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The EARLY BIRD BRIEF: COMPILED BY THE EDITORS OF DEFENSE NEWS & MILITARY TIMES

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Defense News

 

December 23, 2014

THE EARLY BIRD BRIEF

Get the most comprehensive aggregation of defense news delivered by the world’s largest independent newsroom covering military and defense.

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TODAY’S TOP 5

1. Army: Bergdahl could face court-martial
(Army Times) The Army’s decision Monday to forward the investigation of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for possible court-martial means the former prisoner of war will remain on active duty and in legal limbo for months to come.
2. Afghan commander orders attacks on insurgents in Pakistan
(Stars & Stripes) The police chief in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar has ordered his forces to attack Pakistani-based Tehrik-i-Taliban insurgents inside Pakistan, adding fuel to rising tensions along the countries’ shared border.
3. Rethinking Our Strategy in Iraq and Syria
(Rethinking Our Strategy in Iraq and Syria) The war against the self-styled Islamic State is beginning to look more and more like the late, unlamented war in Vietnam. The Obama administration has placed self-imposed limitations on the use of ground forces, thereby creating the kind of sanctuary that North Viet Nam represented from 1963-75. Like President Johnson, Barak Obama had pledged no ground troops, but eventually sent in “advisors” and “defensive forces” to protect the advisors bases as well as the aircraft that were supporting the host nation government’s forces who were supposed to be doing the actual fighting; albeit poorly. This looks exactly like the Vietnam War in 1964-65 that I remember watching on TV and reading about in high school.
4. Gunman who ambushed NY police also injured AF reservist
(Air Force Times) The woman reportedly shot and injured by the man who ambushed two New York police officers has been identified as Air Force Reservist Staff Sgt. Shaneka Thompson
5. Engineer’s arrest shows weakness with security checks
(Virginian-Pilot) You come from a nation in the Middle East that’s in the midst of upheaval. 

CONGRESS

Sen. Carl Levin on lessons learned in Iraq, Afghanistan | Exit Interview
(Washington Post) Retiring Senator Carl Levin(D-Mich.) reflects on his time as chair of the Armed Services Committee, watching the county go to war, twice, and the eventual repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
Veterans issues saw legislative success in 2014
(Military Times) Veterans faced a disheartening series of nationwide scandals related to their benefits and care in 2014, but that also brought an encouraging boost in attention and action from Capitol Hill.
Two military suicide bills, different results: The Jacob Sexton and Clay Hunt acts
(Washington Post) Army Spec. Jacob Sexton was home on leave in October 2009 when he shot himself in the head in a movie theater in Muncie, Ind. He was on a break from a deployment to Afghanistan, and committed suicide during a showing of the horror comedy “Zombieland,” police said at the time. 

ISLAMIC STATE

Task force denies reports U.S. engaged in ground combat with Islamic State
(Tampa Tribune) Contrary to reports coming out of Iraq, U.S. troops have not engaged in ground combat with the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State, according to the task force in charge of running daily operations in the U.S. and coalition mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
Cost of Islamic State Strikes in Iraq, Sryia Reach $1B: DOD
(Bloomberg) Costs as of Dec. 11 reflect $8.1m avg per day, Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Bill Urban says in e-mailed statement.
IS Militants Use Sex to Lure Recruits
(Voice of America) Fighters join the so-called Islamic State group for myriad motives, but one big reason might be the lure of one of the most basic human desires: sex.
Iraq TV show makes ‘terrorists’ confront victims
(Associated Press) Haider Ali Motar was convicted of terrorism charges about a month ago for helping to carry out a string of Baghdad car bombings on behalf of the Islamic State extremist group. Now, the 21-year old is a reluctant cast member in a popular reality TV show.
Islamic State counterattacks refinery as fight for Iraq swings back and forth
(McClatchy) Islamic State forces began a powerful counterattack Monday to retake the Iraqi town of Bayji, site of the nation’s largest oil refinery. The militants’ assault came as Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish fighters along with heavy U.S. airstrikes continued to pound the jihadist army in northern Iraq.
Islamic State routs Hezbollah Brigades unit north of Baghdad
(Long War Journal) The Islamic State has released pictures online purporting to show its fighters routing a unit from the Hezbollah Brigades near the towns of Yathrib and Tal Gold in Salahaddin province. Based on the date given in the photo set, the fighting took place on Dec. 19. 

INDUSTRY

Raytheon wins $491 million U.S. contract for AMRAAM missiles
(Reuters) Raytheon Co (RTN.N) has won a contract valued at $491 million to continue production of its Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles (AMRAAM) for the U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon announced Monday.
Skunk Works Continues Demos Of Open Architecture Tech
(Aviation Week) Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is continuing work to mature and demonstrate its “open system architecture” (OSA) capabilities with flights of various sensors on the venerable U-2 test aircraft at the company’s facility in Palmdale, California.
Lockheed meets 2014 target for 36 F-35 deliveries-Pentagon
(Reuters) Lockheed Martin Corp met its target of delivering 36 F-35 fighter jets to the U.S. government in 2014, paving the way for the firm to collect most of the associated performance fees, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office said Monday.
Lockheed Martin Unit Forfeits $27.5 Million for Overbilling
(Government Executive) A defense contractor producing products and services for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan agreed on Friday to repay the government $27.5 million to settle overbilling charges brought under the False Claims Act.
NASSCO Awarded $498 Million for Second Afloat Forward Staging Base
(USNI News) General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded a $498 million contract to build the fourth Mobile Landing Platform that will be the second configured as a so-called Afloat Forward Staging Base for mine countermeasure (MCM) helicopters and special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Marines, the company announced on Monday.
Thales postpones board meeting amid rumors of dispute
(Defense News) Thales put on hold a board meeting due to be held Monday, said a spokesman for the defense electronics company, amid media reports of a dispute between Dassault Aviation and the French government over management leadership.
Diehl Defense selling tank track business
(UPI) Diehl Defense of Germany is selling its operations for the manufacture of tracks and tank suspensions to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Alenia Aermacchi: Italian Air Force To Add 3 More Jet Trainers
(Defense News) The Italian Air Force will acquire three M-346 jet trainers to add to the six it already purchased, manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi said Monday.
Embraer tight lipped on Rogozin snub reports
(IHS Jane’s 360) Embraer, the Brazilian aerospace manufacturer of military and commercial aircraft, has refused to comment on reports it turned down a request by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, to tour its facilities in Sao Jose dos Campos, Sao Paulo, during mid December.
Turkey Seeks New Extension in Air Defense Contract
(Defense News) Turkey has urged bidders in a multibillion dollar contract for the construction of its first long-range air and anti-missile defense system to agree on a sixth extension of the deadline to renew offers, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said Dec. 21. 

VETERANS

Tactical Veteran: Some employers might leave you guessing
(Military Times) Nothing is more frustrating than applying for a job and not getting a response. All anyone would ask is a simple reply by phone or email stating why you were not chosen for the position. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee you will hear from a company either after you apply for a position or gone through an interview.
Another family joins lawsuit against JPAC for recovery of remains from WWII
(Stars & Stripes) Another family has filed suit against the Defense Department POW/MIA accounting agencies seeking the identification and return of remains.
Law expands water contamination dates for family claims
(Jacksonville Daily News) A law signed this week expanded the eligibility for family members affected by the historic water contamination on Camp Lejeune, according to the VA.
WWII vet’s anniversary skydive a success
(Air Force Times) A World War II veteran’s plan to jump out of an airplane exactly 70 years after he bailed out of a B-24 over Yugoslavia went off nearly without a hitch on Saturday. 

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

New BAH rates tick upward
(Military Times) Rising real estate prices across the country will push the average Basic Allowance for Housing up a notch next year despite new rules that change the methodology for how the tax-free benefit is calculated.
DOD’s ex-comptroller predicts big Pentagon budget request
(The Hill) Former Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale predicts the Pentagon will unveil a 2016 defense budget request to Congress higher than the amount set by budget caps. 
Schneiderman, 18 other attorneys general call for further protections for military consumers
(Watertown Daily Times) More protections could be in place to protect military borrowers from predatory companies, according to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Joint Chiefs warn: ‘We can’t do more with less’
(The Hill) The nation’s top military officer praised the troops on Monday in his annual holiday message while pressuring Congress to accept the “hard choices” he says are needed under a tightened budget. 

ARMY

Army’s Aviation Restructure Unhindered By Congressional Block
(Defense News) Congressional language limiting Apache consolidation in fiscal 2015 won’t derail the Army’s controversial Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI), already underway, Army officials said.
National Guard’s advocate presses for representation on panel
(The Hill) An advocate for the National Guard is urging the Obama administration not to shirk the service when an independent board considers making changes to Army policies.
Source: Recommended changes to PT test expected soon
(Army Times) The Army continues to study potential changes to the 30-year-old Army Physical Fitness test, and senior leaders could be briefed on recommended changes as soon as late summer or early fall, a senior Army official told Army Times.
Fort Carson soldier arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, soliciting prostitution
(Colorado Springs Gazette) A Fort Carson soldier who allegedly strangled a 21-year-old woman he met for escort services last month has been arrested, according to Colorado Springs police.
14 months after slaying, JBLM takes over prosecution in soldier-on-soldier killing
(Tacoma News Tribune) Pierce County has dropped its prosecution and moved to the Army’s control the case of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who allegedly stabbed one of his peers to death in Lakewood last year.
First Sgt. Andrew Rodriguez: Married to the Army
(Fayetteville Observer) It has gotten easier, now that Gina Rodriguez’s four boys are old enough to help around the house and she has learned to adapt and plan and steer clear of crisis mode. But oh, in the beginning, being an Army wife was anything but easy. 

NAVY

SEAL reservist named to command staff at SOCOM
(Navy Times) A 24-year SEAL has been selected as the right-hand man to the second-in-command at U.S. Special Operations Command, according to a Defense Department release.
US Navy Helicopter Makes Crash Landing in Kuwait
(Associated Press) The U.S. Navy says one of its helicopters crash-landed during training at Camp Buehring in Kuwait and that the six-member crew survived, with some sustaining minor injuries.
Ex-carrier Ranger set for last voyage in early 2015
(Navy Times) The ex-carrier Ranger is set to make its final sea voyage in early 2015.
Navy 2015: Congressional Clashes Over LCS, UCLASS and Carriers
(Breaking Defense) Smooth sailing is not in the Navy’s forecast for the next year.The service faces big decisions on major programs, and we can expect clashes between Navy plans, congressional politics and budgetary realities on three of the biggest: the upgunned Littoral Combat Ship, the UCLASS armed drone, and the jewel in the Navy’s crown, the nuclear aircraft carrier.
PC skipper credited for sinking U-boat, 72 years late
(Navy Times) The Navy rejected reports 72 years ago that Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Claudius sank a German U-boat off the Louisiana coast during World War II. In fact, Officials criticized his depth-charging tactics and sent him to anti-submarine school so he could learn how to do it the right way. 

AIR FORCE

Two C-17 squadrons to shut down
(Air Force Times) The Air Force will inactivate two C-17 squadrons over the next two years in a budget-saving move, according to new details released by Air Mobility Command Monday.
Lawmakers push for new cyber force at Langley
(Virginian-Pilot) Hampton Roads’ congressional delegation is calling on the Air National Guard to establish one of its new cyber security squadrons at Joint Base Langley.
AFA’s Wings of Blue parachute team vying for yet another national championship
(Colorado Springs Gazette) As college bowl games hit full swing, Air Force will vie for its 35th national championship.
Expanding Air Force’s Utah training range to fly again in 2015
(Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Orrin Hatch will try in 2015 to expand the U.S. Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range while state and local politicians and policy makers negotiate what lands will be traded. 

MARINE CORPS

MARSOC memoir picked for SOCOM reading list
(Marine Corps Times) The newly released memoir of a former MARSOC critical skills operators has already landed on the 2015 recommended reading list of U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel III.
USS Peleliu returning to San Diego for last time
(Associated Press) The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu returns to Naval Base San Diego this week from its final deployment.
Need to know, 2015: The drawdown and you
(Marine Corps Times) With the Corps expecting get smaller in 2015, many Marines are thinking about how to successfully transition back into civilian life.
Thieves take fallen Ithaca Marine’s medals
(Ithaca Journal; N.Y.) Medals given to Christopher Bordoni, the U.S. Marine from Ithaca who died from wounds suffered in Afghanistan, and his family were stolen during a break-in at his widow’s North Carolina home.
Need to know, 2015: Major changes in aviation
(Marine Corps Times) One of the biggest changes in Marine Corps aviation in years will happen in 2015, and it promises to not only change the way that anyone in a flight suit operates, but how anyone with boots on the ground receives support from the air. 

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN

In a strategic valley, a glimpse of Afghan troops’ future after most U.S. forces leave
(Washington Post) Clutching M-16 rifles, the Afghan soldiers nervously stood watch on a sand-colored ridge next to a mud house blown apart by gunfire. A week earlier, their unit had pushed the Taliban from this village. Now, the insurgents were only a mile away, determined to recapture the territory.
Taliban Push Into Afghan Districts That U.S. Had Secured
(New York Times) In a large swath of the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan, government centers are facing a long-dormant concern this winter: Four years after the American troop surge helped make such places relatively secure, they are back under threat from the insurgents.
Pakistani Courts Halt Executions of Seven Militants
(Wall Street Journal) Pakistani courts stayed the executions of at least seven convicted militants Monday, creating an obstacle for the government’s plans to execute dozens of convicted terrorists in the wake of last week’s massacre of school children. 

MIDDLE EAST

AQAP releases video on avoiding detection by drones
(Long War Journal) In a recent video released by the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist group provides detailed information to its fighters on methods of avoiding detection by drones. The 16-minute video, titled “Battling Espionage Planes – Camera,” is largely about the technologies employed by drones in detecting individuals and vehicles on the ground and provides instructions about how to disrupt such technologies.
Five bombs explode in Yemeni capital, killing one
(Reuters) Five bombs exploded on Tuesday in Sanaa’s old quarter, where many supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi movement live, killing a member of the group and wounding another person, a senior security official said.
US to accept thousands of Syrian refugees for resettlement
(Al-Monitor) US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard says the United States will dramatically increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle permanently in the United States from about 350 this year to close to 10,000 annually as the crisis grinds on into its fifth year. 

ASIA-PACIFIC

North Korea back online: Was it the target of a cyberattack?
(Los Angeles Times) The loss of service came just days after President Obama warned that the U.S. would respond to the recent computer hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the FBI has blamed on North Korea. But U.S. officials declined to say whether the government was responsible.
U.S. asks China to help combat North Korean hacking after attack on Sony
(Washington Post) The Obama administration has asked China for help in countering the North Korean cyberattacks as the United States seeks to respond to the financially costly assault on Sony Pictures.
China’s Investigation of Ex-President’s Aide Marks New Phase in War on Corruption
(Wall Street Journal) The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to investigate a onetime top aide to former President Hu Jintao has resurfaced old scandals and lifted a cloak of invisibility that previously shielded from scrutiny many of the former leader’s closest allies. 

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

What Changed And What Stayed The Same: How 2014 Impacted The Veterans Community
(Stephen Carlson in Task & Purpose) 2014 has been a tumultuous year for veterans and the military. A country where many thought the war was over is back in the headlines, while another faces an uncertain end. The Department of Veterans Affairs has taken a serious black eye, and day-to-day issues such as homelessness and veterans unemployment are starting to improve. As the year comes to an end, here is a look at the issues that have affected us all.
Merry Christmas, Defense Contractors!
(Veronique de Rugy in The Daily Beast) Congress’ abomination of a defense spending bill is all about pleasing weapons manufacturers and diverting funds to useless projects.
After Peshawar, Expect Business as Usual in Pakistan
(C. Christine Fair in War on the Rocks) Last week, the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP or “Pakistani Taliban”) outraged the world when it attacked an Army Public School in Peshawar. The attackers sprayed bullets frenetically, killing 145 persons among whom 132 were children. Ostensibly, this slaughter was a retaliation for the Pakistan army’s ongoing security operations in North Waziristan against those elements of the Pakistani Taliban who could not be persuaded to leave Pakistan to either fight Americans and their allies in Afghanistan or kill Indians in and beyond Kashmir. Amidst the bloodshed, Pakistan and international observers alike hope that such a watershed event will jolt Pakistan out of its somnolence and take its terrorist problems seriously. However, as with most things in Pakistan, such optimists should brace for disappointment.
A Broader Definition of Security in Post-2014 Afghanistan
(Catherine Powell in the Council on Foreign Relations) Earlier this month, the United States and NATO lowered the flags over their mission in Kabul in the first of two ceremonies that mark the end of the international combat mission in Afghanistan. Over the next few weeks, foreign troops in Afghanistan will be transitioning to a training and support role.
Why the U.S. Can’t Punish North Korea
(Adam Chandler in The Atlantic) The FBI formally accused the isolated country of the Sony hack, but the White House is basically powerless to do anything to respond. 

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