1. Defense Budget: How To Cut The Defense Budget Without Killing The Force
The House passed the second Continuing Resolution of the year today, avoiding the direst scenario that had haunted many in American defense circles. But the CR's passage does not mean anyone has avoided sequestration, as the mandatory budget cuts are known. And cutting $50 billion a year from the Pentagon budget for the next 10 years -- which will happen under sequestration -- will still mean serious cuts to what is, admittedly, the enormous defense bill we pay.
As many senior officials and lawmakers have pointed out, the manner in which these budget cuts must be implemented is the real problem. So far, it looks as if a program gets cut by 10 percent. The Pentagon can't make any choices about what to cut or when under sequestration and it can't distribute the cuts across programs to lessen their effects or to ensure we can buy the weapons we really need without greatly increasing their units costs. Add to this congressional reluctance -- born of fear -- to cut troops' pay and benefits and you face incredibly challenging strategic choices.
What the Pentagon needs is a way of cutting its people costs without running afoul of Congress or severely impairing readiness. One answer is to reduce headcount -- not force structure, but the tens of thousands of uniform personnel who don't contribute all that much to America's military strength.
Related Resolution: No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2316/2012F055.pdf?s... 
Read more at: http://defense.aol.com/2013/03/21/how-to-cut-the-defense-budget-without-... 
2. Tuition Assistance Restored
The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution on Thursday that will keep the government funded through the end of the September and give DoD at least some wiggle room in deciding how to take $43 billion in sequester cuts to the defense budget over the next six months.
The new resolution lets DoD shift $10 billion between accounts to avoid the cuts that would most affect readiness.
It also requires the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force to restore most tuition assistance funding for the troops. All services but the Navy had cut off this assistance for new applicants, sparking protests from the field.
Under the new resolution, the services can reduce tuition assistance by a relatively modest fraction. They won't get additional funds for the program, so they'll need to make cuts elsewhere to fund it.
Having averted a government shutdown (at least for six months), Congress turned its attention to passing a budget resolution for FY2014.
The Senate and House are expected to pass very different budget resolutions, and probably won't be able to end up agreeing to any compromise.
That means more big partisan battles over next year's funding.
What's next? At some point this summer Congress will need to grapple with statutory borrowing limit of the federal government – known as the "debt ceiling" – and avoid a new national financial crisis.
In the meantime, the administration is expected to unveil its FY2013 budget proposal on April 8, which is rumored to include a military pay raise cutback and more proposals to raise TRICARE fees. Having averted a government shutdown (at least for six months), Congress turned its attention to passing a budget resolution for FY2014.
3. War on Terror: Niger becomes latest frontline in US war on terror
The US air force began flying a handful of unarmed Predator drones from here last month. The grey, mosquito-shaped aircraft emerge sporadically from a borrowed hangar and soar north in search of al-Qaida fighters and guerrillas from other groups hiding in the region's deserts and hills.
The harsh terrain of north and west Africa is rapidly emerging as yet another front in the long-running US war against terrorist networks, a conflict that has fuelled a revolution in drone warfare.
Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has relied heavily on drones for operations, both declared and covert, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. US drones also fly from allied bases in Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.
Now they are becoming a fixture in Africa. The US military has built a major drone hub in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, and flies unarmed Reaper drones from Ethiopia. Until recently, it conducted reconnaissance flights over east Africa from the island nation of Seychelles.
The Predator drones in Niger, a landlocked and dirt-poor country, give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in west Africa. Niger shares a long border with Mali, where an al-Qaida affiliate and other Islamist groups have taken root. Niger also borders Libya and Nigeria, which are also struggling to contain armed extremist movements.
Most Nigeriens are strongly opposed to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the terrorist network's affiliate, and recognize that their country is vulnerable without foreign military help, said Boureima Abdou Daouda, an imam in Niamey who leads a regional council of religious leaders that advises governments on countering extremism.
1. ISAF Deputy Details Final Afghan Security Transition
With the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan shifting from combat to support later this spring, the ISAF deputy commander briefed reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels today on progress and the hard work that remains.
The Afghan national security forces' assumption of the operational lead across Afghanistan will coincide with the fifth and last "tranche," or geographic area, of transition in the country. If NATO and the Afghans approve, the transition will be implemented starting this summer.
The last tranche includes areas along the eastern front and down into Kandahar and parts of Helmand province -- areas that are the Pashtun heart of the insurgency and are expected to be most violent, said Lt. Gen. Nick Carter of the British army, ISAF's deputy commander and the United Kingdom's national contingent commander in Afghanistan.
From the moment the springtime announcement is made, he added, the Afghan army and police "effectively will have the security lead at the national level."
This summer, in its work with Afghan forces, ISAF will build on the concept of layered security that Carter said brings together many Afghan security force capabilities on the ground at the provincial and regional levels, producing an outcome that "is rather greater than the sum of the parts."
"It's our goal come this autumn that we should be able to look back with the Afghan security forces having managed the period of high operational tempo that generally comes in the summer," he added, "and look back with some confidence on what they've achieved."
This will set the stage for successful handling by the Afghan forces of Afghanistan's presidential elections, now set for April 2014, he said.
2. Asia – Pacific: Hagel, South Korean Defense Minister Discuss Alliance
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin last night to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the alliance between their two countries during a time of heightened tension brought about by North Korean threats, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement summarizing the call.
"Secretary Hagel and Minister Kim reaffirmed the strength of the alliance, which has been, and continues to be, instrumental in maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula," Little said in the statement.
Hagel highlighted the steadfast U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea, including extended deterrence capabilities, and pointed to the recently signed counter-provocation plan between the two nations as a mechanism to enhance consultation and coordination of alliance responses to North Korean aggression, Little added.
The secretary also expressed his strong confidence in Army Gen. James D. Thurman's leadership of the 28,500 men and women of U.S. Forces Korea and applauded the steps his team has taken to further integrate command and control functions with South Korea, Little said. The leaders also discussed the recently announced plan to increase U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar in response to the North Korean threat, he added.
3. General Discusses Focus on Younger Force, Cyber Capabilities
NATO officials are closely analyzing what the future cyber warrior will look like as the war landscape shifts from air, ground and sea to cyberspace, Allied Command Transformation's deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and policy said here this week.
In an interview during a March 26 "Young Professionals Forging the Future" event at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Army Maj. Gen. Peter C. Bayer Jr. said it's time to lean into the younger generation in preparation for new and more complex challenges.
Enhanced e-training and application of cyber skill sets need to be customized to the millennial generation born into, rather than adapting to the information age, Bayer said.
"The folks that are going to solve the problems of 2030 [are] not me; I'll be doing something else," the general said. "It's some 25-year-old already in the uniform of their nation. They already have experience in Afghanistan or somewhere else. They're going to be the two- or three-star generals or admirals solving problems."
Bayer said his charge is to develop ongoing training and an open problem-solving environment to tap into the minds of young leaders who can bring an innovative perspective as NATO and its transformation command shift from operational to contingency-based missions.
"I want the junior leaders already in uniform [to be immersed] in this future world of complex problem-solving and begin to develop skills they need to work in an ambiguous uncertain, complex, fast-paced [environment]," Bayer said.
Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119638 
4. POW/MIA Update
• Sgt. Ervin A. Frickle, U.S. Army, 9th Infantry Regimental, was lost on November 25, 1950 North Korean town of Kujang, astride the Ch'ongch'on River. He was accounted for on Feb. 22, 2013.
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division