OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Conference report complete for $633B defense bill

The House and Senate also reached compromise on an East Coast missile site, opting for a study rather than funding that was included in the House bill. They scaled back language on detainee policies to reach a compromise that guarantees that no one's rights to habeas corpus inside the United States would be denied.

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Never mind that the two sides have different interpretations to what the courts say that means.

The measure still kept a restriction on transferring Guantanamo detainees to the United States, but scaled back an open-ended ban in the Senate’s bill and kept it to one year, which has been the timeline in past versions of the authorization bill.

On biofeuls, the committee removed a ban on the military’s use alternative fuels but included a caveat on refinery construction.

One place where one side came out ahead was on social issues. An amendment from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the Senate bill to allow TRICARE to cover abortions in the case of rape or incest was included in the final bill.

A provision in the House bill to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies on military bases was stripped, however, although a conscience provision for military chaplains was kept in modified form.

In the end, both chambers’ leaders were willing to deal because they were quickly running out of time in the lame-duck session. While there will certainly be some grumbling from all sides over the final bill, the legislation looks poised to pass both chambers easily by the end of the week.

Administration will have some objections: The White House will still have some objections over the bill, and it has threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions.

In the final version, lawmakers still scaled back the administration’s proposed increases to TRICARE and cuts to the Air National Guard, and the legislation will kill funding to the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) that the administration wants.

The bill also keeps a one-year restriction on transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the United States, which the administration is opposed to but has signed into law in past years.

On Iran sanctions, the White House did negotiate a longer period to implement the new sanctions in the bill, but lawmakers did not agree to expand exemptions to the sanctions.

An administration official did not comment on how the White House views the final defense bill and wouldn’t speculate about whether President Obama would sign the legislation that’s likely headed to his desk by Friday.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) downplayed the likelihood of a veto on Tuesday, saying he saw nothing in the legislation that would lead to that.

Not so fast: Pentagon officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency will have to wait a bit longer before moving forward with plans to expand the DOD directorate.

House and Senate defense conferees adopted language Tuesday limiting DOD-led intelligence operations in the compromise version of the Pentagon's defense policy bill for fiscal year 2013. The restrictions, included in the Senate version of the bill passed in November, prevents DIA from proceeding with its expansion until it can provide Congress with funding details.

Current Pentagon plans have its intelligence division growing by 1,600 military and civilian personnel over the next several years. It remains unclear on where that personnel increase would put DIA's total force at, since those numbers are classified.

But that additional manpower at DIA would put the agency in a position to take a direct role in conducting overt and covert U.S. intelligence operations abroad, a role traditionally reserved for operatives at CIA.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued that DIA's plans to take a more active role in intelligence operations puts DOD on a "slippery slope" toward infringing upon the domain of CIA and other civilian intelligence organizations.

The last major expansion of the Pentagon's intelligence operations began in early 2000, under then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. That effort was roundly criticized by CIA proponents and others inside Washington, citing Rumsfeld's use of the bolstered DIA to backdoor Langley and other intelligence organizations during the run up to the Iraq war.

Lawmakers approve new Iran sanctions: Like the Rolling Stones song says, you can't always get what you want, but you can get what you need. And that's the position the White House found itself in on Tuesday, when House and Senate conferees approved new sanctions on Iran.

In their compromise version of the Pentagon's policy bill for fiscal year 2013, conferees declined to comply with the Obama administration's request to broaden the criteria for countries that would be exempt from the political and economic limitations imposed on Iran.

"It is incumbent on us to impose the maximum pressure upon Iran," Levin said.

However, House and Senate lawmakers did agree to extend the White House's timeline to impose the new round of sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear enrichment program.

The White House and Pentagon remain firmly committed to the administration's strategy of political and economic sanctions to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

But McCain remained unconvinced that this latest round of sanctions will push Tehran to the negotiating table. Iran has repeatedly claimed the program is designed for purely peaceful purposes. The United States, Israel and other Western powers argue the program puts the country on the path to a nuclear weapon.

"We all know Iran continued unabated on the path to nuclear weapons," McCain said Tuesday, noting that Iran continues on that pace despite the efforts of the White House and Congress to put the squeeze on its nuclear program.

Graham says let sequestration happen: One of the Senate’s biggest defense hawks said Thursday that sequestration should be allowed to take effect.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been one of the most vocal opponents about what he has called a “dumb” law, said Tuesday that stopping sequestration cuts should not be done if it means bad tax policies and no entitlement reform.

“I just think that I’m not going to make bad policy to try to avoid sequestration,” Graham told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a terrible idea, but we’re not going to use sequestration to start making bad tax policy and do a deal that doesn’t reform entitlements.”

Graham was responding to questions about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B” proposal, which would extend the Bush tax rates for those making less than $1 million but not do anything to stop sequestration.

Defense hawks were holding their fire over criticizing the plan after Boehner announced it Tuesday.

In Case You Missed It:

— Conference agrees to $633B defense bill

— King calls leak to bin Laden filmmakers ‘troubling

— Broadwell won’t be charged with cyberstalking

— Defense bill preserves military biofuels

— Panetta makes last-minute bid on ‘needless’ programs

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