The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

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An aerial photo of Joint Base Balad, Iraq in 2011 (U.S. Army/ Sgt. Quentin Johnson)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran may have been behind Thursday's attack on Iraq's Balad air base, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday, but added that Washington was awaiting further evidence.

Iraqi military on Thursday said that two Katyusha rockets landed inside Balad air base, which hosts U.S. forces and contractors and is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

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The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

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The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

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An artist's depiction of the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) in action. (Courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

The Navy is scared to death that rival countries like China, Russia and Iran might sink its multibillion dollar surface ships with powerful cruise missiles and waves of cheap drones. But while ship-mounted lasers could be the Navy's most effective response to these threats, a new Congressional Research Service report on directed energy weapons indicates many of the Navy's newest destroyers might not have enough power to fire them.

The Navy "will have to either remove something or look at 'very aggressive power management,'" in order to install one 60 kilowatt laser system, called the high-energy laser with integrated optical dassler and surveillance (HELIOS), onto the newest flight of Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the report said, citing Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, director of Navy Surface Warfare, who was quoted in several news articles.

"[W]e are out of Schlitz with regard to power," Boxall said, noting that the Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are already strapped powering the new AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar. "'We used a lot of power for that and we don't have as much' extra for additional functions."

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) concludes a refueling-at-sea in the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 7, 2019. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rebekah M. Rinckey)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Navy warship seized advanced missile parts believed to be linked to Iran from a boat it had stopped in the Arabian Sea, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as Trump's administration pressures Tehran to curb its activities in the region.

In a statement, the Pentagon confirmed that on Nov. 25 a U.S. warship found "advanced missile components" on a stateless vessel and an initial investigation indicated the parts were of Iranian origin.

"A more thorough investigation is underway," the statement said.

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