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Entries in Pentagon (60)

Thursday
Feb212013

Pentagon Plans Furloughs of Nearly Entire Civilian Workforce

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Deep automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1 will greatly affect the Pentagon's civilian workforce, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.

Appearing at a briefing with Pentagon Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale, Panetta said that virtually all of the department's 800,000 civilian employees will be furloughed starting in late April if sequester goes through in just over a week.

Panetta has been leading the charge against the first in the series of spending cuts to pare down the deficit, saying they will drastically undermine the effectiveness of the nation's security.

Hale was quick to add that the civilians would not be laid off, at least not during this fiscal year ending Sept. 30.  However, he could not promise that the layoffs known as reductions in force (RIFs) won't take place after then if the sequester is allowed to continue without congressional action to stop it.

As of now, the plan is to furlough civilian employees at least one day a week beginning in late April -- a reduction in payroll of about $5 billion.  In all, the Pentagon faces $46 billion in spending reductions by Sept. 30.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov282012

Female Servicewomen Sue Pentagon over Combat Policy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Pentagon on behalf of four women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan but feel stifled "by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

Specifically, the servicewomen argue that the Defense Department's combat exclusion policy prevents them from achieving the same leadership roles as men.

In one instance, according to the ACLU, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, was shot down while rescuing three injured soldiers in Afghanistan and was forced to exchange fire with the enemy.

Although Hegar was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, she maintains she was kept from seeking other responsibilities due to the Pentagon's policy against women in ground combat.

Meanwhile, two of the plaintiffs led Marine Corps "female engagement teams" in Afghanistan and the fourth plaintiff, while in the Army, was sent on similar missions, accompanying combat troops in Afghanistan.

However, the ACLU says because the missions were temporary duties, they were not officially recognized by their services.

According to the ACLU, women make up 14 percent of the armed forces, with 1.4 million now actively serving.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep042012

Pentagon: SEAL's Bin Laden Book Reveals Classified Intel

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Top Pentagon officials said Tuesday that a controversial firsthand account of the nighttime raid that killed Osama bin Laden written by a former U.S. Navy SEAL reveals classified information and could endanger other special operations servicemen.

The book, No Easy Day, was written by an ex-SEAL Team Six member under the pseudonym Mark Owen and is the first to detail the last violent moments of the al Qaeda leader's life. It went on sale Tuesday.

While the Pentagon's assessment of Owen's book continues, Department of Defense Press Secretary George Little told reporters the department "believe[s] that sensitive and classified information is contained in the book" and called its publication without review the "height of irresponsibility."

Little declined to provide specifics about what classified information is revealed, but said the book raised "serious concerns" and represented a "material breach of nondisclosure agreements that were signed by the author of this book."

"This is a solemn obligation," said Little. "And the author in this case elected not to abide by his legal obligations. And that's disheartening and, frankly, is something that we're taking a very close look at."

The Pentagon sent Owen a letter Thursday saying the government was considering legal action against him, and Little said Tuesday those options are still being reviewed.

Owen's attorney said in his own letter to the Pentagon Friday that agreements signed by Owen in 2007 did not require him to present any materials for pre-publication review and said the book did not reveal any sensitive information. The book's publisher, Dutton, has also said that it had been vetted by a former special operations attorney before publication, even if it was not vetted by officials at the Department of Defense, the White House or the CIA.

Meanwhile, in an internal message to his command entitled "The Cost of Disclosure," Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, who heads Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW), criticized SEALs whom he said had violated the command's ethos.

"We do NOT advertise the nature of our work, NOR do we seek recognition for our actions," Pybus wrote to his command in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.

"I am disappointed, embarrassed and concerned," writes Prybus. "Today, we find former SEALs headlining positions in a Presidential campaign; hawking details about a mission against Enemy Number 1; and generally selling other aspects of NSW training and operations."

Aside from hurting NSW's reputation and security, Pybus said "the security of our Force and Families is also put at risk by the release of sensitive information" and said enemies can gather information and NSW details that "expose us to unnecessary danger."

No Easy Day, written with journalist co-author Kevin Maurer, takes readers inside bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the night of the May 2011 raid. At times, Owen's account differs from the "official" version given by the White House, especially when it comes to the moment of bin Laden's death.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters days after the operation that though bin Laden was unarmed, he had "resisted" before he was shot. By Owen's account, another SEAL shot the terror leader as his head was poking out a doorway, apparently before he could have made any moves to resist.

Little said blocking the book's release Tuesday was not really an option available to the Pentagon given how copies had already gotten out into the public domain. He also said no effort will be made to block its sale at military installations.

"It is not our typical practice to get into the business of deciding what and what does not go on bookshelves in military exchanges. But that doesn't mean in any way, shape or form that we don't have serious concerns about the fact that this process of pre-publication review was not followed," he said.

Maurer said that after spending months with Owen writing the book, he was convinced Owen did not write the book out of vanity, but to "share a story about the incredible men and women defending America all over the world."

Dutton, the book's publisher, said in the book's announcement that a majority of the proceeds will go to the families of fallen SEALs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug302012

Pentagon Threatens Ex-SEAL over Osama bin Laden Raid Book

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon has determined the former Navy SEAL who has authored a book about his role in the Osama bin Laden raid is in "material breach" of non-disclosure agreements and warned him it is considering legal action against him as a result.

It added that it is considering legal action against all those "acting in concert" with the SEAL on his book, No Easy Day, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday.

A letter by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson informed the former SEAL that he had violated non-disclosure agreements against releasing classified information.

"In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed," wrote Johnson. "Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements."

Johnson said the department is considering pursuing "all remedies legally available to us."

The letter was addressed to the author's pseudonym, "Mark Owen," because the Pentagon will not publicly reveal the SEAL's real name.

The letter noted that, in January 2007, "Owen" signed two non-disclosure agreements with the Navy, and though he is no longer in the military, "you have a continuing obligation to 'never divulge' classified information."

Furthermore, the letter added, "this commitment remains in force even after you left the active duty Navy."

Johnson noted that in signing the agreements the SEAL "acknowledged your awareness that disclosure of classified information constitutes a violation of federal criminal law. It also meant he would submit any manuscript to the Pentagon for a security review, as well as obtain permission."

Interest in the unreleased book has led to a surge in pre-orders and the book's publisher, Dutton, has boosted the number of books to be published.

Though the former SEAL said he will donate a majority of the book's profits to charities that help the families of fallen SEALs, the letter suggested that all of the book's royalties belong to the U.S. government.

In signing his non-disclosure agreements, the former SEAL acknowledged he "assigned to the U.S. government ... 'all royalties, remunerations, and emoluments that have resulted, will result or may result from a disclosure, publication or revelation of classified information not consistent with the terms of this agreement,'" the letter added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul262012

Pentagon Launches Website to Stop Bogus Medal Winners

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Unscrupulous people will be less inclined to fake medals won in the military because of a new website launched by the Pentagon on Wednesday.

The White House and Congress were taken aback after a recent Supreme Court ruling that tossed out the Stolen Valor Act.  While admitting that pretending to be a military hero is reprehensible, the judges maintained that it's protected free speech and fakers should not be subject to fines or jail time.

But according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, "One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty."

Therefore, the new site will list only those who have legitimately won special honors for displaying valor while in armed forces.

It will begin with Medal of Honor recipients and then gradually add other honors including the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy and Air Force service crosses.

That way, people who seek to fudge their resume might think twice about it if there's a list that can expose them as frauds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul252012

Pentagon 'Confident' Mystery F-22 Fighter Problem Solved

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- The military believes it has found the source of the potentially deadly oxygen problem that has plagued America's most expensive fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, for years, Pentagon spokesperson George Little said on Tuesday.

"I think we have very high confidence that we've identified the issues," Little told reporters, before announcing a long-term plan to lift strict flight restrictions imposed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the $79 billion fleet in May.  "This is a very prudent way to ensure that we, in a very careful manner, resume normal flight operations."

The mystery problem with the F-22 Raptor was the subject of an ABC News Nightline investigation, which found that since 2008, F-22 pilots have experienced unexplained symptoms of oxygen deprivation -- including confusion, sluggishness and disorientation -- while at the controls of the $420 million-a-pop jets on more than two dozen occasions.  In one instance, a pilot became so disoriented that his plane skimmed treetops before he was able to pull up and save himself.

The Air Force subjected the F-22 to intense scrutiny for years, including a nearly five-month fleet-wide grounding last year, but was unable to solve the problem.  When the grounding was lifted, the service awarded the plane's manufacturer, defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, a nearly $25 million contract in part to help identify the problem, but still no answer was found.

The source of the issue, the Pentagon now says, is believed to be a faulty valve in the high-pressure vest that is worn by the pilots at extreme altitudes -- one that Air Force officials believe is constricting the pilots' ability to breathe.

"To correct the supply issue and reduce the incidence of hypoxia-like events, the Air Force has made two changes to the aircraft's cockpit life support system," Little said.  "First, the Air Force will replace a valve in the upper pressure garment vest worn by pilots during high-altitude missions.  The valve was causing the vest to inflate and remain inflated under conditions where it was not designed to do so, thereby causing breathing problems for some pilots... Second, the Air Force has increased the volume of air flowing to pilots by removing a filter that was installed to determine whether there were any contaminants present in the oxygen system.  Oxygen contamination was ruled out."

The Air Force first ordered its pilots to stop wearing the vests last month, but Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Tadd Scholtis told ABC News at the time that while the vests were believed to have contributed to the problem, they were "not believed to be the root cause of the prior incidents."

When asked by a reporter if the new solution could also account for the at least five instances in which the Air Force said ground crews working on the F-22s experienced their own hypoxia-like symptoms, Little said he "did not have specifics" on those incidents.

Still, Gen. Charles Lyon, the head of the team investigating the F-22 problem, made his case in the Pentagon against the so-called G-suit and its valve over the past few days, an Air Force official told ABC News, and Little said that on Friday Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and other top Air Force officials presented the Air Force analysis to Panetta.

"After receiving assurances that these corrective measures would minimize hypoxia-like events in the F-22, the secretary approved the Air Force planned sequence of actions to remove flight restrictions over time," Little said.

The process started on Tuesday, he said, with an order from the Air Force for a squadron of F-22s to be deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan.  The planes will fly there at altitudes that will not require pilots to wear the vests.

The Air Force is still in the process of installing an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system to the planes but that process is not expected to be completed until next spring.

Despite costing an estimated $79 billion, no jet in the entire F-22 fleet -- some 185 planes -- has ever seen combat.  From Iraq to Afghanistan to the no-fly zone over Libya, the Air Force said the planes simply weren't necessary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun262012

Gay Military Members Honored in First-Ever Pentagon Ceremony

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time ever, the Defense Department held a ceremony honoring homosexual and transgender service members in honor of Gay Pride Month at the Pentagon.

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta each sent a taped video message for the standing-room only event.

“Before the repeal of Don’t ask Don’t Tell you faithfully served  your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself,” said Panetta. “And now after repeal you can be proud of serving your country and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the law that required gay men and women members of the military to hide their sexual orientation, was repealed more than a year ago. The Defense Department did an extensive study before the appeal was implemented to try and gauge the potential impacts of the law’s repeal on morale.

Tuesday’s program featured a panel discussion with a small group of gay servicemen and women who said that they were surprised most of their colleagues haven’t treated them any differently in the last year.  The biggest change, the panel said, has been how they feel about themselves now that they no longer have to choose between serving their country and being themselves.

“The president hosted a reception at his house, you know the white one,” Marine Captain Matthew Phelps said jokingly before reflecting on what that invitation meant. "And I thought, 'how amazing is it over the course of a year that I could go from being fired for being who I am to having champagne with the commander-in-chief.'”

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top attorney who was one of the officials in charge of conducting the DADT survey, said that many service members, particularly of the younger generation, didn’t understand the controversy with homosexuality in the military in the first place.

Johnson said one soldier told him, “We have a gay guy, he’s big, he’s mean and he kills lots of bad guys. We don’t care that he’s gay.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun142012

The Cupcake Tank Is the Draw at Pentagon Ceremony

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Talk about a show stealer.  The Army’s top brass were on hand in the Pentagon’s courtyard Thursday to celebrate the Army’s 237th birthday with the traditional cake-cutting ceremony, but all eyes were trained on the cupcake tank.

A special 2,500 pound mock-up of an Abrams M1-A1 tank made from 5,000 camouflage colored cupcakes and equipped with a working air cannon capable of firing what else?  A cupcake, of course.

The tank was made by the staff of Georgetown Cupcake, the popular Washington, D.C. cupcake store featured on the TLC show D.C. Cupcakes.  The store’s owners, sisters Sophie Lamontagne and Katherine Kallinis came up with the idea and donated the $9,800 cost of the cupcakes.

For the past two holiday seasons the sisters have donated 10,000 cupcakes to American troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lamontagne told ABC News,"with the Army’s birthday coming up we definitely were honored to be a part of it and we thought what better emblem for the Army than a tank made of cupcakes.”  She added, “it was so much fun, it added something a little extra special to the ceremony.”

The cupcake tank  looked like the real deal, the  5,000 cupcakes were covered in 200 pounds of camouflage fondant.  As the ceremony continued some of it began to melt and drip in the morning sun.

When it came time to fire the cannon a PA announcer asked, “Ladies the tank looks great, but tell us can it shoot?”

“Absolutely!” shouted the sisters in unison.

A few seconds later a loud pop was heard and a cupcake ensconced in a red Solo drinking cup was launched 20 feet in the air before plopping on the Pentagon Courtyard.

And the tank is capable of fitting a four star general in its turret, that would be Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A loud cheer went up from the crowd of Pentagon employees and service members gathered for the festivities.

After the ceremony, Gen. Dempsey, climbed into the cupcake tank and popped his head out of the turret.  The one-time Armored officer waved to the crowd and drew a big cheer.

He later joked during a broadcast interview, “Tanks and cupcakes don’t belong in the same sentence even in the Army.”

Though the cupcakes on the tank were edible,  the Pentagon workers and service members on hand for Thursday’s ceremony were able to eat from 1,500 “Army Seal” cupcakes.   Flavors included salted caramel, red velvet, peanut butter fudge, lava fudge, and vanilla buttercream.

Within 15 minutes the cupcakes and the cake were gone, but the cupcake tank was still the main draw.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

Pentagon Faces New Enemy: 10,000 Honey Bees?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- There were chuckles all around the Pentagon Wednesday as an alert notice appeared on computers warning building employees a swarm of bees had parked themselves outside an entrance to the building. The swarm of about 10,000 European honey bees landed on the branch of a small tree just outside the Pentagon's Mall Entrance.

By coincidence, a short time later a fire alarm led to the evacuation of a portion of the building. On the way out of the building a Pentagon employee was overheard saying, “I wonder if it’s the swarm of bees?”

Turns out, the two events were not connected, but they piqued journalists' interest in the “hive” of activity at the entrance.

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A short time later, another building notification told building employees that bee specialists had been called in to deal with the bee swarm at that entrance.

Some amateur beekeepers who work at the Pentagon and who, after seeing the internal alerts had shown up to assist the local beekeeper, called to resolve the situation. The beekeeper cut off a portion of the branch and placed it in a cardboard box with the expectation that most would follow their queen bee into the box.

Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Bucher was one of the amateur beekeepers who had arrived to help.  With the bees safely in the box, he planned to take them home and share them with fellow bee enthusiasts.

“Now that we have the hive," Bucher said, “I’m in touch with others in the area who would really jump at the opportunity to incorporate it in their home.

“I’m going to take this hive home with me and then put the word out to someone who can hopefully give them a good home,” he said.

Bucher explained that the swarm of bees had likely split off from another hive and followed a new queen bee to look for a new home.  He said that typically a mature hive would have between 30,000 to 50,000 bees so the Pentagon swarm might have numbered 10,000.

He estimated that the bees who’d landed on the tree “had stopped to rest” there as they were looking for a new home.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May082012

Secret Service Scandal: ‘Significant Gaps’ in Pentagon’s Handling?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After receiving a briefing Tuesday from Department of Defense officials on their investigation into alleged misconduct by Secret Service and military personnel in Colombia, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., says there were “significant gaps” in the Pentagon chain of command in handling the incident. Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The investigation has found gaps, some significant gaps, that existed in a number of ways,” Sen. Carl Levin said, ticking through the gaps as follows:

1. There was a failure to notify the chain of command of the assignment of certain personnel in their chain of command to Colombia.

2. There was a failure to notify the chain of command promptly of the events that took place in Colombia, including the decision to keep suspected people there. The Secret Service people were immediately sent back to the U.S., but the Department of Defense personnel who were suspected of misconduct were not.

3. The decision to keep those suspected personnel on the mission was made without the input of the higher-ups on the chain of command.

Levin said that the defense officials assured the senators Tuesday that the gaps would be “corrected.”

Levin was briefed along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking Republican on the committee, for over an hour by DOD officials on the status of their investigation into the incident.

The senators said the investigation is “basically complete.” They said that the Pentagon’s Southern Command, which oversees operations in South America, should be releasing a statement soon with its report and recommendations as to whether or not there should be charges of misconduct against the 12 members of the military involved in the scandal.

The senators said the investigation also shows that “to date there is no evidence of additional risk to the security of the president or the presidential party or to the summit,” Levin said.

McCain added that there were “no classified information or weapons” in the hotel in Cartagena, Colombia where the case began.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio