The Pentagon said on Monday it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending caps, setting up an election-year fight with the Congress over national defense priorities.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, previewing the Pentagon’s ideas on how to adapt to government belt-tightening, said the defense budget due out next week would be the first to look beyond 13 years of conflict, shifting away from long-term ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
He cautioned, however, that the country needed to be clear-eyed about the risks posed by lower budget levels, which would challenge the Pentagon to field a smaller yet well-trained force that could cope with any adversary, but might not be able to respond simultaneously to multiple conflicts.
“We … face the risk of uncertainty in a dynamic and increasingly dangerous security environment,” Hagel said. “Budget reductions inevitably reduce the military’s margin of error in dealing with these risks, as other powers are continuing to modernize their weapons portfolios.”
The cuts come as the Pentagon is attempting to absorb nearly a trillion dollars in reductions to projected spending over a decade. A two-year bipartisan budget deal in December eased some of the pressure on the department, but still cut its planned spending by $31 billion in 2014 and another $45 billion in 2015.
The Pentagon’s budget for the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October is an estimated $496 billion, about the same amount as the current fiscal year. Beginning in 2016, the department’s budget is slated to assume even larger spending cuts, an event Hagel said could jeopardize national security.
Defense analysts said the budget priorities sketched out by Hagel would begin to move the Pentagon in the right direction on issues like military compensation reform and eliminating waste but could have difficulty winning support from lawmakers facing mid-term elections to Congress.
“Congress always modifies the president’s budget request. They will again. The question is will they do it in small ways or large ways,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former senior defense official who is now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“I think the personnel pieces are the trickiest for them,” she added, saying the challenge for the Pentagon was judging “in advance what is most likely to be accepted, particularly in a mid-term election year, and what is off the table.”
Congressional Republicans criticized the proposed cuts. Representative Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it would be “foolish” to change military benefits before a report on the issue next year. Representative Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, accused the president of being “far from serious” on defense.
Hagel said the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers. The Army is currently about 520,000 soldiers and had been planning to draw down to about 490,000 in the coming year.
A reduction to 450,000 would be the Army’s smallest size since 1940, before the United States entered World War Two, when it counted a troop strength of 267,767, according to Army figures. The Army’s previous post-World War Two low was 479,426 in 1999.
“We chose further reductions in troop strength and force structure in every military service – active and reserve – in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority and to protect critical capabilities,” Hagel said.
Despite a congressional rebuff of Pentagon efforts to reform personnel costs in recent years, the defense chief announced a series of new steps to try to curb military and civilian personnel spending, which now makes up about half its budget.
Hagel said the department would seek a 1 percent raise in pay for military personnel but would slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances, reduce the annual subsidy for military commissaries and reform the TRICARE health insurance program for military family members and retirees.
Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank, said the Pentagon was heading in the “right direction with military compensation reform,” and that notions of keeping faith with troops were about more than just pay.
“Keeping faith also means ensuring our troops are the best trained and equipped in the world,” Harrison said, adding that the proposed reforms sought to balance tradeoffs between pay and benefits and training and modernization.
“The clear message is that if Congress chooses to ignore these reforms again, it will force additional cuts in training and modernization which will break faith with the troops,” he said.
Hagel also said the Pentagon would eliminate the Air Force fleet of A-10 “Warthog” close air support planes, which are much beloved by ground troops, in order to ensure continued funding of the new long-range bomber, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a new aerial refueling tanker.
In a reversal of an earlier decision, he said the Pentagon decided to retire the 50-year-old U-2 spy plane in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system after success in reducing the operating costs of the newer plane.
The defense secretary added the Pentagon had decided to build only 32 of its new Littoral Combat Ships, down from the 52 originally planned. He said the funds would be plowed back into developing a fast, new, more lethal ship similar to a frigate.
Jennifer Lopez to Be Honored at iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina
Jennifer Lopez will soon be adding another award to her mantel.
The “On the Floor” singer will be honored with the fourth annual iHeartRadio Premio Corazón Latino Award at the upcoming iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina music festival – held this year at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Festival producers iHeartMedia announced the news on Monday. The celebrated musical icon will be honored with the award in recognition for her many philanthropic and humanitarian efforts in regards to disaster relief, international human rights and children’s health across the world.
“This year, we’re truly excited to honor the hardest working woman in showbiz with the iHeartRadio Premio Corazón Latino Award,” Enrique Santos, Chairman, and CCO for iHeartLatino, shared in the press release announcing the news. “As a global advocate for children, women and all Latinos, the list of foundations and charities that J. Lo has supported throughout her career are endless and the positive impact that she’s had on the entire entertainment industry and so many lives is immeasurable.”
“I can’t wait to see the queen dominate our stage this year,” added Santos, who is also hosting the star-studded event this year.
Apart of being honored with the prestigious award, Lopez is also set to perform live, along with a number of other superstars including Pedro Capó, Gente de Zona, Daddy Yankee, Ozuna, Jowell & Randy, Tito El Bambino, and Sech, among others.
The 2019 iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina will Livestream exclusively on LiveXLive.com and will broadcast live on iHeartMedia Spanish-Pop, Tropical, regional Mexican and Spanish Adult Hit radio stations nationwide on Nov. 2. Tickets for the festival are available now.
Boston Marathon Explosion Tragedy
UPDATE: 4/15/2013 8:03PM The Boston Marathon came to a halt after two explosions were reported near the race’s finish line. Preliminary reports say at least two are dead and dozens are injured. President Obama made a statement Monday evening. BOSTON — Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston…
UPDATE: 4/15/2013 8:03PM
The Boston Marathon came to a halt after two explosions were reported near the race’s finish line. Preliminary reports say at least two are dead and dozens are injured. President Obama made a statement Monday evening.
BOSTON — Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring dozens in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said.
CNN is reporting that at least 10 amputations have been carried out as a result of the attach, and that the bombs were likely designed to propel shrapnel. The Associated Press said that hospitals are reporting at least 134 injured, and at least 15 of them critically.
In Boston.com breaking news, the news site reports that authorities are questioning a person of interest with regard to the bombings at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
A law enforcement official has confirmed that one of the two victims killed today was eight years old, various media are reporting. The FBI and the White House are deeming this a terrorist attack, although it is unsure if it is domestic or international.
In a national address Monday evening, President Obama said, “We still do not know who did this or why. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
The president did not stay for reporters’ questions, and focused on the help given to the victims and their families in his speech. “The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight,” he said.
An hour after the 2:50 p.m. EDT blasts in Boston’s Copley Square marred the usually joyous end to the marathon, a fire erupted at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library three miles away, but no one was injured, police said.
In a news conference, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis confirmed the explosions and provided security measures for Boston citizens. “Don’t go any place and congregate in large crowds,” Davis said. Davis also said the incident is an ongoing event and said it is unclear if the “incendiary” occurrence at the JFK library is related to the two explosions at the finish line. Both Davis and Boston Gov. Deval Patrick expressed the necessity for tips and information from witnesses. The Boston Bombs Tipline can be reached at 800-494-TIPS, and to locate victims, the public can call 617-635-4500.
A law enforcement official said cellphone service has been shut down in the Boston area to prevent any potential remote detonations of explosives. But officials with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel said there had been no such requests.
Boston Marathon explosions were reported near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Two high-level U.S. law enforcement sources said one or more bombs was responsible for the explosions. An intelligence official said that two more explosive devices have been found and are being dismantled near the scene.
The explosions occurred as thousands of runners finished the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, with crowds watching and cheering at the finish line, with the clock reading at just over four hours. The New York Police Department stepped up security around landmarks in Manhattan, including near prominent hotels, said Paul Browne, deputy commissioner of the NYPD.
Competitors and race volunteers were crying as they fled the chaos. Bloody spectators were being carried to the medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners. “There are a lot of people down,” said one man, whose bib No. 17528 identified him as Frank Deruyter of North Carolina. He was not injured, but marathon workers were carrying one woman, who did not appear to be a runner, to the medical area as blood gushed from her leg. A Boston police officer was wheeled from the course with a leg injury that was bleeding.
EXPLOSIONS HEARD SECONDS APART
About three hours after the winners crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later. Smoke rose from the blasts, fluttering through the national flags lining the route of the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon. TV helicopter footage showed blood staining the pavement in the popular shopping and tourist area known as the Back Bay.
“There are people who are really, really bloody,” said Laura McLean, a runner from Toronto, who was in the medical tent being treated for dehydration when she was pulled out to make room for victims of the explosions. “They were pulling them into the medical tent.” Cherie Falgoust was waiting for her husband, who was running the race. “I was expecting my husband any minute,” she said. “I don’t know what this building is … it just blew. Just a big bomb, a loud boom, and then glass everywhere. Something hit my head. I don’t know what it was. I just ducked.”
Runners who had not finished the race were diverted straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.
Mike Mitchell of Vancouver, Canada, a runner who had finished the race, said he was looking back at the finish line and saw a “massive explosion.” Smoke rose 50 feet in the air, Mitchell said. People began running and screaming after hearing the noise, Mitchell said.
“Everybody freaked out,” Mitchell said.
The Secret Service expanded its security perimeter at the White House on Monday following the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the measure was taken “out of an abundance of caution” and noted that it was not unusual to expand or contract the security perimeters. President Barack Obama was briefed on the explosions by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The White House said the president also spoke with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino and pledged to provide whatever federal support was needed in responding to the incident.
Vice President Joe Biden was on a conference call with gun control activists when staffers turned on televisions in his office Monday to view coverage of the explosions. He said during the call that his prayers were with those in Boston.
The Secret Service, as part of its expanded security near the White House, shut down Pennsylvania Avenue, cordoning off the area with yellow police tape. Several Secret Service patrol cars also blocked off the entry points to the road.
The White House was not on lockdown and tourists and other onlookers were still able to be in the park across the street from the executive mansion.
As runners crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, an explosion rocketed through the streets. According to MyFoxBoston, the explosion caused multiple injuries to 23 people, including a policeman, and killed two people. The explosion happened after more than four hours after the first of the race’s with over 25,000 runners competing.
According to multiple reports and accounts for witnesses, there were in fact two explosions though the police has reported one. The BPD released a statement saying, “There was an explosion. Police, fire and EMS are on the scene, we have no indication of how many people are injured.”
The video from SkyFox showed blood on the ground near the finish line. Witnesses reported seeing a victims with lost limbs. John Ross told the Boston Herald, “Somebody’s leg flew by my head. I gave my belt to stop the blood.”
According to multiple reports, one of the explosions possible went off inside a building near the finish line. After the explosion, ambulances and emergency officials immediately tended to victims as many ran from the wreckage.
It is unknown at the time as to the cause of both explosion.
First Lady Obama To Attend Teen’s Funeral
Reportedly being accompanied by a senior advisor to the President, Valerie Jarnett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the First Lady will attend Saturday’s funeral of slayed teen, Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago. Hadiya Pendleton was fatally shot near the Obama’s Kenwood home January 29th, with the third-largest city having its deadliest January in more than…
Reportedly being accompanied by a senior advisor to the President, Valerie Jarnett and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the First Lady will attend Saturday’s funeral of slayed teen, Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago. Hadiya Pendleton was fatally shot near the Obama’s Kenwood home January 29th, with the third-largest city having its deadliest January in more than a decade.
“As a mother and Chicagoan, the first lady was heartbroken to learn of the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton due to senseless gun violence,” said Kristina Schake, communications director for Michelle Obama. “Too many times, we’ve seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them. The first lady is traveling to her funeral on Saturday to offer her condolences and support to Hadiya’s family and loved ones.”
Pendleton had performed at President Obama’s inauguration a few days before and after returning home, The King College Prep student with honors was killed when an unknown gunman hopped over a fence at Harsh Park and opened fire, killing the drum majorette with a gunshot in the back and fleeing the scene in a white Nissan, Witnesses reported. Two other teenage boys had been struck but suffered non-life threatening wounds. No arrests have been made.
Hadiya’s death has reignited the attention to Chicago’s homicide rate with 506 homicides last year. A reward for $40,000 has been made for any details leading to the killer.
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