An Army sergeant first class is charged with allegedly secretly videotaping female cadets in the showers and bathrooms at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Barbara Starr has the story.
The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials told CNN on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement Thursday and notify Congress of the planned change in policy, the officials said.
"We will eliminate the policy of 'no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'" a senior defense official said.
The officials cautioned, however, that "not every position will open all at once on Thursday." Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an "assessment phase," in which each branch of service will examine all its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable for integrating them.
This morning on "Early Start," Barbara Starr reports on this historic change to the nation's military.
READ MORE: Military to open combat jobs to women
Today, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected the lift the military's ban on women in combat. The move will open up hundreds of thousands of jobs for women who want to serve on the front lines.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) weighs in on the decision on Starting Point this morning, calling the choice a "very positive step."
"I think it’s overdue and it’s wonderful for several reasons. First it’s going to be an extraordinary opportunity for women and it’s also going to be extraordinary for the institution itself," Schiff says. "Whenever we’ve integrated an institution it not only benefits the women that now have new job opportunities but it benefits the institution with better leadership and better coordination."
Rep. Schiff also discusses Hillary Clinton's testimony at yesterday's hearing on Benghazi, calling the "excessive and partisan focus" on the intelligence community's initial report that the attack was spawned by protests a "horrendous distraction."
"It used to be that the partisanship ended at the waters edge, but not any more, not even when fatalities are involved," Schiff remarks.
The nation this morning remembers the American general credited with orchestrating one of the most lopsided military victories in modern history. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf died yesterday in Florida. He was 78 years old.
"Stormin' Norman", as he was called, was regarded by many as a media savvy general taking the lead during the first Gulf War. The entire campaign was televised live. The president paid tribute to the late military leader last night saying, “Our prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family, who tonight can know that his legacy will endure in a nation that is more secure because of his patriotic service.” CNN Military Analyst and Retired Gen. James "Spider" Marks joins us from Oakton, VA by Skype this morning with more on Gen. Schwarzkopf’s legacy.
"This truly was a 20th century American military hero,” Gen. Marks says. “General Schwarzkopf was a bigger than life man. His nickname certainly personified all of that. It’s a label—hero is a label that he would protest openly. He was a humble man.”
An American doctor abducted in Afghanistan was rescued Sunday by an elite team of U.S. special forces. The U.S. Special Ops team rescued the doctor, but lost one of their own. Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is following the latest developments on “Early Start” this morning.
The Special Ops team freed Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was working in a nonprofit medical agency in Afghanistan, from his Taliban captors. The Navy Seal who died in the attempt “was a member of Seal Team Six, actually known inside the military as the Special Warfare Development Group, the same elite team that went on Osama bin Laden raid,” Starr reports. "We don’t know yet if this fallen Seal was part of the bin Laden mission.”
Christine Romans on President Obama's claim that U.S. military spending is larger than the next 10 countries combined.
Mission: Readiness is a group of senior retired military leaders that calls childhood obesity a national security issue because it compromises military recruiting. A report by the group says that one in four young Americans is too overweight to serve in the military. Military recruiters told 34-year-old Kevin Ammerman that he was one of them, so he lost 160 pounds in order to enlist in the US Army. He joins John Berman on “Early Start” this morning to talk about his mission accomplished.
Ammerman, whose younger brother is serving in the military, says he’s always talked about enlisting and grew up in a family with a lot of respect for the military. "That was one of the major reasons for me,” he says. A big key for losing weight for Ammerman was to have to want to do it, “and you have to do want to do it enough that you’ll write down what you’re eating.” Steps like this led him to his ultimate achievement, and the new recruit is now heading to boot camp.
Ammerman responds to the statistic from Mission: Readiness regarding 25% of young Americans are just too overweight to serve. “That’s a problem,” he says. “I’m actually able to outperform guys who are in their 20s...the battery of tests you have to take to determine what job you’re in, a lot of younger people are not scoring very high at all. And it’s kind of troubling."
Ammerman’s biggest personal fear heading into boot camp is that people may expect more from him because he is older than most recruits. “I’m worried I’ll let somebody down or something like that.”
In Egypt, Riot police continued firing warning shots and tear gas early Thursday outside their U.S. Embassy in Cairo to prevent protestors from climbing embassy walls. Demonstrators were said to be protesting a film produced in the United States that shows Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer.
CNN’s Barbara Starr says, “People have been waiting for the last couple of days for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to actually come out in public” and talk about the protests in his country. In his statement, Morsy says the Egyptian security forces will control the situation and will not allow this to happen again.
The U.S. has also began taking precautions. 50 Marines were sent to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli where protests also took place. “They are there to provide internal security only. Nothing else,” says Starr. Two U.S. Navy warships equipped with tomahawk missiles were also sent toward the Libyan coast, which Starr says “will give President Obama… a military option should he choose it- to strike targets in Libya.”
A new article suggests white supremists could be using the U.S. military as a training ground.
Reuters reports that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups are encouraging followers to enlist and acquire military skills for future battles. The story is taking on more immediacy given the recent events in Wisconsin, where former U.S. Army soldier Wade Page killed six people at a Sikh temple and was also well-known in the white supremacist music scene.
This morning on "Early Start," Reuters's Daniel Trotta explains his report looking at how the US military has responded to violent racists in the ranks.
It's not often that we get to reference "Star Wars" on the show, but when engineers say they're going to test an unmanned aircraft and have it fly at five times the speed of sound, it just seems appropriate.
This morning on "Early Start," CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explained why engineers and geeks are excited about the Air Force's unmanned hypersonic test flight of the X-51A "Waverider" aircraft off the coast of California today.
Aerospace engineers are hoping they can keep the aircraft flying for five minutes at Mach 6, or about 4,500 miles per hour...five times the speed of sound. That's fast enough to fly from New York to London in less than an hour. If the test flight is successful, it could usher in the next generation of missiles, military aircraft, spacecraft and maybe even passenger planes.
Starr says the Pentagon believes this is the kind of military technology that would give the U.S. an advantage. The practical applications can be related to recent examples. Starr relates it to one operation in 1998, when the government used Tomahawk missiles to attack a camp they believed Osama Bin Laden was training at. By the time they arranged everything to send to the target, Bin Laden was long gone. Starr explains that this type of flight would compresses military decision making time to within minutes.
With the Waverider test, the Air Force wants to see if this type of flight is feasible. If it is, the U.S. military could be looking at putting missiles and potentially troops on target within minutes and hours.
See Starr's report on "Early Start" this morning in the video above.