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HASC Bill Rejects Benefit Cuts, Americans Want Smaller Role Abroad, Crucial Benghazi Email Released

By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)

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


House Bill Would Require Sweeping Reviews of Military Intel Programs
(Military Times: John Bennett)
The legislation contains a slew of provisions raising concerns about the Pentagon's intelligence, special operations, and cyber activities.

First Action on 2015 Defense Budget Rejects Benefits Cuts
(Army Times: Leo Shane III)
House lawmakers have rejected proposed cuts in housing allowances and commissary funding, as well as an overhaul of the Tricare system that would increase out-of-pocket costs for some beneficiaries.

Crucial Benghazi Email Finally Revealed
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
An important email on Benghazi that showed the White House's role in the election season spin about the attack was only made available to a key congressional committee two weeks ago.


Americans Want to Pull Back from World Stage, WSJ Poll Finds
(The Wall Street Journal: Janet Hook)
Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs even as a showdown with Russia over Ukraine preoccupies Washington.

Kerry to Resume Mideast Peace Talks After a Pause
(Reuters: David Rohde)
An aide predicted that Israeli and Palestinian officials would be forced back to the table by the long-term need for a two-state solution.


Kerry: Russia 'Accelerating' Ukraine Crisis
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes, Robert Burns)
Kerry's comments were part of a two-punch pushback on Russia by U.S. diplomatic and military officials.

NATO Sees No Sign of Russian Troop Withdrawal on Ukraine Border
(Agence France-Presse)
Russia's defense secretary said that troops had returned to the barracks after completing exercises.


Kerry: U.S. Taped Moscow's Calls to Its Ukraine Spies
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin, Eli Lake)
The secretary of State claimed in a private meeting that the U.S. intelligence community has recordings of pro-Russian forces being managed by government handlers in Moscow.

Protesters Seize New Building in Eastern Ukraine
(Associated Press: Alexander Zemlianichenko)
The move further raises tensions in the east, where insurgents have seized city halls, police stations, and other government buildings in at least 10 cities and towns.

Jack Lew: Sanctions on Russia Taking Toll
(The Huffington Post: Donna Cassata)
The Treasury secretary said the United States and its allies remain unified in imposing costs on Russia, and says additional penalties announced Monday will have an impact.

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U.S. Sanctions Raise Concerns for Foreign Investors
(Associated Press: Danica Kirka)
Though BP says it remains committed to Rosneft, analysts say the worry is growing that the sanctions by the U.S. were merely the prelude to a tougher one.

McFaul: Putin Didn't Like Me
(The Washington Post: Colby Itkowitz)
If Vladimir Putin doesn't like you, he'll say it to your face.


USAREUR Chief Wants to Bolster Training With Baltics, Poland, With Other Combat Tools
(Stars and Stripes: Matt Millham)
The commander of U.S. Army Europe said he wants to add helicopters and other combat tools to the mix.

NATO: European Border Concept Changed With Ukraine
(Associated Press)
NATO is responding to the new and evolving military situation in Europe by increasing military maneuvers in Poland, Romania, the Baltic region, and the Black Sea.


Lawmakers Seek to End Reliance on Russia for Rocket Engines
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee's markup of the 2015 NDAA calls for spending at least $220 million over the next five years to develop an alternative engine.

U.S. Senators Urge Treasury to Keep Halt on Russia Tax Talks
(Reuters: Patrick Temple-West)
Talks were suspended weeks ago with Russia over a pact to help its financial institutions comply with 2010's U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte Goes Silent on Fight to Save A-10
( Brendan McGarry)
Unlike her previous public appearances, Ayotte didn't have any tough questions—or any questions, at all—about the matter.

Sen. John McCain Chides Air Force Leaders Over Retirement of A-10 Fleet
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
The Arizona Republican noted that Congress had yet to receive a "comprehensive, detailed plan" on what aircraft might replace the A-10.

House Markup Cuts 1 LCS, Supports 11 Carriers
(Defense News: Christopher Cavas)
As expected, the mark supports a full 11-carrier fleet and opposes the Navy's desire to decommission the aircraft carrier George Washington.

Support for Military Aid to Egypt Is Dropping in Senate
(The New York Times: Jonathan Weisman)
It presents a major challenge to an Obama administration that has guarded its foreign policy prerogative from congressional interference.

Senior U.S. Lawmaker Blocks Aid for Egyptian Military
(Reuters: Patricia Zengerle)
Sen. Patrick Leahy denounced a "sham trial" in which a court sentenced 683 people to death.

Senators Ask Again: What About Benghazi?
(CBS News: Stephanie Condon)
A trio of Republican senators wants a pair of committees to hold additional hearings to probe the way the Obama White House publicly reacted to the attack.


Obama to Meet With Australian Leader in June
(USA Today: David Jackson)
The president will meet with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the new U.S.-Australia defense agreement

23 Nations Heading to Hawaii for RIMPAC as Exercise Details Emerge
(The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Those include China's participation for the first time as some raise concerns that forays by the rising Asian power.

South Korea: North Holds Live-Fire Drills at Sea
(Associated Press: Jung-Yoon Choi)
It's a possible indication of rising frustration in Pyongyang as it pushes unsuccessfully for outside aid.


Turkey's Erdogan Calls on U.S. to Extradite Rival Gulen
(Reuters: Gulsen Solaker)
Fethullah Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Israelis and Palestinians Play Blame Game as Deadline for Peace Deal Expires
(Time: Karl Vick)
Neither side expected the effort championed by Secretary of State John Kerry to result in an agreement.

Palestinian Deal Will Not Make Hamas Change: Veteran Leader
(Reuters: Crispian Balmer, Nidal Al-Mughrabi)
Palestinian unity deal will not lead Islamist group Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Group: Israel Upped Settlement Work During Talks
(Associated Press: Josef Federman
Peace Now cited Israel's construction surge as a key reason for failure.


U.S. Announces New Enforcement of Iran Sanctions
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone)
The government also offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Li Fangwei.

U.S. Offers Bounty for Chinese Businessman Linked to Iran Missiles
(The Wall Street Journal: Devlin Barrett, Jay Solomon)
Authorities offer $5 million reward for Li Fangwei, who is accused of selling missile parts to Iran.


How Do You Teach an Old Gun New Tricks?
(Foreign Policy: Yochi Dreazen, Shane Harris, Dan Lamothe)
The CIA wants to use fingerprint scanners and GPS devices to make sure Syria's rebels target Assad -- not the West.

Suspected Chlorine Attacks in Syria to Be Investigated
(The New York Times: Nick Cumming-Bruce)
It was unclear from the statement precisely when the investigation would start, but it said that Syria had "agreed to accept this mission."


Afghanistan Corruption Fostered by U.S., Pentagon Found
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The newly disclosed assessment by the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis division of the Joint Staff provides a more candid assessment of the underlying causes. 

Karzai: U.K., U.S. Still Run Illegal Detention Centers
(Associated Press: Rahim Faiez)
The flare-up is the latest rift between Karzai and his ostensible allies, who have been frustrated with the president's increasingly anti-American rhetoric.


DOD Under Fire for Farming Out Sex-Assault Survey
(Politico: Darren Samuelsohn)
Pentagon officials confirmed they've entered into a deal with the Rand Corp. to take over the biennial study of gender issues for active duty military members.

Takai to Leave Pentagon Post
(Defense News: Amber Corrin)
Takai submitted her resignation to Secretary Chuck Hagel, to take effect May 3.

Hagel Seeks Review of Military Policies on Hairstyles
(The New York Times: Helene Cooper)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was responding to complaints lodged by the 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus about an Army ban on large cornrows, twists and dreadlocks.

Pentagon Spending May Be Capped, But Some Wishes Can Still Come True
(The Washington Post: Christian Davenport)
A list that allows Congress to fund certain programs gives nixed projects another chance.


Leaders Encourage Active-Duty Airmen to Go to Reserves
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
The Air Force by the end of 2014 expects to have evaluated 80 percent of its force, on a mission-by-mission basis, to see where it can transfer more active-duty jobs to Guard and Reserve airmen.

Review of Nuclear Force May Be Model for AF-Wide Morale Study
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
Initial recommendations from airmen focus on ways to increase incentive pay and accolades.

Cody: Airmen Must Stand Up to Sexual Assault
(Air Force Times: Stephen Losey)
Military service members filed more than 5,000 reports of sexual assault in fiscal 2013.

Air Force Cameraman Gets Two Years for Lewd Acts at Bible Camp
(Air Force Times: Kristin Davis)
Former Airman 1st Class Nathan Wilson-Crow was also reduced to E-1 and must forfeit all pay and allowances.

AFA Sergeant Charged With Taking Restroom Video
(Colorado Springs Gazette: Tom Roeder)
An Air Force Academy sergeant faces up to a year behind bars this week at a court-martial.


Navy Secretary Fields Questions From the Fleet
(Stars and Stripes: Steven Beardsley)
Deployments are up, the budget is down, and retirement benefits will remain untouched.

Former Linguist for Navy Pleads Guilty to Taking Classified Reports in Bahrain
(Stars and Stripes: Hendrick Simoes)
James Hitselberger was observed printing multiple pages of classified situation reports and leaving the building with the documents hidden in a dictionary in his backpack.

Two Former Navy SEALs Found Dead on Ship in Seychelles Died of Heroin, Alcohol Mixture
(Associated Press)
The two Americans—Mark Daniel Kennedy and Jeffrey Keith Reynolds—were security contractors providing antipiracy service.


Soldier Accused of Killing Two Iraqi Teens Waits for Word on Court-Martial
(The Tacoma News Tribune: Adam Ashton)
Murder carries a mandatory minimum life sentence under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.


White House: Veterans Health Funding Too Low in House Bill
(The Hill: Erik Wasson)
It also said the bill should provide $50 million more for information technology.

Phoenix VA Leaders Say They Are Unaware of Secret Waiting List
(The Wall Street Journal: Ben Kesling)
And leaders said no one has shown them the names of the 40 patients alleged to have died while waiting for primary-care appointments.

First Lady Announcing Pledges for Veterans, Families
(Associated Press: Nancy Benac)
First Lady Michelle Obama is announcing pledges in excess of $150 million from foundations and corporations.

Reports Back Op-Ed Linking Vets to Hate Groups
( Bryant Jordan)
Veterans groups read the op-ed as an attack on military veterans.

Sources: Exchange Eyes Opening Online Store to All Vets
(Army Times: Karen Jowers)
That would open the online store to about 20 million veterans.

Overseas Military Service Costing Some Veterans Their LQA
(Stars and Stripes: Matt Millham)
Like hundreds of Defense Department employees overseas, Stephen Fitzgerald is about to lose his housing allowance.


Check Out This New Wish List for U.S. Special Ops
(Time: Mark Thompson)
High on their list: a "Concealable/Take Down Urban Sniper Rifle."


Shooting Death of Vermont Guardsman Investigated
(Burlington Free Press: Elizabeth Murray Sam Hemingway)
The death of combat veteran Kryn Miner involved a second person and is under "active investigation" by police.


Kerry to Promote Peace, Sanctions in South Sudan
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
Kerry is bringing his two main tools of diplomacy to Africa this week.

Kerry: U.S. Wants Egypt to Succeed as a Democracy
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Secretary of State John Kerry is asking Egypt's interim government to address recent "disturbing" developments in the country's judicial system and prove its commitment to democracy.


NATO Exercise Scenario: Naval Response to Invasion of Allied Country
(Stars and Stripes)
A NATO exercise beginning this week in Spain will imagine a naval response to the invasion of an allied country.


Milder View of Suspect in U.S. Case on Terror
(The New York Times: Benjamin Weiser)
Ahmed Abassi, who prosecutors in Manhattan once said had spoken of killing 100,000 people, was offered a plea bargain that could lead to a sentence of six months.


Not Getting Through to Mr. Putin
(The New York Times)
The additional sanctions imposed on Russia are justified, but they are unlikely to change the aggressive behavior of the Russians.

Security Insiders: NATO Unprepared to Counter Newly Aggressive Russia
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
A whopping three-quarters of National Journal's National Security Insiders said the NATO alliance is not prepared to counter a newly aggressive Russia.

The U.S. Army's Asia Opportunity
(The National Interest: Rep. Randy Forbes)
The Army must consider concepts and capabilities that will allow it to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in critical regions like the Asia-Pacific.

A Mixed-Fleet Approach
(Defense News: Sen. Rob Portman)
Stryker-Bradley pairing is best armored vehicle solution for Army.

Save the Carrier, Sink the LCS
(Real Clear Defense: Everett Pyatt)
Inactivate a carrier, save the littoral combat ship? It sounds crazy, but that is the current budget plan.

Better Buying Power 4 Years On: Is It Making a Difference?
(Defense One: Frank Kendall)
I believe the answer is a "qualified yes.

What Science Says About Gender and PTSD
(Army Magazine: John Crawford)
While there were important differences in the types of trauma men and women went through, there were also many similarities.

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