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Troops Show Fewer Mental Health Problems, Global Defense Spending Grows, Iran Sees Sanctions Relief

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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U.S. Troops Show Higher Morale, Fewer Mental Health Problems: Report
(Associated Press: Pauline Jelinek)
A new report says U.S. soldiers had higher morale and suffered fewer mental health problems in Afghanistan last year as they handed off more duties to Afghans and saw less combat themselves.

Global Defense Spending to Grow After Years of Decline
(Bloomberg: David Lerman)
Global defense spending will increase this year for the first time since 2009 because of surging military budgets in Russia, Asia, and the Middle East.


Iran Gets First Tranche of Assets Under Sanctions Relief
(Reuters: Mehrdad Balali, Anna Yukhananov)
Iran's official IRNA news agency earlier on Monday reported the money went into an Iranian Central Bank account in Switzerland.

Senators: Kerry Admits Policy Failing in Syria
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham say Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional delegation that the Obama administration's Syria policy is failing and needs to change.

Recruiting Fraud, Kickback Scandal Rocks Army
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
More than 800 soldiers are under criminal investigation for gaming a National Guard program that paid hundreds of millions in bonuses to soldiers who persuaded friends to sign up during the darkest years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Karzai Arranged Secret Contacts With the Taliban
(The New York Times: Azam Ahmed, Matthew Rosenberg)
Peace talks with the Taliban could explain why the Afghan president has held up a security deal, straining his relationship with the United States.



Fake Zombie Attack Shows Major Flaws in U.S. Cybersecurity, Study Warns
(The Washington Post: Craig Timberg, Lisa Rein)
Agencies fail to take basic preventive actions such as creating strong passwords, a Senate report says.

Hacker Group Accuses Angela Merkel Government of Helping to Spy
(The New York Times: Melissa Eddy)
The Chaos Computer Club accused the German chancellor and members of her government of violating the law by helping intelligence agencies in the United States and Britain to spy on German citizens.

Internet Giants, Amid Grumbling, Release New Data on Government Spying
(National Journal: Dustin Volz)
Google, Microsoft, and other companies are thrilled to be able to tell their customers more about the government's surveillance orders—but are still seeking more transparency.

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U.N. Nuclear Agency May Press Iran on Rare Isotope in Probe
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
The U.N. nuclear watchdog says it wants Iran to clarify past production of small amounts of a rare radioactive material that can help trigger an atomic bomb explosion.

Iran Minister: Final Nuclear Deal Possible Within Six Months
(Time: Andrew Katz)
Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says final deal within reach if "good will" exists.


A Pocket Guide to the Military's Many Scandals
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher, Jordain Carney)
Don't be surprised that the military is starting to focus more on ethics training.

Pentagon Looking for 'Big Mechanism' to Mine Health Data
(USA Today: Ray Locker)
The Pentagon is planning to embark on a $45 million data-mining program.

Why the U.S. Military Can't Kill the Benghazi Attackers With a Drone Strike
(Time: Mark Thompson)
Even if they could be found, the U.S. has effectively tied its own hands.

Study: Less War Improves Mental Health of Soldiers
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
The imminent end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan has triggered some of the highest morale and lowest levels of mental illness among deployed U.S. soldiers in years, according to an Army mental health study released Monday.


Deputy to U.N. Syria Envoy Steps Down
(Associated Press)
Nasser al-Kidwa, the deputy to international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, is stepping down.

Russia Says Syria Committed to Abandoning Chemical Arms
(Reuters: Alexei Anishchuk)
Russia stepped up its defense of Damascus on Monday.

Syria Meeting in Rome Endorses Immediate Action to Ensure Humanitarian Access
(Associated Press)
The U.N. humanitarian chief says a meeting of key international players involved in trying to end the Syrian conflict has endorsed a dozen steps to ensure immediate humanitarian relief.

Why al-Qaida Kicked Out Its Deadly Syria Franchise
(Time: Aryn Baker)
After a protracted turf battle, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria finds itself on the outs. That will likely make things even more dangerous.


Bill to Help Veterans Pay Tuition Advances
(Associated Press)
The House passed legislation on Monday that would require public universities to charge veterans in-state tuition rates or face a financial penalty.

Another Big Blow to the Iran Sanctions Bill
(The Washington Post: Greg Sargent)
The push for a new Iran sanctions bill may have stalled in the Senate, but it's still alive and kicking in the House.

HASC Race: Thornberry Has Edge in Helping GOP Candidates
(Defense News: John Bennett)
One candidate to take the House Armed Services Committee gavel next year has donated vastly more to GOP political candidates than his rivals.

Inhofe Slams Obama for Benghazi 'Lie'
(Politico: Burgess Everett)
The senator accused Obama of telling an "outrageous lie" about the attack on a consulate in Benghazi and alleged the administration is orchestrating a cover-up that will eventually rival Watergate in scope.


North Korea May Be Able to Build Own Missile Launchers
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
North Korea appears to have developed some domestic capability to build mobile missile launchers, according to independent researchers.


Role of U.S. Contractors Grows as Iraq Fights Insurgents
(The Wall Street Journal: Dion Nissenbaum)
Hundreds of contractors working for America's biggest defense companies are taking on a broader role in helping Iraq's military learn to use new weapons.

Abbas Seeks NATO Force in Future Palestine
(United Press International)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he proposed to Secretary of State John Kerry a U.S.-led NATO force patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely.

E.U. Ambassador Warns Israel of 'Increasing Isolation' if Peace Talks With Palestinians Fail
(Associated Press)
Lars Faaborg-Andersen told Israel's channel 2 TV Monday that such a scenario wouldn't necessarily be a result of European policy, but rather the actions of private companies.


'Patrol-bots' Eyed as Surveillance Answer
(Defense Tech: Bryant Jordan)
A California start-up is turning out capsule-shaped robots that it says could serve as the eyes and ears of base police units.


22,500 Face Cuts This Year
(Air Force Times: Stephen Losey)
The Air Force is planning to cut roughly 22,500 airmen this year alone through its massive force-management programs.

USAF Leaders Hint at Platforms, Personnel Cuts
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
A number of statements, both in public appearances and during interviews, provide a sense of direction for the Air Force's plans.

2013: Year One of 10?
(Air Force Magazine: Amy McCullough)
Meet the new normal. It will probably include tiered readiness, abandoned missions, grounded squadrons, and canceled classes.

Interview: Gen. Michael Hostage, Commander, U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command
(Defense News)
Hostage is charged with keeping the combat air forces ready to go at a moment's notice.

U.S. Marshals Take Accused Air Force Deserter Into Custody
(The Columbia State: John Monk)
A captain who disappeared from Shaw AFB in December and who the Air Force Office of Special Investigations considers a potential deserter has been arrested in Alabama.


Guard Bureau Outlines Counterproposal for Army Aviation Restructure
(Inside Defense)
The National Guard Bureau has outlined a counterproposal to the Army's aviation restructure plan that would retain some AH-64 Apaches in the reserve component, according to an NGB document obtained by Inside the Army.

Military Sniper Links His String of Armed Robberies to PTSD
(Los Angeles Times: David Zucchino)
As an Army sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gabriel Brown craved danger.


Submarine Base 'Never Better' Despite a Tight Budget
(The Day: Jennifer McDermott)
When the new commander of the Naval Submarine Base hosts visitors, he takes them to the gym.

The One-Way Mission of the H.L. Hunley
(Naval History Magazine: Brian Hicks)
One hundred and fifty years ago, an unusual, innovative craft viewed by many as a failed experiment made naval history when she became the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.

Navy Names Ship in Honor of Astronaut John Glenn
(Associated Press)
The former Ohio senator attended the ceremony in San Diego at General Dynamics' National Steel and Shipbuilding Company.


Marines Raise Money From Their Powerful 'Brand'
(USA Today: Jim Michaels)
Over its storied 238-year history, the Marine Corps has built a powerful brand.


DOJ Investigates Big Banks' Dealings With Libya: Report
The Justice Department is investigating investment deals made around the time of the financial crisis and afterward and whether the firms violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

U.S. Urges South Sudan to Honor Ceasefire, Free Political Prisoners
(Reuters: Lesley Wroughton)
The United States urged South Sudan's leaders to implement a January 23 ceasefire between the government and rebels as an advance team of regional monitors arrived in the country


Europe, U.S. Offer Ukraine Help
(USA Today: Olga Rudenko, Louise Osborne)
The offer could put President Viktor Yanukovych under increasing pressure to step down.

American Tanks Return to Europe After Brief Leave
(Stars and Stripes: Michael Darnell)
American tanks have returned to military bases in Germany where they had been a heavy presence since World War II.


The U.S. Must Reconsider Its Failed Syria Policy
(The Wall Street Journal)
For months Mr. Kerry has been assuring the world that Syria's epic carnage could be best addressed by peace negotiations in Geneva.

Hillary the Hawk?
(National Interest: Usha Sahay)
If comfort with overseas intervention and the use of force is considered a point-blank disqualifier, liberals will find themselves with precious few options come 2016.

Bitter Pills
(Air Force Magazine: Frank Oliveri)
The U.S. can't pay its troops enough for their service, but it also can't afford continually rising compensation.

Open Letter to John Kerry: Tough Talk in Munich Threatens to Undo Peace Process
(The Huffington Post: Abraham Foxman)
Describing the potential for expanded boycotts of Israel makes it more, not less, likely that the talks will not succeed.

U.S. Missile Defense Isn't Ready for Prime Time
(Defense One: Tom Collina)
In the next few months, the Pentagon plans to conduct a test of its troubled long-range missile-defense system.

Media Coverage of Olympic Terror Threats Shines Spotlight on Wrong Players
(The Daily Beast: Dean Obeidallah)
The media's focus on the Olympic terror threats tells the bad guys they can take home gold.

The U.S. Dilemma in Egypt
(Defense One: Bernard Gwertzman)
The army's heavy-handed crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood has the United States concerned "that Egypt is going down a path of persistent instability," says Egypt expert Michele Dunne.

The Talks, Round Two
(The New York Times: Roger Cohen)
For six months now, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, led respectively by Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, have been tied up in U.S.-mediated peace negotiations.

Holding Sri Lanka to Account
(The New York Times)
Washington is once again trying to put pressure on the government of Sri Lanka to commission a credible, independent investigation of crimes and human-rights abuse.

For Terror Suspects, Wheels of Justice Grind Slowly
(The Wall Street Journal: Gerald Seib)
The slow prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—confessed murderer of Danny Pearl and alleged 9/11 ringleader—shines a light on the U.S.'s troubled terror-justice system.

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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