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May 24, 2013

Veterans’ claims put pressure on Obama even as backlog dips

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A long-growing backlog of U.S. military veterans’ disability claims, which has stoked congressional anger, has dipped in recent weeks, however tentatively.

But that is not taking any pressure off President Barack Obama, his Department of Veterans Affairs or the Pentagon to fix a system that has left veterans waiting – sometimes for years – to get answers from the U.S. government about their disability claims.

May 22, 2013

Pentagon looks to private market for health records fix

WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel will ask the private sector to develop software to track
troops’ health records, part of an ambitious plan to create a
system that is fully integrated with the one used by the
nation’s military veterans, a U.S. official told Reuters on

Hagel’s decision is complicated and technical but goes to
the core of President Barack Obama’s goal to create an easier
transition for troops as they leave the military and seek care
at the VA.

May 17, 2013

Russian missiles to Syria could embolden Assad: U.S. general warns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer on Friday condemned Russia’s shipment of advanced anti-ship missiles to Syria, saying it could embolden President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to keep fighting a bloody civil war.

“It’s at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon when asked about the weapons shipment.

May 17, 2013

Russia sends Syria advanced anti-ship missiles: U.S. officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia has sent Syria advanced anti-ship missiles, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday, bolstering Syrian defenses despite pleas from Washington and elsewhere to stop supplying President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

One of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the latest Yakhont surface-to-air missiles were delivered recently. The transfer of the missiles was first reported by the New York Times.

May 16, 2013

Sex assault scandals put unprecedented pressure on Pentagon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A rash of scandals discrediting the U.S. military’s efforts to stamp out sexual assault is putting unprecedented pressure on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to consider options that once appeared off limits to address sex crimes in the armed forces.

On Tuesday, the military disclosed that another one of its advocates for victims of sexual assault was himself being accused of sex crimes, including allegations linking him to prostitution.

May 14, 2013

Pentagon, short on cash, puts civilians on unpaid leave

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon told its civilian workforce on Tuesday that it will put most of them on unpaid leave for one day a week starting in July, a deeply unpopular move that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel blamed on sweeping budget cuts imposed by Congress.

The U.S. defense budget has taken the single biggest hit from automatic spending cuts, known in Washington as the “sequester,” and Hagel said he had tried to spare civilians the financial hardship ahead by first cutting elsewhere.

May 14, 2013

U.S. Defense Department civilians to go on unpaid leave for 11 days

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel will announce on Tuesday that most of the Defense
Department’s 800,000 civilian employees will be placed on unpaid
leave for 11 days, as the military scrambles to comply with
budget cutting targets by the end of September.

Hagel will announce the decision at a town hall meeting with
Defense Department employees scheduled for 2:30 p.m. EDT (1630
GMT), U.S. defense officials told Reuters, speaking on condition
of anonymity.

May 8, 2013

Analysis: Despite Israeli strikes, U.S. still wary of Syria air defenses

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israeli missiles breached Syria’s vaunted air defense system over the weekend, but that offered little comfort to U.S. military planners weighing the risks of any intervention against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

With some of the possible U.S. military options in Syria involving a need for air power, the Pentagon remains concerned about Assad’s ability to shoot down enemy aircraft with surface-to-air missiles, particularly in a sustained campaign.

May 7, 2013

China rejects U.S. Pentagon charges of military espionage

WASHINGTON, May 6 (Reuters) – China is using espionage to
acquire technology to fuel its military modernization, the
Pentagon said on Monday, for the first time accusing the Chinese
of trying to break into U.S. defense computer networks and
prompting a firm denial from Beijing.

In its 83-page annual report to Congress on Chinese military
developments, the Pentagon also cited progress in Beijing’s
effort to develop advanced-technology stealth aircraft and build
an aircraft carrier fleet to project power further offshore.

May 6, 2013

North Korea missiles moved away from launch site: U.S. officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea has taken two Musudan missiles off launch-ready status and moved them from their position on the country’s east coast, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday, after weeks of concern that Pyongyang had been poised for a test-launch.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned North Korea last month that it would be a “huge mistake” to launch the medium-range missiles, but the prospects of a test had put Seoul, Washington and Toyko on edge.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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