September 24th, 2013
03:25 PM ET

No pilot! No problem: Pentagon uses mothballed jets for UAV training

The Pentagon is spending billions on unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones” so it’s understandable if military pilots feel like an endangered species.

And now there’s a new reason for pilots to worry.

Instead of designing UAVs from the ground up, Boeing is taking old mothballed jets and tweaking them so they can fly without a pilot.

Manning's possible maximum sentence cut
August 6th, 2013
03:20 PM ET

Manning's possible maximum sentence cut

(CNN) - A military judge on Tuesday consolidated certain criminal convictions in Bradley Manning's national security leak case, reducing his maximum possible prison sentence from 136 years to 90.

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks.

The leaks dealt with U.S. military strategy in Iraq to State Department cables outlining foreign relationships. They also included a secret military video from the Iraq war.

Col. Denise Lind acquitted Manning of the most grievous charge of aiding the enemy, which carried a maximum life sentence.

But she found him guilty of other counts that include violations of the Espionage Act. He earlier had pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Lind could decide not to slap him with the maximum for each count. She may rule that he'll serve the sentences concurrently, rather than consecutively.

It may take several days for a sentencing decision.

Manning's lawyers had asked the court martial to merge several of the convictions because they represented "prosecutorial overreach" and "unreasonable multiplication of the charges."

The government is still presenting witnesses during the sentencing phase at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The defense is expected to present several witnesses as well.

August 1st, 2013
10:14 PM ET

Pentagon pressed to streamline MIA recovery effort

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.

Report: Contract waste and fraud in Afghanistan put troops at risk
Culvert Denial System
July 23rd, 2013
05:16 PM ET

Report: Contract waste and fraud in Afghanistan put troops at risk

By Larry Shaughnessy

Contract fraud and waste has been an ongoing problem in Afghanistan almost since the start of the war, but a new report finds one kind of contract screw-up could well have caused deaths and injuries among U.S. troops.

The problem revolves around “culvert denial systems.” Essentially they are grates made of heavy steel rods that keep the Taliban from putting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in culverts under roads traveled by U.S. military vehicles.