5 Things to Start Your Week

Crew members aboard the VOS Raasay recover U.S. and British Royal Navy ocean gliders Oct. 8, 2016. A similar unmanned underwater vehicle was seized by the Chinese Navy in international waters Dec. 15. Cmdr. Santiago Carrizosa/Navy
Crew members aboard the VOS Raasay recover U.S. and British Royal Navy ocean gliders Oct. 8, 2016. A similar unmanned underwater vehicle was seized by the Chinese Navy in international waters Dec. 15. Cmdr. Santiago Carrizosa/Navy

Here are five news stories and events to start your week, from the editors at Military.com:

1. China to Return US Navy Drone, Easing Tensions

China has agreed to return a U.S. Navy drone seized in the South China Sea. The underwater glider was taken Thursday in international waters about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay Naval Air Station in the Philippines, according to the Pentagon. A crew on a small boat launched from a Chinese Navy Dalang-III class submarine captured the unmanned vehicle while it was collecting unclassified scientific data, The Pentagon said, though experts suspected the device was to help track Chinese submarine movement, The New York Times reported. The drone was operating from the oceanographic survey ship USNS Bowditch, whose crew was attempting to retrieve it and a second vehicle in the waters when the seizure took place. The incident quickly heightened tensions between the two countries. The U.S. had called on China to "immediately return" the "unlawfully seized" vehicle. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, "China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters -- rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act," he tweeted.

2. Navy Suspends Flights of Super Hornets, Growlers

The Navy has suspended flights of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets and E/A-18G Growler electronic attack jets after an accident at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington. A Growler experienced an unspecified "on-deck emergency" around 11 a.m. Friday, injuring an unspecified number of aircrew and damaging the Boeing Co.-made aircraft. It wasn't clear how the crew members were hurt, but they had to be medically evacuated from the scene. A search and rescue helicopter transported the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132 sailors from the installation to the Harborview Medical Center. Their status wasn't immediately available. The Navy is investigating the cause. The service has temporarily suspended flight operations for all Super Hornets and Growlers "as a safety precaution since they share common aircraft systems, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis dependent upon operational requirements," according to a statement. "The operational pause will allow both Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Boeing engineers time to investigate the incident."

3. Senators Call for Inquiry into Russian Election Hacking

A bipartisan group of senators has called on Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican from Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader, to convene a select committee to investigate potential Russian hacking and interference in the U.S. presidential election, multiple outlets including The New York Times reported on Sunday. The four senators include John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and also a member of the panel; Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York and the Senate Minority Leader; and Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the most senior Democrat on the defense panel. "Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American," they wrote in a letter. Speaking to CNN's Jack Tapper, McCain said the Russian hacking of the U.S. election threatens to "destroy democracy." He said the Russians "are ahead of us in many respects in this whole issue of cyberwarfare." President-elect Trump has refused to criticize Russia for the activity.

4. Defense, Vets Bills Await Obama's Signature

President Barack Obama this week may decide on two pieces of legislation affecting the military and veterans communities, including the massive defense authorization bill and a slimmed down veterans reform bill. Both chambers of Congress this month approved the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, including a 2.1 percent military pay raise for troops, by veto-proof majorities. The bill leaves housing allowances unchanged, drops a proposal requiring women to register for the draft and forgives the debt of Guardsmen ordered to pay back bonuses. Lawmakers have also approved the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act, which leaves out many reform initiatives including a streamlined appeals process for filing disability claims. In a speech last week, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said he was informed by some lawmakers that the proposal would be delayed until next year so the new Congress could get credit for passing it. "I don't care who takes credit," he said. "All I care about is the outcome for veterans."

5. No Word Yet on Trump Pick for VA Secretary

The veterans community is still awaiting word from President-elect Trump on who he plans to nominate to become secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department. A transition official told ABC News the position is turning out to be the "most difficult" cabinet position to fill. Numerous veterans organizations are pushing for Trump to keep VA Secretary McDonald on the job. McDonald is a Republican, a West Point graduate and the former chief executive officer of the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. But Trump is also reportedly considering Rep. Jeff Miller, the retiring congressman from Florida and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts; and Pete Hegseth, an Army veteran and the former president of Concerned Veterans for America, which wants to open up veteran health care to the private market. Other contenders reportedly include Adm. Michelle Howard, commander of naval forces in Europe and Africa and the first black woman to command a Navy ship; and retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the service's first female four-star general.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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