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3:20 pm, December 18, 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.

Prisoners released

Two Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been sent back Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials say 35-year-old Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and 48-year-old Hamood Abdulla Hamood were transferred after a security review. Neither man had been charged with a crime. U.S. records show both were suspected members of al-Qaida and were considered to be at high risk of rejoining the terror group if released.

Suicide bombing plot foiled

Terry Lee Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician allegedly spent months studying the layout of the Mid-Continent Regional Airport in Wichita, Kansas. The FBI says he was looking at flight patterns and other details as he planned a suicide car-bomb attack. The FBI says he developed a plan with other conspirators and Loewen, who lives in Wichita had been under surveillance for 6 months and was planning the attack to support al Qaida.

US aid to Syria suspended

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the U.S. will continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria, but non-lethal aid will be suspended until the U.S. can get a clear assessment on the status of warehouses of military equipment that may have been seized by extremist Islamic militants. The U.S. and Britain suspended the aid after opposition fighters from conservative Islamic rebel brigades seized warehouses containing U.S. military gear that was intended for the main Western-backed moderate rebel group.

Bull's-eye(s) for the Army's HEL MD

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) for the first time used a vehicle mounted high energy laser to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in flight. This occurred during multiple test events of the Army High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) conducted between November 18 and December 10 at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Congressed warned about spending

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is warning Congress that failure to act on a defense policy bill before year's end would create more uncertainty for the military. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other leaders urging prompt action and detailing special pay, bonuses and other authorities that would expire if the bill slips to January.

Pentagon policy up in the air

Top Democrats and Republicans on Congress' military panels are working on a plan to ensure that they complete a broad defense policy bill before year's end. It would cover a pay raise for troops, buy new ships and aircraft and address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The Senate and the House have only one legislative week to work out their differences before the House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13. A version of the bill remains stalled in the Senate, caught up in a dispute over amendments.

Dempsey concerned about social media

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey is concerned about the next generation of military recruit being endangered by bad or illegal behavior online. He told reporters in his own words, "I worry a bit about ... the young men and women who are now in their teens, who probably underestimate the impact of their persona in social media". The problem is so pervasive, military officials have been considering the idea of giving people a second chance.

U.S. shuts down shipments

The U.S. has halted shipments out of Afghanistan, because protesters are a threat to truckers from who drive along part of the route in neighboring Pakistan. The Associated Press reports, "there have been anti-U.S. demonstrations in Pakistan in recent days calling for an end to the American drone program that targets militants. So U.S. officials said Tuesday that they had ordered truckers under U.S. contract to park at holding areas inside Afghanistan temporarily to avoid going there."

Reinforcements headed to Pacific

The U.S. Navy has sent two advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft to Japan. U.S. military officials say their jobs will be to improve U.S. capability to hunt submarines and other vessels in waters near China as tension in the region mounts. Last month China established an air defense identification zone covering islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan and claimed by Beijing. In a few days four more of the aircraft will arrive.

U.S. Pakistan working group meets

The 22nd meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group took place recently to coordinate defense policy. Their principle goal of strengthening defense cooperation to support each country's security interests. During the meetings the two sides agreed that the U.S.-Pakistan defense partnership is vital to regional and international security and that it should continue to endure and grow in the years ahead. Another key goal --continued efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation based on mutual interests and trust.

Afghan SOFA hard to come by

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to go after al-Qaida, which was being sheltered by the Taliban. The longest and costliest war in U.S. history has proven deeply unpopular at home and among its allies, who also have said they will not commit any troops after 2014 unless the security deal is signed.

Navy Yard shooter's access was suspended

The company that employed the Washington Navy Yard shooter pulled his access to classified material for two days in August when mental health problems became evident, but restored it quickly and never told Navy officials about the withdrawal. The Associated Press reports, "an initial Navy review revealed that the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company, The Experts, ordered computer contractor Aaron Alexis back to Washington, D.C., after a police incident in Rhode Island in August, according to senior U.S. officials."

DoD lays out Arctic Strategy

The Department of Defense has come up with a strategy for the Arctic. Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel says U.S. Forces will continue to train and operate routinely in the region working on a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and nations work cooperatively to address challenges. It also wants to promote defense cooperation to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies-operating through cooperative means.

U.S. and Israelis meet

Defense Secretary Hagel met recently with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada during the Halifax International Security Forum to discuss regional security issues. During the meeting, Hagel and Ya'alon reaffirmed the strength of the U.S. Israel defense relationship, and pledged to continue to consult closely on the multitude of challenges facing the two countries. Also discussed --Iran, Egypt, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Wrinkle emerges in Afghan security negotiations

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is urging tribal elders to approve a security agreement with the U.S. that could keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan until 2024. But in a controversial move, he want his successor sign the document after elections next April. Some question whether it's an attempt to avoid taking personal responsibility for an agreement that many Afghans see as selling out to foreign interests. President Barack Obama wants quick passage of the agreement.

Code Talkers Honored

Congress is bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor, on American Indians who used their native language to outwit enemies and protect American battlefield secrets during World Wars I and II. Dozens of members of Congress, the military and others gathered in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall on Wednesday to honor 33 tribes for the wartime contributions of so-called code talkers.

Military sexual assault proposal criticized

Stripping military commanders of the authority to prosecute serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault could make it worse for victims. That's the essence of a letter that 11 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee sent to colleagues Monday rejecting the solution offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. She has the public support of nearly half the Senate for removing commanders from deciding whether serious crimes go to trial and giving that authority to seasoned trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or higher.

Hagel Deliver Stern Message to STRATCOM

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of STRATCOM there is "no room for error" by those responsible for America's nuclear forces. This was the first time he commented on what he called "troubling lapses" in professionalism within the nuclear ranks. Last month, two senior nuclear commanders were fired amid misconduct investigations, and in August, service members working at a nuclear-missile base in Montana failed a safety and security inspection.

Russian choppers cancelled

The Defense Department is canceling plans to buy additional cargo helicopters from a Russian arms export agency that has supplied Syrian President Bashar Assad's military forces with arms and ammunition. 15 Russian-built Mi-17 helicopters were to be purchased next year at a cost of $345 million and then delivered to Afghanistan's national security forces. DoD has paid Rosoboronexport more than $1 billion since 2011 for 63 Mi-17s that have been delivered to Afghanistan or are on order.

US veteran seeks redress

Arnold Giammarco, a U.S. Army veteran who turned his life around after struggling with drug addiction is fighting his deportation. He says he should not have been expelled last year for a minor criminal record after honorably serving his country and living here legally for more than 50 years. He was deported to his native Italy over drug possession and larceny convictions, his attorneys said. The former Connecticut resident is seeking to reverse his deportation, arguing in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that immigration authorities never acted on his citizenship application in 1982.

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