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Iran Nuke Deal Starts Jan. 20, Obama to Unveil NSA Changes This Week, FY14 Defense Bill Complete Iran Nuke Deal Starts Jan. 20, Obama to Unveil NSA Changes This Week, ...

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Iran Nuke Deal Starts Jan. 20, Obama to Unveil NSA Changes This Week, FY14 Defense Bill Complete

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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Iran Nuclear Deal to Take Effect Jan. 20, Officials Say
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon, Eric Schmitt)
In return for freezing much of Iran's program, the United States and its negotiating partners will provide Iran with billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions.

Obama to Announce NSA Decisions on Jan. 17
(Associated Press)
Ahead of his speech, President Obama has been meeting with lawmakers, intelligence officials, technology companies and privacy groups.


Congress Readies 3-Day CR; Full Defense Bill is Complete
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Congressional appropriators have completed a full 2014 Pentagon spending bill that will be part of a massive government appropriations measure, sources say.

Kerry "Confident" That Opposition Groups Will Attend Syria Talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he was confident that Syrian opposition groups would attend peace talks in Switzerland later this month.

Obama Honors Sharon's Dedication to Israel, Biden to Go to Funeral
(Reuters: Steve Holland, Will Dunham)
Obama called Ariel Sharon - who died at age 85 on Saturday - "a leader who dedicated his life to the state of Israel."

Air Force Drug Inquiry Grows
(Associated Press)
An Air Force investigation into drug use has expanded to include 10 officers at six bases.



Iran to Get First $550 Million of Blocked $4.2 Billion on February 1
Under a November 24 nuclear agreement, six major powers agreed to give Iran access to $4.2 billion in revenues blocked overseas if it carries out the deal.

Iran Nuclear Bill Would Have Consequences, Nuclear Chief Says
(Reuters: Babak Dehghanpisheh)
Iran will have no choice but to step up its uranium enrichment if a bill now moving through parliament is approved, even though it has no current need for such highly-enriched uranium.

Iran Nuke Deal Reached — Just In Time for Congress to Kill It
(Foreign Policy: Colum Lynch, John Hudson)
With Iran, and six world powers reaching an agreement, the question now becomes: will the U.S. Congress wind up torpedoing the deal by piling on new economic sanctions?

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Inside the White House War on Dems
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
The Obama administration is going to war with its own party to save its peace talks with Iran.

U.N. Watchdog Eyes Increased Iran Presence to Verify Nuclear Deal
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
The U.N. atomic watchdog is considering increasing its presence in Iran to better handle an extra workload in verifying Tehran is carrying out a deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program, diplomats said.

Families of Seal Team Six Disaster Suing Iran for $600 Million
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
Problem is, the families don't at the moment have much in the way of direct evidence to implicate Iran in the shootdown of a CH-47D Chinook helicopter.


Friends Of Syria Group Urges Opposition To Attend Geneva Talks
(Reuters: John Irish, Warren Strobel)
With 10 days to go until the first direct talks between the opposition and President Bashar al-Assad's government, Western backers have struggled to unify rebel groups.

Low Expectations for Syrian Peace Talks
(Associated Press)
In its last-ditch attempt to get moderate Syrian opposition groups to the negotiating table, the U.S. faces the prospect that a no-show wouldn't be such a bad thing.

U.S. Says Iran Won't Attend Peace Talks on Syria
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
American officials say Iran has made no effort to use its influence to get the Syrian government to cease bombing and allow humanitarian aid.

Foreign Ministers Slam Assad Ahead of Peace Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry, Inti Landauro)
An alliance of Western and mostly Arab countries pressed Syria's opposition on Sunday to attend a peace conference scheduled for this month.

U.S. Antiterrorism Laws a Hurdle for Syrian Refugees
(The Wall Street Journal: Miriam Jordan)
U.S. plans to resettle thousands of Syrians displaced by their country's civil war could hinge on those refugees receiving exemptions from laws aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the country.

Italy To Host Syrian Weapons Transfer Despite Local Opposition
(Reuters: Steve Scherer)
Italy will honor a pledge to host the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal despite growing domestic opposition and this week will name the commercial port where the handover will take place.


U.S. Officials Say Maliki Seems Ready to Listen on Aid, Outreach
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Ernesto Londoño)
The administration has moved to rush additional arms and intelligence to Iraq, much of which Maliki had previously rejected

Arms Sale Debate Erupts as Fallujah Falls
(Defense News: Paul McLeary, John Bennett)
Weapon sales to Iraq have become entangled in sharply escalated political debate.

Iraqi PM Says He Won't Order Assault on Fallujah
(CBS News)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday ruled out a military assault on Fallujah.

Republicans Seek Support for Iraq
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Republican lawmakers Sunday called on the Obama administration to step up the training, logistics support and arm sales being offered to the Iraqi government.

Sen. John McCain: Send Petraeus back to Iraq
(CNN: Ashley Killough)
The Arizona Republican also weighed in on a new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

U.S. Ambivalence Runs Deep as Iraq Violence Revives
(Los Angeles Times: David Cloud)
U.S. considers ways to battle al-Qaida-linked militants without adding to the huge toll of American lives lost in the eight-year Iraq war.


The NSA's Collection of Phone Data Prevents Few Terror Attacks, Group Says
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima)
A study finds that traditional law enforcement usually provides the tip or evidence for an investigation.

Behind Spy Agencies Is a Hard-Edged Man Who Defends Them — With Vigor
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller, Adam Goldman)
Attorney Robert S. Litt has led an unusually high-profile response to the Edward Snowden leaks.

Privary Board Shares Findings With Obama
(Associated Press)
The independent oversight board reviewing the U.S. government's surveillance programs briefed President Barack Obama last week.  

Acquitted in Court, Still Blacklisted by the U.S.
(Foreign Policy: Jamila Trindle)
The United States sanctioned Ante Gotovina when he was a fugitive fleeing war crimes charges. Now he's a free man, but still on the list.

Democratic Trio Outlines Proposed NSA Changes
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
The letter from Sens. Martin Heinrich, Mark Udall, and Ron Wyden calls for the creation of a "public interest advocate" for proceedings at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.


How New Mexico's Sen. Heinrich Came to Be a Critic of NSA
(McClatchy: Ali Watkins)
It was uncharted territory for New Mexico's junior Democratic senator, who isn't given to bombastic statements or quick opinions.

Senator Cites Need to Stem Tide of Wasteful Government Spending
(Stars and Stripes: J. Taylor Rushing)
Legislation may be coming in the Senate this year from a Republican senator who is fed up with waste at the Pentagon.


Q. and A. With John Kerry
(The New York Times: Jeff Klein)
If President Obama is the nation's highest-ranking recreational basketball player, then Secretary of State John Kerry is probably the top hockey player.


Pentagon Seeks To Protect R&D Funding in '15 Budget
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber, Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
Senior Pentagon leaders are trying to protect vulnerable research and development funding in the fiscal 2015 budget plan.

The Pentagon's Grumpy Old Man
(Politico: Rosa Brooks)
Bob Gates was right about the White House. Why didn't he speak out when it counted?

Report: Sexism Part of Military Academies' Culture
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
Students at the U.S. military academies often believe they have to put up with sexist and offensive behavior, a Pentagon report finds.

2 Strategies For Women In Combat
(Army Times: Lance Bacon)
The Army's effort to open combat jobs to women is gaining momentum, while Marine counterparts are slowing down to regroup after being forced to scrap new female fitness standards.


Taliban Talks Going Nowhere Despite Secret Meets
(Associated Press)
Secret contacts are again reported to be underway for an Afghanistan peace deal, but neither analysts nor the insurgents see hope they will succeed.

Memoir Complicates Afghan Security Deal
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Excerpts from former Defense Secretary Gates's memoir have increased mistrust.

Child's Killing In Helmand Province Adds To U.S.-Afghan Frictions
(Los Angeles Times: Carol Williams)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday condemned the killing of a 4-year-old boy this week during a security patrol by international forces.


Biden to Meet Israel's Netanyahu During Visit for Sharon Funeral
(Reuters: Matt Spetalnick)
Vice President Joe Biden will hold talks with Israeli leaders during a visit to the Jewish state as head of a U.S. delegation to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral on Monday, Biden's office said.

Hey General, It's Me, Chuck. Again.
(Politico: Shadi Hamid)
Since the July 3 military coup in Egypt, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has spoken to General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi more than 25 times.

Obama's Grand Plan for Mideast Shrinks
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Five years after pledging to remake the U.S. relationship with the broader Middle East and improve America's image in the Muslim world, the Obama administration's regional strategy appears to have come unhinged.


South Korea to Contribute $867 Million for U.S. Military Forces in 2014
U.S. and South Korean officials have struck a five-year cost sharing plan for 28,500 U.S. troops in the country after a series of negotiations since early last year.

Japan Looks to Join India, U.S. in Naval Exercise
(Stars and Stripes: Erik Slavin)
The Japanese Self-Defense Force wants to join an annual sea drill held by the United States and India later this year, according to Indian media reports.

India Expels U.S. Diplomat
(The Washington Post: Rama Lakshmi, Karen DeYoung)
Ouster is latest retaliation for indictment of Indian consular officer on charges of visa fraud involving a domestic worker.

Tense Talks With U.S. Agencies Up Until Indian Diplomat Departed
(The New York Times: Benjamin Weiser)
The lawyer for Devyani Khobragade described delicate negotiations with the State and Justice Departments up to her final hours in New York.

U.S. Biological Weapons Tested in Okinawa in '60s
(Agence France-Presse)
The Army conducted field experiments of biological weapons, which could harm rice cropping, in the Japanese island of Okinawa in the early 1960s, a press report said Sunday.


GD, Israel Renegotiate Troop Carrier Deal to Cut U.S. Production
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
General Dynamics Land Systems is renegotiating a 2011 contract with Israel that will likely include penalties due to budget-driven cuts in the number of heavy troop carrier kits Israel agreed to buy from the firm.

Honeywell Acknowledges Federal Investigation Into Fighter Jet Parts Made in China
(Associated Press)
The government inquiry involves electronics that Honeywell manufactured for the government's new F-35 fighter planes.

Former Pentagon Deputy Beth McGrath Joins Deloitte
(Government Executive: Charles Clark)
As the Pentagon's chief performance improvement officer, McGrath worked to better integrate business operations with the department's national security mission.

Northrop Grumman Wins Marine Corps C2 contract
(Defense News: Michael Peck)
Northrop Grumman has won a $7.3 million contract to support the Marine Corps' AN/TYQ-23(V)4 Tactical Air Operations Module.


After Deaths of 2 Navy Divers, a Court-Martial
(The Washington Post: Michael Ruane)
The two divers, tethered to each other and to a surface line, apparently got caught on something below.

New Carrier Plagued by Problems in Test Phase
(Stars and Stripes)
The U.S. Navy's newest aircraft carrier, a multibillion-dollar behemoth that is the first in a next generation of carriers, is beset with performance problems.

Hagel Told New Carrier Unlikely to Meet Aircraft Goals
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was warned last month that the U.S. Navy's new aircraft carrier, the most expensive warship ever built, is "unlikely" to meet its goal for handling aircraft.

This Is the Navy Helicopter Most Likely to Accidentally Kill You
(War Is Boring: David Axe)
MH-53E minesweeper has accident rate at least three times normal.

Sexual Assault Charges Dropped at Annapolis
(The New York Times: Thom Shanker)
The decision to drop the charges came as the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at the three service academies.


AFA Accounts for Majority of Academy Sex Assaults
( Richard Sisk)
More than two-thirds of the sexual assaults reported at the military academies in academic year 2012-13 occurred at the Air Force Academy.


DoD Makes It Official: Budget Cuts Will Shrink Army to 420,000 Soldiers
(Inside Defense)
Pentagon leaders have issued internal guidance putting the Army on a path to reducing its active-duty ranks to 420,000 soldiers by fiscal year 2019.

Defense Secretary Gives Go-Ahead to Army's Planned Aviation Restructure
(Inside Defense)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved an Army plan to restructure its aviation forces.

US Plans Radical Upgrade of Stryker Brigades
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
If the U.S. Army can manage to keep its future budgets in line with current projections, the service will transform all nine of its Stryker brigades into the heavily armored "double V-hull" configuration.


Marine Corps Unveils New Height, Fitness Standards for Embassy Guards
(Marine Corps Times: Gina Harkins)
Marines wishing to become embassy security guards must meet a host of new criteria.

Four More Women Drop Out of Marine Infantry Officer Course
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
It brings the number of women who have attempted and failed to complete the course to 14.


U.S. Advisers Sent to Help Somalia Fight the Shabab
(The New York Times: Eric Schmitt)
Three military advisers were deployed to Somalia last month to help provide logistics, planning and communication assistance to forces combating the Islamic militant group.

Terror Designation for Ansar al Shariah Won't Quiet Benghazi Debate
(McClatchy: Nancy Youssef)
In assigning the three Ansar al Shariah groups labels as foreign terrorist organizations the State Department went out of its way to make certain they were seen as separate groups.


Vets Groups Slam Obama Administration's Proposed VA Disability Filing Rule
(Associated Press)
The Department of Veterans Affairs says the many ways that requests for disability compensation arrive actually hamper its ability to administer benefits.

Unemployment Rate for Vets Dropped in December
(Military Times: George Altman)
The unemployment rate for Post-9/11 veterans, as well as for the vet population as a whole, fell sharply in December.

Military Officers Group Helps Veterans in Filing for Benefits
(Stars and Stripes: Leo Shane III)
For the first time in four years, a new national advocacy group has stepped up to help veterans prepare their benefits paperwork and reduce the VA's still problematic claims backlog.


Arctic Passage Opens Challenges for U.S. Military
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Thinning polar ice expected to give way to new commercial waterways and resource-rich frontier.


Treading Water on Syria
(The New York Times)
It may be time to resume nonlethal aid to moderate rebels.

Snowden's Damage
(The Wall Street Journal)
The bulk of stolen NSA documents concern ongoing military ops.

Increased Security for Nuclear Materials
(The New York Times)
There has been progress, but at a nuclear summit meeting in March, world leaders can do more to make the world safer.

Ariel Sharon
(The Wall Street Journal)
The daring general and political leader who defended Israel.

Ariel Sharon's life a metaphor for Israel's
(USA Today)
It is a lesson in whether the ends justify the means.

The Wars of Robert Gates
(The Wall Street Journal: Robert Gates)
On Afghanistan, Obama was caught between his generals' advice and his advisers' political worries.

Running the Pentagon Right
(Foreign Affairs: Ashton Carter)
How to get the troops what they need.

How Obama Is Losing South Sudan
(The Washington Post: Rep. Frank Wolf)
But George W. Bush could help save it.

National Journal's Early Bird is not produced by or officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. It was created to serve the defense community upon U.S. DoD's announcement, on Nov 1, 2013, of its decision to discontinue the much-beloved Early Bird news report.

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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Keeps me informed about national leadership concerns."

Senior Military Officer

The best!"

Mark, Compensation Analyst

Timely and informative."

Dave, HR specialist

I can browse over breakfast or while on the metro."

AJ, US Army Officer

Sign up form for the newsletter
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