OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: DOMA ruling opens benefits for military couples

Nevertheless, the court’s ruling will have a significant impact on same-sex military couples, as spouses will now be eligible for medical and housing benefits and burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

The court’s decision comes after the Pentagon had already extended some benefits earlier this year, such as access to commissaries and hospital visitation privileges.

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But benefits like healthcare and housing had remained off-limits until today because of DOMA.

Democrats praised the Pentagon’s vow to quickly implement the changes at both the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department, and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said his panel would vote on legislation providing the benefits if the VA hadn’t adopted the new rules in a month.

Republicans, meanwhile, who had fought for DOMA indicated they weren’t likely top press the Pentagon following the court’s ruling.

“I pick fights that I can win, and right now my fight is on overregulation,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Syrian no-fly zone is 'act of war': Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Wednesday warned the Obama administration that creating a no-fly zone in Syria would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

"If we choose to conduct a no-fly zone, it's essentially an act of war, and I'd like to understand the plan to make peace before we start a war," Dempsey told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Pentagon leaders have repeatedly voiced concerns over a no-fly zone mission in Syria, arguing President Bashar Assad's formidable anti-aircraft defenses would pose a serious challenge to American and allied air power. Dempsey reiterated the Pentagon's standing concerns on Wednesday.

"It will be difficult because the Syrian air defense system is sophisticated and it's dense," he said.

Those concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears among several defense hawks in Congress.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) all want Obama to put military pressure on the Syrian regime by creating a no-fly zone and launching airstrikes against the country's defenses.

That said, "if that is a decision that the nation takes that we want to impose a no-fly zone, we'll make it happen," Dempsey added.

DOD leaders on Wednesday also sought assurances from Syria's rebel leaders that American arms set to flow into the country will not end up in the hands of terrorists.

"The opposition represents many different groups. And we will always be and have to be assured that assistance we give to the Syrian [rebels] gets to the right people," Hagel said. "That isn't a decision that can be answered quickly. It's a constant process of assessment," he added.

The White House's decision to arm the rebels came after U.S. intelligence officials concluded the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against opposition forces.

Snowden affair causes 'friction' between DOD, Russia: Moscow's refusal to extradite former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to American authorities has created additional "friction" in the already fragile relationship between the two countries' militaries.

"We have a [military] relationship with Russia that has equal parts of common interests and cooperation and friction," Dempsey said Wednesday.

"We're going to put [Snowden] on the negative side of the ledger, but we've got to work through it," the four-star general said regarding the U.S-Russia relationship during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday rejected the Obama administration’s calls to extradite Snowden, who has been charged with espionage for leaking vital details on domestic intelligence programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA).

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was hopeful Moscow will "do the right thing here and turn Snowden over to the United States."

"He has broken laws, and ... this violation of our laws was a serious security breach in our national security apparatus," Hagel said during a Defense Department briefing.

Snowden fled to Russia after Chinese authorities allowed him to leave Hong Kong, days after the former NSA contractor leaked details of the intelligence programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

The former CIA analyst is allegedly still on Russian soil, after he failed to board a commercial flight from Russia to Cuba in his bid to seek asylum from the espionage charges. Snowden will reportedly remain in Russia while officials in Ecuador review his request seeking asylum in the country.

Dempsey re-nominated to Joint Chiefs post: President Obama on Wednesday nominated Dempsey for a second two-year term as the top U.S. military official.

Dempsey has been the chairman of the Joint Chiefs since 2011, when he succeeded Adm. Mike Mullen, who also served for four years.

Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld was also nominated for a second two-year term.

The Senate Armed Services hearing quickly scheduled the confirmation hearing for Dempsey and Winnefeld for July 18, a sign they’d like to move his nomination before the August recess.

At the hearing, Dempsey is likely to be pressed on his concerns over military intervention in Syria, as well as the military’s approach to sequestration and opposition to taking sexual assault cases outside the chain of command.

But there’s little reason to believe Dempsey will face obstacles to his confirmation — he was approved by voice vote in the Senate in 2011.


In Case You Missed It:

— DOD wants assurances on Syria weapons

— Amtrak: 25 percent of hires will be veterans

— NSA takes down ‘inaccurate’ fact sheet

— 8,000 Marines will go under sequester

— Leahy questions if Gitmo force-feeding is torture


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