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May 21, 2014

Lawmakers clash over budget priorities in U.S. defense bill

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – Lawmakers in the U.S. House
of Representatives clashed over spending priorities in the
annual defense policy bill on Tuesday, with a top Republican
saying the measure prevented “false short-term savings” and a
key Democrat warning about “creative accounting.”

The legislation, which the full House began debating on
Tuesday night, calls for a Pentagon base budget of $496 billion
for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October, about the same as
this year. The National Defense Authorization Act also approves
$17.6 billion for nuclear weapons spending and $79.4 billion for
the Afghanistan war.

May 19, 2014

White House raps House defense bill for blocking spending reforms

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) – The annual defense policy
bill making its way through the House of Representatives could
force the Pentagon to maintain a bigger military than it can
afford at a time of shrinking budgets, the White House said on
Monday, warning that a veto was possible.

The Office of Management and Budget, in a statement of
administration policy, said the National Defense Authorization
Act approved by the House Armed Services Committee had
eliminated $50 billion in savings over five years that the
Pentagon had proposed in its 2015 budget.

May 16, 2014

Top U.S. veterans’ healthcare official resigns amid scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned on Friday amid a scandal over allegations of deadly healthcare delays, but critics dismissed the gesture as “damage control” because he planned to retire this year anyway.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement he accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, VA undersecretary for health, and acknowledged the need to ensure more timely treatment of America’s military veterans. The White House said President Barack Obama supported Shinseki’s decision.

May 15, 2014

China blames Vietnam, says will not cede inch of disputed territory

WASHINGTON, May 15 (Reuters) – A top Chinese general on
Thursday defended the deployment of an oil rig that has inflamed
tensions in the disputed South China Sea and triggered deadly
protests in Vietnam, blaming Hanoi and saying China cannot
afford to “lose an inch” of territory.

General Fang Fenghui also pointed blame at U.S. President
Barack Obama’s strategic “pivot” to Asia as Vietnam and China
grapple with one of the worst breakdowns in relations since the
neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.

May 14, 2014

U.S. reconstruction push overwhelming Kabul’s finances: watchdog

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has spent $103 billion on rebuilding everything from hospitals to security forces in Afghanistan, but Kabul’s modest finances make it unlikely the projects could be maintained in the future, a top U.S. watchdog said on Wednesday.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said even with the U.S. war effort winding down, U.S. spending in the country is likely to continue at a pace of $6 billion to $10 billion a year. He said $18 billion has been appropriated for Afghan projects and not yet spent.

May 14, 2014

U.S. Veterans Affairs chief Shinseki fights for career, agency

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) – U.S. Veterans Affairs
Secretary Eric Shinseki will be fighting for his career and
veterans’ confidence in his massive agency on Thursday when he
testifies before a Senate committee about veterans who died
while awaiting care.

But as more reports surface of alleged schemes to mask long
wait times at VA hospitals and clinics, he will have a tougher
time persuading lawmakers that he can fix the VA’s problems.

May 8, 2014

House blocks Pentagon bid to curb pay raises, retire weapons

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House Armed Services Committee approved a policy bill on Thursday that authorized a $496 billion Pentagon base budget for next year but rejected many of the department’s attempts to cut spending, including on arms programs and military pay increases.

Lawmakers on the Republican-dominated panel voted unanimously to send the measure to the full House of Representatives, where it must be passed and reconciled with a Senate version before going to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Apr 29, 2014
via FaithWorld

Two U.S. soldiers lose bid to dress according to religious custom


(U.S. army soldiers are seen marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, March 16, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri )

The U.S. Army has denied requests by two soldiers to dress and groom themselves according to their religious beliefs under a revised Pentagon policy, a spokesman said on Monday.

Apr 23, 2014

Hagel begins first trip to Latin America as U.S. defense chief

MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday his first trip to Latin America as Pentagon chief would add “muscle and sinew” to growing North American defense ties and highlight the importance of helping partner nations improve their militaries.

Hagel, who will meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Mexico City before traveling to Guatemala, said the three-day visit will give him an opportunity to focus on relationship-building in a vital area that often receives little attention.

Apr 22, 2014

U.S. to send 600 troops to Eastern Europe to reassure allies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is sending about 600 soldiers to Poland and the three Baltic states for infantry exercises, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, one of its highest-profile steps yet to reassure NATO allies after Russia’s seizure of Crimea.

Groups of 150 soldiers will be sent to Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in rounds of month-long exercises in each country in what the Pentagon calls a “persistent rotational presence” that stops short of permanently basing troops.

    • About David

      "David has been a journalist for 30 years, based in Washington, London, New Delhi, Jerusalem and Philadelphia. He covered the first Gulf war, the Palestinian intifada and the conflict in Kashmir. Since 1998 he has been an editor and reporter in Washington, covering politics, the White House and other stories."
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