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5:30 pm, 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.

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.

Panetta exits Pentagon

There's going to be a new Secretary of Defense today. And the outgoing SECDEF Leon Panetta said in a farewell message, "It's been the privilege of my life to serve with and lead the men and women of this Department." And in his final act he expressed deep gratitude to those who are fighting and working every day in national defense. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Chuck Hagel on Tuesday as President Barack Obama's new secretary of defense.

Commission investigates abuse allegations

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has ordered all U.S. special forces out of Wardak province. "We're working with the government of Afghanistan to define precisely what their concerns were," said spokesman George Little. "Obviously we take all of their concerns very seriously." The concern came up after civilians living in Wardak complained of killings, beatings and other abuse at the hands of Afghan troops working with US forces.

The F-35 grounded

The Pentagon on Friday grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after discovering a cracked engine blade in one plane. The problem was discovered during what the Pentagon called a routine inspection at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., of an F-35A, the Air Force version of the sleek new plane. The Navy and the Marine Corps are buying other versions of the F-35, which is intended to replace older fighters like the Air Force F-16 and the Navy F/A-18.

Gen. Sinclair concerned about legal team

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, charged with sexual misconduct, wants to add civilian lawyers to his legal team. He says his military lawyers are concerned their careers would be harmed by defending him. In court Thursday at Fort Bragg for a hearing on pre- trial motions, Sinclair faces court martial in June on charges that include forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. He has thus far deferred entering a plea.

Pentagon investigating another member of Seal Team Six

The Pentagon is reviewing an Esquire magazine article on a Navy SEAL's account of his role in the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. They're looking to determine whether the account disclosed any classified information. Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Warren, says officials are trying to determine whether the SEAL, whose identity is not revealed in the piece, broke any secrecy rules. The article was published online Feb. 11.

Allen retires

Marine Gen. John Allen will not become commander of NATO forces in Europe. President Barack Obama has accepted Allen's request to retire. Allen this month completed a 19-month stint as the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. Allen told the Washington Post, he wanted to focus on helping his wife cope with chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder.

Women go into battle in Afghanistan

The Afghan army is breaking new ground. It's training female special forces to take part in night raids against insurgents. Night raids have long been a divisive issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who doesn't want foreign troops entering Afghan homes, and the U.S.-led coalition that says the raids are essential to capturing Taliban commanders.

Hagel Moves On

Former Senator Chuck Hagel has been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee to be the nation's defense secretary. His nomination has been sent to the full Senate where the Democrats, hold a 55-45 edge. More than a dozen Republicans oppose the nomination, and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, is insisting that any confirmation be based on 60 votes rather than a majority of the Senate.

Diallo dies in a plane crash

The head of Guinea's armed forces, was killed on Monday in a plane crash near the Liberian capital Monrovia. Investigators and United Nations peacekeepers found the wreckage in a grove of palm trees near Charlesville, about 25 miles southeast of the Liberian capital Monrovia. There were no survivors. General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, who was on a security mission to Liberia.

Obama warns about Sequester

President Barack Obama draconian government spending cuts that will go into effect on March 1 unless Congress stops them, could have a "severe impact" on U.S. military preparedness. "There is no reason, no reason for that to happen," Obama said. He made the remarks at a farewell ceremony for outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. "Putting our fiscal house in order calls for a balanced approach, not massive indiscriminate cuts that could have a severe impact on our military preparedness," he said.

US helps France in Mali

The U.S. continues to support French operations in Mali. The Pentagon says since French operations began on January 11th, the U.S. has been sharing intelligence with the French., providing airlift support to the French Army. As of Feb. 6th the U.S. Air Force had flown 36 C-17 sorties, moving French personnel, supplies and equipment into Bamako. So far, they have carried more than 912 tons of equipment and supplies and 665 passengers.

Carriers in Persian Gulf Delayed

In one of the biggest moves yet in the battle against sequestration, the Pentagon is cutting its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf region. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has approved the plan to just keep one carrier there. The U.S. has maintained two aircraft carrier groups in the Gulf for most of the last two years. Pentagon Press secretary George Little said in a statement the deployments of the USS Harry S Truman and the USS Gettysburg, a guided-missile cruiser, have been delayed because of budget uncertainty.

Same-Sex benefits to be extended

A little more than 15 months after the Pentagon repealed its ban on openly gay service members, the military is on the brink of extending some benefits to the same-sex partners of service members, U.S. officials said Tuesday. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hasn't made a final decision on which benefits will be included, but the Pentagon is expected to allow same-sex partners to have access to the on-base commissary and other military subsidized stores.

US Navy sends message to North Korea

The Associated Press is reporting, South Korean and U.S. troops began naval drills Monday in a show of force partly directed at North Korea amid signs that Pyongyang will soon follow through on a threat to conduct its third atomic test. The region has also seen a boost in diplomatic activity since last month, when North Korea announced it would conduct a nuclear test to protest U.N. Security Council sanctions toughened after a satellite launch in December that the U.S. and others say was a disguised test of banned missile technology.

AFRICOM stays put

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has decided against moving the U.S. military's headquarters overseeing Africa from Germany to the United States, concluding the benefits of staying in Europe closer to African hot spots - are worth the extra cost, officials say. Reuters is reporting, the Pentagon notified Congress of its decision this week. Some lawmakers had been pushing for Africa Command to move stateside, with South Carolina and Georgia promoted as possible locations.

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.

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