About 800 U.S. Navy personnel have been evacuated from a building in Arlington, Va., after a letter was found to contain a suspicious white powder on Thursday morning.
The letter was found at Commander Naval Personnel, the Navy's office for personnel matters, near the Court House district of Arlington, just a few miles from the Pentagon.
According to a military official, about 800 people were evacuated after a "white powder" was found in an envelope. Arlington country officials are on the scene.
"A suspicious substance was found in the mailroom of Building #12 at Naval Support Facility - Arlington, Va. As a precaution, all personnel are currently being evacuated. The situation is ongoing and currently under investigation and we will provide additional details as they become available," a Navy statement said.
UPDATE: The suspicious substance tested "negative for hazardous material," the Navy said, following multiple test by Arlington County Hazmat Response Team. "The situation has been cleared and the suspicious letter has been turned over to the Navy authorities and evacuated personnel have been let back into the building."
Ban Ki-moon will become the first sitting United Nations secretary general to visit the Pentagon when he meets with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey on Thursday to discuss the North Korean crisis.
The United Nations requested the unprecedented meeting roughly two weeks ago amid growing international tensions stemming from North Korea's threats of nuclear war, a senior defense official told the E-Ring. Pentagon officials behind the scenes rushed to accommodate the request, and Ban's visit was not announced until late Wednesday afternoon.
The foremost topic of the meeting will be "how the U.S. can work with the U.N. to make it clear to the North Korean regime that they should abandon their nuclear pursuits," the official said.
Also on the agenda are U.N. peacekeeping operations, the iconic blue helmet missions that were a staple of the 1990s but that the Pentagon has largely avoided during the past decade as millions of U.S. troops were deployed to fight the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Participants in the room will be Hagel, Dempsey, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Mark Lippert, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Mike Sheehan, and James Swartout, who is special advisor to Pentagon press secretary George Little and a spokesman for Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter. On the U.N. side with Ban will sit Harve Ladsous, under secretary-general for the department of peacekeeping operations; Ameerah Haq, under secretary-general for field support; Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and strategic planning; and Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, assistant secretary-general for political affairs.
According to the defense official, the group plans to discuss the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2094, which imposed additional sanctions against North Korea in March.
But the fact there will be a discussion about U.N. peacekeeping at the Pentagon could touch sensitive nerve in Washington, which has historically shown a distaste for putting U.S. troops in blue helmets. Currently, there are 14 active U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world and, according to the Pentagon, U.S. troops are assisting with six: those in Haiti, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, South Sudan, and Israel.
That may sound like a bigger U.S. commitment than it really is. The total number of U.S. troops participating in U.N. peacekeeping missions as of March: 28. The delegation is expected to discuss how the U.S. might become more involved, the official said.
One item not explicitly listed on the agenda but a strong candidate for discussion: nuclear disarmament. Ban, in January, delivered a stinging rebuke of the world's major military powers for not doing more to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Hagel shares Ban's passion for the issue and was a strong advocate for reducing nuclear weapons after quitting the Senate in 2008, working with the disarmament group Global Zero. Hagel's anti-nuke record was one reason that several conservative senators cited for voting against his confirmation, but as secretary Hagel has promised to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent capability.
Ban is scheduled to arrive at the Pentagon at 1:45 pm.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will travel to Israel on Saturday to kick off a five-nation tour of the Middle East, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.
Israel is the first country besides Afghanistan that Hagel will have visited since becoming secretary.
Typically, for security purposes the Pentagon does not announce the secretary of defense's overseas travel in advance of his departure. But Israel is not a typical destination. Hagel was hotly criticized before his February confirmation as being anti-Israel. Since taking office, Hagel has stressed his support for Israel, and greeted Israel's then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak as his first foreign visitor to the Pentagon.
Hagel's Israel stop this weekend follows recent visits by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. There, Hagel will meet with Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Pentagon officials said.
The secretary then will visit Jordan to assess the U.S. military's efforts to prepare regional forces for "a number of contingencies" for a post-war Syria, a Pentagon statement said. On Wednesday, Hagel revealed that last week he deployed a U.S. Army headquarters element to Amman, where U.S. soldiers will continue training Jordanian armed forces in how to manage possible loose chemical weapons and post-conflict security.
Hagel then will visit senior military officials in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Egypt visit is the first by an American secretary of defense since July, when then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that newly elected President Morsi was "his own man" at the end of a 45-minute meeting. Panetta at the time said it appeared Morsi and Egypt's senior defense officer, Field Marshal Gen. Hussein Tantawi, "share a very good relationship and are working together towards the same end."
Less than two weeks later, Morsi forced Tantawi to resign.
Photo by GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared to make a major flub on Wednesday when he said the United States had not been attacked from the air since 1953.
The moment came in the Senate Armed Services Committee, as Dempsey was asked to give his latest assessment of the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's development. Dempsey said he was convinced the aircraft was "good" after speaking with the military's JSF program officer.
"We haven't been attacked from the air since April 15th, 1953, and I'm not going to be the chairman on whose watch that's reversed, so I'm an advocate," he said.
The E-Ring promptly tweeted out that date, which generated some quizzical responses.
CNN producer Larry Shaughnessy tweeted: "@FPBaron He must have had the day off on Sept. 11, 2001. Probably out in his garden and missed the news."
So, the E-Ring asked Dempsey's spokesman, Col. David Lapan, about Dempsey's historical reference. Lapan quickly offered this explanation via email:
"Those on Twitter need to understand the context -- he was answering a question about the JSF and ‘air superiority.' Our military aircraft to fight enemy aircraft, not U.S. commercial aircraft used as weapons by terrorists. Advanced fighters aren't necessary for that threat -- if it were ever used again."
And what actually happened on April 15, 1953? Indeed, that date is the last time U.S. ground troops were killed by enemy aircraft, according to the Air Force. It happened on Cho-do island (pictured), off the coast of North Korea.
U.S. Air Force photo
Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tiarra Fulgham/Released
Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.