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Everything You Need to Know About the Defense Budget and QDR, Military Observer Mission to Ukraine

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.

 

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Proposed 2015 Defense Budget Would Shrink Armed Forces, Keep Links to Europe
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
The spending plan reflects what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calls a choice to field a smaller but more modern force rather than a larger one less prepared for combat.

 

With 2015 Budget, Pentagon Looks Beyond Afghanistan
(Reuters: David Alexander, Andrea Shalal)
The Pentagon unveiled a $496 billion base budget on Tuesday that shifts the United States from its war footing for the first time in a dozen years.

OSCE Sending Military Observer Mission to Ukraine
(Associated Press: George Jahn)
The United States and 14 other nations formed a military observer mission intended to monitor the tense Crimea region.

U.S. and Russia Set for Talks on Ukraine tension
(Reuters: John Irish, Timothy Heritage)
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet face-to-face for the first time since the crisis escalated.

Putin Says No Immediate Need to Invade Eastern Ukraine, Leaves Threat Dangling
(Bloomberg: Ilya Arkhipov, Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Stepan Kravchenko)
Vladimir Putin said he sees no immediate need to invade eastern Ukraine as the Obama administration prepares $1 billion in loan guarantees for the cash-strapped nation and threatens sanctions against Russia.

 

DEFENSE BUDGET

GOP Hawks Blast Obama Budget; $26B Wish List Could Be Doomed
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Republican hawks say President Obama's latest military spending request will embolden America's foes to take aggressive acts.

This Is Obama's $26B 'Wish List' for the Pentagon
(Defense One: Stephanie Gaskell)
At the Pentagon, outgoing comptroller Bob Hale outlined what the money would be spent on in one handy slide.

Pentagon Planning to Cut 6,300 Civilians in 2015
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The Pentagon plans to reduce the number of its civilian workers from about 755,400 in 2014 to 749,100 in 2015.

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2015 Budget Released: How the Cuts Affect Pay, BAH, Per Diem, and Tricare
(Air Force Times: Andrew Tilghman)
The budget documents for 2015 offer new details on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposals last week to reduce spending on pay and benefits.

Obama Warns Military Over Pay and Benefits
(Government Executive: Eric Katz)
Obama proposed less generous increases to several aspects of military compensation.

Budget Plan: New Embassy Security Detachments, Continued Funding for Forward-Deployed Units
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
The Pentagon will provide for the creation of 12 new Marine Corps embassy security detachments over the next fiscal year.

DOD Budget Embraces Controversial Cuts
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
Obama sent Congress a defense-spending request Tuesday that asks for base closures and cuts to military pay and benefits that appear to have little chance of becoming law this year.

The Pentagon's Budget Arrives With a $79 Billion Mystery
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher, Jordain Carney)
The Defense Department is tossing out $79 billion as a "placeholder" request to Congress.

DOD Proposes $154 Billion for New Weapons, R&D in 2015
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
The Pentagon plans to cut weapon purchases slightly in fiscal 2015.

DOD Seeks $153.9B for Modernization, Proposes Additional $3.9B for Aircraft Procurement
(Inside Defense)
The Pentagon unveiled a $495.6 billion fiscal 2015 spending request that is $45.2 billion—or 8 percent—below what it had planned to spend.

Pentagon Aims to Replace Raytheon Missile 'Kill Vehicle'
(Reuters)
The Defense Department's fiscal 2015 budget includes $8.5 billion in funding for missile defense programs.

QDR

Pentagon: Sequester Risks Longer Wars
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
The Pentagon warned that looming sequestration cuts would lead to a hollow military that risks longer wars and more U.S. casualties.

The Pentagon's Military Strategy Does Not Focus on Russia
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
In all 64 pages of the Quadrennial Defense Review, only one paragraph of the sweeping U.S. military strategy outlines the possible risks Russia may pose to Washington's or its allies' interests.

Pentagon Report Shows Russia's Importance as Ally
(U.S. News & World Report: Paul Shinkman)
Putin's use of Russian troops angers the Defense Department, which cites Russia as a key partner in a new strategic report.

CONGRESS

Hagel to Prod Lawmakers With Budgets Exceeding Limits
(Bloomberg: David Lerman, Tony Capaccio)
Hagel plans to tell Congress Wednesday that he will propose budgets in coming years that exceed mandated spending caps in order to avoid compromising national security.

Military Groups Brace for Battle Against Higher Health Care Costs
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The administration's push to shift more health care costs onto current military personnel and retirees met with resistance in Congress even before the details were revealed.

Four Ways the Pentagon Is About to Infuriate Congress
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
Budgets require tough choices, and the Pentagon is proposing cuts to areas that lawmakers hold near and dear.

Congress Probes Why Spies Got Putin's Invasion Wrong
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
One U.S. intelligence agency told Congress that Russia wouldn't take over part of Ukraine. Now Congress wants to know what the spies were thinking.

UKRAINE

Russia Works on Law to Hurt EU, U.S. Companies as Sanctions Reply-RIA
(Reuters: Elizabeth Piper)
Russian lawmakers are working on a draft law to allow the confiscation of property, assets and accounts of European or U.S. companies if sanctions are imposed on Russia over Ukraine.)

Obama, Germany's Merkel Discuss Potential Resolution to Ukraine Crisis
(Reuters: Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton)
The so-called off-ramp out of the crisis would allow for direct discussions between the Russians and the new Ukraine government with the potential for some international mediation.

West Hits Limits in Cowing Putin
(The Wall Street Journal: Matthew Karnitschnig, Selina Williams, William Mauldin)
Threats by the U.S. and European powers to impose tough sanctions on Russia over its incursion into Ukraine have run into a difficult economic reality: the West has as much at stake as Moscow.

Ukraine Tensions Imperil U.S.-Russia Diplomatic Initiatives
(The Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon)
Cooperation on Syria, Iran and North Korea now in question

Cold War Looms Over NATO's Talks on Ukraine
(The Washington Post: Anthony Faiola)
NATO members pledge "solidarity" at emergency meeting, but there are signs of division in Europe over how to respond to Russia's intervention in Crimea.

Putin: Military Force Would Be 'Last Resort' in Ukraine
(The Washington Post: Vladimir Soldatkin, Alexei Anishchuk)
But tension remained high on the ground.

Obama and Kerry Talk Tough on Russia as U.S. Tries to Rally Support for Sanctions
(The Guardian: Dan Roberts, Paul Lewis)
President and secretary of State indicate they are not yet buying Putin's claims about his intentions toward neighbouring Ukraine.

Congressional Support Builds for $1 Billion Ukraine Aid Package
(The Washington Post: Ed O'Keefe)
Rep. Ed Royce and senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced a loan package and possible sanctions against unnamed Russian officials.

Kerry, on Kiev visit, Warns Russia Over '19th Century' Behavior
(Los Angeles Times: Carol Williams)
The secretary also said Kerry said the people of the United States and their partners worldwide are prepared to help Ukraine overcome its profound fiscal problems.

E.U. Set to Freeze Assets of 18 Ukrainian Officials 
(The Wall Street Journal: Laurence Norman)
The list was agreed Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of member states and will be formally adopted this afternoon.

Ukraine Crisis a Reminder That Europe Still Matters
(McClatchy: James Rosen)
Russia's aggression in Ukraine reminds Pentagon policymakers that their plans to shift U.S. military focus away from Europe may have to be tweaked.

Ukraine Soldiers Engage in Test of Wills With Russian Troops
(The Washington Post: William Booth)
A tense and dangerous test of wills took place Tuesday on a rainy hilltop at a dilapidated Cold War-era airfield.

At a Glance, How Close U.S. Troops Are to Ukraine
(Marine Corps Times: Jeff Schogol)
While no U.S. troops are in Ukraine, several hundred personnel are in the region, according to U.S. European Command.

RUSSIA

Russia Test-Fires ICBM Amid Tension Over Ukraine
(CBS News)
A Pentagon official said that the U.S. detected the launch of the Russian ICBM near the border of Russia and Kazakhstan.

U.S. Plays Down Russian Missile Launch
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The U.S. played down a Russian launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday as the two sides face off over a crisis in Ukraine.

McCain Raises Prospects of Russian Incursion Into Poland
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
Sen. John McCain warned that the United States and Europe should avoid allowing Russia to set a precedent in Ukraine that could be later used for an incursion into Poland.

Putin Among Nobel Peace Nominees but Ukraine Might Figure Too
(Reuters: Balazs Koranyi)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

STATE DEPARTMENT

State Department Looks to Halve Military Financing for Ukraine
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
The State Department's budget request includes halving the amount the agency earmarks for financing military equipment for the country currently facing partial occupation by Russian troops.

State Department Budget Proposal Includes $4.6 Billion to Secure Diplomatic Facilities Overseas
(The Washington Post: Jason Ukman)
The Obama administration in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal is seeking $46.2 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

VETERANS

Obama Cuts the VA a Budget Break
(Politico: Juana Summers)
The message in Washington lately has been simple: Do more with less. But not so with veterans—at least not in President Obama's new budget proposal.

Veterans Affairs Would Get Money to Slash Claims Backlog
(The Washington Post: Jaime Fuller)
The proposed 2015 budget includes a $138.7 million investment in the Veterans Claims Intake Program in an effort to reform and speed up the process.

IG: Managers Let VA Employee Get Away With Cheating Agency
(Navy Times: Leo Shane III)
Poor management oversight allowed a Veterans Affairs Department employee to skip work, use government computers for sex chats and bilk the agency out of nearly $31,000, according to a new inspector general report.

INTELLIGENCE

C.I.A. Employees Face New Inquiry Amid Clashes on Detention Program
(The New York Times: Mark Mazzetti)
An inquiry into the conduct of agency employees began after lawmakers complained that the C.I.A. was improperly monitoring the work of staff members of a Senate committee.

NSA Director Says Snowden Leaks Hamper Protection Against Cyberattacks
(The New York Times: David Sanger)
Gen. Keith Alexander said the leaks by former agency contractor Edward Snowden had slowed the effort to protect the country against cyberattacks on Wall Street and other civilian targets.

NSA Chief Criticizes Media, Suggests U.K. Was Right to Detain David Miranda
(The Guardian: Spencer Ackerman)
Keith Alexander says revelations have caused "grave damage" and claims officials are making "headway" on "media leaks."

U.S. Says Sprint Fraudulently Charged Hidden Fees for Government Wiretaps
(The Verge: Adi Robertson)
The U.S. government is taking Sprint to court for allegedly inflating the cost of performing wiretaps by millions of dollars.

Snowden to Speak at SXSW
(Politico: Hadas Gold)
Edward Snowden will speak via video conference at South By Southwest in Austin next week, the festival announced Tuesday.

NAVY

Navy Faces Budget Shortfall Even If Sequester Goes Away
(Breaking Defense: Otto Kreisher)
Even if Congress somehow rolls back sequestration, the Navy's fiscal situation will be uncomfortably tight, like trying to steer a battleship through the Panama Canal.

Navy Hikes Sea Pay Rate for First Time in 11 Years
(Navy Times: Mark Faram)
The Navy is hiking its career sea pay rates by 25 percent this summer.

Interview: Adm. Jon Greenert, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations
(Defense News)
Greenert defended the Pentagon's decision to temporarily sideline 11 of the Navy's Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

Navy's 2015 Budget Sees Sharp Drop in Aircraft
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
Obama's proposal includes seven new-construction ships for the Navy and 103 aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps.

ARMY

Army Plans to Cut 3 of 13 Aviation Brigades by 2019
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
Army officials that as part of its wide-ranging aviation restructuring, the service is preparing to cut three of the service's 13 combat aviation brigades.

Army Budget: Fewer Dollars, Fewer Ready Units
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
Army officials rolled out budget plans aimed at ensuring the Army could still fight and win land wars despite coming years of falling budgets and declining force structure.

Army Adjusts to Declining Budget Levels in FY15 Request
(Inside Defense)
The Army is backing away from the Ground Combat Vehicle, canceling a next-generation scout helicopter program and delaying enhanced on-the-move networking capabilities, according to budget documents released today.

Prosecutor in Army Sex Case Wanted Charges Dropped
(Associated Press: Michael Biesecker)
The lead prosecutor in a sexual-assault case against a U.S. Army general wanted the most serious charges dropped after he became convinced the accuser had lied about crucial evidence.

AIR FORCE

Air Force's Budget Proposal Includes Jump in Procurement
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
The fiscal 2015 budget request uses cutbacks in the current Air Force fleet to make big investments in new systems, including a $1.2 billion increase for new aircraft purchases.

SecAF James OKs Combat Rescue Helicopter; T-X Trainer, Weather Sat, JSTARs Also Funded
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
In a dramatic last-minute budget decision, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today approved the long-delayed purchase of a Combat Rescue Helicopter.

Spies, Lies, and Rape in the Air Force: An Undercover Agent's Story
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
Jane Neubauer was just out of basic training when a secretive military unit recruited her for an undercover mission. She claims she was raped on duty. The Air Force isn't so sure.

ASIA/PACIFIC

China Announces 12.2% Increase in Military Budget
(The New York Times: Edward Wong)
China announced on Wednesday that it would increase its military budget for 2014 to almost $132 billion.

Pentagon Insists Pacific 'Pivot' Plan Intact
(The Wall Street Journal: Doug Cameron)
Pentagon officials insisted its plan to refocus resources on the Pacific Rim remained intact, as a senior official rescinded her earlier comments that budget pressures may force a rethink of the strategy.

U.S. Calls for 'Urgent' Restraint to Ease Japan, Korea Tensions
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
The United States said its two main allies in Asia could not afford to let historical rivalry interfere with ensuring security in the region.

IRAN

U.S. Senator Still Believes in New Iran Sanctions Bill
(Reuters: Patricia Zengerle)
Sen. Robert Menendez said he still sees his legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran as the best way to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran Should Face More Pressure to Dismantle Nuclear Program, Netanyahu Tells AIPAC
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
Iran should face more intense pressure during international negotiations—and not be given further respite from sanctions—to force it to completely dismantle its nuclear program, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin said.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

The Last Casualties: As a Long War Ends, Risks Still Prove Real
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño)
Military health-care experts say those wounded in battle are coming home more severely injured than at any time since 2006.

Afghanistan to Disband Crucial Guard Force
(The Wall Street Journal: Nathan Hodge)
The Afghan government is moving to dissolve a crucial guard force that protects military supply convoys, international aid programs and foreign installations.

Convoy With NATO Supplies Is Attacked in Pakistan
(The New York Times: Ismail Khan)
Gunmen in the Khyber tribal region in Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, opened fire Tuesday on a two-truck convoy carrying NATO supplies.

SYRIA

Syria Speeds Up Deliveries of Chemical Weapons
(The New York Times: Nick Cumming-Bruce)
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reported a new timetable after a meeting of its executive council.

CYBER

Defense Budget Routes at Least $5B to Cyber
(Defense News: Amber Corrin)
As DOD officials recently hinted would happen, certain line items received boosts in spending, particularly those related to cybersecurity.

NUCLEAR

Gottemoeller: U.S. 'Will Be Patient' in Pursuing Test-Ban Treaty Approval
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
A senior Obama administration official signaled the United States was not in a rush to ratify a key arms control treaty.

MIDDLE EAST

Netanyahu Says He Is Prepared to Make 'a Historic Peace' With Palestinians
(The Guardian: Dan Roberts)
Israeli prime minister's remarks to Aipac's annual conference in Washington contrasted with chilly White House meeting.

U.S. Activist Detained at Cairo Airport
(The New York Times: David Kirkpatrick)
A spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry said Medea Benjamin was stopped at the airport because the Gaza border crossing was closed, and that she had then physically resisted the airport security agents.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Vice Admiral Tapped as Next Commandant
(Associated Press: Alicia Caldwell)
President Obama is nominating a Coast Guard vice admiral to be the next Coast Guard commandant.

Papp: Smaller Navy Fleet Means Gaps in USCG Counter-Drug Mission Area
(Seapower Magazine: John Marcario)
The Coast Guard is seeing overseas operations and security cooperation expand, but future engagements will be subject to available funding and the ability to balance resources with statutory missions.

DETAINEES

Guantanamo Judge Pushes USS Cole Trial Date to Dec. 4
(The Miami Herald: Carol Rosenberg)
If that timetable holds, it will be the first death-penalty prosecution at Guantanamo.

AFRICA

U.S. Takes Training Role in Africa as Threats Grow and Budgets Shrink
(The New York Times: Eric Schmitt)
Across Africa, affiliates of Al-Qaida and other Islamist militants are proving resilient and in some cases expanding their influence.

Former U.S. Congressman in Hiding in South Africa
(Associated Press)
Former Rep. Mel Reynolds says he is in hiding in South Africa following his deportation from Zimbabwe because he believes his life is in danger.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

A Rational Response to Ukraine's Crisis
(The New York Times)
Isolation and economic pressure will be more effective against Russia than saber-rattling.

Mr. Putin's Closed Mind
(The Washington Post)
Having stifled open debate in Russia, he may actually believe his own propaganda.

No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
White House officials are weighing their options, knowing that reversing the occupation of Crimea would be difficult, if not impossible, in the short run.

How the Government Pays Defense Contractors Tens of Billions of Dollars for Nothing
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Since President Obama took office, his administration has spiked a slew of major programs the government spent tens of billions to develop but will now never finish.

Congress Must Be Willing to Do More With Less Defense Spending
(Defense One: Rep. Duncan Hunter)
The military services have always shown they are capable of doing more with less. Now it's time for everyone else, including Congress, to show a willingness to do the same.

Ukraine Is the Greatest Challenge to Geopolitics Since the Cold War
(The Atlantic: David Rohde)
An unresolved international debate over a series of post-Cold War interventions is threatening to cause sweeping instability.

Ukraine: Is This How the War on Terror Ends?
(The Atlantic: Peter Beinart)
Rivalry among great powers long characterized international affairs. Now it's back—in a big way.

The History and Logic of Military Ultimatums, From Suez to Crimea
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
We run through some important modern ultimatums to show why governments make them, and what—if anything—they accomplish.

Intervention in Syria and the Myth of the Exit Strategy
(War on the Rocks: Thomas Nichols)
Thousands more will die in Syria, Russia will continue its neo-imperial policies, and chemical weapons are now a fact of life in dictatorial statecraft.

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