The Complex

Congress Moves to Spike China's Missile Deal with Turkey

Turkey stunned U.S. officials in September when it reached a provisional deal worth up to $3.4 billion with a Chinese company blacklisted in the United States to build Turkey's first long-range air and missile defense system. Monday, Congress drew a line in the sand over it: If the 2014 U.S. defense spending bill goes through as proposed, it will ban the use of U.S. funding to integrate Chinese missile defense systems with U.S. or NATO systems, effectively making it impossible for Turkey to operate Chinese equipment with many partner nations.

The provision is one of many hardball tactics in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is clearly aimed at short-circuiting Turkey's plan. Turkey, which entered NATO in 1952, indicated it favored the Chinese company, China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation, in part because some components would be built in Turkey, providing a boost to the country's economy. U.S. and NATO officials strenuously objected to Turkey's plan, warning that Turkish companies involved in building components for the Chinese system could face U.S. trade sanctions. They also said the Chinese and U.S. systems wouldn't work together.

"If they select a system that's not inter-operable, that's their choice," Heidi Grant, the U.S. Air Force's deputy undersecretary for international affairs, told Reuters last month in an interview. "They've chosen not to be inter-operable. Our role is to make sure they're informed of our recommendation of the best systems to be inter-operable with the U.S."

Turkish officials left the door open last month that the U.S. or European companies that competed for the contract could still win the bid by asking the companies to extend the time duration of their bids. China's system beat out a joint venture from Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., which offered their Patriot missile system; Russia's Rosoboronexport; and the Italian-French collaboration Eurosam. However, Turkey has refused thus far to back away entirely from the Chinese company, which has been sanctioned for selling weapons to Syria, Iran or North Korea that are banned under U.S. law. Congress' new provision seems clearly aimed at getting Turkey to do just that.

The new proposed NDAA includes a variety of other national security provisions on which Congress wants leverage. In one example, it asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to provide an unclassified account of details of the Parwan Detention Facility, a shadowy facility near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in which detainees are held. Control of the detention center was relinquished to the Afghan government formally last year, but the political fight continued this year over how the U.S. and Afghan governments would handle the most dangerous detainees.

The proposed defense bill also attaches strings to U.S. funding for the war in Afghanistan after 2014. It says the most important element of the coalition drawing down forces there and transitioning the country back to Afghan control is the United States and Afghanistan reaching a bilateral security agreement that has been stalled for months. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he does not want to sign the deal until after Afghanistan's elections next year, frustrating U.S. officials, who say they must have a deal in place sooner than that to plan for the future.

The NDAA bill fully funds the Afghan military and continued reconstruction for the time being, but bans the use of the second half of the money set aside until Hagel, the U.S. defense secretary, certifies that that the security agreement with Afghanistan is signed and is in the interests of the United States.

The defense bill also "recognizes the continued threat posed by Iran," as a fact sheet about the bill Monday notes. It calls for a review of Iran's global network of terrorist and criminal groups and how they support or reinforce Tehran's overall strategy. The NDAA also requires a report to Congress on military partnerships with nearby Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which include U.S. allies like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Congressional leaders also called for a continued ban on the transfer of detainees from the military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, and forbids the construction of new detainee facilities in Cuba, squashing the military's desire to upgrade there. The Obama administration has said repeatedly it wants to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, but those efforts have been stalled for years.

"The proposed defense bill is the first step toward untangling the knot that is Guantanamo," said Human Rights First's Dixon Osburn in a statement Monday. "It provides a path forward to foreign transfers that balances our security interests and our legal obligations."

The new bill won't make everyone happy, however. It calls for the United States to keep in service the troubled "Block 30" aircraft in the Air Force's RQ-4 Global Hawk drone program. The unmanned vehicles in that program were found to be operationally ineffective and expensive. Its maker, Northrop Grumman, effectively lobbied Congress to extend the life of the program despite Pentagon and White House objections.

The new proposed NDAA is based on defense spending bills that passed in June out of the armed services committees in the House and Senate, congressional officials said. It's expected that both chambers will vote on it this month. Even with recent congressional gridlock, a defense spending bill has passed each of the last 52 years.


The Complex

Civilian Busted for Trying to Bring Nearly an Ounce of Weed into the Pentagon

The person must have been high.

The Pentagon's police force conducted a dragnet last month for employees entering the building. They found a number of unauthorized items and at least one illegal one, allegedly: 25 grams of marijuana, close to an ounce, on an Army civilian just trying to enter the building to get to work.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency on Nov. 19 conducted what it called an "enhanced screening" of all the Pentagon's employees at three of the building's major entrances as part of a routine security check. Pentagon police found four "prohibited" knives, pepper spray and what was only described as "drug paraphernalia." In other such screenings, they have found employees with "expandable batons," a defense official said.

But police also found an unnamed individual who allegedly was holding at least 25 grams of marijuana, just shy of an ounce. Despite the fact that possession of an illegal substance like marijuana is prohibited at the Pentagon and there were no clear national security issues at play, officials declined to provide any further details of the case. A Pentagon official cited the Privacy Act of 1974 which defense officials interpret as preventing the Defense Department from having to disclose the age or name of the person charged. Nor would defense officials comment on the amount of marijuana allegedly found. But a source familiar with the matter indicated that the amount was 25 grams or more.

Officials would only say that individuals who bring controlled substances into the building are subject to criminal prosecution and to penalties imposed by federal law for the commission of a Class B misdemeanor offense.

Typically, someone possessing drugs or a gun would be prosecuted through the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. But a check of the "Pentagon docket" there did not contain any hearings for recent possession charges.

Why anyone would bring that much marijuana into the Pentagon is anyone's guess. 25 grams would be considered by most people to be more than what an average marijuana user might consume for personal use. And that could open the door to the individual being prosecuted for possession with an intent to distribute. In some cases, that much could be considered a felony charge.

Under Pentagon screening rules, however, an individual can refuse to have their bags and person checked and simply not be admitted into the building. It's possible that the individual in question simply forgot they had a container of marijuana on their person. According to the crowd-sourcing Web site Price of Weed, an ounce of high-quality marijuana in the Washington, D.C. area could be worth as much as $400.

(The site also rates enforcement and social acceptance of marijuana. Virginia gets four "bags" for enforcement and three for social acceptance, with one bag meaning "accepting" and five "highly intolerant.)"

If a Pentagon employee is found to have an unauthorized weapon like pepper spray, prohibited under "Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Conduct on the Pentagon Reservation," he or she can be fined as much as $1,000 and the item can be confiscated.

Such screenings have become more commonplace at the Pentagon. Officials said that the one Nov. 19 was not conducted because of any specific security threat but as a matter of routine. But the Pentagon police force also checks some bags as Pentagon employees exit the building, potentially checking for stolen items or classified documents. If narcotics have been found on these checks, defense officials have kept that information to themselves.

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