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Nov 28, 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. If Trump wants to impress the military, he'll order a decent pay raise
(Military Times) Active-duty military personnel see improving their pay and benefits, transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs and strengthening ties with U.S. allies as the top national security priorities for President-elect Donald Trump, according to the latest poll by Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Military and Veterans Families.
    2. Report: Fix VA benefits by making troops buy their own health insurance
(Military Times) A health policy expert at the libertarian Cato Institute is offering a radical idea to help reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and prevent future wars at the same time: Make troops and veterans pay for their own medical insurance.
    3. With One Castro Gone, Questions About What the Other Castro Will Do
(New York Times) By the time Fidel Castro died on Friday night, his brother Raúl Castro, who assumed presidential powers in 2006 before getting the official title in 2008, had transformed Cuba into a country that was unrecognizable in many ways — and yet remarkably the same.
    4. Personal data for more than 130,000 sailors was breached, Navy says
(Navy Times) The personal data of more than 130,000 sailors in a re-enlistment approval database was stolen from a contractor’s laptop, the Navy disclosed Wednesday.
    5. Donald Trump could tap this tough-talking general to secure America's borders
(Military Times) John Kelly shares many Republicans’ position on the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For three years prior to his retirement last winter, the Marine Corps general oversaw operations at the controversial detention facility where, despite President Barack Obama’s determination to close it, dozens of alleged wartime combatants and notable terror suspects remain incarcerated.
Donald Trump & the Presidency
    Trump backs off support of waterboarding
(USA Today) Continuing to peel back some of his harsher campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump is now backing off his support for the interrogation technique known as waterboarding.
    The military parade for Donald Trump has come early
(Associated Press) Two months before Inauguration Day festivities, an extraordinary number of recently retired generals are marching to the president-elect's doorstep for job interviews.
    Retired Marine generals recommended each other to Trump as Pentagon chief
(Washington Post) When President-elect Donald Trump met with two retired Marine Corps generals, they each recommended that Trump consider naming the other as secretary of defense, according to a source familiar with the generals’ talks.
    Trump Jr. holds private talks on Syria with pro-Russia figure: report
(Wall Street Journal) Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings.
    Why the Flynn-McFarland relationship could get awkward when it comes to Russia, Turkey
(Washington Examiner) K.T. McFarland, who President-elect Trump chose for his deputy national security adviser on Friday, has a history of tough talk against Russia and Turkey that could put her at odds with her soon-to-be boss, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who has been criticized for his ties to Moscow and Ankara.
    Trump pushes conspiracy theory that ‘millions’ voted illegally for Clinton
(Washington Post) President-elect Donald Trump spent Sunday ridiculing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign for joining a recount effort in Wisconsin, ending his day on Twitter by parroting a widely debunked conspiracy theory that her campaign benefited from massive voter fraud.
    Military pay raise on track for January despite budget discord in Washington
(Military Times) Congress’ planned four-month budget extension is expected to cause a host of budget headaches for Pentagon planners, but it won’t disrupt troops’ pay raise in January.
    Applicants won't have to disclose all mental health appointments on new security questionnaires
(Military Times) In an effort to avoid discouraging potential applicants from seeking mental health care, intelligence officials have updated background security clearance questionnaires to make clear that seeking professional help won’t disqualify candidates from landing a job.
    Campaign helps junior enlisted get home for the holidays
(Military Times) The Jack Daniel's Distillery is teaming with a military support group to help military service members and their families get home for the holidays.
    Pentagon holds GI Bill benefits for reservists
(Stars & Stripes) About 300 Marines who returned from a seven-month deployment to Central America last week will not get something that most of the reservists were counting on: seven months of GI Bill benefits.
    The U.S. Army Wants to Become a 'Navy-Killer'
(The National Interest) The Pentagon wants air-and-sea-based fighter jets to acquire and pass targeting information to land-based artillery and rockets - allowing for land weapons to destroy enemy ships at greater distances.
    DeCA: We’ll add private labels but sustain brand savings
(Stars & Stripes) DeCA is narrowing the number of national-brand items it sells on advice from industry experts who argue “over-assortment” creates inefficiencies in sourcing and stocking, and crimps shelf space for high-demand items, leaving popular products too often sold out.
Overseas Operations
    Concrete may just be the most important weapon in modern warfare
(Military Times) Hefty walls and reinforced barriers have become a key security component to combat threats such as improvised explosives, car bombs and other non-traditional threats in urban environments.
    Obama administration expands elite military unit’s powers to hunt foreign fighters globally
(Washington Post) The move is driven by concerns of a dispersed terrorist threat as Islamic State militants are driven from strongholds in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials said.
    Obama Expands War With Al Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia
(New York Times) The escalating American military engagement in Somalia has led the Obama administration to expand the legal scope of the war against Al Qaeda, a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump’s authority to combat thousands of Islamist fighters in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.
    One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of FBI Program
(New York Times) American and allied forces have killed the most important of roughly a dozen members of the cell, which the FBI.calls “the Legion,” as part of a secretive campaign that has largely silenced a powerful voice that led to a surge of counterterrorism activity across the United States in 2015.
    U.S. naval patrols threaten sovereignty, China think tank warns
(Bloomberg) American military vessels and aircraft carried out more than 700 patrols in the South China Sea region during 2015, making China the U.S.'s No. 1 surveillance target, according to a report by China's only state-backed institution dedicated to research of the waters. The patrols pose a threat to China's sovereignty and security interests, said the report.
    DoD releases name of service member killed Thursday in Syria
(Military Times) The Defense Department announced Friday evening the identity of the service member killed in northern Syria while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
    Syrian Troops Capture Major Aleppo Neighborhood
(Associated Press) Syrian government forces and their allies captured a major eastern Aleppo neighborhood and several smaller areas, putting much of the northern part of Aleppo's besieged rebel-held areas under government control, state media reported.
    Half a Million Children Are Trapped in Syria, United Nations Says
(New York Times) A report by Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the children were among hundreds of thousands of civilians in 16 areas under siege across the country who had been “almost completely cut off from sustained humanitarian aid and basic services.”
    Iraq gives militias official status despite abuse claims
(Washington Post) The Iraqi parliament passed a law Saturday making militia units, including ­Iranian-backed groups accused of human rights abuses, an official part of the country’s security forces.
    In Mosul campaign, reported civilian deaths in U.S. strikes climb
(Washington Post) Air and artillery strikes by the U.S.-led coalition in the Iraqi city of Mosul appear to have killed more than 80 civilians since a major operation there began last month, a watchdog group said.
    Denmark urged to clean up U.S. military waste in Greenland
(Associated Press) The 1951 deal under which NATO member Denmark allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in the former Danish province doesn't specify who's responsible for any cleanup.
    S. Koreans living in DMZ village enjoy great benefits — and high risk
(Stars & Stripes) The residents of this hamlet don’t pay taxes or perform the military service mandatory for men elsewhere. They have a competitive school and some of the best farmland in South Korea. The trade-off? They live in the Demilitarized Zone, with North Korea less than a mile away, so there’s the constant threat of invasion across the world’s most heavily fortified border.
    Army to increase special duty pay for drill sergeants, recruiters
(Army Times) Some soldiers – including drill sergeants and recruiters – will see an increase in Special Duty Assignment Pay beginning Jan. 1, the Army announced Wednesday.
    Army hospital becomes the first military center in the U.S. to perform sight-saving procedure
(Army Times) The Army's Fort Belvoir Community Hospital this week became the first military facility to perform a recently approved surgery to combat eye disease.
    West Point grad settles on 'Golden Knights' for Vegas NHL franchise
(Military Times) The NHL's newest team is named the Vegas Golden Knights.
    Your science-fiction ideas could shape the future of the Army
(Army Times) If you’ve ever wanted to be the next H.G. Wells, this is your chance.
    Virtual training environment allows forces to keep skills sharp
(C4ISRNET) The U.S. Army is revolutionizing how it trains troops through the use of virtual gaming and cloud-based technologies. Army officials describe a future where units could be trained with new skills or hone existing ones right before deployment, or in the theater of operations.
    Fort Campbell gets a new commanding general
(The Tennessean) The Department of Defense announced Maj. Gen. Andrew P. Poppas will take over as Fort Campbell's next commanding general.
    Hurricane Matthew's impact on Fort Bragg continues to linger
(Fayetteville Observer) More than a month after torrential rains destroyed Fort Bragg roads and damaged buildings, the installation is still picking up the pieces and paying the cost of repairs. Hurricane Matthew and an earlier September downpour caused more than $21 million in damage, officials said.
    World War I Commemoration will Take Fresh Look at Gen. Pershing
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Stern and tough on subordinates, Pershing was the man most responsible for the United States’ moving from a peacetime army of 220,000 to the 2 million men who, in a matter of months, were transported to France to fight.
    Is the U.S. Army Developing a Drone 'Shield'?
(The National Interest) An emerging Army weapons system attacked an approaching enemy drone target in a live-fire test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
    Virtual training environment allows forces to keep skills sharp
(C4ISRNET) The U.S. Army is revolutionizing how it trains troops through the use of virtual gaming and cloud-based technologies. Army officials describe a future where units could be trained with new skills or hone existing ones right before deployment, or in the theater of operations.
    Congrats, petty officer! Navy releases fall 2016 selection lists
(Navy Times) Over 24,000 sailors have good news to share over Thanksgiving: They earned a petty officer crow or another stripe.
    The commander of this Navy warship walked off the job
(Navy Times) The commanding officer of a dock landing ship called it quits Monday.
    How to supercharge your Navy career by going full-time support
(Navy Times) Navy officials are opening up opportunities for sailors in select ratings to switch from the regular Navy into the reserve full-time support community, providing those eligible with more career opportunities including better re-up and advancement chances.
    Did the Navy Steal Its New Warship Designs?
(Daily Beast) It’s the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy’s future fleet. And a legendary ship-designer says the idea was all his.
    The Ultimate Weapon: Submarine Aircraft Carriers
(The National Interest) By carrying and deploying a small airplane, a submarine could dramatically expand its ability to look around itself.
    Get Ready, Russia and China: America's Aircraft Carriers Will Have Stealth Fighters Next Year
(The National Interest) The Navy F-35C is the service's first-ever stealthy carrier-launched multi-role attack fighter, engineered to perform a wider range of missions than any carrier aircraft has done before.
    US Navy, Cybersecurity, and Distributed Lethality
(The Diplomat) An exclusive interview with Vice Admiral Thomas S. Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces.
    Navy to bury veteran's remains in area where submarine sank in 1963
(Associated Press) The U.S. Navy will fulfill the wish of a veteran to be buried more than 200 miles off the New England coast where a submarine sank five decades ago.
Air Force
    US Air Force Museum to Mark 75th Anniversary of Japan Raid
(Associated Press) The national U.S. Air Force museum plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders' stunning attack on Japan with the participation of the last surviving airman who flew on the historic raid in April 1942.
    KC-46 Flight Simulators To Enable Pilots, Boom Operators To Train Together
(Defense News) When KC-46 training starts at Altus Air Force Base next year, pilots and boom operators will conduct aerial refueling training together for the first time ever in linked, full-motion simulators.
Marine Corps
    Marine retraces his grandfather's World War II spy mission
(Military Times) As audiences get ready to see the World War II spy movie “Allied” starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard this holiday weekend, it is worth remembering the tale of a real-life American spy, whose feats in Nazi-occupied Norway helped forge a partnership between the U.S. and Norway that endures.
    Marine Corps gets lighter, more deployable media system
(C4ISRNET) Marine Corps public affairs officials have a new means to get breaking news out to the masses.
    Navy warship named for 1st black Marine Corps aviator
(Associated Press) A U.S. Navy destroyer warship has been named in honor of a Topeka three-star general who became the first black aviator, first black general and first black base commander in the Marine Corps.
    Osprey maintainers take pride in vital role
(Stars & Stripes) Tyler Simon spends his nights assessing risks as a day trader, and he’s pretty good at it. The Marine corporal is even better at his day job, which is all about avoiding risks.
Coast Guard
    Coast Guard helicopter makes emergency landing during rescue operation
(Honolulu Star Advertiser) The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter received an alarm about a tail gearbox malfunction while lowering a rescue swimmer onto the container ship Kachidoki Bridge about 35 miles off Oahu.
National Guard
    Former Maryland National Guard head James Fretterd dies at 86
(Associated Press) Retired Lt. Gen. James F. Fretterd, who headed the Maryland National Guard for 16 years, has died.
Defense Industry
    Airbus May Cut More Than 1,000 'White Collar' Jobs
(Defense News) Airbus is poised to lay off between 780 and more than 1,000 “white collar” staff, with high technology and communications posts to go as the aerospace and defense group pursues an announced restructuring plan, business daily Les Echos reported Wednesday.
    Thales Likely to Beat Out Airbus in Mini-Drone Tender
(Defense News) Thales, a defense electronics company, looks likely to win a closely fought tender for a miniature drone with its Spy'Ranger to replace the Airbus Drac UAV, according to weekly magazine Air & Cosmos.
    Lockheed Scores $1.3B Advance Payment for Tenth Batch of F-35s
(Defense News) The Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.3 billion advance payment for the tenth lot of F-35s, but a final deal — originally projected to occur this year — will likely not be settled until 2017, a government spokesman said.
    Israel to Acquire 17 More F-35s
(Defense News) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet unanimously approved the purchase of another 17 F-35I fighters, boosting the strength of Israel’s stealth force to 50.
    Raytheon awarded FORTRESS contract
(C4ISRNET) Raytheon has been awarded a $7.4 million Air Force contract for sensors for surveillance satellites.
    Boeing Defense CEO Weighs Spending More Time in DC
(DefenseOne) Leanne Caret, the president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, is thinking about spending more time in Washington, D.C., to increase her face time with federal decision makers.
    Leidos awarded more work for robot warship
(C4ISRNET) Leidos has been awarded an $8.5 million contract modification to continue work on a Navy robot warship.
    Elbit unveils anti-drone system
(C4ISRNET) Elbit Systems EW and SIGINT Elisra has unveiled a new anti-drone system.
    French Defense Ministry Considering a Small Company Investment Fund
(Defense News) Defense ministry officials are in talks with the finance ministry to set up a government investment fund of “several million euros” to invest in small high technology companies, which carry a national sovereignty interest, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday.
    Pentagon Advances $1.3 Billion to Lockheed for Biggest F-35 Job
(Bloomberg) Lockheed Martin Corp. received a $1.28 billion Pentagon down payment to continue production of the F-35 jet while negotiations continue on a contract valued as much as $7.19 billion for 90 aircraft, the biggest order yet.
    Interview: William J. Lynn III, Chairman and CEO of DRS Technologies
(Defense News) Leonardo has credited Lynn and his team for a dramatic turnaround that is leading DRS Technologies toward its second straight year of growth.
    Iraq War veteran receives gift that evokes memories of fallen comrade and snowboarding buddy
(Colorado Springs Gazette) A heart-wrenching story has turned heartwarming, and an Iraq War veteran who says he was wrongfully evicted now says he couldn't be more grateful for everyone who had a hand in the unexpected about-face.
    Ohio Marine paralyzed in 2005 blast dies after defying odds
(Cleveland Plain Dealer) Marine Sgt. Shurvon Phillip was the 49th member of a battalion based in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park to die from wounds incurred during a tough tour of Iraq, where the Third Battalion, 25th Regiment, Fourth Marine Division fought 900 to 1,200 strong.
Congress & Politics
    Family of Fort Hood soldier who went missing wants 'Warrior Alert' law
(KECN) The family of a Fort Hood soldier who was missing for more than three weeks before he was found dead on post wants a version of the Amber Alert law, called a "Warrior Alert," when soldiers go missing.
    Trump's Promised Defense Buildup and Congress: Who Will Blink First?
(Defense News) For President-elect Donald Trump to make good on a multibillion-dollar campaign promise to expand the military with more ships, jets and troops, something has got to give.
Cyber, Space & Surveillance
    European Commission Hit By 'Large-Scale' Cyberattack
(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) The European Union's executive body says it was hit by a "large-scale" cyberattack that reportedly disabled its access to the Internet for several hours.
    DARPA envisions 100G infrastructure for improved data delivery
(C4ISRNET) Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency say they are making headway on efforts to develop a much more robust wireless communications backbone.
International Affairs
    Intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea, Japan takes effect
(Associated Press) An intelligence-sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan took effect Wednesday after the countries signed the pact to better monitor North Korea, Seoul officials said.
    Israel to Acquire 17 More F-35s
(Defense News) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet on Sunday evening unanimously approved the purchase of another 17 F-35I fighters, boosting the strength of Israel’s stealth force to 50.
    Philippines and U.S. to cut back on joint exercises next year
(Associated Press) The Philippine armed forces chief said Wednesday that five military exercises with the United States, including at least two major naval drills, will be scrapped next year at the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte.
    Purchase of Chinese Subs by Bangladesh 'An Act of Provocation' Toward India
(Defense News) Ever since Bangladesh took delivery of Chinese submarines on Nov. 14, analysts in India have expressed increasing concern over a deepening of China's footprint in India's friendly neighbor.
    Pakistan to get new army chief in rare peaceful exchange of power
(Washington Post) For the first time in 20 years, the most powerful official in Pakistan — a U.S. Cold War and anti-terrorism ally in which generals have often interfered in civilian rule — is keeping his pledge to retire on time and turn over his job to a successor chosen by the prime minister.
    Finland's defense minister urges caution on Baltic Sea
(Associated Press) Finland's defense minister said he doesn't see the recent deployment of Russian missiles in the Baltic Sea region as a direct threat, but warned Wednesday that a negative spiral of actions and counter-actions could cause "something to happen, even if only accidentally."
    Russia Opens Criminal Case Against Ukrainian Military Commanders
(Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) A spokeswoman told journalists that prosecutors have uncovered "previously unknown incidents" of artillery strikes on civilians by Ukrainian military forces.
    Russian carrier jets flying from Syria, not Kuznetsov
(IHS Jane’s 360) Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery shows.
    Burma Is Pursuing ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims, U.N. Official Says
(Time) Burmese authorities are carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country’s western Arakan state, a senior U.N. official said, as the military continues to sweep the area for what it has labeled Islamic militants.
    Israel arrests at least 12 on suspicion of arson in connection with massive fires
(Washington Post) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was dealing with a new form of attack, pyro-terrorism.
    Israel Defense Forces Kill 4 ISIS-Linked Attackers in Golan Heights
(New York Times) The confrontation appeared to be the first of its kind between Israel and Islamic State-affiliated forces based in Syria. It was not immediately clear if the militants’ attack had been spontaneous or if it signaled a possible change of policy by extremist groups.
    France claims Islamic State links to ‘imminent’ terror plot uncovered
(Washington Post) The latest details, made public by a senior prosecutor, draw alleged links to the Islamic State and a core network of suspects — four French citizens who were longtime friends.
    Iran considers naval bases in Yemen, Syria
(Associated Press) Iran is helping Shiite rebels in Yemen and the Syrian government in their fights against the Islamic State extremist group.
Commentary & Analysis
    I love Mattis, but I don't love him as SECDEF
(Erin Simpson in War On The Rocks) He is Chaos, Mad Dog, and the warrior monk. But we should not add secretary of defense to that list.
    Trump’s Defense Increase Might Not Equal a Better Military
(USNI News) The bigger-equals-better approach seems to rest on the belief that such extraordinary military power offers a guarantee of national security. History says otherwise.
    Canada's F-35 participation deserves scrutiny
(Flightglobal) Canada’s crazily protracted process to acquire a new fighter has been the subject of another unexpected plot twist, with its defence minister announcing a plan to order an interim batch of 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
    The Dilemma of Defense Innovation and Adaptation
(Rod Korba in Small Wars Journal) Military regulation and creativity are strange bedfellows. Regimentation and discipline do not engender innovative thinking. But if the Department of Defense desires to become an adaptive enterprise, we have to acknowledge how innovations succeed and fail within military systems, and improve upon our record.
    How Trump Won the Troops
(J.D. Vance in the New York Times) Military service is especially common among the working- and middle-class voters who form the core of the Republican Party.
    Forget About Too Big To Fail, America's Military Has Become Too Small To Succeed
(Dan Goure in The National Interest) Once upon a time, the U.S. had a large military that was technologically superior to its adversaries in many, even most, areas. Today, the U.S. military is a pale shadow of its former self.
    How Much of an Advantage Is China's Aircraft Carrier?
(Shang-su Wu in The Diplomat) China’s newly operational aircraft carrier could be a useful yardstick for regional countries to develop their air forces.
    USN: to grow bigger, build smaller
(The Strategist) Like any Navy, the USN will always want more hulls in the water, because it most values command at sea and (as a bonus) because it will be able to do more.
    This Tiny Sliver of Russian Territory (and Its Weapons) Is What NATO Fears Most
(Robert Farley in The National Interest) The Russian government has taken to publicly highlighting the deployment of some of its most lethal military systems to Kaliningrad. Intended to defend the enclave, these systems could also represent a critical offensive threat to the heart of the NATO alliance.
    Four Ways Donald Trump Can Deter Beijing in the South China Sea
(Harry J. Kazianis in RealClear Defense) Among all of the China-related problems Trump will need to deal with, a certain body of water will test the skills of his new diplomats and strategists more than anything else: the South China Sea.
    Colombia's Peace Puzzle
(Stephen Johnson in The National Interest) The government and its critics will have to work quickly to achieve a broader consensus before a durable peace gets overtaken by events.
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