OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House gets to work on Defense appropriations

Consideration of the bill occurred after the House passed a measure 414-2 that would require the Obama administration to explain how it would implement coming sequestration spending cuts. Taken together, the two bills have helped steer the conversation on Capitol Hill this week repeatedly toward sequestration and the $500 billion, 10-year cut to defense.

The appropriations bill does not take directly into consideration the $55 billion cut to defense that would hit under sequestration in 2013, but that won’t stop lawmakers from talking about it during debate on the bill.

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One of the first votes on the appropriations bill, which will occur around 9 p.m. Wednesday, is a proposal to ban the military from sponsoring professional and semi-professional sports, including NASCAR.

The amendment is proposed by Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who hope they can cobble together a bipartisan coalition to get the amendment passed. It’s opposed by Defense Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

The amendment would cut military recruitment funding by $72 million across eight accounts. An earlier version of their amendment would have designated the funding for other purposes, but McKeon raised a point of order in the House Rules Committee against it, arguing that type of policy fell under his committee’s jurisdiction.

During general debate on the bill Wednesday, anti-war lawmakers from both parties took to the House floor to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan, calling on members to support amendments aimed at reducing war funding.

Panetta, Dempsey talk leaks: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey are coming to Capitol Hill Thursday morning to discuss the recent spate of national security leaks with the House Armed Services Committee. The hearing, which will be closed to the public — made official with a committee roll-call vote Wednesday — will nonetheless have the highest-ranking administration officials yet to formally appear before Congress on the classified leaks.

The Justice Department has appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate the leaks, including recent reports on U.S. cyberattacks on Iran and a double agent infiltrating al Qaeda in Yemen.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Panetta and Dempsey will all appear after the hearing for a press conference on the closed hearing. Two words you can expect to hear over and over again: “That’s classified.”

Carter hits Asia: Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the latest U.S. national security official to make the rounds in the Asia-Pacific region. Carter arrived in Hawaii on Wednesday to meet with officials from Pacific Command. That stop was the first of several stops Carter is scheduled to make in the region. Carter will also visit U.S. forces in Guam and make stops in Japan and Thailand before wrapping up the 10-day excursion with a meeting in South Korea.

The trip will focus on establishing ties with regional allies as U.S. forces look to increase their presence in the Pacific, DOD spokesman George Little said. Panetta met with top Asian defense leaders during a three-day security summit in Singapore in June.  

UK gets JSF, finally: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the pending delivery of the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to British forces on Thursday will be a key milestone for the Pentagon's most expensive program to date. "The F-35 represents, I believe, the future of tactical aviation for both of our armed services," Panetta said during Wednesday's joint press conference with British Secretary of State for Defense Philip Hammond.

The delivery comes as questions continue to persist on whether London can keep its JSF commitments in the face of severe budget cuts and cost increases to the program. Despite those setbacks, Hammond said he has assurances at the highest levels within DOD that the F-35 program is firmly on track.  

Drone talks back on track: CIA chief David Petraeus with meet with his counterpart in Pakistani intelligence next week to discuss the future role of drone strikes in Pakistan. It will be Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam's first visit to the United States since American diplomats reached a deal with Islamabad to reopen critical supply routes to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Zaheer is expected to ask Petraeus to stop the highly effective but controversial drone strikes in Pakistan, and hand control of those operations to Islamabad. Petraeus is unlikely to cede oversight of those operations to Pakistan, given the country's suspected support for terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The deal, expected to be proposed by Zaheer, would theoretically allow Islamabad to protect suspected terror groups allegedly allied with Pakistani intelligence from U.S. strikes, while serving up groups that threaten the country's national security. 

Senate considers DOD nominations: The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing for three administration nominations Thursday morning. The nominees include Gen. Mark Welsh to become Air Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Frank Grass to become National Guard chief and Lt. Gen. John Kelly to become commander of U.S. Southern Command.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

— White House says Assad ‘losing control

— Lieberman: ‘Overwhelming’ odds against sequester occurring

— House passes bill demanding sequester details

— Senate panel kills bill on Russia’s Syrian arms sales

— Contractor says tax increases should be on sequester table

— Dems look to reinstate military biofuels spending


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