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Monday, November 7, 2016

Early Bird Brief: Raqqa offensive begins; UN probes U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan

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Nov 07, 2016    
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Good morning and welcome to the Early Bird Brief. Please send news tips and suggestions to: earlybird@militarytimes.com.

Today's Top 5
    1. U.S.-Backed Militia Opens Drive on ISIS Capital in Syria
(New York Times) A joint Kurdish-Arab militia has begun a new phase in the operation to dislodge the Islamic State from its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, moving to encircle the city and largely cut off the resupply of arms, supplies and fighters, American military officials confirmed on Sunday.
 
    2. After the Islamic State falls: America's next president will face the war's toughest decisions
(Military Times) After three weeks of steady fighting around the Islamic State's stronghold in Iraq, U.S. commanders say the group's defeat there is inevitable. But even once violence abates in Mosul, the broader fight against ISIS will be far from over.
 
    3. FBI chief: No charges against Clinton after new email review
(Associated Press) FBI Director James Comey abruptly announced Sunday that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges related to newly discovered emails from her tenure at the State Department, lifting a cloud of uncertainty that has shadowed the final days of her presidential campaign.
 
    4. New Warship's Big Guns Have No Bullets
(Defense News) Barely two weeks after the US Navy commissioned its newest and most futuristic warship, armed with two huge guns that can hit targets 80 miles away, the service is moving to cancel the projectiles for the guns, citing excessive costs that run up to $800,000 per round or more.
 
    5. UN investigates deadly Afghanistan air strikes
(Al Jazeera) Raids by US aircraft in Kunduz province killed more than 30 civilians, including many women and children last week.
 
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Overseas Operations
    Pentagon identifies three Army trainers killed in Jordan
(Reuters) The U.S. Defense Department on Sunday identified three U.S. Army trainers killed on Friday when their convoy came under fire as it entered a military base in Jordan.
 
    Iraq: ISIL suicide bombers kill dozens in two cities
(Al Jazeera) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters have claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings that have killed at least 21 people and wounded dozens in two cities in northern Iraq.
 
    Top al Qaeda Leader Killed in Afghanistan by U.S. Airstrike: Pentagon
(NBC News) A senior Al Qaeda leader who helped direct the group's international operations was killed last month in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirmed Friday.
 
    Iraq peshmerga attack Islamic State town as army battles in Mosul
(Reuters) Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces attacked an Islamic State-held town northeast of Mosul on Monday, trying to clear a pocket of militants outside the city while Iraqi troops wage a fierce urban war with the jihadists in its eastern neighborhoods.
 
    (Video) 28 hours: Leading the Mosul attack, under fire, then trapped
(CNN) For more than 28 hours, CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon and photojournalist Brice Laine were with Iraqi special forces during their push into ISIS-held Mosul. It was a new phase of the liberation operation -- switching from villages and open terrain to a dense city that a well-equipped ISIS is determined to defend.
 
    Progress and regress: Obama's mixed Afghanistan legacy
(Al Jazeera) Recent increase in attacks by the Taliban and ISIL have compromised advances in rights, Afghans say.
 
CyberCon 2016
    Register Today for CyberCon 2016!
(Federal Times) Join Defense News, Federal Times and C4ISRNET on Nov. 16, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
 
The Pentagon
    Pentagon Could Look to Close Bases Without BRAC Authorization
(Defense News) For several years, the Pentagon has been blocked by Congress in its request to begin another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Now, facing an expected wave of modernization bills in the next decade, a top DoD official has suggested the building needs to look for alternative ways to shut down excess infrastructure.
 
    Ash Carter applauds Raqqa offensive, but liberation strategy still unclear
(Washington Examiner) Defense Secretary Ash Carter applauded U.S.-backed coalition forces for opening a new "isolation" effort in Raqqa on Sunday as part of an operation to remove the Islamic State from its de facto capital in Syria, but neglected to offer any hint of progress made with Turkey in negotiating allowing the Kurdish-led Syrian forces to enter the city.
 
    Turkish, U.S. military chiefs discuss Syria and Iraq operations - Turkish military
(Reuters) The heads of the Turkish and U.S. armed forces discussed joint strategies against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq during a meeting in Ankara on Sunday, the Turkish military said in a statement.
 
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Air Force
    Air Force Pushes New F-15 Electronic Warfare Suite Forward to EMD Stage
(Air Force Times) An Air Force program to provide F-15Cs and F-15Es with a new electronic warfare suite is moving forward to the engineering, development and manufacturing phase.
 
    Airman receives Silver Star for battlefield bravery in Afghanistan
(Air Force Times) Under fire and drenched from head to toe in the frigid waters of Afghanistan's Bala Murghab River, former Airman 1st Class Benjamin Hutchins refused to leave the two soldiers who needed his help.
 
    Wright-Patterson, Ohio State study stress recovery to aid spec ops airmen
(Air Force Times) The Air Force Research Lab is working on new techniques that could help special operations troops train and recover better and, ultimately, become better warfighters.
 
    F-35 Program Office Seeking an Extra $530M to Wrap Up Development
(Air Force Times) The F-35 joint program office (JPO) will need an additional $530 million to complete development of the joint strike fighter program, it confirmed this week.
 
    New office tests light attack aircraft, other new technologies for future Air Force
(Air Force Times) The Air Force could soon begin testing light attack aircraft to see if they're a viable option for close-air support.
 
Army
    DoD identifies two Green Berets killed in deadly Afghan battle
(Army Times) The Defense Department on Friday released the names of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
 
    Army shrinks PME backlog down to 5,000 soldiers
(Army Times) A year ago the Army was looking at 14,000 soldiers who had been selected for promotion but didn't have orders to the professional schools required to move up. That number's down by 65 percent now, according to the top enlisted soldier at Training and Doctrine Command.
 
    Attorney: Chelsea Manning again attempts suicide in prison
(Associated Press) Chelsea Manning attempted suicide for the second time in recent months while the transgender soldier remains imprisoned in Kansas for leaking classified information, two of her attorneys said Friday.
 
    The U.S. Army Is Testing a Devastating New Weapon: A Super 'Bazooka'
(The National Interest) Soldiers are fond of the 84-millimeter Carl Gustaf, and it's easy to see why. The weapon is quite practical for dismounted infantry — especially at long ranges — and creates a thrilling blast, so it's fun to shoot.
 
Navy
    The Navy's new spy plane will make Russia very, very nervous
(Navy Times) At first glance, the U.S. Navy's new aircraft looks like nothing more than an airliner. That's until you look under the wing of the P-8A Poseidon.
 
    Gene R. La Rocque, Navy admiral who became Pentagon critic, dies at 98
(Stars & Stripes) Gene R. La Rocque, a retired Navy rear admiral who witnessed the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and who later who irritated many former colleagues with his outspoken criticism of Pentagon practices and what he considered a suicidal nuclear arms race, died Oct. 31 at a hospital in Washington. He was 98.
 
    Navy finalizes plans for training in Puget Sound
(Seattle Times) The Navy's planned exercises would mostly occur in existing testing ranges in Northwest waters and off southeast Alaska.
 
    Navy upends Notre Dame
(Los Angeles Times) It was a rare victory in the series for the Midshipmen (6-2), who beat the Irish for just the fourth time since 1963. Notre Dame (3-6) had won five in a row against Navy.
 
Marine Corps
    Second recruit dies at Parris Island, third major incident this year
(Marine Corps Times) The Marine Corps' East Coast training depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, has been rocked by the death of another recruit, the third major incident there this year.
 
    Marines Practice Expeditionary Advance Base Operations In Exercise Blue Chromite In Japan
(USNI News) Amphibious forces in the Pacific practiced a "back to the future" tactic of seizing advance naval bases and conducting maneuver warfare during exercise Blue Chromite in Okinawa, Japan, exercise leaders told USNI News.
 
Coast Guard
    Coast Guard orders unsafe ship to stay in Baltimore, stranding its crew
(Washington Post) A cargo ship and its international crew have been stranded in the Baltimore harbor for more than 45 days after the vessel had serious engine problems and the Coast Guard deemed it unsafe to sail.
 
National Guard
    California National Guard Soldiers Leave for the Middle East
(KTXL) The California National Guard's 649th Engineer Company, based out of Chico, Lakeport and Red Bluff, will be flying to a mobilization duty station before leaving for the Middle East in 2017.
 
    R.I. National Guard: Woman named to senior enlisted position at Narragansett camp
() Sgt. Maj. Deborah P. Storm became the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the Rhode Island National Guard during a change of responsibility ceremony Sunday at Camp Varnum.
 
Defense Industry
    5 Bidders Emerge in Competition for Czech Republic Air Defense Systems
(Defense News) Five companies have submitted offers to supply mid-range air defense systems to the Czech Ministry of Defense. These include Lockheed Martin, MBDA, Kongsberg, Rafael and Diehl, according to Vladimir Lukovsky, a spokesperson for the Czech ministry.
 
    Construction Date Set for British Type 26 Anti-Sub Frigates
(Defense News) Construction work on a new class of anti-submarine warfare frigates for the British Royal Navy is set to get underway in the summer of 2017, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed during a visit to the BAE Systems shipyard in Scotland, where the vessels will be built.
 
    MBDA to provide Sea Ceptor for Type 26 Global Combat Ship
(UPI) The U.K. Ministry of Defense announced a $125 million deal Friday with MBDA Missile Systems to put the Sea Ceptor defense system on the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship.
 
    BAE to start production of U.K.'s Type 26 Global Combat Ships next summer
(UPI) BAE Systems said Friday the first steel will be cut on the U.K.'s Type 26 Global Combat Ships next summer.
 
    USN must prepare for on-board power demands
(IHS Jane's 360) In the next 10 years, the US Navy (USN) will see its ships and systems become ever more power hungry, and the service must be ready to meet the challenge, according to Vice Admiral Thomas Moore, commander of the USN Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).
 
    Honeywell fields satcom system on specialised US Army Black Hawks
(Flightglobal) Honeywell has fielded its Aspire 200 Satellite Communications System on at least 20 UH-60 Black Hawks in a specialised US Army aviation unit, Tom Hart, vice-president of defence aftermarket Americas, tells FlightGlobal.
 
Veterans
    Scam Alert: Top Five Veteran Swindles
(Forbes) According the the AARP Fraud Watch Network, there are a host of scams aimed at vets. Many of these operations masquerade as charities that claim to benefit vets. Here are the major scams:
 
    Marine Veteran Held by Yemeni Rebels Since 2015 Is Freed
(New York Times) The detainee, Wallead Yusuf Pitts Luqman, 37, was abducted in April 2015 as he tried to leave the country after having taught English there for two years. He was then held in secret by the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group.
 
    Veterans help veterans cope with PTSD through decorated Marine's New York-based nonprofit Headstrong Project
(New York Daily News) Two years after serving two tours in Iraq, Army veteran Dustin Shryock started feeling something was wrong — and he didn't know how to make it right.
 
Congress & Politics
    Races to watch: Former commandant's endorsement goes against Marine vet challenger
(Military Times) The Marine Corps' former commandant, retired Gen. James Amos, has inserted himself into a contentious California congressional race by endorsing the Republican incumbent instead of a fellow Marine veteran hoping to pull off an upset.
 
    Races to watch: Two veterans fight for the Illinois Senate
(Military Times) Tammy Duckworth lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq in 2004, but it may be a distant relative's military service that puts the nation's first wounded female veteran in the U.S. Senate next year.
 
    After NDAA, Thornberry to Name New Subcommittee Chairs
(Defense News) The US House Armed Services Committee faces a shake-up in the Nov. 8 election that will affect defense policy and dollars. Aside from any additional members possibly voted out of office, the committee is sure to lose 10 members, including the chairmen of the Seapower and Military Personnel subcommittees.
 
    Races to watch: Four close congressional contests that could impact troops, vets
(Military Times) Of the 469 congressional races to be decided Tuesday, only a handful will have a direct effect on leadership of Capitol Hill defense committees.
 
    Under campaign spotlight, Donald Trump comes into light
(Associated Press) Donald Trump puts a premium on loyalty and has proven unable to let a slight go by unchallenged. He touts the facts that he likes — and casts doubts on the ones he doesn't.
 
    Paul Ryan on FBI clearing Hillary Clinton again: Vote for Donald Trump
(Business Insider) "Let's bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday," Ryan said in a statement.
 
Cyber, Space & Surveillance
    Blame the ionosphere for GPS blackouts
(C4ISRNET) European Space Agency (ESA) scientists have discovered the reason why low-orbit GPS satellites experience periodic navigational blackouts while flying over the equator between Africa and South America.
 
    Cyberthreat hunt teams would benefit from machine assistance
(C4ISRNET) While some officials have expressed a strong desire for automated tools in the way of cyber defense to operate and respond at a cyber speed, a more offensive tactic involves hunt teams.
 
    Harris unveils lightweight night vision binoculars
(C4ISRNET) Harris Corp. has unveiled new lightweight, night vision binoculars.
 
National Security & Intelligence
    Homeland Security Officials 'Concerned' About Cyber Attempts to Create Confusion on Election Day
(ABC News) "We are very concerned about attempts to cause confusion," one Department of Homeland Security official said. The official pointed out that it's important to separate concerns over manipulating the official vote count -- which they see as unlikely if not impossible -- from the threat to cause confusion.
 
    Janet Reno, First Woman to Be U.S. Attorney General, Dead at 78
(NBC News) Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and the epicenter of several political storms during the Clinton administration, has died. She was 78.
 
International Affairs
    British Sentry Aircraft No Longer on Guard Over Electrical Issues
(Defense News) Britain's fleet of Sentry E-3D early warning aircraft has been effectively grounded while the Royal Air Force (RAF) rectifies electrical wiring and other issues on the aircraft.
 
    Poland Eyes Third Missiles Squadron, Subs for Navy
(Defense News) oland's Ministry of Defence may acquire additional naval strike missiles (NSM) from Kongsberg to set up a third coastal squadron along the Polish Baltic Sea, said Polish Deputy Defence Minister Bartosz Kownacki.
 
    Algeria says army seized missiles, explosives in desert area
(Reuters) With Islamic State under pressure in its Libyan stronghold of Sirte, neighboring countries Algeria, Tunisia and Mali are concerned about fighters and arms spilling across their borders. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, ousted in 2011, kept huge stockpiles of weapons stashed across Libya.
 
    Syria's dead children don't keep me awake, says Bashar al-Assad
(The Australian) In an exclusive interview, Assad insisted he regrets nothing and has no option but a military solution. "We've announced we're ready for reconciliation with all those who put down arms,'' he said.
 
    Turkish-backed forces closing in on Syria's al-Bab: Erdogan
(Reuters) Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria aim to push Islamic State militants further south from al-Bab and are currently 12 or 13 km (8 miles) from the town, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
 
    China bans Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians as crisis grows
(Guardian) Hong Kong was facing a severe political crisis on Monday after China barred two pro-independence lawmakers from the city's legislature.
 
    Canadian military investigating mysterious 'ping' sound scaring sea animals
(UPI) The Canadian military is investigating a mysterious "pinging" sound heard emanating from the sea floor.
 
    Philippine's Duterte cancels police rifle deal with U.S.
(Reuters) President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the cancellation on Monday of Philippine's purchase of police rifles from the United States, after U.S. senatorial aides said last month that Washington was halting the sale due to concerns about human rights violations.
 
    Japan protests as Chinese ships sail near disputed Diaoyu isles
(South China Morning Post) Four Chinese vessels entered the waters surrounding the islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, at about 10am local time, according to Japan's coastguard.
 
Commentary & Analysis
    Editorial: Trump's Simplistic World
(Defense News) One way or the other, Trump's rise on the national stage will have long-term implications even beyond Election Day. The man has a lot of ardent believers, and he gives form to a deeply human desire to live in a world that is fundamentally simple. Except that it's not.
 
    The Chickens Are Ready to Eat: The Fatal Ambiguity of "Readiness"
(Brad Carson, Morgan Plummer, War on the Rocks) Even if the appropriate amount of military readiness cannot be objectively determined, how the Pentagon talks about readiness contributes mightily to the general confusion about the subject and requires serious change.
 
    Iran and Its Iraqi Shi'a Allies
(Arlane Tabatabal, Lawfare) Today, Tehran sees the instability and insecurity of its western neighbor and ISIS' presence there as one of the most pressing threats to its national security. As a result, it has allocated substantial resources to stabilizing Iraq and countering ISIS, making sure the group doesn't use its territories in Iraq to successfully penetrate Iran.
 
    The coming clash with China over North Korea
(Josh Rogin, Washington Post) If Hillary Clinton is elected, her national security team plans to urgently address the growing North Korean nuclear and missile threat. That would surely raise tensions on the Korean peninsula — and it could also lead to an early and acrimonious confrontation between a Clinton administration and the Chinese government of Xi Jinping.
 
    Not So Divided After All on Foreign Policy
(New York Times) Now comes new data suggesting that on foreign policy, at least, there is more consensus among voters than is normally thought. It offers some hope that Hillary Clinton, if she is the next president, could rally a majority of the nation around a common agenda. All bets are off if Donald Trump wins.
 
    Calm down. We'll be fine no matter who wins.
(Kathleen Parker, Washington Post) Never before has this country been so divided, goes the usual chorus of pundits and commentators. Except, that is, for every other election year since voting began.
 
    I'm a Muslim Navy Veteran Who Saw What Happened When the Ayatollahs Took Over Iran. What's Happening in America Today Terrifies Me
(Nate Terani, Mother Jones) What I witnessed during that year in Iran changed the course of my life. In 1996, at age 19, wanting to help preserve the blessings of liberty and freedom we enjoy in America, I enlisted in the US Navy. Now, with the rise of Donald Trump and his nationalist alt-right movement, I've come to feel that the values I sought to protect are in jeopardy.
 
    The case against international human rights law
(Dan Hannan, Washington Examiner) The ICC may not be racist — its chief prosecutor happens herself to be a Gambian, for example — but its assumptions are colonialist. What, after all, is colonialism, if not a belief that some countries are not fit to govern themselves?
 
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