OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Hagel vote delayed

In his letter, Hagel said that he was not in a position to provide that sort of information from organizations like the Atlantic Council, where he is chairman. “Your request for financial information regarding certain private corporate and non-profit entities is ... not mine to provide," Hagel wrote to the senators Tuesday.

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Levin said in his statement that the committee vote was not being held because the committee’s review of the nominee was “not yet complete.”

“I intend to schedule a vote on the nomination as soon as possible,” Levin said.

Even with the dispute over Hagel’s financial documentation, there still is not yet an effort in place to filibuster the nominee. An aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that the questions over Hagel’s documentation did not change his opposition to a filibuster.

“I just want the questions answered,” McCain told reporters.

Brennan's bumpy road: The White House could go 2-for-2 on bruising Senate confirmation battles, given the recent furor surrounding President Obama's counterterrorism chief and CIA director nominee John Brennan. 

Fresh off the battering former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel took from the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the next Defense secretary, Senators seem poised to give Brennan the same treatment when he goes to Capitol Hill on Thursday. 

But unlike the clearly partisan tirades Senate defense Republicans launched at Hagel, the attacks against Brennan may come from both sides of the aisle. 

Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and panel member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with senior Senate Republicans John McCain (Ariz.) and John Cornyn (Texas), all voiced concerns about the Brennan pick from the moment his nomination was made public last month. 

But Monday's leak of a previously confidential Justice Department white paper, justifying the use of armed drone strikes against U.S. citizens, has put the drone program — and Brennan's involvement in the program — back into the spotlight. 

Feinstein, Wyden and Cornyn all pressed the administration to publicly release possibly classified information on the actual legal justifications for the armed drone program, which was omitted from the DOJ white paper. Wyden has subtly threatened to filibuster Brennan's confirmation unless that information is released. 

During his time in the White House and at CIA, Brennan played an integral role in formulating the administration's policies on the use of armed drone strikes for U.S. counterterrorism operations. 

Brennan helped create the so-called CIA "kill list" where suspected terrorists were targeted for drone attacks and oversaw the skyrocketing use of those attacks by the White House against targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. 

While the use of armed drones has been credited with dismantling al Qaeda's top leaders, the controversy surrounding the counterterrorism tactic prompted Brennan to decline the nomination for the CIA post back in 2008. 

DOD lowers military pay raise: The Pentagon is proposing a budget-cutting move in 2014 that may have as much support in Congress as BRAC, as the Defense Department’s 2014 budget will include a 1 percent pay increase for troops, down from 1.7 percent in 2013.

"The Department of Defense will propose a one percent pay raise for service members in calendar year 2014 as part of the forthcoming fiscal 2014 defense budget request to Congress,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.

“Given the current budget environment, this pay raise is less than previously projected but allows the department to maintain critical investments in readiness and modernization going forward,” Little said.

The Pentagon’s 2014 budget request has already been delayed due to the uncertainty surrounding sequestration, and DOD is already taking steps to prepare for the across-the-board cuts should they hit.

But the 1 percent pay raise would be the lowest in the 40-year history of the all-volunteer force, according to Military Times, which will make it difficult to gain the required congressional approval.

Congress flatly rejected the Pentagon’s call for a new round of base closures this year.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had included the smaller pay increases in the 10-year 2013 budget plan that was released last year and cut $487 billion over the decade.

Sequestration — which wouldn’t cut personnel accounts in 2013 — could bring an additional $500 billion in cuts.

Panetta's last stand: If one thing can be said about outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, he is certainly going out with a bang. 

From lambasting lawmakers' gridlock over solving sequestration to lifting the longstanding ban on women in combat, the typically outspoken DOD chief has not minced any words or actions during his farewell tour. 

Thursday's hearing on the department's involvement in last September's deadly terrorist raid on the U.S. consulate in Libya should be no different. The attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi by Libyan extremists killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Panetta's testimony, alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, before the Senate Armed Services Committee also clears a major roadblock to the tough Senate confirmation of his successor at the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would place a hold on Hagel's nomination unless Panetta agreed to testify on what actions the Pentagon took before, during and after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. 

Earlier this month, lawmakers in the House and Senate grilled outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the security failures that preceded the attack, as well as the Obama administration's changing description of it.

GOP lawmakers repeatedly questioned Clinton on the circumstances that led White House officials to initially claim the attack was the result of a demonstration gone awry. Administration officials later reversed course and acknowledged the consulate strike in Libya was the work of militant Islamic groups based in the country.


In Case You Missed It: 

— Rep. Rogers says Brennan is a lock for CIA

— GOP pitches alternate sequester plan 

— ACLU presses lawsuit against DOD drones 

— Panetta slams congressional gridlock


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