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8:00 pm, April 20, 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.

Hagel defends himself

Senator Chuck Hagel on himself. "No one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me." He made the statement during a day of tough questions in his quest to be the next Secretary of Defense. He was challenged over his past statements on Israel, Iran, Iraq and nuclear weapons. Sen. Lindsey Graham was harshly critical of Hagel for failing to sign letters in past years designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization and backing Israel.

Afghan troops progressing faster

The top commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan believes government security forces have improved faster than expected and will be ready to take the lead in the 11-year- old war against the Taliban when foreign combat forces take a back seat this spring. Marine Gen. John Allen told The Associated Press that the main job over the next two years for the International Assistance Force - as the NATO-led troops in Afghanistan are called - will be to advise, train and build the capabilities needed for Afghan forces to go it completely alone.

The U.S. and Niger sign a SOFA

The U.S. and Niger in recent days signed a "status of forces agreement" spelling out legal protections and obligations of U.S. forces that might operate in Niger in the future. According to the Associated Press Pentagon spokesman George Little acknowledged the agreement, but declined Tuesday to discuss U.S. plans for a military presence in Niger. "They expressed a willingness to engage more closely with us, and we are happy to engage with them," Little said, adding that the legal agreement was months in the making and is unrelated to the recent fighting in Mali.

United States says it will aid the French military

The Pentagon says that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told France the United States will aid the French military with aerial refueling missions. U.S. aerial refueling planes would be a boost to air support for French ground forces as they enter vast areas of northern Mali, which is the size of Texas, that are controlled by al-Qaida-linked extremists.

Pentagon lays off workers

Some of the 46,000 temporary and contract workers at the Pentagon are being laid off says, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. According to Reuters, he says they're also delaying maintenance on aircraft and ships to slow spending due to fears about budget cuts. The Pentagon also plans to formally notify Congress in the next few weeks that it will furlough most of its 800,000 full-time civilian employees, if further budget cuts take place on March 1.

Women in combat

How will the Military decide what the standard for physical fitness will be? Well the Marine Corps this summer will round up 800 Marines - -400 male and 400 females. They will run, jump, climb, do push-ups and pull ups and other exercises. The Marines will look at the outcomes and decide what kind of expectations they should have for women and men to qualify for combat roles. The Army has its own different process for deciding

Missing Service Member Turns Up

A Coast Guardsman who disappeared more than three months ago and showed up at his home over the weekend is in military custody at Pearl Harbor after being released from the hospital. According to the Associated Press, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Gene Maestas said Wednesday that Tripler Army Medical Center medically cleared and released Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Matthews on Tuesday night. Maestas says Matthews was in the process of being discharged from the Coast Guard for illegally using marijuana when his wife reported him missing in October.

Recycling in Space

So guess what the Pentagon's research arm is up to? Recycling in space. They are planning to go into space, grab a dead satellite and stripping it of all it's useful parts and using them to either build a new one or revitalize the old one. DARPA's Phoenix program, which hopes to repurpose retired satellites while they remain in orbit, seeks to fundamentally change how space systems could be designed here on earth and then sustained once in space.

Iran increasing its cyber capabilities

General William Shelton, who heads Air Force Space Command and oversees the Air Force's cyber operations, says Iran responded to a 2010 cyber-attack on its nuclear facilities by beefing up its own cyber capabilities, and will be a "force to be reckoned with" in the future. He declined to comment about Iran's ability to disrupt U.S. government computer networks, but said Tehran had clearly increased its efforts in that arena after the 2010 incident.

Where's Bashar Al-Assad?

There are reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently been living on board a warship in the middle of the Mediterranean under Russian protection, along with his family members and close aides. According to the Saudi-backed Al-Watan online publication that "Al-Asad is being transported from the ship to Syria using a helicopter when he had official appointments. " nternational aid organizations say more than 60,000 people have died in the 22 month old crisis.

Al Qaida pushes deeper into Mali

Mali's president has declared a state of emergency on national television a day after Islamists pushed the closest ever from the north toward government-held territory. President Dioncounda Traore said late Friday that the declaration would remain in effect for 10 days and could be renewed. The president called on mining companies and non-government organizations to give up their pickups and other trucks to the Malian military, raising questions about the capacity of the army. The U.S. is concerned about Mali because of Al Qaida's strong base there.

Changes in 9-11 cases

The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military tribunals says he will seek to dismiss one of the eight charges against five prisoners accused of planning and aiding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins has asked a Pentagon official to strike the charge of conspiracy. The prisoners would still face charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder and could still get the death penalty. Their trial at the U.S. base in Cuba is likely at least a year away.

Brennan nomination may be held up

Trouble may be looming for President Barack Obama's pick for CIA director. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, says until the administration provides answers on the deadly Sept. 11 assault in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, he's going to delay the confirmation of John Brennan. Graham said the administration has been stone-walling on Benghazi and it has to stop. At issue is the finger-pointing about who changed the talking points concerning what happened in the attack.

Concern growing in Mali

The Pentagon is preparing small military teams to send to Africa to help deal with growing insurgencies in the Northern part of the continent. In the meantime, officials in Mali say Islamists who seized the northern half of the country are moving closer to areas under government control. The insurgent advance was noted recently as Al-Qaida linked militants used bulldozers and heavy machinery to construct hideouts in the in Northern Mali. Now there's concern they could take over the whole country.

Uniform changes take place

Marines and sailors assigned to Marine units are required to wear the appropriate seasonal service uniform. American Forces Press is reporting, the designated uniform worn from November to March will be the Service B "Bravos" and from April to October, the Service C "Charlies". The Air Force rescinded its "Blues Monday" policy that had required most airmen to wear the blue uniform every Monday. Neither the Army nor Navy have service wide requirements regarding wear of service uniforms.

Reports of air strikes in Myanmar's Kachin State

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about reports of air strikes in Myanmar's Kachin State, A 20-month conflict between government troops and rebels has been escalating in recent days. The hostilities have already caused large-scale displacement of civilians who are in need of humanitarian assistance. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma was under military rule for almost a half century until 2011.

Al Qaida moving into new home

You may find it hard to believe, but Al Qaida elements have been busy the North West Africa country of Mali. They've been using bulldozers, earth movers and other heavy construction equipment left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts into remote desert bases, and in the and cliff faces of northern Mali. US intelligence sources say they're preparing for an attack on their new home by African and Western forces.

Ahmadinejad losing standing

A sign of the times in Iran. A top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was temporarily freed from prison this week. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad's press adviser and head of the state news agency IRNA, was sent to Tehran's Evin prison in September to serve a six-month term for publishing an article deemed offensive to public decency. Javanfekr's arrest was regarded as an indication of Ahmadinejad's dwindling clout.

President Obama calls Army Secretary about Fort Myer Day Care investigation

President Barack Obama placed a call to Army Secretary John Mchugh yesterday. The reason -- concern about abuse at the Fort Myer, Va., day care center. He is said to have made clear that there must be a zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members. The call came after arrests and problems with background checks at that day care center. During call the President asked for a speedy investigation.

We've turned the corner in Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the U.S. has turned the corner in Afghanistan. "In my book, the significant turning point in 2011 was that for the first time we saw the transition working, the Afghan Army able to do its job, and violence going down and that continues to be the trend," said Panetta. He said at a National Press Club speech, U.S. troops will be leaving Afghanistan, but the U.S. will still have a presence there.

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