OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Dems ramp up pressure on Syria

The Michigan Democrat's comments came the same day that Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs panel, demanded that the White House provide up to $150 million in lethal and non-lethal security assistance — including weapons — to “appropriately vetted” rebel groups.

The Obama administration has balked at arming Syria's rebels over fears those weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic militant groups that have worked their way into the opposition's ranks.

Gulf states, such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have supplied arms to rebel forces, with France and the United Kingdom possibly following suit. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta backed arming Syria's rebel forces during the waning days of his tenure at the Pentagon.

Despite his support for a no-fly zone and taking out Assad's air assets, Levin stopped short of supporting Engel's call to arm the Syrian opposition.

"The president's approach to Syria has been the right approach," Levin said. Rather than arming the Syrian rebels, Obama is opting to provide diplomatic support to "those forces we believe will be the right forces ... that will bring together all elements in Syria," he said.

"To accomplish that goal [Obama] has to be careful into whose hands advanced weaponry falls. ... He wants to be very careful in that regard, and I happen to agree with him," Levin said.

Hagel orders strategy review: For months, senior Pentagon leaders tried to lobby against sequestration by warning that it would force them to toss out the new U.S. military strategy that places a new emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.

Now that sequestration has arrived, so has the time of reevaluation.

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report Billionaires stopping climate change action have a hold on Trump, GOP MORE has ordered a review of the current strategy over the next two months, the Pentagon said Monday, as the military determines how it’s going to operate in a post-sequester world.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Monday before the review went public that he thought the Pentagon would be making changes.

“As I stand here, I don’t yet know how much our defense strategy will change, but I predict it will,” Dempsey said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum. “We’ll need to relook at our assumptions. We’ll need to adjust our ambitions to match our abilities. That means doing less, but not doing it less well.”

The review is due back to Hagel by the end of May, and the review will play a major role in developing both the 2015 budget and 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review.

DOD flexes military muscle in Korea: An ongoing joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea has allowed the Pentagon to do a bit of saber-rattling of its own on the peninsula, in the face of North Korea's nuclear threats.

On Monday, DOD press secretary George Little announced that B-52 heavy bombers — which are capable of carrying nuclear and non-nuclear weapons — have been flying missions in South Korea as part of the annual Foal Eagle military exercise between American and South Korean forces.

Most recently, the American heavy bombers conducted a joint training operation in the skies above South Korea on March 8, as part of the ongoing joint wargame with Seoul, Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.

The flight was one of many U.S. and Korean forces plan to conduct during the wargame, according to Little. American commanders in the region have also ordered similar flights of nuclear-capable bombers over the peninsula, as part of the command's routine operations in the region.

The bomber used during that particular drill was not outfitted to carry nuclear ordinance, according to Little, but the flight did demonstrate the kind of reach the Pentagon's nuclear assets have in the region.

This show of force, according to Little, was a clear signal to Pyongyang that American forces were ready to back up Seoul or any other U.S. ally in the Pacific, should North Korea follow through on inflammatory rhetoric by president Kim Jong Un.

Pyongyang has repeatedly violated United Nations sanctions and roiled the international community with its missile and nuclear tests. The young North Korean leader fanned the flames earlier this month by terminating the 1953 armistice with South Korea that ended the Korean War.

In response, the Pentagon announced plans last Friday to deploy an additional 14 ground-based missile interceptors on the West Coast, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the move was being made in response to the threats made by North Korea to attack the United States with nuclear weapons and the country’s recent advancements in its missile and nuclear capabilities.

Lockheed names new F-35 manager: Lockheed Martin has a new general manager of its F-35 program.

Lorraine Martin, 50, was named vice president and general manager of the F-35 program on Monday, following the retirement of Larry Lawson.

Martin will oversee Lockheed’s largest and most-scrutinized weapons program amid complaints from Pentagon officials last month that Lockheed and engine-maker Pratt & Whitney were trying to “squeeze every nickel” out of the program.

Marin comes from within the F-35 program, as she was previously the deputy manager. The company also announced Monday that Orlando Carvalho would become executive vice president of the aeronautics business area.

Hunter to introduce Iraq anniversary resolution: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) will introduce a resolution honoring the service of Iraq War veterans on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war.

Hunter was an active-duty Marine (he’s still a reservist) who fought in Iraq, including in Fallujah in 2004.

The resolution includes a timeline that highlights accomplishments of the U.S. effort in Iraq, such as the “Anbar awakening” in 2007 and the elections held there in 2010. The measure “recognizes the success of the United States Armed Forces in operations against a dangerous and determined enemy.”

Pentagon details furlough schedule: The Pentagon laid out step by step on Monday how the furlough process will work before they go into effect on April 25.

The schedule released by DOD:

• March 21-25: Furlough proposal notices sent to employees.
• March 28-April 1: Employee appeal period ends (7 days from when proposal was sent).
• March 29-April 24: Furlough decision letters sent to employees (depending on when proposal notice was sent and prior to first day of furloughs).
• April 25: Furlough period begins, extending 11 pay periods between April 21 and Sept. 21.

In Case You Missed It:

— Levin wants more active US role in Syria

— Dempsey: Risk rising as budgets drop

— Congress weighs arming Syrian rebels

— Poll: Most see Iraq as mistake

— Cyberattacks sound alarm for business, lawmakers

Please send tips and comments to Jeremy Herb, jherb@thehill.com, and Carlo Muñoz, cmunoz@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill

You can sign up to receive this overnight update via email on The Hill’s homepage.