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OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Hagel ‘deeply troubled’ by military ethical lapses

The Topline: Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy Hagel15 former Defense officials back waiver for Austin to serve as Defense secretary The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history John Kirby to reprise role as Pentagon press secretary under Biden MORE is deeply troubled by the ethical behavior of service members, following several recent Air Force and Navy investigations into drug use and cheating on qualification exams. 

“He's concerned about the health of the force and the health of the strong culture of accountability and responsibility that Americans have come to expect from their military,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby during a press briefing on Wednesday. 

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From now on, ethics lapses will be on the agenda during Hagel’s weekly meetings with service chiefs, Kirby said. 

An Air Force investigation into drug use last month revealed that some nuclear missileers could be involved in cheating on proficiency tests. Ninety-two missileers have been suspended, and about 20 more restricted. 

Earlier this week, the Navy announced it had discovered cheating among some of its nuclear reactor instructions at a training unit in Charleston, S.C. 

“I think he's generally concerned that there could be at least at some level a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage.  And I think he wants to get at that,” Kirby said. 

Hagel has given senior leaders 60 days to devise an action plan to address any systemic personnel issues among the nuclear forces, such as low morale or an environment with undue stress that demanded unachievable goals. 

Kirby said work on the action plan has begun, and will be co-chaired by the Joint Staff and the staff of the undersecretary for policy. He also said retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch and retired Navy Admiral John Harvey have agreed to lead an independent review of the nuclear enterprise. 

“Having spent this past year leading this department, Secretary Hagel knows the overwhelming majority of our service members are brave, upright and honest people,” Kirby said. 

But Hagel believes there needs to be renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force, he added. 

“I think it's safe to say he's going to be looking for even more tangible efforts and results that can help kind of get at this problem writ large,” Kirby said. 

McKeon: Snowden clemency ‘unacceptable’: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said it would be “unacceptable” to give National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden clemency given the damage he's caused to the military.

While he said he could not provide details, McKeon said Pentagon officials told the committee at a classified briefing Wednesday that Snowden’s leaks detailed current Pentagon operations and put troops’ lives at risk.

“He’s given our enemies an edge and put our warfighters at risk,” McKeon said. “Americans should demand ... justice for his crimes and dismiss any discussion of deal-making or clemency as absolutely unacceptable.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Emerging Threats subcommittee, said that lawmakers left the briefing “disturbed and angered.”

The comments from McKeon and Thornberry follow those made by Intelligence Committee leaders and senior officials in the intelligence community, who have said Snowden’s leaks aided terrorists.

Kerry says chemical weapons deal helped Assad: Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryEconomic growth in Africa will not be achieved by a blanket ban on fossil fuels Biden can build on Pope Francis's visit to Iraq OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE said Wednesday that President Obama’s deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons has “improved” Syrian President Bashar Assad’s position.

“It's fair to say that Assad has improved his position a little bit, yes,” Kerry said in an interview with CNN. “But he's still not winning. This is a stalemate. And there is no military solution. Everybody who has anything to do with this agrees there is no military solution.”

Kerry’s acknowledgment follows a similar assessment from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, that the deal brokered between the United States, Russia and Syria “adds legitimacy” to the Assad regime.

The deal is coming under fire as Syria is missing deadlines to turn over its chemical  weapons stockpiles. The Assad regime has until June 30 to eliminate the program.

Think tanks conduct alternative budget review: Four respected Washington think tanks unveiled results of a defense budget exercise where they conducted two long-term budget reviews under two budget constrained scenarios. 

Under congressionally mandated budget caps known as sequestration, each service would have to make substantial cuts in personnel, readiness and weapons systems.

Non-stealth aircraft, carriers and destroyers, civilian personnel, contractors, excess infrastructure and active-duty Army and Marine infantry and armored brigade combat teams were top candidates on the chopping block, while candidates for investment included cyber, space, communications, long-range strike and undersea warfare assets. 

The four teams were from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for a New American Security and the American Enterprise Institute. 

“No matter what happens, there’s going to be a lot less money,” said Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithLawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons Overnight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who spoke at the beginning of the event unveiling their results. 

“The good news is that there’s a lot of money to be saved within the Department of Defense without hurting anything,” he said. 

 

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