December 28th, 2012
08:11 PM ET

Mother tells of secrecy surrounding Ft. Myer child abuse allegations

Two former caregivers at an army day care center at Ft. Myer, Virginia are charged with assaulting children at the facility just next door to the Pentagon.

And at least 30 other childcare workers have been taken off the job after background checks found criminal records including sexual assault and drug use.

Military families are shocked and telling CNN’s Barbara Starr that the military kept them in the dark about many of the problems at Ft. Myer.

Filed under: Army • Barack Obama • Erin Burnett OutFront • Military • Panetta • Pentagon • Security Brief
Defense secretary tries to ease employee fears about potential cuts
Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta greets troops during a recent trip to Kabul.
December 21st, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Defense secretary tries to ease employee fears about potential cuts

By Larry Shaughnessy

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a memo this week to all the troops and civilians who work for him to address concerns about the mandatory spending cuts that would occur if the president and lawmakers do not reach a budget agreement by the end of the year.

In it, Panetta wrote that if the procedure, known as sequestration, were to occur, it "would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending."

He also wrote that "under sequestration, we would still have funds available after Jan. 2, 2013, but our overall funding for the remainder of the year would be reduced."

It's a very different spin on the sequestration from Panetta, who in the past said it would be a "disaster." If this "meat ax" approach to budget cutting were used, he said, it would "hollow out the force."

The cuts are slated to be across the board, totaling roughly $500 billion over 10 years.

Panetta tried to reassure the troops that "the president indicated his intent to exercise his legal authority to exempt military personnel" from the mandatory cuts.

But he couldn't make the same promise to the Defense Department's million or so civilian employees.

Instead he said, "Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future."

Asked about the change of tone, a senior defense official said, "The secretary continues to believe that sequestration would be devastating and is puzzled that Congress can't reach a deal."

The same official said the memo reflects the Office of Management and Budget's view of the issue, especially with respect to furloughs.

Panetta wrapped up the memo by writing, "I want to assure you that we will do our very best to provide clear information about the status of events as they unfold."

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Filed under: Congress • Defense Spending • Democrats • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Politics • Republican • Security Brief • Sequestration • White House
Reports of abuse at Army day care spurs call from Obama
President Barack Obama urged U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh to conduct an investigation into the hiring practices at Army day care facilities after reports of abuse.
December 19th, 2012
11:31 PM ET

Reports of abuse at Army day care spurs call from Obama

By Barbara Starr

President Barack Obama made the rare move of calling the secretary of the Army on Tuesday night to express concern about reports of abuse at an Army child care facility, U.S. officials told CNN.

"The president made clear that we must have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse. The president urged Secretary (John) McHugh to conduct the investigation into its hiring practices at (Army day care facilities)," a White House official told CNN's Lesa Jansen.

It is highly unusual for the president to call a military service secretary regarding a criminal matter, said a senior U.S. defense official who has served at the Pentagon for more than a decade.

The Department of Defense is now reviewing the hiring procedures at military day care centers and other youth facilities after the September arrests of two workers at Fort Myer in Virginia. The workers were charged Tuesday with "assault on a child under the age of 16" in connection with incidents that occurred in September.


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Filed under: Army • Obama • Panetta
United States to send troops and Patriot missiles to Turkey
December 14th, 2012
06:53 AM ET

United States to send troops and Patriot missiles to Turkey

The United States is to deploy 400 troops and two Patriot air-defense missile batteries to Turkey in the coming weeks to defend against potential threats from Syria, defense officials said Friday.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order en route to Turkey, where he is visiting Incirlik Air Base, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters.

Little declined to give details of where the two batteries would be located, or to specify how long the deployment would last.

"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," he said.

Turkey and NATO insist the Patriot missile deployment would be used only for defense.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Missile Defense • NATO • Panetta • Syria • Turkey
December 12th, 2012
07:57 PM ET

North Korea may not have 'full control' of satellite, U.S. official says

By Barbara Starr

There were preliminary signs on Wednesday that North Korea may not be in total control of a satellite less than 24 hours after it was blasted into orbit, a U.S. official told CNN.

"There are some initial indications they might not have full control," the official said of the device that was the payload for North Korea's first successful long-range rocket launch.

The official, who has access to the latest U.S. assessment, declined to be identified by name due to the sensitive nature of the information.

U.S. encouraged by Pakistan efforts to go after terrorists
December 12th, 2012
06:31 AM ET

U.S. encouraged by Pakistan efforts to go after terrorists

By Mike Mount

Pakistan is taking steps to try to limit terrorist safe havens inside the lawless western part of that country where various insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan find sanctuary, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him overseas, Panetta said recent meetings between the United States and Pakistan yielded encouraging signs that Pakistan is working on the long-standing problem.

"My sense is that they're in a better place, that they understand their responsibility," Panetta said. "General Kiyani [Pakistan's military chief], in particular, has indicated a willingness to try to put more pressure on the safe havens," Panetta said.

The United States and Pakistan have had a frosty relationship over the past few years during which time Pakistan closed border crossings or supply routes following a series of incidents.

These included U.S. troops firing into Pakistan while chasing insurgents, the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by American special forces in May 2011 in Pakistan, and NATO shelling that killed a number of Pakistani soldiers in November of that same year.


Pentagon ethics standards review nearing completion
November 27th, 2012
08:35 PM ET

Pentagon ethics standards review nearing completion

By Barbara Starr

The U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff are putting the finishing touches on an initial review of ethics standards for senior officers, to meet a December 1 deadline for a report to President Obama.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the review earlier this month after several incidents of reported improper behavior among senior officers, although officially the Pentagon claimed the timing was coincidental.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has gathered some initial ideas from the chiefs of the military services and will send his plan to Panetta on November 30. Dempsey is now moving ahead with "forming a discussion group of retired, respected generals and admirals, and possibly academics and chaplains, to look at professional ethics and our profession of arms," said his spokesman, Col. David Lapan.

Pentagon weighs Afghanistan troop options after 2014
November 26th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Pentagon weighs Afghanistan troop options after 2014

By Chris Lawrence

Pentagon officials are considering a preliminary assessment by Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on "what he needs going forward" in the country as the U.S. looks to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, a U.S. official tells CNN.

One of the options being considered is "to keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014," according to the official who did not want to be identified discussing ongoing deliberations. The official said that force would comprise a small number of special operations forces dedicated to counterterrorism missions, while the remaining troops "would either continue to train and advise Afghan forces, or assist with logistical issues such as medical evacuations and air support operations."

The "10,000 option" is just one of several being examined, the official said. The options represented "different ends of the spectrum" in terms of troop levels, the official added, but the official did not provide any detail as to what those options are.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not presented a formal recommendation to the White House, Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday. FULL POST

Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet
November 20th, 2012
09:48 PM ET

Panetta: America beating al Qaeda but hasn't won yet

By Larry Shaughnessy

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spelled out the future battle against al Qaeda, praising what has been done so far but warning much more work remains.

Speaking about the September 11 attacks in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, Panetta said, "We will do everything possible to ensure that such an attack never happens again. That means counterterrorism will continue as a key mission for our military and intelligence professionals as long as violent extremists pose a direct threat to the United States."

He said efforts against the core al Qaeda group have been largely successful. "Al Qaeda's leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of al Qaeda's five top leaders in the last 2½ years alone - Osama bin Laden, Shaikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi."


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Filed under: 10 years of war • Abu Yahya al-Libi • Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Benghazi • Diplomacy • drones • Libya • Mali • Nigeria • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Somalia • Special Operations Forces • Yemen
Panetta orders review of ethics training review for generals
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered a review of existing ethics training for generals.
November 15th, 2012
10:03 AM ET

Panetta orders review of ethics training review for generals

By Barbara Starr

In the wake of a number of financial and sexual scandals involving generals and admirals, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered a review of existing ethics training programs “to determine if they are adequate,” according to a memo from Panetta to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I seek your views on how to better foster a culture of value-based decision-making and stewardship among senior general and flag officers,” Panetta said. Panetta said he wants to send an interim report to President Obama by December 1. While he expressed confidence in the current military leadership he also said “our challenge is to make sure that we do everything possible to maintain the highest standards of behavior.”

While the secretary did not offer specifics, he is known to be concerned not just about the Petraeus scandal and the current inspector general investigation into the conduct of General John Allen, but also events surrounding other generals. In particular Panetta this week announced the demotion of General William Ward, the former commander of Africa Command and ordered him to repay the government more than $80,000 in unauthorized travel expenses.

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