October 30th, 2013
07:21 PM ET

Drone attack survivors take their story to Washington

By Chris Lawrence

Her voice is tiny and soft but has the strength of a survivor.

Nabila ur-Rehman, 9, has come to Washington to talk about how she survived a U.S. drone strike on her neighborhood in Pakistan.

"I saw in the sky that it became dark, and I heard a 'dum-dum' noise. Everything became dark, and I couldn't see my grandmother, couldn't make out anything," she told CNN through an interpreter.

Nabila's family said her grandmother, Momina Bibi, was killed in that strike.

"I saw two missiles come down and hit, and at that moment, everything went dark," said Nabila's brother, Zubair, 13. "I just remember seeing an explosion and everything became dark, maybe because of the smoke from the drone."
FULL POST

August 23rd, 2013
04:00 PM ET

Official: US military updates options for possible strikes on Syria

By Chris Lawrence
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

The U.S. military has updated options for a forceful intervention in Syria to give President Barack Obama a range of choices should he decide to deepen American involvement in a civil war where new claims surfaced this week about possible chemical weapons use by the regime.

A senior Defense Department official told CNN on Friday that target lists for possible air strikes have been updated. The planning also included updates on the potential use of cruise missiles, which would not require fighter pilots to enter Syrian airspace.

But the official cautioned the steps were taken "to give the president a current and comprehensive range of choices" and that no decisions were made at a national security meeting on Thursday at the White House.

The official said there are certain static targets, like government buildings and military installations, but that forces and equipment of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "continue to move" and thus require flexibility in planning.

FULL STORY
August 19th, 2013
10:36 PM ET

Why Obama is not cutting aid to Egypt

More than 900 people have died in the violence across Egypt over the past week. And now, 51% of Americans say the United States should cut off the $1.3 billion in military aid we give that country each year.

But the Obama administration said Monday it hasn't yet decided – its review of the situation is still "ongoing."

Egypt on edge amid questions about U.S. aid

One, incredibly powerful group wants to keep the money flowing to egypt.

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports for Erin Burnett OutFront.

Pay, benefits, troop reduction 'on the table' as Pentagon wrestles with budget cuts
July 31st, 2013
08:49 PM ET

Pay, benefits, troop reduction 'on the table' as Pentagon wrestles with budget cuts

By Chris Lawrence

The size of the active-duty U.S. Army could fall to levels not seen since the 1950s if the Pentagon fully carries out voluntary and forced spending cuts totaling $100 billion annually over the next decade, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday.

Hagel outlined a series of worst-case scenarios - including potential pay and benefit reductions for active duty forces, civilian personnel and retirees - that would also impact the Navy, Marines and the Air Force if steps to ease the one-two austerity punch are not taken.

"This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world," Hagel said.

Hagel said "everything is on the table."

It was Hagel's most comprehensive assessment of the financial challenges facing the Pentagon through the early part of the next decade.

His comments came just as Congress prepares to head home for its August break after which lawmakers and the Obama administration will again face key fiscal decisions on spending and federal borrowing.

The Pentagon is facing cuts of roughly equal value - $500 billion - in two areas over the next decade.

The first covers mandated, government-wide austerity that took effect in March after the inability of Congress and the administration to reach a deficit-reduction deal. The Pentagon's share of those cuts is roughly half of the overall government total.

The military also is planning to slash spending voluntarily as it moves away from more than a decade of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and prepares to reorganize and become more nimble.

Under the analysis, Hagel said the Army could have nearly 200,000 fewer soldiers compared to its recent wartime high if the double-whammy of cuts hits full force.

The active-duty Army could shrink to as low as 380,000 active-duty soldiers by 2017, as Hagel outlined a choice between cutting the size of the military or keeping its technological edge.

The Army has not been that small since the 1950s.

Hagel also suggested the Pentagon may have to eliminate three Navy aircraft carrier strike groups, slash the size of the Marines and mothball up to five of the Air Force's combat air squadrons.

Hagel's report followed a review by Pentagon officials examining the short and long-term effects of budget cuts on military strategy.

The Pentagon will consider changing military health care for retirees to increase use of private sector insurance when available, and may change how the baseline housing allowance is calculated so individuals are asked to pay a little more.

The military may also reduce the overseas cost-of-living adjustments and limit military and civilian pay increases.

"Many will object to these ideas, and I want to be clear that we are not announcing any compensation changes today," Hagel said.

But Defense officials admit overall personnel costs have risen 40% above inflation since 2001. "The Department cannot afford to sustain this growth," Hagel said.

Congress will have to sign off on some of the cuts Hagel suggested.

For instance, the Pentagon previously tried to impose small increases in health care fees for its working-age retirees. But leaders on Capitol Hill pushed back.

Now the Pentagon is signaling it will be forced to push for bigger cuts, affecting both military and civilian personnel.

Hagel described the Pentagon's current compensation plan as unsustainable if the sequester and voluntary spending reductions are imposed full force.

"If left unchecked, pay and benefits will continue to eat into our readiness and modernization. That could result in a far less capable force that is well-compensated, but poorly trained and poorly equipped," he said.

July 5th, 2013
11:21 AM ET

Stories from Gitmo

Trapped in legal limbo, detainees at Guantanamo Bay find a way to communicate with the outside world. And, as CNN's Chris Lawrence reports, the writings provide a fascinating window into their grasp of American culture (complete with references to Charlie Sheen and match.com!).

July 5th, 2013
11:03 AM ET

Egypt's military - made by the U.S.A.?

Money, weapons and training are among the ties that bind the U.S. and Egyptian military forces.  But now there are questions about whether a "coup" by the Egyptian military could jeopardize that relationship.  CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.

June 18th, 2013
07:18 PM ET

DoD plans for women in combat

A dramatic moment at the Pentagon Tuesday, and another milestone for military women.

Declaring "the days of Rambo are over," officials announced that in a few years, women will be allowed in combat units.

Eventually, that may including the country's most elite special forces.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence explains how long the transition will take.

June 7th, 2013
08:00 PM ET

NSA: "The most secretive agency in the country"

What exactly do they do at the National Security Agency? And who are "they"?  CNN's Chris Lawrence explores the secretive world of the NSA.

May 24th, 2013
07:10 PM ET

Hackers appear to probe U.S. energy infrastructure, suspicions about Iran

By Chris Lawrence

The United States is investigating "a string of malicious" cyber incidents that appear to be focused on probing energy infrastructure, a U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence tells CNN.

The official, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the information, said the suspected hacking did not appear to be intended to steal trade secrets or exploit technology for commercial reasons. It appeared to be aimed at identifying weaknesses in fuel and electrical systems in the United States.

While the official did not identify any suspected origins of the apparent hacking, a U.S. lawmaker raised suspicions about Iran.

The United States has over the past year become more concerned about Iran and cyber security.

FULL POST

Pentagon says North Korea is capable of delivering nuclear missiles
April 11th, 2013
05:04 PM ET

Pentagon says North Korea is capable of delivering nuclear missiles

From Barbara Starr and Chris Lawrence

The Pentagon’s intelligence arm has assessed with “moderate confidence” that North Korea has the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile though the reliability is believed to be “low.” The assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency was revealed during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

"DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however, the reliability will be low,” the agency concludes, according to an unclassified version of the report read out by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during a House Armed Services Hearing.

Pentagon spokesman George Little refused to comment on the assessment in an interview broadcast on ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper,’ saying that while the conclusion was unclassified, “the underlying content is definitely classified.”

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