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4:51 am, October 20, 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.

Another Air Force Scandal

34 Air Force nuclear missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been stripped of their certification in what is believed to be the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force. The Associated Press reports, some of the officers shared answers to a monthly test on their knowledge of how to operate the missiles via text message. Others may have known about it but did not report it. The cheating was discovered during a drug investigation that involves 11 Air Force officers at several bases in the U.S. and the U.K.

Obama speaks out on Gates' book

President Barack Obama says former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is a good friend and he did an outstanding job while at the Pentagon. He's was responding to questions about Gates' book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War," saying that his administration's policy in Afghanistan was the right one. In his book, Gates questions Obama's commitment to his war policy and talks about discontent among the team that made key decisions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama says that part of his job as commander in chief is to, quote, "sweat the details" on policies that send men and women into harms' way.

ODNI responds to criticism of surveillance programs

Responding to criticism of NSA surveillance by the New America Foundation, ODNI spokesman Mike Birmingham says "As intelligence officials and congressional intelligence overseers have said, the bulk metadata program is a valuable tool for discovering potential links between terrorists abroad and those in the U.S. with whom they collaborate." But Birmingham says, "it's important to keep the program in perspective. This is one of many programs the Intelligence Community uses to identify, track, and disrupt the activities of our adversaries, including terrorists."

Drug probe widens

An Air Force investigation into illicit drug use has expanded to include 10 officers at six bases in the U.S. and Britain. The Associated Press reports, "Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth says nine lieutenants and one captain are being investigated for illegal possession of recreational drugs. He said the case began with the investigation of two officers at Edwards Air Force Base in California and expanded based on their contacts with others."

Wounded Warrior Care Changing

The U.S. Army announced Thursday a restructuring of its Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) as the service prepares for a scheduled withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a continued decline in the number of combat wounded. According to Brig. Gen. David Bishop, commander, Warrior Transition Command and Assistant Surgeon General for Warrior Care and Transition, "These changes will improve the care and transition of soldiers through increased standardization, increased cadre to soldier ratios, improved access to resources on installations, and reduced delays in care. They are not related to budget cuts, sequestration or furloughs." As part of the restructuring, the Army will inactivate five WTUs and establish more than a dozen community care units (CCUs) across 11 installations by September 30, 2014.

Troops headed to South Korea

The United States is going to send 800 more soldiers and about 40 Abrams main battle tanks and other armored vehicles to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to East Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The battalion of troops and M1A2 tanks and about 40 Bradley fighting vehicles are from the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas. They begin a nine-month deployment in South Korea on Feb. 1.

Moran never met Clapper

Last year we reported that a longtime adviser to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence had resigned after the government learned he had worked since 2010 as a paid consultant for a Chinese technology. That company Huawei Technologies Ltd.is viewed by some as an espionage threat to the U.S. After inquiring with U.S. intelligence officials, it turns out that Theodore H. Moran, a respected expert on China's international investment and professor at Georgetown University, while listed as an advisor, has never even met DNI James Clapper."

Pentagon offers Olympics security help to Russia

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has spoken to Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu to discuss recent events in Russia. He offered his condolences for the recent terrorist attacks in Volgograd, saying the United States stands with the Russian people against terrorism. He also assured Minister Shoygu that the United States stands ready to provide security assistance to Russia for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, if requested.

Hazardous duty pay trimmed

If you serve the US military in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, you'll get imminent danger pay. But Bahrain, which is headquarters to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been removed from that list. Lt. Col Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman said the decision to drop more than 20 locales from the list followed a regular review and was not budget-driven.

China criticizes the U.S.

China's says the U.S. should not have sent the last three Uighur Chinese inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Slovakia. The Chinese government claims they are terrorists. A spokesman says they are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing labels a terrorist group and not only threaten China's security, but other countries as well.

DoD releases names of casualties

The Department of Defense has released the names of those who died when their Black Hawk UH-60 went down Tuesday during a mission. Five U.S. soldiers based at Fort Riley, Kan., and one based in Europe were killed in a helicopter crash this week in southern Afghanistan, Army officials said Thursday. The five Fort Riley soldiers were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, 34, of Heavener, Okla.; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, 35, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sgt. Peter C. Bohler, 29, of Willow Spring, N.C.; Sgt. 1st Class Omar W. Forde, 28, of Marietta, Ga.; and Spc. Terry K.D. Gordon, 22, of Shubuta, Miss. A sixth soldier, based in Vilseck, Germany, was identified as Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, 30, of Elkhart, Ind. One soldier survived the crash.

Russia working on new weapons

Russia is developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile mounted on a railway car. Government officials say their stated goal is to counterbalance U.S. weapons in the pipeline. Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev, the chief of the military's Strategic Missile Forces, told Russian news agencies that the new weapon will be much easier to camouflage than its predecessor. The Soviet-designed railway missiles were dismantled in 2005. So what does this mean for the Cold War? Many say it never ended.

Prisoners released

Two Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been sent back Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials say 35-year-old Saad Muhammad Husayn Qahtani and 48-year-old Hamood Abdulla Hamood were transferred after a security review. Neither man had been charged with a crime. U.S. records show both were suspected members of al-Qaida and were considered to be at high risk of rejoining the terror group if released.

Suicide bombing plot foiled

Terry Lee Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician allegedly spent months studying the layout of the Mid-Continent Regional Airport in Wichita, Kansas. The FBI says he was looking at flight patterns and other details as he planned a suicide car-bomb attack. The FBI says he developed a plan with other conspirators and Loewen, who lives in Wichita had been under surveillance for 6 months and was planning the attack to support al Qaida.

US aid to Syria suspended

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the U.S. will continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria, but non-lethal aid will be suspended until the U.S. can get a clear assessment on the status of warehouses of military equipment that may have been seized by extremist Islamic militants. The U.S. and Britain suspended the aid after opposition fighters from conservative Islamic rebel brigades seized warehouses containing U.S. military gear that was intended for the main Western-backed moderate rebel group.

Bull's-eye(s) for the Army's HEL MD

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) for the first time used a vehicle mounted high energy laser to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in flight. This occurred during multiple test events of the Army High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) conducted between November 18 and December 10 at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Congressed warned about spending

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is warning Congress that failure to act on a defense policy bill before year's end would create more uncertainty for the military. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other leaders urging prompt action and detailing special pay, bonuses and other authorities that would expire if the bill slips to January.

Pentagon policy up in the air

Top Democrats and Republicans on Congress' military panels are working on a plan to ensure that they complete a broad defense policy bill before year's end. It would cover a pay raise for troops, buy new ships and aircraft and address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The Senate and the House have only one legislative week to work out their differences before the House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13. A version of the bill remains stalled in the Senate, caught up in a dispute over amendments.

Dempsey concerned about social media

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey is concerned about the next generation of military recruit being endangered by bad or illegal behavior online. He told reporters in his own words, "I worry a bit about ... the young men and women who are now in their teens, who probably underestimate the impact of their persona in social media". The problem is so pervasive, military officials have been considering the idea of giving people a second chance.

U.S. shuts down shipments

The U.S. has halted shipments out of Afghanistan, because protesters are a threat to truckers from who drive along part of the route in neighboring Pakistan. The Associated Press reports, "there have been anti-U.S. demonstrations in Pakistan in recent days calling for an end to the American drone program that targets militants. So U.S. officials said Tuesday that they had ordered truckers under U.S. contract to park at holding areas inside Afghanistan temporarily to avoid going there."

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