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Omnibus to Reverse Disabled Military Pension Cuts, Obama Redoubles Push Against Iran Sanctions Bill

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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Omnibus Will Reverse Cuts to Disabled Military Retiree Pensions
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The 2014 spending bill, which will likely be passed this week, will reverse reductions to medically retired veterans' pensions that were slated to begin in December 2015.

Lawmakers Unveil $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill
(Reuters: David Lawder)
The measure eases across-the-board spending cuts by providing an extra $45 billion for military and domestic discretionary programs for fiscal 2014, to a total of $1.012 trillion.


Obama Redoubles Push Against Iran Sanctions Bill
(Roll Call: Steven Dennis)
The White House's campaign to keep Congress from messing with its carefully constructed talks with Iran over its nuclear program have stepped into overdrive after support for a new round of sanctions threatens to reach veto-proof majorities.

Proposed Spy Phone Record Shift Draws Resistance
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun)
Telephone companies are quietly balking at the idea of changing how they collect and store Americans' phone records to help the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Congress to Give Egypt $1.5 Billion in Aid
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
New legislation dropping Monday will free the Obama administration to send money to Cairo after last year's military coup put a freeze on the cash.

Militants Threaten Fragile Step to Syrian Peace
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes, Lori Hinnant)
Syria's government and the main but disputed moderate opposition group seeking to oust it have agreed to allow humanitarian aid into some blocked-off parts of the scarred Mideast country.


Gates Says Obama's Critics Have 'Hijacked' His Memoir
(Agence France-Presse)
The former Defense secretary insisted Monday his new memoir is "even-handed" and accused opponents of President Obama of misrepresenting it to score political points.


Omnibus Spending Bill Calls for $93B for Pentagon Procurement
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Congressional appropriators on Monday evening unveiled a massive federal spending bill that includes a full 2014 Pentagon appropriations measure that would provide nearly $93 billion to buy new weapons.

Omnibus Addresses Disabled Vets' Pensions; Others Left Hanging
(National Journal: Jordain Carney, Elahe Izadi)
In a partial solution to a nagging Pentagon problem, disabled military veterans will have cuts to their pensions restored as part of the omnibus spending bill introduced Monday evening.

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Ayotte: Deal Cuts Military Survivor Benefits
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
The Pentagon has determined that the budget deal passed last month cutting $6 billion in military pensions would also reduce survivor benefits, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said Monday.

Kirsten Gillibrand Struggling in Her Fight Over Military Sexual Assault
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Gillibrand is running out of options in her bid to assemble the 60 votes she needs to win her high-profile battle to change the way the military handles sexual assault.


IAEA Says Nuclear Talks with Iran Postponed to February 8
The talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency are separate from broader diplomacy between Tehran and six world powers over Iran's disputed nuclear activity.

House GOP May Act on Senate Iran Sanctions Bill
(Roll Call: Daniel Newhauser)
House GOP leaders are considering taking up the Senate version of the bill this month to pressure the chamber to act.

New Iran Agreement Includes Secret Side Deal, Tehran Officials Say
(Los Angeles Times)
Key elements of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers are contained in an informal, 30-page text.

Iranian Hard-Liners Offer Mild Praise for Nuclear Deal
(The New York Times: Thomas Erdbrink)
Conservatives cautiously welcomed the completion of an interim agreement that will provide Tehran with some relief from Western sanctions.

World Powers, Iran Eye February Start to Nuclear Settlement Talks
Big powers and Iran are likely to start talks on a final settlement to the long dispute over its nuclear ambitions in February.

Biden Assures Israel About Core Sanctions on Iran: U.S. Official
(Reuters: Matt Spetalnick)
The vice president briefed Netanyahu on an interim agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program and sought his views on efforts to reach a broader accord


Al-Qaida's Renaissance
(The Daily Beast: Bruce Riedel)
With the fight for Fallujah, al-Qaida has roared back to life in Iraq—a scenario that could easily repeat itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan if the U.S. isn't careful.

Maliki's Deputy Blames Him for Fallujah's Fall
(Foreign Policy: David Kenner)
Even as he deplored the U.S. invasion for being the root cause of Iraq's problems, he called on Washington to intervene in Iraqi politics to save the country from disaster.

Tribal Chiefs Press for End to Siege in Iraq
(The Wall Street Journal: Matt Bradley, Ali Nabhan, Ellen Knickmeyer)
Sheiks try to persuade al-Qaida-linked militants to leave city of Fallujah and avert an assault by government troops.

Ex-U.S. General Urges Patience on Iraq
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes)
Retired Army Gen. George Casey, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq at the time of the critical second battle of Fallujah, counseled patience, saying that conditions could improve under a future government in Baghdad.


Bin Laden Photos Won't Be Released as Court Spurns Appeal
(Bloomberg News: Greg Stohr)
The decision leaves intact the CIA's classification of those images as top-secret.

What Was Edward Snowden Doing in India?
(Foreign Policy: Shane Harris)
And why was he taking "ethical hacking" classes there?

Don't Think the Feds Will Rein In the NSA? Maybe the States Can Help
(National Journal: Dustin Volz)
Legislators in statehouses around the country are seeking to take the battle over government surveillance into their own hands.

A Free Society Cannot Escape All Terrorism
(The Atlantic: Conors Friedersdorf)
If a signals-intelligence agency attempts "to cover 100 percent of the risk," its leaders will constantly be intruding more deeply into the privacy of citizens. There is no 100 percent solution.

NSA Surveillance Does Little to Prevent Terrorism, Says Think-Tank Report
(The Verge: Russell Brandom)
Is NSA surveillance really necessary to defend against terrorist attacks? A report released today by the New America Foundation casts doubt on that logic.

Intelligence in 2014: Shrinking Budget Cuts, Snowden-Driven 'Reforms'
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
Positing the future of intelligence—even for one year—poses unique challenges.

No, Edward Snowden Did Not Blow the Lid Off the Alien Conspiracy
(National Journal: Alex Seitz-Wald)
A semi-official Iranian news agency says the leaker's documents "prove" ETs exist and are running the government. The truth may be out there, but it's not here.


Seize the Moment for Peace, Biden Tells Israel
(Agence France-Presse)
Vice President Joe Biden on Monday urged Israel to seize this moment in history to make peace with the Palestinians in talks with President Shimon Peres.

Michael Oren: If Peace Talks Fail, Israel Should Withdraw from West Bank
(Tablet Magazine: Yair Rosenberg)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former ambassador to the U.S. moves to his left.

Egypt Votes on Constitution as Military Leaders Seek Endorsement
(Bloomberg News: Mariam Fam, Salma El Wardany)
The charter was drafted by a mostly secular panel set up after the army toppled President Mohamed Morsi in July.

With Muslim Brotherhood Crushed, Egypt Sets Sights on Hamas
(Reuters: Yasmine Saleh)
The aim includes working with Hamas's political rivals Fatah and supporting popular anti-Hamas activities in Gaza, four security and diplomatic officials said.

Biden Pays Tribute to Ariel Sharon as Courageous, 'Complex' Leader
(Los Angeles Times: Michael Memoli)
Biden hailed the "political courage" of a man who earned the moniker "Bulldozer" for his aggressive moves to defend the Jewish state.


Pentagon Seeks to Protect R&D Funding in 2015 Budget
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber, Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
The push comes despite desires within the military services to put money toward other near-term initiatives.

Looking for a Few Good Brains
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
When it comes to brains, what does the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences look for?

Retired Generals, Admiral Embrace Pay Reductions
(Marine Corps Times: Patricia Kime)
Four retired general and flag officers with a collective 14 stars among them have expressed support for the 1 percent reductions in annual military retired pay increases approved by Congress.

General's Sexual Misconduct Trial Has a Charged Backdrop
(Los Angeles Times: David Zucchino)
The trial of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair comes as the military faces pressure to curb sexual abuse. Historically, accusations against high-ranking commanders were handled quietly.


U.S. Presses Syrian Opposition to Join Talks
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon)
Secretary of State John Kerry told the rebel coalition that support could be reduced if it does not attend the upcoming peace conference in Switzerland.

Fighting Among Rebels Boosts Assad
(The Wall Street Journal: Sam Dagher, Maria Abi-Habib)
The Assad regime is gaining ground as it takes advantage of infighting between Syrian opposition groups.

U.S. Ship Ready to Destroy Syria's Weapons
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
The U.S. vessel tasked with destroying Syria's most toxic chemical weapons will depart later this week or early next week, defense officials announced Monday.

U.S., Russia Spar Over Iran Role in Syria Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry)
Kerry publicly clashed with his Russian counterpart Monday over whether Iran—a major military backer of the regime of Bashar al-Assad—should attend a peace conference in Switzerland.

U.S. and Russia Say Syria Aid Access and Local Cease-Fire Possible
(Reuters: Warren Strobel)
Syria's government and some rebels may be willing to permit humanitarian aid to flow, enforce local ceasefires and take other confidence-building measures in the nearly three-year-old civil war.


Fearing the Past, Proud Afghan Valley Keeps Its Guard Up
(The New York Times: Matthew Rosenberg)
With American troops due to leave by the end of the year, worry is returning to the Panjshir Valley, a redoubt of Taliban opposition.

Obama Says Gates Wrong on Afghanistan Commitment
(Bloomberg News: Michael Bender)
In his first public comments on Gates's memoir since excerpts were published last week, Obama praised his former defense chief and said Gates agreed with the administration's approach.

Sampler Q&A: Behind the Scenes at USAID's OAPA
(Foreign Policy: Bailey Cahall)
On Friday, Donald "Larry" Sampler Jr. was sworn in as the assistant to the administrator for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID.

Final Rotation of Marines Deploys to Afghanistan
(Marine Corps Times: James Sanborn)
Only four Marine bases remain to be shuttered or transferred.

The Most Honest Man in Afghanistan
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
In a country where petty corruption pervades daily life, traffic cop Abdul Saboor has earned fame for not taking bribes.


China Conducts First Test of Ultra High Speed Missile Vehicle
(Fox News: Bill Gertz)
The test of the new hypersonic glide vehicle was carried out Thursday and the experimental weapon is being dubbed the WU-14 by the Pentagon.

Report: U.S., China Discussed North Korea Regime Change
(Global Security Newswire)
As recently as 2009, the United States and China reviewed the possibility of a regime failure or other crises in North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reports.

Gates Says China's Xi Has Firmer Grip on Army Than Hu Did
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
Chinese President Xi Jinping has greater control of the military than his predecessor did, and that increases the need for a strong White House relationship with him, former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates said.


U.S. Was Slow to Lose Patience as South Sudan Unraveled
(Reuters: Warren Strobel, Louis Charbonneau)
It was a bad start for the U.S. president and the leader of the world's newest country.


Russia: U.S. Journalist Is Barred
(The New York Times: David Herszenhorn)
David Satter, an American journalist and the author of books on Russia and the Soviet Union, said he had been barred from the country by the Russian security services.


Pentagon's December Contracts Climbed 8 Percent as Logjam Eased
(Bloomberg: Jonathan Salant)
Pentagon contracts climbed 8 percent last month to $24.9 billion as the military worked to clear a backlog caused by October's partial government shutdown.

Lockheed Withdraws AMDR Protest, Navy Directs Raytheon to Resume Development
(Inside Defense)
Lockheed Martin has quietly withdrawn its protest of the Navy's Air and Missile Defense Radar contract award, clearing the way for Raytheon.

Man Arrested for Attempted Transfer of F-35 Data to Iran
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
A man was arrested on charges of attempting to ship technical data from the F-35 joint strike fighter to Iran, according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

U.S. Probes Honeywell Over F-35 Sensor Made in China
(Agence France-Presse)
Defense contractor Honeywell said Monday it is being investigated by U.S. authorities about the manufacture of a defense-related sensor in China used for a U.S. fighter jet.


Freedom-Class LCS Crew Bumped Up to 50
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
The crew size of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship is being increased to 50 personnel, a level determined as a result of the ship's first Western Pacific deployment.

Report: Fling in Italy Sank Flagship CO's Career
(Navy Times: Sam Fellman)
The 6th Fleet commander fired the skipper of his flagship in late 2012 for carrying on a monthlong extramarital affair in Gaeta, Italy, that was an open secret among his crew.


Air Force Undersecretary Warns of Risks in Budget Cuts
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
While Congress races to reverse cuts to veterans' benefits, Eric Fanning is fretting over where the ax will fall next.


Deployed, Deactivating Units Targeted in Early-Outs
(Army Times: Jim Tice)
Early-outs of up to 12 months have been authorized for thousands of regular-Army enlisted soldiers assigned to units scheduled for deployment or deactivation.

Trouble Brewing Between U.S. Army's Active Duty and Guard Forces
(Defense News: Paul McCleary)
The president of the National Guard Association called remarks by Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno "disrespectful and simply not true."


'Lone Survivor' Seals Top Spot at Box Office
(Associated Press: Derrik Lang)
The film is based on Marcus Luttrell's memoir about a dangerous mission his Navy SEAL team embarked on in Afghanistan in 2005.


Another Step Toward Nuclear Sanity in Iran
(The New York Times)
An agreement reached over the weekend lays out a detailed plan for restraining Iran.

Iran Sanctions Bill Makes No Sense
(USA Today)
Passing it virtually guarantees an end to negotiations and a quick path to war.

The Long Slog Toward a Nuclear-Free World
(The Washington Post)
Efforts by Iran and North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons have been at the forefront of diplomacy and international concern over the past few years, and justifiably so.

Iran Gets a lot, Gives up Little
(USA Today: Clifford May)
Give a big stick to our diplomats.

Lessons in Gates Memoir on Civilian-Military Ties
(Christian Science Monitor)
The tell-all book by former defense chief Robert Gates reveals how Obama dealt with a military he distrusted. Other nations, such as Egypt, need such lessons in civilian rule.

Gates Once Tried to Ban Netanyahu From White House
(Bloomberg: Jeffrey Goldberg)
Gates's feelings about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu are simple—and not flattering.

Idaho Potatoes: This Is What Passes for Diplomacy Now
(Foreign Policy: Hanna Kozlowska)
Few diplomats have seen quite as much success in stifling American ambitions on the world stage as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

How Washington Broke Robert Gates
(National Interest: James Kitfield)
Even if they reflect mostly what we already know about Washington and its power players, those observations are unlikely to bring comfort to his former bosses and colleagues.

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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