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11:50 am, October 21, 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.

Late checks anger Vets

Upset veterans who work part-time for the Veterans Administration while attending college say their paychecks are sometimes weeks late, leaving them in trouble with bill collectors or having to borrow money to avoid eviction. The two-week paycheck is typically about $360, and can be vital to veterans raising families and juggling expenses. The VA says it's looking into it.

DoD debates punishment for former AFRICOM Head

Gen. Ray Odierno says demoting a four-star general for spending misconduct could be harsh and would force the officer to $1 million in retirement pay. The Army's Chief of Staff indicated that a lower level officer would never be asked to pay such a high price. Pentagon leaders are deciding how to punish former Africa Command head Gen. William "Kip" Ward. According to an inspector general's report, Ward spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish travel and other expenses.

Private Sector to get intel

A new White House executive order is being prepared that would direct U.S. spy agencies to share the latest intelligence about cyber threats with companies operating electric grids, water plants, railroads and other vital industries to help protect them from electronic attacks. The Associated Press says this comes amid growing concern that Iran could be the first country to use cyber terrorism against the United States. The military is ready to retaliate if the U.S. is hit by cyber weapons, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

Alleged Rape being investigated

DoD spokesman George Little says the Pentagon is "working closely with the Government of Japan and relevant local authorities in their investigation of an alleged assault of a female Japanese citizen in Okinawa Oct. 16 by two U.S. service members." Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, of Joint Naval Air Station, Fort Worth, Texas, were in OKinawa on a brief stop-over when the alleged rape occurred. Little says, "We deeply regret any grief and trauma the victim may have endured.

Croatian Minister visits Pentagon

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, welcomed Croatian Defense Minister Ante Kotromanovic, to the Pentagon. The two defense leaders met to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the Afghanistan transition and bilateral defense cooperation. Panetta commended the minister on making progress across Croatia's defense modernization priorities amidst the financial crisis and for Croatia's regional leadership in Southeast Europe, particularly as a mentor on Euro-Atlantic integration processes and in advancing regional initiatives.

NSA hacker gets off

Gary McKinnon, a British computer hacker who has been fighting extradition to the U.S. for seven years, will not be extradited, because of the high risk he could kill himself, Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said on Tuesday. He's accused by the United States of causing more than $700,000 damage to U.S. military systems and was facing up to 60 years in a U.S. prison if found guilty of what one U.S. prosecutor called the "biggest military computer hack of all time". McKinnon admitted hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers, claiming he was looking for evidence of aliens.

Naval Vessels Collide

A U.S. Navy submarine and an Aegis class cruiser that collided somewhere off the East Coast are both back in port and officials are investigating what went wrong. The submarine USS Montpelier arrived at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southern Georgia. The USS San Jacinto arrived at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla. on Sunday. Navy officials say they collided at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday during routine training operations. No one was injured.

Hezbollah may face retaliation

Now what? Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged yesterday sending a drone into Israel, which was shot down last weekend after flying some 25 miles (55 km) into Israeli territory. Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone was Iranian-made. Israeli warplanes shot down the unmanned plane, but the infiltration marked a rare breach of Israel's tightly guarded airspace. Already under pressure in Lebanon, Hezbollah is under pressure from rivals who accuse it of putting Lebanon at risk of getting sucked into regional turmoil.

Al-Qaida is rebuilding in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi officials say the extremist group has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation's western deserts, seizing on regional instability and government security failures. Iraq has seen a jump in al-Qaida attacks over the last 10 weeks, and officials believe most of the fighters are former prisoners who have either escaped from jail or were released by Iraqi authorities for lack of evidence after the U.S. military withdrawal last December. Many are said to be Saudi or from Sunni-dominated Gulf states.

Ward's pension hangs in the balance

What will happen to General William "Kip" Ward, the former head of the U.S. Africa Command. A DoD Inspector General's report concluded that he spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish travel and other expenses. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is among those who believe that War should be allowed to retire at his full four-star general rank. Retiring as a three star would mean about $208,000, a four star general officer make more than $236,000.

Syria backing down

Turkey stepped up strikes on a Syrian border town on Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers, while its parliament approved further military action in the event of another spillover of the Syrian conflict. Reuters says they're "seeking to unwind the most serious cross-border escalation in its 18-month-old crackdown on dissent, Damascus apologized through the United Nations for shelling which killed five civilians in southeast Turkey on Wednesday and said it would not happen again, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said."

Turkey attacks Syria

Turkey's military struck targets inside Syria yesterday after a bomb went off killing five civilians in a residential area in Turkey close to the border. The Pentagon responded strongly to the activity. Spokesman George Little said in a statement, "This is yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go. We regret the loss of life in Turkey, a strong ally, and continue to monitor the situation closely."

US was worried about a possible attack in Libya

"Small teams of special operations forces arrived at American embassies throughout North Africa in the months before militants launched the fiery attack that killed the U.S. ambassador in Libya." The Associated Press reports, "the soldiers' mission: Set up a network that could quickly strike a terrorist target or rescue a hostage. The White House signed off a year ago on the plan to build the new military counterterror task force in the region, and the advance teams have been there for six months."

The US pressuring Iran

Reuters is reporting, the United States and its Gulf partners are looking to deepen cooperation on missile defense as tensions rise with Iran, and announcements could come soon on new purchases. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials in New York as Washington seeks to boost regional defenses against perceived Iranian threats. "Our aim is to help our Gulf partners with their defense needs ... there is a missile threat that they face, we want to help them face that threat as best they can," one senior U.S. official said.

Consulate attacked by terrorists

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says it is clear that terrorists were behind the deadly attack, but he said at a Pentagon news conference, it is not yet clear what specific group was involved. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that prior to the attack there was some intelligence about security threats in Libya, but it was not specific to the U.S. Consulate.

Soldiers focus on suicide prevention

Soldiers are spending today on suicide prevention training. This military "stand down" comes as the Pentagon struggles with a spike in the number of self-inflicted deaths this year. The Army's top enlisted soldier, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler, says the day will focus on making sure that troops and their families know what programs are available to them and helping them get over the embarrassment that keeps many from seeking help.

Sex Assault Training to be Improved

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force to improve the quality of sexual assault prevention training for their prospective commanders and senior enlisted leaders. DoD press secretary George Little said the goal is to make training better and more uniform among the services. The services also will review policies on all military training of enlisted personnel and commissioned officers.

Army-Pacific expecting more engagement

The Associated Press is reporting, the "leader of U.S. Army forces in Asia and the Pacific says his soldiers will be able to conduct more exercises with other nations in the region, as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and the military refocuses its attention." Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, the commander of U.S. Army Pacific, wants U.S. soldiers to undertake more exercises with Indonesia, Malaysia and India. The Army will also be able to have more active duty soldiers, instead of reserves, participate in exercises with allies such as Japan.

Iran strikes back

Reuters is reporting, "Iranian hackers have repeatedly attacked Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc over the past year, as part of a broad cyber campaign targeting the United States." The attacks, started in late 2011 and escalated this year. The attacks disrupted the banks' websites and corporate networks by launching denial of service attacks. Iran's nuclear program has been attacked repeated by viruses that U.S. is believed to have authored.

New counter terrorism talks planned

High level three-way talks between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan could be coming. The goal is to fix counterterrorism problems. Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Foreign Minister told several media yesterday senior officials from the three countries have been instructed to come up with a strategy for repairing cooperation that has suffered since U.S.-Pakistani relations collapsed a year and half ago.

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