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11:34 pm, November 26, 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.

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.

US military reaches milestone

The Pentagon says there were no U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan in March. The Associated Press is reporting that it was the first zero-fatality month there since January 2007. American casualties in Afghanistan have declined as the number of U.S. forces has grown smaller and their role has shifted away from combat. U.S. troops are focused on training and advising Afghan forces. The Pentagon says there are about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a 2011 peak of about 100,000.

Naval Station Norfolk security increased

The Navy's Commander for the Mid-Atlantic region has ordered additional screening of all delivery drivers presenting the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), before an individual is granted access. Security personnel will now check the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data for any criminal history or outstanding warrants that are grounds for denial in accordance with Navy Region Mid-Atlantic access standards. Those standards include felony convictions within the last ten years; misdemeanor convictions within the last five years for crimes of violence; larceny; drugs; habitual offenders; and conviction for sex offenses. The change was ordered following the March 24 shooting death of a Sailor by a civilian truck driver aboard the Navy destroyer, USS Mahan (DDG 72), moored at Naval Station Norfolk.

NCIS identified shooter

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has identified Jeffrey Tyrone Savage as the civilian truck driver who killed Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo Monday night onboard Naval Station Norfolk. Savage, 35, from Portsmouth, Va., drove his 2002 Freightliner through Gate 5 just after 11 p.m., proceeded to Pier 1, left his truck and attempted to board USS Mahan (DDG 72). He was confronted by ship security personnel who ordered him to stop. A struggle occurred and Savage was able to disarm the petty officer of the watch. Savage then used the weapon to fatally shoot Mayo and attempted to fire at other nearby security personnel. Mayo was serving as chief of the guard at Naval Station Norfolk and was in the vicinity of the Mahan. Mayo immediately came to render assistance to personnel on Mahan and engaged in gunfire with Savage. Other security forces shot and killed Savage. Savage, an employee of Majette Trucking, did have a valid Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). A TWIC alone does not authorize base access, it must be used in conjunction with other documents to gain authorized entry. The NCIS investigation has confirmed that Savage had no reason or authorization to be on Naval Station Norfolk. The chain of events that allowed Savage entry to the installation and the ship are under investigation.

What's Russia up to?

British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond was at the Pentagon yesterday. He was asked about the Russian Defense Minister's recent remark to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine. Hagel says the size of the Russian troop buildup makes him skeptical and Hammond says it's not at all certain the Russian Defense Secretary knows what Pres. Putin's intentions are.

Sailor Killed at Norfolk Naval Station

CAPT Robert Clark, Commanding Officer, Naval Station Norfolk said a suspect approached the USS Mahan's Quarterdeck at 11:20 pm Monday night and was confronted by ship security personnel. "A struggle ensued and the suspect was able to disarm the Petty Officer of the Watch. The suspect then used the weapon to fatally shoot our Sailor responding to render assistance. Naval security forces then killed the suspect. The suspect did not have his own weapon," said Clark. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is investigating possible motives.

Rhodes: "Russia is alone"

What's different about the Cold War and now? While the G-7 meeting in The Hague, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the difference now is that Russia is finding itself totally alone. He added Russian does not have the security a block of nations standing with it in violating Ukraine's sovereignty. And he said, "As long as Russia is flagrantly violating international law ... there is no need for the G-7 to engage with Russia,''.

DoD discloses budget for missing plane search

The Pentagon budgeted 4 million dollars to help Malaysia authorities look for flight MH370 which went missing on March 8th. The USS Kidd, an Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer and two Navy spy planes, the P-3 Orion and the more advanced P-8 have participated in the search. The Kidd has since returned to its normal assignments. Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren said on Friday, DoD had spent 2.5 million dollars at that point in the search.

DoD assisting in search for missing plane

What's the U.S. military doing to help in the search for a missing Malaysian plane? "We're putting as much effort into it across the scope of our capabilities as is needed. says Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary. "I wouldn't get into the specifics of each and every one of those tools , because some of those tools we don't talk about," said Kirby. But he assured reporters in the Pentagon briefing room, "When the Malaysians are asking for help, for information, or whatever data, if we can provide it, if we can help them, we are helping them."

DOD raising security levels

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says the DoD is going to have to raise the level of security from within because of threats coming from people who are trusted insiders. he made the statement during the release of a review into the Navy Yard shooting. It said Navy contractor Aaron Alexis could've been prevented from killing 12 people if the company that employed him had told the Navy Alexis was having problems in the months before.

Reset or Regret?

Has the US "reset" with Russia turned to regret? After the unimpeded takeover of Crimea, by Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the White House now has to decide whether actions that did not Russia from claiming Crimea can stop further regional Russian incursions. And if they continue to prove insufficient, what would it take to stop Putin?

Morning Glory headed back to Libya

Pentagon says the vessel is now underway towards Libya it's expected to take four days to enter Libyan territorial waters. The USS Stout is escorting, the Morning Glory. Two AK-47s were found aboard. The SEALs have departed the ship. There are 25 STOUT crew members aboard MORNING GLORY. Three Libyan detainees remain under U.S. custody.

Gender allowances urged in the military

Transgender military personnel --at least a dozen nations, including Australia, Canada, England and Israel, allow them to serve. Transgender rights advocates have been lobbying the Pentagon to revisit the blanket ban in the U.S. since Congress in 2010 repealed ``don't ask, don't tell,'' the law that barred gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from openly serving in the military.

Pullout may not be necessary

The U.S. has threatened to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year, because Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the a new status of forces agreement. But that may not be necessary, because the 33,600 U.S. forces still deployed are covered by an existing status-of-forces agreement. The arrangement took effect shortly after 9/11 as the U.S. engagement there started. That agreement has no expiration date and prevents U.S. military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan law.

U.S. urges China to split with Russia over Ukraine

The Associated Press says President Barack Obama is pressing China's to support the U.S. plan to isolate Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine. The AP reports, "With official comments from China appearing studiously neutral since the Ukraine crisis began, President Barack Obama spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping late Sunday in a bid to get Beijing off the fence."

The Pentagon engages Ukraine's military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had his first conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says Hagel reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.. He said the goal was to keep dialogue between to two militaries as strong as possible well into the future.

The U.S. steps up joint training in eastern Europe

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. was stepping up joint aviation training with Polish forces. The Pentagon also is increasing American participation in NATO's air policing mission in its Baltic countries, he said. This and U.S. diplomatic efforts have come about since Russia's incursion into Ukraine

Russian missile launch was "routine"

As if what's going on in Ukraine weren't enough, the Russian military on Tuesday test-fired a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile, fired from a launch pad in southern Russia, hit a designated target on a range leased by Russia from Kazakhstan. The National Security Council says, "This was a previously notified and routine test launch of an ICBM. As required under the New START Treaty, Russia provided advance notification of this launch to the United States. Such advance notifications are intended to provide transparency, confidence, and predictability and to help both sides avoid misunderstandings. Russia and the United States routinely flight test their ICBMs and SLBMs."

North Korea steps over the line, again

North Korea launched several Scud missiles on Monday. The United States says they are a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the North launched two such short-range ballistic missiles from its southeast coast Monday morning that landed in the sea. It is the second reported launch of short-range missiles by North Korea in less than a week.

"Cuban Five" member released

A second member of the ``Cuban Five'' has returned to the Caribbean island and a hero's welcome after leaving a prison in the United States. 50 year old Fernando Gonzalez and four others were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. Gonzalez spent 15 years in prison.

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