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Officials Focus on Fort Hood Suspect's Mental Health, Pentagon Sends Congress $36 Billion Wish List

By Jordain Carney (@jordainc)

Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email earlybird@nationaljournal.com.

 

Fort Hood Officials Focus on Suspect's Mental Health
(The Wall Street Journal: Devlin Barrett, Julian Barnes, Nathan Koppel)
The top commander at Fort Hood said there is "strong evidence" the alleged attacker in Wednesday's mass shooting at the base had a history of psychiatric problems.

DoD Sends Congress $36B Wish List, but Passage Unlikely
(Navy Times: Marcus Weisgerber)
The lists are very similar to the White House's Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI), which includes $26 billion in defense items

Senate Finds CIA Illegally Interrogated Terror Suspects After 9/11
(McClatchy: Ali Watkins, Marisa Taylor, David Lightman)
CIA officers subjected terror suspects it held after the Sept. 11 attacks to methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters.

 

Senate Panel Votes to Release Parts of CIA Interrogation Report
(Associated Press)
The panel voted 11-3 to order the declassification of almost 500 pages of a 6,200-page review.

Iran, Six Powers Start Expert-Level Nuclear Talks in Vienna
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
The talks are part of efforts to reach an agreement by late July on how to resolve a decade-old dispute that has stirred fears of a Middle East war.

Lockheed F-35's Operating Cost Estimate to Decline
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The Pentagon will decrease its $1.1 trillion estimate for the cost of supporting Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet over a 55-year lifespan. 

FORT HOOD

Argument May Have Preceded Deadly Fort Hood Attack
(Associated Press: Will Weissert, Paul Weber)
The base's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said there is a "strong possibility" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier or soldiers.

 

Shooter Was Upset Over Recent Family Deaths, Friends Say
(Austin American-Statesman: Eric Dexheimer, Dave Harmon, Jeremy Schwartz)
His mother, Carmen, a nurse, died of a heart attack in November in Lopez's native Puerto Rico. A month earlier, his grandfather had passed away.

Fort Hood Shooter Suffered From Personality Disorder, Officials Say
(Army Times: Patricia Kime)
The Army considers the condition to have existed prior to serving in the military and is not related to military service.

Shooter Showed No 'Sign of Any Likely Violence,' Army Secretary Says
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock, Carol Leonnig, Adam Goldman)
He said the investigation was still unfolding and did not comment on a possible motive.

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Army Says Alleged Shooter Saw No Combat in Iraq
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
The Army's top civilian official says the soldier accused in the Fort Hood shooting this week was deployed for the final months of the Iraq war but did not see combat.

Terrorism Not Ruled Out in Shooting
(Military.com: Matthew Cox)
Senior U.S. Army leaders told members of Congress that they are not ruling out terrorism as the motive behind a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

Shooter Described as Introverted, Musical
(The Washington Post: David Fahrenthold, Carol Leonnig, Matea Gold)
Army Specialist Ivan Lopez is a father of four children and a former police officer who served 10 years on the force in his native Puerto Rico before taking leave to join the Army.

Soldier's Attack at Fort Hood Echoed 2009 Rampage
(The New York Times: Manny Fernandez, Serge Kovaleski, Eric Schmitt)
The replay on Wednesday of a mass shooting at Fort Hood raised questions about what lessons Army officials had learned from 2009.

Gunman Used Same Gun Store as Hasan
(Associated Press)
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said that Spc. Ivan Lopez purchased a .45-caliber pistol from Guns Galore, a store in Killeen, Texas, on March 1.

11 Facts From the Hood Shooter's Army Record
(Army Times: Michelle Tan)
The alleged shooter, Spc. Ivan Antonio Lopez, served in uniform almost 15 years.

Shooting Renews Calls for Ending Gun Restrictions on Base
(Fox News)
The gunman in Wednesday's shooting was carrying a handgun that was not registered at Fort Hood.

CONGRESS

How Can Government Battle a 'Suicide Epidemic' Among Veterans?
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The VA has boosted its funding, but Congress's latest attempt lacks a pay-for.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: We Must Do 'a Heck of a Lot More' to Fix Mental Health
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
His comment came a day after a gunman killed three people and himself, and wounded 16 others on the Fort Hood, Texas, Army base Wednesday afternoon.

House Appropriators Off to Fast Start
(The Hill: Erik Wasson)
The House Appropriations Committee moved the first of 12 annual spending bills for 2015, marking the earliest start on record for the committee, according to Chairman Harold Rogers.

Levin, Shaheen Warn Pentagon Not to Bypass Congress on Base Closures
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Levin said that any attempt by the military to circumvent Congress would set back an already-endangered Base Closure and Realignment Commission process "by many, many years."

Boehner: House to Take Up VA Accountability Bill
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
House Speaker John Boehner has signaled that the chamber will vote on a bill to allow the head of the Veterans Affairs Department to fire or demote senior executives for performance problems.

Devin Nunes Eyes Chair of Intelligence Committee
(Los Angeles Times: Richard Simon)
Nunes hopes to take the committee gavel from Rep. Mike Rogers. 

UKRAINE

Ukraine: Yanukovych Ordered Snipers to Shoot
(Associated Press: Maria Danilova)
But their report provided no evidence directly linking him to the bloodbath in Kiev.

U.S. Seeks to Leverage Ukraine Aid Against Cybercrime
(Politico: Tal Kopan)
Two senators introduced an amendment last week to Congress's Ukraine aid bill that would have required U.S. officials to step up cooperation with Kiev against online thieves and fraudsters

U.S. Warship Heading to Black Sea
(Stars and Stripes: Hendrick Simoes)
A U.S. Navy warship is on its way to the Black Sea as part of the ongoing response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Obama Signs Ukraine Aid Package Into Law
(Associated Press)
The legislation signed by the president on Thursday also punishes Russia for its bold annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Russia to U.S. on Crimea Annexation: Accept It and Move On
(Reuters: Alexei Anishchuk)
U.S. policymakers need to calm down, maybe do some yoga and accept that Crimea is now part of Russia, a senior Russian diplomat said.

EUROPE

Russia Arrests 25 Ukrainians for Sabotage
(Associated Press)
A state-controlled Russian TV station says 25 Ukrainian citizens have been arrested in Russia by the country's security agency on suspicion of planning sabotage.

Chairman: U.S. Needs Russian Choppers
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The top lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee said the United States needs to continue buying Russian-made helicopters for the Afghan air force.

U.S. Wrapping Up Black Sea Training With Allies
(Stars and Stripes: Matt Millham)
Dubbed Saber Guardian, the exercise involves some 700 soldiers and 13 countries, including a number of former Soviet Bloc nations that are eager to forge closer bonds with the West.

Lawmakers Want to Speed Up Delivery of Missile Interceptors to Europe
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
Some U.S. lawmakers are exploring the potential for speeding up missile-interceptor deployments in Europe amid concerns.

INTELLIGENCE

Leaked NSA Documents Will Be Stored in Public Database
(The Verge: Adrianne Jeffries)
All of the documents detailing the National Security Agency's various surveillance programs released since The Guardian first broke the story back in June are now searchable in a database.

White House Denies 'Cuban Twitter' ZunZuneo Program Was Covert
(The Guardian: Paul Lewis, Dan Roberts)
Extensive efforts were undertaken to conceal the true nature of the social-media network, using offshore banks accounts, front companies, and overseas servers.

Patrick Leahy: Cuban Twitter Plan 'Dumb'
(Politico: Tal Kopan)
The Vermont senator had one word for a reported program by the U.S. government to develop an underground social network in Cuba.

Germany Opens Hearings on U.S. Spying
(The Washington Post: Anthony Faiola)
A chapter in transatlantic relations that Washington would sooner forget got a new lease on life as German lawmakers opened their first parliamentary hearings.

A CIA-Funded Project Recruits Ordinary People to Predict Future Disasters
(The Verge: Adi Robertson)
Thousands of people participate in the Good Judgment Project, which echoes the Defense Department's quickly canceled plan to create a prediction market for terrorist attacks.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Pakistan Taliban Extend Ceasefire for 10 Days After Prisoner Release
(Reuters: Haji Mujtaba)
The Pakistani Taliban have extended their March ceasefire until April 10.

Pakistan PM frees 16 Prisoners to Try to Revive Taliban Peace Talks
(Reuters: Mehreen Zahra-Malik)
Pakistan has freed at least 16 Taliban prisoners with the approval of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Afghans Say Pakistani Taliban Border Attacks Rise
(Associated Press: Rahim Faiez)
The Pakistani Taliban have stepped up attacks on border posts between the two countries despite starting peace talks with Islamabad earlier this month.

USAID Calls Accusations of Afghanistan Cover-Up 'Offensive'
(Government Executive: Charles Clark)
Tensions flared Thursday between a special watchdog and the agency charged with planting seeds of development in war-torn Afghanistan.

Afghan Election Could Reset U.S.-Kabul Relations
(Associated Press: Deb Riechmann)
Afghanistan's presidential election on Saturday gives the U.S. a new chance to fix relations with Kabul.

Karzai Is Trying to Keep His Sway After Term Ends
(The New York Times: Matthew Rosenberg)
Those hoping to see Afghanistan's president slip into a quiet retirement may be disappointed in the months to come.

MIDDLE EAST

Kerry Faces Tough Choice as Mideast Peace Talks Falter
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung, Anne Gearan)
As his tireless efforts hit bottom, some close to the secretary of state believe the time is nearing for him to say: "Enough."

Israel Says It Is Cancelling Prisoner Release
(Associated Press)
Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians says it will not release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinians' push for recognition at the United Nations.

Palestinian U.N. Moves Designed to Avoid U.S. Retaliation
(Reuters: Noah Browning)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's action may have been designed more as a symbolic act of defiance.

Talk of Freeing Spy for Israel Divides Jews in U.S.
(The New York Times: Mark Landler)
While more and more of them believe the time to release him is long past, they are deeply divided over whether he should be used as a chit in a diplomatic transaction with Israel.

Senators Urge U.S. to Deny Visa to Iran Ambassador
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
Twenty-nine Republican senators have written to Obama urging him to deny a visa to a former hostage-taker who is Iran's choice for ambassador to the United Nations.

SYRIA

Diplomats: Mission Chief Says Syria Can Still Meet April Deadline
(Associated Press)
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the shipments stopped on March 20.

Syrian Opposition Accuses Assad of New Poison Attack
(Reuters: Oliver Homes)
Opposition activists again accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of using poison gas in Syria's civil war.

About Half Syria's Chemicals Packed for Removal, Violence Halts Convoys: U.N.
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
Convoy security has been deployed to deal with violence around the port city of Latakia.

Syria's Economy Will Take at Least 30 Years to Recover, Says the U.N.
(Time: Aryn Baker)
Even if the Syrian conflict were to end today, it would take decades to rebuild the economy to prewar standards.

ASIA/PACIFIC

U.S. to Skip China Fleet Review After Japan Shunned
(Reuters: Phil Stewart)
The United States will still participate in the naval symposium and will observe the review

U.S.: Will Stand by Allies in Disputes With China
(Associated Press)
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told a congressional hearing that some Asian countries fear that Russia's annexation of Crimea could serve as a precedent for Beijing.

Philippines Says Will Exercise Self-Restraint in Disputed Seas
(Reuters: Manuel Mogato)
The Philippines said it would exercise self-restraint in the disputed South China Sea after China attempted to block a small government boat..

U.S., Japan, South Korea to Discuss North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
The United States, Japan and South Korea will meet next week to seek ways to persuade North Korea to give up its atomic weapons program.

South Korea Tests Missile That Can Strike Most of North
(The New York Times: Choe Sang-Hun)
South Korea conducted its own missile test, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of North Korea.

VETERANS

VA Pays $200 Million for Nearly 1,000 Veterans' Wrongful Deaths
(The Daily Beast: Aaron Glantz)
Since 9/11 almost 1,000 veterans have died due to negligence in the veterans health care system. After lengthy legal battles the VA is finally making payments to their families.

Unwanted Heroes
(The Washington Post: Greg Jaffe)
Trying to piece together the puzzle of veterans' unemployment proves difficult.

Veterans Push to Smoke Pot to Ease PTSD, Other Ailments
(McClatchy: Rob Hotakainen)
After flying helicopters in Vietnam for 30 months, Perry Parks couldn't stop the panicked dreams.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Policy Chief Nominee Backs Global Spec Ops Network
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The Pentagon is moving aggressively to establish a "network" of elite American commandos across the globe as part of its changing strategy to combat al-Qaida cells.

Pentagon's Top Doc Outlines Tricare Changes
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
Veterans groups that represent the interests of the active duty as well as veterans and retirees have already signaled to Congress that they oppose any change to Tricare.

NAVY

U.S. Navy Unfunded List Requests Growlers, Poseidon Aircraft
(Defense News: Christopher Cavas)
The U.S. Navy's document giving Congress options to add to the 2015 budget is neither prioritized, nor a list of unfunded programs.

The Navy's Newest Destroyer Is a Drone
(Bloomberg: Drake Bennett)
When the U.S. Navy christens the first of its newest class of destroyers this month, it will launch the first ship with a brain of its own.

AIR FORCE

Air Force Submits $8 Billion Unfunded List to Congress
(Air Force Times: Marcus Weisgerber)
More than $3.3 billion eyes new procurement programs.

New Commanders in Place at Malmstrom
(Great Falls Tribune: Jenn Rowell)
With most of the top leadership at Malmstrom Air Force Base removed last week, the new leadership team came in quickly and quietly.

MARINE CORPS

Marine Corps Banks on Hand-Held Tech for Its New Crisis-Response Push
(Marine Corps Times: Lars Schwetje, Gina Harkins)
The Marine Corps is testing hand-held tablet computers designed to give ground troops real-time target intelligence while en route to a raid point.

Marines Prepare for Smaller Force Due to Budget Woes
(USNI News: John Grady)
The Marine Corps is preparing for its new normal with a force of 175,000 that plans to operate under the constraints of sequestration.

COAST GUARD

Coast Guardsmen Testify About Shooting Response
(Associated Press: Dan Joling)
A Coast Guardsman who found the bodies of two murdered coworkers thought at first they were pranking him.

NATIONAL GUARD

Training Tops Guard Unfunded List
(Army Times: Paul McLeary)
The Army National Guard is asking Congress to find an extra 1.5 billion to meet its unfunded requirements in fiscal 2015.

AFRICA

Russians Aren't the Only Ones Being Hit With Sanctions
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
Obama signed an executive order Thursday paving the way for targeted sanctions against individuals in South Sudan.

U.S. and Algeria to Strengthen Counterterrorism Cooperation in Unstable Sahel Region
(Associated Press)
Kerry is in Algiers for strategic security talks and described Algeria as an "important partner" in fighting terrorism.

Power Failure Downed Predator Returning From Africa Mission
(Stars and Stripes: Jennifer Svan)
A loss of power caused a remotely piloted MQ-1B Predator to crash into the Mediterranean Sea last fall while returning from a mission over Africa.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Mass Murder Returns
(The Wall Street Journal)
The Fort Hood shooting and another case of mental illness and violence.

Another Military Base Shooting Doesn't Make It Common
(War Is Boring: Robert Beckhusen)
Mass killings are rare and unpredictable, which makes them highly newsworthy and hard to prevent.

Don't Blame PTSD for the Fort Hood Shooting
(Time: Richard Allen Smith)
Research in the area is weak and inconsistent.

How the U.S. Can Help North Africa's Democracy Champion
(Foreign Policy: Isobel Coleman)
Tunisia has made it farther down the road to democracy than any other Arab Spring country. That means that it deserves hands-on support from the West—sooner rather than later.

The U.S. Air Force's Forgotten Mission to Mali
(War Is Boring: Joe Trevithick)
Obscure operation helped establish Air Force role in special operations.

Obama: Crimea Invasion Reveals Putin's 'Weakness,' Not His Strength
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been chesty since invading, occupying and annexing Crimea.

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