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A budget the likes of which the Pentagon has never seen

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 3:44 PM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 3:44 PM


            FILE - In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. It’s the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That’s far more in defense spending than America’s two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can for the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
FILE - In this June 3, 2011, file photo, the Pentagon is seen from air from Air Force One. It’s the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That’s far more in defense spending than America’s two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can for the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

It's the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That's far more in defense spending than America's two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can foot the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else.

And next year it would rise to $716 billion. Together, the two-year deal provides what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says is needed to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula.

The budget bill that President Donald Trump signed Friday includes huge spending increases for the military: The Pentagon will get $94 billion more this budget year than last -- a 15.5 percent jump. It's the biggest year-over-year windfall since the budget soared by 26.6 percent, from $345 billion in 2002 to $437 billion the year after, when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks.

The extra money is not targeted at countering a new enemy or a singular threat like al-Qaida extremists or the former Soviet Union. Instead the infusion is being sold as a fix for a broader set of problems, including a deficit of training, a need for more hi-tech missile defenses, and the start of a complete recapitalization of the nuclear weapons arsenal.

Every secretary of defense since 2011, when the Congress passed a law setting firm limits on military and domestic spending, has complained that spending caps set by the Budget Control Act were squeezing the military so hard that the number of ready-to-fight combat units was dwindling. Aging equipment was stacking up, troops were not getting enough training and the uncertain budget outlook was clouding America's future.

"I cannot overstate the negative impact to our troops and families' morale from all this budget uncertainty," Mattis said just hours before the House and Senate approved the deal.

More money for the Pentagon, however, is not the simple solution some might think. Even with the spending caps of recent years, the defense budget has been robust by historical standards. Todd Harrison, a defense budget specialist at the Center for Security and International Studies, says military funding has been near the inflation-adjusted peak levels of the armed forces buildup during the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan.

The problem, Harrison says, is that the budgets have been stretched by rising personnel costs, more expensive technology investments and other factors, compounded by the cumulative effects of more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. And throughout this period, the military has been required to keep up or even increase its pace of operations at home and abroad -- and there is no letup in sight.

"We are stretched too thin," Harrison said Friday. "We are trying to do too much with the size force that we have all around the world. Money doesn't necessarily fix that."

The U.S. has far fewer troops in Iraq than it did 10 years ago, and the roughly 15,000 in Afghanistan today compare with a peak of 100,000 in 2010-11, but the trend is leaning in the opposite direction under President Donald Trump, including stepped up counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen. Trump has added several thousand troops in Afghanistan. Also, the prospect of war against North Korea looms large as Trump insists on compelling the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

The enormous increases in defense spending agreed to by lawmakers on Friday go beyond what Trump ask for. Of the $700 million in spending for the 2018 budget year that started last Oct. 1, about $629 billion is for core Pentagon operations and nearly $71 billion is for the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump had requested a 2018 military budget of $603 billion for basic functions and $65 billion for war missions.

The deal Congress approved early Friday also sets the Pentagon's 2019 budget at $716 billion, giving Mattis the financial stability he's been demanding.

The biggest winners in the military buildup are the country's largest defense contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, that spend millions of dollars each year lobbying Congress.

The legislation that Trump signed Friday is expected to translate to billions more for one of the Pentagon's highest priorities: missile defense. The appropriations committees still need to finalize exactly what will be in the 2018 defense budget. But they're likely to follow closely the defense policy bill approved by Congress late last year. That included $12.3 billion for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency and ordered a more rapid buildup of the nation's missile defenses as North Korea has refused to back away from developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the United States.

The policy bill included money for as many as 28 additional Ground-Based Interceptors — anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos in Alaska in the event the U.S. decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile heading toward the United States. The bill also grants U.S. troops a 2.4 percent pay raise, slightly higher than the Pentagon had proposed.

Before the budget deal was reached, Congress frequently resorted to the use of stopgap spending bills. Under these short-term measures, the Pentagon's budget was locked at current year's levels and the military services can be barred from starting new programs or ending old ones. The Pentagon complained that the stopgap approach forced them to shift dollars intended for new weapons and other needed equipment to pay for ongoing operations.

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Video shows man kidnapping bikini barista at knifepoint before attempted rape

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:48 PM

(Security Footage via Kent Police Department )
(Security Footage via Kent Police Department )

A man assaulted a bikini barista in Kent, Washington, and attempted to rape her after buying a drink early Tuesday morning, according to police. 

At 4:45 a.m., police responded to the Hottie Shots Espresso stand after a 30-year-old barista reported the incident. 

The barista, a Bonney Lake, Washington resident, told police that the assailant came to the coffee stand window on foot and ordered a drink. While the barista was making the drink, investigators say the assailant climbed through the window and held her at knifepoint.

Police say that during the assailant's attempt to sexually assault the barista, he noticed vehicle headlights of a customer pulling into the drive-thru and fled the area. 

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Investigators describe the assailant as a white male in his 30s, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, with darker hair and lightly colored facial hair. Police also say he may have fled in a dark sedan with black rims. 

Police also say the assailant was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, black pants and a black baseball hat with a brown bill. The suspect is also described by police as appearing "to have an earring in his left ear, and possibly a Bluetooth device in his right ear."

“I know that the public can help us identify this guy. It is a priority for us to get him off the streets as soon as possible before he terrorizes someone else,” Detective Melanie Robinson said in a statement. 

Any witnesses or anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or the Kent police tip line at 253-856-5808.

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VP Mike Pence ready for secret meeting with North Korea, but North backs out

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 9:05 PM

Vice President Mike Pence, and seond lady, Karen Pence are pictured just in front of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong  (back left) during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Vice President Mike Pence, and seond lady, Karen Pence are pictured just in front of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong (back left) during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Vice President Mike Pence was ready for a secret meeting with North Korean officials at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, earlier this month, but the North backed out, according to news outlets.

>> Read more trending news 

Pence attended the Olympics Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 as part of a five-day trip to Asia and was seated near Kim Jong-un’s sister, but did not speak to her, creating a media sensation.

The North canceled the meeting just two hours before Pence was scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and another North Korean state official, Kim Yong Nam, on Feb. 10 after Pence announced new sanctions against the North Korean regime during his trip and rebuked it for its nuclear program, according to the Washington Post, which was the first to report on the secret meeting.

“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement, according to The Hill.

>> Related: NBC apologizes for comment about Japan, South Korea during Olympics opening ceremony

News of the secret meeting comes as relations between the communist north and democratic south seem to be thawing in recent weeks with the announcement last month from Kim Jong-un that he was sending a delegation to the Olympics. He sent his sister to lead the group.

North Korea Announces They Will Participate In 2018 Olympics

“We regret [the North Koreans'] failure to seize this opportunity," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. "We will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death."

>> Related: Olympic gold medalist, skater Meagan Duhamel, uses platform to spotlight dog meat trade

Pence said he planned to use his trip to the Olympics to prevent North Korea from using the games as a ploy for favorable propaganda on the communist regime.

VIDEO: Kim Jong Un’s Sister Arrived in South Korea for 2018 Winter Olympics

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Man falls off cliff, dies while trying to save his dog

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 4:29 PM

Man Dies While Trying To Save Dog, Falls Off Cliff

A 67-year-old man died Monday after he fell from a 500-foot cliff in California while trying to help his dog, who was partway down the cliff, according to multiple reports.

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The man, who was not identified, had been hiking with his dog when it went over the edge of a cliff at Thornton State Beach, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The dog became stranded partway down the cliff, KGO reported. The man attempted to help his dog, but slipped and fell from the cliff, according to the news station. Officials with the CHP said the section of cliff from which the man fell was about 500 feet tall.

With the help of a CHP helicopter, first responders found the man in grave condition. He was pronounced dead at the scene a short while later.

Thornton State Beach Assist

**CHP Helicopter H-32 Assists North County Fire Authority with Fall From Cliff**At approximately 1130am, CHP Helicopter H-32 was requested by the North County Fire Authority to respond and assist them with a man who fell from a cliff. H-32 responded and arrived over the scene in San Mateo County. The man had been hiking with his dog when it went over the edge of the cliff at the top of Thornton State Beach. The man tried to help his dog back to safety when he, in turn, fell from an approximate 500 foot section of the cliff and onto Thornton State Beach. North County Fire Fighters made their way down to the mans location and located him in grave condition. H-32 landed on the beach approximately 100 yards from where the man landed. The H-32 crew flew the man to a nearby parking lot that was being used as a rescue staging area. Unfortunately, due to the height of the fall, the man succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The man’s dog was recovered by emergency personnel and is being reunited with its family unharmed. The San Mateo County Sheriff Office of the Coroner will be conducting an investigation into his death and media inquires regarding his identification should be directed there. Normally we don’t post incidents that involve body recoveries, however this particular incident generated many media inquiries so a post was necessary. State Parks CaliforniaCHP - San FranciscoGolden-Gate-NationalparkAmerican Medical Response - San Mateo CountyNationalpark-Service

Posted by CHP - Golden Gate Division Air Operations on Monday, February 19, 2018
Officials said the man’s dog was recovered safely. It was reunited with its family Monday.

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VIDEO: Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz shown fighting students in 2016

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 1:59 AM

Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz Appears At Status Hearing

The man allegedly behind the fatal Florida high school shooting apparently has a disturbing past that is coming to light. A school fight that was captured on camera a little more than a year ago is the latest development.

>> Click here to watch

Authorities said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Cruz was formerly a member of the school’s JROTC program before being expelled.

>> Florida school shooting: Teacher of the year's emotional Facebook post goes viral

A September 2016 video shared by ABC News shows Cruz wearing a white shirt and khakis while fighting with other students. Cruz was reportedly handed a two-day suspension following the incident.

>> Family who took in Nikolas Cruz: 'We just didn't know'

According to ABC, the fight was one of five documented incidents that caused school administrators to expel Cruz, mandating his transfer to another high school in February 2017.

>> WATCH: Florida school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez slams politicians, NRA in emotional speech

Another incident that reportedly contributed to Cruz’s expulsion was his alleged fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Cruz was allegedly abusive toward her before they broke up.

>> Read more trending news 

The massacre at the high school marked the 25th U.S. school shooting in which someone was killed since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

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