4:10 am, November 22, 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.

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."

Sinclair's trial postponed -again

For the second time, the court-martial of a U.S. Army general facing sexual assault charges has been postponed. The trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair had been scheduled to begin at Fort Bragg next Monday. It was announced Tuesday that military Judge Col. James Pohl rescheduled the trial for Jan. 7 after a request from Sinclair's defense team. Unresolved issues are being worked out according to his civilian lawyer.

Gitmo getting fiber-optics

The U.S. military is laying fiber-optic cable under water to connect Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba with Florida, and the Associated Press reports it "could someday extend it to the rest of Cuba,." Ronald Bechtold, chief information officer at the Pentagon, said Friday at the war crimes tribunal, the project would be finished in about two years and vastly improve communications between the naval base and the United States."

Aegis System tested again

The Pentagon said Wednesday conducted the second test of the ship-based Aegis missile defense system in a week, firing two SM-3 missiles to intercept a single, complex separating target in space, the U.S. Defense Department said. According to DoD, the first SM-3 that was launched, successfully intercepted the target warhead. Raytheon said the second SM-3 was launched to test the system's ability to launch multiple missiles at one time against a threat. It was not intended to intercept the target.

Lawyers Sept. 11 suspects want trial halted

Lawyers in the case at Guantanamo Bay are pressing their effort to put proceedings on hold until security problems with a computer network are fixed. The chief defense counsel for military commissions spent Wednesday testifying about her April order forbidding use of a Pentagon computer network because of apparent security flaws. Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry told the court Wednesday that she lost confidence in the system after large amounts of data were lost and emails from defense lawyers disappeared.

Navy Security Scrutinized

The Washington Navy Yard shooting --the incident prompted immediate calls for reviews of base security procedures. Did it have anything to do with money? Congressman Michael Turner called for Defense Department officials to release information on an inspector general's audit of its system for controlling civilian workers' access to military bases. The Navy may have "implemented an unproven system in order to cut costs," Turner, an Ohio Republican, said in a letter dated Monday to Lynne Halbrooks, the Pentagon's acting inspector general.

DHS needs a centralized social media policy

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. He said in a statement, "In recent years, social media have become useful and efficient tools for the government to communicate both to its workers and the American people. Given DHS' size and makeup, social media are particularly helpful for DHS to improve its relationship with its employees and communicate with the public during both natural and man-made disasters."

Remains of U.S. military personnel identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office has announced that two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Navy sex assault reports increase

The number of sexual assaults reported to the Navy has grown by approximately 50 percent in the last year. The Associated Press reports Navy officials said Wednesday that "is a sign that a growing number of sailors feel more comfortable reporting an assault and believe something will be done about it when they do. The Navy said it is on pace to end the 2013 fiscal year later this month with about 1,100 reports of sexual assault. That's up from the 726 sexual assaults reported in the previous fiscal year."

Intercept test successful

The U.S. military has conducted its first operational test of the THAAD missile defense system and the ship-based Aegis system aimed at intercepting two medium-range ballistic missiles fired almost simultaneously. The test was conducted early Tuesday in the western Pacific. Officials say the test was important because it demonstrated the ability of the U.S. military to defend against possible regional ballistic missile threats from countries like Iran or North Korea or even accidental releases.

How much would a strike on Syria cost?

Tens of millions of dollars. That's what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tells lawmakers a limited military strike in Syria would cost. It opens a window into how far or not the U.S. government could go in launching a strike. Tomahawk missiles are quite often the leading edge of military strikes in situations like these. Tomahawk cost more than $1 million apiece and radar-evading B-2 bombers which might another component cost approximately $60,000 an hour to operate.

Asian defense leaders weigh in on U.S. rebalance

So how do Asian military leaders feel about the U.S. rebalance to Asia? American Forces Press Service reports, they welcomed it. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spent nine days in the region recently and visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines during that time. He also participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers conference in Brunei. Acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs Peter R. Lavoy.

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