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China’s military, for its part, views the dialogue with the Pentagon as a way to try to limit the number of U.S. missile defense interceptors, both on land and at sea, so that China’s missiles will not be countered by a future expanded U.S. missile defense system, U.S. officials said.

A Chinese embassy spokesman said the issue of U.S.-China nuclear talks is “very sensitive” and declined to comment.

Military voting problems

Thirty-five members of Congress have written to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey asking the Justice Department to investigate voting problems among military service members and their families.

The Aug. 1 letter, signed by 13 Senate and 22 House members, expresses “our serious concerns regarding the potential disenfranchisement of American’s military services members during the coming November elections.”

“We ask for your help in protecting the very rights they fight to safeguard for their fellow Americans,” the lawmakers said. “For too long in this country we have failed to adequately protect the right of our troops to participate in the democratic process.”

The letter, drafted by Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, asked the department to take steps to “correct the unacceptable and well documented deficiencies in the military voting system.”

Specifically, the letter from the Republican signers calls for the Justice Department to investigate whether the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is fulfilling its legal obligation to provide troops and their families with needed information and help to register to vote, obtain absentee ballots and vote.

The letter states that FVAP efforts to help troops vote “have been wholly inadequate.” It notes very low voter turnout by military and overseas voters in the November 2006 election, with just 16.5 percent of the 6 million eligible overseas voters requesting a ballot and just 5.5 percent actually voting.

Additionally, a Pentagon inspector general survey on 2006 voting found that just 40 percent received voting information.

A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that the letter had been received, but he declined to comment further.

Policy shop, DIA changes

Peter F. Verga, principal deputy defense secretary for homeland defense, has been tapped to replace Ryan Henry, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, in the key policy-making role.

Mr. Verga, a former Army officer, was deputy undersecretary of defense for policy support, a position that involved managing some of the Pentagon’s most secret “black” intelligence programs.

He is replacing Mr. Henry, who is leaving after five years and is the second-longest-serving political appointee in the Bush administration.

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