They're accused of opening fire in busy Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen Iraqi civilians died.

Did Al Libi talk?

What happened with the Abu Anas al Libi interrogation? There are reports that interrogators essentially gave up, because he stopped eating and drinking regularly, which caused his Hepatitis C problem to worsen. U.S. officials say he was taken to a hospital before being taken to a hospital in New York, before his appearance in court in New York. Al Libi, suspected of being a long time al Qaida operative, plead not guilty to terrorism charges yesterday in New York.

Hagel discusses Middle East Security

Secretary of Defense Hagel spoke with United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan Monday to consult on regional issues. Hagel emphasized the U.S. commitment to regional security and noted that the strong U.S.-UAE bilateral relationship remains integral to regional stability. Hagel also reaffirmed U.S. commitment to the strategic partnership with Egypt, and discussed the recent decision about US security assistance to Egypt.

Admiral disciplined

The Navy says a three-star admiral was notified Wednesday that he has been relieved of duty as second-in-command at the military organization that oversees all U.S. nuclear forces. He is under investigation in a gambling matter. The Navy's top spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said that Vice Adm. Tim Giardina will drop in rank to two-star admiral as a consequence of being removed from his position at U.S. Strategic Command.

Sailors facing Courts Martial

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Reyher, 28, of Caldwell, Ohio, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris, 23, of Gladstone, Missouri, died on Feb. 26, when they ran out of air while trying to locate a sunken helicopter in 150 feet (46 meters) of water at the Super Pond training site at Aberdeen Proving Grounds near Baltimore. As a result four sailors have been charged with dereliction of duty resulting in the deaths of Reyher and Harris during a training exercise. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Bennett, the command diving officer for a salvage and diving unit, was charged with failing to ensure that safety procedures were followed and with failing to tell the commanding officer of a request to deviate from the training scenario. Senior Chief Navy Diver David Jones, Senior Chief Navy Diver James Burger and Chief Navy Diver Gary Ladd Jr also were accused of failure to follow safety procedures.

Death benefits denied

The Pentagon pays out $100,000 within three days of a soldier's death. But it says the shutdown means there is no authority now to pay the money. Payments for deaths occurring after 11:59PM on September 30, 2013, are NOT payable during shutdown. Members of Congress expressed outrage Tuesday that families of fallen U.S. military personnel are being denied death benefits.

U.S. investigating fatal plane crash in Colombia

Three Americans and a Panamanian Air National Guardsman were killed in a plane crash in northern Colombia October 6th near the border of Panama. Two Americans survived the crash and were rescued by Colombian military forces and taken to a hospital in Bogota. The DH-8 aircraft, contracted by the U.S. government to provide detection and monitoring of drug trafficking routes in the coastal region of Central America as part of Operation Martillo, lost communications over the Western Caribbean before crashing near the city of Capurgana. There is no indication the plane was shot down.

Unrest rises in Egypt

Egyptian riot police fired volleys of tear gas and locked down Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday as clashes broke out in a rare push by Islamist supporters of the ousted president to take control of the iconic square, leaving at least four dead. Using lines of armored vehicles and barbed wire, troops sealed off the square and diverted traffic after the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which ousted president Mohammed Morsi hails, called on its supporters to march there.

Tom Clancy dies

"The Hunt for Red October", "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger." Part of the genius of bestselling novelist Tom Clancy His intense attention to technical detail and accuracy earned him great respect inside the intelligence community and the military communities --especially when it came to submarines. He passed away at the age of 66 in a hospital near his Calvert County, Maryland home.

Pentagon shutdown status clarified

All military personnel will continue on normal duty status but about half of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian employees will be placed on unpaid leave. All military activity not critical to national security will be stopped during the shutdown, according to Pentagon officials. They also say military personnel, who are paid twice a month, would get their Oct. 1 paychecks but might see their Oct. 15 paychecks delayed if no funding deal is set by Oct. 7. Also, most Department of Veterans Affairs services will continue, including the operation of VA hospitals.

Turkey ignores U.S. blacklist

The government of Turkey says it might still reconsider its decision to co-produce a long-range air and missile defense system with a Chinese firm currently under U.S. sanctions, but officials said they are not obligated to adhere to the U.S. blacklist. Turkey, a member of the NATO alliance, announced recently it had chosen the FD-2000 missile defense system from China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp over rival systems from Russian, U.S. and European firms.

U.S.-Indian ties strengthened

After Last week's high level meeting with India, the White House says India-United States defense cooperation and engagement has increased significantly over the past decade, in step with the overall deepening of India-U.S. relations. "We continue to work toward achieving the full vision of expanded defense cooperation set forth in the 2005 New Framework Agreement, " the White House said in a statement. The close U.S. relationship with India has been a point of contention for some in Pakistan --which the U.S. has also sought closer ties with. Pakistan and India have a long history of distrust.

Hagel discusses Mid-East security

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel participated in the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Strategic Cooperation Forum Thursday in New York along with Secretary of State John Kerry. During the meeting, Hagel reiterated the United States' commitment to the region and underscored how collaborative approaches toward regional defense made the Middle East more secure and stable. He also discussed recent progress on ballistic missile defense.

Pentagon Investigator Security Clearance Process

As investigators fill in the blanks regarding Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the department will complete three separate reviews in late December, including internal and independent assessments of base safety procedures as well as the security clearance process. Carter said during a Pentagon briefing the "Bottom line is, we need to know how an employee was able to bring a weapon and ammunition onto a DoD installation."

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