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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Ukraine Announces Accord to End Crisis
(The New York Times: Andrew Kramer, Andrew Higgins)
After days of bloodshed in Kiev, European negotiators meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych, Russsian representatives and the protesters are to sign an agreement on Friday.
What You Need to Know About the Next Defense Budget
(National Journal: Sara Sorcher)
The December budget deal eased some of the Pentagon's pain from the sequester, but the battles over the fiscal 2015 defense budget are just beginning.
Iran and World Powers Agree on Framework for Nuclear Talks
(The New York Times: Steven Erlanger)
Officials said that groups of experts would meet early in March and that the full delegations would meet again on March 17, with the expectation that they will meet monthly.
Latest Shoe Bomb Threat Linked to Al-Qaida's Yemen Affiliate
(Reuters: Mark Hosenball)
The latest warning to airlines about shoe-bomb threats is a product of heightened U.S. concern about al-Qaida's Yemen-based affiliate, whose leaders include a technically savvy bombmaker.
NSA Weighs Options for Vast Phone Records Database
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima)
The agency was expected to deliver to the White House this week some proposals for storing the data outside of government hands.
Joe Biden Tells Yanukovich That U.S. Prepared to Sanction Officials Over Violence
(Reuters: Roberta Rampton)
The vice president told Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that the United States is prepared to sanction officials responsible for violence against civilian protesters in Kiev.
Violence Flares as Ukraine Politicians Weigh Deal
(Reuters: Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets)
Violence flared again in Kiev on Friday as Ukraine's opposition politicians pondered a draft deal with Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich.
French Minister in Ukraine Talks Urges Caution on Deal Talk
(Reuters: Paul Taylor)
France's foreign minister voiced caution on Friday about President Viktor Yanukovich's announcement of a deal to end the political crisis, saying opposition leaders needed time to consult.
Ukraine's Leader Is Receptive to an Early Vote
(The Washington Post: Will Englund)
Scores killed in clashes, shattering a truce reached between the government and opposition leaders.
Obama Calls on Viktor Yanukovych to Remove Security Forces From Kiev Immediately
President Obama says the U.S. is outraged by violence in Ukraine and is urging President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw forces from downtown Kiev immediately.
Hagel Not Able to Engage Ukrainian Counterpart
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has not spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart since troops there fired automatic weapons on civilians.
White House: No Decision Yet on Ukraine Sanctions
The White House expressed renewed outrage Thursday over the continuing deadly violence in Ukraine but had reached no decision on whether to impose sanctions.
European Union Imposes Sanctions in Ukraine Crisis
(The New York Times: Steven Lee Myers, Stephen Castle)
The European Union agreed on Thursday to go ahead with sanctions that include travel bans and asset freezes imposed on those deemed responsible for the fatal escalation of violence in Ukraine.
World Powers and Iran Make 'Good Start' Toward Nuclear Accord
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl, Justyna Pawlak)
Six world powers and Iran conceded their plan to get a deal in the coming months was very ambitious.
P5+1 Talks Drill Down on the Future of Iran's Nukes
(The Daily Beast: Michael Adler)
The interim agreement on Iran's nukes was fuzzy, but now the real talks have begun on what sort of capacities—from centrifuges to missiles—the Islamic Republic will retain in a new deal.
U.S. Expected to Keep Oil Embargo Even if Iran Nuclear Deal Struck
(Reuters: Louis Charbonneau)
A unilateral U.S. oil embargo on Iran is expected to remain in place even if a long-term nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers is reached.
Iran Sticking to Nuclear Freeze: U.N. Watchdog
Iran is sticking to a six-month nuclear freeze agreed under a November interim deal with world powers, the U.N. atomic agency said, a month after the agreement came into force.
New Study Casts Doubt on West's Afghan Plan
(Associated Press: Robert Burns)
A new assessment of Afghanistan's future says the country could revert to a terrorist haven unless U.S. and international partners underwrite a larger—and more expensive—Afghan security force than is currently planned beyond 2014.
Pakistan Strikes Militant Hideouts as Talks Stall
(Associated Press: Riaz Khan, Rebecca Santana)
Government efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban broke down earlier this week.
China Urges Obama to Cancel Meeting With Dalai Lama
(Reuters: Sui-Lee Wee, Roberta Rampton)
China urged the United States on Friday to scrap plans for President Barack Obama to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama later in the day .
China Preps Military for 'Short, Sharp War' With Japan, U.S. Navy Analyst Says
(Fox News: Perry Chiaramonte)
A top U.S. Navy intelligence analyst told colleagues that China's People's Liberation Army is currently conducting training exercises in a practice scenario in which the military takes the Senkaku Islands, near Taiwan.
Plan to Move Base Highlights U.S. Problem on Okinawa
(Associated Press: Eric Talmadge)
The U.S. and Japan reached the relocation agreement after nearly two decades of talks and protests.
Move Over Iran, Americans Have a New Least Favorite Country
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
North Korea now holds the bottom spot, ending Iran's nine-year reign.
Key Republican Concerned That VA Obstructed Quality Review in Seattle
(The Washington Post: Josh Hicks)
A top House Republican has raised concerns that the Veterans Affairs Department obstructed the efforts of a veterans group to evaluate claims processing at a Seattle regional office.
U.N. Security Council to Vote on Syria Aid Resolution Saturday
(Reuters: Michelle Nichols)
The U.N. Security Council will vote on Saturday on a resolution to boost humanitarian aid access in Syria.
Syrian Rebels Sought to Bolster Coalition's Case in Peace Talks
(The New York Times: Anne Barnard)
Leaders from Syria's insurgent coalition attended peace talks in Geneva with the aim of securing military backing from the United States and others.
Iran Boosts Military Support in Syria to Bolster Assad
(Reuters: Jonathan Saul, Parisa Hafezi)
Iran has stepped up support on the ground for President Bashar al-Assad, providing elite teams to gather intelligence and train troops.
Syrians Seek U.S. Asylum via Mexico
(The Wall Street Journal: Miriam Jordan)
More Syrians are arriving in Mexico on tourist visas and using the country as a gateway to possible U.S. asylum.
On Syria, Obama's Past Words Collide With National Security Implications
(The Washington Post: Scott Wilson)
In late March 2011 President Obama spoke triumphantly about a new moral direction for the use of military force in defense of human rights.
U.S., Allies Agree on Standards for Which Opposition Groups in Syria Will Receive Aid
(The Washington Post: Karen DeYoung)
The plan is designed to overcome divisions among governments that have been deeply split over which opposition groups to aid and what to supply.
Syria Brokering Local Cease-Fires as U.S.-Backed Talks Falter
(The Washington Post: Loveday Morris)
As U.S.-backed peace talks crumble, the Syrian government has forged ahead with brokering small-scale cease-fires in the suburbs of the capital in an attempt to show that it is capable of reconciliation without outside interference.
U.N. Security Council Members Propose Resolution on Syrian Aid
(The New York Times: Somini Sengupta)
The United Nations Security Council hurtled toward a showdown over Syria.
Obama Administration Stiffs Chemical Survivors on New Claim
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin, Noah Shachtman)
The Assad government may have used chemical weapons again as recently as last month, according to activists pressing the U.S. to investigate the attack.
U.N. Agency Prepares for Largest Syria Aid Shipment
The United Nations refugee agency says it plans to send its aid largest shipment yet to Syria.
This Is How America's Spies Could Find the Next National Security Threat
(Defense One: Patrick Tucker)
There's a new website in town that looks to crowdsource predictions about everything from drone delivery to the future price of BitCoins.
Spy Office Launches 'Trust' Contest
(The Hill: Julian Hattem)
A top spy agency is launching a challenge contest "to advance understanding of human interactions that involve trust and trustworthiness."
Terrorism Analysts Urge Release of Bin Laden Cache
(Real Clear Politics: Adam O'Neal)
When Navy SEALs raided Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound in May 2011, they found hundreds of thousands of documents with sensitive information about al-Qaida and its global operations.
Report: Obscure Laws Say DOD Can Close Bases Without Congress
(Stars and Stripes)
The tug of war between the Pentagon and Congress about base closures might have gotten a little more interesting.
Report: Military Efforts to Prevent Mental Illness Ineffective
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
The military has produced dozens of programs aimed at preventing mental illness among troops during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Military Families Are Using Food Stamps More Than Ever
(Government Executive: Eric Katz)
By at least one measure, many members of the military are still struggling to get by.
U.S. Auditor Faults Agency for Nuclear-Project Cost Estimates
(Global Security Newswire: Rachel Oswald)
A congressional watchdog is faulting the Energy Department for not having a clear idea why costs have risen so much on a key nonproliferation program.
Kerry 'Determined' to Get Middle East Peace Deal
(Associated Press: Aron Heller)
The secretary of State said he remained "committed" and "determined" to reaching a Middle East peace deal, but said in an interview aired Thursday that he understood Israeli fears and skepticism of its outcome.
New Calls for Obama to Confront Turkey
(The Daily Beast: Josh Rogin)
Experts and former officials from both parties sent a letter to the White House on Thursday.
Report: U.S. Drone May Have Killed a Dozen Civilians
A U.S. military drone strike in Yemen last December may have killed up to a dozen civilians on their way to a wedding and injured others.
U.S. Aims to Bolster Ties With Persian Gulf States
(Los Angeles Times: Paul Richter)
The Obama administration is mobilizing across several fronts to shore up its relationship with Persian Gulf leaders who fear the United States is reducing its commitments in the Middle East.
Obama's Trip to Mexico Summit Overshadowed by Foreign Policy Crises
(The Guardian: Dan Roberts)
Administration official says "we can't solve everyone else's problems anymore" as White House finds little leeway for action.
Guantanamo Detainee Pleads Guilty in 2002 Attack on Tanker
(The New York Times: Charlie Savage)
A Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay on Thursday pleaded guilty before a military commission to terrorism-related offenses involving a 2002 attack.
Alleged USS Cole Bomber Apologizes for Delay, Calls Guantanamo War Court 'Strange'
(Miami Herald: Carol Rosenberg)
The accused architect of the bombing of the USS Cole said he would keep his Pentagon-paid defense team, allowing pretrial hearings to go forward with a range of structural challenges to President Obama's war court.
Bipartisan Legislative Group Wants to Change VA Funding
(USA Today: Gregg Zoroya)
The VA would not comment on pending legislation, but offered a statement that appears to endorse the status quo, while referencing other federal agencies that do not have advanced funding.
Troop Advocates Prep for Future Benefits Battles
(Military.com: Brendan McGarry)
Fresh off a lobbying victory to undo military pension cuts, an officers group is preparing for more legislative battles over the upcoming Defense Department budget.
Man Pleads Guilty in New York Terrorism Plot
(Los Angeles Times: Michael Muskal)
A man accused of building homemade bombs to wage jihad in New York City against U.S. military personnel and others has pleaded guilty to a state terrorism charge.
BAE: U.S. Business Down, Saudi Deals Strengthen Outlook
(Defense News: Andrew Chuter)
BAE Systems is forecasting a significant near-term decline in its U.S. defense and security businesses.
AUSA: Army, Industry Still Defining Infantry Carrier of the Future
(Defense News: Paul McLeary)
Despite being canceled in 2009 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, bits and pieces of the Army's $20 billion Future Combat Systems program keep hanging around.
Air Force Launches Major New Strategy, Budget Looks; Start Work on Sixth Gen Fighter: CSAF Welsh
(Breaking Defense: Colin Clark)
The Air Force has launched a major effort to craft a new strategy and new efforts to better plan how it will spend its money, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.
Cyber: The Safest Job in the Air Force?
(Air Force Times: Oriana Pawlyk)
Retraining, bonuses, and skills for top wages when you get out.
Air Force May Sideline T-1 Jayhawk Mods in Favor of T-X Investment
A much-needed modernization of the Air Force's mobility and tanker training aircraft, the T-1, could be pushed aside in the service's pursuit of a new, next-generation training platform.
Airman Pleads Guilty in Infant Daughter's Death
An Air Force staff sergeant in New Mexico has pleaded guilty to negligent child abuse in the death of his infant daughter.
Army Goes to Sea, Moves to Buy Ships
(Marine Corps Times: Paul McLeary)
The Army is planning to buy new transport ships to replace dozens of its decades-old fleet of watercraft.
Army Cyber Chief Wants Rapid Acquisition Authorities
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon said the Army is discussing how it can leverage the rapid acquisition authorities it built up during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to equip the cyberforce of tomorrow.
'My Army Benefits' Web Scam Targets U.S. Military and Family Members
(Hartford Courant: Kevin Hunt)
The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is warning soldiers and their families about a website scam that attempts to collect personal information.
Lead Prosecutor Out in U.S. Army General Sex Case
(Associated Press: Michael Biesecker)
The lead military prosecutor in the case against a U.S. Army general facing sexual assault charges has resigned shortly before a court martial is set to begin.
Fort Leonard Wood to Lose 1,000 Soldiers
The Fort Leonard Wood Army base in south-central Missouri is expected to lose 1,000 soldiers by October 2015.
Army in Europe Plans to Shed Hundreds of Local Nationals
(Stars and Stripes: Matt Millham)
U.S. Army Europe and Installation Management Command-Europe announced force structure changes Thursday that will reduce the service's local national workforce by 579 positions.
Inside the Army's Spectacular, Hidden Treasure Room
(Buzzfeed: Benny Johnson)
You will not believe this…
Gear In, Gear Out: Marines on Retrograde Mission Pack It Up and Ship It Out
(Stars and Stripes: Jennifer Hlad)
If the Marines brought it to Afghanistan, they need to get it out of Afghanistan, and it's R4OG's job to get it done.
Super Hornet Tests New Infrared Air to Air Targeting Sensor
(USNI News: Dave Majumdar)
The U.S. Navy has test flown a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet equipped with a new Lockheed Martin-built Infrared Search and Track sensor pod for the first time.
Navy: Man Found Dead on Maersk Alabama Was Ex-SEAL
(Associated Press: Brock Vergakis)
Seychelles police have given no cause of death for Michael Daniel Kennedy -- whom the Navy has identified as a 43-year-old former SEAL -- and Jeffrey Reynolds, 44.
Pentagon to Share Electromagnetic Spectrum
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Pentagon officials are forging a long-term plan to secure military access to enough of the electromagnetic spectrum to accomplish its missions amid growing federal and commercial use.
Ben Affleck to Testify Before Congress as an Africa Expert
(Foreign Policy: John Hudson)
With a vicious spate of mass killings plaguing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Senate panel is calling on experts to appear before U.S. lawmakers next week.
Ex-U.S. Congressman to Reappear in Zimbabwe Court
(Associated Press: Gillian Gotora)
The lawyer for former Rep. Mel Reynolds said Thursday his client needed more time to understand the "essential elements" of the charges he faces.
Why Putin Wants Ukraine
(The Wall Street Journal)
He sees a timid West and the chance to rebuild Greater Russia.
The NSA Is Still Violating Our Rights, Despite What James Clapper Says
(The Guardian: Sen. Rand Paul)
It's time to trash the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans, for good.
How Ukraine's Crisis Went From Compromise to Carnage Overnight
(The Atlantic: Charles Recknagel)
Making sense of the bloodshed in the deeply divided country.
Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up?
(The Atlantic: Brian Whitmore)
One expert thinks the country would be better off if it were partitioned.
Why Can't Iran and Israel Be Friends?
(The Guardian: Navid Hassibi)
Small gestures could make a big difference, with adversaries having many shared interests in the region.
Defining the DOD's Role in Biodefense and Health Security
(War on the Rocks: Al Mauroni)
It remains unlikely that we will see any significant progress in fielding biodefense capabilities for military forces.
The 'House of Cards' Lesson for the U.S. Military
(Defense One: Harry Kazianis)
Mixed in between the fictional fall of one president and the rise of everyone's favorite Machiavellian lawmaker, tensions in the East China Sea brewed with Beijing and Tokyo placing warships in contested waters.
Gayl vs. Gates on MRAPs
(USA Today: Tom Vanden Brook)
Does Gates gloss over the good work of many in the military and in Congress, like then-Sen. Joe Biden, an early MRAP advocate, and hog too much credit?
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon: The New AfPak
(The National Interest: Anno Bunnik)
Developments in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon are so deeply intertwined that we might start speaking about these countries as a common space, as we do now with "AfPak."
U.S. Myths of Latin America Often Ignorant, Inaccurate
(Huffington Post: Laura Weiss)
A closer look reveals that maybe the "backyard" ain't a bad place to be.
Iran Nuclear Charades in Vienna
(Forbes: Claudia Rosett)
Were sheer diplomatic toil a guarantee of success in the Iran nuclear talks, then the latest round, held this week in the Austrian capital, might count as an achievement.