OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Cyber bill dashes hopes for defense vote in Senate

The writing may have been on the wall the past couple of weeks, as the defense bill would have taken up several days of floor time. But Levin said there still was hope until the Senate proceeded Thursday with its cloture vote on the cyber bill.

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Levin told The Hill Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) knows how important it is to him that the Senate bill gets a vote before the election — but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The Senate will be back in session for only a short period when it returns in September, with the presidential race and congressional campaigns in full swing and both parties looking to push their election messages.

Part of the problem with bringing up the bill is it will spark a fight over the Budget Control Act, because the House version of the authorization bill exceeds the spending caps set by that legislation.

Still, defense-focused lawmakers in both parties want to move forward on the defense authorization bill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is itching for the Senate to act so the two sides can get to conference and finalize the legislation, which has passed Congress for 50 years straight. McCain has taken to the floor to blast Reid for waiting to act on the bill.

Part of the reason the defense lawmakers want to act on the authorization bill is that it’s an opening act to the bigger defense fight that’s looming over sequestration. Whenever the Senate gets to its bill and passes it, there remains a $3 billion difference with the House-passed version that will have to be reconciled in conference committee.

Rules of engagement: On the battlefield, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are bound by the ROEs, or rules of engagement. These rules outline when and where troops can fire on an enemy and when they cannot. In the fog of modern-day combat, those rules can get muddy, to say the least. 

But when it comes to the emerging battlefield of cyber warfare, those rules don't even exist — yet. The top commanders of the services' cyber warfare branches gave lawmakers an update Wednesday on the status of those rules. 

"I think there's recognition that, that's a requirement, something we need to do [but] the devil is always in the details, if you will," Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, the Navy Fleet Cyber Command chief, told members of the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. "At some point in the near term, we'll start with something that will continue to evolve over time," he added. 

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command, already has issued what's known as a "operational directive" that will lay the foundation for these future cyber ROEs, Rogers said. "I think between those two [efforts], we're able to apply our respective capabilities to maximum effect," he said. However the lack of rules for the cyber realm continues "an issue of great concern," Rogers said. 

Feinstein says bill won’t target media: The Senate Intelligence Committee passed provisions in its intelligence authorization bill Tuesday that would attempt to crack down on intelligence leaks, which included provisions limiting the number of officials who can speak with the press and enter into contracts with the media. But Feinstein insisted that the new measures are not intended to go after the press. 

“Nobody’s targeting the media,” she said.

Still, the administration’s moves against leaks have prompted some concerns among national security reporters, particularly the new steps being taken by the Pentagon to “monitor” national press for the disclosure of classified information. The Pentagon Press Association sent a letter to DOD officials seeking assurances that reporters would not be spied on.

Mr. Panetta's wild ride: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been a man on the move in recent months. Military junkets to the Asia-Pacific region and South America are only two of the most recent spots the DOD chief has gone wheels down in. The trips make strategic sense, as Panetta's Pentagon is looking more and more to U.S. allies in the region to help support American military might across the globe. 

The goal of next week's stops across Northern Africa and the Mideast will be along those same lines, but in a rougher part of the world. Panetta will visit with new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, whose fledgling government is increasingly at odds with the country's powerful military. His stop in Tunisia will be the first time Panetta will have visited the country that provided the spark for the Arab Spring movement. 

"In both countries, we will consult with new leadership and reaffirm the support of the United States to continued reforms," DOD spokesman George Little said regarding Panetta's trips to Egypt and Tunisia. The Pentagon chief will also meet with diplomats in Israel and Jordan, who both "share our concerns about Syria and Iran," Little added. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

--DOD eyes layoff notices for civilian workers

--Al Qaeda cell in Africa is group's strongest, says general

--Sen. Moran rallies opposition on UN arms treaty

--Former general slams Romney's foreign policy record 

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