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Americas News Agenda for March 6

Duty Editor: Jim Mannion Tel: +1 202 414 0541 What's happening in the Americas on Thursday: + Pentagon chief Hagel on Capitol Hill + US diplomats testify on Ukraine and Syria WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey testify before the House Armed Services Committee on the proposed 2015 fiscal year defense budget. 1500 GMT. Pictures. (US-DEFENSE-ECONOMY-POLITICS-BUDGET)

Hagel talks Ukraine with Russian counterpart

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Saturday after Moscow approved sending troops into Ukraine following a bloody three-month uprising there. "Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel spoke to his Russian counterpart this morning," a US defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Hagel then went to the White House for a meeting on the crisis. Officials said there was "no change" to the US military's presence in the region. oh/rcw

Obama national security aides discuss policy options for Ukraine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's national security team met on Saturday for an update on the situation in Ukraine and to discuss potential policy options, a senior Obama administration official said. The meeting came as Ukraine asked the United States and other key members of the U.N. Security Council to help safeguard its territorial integrity after Russia announced plans to send armed forces into the country's autonomous Crimea region.

Budget cuts to slash U.S. Army to smallest since before World War Two

) By David Alexander and Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Monday it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 spending caps, setting up an election-year fight with the Congress over national defense priorities.

Pentagon plans to shrink US Army to pre-WWII level

The Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II, signaling a shift after more than a decade of ground wars. Saying it was time to "reset" for a new era, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended shrinking American forces from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000. In a speech outlining the proposed defense budget, he said Monday that after Iraq and Afghanistan, US military leaders no longer plan to "conduct long and large stability operations."

U.S. defense chief vows continued Asia-Pacific focus under tight budget

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that the United States will downsize its military amid a tight budgetary situation but keep its strategic focus on the Asia-Pacific region. The Defense Department "will continue to shift its operational focus and forces to the Asia-Pacific," Hagel told reporters, revealing the basic thinking behind the department's proposed defense budget for fiscal 2015 from October.

Hagel unveils new Pentagon leadership team to tackle budget woes

By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a new Pentagon leadership team on Friday that will guide the department through a critical period as it cuts hundreds of billions of dollars in defense spending while maintaining U.S. security commitments worldwide. Hagel, speaking at a Pentagon news conference, said the Defense Department was still facing big spending cuts despite a two-year budget deal by Congress in January that eased some of the financial pressure.

Hagel worried about ethical 'breakdown' in US military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is concerned that recent scandals signal a potential ethical "breakdown" in the US military and has asked commanders to urgently address the problem, his spokesman said Wednesday. The Pentagon chief was "troubled" by revelations of cheating on exams, as well as other incidents, and had raised the issue with the chiefs of all the armed services in talks earlier Wednesday, Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

Hagel 'deeply concerned' about health of U.S. nuclear forces

By David Alexander and Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday he was "deeply concerned," over the health of U.S. nuclear forces after the drug and cheating scandals this month, and that some nuclear officers felt their mission was taken for granted during 13 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hagel, who ordered a high-level review of nuclear forces on Thursday, told a news conference that the problems affecting missile launch officers were caused by a range of factors.

Hawkish McCain likens Obama to Jimmy Carter on Syria

Senior US lawmaker John McCain accused President Barack Obama on Wednesday of risking a Middle East regional conflagration by failing to show leadership on the crisis in Syria. The conservative senator and former presidential candidate, an influential Washington foreign policy hawk, compared Obama to former president Jimmy Carter, widely seen here as weak. McCain, a former navy pilot who was made prisoner during the Vietnam War, is a strong advocate of robust support for Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
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