1. Gen. Amos: ‘Dust hasn’t settled’ on Sequester’s Threat to Pacific Pivot
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said Thursday that the “dust hasn’t settled” yet in the Pentagon as it determines how automatic budget cuts under sequestration would affect the Pentagon’s pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region.
The Asia-Pacific rebalance was a key component to the Pentagon’s new defense strategy unveiled last year, but military officials have warned it could be scuttled if the $500 billion in sequestration cuts over the next decade are not reversed.
Amos said that the “cold reality of sequestration is settled in at the Pentagon” as it conducts a major review of its strategy and budget. But the department hasn’t figured out yet how much of the new Asia focus might go out the window should the sequester remain on the books.
“It’s yet to be seen how much of the Asia-Pacific strategy, which is really where the focus is, how much is going to be affordable when all the dust settles,” Amos said at a forum Thursday hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
At the forum, Amos and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert both discussed the future of the Navy and Marine Corps living in a world of uncertainty surrounding the budget.
Audio and video link from the event can be found here: http://csis.org/event/military-strategy-forum-admiral-jonathan-w-greener...
2. Defense Budget: DoD Furloughs
More than 650,000 civilian workers in the Defense Department will be taking their first of 11 furlough days this week. The Pentagon’s 11 weeks of furloughs kick in on Monday, which result in a 20-percent-weekly pay cut through September for 680,000 of the Pentagon’s roughly 800,000 civilian employees. Between now and the end of September, most civilian employees not in war zones or otherwise exempt will take one unpaid day off per week, or two per pay period. Military personnel are exempt from sequester and not subject to furloughs.
The Pentagon is expected to submit to SASC as early as this week an alternative spending plan for the next fiscal year that takes into account sequestration. As with furloughs, defense hawks are counting on the painful trade-offs laid out in the plan to boost the anti-sequester movement.
The Senate could have an opening this month to take up the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which has a 51-year record of passing Congress. The bill was one of the last items on the Senate's agenda last year, and SASC Chairman Carl Levin says he doesn't want to cut it close again this year.
3. Illegal Immigration
On Friday, staff briefed attendees at the Department of Virginia on the Legion position on border security and illegal immigration at their annual convention. A downloadable PDF brochure on the subject can be found on the Legion website: http://www.legion.org/documents/pdf/illegalimmigration.pdf
The White House and some of its allies on Wednesday expressed deepening gloom over the prospects that President Obama will sign a comprehensive immigration bill this year.
While the leadership of the Republican-controlled House deliberated in a closed-door session on how to handle the hot-button legislation, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney signaled that passing the measure through the House could be difficult.
Democrats on the Hill, eager to pass comprehensive reform, also telegraphed a message of skepticism on Wednesday. A senior Democratic aide said, “things have clearly unraveled in the past couple of days,” even though some lawmakers had been “slightly cautiously optimistic” about passing a comprehensive bill.
4. Obama Considers Total Withdrawal from Afghanistan
via Mark Mazzetti and Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times: "Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a 'zero option' that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials. ... His relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar." http://nyti.ms/11wS4dq
5. Missile Defense
Four top defense hawks are urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to conduct another test of the ground-based midcourse defense system, apparently worried that last week's failed intercept test over the Pacific could sap U.S. enthusiasm for missile-defense spending. "Funding cuts have touched every facet of the GMD program, including its maintenance," HASC Chairman Buck McKeon and Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) and Sens. Jim Inhofe and Jeff Sessions said in a letter yesterday to Hagel.
For the four Republicans, the third intercept test failure in a row is only reason to boost spending on missile defense, in order to fix the troubled program. But opponents are certain to use the latest failed test to make the opposite argument: that it's time to stop investing so much in a faulty endeavor. The big question is whether last week's test will have an impact on the GOP-led effort to fund a new missile-defense site on the East Coast - which could cost $3 billion between now and 2018.
Read the letter here: http://1.usa.gov/1btUQBZ
6. Jury Selection in Ft. Hood Trial
The courthouse at Fort Hood "has been transformed into a fortress," according to Angela K. Brown of The Associated Press, as jury selection begins in the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of killing 13 people at the base in 2009. "Just two years after a bomb attack was thwarted in Killeen," Brown writes, "some military law experts say the community may once again be a target by supporters of Hasan, an American-born Muslim who has tried to justify the deadly rampage as protecting Taliban leaders in Afghanistan." http://bit.ly/16kiOtU
7. Hearings and Other Events
On Tuesday the Center for Strategic and International Studies held an event on the 10th anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) which was implemented by the Bush Administration to improve global efforts to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their dual-use components. http://csis.org/event/10th-anniversary-proliferation-security-initiative
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to consider the nomination of James Comey, the former Bush Administration lawyer who's been tapped to serve as FBI director. And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Thursday to consider several nominations, including that of Victoria Nuland, nominated to be assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
The House Homeland Security Committee's Oversight and Management Efficiency subcommittee will hold a hearing on Iran, also Tuesday. The House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will hold a joint hearing on Wednesday on Pentagon and VA collaboration. And the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing, also Wednesday, on attacks on the homeland, from Fort Hood to Boston.
8. POW/MIA Update
Recently accounted for
• Sgt. 1st Class William Robinson, U.S. Army, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on Dec. 12, 1950, near Hagaru-ri, North Korea. He was accounted for on June 17, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors on Aug. 7, 2013, in Indiantown Gap, Pa.
• Sgt. Clement Thibodeaux Jr., U.S. Army, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25thInfantry Division, was lost on Nov. 28, 1950, near the Ch'ongch'on River, North Korea. He was accounted for June 13, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors in Church Point, La.
• Cpl. Glydon E. Moyer, U.S. Army, Battery D, 15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, was lost on Dec. 2, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. He was accounted for on June 13, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors on July 25, 2013, in Luray, Va.
A complete listing of recently account-for service members can be found on the DPMO Recently Accounted-For page.
Pentagon report calls MIA work ‘acutely dysfunctional’
'The Pentagon's effort to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from 'dysfunction to total failure,' according to an internal study suppressed by military officials. Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, the report says.' http://bit.ly/155SwMy
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division