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5:01 am, November 26, 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.

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."

Syria accused of using chemical weapons

Secretary of State John Kerry urged NATO to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria. This came on Tuesday, the same day that a senior Israeli military intelligence official said Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had used such weapons last month in his battle against insurgents. It was the first time Israel had accused the embattled Syrian leader of using his stockpile of nonconventional weapons. The assessment was based on visual evidence, could raise pressure on the U.S. and other Western countries to intervene in Syria. Britain and France recently announced that they had evidence that Assad's government had used chemical weapons.

Netanyahu mulls helping Syrian rebels

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declined to rule out the possibility of providing arms to Syrian rebel groups. Although he did not make a clear commitment, his comments on a BBC News program indicated that he is considering a shift away from two years of neutrality on the Syrian civil war. He said that the decision of whether to intervene in the neighboring civil war is a "complicated question." The U.S. is already assisting some Syrian rebel

Saudi official visits White House to discuss Syria

President Barack Obama met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal yesterday. National Security Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden says they were joined by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Hayden says during the meeting the President and Prince Saud Al-Faisal reaffirmed the strong partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia and discussed developments in the region, specifically Syria. Among their principle concerns is how to bring the conflict to a peaceful end.

Budget cuts hit the Navy hard

Top officials from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps told lawmakers on Tuesday that across-the-board budget cuts in fiscal 2013 and 2014 would reduce readiness and cut heavily into their procurement and research and development programs. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said budget requests required under sequestration had cut about $6.1 billion, or 8 percent, from the Navy's investment programs in fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

What do we know about the Defense Intelligence Agency?

It manages America's defense attaché system, operating out of U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe. It counts more than 16,500 military and civilian employees in 139 countries, with hundreds in Afghanistan. An unknown number work undercover. Its size has more than doubled since 2000, partly because of the restructuring of military intelligence, and many more employees are deployed abroad. Today, more than half of DIA's staff is posted outside of Washington, compared to less than a third in 2000. The agency is bolstering its clandestine operations overseas.

Budget to affect combat readiness

Federal budget cuts will ground one-third of the U.S. Air Force's active-duty force of combat planes including fighters and bombers. A top general says that means "accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur." Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, issued the warning as the Pentagon braces for more effects of the automatic spending cuts.

Pentagon budget pares program

The Pentagon has submitted $526.6 billion that calls for closing bases, slashing the civilian workforce and scrapping weapons programs. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says it reflects the need to pay for the war in Afghanistan, implementing the President's defense strategic guidance. "This budget also increases DoD's investments in its cyber workforce, continues to implement our rebalance to Asia and makes new investments the flexible platforms needed for the future," says Hagel. He also says that future will take place in a world of complete uncertainty.

Two sentenced in Seattle plot

A second man who pleaded guilty has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for planning to attack a military recruitment facility in Seattle and murder U.S. servicemen in 2011.

Walli Mujahidh, 34, was one of two men who had planned to storm the Military Entrance Processing Station south of downtown Seattle with machine guns and grenades in retaliation for U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.

Joseph Anthony Davis, was sentenced to 18 years in prison last month.

Soldier suspected of murder apprehended

A Fort Knox soldier wanted for questioning in the shooting death of a civilian employee has been apprehended in Tennessee. A statement from the Army's criminal investigations division says the soldier is a member of Fort Knox's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The Army has not named the suspect or the victim. The military says the soldier was caught in Portland, Tenn. The victim was an employee of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, and the shooting occurred in a parking lot outside that building.

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.

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