National Security Brief: February 14, 2012

— Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter urged Congress not to pull apart the Pentagon’s $525 billion proposed budget. “There is always a danger that some people would try to pick at one part, pick and choose something that is not convenient to them, but they have a big burden this year” to reduce spending, Carter said.

— U.S. troops will feel the effects of military spending budget cuts as the Pentagon plans to limit pay increases and raise health care costs. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that DOD’s current personnel cost levels are “unsustainable.”

— China’s defense budget will double by 2015 to $238.2 billion, more than the rest of the Asia Pacific region combined.

— An Iranian man detonated a series of three explosions in Bangkok, injuring four civilians and blowing off his own legs, one day after Israel accused Iran and Hezbollah of coordinating attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.

— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on Monday for a congressional hearing on Syria and, in a letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), emphasized that “all options must now be on the table to stop the bloodletting in Syria.”

— Two administration officials said that the a major intelligence gathering effort on the plans and operations of the Syrian regime. “There is an obvious focus on developing intelligence,” one official said.

— Bahraini protesters prepare for a new attempt to retake a landmark roundabout in Manama on Tuesday following clashes on Monday in which protesters were reportedly tear gassed and shot with birdshot at the conclusion of a legal anti-government rally.

— The Obama administration announced yesterday that it would hold its first talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program since the death of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il.