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Hagel Fears Systemic Ethical Problem, Defense Cuts Off Table for Now, Toothpaste Terror Warning

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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Pentagon: Hagel Fears Deep Ethical Problem in the Military
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The Defense secretary's worries follow recent revelations that about 100 Air Force nuclear missileers and 30 Navy nuclear-reactor operators cheated on qualification tests.

Defense Cuts Remain Off Table in Debt-Ceiling Talks—For Now
(Defense News: John Bennett)
House Republicans have yet to settle on a plan to raise the nation's borrowing limit, but it appears using defense cuts as a bargaining chip is not an option.

 

U.S. Issues Toothpaste Tube Terror Warning
(CBS News)
The United States has warned airlines that terrorists looking to disrupt the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, could conceal bomb-making components in toothpaste tubes.

Boehner Urges Allies to Consider Linking Military Benefits to Debt Limit
(The Washington Post: Robert Costa)
Boehner did not endorse the idea, the sources added, but he did urge the group of more than a dozen of his loyalists to talk up the possible play with colleagues.

U.S. to Curb Drone Use In Pakistan
(The Wall Street Journal: Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, Saeed Shah)
The Obama administration will narrow its controversial drone program in Pakistan to target a short list of high-level terrorists, and aim to end it during the prime minister's current term.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

CBO: Military Pension Growth to Fall 5 Percent by 2023 With Cut
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
A controversial new pension cut for younger military retirees will help reduce projected growth for the retirement payments by about 5 percent by 2023.

 

Defense Budget Exercise Cut Soldiers, Carriers, and Fighters
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Personnel, ships, and fighter jets were all on the chopping block in the results of a defense budget cutting exercise, unveiled Wednesday by teams from four think-tanks.

Think Tanks Project Force Structure, Strategy Under Continued Sequestration
(Seapower Magazine: Otto Kreisher)
Top national security think tanks projected what kind of forces and strategy the U.S. military could sustain if sequestration remains in full effect for the next decade, and the results were chilling.

Commissaries Won't Close, but Prices May Increase
(Military Times: Karen Jowers)
Pentagon proposals to reportedly slice $1 billion from the annual commissary budget may not hinge on closing stores, but on raising prices for patrons. 

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Meet the Man Who Will Be Slashing the Pentagon's Budget
(Foreign Policy: Gordon Lubold)
Robert Work will have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable: slashing the Pentagon's bloated budget and pushing back against the powerful lawmakers and senior military.

DASD Industrial Base Signals Pentagon Budget Shift: Dough OK'd for Prototypes
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
The Pentagon official who oversees the defense industrial base told Wall Street investors Wednedsay morning that the upcoming defense budget will include funding for weapons prototypes.

Gates, Panetta Join Effort to Get CIA Forerunners Congressional Gold Medal
(Fox News)
Long before the emergence of the CIA and other Cold War spy agencies, a small-but-daring group of Americans became the country's invisible eyes and ears, helping defeat the Axis powers of WWII.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

White House Denies Formal Deal With Pakistan on Drones
(CBS News: Amanda Cochran)
The Obama administration is facing criticism over a report that the United States has decided to sharply cut back on drone attacks in Pakistan.

U.S. Freezes Assets of Pakistan-Based Haqqani Militants
(Reuters: Missy Ryan)
The Obama administration on Wednesday moved to freeze assets of three suspected militants linked to the Haqqani network.

Afghan Farmers Now Feeding U.S. Troops
(Navy Times: Jeff Schogol)
Under a program that began in September, Afghan farmers have been supplying broccoli and cauliflower at all of the dining facilities at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

ASIA/PACIFIC

North Korea Says B-52 Run Imperils Family Reunions
(Reuters: Ju-Min Park, James Pearson)
A nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber sortie over South Korea has endangered plans for reunions between families from the North and South of the country.

North Korea Developing Mobile Missile: U.S. Intelligence
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
North Korea has taken the initial steps toward fielding a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that could be capable of hitting parts of the U.S., according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

China's Fleet Advancing Faster Than U.S. Expected
(Military.com: Kris Osborn)
The Chinese navy has ambitious plans over the next 15 years to rapidly advance its fleet of surface ships and submarines.

China's Growing Defense Budget: Not as Scary as You Think
(The Diplomat: Shannon Tiezzi)
The rapid growth in China's defense budget is a natural outcome of its economic rise.

Think Tanks' Dream Defense Budgets Defeat China, but Not Politics
(Defense One: Kevin Baron)
Their dream defense budgets that reveal one common theme: National security leaders know a lot more about getting past China's defenses than they do about getting past House and Senate budget leaders.

Fast-Changing Trends in Asia Fighter Market
(Aviation Week: Bill Sweetman)
Lockheed Martin and sources close to the company were not shy about predicting an Asian sweep for JSF.

Four U.S. Congressmen Urge North Korea to Free Missionary Bae
(Reuters: Alex Dobuzinskis)
The last surviving members of the U.S. Congress to have served in the Korean War have sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asking him to release imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae.

SYRIA

Syria Undecided on Next Round of Talks
(Associated Press)
The Syrian government has not decided yet whether to take part in a second round of peace talks tentatively scheduled for next week, a senior official said.

Syria Can Meet June 30 Chemical Weapons Deadline: U.N. Chief
(Reuters: Timothy Heritage)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he was confident Syria would meet a June 30 deadline to eliminate its entire chemical weapons program under a US-Russian plan.

Russia Says Now Is Not the Time for U.N. Resolution on Aid to Syria
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
Western and Arab nations are preparing to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for better access to aid in war-torn Syria.

Syria Misses Key Chemical-Weapons Deadline
(Associated Press)
Syria's government has missed another deadline for destroying its chemical-weapons stockpile but still says it will meet a final deadline of June 30.

Kerry Admits Syria's Assad Making Gains, but Denies U.S. Policy Failing
(Agence France-Presse)
"It's fair to say that Assad has improved his position a little bit, yes. But he's still not winning. This is a stalemate," secretary of State told CNN.

Aid Groups: West Must Help Children Escaping Syrian War
(USA Today: Louise Osborne)
The report highlighted the government's disproportionate and indiscriminate use of weaponry and military tactics, which have killed tens of thousands of civilians.

U.S. Eases Rules to Admit More Syrian Refugees, After 31 Last Year
(Reuters)
Administration announced it had eased some immigration rules to allow more of the millions of Syrians forced from their homes during the country's three-year civil war to come to the United States.

Fragile Accord Raises Hope for Residents Trapped in Syrian Camp
(Los Angeles Times: Patrick McDonnell)
They emerged from a dim alley called Rama Street, some carried on stretchers or pushed in wheelchairs, others dragging bulging suitcases as they looked for loved ones waiting beyond the clutch of gunmen and aid staffers.

CONGRESS

McKeon: No Clemency for Snowden
(Politico: Austin Wright)
The Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee repeated claims that many of the documents he stole had nothing to do with government surveillance and contain sensitive information that could endanger U.S. troops.

Bill Would Block Commissary Closings, Cutbacks
(Military Times: Karen Jowers)
A new bill introduced in Congress would bar the Defense Department from closing or reducing the operations of commissary or exchange stores before Jan. 1, 2017.

Boehner Launches Benghazi Website
(Washington Post: Wesley Lowery)
House Speaker John Boehner announced the creation of a new page on the Republican Party website on which the party plans to publish information and documents related to the attacks.

INTELLIGENCE

Swiss Government Tightens Tech Security Over NSA Spying
(Associated Press)
The governing Federal Council's decision Wednesday cited concerns about foreign spies targeting Switzerland.

Think Tank: Use of Drones Spreading as Cost Falls
(Agence France-Presse)
The falling cost of acquiring drones will see them increasingly used in warfare and surveillance, a leading think tank said Wednesday.

IRAN

GOP Will Force Reid to Save Obama's Iran Policy—Over and Over Again
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
Dozens of Republican senators joined Wednesday to demand that Harry Reid allow a floor vote on a new Iran sanctions bill. If he doesn't, they are planning to make his life miserable.

Iran Says May Modify Arak Reactor to Allay Nuclear Concerns: TV
(Reuters: Mehrdad Balali, Fredrik Dahl)
Iran is prepared to modify its planned Arak heavy water reactor to help allay Western concerns.

Iran: U.S. 'Wishes Won't Come True' at Nuclear Talks
(Associated Press)
Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated the U.S. wanted Iran to give up major parts of its nuclear program but said such demands won't be carried out.

Virginia Senator: Give Iran Talks a Chance
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
A member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday said the U.S. needs to make sure it gives the current diplomatic initiative with Iran a solid chance before passing a new sanctions bill that could cause talks to fail.

MIDDLE EAST

Iraqi Army to Cordon Off Falluja Before Tribes Try to Retake Control, U.S. Says
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon, Duraid Adnan)
A senior State Department official said on Wednesday that the Iraqi Army planned to cordon off the city so Sunni tribes could try to secure it one neighborhood at a time.

U.S. Steps Up Support for Iraq Amid Militant Surge
(CNN: Jamie Crawford)
The defeat of resurgent Islamic militant groups in western Iraq requires increased support from the United States, according to members of Congress and the Obama administration.

U.S. Defends Sales of Hellfire Missiles, Apaches to Iraq
(Breaking Defense: John Bennett)
Lawmaker says Iraqi extremist group planning attacks in U.S.

Bombs Rock Baghdad; Senior U.S. Official Predicts Continued Violence
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
Brett McGurk, the deputy secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, told lawmakers Wednesday that he anticipates more high-profile attacks in Iraq as an al-Qaida-linked group grows in power.

This Chart Shows Just How Bad Things Are Getting in Iraq
(The Washington Post: Anup Kaphle)
With national elections only a few months away, violence has spiked in Iraq in the past two years.

Lawmakers Discuss U.S. Alternatives for Addressing Rising Iraqi Violence
(Seapower Magazine: John Marcario)
Panelists and committee members at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing debated how the United States should proceed going forward.

Jordanians Worry About Fallout From Mideast Peace Deal
(Associated Press: Jamal Halaby)
Israelis and Palestinians may be hugely skeptical about the U.S.-led peace negotiations their leaders have been roped into, but the Jordanians seem worried that they actually might succeed.

Qatar Court Denies U.S. Couple's Request to Leave
(Associated Press)
A Qatari court has turned down a request from an American couple charged with starving their adopted daughter to death that they be allowed to leave the Gulf country temporarily to see their other children.

OLYMPICS

Two Ships Enter Black Sea Before Olympics
(Navy Times)
The U.S. warships are headed into the Black Sea to offer security assistance if needed.

Russians: Sochi Safe as 'New York, Washington, Boston'
(USA Today: Dan Wolken)
Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak said Thursday the concern over a terrorist attack on the Winter Olympics has been overblown in media reports.

Will 'Black Widows,' Other Terrorists Stalk the Sochi Games?
(CNN: Tim Lister)
The Russian security operation surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics is massive and multilayered.

An Olympics in the Shadow of a War Zone
(The New York Times: Steven Lee Myers)
The Olympic Games that begin this week in Russia will be held just around the corner from one of the most violent parts of Europe.

TERRORISM

Months Later, Sniper Attack at Power Hub Still a Mystery
(The New York Times: Norimitsu Onishi, Matthew Wald)
The incident at a Silicon Valley power substation underscored concerns about the vulnerability of the country's electrical grid and prompted debate over whether it was an act of terrorism.

VETERANS

Can Uncle Sam Help Vets Get Bang for Their College Buck?
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The Veterans Affairs Department rolled out a tool Tuesday that allows veterans and their families to go online and see what college costs are covered under the post-9/11 GI Bill.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Kerry to Speak at Gridiron Dinner
(The Washington Post: Aaron Blake)
Secretary of State John Kerry will speak at the 2014 Gridiron Dinner.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama and Putin Eyeing Bilateral Summit in Sochi
(Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Nikolaus von Twickel)
President Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are planning to hold bilateral talks during the G-8 summit in June in Russia.

DETAINEES

Skinny Puppy Bills Pentagon for Guantanamo 'Royalties'
(BBC News)
A Canadian rock band has sent a bill to the U.S. military after being told its music was used to torment suspected terrorists at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

HOMELAND SECURITY

New Court Documents Reveal Final Moments of Border Agent Brian Terry's Life
(Fox News: William La Jeunesse, Laura Prabucki)
Three years after the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry—a tragedy which exposed and ultimately ended Operation Fast and Furious—the public is finally getting a glimpse into Terry's final moments.

INDUSTRY

DOD Forms Independent Team to Assess F-35 Software Development
(Inside Defense)
The Pentagon's acquisition executive has established an ad hoc team to review F-35 Joint Strike Fighter software development.

The Wait for Private Drone Flight Just Got Longer
(National Journal: Dustin Volz)
Federal officials said Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration won't make its 2015 deadline to ready nonmilitary drones for integration into commercial airspace.

U.S. Eyes $90 Million Contract for Bioterror Treatments
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday said a Medicines Company-owned firm will initially receive $19.8 million for work on Carbavance.

AIR FORCE

Air Force Major Charged in Child-Pornography Case
(The Washington Post: Peter Hermann)
A U.S. Air Force Reserve major was arrested last Thursday at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., and charged with distribution of child pornography, according to District D.C. police.

Locator Beacons for Air Force Ejection Seats Failing at 'Unacceptable' Rate
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
For three days, the family of Capt. Lucas Gruenther waited while rescuers searched for the F-16 pilot in the Adriatic Sea.

U.S. Conducts 'Successful' Analysis of Updated B-61 Bomb
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
The review included use of an Air Force-developed "tail kit" intended to improve targeting accuracy for the updated bomb, which is to eventually stand in for several earlier versions.

ARMY

Army to Push for New BRAC Round in 2017
(Army Times: Andy Medici)
Army officials will begin a public push for a new round of base closures that could take place as early as 2017, according to an Army spokesperson.

Commissioners Urge Caution in Applying Air Force Panel Findings to the Army
(Inside Defense)
Two members of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force have cautioned against "reflexively" applying their panel's findings when it comes to the question of balancing the active and reserve components of the Army.

Army Mulls Funding for Controversial Intel Network
(Washington Times: Rowan Scarborough)
The Army is assessing development plans for its battlefield intelligence network after Congress made it one of the largest budget-slashing victims in the new defense budget.

Defense Think Tanks: Cut the Army
(Politico: Austin Wright)
If four major defense think tanks had their way, the Army would be a big loser as the Pentagon slims down to new fiscal realities over the next decade.

Check Out This Video of Army Trucks That Drive Themselves
(The Atlantic: Rebecca Rosen)
A new video from Defense Update provides a glimpse of how that future might look.

NAVY

Navy Nuclear Cheating Scandal Grows to 30 Sailors
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
The Navy's investigation of suspected cheating by senior enlisted staff at its premier nuclear-propulsion training facility has expanded to at least 30 sailors, or about one-fifth of the supervisors on base.

Navy to Rename D.C. Building Where Gunman Killed 12
(Associated Press: Jessica Gresko)
Officials are renaming the Washington Navy Yard building where a gunman fatally shot 12 people in September before he was killed by police.

Navy's F-35 Tailhook Passes Initial Tests; Carrier Flights in October
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
The F-35C is the Navy version of the Joint Strike Fighter and the plane most in danger of being cut or reduced by its service.

Navy: Congressional Oversight Will Not Slow UCLASS Program
(USNI News: Dave Majumdar)
The fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act will not force the U.S. Navy to restructure its Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike aircraft program.

MARINE CORPS

Convictions of Marine Base Attack Plotters Upheld
(Associated Press: Larry O'Dell)
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the convictions of three members of a North Carolina terror ring who plotted to attack the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., and targets abroad.

NATIONAL GUARD

National Guard Fights for Cyber Role in 2015 Budget
(Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
Chinese and Russian hackers have everybody running scared.

AFRICA

Niger Minister Urges France and U.S. to Intervene in Libya to Combat Terror Threat
(Associated Press)
Niger's interior minister says France and the United States should intervene in southern Libya "to eradicate the terrorist threat" in the region.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Academy Cadet Accused of Sex Abuse
(Associated Press)
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is investigating allegations that a cadet broke into a dorm room and sexually abused another cadet last September.

EUROPE

Top U.S. Diplomat Comes To Kiev For Talks
(Associated Press)
A senior U.S. diplomat has arrived in the Ukrainian capital to try to help find a resolution to the protests and political crisis that have gripped the country for more than two months.

First Troops Move Through New U.S. Transit Point in Romania
(Stars and Stripes: John Vandiver)
Afghanistan-bound U.S. troops departed from the military's new transit hub in Romania this week, marking a first for the new facility.

Scrutiny of U.S. Airbases in Britain is Stuck in the 1950s
(The Guardian: Tom Watson)
Ministers have been complacent over the risk that U.S. activities on British soil may result in the deaths of innocent civilians.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

The President Has Options on Syria. He Should Use Them.
(The Washington Post)
The United States has a number of options for action in Syria that would be more robust than the current policy but fall well short of the use of U.S. ground forces.

Fragile Progress in the Congo
(The Huffington Post: Rep. Adam Smith)
Central Africa is on fire. 

America Must Assuage Saudi Anxiety
(The New York Times: Vali Nasr)
The Saudis are angry.

Security Insiders: Congress Will Refuse Pentagon's Calls for Personnel-Cost Reforms
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Congress's scramble to undo the $6 billion in military pension cuts is a sign.

War on Error
(Foreign Policy: J.M. Berger)
We're fighting al-Qaida like a terrorist group. They're fighting us like an army.

U.N. and U.S. Must Press for Change in Vietnam
(The Huffington Post: Shawn Crispin)
Vietnam's human-rights record went before a United Nations' Universal Periodic Review on Wednesday, and Hanoi's official delegation is necessarily on the diplomatic defensive.

End of the Line
(National Interest: Harvey Sapolsky, Eugene Gholz)
This year will mark the first closure in the United States of a privately owned military shipyard, aircraft assembly facility, or armored-vehicle line since the end of the Cold War.

Area 51 Spy Plane and Other Aviation Tales
(CNN: Thom Patterson)
It looks like an upside-down bathtub with wings, pretty odd for a spy jet that was among the nation's most highly classified pieces of military hardware.

The Geneva II Tragic Charade
(The Huffington Post: Alon Ben-Meir)
It is hard to imagine that representatives of the 30 countries that assembled in Geneva actually believed that they could find a political solution to the Syrian civil war.

No More Mr. Nice Guy
(Foreign Policy: Michael Weiss)
The sad end of Ambassador Michael McFaul's troubled tenure in Moscow.

A Sailor's Perspective on the United States Army
(War on the Rocks: Adm. William McRaven)
Not the Army of the Hudson, not the Army of the history books, not the Army portrayed in the countless murals across campus, but the Army you will enter in 500 days.

Whose Turkey Is It?
(The New York Times: Suzy Hansen)
The public turn against Erdogan began last May, when protests in Istanbul escalated and pictures of police officers violently attacking the demonstrators circulated around the world.

Fighting Words
(Foreign Policy: Rosa Brooks)
Has the nature of "war" changed since the days of Clausewitz?

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