Paychecks uncertain, Panetta tells military 'come to work' Monday

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta broke his silence on the debt-ceiling debate that threatens the government’s ability to write paychecks to troops next week by reminding the entire Defense Department to show up for duty next week.

“Department of Defense personnel should plan to come to work next week, as scheduled, at their normal place and time,” Panetta said, in a message to the troops released late Friday.

Kangaroo Express raises more than $1 million for troops

WASHINGTON -- Kangaroo Express, a convenience store chain in the southeast United States, has surpassed its goal of raising $1 million for charities that help troops.

The chain has increased its goal to $1.5 million by Labor Day, said John Fisher, vice president of marketing for Kangaroo Express. Donations from customers will go the National Guard, the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Touch screen air-to-air combat?

WASHINGTON – The “baby-milk factory” didn’t stand a chance. Slide a cursor here, click a button there, squeeze the trigger in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet over Southern California and, a few seconds later, boom goes the dynamite.

Everyone knows fighter jets are cool. That’s why two Stars and Stripes reporters agreed to abandon their posts deep in the freezing bowels of the Pentagon during the scary debt-ceiling crisis, walk out to the blazingly hot parking lot and into a sleek tractor-trailer that looked like the one you drive your car into when you’re playing “Spy Hunter” -- all to fly an actual fighter simulator. Unfortunately, it turns out that arcade video games from the 1980s are way more fun than simulated reality.

McCain to Navy: Get shipshape or face severe cuts

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned Thursday that the Navy could see the most severe budget cuts of all the services, especially if it doesn’t get its act together on two major weapons systems that Congress has put under hot lamps: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship.

“The Navy,” McCain said, “…could be the service that’s most adversely affected.”

Helicopter aviators overwhelmingly report back, neck pain from flying

WASHINGTON -- Fully 85 percent of military aviators and crewmembers who responded to a Pentagon-funded survey earlier this year reported that they experience discomfort or pain while flying in helicopters, according to data released this week.

The anonymous survey of 8,000 servicemembers also found that as many as 60 percent of aviators avoid getting medical help because they fear that doing so will lead to losing their flight qualification status.

Do tell: Pentagon's most senior openly gay official talks about DADT personal victory

WASHINGTON — With “don’t ask, don’t tell” about to become history, the senior-most openly gay official in the Pentagon lets out a big sigh of relief in a revealing interview with the popular alternative newspaper the Washington Blade.

At an outreach visit to Fort Hood, Texas, Doug Wilson said he asked a group of tank operators who work in one of the closest quarters possible in the military what they would do if one of them declared they were gay.

Pentagon says Chinese shadowing U-2 plane ‘not unusual’

WASHINGTON – In what is shaping up to be the first test of a pledge by American and Chinese military leaders to keep communication lines open and stop retaliating for defense operations, the Pentagon is trying to tamp down alarms sounding over reports that China recently scrambled fighter planes to intercept a U-2 reconnaissance plane near Taiwan.

“We fly reconnaissance missions in international space routinely, and it is not unusual that the [People’s Republic of China] scrambles fighters,” Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said Wednesday. “There was no danger involved in this particular incident.”

The Afghanistan you don’t see: Film lifts wedding veil on Afghan justice

WASHINGTON – In the “What are we fighting for?” category, a new film offers a new entry bound to baffle the minds of many Americans. Imagine a place where a 17-year old girl receives a three-year prison sentence for premarital sex with a boy she loves, and where another woman cleverly admits to breaking religious laws to force her boyfriend into marriage, because it is her only hope of survival.

This is Afghanistan.

LTG Jacoby tapped for NORTHCOM and NORAD

WASHINGTON -- Lt. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Jacoby, the well-liked former top deputy to Iraq War commander Gen. Ray Odierno, has been nominated to receive his fourth star and take command of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

A Senate hearing schedule announcement emailed to reporters Tuesday apparently has scooped the White House and Pentagon in revealing that Jacoby was nominated Monday to replace Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld, Jr., who is awaiting confirmation to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey: Debt not biggest national security threat

WASHINGTON – Before he even has the job, Gen. Martin Dempsey, awaiting confirmation to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected one of Adm. Mike Mullen’s most repeated talking points when he said the national debt was not the No. 1 threat to national security.

“I wouldn’t describe our economic condition as the single biggest threat to national security,” Dempsey wrote in his answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There are a lot of clear and present threats to our security in the current operational environment."

GAO: Who's in charge of the cyber thing?

Between the various services and different offices at the Pentagon, everyone wants a piece of the cyber pie, resulting in a computer network defense posture hampered by too much decentralization, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday.

Despite the publication earlier this month of an overarching DOD cyber operations strategy, there’s still no comprehensive department-wide assessment of cyber capabilities and cyber gaps, the report said.

Did you join the military because of 9/11? If so, Stars and Stripes wants to share your story

Did you join the military because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?

If so, Stars and Stripes wants to hear your story as we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Don’t believe the cyberhype? Neither do they.

WASHINGTON – There is cyberwar going on over cyberhype.

After years of government warnings about a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” some people took one look at the Defense Department’s cyberstrategy released this month and began dismissing the cyberhype as useless, vague and misdirected.

Obama to address nation Monday night

UPDATED: 12:10 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama addressed the nation on primetime television Monday night on the budget stalemate. 

Pentagon plays defense in new cyber website

The Pentagon on Monday launched a website devoted to the department’s recent five-point cyber-defense strategy, while remaining largely mum on the far-sexier topic of cyber offense.

The site links to DOD documents and news stories that illuminate points of the strategy to help America “Employ New Defense Operating Concepts” and “Leverage Talent and Innovation” in fighting widespread intrusion and exploitation of U.S. government networks and those of private Pentagon contractors.

RIP, TroopTube

WASHINGTON – Defense Department officials envisioned TroopTube as a safe, military-friendly alternative to those other scary, public video websites. But three years later, the site will soon be no more.

In a statement, military officials said the goal of the site was to “enable families and troops to connect through sharing videos during deployments,” but the site became obsolete last year when the Pentagon updated its internet use policies.

Nation’s capital still in terrorist crosshairs after 10 years

WASHINGTON – While the world digests Oslo’s homegrown terrorist attack and the Pentagon spreads its anti-terrorism focus far from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, commuters back in Washington (weaving slowly through endless post-9/11 jersey barriers and expanded downtown checkpoints) are reminded during the morning drive this week that their city remains Target No. 1.

“Whether it's radicalized jihadists or deranged fundamentalists, the National Capital region remains a key target,” reports J.J. Green, in the first day of a weeklong radio series on Washington’s popular news radio fixture, WTOP-FM.  

Tougher tone, but Pentagon’s Pakistan strategy remains: Ask and wait

UPDATED JULY 26, 1:09 P.M.

WASHINGTON – In a little-noticed vote Thursday, a House committee defeated an amendment that would have halted all U.S. aid to Pakistan. It is just the latest reflection of Washington’s steadily growing impatience with Pakistan since the Osama bin Laden raid. But for U.S. military leaders who believe Pakistan is “critical” to defeating extremist threats from the region the message remains clear: There is little to do but press for Pakistan’s help, and wait.

Updates on the Oslo bombing



Republican Senator: Bring the troops home…from Europe

WASHINGTON – As Washington roils in economic debates over the federal government’s fiscal solvency, a senior Republican senator is continuing his call on the Pentagon to bring more troops home from Europe, and telling the continent to start manning its own posts and footing a greater share of defense costs.

“I think it’s time for us to have a serious heart to heart with the Europeans,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Back-to-back firings: Another Navy officer relieved, 15 and counting

WASHINGTON — For the second day in a row the Navy has relieved a commanding officer from duty for bad conduct, raising the year’s total casualty list to 15 fired officers.

Cmdr. Jason Strength, the CO of Navy Recruiting District Nashville, was relieved on Wednesday for “loss of confidence” in his command abilities for “unprofessional” behavior both in uniform on duty and in the presence of subordinates while out of uniform, according to Navy Recruiting Command.

U.S. has lost sight of cash from $70 billion sent to Afghanistan: Inspector General

WASHINGTON – It may come as little surprise that the U.S. cannot track all of the cash it has infused into Afghanistan after nearly 10 years of war and $70 billion in security and development projects.  But a blistering audit released Wednesday found that untold amounts of American taxpayer dollars are vulnerable to winding up in the pockets of insurgents, and blames both countries for a dysfunctional tracking system.

How bad is it? Afghan President Hamid Karzai has barred U.S. government advisers from the Afghan central bank, according to Treasury officials who called the bank a “hostile” environment. Nobody is writing down the serial numbers of the cash flying through customs at Kabul International Airport. And the U.S. is having trouble identifying financial crimes because Afghan officials are reluctant to prosecute.

Can surfing help ease combat stress?

Could the best treatments for PTSD have to do with getting totally stoked?

Government researchers in the United Kingdom and even a program associated with the U.S. Marine Corps are exploring the question.

Pentagon to deploy spokesduo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pentagon officials announced Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will have two spokesmen, an unusual set-up for the department’s hub of operations.

George Little, former CIA director of public affairs, is following Panetta from the agency to become Pentagon press secretary. Little has already begun his new duties.

Public support waning for defense spending

WASHINGTON – Defense officials have been warning for months that they expect military spending to be reduced significantly in coming years as lawmakers struggle with the ballooning federal budget. Now, a new poll shows the American public might back even steeper cuts in the defense budget.

According to a Rasmussen survey conducted last week, nearly half of Americans polled believe that leaders can make major cuts in defense spending without putting the country in danger. Seventy-nine percent say the United States spends too much on defending other countries. And nearly half of those polled want to withdraw all U.S. troops from Europe and Japan.

Betty White shows us how to let a Marine down easy

Maybe we should start making a list of celebrities who haven’t been invited to various military balls via YouTube. Ladies, I’m pretty sure Carrot Top is still available.

Now we have our first definitive rejection, courtesy of beloved Golden Girl Betty White. Sgt. Ray Lewis extended the invite to the 89-year-old actress, calling her “the all-around perfect woman.”

Pentagon releases missing Panetta transcripts, after complaints

UPDATE JULY 18, 5:07 P.M.

WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials have released full transcripts of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s salty language-filled troop talks and media availabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq last week, following complaints from the press corps that some of his remarks were being withheld purposefully.

Army captain asks Hope Solo to officer's ball

Here we go again.

An Army captain has shot a YouTube video asking U.S. women's soccer goalie Hope Solo to an officer's ball in Vienna, Austria, in January.

U.S. Army Capt. Nassar Jabour makes no apology for "absolutely riding the coattails" of U.S. Marine Sgt. Scott Moore, who apparently secured a date to the Marine Corps Ball with actress Mila Kunis after asking her via YouTube video, and  Marine Cpl. Kelsey De Santis, who then uploaded a video asking Justin Timberlake to a different ball.

Seems it's Jabour's turn. The YouTube post says Jabour is in the 54th Engineer Battalion, stationed in Bamberg, Germany, and currently deployed to Afghanistan.

"Please don't marry me," Jabour says on the video that appears shot from Afghanistan. "Call me old fashioned, but I feel like that kind of stuff takes time."

And the mustache? He says he is  "totally aware" it "looks ridiculous," but says he started growing it at the start of the Womens' World Cup under way in Germany, and that he won't take it off until the U.S. team wins the final against Japan on Sunday evening.

Can John Kerry get the U.S. out of Afghanistan?

WASHINGTON — The growing murmur in Washington about just how much influence Sen. John Kerry, Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, could have in the Afghanistan War drawdown just grew a little louder.

A new profile coming in this weekend’s New York Times Sunday Magazine reveals Kerry is more personally involved in the Afghanistan War, and more frequently called upon to help by war commanders and Obama Cabinet officials, than previously was known.

Rumsfeld “snowflake” memos reveal struggle to control Iraq publicity

WASHINGTON – Did former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld order the military into greater danger just to spin journalists into writing more positive coverage of the Iraq War?

Judge for yourself. Rumsfeld’s office this week released 522 “snowflakes,” or short memos from his time in the Pentagon, revealing his concerns and scheming on everything from steering media coverage to understanding Iraq’s unrelenting violence to avoiding having to attend a chamber music recital with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Your latest Marines-dating-celebrities update

Mila Kunis is isn’t is going to the Marine Corps Ball with Sgt. Scott Moore, the man who asked her via YouTube video.

Kunis accepted Moore’s invitation after reporters showed her Moore’s video at a media event – and after her “Friends With Benefits” co-star, Justin Timberlake, urged her to say yes.

Lawmakers want military pay out of budget fight

WASHINGTON – Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said he’s tired of lawmakers using military paychecks as political leverage in the current federal budget battles. That includes Democratic and Republican leaders, both of whom have ignored his efforts to take the issue off the table.

“We need to be making sure that people whose lives are at risk don’t have to worry whether that check is coming in,” he said. “It’s unconscionable.”

Feds dedicate millions to help homeless vets

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing $46.2 million to help troubled veterans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of the Obama administration’s commitment to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

The money will be used to supply permanent housing and case management for about 6,790 men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

U.S. cyber defenses 'way too predictable' says Cartwright

WASHINGTON – U.S. cyber defenses are “purely defensive” and “way too predictable,” according to Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright.  By doing little more than patching up vulnerabilities after each attack, the U.S. is spending too much money and doing nothing to hit back at its attackers, he charged on Thursday.

“We’ve got to change that right now,” Cartwright told reporters, just hours before the long-awaited 1 p.m. release of the DOD cyber strategy. “We’re on a path that is too predictable, way too predictable. It’s purely defensive; there is no penalty for attacking right now.”

We're in it for the long haul with Afghan infrastructure upkeep

WASHINGTON -- Afghanistan is going to need long-term international support to maintain even basic necessities, the German army officer charged with ensuring Afghan stability said Wednesday.

The country’s revenue-generating capacity is likely to stay so low that upkeep of roads and other infrastructure will require outside help for the foreseeable future, ISAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Stability Maj. Gen. Richard Rossmanith said in a video press briefing piped into the Pentagon from Kabul.

MOH recipient thanks military families, doctors

WASHINGTON — Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry offered just a few short remarks to the press after Tuesday’s Medal of Honor ceremony, but his comments covered a range of topics, including the importance of military families and the heroes still serving overseas. Here are a few excerpts:

“(My family) is my strength and my love. It’s with their support that I’ve served and will continue to serve. Military families sacrifice just as much as those who wear the uniform, so please continue to keep all of the military families in your thoughts and prayers

Baghdad’s JVB is going out of business

BAGHDAD – The “JVB” at Camp Victory is closing down. The Joint Visitors Bureau, a converted lakeside “palace” of Saddam Hussein’s – that chipped marble monstrosity with the crystal chandeliers, lakefront view, and free cookies – has served as the “hotel” for dignitaries, members of Congress, traveling press and entertainers visiting the troops in Iraq for years.

For a long, odd list of people that includes Vice President Joe Biden, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Lewis Black, the Hooters Holiday Tour and myself, this place likely will be hard to forget.

Hackers grab military emails, encrypted passwords

UPDATED JULY 12, 11:42 A.M.

An online break-in at a defense contractor left tens of thousands of .mil email users at risk of having their account illegally accessed or even hijacked for nefarious purposes.

Energy companies say they've got jobs for vets

WASHINGTON---The U.S. energy industry says it's looking for a few good veterans -- maybe as many as 200,000 of them over the next five years or so.

With nearly 40 percent of the America’s electric, natural gas and nuclear power workers expected to be eligible to retire by 2016 -- and with the unemployment rate for young veterans higher than for their civilian peers -- the industry joined with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on Monday to announce a new program to recruit military veterans to the energy field.

Public version of DOD cyber strategy won't be very bellicose, Pentagon says

Expect the Defense Department’s cyberwarfare strategy to be released sometime this week, the Pentagon says.

Do not, however, expect many gory details relating to the U.S. military’s capability to wreak havoc on Internet adversaries.

Will the White House appeal latest DADT ruling?

WASHINGTON — Critics of a court decision overturning the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law are urging President Barack Obama to appeal the ruling, even if it won’t stop the repeal of the controversial law.

On Friday, Defense Department officials announced they would halt all enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and allow openly gay recruits to enlist, after a court ruling earlier in the week blocked enforcement of the law. That could change if Justice Department officials appeal the ruling, as they did in October, but they have not indicated whether the administration will do so.

A few miscues, but a big smile from Panetta

CAMP DWYER, AFGHANISTAN – Mistake Afghanistan for Iraq? Contradict the commander-in-chief? Confirm CIA operations publicly? Forget what job you’re in? Drop a Purple Heart? No worries, you're the new secretary of defense. 

After just two days on the road visiting the war zones, breaking in his “rugged business” shoes, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unfortunately already has flubbed a few lines here and there, in one case alarmingly misstating U.S. policy before aides “clarified” what he really meant. But he’s done that and a few other things with a looser, more personable style than his starched-white-shirt-and-dad jeans-wearing Pentagon predecessor, offering a glimpse of what kind of secretary he may be.

Petraeus says insurgent fighting is down, 'heck of a lot better' than expected ... but by how much?

KABUL, Afghanistan – Near the midpoint of Afghanistan’s warm weather fighting season, direct insurgent attacks against coalition forces are down a few percentage points from last year, Gen. David Petraeus said Saturday.

That development means U.S. intelligence estimates predicting a significant increase in violence were wrong, he said. But Petraeus left out some key numbers.

Mullen: COIN alive and well in Afghanistan drawdown

WASHINGTON – Reports of counterinsurgency strategy’s demise have been greatly exaggerated – at least, they have according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

On Thursday, Mullen said President Barack Obama’s drawdown in Afghanistan did not represent a tacit admission that the administration had given up on counterinsurgency operations in favor of the so-called “Biden Way,” as some pundits have suggested.

The Final Countdown: Watching the launch

Three things about the final space shuttle launch Friday caught me by surprise:

 -- From watching filmed launches, I’m accustomed to seeing everything through powerful zoom lenses. In person, the launch seemed pretty far away.

The Final Countdown: Hopes for a launch

A cloudy dawn broke over Kennedy Space Center, but unlike yesterday, tiny patches of clear sky are peeking through.

Significantly, there’s been none of the lightning that raised temporary concern yesterday when a strike was measured within one-third of a mile of the launch pad where Atlantis is being readied.

The Final Countdown: Rain can't stop Titusville shuttle watchers

Reporter Chris Carroll is in Florida this week to report on the final launch of the space shuttle. Follow his personal observations of the event here and on his Twitter feed.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – What’s the single best public place to watch the last space shuttle blast off? It’s a question I asked people in Cocoa Beach, at the space center itself (a good vantage point to be sure, but not generally open to the public) and as far away as Orlando.

Wait … so we are trying terrorists in NYC?

WASHINGTON – If you thought the U.S. had given up on trying captured terrorists as criminals in New York City’s federal courts, you were wrong. To recap: Manhattan is only closed to 9/11 terrorists, and Guantanamo is closed to new terrorists.

This week, it was revealed that the Navy had secretly transferred Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a key terrorist suspect tied to Somali Islamist group al-Shabab and al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, to New York’s federal court instead of shipping him off to the notorious jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Closing in on the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, the U.S. (including the military) is still figuring out what to do with bad guys captured on the new global battlefield.

The Final Countdown: NASA touts its competition

Reporter Chris Carroll is in Florida this week to report on the final launch of the space shuttle. Follow his personal observations of the event here and on his Twitter feed.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – Among the news briefings and demonstrations of arcane space technology NASA had prepared for journalists in the days leading up to Friday’s scheduled shuttle launch, one stood out – a government-organized tour of a private space firm’s launch facility.

Pentagon denies U.S. asking to keep 10,000 in Iraq

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is pushing back hard on a report that the U.S. has requested 10,000 troops to stay in Iraq past the Dec. 31 deadline for Americans to quit the country for good.

“There is no such thing,” Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan told reporters, on Wednesday. “As we’ve said repeatedly, the Iraqi government has to make a request that we would consider. But there has been no such request.” Still, that’s not exactly a clean denial that the U.S. wants to leave that number of troops behind.

The Final Countdown: NASA science launches still going strong

Reporter Chris Carroll is in Florida this week to report on the final launch of the space shuttle. Follow his personal observations of the event here and on his Twitter feed.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – A panel of NASA-affiliated scientists gathered Wednesday morning to hype the agency’s upcoming science missions and, though the topic was never directly raised, fight the developing storyline that the end of the shuttle program means NASA has somehow lost its mojo.

Fort Hood suspect to face death penalty

WASHINGTON -- It's official, Army Maj. Nidal  Malik Hasan will face the death penalty in connection with the November 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood that killed 13 people, one of whom was pregnant.
Hasan has been referred to a general court martial, a Fort Hood news release says. Next, a military judge has to be selected to hear the case and determine when Hasan will be arraigned.

An Army psychiatrist, Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in connection with the shooting at Fort Hood's  Soldier Readiness Center. Witnesses claim he yelled "God is great" in Arabic and started shooting for about 10 minutes before he was shot by base security.

The Final Countdown: Two days to launch?

Reporter Chris Carroll is in Florida this week to report on the final launch of the space shuttle. Follow his personal observations of the event here and on his Twitter feed.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. – After the security gate, a series of adjustable signs leads through palms and pine trees deeper into the nation’s most iconic space facility: “2 days to launch.”

Wish granted: Pakistan fighting again

WASHINGTON -- Finally. For years, the U.S. has begged Pakistan to do more fighting on its side of the Pak-Af border. Since Osama bin Laden was killed, some wondered how long it would be before the “humiliated” Pakistan army would ever help the U.S.

Now comes word that a new operation began on Sunday, and right in the heart of Haqqani country. Pakistani troops and helicopters began an offensive attack in Kurram, a region between North Waziristan and Khyber straddling the Afghan border. The Haqqani Network had just cut a deal with locals to stage attacks on Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported from Islamabad. Pakistan especially wants to clear the one road that links the area to the city of Peshawar. Because Sunnis and Shiites were fighting over the region, locals had asked the Haqqanis to work a deal to let them pass.

A New Day for Afghanistan: President’s revamped war team in White House meetings

WASHINGTON – It’s morning here for Afghanistan, a new start. Defense Secretary Bob Gates has left town for good. Gen. David Petraeus has orders to report to CIA headquarters in Langley, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry is a short timer in Kabul.

On Tuesday, three key members of President Barack Obama’s revamped war cabinet are scheduled to meet at the White House. At 11:30 a.m., Obama meets Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sworn in on Friday and back from a weekend trip home in California, his first meeting in that post; Lt. Gen. John Allen, who is awaiting confirmation by the full Senate to replace Petraeus as Afghanistan War commander; and Crocker, Obama’s surprise choice to be the top civilian in Kabul. At 4:30 p.m., Obama and Panetta meet one-on-one in the Oval Office.

William and Kate to pitch in at veterans job fair

WASHINGTON — The unemployment situation for veterans has gotten so bad that Britain’s most famous airman, Duke William, will be attending a job fair for military personnel in California next week.

OK, he’s probably not among those looking for a steady paycheck. But organizers of the “Hiring our Heroes” job fair July 10 in Los Angeles are hoping the royal guest star will help bring more veterans to the event and more attention to the issue of unemployment among returning troops.

Shaking off rust: Democrats take back the Pentagon, but the message…?

WASHINGTON – "There will be no hollow force on my watch."

The first shot fired in what political communication strategists call “framing the message” for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s team, the first all-Democratic gang to run the Pentagon in 14 years, is not exactly a proactive one.

How limited is the U.S. mission in Libya?

STUTTGART, Germany — Following President Barack Obama’s comments during a Wednesday news conference, in which he said the U.S. is no longer carrying the bulk of NATO’s military load in Libya, there has been much back and forth about what exactly the U.S. role is in Operation Unified Protector.

Set against a debate about the constitutionality of the mission, the White House has defended American engagement in the campaign. The Obama administration says the scope of the U.S. engagement is limited in nature with a special focus on providing logistical support to allies, as well has suppressing Libyan air defenses and carrying out precision strikes.

Pentagon tweets Panetta’s first words as secretary

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon shut out reporters from recording Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s first words as secretary, instead opting to tweet them to the American public.

Well, his remarks went out to the 3,002 followers of @DODSpokesman, Col. David Lapan’s Twitter account this morning, around 9:30 a.m. Lapan tweeted: "Secretary #Panetta at swearing-in: ‘No higher responsibility for a Secretary of Defense than to protect those who are protecting America.’"

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