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US spy chief warns cuts will hurt morale
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 7, 2013


White House demands quick Senate action on Hagel
Washington (AFP) Feb 7, 2013 - The White House warned Thursday that America could not afford to be without a defense secretary, after Republican moves delayed a Senate confirmation vote on its nominee for the post, Chuck Hagel.

The Senate Armed Services Committee had been expected to vote on Hagel's nomination this week to prepare for a debate in the full chamber, but Republicans are demanding more information on Hagel's past paid speeches.

"We continue to expect the Senate to act quickly to confirm Senator Hagel," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

"This is a uniquely qualified nominee for the post of secretary of defense. The position needs to be filled."

The Armed Services committee delayed Thursday's expected vote on the nomination after Republicans demanded more details of the speeches Hagel gave and was paid for after leaving the Senate in 2009.

Hagel's team and the White House however says the former senator has given voluminous details to the committee, including many remarks for which no text or transcript exists.

Hagel has angered several Republicans with some of his positions on Iran, Israel and US war policy.

In a Senate confirmation hearing last week he was grilled for hours on past positions on the Iraq war and sanctions regarding Tehran's nuclear program.

Republicans say they have yet to receive key information about payments that Hagel accepted for some of his speeches.

Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said a lawmaker could seek to delay a vote in the full Senate by putting a hold on the nomination, should it manage to pass out of committee.

US intelligence chief James Clapper has warned potential deep budget cuts could damage morale and undermine the mission of the country's spy agencies, according to a letter obtained by AFP Thursday.

Clapper, America's director of national intelligence, voiced grave concern over plans to impose a furlough on all Defense Department civilian employees if drastic automatic budget cuts enter into force next month.

In his letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the spy chief said civilians working for spy agencies should be protected in same the way that troops in uniform are being shielded from potential cost-saving measures.

"Let me be clear: I am opposed to implementing uniform furloughs without first considering the potential impact on our mission and national security," Clapper wrote in the February 1 letter.

"We've invested heavily in building a workforce that is second to none, so we can't afford to ignore the adverse implications that furloughs bring in terms of hardship, morale, and inefficiency," he wrote.

"Our ability to perform our mission would be seriously undermined by mandatory across-the-board furloughs."

The Pentagon plans a mandatory 22-day furlough for its civilian workforce in the event Congress fails to reach a budget deal by a March 1 deadline.

By law, without an agreement in Congress on slashing federal spending, multi-billion dollar cuts will be triggered across the government.

Much of the funding for intelligence agencies falls within the Pentagon's budget.

But officials say Clapper has authority over "national intelligence program" funds that pay thousands of employees spread across 16 agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

The release of the letter marks the most explicit public statement to date from the US administration on the possible consequences of automatic budget cuts on the intelligence services.

Until now, senior officials have focused their comments on the impact of budget reductions on the US military and numerous domestic government programs.

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Japan PM says China dialogue window must stay open
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 7, 2013
Japan's prime minister said Thursday the "window of dialogue" with China must remain open, even as he reiterated his rebuke to Beijing over a naval confrontation on the high seas. Shinzo Abe said an incident in which a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese warship was "extremely regrettable", as tension grows over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea. ... read more


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