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President Trump has approved the Pentagon’s plan to send roughly 2,000 more troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

The plan is intended to bolster security for existing American and allied forces in the region and deter attacks from Iran, officials say.  Any additional destroyers or submarines sent to the region would be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, they said.

TRUMP TEAM BRIEFS CONGRESS ABOUT IRANIAN THREAT: ‘THIS IS ABOUT DETERRENCE, NOT ABOUT WAR’

“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops,” the president told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “Mostly protective. Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we’ll see what happens.”

No large military units, such as U.S. Army brigade combat teams, are expected to deploy. Instead, senior military leaders want to deploy an additional Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery, a defensive weapon system. They also want to deploy another warship or submarine to the region, more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and potentially more Air Force fighter jets.

On Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had rejected news reports saying 5,000 or 10,000 troops could be sent to the region, saying the number was “not accurate.” But he did acknowledge more forces could soon be heading to the region for force protection.

The U.S. began reinforcing its presence in the Persian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

In early May, the U.S. accelerated the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Mideast and sent four B-52 bomber aircraft to the region. The Pentagon also decided to move a Patriot air-defense missile battery to an undisclosed country in the area.

GEN. JACK KEANE: SENDING THOUSANDS MORE TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST AMID IRAN THREAT WOULD BE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE

On Friday, an anti-war Republican ally of the president urged him to reverse his decision.

“I strongly urge @realdonaldtrump to reconsider more troops to the Middle East,” tweeted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. “This escalation doesn’t get us out of our decades long, seemingly endless wars Mr. President. Trust your instincts and follow what you ran on, not the neocons around who want to repeat past mistakes.”

On Tuesday, top officials in the Trump administration were dispatched to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers about the escalating tensions with Iran, saying afterward they are focused on trying to deter attacks and avoid war.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan told reporters after the briefing. “We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the briefing: “Our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days has been to deter Iran.”

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But some lawmakers, after the briefing, still expressed concern about war breaking out.

“We were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. I hope the people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”

Other lawmakers said the threats from Iran were specific, necessitating actions from the administration to prevent attacks.

“The action taken by the administration is totally appropriate,” Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said after the Tuesday briefing, saying the actions are designed to deter attacks by Iran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Pentagon on Thursday presented proposals to the White House at a meeting on sending military reinforcements to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region, Fox News has learned.

Meanwhile, in comments aired by Iranian state-run media, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, declared that the U.S. was an “arrogant and pharaonic threat” that invited “all Iranians to enter the fields of jihad, full alert, and the mobilization of more power.”

“Our hands are on the trigger and we are firmly prepared to annihilate any aggressor and greedy eyes against the Islamic Iran,” Baqueri added.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters the Defense Department has not yet determined how many troops might be sent to reinforce the existing U.S. military presence in the region.

He disputed reports that the Pentagon was proposing to send up to 10,000 more troops. He said reports citing specific figures were “not correct,” but he would not say whether the number under consideration was higher or lower.

DEMS ‘DEAD WRONG’ TO DOWNPLAY IRAN INTEL, LAWMAKER SAYS

“There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate,” Shanahan said, explaining that those figures had not been proposed.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to members of the media after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, left, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to members of the media after a classified briefing for members of Congress on Iran, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“What we’re focused on right now is, do we have the right force protection in the Middle East,” he added, referring to defensive forces. “It may involve sending additional troops.”

He said he was in regular contact with Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Central Command chief, about how to shape the U.S. force presence in the Mideast with potential Iranian threats in mind.

Asked whether the U.S. was provoking conflict with Iran, Shanahan countered that the Pentagon was focused on deterring Iran.

“Well, my response is I think they have the same sensitivity as all of us, and that is we want to avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan said.  “I think those are fair comments. Our job is deterrence. This is not about war. We have a mission there in the Middle East.”

Some of these additional forces could include more warships to the region with Marines, more Patriot missile batteries, U.S. Army brigades (consisting of roughly 4,000 troops each), or a cruise-missile submarine such as USS Florida, which can hold more than150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

“Our hands are on the trigger and we are firmly prepared to annihilate any aggressor and greedy eyes against the Islamic Iran.”

— Iranian Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri

The USS Florida was last seen in Souda Bay, Greece two months ago at a naval weapons base where bombs and missiles are stored. In 2011, USS Florida fired over 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya.

It’s not clear whether the White House would approve sending all of the troops proposed by the Pentagon, whatever the number. Officials said the proposed troop reinforcements are not a response to any new threat from Iran but are aimed at strengthening security for the U.S. forces already in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.

WATCH: TRUMP TALKS RISING TENSIONS WITH IRAN

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.

Thursday’s meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer. Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for President Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region.

In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. Nearly two dozen progressive groups are launching a new push to persuade Democratic presidential candidates to support dramatic spending cuts at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday Trump was evaluating the force posture in the region “every day.”

“We’re evaluating the risks, making sure that we have it right,” he told “Fox and Friends.”

U.S. officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats but indicated they initially involved missiles loaded onto small Iranian boats. This week officials said the missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran’s shore, but other maritime threats continue.

Sending more troops could also raise questions on Capitol Hill. During back-to-back closed briefings for the House and Senate on Tuesday, defense leaders told congressional officials the U.S. doesn’t want to go to war with Iran and wants to de-escalate the situation.

Pompeo and Shanahan told lawmakers the U.S. is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while accusing Tehran of threatening U.S. interests in the Mideast. Shanahan told reporters, “Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.”

Many in Congress are skeptical of the administration’s approach to Iran, questioning whether it is responding to significant new Iranian threats or escalating a situation that could lead to war.

WATCH: ANTI-TRUMP FORMER CIA DIRECTOR BRENNAN ATTENDS IRAN BRIEFING

The Trump administration has evacuated nonessential personnel from Iraq, amid unspecified threats the administration said are linked to Iranian-backed militias in the country.

n this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

n this Jan. 9, 2019, file photo, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at a meeting in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

On Sunday, a rocket was fired into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. There were no injuries and no group claimed responsibility, but the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad — which is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.

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Some Democrats say Trump is responsible for drawing Iran’s ire. Last year he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the Obama administration to prevent Iran from nuclear weapons production, without crafting a coherent strategy for how to combat other Iranian behavior like supporting extremist organizations.

He also has reimposed punishing sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy, and designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in April.

“I have yet to see any exhibited strategy,” said Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA officer. She said she finds many of the administration’s recent statements on Iran to be “deeply troubling.”

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader publicly chastised the country’s moderate president and foreign minister, saying he disagreed with the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal they had negotiated with world powers.

The extraordinary comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the first time he’s criticized both politicians by name, came a year after Washington’s withdrawal from the accord.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The threat of a nuclear weapon being used is higher now than at any point since the conclusion the World War ll, a top United Nations security expert cautioned this week, calling the matter an “urgent” one that requires global attention.

Renata Dwan, director of the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research warned in Geneva that the heightened risk comes in large part as a result of disarmament negotiations that have chilled during a two-decade stalemate. But Dwan says the threat is also amplified by the increasing competition between nuclear-armed U.S. and China and other nuke-capable nations issuing plans for modernization.

But how does the arsenal of American — the only country to use a nuke against an enemy — compare to those other states?

“Other nuclear-armed states, notably Russia and China, are upgrading their arsenals and have tested, produced and deployed more brand-new weapons than the United States over the past decade,” Kingston Reif, Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Fox News. “But this does not mean the U.S. has fallen behind. The U.S. military has refurbished and improved nearly all of its existing strategic and tactical delivery systems and many of the warheads they carry, too, last well beyond their planned service life.”

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As it stands, nine countries are known to possess nuclear weapons: the U.S., China, Russia, U.K, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, and murkily, North Korea. However, only the first three countries are believed to possess what is known as the “nuclear triad,” a three-pronged structure that consists of missiles that can be launched from land, air and sea.

Harry Kazianis, a senior director at the Center for National Interest, stressed that while many parts of America’s nuclear arsenal are quite old and were designed decades ago, the U.S. “clearly possesses the most advanced and sophisticated atomic arsenal on the planet.”

“Washington’s nuclear weapons arsenal is so powerful it could bring to an end any nation on the planet in less than 60 minutes if it wanted to—and kill billions of people in the process,” he acknowledged. “That amount of power is almost impossible for the mind to fathom, but it is a reality.”

This Thursday, May 9, 2019, photo provided Friday, May 10, 2019, by the North Korean government shows a test of military weapon systems in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

This Thursday, May 9, 2019, photo provided Friday, May 10, 2019, by the North Korean government shows a test of military weapon systems in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Nonetheless, others painted a far more dire picture of America’s capabilities.

“It is decidedly of a Cold War vintage. It is being asked to keep America safe well beyond its original life span. The land-based portion of the nuclear triad is comprised of Minutemen III missiles that were designed in the 1960s and began deployment in the 1970s,” says John Wood, analyst and author of “Russia: The Asymmetrical Threat to the United States.” “The air-based portion of the nuclear triad relies on, to a large extent, B-52 bombers that have been operated by the United States Air Force since the 1950s. The maritime portion relies on Ohio class submarines that were introduced into service in the 1980s.”

Wood also notes that Russia is “now beginning to field tactical and strategic nuclear weapons systems that will increasingly pose an existential threat to the United States of America.”

“They are predominately mobile, with multiple independent re-entry vehicles,” he said. “Increasingly they will be comprised of hypersonic warheads, advanced countermeasures, and arguably some of them will even be capable of being re-directed in-flight by the Russian satellite system GLONASS. The U.S. may have the quantity to currently deter Russia, but, increasingly, it will fail to have the quality to make the threat credible. At some point in the next decade, Russia will have the advantage over the United States.”

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The Trump administration, however, is proposing to broaden the circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons, develop two new sea-based, low-yield nuclear options — and laying the groundwork to grow the size of the arsenal, Reif pointed out.

“The U.S. may have the quantity to currently deter Russia, but, increasingly, it will fail to have the quality to make the threat credible. At some point in the next decade, Russia will have the advantage over the United States.”

— John Wood

“In addition, the administration has announced the United States will leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August 2019 and expressed hostility towards extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” Reif said. “In short, the administration is preparing to compete in a new nuclear arms race while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of such a contest.”

But the biggest issue Washington has to contend with when it comes to nuclear upgrade ambitions — bigger than Russia, China or North Korea — is cost.

Mark Olson, a defense consultant and former Lieutenant Commander, Combat Systems Officer, and Missile Defense Expert with extensive experience in European Ballistic Missile Defense, noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates nuclear weapons spending will cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars between fiscal years 2017-2046, or 6 percent of national defense spending.

“Proposals are underway to modernize the U.S. arsenal over the next twenty years; however, cost remains a critical obstacle and one which appears destined to compel budgeteers to hack at innovation in other, arguably more critical, areas,” Olson said.

But is one prong of the triad more a priority than the others? Defense Priorities policy director Benjamin H. Friedman said the answer is simple: submarines.

“the greatest strategic priority for nuclear spending should be the most survivable and capable leg of the triad: submarines,” Friedman said.

FILE - in this file photo taken on Thursday, July 2, 2009, the Russian nuclear submarine, Yuri Dolgoruky, is seen during sea trials near Arkhangelsk, Russia. The Russian navy said in a statement Friday March 31, 2017, that its submarines have increased combat patrols to the level last seen during the Cold War. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE – in this file photo taken on Thursday, July 2, 2009, the Russian nuclear submarine, Yuri Dolgoruky, is seen during sea trials near Arkhangelsk, Russia. The Russian navy said in a statement Friday March 31, 2017, that its submarines have increased combat patrols to the level last seen during the Cold War. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File) (The Associated Press)

Despite the worldwide development, buildup — and promotion of — nuclear weapons and their delivery devices, one expert cautions against using the term “arms race,” though she concedes “there are certainly things to raise concerns.”

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“Both the U.S. and Russia are moving towards investing in modernization and new types of nuclear arsenals,” said Bonnie Jenkins, advisor to Foreign Policy for America and former coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau at the U.S. Department of State. “There are few avenues for discussion and negotiations between the US and Russia. This is not an environment that gives confidence about a reduction or even keeping the arms at the status quo.”

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Democrats are “dead wrong” if they believe the White House overemphasized intelligence regarding potential threats from Iran, according to a top Republican senator.

Host Harris Faulkner asked Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman James Risch on “Outnumbered Overtime” whether Democrats’ claims the Trump administration “exaggerated” Iran intelligence are grounded in fact.

TRUMP TEAM BRIEFS CONGRESS ABOUT IRANIAN THREAT: ‘THIS IS ABOUT DETERRENCE, NOT ABOUT WAR’

“The Democrats are dead wrong on that,” Sen. Risch, R-Idaho, said, adding that he and other top lawmakers have been following the relevant intelligence for some time.

Risch went on to say that the Trump administration has been taking responsible steps in return to handle the potential threats.

The administration sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford to brief lawmakers Tuesday on escalating tensions with Tehran.

“Our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days has been to deter Iran,” Pompeo said.

However, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of the most vocal critics of potential military action in Iran, said going to war in Iran would be “far worse than the war with Iraq.”

“We were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said. “A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. I hope the people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”

Risch said recent Iran intelligence shows that the “velocity” of certain events has increased.

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“Anyone who would say the Iranians were not turning up the temperatures in the last two weeks of April and the first week in May simply doesn’t know anything about intelligence,” Risch said.

He said that if lawmakers in the closed-door meetings with Pompeo and the other officials didn’t come away thinking that a “serious situation was defused by some very professional work,” they “just don’t get it.”

Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that President Trump demanded “better results” at the southern border during a recent meeting to discuss the ongoing migration crisis.

“‘Deliver more. The situation is extreme. Fix it,’” Shanahan said Trump told his top cops, adding: “That’s why we’re here. We understand that there’s never been a lack of commitment to fixing it. It’s just with these trends and the increases, it’s getting worse.”

McAleenan agreed with Shanahan, comparing the current situation at the border to the situation five years ago under the Obama administration.

“This crisis is much bigger than what we faced back then, and we need Congress’ help,” McAleenan said.

Shanahan and McAleenan visited the border in Texas over the weekend. During the visit, Shanahan said that he intended to accelerate planning to secure the border and bolster the administration’s ability to accomplish that without the Pentagon’s continuous help.

He also offered assurances the Pentagon would not withdraw its military support prematurely.

On Friday, a defense official confirmed to Fox News that the Defense Department had approved a plan to spend an additional $1.5 billion to build 80 more miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Shanahan approved the reallocation of funds, which were originally earmarked for support of Afghan security forces and other projects, to help pay for the wall along the southern border.

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“It’s not out in the desert, it’s where it stops the flow of drugs, stops the flow of illicit activity, and we’re moving outward,” he noted. “We’re doing things in months that used to take years, and I feel really good about the progress.”

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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Fox News about why he likes working for President Trump in a “Fox & Friends” exclusive interview set to air Monday and Tuesday.

“What I like about working with the president is, he’s a CEO,” Shanahan told Brian Kilmeade.

“I’ve worked for CEOs. He’s focused on outcomes and results. Will we always agree on everything? No. Are we focused? Do we have the same interests? And the same focus? Yes. My job is to get the results we need to make this country successful. To defend this country.”

The White House on Thursday announced that Trump intends to nominate Shanahan as defense secretary, ending months of speculation about Pentagon leadership. He has served in an interim capacity since Jan. 1, an unprecedented period of uncertainty at the helm of the Pentagon.

Trump elevated the former Boeing Co. executive from deputy secretary to replace Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned in December.

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Shanahan, a pedigreed engineer, moved up through the management ranks at Boeing over a career that began in 1986. The Puget Sound Business Journal called him a Boeing “fix-it” man in a March 2016 report. He oversaw the company’s global supply-chain strategies and use of advanced manufacturing technologies. Shanahan was central to getting the 787 Dreamliner on track after production problems in the program’s early years, the report said.

In March, the Defense Department’s inspector general investigated accusations that Shanahan had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors. The investigation appeared to stall his nomination, but the internal watchdog wrapped up the inquiry in April and cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing.

Shanahan’s next steps are to provide backup for Trump’s agenda globally.

“The strategy with North Korea hasn’t changed because it’s a diplomatic one, but it’s about full denuclearization,” he said. “My job is to make sure that we’re prepared in the event diplomacy fails. That’s my focus with the military. There’s no change to our force posture, our force preparation and our readiness.”

Shanahan also visited a border city in Texas on Saturday, where he noted that he intended to accelerate planning to secure the border and bolster the administration’s ability to accomplish that without the Pentagon’s continuous help.

He also offered assurances the Pentagon would not withdraw its military support prematurely.

He reiterated the same to Fox News.

“We’re gonna be here until the borders are secure,” he told Kilmeade. “We’ve got to have the backs of the men and women here who are being overrun.”

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Shanahan told Congress this past week that there have been 4,364 military troops on the border, including active-duty and National Guard, building barriers, providing logistics and transportation service and other activities in support of Customs and Border Protection. The troops have been prohibited from performing law enforcement duties.

Troops have been deployed on the border since last October and are set to remain there through September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Pentagon has approved a plan to spend an additional $1.5 billion to build 80 more miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News Friday.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the re-allocation of funds, which were originally earmarked for support of Afghan security forces and other projects, to help pay for the wall along the southern border.

TRUMP TO NOMINATE PATRICK M. SHANAHAN AS DEFENSE SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

“Today, I authorized the transfer of $1.5 billion toward the construction of more than 80 miles of border barrier,” he said. “The funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes, and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.”

In March, Shanahan approved the first transfer of Defense Department dollars and redirected $1 billion to help build nearly 60 miles of wall in Yuma, Ariz. and El Paso, Texas.

The combined total of $2.5 billion is in response to President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border.

But the plan to divert Pentagon funding has sparked criticism from congressional Democrats, who accused Shanahan of not seeking approval to “reprogram” the funds without congressional authority. Shanahan and other senior defense officials claimed in response they did not have to get permission from Congress despite the objections from Democratic lawmakers.

OVER 100K ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS APPREHENDED OR TURNED AWAY IN APRIL, CBP REVEALS

Shanahan, who has said he plans to visit the border on Saturday, said that the Pentagon is “fully engaged” in fixing the border crisis. He said that more than 4,000 troops and 19 aircraft are supporting Customs and Border Protection personnel.

The funds are being reprogrammed from the Afghan Security Forces Fund, a project focused on chemical weapons, Air Force programs, savings related to a military retirement system, and coalition support funds. The Pentagon is also expected, at some point, to transfer up to $3.6 billion from military construction budgets to pay for wall construction, but details of those plans have yet to be announced.

The move comes after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that the president would officially nominate Shanahan to be the next U.S. secretary of defense. The decision to have Shanahan permanently lead the department “is based upon his outstanding service to the country and his demonstrated ability to lead.”

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do so,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday.

Shanahan said he was “honored” by Trump’s decision.

“If confirmed by the Senate, I will continue the aggressive implementation of our National Defense Strategy,” he said. “I remain committed to modernizing the force so our remarkable Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have everything they need to keep our military lethal and our country safe.”

Fox News’ Liz Zwirz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The U.S. Navy launched an unarmed ballistic missile off the coast of Florida on Thursday hours after North Korea fired two short-range missiles, its second weapons launch in five days.

Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal confirmed in a statement that the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs launched an unarmed Trident II (D5) missile from the USS Rhode Island off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., as a part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation.

While the exact range of the missiles is classified, it’s likely that it flew 7,000 miles, officials told Fox News.

NORTH KOREA FIRES 2 SHORT-RANGE MISSILES, 5 DAYS AFTER PREVIOUS LAUNCH; US TESTS LONG-RANGE MISSILES WITHIN 10 MINUTES

Seal said that the test on the submerged ballistic missile submarine was conducted from the sea and that the missile flew over and landed in the water.

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) Gold crew returns to home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, back in March. 

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) Gold crew returns to home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, back in March.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Tomforde)

The Pentagon said that the test was a standard one for its missile system, and that the missile never flew over land.

“Test launches are conducted on a recurring basis to evaluate and ensure the continued reliability and accuracy of the strategic weapon system.  Each test provides valuable information about our strategic weapon systems, thus contributing to assurance in our capabilities,” Seal said in a statement.

The latest show of strength comes several hours after North Korea fired two short-range missiles toward the sea, its second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program are in trouble. The Pentagon confirmed the launches.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons flew 260 miles and 167 miles, respectively. The body is working with the United States to determine more details, such as the types of weapons that were fired.

The U.S. Air Force, meanwhile, tested a long-range missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California within 10 minutes of the reported launch by Pyongyang. The American intercontinental ballistic missile flew 4,200 miles into the Pacific from California, according to the Air Force. The launch of the Minuteman III intercontinental missile was the second missile launch this month and the fourth this year.

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Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the White House, President Trump said he was not “happy” about the North’s recent military action, adding that “we’re looking” at the situation “very seriously right now.”

He said the weapons were smaller, short-range missiles, but added, “Nobody’s happy about it.”

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Pentagon released a new video Wednesday showing four nuclear-capable B-52 bombers taking off for the Middle East as part of the Trump administration’s effort to deter what officials call a “credible threat” from Iran.

Officials tell Fox News the Cold War-era bombers, part of the 2nd Bomb Wing, departed Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana Tuesday en route to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

The White House said it dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the bombers to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.

On Wednesday, President Trump announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s steel, aluminum, copper and iron sectors and vowed to continue a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran until it stops supporting terror groups, ends destabilizing activities in the region, gives up any nuclear weapons efforts and ends development of ballistic missiles.

“We call on the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its destructive behavior, respect the rights of its people, and return in good faith to the negotiating table,” Trump said.

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Earlier Wednesday, Iran threatened to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump pulled out of the deal a year ago, but the other nations involved — China, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia — stayed in.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

President Trump has pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner suspected of being an Al Qaeda terrorist, the White House announced Monday evening.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cited “broad support” for Michael Behenna, of Edmond, Okla., “from the military, Oklahoma elected officials, and the public” — including 37 generals and admirals, along with a former Pentagon inspector general — as the reason for Trump’s clemency grant. Sanders also said Behenna had been a “model prisoner” while serving his sentence.

“In light of these facts, Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency,” Sanders concluded.

Michael Behenna, pictured in 2018, now runs his own cattle ranch in his native Oklahoma.

Michael Behenna, pictured in 2018, now runs his own cattle ranch in his native Oklahoma. (Courtesy of Behenna family)

A military court originally sentenced Behenna to 25 years for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone. However, the Army’s highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Behenna’s claim of self-defense, Sanders said. The Army Clemency and Parole Board reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him in 2014, as soon as he was eligible.

Behenna acknowledged during his 2008 trial that instead of taking prisoner Ali Mansur home as he was ordered, he took the man to a railroad culvert, stripped him, and then questioned him at gunpoint about a roadside bombing that had killed two members of Behenna’s platoon.

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, at left in front of the American flag, pictured in Iraq with some members of his platoon. In the back right holding the flag is Adam Kohlhaas, who was killed in a roadside bombing tied to an Al Qaeda cell.

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, at left in front of the American flag, pictured in Iraq with some members of his platoon. In the back right holding the flag is Adam Kohlhaas, who was killed in a roadside bombing tied to an Al Qaeda cell. (File image from Behenna family)

Behenna, who was 24 at the time, said he acted in self-defense when Mansur threw a chunk of concrete at him and reached for the lieutenant’s handgun. Army prosecutors said the argument didn’t stand up because Behenna was already pointing his weapon at the prisoner.

In 2018, Behenna’s parents told Fox News the prosecution failed to disclose that their own expert’s analysis supported their son’s version of events. The expert felt so strongly that he reached out to the Behennas about his findings.

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Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter initially requested a pardon for Behenna in February 2018 and renewed his request last month. Hunter said he believed Behenna’s conviction was unjustified because of erroneous jury instructions and the failure of prosecutors to turn over evidence supporting a self-defense claim. The White House statement said that former Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and “numerous members” of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation had also expressed support for Behenna.

Fox News’ Elizabeth Llorente and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics


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