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.
McKeon to Roll Out Last NDAA Next Week
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The Armed Services panel will release the proposed text of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act Tuesday.
Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Japan on Tour of Asia
(Reuters: Mark Felsenthal, Linda Sieg)
President Barack Obama assured ally Japan that Washington was committed to its defense, including of tiny isles at the heart of a row with China, but denied he had drawn any new "red line."
Taliban Ready to Deal on Captive U.S. Soldier?
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
The captors of an American soldier held for nearly five years in Afghanistan have signaled a willingness to release him but are unclear which U.S. government officials have the authority to make a deal.
Pentagon Dossier to Detail Secretive U.S. Afghan Detainee Policy
(Reuters: Missy Ryan)
The White House will soon provide Congress a dossier on about 50 non-Afghan detainees in a U.S. military prison north of Kabul.
Obama Poised for New Sanctions on Russia if No Progress on Ukraine
(Reuters: Mark Felsenthal, Alissa De Carbonnel)
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expects "the Geneva accords will be implemented in practical actions in the near future."
Eastern Europe Frets About NATO's Ability to Curb Russia
(The New York Times: Steven Erlanger)
NATO's Eastern European members are growing increasingly nervous about Russia's moves and the alliance's ability, or even willingness, to counter them.
Russia: U.S. 'Running the Show' in Ukraine
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he finds it peculiar that Ukraine's counterrorism operation was revived after Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Kiev.
Amid Russian Warning, Ukraine's in a Security Bind
(Associated Press: Yuras Karmanau)
Lavrov warned that Russia would mount a firm response if its citizens or interests come under attack in Ukraine.
U.S. Military Exercises to Begin in Eastern Europe
(The New York Times: Dan Bilefsky)
The exercises, a response to events in Ukraine, reflect the United States' deep commitment to collective defense within the NATO alliance.
U.S. Paratroops Arrive in Poland Amid Tensions With Russia
(Stars and Stripes: Nancy Montgomery)
It's the first in a series of rotational deployments, to last about a month, for training exercises that will continue through the year and possibly beyond.
Interview: Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland's Minister of Defense
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Siemoniak said a focus should put on America's presence in Europe.
China Rejects Obama's Statement on Islets Disputed With Japan
(Reuters: Ben Blanchard)
A chain of islets disputed by China and Japan belong to China regardless of what anyone says, China said.
China Splurging on Military as U.S. Pulls Back
(Associated Press: Christopher Bodeen)
China's navy commissioned 17 new warships last year, the most of any nation.
Obama Discusses the 'Pacific Pivot,' Okinawa Presence
(The Yomiuri Shimbun)
The president said the United States is working to move many U.S. forces to Guam and Hawaii.
Pacific Rim Deal Could Reduce Chances of Conflict in Contested Seas
(The New York Times: Austin Ramzy, Chris Buckley)
But Beijing's firm rejection Wednesday of President Obama's comments about islands claimed by both China and Japan underscored the maritime tensions that continue to trouble Asia.
Japanese Officials' Visits to Shrine for War Dead Put Obama in a Bind
(Los Angeles Times: Yuriko Nagano, Julie Makinen)
Four months after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the shrine, his trip and other attendant gestures continue to roil Japan's neighbors, including China and South Korea.
North Korean Nuclear Launch 'Unlikely' During Obama's Trip to Asia
(Global Security Newswire)
New satellite images suggest North Korea would not be ready to conduct a nuclear test before President Obama leaves the region this week.
Rep. Randy Forbes: More Cuts Will Undermine U.S. Security
(The Virginian-Pilot: Bill Bartel)
The Virginia Republican pressed his case that the steady decline in defense spending are weakening national security.
Chuck Hagel Visiting Mexico to Deepen Cross-Border Ties
The Defense secretary said the United States could hold training exercises with Mexican forces.
Auditors Defend Pentagon for Skipping Bids on B-2 Upgrades
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
Congressional investigators said the Defense Department was right to skip a competitive process for planned updates to B-2 strategic bombers.
Air Force Urges Congress to Retire A-10 Attack Planes
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
A vocal contingent of lawmakers say it is too soon to retire the A-10s, since the F-35s slated to replace them will not be operational until the 2020s.
Spy Plane Outlasts Cold War, but Not Defense Cuts
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
The Air Force says the unmanned aerial vehicle Global Hawk can do the job, and the Pentagon cannot afford both the plane and the drone.
Welsh: One Clash on Sex-Assault Verdict in 3 Years
(Military.com: Brendan McGarry)
The U.S. Air Force's top officer pushed back against a lawmaker's proposal to curb military sexual assault.
Threat Causes Evacuation at Portsmouth Naval Hospital
(The Virginian-Pilot: Corinne Reilly)
Patients and staff were evacuated from two buildings at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center after reports of a bomb threat and a suspicious package.
Navy Seeks Feedback on UCLASS Program
(Military.com: Kris Osborn)
The Navy is intensifying efforts to refine designs specs and select models and technologies for a next-generation carrier-based drone.
Actually, the Army Will 'Involuntarily Separate' Officers
(Government Executive: Eric Katz)
The Army will in fact lay off at least 2,000 officers to reach its end force goals, a spokesman clarified.
Victims of Lejeune Toxic Water Meet Skepticism at Supreme Court
(USA Today: Richard Wolf)
The case was notable because the Obama administration opposed the residents' claims, even after President Obama signed a law that provided health benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans and family members.
Discharged Marine Regrets Crucifying Himself in Public
(Military Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
Joshua Klohr felt that no one was paying attention to his claims of injustice.
U.N. Security Council Calls for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chlorine Gas in Syrian Towns
It's unclear who would carry out the investigation.
Diplomatic Efforts on Syria Have Failed, U.N. Chiefs Say
(The New York Times: Nick Cumming-Bruce)
Members of the Security Council will be briefed at the end of April on the implementation of the Feb. 22 resolution demanding that humanitarian agencies have unfettered access to civilians.
Three Charged in Plot to Ship Chemical Lab Equipment From U.S. to Syria
(Reuters: Julia Edwards)
From 2003 to 2012, an American from Pennsylvania, a Syrian citizen, and a London resident conspired to export such items as a portable scanner used to detect chemical-warfare agents.
U.S. Sharply Criticizes Iran's Election to U.N. Committee
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
The harsh U.S. rebuke of the world body follows Washington's decision to deny entry to Tehran's proposed U.N. ambassador Hamid Abutalebi.
U.S. Would Reassess Aid if Hamas-PLO Form Government
(Reuters: Matt Spetalnick, Mark Felsenthal)
Providing U.S. aid to a unity government that includes Hamas would be assistance to a group the United States lists as a terrorist organization.
Palestinian Agreement on Unity Government Troubles Israel, U.S.
(The Wall Street Journal: Ahmed Abuhamda, Nicholas Casey)
Reconciliation complicates peace negotiations.
State: Palestinian, Hamas Truce Could 'Seriously' Complicate Peace Talks
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
"I think the ball, at this point, is in the Palestinians' court to answer questions to whether this reconciliation" meets the United States' long-standing principles, Jen Psaki said.
U.S. May Charge Ex-Blackwater Guard With Murder for Iraq Massacre
(Reuters: Aruna Viswanatha)
The Justice Department is weighing "all available options" against Nicholas Slatten including first-degree murder.
Three Americans Killed in Kabul Hospital Attack
(Reuters: Jeremy Laurence, Hamid Shalizi)
Three Americans were killed on Thursday when a security guard opened fire at an international hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul.
Welsh: Afghanistan Could Create 'Meaningful' Aerospace Industry
(Air Force Times: Aaron Mehta)
Welsh warned that any industrial development would be endangered by a 2014 withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Hole in Afghan Budget Stirs Unease as West Starts Packing Bags
(Reuters: Jeremy Laurence, Mirwais Harooni)
U.S., U.N. and Afghan finance ministry officials have discussed ways to resolve what they say has become a critical situation for the budget.
Egypt's Leader Urges America to Reinstate Military Aid for Fight Against Terror
(Fox News: Judith Miller)
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that America's unwillingness to combat Islamic extremists in strife-ridden Arab states was endangering the U.S. and its European and Arab allies.
U.N. Security Council Members Mulling South Sudan Sanction
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous demanded "serious consequences" be imposed to force an end to the violence.
Fighting Rages in South Sudan, Days After Discovery of Hundreds of Bodies
(The Washington Post: Sudarsan Raghavan)
Fighting raged in three states despite a cease-fire agreement, raising the likelihood of more tit-for-tat attacks and civilian casualties.
U.S. Western Sahara Draft Urges Respecting Human Rights, No U.N. Monitors
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
Two council diplomats said that it would be futile for the United States to include a rights-monitoring mandate for peacekeepers as France probably would veto it.
Veterans Languish and Die on a VA Hospital's Secret List
(CNN: Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin)
At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.
First Lady Announcing One-Stop Job Site for Vets
(Associated Press: Jim Kuhnhenn)
The one-stop job-shopping tool comes amid an increase in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans as U.S. participation in those conflicts has ended or winds down.
VA's Homeless Vet Support Deadline Causes Concern
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan, Michael Hoffman)
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki vowed in 2009 that the department would end chronic veteran homelessness sometime in 2015.
2 Years in Jail for Misusing Money for Homeless Vets
(Marine Corps Times: Leo Shane III)
Justice Department officials called the crime especially offensive, given that the money was meant to help vulnerable veterans.
NATO Eyes Antimissile Gains in Surveillance-Plane Upgrades
(Global Security Newswire: Sebastian Sprenger)
NATO has begun initial deliberations for upgrading the alliance's surveillance-aircraft fleet, with an eye toward improving its missile-defense capabilities.
Strong U.S. Defense Firm Profits Defy Regular Gloomy Warnings
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
Defense majors Lockheed Martin Corp, General Dynamics Corp, and Northrop Grumman Corp have all reported higher profits this week and raised their full-year forecasts.
Pentagon Undecided on Future Path for Space Systems
(National Defense: Sandra Erwin)
Defense officials agree that the military must change the way it buys satellites and space services. They just can't settle on exactly how it should be done.
Ex-DHS Watchdog Watered Down Reports, Hill Panel Says
(The Washington Post: Carol Leonnig)
The top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered inquiries at the request of administration officials, compromising his role as an inspector general, a Senate panel report says.
The FBI Allegedly Used the No-Fly List to Coerce Muslims to Be Informants
(The Wire: Philip Bump)
It's easy to see how it would be an effective threat: The highly secret no-fly list essentially creates a form of house arrest from which it has been nearly impossible to be removed.
Michael Hayden Joins Washington Times
(Politico: Hadas Gold)
The former CIA and NSA director will write a bimonthly column.
Some See Weak U.S. Hand in Ukraine Confrontation
(Associated Press: Steven Hurst)
The crisis in Ukraine symbolizes the weak foreign policy hand the United States often finds itself playing despite its status as the only global superpower.
The Role of Europe in American Defense Strategy
(War on the Rocks: John Deni)
Unfortunately, the United States cannot afford to entirely rely on Mr. Putin to push NATO allies into rejuvenating their defense budgets.
Why Obama Must Be in Asia
(The Christian Science Monitor)
The Obama trip to Asia fits a pattern of recent presidents trying to help a fractious region avoid conflicts by uniting around shared values.
Negotiating Asia's Troubled Waters
(The New York Times: Michael Green)
Both Tokyo and Washington can do more to reduce tensions, but the fundamental problem is China's pattern of coercion against neighbors along its maritime borders.
Is America's "Rebalance" to Asia Dead?
(The National Interest: Dustin Walker)
I believe U.S. government officials are sincere in their desire to uphold U.S. security commitments in Asia. But regardless of their intentions, such commitments are now the subject of increased scrutiny and doubt in the Asia-Pacific.
The U.S. Intelligence Chief's Gag Order Does Not Stir Trust
(The Washington Post)
The intelligence community needs to build trust in its work, which is vital to the nation.
On Combating Government Secrecy: One Step Forward, One Leap Back
(The New York Times: Margaret Sullivan)
To put it mildly, President Obama's early promises of transparency in government haven't exactly turned out that way.
How I'll End the War: The Trip Over to Afghanistan
(The Daily Beast: Nick Willard)
On his way to Afghanistan, an officer is surprised by a strange sight at a layover in the middle of the night.
Before There's a Genocide: The Slaughter in South Sudan Must Stop
(The Daily Beast: Justine Fleischner, John Prendergast)
Hate radio; butchered men, women and children; ethnic revenge—the tragedy of South Sudan's civil war grows worse by the day. More international action is needed to bring it to an end.
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