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.
Defense Panel Tosses Out Request for New Round of Base Closures
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
Pentagon officials argue that the department has to close bases in order to cut down on roughly 25 percent in excess infrastructure.
House Panel Punts on A-10, U-2 Cuts
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
The House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill ignores the biggest budget fight of the year.
Head of Pentagon Intelligence Agency Forced Out, Officials Say
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller, Adam Goldman)
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is expected to announce that he is leaving his job, after facing mounting pressure in recent months.
Senate Confirms Work as DoD Deputy Secretary
(Military Times: Marcus Weisgerber)
The chamber approved Work's nomination by a voice vote, nearly three months after he was nominated by President Obama.
Military Sex Assault Claims Up 50 Percent
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
But officials are still unhappy with the low number of male victims who reported sexual assault.
White House Denies Memo Was About Benghazi Attack
"It was about the overall situation in the region, the Muslim world, where you saw protests outside of embassy facilities across the region," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Senate GOP Unveils Russia Sanctions Bill
(Associated Press: Donna Cassata)
The legislation would strengthen NATO, speed up work on missile defense, and impose sanctions on Russia's banking and energy sectors.
House Panel Mostly Backs Service Plans for Fighters, Helos, UAVs, Vehicles
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The legislation, however, does indicate HASC members continue to have questions about the F-35's many issues.
U.S. Strategic Forces Panel Leaves Big Decisions for Full Committee
(Defense News: Andrew Mehta)
The HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee largely kicked the can on major NDAA decisions to the larger committee markup in the future.
Lawmakers Debate Army's Proposal to Rebalance Active Duty and Reserves
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
And senators questioned plans to overhaul the service's aviation program.
Some Democrats Object to ICBM Mandate in NDAA
(Politico: Jeremy Herb)
A subcommittee markup includes a requirement that the Pentagon keep all of its 450 intercontinental ballistic missile silos in "warm" status.
Democrats Protest HASC Panel Rubberstamping
(Politico: Austin Wright)
It's long been a House Armed Services tradition: Subcommittees unveil their portions of the annual defense authorization bill, sit down, and approve them.
Senators Ready to Try Again on U.S. Cybersecurity Legislation
(Reuters: Alina Selyukh)
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss have circulated the draft to key stakeholders in its early stages to avoid the disagreements that have thwarted passage in the past.
Ukraine Expels Russian Naval Attaché
(The New York Times: Neil MacFarquhar, Alan Cowell)
The Foreign Ministry in Kiev accused the diplomat of spying, while Russia reported a new deployment of attack helicopters near the Baltic states.
Merkel Rules Out Military Intervention Over Dispute in Ukraine
(Reuters: Arno Schuetze)
Germany, which relies heavily on Russia for natural gas supplies, has been trying to defuse tensions over Ukraine.
Ukraine's Government Has Lost Control of East, Says Acting President
(The Guardian: Luke Harding)
Oleksandr Turchynov says security forces are unable to control situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Ukraine's Defense Chief Denies Military Will Hold Exercises in Central Kiev
(Reuters: Matt Robinson)
The denial contradicts an earlier statement on the website of the government and the city administration.
Russian FM Rules out 'Stupid Things' Over Ukraine
In his words, "We are not going to rush into stupid things. We want to give our partners the possibility to calm themselves."
Joe Biden: Russia Can't Alter Europe's Borders by Force
(Associated Press: Josh Lederman)
Vice President Joe Biden is drawing parallels between Russia's interference in Ukraine and the world wars of the last century.
U.S. Ups Support for Baltics as Ukraine Crisis Deepens
The Pentagon is looking at additional support measures for its Eastern European NATO allies increasingly worried over Russia's military actions in Ukraine.
U.S., Latvian Troops Focus on Training, Not Russia
(Stars and Stripes: Matt Millham)
The alliance all but guarantees Latvia's allies would come to its aid were Russia to try to do here what it has already done in Ukraine.
NATO Opens Second Baltic Air Base in Estonia
Estonia's military says four Danish fighter jets arrived at the Amari air base.
Biden Pushes NATO Allies to Increase Defense Spending
(Army Times: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
He hoped NATO members would move quickly, referring to an upcoming NATO summit in September in Wales.
Obama to Visit Poland, Belgium, France in June
That's according to Biden, who announced the president's itinerary during a speech.
Obama's Pivot to Asia Will Lack Firepower
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Defense cuts have helped shrink the number of available carriers, alarming GOP lawmakers who are fighting the Pentagon's plan to permanently cut the number of U.S. carriers to 10.
Obama's Asia Trip: Policy and a Personal Journey
(The Wall Street Journal: Colleen McCain Nelson)
President's agenda included pivot reboot and green-tea ice cream.
China: Criticism of U.S. Move on Iran
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone)
China sharply criticized an American move to enforce sanctions that penalized eight Chinese companies and their owner.
Six Powers Meet in Brussels to Fine-Tune Iran Talks Strategy
(Reuters: Justyna Pawlak)
The six - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - and Iran plan in mid-May to start drafting the key elements of a broad settlement to the nuclear dispute.
Syria 'Stalling' on Giving Up Chemical Weapons Stockpile, U.S. Says
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño, Greg Miller)
U.S. official says country is using remaining arsenal as leverage in dispute over storage facilities' future.
Search Is on for Successor to Syria Peace Mediator Brahimi
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
There are several possible candidates to replace the veteran Algerian diplomat, the sources said, among them former Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane.
U.S. Tells Ally Bahrain 'Not the Time' to Do Business With Russia
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
The Russian Direct Investment Fund said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat.
Iraqis Brave Threat of Violence to Cast Ballots
(Associated Press: Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sameer Yacoub)
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is widely expected to win the most seats in the 328-member parliament but fall short of a majority.
Former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden Expects to Remain in Russia
(Reuters: Bill Trott)
Snowden expects his asylum status in Russia to be renewed before it expires.
Spy Court Hears First Anti-NSA Argument
(The Hill: Julian Hattem)
The federal court overseeing the country's surveillance programs heard a formal argument this month that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of people's phone records is illegal.
Interview: Adm. Bill Gortney, U.S. Fleet Forces Command
(Defense News: Vago Muradian)
Gortney is one of the Navy's most influential figures.
AF: A-10 Retirement About More Than Money
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has said the Air Force needs the significant cost savings that can only come from retiring entire fleets of aircraft.
Before Ink Dries on Army Rules, Soldiers Rush to Get Tattoos
(The New York Times: Kirk Johnson)
The Army is tightening its rules on body art — including restrictions on the size — but it is generally allowing tattoos acquired before the deadline.
Congressional Scrutiny Puts Propaganda Plan on Hold
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
SOCOM announced this week it was halting its plans to seek bidders for its planned Global Research Assessment Program.
Suicide Rise in Special Ops Spurs Call for Review
(The Tampa Tribune: Howard Altman)
The call for a review is included in proposals by the Military Personnel Subcommittee as part of the military budget request for the fiscal year beginning in October.
Budget Cutbacks Spurring Defense Mergers
(Los Angeles Times: W.J. Hennigan)
Alliant Techsystems and Orbital Sciences are latest to unite as industry's future dims.
House Adopts Proposals to Fix VA Claims Backlog
(The Hill: Cristina Marcos)
Members first gave voice vote approval to an amendment hat would increase funding for the Veterans Affairs inspector general by $1 million.
Congressmen Want Phoenix VA Hospital Chief to Step Down
A trio of lawmakers said that "drastic changes need to be made to ensure that this never happens again."
Some Veterans Struggle to Obtain Health Care
(The Virginian-Pilot: Amy Jeter)
Most veterans disqualified from VA health care either served less than two years or have military records with serious flaws.
Yale Law School Suit Alleges VA Biased Against Sex-Assault Victims With PTSD
(New Haven Register: Mary O'Leary)
The suit claims that nearly one in three women is raped during her term of service in the military, while more than half experience unwanted sexual contact.
Guyana and U.S. in Dispute Over 'Democracy Project'
Guyana officials revoked the work permit of the official in charge of the Leadership and Democracy Project.
USAID Contractors Profiled Cuban 'Twitter' Users
(Associated Press: Desmond Butler, Alberto Arce)
USAID and its contractors went to great lengths to hide the U.S. government's role in ZunZuneo.
The Missing Benghazi Email
(The Wall Street Journal)
New evidence that Ben Rhodes told Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton to blame the video.
Abetting the Chaos in Egypt
(The Washington Post)
The U.S. should not give new funding to Egypt until it commits to the rule of law.
Cut the Pentagon's Civilian Workforce
(Breaking Defense: Mackenzie Eaglen)
The Pentagon's civilian workforce is too big and has been virtually untouched since defense budgets started falling four years ago.
Support for Military Families Cannot End When Wars Are Over
(Military Times: Michelle Obama, Jill Biden)
We've got to show these families we're there for them—now and long after they come home.
U.S.-Philippine Defense Deal Revolves Around China
(Stars and Stripes: Erik Slavin)
Closer security ties with the Philippines and Southeast Asia help deter Chinese aggression.
Ball in China's Court: Obama's Asia Trip
(War on the Rocks: Robert Haddick)
The agenda of President Obama's week in East Asia left little doubt that security was the paramount focus of his excursion.
Snowden Driving Intel Officers to Weigh Security of Secrecy vs. PR
(The Washington Times: Michael Hayden)
At the moment we are living with the strategic impact of individually justifiable decisions to remain silent, and that impact is an intelligence community that is less trusted and less effective than we need it to be.
Fixing Somaliland's Recognition Problem
(War on the Rocks: John Amble)
Earlier this month, the autonomous region of Somaliland fulfilled its decades-old objective of achieving international recognition as an independent and sovereign state.
Assad's Reelection Campaign Matters—Really
(The Atlantic: Andrew Tabler)
The Syrian president wants to impose a solution to the country's crisis—on his terms.
Is Attacking Obama's Foreign Policy a Winning Strategy?
(Politico: Andrew Kohut)
For the moment, presidential hopefuls might want to choose another line of attack.
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