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6:45 am, August 29, 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.

AUMF repeal-attempt looming

Should the President and Congress take a second look at using the military in the war against terrorism? Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence committee, plans to introduce legislation today to repeal Authorization for the Use of Military Force. He's suggesting the law is outdated. He says, "A lot of troops that we have on the battlefield now were on playgrounds" when the law was passed. He linked the timing to when U.S. combat forces will be out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Chinese cyber army holding exercises

China's rolling out its digital army. Xinhua, the official state news agency says next month they're going to conduct their first "digital" technology military exercise. It'll take place in north China's remote Inner Mongolia region. They're going to focus on digitalized combat, special operations forces, army aviation and electronic counter forces.

DoD responds to claims that weapons systems were compromised

The Pentagon is responding to a Washington Post article claiming key weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese espionage. Spokesman George Little says, "We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms." Little also says, "The Department of Defense takes the threat of cyber espionage and cyber security very seriously, which is why we have taken a number of steps to increase funding to strengthen our capabilities, harden our networks, and work with the defense industrial base to achieve greater visibility into the threats our industrial partners are facing." He says, "suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect."

The IC responds to President's "drone" speech

After the President's major speech on drones and GITMO, the intelligence community responded. DNI James Clapper welcomed "the effort to strengthen the process for reviewing and approving counterterrorism operations." He said "a consistent and regularized interagency coordination process that involves policymakers, intelligence professionals and the legal community is essential to preventing and responding to terrorism while ensuring the freedoms that are the bedrock of our democracy."

VA Disability claims fast tracked?

The Pentagon is buying a new computerized health records system to be able to better share and merge its data with the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the Associated Press is reporting, "officials cautioned that it was part of a "long-term modernization" effort and would not help ease the current backlog in VA disability claims." Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is ordering DoD to seek bids for development of the new system.

Commanding General at Fort Jackson Suspended

Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts, Commanding General, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, in Fort Jackson, S.C. has been suspended. The Pentagon says the suspension is due to allegations that include adultery and a physical altercation. Military authorities say the charges are being thoroughly investigated. While the investigation is ongoing, Brig. Gen. Peggy C. Combs, Commandant of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., will serve as the interim commander until the investigation is complete and the issue resolved.

U.S. criticizes Russian arms shipment to Syria

The Obama administration is denouncing Russia's decision to equip the Syrian government military with anti-ship missiles, saying the weapons would only worsen a war that Washington and Moscow have been promising to work together on stopping. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized what he called an "unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering."

Pentagon expects long war with terrorists

Another decade or two, that at least how long Senior Pentagon officials say the U.S. war against Al Qaida and its affiliates will last. Acting General Counsel Robert Taylor and Michael Sheehan, an assistant secretary of defense for special operations, made the point before the Senate Armed Services Committee, while arguing to prevent changes to a law that allows for the broad use of military force in the war against terrorism.

China tests a missile killer

Reuters is reporting, "the U.S. government believes a Chinese missile launch this week was the first test of a new interceptor that could be used to destroy a satellite in orbit." They launched a missile on Monday that reached 6,000 miles above the earth, making it the highest suborbital launch seen worldwide since 1976.

Drone launches from carrier

The U.S. Navy made aviation history on Tuesday by launching an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time. Reuters reports, "the bat-winged X-47B stealth drone roared off the USS George H.W. Bush near the coast of Virginia and flew a series of pre-programmed maneuvers around the ship before veering away toward a Naval air station in Maryland where it was scheduled to land."

Pakistan's presumptive leader criticizes U.S.

Was Nawaz Sharif just campaigning or was he serious? Pakistan's next Prime Minister, who has held the post twice before and soundly defeated current Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari in recent elections. criticized the U.S. strongly yesterday, for drone strike against militants, saying it violates Pakistan's sovereignty. But some experts think, now that the election is over, his tone will moderate.

Has Syria crossed the "red Line"?

Syrian casualties treated in Turkey show signs of being victims of chemical weapons, the Turkish foreign minister said on Friday. Reuters reports, the U.S., "Wary of the false intelligence used to justify the 2003 war in Iraq", wants proof that chemical weapons have been used before taking any action in Syria.

China accused of espionage --again

A new Pentagon reports says China state-sponsored industrial espionage to acquire the technology it needs for the foundation of its fast-paced military modernization program. The report says, "China continues to leverage foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, academic exchanges, the experience of repatriated Chinese students and researchers, to build that program. The Intelligence community recently accused China of industrial espionage.

North Korea working to attack the U.S.

North Korea appears headed toward the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-armed missile. The Associated Press reports, "In a report to Congress Thursday, the Pentagon made no estimate of when North Korea might achieve that capability. It said the North will move closer to its goal if it continues investing in the testing of nuclear and missile technologies. The report says the North's work on a space-launch vehicle has contributed heavily to its effort to build a missile capable of delivering a warhead to U.S. targets. That work was highlighted by the launch of a satellite into space last December."

Move to close Gitmo encounters critics

Despite vowing to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Barack Obama's quest to close it is still running into problems in Congress. So the White House may have to transfer some terror suspects back overseas. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading opponent of closure, responded to Obama's latest call by citing last year's administration report that 28 percent of the roughly 600 released detainees were either confirmed or suspected of later engaging in militant activity.

Russian flights banned

Russia's Rosaviatsiya aviation agency has banned its airlines from flying over Syria, after a plane with 160 passengers detoured to avoid danger from fighting on the ground. Syria's civil war has severely impacted airline traffic to and from the country. Reuters reports, most Russian airlines had heeded a recommendation issued in February not to cross Syrian territory but some had ignored the risk and continued to do so on flights to and from Egypt, among other destinations.

Woodbridge Military Pilot killed in Afghanistan

The Pentagon says one of four Air Force members killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan was a pilot from northern Virginia. Capt. The Associated Press reports Brandon Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va., had been stationed at Scott Air Force Base in southwestern Illinois. Cyr died in Saturday's crash of an Air Force MC-12. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The Pentagon says there were no reports of enemy activity in the area at the time. Cyr was an instructor pilot and member of the 906th Air Refueling Squadron within the 375th Air Mobility Wing based at Scott. The base also says Cyr flew with members of the Illinois Air National Guard's 126th Air Refueling Wing.

Local Soldier killed in Afghanistan

An Army helicopter pilot from northern Virginia is one of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan by enemy fire. The Pentagon said Friday that 26-year-old 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess of Fairfax died Tuesday in the Pul-E-Alam district of Logar province in eastern Afghanistan, from wounds suffered as a result of indirect fire. Also killed was 32-year-old Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard of Selah, Wash. Both soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Chaplains blocked by Church's website

Some military chaplains trying to access the Southern Baptist Convention website this week were surprised to find it blocked with a message that it contained "hostile content." The problem left military officials having to explain to leaders of the nation's largest Protestant denomination that it was an unintentional software glitch. A Defense Department spokesman said the problem seemed to be with the commercial software the military uses to protect its network. The software blocks access to prohibited sites, like those for pornography or gambling, as well as sites that might have some type of malware associated them.

Hagel urges caution on Syria

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. effort to determine whether Syria has used chemical weapons is a "serious business" that cannot be decided in a rush just because several countries believe evidence supports that conclusion. Wrapping up a visit to Egypt, he told reporters, "I think we have to be very careful here before we make any conclusions (and) draw any conclusions based on real intelligence. That's not at all questioning other nations' intelligence. But the United States relies on its own intelligence."

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