By Chris Lawrence and Lindy Royce-Bartlett
The U.S. Navy plans to deploy a laser weapon aboard a warship for the first time, Navy leaders said on Monday.
The laser will be deployed on the USS Ponce in early 2014.
"The weapon's quick-reaction capability matches what we see as potential targets" in the Persian Gulf, a Defense Department official said.
The laser has been tested against and destroyed drones and fast-moving small boats, the official said.
U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, less than 20 miles from the border with North Korea, bases in Japan and Guam are all targets for North Korea's missiles. Chris Lawrence reports on how and where North Korea would strike U.S. troops.
By CNN's Chris Lawrence
The website for U.S. Forces Korea is down and has been off-line all day.
A U.S. Defense Department official tells CNN, “This was a hardware crash. It could be awhile before they get back online, because they have to rebuild the system. Right now there’s no signs this had anything to do with a cyber attack or outside intrusion. These are initial indications, but right now it doesn’t appear to be caused by outside influence.”
But the official says they haven't completely ruled out an outside attack.
If you go to the site, you will see a message reading, "Network Error… The gateway may be temporarily unavailable, or there could be a network problem.”
By Chris Lawrence
While North Korea continues to elevate threats against the United States and its allies, the Pentagon has not seen anything "out of the ordinary" around key missile sites, a defense official told CNN on Friday.
But the heightened rhetoric over nuclear attacks, so far unmatched by any actual military moves, has no foreseeable endgame, a second defense official said.
"This could go on for a while, and we could see variations of the rhetoric," the second official said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has approved a plan to put rockets on standby to fire at U.S. targets, including the American mainland and military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, state media reported Thursday.
By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr
The Obama administration is considering shifting lethal drone operations run by the Central Intelligence Agency over to the military, U.S. officials tell CNN.
The proposal is under "serious consideration," one U.S. official said. The official said no final decision has been made, and that there is no specific time frame in place, but that the change is being considered "due to a desire for greater transparency in who is being targeted."
By law, the military is not able to act covertly the way the CIA can, and it must answer to Congress.
The Daily Beast website first reported on the potential shift.
By Chris Lawrence
Seven months ago, President Barack Obama warned the use of chemical weapons in Syria could bring direct U.S. involvement in that country's raging civil war. While the administration's interest in U.S. military involvement in Syria remains low, planners still have been preparing for the possibility U.S. forces would have to step in and neutralize Syria's military or safeguard chemical weapons stockpiles.
It's not a pretty picture, NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis said Tuesday, a day after unconfirmed reports emerged that chemical weapons may have been used.
"The Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse," he said.
The mere possibility of U.S. involvement comes at a bad time for the military, which is preparing to ground some aircraft, scrap some naval deployments and cut back on training to meet budget cuts mandated by forced spending cuts that went into effect last month.
By Chris Lawrence
The U.S. military will enhance the nation's ability to defend itself from any missile attack by North Korea or Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday.
Still relatively new in his post, the Pentagon chief told reporters that the United States will deploy 14 additional ground-based missile interceptors to bring the total to 44. He said the expansion should be completed by 2017.
Part of the move would involve reopening a missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, and some of the interceptors would be based in California, U.S. officials said.FULL STORY
By Chris Lawrence
Gen. John Allen is considering whether to retire rather than move forward with the nomination to become the supreme allied commander of NATO, a staff member said.
In a written statement, a member of his staff said, "After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment."
After speaking with Allen in the last two days, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "My recommendation to him was 'take your time.' Your country will always find a way to make use of your great services, but you have to make up your own mind."
A senior Defense official tells CNN that Allen met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey Tuesday afternoon. But the official says he was not aware of whether Allen had informed Dempsey of his decision. The official says it was a personal, one-on-one meeting in Dempsey's Pentagon office.
By Matt Smith
When the Senate Armed Services Committee is gaveled into session Thursday, Chuck Hagel is likely to face some sharp questions from many of his old colleagues.
If confirmed as secretary of defense, the one-time infantry sergeant and twice-wounded Vietnam veteran would be the first former enlisted man to lead the Pentagon. The former Republican senator from Nebraska gets his chance to answer questions Thursday morning during his confirmation hearing, and here are five subjects where he can expect them.FULL STORY
By Chris Lawrence, with reporting from Barbara Starr
[Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET] The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials told CNN on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement Thursday and notify Congress of the planned change in policy, the officials said.
"We will eliminate the policy of 'no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'" a senior defense official said.
The officials cautioned, however, that "not every position will open all at once on Thursday." Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an "assessment phase," in which each branch of service will examine all its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable for integrating them.
The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report on their progress.
The move will be one of the last significant policy decisions made by Panetta, who is expected to leave in mid-February. It is not clear where former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominated replacement, stands, but officials say he has been apprised of Panetta's coming announcement.