By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)
Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email email@example.com.
Did the VA Pay Out Bonuses for Screwing Veterans?
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
The VA health care system has so many perverse incentives that it may have actually given rewards to those who treated veterans the worst.
10,000 Soldiers Must Go This Year, 20,000 Next Year
(Army Times: Jim Tice)
Nearly 30,000 soldiers must be removed from the active rolls in the next 17 months if the Army is to make the first waypoint in a drawdown that will reduce the force to 450,000, or even 420,000.
FBI Probe at Guantanamo Bay Winding Down, No Charges Expected
(The Washington Post: Adam Goldman)
One official said the onus will be on Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief military prosecutor, to convince the court the FBI investigation didn't do any lasting harm and the trial can proceed.
Kerry, Abbas to Meet in London on Thursday
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed)
The focus of the talks is the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, a possible reference to whether Washington can keep funding the Palestinian Authority.
A Hawkish Democrat's Guide to Defense
(Politico: Austin Wright)
A leadership institute with ties to a number of defense-minded Democrats is releasing the latest edition of an annual briefing book meant to shore up the party's credibility on military issues.
Lawmaker Calls for U.S. to Suspend Aid to Mexico Over Jailed Marine
Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, a 25-year-old combat veteran, was jailed in late March after he missed a freeway exit near San Ysidro, Calif.
Boehner: Lack of Democrats Won't Impede Benghazi Committee's Work
(Roll Call: Daniel Newhauser)
Boehner said that if Democrats do not appoint members to the special committee, Republicans will have to hold themselves to a higher standard so as not to appear partisan.
Senate Dems Block Joint Inquiry Into Benghazi
Democrats have blocked a Republican push for a joint House-Senate investigation of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry to Testify on Alternative Date About Benghazi
Lawmakers and the State Department are looking at a date in May or June.
Durbin to Hold Immigration Hearing
(Politico: Seung Min Kim)
The Chicago event will focus specifically on the benefits of immigrants' military service.
Congress Plans Obamacare Exemption to Boost Veteran Employment
(National Journal: Sophie Novack)
The Senate could hold a procedural vote this week on a House bill to change the employer mandate.
This Twitter-Loving Trekkie Is the NSA's Worst Nightmare
(Foreign Policy: John Hudson)
Rep. Justin Amash wants to sharply rein in the NSA's powers, and the young lawmaker may help determine the makeup of a historic NSA reform bill.
Joe Biden to Talk Ukraine on Trip to Romania, Cyprus
The vice president will be in Europe from May 20 to May 23.
Ukraine Separatists Appeal to Moscow for Absorption Into Russia
(Reuters: Matt Robinson)
The statement is certain to infuriate Kiev and anger Western states that say the rebellion has been engineered by the Kremlin.
U.S. Won't Recognize East Ukraine Referendum Results
Spokesman Jay Carney says it is also "disappointing" that Russia did not use its influence to stop the vote from happening.
EU Imposes Fresh Round of Sanctions Linked to Ukraine Conflict
(Los Angeles Times: Henry Chu)
EU adds 13 people to blacklist of Russians and others linked to the conflict in Ukraine.
Chuck Hagel: No Evidence of Russian Withdrawal
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
Despite the lingering troop presence, the Defense secretary stopped short of categorizing Russia as an enemy.
Inside Putin's Rigged Ukraine Election
(The Daily Beast: Jamie Dettmer)
The referendum in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday followed the same Kremlin rules we saw in Crimea, and likely will have the same result, dismembering Ukraine.
NATO Official Vows Support in Moldova Visit
But the partnership is "not exclusive or competitive" and one can remain a "strong friend of Russia" and still be a member.
No Nuclear Deal With Iran Unless Actions 'Verifiable' - Obama Aide
(Reuters: Matt Spetalnick)
Susan Rice sought to reassure a pro-Israel audience that Washington would take a tough line with Tehran, despite Israeli worries.
Nuclear Talks Will Confront Iran's Future Capability to Enrich Uranium
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Steven Erlanger)
American negotiators say the key is to leave Iran with a face-saving nuclear structure but one small enough to overcome Congressional objections.
U.N.'s Nuclear Probe of Iran Falters
(Associated Press: George Jahn)
Diplomats say that a July 20 target date for an Iran nuclear deal is in jeopardy because Tehran is not providing answers to U.N. experts investigating whether Tehran worked on atomic arms.
Iran's Nuclear Strategy Comes Under Questioning by President Rouhani's Critics
(The Washington Post: Jason Rezaian)
It was a reminder that despite public support and the Islamic establishment's commitment to the negotiating process, there are limits to the compromises that Iran's power brokers may make.
Israeli Arrested on U.S. Request Over Iran Trade
The ministry said the U.S. asked he be held and eventually extradited to the U.S. He is wanted there on suspicion of illegally selling military spare parts to Iran.
Kerry Told Syrian Rebels 'We Wasted a Year' in Fight Against Assad
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
The international community's failure to coordinate on aid and weapons for the rebels dramatically set back efforts to fight the regime, the secretary of State told opposition leaders.
U.N. Security Council Could Vote Within Days on Syria ICC Referral
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
The 15-member council is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the draft and it could be voted on within days, diplomats said.
France Asks U.N. Security Council to Refer Syrian War to International Criminal Court
Several diplomats say Russia, Syria's closest ally and a permanent council member, is likely to veto the resolution.
Kuwaiti Minister Accused by U.S. Over Terrorism Funding Quits
(Reuters: Sylvia Westall)
Last month Nayef al-Ajmi rejected the comments made in March by U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen as "groundless and baseless," and was backed by the cabinet.
U.K. Troops Working With U.S. Military at Base for Yemen Drone Operations
(The Guardian: Owen Bowcott)
Former defense minister and a rights group express concern as the defense ministry admits presence of U.K. personnel in Djibouti but denies involvement in plotting strikes on al-Qaida.
Taliban Launch Spring Offensive as Election Drags On
(Stars and Stripes: Josh Smith)
The wave of attacks left at least 16 people dead across the country.
Transfer Troubles Show Difficulties of Afghanistan Exit
(Stars and Stripes: Heath Druzin)
Western-financed facilities built for the Afghan security forces sit idle or are underused because the Afghans lack the money or technical expertise to run them or because of shoddy construction.
How America's Drone War Is Infecting Pakistani Culture
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Americans talk of drones in terms of terrorist targets and civilian casualties. But to the people who live in the strike zone, it's become a part of their poetry.
U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan
(The New York Times)
The Department of Defense has identified 2,305 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It recently confirmed the deaths of three Americans.
Kerry Says China Action in Seas Dispute 'Provocative'
(Reuters: Ben Blanchard, Eric Johnson)
China's foreign ministry said that China was not the guilty party and repeated that it was the United States' fault for encouraging such behavior.
China Says Vietnam Efforts to Rope in Others on Spat Will Fail
(Reuters: Ben Blanchard)
Secretary of State John Kerry met his counterpart from ASEAN member Singapore, and reiterated U.S. concerns about what he called China's "challenge to the Paracel Islands".
U.S. Would Welcome Modi as India leader Despite Past Visa Ban
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
Modi's rise on the national stage and the importance of relations with India have forced a rethink.
North Korea Defends Its Racist Comments About Obama
(The Washington Post: Adam Taylor)
North Korea finally offered an explanation for those remarks. And while the explanation may sound limp, it is also more revealing than it first appears.
Experts See Benghazi Controversy Creating 'Remote Control' Diplomacy In Conflict Zones
(The Huffington Post: Joshua Hersh)
Africa experts and former officials say the politicized uproar from Republicans over parts of Benghazi has created another consideration for bureaucrats and political appointees who weigh the risks of maintaining a diplomatic presence in dangerous places.
Dodging HealthCare.gov Ghosts, Pentagon Prepares $11B Contract
(Politico: David Pittman)
The DOD will issue a final request for proposals late this summer for the project aimed at arming military medicine with state-of-the-art records.
Pentagon Reauthorizes R&R for Nine Countries
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
The waiver applies "only for members whose deployment to a country listed above commenced before June 1, 2014."
Dempsey Wants to 'Rebalance the Use of Military Power'
(Defense One: James Kitfield)
The military needs to do less foreign fighting and more foreign training.
Gen. Dempsey: Fort Bragg Is Safe
(Fayetteville Observer: Paige Rentz)
Fort Bragg will likely have to make some adjustments, but its future is safe.
New Rules for Early Exits
(Navy Times: Mark Faram)
This isn't like any other early-out program. Officials aren't opening the doors to everybody.
Tomorrow's Stealthy Subs Could Sink America's Navy
(The Daily Beast: Bill Sweetman)
The U.S. military is relying on sub-hunting tech that's decades old. Meanwhile, the targets they're trying to find are getting quieter and more invisible by the day.
Sailor Accused of DUI in Fatal Crash Gets Bond
(The Virginian-Pilot: Margaret Matray)
A judge granted a $25,000 surety bond for a man accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian while driving drunk over the weekend.
Amos Responds to Lawmaker About Whistleblower Fallout: 'I Do Not Fear Major Weirick'
(Military Times: Andrew DeGrandpre)
The top Marine is offering Congress few details about the fallout from a whistle-blower complaint.
Qualified Maintainers a Key Driver of Ability to Ramp Up V-22 Training
The Marine Corps and Air Force will have to address a shortage of qualified maintainers if they hope to increase their student training rates as planned.
Marine Harrier Crashes in Arizona Desert; Pilot OK
A spokesman for the Gila River Indian Community said the pilot was the only person aboard and suffered only a nose laceration.
Ever Wanted to Be Spider-Man? The Pentagon Is Working on That
(War Is Boring: Matthew Gault)
Spidey-sense, ropes of spider silk, walking on walls.
Coast Guard's Adm. Papp Ready to Retire
(The Day: Jennifer McDermott)
When Papp was tapped to lead the Coast Guard in 2010, the service, he said, was facing an "identity crisis."
Iraq Vet Accuses VA of Downgrading Injuries
An Iraq War veteran is asking lawmakers to investigate whether the VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison is systematically downgrading diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries to cut treatment costs.
Whistle-Blower Says Veterans Affairs Cost-Cutting Led to Denials, Delays in Cancer Tests
(The Washington Examiner: Mark Flatten)
Patients in a Southeast Texas VA medical system faced denials or long delays in getting routine colonoscopies and other medical tests because of bureaucratic cost-cutting.
2012 GAO Report Showed VA Scheduling Problems
(Army Times: Patricia Kime)
Government Accountability Office and VA inspector general have reported on scheduling problems and prolonged wait times for nearly 10 years.
Newest Medal of Honor Recipient Recalls 2007 Ambush: 'The Whole Valley Lit Up'
(Army Times: Michelle Tan)
Former Sgt. Kyle White will receive highest honor for valor Tuesday at White House.
Obama to Award Top Medal to Afghanistan Veteran
Kyle White will be the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
After 150 years, Arlington Cemetery Still Holds Secrets
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
Here are seven seldom-known facts about the people of Arlington National Cemetery.
Oshkosh Lands Contract to Develop Driverless Trucks for Marine Corps
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rick Barrett)
Ground-penetrating radar and other mine-detection systems are being incorporated into the vehicles to counter the threat of roadside bomb.
New NSA Chief Vows More Transparency for Embattled Agency
(Reuters: Joseph Menn, Warren Strobel)
Admiral Mike Rogers said he would be more candid with the public about much of the NSA's work.
Book Reveals Wider Net of U.S. Spying on Envoys
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
The book, by Glenn Greenwald, mentions one incident where Susan E. Rice asked the N.S.A. for help during negotiations with the United Nations Security Council on sanctions against Iran.
The Man Who Knows Too Much
(GQ: Michael Paterniti)
He promises the biggest bombs are still to come
Greenwald Expected NSA Leaker Snowden to End Up in 'Shackles'
(The Hill: Julian Hattem)
The reporter expected that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was bound for federal prison on the day he revealed his identity to the public.
Abu Hamza Denies Yemen Kidnapping Role as New York Terror Trial Continues
(The Guardian: Karen McVeigh)
The Islamist cleric says he was "a mouthpiece, like Gerry Adams."
Friends of Marathon Suspect Fight to Move Trial
Their lawyers say because of overwhelming media coverage of the case their clients won't receive fair trials in Massachusetts.
Nearly 30 U.S. Personnel Assisting Nigerian Search
The team includes 10 Defense Department planners who were already in Nigeria and were redirected to assist the government.
U.S. May Use Drones to Bolster Search Effort for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan, Ernesto Londoño)
The drones would be in addition to surveillance flights being conducted to find more than 250 schoolgirls.
No U.S. Special Forces Troops to Nigeria to Find Missing Girls
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
Eight troops from U.S. Africa Command have arrived in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to join an interagency team working out of the U.S. Embassy.
Fighting Rages in South Sudan Despite U.S.-Brokered Accord
(The Wall Street Journal: Nicholas Bariyo)
Bloodshed continues in oil-producing states despite accord between president, rebel leader.
What Mr. Putin Can't Control
(The New York Times)
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has much at stake in the Ukraine crisis and is going to have to support negotiations for a peaceful resolution.
The Battle for Eastern Ukraine
(The Wall Street Journal)
Putin presses his annexation by stages while the West watches.
The Battle in Ukraine Means Everything
(The New Republic: Timothy Snyder)
Fascism returns to the continent it once destroyed.
A Beijing Power Play in the South China Sea Is Met With U.S. Inaction
(The Washington Post)
If the United States and its allies have a plan, it isn't evident.
Obama, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty
(The National Interest: Bhubhindar Singh)
The president's bold statement about U.S. commitment and will to fulfill its treaty obligations was a much-needed message.
After Afghanistan: Our War With Al-Qaida Continues
(New York Daily News: Michael Sheehan)
Keeping jihadists on the defensive is essential.
No Such Thing As a Good Iranian Bank?
(The National Interest: Jonathan Schanzer, Mark Dubowitz)
A troubled track record.
Is There a Frigate in Your Future?
(USNI News: Robert Natter)
Hagel's proposed "frigate-type" warship could provide the Navy with a needed combat platform, bring foreign navies into the program, and provide useful upgrades to the basic LCS effort.
The Great Green Sea Control Fleet
(War On the Rocks: David Wise)
The eco-friendly advantages aside, the Navy's alternative-energy program is about making it a more effective fighting force.
In Arkansas, a Military Record Is No Magic Bullet
(The Washington Post: Dana Milbank)
In a series of ads done by and for Rep. Tom Cotton, the former Army Ranger's military career is the centerpiece of his Senate candidacy — and yet that doesn't seem to be helping him.
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