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Report Finds Benghazi Attack Was Preventable, McKeon to Announce Retirement, Navy's No. 2 Resigns Report Finds Benghazi Attack Was Preventable, McKeon to Announce Retir...

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Report Finds Benghazi Attack Was Preventable, McKeon to Announce Retirement, Navy's No. 2 Resigns

By Sara Sorcher (@SaraSorcherNJ) and Jordain Carney (@jordainc) and Stacy Kaper (@KaperSLK)

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.

Senate Report Finds Benghazi Attack Was Preventable
(The New York Times: Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt, David Kirkpatrick)
A stinging report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Wednesday concluded that the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented, and blames both American diplomats and the CIA.

Coveted House Gavel Now Up for Grabs
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Defense industry officials say a three-way race could emerge to succeed Rep. Buck McKeon as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, said to announce his retirement plans Thursday.

 

Photos Surface of Marines Apparently Violating Corpses in Iraq
(Stars and Stripes: Patrick Dickson)
The Marine Corps is conducting a formal investigation into an incident in which Marines are allegedly shown defiling the bodies of what appear to be dead Iraqi insurgents.

Navy's Second-Ranking Civilian Resigns Amid Criminal Investigation
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock)
An intensifying criminal investigation into an alleged contracting scheme involving a top-secret Navy project has resulted in the forced resignation of the service's second-ranking civilian leader, according to officials and court documents.

Cheating Alleged in U.S. Nuclear Missile Force
(Associated Press: Robert Burns, Lolita Baldor)
Thirty-four officers entrusted with land-based nuclear missiles have been pulled off the job for alleged involvement in a cheating ring that officials say was uncovered during a drug probe. 

Egypt Voters Back Constitution as Roadmap Advances
(Reuters: Tom Perry, Maggie Fick)
Egypt's new constitution was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, state media reported on Thursday, in an expected victory.

 

CONGRESS

House Passes Spending Bill
(The Wall Street Journal: Janet Hook)
The U.S. House, shunning the budget brinkmanship of recent years, passed a $1.012 trillion bill Wednesday that would fund the government for the next 8½ months.

Congress Balks at Shifting CIA's Role in Drone War
(The Washington Post: Greg Miller)
A secret provision is inserted in the spending bill to block the transfer of control to the Pentagon.

Benghazi Report Ups Pressure on Hillary
(The Hill: Julian Pecquet, Jeremy Herb)
A new bipartisan Senate report on Benghazi is putting pressure on Hillary Clinton to come back to Capitol Hill to testify about the 2012 terror attack.

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Gillibrand Lowers Sights on Military Sexual-Assault Campaign
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
Running out of routes to 60 votes, the New York Democrat is looking to the long game.

Hill Intel Leaders Downplay Need for NSA Reforms
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper, Michael Catalini)
Lawmakers atop the Intelligence committees are resisting pressure from liberals and conservatives alike.

Feinstein Under Fire For Israel Comments
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
California Senator Dianne Feinstein faced criticism Wednesday after expressing her opposition to language in proposed Iran sanctions legislation. 

Military Pension Fight Still On
(Government Executive: Eric Katz)
Some military retirees scored a small victory this week.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Afghan President Critical of U.S. for Military Operation
(Reuters)
Hamid Karzai said U.S. forces were responsible for an air strike that left a woman and seven children dead.

Kabul's Delays on NATO Deal Frustrate U.S. Allies
(The Wall Street Journal: Margherita Stancati)
Officials from the U.S.'s Western allies said they are frustrated by Kabul's attempts to win new concessions in the planned security pact with NATO.

G.I. Long Held by Afghan Militants Is Shown Alive in Video
(The New York Times: Thom Shanker)
Few details were available on the video, which was obtained in recent days by the American military.

At Marine Outpost in Afghanistan, Conditions Grow More Austere by the Day
(Military Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
In the south of Afghanistan, Marines are working around the clock to turn a once-teeming base into a ghost town.

Afghanistan Watchdog Warns of 'Narco-Criminal State' After 12 Years and $7 Billion in U.S. Aid
(The Huffington Post: Matt Sledge)
Special Inspector General John Sopko said the U.S. has no coherent antidrug strategy for the country and that opium cultivation is at an all-time high.

New Video Surfaces of U.S. Soldier in Captivity
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
A new video from December 2013 has surfaced that shows missing U.S. soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was taken captive in Afghanistan in 2009.

NAVY

Navy F/A-18 Jet Crashes off Coast; Pilot Rescued
(The Virginian-Pilot: Mike Hixenbaugh)
A Navy jet from Oceana Naval Air Station has crashed into the Atlantic.

Navy Plans to Open Surface Forces' Own Top Gun
(Military.com: Michael Hoffman)
The U.S. Navy will stand up the surface fleet's own version of "Top Gun" this summer with the creation of Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command.

Reagan to Replace GW in Japan; Roosevelt to San Diego
(Navy Times)
Plans to shuffle home ports for three aircraft carriers are part of the Navy's ongoing efforts to strengthen its Pacific presence.

Virginia Payload Model Backers Win Support for Sub Project in FY14 Omnibus
(Inside Defense)
Proponents of a Navy plan to stretch the design of future Virginia-class submarines by nearly 100 feet have prevailed in convincing skeptical lawmakers to fully fund the Pentagon's $59 million request for the Virginia Payload Module.

Pentagon Said to Order Cutting Littoral Ships by 20
(Bloomberg News: Tony Capaccio)
The Pentagon has given the U.S. Navy preliminary instructions to buy 32 of its troubled Littoral Combat Ships instead of the 52 previously planned. 

AIR FORCE

Congress: Informing on Fellow Cadets Violates Honor Code
(USA Today: Gregory Korte)
Members of Congress are sharply criticizing a recently revealed program to recruit U.S. Air Force Academy cadets to serve as informants on other cadets suspected of drug use and sexual assault.

Spending Bill Funds Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter
(Air Force Times: Aaron Mehta)
The Air Force's replacement for the long-running Pave Hawk helicopter is slated to receive funds under a massive spending bill unveiled Monday night.

Cadets Test Sound-and-Light System to Deter Bird Strikes
(Air Force Times: Oriana Pawlyk)
For 10 months, a combination of flashing lights and lots of noise has kept Canada geese away from the Air Force Academy campus.

ARMY

Wounded Iraq Veteran Sentenced to Five Years
(The Newport News Daily Press: Matt Sabo)
Steven Browning Tozer, 27, had all but 58 months suspended of a 75-year sentence for 15 felonies that he pleaded guilty to in September.

Army, Guard on Brink of War: NGAUS Fires First Salvo
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
Unless the regular Army and the National Guard can resolve their differences behind closed doors before the president's budget request is publicly submitted there will be open, brutal conflict on Capitol Hill on a scale not seen since the 1990s.

MARINE CORPS

Okinawa Suit Filed to Stop Work on New Camp Schwab Runway
(Stars and Stripes: Chiyomi Sumida)
A group of Okinawa residents filed suit Wednesday, demanding that the governor revoke his approval for landfill work to start on a new runway at Camp Schwab that is crucial to U.S. plans to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

MARSOC Marines Killed in Insider Attack to Receive Navy Cross
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
Two Marines from the Corps' elite special operations unit will be awarded the Navy Cross this week for heroism during an insider attack in Afghanistan in 2012.

Paxton: Shortage of Shipping Has Impacted Marine Operations
(Seapower Magazine: Otto Kreisher)
The Marine Corps' No. 2 officer said a number of recent Marine operations have been impacted by the shortage of amphibious shipping.

IRAN

Iran Wants to Be at Syria Talks but Rejects Conditions
(Reuters)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country will not attend if conditions are set for its participation.

Iran's FM Discusses Peace Talks With Syria's Assad
(Associated Press: Albert Aji, Bassem Mroue)
Syria's president and Iran's foreign minister on Wednesday discussed next week's United Nations conference that aims to resolve Syria's three-year conflict,

Iran Yanks Nuclear Tweet After Blowback
(Fox News: Lauren Ashburn)
Iran's president seemed to be sending a taunting message to the United States via social media. But now he's abruptly pulled back.

U.N. Nuclear Agency Board to Meet Next Week on Iran Deal
(Reuters)
The 35-nation governing board of the U.N. nuclear agency will meet next week to discuss its role in verifying the implementation of a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, it said on Wednesday.

INTELLIGENCE

Obama Expected to Turn to Congress to Help Decide Fate of NSA Phone Data Collection
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima, David Nakamura)
The program's sweeping nature has prompted serious privacy concerns, and a divided Congress is unlikely to renew it when the law underpinning the program expires next year. 

Obama's Path From Critic to Overseer of Spying
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
As a young lawmaker, Barack Obama vowed to rein in a surveillance state run amok. 

Privacy Advocates Expect Little From Obama NSA Speech
(USA Today: Aamer Madhani)
Obama will deliver a major address about the National Security Agency on Friday at the Justice Department. 

Obama's NSA Announcements Just the Starting Point
(Associated Press: Stephen Braun, Julie Pace)
The reality is few changes could happen quickly without unlikely agreements from a divided Congress and federal judges.

Senator Feinstein: 'It Should Be a Crime for a Private Individual to Arm a Drone'
(The Verge: Russell Brandom)
In Wednesday's Senate drone hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein got personal, describing a rally held outside her home earlier this year.

MIDDLE EAST

Damascus Says West Reaches Out on Security
(Reuters)
Some Western nations opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have discussed security cooperation with his government.

Brigade in Kuwait Keeps Wary Eye on Iraq Unrest
(The Colorado Springs Gazette: Tom Roeder)
Fort Carson soldiers in Kuwait are keeping a wary eye on Iraqi unrest as they work to train America's allies in the region.

Yemen Drone Strikes Kills Farmer: Witnesses
(Reuters)
Witnesses said the farmer was killed by shrapnel from two rockets fired by the drone early in the morning as he walked home in the village of al-Houta, near the city of Shibam.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Pentagon Advances V-22 Sale to Israel
(Defense News: Barbara Opall-Rome)
If consummated, the prospective package of six Bell Boeing V-22B Block C tilt rotors and associated support gear will be funded through annual U.S. grant military aid to Israel.

Gates Calls Automatic Pentagon Budget Cuts 'Mindless, Stupid'
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he probably would have quit if he held the job when the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration took effect last year.

Hill Sources: OSD Orders Army to Halt Briefings on Guard Cuts, Aviation Restructure
(Inside Defense)
The Office of the Secretary of Defense has pulled the plug on all Army engagements in which service officials might be asked to further justify plans to cut the size of the Army National Guard and restructure the aviation branch.

Hefty Bank Fees Waylay Soldiers
(The Wall Street Journal: Mark Maremont, Tom McGinty)
Banks that market to U.S. military are among the top collector of fees.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Five Changes State Department Has Made Since Benghazi
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
The State Department has hired more security personnel and lined up more Marines to assist if needed.

Kerry Plays Down Spat With Israeli Defense Chief
(Associated Press: Josef Federman)
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday played down criticism by Israel's defense minister of American efforts to broker peace in the Middle East, saying he wouldn't let "one set of comments" undermine his work.

ASIA/PACIFIC

School in India Ensnared in U.S. Diplomatic Spat
(The New York Times: Gardiner Harris, Benjamin Weiser)
The American Embassy School, popular with expatriates in New Delhi, is facing questions from the Indian government in the latest volley in its diplomatic spat with the United States.

We Hacked North Korea With Balloons and USB Drives
(The Atlantic: Thor Halvorssen, Alexander Lloyd)
An airborne challenge to Kim Jong Un's information monopoly.

North Korea Warns South and U.S. Over "Provocative" Drills
(Reuters)
North Korea has demanded that South Korea and the United States halt annual military drills due in February and March

PACOM Chief: Uncontested U.S. Control of Pacific Is Ending
(Military Times: Andrew Tilghman)
Adm. Sam Locklear told a Navy conference in Virginia that the rise of China is a key factor that is putting at risk U.S. Navy ships and service members in the Pacific.

China: Success Claimed in Test of Weapons-Delivery System
(The New York Times: Keith Bradsher)
China's Defense Ministry said that it had successfully tested a glider that can travel many times the speed of sound, following a report in the Washington Free Beacon.

Chinese Inexperience a Factor in Warships' Near-Miss: U.S. Admiral
(Reuters: David Alexander)
Chinese operational inexperience and communications difficulties on both sides contributed to a near-collision between the USS Cowpens and a Chinese warship in the South China Sea last month. 

DETAINEES

Why Isn't The Media Allowed to Talk to Guantanamo Detainees?
(Yahoo News: Liz Goodwin)
In 12 years, no reporter has ever been allowed to interview a prisoner at Gitmo, as the prison is often called, though some detainees have spoken to the media after they were released.

Seven Words You Won't Hear in Guantanamo
(Yahoo News: Liz Goodwin)
Last week, I went on a media tour of the Guantanamo Bay prison, where the U.S. military is holding 155 men who were deemed "enemy combatants" in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates by the Bush administration.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Senator Presses DHS Chief on Transporting Smuggled Kids, Likens to 'Furious' Scandal
(FoxNews.com)
The Obama administration's alleged practice of transporting smuggled children to their illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. has caught the attention of Congress.

Border-Patrol Drones Being Borrowed by Other Agencies More Often Than Previously Known
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock, Craig Timberg)
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly borrowing border-patrol drones for domestic surveillance operations, a harbinger of what is expected to become the commonplace use of unmanned aircraft by police.

Judge: U.S. Wrongly Labeled Woman a Likely Terrorist on No-Fly List
(San Jose Mercury News: Howard Mintz)
The federal government violated a former Stanford University doctoral student's legal rights nine years ago when it put her on its secretive "no-fly" lists targeting suspected terrorists.

Spending Bill Trims Funding for New Homeland Security Headquarters
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
Homeland Security, now 11 years old and the third-largest department in the federal government, operates without a consolidated headquarters.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS

New Rules Tighten Rights, Atrocity Criteria in U.S. Weapons Shipments
(Reuters)
The guidelines were released on Wednesday and updated for the first time since the mid-1990s.

INDUSTRY

Lynn, Stavridis to Lead CNAS Strategy, Technology, Industry Task Force
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Former Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn and retired Adm. James Stavridis will lead a Center for a New American Security task force on strategy, technology and the global defense industry, the Washington-based think tank announced.

Raytheon Picks Thomas A. Kennedy as Next CEO, Swanson Remains Board Chairman
(Forbes: Loren Thompson)
Kennedy was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer of the nation's third-largest defense contractor last April in a move many observers interpreted as a signal of who would likely succeed Swanson in the CEO's position.

Abrams Funding Included in Fiscal 2014 Appropriations
(The Lima News: Heather Rutz)
The fiscal 2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill includes $90 million in additional funding for the Abrams tank program at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.

AFRICA

U.S. Lawmakers, Frustrated by South Sudan Violence, Question Aid
(Reuters: Patricia Zengerle)
Four weeks of fighting, often along ethnic lines, has been ringing alarm bells in Washington over the prospect that the conflict could spiral into full-blown civil war.

C-17s to Launch Second Airlift in Support of Central African Republic
(Air Force Times: Brian Everstine)
Air Force C-17s this week will begin their second airlift mission in support of operations in the Central African Republic.

VETERANS

VA Riles Veterans With Push to Change Disability Claims Process
(Fox News: Justin Fishel)
The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to change the decades-old way in which veterans file for disability claims—and it has veterans advocacy groups outraged.

VA Denies Vendors Assisted in OR Procedures
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
A Department of Veterans Affairs official on Wednesday denied claims made by government investigators that representatives for companies doing business with the VA assisted in medical procedures at a VA medical facility.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Mixed Results For Mideast Democracy
(The New York Times)
Two Arab countries, Egypt and Tunisia, are moving in radically different directions. 

The Surveillance Moment
(The Wall Street Journal)
Grownups in Congress need to limit the damage from Obama's retreat.

Obama Backs Off Real NSA Reform
(The Daily Beast: Julian Sanchez)
Ignoring one set of expert recommendations is awkward enough; ignoring two would make it even more obvious that the president is unwilling to seriously rein in his own intelligence agencies.

The Kerry Surprise
(The Huffington Post: Ambassador Uri Savir)
Secretary of State John Kerry has broken all frequent-flyer records in his visit to the Middle East.

Syria: No Sign of a Peace Process—or of an End to the Crisis
(The Guardian: Ian Black)
U.S., U.K., France, and Gulf states' demand for Bashar al-Assad to step down will be centerpiece of Geneva peace conference.

The Flexibility of Frigates
(Defense News)
Nations invest enormous effort and money to develop warships packed with high-end capability.

Democrats Could Wreck Obama's Biggest Foreign Policy Success
(The Atlantic: David Rohde)
Derailing Iran negotiations means risking another military conflict in the Middle East.

The Sins of Bob Gates
(The National Interest: Lawrence Korb)
If Gates were the elder statesman that the foreign policy establishment believes he is, he would have at least waited until Obama left office and an agreement with Afghanistan had been worked out before releasing his book.

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

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