By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)
Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Panel Approves $491B Defense Bill
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
The measure, which passed by voice vote, could reach the House floor as soon as next week.
After Bergdahl Briefing, Senators Still Doubtful on Prisoner Swap
(The New York Times: Jonathan Weisman)
The administration appeared to make little headway in defusing the festering political controversy that has again pitted the administration against Republicans—and some Democrats.
B-1 Air Strike Could Affect A-10 Debate
(Politico: Jeremy Herb, Philip Ewing)
A suspected friendly-fire air strike in Afghanistan that killed five U.S. special operators could have reverberations on Capitol Hill and in the fight over the future of the A-10 Warthog.
Air Force Launching Fixes to Nuke Missiles Corps
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
The Air Force is launching an ambitious campaign to repair flaws in its nuclear missile corps.
House Appropriators Easily Kill Measure to Save A-10 Fleet
(Air Force Times: John Bennett)
The Committee broke with the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which last month used budgetary cuts from elsewhere in the Pentagon's budget to keep the A-10s.
VA Bill Could Pass Senate by Week's End
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
The Senate could move ahead at breakneck pace on bipartisan legislation to address the VA scandal—after just as swiftly voting to block a partisan student-loan refinancing bill.
U.S. House of Representatives Approves VA Bill
Eager to respond to a national uproar, House approves bill to allow patients enduring long waits to get outside care.
VA Bills Progressing Quickly in Congress
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks, Ed O'Keefe)
Congress is moving uncharacteristically fast to address the Department of Veterans Affairs' scheduling crisis.
Lawmakers Reject 'Legal End' to Iraq War
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday batted down two pieces of legislation on authorizations for use of military force.
Hagel Testifies on Taliban Prisoner Swap
(Associated Press: Bradley Klapper)
Defense Secretary Hagel will face angry lawmakers as he becomes the first Obama administration official to testify publicly about the controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban.
Warning Preceded Bergdahl Exchange
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes, Siobhan Gorman)
U.S. spy officials predicted before the swap for Bergdahl that two freed detainees would return to top Taliban posts.
Ambassadorial Nominations Hearing — With Taliban as Subtext — May Come With Fireworks
(The Washington Post: Al Kamen, Colby Itkowitz)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee may bring us early Fourth of July fireworks at a hearing over three ambassadorial nominees.
John Boehner: 'Americans Less Safe' After Prisoner Swap
(Politico: Jake Sherman)
Speaker John Boehner said that people would die because of President Obama's decision to swap five Guantánamo Bay detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Boehner: White House Told Us About Bin Laden, Why Not Bergdahl?
(National Journal: Sarah Mimms)
The House speaker says the administration never told Congress members that it had decided on a five-to-one trade.
Senator: Bergdahl Deal Sealed Day Before Swap
(Associated Press: Bradley Klapper, Donna Cassata)
Sen. Dick Durbin presented the timeline as an explanation for why Obama didn't inform Congress 30 days before the May 31 prisoner trade.
Obama, Not Hagel, Responsible for Bergdahl, Says White House
(The Hill: Justin Sink)
The White House sought to deflect charges from congressional Republicans that the administration was trying to pin blame on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for the trade.
Ukraine Plans to Open Corridors for Civilians to Flee Violence in East
(The New York Times: David Herszenhorn)
Poroshenko ordered the creation of escape corridors on Tuesday for civilians who want to flee the violence-torn eastern part of the country.
Airmen Participate in Joint Exercises in Poland, Baltic Nations
(Air Force Times: Oriana Pawlyk)
The Air Force is providing fighter aircraft for Exercise Baltic Operations, or BALTOPS 2014, the largest multinational maritime exercise this year in the Baltic Sea.
Poland Urges Russia to Control Its Border With Ukraine
(Reuters: Gabriela Baczynska)
Poland called on Russia on Tuesday to help defuse the crisis in Ukraine by preventing militants and weapons from crossing into the eastern part of the country.
Russia's FSB: Bomb Attacks Foiled in Moscow, Crimea
(Reuters: Mark Trevelyan)
Details of the alleged plots could not be verified but the FSB's statements could be intended to fuel nationalist sentiment during the Ukraine crisis and rally support for President Putin.
NATO Chief Hopes for Summit Pledge to Raise Defense Spending
(Reuters: Adrian Croft)
The United States, which dominates the Western military bloc, has used the Ukraine crisis to raise pressure on its European allies to reverse a slide in defense spending.
Iran Questions Nuclear Deal Deadline as Talks 'Hit Wall'
(Reuters: Stephanie Nebehay, John Irish)
Iran's talks with six major powers on curbing its nuclear program in exchange for an end to Western sanctions could be extended for six months.
U.S. and Iran Meet in Geneva to Talk Nukes
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
This latest round of meetings comes after last month's sessions ended with negotiators far apart on the key issue of the eventual size of Iran's uranium enrichment program.
France Says Iran Must Budge on Centrifuges for Talks to Succeed
(Reuters: John Irish)
Iran must drop its demands to have thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium if it wants a lasting deal with major powers over its disputed nuclear programme.
Assad Tops List of Syria War-Crimes Suspects Handed to ICC: Former Prosecutor
(Reuters: Stephanie Nebehay)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tops a list of 20 sample war-crimes indictments of government officials and rebels drafted by experts for eventual prosecution.
U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan
(The New York Times)
The Department of Defense has identified 2,311 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations.
Pakistan Hits Taliban After New Attack
(The Wall Street Journal: Saeed Shah, Syed Shoaib Hasan)
Pakistan launched airstrikes against hide-outs of militants in the tribal areas, as security forces repelled a fresh attack near Karachi airport.
U.S. Official Urges Nations to Cool Tensions in South China Sea
(The Wall Street Journal: Yuka Hayashi)
Official says nations should stay away from unoccupied land; calls for China, Vietnam to withdraw ships.
China Looks to U.N. in Vietnam Spat
(The Wall Street Journal: Trefor Moss)
Despite Beijing's shunning of international forums for dispute resolution, China asked the U.N. to spread its position paper on its standoff with Vietnam over an oil rig in disputed waters.
China Heads to Joint Naval Exercises With U.S.
It's a rare opportunity to build trust with the U.S. and regional rivals including the Philippines and Japan.
Sunni Militants Drive Iraqi Army Out of Mosul
(The New York Times: Suadad Al-Salhy, Kareem Fahim, Rick Gladstone)
The insurgent attacks were among the most audacious assaults on the Iraqi government since the American military withdrawal more than two years ago.
WH Condemns Insurgent Takeover of Iraqi City
(The Hill: Justin Sink)
The White House condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the seizure of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, by an Islamist offshoot of al-Qaida.
U.S. Urges Iraqi Unity to Defeat Violent Insurgency
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
The United States is pondering whether the violent march could be slowed with new leadership in Baghdad after years of divisive policies pushed by the Shiite prime minister.
DOD Struggles With Readiness Spending
(Politico: Austin Wright, Jeremy Herb, Philip Ewing)
As members of Congress prepare this year's annual defense legislation, the Pentagon is worried lawmakers have lost sight of one of its top priorities: readiness.
Why POW/MIA Numbers Dropped
(USA Today: Scott Sigmund Gartner)
Technology, tactical strength, less jungle combat benefit our troops in recent wars.
Army Allocates $110M for Rock Island Arsenal
U.S. lawmakers from Illinois and Iowa say the Rock Island Arsenal will receive $110 million to help it adapt and compete for new work.
Man Arrested in Death of Fort Bragg Soldier
A Hoke County man has been arrested and charged with killing a Fort Bragg soldier during a break-in at his home last October.
Air Force Wants Four-Star Nuke Commander
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
The Air Force wants to upgrade Global Strike Command from a three-star to a four-star billet and add 1,100 people to the organization.
Bonus Pay Is Part of Air Force Nuke Force Reforms
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
The Air Force intends to offer bonus money and other incentives to members of its nuclear missile corps as part of a broader plan to fix what ails the force.
Official Backs Marines' Move to Classify Photos of Forces With Taliban Bodies
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
Obama's executive order governing secrecy bars use of the classification system to cover up illegal or embarrassing conduct.
Supreme Court Verdict to Affect Lejeune Water Contamination Victims
(Jacksonville Daily News: Thomas Brennan)
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling could prevent those affected by contaminated drinking water aboard Camp Lejeune from filing or pursuing a lawsuit.
Navy Sub Returns From Rare 'Surge' Deployment
(Associated Press: Michael Melia)
A Navy submarine has returned to its Connecticut base from a rare spur-of-the-moment deployment, completing a secret 11-week mission that sent it to European waters.
Grandson Charged With Stealing Admiral's Navy Documents
(The Washington Post: Ann Marimow)
Some of the items, which helped form Samuel Eliot Morison's WWII Navy history, were on eBay.
Lockheed Says It Can 'Easily' Improve LCS
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
In the race to replace the Navy's controversial Littoral Combat Ship, the leading contender seems to be … a better Littoral Combat Ship.
VA Report Provides Lessons to Other Agencies on What Not to Do; Stress on Metrics Risky
(The Washington Post: Joe Davidson)
The Department of Veterans Affairs' report on outrageous waits for veterans seeking health care provides lessons that reach well beyond this one agency.
Vacancies at VA's Top Add to Agency's Problems
(The Wall Street Journal: Ben Kesling, Colleen Mccain Nelson)
Unfilled posts lead to a management vacuum.
Vets Flood American Legion Seeking Help With Care
(Associated Press: Emaun Kashfi)
Vietnam veteran Gene Stoesser has been waiting nearly two months for an appointment with a Veterans Affairs doctor to schedule his heart surgery.
Report: Benefits Claims Related to Sexual Assault Treated Unevenly
(Military Times: Leo Shane III)
Veterans Affairs benefits workers are still wildly inconsistent in their handling of claims related to military sexual assault despite years of emphasis on the issue.
VA Docs Want More Support, Less Paper
(The Washington Post: Joe Davidson)
With all the talk about problems at the Veterans Affairs Department, agency doctors wish someone would listen to them.
Shortcomings Found in Local VA Hospitals, Clinics
(The Virginian-Pilot: Corinne Reilly)
The Hampton VA medical center was not flagged, but the center's director said the review there uncovered a key shortcoming.
Virginia Signs Plan to End Veteran Homelessness
Virginia has entered into a national agreement aimed at ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
Fears in Wake of Coast Guard Sex Assaults
(San Francisco Chronicle: Vivian Ho)
A hearing highlighted the devastation of sexual assault in the armed forces, a crime military leaders have called a cancer in the ranks.
The World's Most Powerful Jihadist: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
(The Washington Post: Terrence McCoy)
With the capture of Mosul, this man is being called the heir to bin Laden.
For U.S., Splinter Groups Are Now a Larger Worry Than al-Qaida
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan, Dan Lamothe)
From Iraq to Syria, radical offshoots are directly threatening American national security interests.
Congress Tells DARPA: Conduct Research Into Preventing Amputations From the Start
(Roll Call: Tim Starks)
Not that the committee thinks research into prosthetics should be set aside; the report also has a section on "intelligent prosthetics."
Obama Calls New Egyptian President to Congratulate Him: White House
(Reuters: Steve Holland)
The White House said Obama called Sisi to congratulate him on his inauguration and "to convey his commitment to working together to advance the shared interests of both countries."
Report: Give U.S. NORTHCOM Sole Arctic Oversight
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
The division of Arctic responsibility between two U.S. geographic unified commands could slow the Pentagon's ability to develop military requirements in the region.
The Right Didn't Mind When Bush Paid a Ransom to Terrorists
(The Daily Beast: Michael Tomasky)
Republicans are howling (with no proof) that Obama paid a ransom for Bowe Bergdahl's freedom. Funny. They weren't howling when Bush actually did it.
Grading the White House on Bergdahl
(War on the Rocks: Ryan Evans)
On managing the message for the Bergdahl swap, the National Security Council team gets an F.
The Fall of Mosul
(The Wall Street Journal)
A strategic disaster assisted by Obama's withdrawal from Iraq.
The U.S. Is Sending More Heavy-Duty Weapons to Iraq. But Is It Too Late?
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
The deals come as some critics question whether it is wise to continue outfitting the Iraqi military.
Why the Terrorists Are Winning in Iraq—and How That Could Cost Them Everything
(The Daily Beast: Jacob Siegel)
The Islamists too extreme for al-Qaida have scored their biggest victory yet. But the price of victory could be a giant target on their backs.
Arm Syria's Opposition
(The New York Times: Robert Ford)
We must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.
Why Are We So Afraid of Small Carriers?
(Real Clear Defense: Robert Farley)
The dangerous aircraft carrier definitional.
China and America: At a Dangerous Tipping Point
(The National Interest: James Clad, Robert Manning)
The notion of a cooperative U.S.-Chinese economic relationship, balanced by security hedging, has run aground.
A Plan to Counter Chinese Aggression
(The Wall Street Journal: Ely Ratner)
The U.S. will have to do more than keep its policy on autopilot and hope for the region to push back against Beijing
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