OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Annan hopes to salvage Syrian peace plan

“The fact is there's broad international support for Kofi Annan's plan and it is that pressure that we believe, and we hope, will ultimately lead to a political transition in Syria that creates a better future for the Syrian people,” Carney said.

While the White House said it is still standing by Annan, the qualifier that Carney added Monday is worth noting — that “not one person alone” can bring peace in Syria, where one human-rights group says 17,000 have now been killed.

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The Obama administration did get one bit of good news on Syria Monday, when Russia told its state media that it would not sell new weapons to Syria. Of course, “new” does not include the now-infamous repaired helicopter shipment from Russia to Syria.

Congress looks to tweak Stolen Valor: Two lawmakers are holding a press conference Tuesday to explain how they plan to re-craft the Stolen Valor Act to pass the Supreme Court’s muster. The law, passed by Congress in 2006, makes it a crime to lie about receiving military awards. But the Supreme Court struck it down last month in a 6-3 decision, ruling that it went too far and violated the First Amendment.

In the opinion, the court said that the law could be re-written, and that’s just what Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) are proposing. The lawmakers have legislation that would make it a crime to benefit from lying about military honors, an added element they think will allow the law to be constitutional. They are set to hold a press conference at the House Triangle on Tuesday. 

Afghan hospital’s urgent care: Senior Department of Defense officials will be in the hot seat on Tuesday, facing questions by members of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations subcommittee over allegations of rampant corruption and abuse at a U.S.-run Afghan military hospital. David Sedney, DOD's deputy assistant secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, and Amb. Kenneth Moorefield, DoD's deputy inspector general for special plans and operations, are scheduled to testify.

The hearing was called after Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) accused the Obama administration of delaying a military investigation into the accusations until after the 2010 congressional midterm elections. In a June 15 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chaffetz demanded a Pentagon response to the allegations.

"On a macro level, the mismanagement of [the hospital] raises serious questions as to whether the Afghan government is capable" of managing the facility after the U.S. pullout in 2014," Chaffetz wrote. "Equally as troubling is an apparent attempt by senior U.S. military officials to delay the exposure of — or cover up — these atrocities for political reasons," he said.

White House unmoved by sequester layoff threats: The threat from Lockheed Martin to issue layoff notices just days before the November elections over sequestration has not altered the White House’s stand on the automatic cuts. Press secretary Jay Carney was asked at Monday’s briefing whether the layoff threat would compel the president to act sooner to resolve sequestration, but Carney stood by the president’s demand for a “balanced approach” to find alternate deficit reduction.

“I don't have anything speculative for you about sequestration except we all know what we need to do,” Carney said. “The point of the sequester — remember, Republicans voted for this as well as Democrats — was to force Congress to make some tough choices, and that meant tough for everybody, not just tough for one side."

Republicans have called for Obama to get personally involved in the sequestration negotiations, as the two sides hope to find an agreement before the $500 billion in cuts to both defense and non-defense spending hit on Jan. 2. The White House has put the onus on Congress, calling on it to put aside differences and find the alternate deficit reduction to undo the punitive cuts.

OMB has started working on sequester: The other agency most involved with the sequester cuts, the Office of Management and Budget, is now saying that officials are at least beginning to look at the cuts. OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack, who confirmed to The Hill that acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients will testify before the House Armed Services Committee, echoed Carney’s call for Congress to act, but also acknowledged the worst-case scenario was being examined.

“While OMB has not yet engaged agencies in planning, our staff is conducting the analysis needed to move forward if necessary,” she said in an email. “And as we have made clear, should it get to the point where it appears that Congress will not do its job and the sequester may take effect, OMB, DOD, and the entire Administration will be prepared.

“The truth is that no amount of planning or collection of reports will turn the sequester into anything other than the devastating cut in defense and domestic investments that it was meant to be. What’s needed is action to avoid the sequester by Congress passing balanced deficit reduction that the president can sign into law, not searching for ways to cushion the blow on defense and non-defense programs.”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

— OMB director will testify on sequestration

— New meeting on Iran nuclear talks

— Clinton: Asia pivot about democracy, not China

— Pakistan attack could be supply-line retaliation

— Annan, Assad agree to new ‘approach’ in Syria

US troops killed in coordinated Afghan attacks


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