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October 22, 2012

News Briefs – October 22, 2012

Iraq presses U.S. on need for faster arms deliveries

Iraq’s prime minister has pressed the need for faster deliveries of American weapons to help arm his country’s military during a meeting with a senior U.S. defense official.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office said in a statement Oct. 18 the Iraqi leader made the request during talks with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in Baghdad.

Maliki says Iraq needs to beef up its defenses to protect the country’s security and national sovereignty.

Carter visited the Iraqi capital during a Mideast tour that also included stops in U.S. allies Kuwait and Qatar.

Iraq has agreed to buy a range of American-made weapons, including tanks and F-16 fighter jets, as it works to rebuild and modernize its military. AP

California Navy official admits bribery, corruption

Federal prosecutors say a Navy official has agreed to plead guilty to involvement in a bribery and corruption scheme at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego County.

U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy says the Oct. 18 plea is subject to a judge’s approval.

In the plea, 53-year-old Kenneth Paul Ramos admitted accepting bribes along with other Navy officials who were given more than $1 million in cash and gifts, including flat screen TVs and retail gift cards.

In return, defense contractors in Poway received millions of dollars in defense business.

Ramos was employed in a unit that obtained funding within the government for aircraft maintenance and repair.

Earlier this month, four Navy officials and three contractors were sentenced to up to 31 months prison and millions of dollars in restitution. AP

Myanmar may get invite to U.S.-Thai exercise

Myanmar’s military may be invited as an observer at annual U.S-Thai joint military exercise next year.

The invitation to the Cobra Gold exercise would come after years of Myanmar being frozen out of U.S. regional activities because of Washington’s disapproval of the former military regime’s repression.

Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Thanathip Sawangsaeng said Oct. 19 that there are tentative plans to invite Myanmar, but participating countries must reach a consensus at a meeting late this month before proceeding.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman declined to comment.

The 31st Cobra Gold exercise was held earlier this year with members of the Indonesian, Japanese, Malaysian, Singaporean and South Korean militaries taking part. Other regional countries were invited as observers. Thailand-based Cobra Gold is the biggest and longest-standing U.S. military exercise in the Asia-Pacific region. AP

Major U.S., Israeli air defense exercise begins

The Israeli military says its largest ever exercise with the United States has begun.

A major air defense drill called Austere Challenge 2012 started Oct. 21 and includes more than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israelis. The militaries are practicing their ability to work together against a range of threats facing Israel, the main U.S. ally in the Mideast.

The military exercise was originally scheduled for April but was postponed at Israel’s request. No reason was given but it came amid growing talk of Israel preparing to attack Iran if Tehran does not cease its uranium enrichment program.

The weeks-long joint exercise will test multiple Israeli and American air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets from places as far away as Iran. AP

Murray pushes Pentagon to move on PTSD review

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is pushing the Pentagon to move forward with its military-wide review of how soldiers are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and other behavioral health.

Murray, the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Oct. 18.

In June, Panetta called for the review after it was disclosed that medical screeners at the Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have reversed since 2007 hundreds of diagnoses of PTSD based on the expense of providing care and benefits to members of the military.

The evaluations are the key first step in determining soldiers’ disability benefits.

In the letter, Murray calls on Panetta to provide a timeline of the review and requesting the next steps. AP




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