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A.F. Officer Acquitted on Sex Assault Charge, Jeh Johnson Eyes DHS Morale, More Aid to Philippines A.F. Officer Acquitted on Sex Assault Charge, Jeh Johnson Eyes DHS Mor...

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A.F. Officer Acquitted on Sex Assault Charge, Jeh Johnson Eyes DHS Morale, More Aid to Philippines

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ), Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense and foreign-policy coverage from around the web. Get this by forward? Click here to sign up directly.


'Operation Damayan' Takes Shape in Storm-Ravaged Philippines
(CNN; Barbara Starr)
The U.S. military relief effort in the storm-struck Philippines is expected by Sunday to have more than 30 land-based aircraft ferrying relief supplies, in addition to dozens of additional ship-based helicopters and heavy vehicles.

Kerry Calls on Lawmakers to 'Calm Down,' Hold Off on New Iran Sanctions
(VOA News)
Kerry briefed lawmakers with the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday in Washington, saying this is not the time to step up the pressure on Tehran.

Kerry and Biden Ask for Room to Reach Nuclear Deal with Iran
(The New York Times; Jonathan Weisman, Michael Gordon)
Wednesday's briefing was part of an all-out effort by the administration both to tamp down congressional saber rattling and to move diplomacy forward to reach the agreement that proved elusive over the weekend in Geneva.


Jeh Johnson Pledges to Improve Department of Homeland Security Management, Morale
(The Washington Post; Ellen Nakashima)
Johnson promised to boost morale at the sprawling 240,000-employee department, improve financial management, and be transparent with Congress and the public about programs and policies.

4 Marines Die During Safety Sweep at California Base
(Associated Press; Julie Watson)
A routine sweep to make a range safe for future training exercises at California's Camp Pendleton led to the deaths of four Marines who were trying to clear unexploded ordnance.

Jury Acquits Air Force Officer Accused of Groping
(Associated Press; Matthew Barakat)
An Air Force officer who once led the branch's sexual-assault response team was acquitted Wednesday of allegations that he groped a woman outside a Virginia bar.


IAEA: No Big Change in Iran Nuclear Work Under Rouhani
(Reuters; Fredrik Dahl)
The head of the U.N. nuclear agency said on Wednesday he saw "no radical change" in Iran's nuclear program in the past three months, roughly since President Hassan Rouhani replaced his combative predecessor.


Iran, Western Powers Clash Over Why Nuclear Talks Failed
(The New York Times; Thomas Erdbrink)

Less than a week before the next round of nuclear talks in Geneva, it is still not clear why the last round failed, and who exactly walked away from the deal.

Hollande, Obama Say Guarantees Needed on Iran Nuclear Plans
(Reuters; Nicholas Vinocur, Jeff Mason)
French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Obama are both determined to obtain guarantees from Iran that it will not seek to develop a nuclear weapon, Hollande's office said on Wednesday.

U.S. Rejects Israeli Assessment on Iran
(The Wall Street Journal; Jay Solomon)
The State Department sharply criticized an Israeli assessment that international powers are offering to roll back as much as 40 percent of the sanctions against Iran.

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To Expand Khamenei's Grip on the Economy, Iran Stretched Its Laws
(Reuters; Yeganeh Torbati, Steve Stecklow and Babak Dehghanpisheh)
On the Supreme Leader's watch, Iran conducted a systematic campaign to legalize and safeguard the seizure of assets on which Setad's wealth was built.

U.S. Lawmakers Question Obama's Plea for Sanctions Pause
(Reuters; Patricia Zengerle, Timothy Gardner)
Senior U.S. lawmakers expressed sharp frustration with the Obama administration's call to delay new sanctions against Iran on Wednesday, underscoring the difficult sales job the Democratic president has as he pursues a rapprochement with Tehran.

Senate Banking Committee Under Pressure to Take Up Iran Sanctions
(National Journal; Stacy Kaper)
This would buy a little time to see whether negotiations with Iran can make any headway in thwarting its nuclear ambitions without attaching the controversial measure opposed by the administration onto the defense authorization bill.


Hundreds More U.S. Troops Expected in the Philippines by Week's End
(The Los Angeles Times; Shashank Bengali)
Hundreds of Marines are expected to arrive in the typhoon-stricken Philippines by the end of the week to bolster a relief effort that has struggled against logistical hurdles and overwhelming devastation.

Logistical Hurdles Paralyze Relief Effort at the Center of Typhoon's Fury
(The New York Times; Keith Bradsher, Rick Gladstone)
Typhoon gridlock threatened rescue operations in the most devastated part of the Philippines on Wednesday, with aid piling up but few ways to distribute it, plentiful gasoline but no merchants willing to sell it, and an influx of emergency volunteers but no place to house them.

U.S., Philippine Forces Working to Secure Typhoon-Ravaged Areas
(The Hill; Carlo Munoz)
Roughly 300 U.S. military personnel, mostly from the Marines 3rd Expeditionary Brigade, are looking to lock down coastal areas in and around the city of Tacloban as part of U.S.-led disaster relief areas in the Philippines.


Top Priority for DHS Pick: Vacancies Not Terrorism
(Associated Press; Eileen Sullivan, Alicia Caldwell)
Jeh Johnson placed the agency's core mission—counterterrorism—as his third priority during a confirmation hearing Wednesday and took some criticism for submitting written answers to Congress that cribbed responses from several other Obama administration nominees.

Coast Guard Seizes $38 million Cocaine Shipment
Authorities disrupted a maritime illegal drug shipment Friday, seizing 54 bales of cocaine, weighing 3,306 pounds, in the Caribbean Sea.

TSA Behavior Detection Called Flawed, Not Worth Money
(Bloomberg; Jeff Plungis)
Transportation Security Administration efforts costing $200 million a year to spot potential terrorists by observing behavior are ineffective and lawmakers should limit funding, the Government Accountability Office said.

TSA Expands Pre-Check for the Military
(USA Today; Bart Jansen)
The Transportation Security Administration's expedited screening for members of the military will expand from 10 airports to all 100 expected to participate in the program by the end of the year.


Gillibrand Weighs Narrowing Sex-Assault Bill
(The Hill; Jeremy Herb)
Gillibrand said Wednesday that she and her supporters are weighing changing her bill to take the decision to prosecute cases away from commanders so it would only apply to sexual-assault and rape cases, not all major crimes.

Gen. Ray Odierno Opposes Gillibrand Measure on Sexual Assaults
(Wall Street Journal; Julian Barnes)
The Army chief of staff called Gillibrand's measure—which would strip commanders of oversight of sexual-assault and other federal prosecutions in the military—"a big mistake."

Is the U.S. Navy 'Out-Sticked' in the Asia-Pacific? Questions for Rep. Randy Forbes
(Real Clear Defense; Dustin Walker)
The House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Forbes, kicked off its new oversight initiative on the Asia-Pacific rebalance with a roundtable of ambassadors from Australia, Japan, Philippines, Soth Korea, Singapore, and New Zealand.

Frelinghuysen Gets Subcommittee Gavel
(Defense News; John Bennett)
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., on Wednesday announced Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., will chair the panel's Defense Subcommittee.

The End of an Era for Hill's Defense Hawks
(Politico; Juana Summers, Austin Wright)
The defense industry's glory days on Capitol Hill are coming to an end.

Senate Democrats Alter Sequester Tactics
(Defense News; John Bennett)
Pro-defense senators warned of big job cuts and business closures unless the next batch of sequestration cuts are at least delayed.


U.S. Had Plans for Failure, Success of bin Laden Raid
(CNN; Barbara Starr)
Much of the plan for the possible failure of the raid tried to anticipate various scenarios.

Official: NSA Doesn't Know When It Spies on Americans
(The Hill; Kate Tummarello)
Though the NSA ensures that its targets aren't U.S. persons, it doesn't keep track of the nationalities of the people that targets communicate with, Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy.


Mullah Fazlullah's Rise Complicates Ties Between Kabul, Islamabad
(The Wall Street Journal; Yaroslav Trofimov)
The rise of Fazlullah as the Pakistani Taliban's new leader marks not only a power shift within the militant network but also threatens to ignite fresh conflict between Islamabad and Kabul.

Leader's Death Plunges Pakistan's Taliban into Disarray
(Reuters; Maria Golovnina, Asim Tanveer)
The killing of one of Pakistan's most wanted Islamic militants in a U.S. drone strike has exposed centuries-old rivalries within the group he led, the Pakistani Taliban, making the insurgency ever more unpredictable and probably more violent.

Watchdog: Contractor Suspected of Helping Insurgents Briefly Engaged on Coalition Project
(Stars and Stripes; Cid Standifer)
A contractor accused of helping insurgents make improvised explosive devices for use against NATO forces was allowed to work on a facility run by the coalition last year, said a top government watchdog in Afghanistan.


DOD's McGrath Leaving Management Post
(Defense News; Sean Reilly)
Beth McGrath, the Defense Department's deputy chief management officer, said in email that she will retire at the end of November after 25 years with the department.

Pentagon 'Punts' on New Pay Commission
(Military Times; Andrew Tilghman)
The commission has gotten off to a slow start, raising questions about whether its ultimate recommendation to Congress and the White House will be a catalyst for historic change—or just another report that gathers dust on a shelf. 

Personnel Costs are a Growing Threat to Defense, Military Leaders Tell Congress
(The Washington Post; Walter Pincus)
Congress has ignored the more vocal calls from President Obama and defense secretaries Robert Gates and Chuck Hagel to reduce the growing costs of military benefits, particularly the health-care programs for retirees.

Pentagon Finally Breaks Ties With Russia's Shady Arms Dealer
(Foreign Policy; Dan Lamothe)
The Pentagon and Russia's premier weapons dealer are finally breaking up, amid pressure from Capitol Hill and a possible criminal probe into the Army's controversial program to buy Russian helicopters for the Afghan air force.

DOD Begins Mobile-Device Management Training
(Defense News; Nicole Blake Johnson)
The Defense Department is rolling out training for end users and systems administrators on how to operate its new mobile-device management software

GAO: DOD's Ability to Accurately Predict Weapon Termination Costs Appears 'Limited'
Congressional investigators argue in a preliminary report to lawmakers that the Defense Department's ability to predict weapon system termination costs "appears limited," based on an audit of a half-dozen big-ticket acquisition programs.


Veterans Affairs Called it a Small-Business Contract, But a Big Firm Got 90 Percent of the Money
(The Washington Post; Robert O'Harrow Jr.)
A Washington Post investigation found that MicroTech worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a little-known contracting method on deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Congress Approves 1.5 Percent Veterans' COLA
(Military Times; Rick Maze)
A bill providing disabled veterans and their survivors a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment passed the House and is on its way to the White House for President Obama's signature.

VA Awards $14 Million in Grants to Aid Homeless Veterans
(; Bryant Jordan)
The Veterans Affairs Department said the grants would include providing for their transportation to and from VA medical centers and clinics.


Israel Warns of War from Iran 'Bad Deal,' Sees Big Sanctions Cut
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday that a "bad deal" with Iran on its nuclear program could lead to war, and his aides challenged U.S. assertions of having offered Tehran only "modest" relief from sanctions.

Killing of Israeli Soldier Further Clouds Peace Process
(The New York Times; Isabel Kershner)
A Palestinian teenager fatally stabbed a 19-year-old Israeli soldier on a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday, according to the police, shocking Israelis who have grown unused to such killings in their cities and further clouding a peace process that was already severely strained by Israeli settlement plans in the West Bank.

Abbas: Palestinian Peace Talks Delegation Resigns
(Reuters; Noah Browning)
Abbas said on Wednesday his delegation of peace negotiators has resigned over the lack of progress in U.S.-brokered statehood talks with Israel that have been clouded by Jewish settlement building.

A Year After War, Gaza-Israel Front Is Calm
(The Washington Post; William Booth)
The period since last November's cease-fire has been the calmest between the two sides in more than a decade.

In Statement From Prison, Morsi Accuses Egypt's Military Leaders of Treason
(The New York Times; Kareem Fahim, Mayy el Sheikh)
Morsi accused his opponents in the military-backed government of treason and warned that Egypt would "not recover" from its crisis until the "coup" that removed him from power was reversed.

Egypt to Lift State of Emergency, Curfew on Thursday
An Egyptian court had ruled that the state of emergency be lifted on Tuesday, earlier than expected.

Syrian Kurdish Leader Claims Military Gains Against Islamists
(Reuters; John Irish)
Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said that Tuesday's announcement of an interim administration that aims to carve out an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region was only "provisional" until there was a viable solution to Syria's civil war.

Hezbollah Will Stay in Syria as Long as Needed: Nasrallah
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday his militant Shi'ite group, which has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria's civil war, would stay in Syria for as long as necessary.

Qatar Loses Clout Amid Fading Arab Spring
(The Washington Post; Abigail Hauslohner)
Qatar is taking a beating as the Arab Spring revolts, which ushered in Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia and empowered upstarts across the region, yield to a reassertion of power by the region’s old heavyweights.


Army Accused of Allowing Blacklisted Afghan Contractor Inside Prison
(The Los Angeles Times; David Zucchino)
An independent federal watchdog has accused the U.S. Army in Afghanistan of allowing access to a prison complex by an Afghan contractor alleged to have assisted insurgents.

Army Aims to Fast-Track Export Version of Missile Defense C2 System
The Army is looking for ways to accelerate the production of an air and missile defense command-and-control system for the international market, a move that observers say could determine the degree of international compatibility of sensors and shooters in future conflicts.


Man at Center of Navy Bribery Scandal Won Contracts Despite Criminal Past
(Stars and Stripes; Matthew Burke)
The man allegedly behind the ever-expanding Navy bribery scandal involving prostitutes and luxury travel is a convict in his home country, but that did not disqualify him from bidding on and winning U.S. Navy contracts, Navy officials said.


Four Marines Killed at Camp Pendleton
(NBC San Diego; Monica Garske)
Four U.S. Marines were killed at Camp Pendleton Wednesday morning during a range maintenance operation, base officials confirmed.


Air Service Shaking Up Drone Strategy Post-Afghanistan
(The Hill; Carlo Munoz)
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the military branch would turn its focus back to aerial surveillance operations in the Pacific, counterterrorism missions in Africa, and counternarcotics missions in Central and South America.

Drone Combat Missions May be Scaled Back Eventually, Air Force Chief Says
(The Washington Post; Craig Whitlock)
The Air Force is grappling with how to manage a potential glut of drones and may eventually scale back the number of combat missions flown with unmanned aircraft by more than 25 percent, the service’s top commander said Wednesday.

Air Force to 'Add More Rigor' to Screening of Candidates for Nuclear Commander Jobs
(Associated Press)
The Air Force is adding closer looks at health records and Internet searches for potentially damaging personal information about candidates who also have long military careers.

Air Force Reaper Crashes Over Lake Ontario
(Defense Tech; Kris Osborn)
A U.S. Air National Guard MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft dropped out of the sky while conducting training operations at altitudes greater than 18,000 feet above Lake Ontario.


Taiwan Still Hungry for More U.S. Arms
(Defense News; Wendell Minnick)
Despite struggles to pay for new equipment with dwindling defense budgets and improved relations with China, Taiwanese defense planners are sketching out proposals for new arms procurements from the U.S.


2 Nigerian Networks Designated as Terrorist Groups
(Associated Press; Deb Riechmann)
Ansaru and Boko Haram, which have links to al-Qaida, are waging a brutal campaign against military, government, and civilian targets.


Turkey Moves to Keep Air Defense Competition Open
(Defense News; Burak Ege Bekdil)
Despite announcing earlier this year that it would work with a Chinese firm to build its missile-defense system, the Turkish government has asked European and U.S. bidders to extend the validity of their bids.

Boeing Workers Reject Plan Linked to 777X in Washington
(Associated Press; Mike Baker)
Despite warnings that production of Boeing's next generation 777 plane could go to another state, machinists in the Northwest voted to reject a contract proposal late Wednesday that would have exchanged concessions for decades of secure jobs.


Manage Defense Spending Through 'Better Buying Power,' Not Sequestration
(Defense One; Ashton Carter)
Achieving "better buying power" would of course be an important goal in any budget environment, but its importance has only grown given the strategic and budgetary challenges the Defense Department now faces.

Ending Nuclear Overkill
(The New York Times; Benjamin Friedman, Christopher Preble)
While America's nuclear arsenal is useful to deter attacks on the United States and its allies, it is much larger than necessary.

Help Afghan, Iraqi Colleagues Who Helped USA
(USA Today; Editorial Board)
Since 2006, Congress has set aside 33,750 visas for Iraqis and Afghans. But applicants face a deluge of paperwork, harrowing years-long waits and demands to prove just how much danger they are in.

State Department: Visa Process Improving
(USA Today; Patrick Kennedy)
The Obama administration strongly supports the Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows us to bring eligible individuals and their family members to safety here inside the United States.

Why Did We Suspend Aid to Egypt, Again?
(The Atlantic; Shadi Hamid)
America's confused, half-hearted policy toward Cairo has never been more adrift.

In Egypt, a Spring of Discontent
(The Washington Post; David Ignatius)
It’s fair to say that the basic problem of this Nile Delta region-- not enough jobs for a rapidly expanding population-- hasn’t improved at all.

Our Government Has Weaponized the Internet. Here's How They Did It
(Wired; Nicholas Weaver)
The Internet backbone—the infrastructure of networks upon which Internet traffic travels—went from being a passive infrastructure for communication to an active weapon for attacks.

Why Palestinian Prisoners Are Smuggling Sperm Out of Jail
(The Atlantic; Shira Rubin)
Resistance to Israel is taking an unlikely new form: in vitro fertilization.

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National Journal's Early Bird is not produced by or officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. It was created to serve the defense community upon U.S. DoD's announcement, on Nov 1, 2013, of its decision to discontinue the much-beloved Early Bird news report.

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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

Senior Military Officer

The best!"

Mark, Compensation Analyst

Timely and informative."

Dave, HR specialist

I can browse over breakfast or while on the metro."

AJ, US Army Officer

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