OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Stolen Valor Act ruled unconstitutional

“While originally very popular, the 2006 law went too far in that it attempted to limit individuals' speech,” Heck said. “My bill takes a different approach — making it illegal for individuals to benefit from lying about their military service or record.”

Bad to worse: The war in Iraq might be over, but rising violence in the country, combined with a resurgent al Qaeda, has Pentagon officials fearing the worst. Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen told House lawmakers on Tuesday that U.S. officials on the ground in Iraq are facing a "volatile situation" less than a year after American forces left the country. A series of explosions rocked Baghdad and areas throughout central Iraq on Thursday, leaving roughly 15 people dead and scores of others wounded. A chain of coordinated bombings and attacks on June 16 by members of al Qaeda's Iraqi cell killed more than 70 people, mostly Iraqi Shi'ites. 

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But Peter Verga, chief of staff for DOD's policy under secretary, attempted to put a positive spin on the situation during today's hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

"We are now at a point where the strategic dividends of our efforts are within reach," Verga said during the hearing. "That successful transition enables us to concentrate on building that long-term strategic partnership" with Iraq. Only time will tell.  

Sequestration amendment, take two: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have a new vehicle on which to attach their sequestration reporting amendment. The senators filed an amendment to the flood insurance bill Thursday that was identical to the amendment that passed the Senate as part of the farm bill last week, fulfilling the pledge McCain made that he would attach the reporting amendment to every piece of legislation until it became law. The amendment would require reports from the Pentagon, Office of Management and Budget and the White House about the impact of sequestration.

Making friends: If the United States is going to survive on the battlefields of the 21st century, it's going to need a little help from its friends. And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is doing everything he can to make sure those friends across the globe have the hardware they need to fight.

"To better partner with our more capable friends and allies requires that we make our security cooperation processes much more efficient and agile," according to Panetta's prepared remarks to the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday night. Panetta said he's done his part, by streamlining security cooperation processes inside DOD. But he said that Congress will have to do its part, in terms of export control reform. The White House is already assembling a legislative package that will help U.S. defense firms ship weapon systems to American allies easier. But export roadblocks still remain on key weapons such as unmanned drones and missile defense systems. 

Dem looks to broaden same-sex benefits: House Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced a bill Thursday that would give spouses of same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples in the military. Smith’s bill would instruct the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to consider anyone a “spouse” if he or she was married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, thus entitling him or her to the same benefits. Smith said in a statement that the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a step forward for gay rights, but that discrimination still existed. The bill likely faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House, where Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calf.) opposed the repeal of DADT in 2010, although he said he did not intend to re-legislate that issue if Mitt Romney wins the White House in November.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

—White House threatens veto on defense spending bill

—Russia ships attack helicopters to Syria 

—DOD considers cross-border raids into Pakistan 

—McKeon backs military sponsors for NASCAR

—House lawmakers want Haqqanis added to State terror list


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