OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Defense heavy-hitters to weigh in on future threats

The latest leaks: The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Flame computer virus was connected to the same U.S.-Israeli program as the Stuxnet virus used in a cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Disclosure of U.S. involvement in Stuxnet stoked broad, bipartisan criticism in Congress, but the second round of cyber reports hasn’t resulted in a second wave of leak outrage. Senators interviewed between rounds of farm bill votes said Wednesday that the latest leaks were concerning: Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said it reinforced the problem, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he was surprised that a new leak of classified information came out so soon.

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House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) agreed it was yet another "very serious leak breach." One plausible explanation for the different level of congressional reaction: the Stuxnet story was the first to confirm the United States used cyber weapons against Iran, while the latest story reinforced, as Levin said, that there was a U.S. cyberattack on Iran.

Big-stick diplomacy: The United States's spending problem could prevent national security officials from buying a big enough stick to keep Iran's nuclear program at bay — at least, according to Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee. GOP panel members laid into the administration during a hearing on Iran's program on Wednesday. Republicans claim the Pentagon won't be able to afford the ships, planes and tanks needed to deter Iran due to the automatic defense budget cuts under sequestration.

"You can't have it both ways," Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said during the hearing.

But House Dems fired back, claiming Republicans were beating the same war drum on Iran that it used to go into Iraq. Being one of the cooler heads on the committee, ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) pointed out that Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon. To which Republican members replied: Not yet. 

Personnel hearing, take two: The Senate Armed Services Personnel subcommittee was supposed to have a hearing on supporting military families with special needs Wednesday, but the vote-a-rama on the Senate floor to wade through more than 70 amendments for the farm bill forced the committee to cancel the hearing. The witnesses won’t have to wait too long to testify: the committee rescheduled the hearing for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Slap on the wrist: On Wednesday, news surfaced that the seven American service members involved in the Quran burnings earlier this year would not face military criminal charges for their actions. Details of the decision, reportedly recommended by Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis, stated the sailor and six soldiers would receive written reprimands and a cut in pay but they would not be brought before a military court martial and would retain their ranks. DOD has denied the reports, claiming that service leaders are still weighing their options on what to do with the seven service members. The burnings in Afghanistan earlier this year touched off a wave of violent protests and represented a low point for U.S-Afghan relations. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

—Al Qaeda bombing plot foiled in Yemen

—Military instructor suspended over anti-Islam teachings

—DOD to investigate Afghan taxing US contractors 

—US defense firms in a "fog" over sequestration


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