OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama calls for reducing nukes

“What Obama sees as compromise, [Vladimir] Putin sees as weakness," Ayotte said. "The U.S. should negotiate with the Kremlin from a position of strength."

On the Democratic side, Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester also expressed concerns.

“I will not support any short-sighted effort that threatens our national security," Tester said.

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Other Democrats applauded Obama, like Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee.

“The president’s announcement today will allow the United States to lead the way on nuclear weapons reductions in a manner that strengthens our national security,” Smith said.

A treaty agreement would require a two-thirds Senate approval, something that could be a difficult prospect to achieve in the current Senate.

“Any treaty around here these days is a bit of an uphill climb,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters Wednesday.

Karzai calls off Taliban talks: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday suspended negotiations on a long-term security deal with the United States to protest the Obama administration’s decision to launch peace talks with the Taliban.

“In view of the contradictions between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations,” said an Afghan government statement, according to multiple media reports.

The statement came a day after Taliban representatives opened an office in Qatar. 

The Taliban said it would no longer use Afghanistan as a launching pad for foreign attacks, a precondition for the beginning of formal talks. 

“The core of this process is not going to be the U.S.-Taliban talks — those can help advance the process — but the core of it is going to be negotiations among Afghans, and the level of trust on both sides is extremely low,” one administration official said during a call with reporters.

The Taliban, however, said it would continue to target U.S. forces in the country. An attack on Bagram Air Base killed four Americans on Tuesday, highlighting the continued threat to coalition forces.

The U.S. troops were killed by indirect fire, which typically means weapons like rockets or mortars were fired indiscriminately from outside the perimeter. 

Durbin asks if JSF is 'too big to fail': The second-ranking Senate Democrat on Wednesday pressed top military brass on whether the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, the most expensive military program in U.S. history, has become "too big to fail." 

"In the financial industry, we have this phrase, ‘too big to fail,’ and I'm wondering if this project is so large in scope that it was too big to cancel," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said during a Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing on the F-35. 

"Have we reached a point when it comes to acquisitions in the future that we have to take this into consideration?" Durbin said.

Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said scrapping the entire F-35 program, at this point in the development process, is simply not an option. "As a practical matter ... we are not at a place where we would consider stopping the program," Kendall said.

"To start over, to go back 10 years, 20 years and invest $20 billion or $30 billion in the development of another aircraft in replacement of the F-35 just doesn't make any sense.”

That said, Kendall told the Senate subcommittee that F-35 program officials are taking every effort to rein in costs. 

Continuing to work on those cost and sustainment issues is the only option the Pentagon has, given the state of the U.S. military's fighter fleet, Kendall added. 

"There's no question that the threat is driving us towards the next generation of aircraft," he added. "Our [current] aircraft are not going to be survivable in future battlefields." 

Feinstein calls for an end to force-feeding: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Wednesday called on the Pentagon to stop force-feeding detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Feinstein wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking for an end to feeding detainees through a tube, arguing that the practice conflicts with international norms and U.S. prison standards and violates medial ethics.

“Hunger strikes are a long known form of non-violent protest aimed at bringing attention to a cause, rather than an attempt of suicide,” Feinstein wrote. “I believe that the current approach raises very important ethical questions and complicates the difficult situation regarding the continued indefinite detention at Guantánamo.”

Feinstein visited Guantánamo last week with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. She and McCain are two of the most important players in the Senate in the White House’s effort to shutter the detention facility.

The hunger strikes have been a thorny problem for the Pentagon as they have ramped up in recent months, with more than 100 of the 166 detainees currently participated. Feinstein wrote that more than 40 were being force-fed and four were hospitalized when she toured the prison last week.


In Case You Missed It: 

— Pentagon reaffirms need for nuclear 'triad' 

— Feinstein to DOD: Stop force-feeding at Guantanamo

— White House condemns terror attack at UN outpost 

— House GOP demands review of classification process


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