6:49 am, October 24, 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.

A Visiting Colonel in the German Army

Wolfgang --a visiting Colonel in the German army had an interesting question for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after his speech at the National Defense University on Wednesday. He said instead of sequestration budget cuts, "wouldn't it be wiser to allow U.S. officers to travel overseas to learn about other countries." The audience erupted with thunderous applause. Hagel's amused response was, "you'll make General very soon."

Military declines to award Purple Hearts

The U.S. Army has formally declined to award Purple Heart medals to the victims of Major Nidal Hasan's shooting rampage at Fort Hood, saying the move would damage his ability to receive a fair trial. According to the Army, "U.S. military personnel are organized, trained and equipped to combat foreign, not domestic, forces or threats. To expand the Purple Heart award criteria to include domestic criminal acts or domestic terror attacks would be a dramatic departure from the traditional Purple Heart award criteria."

Hagel forecasts more cooperation with Singapore

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Pentagon yesterday. Pentagon spokesman George Little said, "The meeting was an opportunity for Secretary Hagel to hear the Prime Minister's views on regional security issues including how nations can work with one another to peacefully resolve territorial issues in the East and South China Seas. Hagel made clear the United States is committed to its allies in the region. "Secretary Hagel made clear the United States and the Department of Defense remain committed to the rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region and that in the future there will be even more opportunities for closer collaboration between the United States and Singapore," said Little.

Iraq cracks down on weapons trafficking

Iraq says it will stop more aircraft moving through its airspace and vehicles traveling overland to search for weapons being sent to the Syrian civil war, a senior Iraqi official said Friday. Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi, told the Associated Press, Iraq would conduct more random searches to check for weapons heading for the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad or rebels seeking to topple his regime.

Hagel defends US actions

Secretary Chuck Hagel says North Korea's provocative actions and belligerent tone had "ratcheted up the danger" on the Korean peninsula, but he denied that the United States had aggravated the situation by flying stealth bombers to the region. "We have to take seriously every provocative, bellicose word and action that this new young leader has taken so far" since coming to power, referring to Kim Jong-un.

CBS criticized by veterans group

Some veterans are not happy about an episode of the CBS reality show "Amazing Race." The show recently aired footage of contestants using a downed B-52 memorial in Hanoi as a prop, and requiring them to learn a Vietnamese song praising their communist system. In a letter to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, the Veterans of Foreign Wars said CBS failed to exercise executive oversight about a time in American history that continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented and stereotyped.

Russia breaks the ice

There could be a break-through in U.S. Russia missile defense discussions. Reuters is reporting Russia "has asked Washington to hold regular consultations on missile defense in Europe, signaling that a shift in U.S. missile shield plans might help to resolve a row that has long strained ties."

Gitmo needs an upgrade

$170 million. That's what's needed to improve facilities for troops stationed at the Guantanamo Bay detention. The head of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John Kelly, told the House Armed Services Committee that upgrades to buildings including barracks and the dining hall for the American personnel assigned to the joint task force at the U.S. base in Cuba are badly needed. He described the living conditions at Guantanamo as not quite squalor but "pretty questionable."

U.S. may get involved in Syria

The Associated Press is reporting, the top U.S. military commander in Europe says NATO is making contingency plans for possible military involvement in Syria. And he says American forces would be prepared if called upon by the United Nations and member countries. Adm. James commander of U.S. European Command, told a Senate panel that the United States is "looking at a variety of operations."

Pentagon may pivot again

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed senior Pentagon officials to re-examine the U.S. military strategy approved last year to see how priorities may need to be adjusted due to budget cuts that took effect on March 1, U.S. officials said. According to the Associated Press, "the decision, made on Friday, comes as the Pentagon is struggling to cut $46 billion from this year's defense budget and faces the prospect of an additional $50 billion per year in reductions to projected spending for the next nine years."

Pentagon to deploy more missile interceptors

The Pentagon announced Friday it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles. In announcing the decision, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is determined to ensure protection of the U.S. homeland and stay ahead of the North Korean missile threat. He acknowledged that the interceptors already in place to defend against potential North Korean missile launches have had poor test performances.

Medal draws fire

Veterans groups are asking President Barack Obama to step into a dispute over a new medal for remote warfare troops that was ranked higher than traditional combat medals like the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups sent a letter to Obama on Thursday asking him to keep the medal ranked below the Purple Heart. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has already ordered a review of the new medal, which is for drone operators and cyber warfighters.

Taliban hit by uprising

The awakening arrives in Afghanistan. Villagers in southern Afghanistan -the birthplace of the Taliban 20 years ago have staged what's being called a first-of-its-kind uprising. Army Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams says it's a promising development in Kandahar province and it could spread to other districts. This comes while U.S. and allied forces are taking a back-seat role in fighting the insurgency.

U.S. military preparing for cyber attack

The director of National Intelligence says a cyber-storm is growing. The Defense Department is establishing a series of cyber teams charged with carrying out offensive operations to combat the threat of an electronic assault on the United States that could cause major damage and disruption to the country's vital infrastructure, a senior military official said Tuesday.

Karzai's allegation not new

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's surprising allegation that the U.S. and Taliban are conspiring together to keep the war going caught some off guard. But during his eight years as president, Karzai has frequently antagonized the U.S. government by claiming the U.S. motives for being in Afghanistan were selfish. At one point he accused the U.S. of using Afghan soil for its own goals and purposes. More than 2,000 American have been killed and more than 18,000 have been wounded.

Hagel visits Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel went to Afghanistan late last week for his first visit as Pentagon chief. He said there are many challenges ahead as NATO continues to hand over the country's security to the Afghans. "We are still at war," Hagel said, warning the U.S. and its allies to remain focused on the mission while noting that the U.S. never intended to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Malian conflict continues

France's defense minister made a surprise visit to Mali on Thursday to see French troops fighting extremists there. The Associated Press is reporting "military officials said at least 100 al-Qaida-linked fighters died in a two-week campaign to oust them from a rocky desert valley that had been their key base. French forces are in their most bloody and close-range fighting since they deployed eight weeks ago to Mali to help the West African country's embattled government rid its vast north of militants imposing harsh Islamic rule."

Syrian rebels reject U.S. aid

Syria's rebels have rejected the food and medical supplies the United States wants to give them. Gen. Salim Idris, told The Associated Press, those supplies, "won't bring them any closer to defeating President Bashar Assad's forces in the country's civil war. We don't want food and drink, and we don't want bandages. When we're wounded, we want to die. The only thing we want is weapons," he said.

Manning pleads guilty

Bradley Manning, the Army private arrested in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, offered to plead guilty. The "Associated Press" says he made the plea to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years. He said he exposed the secrets to reveal the American military's "bloodlust" in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first time Manning directly admitted leaking the material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and detailed the frustrations that led him to do it.

Cyber medal draws controversy

Veterans groups and lawmakers are saying the military's new medal for cyber warriors should get a demotion so it doesn't outrank such revered honors as the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The Distinguished Warfare Medal was announced two weeks ago. It's a sign of the changing nature of war, and the increasingly important role played by attacks conducted remotely.

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