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4:07 am, July 30, 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.

Utah soldiers training in Africa

Soldiers from the 807th Medical Deployment Support Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, are in North Africa this week --in Mali sharing their expertise with their Malian medical defense forces counterparts. The annual-joint-aerial-delivery exercise, hosted by U.S. Army Africa, brings together U.S. Army personnel with militaries in Africa to enhance air drop capabilities and ensure effective delivery of military resupply materials and humanitarian aid. Doctors and medics from both militaries are seizing this unique opportunity to expand on training.

Healthier food coming to military bases

Military bases will soon be serving more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dishes. This is a part of the first program in 20 years to improve nutrition standards across the armed services. First lady Michelle Obama announced the effort during a visit to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where the military has been experimenting with the idea through a pilot program designed to improve the quality and variety of foods served on base.

Afghan Security Forces not ready

A top U.S. commander says only 1 percent of Afghan police and soldiers are capable of working on their own. The comments raise doubts about whether Afghan forces will be able to deal with the still potent Taliban insurgency as the U.S. and the rest of the West withdraws. U.S. Lieutenant General Curtis Scarapotti told reporters that only 29 Afghan army units and seven Afghan police units are ready to work on their own.

Special Operators to be last out

Special operations forces in Afghanistan are preparing for a possible expanded role as overall --the Associated Press is reporting as U.S. forces begin to draw down after a decade of war. Adm. Bill McRaven, the special operations commander who led last year's Navy SEAL raid against Osama bin Laden, confirmed that special operations forces would be the last to leave under the Obama administration's current plan.

Iran hit again by sanctions

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Monday imposing new, harsher sanctions on Iran and its central bank, because of concerns over Iran's nuclear program. Also at issue is whether or not there will be a military attack on Iran this spring. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, in his own words, he believed Israel would launch and attack sooner than later, but President Barack Obama said, Israel hasn't made up it's mind if or when it will attack.

Iran issues another threat

The stakes are growing as the war of words grows. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday Iran would retaliate over Western-backed oil sanctions and any threat of attack, after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was cited as saying he feared a possible Israeli strike as early as April. Khamenei's speech marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on Friday.

Al Qaida takes another hit

The Philippine military said it killed three of Southeast Asia's most-wanted terrorist leaders in a U.S.-backed airstrike that significantly weakens an al-Qaida-linked network that had used islands in the southern Philippines as a hideout and training base. The dawn strike targeting a militant camp on a remote island killed at least 15 people, including Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, a top leader of the regional Jemaah Islamiyah terror network.

Navy attorney makes request to question Yemeni President

The lawyer for a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay charged in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole has asked a judge to allow him to question the president of Yemen while he is in the U.S. for treatment. Navy Lt Cmdr. Steven Reyes, represents Abd al-Nashiri said he think President Ali Abdullah Saleh has information he can use in his clients trial.

F-35s grounded

The Pentagon grounded six Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, due to a problem with the parachutes packed under the pilot's ejection seat -- Reuters reports the affected parachutes, manufactured by a privately owned British company, for Lockheed Martin were improperly folded and must be adjusted before the aircraft can resume test flights.

Military cuts announced

The Pentagon says the Obama administration will propose to Congress that U.S. ground forces be reduced by 100,000 as part of budget cuts. Those cuts would also eliminate older aircraft, limit military pay raises and slow the buying of a next-generation fighter plane. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells a Pentagon news conference the administration will request a 2013 budget of $525 billion, plus another $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan. Combined, those totals are about $33 billion less than the Pentagon is spending this year.

Former Army Corps of Engineers employee pleads guilty

Prosecutors called it one of the biggest government contracting fraud cases ever. Court papers show Michael A. Alexander plans to plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy to launder money. Alexander and three other men, including another Army Corps of Engineers employee, were indicted in October on charges of participating in a bribery and kickback scheme in the awarding of $20 million in government contracts. The other men have pleaded not guilty.

Ghadafi ideals live on

Muamar Ghadafi has been dead for more than 3 months, but forces loyal to him continue to fight and they've taken control, of Bani Walid, a town south-east of the capital. They've been flying their green flags in defiance of the country's new, weak government. This is just the latest problem facing the government which has yet to rise to its feet since the NATO led operation ousted Gadhafi and his government. There are also concerns that terrorist factions are spiriting weapons out of the country

F-35 moves to next level

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. military is moving ahead with developing the Marine Corps version of the next-generation strike fighter jet, but warns the program is "not out of the woods yet." Those remarks came as the F-35B Lightning II was removed from "probation" and granted full status along the other two variants of the Joint Strike Fighter. He said the F-35, the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program, is "absolutely vital to maintaining America's air superiority".

Pentagon pays heavy price

Since Pakistan shut down U.S. supply lines in late 2011, the Pentagon has been spending more than six times what it normally does to get supplies to troops in Afghanistan. According to information obtained by the Associated Press, it now costs about $104 million per month to move the supplies through a longer northern route, $87 million more a month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.

The Pentagon cracks down on sexual assault

The Pentagon is preparing a series of new initiatives to try to curb sexual assaults in the military. "Sexual assault has no place in this department. It's is an affront to the basic American values we defend," said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as laid out the first in a series of proposal. According to Panetta, the steps include extending victim services to military spouses as well as Pentagon civilians and contractors working abroad and more money to prosecute perpetrators.

Gitmo mail to be scrutinized

A review of legally oriented mail to prisoners facing charges for war crimes at Guantanamo Bay prison has been ordered. Rear Adm. David Woods says it balances the need for defense attorneys to communicate with their clients with demands for security and safety on the base. Woods made the statement at a pre-trial hearing in a case against a Saudi man charged with orchestrating the deadly attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, is considered one of al-Qaida's most senior leaders.

Myanmar frees prisoners

More than 200 political prisoners were freed in Myanmar last week. As a result, the U.S. upgraded diplomatic relations. It might also embolden the opposition and that might lead to pressure on the West to lift sanctions. It's one of the most reclusive countries in the world. It's opened up after 50 years of hard-line rule. Myanmar a neighbor of China represents a potential, key ally for the US in a troubled region.

Marine sniper probe advances

Three star Marine Corps. General Thomas Waldhauser has been appointed to oversee the case an Internet video allegedly showing Marine snipers urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan. He has named another officer to do an internal Marine Corps investigation, in addition to a criminal probe under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Waldhauser will decide what to do as a result of the investigations. No one has been charged.

Marines launch inquiry

Afghanistan's government and the Taliban are both denouncing the video that has surfaced on the Internet, allegedly showing four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. Marine Corps. Commandant General James Amos has assigned a Marine General Officer and senior attorney, both with extensive combat experience, to head up an internal Preliminary Inquiry into the matter. Once the investigation and Preliminary Inquiry are complete and the facts have been determined, then the says the Marine Corps will take the appropriate next steps. He says in a statement, "Rest assured that the institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved."

US ship rescues Iranians -again

For the second time in less than a week -- an American ship has rescued Iranian mariners in distress. The Pentagon says a Coast Guard cutter picked up six Iranians from a cargo boat in the northern Persian Gulf. One of the Iranian crew members had suffered burns after the boat had some kind of engine trouble. Last Thursday, a Navy ship rescued 13 Iranian fishermen from pirates holding them hostage aboard their ship.

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