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Early Bird

Obama Moves to Counter Russia, Senate Blocks Military Sex-Assault Trial Changes, The 'Black Budget'

March 7, 2014

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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Obama Says U.S. Aims to Raise Cost for Russia in Ukraine
(Bloomberg: Roger Runningen, Nicole Gaouette)
President Obama said the U.S. and its allies will keep raising pressure on Russia to back down in Ukraine and held open the possibility of further sanctions if Vladimir Putin's government doesn't respond.

U.S. Moves on Several Fronts to Counter Russia, Obama Decries Proposed Crimea Split
(Fox News)
The Obama administration moved to counter Russia's aggression in Ukraine's Crimea, sending fighter jets to allied countries, imposing visa restrictions on Russians, and strongly decrying a planned referendum in Crimea to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Senate Blocks Change to Military Sex-Assault Cases
(Associated Press: Richard Lardner, Donna Cassata)
The Senate has blocked a bill that would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses in the ranks.

Read the Pentagon's $59 Billion 'Black Budget'
(The Daily Beast: Brandy Zadrozny)
The U.S. military has billions of dollars' worth of secret projects it doesn't want you to know about. Too bad—here they are.

U.S. Navy Aims to Put 22 Boeing Fighters on 'Unfunded' List
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
The U.S. Navy plans to add 22 Boeing electronic attack jets to a list of "unfunded" priorities requested by Congress, but the document must still be vetted by senior Pentagon officials.

FBI Probing Alleged Removal of Documents From CIA by Senate Staffers
(McClatchy: Jonathan Landay, Ali Watkins, Marisa Taylor)
The FBI is investigating the alleged unauthorized removal of classified documents from a secret CIA facility

DEFENSE BUDGET

Big Budget Cuts Pose 'Tough, Tough Choices' for Pentagon: Hagel
(Reuters: David Alexander)
Hagel said that a return to steep budget cuts in 2016 and beyond would force the Army to cut 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers more than currently planned and the Marine Corps to trim another 7,000 troops.

$575 Billion War Budget—and Lots of Surprises
(War Is Boring: David Axe)
Pentagon spending request includes new drones, bombers, and vehicles.

Proposed Commissary Cutbacks Draw Criticism
(The Virginian-Pilot: Bill Bartel)
Military leaders acknowledge that the $1 billion reduction, over three years, would likely raise prices at many of the 243 commissaries.

Pentagon Seeks $5.1B For Defensive, Offensive Cyberspace Operations
(Inside Defense)
The Pentagon is seeking $5.1 billion in its fiscal 2015 budget request to support defensive and offensive cyberspace operations and build up its cybersecurity personnel.

CONGRESS

HASC Dems Offer Pentagon, White House Cover on 2015 Budget Plan
(Defense News: John Bennett)
House Democrats offered the Pentagon and White House cover on a 2015 Pentagon budget that Republicans—and some Democrats—have spent two weeks sharply panning.

Congress Facing Consequences of Defense Cuts
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Lawmakers are coming to grips with a 2015 proposed defense budget that would cut the Army down to 420,000 active duty soldiers and cut the number of aircraft carriers down to 10.

Kirsten Gillibrand Blames White House in Failure of Military Sexual-Assault Bill
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The senator pledges to continue in her quest and pursue additional reforms.

House Passes Aid Bill for Ukraine
(The Wall Street Journal: Michael Crittenden)
The House voted 385-23 to allow the Obama administration to provide loan guarantees for Ukraine, a measure the Senate is expected to address next week.

House Panel Condemns Russia for Action in the Ukraine
(USA Today: Aamer Madhani, Susan Davis)
The measure represents a formal call from lawmakers on Capitol Hill to President Obama for sanctions to add pressure to Russia to back down from its military presence in Crimea.

RUSSIA/UKRAINE

Putin Rebuffs Obama as Ukraine Crisis Escalates
(Reuters: Lidia Kelly, Alissa De Carbonnel)
Putin said in a statement that Moscow and Washington were still far apart on the situation.

Kremlin Signals It Will Embrace Crimean Move for Secession
(The New York Times: David Herszenhorn, Ellen Barry, Alan Cowell)
The Speaker of Parliament on Friday said that Russian legislators will endorse measures by the Crimean Parliament to break away from Ukraine.

Heavier Sanctions on Russia Could Backfire
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
Underlying talk about taking harsh punitive measures against Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine are economic complications and worries that sanctions levied against Moscow could backfire on the U.S. and Europe.

Ukraine Strife Strains Diplomatic Ties
(The Wall Street Journal: Jay Solomon)
Escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow are casting an uneasy light on the delicate diplomatic partnership between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Destroyer Heads to Black Sea Amid Crimean Crisis
(Stars and Stripes: Steven Beardsley)
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer is bound for the Black Sea in what the Navy calls a routine visit unrelated to events in Ukraine.

NATO Urges Russia to Pull Back Crimea Troops
(Reuters)
NATO said it stood by Ukraine's territorial integrity in the face of the greatest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.

Russians Lift Portions of Blockade in Crimea, Ukrainian Officers Say
(Los Angeles Times: Sergei Loiko)
Russian troops have at least temporarily lifted their blockade of several Ukrainian military installations.

Pentagon Studies Putin Body Language for Hint of Intent
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The movements of Russia's leader and others are scrutinized to gain insights into their decision-making.

Putin Is Not Crazy. Frustrating, Unpredictable. Not Crazy.
(Yahoo News: Olivier Knox)
The Russian president may be calculating, sources say, even miscalculating. And worried.

E.U. Slaps Initial Sanctions on Russia
(Associated Press: Mike Corder, Juergen Baetz)
The moves at an emergency E.U. summit came on the heels of sanctions by the Obama administration.

U.S. Says Ukraine May Need IMF Bridging Loan
(The Wall Street Journal: Ian Talley)
The comments mark the first time the Obama administration has publicly acknowledged the possibility of a short-term IMF loan for Ukraine.

INTELLIGENCE

Intelligence Agencies Ask for 5 Percent Less in 2015
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
The details of where that money would be spent are not released to the public.

Highest-Ranking U.S. Military Officer Says Snowden's Security Breach Will Cost Billions
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey says it could take a task force two years to assess and address the leaks.

NSA Privacy Chief: Officials Have 'Privacy in Their Veins'
(National Journal: Brendan Sasso)
Rebecca Richards is the National Security Agency's first chief privacy and civil-liberties officer.

VETERANS

Vet Groups See Budget Cuts as Broken Promise
(Military.com: Amy Bushatz)
A series of benefit cuts and Tricare fee hikes for active-duty service members and military retirees included in a Pentagon budget brought swift reaction from veteran and military family advocates.

House to Ask for Autonomy for Gulf War Illness Board
(USA Today: Kelly Kennedy)
The legislation would give the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses independent budget control.

NAVY

Navy Hacking Tied to Contract
(The Wall Street Journal: Siobhan Gorman)
A major infiltration of a military network blamed on Iran was facilitated by a poorly written contract with computer-services provider Hewlett-Packard, said people familiar with the matter.

Sailors Reassured That Budget Cuts Won't Affect Staffing Levels
(Stars and Stripes: Hendrick Simoes)
The chief of naval personnel insisted during a worldwide all-hands call that the U.S. Navy would not be cutting back on personnel.

Civilian Charged With Stealing From Navy Denies Guilt
(Stars and Stripes)
Navy civilian accused of forging documents and accepting more than $360,000 in illegal housing payments pleaded not guilty to charges.

ARMY

Opening Statements To Begin In General's Sex Trial
(Associated Press: Michael Biesecker, Allen Breed)
Opening statements were set to begin Friday in the court-martial of an Army general accused of sexually assaulting a captain under his command with whom he had a three-year affair.

Army Opens All Field Artillery Officer Jobs to Women
(Military Times: Jim Tice)
Virtually all Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve positions coded for field artillery officers have been opened to women under a directive issued by Army Secretary John McHugh.

Army Sex Assault Prosecutor Suspended Over Alleged Assault
(Army Times)
A lieutenant colonel who supervises sexual assault prosecution in the Army is under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a female colleague.

AIR FORCE

Air Force To Acquire Fleet Of 346 Reapers By FY-21, 55 Fewer Than Planned
(Inside Defense)
The Air Force is trying to reduce annual spending on MQ-9 medium-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft by spreading procurement across the future years.

ASIA/PACIFIC

Pentagon: North Korea Develops Unmanned Strike Aircraft From Stolen U.S. Drone
(Fox News: Bill Gertz)
North Korea has deployed an indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle capable of attacking ground target.

U.S. Seeks 'Talk and Trade' to Rebuild India Ties
(Reuters: Douglas Busvine)
The United States sought on Thursday to rebuild rocky ties with India, while stressing it would tackle differences "head on."

'Mission Accomplished' for U.S. Air Base in Pro-Moscow Kyrgyzstan
(Reuters: Olga Dzyubenko)
A U.S. Air Force base in Kyrgyzstan is packing up for closure after more than 12 years of flying troops and cargo in and out of Afghanistan.

U.S.: Myanmar Still Buying North Korean Weapons
(Associated Press)
A report to Congress on North Korea's military capabilities says the secretive nation uses a worldwide network to facilitate arms sales.

U.S. Envoy Still Hopeful for Missionary's Release From North Korea
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
But two troops that Ambassador Robert King had scheduled for the purpose have been canceled.

AFGHANISTAN/ PAKISTAN

Pakistan Considers Launching Military Operation in March
(Reuters)
Pakistan could launch a full-scale military operation against Pakistani Taliban insurgents in the tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Afghan Army, Police Struggle to Combat IED Threat as U.S. Forces Prepare to Leave
(The Washington Post: Tim Craig)
U.S. and coalition forces have spent billions of dollars training and equipping Afghan security forces, but they're still struggling to get Afghans to stand up to their most persistent foe: improvised explosive devices.

Army General Warns of Full U.S. War Withdrawal
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
Afghanistan would begin to deteriorate quickly after a total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, the top American commander in the Middle East warned.

COURTS

Lawsuits Revived by Soldiers Over Exposure to Burn Pit Toxins
(Associated Press: Larry O'Dell)
A federal appeals court on Thursday revived dozens of lawsuits by soldiers and others who claim they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SYRIA

Syria to Miss Deadline to Destroy 12 Chemical Arms Sites
(Reuters: Anthony Deutsch)
Syria declared 12 production facilities to the OPCW and has until March 15 to destroy them under a deal agreed with the United States and Russia.

Syria Is Top Training Ground for Al-Qaida, Senate Is Told
(CNN: Jamie Crawford)
High levels of sectarianism, carnage, and the overall grinding nature of Syria's civil war continue to make that country a top destination for extremists, a top U.S. official said.

MIDDLE EAST

Diplomatic Row Among Gulf Nations Complicates U.S. Weapons Sales
(Defense News: Awad Mustafa)
Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from Qatar for the first time since the formation of the 33-year-old Gulf Cooperation Council.

Abbas Aide Says Gaps With Israel Growing, Extension of Talks Unlikely
(Associated Press)
The aide said that the United States might seek an extension, but he doubts it will happen due to a lack of common ground.

Israelis Want $348M Missile Defense Aid Above U.S. Budget: Rep. Lamborn
(Breaking Defense: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.)
That's how much Israel would like Congress to add to the president's 2015 budget request for aid to assorted Israeli missile-defense programs.

MARINE CORPS

Pentagon: Half of Stateside Marine Units at Unacceptable Readiness Levels
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
This revelation was bundled into the Defense Department's budget request for next fiscal year.

2 Marines Disciplined After 4 Die at Pendleton
(The New York Times: Ian Lovett)
An explosion during a training exercise that killed four Marines at Camp Pendleton last year was most likely caused by a dropped or kicked grenade, and two Marines have been relieved of duty as a result.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Natural Gas as a Diplomatic Tool
(The New York Times)
The White House should use exports as a component of a broader energy strategy to undercut Russia's influence over Ukraine.

Putin Escalates
(The Wall Street Journal)
The Russian chooses facts on the ground over verbal threats in the air.

Declassify the Senate Report on CIA Interrogation Methods
(The Washington Post)
It is time to examine the program with some historical perspective, learn the lessons and ponder how the United States can best defend itself in a dangerous world without violating dearly held values and principles.

Beijing and Washington's Defense Budgets: A Tale of Two Cities
(The Diplomat: Shannon Tiezzi)
Recently released defense budgets by China and the U.S. reveal different approaches but similar goals in Asia.

Bring on the Frigate: LCS Is Outgunned, Outclassed
(Real Clear Defense: William Price)
Adversaries and allies are building better ships cheaper.

Putin's Reich
(Foreign Policy: Michael Moran)
The dark echoes of ethnic nationalism in Russia's lost empire.

I Knew the Cold War, It Was No Friend of Mine, and This Is No Cold War
(The Huffington Post: Ken Adelman)
The pundits are abuzz about the dangers Putin provoked in the Ukraine constituting a return of the Cold War. They don't.

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