WASHINGTON – The following is breaking news from the FOX News Channel's Washington, D.C., bureau:
14:52 p.m. EDT In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell confirmed that he will propose to expand FISA powers at a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence next Tuesday.
14:22 p.m. EDT Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace have called a hastily-arranged news conference to announce a change in Department of Defense policy allowing the Army to deploy active duty soldiers for as long as 15 months, changing the current policy of 12 month deployments.
13:06 p.m. EDT A well-placed source told FOX News on Wednesday that the military was on the verge of announcing that some five brigades or about 15,000 troops were about to have their deployments in Iraq extended beyond a year before senior Pentagon officials decided that the entire "boots on the ground" policy would be reviewed and changed to reflect the need for longer deployments.
The announcement about those particular extensions has now been put off, pending review of the larger, Army-wide policy.
Senior Pentagon officials earlier announced that the Defense Department is reviewing its policy toward active duty Army deployments and is considering changing the policy from the current yearlong deployments to those as long as 15 to 18 months, all because of continuing demands being placed on the force by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would only say all options are being considered. However, one source told FOX News that the plan now under consideration is focused on how soldiers who do remain deployed for long periods would be compensated — either financially or with guaranteed rest times at home that would not be cut short.
Pentagon sources say this policy change would include all Army soldiers deployed as part of the Global War on Terror and would have to include new guidelines for compensation. Currently, soldiers whose tours are extended beyond a year are offered tax-free financial incentives.
The decision by the Bush administration to add some 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, the majority of them from the Army, means the service is increasingly stretched to find ways to maintain that surge level. A senior Defense Department official said earlier this week that if the surge is going to be maintained beyond August, as appears likely, decisions would have to be made as early as next week about what units will need to be extended.
A decision by the Pentagon to change the policy on deployment lengths would go some distance toward reducing the pressure on military planners to — almost on a month-to-month basis — make decisions about extensions in Iraq to keep the surge level at 20 brigades for as long as commanders there want to maintain it.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin and Nick Simeone contributed to this report.