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7:21 pm, November 25, 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.

Alcohol key in military fight against sexual assault

The Pentagon has released its annual report on sexual assault. The report, which includes a multi-faceted strategy to prevent sexual assault, indicates that alcohol often plays a significant role in the commission of sexual assault. The report says alcohol impairs one's ability to identify a sexual assault threat and is sometimes used as a tool to reduce the victim's resistance or totally incapacitate a victim. The strategy against sexual assault includes five elements: prevention, investigation, accountability, advocacy and assessment of the program.

Pentagon warns of security gaps in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense provided Congress on Wednesday the April 2014 "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan". It says although the Afghani security forces continue to make progress, four key high-end capability gaps will remain after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ends on Dec. 31, 2014: air support, intelligence enterprise, special operations, and Afghan security ministry capacity. International funding and coalition force assistance will be critical to sustaining the force going forward.

Egypt facing hurdles in Washington

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Egypt has made progress in its democratic transition, but must address "disturbing" developments if its government is to have the confidence of the Egyptian people and others. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was very explicit about his concerns. He said he would not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military, denouncing a "sham trial" in which a court sentenced 683 people to death.

Hagel seeks clarification in Russia's intent

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke Monday by phone with Russia's Minister of Defense. The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues related to the situation in Ukraine, with Sec. Hagel requesting clarification of Russia's intentions in Eastern Ukraine. Sergei Shoygu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine. Sec. Hagel emphasized how dangerous the situation remains and expressed his desire to find a responsible way forward. Regarding recent actions by Ukrainian security forces, Sec. Hagel reiterated the right of the government of Ukraine to preserve law and order within its own borders.

Ukrainian airspace violated

Russian fighter jets flew into Ukraine several times last week. It's not clear what the intent was, but the aircraft may have been testing Ukrainian radar. The West has threatened additional sanctions against Russia if it continues its aggressive behavior in Ukraine.

Military buildup in Eastern Ukraine continues

The Pentagon sharply criticized Russia's latest announcement on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. DoD is concerned that Russia is, "starting military drills near the border with Ukraine and called on Moscow to take steps to lower, not escalate, tensions. Moscow has said the drills were a response to Ukrainian operations against pro-Russian separatists and NATO exercises in eastern Europe."

Sailor to be recognized as a hero

Petty Officer Mark A. Mayo will be posthumously awarded the Navy Marine Corps Medal on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. Mayo, 24, was killed during a shooting incident at Naval Station Norfolk Monday, Mar. 24, where he was assigned to Naval Security Forces. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the United States Department of the Navy to the members of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Vice Admiral Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, will present the award to Mayo's family in a private ceremony prior to the burial.

CIA prison documents to be turned over

Prosecutors must turn over details about the time Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, spent in secret CIA prisons after his arrest in connection with the deadly attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. That was a military judge's order in the case on Tuesday. Defense attorneys representing Nashiri had sought the order. He's accused of master-minding the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the Cole in which 17 U.S. sailors were killed and 42 were injured.

Army shrinking the size of its workforce

The Army says it must shrink to 490,000 by October 2015, and then to 450,000 two years later. If automatic budget cuts resume, the Army will have to reduce to 420,000. The Associated Press reports while a lot of the reduction may come from voluntary retirements, resignations and decreased enlistments, Army commanders will have to force as many as 3,000 officers to leave by the end of October 2015. Of those, nearly 1,500 are captains, 550 are majors.

US to block Iran's UN ambassador

President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday to block Iran's chosen ambassador from coming into the country to work at the United Nations because of his ties to the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. But according to the Associate Press, the President says he's only treating the legislation as guidance. It bars anyone from entering the U.S. as a U.N. representative if they've engaged in espionage or terrorist activity and still pose a threat to U.S. security.

US to help Ukraine

The U.S. is planning to send medical supplies, helmets and other non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military in response to Russia's aggressive activities, which the U.S. says are designed to destabilize that country. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said at a news conference that he spoke to Ukraine's acting defense minister to tell him that President Barack Obama had approved the assistance. But, he pointed out, the aid doesn't include any weapons.

Biden promotes GI Bill website

Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is promoting a new website called the GI Bill Comparison Tool designed to make it easier for service members, veterans, their spouses and dependents to calculate their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at thousands of schools and job training programs. "In just a couple easy steps they can figure everything out," she told The Associated Press Wednesday. She said using the website, service members can estimate tuition and fees, housing allowances and book stipends for each school.

CIA clarifies Brennan's Ukraine visit

With all the misinformation flying around about what's happening in Ukraine, the CIA is disconnecting Director John Brennan's weekend visit to Kiev from the crackdown in eastern Ukraine. "The claim that Director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false. Like other senior U.S. officials, Director Brennan strongly believes that a diplomatic solution is the only way to resolve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine," said a CIA spokesperson in a statement.

Massive explosion in Nigeria kills dozens

On Monday at 6:45 a.m. local time in Abuja, Nigeria, a large explosion rocked a crowded bus station in the Abuja suburb of Nyanya. Nigerian authorities say at least 71 people died in the blast and more than 150 were seriously injured. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion, but authorities believe terror group Boko-Haram placed a large vehicle-borne explosive device in the area.

Iranian envoy blocked

The United States has blocked Iran's controversial pick for envoy to the United Nations, just as the two countries have been seeking a thaw in relations. This could have implications on U.S./Iran relations down the road. The White House says it has informed Iran it will not grant a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, a member of the group responsible for the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Influential African-American women write to Hagel

Sixteen black female members of Congress are pushing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to change Army regulations that ban hairstyles frequently worn by minority women in the military. The Associated Press reports the members of the Congressional Black Caucus signed a letter Thursday to Hagel, stating that the changes are "discriminatory rules targeting soldiers who are women of color." They say that references in the rules calling hairstyles worn mostly by black women "unkempt" and "matted" are offensive and show a lack of "cultural sensitivity."

US jets going to Romania

The United States will deploy F-16 fighter jets to Romania this month as part of planned joint exercises in the wake of rising tensions in neighboring Ukraine after Russia's annexation of Crimea. President Barack Obama has said NATO needs to boost its presence in eastern European countries that feel vulnerable to Russia. The small Baltic states are particularly nervous about a more assertive Russia.

Surge comes to America

First there were surges to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, there's a surge coming to America. Tens of thousands of new veterans are expected to return to the workforce or to college in the next several years as the military downsizes after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenge now is to help them find jobs and make good on promises to pay for their education.

Senate declassifies report

The Senate Intelligence Committee decided Thursday to release parts of a heavily challenged, secret report that harshly criticizes CIA interrogation tactics after 9/11. This action sets up what could be the broadest public accounting of the Bush administration's record when it comes to waterboarding and other ``enhanced interrogation techniques.'' The panel voted 11-3 to order the declassification of almost 500 pages. The White House said it would instruct intelligence officials to cooperate fully.

US troops headed to Eastern Europe

175 Marines are headed to a Romanian base near the Black Sea bringing the number of troops in DoD's Europe-based Crisis Response Force to 675. This deployment in the region comes as the Ukrainian government frets about what Russia is going to do next after annexing the Crimean Peninsula. The team, headquartered in Moron, Spain, was set up principally to respond to crises in Africa.

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