Tuesday Defense Briefing

Defense

National Guard attack helicopter units just can’t be as battle-ready as full-time regular Army ones, Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox has been telling the Hill. That’s why the Guard should give all its AH-64 Apache gunships to the active-duty force to replace older aircraft lost to budget cuts. – Breaking Defense

A 20-year-old guided-missile cruiser will join two other ships in “laid up” status at Pearl Harbor. The USS Port Royal, along with the USS Lake Erie and the USS Chosin, is among 11 Navy cruisers that will be placed on reduced operating status while they are modernized, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday. – Military Times

After the 9/11 attacks, tens of thousands of young men and women joined the military, heading for the rugged mountains of Afghanistan and dusty deserts of Iraq. Many of them now are officers in the Army with multiple combat deployments under their belts. But as the wars wind down and Pentagon budgets shrink, a lot of them are being told they have to leave. – Associated Press

44  is expected to announce an agreement with the Philippines next Monday that would give American ships and planes the most extensive access to bases there since the United States relinquished its vast naval installation at Subic Bay in 1992. – New York Times

The War

American drones and Yemeni counterterrorism forces killed more than three dozen militants linked to Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen over the weekend in one of the largest such attacks there in months, officials from both countries said Monday. – New York Times

A federal appeals panel in Manhattan ordered the release on Monday of key portions of a classified Justice Department memorandum that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who intelligence officials contend had joined Al Qaeda and died in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. – New York Times

NATO

The NATO alliance should focus on its historic mission of deterring Russian aggression in Europe as members wrap up their mission in Afghanistan, Poland’s defense minister said. – Defense News

Foreign Armies East

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to remove six-decade-old constraints on his country’s military, a goal that the  administration said Monday it supports, but one that could unsettle the region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

North Korea warned Monday that an upcoming Asian tour by 44 could escalate military tensions, as South Korean media cited intelligence reports of increased activity at the North’s main nuclear test site. – AFP

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Monday Defense Briefing

The United States plans to carry out small ground-force exercises in Poland and Estonia in an attempt to reassure NATO’s Eastern European members worried about Russia’s military operations in and near Ukraine, Western officials said Friday. – New York Times

U.S. Marines assigned to the Black Sea Rotational Force, based at Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in Romania, wrapped up Summer Shield with Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian troops on April 17.  – Military Times

With an eye to the international market, shipbuilders Lockheed Martin, Austal USA and Huntington Ingalls have worked to develop more heavily armed versions of ships already in production for domestic customers. Now, ironically, the proposals might have their best chance yet — as the choice to succeed the LCS as the US Navy’s next small surface combatant (SSC). – Defense News

Army leaders are reaching out to the National Guard after Guard leaders and lawmakers criticized the Army over its plan to retire 798 aircraft and transfer AH-64 Apaches from the Guard to active duty units. – Military.com

The Navy’s drone helicopter, the Air Force’s precision-landing system and the Army’s digital radio for ground troops are among the Pentagon’s weapons programs whose unit costs surged in the past year. – DOD Buzz

The War

Air strikes in southern Yemen killed about 30 suspected al Qaeda members on Sunday, local tribal sources said, in the second day of strikes against militant targets in the country. – Reuters

Islamist militants killed at least 14 Algerian soldiers in an ambush in mountains east of the capital Algiers at the weekend in one of the deadliest attacks on the military in years. – Reuters

The F.B.I.’s inquiry became the focus of the pretrial hearings at Guantánamo this week, after the contractor disclosed it to the defense team. It was a reminder that, no matter how much the proceedings at the island military prison resemble a familiar American trial, the invisible hand of the United States government is at work there in ways unlike anything seen in typical courtrooms. – New York Times

Deadly battles are raging in Homs, the central Syrian city that was long a hub and a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, with both soldiers and insurgents saying they have lost many fighters in recent days as the government presses an all-out assault on the last few rebel-held areas in the Old City of Homs. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East 

Elite Russian troops are displaying a new arsenal of body armor, individual weapons, armor-piercing ammunition and collar radios — a menu of essential gear that gives them a big tactical advantage against a lesser-equipped Ukrainian army. – Washington Times

The commander of the Chinese navy will refuse to meet Japanese military officials one-on-one at a regional naval symposium in China this week, a navy spokesman was quoted as saying on Sunday, citing what he called hurtful actions by Japanese leaders. – Reuters

Japan bolstered its military surveillance capabilities in the southern island region of Okinawa over the weekend, reports said, as territorial tensions with China simmer. – AFP

Western defense firms reportedly are threatening to cancel partnerships with Turkish companies if Ankara buys a Chinese antimissile system. – Global Security Newswire
Amid rising tensions with Russia, the U.S. defense chief said Washington and its allies may “adjust” the timing for fielding antimissile systems in Europe. – Global Security Newswire

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Friday Defense Brieifing

The United States will soon send medical supplies, helmets and other forms of nonlethal aid to Ukraine’s military, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Thursday, a move meant to bolster an embattled ally that stops short of supplying the weapons officials in Kiev have sought. – Washington Post

The price tag for the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, increased $7.4 billion in 2013, according to a new US Defense Department report. – Defense News

Much of the $4.5 billion in F-35 procurement cost increases in the past year — part of a $7.8 billion total program increase — to the U.S. portion of the program are due to overly rosy projections on the anticipated decline in the “cost curve,” or price to build the stealthy fighter, says U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer. – Aviation Week

Six Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are currently at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to test the aircraft’s stealth and sensor technologies against representations of Russian, Iranian and Chinese air-defenses. – Military.com

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter officials are in the early phases of mapping out a fourth software drop designed to ensure the fifth generation fighter can counter threats and weapons expected to emerge in the mid 2020’s and beyond, Air Force officials said. – Defense Tech

The U.S. Navy released a long-awaited draft request for proposal (RFP) for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft on Thursday afternoon. – USNI News

Much remains to be done before the transformational implications of many of these advances in platforms and systems can be realized. But the Navy is clearly on a path towards a radical change in its capabilities. – RealClearDefense

Gian Gentile writes: If history is any guide, the Army will inevitably be deployed again as a fighting force. The American people should invest in preparing for that event, and avoid the near-catastrophe that occurred in South Korea decades ago. – Washington Post

A casual remark by a U.S. general during a breakfast has made China mad, really mad, and Beijing’s response is far less than civil and humble. – Washington Times’ Inside China

Foreign Armies East

North Korea reportedly has deployed a mobile rocket launcher to its east coast in a possible sign that a threatened missile test is imminent. – Global Security Newswire

Japan is sending 100 soldiers and radar to its westernmost outpost, a tropical island off Taiwan, in a deployment that risks angering China with ties between Asia’s biggest economies already hurt by a dispute over nearby islands they both claim. – Reuters

The PLAN is on solid strategic ground in pursuing carrier-based power projection, and while their approach is not a direct threat to U.S. forces (or is not likely to be a threat in the foreseeable future), it serves as a long-term, slowly metastasizing threat to the most significant competitive advantage the U.S. enjoys in the region – its network of friendships and alliances. – RealClearDefense

Homs, long at the heart of the Syrian conflict, is witnessing some of its most intense violence in months as the military, using artillery, tanks, air power and infantry, moves in on a remnant rebel force that has held sway in the Old City for more that two years. – Los Angeles Times

The War

Prosecutors told jurors in a terrorism trial on Thursday that Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri used his influence as a religious leader to radicalize and recruit young Muslims to attack and kill Americans. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Army Maj. Jason Wright, a member of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s defense team, informed the court Thursday morning that he will be retiring from the military in order to continue defending his client, who stands accused of orchestrating the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. – Washington Free Beacon

Dozens of schoolgirls abducted by armed militants in northeastern Nigeria this week remained missing on Thursday amid fears that they would be turned into “sex slaves and cooks” if they were not rescued, a top official in the region said. – New York Times

Suspected Sunni Muslim militants killed at least 30 people around Iraq on Thursday including 12 soldiers in an assault on a remote army base in the north, deepening insecurity with a national election just two weeks away. – Reuters

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Thursday Defense Briefing

The USS Port Royal, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser launched in 1992, was slated for decommissioning next year. But Congress‘ top watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, said there may not be a reason to retire the ship — and now the Navy agrees. – Washington Times

More than $1 trillion in sequestration-related defense cuts, slated for now through 2021, “would significantly increase risks both in the short- and long-term,” according to a report released by the Pentagon. – Stars and Stripes

Read a copy of the report – U.S. Department of Defense

The Pentagon’s planned five-year spending plan for procurement and research-and-development projects, set forth in its 2015 budget proposal, would be cut by $66 billion if US federal spending caps remain in place, according to a new Defense Department report. – Defense News

Problems with a parts supplier and the need to modify certain design features led the US Navy to announce Wednesday that the commissioning of the new nuclear-powered attack submarine North Dakota won’t take place at the end of May as scheduled. – Defense News

Lockheed Martin, with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.K. defense ministry (MoD), are putting the finishing touches on plans for the F-35’s international debut in the U.K. this summer. – DOD Buzz

The US Air Force’s drone pilots believe there is a negative perception attached to their jobs, report low morale and receive insufficient training, a new government study found. – Defense News

The War

The leader of al Qaeda’s wing in Yemen has vowed to attack the United States, in a video apparently showing a gathering of the group celebrating a mass jailbreak of fighters. – Reuters

Wahayshi explicitly threatened the US in this most recent video and his group in Yemen is behind at least three attempts on the US homeland. So tell me, if we’re not winning in Yemen, are we really winning against al Qaeda? – AEI Ideas

Victims of the 9/11 terror attacks expressed shock that the FBI may be meddling in the hearings here, and some speculated that it is part of an effort by the  administration to completely derail the hearings and force them into federal court stateside. – Washington Free Beacon

The Pakistani Taliban said Wednesday that they were ending a six-week-old cease-fire but would continue peace talks with the Pakistani government. – New York Times

A group of Afghan policemen were kidnapped on Wednesday while traveling in civilian clothes, and the Taliban later claimed they had killed seven of them. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

Jordanian warplanes on Wednesday destroyed three vehicles trying to enter the country from neighboring Syria in an unusual strike that underscored Jordan’s intensive efforts to maintain control over a border crisscrossed by smugglers, Syrian insurgents and refugees. – New York Times

Japan is poised to introduce a plan that would allow its forces to defend allies for the first time in the post-World War II era, even as polls indicate public opposition to a reinterpretation of the nation’s pacifist constitution. – Stars and Stripes

A multinational naval force is expected to depart for the Baltic Sea from Germany within days as part of a NATO military contingent intended to counter Russian provocation in the Ukraine. – Washington Times

Poland’s defense minister is calling for a larger US and NATO military presence in his country to deter the type of Russian aggression occurring in eastern Ukraine. – Defense News

Russia has increased its military activity near the border with Ukraine markedly since late last week, a Reuters reporting team said after making return visits to the frontier zone where NATO says Moscow has amassed 40,000 troops. – Reuters

Missile Defense/Nuclear Weapons

The Pentagon would ax a redesign of the front-end kill vehicle atop its strategic missile interceptor if future sequestration cuts remain law. – Global Security Newswire

The administration is sticking to a plan to develop controversial new warheads for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but opponents of the project are holding out hope that officials could still change course. – Global Security Newswire

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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon is laying out a road map for the future of its drone fleet, which includes unmanned planes with fuel-filled wings that can fly more sophisticated weapons systems to more isolated hot spots and smaller drones capable of operating in unison to swarm an enemy. – Washington Times

The US Defense Department will continue sending Congress budget proposals that do not adhere to federal spending caps and will instead opt to develop budgets it believes are appropriate to defend the country, a senior Pentagon official said. – Defense News

Despite deep across-the-board cuts scheduled over the next decade, the US federal deficit is projected to again hit $1 trillion in just eight years. And already there are calls for additional steps, even as the defense sector continues dealing with sequestration. – Defense News

In a Tuesday statement titled “Why Are Army Leaders So Afraid of a Commission,” the National Guard Association of the United States accused Army leaders of refusing to create a commission that could show reserve force are cheaper to maintain than those on active duty. – DEFCON Hill

The Pentagon will cut 17 of the 343 F-35 fighters it planned to buy from Lockheed Martin Corp. in fiscal 2016 through 2019 unless Congress repeals automatic budget cuts, according to a new Defense Department report. – Bloomberg

The Littoral Combat Ship program was one of the leading topics at the Sea Air Space Exposition outside Washington D.C. last week as Navy leaders continued to protect it from critics who said the ship is not built for the correct mission sets. A government watchdog even reported that 7th Fleet officials told investigators that the LCS is not suited for the Pacific. – Defense Tech

General Dynamics has pulled back from the long-shot path of formal protests over the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), but its quieter campaigns on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon will continue — and those efforts may have better odds. – Breaking Defense

[O]n April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico.  – Defense News

The Pentagon will “look at options” so it does not break a multiyear helicopter contract with Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin that includes about 90 aircraft, a senior US Defense Department official said. – Defense News

The War

Rep. Mike Rogers said Tuesday that Al Qaeda is stronger than ever, and that they are doing all the things necessary to prepare a strike. – Politico

The FBI could be forced to testify in the military war court at Guantanamo Bay regarding the nature of its investigation into defense lawyers for the accused 9/11 terrorists. – Washington Free Beacon

Prison guards here at the Guantanamo Bay prison are attacked on a “daily basis” by detainees, according to Commander John Filostat, a prison spokesman for the Joint Task Force (JTF) Guantanamo. – Washington Free Beacon

Syria’s opposition fighters have been supplied with U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles, the first time a major American weapons system has appeared in rebel hands. – Washington Post

Suspected al Qaeda militants shot dead the deputy governor of Yemen’s central province of al-Bayda on Tuesday, a security official said. – Reuters

A video that recently surfaced on Islamist militant Web sites shows a large group of al-Qaeda fighters — including the terrorist network’s second in command — taking part in a brazen open-air gathering, apparently unconcerned about the prospect of being struck by a U.S. drone. – Washington Post

Two Australian men, one of whom held dual citizenship with New Zealand, were killed in Yemen in late 2013 during a counterterrorism operation, the Australian and New Zealand governments confirmed Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been relieved of his post at his request, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Foreign Armies East

The Ukrainian military landed airborne troops at an airport about 25 miles south of here on Tuesday, raising tensions with Russia in the opening phase of what the government in Kiev called a wider military operation to confront pro-Russian militants in the eastern part of the country. – New York Times

Iran announced that it has armed its warships with a new generation of cruise missiles and warned the West that its response to “any threat” will be “more deadly and heavier,” according to regional media reports. – Washington Free Beacon

Tehran will not discuss its ballistic missiles as part of ongoing talks with world powers on a final agreement to curb the Iranian nuclear program, the country’s defense minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press

NATO

NATO’s highest political decision-making body and its military committee have been mulling over a report that shows an array of air, land and naval options the alliance can tap to support skittish Easter European allies that see Russian forces amassing along the Ukraine border as a threat to their sovereignty. – Washington Times

Eleven members of Congress sent another letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this morning urging the United States to push its NATO allies to “cease all trade involving military equipment with Russia” in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and continued destabilization of the Ukrainian government in Kiev. – Defense News

France has the right to decide whether to deliver a controversial helicopter carrier to Russia, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. But the opinions of allies also count. – Defense News

Some NATO member states find increasing value in U.S. nuclear arms deployed in Europe, amid continued worries about Russian actions in Ukraine. – Global Security Newswire

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula makes it vital that NATO station significant numbers of troops in eastern Europe and ignore any objections Russia might have in this respect, Poland’s defense minister said. – Reuters

Spooked by Russia’s actions against Ukraine and what the Kremlin may attempt in the future, European Union defense ministers agreed Tuesday to step up cooperation with the U.S.-led NATO defense alliance. – Associated Press

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

A Russian fighter jet on Saturday made repeated “provocative” close-range, low-altitude passes above the US Navy destroyer Donald Cook while it was steaming in the Black Sea, heightening Cold War-style tensions that have continued to escalate for weeks, a defense official said. – Defense News

The Navy plans to select the contractor who will build the next generation presidential helicopter next month. – DOD Buzz

The US Navy, in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal, said it wants to cancel a planned buy of 29 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters in 2016….But a major hurdle lies in the helicopter cancellation: The Pentagon signed a multiyear procurement deal with Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin — makers of the helicopter — for those 29 machines, meaning the costs associated with terminating the contract could end up being higher than the purchase price – Defense News

The War

The first 9/11 hearing of 2014 came to a sudden halt Monday following defense accusations that the FBI attempted to turn at least one of its team members into an informant. – DEFCON Hill

A commander from Guantanamo Bay’s infamous—and until recently highly secret—Camp 7 will testify this week in military court about how prisoners are treated in the highly secure compound, which houses 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other high value terror suspects. – Washington Free Beacon

Jordan’s ambassador to Libya was kidnapped on Tuesday morning after masked gunmen attacked his car and shot his driver, a spokesman for Libya’s foreign ministry said. – Reuters

Three Lebanese journalists working for Hezbollah’s al-Manar television were killed on Monday after coming under attack in the historic Christian town of Maaloula, north of Damascus. – Reuters

Until this week, Germany’s main challenge to Hezbollah came when the state government in Lower Saxony — where the Orphan Children Project website is registered — revoked the tax subsidy it received as a non-profit organization in 2010.  – Foreign Policy

Foreign Armies East

Russia’s military carried out a flight test of a new multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile on Monday amid growing tensions with the United States over the crisis in Ukraine. – Washington Free Beacon

The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense is planning to deploy three new radars to Lithuania’s border with Belarus to bolster the military’s air surveillance capacity. The equipment will replace the Lithuanian Army’s P-18 and P-37 radars, which are Russian-built, the ministry said in a statement. – Defense News

In the wake of suspected infiltration by unmanned aircraft presumed to be made in North Korea, Seoul has laid out plans to buy low-altitude radars to help detect enemy drones. – Defense News

Taiwan reduced an order for secondhand warships from the U.S. because of budgetary constraints, despite China’s growing military clout in the region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

China’s navy on Tuesday denied, in a roundabout way, that it snubbed Japan by not inviting it to join in a naval fleet review as part of an international symposium, saying the two events had never been linked in the first place. – Reuters

Indian defense planners will need to hike defense spending by at least 30 percent for about 10 years to narrow the military differences between India and China, said an Indian Army official. – Defense News

The Turkish government has appointed an aviation expert as new chief official for defense procurement, according to a government decree. – Defense News

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has invited Jordan and Morocco to form a military alliance to resolve the bloc’s manpower issues. – Defense News

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Monday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon is looking at new ways to disperse its forces throughout the Asia-Pacific as military planners explore alternatives to the large US super bases in the region vulnerable to cruise missile strikes. – Defense News

The Marines do not have enough amphibious ships in the Asia-Pacific for more than one contingency, the U.S. commander of Marines in Japan said Friday. – DEFCON Hill

The US Army is putting the finishing touches on a bold new strategy for how it prepositions stocks of critical equipment around the globe, how it uses those stocks to speed deployments — and who pays for it. – Defense News

The US Army is considering certifying some of its attack helicopters to operate from ships — a mission historically conducted by the Marine Corps — as the service looks to broaden the role it would play in an Asia-Pacific battle. – Defense News

John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona and former Republican presidential candidate, has added his voice to the growing chorus of lawmakers seeking to block the Pentagon’s plans to retire the A-10 attack plane. – DOD Buzz

[O]n April 7, the House passed a bill approving the transfer of eight frigates — four to Taiwan, two to Thailand and two to Mexico. Two of the ships named in the bill already have left service, with the other six set to leave the US fleet in 2015. – Defense News

The Navy will display electromagnetic railgun prototypes on the joint high speed vessel Millinocket in San Diego later this summer, and a manually loaded, single-shot live-fire demonstration aboard the vessel is scheduled for 2016. – Military Times

Marines will help test a new Navy amphibious assault ship’s capabilities on its maiden transit from the ship yard in Mississippi all the way around South America to its new home in the Pacific — and they’ll make several stops to engage with military partners along the way. – Military Times

The Navy on Saturday christened the first ship of its newest class of destroyers, a more than $3 billion, 610-foot-long warship sporting advanced technology and a stealthy shape designed to minimize its visibility on enemy radar and reduce the size of its crew. – Associated Press

Foreign Armies East

The Pakistani and Iranian navies have engaged in a four-day joint naval exercise east of the Straits of Hormuz [last] week in an effort to improve security cooperation between the two neighbors. – Defense News

Australia is likely to commit to buying 58 more Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightnings this month, setting aside the alternative of consolidating its combat aircraft squadrons on the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The decision will increase the country’s total commitment to 72 F-35s and expand the Royal Australian Air Force’s fast-jet fleet, counting a separate order for 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft as additional to, not part of, the fighter force renewal. – Aviation Week

The Asia-Pacific naval market is heating up, with massive quantities of new ships to boost regional navies in coming years. – Defense News

Japan’s efforts to boost its military capabilities focus too much on big-ticket items, leaving operational gaps and undercutting how defense forces can effectively utilize their equipment, analysts said. – Defense News

China’s military modernization efforts over the past 20 years have been marked by broad efforts, according to an expert, as opposed to focusing on specific services. – Defense News

Russia has approved the sale to China of an advanced antimissile system that could have ramifications on nuclear stability with India, according to news reports. – Global Security Newswire

China is quietly preparing for a more robust role in the future of Afghanistan, concerned that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep. – Reuters

The German government will not approve a reported deal to sell up to 800 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, a German Sunday newspaper said, citing government sources. – Defense News

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that the country has temporarily called off a plan to dispatch warships to the Atlantic Ocean. – Associated Press

The War

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the trial of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a fiery Islamic cleric who prosecutors allege conspired to kidnap Americans in Yemen and who also is accused of trying to open a terrorist training camp in Oregon. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit seeking to force disclosure of Justice Department memoranda detailing the legal basis for the U.S. government’s killing of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar Al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. – Politico

Attorney James Connell has visited his client inside the secret Guantanamo prison complex known as Camp 7 only once, taken in a van with covered windows on a circuitous trek to disguise the route on the scrub brush-and-cactus covered military base. – Associated Press

Here in the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who gained infamy for his bloody reign as the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq during the early years of the American occupation there, the increasingly sectarian war in Syria has ignited militants, inspiring the largest jihadist mobilization the city has ever seen. – New York Times

Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gained control of the main road that links Baghdad with the northern provinces for a short time on Sunday, while a series of explosions around Iraq left up to 25 dead, according to security forces. – New York Times

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq survived an attack by gunmen who shot at his convoy west of Baghdad on Friday, the official state news agency reported. – LA Times’ World Now

A Saudi Arabian court on Sunday jailed 13 men to sentences ranging from one to 10 years for aiding and financing militants fighting abroad, conspiring inside Saudi Arabia and harboring wanted suspects, state news agency SPA reported on Monday. – Reuters

An armed group kidnapped a foreign doctor in northern Yemen, the Interior Ministry and a local official said on Monday, the latest in a spate of abductions against Westerners in the country. – Reuters

Clashes between Islamist-led rebels and regime forces intensified in the city of Aleppo and other parts of northern Syria as opposition activists accused the regime of attacks with lethal chlorine gas. – Wall Street Journal

A pair of car bombs exploded Wednesday in a busy residential district in the central Syrian city of Homs, killing at least 25 civilians and wounding more than 100, Syria’s official media reported. – LA Times’ World Now

Reports of gas attacks on a rural village in Syria have demonstrated how non-conventional arms remain a threat in the war-ravaged nation despite an international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons. – Financial Times

NATO

Interim air, land and sea deployments, a review and exercises, and an increase in the readiness level of the NATO Response Force are among the range of options that NATO’s supreme allied commander could present this month to reassure Eastern European nations amid the crisis in Ukraine. – Defense News

Sohrab Ahmari interviews NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Has NATO’s engagement and cooperation with Moscow paid any security dividends? “Obviously not,” Mr. Rasmussen replies without hesitation. “We have seen a revisionist Russia trying to redraw the European map by force. That’s a wake-up call. That’s a completely new security environment and of course we have to adapt to that.” He adds: “This goes far beyond Crimea.” – Wall Street Journal

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday he was “extremely concerned” about the escalation of tensions in east Ukraine, saying actions by uniformed, pro-Russian gunmen with military weapons pointed to an organized campaign to destabilize the region. – Defense News

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Friday Defense Briefing

Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet said Thursday that the U.S. has had “very frank” conversations with France about its sale of navy ships to Russia. – DEFCON Hill

A small team of US Marines are to head soon to Chad’s Zakouma National Park to train local forces in the fight against the poaching threatening the area’s elephant herds. – AFP

The U.S. Aegis anti-missile destroyer Donald Cook entered the Black Sea Thursday night in a show of NATO support for regional allies bordering Ukraine that brought quick denunciations from Moscow. – Military.com

The U.S. military’s goal of being able to fight two wars at the same time is in jeopardy due to the continued specter of sequestration, top commanders from all four Defense Department branches said Thursday. – DEFCON Hill

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wants to wait on major military compensation reform until next year, but may accept some smaller changes to pay and benefits in the current budget debate. – Military Times

The Navy’s top weapons buyer on Wednesday said sequestration is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage in maintaining its technical edge over a rising China in the Pacific. – Defense Tech

U.S. Navy officers in the Pacific fleet say the service’s Littoral Combat Ship may lack the speed, range and electronic-warfare capabilities needed to operate in Asian waters, according to a congressional audit. – Bloomberg

Even modest increases to the Air Force budget wouldn’t save the A-10 Thunderbolt II from retirement, the force’s second-in-command said on Thursday. – DEFCON Hill

Flanked by pilots and proponents of the A-10 attack aircraft, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., revealed she will push amendments to defense legislation to reverse plans to retire the entire fleet. – Defense News

The Marine Corps will form a new land-based unit in the Middle East during fiscal year 2015 that is designed to respond to crises in the region, including emergencies at embassies, sources have told Marine Corps Times. – Military Times

Since the end of World War II, U.S. foreign policy in Africa has been based on diplomacy and international aid rather than military presence. That paradigm shifted as a result of the Arab Spring movement. Both the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command have plans to increase troop strength to deal with instability and terrorist threats on the continent. – National Defense

While Marine Corps leaders call for more amphibious vessels to help transition Marine assets to the Pacific, Military Sealift Command is offering to help. – DOD Buzz

Boeing and the Navy are arguing that the Navy needs more of the electronic attack versions of the F-18, known as the Growler, to fly with the F-35 on the first day of combat to protect the F-35 and to help protect the service’s precious carrier strike groups. – Breaking Defense

The projected price tag for the new Boeing KC-46 tanker has fallen $1.8 million per aircraft, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. – Defense News

The Army expects its total contract spending to fall $22 billion — about 25 percent — in fiscal 2014, according to a top procurement official. – Defense News

At this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference here, just 10 miles down the Potomac from the Pentagon, admirals and junior officers alike wrestled with the right balance between speed and safety, between it taking hours to 3-D print a new design and many months to certify it, between the dueling imperatives of Moore’s Law and “first do no harm.” – Breaking Defense

The chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee said on Thursday that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities would be top priorities as the panel puts together this year’s massive defense policy bill. – Reuters

The War

With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. – Washington Post

The al Qaeda-tied magazine “Inspire” is featuring in its spring issue a photograph of a shuttle train at San Francisco International Airport with the accompanying caption: “Assemble your bomb.” – Washington Times

A U.S. military organization charged with countering improvised bombs engaged in improper intelligence collection on the side, the Pentagon’s inspector general found. – Bloomberg

Forty House Democrats are urging President Obama to quickly declassify portions of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the government’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. – DEFCON Hill

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) write: Ultimately, the Senate intelligence committee’s report should be judged on the accuracy of its findings and the quality of its conclusions, not on whether its information came from documents or interviews. Soon, the American people will be able to judge this for themselves. We have confidence that they will conclude, as we have, that this program was a mistake that must never be repeated. – Washington Post

Foreign Armies East

NATO released satellite photographs on Thursday showing Russian military equipment, including fighter jets and tanks, that it described as part of a deployment of as many as 40,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. – New York Times

South Korea’s military said Thursday it would hold its largest-ever joint air drill with the United States as tensions mount over a series of threats from North Korea. – AFP

Japan dispatched fighter jets more often over the past 12 months than at any time since the Cold War ended, according to government figures, with the sorties mostly aimed at chasing away Chinese and Russian aircraft. – AFP

The Chinese military is accused of continuing to hack western companies despite denying the accusations last year after a report pointed the finger at a unit of the People’s Liberation Army in Shanghai. – Financial Times

Jordan has also provided a staging ground for rebels and their foreign backers on Syria’s southern front. In the joint Arab-American operations room in Amman, the capital, for example, rebels say they have collected salaries as an incentive not to join better-funded extremist groups. – New York Times

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Thursday Defense Briefing

Medal of Honor recipient Capt. William Swenson is back on active duty. Swenson, who originally left the Army in 2011, is assigned to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., corps spokesman Col. David Johnson confirmed to Army Times. – Military Times

The commander of U.S. Army Pacific said the military’s presence in the region won’t diminish despite cuts elsewhere. – Associated Press

A source of potential conflict arose during this morning’s hearing with US Army leadership at the Senate Armed Services Airland subcommittee, when Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., warned that supplemental wartime funding, which the Army has said it needs well after the war in Afghanistan ends, may not be forthcoming. – Defense News

The Army and the National Guard are at war over the Guard’s Apache helicopters, and both sides are turning to Congress for backup. “We were unable to work it out in the Pentagon,” said one defense official involved in the dispute. Now, “we’re doing this very public and bloody battle.” – Politico

With tighter budgets the rule of the land, the military services need to seek support from each other, the US Navy’s top officer said Tuesday night. – Defense News

The defense budget squeeze could mean longer deployments overseas and longer tours at sea, as military officials try to man more missions with fewer people, defense leaders warned Wednesday. – Military Times

A prominent lawmaker urged the U.S. Navy and Congress to start building the next generation of nuclear ballistic submarines sooner than previously planned. – Military.com

The U.S. Navy is in the very early stages of developing a new destroyer — called the Future Surface Combatant — which will replace the existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and enter service by the early 2030s, Navy leaders told Military.com. – Military.com

Full installation of automatic backup oxygen systems on the F-22 fleet is expected to be complete by this time next year, a top US Air Force acquisition officer said April 8. Raptors in Alaska have already begun using the system. – Defense News

Readiness rates over the past five years for the MV-22 Osprey have risen by 25 percent while costs per flight hour have dropped by 20 percent, said Col. Dan Robinson, the V-22 program manager. – DOD Buzz

The Navy is developing new hearing protection for flight deck crews to block out the roar of new and noisy jets. The F-35 Lightning II, which clocks in at a thundering 152 decibels, is forcing the service to come up with better hearing protection for sailors. – Defense News

The Navy is integrating a vertically-launched longbow Hellfire missile onto the Littoral Combat Ship as a way to give the platform more fire-power, service officials said Wednesday. – DOD Buzz

The destroyer Donald Cook is set to enter the Black Sea Thursday amid tensions over eastern Ukraine. – Military Time

On April 7, the US Federal Claims Court rejected military vehicle maker AM General’s lawsuit against the US Special Operations Command over its decision to award a $562 contract to General Dynamics for the Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 (GMV) program, Defense News has learned. – Defense News

Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and John McCain (R-AZ) write: [W]e will continue to oppose the Air Force’s proposed premature divestment of the A-10 until an equally effective replacement reaches full operational capability.  With the lives of our brave soldiers on the line, we owe them nothing less. – RealClearDefense

Foreign Armies East

China’s military has allowed the public release of the first photographs of a warplane variant deployed on the Liaoning — the aircraft carrier that saw its first visit by U.S. officials this week. – Washington Free Beacon

Taliban militants in Pakistan have established an increasingly close relationship with insurgents from across the border in Afghanistan, supplying them with explosives and well-trained fighters, a senior Afghan army commander said on Wednesday. – Reuters

France is predicting that the U.N. Security Council will vote unanimously Thursday to authorize a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force for Central African Republic, which has been torn by mounting violence between Christians and Muslims. – Associated Press

As territorial tensions flared in East Asia, Japan’s air force scrambled jets against Chinese and Russian planes far more often during the year that ended in March than in recent years, pushing the total number of such maneuvers to the highest since the end of the Cold War. – WSJ’s Japan Real Time

NATO

NATO’s supreme allied commander will present options to the North Atlantic Council on April 15 on how the alliance will reassure eastern European members that NATO is committed to defending them, including military exercises, an alliance spokesman said. – Defense News

NATO denied Russian claims Wednesday that it was planning to deploy massive numbers of troops near the country’s border. – AFP

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused NATO on Thursday of using the crisis in Ukraine to boost its appeal to members and justify its existence by rallying them against an imaginary threat. – Reuters

NATO’s top military commander in Europe, drafting countermoves to the Russian military threat against Ukraine, said Wednesday they could include deployment of American troops to alliance member states in Eastern Europe now feeling at risk. – Associated Press

The War

As American forces leave Afghanistan, some officials are expressing fear that al-Qaida is gaining ground. – Medill News Service

The United States has designated Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a foreign terrorist organization, officials said on Wednesday, making it a crime to support the group. – Reuters

Bashar al-Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill – a “reality” to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned. – Reuters

At least 21 people including women and children were killed by twin car bombs in the central Syrian city of Homs on Wednesday, a monitoring group and state media said. – Reuters

The State Department is seeking the declassification of a 10-month-old letter expressing its concerns about a controversial Senate torture review, U.S. officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The United States and its allies flatly ruled out the idea of sending Western military forces to Darfur, leaving the [U.N.] mission in the hands of under-equipped, badly-trained, and vastly outgunned African peacekeepers. – Foreign Polic

Speaking in late 1942, after the first British victories in North Africa, Winston Churchill told the House of Commons: “Now is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” So, too, perhaps it is for us now “the end of the beginning in our struggle with al Qaeda. If so, that is reason to hope – but also to recognize that much danger and difficulty still lies ahead. – House Foreign Affairs Committee

The international order and global stability are collapsing in a way we have not seen since the 1930s. There is little prospect of this trend reversing of its own accord, and managing it will require massive efforts by the US and its allies over a generation or more. – House Foreign Affairs Committee

Over the long run, the persistent nature of the terrorism threat to the
United States suggests that special operations forces should remain a key part of the struggle against al Qa’ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups. – House Foreign Affairs Committee

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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The United States and China clashed over Japan on Tuesday as the Chinese defense minister asserted that Beijing had “indisputable sovereignty” over a group of islands in the East China Sea and that his country’s military stood ready to protect its interests in territorial disputes. – New York Times

The Pentagon is not rethinking its long-term defense strategy because of Russian aggression toward Ukraine, Defense Department officials told lawmakers Tuesday.  – DEFCON Hill

The Pentagon has launched a review to determine whether using a Russian-built rocket engine to launch military satellites has any national security implications, following Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea. – Roll Call

The Pentagon will shrink the number of its nuclear weapon-carrying bomber aircraft and reduce the number of submarine ballistic missile launch tubes – Defense News

Navy

After a super typhoon swept through the Philippines last year, US Marines and sailors arrived to bring aid, evacuate survivors and work to limit the death toll, which had climbed into the thousands. Their lifesaving work was impaired by a lack of amphibious ships, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said this week. – Defense News

A new deployment plan billed as a way to make US Navy life easier on sailors and their families will provide more time in port than the six-month deployment model, the fleet’s top boss said Tuesday. – Defense News

Engineers with the U.S. Navy have finished drawing up blueprints for a future class of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, officials said. – DOD Buzz

The Navy’s first high-tech Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer will pioneer a handful of yet-to-be seen destroyer technologies when it is christened this coming weekend. – Military.com

The U.S. Navy is preparing to conduct a new round of sea trials this summer with its X-47B stealthy aircraft to prove the unmanned system can clear the busy aircraft carrier deck in 90 sec. or less, just like its piloted counterparts. – Aviation Week

The U.S. Navy continues to assess its options to replace a sense-and-avoid radar that was to be used on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft, but failed to meet expectations. – Aviation Week

With a temporary work stoppage lifted, Raytheon is working to develop its air missile defense radar (AMDR) for the US Navy’s future Aegis destroyers. – Defense News

Army

In a surprising move, the head of the US National Guard Bureau has given his blessing to the US Army’s plan to move all of the Guard’s Apache attack helicopters into the active force while receiving several hundred Black Hawk and Lakota multi-use helicopters in return. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is pushing back against calls for an independent panel to analyze its proposal to restructure aviation units in part by transferring Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard. – DOD Buzz

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday indicated support for delaying a plan that would shift resources and cut National Guard personnel, over the clear objections of senior Army officials. – DEFCON Hill

The National Guard’s leader dialed back his opposition Tuesday to an Army plan that would shift resources and cut total Guard personnel by 19,000 soldiers. – DEFCON Hill

Air Force

Senators on the Armed Services Committee grilled the Army’s chief of staff Tuesday on the wisdom of retiring the A-10 Thunderbolt II. – DEFCON Hill

Two key senators say US Air Force plans to stop A-10 flights and training in October are against the law. – Defense News

As F-35 program officials prepared to testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee, they announced they were keeping back some $25.7 million, or 5 percent, of payments for the F135 engine used in the Joint Strike Fighter. – Breaking Defense

The Air Force next month will finally reach the target number of 65 combat air patrols for its Predator and Reaper fleet, while the administration seeks to cut back on its unmanned aerial vehicle operations in theater. – Defense News

NATO

Russia risks driving itself into political isolation if Moscow continues to destabilize Ukraine, with the prospect of a breakdown of relations with the NATO defense organization, alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday. – Defense News

The three Baltic countries are urging Nato to base land forces permanently in the region to show Russia that the military alliance is serious about collective defence. – Financial Times

NATO will triple its usual number of fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics next month to beef up its eastern European defenses due to tension with Russia over Ukraine, a NATO military official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

China’s defense ministry expressed anger on Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to authorize the sale to Taiwan of four second-hand U.S. warships, saying the United States had ignored Chinese protests.  – Reuters

Qatar has become the new darling of the defense contractors after announcing plans to spend 87 billion riyals ($23 billion) on new equipment for its armed forces. – Aviation Week

U.S. intelligence agencies now have detailed information that Russia has amassed the kind of forces needed for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But the Obama administration hasn’t shared with Ukraine the imagery, intercepts, and analysis that pinpont the location of the Russian troops ready to seize more Ukrainian land, The Daily Beast has learned. – The Daily Beast

The War

The fighting in Syria over the past year has accelerated the creation of a sizeable and trained force of Hezbollah, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi fighters. This force is now interoperable in ways not previously seen. Hezbollah, the IRGC-QF, and the Syrian army have become more experienced not only in joint training and planning, but have also learned how to better operate alongside each other as a unified fighting force. – Institute for the Study of War

A bomb ripped through a stationary train in western Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 14 passengers and wounding at least 40, half of them seriously, in a new escalation of the long-running conflict in Baluchistan Province. – New York Times

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested a number of foreign agents as they crossed the border from Iraq to carry out bombings and assassinations, a statement on the website of the Islamic Republic’s elite ideological force said. – Reuters

Suspected militants killed five soldiers guarding a checkpoint in southeastern Yemen on Tuesday, local officials said, and a leader of a Shi’ite Muslim party was wounded in a drive-by shooting in the capital Sanaa in which two guards died. – Reuters

A powerful explosion ripped through a crowded wholesale fruit market in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday morning, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 50 more, according to hospital and police officials. The death toll is expected to rise. – New York Times

 

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