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Five U.S. Soldiers Killed by 'Friendly Fire': Early Bird - Brought to You by Lockheed Martin

By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

 

'Friendly Fire' Strike Kills 5 Special Operations Soldiers in Afghanistan
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed)
Five Americans and at least one Afghan soldier were killed when a coalition aircraft accidentally struck their position, Afghan and American officials said Tuesday.

More Than 57,000 Patients Waiting for First Visit, VA says
(The Washington Post: Greg Jaffe, Josh Hicks)
An internal report comes less than two weeks after the inspector general's office confirmed allegations that VA hospitals falsified records to hide treatment delays. 

CIA Cites Officers For Harassment
(Associated Press: Ken Dilanian)
Fifteen CIA employees were found to have committed sexual, racial or other types of harassment last year.

 

Poll: Obama Mishandled Bergdahl Exchange
(USA Today: Gregory Korte)
Public opposition to the exchange of five Taliban prisoners for captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has less to do with Bergdahl himself and more with how President Obama handled the transfer.

CONGRESS

Grassley to Block DOJ Nominee Over Prisoner Swap
(The Hill: Ramsey Cox)
Peter Kadzik has been nominated to serve as assistant Attorney General for legislative affairs within the DOJ.

Senators Would Slice Fattened Pensions for Brass
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
Pensions for senior generals and admirals would be rolled back to ensure their retirement pay doesn't exceed their active-duty salaries.

GOP Congressman Helps Uncover Another VA Waiting List Scandal
(Roll Call: Matt Fuller)
Lawmakers are taking matters into their own hands back home to draw more local attention to problems at VA medical facilities.

 

House Votes to Boost VA Inspector General
(The Hill: Cristina Marcos)
The bill would require the VA inspector general to notify Congress and the department secretary of any failure to adopt recommended reforms in its reports.

Prosecuting VA Officials Would Be 'Shot Heard Around the System'
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
Want to get the attention of staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs? Fire a few top officials or charge them for their crimes as a warning to others.That was a solution offered by lawmakers from both parties. 

Senators: Use Private Sector Tech Firms to Fix VA
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
A bipartisan group of senators believes the latest scandal to rock the Department of Veterans Affairs is evidence that the VA needs technological assistance from the private sector.

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Reid Promises Immediate Senate Action on VA
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The legislation, which was agreed to in principle last week, is still being drafted by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders and Arizona Republican John McCain.

Sanders: Fire 'Incompetent' VA Staff Now
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Sanders said the legislation he is crafting with McCain will allow the VA to hold its employees accountable.

Carrier-Based Drone Plan Takes Flak From Lawmakers
(Los Angeles Times: W.J. Hennigan)
A U.S. Navy plan for aircraft carrier-based drones has launched a dogfight in Washington over the role of the robotic planes in combat.

BERGDAHL

Hagel to Defend Bowe Bergdahl Swap
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes, Dion Nissenbaum)
Defense secretary expected to make strong case for prisoner exchange on Wednesday.

Former Soldiers Recount Trying Search for Missing POW Bowe Bergdahl
(Anchorage Daily News: Richard Mauer)
Soldiers he left behind say it upended their deployment mission from one of turning Afghans away from the Taliban into a dangerous and fruitless rescue operation.

Bergdahl Could Be Tried for AWOL or Desertion
(USA Today: Jim Michaels)
AWOL charges in the United States are more common, and most are disposed of administratively, without convening a court-martial.

Bergdahl Family Thanks Supporters, Friends
(Associated Press)
Family friend Debbie O'Neall emailed the statement on behalf of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's family.

Thought 5-1 Was Lopsided? How the Bergdahl Swap Compares With Others
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
A visual depiction of the uneven nature of prisoner swaps over the past 50 years.

UKRAINE/RUSSIA

Russia Would React to NATO Build-Up Near Borders: Minister
(Reuters: Lidia Kelly, Gabriela Baczynska)
Russia would consider any further expansion a "demonstration of hostile intentions" and would take political and military measures to ensure its own security.

Exclusive: Ukraine's President Seeks 'Understanding' With Russia
(Time: Simon Shuster)
Poroshenko said he has no choice but to keep Russia at the negotiating table, as no country is prepared to guarantee his country's security from further attack.

Russians Find Few Barriers to Joining Ukraine Battle
(The New York Times: Andrew Kramer)
As warfare has raged in the separatist provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia's role has been hard to discern.

IRAN

Iran Says Six-Month Extension of Nuclear Talks May Be Necessary
(Reuters: Stephanie Nebehay, Michelle Moghtader)
U.S. and Iranian officials held talks in Geneva to tackle ways of breaking a deadlock which has raised the likelihood that the deadline will lapse without a deal.

Israeli Spy General Says Iran Serious in Negotiations on Nuclear Deal
(Reuters: Dan Williams)
Brigadier-General Itai Brun said that Iran was honoring a November interim agreement that Netanyahu had condemned as an "historic mistake" for easing sanctions on Israel's arch-enemy.

SYRIA

U.S. Arms Could Create Syria 'Warlords', Rebel Commander Says
(Reuters: Dasha Afanasieva)
U.S. arms supplies to Syrian rebels may create Somali-style warlords and are undermining Washington's allies in the rebels' exile military command.

Syria's Assad Grants Amnesty After Re-Election
(Reuters: Dominic Evans)
Assad commuted some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduced jail terms for many offences and canceled some others altogether.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Insurgents Attack Pakistani Airport Again Amid Military Raids
(The New York Times: Salman Masood)
A heated gun battle was reported by the airport in the second attack there in two days. Meanwhile, the military raided insurgent hide-outs.

Analysts: Pakistan Airport Attack Could Be First of Many
(Defense News: Usman Ansari)
Developments over the past couple of weeks have led analysts to expect "a wave of attacks" by the Pakistani Taliban.

The Untimely Search for a New Afghanistan War Commander
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
It is not yet clear what the White House or Pentagon intend to do with the position.

Gen. Dunford's Three Goals for Winning in Afghanistan
(Marine Corps Times: James Sanborn)
It was a tall order for anyone and the long-term future of Afghanistan remains uncertain

Afghans Worry as U.S. Sending Boom Comes to an End
(The Washington Post: Tim Craig)
Zabi Tamanna's life was transformed by the U.S. war in Afghanistan

ASIA/PACIFIC

Second Chinese Army Unit Implicated in Cyberattacks
(The New York Times: Nicole Perlroth)
The report ties attacks against dozens of public and private sector organizations back to a group of Shanghai-based hackers.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

CENTCOM Doesn't Know How to Shrink or Shift, Report Finds
(Roll Call: Tim Starks)
The Pentagon hasn't figured out yet how to shift over any existing expenses for CENTCOM to its base budget.

U.S. Adds Military Base to House Children Entering Country Without Relatives
(Reuters)
Third base designated for emergency housing of children.

NAVY

Portsmouth Naval Stabbing Victim Alert, Doctor Says
(The Virginian-Pilot: Kara Driscoll)
Surgeons say Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell is alert and able to communicate despite life-threatening injuries.

Navy Opposes USS Oklahoma Exhumations to Identify Remains
(Stars and Stripes: Travis Tritten)
The Navy has notified family members of sailors who died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor that it opposes any further testing to identify the remains.

INDUSTRY

7 Years After Iraq shootings, 4 Blackwater Guards Go on Trial
(Associated Press: Pete Yost)
After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others

Lockheed Zeroes in on F-35 Milestones
(Politico: Leigh Munsil)
The success of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program depends on making sure it stays on schedule.

Lockheed Sees Next U.S. F-35 Fighter Contract Early This Summer
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said the company had driven the price of the jets lower by 4 percent to 5 percent in each of the previous three contracts.

Lockheed CEO Hewson: IRAD Climbing 5 Percent, Praises Major Air Shows
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
Lockheed CEO Marilyn Hewson said her company will boost internal research and development spending 5 percent from its current level of $700 million.

Pratt & Whitney Inaugurates Turkish Engine Plant
(Defense News: Burak Ege Bekdil)
U.S. Engine maker Pratt & Whitney inaugurated its Turkish partnership with local aviation company Kale to produce critical engine parts for the F-35 fighter.

VETERANS

VA Halted Visits to Troubled Hospitals
(The Wall Street Journal: Thomas Burton)
The VA stopped sending teams of turnaround experts to underperforming hospitals at the same time a growing number of VA facilities showed consistently high death and complication rates.

Audit: Ala. Vets Health Center Faked Wait Times
(Associated Press)
An audit shows that a central Alabama veterans health care center falsified records to hide evidence of patients waiting too long to receive care.

INTELLIGENCE

Report: Cybercrime and Espionage Costs $445 Billion Annually
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima, Andrea Peterson)
The report represents one of the first efforts to analyze the costs, drawing on a variety of data.

COUNTERTERRORISM

White House Calls Notion of 'Ad Hoc' Counterterror Program 'Absolutely False'
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Republican lawmakers and national security budget sources paint a picture of the counterterrorism program's conception that is chaotic and conjures a list of questions.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Pakistan's Latest Crisis
(The New York Times)
Will the attack over the weekend persuade Pakistan's government to acknowledge the Taliban's pernicious threat and confront it in a comprehensive way?

The Invasion of Pakistan
(The Wall Street Journal)
The country created the Taliban that now aims to destroy it.

Congress Reforms of VA System Could Be a Move in the Right Direction
(The Washington Post)
If the Sanders- McCain bill's two-year experiment in letting vets seek care outside the system becomes law, Congress may well see the wisdom of this approach and want to continue it.

The VA Conspiracy
(The Wall Street Journal)
The latest Veterans audit shows that the abuses are endemic.

Insiders Support Bergdahl Swap—but Just Barely
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Eric Shinseki's resignation as the head of the Veterans Affairs Department will not fix the problems in the massive VA health care system, Insiders said.

Rebuilding Bipartisan Consensus on National Security
(Defense One: Michèle Flournoy, Richard Fontaine)
The period between now and the 2016 presidential election represents an extraordinary opportunity to articulate a positive case for America's leadership role in the world.

The A-10 Needs to Go
(Military Times: Lt. Col. Paul Darling)
It is an archaic vestige reflecting a technology, and a style of warfare, that is outdated by a generation.

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