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Entries in Pentagon (60)

Tuesday
Aug162011

Defense Secretary Panetta Warns Against Deeper Pentagon Cuts

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned again Tuesday that deeper cuts in the defense budget could affect national security and prove devastating to the military, leaving a hollow force unprepared to deal with global threats.  
 
Speaking at the National Defense University alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a discussion on the recent debt ceiling agreement prompted Panetta to reiterate that a choice does not have to be made between national security and fiscal responsibility.  “I want the country to know that we can get this done, but we have to do it in a way that protects our national defense and protects our national security," said Panetta.
 
Panetta said both he and Clinton recognize how important it is that  “as we go through these budget tests that we're going to go through, that the country recognize how important it is that we maintain our national security and that we be strong."
 
The debt ceiling agreement reached earlier this month calls for the Defense Department to make $350 billion in spending cuts over the next decade, which is in the ballpark for spending cuts the Pentagon had anticipated earlier this year.  What concerns Panetta the most is the potential of an automatic $500 billion cut specifically targeting Pentagon spending that would go into place if Congress cannot agree on further mandated reductions.  
 
“This kind of massive cut across the board which would literally double the number of cuts that we're confronting," he said. "That would have devastating effects on our national defense. It would have devastating effects on, certainly, the State Department."
 
A one-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, Panetta said he spoke from experience when he said that a serious review of the nation’s budget spending must include a look at mandatory entitlement spending and taxes.  “If you're serious about dealing with budget deficits, you can't just keep going back to the discretionary part of the budget," he said.    
 
He warned that an across-the-board cut would break faith with troops and their families and “literally undercut our ability to put together the kind of strong national defense we have today."
 
Panetta was asked about news reports that the Pentagon is considering a change in the military’s current retirement package, in which service members who have served 20 years in uniform receive an annual pension worth half their pay.
 
The  Defense Business Board, a DOD advisory panel, has recommended doing away with the current system in favor of a 401k retirement plan that would be collected at the typical retirement age.
 
Panetta stressed that no decisions had been made with regard to retirement payouts, but said, “it's the kind of thing you have to consider, in terms of retirement reforms in the broad form."
 
He said such reforms had to be done “in a way that doesn't break faith...with our troops and with their families” that would include grandfathering the benefits of those already serving in uniform.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug112011

Marines to Enlist Fewer Recruits, Limit Number of Reenlistments

Creatas/Thinkstock(HAVELOCK, N.C.) -- With economic hard times meaning big Pentagon budget cuts, the Marines are planning a gradual reduction of some troops from the current 202,000 to approximately 186, 000, after the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, outlined some of what the plan will entail Wednesday to soldiers at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

As force levels are pared down overseas, Amos said that the Marines will enlist fewer recruits.

In an announcement that undoubtedly upset current Marines, Amos also acknowledged that not everyone who wants to reenlist will be accepted.

Because of this policy change, the Marine commandant said that the service can only bring back the very best of current Marines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul212011

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Moves Forward

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon will announce Friday that the secretary of defense and the heads of each military branch have certified that "don’t ask, don’t tell," the military’s controversial policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces, is ready to be repealed.

The leaders of each service branch have determined that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will not harm military readiness. The move paves the way for the policy to be overturned in 60 days.

The announcement will take place in an event at the Pentagon Friday afternoon, just shortly after new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is formally sworn in.

This is one of the final steps in overturning the longstanding policy whereby service members are not allowed to admit they are gay and the military is not allowed to ask if they are. President Obama pledged to reverse the policy, but only if military leaders agreed it is the right thing to do.

Congress repealed the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law last December, but the Pentagon still had to complete the certification.

As part of an effort to reassure the military leadership, individual service members and concerned members of Congress, last year the Pentagon circulated confidential surveys to members of the military and their families asking their views on gays serving openly and what effect they believed it would have on their ability to perform their duties in battle and at home.

The results ultimately contributed to the certification that will be announced Friday.

This year the policy has also been subject to a seesaw battle in the courts, that confused commanders, recruiters and service members about whether the policy was still in place and whether service members could still be discharged under it.

The Pentagon has already begun training programs to prepare service members and their families for the change in policy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul132011

Pentagon Honors Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry was honored at the Pentagon Wednesday for the heroism that cost him his right hand but saved the lives of two of his fellow soldiers.

Petry is only the second living recipient of the nation's highest award for valor in the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.

President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Petry on Tuesday at a White House ceremony, at which he said the Army Ranger's service "speaks to the very essence of America -- the spirit that says no matter how hard the journey, no matter how steep the climb, we don't quit."

Wednesday afternoon, the Army Ranger was inducted into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes at a standing-room-only event in the Pentagon auditorium that included among its VIPs Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, attending his first public event at the Pentagon since arriving two weeks ago.

A veteran Washington insider, Panetta said it was a privilege that one of his first acts as defense secretary was to honor a great American hero.

At the ceremony, Petry said, "As you have recognized me today, I ask that you continue to pay tribute and never forget those Rangers and all other men and women of the armed services that have made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul062011

Court Rules Against DADT Even Though Pentagon Weeks from Full Repeal

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even though the Pentagon is midway through an ongoing process to repeal the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy banning openly gay men and women from the armed services, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the policy can no longer be enforced worldwide.
 
Although Congress passed legislation in December saying that the controversial policy would be repealed, the legislation specified that the repeal would only take effect once the military had certified that it was prepared for the change.
 
On Wednesday a three judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that because “circumstances and balance of hardships have changed” the need for an injunction blocking a lower court ruling that found DADT to be unconstitutional was no longer necessary.
 
The ruling is a legal victory for gay rights groups who had grown frustrated with the Obama administration’s timeline, but it probably won’t have a lot of impact because the military has said it is “weeks away” from certifying the repeal. But the ruling is something a victory for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that had grown frustrated with the time the administration was taking to certify the appeal.
 
“The court’s ruling today finds that the government especially had no basis for putting that injunction on hold so that it could continue to investigate and discharge patriotic service members merely for their sexual orientation,” said Dan Wood, an attorney for the Log Cabin Republicans. “This is a tremendous victory for the many Americans who want nothing more than to serve their country honorably and patriotically without regard to their sexual orientation, but the real winner here is our Constitution, which guarantees the rights of all Americans, gay and straight, whether serving in our armed forces or not.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Feds: Pentagon Terror Scare Man Was Building Bomb

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Yonathan Melaku, the Northern Virginia man who caused a terror scare near the Pentagon last week, has now been charged with shooting at four military sites. Authorities say the Marine Reservist videotaped himself shouting "Allahu Akbar" when he fired his gun, and they believe he also may have been building a bomb.

Federal officials said in court papers that Melaku had videotaped himself shouting "Allahu Akbar" after firing shots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia in October. The shots did almost $90,000 of damage to museum windows, say authorities. The shooting incidents at the museum, the Pentagon and two military recruiting centers occurred late at night or early in the morning between mid October and early November of last year.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, if convicted Melaku faces a minimum of 35 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.

Melaku, a 22-year-old Ethiopian native, has not been charged with any terrorism offenses, but was in possession of ammonium nitrate when arrested at Arlington National Cemetery last Friday. Federal agents say they found a typed list of bomb-making materials with the heading "timer" when they searched his home in Alexandria.

"According to an FBI bomb technician," says an FBI affidavit, "the items on this list are consistent with the requirements for a time power unit and firing mechanism of an improvised explosive device (IED). Those items, combined with Ammonium Nitrate, would in fact make up several significant components required for the manufacture of an IED."

Agents also conducted a review of Melaku's computer and found "numerous documents concerning bomb-making and explosives," according to the affidavit in the case.

At a press conference Thursday, James McJunkin, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office, declined to say how far Melaku was from making a viable bomb, but an FBI affidavit alleged that several items on the bomb-making list had been crossed off.

The FBI affidavit also says that while "driving in proximity to what appears to be the National Museum of the Marine Corps and repeatedly firing a handgun from the vehicle out of the passenger-side window….at the conclusion of multiple shots Melaku exclaimed 'Allahu Akbar' repeatedly. It appears Melaku was alone in the vehicle and that he had positioned the video camera in order to record his shooting at the Museum."

At the time of the shootings last fall, the FBI said it suspected the shooter was a disgruntled military man.

"We believe this suspect has a grievance surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps," John Perren, then the acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, said of the shooter in October 2010. "We'd like to know what this grievance is and what we can do to try to help solve it."

The military shootings began Oct. 17, 2010 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, when someone fired at least 10 bullets at the building. Two days later, six or seven shots were fired at the Pentagon, and bullets became embedded in the building's blast-proof windows. On Oct. 26, shots were fired at a Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly, Va.

The shooter struck a second time at the Marine Corps museum on Oct. 29, then hit a Coast Guard recruiting station in early November.

Melaku was arrested in the early-morning hours Friday in Arlington National Cemetery after he ran from a police officer on patrol. Police found three shell cartridges and baggies containing a substance that turned out to be ammonium nitrate in his backpack. The ammonium nitrate was determined to be inert.

Authorities feared he may have been targeting the Pentagon and the nearby Marine Iwo Jima Memorial. The resulting investigation shut down traffic around the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery for hours Friday morning, snarling morning rush hour traffic.

Melaku is still a Marine reservist, but as a result of last Friday's arrest paperwork has been filed for the Lance Corporal to be separated administratively from the service. His arrest brought to light that he was already wanted on a grand larceny charge for alleged car break-ins in Leesburg, Virginia. He is currently in custody in Loudoun County.

"Melaku was notified Tuesday at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center that he will be processed for administrative separation due to charges of serious offense," said the Marine Corps in a statement.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

Pentagon Scare Suspect Linked to DC-Area Military Shootings

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The man blamed for triggering a terror scare at the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery last Friday has been linked to a series of shootings that targeted military locations in the Washington, D.C., area last fall.

Preliminary forensic evidence appears to tie Yonathan Melaku to at least one or two of the five shootings, ABC News has learned. But the forensics, which sources say are ballistics evidence, remain incomplete.

The shootings last fall targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps twice, a Marine Corps recruiting center and a Coast Guard facility in Virginia.

At the time, the FBI said it suspected the shooter was a disgruntled military man. Melaku is a Marine reservist.

"We believe this suspect has a grievance surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps," John Perren, then the acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, said of the shooter in October 2010. "We'd like to know what this grievance is and what we can do to try to help solve it."

The military shootings began Oct. 17, 2010, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, when someone fired at least 10 bullets into the building's ceiling.

Two days later, six or seven shots were fired at the Pentagon, shattering windows.

Then, on Oct. 26, shots were fired at a Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly, Va.

The shooter struck a second time at the Marine Corps museum on Oct. 30, then hit a Coast Guard recruiting station in early November.

All the incidents occurred in the middle of the night and nobody was injured. The shots appeared to target buildings, not people, and nobody has been charged with the shootings.

Melaku, a 22-year-old Ethiopian native, was arrested in the early-morning hours Friday in Arlington National Cemetery after he ran from a police officer on patrol. Police found three shell cartridges and baggies containing a substance that appeared to be an explosive in his backpack.

Authorities feared he may have been targeting the Pentagon and the nearby Marine Iwo Jima Memorial. The resulting investigation shut down traffic around the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery for hours Friday morning, snarling morning rush-hour traffic.

Spokespeople for the FBI Washington field office and U.S. Attorney's Office said the investigation is ongoing investigation and would not comment further.

Melaku is jailed in Loudoun County, Va., on theft charges related to auto break-ins in Leesburg, Va., earlier this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun182011

Pentagon Bomb Scare: Is Suspect a Lone-Wolf Terrorist?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An international investigation is underway into whether the Marine Corps Reserve lance corporal who was arrested on Friday for carrying suspected bomb making materials near the Pentagon is simply an unstable, misguided young man, or a cold-blooded lone wolf terrorist.

"We don't know what a lone wolf, al Qaeda-inspired operative looks like. We don't know where they hang out, we don't know really what motivates them," former FBI agent Jack Cloonan said. "So when you don't know that, you've got a talent pool of people that is so huge, it stresses law enforcement. We just don't know what they look like and what they want to do."

The United States was lucky in this incident, because police were able to arrest the man in question, Ethiopian-American Yonathan Melaku, 22, who was recently charged with breaking into 27 cars in suburban Washington.

FBI investigators have been dissecting Melaku's life since his arrest, but as of yet have found no links to terrorist organizations, although he was carrying pro-al Qaeda literature.

But while he may have been acting alone, the recent appearance of a "hit list" on a jihadi web site that names 40 prominent figures from government, the U.S. military and the media who should be attacked, has officials concerned about people who might have no formal links to al Qaeda but still be inspired by their rhetoric.

According to a bulletin circulated by the FBI, the hit list appeared on the website Ansar al-Mujahideen after one poster highlighted Al Qaeda leader Adam Gadahn's call in a June 3 message for lone wolf attacks on American public figures and corporate institutions.

Melaku was arrested around 2 a.m. Friday, when an army policeman confronted him at Arlington Cemetery. Police say they found four zip-lock bags with a substance labeled ammonium nitrate, a key bomb-making material, in his backpack. Also inside were spent 9mm ammunition and a notebook containing the words "al qaeda," "Taliban rules," "mujahidin" and "defeated coalition forces," according to police.

Searches of Melaku's home and car turned up no explosives, and the material in Melaku's backpack tested negative as a potential explosive, sources said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Friday
Jun172011

Man with Suspicious Materials Detained Near Pentagon

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A man who was carrying suspected bomb making materials and pro-al Qaeda literature was arrested in Arlington National Cemetery early Friday morning, triggering a bomb scare that snarled Washington's morning rush hour. The FBI, however, determined that the material in his backpack was harmless.

"There was not a device and the products found are determined right now to be inert," said Brenda Heck, special agent in charge of counterterrorism for the FBI.

The material in the suspect's backpack tested negative as a potential explosive, sources said.

Sources told ABC News earlier that the backpack contained what was believed to be ammonium nitrate and spent ammunition for an automatic weapon. The material was reportedly contained in four large Ziplock-type bags.

Sources also said there were pro-al Qaeda statements found in a notebook that contained mostly notes for a financial class. There was also was a page containing words "al qaeda," "Taliban rules," "mujahidin" and "defeated coalition forces."

Two separate law enforcement sources told ABC News that law enforcement identified the suspect as Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va. U.S. Park Police said no charges have been filed against him yet.

Melaku is a naturalized citizen and lance corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve, 4th engineer batallion out of the Baltimore, Md.

Sources say they haven't found any ties to a terrorist organization.

Police and the media congregated at Melaku's home in Fairfax County, Va. where two people were seen being questioned by authorities and FBI agents. The FBI and Fairfax police were seen huddling in groups and putting police tape to prevent people from entering the area. They went into the townhouse with bomb technicians without a search warrant under the "public safety hazard" issue.

An FBI spokesman would not confirm whether the house was indeed Melaku's or his parents' residence, but did say it's connected to the suspect and there was no safety hazard.

Melaku allegedly told police in Arlington when he was captured that there were other "devices" in the area and also the location of his vehicle. But the FBI said there was no reason to believe other individuals were involved and they believe the suspect acted alone.

Police were investigating a vehicle, a red 2011 Nissan, that contained materials authorities were examining to determine if it was a bomb or other weapon. The material was reportedly neutralized, according to law enforcement spokesmen at the scene.

Park Police Sgt. David Scholsser said in a news conference the man was found at about 1:30 a.m. in the Arlington National Cemetery, located near the Pentagon. He was first caught by the Ft. Myers police but then ran into adjacent Arlington National Cemetery, where he was apprehended by the military. When questioned, Melaku was uncooperative but then took the police to his car.

Melaku was arrested last month for smashing windows and stealing valuables from 27 cars in Leesburg, Va. He was charged with four counts of grand larceny although the police did not find any discernible ideological motive.

A man by the same name and birth month was also arrested in Fairfax County for reckless driving and failure to stop. He pleaded guilty and paid a $200 fine for the former charge and $30 for the second charge.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun172011

Suspicious Vehicle Found Near Pentagon

Leesburg Police Department   (ARLINGTON, Va.) -- One suspect was taken into custody Friday morning as authorities investigated a suspicious vehicle found near the Pentagon, ABC News has learned.

Federal officials detained the man -- identified by two separate law enforcement sources as Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Virginia -- in Arlington National Cemetery.  He was carrying a backpack that contained ammonium nitrate and ammunition for an automatic weapon.  The bag also contained written material that referenced al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The FBI, however, determined that the material in his backpack was harmless.

"There was not a device and the products found are determined right now to be inert," said Brenda Heck, a special agent in charge of counterterrorism for the FBI.

Melaku allegedly told police that there were other "devices" in the area and also mentioned the location of a vehicle.

The vehicle in question -- a red 2011 Nissan -- was parked off the roadway on Washington Boulevard.  Authorities were examining it to determine if it contained a bomb or other weapon of mass destruction, but early reports are it didn't appear to be a "workable" bomb.  According to a law enforcement spokesman at the scene, authorities neutralized the suspicious device as a precaution.

Several roads in the vicinity were closed off by authorities as a result.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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