OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Administration says Americans killed in drone strikes

The Obama administration has ramped up the use of drones, which began under former President George W. Bush, in order to target terrorists in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.

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Lawmakers, however, have pressed the administration to provide more information about the legal justifications behind the attacks, particularly those against Americans.

Holder described the letter as an effort by Obama to hold true to the pledge he made to lawmakers in his State of the Union this year to “continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

House subpanels pass defense bills: The House’s defense authorization bill continued to hum along at a steady pace in the Rayburn House Office Building Wednesday.

Four subcommittees passed their bills by voice vote and without amendments Wednesday, as is typically the case for the subpanel markups.

There are plenty of amendments that are being prepared for those committee bills — Strategic Forces, Emerging Threats, Seapower and Personnel — but those fights will come during the marathon full committee markup in June.

At the first markup for Strategic Forces, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) did decide to discuss one amendment she has ready for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), which she opposes and the chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), favors. But she did not pursue the amendment on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee will mark up its final two subcommittee bills: Tactical Air and Land and Readiness.

BRAC, Global Hawk retirements rejected: Those final two subcommittee marks rejected two cost-saving proposals that the Pentagon had proposed this year — and last year — which have received a cold response from Capitol Hill.

The Air and Land subcommittee bill prevented the Pentagon from retiring the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk Block 30 drones.

The legislation would prevent the retirement of the unmanned planes until the end of 2016. The Pentagon says it wants to use manned U-2 aircraft instead.

The Readiness subcommittee, meanwhile, rejected the Pentagon’s request for base closures in its measure.

The request for a new round of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission has been widely unpopular in Congress —the Readiness subcommittee even held a hearing ahead of the 2014 Pentagon budget release in an effort to dissuade the Department of Defense from including the proposal in the budget.

Hagel orders new DOD health system: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday ordered the Pentagon to solicit bids for a new computer health system that can be integrated with the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

The Pentagon announced the move ahead of Hagel’s meeting Wednesday with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The attempts to integrate the DOD and VA electronic health records have been criticized by Congress, but Hagel said that a new system would help fix the problem.

“This is a complex and expensive undertaking. It is critical that we get it right,” Hagel said after the meeting.

Some lawmakers were not impressed.

“I’m disappointed in this decision prior to the Memorial Day weekend. It appears to back an interoperable approach over an integrated one,” said House Veterans' Affairs ranking member Michael Michaud (D-Maine). “Delaying the delivery of a seamless information sharing system runs directly against congressional intent, and ultimately hurts our veterans.”

Michaud and the committee’s Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday urging him to intervene to get the records integrated.

“Select a system, pick a path and move forward. We can no longer waste the time or money that will result from endless bureaucratic inaction,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter signed by 20 committee members.


In Case You Missed It:

— Pelosi joins in call to fix backlog

— House panel blocks intel service funding

— Kansas base selected for Air Force tankers

— Obama, lawmakers gear up for Gitmo fight

— Here comes sequester: Part 2


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