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Early Bird

Obama Veto Threat Foreshadows Showdown Over Iran; Hagel Urges Congress to Fix Budget Deal

December 20, 2013

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Early Bird is taking a break for the holidays. It will return Jan. 6.

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign-policy coverage from around the Web.

 

Tell your networks to sign up directly here. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

Obama Veto Threat Sets Up a Showdown Over Iran
(The Wall Street Journal: Carol Lee)
President Obama issued a rare veto threat Thursday in response to a bipartisan Senate bill that would slap Tehran with new sanctions if it violates an interim deal over its nuclear program reached last month.

Hagel: Congress Should Fix Budget Deal for Disabled Vets
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday endorsed calls for Congress to stop the cuts to military pensions for disabled veterans in the budget deal that passed the Senate this week.

Congress Sends Sweeping Defense Bill to Obama
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the $632.8 billion bill that covers combat pay, new ships, aircraft and military bases.

Report: Air Force General Drank Too Much, Fraternized With Foreign Women in Moscow
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock)
An Air Force general in charge of nuclear weapons repeatedly drank too much and behaved like a boor last summer during an official trip to Moscow, an investigative report found.

Counterrorism Chief Names Top Security Threat for 2014
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
The chaos created by Syria's civil war threatens the U.S.

A Legacy in the Balance on Surveillance Policies
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
At the heart of the report by a White House advisory group about America's surveillance state is a challenge to President Obama's conception of his presidency.

CONGRESS

Passage of Defense Authorization Bill Will Create Winners, Losers
(Stars and Stripes: Leo Shane III)
Winners include: Military bases and sexual-assault prosecutions. Losers include troops' paychecks and military fashion.

Senates Passes Broad Defense Bill
(The Wall Street Journal: Michael Crittenden, Siobhan Hughes)
The measure clears the way for the president to sign it after avoiding potentially tough votes on Iran sanctions and military sexual assault.

Durbin Aims to Spread Around $22 Billion in Pentagon Cuts
(The Hill: Erik Wasson)
The senator in charge of negotiating a spending package for the Pentagon based on the Ryan-Murray budget said Thursday that he is looking to evenly distribute $22 billion in new spending cuts.

McCain Blames Obama for Russia's 'Newfound Assertiveness'
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday that President Obama's "empty threats of red lines" have emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Congress Lops $35 Million Off Funding for NSA Supercomputer Center
(NextGov: Aliya Sternstein)
Deep inside legislation authorizing 2014 Pentagon activities is a line item that reduces construction spending for a National Security Agency data-mining facility near Baltimore.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Hagel, Dempsey Pledge Review of Military Pay
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The review follows a Senate deal that cut benefits to some retirees.

DoD to Submit 2015 Sequester Budget With Buybacks
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
The proposal was built assuming billions of dollars in sequestration spending cuts.

Pentagon Hopes to Step Up Space-Tracking Capability
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The Pentagon is trying to improve its ability to track the more than 8,000 satellites and objects flying through space.

Critics Say Hagel Has Caved to Military Pressure
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
Before he took charge of the U.S. Defense Department in February, Hagel had described the Pentagon as "bloated."

How the IED Changed the U.S. Military
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
Somewhere between more than half to two-thirds of Americans killed or wounded in combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been victims of IEDs.

INTELLIGENCE

Officials' Defenses of NSA Program May Be Unraveling
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima)
A court ruling and an expert panel cast doubt on the phone-data collection's legality and value in deterring terrorism.

Spy Panel Wants Duplicate Oversight Board Replaced
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun)
Two review panels given nearly identical assignments by President Obama have been studying how the White House should change or limit the NSA's surveillance programs.

Pentagon: NSA Reforms Could Create Military Intel Gaps
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
The White House's efforts to rein in the NSA's intelligence operations might end up doing more harm than good to U.S. military commanders, who depend on the agency's efforts on battlefields worldwide.

Congressional NSA Critics: Review Panel Report Gives 'Momentum' for Reform
(The Guardian: Spencer Ackerman)
The chief congressional critics of the NSA said Thursday that a White House review panel report gave them momentum to end bulk domestic surveillance, but expressed reservations about one of the panel's central proposals.

Obama Weighing Security and Privacy in Deciding on Spy Program Limits
(The New York Times: David Sanger)
The president's choices in the next few weeks may define America's approach to national security long after his term is over.

Putin on Obama: 'I Envy Him Because He Can Do Something Like This and Get Away With It'
(The Washington Post: Terri Rupar)
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for President Obama's surveillance programs.

Verizon Will Begin Publishing Data on Law-Enforcement Requests
(The Verge: Russell Brandom)
Verizon announced it will begin publishing a semiannual transparency report, detailing all the law-enforcement requests it has received in that period.

IRAN

Iran Sanctions Deal Offers Something for Everyone
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Initial analyses of an Iran-sanctions bill introduced Thursday by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., ran the gamut from so explosive that it threatens war with Iran—to so innocuous it allows lawmakers to achieve political objectives without jeopardizing negotiations.

Iran, Six World Powers Resume Expert Talks on Nuclear Deal
(Reuters)
Discussions on the details of last month's breakthrough accord were interrupted by Tehran diplomats last week.

On Iran and Syria, Diplomatic Tests Intertwine
(The New York Times: Mark Landler)
Early next year, the Obama administration will embark on an extraordinary diplomatic doubleheader.

Iran Deal Removes Need for U.S. Missile Shield, Russia Says
(Reuters)
Russia strongly opposes the missile-defense system.

Senate Dems, GOP Defy White House With Iran-Sanctions Bill
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The measure would enforce an interim deal with Iran, and allow up to one year to negotiate.

Ten Democratic Senators Oppose New Iran Sanctions
(Reuters)
A group of 10 Democratic senators—all leaders of Senate committees—came out in opposition to a new bill introduced by Democrats and Republicans on Thursday.

Iran Denounces UN Human-Rights Resolution
(Associated Press)
Iran's state TV is saying the country's foreign ministry has rejected a U.N. human-rights resolution, calling it biased.

SYRIA

Nobody Can Stop Assad From Running Again: Syria
(Lebanon Daily Star)
Russia on Thursday issued a rare criticism of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, over the 2014 presidential election.

Syria Rebel Group Accused of Kidnapping, Torture, and Executions
(Los Angeles Times: Nabih Bulos)
Amnesty International issued an 18-page report accusing ISIS of a range of abuses, including kidnappings, torture, and summary executions, that may rise to the level of war crimes.

Iran and Russia Helping Syrian Aid Effort: European Officials
(Reuters)
Iran and Russia have used their influence on al-Assad's government to get visas for U.N. aid workers and improve access for convoys in Syria.

Russia Blocks UN Action Against Syria Air Attacks
(Associated Press)
Diplomats say Russia has objected to a proposed U.N. Security Council statement expressing outrage at Syrian government airstrikes.

MIDDLE EAST

The Israeli Programs That Help the NSA Organize Its Intelligence Data
(BuzzFeed: Sheera Frenkel)
Several Israeli companies have been identified as possible arms of the NSA's data-collection project.

U.S. Court Revives 9/11 Victims' Case Against Saudi Arabia
(Reuters)
A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived claims by families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who alleged that Saudi Arabia provided material support to al-Qaida.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Hagel: 'No Magical Date' for Post-2014 Troop Deal with Afghanistan
(Defense One: Stephanie Gaskell)
There's "no magical date" to sign a post-2014 troop deal with Afghanistan—but it needs to be signed sooner, rather than later, Hagel said Thursday.

Dempsey: Security Side-Deals Highlight Need for Afghanistan Pact
(The Hill: Carlo Muñoz)
Revelations of Afghan forces handing over military outposts to local Taliban fighters highlight the need for Kabul to approve a postwar pact, the U.S.'s top military officer said.

Majority of Americans Say Afghan War Has Not Been Worth Fighting, Poll Finds
(The Washington Post: Scott Clement)
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans express near-record discontent and regret over the 13-year war in Afghanistan after its 2,289 U.S. casualties and more than 19,000 wounded soldiers.

ASIA/PACIFIC

Warning Sounded on Cuts to Pilot Training
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Air Force responds to cost concerns by reducing flight hours to 120 hours or less, fewer than those of allies—and China.

China Behavior in South China Sea Ship Encounter 'Irresponsible': U.S.
(Reuters)
China's behavior in a narrowly averted naval collision in the South China Sea was both "unhelpful" and "irresponsible," Hagel said on Thursday.

China Military Ship to Help Guard Syria Chemical-Weapons Destruction
(Reuters)
Syria is due to hand over deadly toxins which can be used to make sarin.

The Chinese Military Machine's Secret to Success: European Engineering
(Reuters: David Lague)
German diesel engines now power China's stealthy submarines.

INDIA

In Dispute Over Indian Envoy, an Internal U.S. Rift Begins to Emerge
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Sari Horwitz)
Law enforcement and the State Dept. have clashed over whether legal or diplomatic concerns prevail.

U.S. Attorney Vows to Pursue Case Against Indian Diplomat at Center of U.S-India Row
(The Washington Post: Annie Gowen, William Branigin)
A major diplomatic row between the United States and India took a new turn Thursday.

Some in India Urge Calm in Strip-Search Controversy
(USA Today: John Bacon)
The furor in India over the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat in New York City continued to heat up Thursday, but some cautionary voices also were being heard.

Strip-Searched Indian Diplomat's Attorney Accuses U.S. of 'Muscle-Flexing'
(CNN: Josh Levs, Jethro Mullen)
The attorney for an Indian diplomat whose arrest in the United States sparked an international row said Thursday the allegations are baseless.

HOMELAND SECURITY

GOP Seeking Vote Delay on DHS Choice
(The Washington Post: Tom Hamburger)
The move comes hours before a Senate vote to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as the No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security.

FBI Adds Syrian American to 'Most Wanted Terrorist' List
(Detroit Free Press: Ann Zaniewski)
Ahmad Abousamra, 32, was indicted in 2009 in Boston on federal charges that included conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Holiday Surprise! TSA to Expedite All Troops Through Airport Security, Shoes On
(Defense One: Kevin Baron)
All U.S. troops heading home for the holidays will be granted "expedited screening" at airport security lines starting Friday.

DETAINEES

Half of Gitmo Detainees May Soon Be Gone
(MSNBC: Adam Serwer)
With the passage of a defense bill Thursday night in the Senate, restrictions on the transfer of detainees at Gitmo in place since 2010 finally lifted.

Mental Exam Set For 9/11 Suspect At Guantánamo
(Associated Press)
Prosecutors requested the evaluation of the prisoner, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who has repeatedly disrupted pretrial proceedings in recent days.

INDUSTRY

AIA Reports Solid 2013 Results, Expects Increases in 2014
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
In its annual year-end report, AIA said that industry military aircraft sales dropped 6 percent.

A-10: Close Air Support Wonder Weapon or Boneyard Bound?
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark, Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
The A-10 Warthog is ugly, tough, lethal, and fairly flexible.

AIR FORCE

Warning Sounded on Cuts to Pilot Training
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Air Force responds to cost concerns by reducing flight hours to 120 hours or less, fewer than those of allies—and China.

Lack Of Details on Force Cuts Concerns Airmen
(Stars and Stripes: Adam Mathis, Jennifer Svan)
About a week after the Air Force announced sweeping force-reduction measures, airmen still have questions as they contemplate their future in a shrinking force.

Officials: Concerns About Hearing's Inconsistencies Led to Rape-Case Review
(Stars and Stripes: Nancy Montgomery)
The Air Force decided on the unusual step of re-investigating a rape case already reviewed and dismissed by Gen. Craig Franklin because officials were concerned about possible bias.

MARINE CORPS

Marine Dies in Skydiving Accident During Trip Wife Won on Ellen DeGeneres' Show
(Fox News)
A Marine vacationing with his wife in Australia died Saturday during a skydiving trip, an employee of the skydiving company said.

NAVY

In Navy Billing Scandal, a Third Company Puts an Executive on Leave
(The New York Times: Christopher Drew, Danielle Ivory)
Multinational Logistic Services, the Navy's largest ship supply company, placed Akbar Khan on paid leave, citing what it called "the seriousness of the allegations."

How Diplomacy Helped Cause an F-18 Crash
(Foreign Policy: Dan Lamothe)
A series of miscommunications and judgment mistakes ultimately forced the $60 million fighter—call sign "Victory 206"—into the North Arabian Sea.

Sub Homecomings on Both Coasts in Time for Holidays
(Navy Times)
The silent service hosted a homecoming Wednesday out West, with another scheduled for Friday on the East Coast as submarine crews return home in time for the holidays.

ARMY

Army Says AH-64E Apache Helicopters Grounded Due to Transmission Problems
(Inside Defense)
The Army has grounded its fleet of AH-64E Apache helicopters because of a transmission problem, and the service is working to determine the cause of the issue, according to an Army spokesman.

Senate Passes Bill That Likely Halts Army's New Camo
(Military.com: Mike Hoffman)
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 restricts any service from introducing a service-specific camouflage pattern and requires the Defense Department to start wearing a joint camouflage pattern by 2018.

Trial for Army General Facing Sex Charges Delayed After Accuser Finds Phone
(Army Times: Joe Gould)
A court-martial for a U.S. Army general facing sexual assault charges has been postponed for a third time.

Army Cyber Command Names Fort Gordon as New Headquarters
(Army Times: Joe Gould)
It will consolidate Army cyber and network operations for the first time under a single commander.

AFRICA

Samantha Power Arrives in Central African Republic to Tackle Humanitarian Crisis
(The Washington Post: Manuel Roig-Franzia)
A grim scene greeted U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power on Thursday as she landed for a high-profile diplomatic mission.

Can Samantha Power Wage a War on Atrocities in Central African Republic?
(Foreign Policy: Colum Lynch)
Power is making an unannounced visit to the killing fields of the Central African Republic.

U.S. to Provide Aid to War-Torn Central African Republic
(USA Today: David Jackson)
The United States plans to provide more than $100 million in security and humanitarian assistance to the war-torn Central African Republic, the White House announced Thursday.

France to Use Unarmed U.S.-Made Drones to Hunt al-Qaida in Mali
(Reuters)
France will deploy its first U.S.-made unarmed surveillance drones to West Africa by the end of the year.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Officer Injured in Alaska Rescue Dies
(Associated Press)
The Coast Guard says one of its officers who was injured last month while rescuing crew members from a disabled fishing vessel off Alaska has died of his injuries.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama Declines to Add Names to Russian Sanction List
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
The Obama administration has decided not to add any new names to a list of Russian human rights violators, an abrupt reversal that has left Congressional officials and human rights advocates stunned.

NSA Fallout Tests Obama Relationship With Tech Companies
(Bloomberg: Margaret Talev, Chris Strohm)
Technology company executives left a meeting with President Obama with no commitment to limit government snooping on Internet traffic, according to an industry official briefed on the session.

AMERICAS

Fidel Castro Tells What His Brother Said to Obama
(Associated Press)
In his 2,400-word essay published Friday on the front pages of Cuba's government-run newspapers and websites, Fidel Castro congratulated his brother.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Release the Torture Reports
(The New York Times)
Official documents of interrogation abuses done in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, should be public.

Does Iran Truly Want a Nuclear Deal?
(The Washington Post)
Iran is sending an early message that it does not intend to bargain in good faith.

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

Now's No Time for New Iran Sanctions
(Politico: Sens. Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer)
The United States faces no more important international challenge than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Get the Message: Military Compensation Reform Is Sacred No More
(Defense One: Maren Leed)
It remains to be seen whether this particular aspect of the budget deal will survive next year's legislative process or will be reversed before taking effect.

NSA Surveillance Reforms Lack Substance
(USA Today: Jonathan Turley)
Pardoning Snowden would be sign of seriousness at White House.

John McCain Can't Change Ukraine
(The National Interest: Robert Merry)
Just about the entire McCain visit was bathed in ignorance. That's when such meddling becomes dangerous.

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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