Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, a morning assembly of the best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage from around the Web.
White House Pushes Budget Hike
The boost for the Pentagon would start in FY16.
Documents Reveal Chaotic Military Sex-Abuse Record
(Associated Press: Yuri Kageyama, Richard Lardner)
At U.S. military bases in Japan, most service members found culpable in sex crimes in recent years did not go to prison, according to internal Department of Defense documents.
Snowden Used Low-Cost Tool to Best N.S.A.
(The New York Times: David Sanger, Eric Schmitt)
Edward Snowden gathered National Security Agency secrets using cheap and widely available "web crawler" software, a breach that should have easily been detected, investigators say.
Syrians Peace Talks Resume in Geneva
Syrian government and opposition delegates are starting a fresh round of U.N.-brokered peace talks.
Kerry to Visit China, South Korea, Indonesia and Abu Dhabi
(Reuters: David Brunnstrom)
The trip will be Kerry's fifth visit to Asia since he became secretary of state just over a year ago.
Pentagon to Appoint Officer to Promote Ethical Behavior
(The Washington Post: Ernesto Londoño)
The move marks Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's latest attempt to get ahead of a growing list of scandals.
U.S. Suspect Possibly Targeted For Drone Attack
(Associated Press: Kimberly Dozier)
An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike.
At Pentagon, Pre-Emptive Budget Strike
(The Hill: Jeremy Herb)
Lawmakers are trying to strong-arm the Pentagon into saving favored programs and pet projects ahead of the release of its 2015 budget next month.
DoD Pushing Congress, Communities for 2017 Base Closures
(Defense News: Andy Medici)
The Defense Department is preparing to ask for a round of base closures in 2017.
Robert Work Nominated to Be Pentagon's Number Two
(Stars and Stripes: Jon Harper)
President Obama has nominated Robert Work to be the next Deputy Secretary of Defense, the White House announced Friday.
U.S. Shelves Combatant Command Proposals
(Breaking Defense: Marcus Weisgerber)
The Pentagon is dismissing proposals to merge some regional warfighting commands and will instead push forward with efforts to shrink the sizes of these headquarters, sources said.
DOD Completes Pair Of Major Mobility Capability Studies
The Defense Department has completed and delivered to Congress a pair of new major mobility studies assessing the adequacy of the military's cargo aircraft and cargo ship inventories to execute the current defense strategy.
Pentagon Vexed by Inability to Solve Ethical Lapses
(Politico: Philip Ewing)
The Pentagon has spent years grappling with the problems that have embarrassed the Navy and Air Force this winter, but it still doesn't know how to fix them.
Afghan Soldiers Desperate for Pact With U.S., Criticize President Karzai for Delay
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
The Afghan soldiers fighting the Taliban have grown confident in their ability to combat an agile insurgency.
German FM Urges Afghan Leader To Sign U.S. Troops Deal
Germany's foreign minister arrived Sunday in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit and urged its president to sign a long-delayed security pact
New No. 2 U.S. Commander Takes Reins in Afghanistan
(Associated Press: Cassandra Vinograd)
The incoming No. 2 American commander in Afghanistan said Saturday that his immediate focus is on supporting upcoming Afghan elections.
U.S. Aid Plan Seeks to Shield Afghanistan From End to War Economy
(Reuters: Missy Ryan)
The Obama administration will unveil on Monday a package of aid initiatives it hopes will help Afghanistan.
Afghan Forces' Killings of Civilians Rose in 2013
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland)
A United Nations report shows a rise in civilian casualties, with a reduced share of those attributed to international forces.
Army Units in Afghanistan Slam Intel System
(Military.com: Brendan McGarry)
U.S. Army units in Afghanistan say the service's multi-billion-dollar battlefield intelligence system is so complicated and unreliable that they continue to use commercial software instead.
Taliban and Government Imperil Gains for Afghan Women, Advocates Say
(The New York Times: Rod Nordland)
Advocates say troubling signs lie in President Hamid Karzai's talks with the Taliban and in pending legislation.
China Decries U.S. Comments on South China Sea as 'Not Constructive'
(Reuters: Paul Carsten)
China has accused the United States of undermining peace and development in the Asia-Pacific.
U.S. Toughens Line on China Sea Clash
(Financial Times: Geoff Dyer)
Officials warn on island claims as allies push Obama to combat Beijing.
Obama Aide Rice Rays Recent Troubles Shouldn't Derail U.S.-India Ties
(Reuters : Steve Holland)
A top White House adviser attempted to smooth over troubled ties between the United States and India on Friday.
2 Years In, DoD Still Explaining Asia 'Pivot'
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Senior U.S. officials have since logged tens of thousands of miles flying across the Pacific Ocean for bilateral meetings in more than a dozen countries.
North Korea Balks Again at Bid to Free American
(The New York Times: Choe Sang-Hun)
An invitation for a special envoy to visit on behalf of Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary serving a 15-year sentence, was rescinded for a second time.
U.S. and South Korea to Hold Military Drills Despite Protest From Pyongyang
(Reuters: Ju-min Park)
The United States and South Korea will hold their annual joint military drills from February 24 to April 18.
U.S. Prisoner in North Korea Gets Consular Visit
(The New York Times: Rick Gladstone, Choe Sang-Hun)
A Swedish diplomat visited Kenneth Bae, who has been imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year, his family reported, as speculation grew over potential talks to free him.
North Korea Transfers Kenneth Bae From Hospital to Labor Camp
(Los Angeles Times: Alexandra Zavis)
Kenneth Bae has been transferred from a hospital to a labor camp, the U.S. State Department said Friday.
U.S. Feeling Left Out of Russian Security Operation at Sochi
(Los Angeles Times: Brian Bennett)
U.S. intelligence officials are frustrated that the Russian government is withholding information about threats to Olympic venues coming from inside Russia.
Official: Passenger Tried to Hijack Plane to Sochi
(Associated Press: Suzan Fraser)
A passenger on board an Istanbul-bound flight Friday claimed there was a bomb on board and tried to hijack the plane to Sochi, Russia.
State Dept. Update: No Specific Threat in Sochi
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
The State Department on Friday said in an updated alert there is currently "no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens" in Russia during the Olympic games.
Sochi Security Risks Far From Over, U.S. Delegation Says
(Bloomberg News: Jeff Plungis, Kasia Klimasinska)
U.S. officials attending the Sochi Winter Olympics praised Russian measures to protect athletes and visitors from possible terrorist attacks.
Napolitano: Obama No-Show in Sochi Not a Snub of Putin
(USA Today: David Jackson)
Janet Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, noted in a CNN interview that Obama has not attended any Olympics since taking office in early 2009.
Wave of Serious Cybercrime Is on Its Way, Experts Warn
(The Washington Post: Danielle Douglas, Craig Timberg)
Reversing a rise in major data breaches would require costly upgrades to the nation's antiquated payment systems.
NSA Collects Less Than 30 Percent of Phone Data
(The Washington Post: Ellen Nakashima)
The amount of phone records gathered has plummeted as cellphone use has increased.
Wave of NSA Reports Strain Ties With Europe
(The Wall Street Journal: Matthew Karnitschnig)
A furor in Europe over new reports of NSA surveillance is undermining U.S. efforts to move beyond the affair and has thrown plans for a trans-Atlantic trade agreement into question.
Seattle Judge Will Join Super-Secret Spy Court
(McClatchy: Michael Doyle)
Washington state-based federal appellate judge who once represented the Seattle Mariners baseball team has now joined the roster of one of the nation's most unique and secretive courts.
Cybersecurity in Slow Lane One Year After Obama Order
(Politico: Tony Romm)
Nearly a year after President Barack Obama issued an executive order to improve the cybersecurity of the nation's vital assets, the administration doesn't have much to show.
Post-Snowden, Why Were U.S. Diplomats Talking on Insecure Line?
(McClatchy: Matthew Schofield)
Not long before Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was secretly recorded cursing the European Union's efforts in Ukraine, two E.U. officials were caught in a very similar situation.
The Snowden Era of Journalism
(Politico: Darren Samuelsohn, Dylan Byers)
He has prompted a free-for-all among journalists itching to tell America's surveillance secrets.
France to Float New UN Resolution on Syria
The French foreign minister says France will float a new resolution in the U.N. Security Council to help bring humanitarian aid, food and medicine to Syria's embattled people.
Syrian Chemical Weapons Stalling Tests Limits Of U.S.-Russian Deal
(Reuters: Anthony Deutsch)
At a closed door meeting, Western governments led by the United States took Syria to task for failing to surrender its chemical weapons.
Al Qaida Splinter Group Withdraws From Oil-Rich Syrian Province
An al Qaida splinter group has withdrawn its forces from Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Deir al-Zor.
New Attack Hits Syria Aid Convoy
(The Wall Street Journal: Sam Dagher)
A United Nations convoy trying to deliver desperately needed food to residents of a besieged part of this city came under attack for a second straight day on Sunday.
Syria Has Become 'Matter of Homeland Security,' DHS Secretary Johnson Says
(The Hill: Rebecca Shabad)
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday that Syria has become an issue of homeland security for the United States.
600 Evacuated From Blockaded Syrian City
Hundreds of civilians were evacuated Sunday from the city of Homs as part of a U.N.-mediated truce to allow thousands of women, children, and elderly to leave opposition-held parts of the city.
Republicans Criticize Rules to Aid Syrians Seeking Asylum
(The New York Times: Julia Preston)
Republican lawmakers assailed new exemptions from antiterrorism laws the Obama administration issued this week for war zone refugees seeking to come to the United States.
Iran Says Warships Headed Close to U.S. Borders
Iranian fleet consisting of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying supply ship will travel close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time, a senior Iranian naval commander said Saturday.
These Are the Entirely Crappy Warships Iran Says It's Sending to the U.S. Coast
(War is Boring: David Axe)
A 45-year-old destroyer and Iran's only big tanker ship.
Iran Says It Will Cooperate With U.N. Nuclear Inquiry
Iran has told diplomats that it plans to cooperate this weekend with United Nations experts investigating alleged activities that it has steadfastly denied: work on nuclear weapons.
U.N. Agency Says Iran Probe Needs More Work
(Reuters: Fredrik Dahl)
Iran and the U.N. nuclear agency have made progress in talks on the country's disputed nuclear programme, but there are still many outstanding issues, the watchdog's chief inspector said on Monday.
Khamenei: U.S. Would Overthrow Iranian Government If it Could - Media
(Reuters: Mehrdad Balai, Parisa Hafezi)
Iran's Supreme Leader said on Saturday the United States would overthrow the Iranian government if it could.
Iran Struggles to Lure Western Business
(The Wall Street Journal: Benoît Faucon)
Trade show illustrates Iran's challenge in re-engaging after sanctions eased.
Work Scheduled for Confirmation Hearing as Deputy Defense Secretary
(The Hill: Kristina Wong)
Bob Work has been scheduled to appear for a Senate confirmation hearing for the position on Feb. 13.
5 Questions with Senator Tim Kaine on War Powers and National Defense
(War on the Rocks: Ryan Evans)
He recently sponsored the War Powers Consultation Act.
Rep. Duncan Hunter Discusses Afghanistan Doubts, His Choice for Commandant
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., doesn't just represent a district that encompasses the major West Coast Marine Corps bases.
Sen. Richard Burr Calls Government to Solve Veterans' Issues
(McClatchy: Renee Schoof)
The North Carolina Republican delivered the weekly Republican address on Saturday.
Congress Is Getting Tougher on the VA
(The Wall Street Journal: Michael Phillips, Ben Kesling)
Lawmakers criticize agency on response to what they say are errors at facilities.
Former State Dept. Expert Pleads Guilty of Leaking to Fox
(The Washington Post: Ann Marimow)
Government adviser was accused of providing classified information on North Korea to Fox News.
U.S. Won't Seize Terrorist Cash
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake)
The White House designated a Taliban ally as a terrorist organization in 2012. Seventeen months later, though, none of the network's assets have been frozen or blocked.
U.S. Easing Immigration Rule for Terrorist Support
(Associated Press: Alicia Caldwell)
The change is one of President Barack Obama's first actions on immigration since he pledged during his State of the Union address last month to use more executive directives.
For Obama, State Visits Prove to Be Complicated Affairs
(USA Today: Aamer Madhani)
France's Francois Hollande will begin his state visit on the heels of personal turmoil.
Sans First Lady, French Leader to U.S on Business
(Associated Press: Sylvie Corbet, Jamey Keaten)
Francois Hollande will be highlighting France's shared interests with Washington on issues like Syria's civil war, Iran's nuclear program and terrorism in Africa.
DoD Skeptical of Companies' 'Rosy' Forecasts
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
Defense companies are telling investors that earnings-squashing budget pressures will soon ease.
Contractor Behind on USAF Satellite Navigation
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
The Air Force expects the contractors to miss its deadline for a critical part of the GPS 3 satellite.
Air Force Gen. Selva Tapped To Head TRANSCOM
(Defense News: Aaron Mehta)
President Barack Obama has nominated Air Force Gen. Paul Selva to be the next leader of US Transportation Command.
Air Force Asks Missileers to Report Problems 'From the Bottom Up'
(Global Security Newswire)
The U.S. Air Force has begun encouraging strategic-missile crews to bring forward mission concerns amid a Pentagon probe of the entire nuclear arena.
Army Issues Fake Website Scam Warning
(Military.com: Matthew Cox)
The false website should not be confused with the Army's official website called "MyArmyBenefits."
The Army Just Built a Whole Town for Super-Real Training
(War is Boring: Joe Trevithick)
Asymmetric Warfare Training Center has full-size bank, embassy, subway station and more
GAO Slaps Harris For Offering Its Competitor's Radios For Army Deal
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
The military can move in mysterious ways, especially when it comes to the arcane and often-dysfunctional bureaucratics of buying gear.
Navy Rebukes Three Admirals for Taking Questionable Trip
(The Washington Post: Craig Whitlock)
The admirals went on an official trip to Britain that, to some eyes, seemed more about pleasure than business.
Lawmakers on Guard Against Aircraft Carrier Cuts
(Newport News Daily Press)
Virginia's congressional leaders are keeping their ear to the ground when it comes to aircraft carriers, concerned that Washington budget-cutters might want to scale back the size of the fleet.
Navy to Increase Foreign Area Officers to 400 by 2019
(Seapower Magazine: Richard Burgess)
The Navy's top Foreign Area Officer says the FAO community will reach full operational capability by 2019 when its strength reaches approximately 400 officers.
Marine Corps Headquarters Raps Congressman Critical of the Commandant
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck, Andrew deGrandpre)
As federal agency delves into whistle-blower's complaint, officials vent frustration.
Marine Corps Times First Casualty in Headquarters' War to 'Professionalize'
(Marine Corps Times: Lance Bacon)
Independent newspaper does not conform to new Marine Corps message, brass says
U.S. Urges Removal of Foreign Fighters From South Sudan
(Reuters: Will Dunham)
The United States on Saturday expressed concern over reported violations of a shaky ceasefire agreement between South Sudan's government and rebel forces.
Haiti's President Tells U.S.: We're Rebuilding Trust
(McClatchy: Lesley Clark)
Haiti President Michel Martelly said Friday he's thankful for American support to his nation but wants the U.S. government to trust his country enough to provide direct aid to his administration.
U.S. Embassy Warns of Possible Guyana Threat
The U.S. Embassy in Guyana warned Sunday that it had received "unconfirmed threat information" about a regional airline's flights from the South American country to the United States.
No Ukraine Inquiry Into Bugged Phone Call
Ukraine's state security service is not looking into the taping of a phone call that embarrassed American diplomats.
Russia Hacks Americans
(The Wall Street Journal)
U.S. diplomats are exposed doing their jobs in Ukraine.
Closing In on Basic Mideast Principles
(The New York Times)
The Israelis and the Palestinians will soon have to decide whether they want to go deeper into peace talks.
A 'Collective' U.S.-Japan Defense
(The Wall Street Journal)
Tokyo steps into Asia's security breach to counter rising China.
A Renewed Alliance
(The Washington Post: Barack Obama, François Hollande)
Today, American and French diplomats are preparing for talks with Iran that build on the agreement that has halted progress on and rolled back key elements of the Iranian nuclear program.
Construction Companies Step Up to Hire Veterans
(The Wall Street Journal: Michelle Obama)
It's not just the patriotic thing to do. It's also a smart move for businesses.
U.S. Aid to Afghanistan
(The New York Times: Larry Sampler)
The United States Agency for International Development has established strong safeguards to account for any United States funds spent through Afghan ministries.
Is Chief Justice John Roberts 'Unpacking' the FISA Courts?
(Los Angeles Times: Michael McGough)
It's an article of faith among some critics of the National Security Agency that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has packed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with Republicans.
Is Syria Now a Direct Threat to the United States?
(The Atlantic: David Rohde)
The militancy nurtured by the civil war appears to be spreading—just as diplomacy falters.
Report Card: The State of Syrian Peace Talks
(Defense One: Bernard Gwertzman)
Syria expert Mona Yacoubian says that diplomacy is complex and negotiations will be "a months-long process."