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Taliban Threatened to Kill Bergdahl, 18 Vets Left Off Wait Lists Have Died, Dunford to Replace Amos Taliban Threatened to Kill Bergdahl, 18 Vets Left Off Wait Lists Have ...

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Taliban Threatened to Kill Bergdahl, 18 Vets Left Off Wait Lists Have Died, Dunford to Replace Amos

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.

 
Taliban Threatened to Kill Bowe Bergdahl if Swap Deal Leaked
(CBS News/Associated Press)
The threat—not just concerns that Bergdahl's health might be failing—drove the Obama administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him.

VA Head Says 18 Vets Left Off Wait List Have Died
(Associated Press: Matthew Daly, Terry Tang)
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Thursday that he would ask the inspector general to see if there is any indication those deaths were related to long wait times.

Top VA Health Nominee Withdraws Over Ties to Waiting-List Scandal
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
The decision follows reports tying the nominee to a hospital with alleged secret waiting lists.

Dunford Picked as Next Marine Commandant
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
The officials said there was no official timeline for when Dunford would leave Afghanistan to prepare for confirmation hearings.

 

Pentagon: China's Military Budget Continues Rapid Rise Amid Tensions
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
China's military budget rose to more than $145 billion last year.

Obama, G-7 Colleagues Push Russia-Ukraine Talks
(USA Today: David Jackson)
The allies say Russian President Vladimir Putin must recognize President-elect Petro Poroshenko as the new leader of Ukraine, stop shipping arms across the border, and stop supporting separatists.

BERGDAHL

Bergdahl Walked Away Before, Military Report Shows
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt)
But it stops short of concluding that there is solid evidence that Sergeant Bergdahl intended to permanently desert.

Obama Defends Bergdahl Prisoner Swap
(Military.com: Richard Sisk)
Obama suggested that the firestorm of criticism in Congress over the trade for a soldier who may have deserted his post in Afghanistan was politically motivated.

 

Chuck Hagel: Bowe Bergdahl Swap Decision Was Unanimous
(CBS News: Rebecca Kaplan)
Hagel said he, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Attorney General Eric Holder, were unanimous on the decision to seek Bergdahl's freedom in a prisoner exchange.

Democrats Are Weary in Wake of Bergdahl Case
(The New York Times: Carl Huse)
Obama's handling of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange has prompted criticism that the White House failed to prepare the lawmakers for the politically explosive case.

Pentagon: Bergdahl's Condition Improving at Landstuhl
(Stars and Stripes: Jennifer Svan, Jon Harper)
Bergdahl is only in contact with his reintegration and recovery team, and he has not yet spoken with his parents.

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What Punishment Could Bergdahl Face?
(Stars and Stripes: Chris Carroll)
If he's found to have committed misconduct—whether going absent without leave or deserting his unit—possible penalties range from an administrative discharge up to several years in prison.

Pentagon Effort to Free More Hostages With Bergdahl Nixed
(USA Today: Oren Dorell)
The Pentagon had a "broader goal" of including Caitlan Coleman of York , Pa., her baby who was born in captivity and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, in a deal to free Bergdah.

Militants' Release Relied on Qatar's Vow to Monitor
(The Washington Post: Anne Gearan)
The five men exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are subject to limits — including a travel ban — but critics worry that they could rejoin the Taliban insurgency.

CONGRESS

Senators Announce Accord on Improving Veterans' Care
(The New York Times: Jonathan Weisman, Jennifer Steinhauer)
It's likely to be the main legislative response to the scandal involving secret waiting lists and other efforts to paper over crushing waits for veterans seeking health care.

Watchdog Agencies to Testify Monday About VA Scheduling Scandal
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
Representatives from the VA Inspector General's Office and the Government Accountability Office, Congress's nonpartisan investigative wing, are slated to appear as witnesses.

DoD to Congress: Limit Travel to Afghanistan
(Politico: Austin Wright)
Hagel and Dempsey announced new restrictions on congressional delegation trips, called codels, to the country.

Senate Panel Cool Toward Bill Passed by House to Overhaul the NSA
(The Wall Street Journal: Siobhan Gorman)
Some lawmakers defend agency's surveillance program; others say legislation fails to protect privacy.

Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Other Tech Titans Tell Senate to Fix NSA Spying
(The Verge: Adi Robertson)
CEOs are urging the Senate to pass a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act, restoring provisions that were removed under pressure from the White House and intelligence community.

D-DAY

D-Day's Last Voices Battle Time
(The Wall Street Journal: Stacy Meichtry, Marion Halftermeyer)
For many of the surviving World War II veterans who have provided living testimony to the fateful invasion's legacy of shared sacrifice, this D-Day milestone is likely to be their last.

Obama Honors WWII, 9/11 Generations At Normandy
(Associated Press: Nedra Pickler, Julie Pace)
Obama spoke from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where nearly 10,000 white marble tombstones sit on a bluff overlooking the site of the battle's most violent fighting

Veterans Return To Normandy For D-Day Anniversary
(Associated Press: Greg Keller)
Ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day are drawing thousands of visitors to the cemeteries, beaches and stone-walled villages of Normandy.

From the Vault: Watch Footage of Soldiers Invading Normandy
(NBC News)
NBC News looks back at footage from "The DuPont Show of the Week: D-Day" first aired in 1962.

Remembering D-Day
(Military Times)
In a photo released June 12, 1944, Army troops gather on board a LCT, ready to ride across the English Channel to France. Some of these men wear 101st Airborne Division insignia.

UKRAINE/RUSSIA

Kerry, Lavrov: Ukraine Shouldn't Be 'Pawn'
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Kerry and Lavrov said Moscow and Washington agree that Ukraine should be a peaceful, stable, and prosperous bridge between Russia and Europe.

Russia Says U.S. Should Push Ukrainian Leader to Halt Violence
(Reuters: Steve Gutterman)
Lavrov said Ukraine's pro-Western government should take the first step to stop the fighting and voiced confidence its opponents in eastern Ukraine would follow suite.

Former Officials: U.S. Should Give Ukraine Anti-Armor Weapons, Deploy 'Heavy' Forces
(Defense News: John Bennett)
But several also called for Washington to directly arm Ukraine's forces and beef up its military presence in Russia's backyard.

EUROPE

Hagel Visits U.S. Warship in Black Sea at 'Troubling Time'
(Defense One: Kevin Baron)
Hagel flew from NATO headquarters to Romania to tour the Aegis-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, the fourth American warship sent to the Black Sea.

Obama Opposes Scotland Independence
(Time: Hannah Goldberg)
The president said he wants the U.K. to remain a "strong, robust, united" ally.

Obama Nominates Kevin O'Malley as Ireland Ambassador
(The Washington Post: Al Kamen, Colby Itkowitz)
O'Malley already has a welcome party awaiting him on the other side of the Atlantic.

IRAN

$21 Million for Selling Parts to Iran
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone)
A unit of Fokker Technologies of the Netherlands has agreed to pay $21 million in penalties to settle accusations that it repeatedly violated American sanctions.

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

Official: Bombs Strike Afghan Candidate Convoy
(Associated Press)
Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqui said no one from Abdullah's entourage was wounded in the attack.

ASIA/PACIFIC

UAVs, Stealth, Carriers, Amphibs: DOD Report Details China's Weapons
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
The People's Liberation Army has practiced jamming GPS signals, and the Chinese are testing those and other electronic warfare weapons and they have "proven effective."

Beijing Criticizes U.S. Report On Chinese Military
(Associated Press)
Beijing is criticizing a Pentagon report saying that big budget increases have boosted the Chinese military's ability to project military power abroad.

U.S. General Says South Korea Databases Hacked
(Associated Press: Youkyung Lee)
A hacking incident might have compromised the personal information of thousands of South Koreans employed by the American command.

North Korea Detains Another American
(The New York Times: Choe Sang-Hun)
The man, the third American being held in North Korea, was accused of violating North Korean laws while visiting the country as a tourist.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Adm. Klein Hopes to Squelch Military Scandals
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
"We've been making news for all the wrong reasons," Klein said.

U.S. Missile Defense Test Could Shift Timing to Add Interceptors
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
The success or failure of an upcoming U.S. missile defense test could affect when the Pentagon deploys 14 more ground-based interceptors.

Pay Survey Going Out to Troops
(Army Times)
Thousands of troops are getting emails inviting them to participate in an official, first-of-its-kind survey seeking to gauge their feelings about their pay and benefits package.

Risk of Catching MERS Is Low, DOD Doctor Says
(Military Times)
A virus that has sickened more than 800 people around the world, mostly in the Middle East, poses little risk to U.S. service members.

ARMY

Mother: Slain Bragg Soldier Wanted Military Career
(Associated Press)
Military authorities said that 29-year-old Capt. Jason Jones of Orwigsburg died in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, of wounds received from small arms.

Iraqi Goes From Translator for U.S. Army to Soldier
(Associated Press: Brett Barrouquer)
In the months after American forces invaded Iraq in 2003, Abdulla Mizead would look warily as soldiers carrying heavy weapons patrolled his neighborhood in Najaf.

NAVY

Pilot Unharmed in Super Hornet Crash off California Coast
(Military Times: Meghann Myers)
The pilot was recovered after safely ejecting from the jet and was in stable condition aboard the Carl Vinson.

MARINE CORPS

Second Arrest Made in Assault on Marine
(Daily News: Matthew Adkins)
Lance Cpl. Daniel Oczkowski Jr., 21, of Camp Lejeune was charged with accessory after the fact in the assault.

AIR FORCE

Why Elon Musk Is Suing the U.S. Air Force
(National Journal: Alex Brown)
The tech billionaire-turned-rocket entrepreneur is suing the Air Force over the way it awards private contracts to launch the Pentagon's satellites.

SPECIAL OPERATIONS

War's Elite Tough Guys, Hesitant to Seek Healing
(The New York Times: Thom Shanker, Richard Oppel Jr.)
Suicides have increased among the military's Special Operations forces, prompting concern that brain injuries and stress have not been properly treated.

INDUSTRY

Canadian Review Will Recommend Buying Lockheed F-35 Fighter Jet
(Reuters: Andrea Shalal)
An 18-month review of Canada's fighter jet needs has concluded that the government should skip a new competition and proceed with the $8.22 billion purchase.

INTELLIGENCE

Clapper: Snowden May Have Taken Less Than Was Thought
(The Washington Post: David Ignatius)
The intelligence chief says that the impact, while still "profound," may be less than feared. An official also said a plea negotiation is possible.

VETERANS

VA to Release Nationwide Audit Results Next Week
(Marine Corps Times: Patricia Kime)
A preliminary report detailing scheduling problems at 60 percent of VA hospitals and clinics found systemic issues.

VA Candidates Cover a Wide Spectrum
(Military.com: Bryant Jordan)
What is immediately clear from the names suggested is that many see military and government experience as a significant requirement to lead the VA.

McChrystal: I'm Not the Right Person to Run Veterans Affairs
(Yahoo News: Olivier Knox)
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that he is not "the best person" to run the troubled department.

Acting VA Secretary to Visit Phoenix Facility
(Associated Press: Terry Tang)
Gibson plans to discuss actions taken to address allegations that numerous veterans have died while waiting to get an appointment.

OSC Investigating Alleged Retaliation Against 37 VA Whistle-Blowers
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
They include allegations that managers placed employees on suspension or demoted them after they tried to expose inappropriate record-keeping practices at VA hospitals.

Pittsburgh VA Settles Legionnaire's Suit for $227K
(Associated Press: Joe Mandak)
The veteran, John Ciarolla, of North Versailles, died of the severe form of pneumonia.

VA Grants Sex-Assault Victim $405K for '87 Attacks
(Military Times: Jeff Schogol)
The VA wrote to Moore that it had made a "clear and unmistakable error" when it decided that the depression from which she suffers was not related to her attacks.

VA Denies 4 in 5 Gulf War Illness Claims, New Data Show
(Air Force Times: Patricia Kime)
In April show 54,193 claims have been filed for Gulf War-related illnesses with 11,216 granted service connection.

Local Tech Companies Offer to Solve Scheduling Problems at VA Hospitals
(The Washington Post: Amrita Jayakumar)
A group of Northern Virginia technology contractors offered to lend its expertise to help address the widespread scheduling problems facing patients seeking medical care at veterans hospitals.

HOMELAND SECURITY

DHS Shifts Nuclear-Screening Focus to 'High-Risk' Cargo
(Global Security Newswire: Diane Barnes)
Homeland Security officials said they are moving to tighten overseas checks of U.S.-bound cargo containers deemed likely to be hiding nuclear contraband.

DETAINEES

U.S. Undeterred From Closing Guantanamo
(The Wall Street Journal: Jess Bravin)
Furor over recent prisoner exchange could hamper Obama administration's plans to shut prison.

AMERICAS

Clinton Says She Urged End to Cuba Embargo
(Associated Press: Matthew Lee)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she pushed Obama to lift or ease the decades-long U.S. embargo on Cuba.

AFRICA

Kenya: U.S. Embassy Increases Defenses Amid Threat
(Associated Press: Jason Straziuso)
Intelligence has been circulating in the region the last two months that American interests are the next intended target for al-Shabab.

U.S. Envoy Urges Congo's Kabila to Respect Law, Step Aside in 2016
(Reuters: Peter Jones)
Speculation is growing that Kabila may seek a third term despite a two-term limit stipulated in Article 220 of Congo's national charter.

Boko Haram Tightens Grip on Northern Nigeria Region
(The Wall Street Journal: Drew Hinshaw)
A series of attacks kills nearly 200 people and uproots hundreds more.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

Putin Retakes Normandy
(The Wall Street Journal)
So much for the Russian's isolation after conquering Crimea.

The Rush to Demoralize Sgt. Bergdahl
(The New York Times)
This hypocrisy now pervades the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and has even infected several fearful Democrats.

Does It Matter if Bowe Bergdahl Was a Deserter?
(National Journal: Elahe Izadi, Brian Resnick)
For the sake of Washington, this story is about Guantanamo, the power of the White House versus Congress, and the drawdown of the Afghanistan War.

Obama's Real Failure: Not Talking to the Taliban Enough
(The Atlantic: Peter Beinart)
A new critique of the president's "don't do stupid shit" doctrine is emerging—and it's coming from within his own party.

Snowden Can't Hide Fact That America Needs the NSA
(USA Today: Keith Alexander, John Inglis)
Men and women at the intelligence agency keep us safe and don't threaten our privacy.

It's Been a Year Since Snowden, and Nothing's Really Changed
(Foreign Policy: Laura Pitter)
Is the administration blind to the real and tangible harm the NSA surveillance program is doing to America's credibility?

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