By Jamie Crawford
A lapse in benefits normally paid to the families of U.S. service members killed in combat is adding to the already existing anger over the partial federal government shutdown.
With a good majority of the Pentagon workforce returning to work despite large-scale furloughs hitting other federal agencies, the benefits typically paid to families of the fallen have yet to be restored during the current government shutdown.
"This particular situation is unthinkable," Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), said on the House floor Tuesday. "A great injustice is being done to our service members and their families."
Among the benefits being withheld are a $100,000 cash payment typically paid to a service member's family within three days of their death in the combat zone. Burial benefits, which include reimbursement for recovery, care, as well as the funeral and interment of remains are also included in those benefits.
By Jamie Crawford
The Pentagon issued guidance on Friday on how a potential government shutdown, which would begin on Tuesday absent a congressional agreement on spending, would impact its operations.
"All military personnel will continue in a normal duty status regardless of their affiliation" under a shutdown scenario, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wrote in a memo to military commanders and other senior defense officials.
But continued service could present complications for the troops themselves, Carter added.
"Military personnel will not be paid until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service," he wrote.
The Pentagon has "put a proposal on the table" for U.S. military forces to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces for the first time, two Obama administration officials told CNN.
If approved, it would dramatically increase the role of the U.S. military in Syria's civil war and would for the first time put American troops in direct contact with opposition forces.
The idea has been under consideration since the August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, which the United States says was carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
There are few specifics on troops or other aspects of the military proposal, but both officials said the effort envisions training taking place in a country near Syria.FULL STORY
(CNN) - The Pentagon will permit members of the military to travel to wed same-sex partners if the community or state where they are based does not permit it, a key element of a new benefits policy unveiled Wednesday.
The Defense Department announced its intention to extended health, housing and other benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed military personnel and defense civilian employees.
By Larry Shaughnessy
The Pentagon came under pressure in Congress on Thursday to shape up its process for accounting for those reported missing in action.
More than 83,000 American servicemen and women are listed as missing from the wars of last century, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and the effort to account for them is divided among various military agencies.
"For the past decade, DOD has accounted for an average of 72 persons each year," Brenda Farrell of the Government Accountability Office told a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
But the Pentagon has mandated the overall search effort increase annual recovery to 200 people per year.
"It's time we focus our attention on how we make the POW/MIA accounting community more effective and efficient to be able to meet the goal of identifying at least these 200 sets of remains a year by 2015," Rep. Susan Davis, D-California, said.
No American troops are listed as missing from the most recent conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, due in part to modern DNA testing.
So why is it so hard to resolve past cases?
There are a handful of Pentagon units involved.
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) is based near Washington; Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is headquartered in Hawaii; and the Air Force Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory is based in Texas.
They have overlapping duties and different bosses.
"DPMO and JPAC developed two competing proposed plans, neither of which encompass the entire accounting community," Farrell said. "There are other players such as the Life Science equipment laboratory that reports to the Air Force Material Command. That's another chain of command we've got. Now we're up to three chains of command."
Sen. Claire McCaskill said at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing that a 1993 Senate report noted the process at the time for locating missing Americans in Southeast Asia was flawed by a "lack of organizational clarity, coordination and consistency.
"Is it any wonder that this is a mess." she said.
By Barbara Starr
The Pentagon is reconsidering whether to end "imminent danger pay" for troops in several regions of the Middle East and Persian Gulf in the wake of increasing violence there in recent weeks, according to a Defense Department official.
The Pentagon had been considering the move, which would save about $120 million each year, the official told CNN. He declined to be identified because there is no final decision on the matter.
In addition, the Pentagon quietly is considering whether to proceed with a planned September U.S. military exercise with Egypt. That exercise would send thousands of U.S. troops to Egypt with aircraft and land-based weapons. For now the exercise remains on the calendar, but a second Pentagon official said it's certain to be re-examined in light of the recent violence. FULL POST
Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.
A senior-level defense official said Thursday that keeping top-secret information on one shared server and giving an individual the ability to view and move that data were two mistakes that allowed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to disclose top-secret information.
Although Ashton Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, said he didn't want to directly comment on Snowden - "because that is a criminal investigation" - he spent a portion of a panel at the Aspen Security Forum laying out the "root causes of all of this."
"This is a failure to defend our own network," Carter said. "That failure originated from two practices that we need to reverse."
The first mistake: "In an effort for those in the intelligence community to be able to share information with one another, there was an enormous amount of information concentrated in one place. ... It creates too much information in one place."
The second: "You had an individual who was given very substantial authority to access that information and move that information. That ought not to be the case, either."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the former enlisted man who earned his sergeant stripes as a grunt in the jungles of Vietnam, is cutting the budgets of the Pentagon's top brass by 20%.
And he's sharing the pain, cutting his own office budget by a like amount.
By Kevin Liptak and Jonathan Helman
An effort to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command received a bipartisan boost Tuesday as conservative Republicans joined the bill's main backer, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to voice their support for the measure.
“Our carefully crafted common sense proposal was written in direct response to what the victims told us, the stories that came from them, what happened to them, the fact that they didn’t trust the chain of command, that they were retaliated against, that they didn’t think justice was possible,” Gillibrand said at a Capitol Hill event.
The proposed law comes after a spike in sexual assault cases in the armed forces, which has prompted President Barack Obama and top military brass to vow change. A report Monday from a government watchdog found that in many cases the military did not properly investigate sexual assault claims.
The bill is an extension of Gillibrand's efforts in the Senate Armed Services Committee to advance legislation requiring decisions about sexual assault cases to be made by independent military prosecutors. The measure faced opposition from senior military leaders, who argued it would harm commanders' ability to lead effectively.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
The former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding material in a book by David Sanger, a correspondent for The New York Times, a source directly familiar with the situation said Thursday.
The source could not confirm that the investigation involving Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright is specifically about the Stuxnet computer virus, which Sanger writes about in his 2013 book "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."
NBC News reported Thursday, citing legal sources, that Cartwright has been told he's under investigation for allegedly leaking classified information about Stuxnet, a complex virus that infected computers in Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010.
That leak was one of a series of national security-related leaks last year and had details of how the United States and Israel were behind the Stuxnet attack.FULL STORY