OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama heads to Capitol Hill

The House included Defense appropriations in its bill that passed last week, allowing the Defense Department to shift $10.4 billion into its operations and maintenance accounts.

The Senate bill, set to be released Monday, is also expected to include Defense appropriations. But the bill will have some key differences from the House version that will have to be resolved before the measure is passed.

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The Senate and House are also unveiling their 2014 budget proposals this week. 

The lunch meeting with the Senate GOP Conference Tuesday follows a smaller dinner Obama had last week with a dozen Republican senators, including some of the biggest GOP defense hawks: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

All three would like to see a deal that would replace the sequester cuts to the Pentagon with alternate deficit reduction, and Graham has said publicly he will support new revenues if Obama will tackle entitlement reform, the key sticking point for a get-rid-of-sequester-like grand bargain.

Brennan heads back to Senate: President Obama won't be the only one making a return to Capitol Hill this week. Newly confirmed CIA Director John Brennan will testify before the Senate Intelligence panel on Tuesday, marking his first appearance in Congress since winning confirmation last week. 

The Senate confirmed Brennan as the nation's new top spy by a vote of 63 to 34, but not after numerous delays to his nomination, including a 13-hour filibuster of his bid to Langley by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Paul only backed off his opposition to Brennan's nomination after Attorney General Eric Holder personally guaranteed the Kentucky Republican the United States did not have the right to kill U.S. citizens on American soil under the agency's armed drone program. 

Despite confirmation, Brennan could still face harsh questioning over his role in the administration's response to last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. 

The assault on the U.S. Consulate there ended with the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Recently released documents sent to the Senate Intelligence panel clearly connect the former White House counterterror chief to the administration's early claims the attack was the result of a popular protest gone wrong. 

Weeks later, the White House admitted the Benghazi strike was a planned and coordinated attack by Islamic extremists working in North Africa. 

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) had planned to block the Brennan nomination over Benghazi, but opted against the move shortly before the full Senate vote. However, Graham said he would continue to pursue the issue with fellow senators on the Judiciary and Intelligence panels. 

House members, led by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), have renewed calls for a congressional select committee to look into the Benghazi attack and the subsequent response from the Pentagon and White House. 

Hagel to review sexual assault case: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that he has instructed the Air Force secretary and Pentagon lawyers to review the dismissal of a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case.

Boxer, Shaheen and several other lawmakers have expressed outrage to Hagel over the case, in which Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin tossed out a guilty verdict against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who faced a year in prison and dismissal from the Air Force.

Lawmakers are calling for an end to the process in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that lets commanders review verdicts and overturn them.

The case is sure to be brought up this week at a two-part hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on sexual assault slated for Wednesday. The hearing in the panel’s personnel subcommittee, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), will include testimony from victims of sexual assault and military officials.

The latest Air Force case comes on the heels of the scandal at Lackland Air Base that involved investigations into more than 30 basic training instructors for sexual misconduct, and more than 60 victims.

The House Armed Services panel held a hearing on sexual assault and Lackland earlier this year.

Insider attack caps tough Afghan trip for Hagel: New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel experienced a rude awakening to the fractious situation in Afghanistan during his first trip to the country as DOD chief. 

The visit opened Saturday with a Taliban bombing of the Ministry of Defense, where Hagel was meeting with top Afghan military leaders. It ended with an insider attack against U.S. special forces units in nearby Wardak province that ended with two American soldiers dead. 

On Saturday's bombing, Hagel — a Vietnam veteran — said: "I have been in war, so ... shouldn’t be surprised when a bomb goes off or there’s an explosion."

In-between, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Washington of collaborating with Taliban leaders in an attempt to destabilize his hold on power. The Afghan president also continued to stymie negotiations with Washington over the transfer of a key detention facility to Afghan National Security Forces. 

Throughout the trip, Hagel and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reiterated that the United States remained committed to bolstering the Karzai government and local forces ahead of the 2014 U.S. withdrawal date. 

"I think, right now, what President Karzai is doing that's helpful is he's sharing [those concerns] with us," Dunford told reporters on Monday. 

On Monday, an Afghan police officer reportedly opened fire on American special operations units and their Afghan counterparts at the police station in the Jalrez district of Wardak, according to press reports. 

During Monday's attack, the police officer manned a heavy machine gun mounted in the back of one of the Afghan National Police vehicles and began firing on U.S. and Afghan forces. Four other ANP officers were wounded, including the police chief for Jalrez, before the attacker was gunned down. 

Five ANP officers purportedly involved in planning the attack have been detained by U.S. and Afghan forces for questioning, provincial Deputy Police Chief Abdul Razaq Koraishi told the AP. 


In Case You Missed It: 

— JSF costs expected to increase, says GAO 

— House members push back on new 'drone' medal

— White House, DOD press prison deal with Afghans

— Three presumed dead in Navy plane crash 

— Donilon: US 'all in' on Pacific strategic shift 


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