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Senators Frustrated After Bergdahl Briefing, VA Scandal Spreads, More Base Closures Headed to Europe Senators Frustrated After Bergdahl Briefing, VA Scandal Spreads, More ...

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Senators Frustrated After Bergdahl Briefing, VA Scandal Spreads, More Base Closures Headed to Europe

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.

 

385 Vets on Wichita VA Waiting List
(Associated Press)
Executive secretary Diane Henderson says the 385 veterans did not include nine others who waited more than 90 days for appointments.

Survey of El Paso VA Highlights Problems and Possible Solutions
(Los Angeles Times: Molly Hennessy-Fiske)
Veterans were forced to wait more than two months for mental health services.

More Base Consolidations on the Way to Europe
(Stars and Stripes: John Vandiver)
The primary "capacity analysis," is expected to be on Hagel's desk within two months, if not earlier.

 

Senators Show Frustration After Briefing on Ex-P.O.W.
(The New York Times: Jeremy Peters, Michael Shear)
White House officials failed to quell rising anger and frustration in both parties on Capitol Hill after a senators-only classified briefing.

Afghan Villagers Recall When Bergdahl Stumbled Into Their Midst
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
To them, it's clear something was wrong with the American. And he seemed to be deliberately heading for Taliban strongholds, they say.

NATO to Keep Around 12,000 Troops in Afghanistan Next Year: U.S. Official
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom, Adrian Croft)
Meanwhile, some 1,800 Americans will conduct counterterrorism missions.

CONGRESS

Levin: No Floor Time Scheduled Yet for NDAA
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Sen. Carl Levin said he wants to avoid a repeat of last year, when the bill sat idle for months.

 

Senate Intel Moves First on NSA Reform
(The Hill: Julian Hattem)
Lawmakers will hear testimony from the DOJ, NSA, FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as privacy advocates, and tech and communication company executives.

Two Democrats Opposing Obama Bundler Ambassador Pick
(The Washington Post: Al Kamen)
Two key Senate Democrats have informed the Obama administration that they will oppose the nomination of Chartwell Hotels founder George Tsunis

Graham Warns of Republican Impeachment Push Over Gitmo
(The Hill: Alexander Bolton)
Republicans worry Obama may try to shut down the prison camp unilaterally after congressional opposition has repeatedly stymied efforts to pass legislation to close it.

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Senate Moves Toward Vote on VA Health Care
(Associated Press: Matthew Daly)
The Senate is moving forward on a compromise bill to help veterans avoid long waits to see a doctor and make it easier to fire administrators who falsify records to cover up long wait times.

Bill Would Allow Veterans to Sue VA
(The Hill: Cristina Marcos)
Toomey said his measure would be a means of holding the VA accountable to veterans who have not received adequate healthcare.

House GOP Wants Obama VA 'Vision'
(The Hill: Mario Trujillo)
House Republican leaders on called on Obama to present his vision for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs.

House VA Chairman: Low Odds on Dem Plan
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
Rep. Jeff Miller said the Democratic proposal to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs likely would not survive a House vote as it now stands.

BERGDAHL

Before Bergdahl Heads Home, a Staged Decompression'
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan)
The former captive's reintegration into society could take months, and a reunion with his family will be delayed.

False Tips Hampered Search for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
(The Wall Street Journal: Dion Nissenbaum, Siobhan Gorman, Adam Entous)
Officials say militants provided information that led American troops into dangerous traps

Chambliss Makes Formal Request to Release 'Taliban 5' Intel
(Roll Call: Niels Lesniewski)
The "Taliban Five" were transferred out of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for the release of Bergdahl.

Hagel Calls Bergdahl Family
(Associated Press: Lolita Baldor)
Hagel wished the family well and told them the Defense Department will continue to support the soldier's medical care and the process known as reintegration.

Critics Should Wait for Facts Before Condemning Bergdahl, Hagel Says
(Reuters: Adrian Croft, David Brunnstrom)
"I do not know of specific circumstances or details of U.S. solders dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sergeant Bergdahl," Hagel said.

Bowe Bergdahl Swap Took Place in Legal Gray Area
(The Wall Street Journal: Jess Bravin)
Whether the president exceeded his authority, however, is another question.

Bergdahl Uproar Halts Plan for Return Celebration
(Associated Press: Brian Skoloff, Rahim Faiez)
There will be no hero's welcome for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in his hometown, no fanfare of parades, music or picnics in the park.

The Army Lied About the Hero Who Died Looking for Bowe Bergdahl
(The Daily Beast: Michael Daly)
His family never knew his true mission—until now.

Attention, Politicians: We See You Deleting Those Bergdahl Tweets
(The Washington Post: Philip Bump)
Earlier today, three different members of Congress — two Republicans and a Democrat — deleted their tweets of support for Bergdahl's release.

Clinton Originally Opposed Prisoner Swap
(The Washington Post: Scott Wilson)
Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and other officials--including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr.-- also opposed the deal.

UKRAINE/RUSSIA

Obama Gives Backing to Ukraine's New President
(Reuters: Roberta Rampton, Natalia Zinets)
Obama met Poroshenko for the first time since his election last month and said he was impressed with what he found.

Amid Ukraine Spat, Putin Open to Obama 'Dialogue'
(Associated Press)
Putin blamed the West for triggering the Ukrainian crisis. He said "dialogue is the best way to bridge any gaps."

Ukrainian President: It's Possible I'll Meet Putin This Week
(Reuters: Natalia Zinets)
Unveiling the first details of his plan, Poroshenko said it would involve de-centralisation of power to the region, local elections, and an amnesty offer.

Russian FM Blasts West Over Ukrainian Crisis
(Associated Press)
Sergey Lavrov harshly criticized the West for ignoring Russia's interests and refusing to treat it as an equal partner.

Ukraine Considering Martial Law in East
(The Wall Street Journal: Alan Cullison, Kayta Gorchinskaya, Lukas Alpert)
Move comes as two government bases fall to pro-Russia rebels.

Border Guards in Ukraine Abandon Posts
(The New York Times: Sabrina Tavernise, Sergey Ponomarev)
The move helped open a strategic corridor for the transport of goods, contraband and war material from Russia that could lead to a widening of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Reaffirms: No Weapons Will Go to Ukraine
(USA Today: David Jackson, Oren Dorell)
The administration will continue to review their requests" but that the U.S. policy hasn't changed regarding lethal weapons.

Obama, Seeking Unity on Russia, Meets Obstacles
(The New York Times: Peter Baker)
President Obama, meeting with the leaders of the Group of 7 powers, faces challenges navigating the complicated waters of European politics.

G7 Leaders Meet Without Russia, Take Firm Line on Ukraine
(Reuters: Luke Baker, Roberta Rampton)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the West would not hesitate to impose stricter economic sanctions on Russia if it failed to cooperate.

EUROPE

France Moves to Defy Allies on Sale of Warship to Russia
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry)
France is preparing to train hundreds of Russian seamen aboard a powerful French-made warship.

Obama Meeting With European Allies on Ukraine
(Associated Press: Nedra Pickler
Obama plans to consult with British Prime Minister David Cameron, then hop a short flight to Paris for dinner with French President Francois Hollande.

U.S. Deploying B-52s to Europe
(Defense News: Oriana Pawlyk)
The move comes amid Russian aggression in Eastern Europe where Moscow has invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Obama to Poland, Eastern Europe: You Are Not Alone
(USA Today: David Jackson)
Obama praised Poland for its emergence as a vital democracy and called it a model for other developing nations -- including Ukraine.

German Prosecutor to Probe U.S. Spies for Bugging Merkel's Probe
(Reuters: Stephen Brown)
The two countries have been at odds over the U.S. National Security Agency's spying habits since Snowden's revelations last year.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

U.S. Asks Allies for Counterterrorism Force in Afghanistan
(The Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes, Naftali Bendavid)
Force tasked with conducting counterterrorism missions and training Afghan forces.

Obama's Afghan Plan Is Not a 'Withdrawal' but a 'Transition,' U.S. Commander Says
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said the plan he expects to implement bears no resemblance to the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Afghanistan's Taliban Embrace the Power of Video Propaganda
(The Guardian: Emma Graham-Harrison)
Islamist extremists, who shunned technology when in power, now realise they must convince the population they are winning.

Trashed: U.S. Gear in Afghanistan to Be Sold, Scrapped
(U.S. News & World Report: Paul Shinkman)
Billions worth of equipment will be left in a country with a legacy of foreign invasion.

Western Couple Held in Afghanistan Plead for Help in Videos
(Los Angeles Times: Ryan Parker)
Western couple plead for help in videos after their apparent capture in Afghanistan.

SYRIA

Inspectors Press Syria on Chemical Arms 'Discrepancies': Envoys
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
Inspectors overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal have asked the government to clarify disparities in its original declaration on its cache of toxic gas.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Declared Election Winner
(The Wall Street Journal: Sam Dagher)
Assad wins 88.7 percent of 11.6 million votes cast, according to parliament speaker.

Kerry Calls Syria Election a 'Great Big Zero'
(The Washington Post: Liz Sly)
Kerry did not address the criticisms of the recently resigned U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.

IRAN

Iran's Leader Says Obama Has Removed Military Option
(The New York Times: Thomas Erdbrink)
The ayatollah's remarks also came against the backdrop of other events suggesting that the Obama administration was more amenable to negotiating with its adversaries.

West Prods Iran to Speed Up Cooperation With IAEA Inquiry
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
U.S. officials say it is vital for Iran to resolve the IAEA's questions if parallel negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1 on the long-term accord are to succeed.

MIDDLE EAST

Drone Strike Kills Three Suspected Militants in Yemen
(Reuters: Mohammed Ghobari)
The strike targeted a vehicle in which the suspected militants were travelling in the Wadi Abida district of the central Maarib province.

Kerry: U.S. Troubled by Lack of Lebanese President
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Kerry said the United States would continue to support Lebanon, including its armed forces, but also urged a speedy resolution to the governing impasse.

Kerry: U.S. Will Work With Palestinian Unity Cabinet
(Associated Press: Ibrahim Barzak)
Israel has urged the U.S. and Europe to shun the technocrat government backed by Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah.

ASIA/PACIFIC

China Lodges Protest With U.S. Over Tiananmen Remarks
(Reuters: Michael Martina, Ben Blanchard)
China has lodged a diplomatic protest over U.S., issuing a sterner rejection of Washington's call for it to account for those killed in pro-democracy protests.

Chinese State Media Vows to 'Severely Punish' Google and Apple for NSA Spying
(The Verge: Russell Brandom)
China's People's Daily launched into a bitter attack on US tech firms this morning, highlighting tensions raised by NSA surveillance.

Putin Is Looking to Get Better Ties With North Korea
(Associated Press: Eric Talmadge)
Angry with the West's response over Ukraine and eager to diversify its options, Russia is moving rapidly to bolster ties with North Korea in a diplomatic nose-thumbing.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Are Modern U.S. Embassies Becoming Too Costly to Build?
(CBS News)
Building beautiful embassies comes at a cost.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Intelsat Readies For 'Epic' Foray Into Military SatCom
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
The military has fumbled and groped and stumbled and, gradually, figured out ways to buy a mix of commercial satellite communications and dedicated military satellites.

NAVY

Navy Seeks Guided Deck-Gun Shell
(Navy Times: Jeff Schogol)
The Navy wants to arm its cruisers and destroyers with shells-turned-missiles that would bring naval gunnery and the 5-inch deck gun into the age of the smart bomb.

Man Pleads Guilty in Counterfeit Sub Parts Case
(Associated Press)
Peter Picone faces up to 46 months after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit military goods.

Midshipman Was Drinking Prior to Crash
(Baltimore Sun: Colin Campbell)
A midshipman who crashed his SUV into a creek and drowned in February had been drinking at an Annapolis bar earlier that night, a Naval Academy investigation found.

AIR FORCE

Rape Charges Against Senior Air Force NCO Dismissed
(Stars and Stripes: Adam Mathis)
Chief Master Sgt. Roy Bowser Jr. also faced charges of obtaining sex by threat of force or death and shoving an alleged victim.

Inside the Air Force's Secret Drone Pilot Training Classroom
(The Atlantic: Corey Mead)
Learning how to drop bombs and fire Hellfire missiles is more like sitting in a regular college classroom than you might expect.

ARMY

Bragg Training Explosion Still Under Investigation
(Fayetteville Observer: Paige Rentz)
Two Fort Bragg soldiers injured on base earlier this year have settled into the routine of recovery.

INDUSTRY

Andrews Lobbying DoD on Procurement Policies
(Politico: Austin Wright)
The New Jersey-based business MERIT has retained former Rep. Rob Andrews to support its "efforts to gain business opportunities with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies."

VETERANS

VA Says It Has Contacted Vets Left Off Phoenix Wait List
(Associated Press: Matthew Daly)
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the department is discussing individual medical needs with the veterans and has begun scheduling appointments.

Acting VA Chief Vows to Restore Vets' Trust in System
(Military Times: Leo Shane III)
Gibson promised quick action on the department's wait times scandal and efforts to restore veterans' trust in the system.

Army Vet Charged With Scamming VA
(Associated Press)
Federal prosecutors are also seeking to recover $480,000 in VA benefits they claim Thomas Cueto has collected since 1999.

First Lady Promotes Effort to End Vet Homelessness
(Associated Press: Nancy Benac)
The first lady welcomed to the White House some 20 mayors and local officials who are among dozens around the country participating in the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

VA's Sleep Apnea Patients Get Top Priority For Care
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
Top-priority status puts most veterans with sleep apnea in front of veterans who have lost a foot, perhaps by a buried IED in Afghanistan.

TERRORISM

FBI: Tsarnaev Friend Sent Money to 6 Countries
(Associated Press)
The agent says the money transfers by the man, Khairullozhon Matanov, stopped during the time in 2012 when one of the bombing suspects went to Russia.

DETAINEES

Government Considers Freeing Another Guantanamo Inmate
(Fox News: Nick Kalman)
Fouzi Khalid Abdullah al-Awda appeared via a video feed before a review board Wednesday morning in northern Virginia.

AMERICAS

A U.S. Veteran, Deported and Struggling in Jamaica
(Associated Press: David McFadden)
The 43-year-old father of two was deported in May 2012 from the U.S. to his Caribbean homeland because he was convicted of a marijuana-related felony drug charge in 1997.

AFRICA

Lawmakers See Possible Contractor Issues in Africa as U.S. Quietly Pivots There
(Defense News: John Bennett)
The House's NDAA contains a provision that would require the comptroller general to deliver a detailed report about U.S. Africa Command's ability to "plan, manage and oversee contractors."

NATO Extends Somali Counter-Piracy Mission to 2016
(Reuters: Adrian Croft)
The alliance said that piracy remains a threat despite a sharp fall in attacks.

U.S. Criticizes Rwanda Over Disappearances, Press Freedom
(Reuters: Doina Chiacu)
The State Department also cited "credible reports" that journalists have been threatened in the central African country and that the government has suspended a call-in news radio program.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

The Bergdahl Fiasco
(The Wall Street Journal
For Obama, foreign policy is mainly about domestic politics.

POW Swap Endangers Americans
(USA Today: Sen. Marco Rubio)
Deal is part and parcel of a broader problem with Obama's approach to the war on terror.

Talks in Bergdahl Release Had Wider Goal
(Associated Press: Kathy Gannon)
The four-year history of secret dialogue that led to Sunday's release suggests that the main goal of each side may have been far more sweeping.

Where Bowe Bergdahl Goes From Here
(Time: Jay Newton-Small)
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is just days into what could be months or years of recovery.

No, Prisoner-of-War Bowe Bergdahl Did Not Get Americans Killed
(War Is Boring: David Axe)
Frustration trumps fair thinking where possible deserter is concerned.

War-Zone Deserter? If So, Bowe Bergdahl Joins a Fascinating and Bizarre Club
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
What makes Bergdahl's case so unusual in modern times is that he disappeared while in a war zone.

Obama Turns to Poland for Fans of American Leadership
(Time: Simon Shuster)
Beset by scandals at home and a confrontation with Russia over Eastern Europe, Obama finds a crowd of admirers in Poland still eager for American leadership.

Obama Must Use Europe Trip to Reinforce U.S. Leadership
(The National Interest: Bernardo Pires de Lima, Erik Brattberg)
The timing of the President's trip to Europe could not be more critical.

The West's Wobbly Defense of Freedom
(The Washington Post)
Tough talk isn't deterring Putin's Russia.

Standing Up to Mr. Putin
(The New York Times)
The alliance needs to be honest with itself and take full account of Putin's ruthless unpredictability as it plans security arrangements for the future.

No-Bluff Putin
(Foreign Policy: Stephen Walt)
Anyone who says Russia is losing in Ukraine doesn't understand how this game is played.

How to Save Ukraine and Thwart Putin's Plans
(Politico: Mikheil Saakashvili)
The United States is in a unique position to thwart Putin's game plan.

Assad Engineers His Re-Election
(The New York Times)
No one can pretend this election is consistent with a credible democratic process.

Here Is What the VA Needs to Do to Start Rehabilitating Itself
(Time: Eric Greitens)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing an emergency

A Vet's Advice for Those Leaving the Service
(Foreign Policy: David Goldich)
Not an all-encompassing list -- just some things I routinely find myself advising on.

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