U.S. military grounds F-35 Fighter
Marine Corps F-35B test flight
February 22nd, 2013
05:54 PM ET

U.S. military grounds F-35 Fighter

By Mike Mount

The U.S. military on Friday grounded the F-35 fighter jet due to a crack in an engine component that was discovered during a routine inspection in California.

The Pentagon said in a statement that it was too early to assess the impact on the fleet of jets designed for use by the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The nearly $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons system. It is currently being tested.

The program has been beset by cost overruns and various technical problems during development.

Currently, there 51 planes in the F-35 fleet.

U.S. troop toll in Afghanistan falls with strategy shift
February 20th, 2013
06:18 AM ET

U.S. troop toll in Afghanistan falls with strategy shift

By Mike Mount

For the past month, the U.S. military has experienced something not seen for five years in Afghanistan: No combat deaths.

Three U.S. troops have died from hostile fire injuries since Jan. 1, and one of them succumbed to wounds sustained in December.

The trend marks the longest period without a U.S. combat death in America's longest war since 2008, and clearly reflects a strategy shift that leaves much of the fighting to Afghan security forces, whose deaths are going up.

Afghans now lead more than 80% of combat operations and control areas covering more than three-quarters of the population, according to U.S. military officials.

The U.S. military has pulled back from direct combat operations into the less dangerous role of advising and assisting Afghan forces.

American military officials said a cut in the number of American forces is another reason for the decline.

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Epic combat valor: Former soldier to receive Medal of Honor
January 11th, 2013
04:48 PM ET

Epic combat valor: Former soldier to receive Medal of Honor

By Mike Mount

A former U.S. Army staff sergeant will receive the nation's highest award for combat valor for his actions in repelling an insurgent onslaught in Afghanistan in 2009. He is the fourth living recipient to receive the award for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

President Obama said on Friday that Clinton Romesha will receive the Medal of Honor next month.

Romesha is being recognized for his courage while a section leader with Bravo Troop, 3-61 Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at combat outpost Keating.

The Medal of Honor: What is it?

The assault on the outpost in the eastern province of Nuristan goes down as one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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January 9th, 2013
06:20 PM ET

0 to 9,000: Afghanistan options emerge

By Chris Lawrence and Mike Mount

The Pentagon expects to get a read on Thursday from Afghan President Hamid Karzai on what he expects from the U.S. military going forward, a defense official said.

"We're going to tell them where we think it's going as far as training the Afghan National Security Forces, and they'll tell us where they think it's going," the official said.

Karzai's visit will cover the residual troop presence following the planned withdrawal of American combat forces in 2014 as well as negotiating an end to the war, another U.S. official said.

That official said reconciliation talks have "shown some signs of life after being dormant for the past year.

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Hagel trying to set record straight
January 9th, 2013
05:09 PM ET

Hagel trying to set record straight

By Chris Lawrence and Mike Mount

On his second day at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is trying to set his Iran record straight, saying he supports tough international sanctions against the country in an attempt to counter complaints by critics who say he favored talking directly with the government in Tehran, according to Defense officials with direct knowledge of the nominee’s conversations Wednesday.

Hagel told Pentagon staff he also believes all options in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, including military action, should be on the table, according to the officials.

The nominee has begun meeting with Defense staff as he prepares for his confirmation hearing. That hearing is expected to be held in late January or early February, though no specific date has been chosen, according to a Senate staffer.

Also: Santorum to fight Hagel nomination

One of the Defense officials said Hagel wanted to set the record straight and that he believes he has been misrepresented by his critics.

The messaging is “part of a bigger effort; he’s also been reaching out to the Jewish community on their concerns, doing the same to the gay community. He’s making the appropriate rounds,” according to the official.

 

 

 

January 3rd, 2013
03:42 PM ET

U.S. likely to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan after NATO forces leave

By Mike Mount

The United States could keep between 6,000 and 15,000 troops in Afghanistan after the official 2014 NATO withdrawal, say officials familiar with plans submitted to the Pentagon by the current U.S. commander in that country, Gen. John Allen.

Allen was tasked with developing an overarching plan for how U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan over the next two years, as well as solidifying a post-international combat troop presence. Now he has offered three distinctive options for the president, according to senior defense officials.

The officials said Allen's plans - created with input from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's office, the Joint Staff, the U.S. Central Command, and the White House - would give President Barack Obama options based on what he is looking to do in Afghanistan.

The plans are awaiting official approval from Panetta, the officials said.
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Iran claims success in firing new missiles during naval war exercises
An Iranian warship fires a missile during recent naval drills
January 1st, 2013
04:04 PM ET

Iran claims success in firing new missiles during naval war exercises

By Mike Mount

The Iranian military says it has successfully test-fired a number of advanced missiles and air defense systems during coastal defense exercises near the strategic oil passageway of the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian government press reports said its navy launched anti-ship "Qader" cruise missiles and a new "optimized" version of a long-range surface-to-surface missile, called the "Nour" missile. Both models are made in Iran, according to the reports.

The exercises are part of what Iran says is a six-day naval maneuver that started on December 28 and is designed to, "display the country's capabilities in defending its maritime borders."

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Troops and Pentagon civilians face fall from "fiscal cliff"
January 1st, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Troops and Pentagon civilians face fall from "fiscal cliff"

By Mike Mount

Hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees could receive mandatory unpaid leave notices now that the U.S. government has gone over the fiscal cliff while uniformed troops would be shielded from pay cuts and layoffs for a year, defense officials said.

Congress missed its midnight Monday deadline to avert the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that comprise the cliff, but there was a possibility the situation could be resolved on Tuesday.

Still, if there is no resolution and heavy military and domestic spending cuts take effect, the Defense Department has plans to “issue notices to 800,000 civilian employees of the department that furloughs are almost certain to occur," a senior Pentagon official said.

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Top 10 Security Clearance stories of 2012
December 26th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Top 10 Security Clearance stories of 2012

2012 has been a busy year at Security Clearance. From the U.S. diplomatic facility attack in Benghazi, Libya to the Petraeus sex scandal to the future of Afghanistan and the Pentagon preparing(or not) to fall off the fiscal cliff.

But there have been numerous other stories that have caught your eye this year.

Top 10 Security Clearance stories you, the readers, made the most popular in 2012:

10. Navy detects Russian sub off U.S. East Coast
The U.S. Navy detected and tracked a Russian nuclear-powered attack submarine less than 300 miles from the southern U.S. East Coast last November, U.S. Defense officials said.
While the submarine did not enter U.S. territorial waters or follow any U.S. Navy ships, its arrival came while a Navy carrier strike group was training off Florida, according to the defense officials.

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Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging
Chuck Hagel is in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for.
December 21st, 2012
07:04 PM ET

Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging

By Mike Mount

Calls of concern and support over President Obama's possible pick to be the next secretary of defense are piling up as former colleagues and special interest organizations take aim at and defend the independent-thinking former senator.

Chuck Hagel is believed to be the president's preferred candidate to run the Pentagon, but an announcement has yet to be made by the White House.

On Friday Hagel, in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for, tried to explain an anti-gay comment he made in 1998.

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