Administration deciding on post-2014 troop levels
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the Obama administration is nearing a decision in the next few weeks on how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan – and for what purposes – after the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014.
Panetta tells reporters aboard his plane en route from Hawaii to Australia Nov. 12 that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, has developed several options on a post-2014 presence.
Reporters asked Panetta about his future at the Pentagon. While Panetta declined to reveal his plans, he suggested that he still has work to do on the job he took in July 2011.
Panetta adds that there are a number of important defense issues awaiting resolution, including a budget impasse and the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. AP
Panetta: Aircraft not close to stop Libya attack
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling Congress that the military did not have armed aircraft near Libya that could have helped defend against the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In a letter to Republican Sen. John McCain Nov. 9, Panetta specifically addressed the claim that the military could have dispatched armed unmanned aerial vehicles, AC-130 gunships or fighter jets to thwart the attack.
The Pentagon chief said these aircraft weren’t near Benghazi and they were not an effective option.
Panetta insisted that the U.S. military did everything “they were in position” to do to respond to the attack and spared no effort save the four American lives.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter. AP
Navy now says jet diverted over mechanical problem
A Navy spokesman says a fighter jet training off the coast of San Diego was diverted to a nearby base because of a mechanical problem.
Navy spokesman Aaron Kakiel said Nov. 9 the problem of the F/A-18 jet was spotted while it was training with the Nimitz aircraft carrier, countering initial reports from the military that fog caused the diversion on the night of Nov. 6.
Kakiel says the pilot could not land at the Navy’s North Island base because of fog and was sent further inland to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where the aircraft landed safely.
Kakiel declined to specify the mechanical problem.
Four years ago, a malfunctioning Marine F/A-18D crashed into a San Diego home after the pilot ejected. Four people died. A military investigation found emergency landing rules weren’t followed. AP
Canceled program costs 115 jobs at Ohio air base
The Air Force says the cancellation of a computer modernization program will cost 115 contract employees their jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Base spokesman Daryl Mayer said Nov. 8 that cancellation of the Expeditionary Combat Support System program also means that an additional 55 civilian and military employees will be reassigned from that program.
Mayer says the canceled program had been intended to replace some older computer systems to meet statutory requirements for financial and audit readiness mandated by Congress.
The Air Force says the program is no longer viable and it will move forward with other options to meet those requirements.
The Air Force says the contract employees losing their jobs provided advisory and assistance services. AP
Connecticut vet wounded in Vietnam sues Army to get care
A Purple Heart recipient from Connecticut who was wounded in the Vietnam War is suing the Army, claiming he’s wrongly being denied health care benefits.
William Dolphin of West Haven filed the federal lawsuit Nov. 8 in New Haven in an attempt to upgrade his discharge status and get benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The lawsuit says Dolphin suffered head, knee and back injuries in an explosion during combat in 1968 and was left with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
Dolphin’s lawyers say he wrongly was given a bad conduct discharge in 1974 after being charged with going AWOL, despite his health and psychological problems. That discharge status is preventing him from getting VA care.
An Army spokesman said the military doesn’t comment on pending litigation. AP
Passengers on U.S.-Poland plane that crashed sue
Passengers on a U.S.-to-Poland plane that crashed in Warsaw when its landing gear didn’t deploy are suing Boeing and the firm that inspected the 767 before it departed from New Jersey.
The lawsuit was filed last week in state court in Chicago, where Boeing has its headquarters.
Around 230 people were aboard the November 2011 Lot Airlines flight when it hit the runway, generating sparks as its belly scraped along the pavement. Emergency crews doused the plane, and nobody appeared seriously hurt.
The lawsuit claims passengers suffered physical injuries and emotional trauma.
The lawsuit contends that Boeing design flaws contributed to fluid leaking from the hydraulic system. It accuses employees of New York-based Mach II Maintenance of failing to detect the leak.
Neither company returned messages seeking comment Nov. 9. AP