OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Foreign aid, defense spending dominate Senate agenda

When will the markup end?: The Senate Armed Services Committee started the full markup of the defense authorization bill on Wednesday, but the end remains uncertain. The committee is aiming to have the markup done by Thursday evening, according to Senate aides, but votes on the Senate floor could throw a wrench in those plans. The committee has blocked off Friday if necessary to finish the markup, but senators are likely to be itching to get out of Washington as soon as possible — the Senate is on recess next week.

Overseas funding: Unlike their counterparts on the Defense Committee, Senate subcommittee appropriators marked up a $52.1 billion spending bill for foreign aid and operations on Tuesday. The full Appropriations Committee will take up the bill on Thursday. If approved, the bill will finance foreign aid and overseas military operations at $2.6 billion below the president’s original budget request. 

The funding level approved by Senate appropriators is also $1.2 billion below what Congress set aside in fiscal 2012 levels. Appropriators did increase funding for pro-democracy efforts in the Middle East and Africa, but also cut funds to train and equip military and police forces in Iraq. 

Detainee debate renewed: Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is ramping up his fight on changing last year’s defense authorization bill when it comes to indefinite detention. Udall, who introduced a bill on indefinite detention with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) — the congressman who just led his own unsuccessful attempt in the House to change the language — will hold a press call Thursday to outline his efforts to change the bill.

He’s indicated he’s willing to wage the fight in the closed committee markup as well as on the Senate floor, where he’ll also have an ally in Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). But, like Smith, Udall faces an uphill battle — particularly with committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who helped arrange last year’s detainee language compromise.

Anchors aweigh: The Navy's Fleet Week comes ashore in New York City on Thursday. Tourists and New Yorkers alike will be able to catch a glimpse of the Navy's combat fleet anchored along the Hudson River on the city's west side. The annual event is normally a showcase for U.S. naval power, but this year's event may take on more importance as the Navy fights for funding in an increasingly tight budget environment. 

House and Senate lawmakers have hammered the sea service on its new 30-year shipbuilding plan. The shipbuilding strategy has the fleet topping out at 300 warships over the next five years, but that number could drop if anticipated funding levels set by Congress fall off track. In previous shipbuilding plans, the Navy has called for a minimum fleet of 313 ships. 


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