By Jordain Carney ( @jordainc)
Welcome to NJ's Early Bird, today's best national security, defense, and foreign policy coverage. To contact us, email email@example.com.
U.S. Resumes Drone Attacks in Pakistan
(The Wall Street Journal: Saeed Shah)
Strike in tribal area rife with militants is first this year and follows insurgent attack in Karachi.
War Commander Kept in Dark About Last-Minute Bergdahl Deal
(Foreign Policy: Gordon Lubold,Shane Harris)
The Bergdahl deal came together so quickly—and so chaotically—that even the Obama administration's top Afghan commander was kept out of the loop.
U.S. Said to Rebuff Secret Iraqi Request to Strike Militants
(The New York Times: Michael Gordon, Eric Schmitt)
The Obama administration declined the request by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, because it was reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that the White House has insisted was closed.
Officials to Brief Senate Panel on Iraq
(Politico: Burgess Everett)
White House describes a rapid "deterioration."
FBI Probing VA After Scathing Report
(The Arizona Republic: Craig Harris)
FBI Director James Comey confirmed Wednesday that his agency's Phoenix office is investigating criminal allegations within the Veterans Affairs Department.
Cantor's Stunning Defeat Removes 'Only Leader' on Defense in GOP's Top Ranks
(Defense News: John Bennett)
Texan Jeb Hensarling called new front-runner to move up.
Durbin Opens Door to Saving A-10 Fleet
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
Durbin, who has been quiet over the plane's fate before, indicated that the fight over the A-10 is far from over.
Durbin: Cantor Shouldn't Affect Defense Plan
(The Hill: Martin Matishak)
The White House earlier this month reportedly asked the Pentagon to wait on shifting policy in order to give House Republicans time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Vets Health Care Reform Expected to Be Last Act of Congress on the VA This Year
(National Journal: Stacy Kaper)
The Senate's passage of legislation intended to stop veterans from dying waiting for health care is likely to be Congress's last major reform bill for the year to address failings in veterans' services or clean up the embattled VA.
Lawmakers Push to Approve Unified Veterans' Bill
(Associated Press: Matthew Daly)
Members of Congress say they are confident they can agree on a bill to improve veterans' health care and send it to the president's desk by the end of the month.
House Intel Chairman: U.S. Getting Past 'Emotional Phase' of Snowden Disclosures
(Defense News: Zachary Fryer-Biggs)
Rep. Mike Rogers was direct in his criticism of the media, whom he blamed for creating hysteria that led to widespread outrage at the details of NSA surveillance programs.
Ryan: NATO Needs More Permanent Presence in Eastern Europe
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Rep. Paul Ryan said the U.S. should start talks with allies to "strengthen NATO's permanent military presence on the eastern frontier."
Bergdahl Discharged From Coast Guard Before Joining Army
(The New York Times: Richard Oppel Jr., Eric Schmitt)
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl spent just short of a month in basic training with the U.S. Coast Guard in early 2006 before he was given an administrative discharge.
Hagel Says U.S. Had to Move Quickly on Bergdahl
(The Wall Street Journal: Michael Crittenden, Julian Barnes)
Defense secretary defends Obama administration's swap for POW.
Will the Administration Do Another Prisoner Swap Without Notifying Congress?
(National Journal: Jordain Carney)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the administration would follow the 30-day requirement "unless there is an extraordinary set of circumstances."
Bergdahl: 'I Am the Lone Wolf of Deadly Nothingness'
(The Washington Post: Stephanie McCrummen)
A handwritten journal provided to The Post helps paint a portrait of a deeply complicated and fragile Bowe Bergdahl.
Obama's Numbers Dip on Bergdahl, VA
(USA Today: David Jackson)
A new Bloomberg National Poll puts Obama's favorability rating at 44 percent, the lowest of his presidency in this particular survey.
Ukraine President Ready for Talks if Pro-Russia Rebels Lay Down Arms
(Reuters: Timothy Heritage)
The rebels show no sign of giving up their arms, but opening talks would be a big step on the road to peace.
Russia Acknowledges Sending Aid to Eastern Ukraine
(The Washington Post: Michael Birnbaum)
As Lavrov admits to working with separatists in Ukraine, a rebel leader visits Moscow to rally support.
Russia Tells U.S. That Kiev Must Stop Operation in East Ukraine
(Reuters: Steve Gutterman)
Lavrov also emphasised "the importance of direct talks" between the government and pro-Russian rebels and the need to alleviate humanitarian problems in southeastern Ukraine.
After Ukraine, U.S. Trains More Special Forces in Eastern Europe
(Reuters: Peter Apps)
The United States is quietly deploying more troops to train special forces in former Soviet bloc states anxious about Moscow's intentions.
Ukraine's President Says He's Open to Talks
(The Wall Street Journal: Alexander Kolyandr)
Ukraine's new president said Wednesday he doesn't exclude the possibility of round-table talks over the conflict in the country's east, but he maintained a hard line toward armed separatists.
Ukraine Says 257 Have Died Since Mid-April
(The Wall Street Journal: Paul Sonne, Alan Cullison, Katya Gorchinskaya)
The Ministry of Health said 257 people have died in the country's restive southeast in the two months since Kiev launched a military offensive against pro-Russia separatists in the region.
Pakistani Officials Report the First U.S. Drone Strikes in Six Months
(The Washington Post: Haq Nawaz Khan)
Local officials said two suspected U.S. drone strikes in a troubled northwest tribal district of Pakistan killed 16 people.
Trainers Scramble to Ready Fledgling Afghan Air Force
(Stars and Stripes: Heath Druzin)
The reestablishment of the Afghan air force got a late start in comparison with the country's army and national police.
Onetime U.S. Academic Now in Afghan Presidential Runoff
(The Washington Post: Kevin Sieff)
Ashraf Ghani rarely mentions his World Bank and U.S. past as he engages in politics, Afghan-style.
Families Mourn Victims of Friendly Fire in Afghanistan
(USA Today: John Bacon, Jim Michaels)
The Pentagon had not released the names of the victims. Family members of two of the victims have gone public with their grief, however.
Vietnam Says China Moving Rig; China Denies Sending Warships
(Reuters: Ho Binh Minh, Ben Blanchard)
The rig's deployment triggered anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam last month that killed at least four workers.
With Mideast in Crisis, Militant Force Gains Strength
(The New York Times: Thanassis Cambanis)
The fighters with the Free Syrian Army were expecting an attack any day from the jihadis besieging the city of Minbej.
Iraqi, U.S. Forces Trade Barbs Over Failures
(The Wall Street Journal: Matt Bradley)
Iraqi military officers say they were left ill-prepared and underequipped by the departing U.S. forces.
U.S. Eyes New Aid to Iraq to Curb Insurgent March
(Associated Press: Lara Jakes)
The Obama administration offered only tepid support for Iraq's beleaguered prime minister, and U.S. lawmakers openly questioned whether he should remain in power.
U.S. Focus Is on Boosting Iraqi Forces, Not Air Strikes
(Reuters: Arshad Mohammed, Ned Parker, Steve Holland, Peter Cooney)
An Obama administration official said Iraq had previously made clear its interest in drone strikes or bombing by manned U.S. aircraft to help it beat back the militant onslaught.
Insurgents Aim at Baghdad as Security Forces Collapse
(The Washington Post: Loveday Morris, Liz Sly)
The al-Qaida-inspired militants have taken control of the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Baiji, leaving Iraqis fearing for their lives.
Iraq's Terrorists Are Becoming a Full-Blown Army
(The Daily Beast: Eli Lake, Jamie Dettmer)
The group so extreme it got booted from al-Qaida controls huge swaths of territory. And now ISIS has got the heavy weaponry to back it up.
GAO Finds Incomplete Budget Estimates in DOD's Nuclear-Weapons Plan
The Government Accountability Office has identified several "shortcomings" in the government's 10-year plan to spend $263.8 billion sustaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear-weapons capabilities through fiscal 2018.
IBM-Epic Team to Vie for Pentagon IT System
(Bloomberg: Jonathan Salant)
IBM announced its plans to bid today, even before the Defense Department formally starts the competition for the information-technology system.
Pentagon Sets Trying Again After Failed Anti-Missile Test
(Bloomberg: Tony Capaccio)
The Pentagon set June 22 for a next test of whether its $34 billion ground-based defense system can intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The U.S. Army Had a Whole Battalion of Armed Dune Buggies
(War Is Boring: Joe Trevithick)
Unique vehicles were expected to scout ahead and harass the enemy.
ONR Aims to Provide Laser Weapon for Marine Vehicles
Office of Naval Research officials announced Wednesday that they have finished awarding contracts to develop a similar weapon to be used on ground vehicles.
3rd Cowpens CO Fired Since 2010; CMC Relieved
(Stars and Stripes: Seth Robinson)
The commanding officer of the USS Cowpens and his senior enlisted adviser have been relieved because of a loss of confidence in their work and leadership.
Human Error Led to Submarine Collision, Navy Says
(Associated Press: Brock Vergakis)
The primary reason a submarine and a guided-missile cruiser collided off the coast of Florida during a 2012 training exercise was human error and poor teamwork.
Marine Sergeant Major Loses Job After Altercation Depicted in Viral Video
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
The incident was sparked by the debate over the exchange of five Taliban officials for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
MARSOC Marine Killed in Afghanistan to Receive Navy Cross
(Marine Corps Times: Hope Hodge Seck)
MARSOC gunnery sergeant who died leading an assault on insurgents in Afghanistan in 2012 will be awarded the military's second-highest honor next week.
Lockheed Martin Modernizes Air Operations Capabilities for U.S. Marine Corps
The system that allows the Marines to coordinate flying operations for all air assets has been modernized by Lockheed Martin.
CEO: Companies Need to Use More Commercial Tech in Weapons
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
Global defense companies need to import and adapt more commercial technology into military weapons and systems of the future.
VA Hiring Freeze Could Cut Unnecessary Layers of Management
(Government Executive: Charles Clark)
The hiring freeze would apply to the Veterans Health Administration Central Office and the 21 Veterans Integrated Service Network regional offices.
Vets Flood American Legion Seeking Help With Care
(Associated Press: Emaun Kashfi)
Vietnam veteran Gene Stoesser has been waiting nearly two months for an appointment with a Veterans Affairs doctor to schedule his heart surgery.
VA Doled Out $100M in Bonuses as Problems Mounted
(Asbury Park Press: Dustin Racioppi)
The top bonuses went to top executives in the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for what its Office of Inspector General called "systemic patient safety issues."
Long Waits at the VA for Mental Health Care
(Associated Press: Juan Carlos Llorca, David Caruso)
Veterans have complained about maddening waits for mental health services at VA medical centers.
Warrantless Cell-Phone Location Tracking Is Illegal, U.S. Circuit Court Rules
(The Verge: Jacob Kastrenakes)
A U.S. Appellate Court for the 11th Circuit has ruled that police must obtain a warrant before collecting cell-phone location data.
Brennan: CIA Must Adapt for Future, Digital Threats
(Defense News: Marcus Weisgerber)
The CIA must adjust itself for a future that includes pursuing evolving terrorist networks across multiple continents amid sweeping technological changes.
MuckRock Sues the CIA for Denying Freedom of Information Act Requests
(The Verge: Adrianne Jeffrie)
Crowd-sourced investigation site takes on U.S. spy agency.
White House Outlines Steps to Protect Covert Identities
(The New York Times: Julie Hirschfeld Davis)
The moves are in reaction to the accidental revelation last month of the Central Intelligence Agency's top spy in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaida Breakaway Pursuing an Islamic State
(Associated Press: Ryan Lucas)
Its pursuit of an Islamic state that would straddle the two countries has thrown it into bloody conflict with both governments.
Defense Secretary Hagel Defends Guard Cuts to Governors
(Breaking Defense: Sydney Freedberg Jr.)
The simple fact it's Hagel's signature on the letter speaks to the administration's desire to deescalate, because the people he's writing to had wanted an answer from the president.
More Detainee Transfers Soon? WH Pushes Back
(The Hill: Justin Sink)
The White House said there were "no imminent transfer announcements in the works" after a report the administration was readying plans to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
Polar Challenge: Extreme Conditions Put High Cost on Arctic Operations
(Defense News: David Pugliese)
Military officers and government officials are discovering that purchasing equipment for northern operations, as well as conducting missions in the Arctic, is a costly venture.
Cold War-Style Spy Games Return to Melting Arctic
(Associated Press: Karl Ritter)
Arctic nations are fishing for secrets in East-West spy games echoing Cold War rivalries.
A Mounting Danger in the Middle East
(The Washington Post)
Iraq's collapse into civil war should alarm Obama.
Five Reasons Why Iraq May Get Worse
(The Washington Post: Dan Lamothe)
It's an ugly situation, and it's unlikely to turn around soon, said a former senior U.S. military commander in Iraq. Here's why.
Iraq War III Has Now Begun
(Foreign Policy: Michael Knights)
As ISIS marches toward Baghdad, can Washington afford to sit on the sidelines?
It Wasn't Just Bergdahl. On Afghanistan, All of America Is AWOL.
(The Daily Beast: Michael Daly)
Five more American troops are dead in Afghanistan, and we're still not talking about the war, just Bowe Bergdahl.
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