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1:40 pm, October 23, 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.

Lawmakers endorse defense cuts

Eleven Republicans and 11 Democrats sent a letter yesterday to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders pushing strategic reductions in the long term Pentagon budget. The Associated Press is reporting, a bipartisan group of House members says any budget deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts should include "substantial defense savings." The lawmakers noted that organizations of various political leanings have backed cuts of $550 billion in projected military spending. They also cited retired Adm. Mike Mullen's argument that the nation's debt is the greatest threat to national security.

Officer Ethics Review Underway

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey says ethics training for senior leaders is adequate but should begin earlier in an officer's career and be reinforced more frequently. That comes in response to a request by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for a review of ethics training following a series of highly publicized ethical lapses by top military officers. Dempsey also suggests that the number of staff they have be reviewed as well.

DoD's legal chief resigns

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer has resigned and says he will return to private practice. Johnson is leaving at the end of December after four years that included a number of controversial legal issues including the escalation in the use of drone strikes and the repeal of the Pentagon's ban on openly gay military service. He left the New York City- based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, to take the Pentagon job, and is expected to return there.

Defense budget passes

The Senate has voted for a broad $631 billion defense bill, that among other things, calls for accelerating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and tightens sanctions on Iran. The legislation which passed 98-0, would authorize money for weapons, aircraft and ships and provide a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel.

Serviceman's remains coming home

Missing in Vietnam since 1971, Army Sgt. John R. Jones, of Louisville, Ky., is coming home. His remains will be buried Dec. 6, in Arlington National Cemetery. On June 4, 1971, Jones was part of a U.S. team working with indigenous commandos to defend a radio-relay base, known as Hickory Hill, in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. When enemy forces attacked the site, Jones and another serviceman took up a defensive position in a nearby bunker. The following morning, Jones was killed by enemy fire.

US acquiring Israeli missile system

The U.S. military wants the "Iron Dome". Israel used the technology to knock 85% of the missiles Hamas fired at them from Gaza recently, out of the sky. Israel has agreed to give the United States the know-how needed to produce interceptors, but it is not interested in co-production yet. The United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to assist Israeli or joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs like David's Sling. Iron Dome was developed by Israel on its own.

Al Qaida strikes again

Gunmen shot dead a Saudi diplomat and his Yemeni bodyguard in Yemen's capital of Sanaa on Wednesday. Reuters is reporting the attack, "according to a local security source, was the work of al Qaida. The killing, the latest attack on security officials and politicians in the U.S.-allied state, underscores the challenges facing Yemen since an uprising that began last year toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh."

Women want combat rules changed

Four servicewomen and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the U.S. Defense Department hoping to end a ban on women in combat. They claim it's discriminitory and modern warfare has already put women in combat. The ACLU argued in federal court in Northern California Tuesday that the military policy barring women from combat just because of their gender was unconstitutional. The Pentagon says it's examining the expansion of roles for women in the U.S. military.

DOJ sues KBR

The U.S. Justice Department says it's sued KBR Inc, accusing the company and a Kuwaiti subcontractor of improperly charging the federal government for the costs of delivering and installing trailers for troops in Iraq. The lawsuit came days after the Justice Department dropped a similar but unrelated case over KBR's costs for private armed security in Iraq. The latest lawsuit alleged that KBR-hired subcontractor First Kuwaiti Trading Company inflated its crane, truck and driver costs and misrepresented delays on the installation of more than 2,250 trailers.

It was murder; not suicide

In a powerful reminder of the brutality of the Pinochet military regime in Chile, an official autopsy of the remains of Salvador Allende's vice president, Jose Toha, have determined that he was murdered and did not commit suicide. Almost 40 years ago, Pinochet's government claimed he hung himself in his hospital room from a closet railing, but his family never bought it because he was taller that the railing. His body was re-interred yesterday.

F-22 crashes in Florida

The military says it doesn't appear a failure of an F-22 fighter's oxygen system caused the $190 million jet to crash in Florida. The Associated Press is reporting, that Air Force Col. David Graff said in a statement Friday that an initial review of Thursday afternoon's crash found the life system did not play a role. The pilot ejected safely before the stealth fighter jet went down in a wooded area of Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle near Panama City. No one on the ground was injured. In 2008, F-22 pilots began reporting high altitude-like problems, forcing the Air Force to acknowledge concerns about the jet's oxygen supply system.

Dunford testifies at confirmation

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, President Barack Obama's choice to be the top commander in Afghanistan said he envisions a U.S. presence in the country after American combat forces leave at the end of 2014. The Associated Press reports, "He also said the two main missions would be counterterrorism and assisting and advising Afghan security forces. Pressed on the size of the residual force, Dunford declined to provide specifics but did say 1,000 troops would be insufficient."

Pentagon tracking space junk

The U.S. military says it will station an advanced radar in Australia to help track space junk threatening satellites and is working toward placement of a new, state-of-the-art deep-space telescope developed by the Pentagon's advanced research arm DARPA.

Reuters is reporting, "The positioning of the advanced military equipment is another sign of deepening U.S. military ties with Australia and America's widely touted "pivot" to Asia. It follows an agreement last year for a rotating training presence of up to 2,500 Marines in Australia's northern tropical city of Darwin."

Is the CIA working in Benghazi?

Has the CIA been using Benghazi as a base to detain Libyans? An allegation that came to light during a speech by Paul Broadwell, who had an affair with now former CIA director David Petraeus. A CIA spokesperson says, "The CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 13491 was issued. Any suggestion that the Agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless."

Panetta Pivoting Toward Asia

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is setting off on a three-nation tour of Asian nations. He will visit Austrailia, Thailand and Cambodia, the goal is to strengthen alliances with partners in the Asia-Pacific region in order to further advance the U.S. long-term strategy of rebalancing with the Asia-Pacific. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III will join Panetta for a portion of the trip.

Libya starting an Army

Libya's preparing to stand up an Army. U.S. officials in Libya have begun to look for recruits whom they plan to train to form Libya's new army, according to a former commander of Libyan rebels who toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Reuters is reporting a team of about 10 Americans from the embassy in Tripoli visited a paramilitary base in the eastern city of Benghazi 10 days ago to interview and get to know potential recruits,. A wave of anti-American violence in the Arab world in September during which the U.S. ambassador to Libya died in a militant attack, President Barack Obama took measures to improve the security of U.S. diplomatic installations in the region.

Commandant sends shout out

The Marine Corps birthday is coming up and Commandant General Jim Amos gave a shout out and a big thank you yesterday. He said, "you got a lot of listeners out there, some of them will have loaned their sons and daughters and husbands and wives to the Marines and to me and I take that very seriously and I want to thank them. I want to thank America for loaning us her children. I'm really proud of the men and women that wear our cloth today. The Marine Corp with be 237 years old on Saturday.

DLA responds to Sandy

In response to the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy, the Defense Logistics Agency has supplied 253,000 gallons of gasoline and 157,000 gallons of diesel fuel to FEMA distribution centers within New York and New Jersey. Also DLA is executing the purchase of 12 million gallons of gasoline, 12 million gallons of diesel. 260 fuel trucks are on contract to support of fuel distribution. In total, more than two million meals have been delivered to FEMA facilities in West Virginia, New York and New Jersey. Another five million are in production.

Pentagon assisting disaster response

Three Navy vessels are in or headed to New York City. The USS Wasp amphibious assault ship, the USS San Antonio and the USS Carter Hall, both Landing dock vessels have been deployed to provide refueling and command and control of DoD helicopter support missions in the area. Four MH-60S choppers with rescue swimmers are onboard the USS San Antonio and Four MH-53E helicopters are flying onto the USS Wasp, joining two MH-60S with rescue swimmers already aboard.

New Cyber Force Coming

DHS is thinking about setting up a "Cyber Reserve" of computer security experts who could be called upon in the event of a crippling cyber-attack. Reuters is reporting that the idea came from a task force the agency set up to address one of the government's major vulnerabilities. DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute told Reuters they hope to have a working model for a Cyber Reserve within a year. The first members are expected to be drawn from retired government employees now working for private companies.

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