1. Defense Budget: Lawmakers Launch Preemptive Strike on BRAC
House lawmakers launched a preemptive strike against further base closures on Thursday before the Obama administration releases its 2014 budget.
The Pentagon hasn't said yet whether it will include a request for new rounds of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) in the 2014 budget, but House members from both parties made clear Thursday that there's little appetite in Congress.
The Pentagon requested two new BRAC rounds in its 2013 budget in order to deal with a $487 billion reduction over the next decade, but that proposal went nowhere in the House or Senate and was not included in the 2013 Defense authorization bill.
The Pentagon now faces additional cuts under sequestration, which officials say only exacerbates the problem of having excess infrastructure when troop levels are reduced.
However, lawmaker after lawmaker expressed skepticism and hostility at a House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee hearing Thursday toward the Pentagon's rationale for potentially new BRAC rounds.
Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) said that he rejected the arguments that BRAC was needed.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/288299-lawmaker... 
2. Funding Bill Amendments Target Military Biofuels
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) filed two amendments to a $984 billion government funding bill on Thursday that would gut the military's alternative fuels program.
The amendments already are drawing criticism the program's supporters, which are largely Democrats. Sen. Mark Udall's office said Thursday that the Colorado Democrat would fight whatever measure comes to the floor.
One would strip $114 million from the Army, Navy and Air Force's alternative energy research and development programs. The other would remove $60 million from the Defense Department's biofuels program.
The first would shift that money to the Army's operations and maintenance budget, while the second would go toward Defense-wide operations and maintenance.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/288165-funding-bill-amendments-... 
3. Hagel Halts Production of Drone Medal
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday halted production of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots and cyberwarriors, and ordered a review of its ranking above the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Purple Heart.
Hagel announced the review following heated criticism from Congress and veterans groups. No servicemember has received the medal thus far, said George Little, the Pentagon's chief spokesman.
The defense secretary directed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct the review of the medal's position in the "order of precedence" for military decorations and report back to him in 30 days, Little said.
In addition, "production of the medal as designed has been stopped" pending the review by Dempsey, Little said.
In one of his last acts as Pentagon chief, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month announced that the Distinguished Warfare Medal was being created to recognize "the changing character of warfare" in the Internet era in which service members sitting at consoles in the United States can directly impact the outcome of battle with an enemy overseas.
4. Cyber War Developments
The U.S. government this week lifted the lid slightly on its mostly secret policies on cybersecurity and cyberthreats, as the Obama administration grapples with the growing problem of cyberwarfare attacks and computer-based spying.
First, it was confirmed for the first time in public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday that U.S. intelligence agencies recently completed a major National Intelligence Estimate on cyberthreats. (View a webcast of the SASC hearing here: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/event.cfm?eventid=0daf354e... )
Officials familiar with the classified report, a consensus of all spy agencies, said it highlights the growing threat posed by Chinese, Russian and Iranian cyberattacks against government and private networks. It also provides details on Beijing's role in cyberattacks — accusations the Chinese government continues to deny.
Sen. Carl M. Levin, the committee chairman, said the estimate and two other government and private reports "all leave little doubt that China's actions are a serious threat to our nation's economic well-being and to our security."
"It's long past time when United States and our allies who are also being attacked in this way should be imposing costs and penalties on China for their behavior," the Michigan Democrat said. "China's massive campaign to steal technology, business practices, intellectual property and business strategies through cyberspace continues, and it continues relentlessly."
Additionally, President Obama recently signed a classified presidential policy directive designed to resolve issues of blurred lines of authority among agencies dealing with cyberattacks and responses.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/13/inside-the-ring-new-cybe... 
1. South Korea, U.S. Drills Begin amid Peaking Tensions
South Korean and U.S. troops launched their annual joint drills (BBC) on Monday amid heightened military tension after North Korea threatened to scrap the peninsula's 1953 Armistice Agreement and launch a preemptive nuclear attack against the United States. Despite Seoul's new unification minister seeking dialogue (Yonhap), the North also announced Monday that it had carried out its threat of cutting off the Red Cross communication hotline (WSJ) with South Korea. The drills came days after the UN approved new sanctions on North Korea following its February nuclear test.
"While the chances of a major military provocation against the South are not considered to be very high, analysts believe it is more likely that we will see provocative behavior taking the form of pressure on the US to come to the negotiating table," writes Kim Kyu-won for The Hankyoreh.
"Chinese foreign policy experts fret that taking too hard a line against North Korea, or being seen as openly siding with Washington, could trigger either more bellicose acts from Pyongyang or even the regime's collapse – both scenarios which Beijing views as worse than the status quo," writes Kathrin Hille for the Financial Times.
"In the past, North Korea has raised the fear of accidental or uncontrolled military clashes along the border as a way to push Washington into bilateral talks. The North, officials in South Korea say, craves the prestige that such a dialogue would confer on it, but it would undoubtedly demand the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea," writes Rick Gladstone for the New York Times.
2. Study: Iraq War Could Cost $6 Trillion
The Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion so far and with interest could swell to more than $6 trillion, according to a study released Thursday.
The study, part of the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, drew from actual expenditures from the U.S. Treasury and future commitments.
That $2 trillion figure comes from $1.7 trillion in war expenses and an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans. An extra $4 trillion factors in to pay interest through 2053. The study notes that because the Iraq War appropriations "were not funded with new taxes, but by borrowing, it is important to keep in mind the interest costs already paid, and future interest costs."
The total estimate far outstrips the initial projection by President George W. Bush's government that the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion.
3. Pentagon: Iranian Plane Pursued U.S. Spy Drone
An Iranian fighter jet approached a U.S. surveillance drone over the Gulf but broke off its pursuit after the pilot of a U.S. escort plane radioed a verbal warning, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said the incident occurred Tuesday and that the unarmed MQ-1 Predator surveillance drone as well as two U.S. military escort planes remained over international waters at all times.
Little said the drone was conducting a "routine classified" surveillance mission.
He said the Iranian F-4 plane came as close as 16 miles (25 kilometers)to the drone before it departed.
Little initially said that a U.S. escort plane discharged a flare to warn the Iranian pilot, but he later retracted that statement, saying instead that the Iranian plane broke off its pursuit after receiving a U.S. "verbal warning."
4. POW/MIA Update – Recently Accounted For:
• Staff Sgt. James McKain, U.S. Army, 5th Air Force, 43rd Bomb Group, was lost on May 7, 1944, near Nadzab, Papua New Guinea. He was accounted for on March 2, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors in the Spring of 2013, at Arlington National Cemetery.
• 1st Lt. Douglas H. Haag, U.S. Army, Company K, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, was lost between July 10-12, 1950, near Chochiwon, North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 28, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors in the Spring of 2013, in Louisville, Kentucky.
• Master Sgt. Ernest W. Grainger, U.S. Army, Company K, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, was lost on July 11, 1950, near Chochiwon, North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 28, 2013. He will be buried with full military honors in April 2013, in Conway, South Carolina.
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division