Monday Defense Briefing

The U.S.-led air war in Syria has gotten off to a rocky start, with even the Syrian rebel groups closest to the United States turning against it, U.S. ally Turkey refusing to contribute and the plight of a beleaguered Kurdish town exposing the limitations of the strategy. – Washington Post

The top U.S. military officer says the U.S. called in Apache helicopters to prevent Iraqi forces from being overrun by Islamic State militants in a recent fight near Baghdad’s airport. – Associated Press

Within the U.S. Air Force, there’s mounting frustration that the air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is moving far more slowly than expected. Instead of a fast-moving operation with hundreds of sorties flown in a single day—the kind favored by many in the air service—American warplanes are hitting small numbers of targets after a painstaking and cumbersome process. – The Daily Beast

The Pentagon is estimating the cost of U.S. air operations in Iraq and Syria at about $7.6 million a day. – Bloomberg

A top State Department official said the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a “dark, nasty” online presence and that the U.S. needed to be more aggressive to counter the group on social media. – The Hill

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence. – Washington Post

Forces might be converging that could lead to significant Pentagon acquisition reform, and a group of House Democrats is pushing pages of ideas. – Defense News

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) on Friday accused President Obama of using the military as a “budgetary bargaining chip” in a deal to avert sequestration cuts. – The Hill’s Floor Action


The Army is unveiling a new global strategy for reshaping the largest American military force for a world where the U.S. faces many small and indirect threats, rather than just a few large ones. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

At this year’s Association of the US Army annual expo here, Army leaders are expected to tout a new operating concept that puts greater focus on smaller units expected to adapt and innovate to combat faceless enemies in a formless battlefield. – Defense News

Under the US Army’s new operating concept, its forces must be tailorable, scalable, have a smaller logistical footprint and be able to operate in austere environments. The size of an infantry squad, nine soldiers today, may yet change — and perhaps vehicle requirements along with it. – Defense News

[M]omentum is solidly behind fielding manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) technologies for Army aviation platforms. Combining video feeds and weapons from manned and unmanned platforms provides significantly improved situational awareness to troops on the ground and dramatically improved efficiency in focusing weapons to support ground elements. – Aviation Week

Interview: Ask US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno what he worries about and he will say he wakes up thinking about whether the Army is ready enough to meet its commitments. Over the past six months, those commitments have grown to encompass missions in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where forces are “all doing very important missions simultaneously,” Odierno said. – Defense News

General Gordon Sullivan, USA (Ret.) writes: Today’s Army leadership can design the appropriate force for our uncertain future. The need for every element in that force must be clearly articulated in ways that our citizens can understand. AUSA is committed to help spread the message that we cannot keep cutting force structure and the budget without consequences and increased risk. – Defense One


Bigger often means better, especially when the discussion is about one gun versus another. But a decision to replace a secondary weapon on the US Navy’s new Zumwalt-class destroyer with a smaller gun caliber is raising some eyebrows within the surface warfare community. – Defense News

China has an arsenal of long-range ship-killing missiles, based on land but able to hit US warships hundreds of miles offshore. Now the chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee suggests we give them a taste of their own “anti-access/area denial” medicine. Why shouldn’t the US Army develop its own land-based anti-ship missile force? – Breaking Defense

The Navy is crafting a battle plan to retake control of the electromagnetic spectrum, which the Pentagon’s chief of research says we’ve lost. – Breaking Defense

An investigation into the command climate aboard a Norfolk-based destroyer at sea has resulted in discipline against three of its former leaders. – Daily Press


In the coming month or so, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be transformed into a laboratory as some 90 researchers and 650 Marine volunteers and staffers embark on a first-of-its kind experiment to test the dynamics of co-ed units in combat. – Military Times

The War

Abusalha had made two trips to a conflict zone seen as the largest incubator of Islamist radicalism since Afghanistan in the 1980s. Between those visits he wandered inside the United States for more than six months, U.S. officials said, attracting no attention from authorities after their brief telephone conversation with his mother. – Washington Post

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday slammed reported White House proposals to go around Congress and close the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. – The Hill’s Floor Action

The State Department is renewing its global terrorism alert for Americans traveling abroad, saying it sees a heightened risk of reprisal attacks from the Islamic State group and its supporters. – Associated Press

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Friday Defense Briefing

As the US approaches the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan, the number of airstrikes there hit their highest point in two years in August. – Defense News

An overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress to reconvene and vote before the November elections on an authorization for use of military force against the terrorist army known as Islamic State, found a new poll released Thursday. – Washington Times

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday urged President Obama to call Congress back to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). – The Hill

The Army had hopes of putting DVH refits on all vehicles in its eight active-duty and one National Guard Stryker brigades, but that plan has been on hold since the cost-cutting Congressional sequester process went into effect last year. – DOD Buzz

The U.S. Army is immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, next-generation medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030. – Defense Tech

The rise of asymmetrical warfare, advances in weapons and systems, and the mundane but no less relevant impact of budget cuts are changing how many armies structure their forces and conduct operations. – Aviation Week

The head of Air Force Global Strike Command wants to modernize his fleets at a rapid pace, and he believes Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) may be the model to follow. – Defense News

The service’s joint surveillance target attack radar system (JSTARS) aircraft fleet is due for a replacement, but questions remain whether the program is viewed as a large enough priority in Congress to secure funding. – Defense News

NASA today confirmed long-known plans for a secretive military space plane program to take over the use of two former shuttle hangars at Kennedy Space Center. – Defense News

Just three women have applied to be advisers at the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School so far, an official said. –

The War

The barrage of U.S. cruise missiles last month aimed at a Syrian terrorist cell killed just one or two key militants, according to American intelligence officials who say the group of veteran al-Qaida fighters is still believed to be plotting attacks against U.S. and European targets. – Associated Press

The White House is drafting options that would allow 44 to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S., senior administration officials said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Two suicide bombers struck in Yemen on Thursday, one targeting a gathering of Shiite rebels in the country’s capital San’a, and another hitting a military outpost in the south. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The Baltic nation of Estonia said Thursday it had agreed to resettle one of Guantánamo’s 79 pre-cleared captives — a day after Uruguay’s president linked his commitment to take in six prisoners to a dialogue with his successor. – Miami Herald

Police in Finland said on Thursday they want to keep in detention three Finnish nationals whom they suspect of murder as members of a foreign armed, terrorist organization, the first arrests of their kind in the Nordic country. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Tens of thousands of Kurds turned several Turkish cities into flames in order to protest the Ankara government’s reluctance to save their kinship in Kobani, a northern Syrian city bordering Turkey and beseiged by Islamic radicals. – Defense News

At least ten people died in eastern Turkey when gunmen opened fire on police, and Kurds angry over a siege by Islamist militants on their ethnic kin in Syria clashed with other groups in the country’s sixth largest city, local media said on Friday. – Reuters

Sunni insurgents in Pakistan increased attacks on Iranian border posts in the southeast of the country this week, employing methods similar to those used by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. – New York Times
Foreign Armies

A spectacular explosion on Sunday night outside Tehran took place deep inside the Parchin military base, where Iran produces crucial elements of its missiles and other munitions, raising new questions about whether the blast was an accident or sabotage. – New York Times

A South China Sea island–claimed by both China and Vietnam–now contains a runway for Chinese military aircraft. – Washington Free Beacon

The South Korean military said it exchanged fire with North Korea at their heavily fortified border Friday after North Korea’s military targeted balloons launched by activists from the South. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

At 7,000 troops, the Peace Mission 2014 military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was not large militarily. But its geopolitical importance was considerable: It was the biggest exercise to date for a budding anti-democratic alliance that includes two nuclear powers and could soon gain three more. – Aviation Week

Sixteen unusable transport aircraft that the US government bought for the Afghan Air Force have been scrapped for pennies on the dollar, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. – Defense News

Fighting between India and Pakistan paused on Friday after days of heavy shelling and gun battles across their disputed Himalayan border in Kashmir, the worst skirmishes between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade. – Reuters

The Indian defense minister blamed Pakistan on Thursday for an escalating conflict that has claimed about 20 lives on both sides of the Kashmiri boundary and left thousands of villagers homeless in recent days. – New York Times


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Thursday Defense Briefing

The U.S. Defense Department offered a sober assessment Wednesday of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, warning that the Syrian border city of Kobani — along with other towns like it — could soon fall to militants who seem undeterred by two months of U.S. airstrikes. – Foreign Policy’s The Complex

U.S. aircraft struck Islamic State targets Wednesday inside Mosul, the heart of militant operations in Iraq and the country’s second most populous city, the Defense Department said. – Washington Post

Until it was called off at the last minute, U.S. Marines prepared to land aircraft on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in August for one of the largest evacuation operations ever — the rescue of thousands of trapped refugees, the Marines’ top officer disclosed. – USA Today

As the fight against the Islamic State unfolds, the take of Erik Prince, the founder of the former private security firm Blackwater, is straightforward: If the United States is unwilling to send in ground troops, “let the private sector finish the job.” – Washington Post’s Checkpoint

44 made a rare trip to the Pentagon Wednesday to get an update from top commanders about the fight against Islamic State extremists, the military mission to contain the Ebola virus in West Africa and other operations around the globe. – Military Times

The U.S. Army is pressing ahead with plans to buy a replacement for the iconic Humvee, even as it upgrades heavier blast-resistant trucks now part of the fleet. – DOD Buzz

About 100 Marines based in Spain will deploy temporarily to West Africa to join the fight to contain the Ebola virus, a Pentagon official said. – Military Times

The Army and Marine Corps may have wasted more than $100 million returning vehicles from Afghanistan that they don’t need over just a one-year period, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday. – USA Today

Giving troops more protections against high-cost debt could save the Defense Department between $13 million and $137 million per year because it would reduce the number of troops involuntarily separated over financial problems, according to DoD estimates. – Military Times

The War

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to shoot down reports that terrorist fighters are operating in Mexico and that some already have been caught attempting to cross the United States’ southern border. – McClatchy

The U.S. State Department endorsed on Wednesday a controversial anti-terror handbook published by Canada’s Muslim community that refers to jihad as “noble” and urges law enforcement to avoid using terms such as “Islamic extremism.” – Washington Free Beacon

A U.S. drone struck a vehicle carrying suspected militants in Pakistan’s volatile northwest on Thursday, intelligence and official sources said, a day after a U.S. drone killed two suspected militants in the same area. – Reuters

A suicide bomber killed at least 42 people on Thursday when he detonated an explosives-laden belt in a district of the Yemeni capital where the powerful Shi’ite Muslim Houthi movement had planned to hold a rally, medics and witnesses said. – Reuters

Al Qaeda in Yemen posted a video online purporting to show the abduction and execution of 14 soldiers the Sunni Muslim militants alleged were Shi’ite Muslim “apostates”. – Reuters

The arrest of four men by British police on suspicion of terror-attack planning underscores how long-held fears are starting to be realized about foreign fighters returning from Syria to Europe to launch terrorist plots. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Foreign Armies

The former head of the British military, General David Richards, said on Wednesday that the international fight against ISIS needed boots on the ground. – CNN

An Australian jet fighter has made the country’s first airstrike against an Islamic State target in Iraq since the Australian government committed its air force to combat missions, defense officials said on Thursday. – Associated Press

Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged heavy gunfire overnight Tuesday, after days of fighting that has left at least 17 civilians dead and dozens wounded on both sides of the Kashmiri frontier. – New York Times

Adm. Muhammad Zakaullah, the new head of Pakistan’s Navy who took office on Tuesday, is viewed as a highly experienced officer who will have to focus on base security and improving Pakistan’s submarine force. – Defense News

India warned Pakistan it would pay an “unaffordable price” if it persists with shelling and machine-gun fire across a disputed border in the Kashmir region, raising the stakes in the rivals’ worst fighting in more than a decade. – Reuters

The U.S. and Japan will expand cooperation in several areas including missile defense, surveillance and maritime security under new bilateral-defense guidelines to be adopted as early as this year. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

American and Japanese officials are in talks to complete a “vision statement” for how the two allies might work together in the security arena of their 1997 Defense Cooperation document, according to a senior Pentagon official. – Defense News

Hwang Pyong So, now a top military aide to the North’s leader Kim Jong Un, has had an unprecedented rise to the top rungs of North Korea’s leadership in the space of a few years. With intense speculation on the whereabouts of Kim after his disappearance from official media for over a month, Hwang is even more in focus. – Reuters

North Korea has set its sights on unification and is readying for war, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense informed the National Assembly on Tuesday. – UPI

Canada’s conservative government, which has spent four years pushing for a noncompetitive purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, announced at the end of September it would delay retirement of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Boeing CF-18A/B Hornets for up to five years, until 2025. Canada will, however, continue to support JSF. – Aviation Week

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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The U.S.-led coalition stepped up airstrikes around the Syrian border town of Kobane on Tuesday after Turkey appealed for help, enabling Kurdish fighters to reverse the advance of Islamic State militants for the first time since the extremists launched their assault about three weeks ago. – Washington Post

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday said 44 damaged U.S. credibility, when he decided not to take military action against Syrian leader Bashar Assad, despite drawing a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons. – The Hill

Policy decisions by 44 contributed to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), former CIA director Leon Panetta said Tuesday. – The Hill’s Briefing Room

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he believes that airstrikes in Syria that targeted the Khorasan Group succeeded in disrupting the group’s plots on U.S. and western targets. – ABC News

The Navy’s top officer said Tuesday he would oppose sending a second carrier to the Persian Gulf region. – Military Times

Two Norfolk-based carriers have swapped places in the deployment cycle, Fleet Forces Command announced Monday. – Defense News

The U.S. Air Force says the Pentagon’s inspector general got the numbers wrong in asserting that the service risks wasting $8.8 billion on MQ-9 Reaper drones. – Bloomberg

As the world has gone wireless, the electromagnetic spectrum has become a vast, invisible battleground — and we don’t even have a general in command. While US Strategic Command has the responsibility to “advocate” for Electronic Warfare, STRATCOM’s own chief of operations said bluntly today that it lacks the authorities and funding it needs to make things actually happen. – Breaking Defense

Fix the way the Pentagon buys weapons?  What you might not expect is widespread agreement — 70 percent — that one significant problem is the Defense Department’s acquisition workforce itself. – Defense One

The War

The Islamic State has made some notable gains throughout Anbar province in western Iraq, while the U.S. military and its allies have focused airstrikes on northern Iraq, Pentagon officials say. – Washington Time

Two suspected U.S. drone strikes on Taliban compounds in a Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 10 militants, officials said. – Associated Press

Shiite rebels who control Yemen’s capital rejected the president’s choice of a new prime minister on Tuesday, a move that threatened to derail a United Nations-brokered peace deal. – Associated Press

Fighters from al Qaeda attacked security and government buildings in al-Bayda in the southern part of Yemen on Wednesday, killing at least four soldiers before they were beaten back, local officials said. – Reuters

In an attack that ended months of relative quiet on the border between Lebanon and Israel, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group, said it set off an explosive device on the Israeli-controlled side of the border on Tuesday, wounding two Israeli soldiers. – New York Times

A Minnesota doctor testified Tuesday that officials at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were abusive in the way they force-fed a hunger striking detainee, sometimes ordering the feedings when they weren’t necessary and using methods that run counter to accepted medical standards. – Washington Post

It’s a report that’s been the talk of Washington’s intelligence community for months, yet lawyers for the nation’s premier intelligence agency—the CIA— improbably maintained it didn’t have a copy. – Politico

A Libyan man facing trial in New York in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa says his statements to the FBI were coerced from him and should be kept from his trial next month. – Associated Press

Foreign Armies

Syria has revealed the existence of four chemical weapons facilities that were previously undisclosed, a top United Nations official said on Tuesday, raising new concerns about the government’s commitment to eliminating its chemical weapons under an agreement struck last year. – Washington Free Beacon

Lebanon’s army will soon receive military equipment as part of a $1 billion grant from Saudi Arabia to help it fight Islamist militants encroaching into Lebanon from Syria, former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Military chiefs from more than 20 countries — many already involved in the fight against the Islamic State and some who are considering joining the group — will meet in Washington early next week to discuss progress on airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well as plans to create a ground force to consolidate gains against the group. – Foreign Policy’s The Complex

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Monday Defense Briefing

US Army pilots for the first time used an Apache attack helicopter to strike Islamist militant targets in Iraq over the weekend, according to a statement by CENTCOM. – Defense News

Instead of large wars, the Army of the future is likely to focus on deployments of smaller formations of soldiers to hotspots around the globe, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said in a recent interview. – Stars and Stripes

The company that built the first workable helicopter rolled out a (potential) revolution in chopper technology yesterday: Sikorsky’s high-speed S-97 Raider. A year ago, Sikorsky made a splash at the huge Association of the US Army conference with just a life-size mock-up. Now, just in time to talk it up at AUSA 2014, they’ve built a working prototype, which is supposed to start actually flying later this year. – Breaking Defense

The US Navy says it will soon use armed, robotic patrol boats with no sailors on board to escort and defend warships moving through sensitive sea lanes. – Defense News

So whatever happened to Jo Ann Rooney? “Wow, I haven’t heard that name in quite awhile,” one Pentagon-based US Navy officer said when asked a few weeks ago about her status. “No one talks about her.” And yet Rooney’s nomination to become undersecretary of the Navy, the second-highest office in the Navy Department, remains in force. – Defense News

While it remains much too early to declare a new day in Pentagon acquisition and export control circles, the turn of the building’s fiscal page to 2015 has brought with it several high-profile initiatives to begin to reform and streamline several long-stultified lines of effort. – Defense News

Three women have passed the grueling Combat Endurance Test on the first day of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course, officials told Marine Corps Times Friday morning. – Military Times

The Navy plans to begin putting senior enlisted female sailors on submarines in December, officials announced on Friday. – The Hill

Overlooked amid the coverage of U.S. air strikes against the Islamic State, on Sept. 17 Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gave a speech on defense issues. It deserves to be viewed and read in its entirety, but three aspects of it struck me. – Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government

The War

Within days of a military defeat, the group would release images of more beheadings — at least nine over six weeks — of Western journalists, aid workers and Muslim soldiers. The tactic signals that even as the Islamic State group suffers battlefield losses, it is holding on to its edge in the propaganda war. U.S. officials say that’s the only way the militants can continue to maintain support and attract new recruits. – Associated Press

Pay no attention to the Shi’ite militias threatening to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The elite Iranian forces backing those militias have been ordered not to attack the Americans. That’s the conclusion of the latest U.S. intelligence assessment for Iraq. And it represents a stunning turnaround for Iran’s Quds Force, once considered America’s most dangerous foe in the region. – The Daily Beast

A suspected U.S. drone strike killed five militants in Pakistan’s tribal north-west on Sunday including a senior ethnic Uzbek commander, intelligence sources said. – Reuters

At least 16 insurgents from the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s wing in Syria, were killed in clashes with the Shiite group Hezbollah in eastern Lebanon on Sunday as the Nusra Front launched a major offensive, a person close to Hezbollah said. – Reuters

A Federal District Court judge on Friday ordered the public disclosure of 28 classified military videotapes showing the forced cell extraction and forced feeding of a hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay detainee, rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments that making the videos public would endanger national security – New York Times

Vice President Biden argued Thursday night in a foreign policy address at Harvard University that Americans “face no existential threat” from terrorism. – The Hill

Now the Houthis, who many believe are backed by Shiite-led Iran, are poised to become Yemen’s version of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah — top power brokers dominating the government and running a virtual state-within-a-state. – Washington Post

Foreign Armies

America’s most advanced stealth fighter poses a great risk to China’s air defense network — and the military is going to great lengths to learn how to shoot one down. – Defense News

The security campaign is part of a two-pronged war that Jordan has launched as a key Arab member of the US-led anti-Isis coalition. Amman has put its airfields, training centres, and assets of its powerful state security service at the coalition’s disposal. Jordanian jets have carried out at least two air strikes against Syria. – Financial Times

The decision by the US to legalize the sale of lethal equipment for maritime security to Vietnam could have major impacts on both the regional balance of power and US industry. – Defense News

A military agreement with the Philippines and easing an arms embargo against Vietnam show the Obama administration wants deeper security ties with Asia, even as turmoil in the Mideast has undermined its hope of making Asia the heart of its foreign policy. – Associated Press

Australian Defence Minister Sen. David Johnston announced Friday that up to four more Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifters could be acquired for the Royal Australian Air Force. – Defense News

An Afghan army desperate for more advanced military equipment is suffering death rates 30 percent higher in the 2014 fighting season, the army’s first against the Taliban without large-scale assistance from the U.S.-led international military force, officials said. – Associated Press

The Indian government, acting on Air Force demands, has offered to spend $12 billion to encourage private firms to establish an aircraft manufacturing facility — a move that would break Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s monopoly on aircraft manufacturing after years of delays on several projects. – Defense News

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Friday Defense Briefing

Former CIA director David H. Petraeus said Thursday that U.S. ground troops may still be needed to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq, but the administration’s current strategy of only deploying advisers to the war zone has “a reasonable chance of success” without a large number of American boots on the ground. – Washington Times

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta takes a swing at the administration in his forthcoming book, according to an excerpt published Thursday, saying the White House failed to push hard enough for a residual U.S. force in Iraq, which he said could have helped advise Iraqi troops on how to counter Islamic State militants. – WSJ’s Washington Wire

Leon Panetta writes: To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country. – Time

Marine Gen. John Allen, who is coordinating the international effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), traveled to Iraq on Thursday to meet with local leaders. – The Hill

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he spoke with the French defense minister Thursday about the possibility of France participating in airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, something the French have so far declined to do. – Associated Press

A former American soldier has joined Kurdish forces fighting against Islamic State militants in northern Syria, a rare case of a lone U.S. citizen joining the fight against extremists in Syria. – Reuters

The commander of the war in Afghanistan said he will “reserve the right” to recommend changes to the American military’s drawdown plans should the circumstances on the ground dictate the need for a change. – Defense One

Soldiers will soon see new deployments and rotations to hot spots around the world, even as the Army slashes its active-duty force to fit a tightening budget…One of Odierno’s top concerns is making sure these soldiers are ready and properly trained before they deploy, he said, but that’s getting tougher and tougher. Heavy and rapid budget cuts are steadily chipping away at the force, and readiness is the next victim – Military Times

Amid continuing uncertainty over future defense budgets and potential budget caps, the US Army’s force development chief says he has made one five-year spending plan for sequestration and one for a reprieve. – Defense News

After months of preparation, the US Navy was set Thursday morning to brief Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on its recommendations for a new Small Surface Combatant (SSC), and a delegation led by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus waited to make a personal presentation….But the SecDef never appeared. According to several Pentagon sources, he was delayed by a prior engagement, and the briefing is waiting to be re-scheduled — no easy task, given the hectic schedules of many of the principles. – Defense News

44’s decision to keep ground troops away from the battlefield in Iraq and Syria has thrust the Air Force into the premier role in America’s latest fight against Islamic militants, bolstering the service’s stature during a time when all branches of the military are competing for limited funds. – Stars and Stripes

The US Air Force issued a quick rebuttal to a Defense Department Inspector General report on its MQ-9 Reaper acquisition program, saying the agency used outdated information to criticize the service’s purchase of the drones. – Defense News

Even as the Navy pursues cheaper ships such as LCS and JHSV, the Marines’ message is: Amphibious Warships; Accept No Substitutes. There’s real interest and opportunity in non-traditional ways to deploy Marines, assistant commandant Gen. John Paxton said today, but a purpose-built amphibious ship remains the Marine’s top choice to go to war with. – Breaking Defense

The Navy is upgrading the guidance control systems on its inventory of 500 air-launched AGM-65 Maverick missiles in order to give the weapon semi-active laser targeting technology, Raytheon officials said. – DOD Buzz

After being grounded by Defense Department budget cuts, the Air Force has been cleared to conduct four flyovers at major sporting events in October. – Military Times

Pentagon ought to be thinking strategically about how it might use a little extra “juice” next year to preserve a bedrock of military capability—a bedrock upon which it can rebuild further down the line. – The National Interest

The War

When Islamic State fighters tried to storm the Tigris River town of Dhuluiya north of Baghdad this week, they were repelled by a rare coalition of Sunni tribal fighters inside the town and Shi’ites in its sister city Balad on the opposite bank. – Reuters

44’s failure to make good on his promise to close the detention center for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay has forced the FBI counterterrorism division to approve a new, no-bid contract for air charter services to and from the military base on Cuba. – Washington Times

Half of Americans think there’s a high risk of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, yet only a third are closely following news of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic extremists in the Middle East. – Associated Press

Amid a wave of bombing attempts in this northwestern Pakistani city on Thursday, a bomb rigged to a timer exploded inside a passenger van, killing seven and wounding six, the police said. – New York Times

Yemeni rebels in control of the capital ordered the finance ministry on Thursday to suspend all payments except salaries to state employees, in an apparent tightening of their control over government bodies. – Reuters

Foreign Armies

Australia will join the United States and its allies in launching airstrikes in Iraq against Islamic State militants in the coming days, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday. – New York Times

Analysts say the crash of a Pakistani fighter jet Wednesday outside the city of Quetta will not affect the likely service life of the aircraft type, although it may be relegated to the role of lead-in fighter trainer. – Defense News

Turkey appeared to take a big political step toward joining the American-led campaign against the militants of the Islamic State when its Parliament voted Thursday to authorize expanded military operations in Iraq and Syria and to allow foreign forces to launch operations from its territory. – New York Times

The recent Gaza War has proven the impossibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared this week. – Washington Free Beacon

Egypt’s army killed a field commander in Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the country’s most dangerous Islamist militant group, during clashes on Thursday in the lawless north of the Sinai Peninsula, security sources said. – Reuters

Almost 30 Libyan soldiers were killed and 70 wounded in a double suicide bombing and clashes in the port city of Benghazi on Thursday, medics said. – Reuters



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Thursday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria, and it is operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen, according to current and former U.S. officials. – Associated Press

Marine Gen. John Allen said Wednesday that it could take years to train moderate Syrian rebel forces to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a linchpin of the president’s strategy against the terrorist group. – The Hill

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Wednesday said the U.S. needs to have a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers, siding with lawmakers who have sought to save the USS George Washington from budget cuts. – The Hill

The U.S. Air Force didn’t justify its plans to buy a total of 401 MQ-9 Reaper drones worth about $77 billion, according to a report on a Pentagon Inspector General audit. – DOD Buzz

The Army and Marine Corps may have wasted more than $100 million returning vehicles from Afghanistan that they don’t need over just a one-year period, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday. – USA Today

Designed for 24-hour-plus patrols at 50,000 feet, Triton still can’t do the job by itself, say both the program manager and the admiral in charge of all Navy drones. It will provide the high-altitude, theater-spanning coverage that cues more tactically-focused recon aircraft to zoom in (in both senses of the word). Primarily, that means the manned, land-based P-8 Poseidon and the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance & Strike (UCLASS) drone. – Breaking Defense

The Navy test-fired a Norwegian long-range precision strike missile from the deck of its Littoral Combat Ship to assess whether the weapon should be permanently integrated onto the ship, service officials said. – DOD Buzz

The Pentagon office in charge of leading the sales of US defense equipment to foreign governments released a strategy document Wednesday aimed at streamlining the foreign military sales (FMS) process, while helping Washington to equip NATO partners in contingency operations. – Defense News


Foreign Armies

British fighter jets fired on Islamic State (IS) militants west of Baghdad and in northwest Iraq in two rounds of airstrikes Wednesday, the defence ministry in London said. – AFP

The French military said Wednesday it would deploy three more fighter jets and a warship to the Middle East to boost support to Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State jihadists. – AFP

Australia was sending two unarmed air force planes to support U.S.-led coalition combat operations against the Islamic State movement in Iraq, but would not yet launch its own airstrikes, the prime minister said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The US State Department has cleared a potential sale of enhanced Patriot air defense system missiles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. – Defense News

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Tuesday Defense Briefing

The Air Force has flown a large majority of all airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, with the mission expected to change as Islamic State fighters adjust to the aerial bombardment. – Defense News

The kid gloves appear to be fully removed from the F-22 Raptor, with a US Air Force general indicating Monday that the fifth-generation fighter will be available for future operations over Syria for the foreseeable future. – Defense News

The Pentagon on Monday said they had no evidence yet of any civilian casualties from airstrikes targeting Islamic militants in Syria. – The Hill

The US Marine Corps is preparing to deploy about 2,100 grunts to be based out of Kuwait in a new unit configuration designed to respond to crises in the region, according to Corps officials. – Defense News

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on Monday said potential across-the-board spending cuts at the Pentagon next year could be problematic as the U.S. battles the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). – The Hill

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is blasting President Obama’s call for cuts to defense spending, arguing they would “devastate” the Pentagon at a time of war. – The Hill

As the United States steps up its battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), defense leaders on Capitol Hill are raising concerns about a looming shortage in the Tomahawk missile supply, a key offensive weapon that the Navy has deployed against militant strongholds in Syria and elsewhere. – Washington Free Beacon

Female soldiers have until Dec. 1 to volunteer to attend Ranger School this spring as part of an assessment to determine whether and how to open combat arms military occupational specialties to women. – Military Times

Joint military exercises between the United States Navy and its Philippine counterpart kicked off on Monday in Palawan, the island closest to contested areas of the South China Sea. – New York Times

The War

This month, as officials in the administration trumpet new warnings about “credible” threats to the United States homeland, the long-ignored role of America’s primary terror alert system is under serious scrutiny for the first time. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable

Australian police said they had raided a number of properties around the southern city of Melbourne on Tuesday, part of a security crackdown on radical Islamists authorities believe are planning attacks in the country. – Reuters

The administration is seeking to close a court hearing into the government’s treatment of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, saying that much of the information about the man is classified. He has gone on a hunger strike and is protesting force-feeding procedures administered by his jailers. – Associated Press

Perhaps Washington needs to stop making such a stark distinction between whether U.S. forces are on the ground or not in threatened countries. What matters is not so much whether they are there as what they are doing. If they are building the foundations for effective indigenous defenses or strengthening ties to local leaders, then “boots on the ground” may be the best way of avoiding the need for much bigger commitments. – RealClearDefense


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Monday Defense Briefing

As the price tag for operations in Iraq, Syria and West Africa continues to grow, Pentagon leadership insists that it is well prepared to pay for all of these previously unforeseen long-term operations. Part of the reason is that the building has been able to shift money around within its overseas contingency operations (OCO) supplemental budget, and is already working with Congress to make sure that more funding is on the way. – Defense News

The Pentagon has been pegging the operations against the terror group known as ISIL at $7 million to $10 million a day. If you extrapolate that across a year it comes very close to the $3.8 billion estimate that Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has come up with in a new report estimating how much the American taxpayer will pay to “degrade and destroy ISIL.” – Breaking Defense

One US senator says America’s war against a violent Sunni group should lead Congress to address sequestration, but his comments suggest a deal remains elusive. – Defense News

Force-wide morale is “quite low” and sailors don’t trust senior leaders to handle the problems facing the Navy, from long and unpredictable deployments to tight budgets and proposed pay changes. Those are the key findings of an alarming new independent survey, launched and bankrolled by a career fighter pilot on a mission to alert Navy leaders to what he and colleagues see as a coming retention crisis, where fed-up sailors vote with their feet. – Military Times

The futuristic shape of the Zumwalt, DDG 1000, has become familiar after more than a decade of graphics presentations and artist drawings, and models of the destroyer have been a staple at naval expositions for years. But now the whole ship is coming together…She’ll take to the sea for the first time in the spring. – Defense News

“Everybody’s got to change.” That’s the message from Army Gen. David Perkins, about everything from concepts to training to weapons programs…The largest — and often slowest to change — of the armed services now faces a fast-paced and unpredictable world where its bureaucracy just can’t keep up, said Perkins. In particular, he said, “the acquisition-requirements process…is not going to be able to deliver what we need when we need it in the future.” – Breaking Defense

Congress needs to think anew about the national defense. The military’s readiness and ability to respond do not turn on a dime. It takes time, partnership and money to reverse. – Breaking Defense

The War

An American drone strike in northwestern Pakistan killed at least four people suspected of being militants, Pakistani officials said Sunday. – New York Times

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on “enhanced interrogation” techniques has been delayed again, this time until late October, according to an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). – The Hill

The rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, just as the Taliban are plotting a comeback in Afghanistan, has ignited a shadowy feud within the jihadist universe: Which “emir of the believers” is the real McCoy? – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Police in western India have arrested 140 people after two men were stabbed during violence between Hindus and Muslims that left more than a dozen injured and was triggered by an image posted on Facebook, officials said on Monday. – Reuters

French prosecutors Saturday filed preliminary charges of terrorism against three suspected jihadists returning from Syria, as France struggles to handle the scores of people coming back from the war-torn region who may have been radicalized. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

A splinter group of Al Qaeda said that it fired a rocket that landed near the United States Embassy in Sana on Saturday, wounding several guards, to retaliate for what it said was an American drone strike in a northern province of Yemen on Friday. – New York Times

Shiite rebels in Yemen who overran much of the capital signed a security deal on Saturday that stipulates disarmament and withdrawal from areas they have seized in recent months. – Associated Press

A suicide bomber linked to Al Qaeda drove a car filled with explosives into a hospital used as a base by Yemen’s Shiite Muslim Houthi movement on Sunday, killing at least 15 people, officials said. – Reuters

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Friday Defense Briefing

The U.S. military is carrying out an average of five strikes a day against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since the campaign began in August, according to the Pentagon. – The Hill

The Pentagon on Thursday predicted Islamic militants will try to adapt to U.S. airstrikes in Syria and said the U.S. air campaign could be complicated by the group’s ability to blend into civilian populations. – The Hill

The 1st Infantry Division headquarters will deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks as the U.S. expands its war against the Islamic State, officials announced Thursday. – Military Times

U.S. lawmakers and the wider American public do not understand why it is important to win land wars because the Army has a hard time explaining it, said retired Lt. Gen. David Barno. – Military Times

Though reluctant to reduce military training to a bumper sticker, the Army’s top doctrine commander on Thursday chose “win in a complex world” as the most succinct expression of his approach to future warfare preparations. – Defense One

The F-35 joint strike fighter is on track to conduct trials aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier in November, but there are still variables as to what may be tested, the program’s top official said – Defense News

There are no political wolves moving to sink their teeth into the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter program, despite a speckled past, says one veteran US senator. – Defense News

Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) and Embraer have delivered the first A-29 Super Tucano to the US Air Force, with company officials pledging Embraer’s Jacksonville, Florida, facility will produce the remainder of its order on time. – Defense News

A small number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will have an opportunity to join the military for the first time in decades under a new Defense Department policy unveiled Thursday. – Military Times

Two safety violations by civilian workers have prompted the Navy to suspend most nuclear work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. – Associated Press

The paucity of carriers where they are—or might soon be—needed is a here-and-now crisis. But it is congruent with, and a harbinger of, the strategic crisis that will unfold if the political will cannot be found to build the U.S. attack submarine fleet at a rate to assure, at a minimum, its current strength over the next three decades, as events around the globe point toward a darkening future. – The Weekly Standard

A Marine Corps civilian who wrote a scathing internal report arguing that the Corps could have saved hundreds of lives by approving a 2005 request for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in Iraq has won his whistle blower compliant. – Military Times

The head of U.S. Pacific Command said the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria isn’t slowing down or impacting U.S. military operations in the Pacific theater or thwarting its momentum to continue a rebalance of equipment and forces to the region. –

The War

Zawahiri’s involvement reflects his own unwillingness to step away from a movement that in recent years has often seemed to evolve without him. But it also underscores how much remains unfinished for the United States in the conflict with al-Qaeda, even in Afghanistan and Pakistan, after 13 years of war. – Washington Post

The idea that there is a geographically confined “core” of al Qaeda is undermined by a mountain of evidence. Al Qaeda is still a cohesive international network of personalities and organizations. The details of al Qaeda’s plotting in Syria make this clear. And, according to the administration itself, al Qaeda was close to striking the West once again. – The Weekly Standard

Members of the Taliban torched an estimated 60 homes and beheaded 12 civilians — all of whom are believed to have been relatives of police — in an assault in the eastern portion of Afghanistan, in the Ghazni province. – Washington Times

As Taliban fighters kill a growing number of Afghan soldiers, the country’s leaders are blaming Pakistan, an accusation that has sent the neighbors’ relations to one of the lowest points in more than a decade. – Washington Post

Yemen freed at least three suspected Iranian Revolutionary Guard members on Thursday who had been held for months over alleged ties to a Shi’ite Muslim insurgent group that has seized control of much of the capital Sanaa, a senior official said. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

France carried out a fresh round of airstrikes in Iraq Thursday as it renewed its determination to fight Islamic State jihadists after the beheading of hostage Herve Gourdel. – AFP

Iran has built a drone equipped with missiles to shoot down aircraft, according to the semi-official news agency Fars. – Military Times

The commanding officer of Colombia’s military forces made a quiet appearance at the Pentagon on Thursday for talks with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey — a rare face-to-face between the highest-level uniformed commanders from the two nations, military officials said. – Washington Times

Land Mines

The administration has banned the U.S. military from using anti-personnel landmines in a unilateral decision that goes against warnings from top military leaders and many in Congress. – Washington Free Beacon

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