OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House panel releases defense authorization bill

Wednesday’s fight will be focused on whether Congress should go further and remove cases from the military’s chain of command. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has a bill to create an independent office and will be offering amendments.

The bill’s $526.6 billion base Pentagon budget is the same as the president's proposal, but it will also generate some controversy because it is $52 billion over the spending caps under sequestration.

ADVERTISEMENT
President Obama’s budget and the House and Senate budgets all set defense spending above the sequester level, because they all solve sequester in their own — and politically unfeasible — way.

Which would mean that the Pentagon budget could be subject to an across-the-board $52 billion cut in 2014 if sequester is not solved.

The Armed Services Committee is marking the House budget on Wednesday, and the committee has defended keeping the authorization bill at the same level as the president’s request, sequester or not.

Wednesday’s markup will have a little something for everyone who follows defense. Click here for more on the panel’s authorization bill, as well as how it tackles Guantánamo, the war on terror, Benghazi and executive pay

Military brass to talk sexual assault: The Senate Armed Services Committee is convening a rare joint appearance by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the service chiefs on Tuesday, where they'll address a range of lawmakers’ sexual assault proposals.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) called for the hearing ahead of the Senate’s markup of its defense authorization bill, which will tackle sexual assault legislation.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) legislation to remove the decision to prosecute cases from the chain of command will be the biggest topic at the hearing, giving a dozen military officials — as well as the senators — a chance to voice their opinion.

The bill has 17 Senate co-sponsors, including three Republicans, but it still faces an uphill climb on the Senate panel. Levin has not said whether he will endorse the measure, and ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Monday that it was a “terrible idea” to remove the authority from commanders.

Gillibrand and supporters of changing the judicial code argue that the current system discourages victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation.

Manning trial opens: After three years of legal maneuvering and pre-trial posturing, former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning got his day in court. 

On Monday, military prosecutors laid out their case against Manning, who is accused of being behind the biggest leak of classified information in recent history. 

Manning is facing 22 federal charges of treason and espionage after handing thousands of classified Pentagon and State Department documents to the website WikiLeaks in 2010. 

The case has become a touchstone for civil rights activists, who claim Manning is being unfairly persecuted by the Obama administration for disclosing the information. 

But Pentagon prosecutors claim the information leaked by Manning ended up in the hands of al Qaeda and other militant groups. 

“This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy," Army prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow said during the opening of Manning's court-martial at Fort Meade, Md. 

Manning's defense team argued Manning carefully picked out which documents to leak in an attempt to prevent any undue harm to his fellow soldiers still fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

In February, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges but said he was innocent of charges that the leaked information supported terrorist or insurgent groups fighting U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy and of violating of the Espionage Act. 

‘Stolen Valor’ signed into law: The president on Monday signed new “Stolen Valor” legislation into law, once again making it a crime to lie about military awards.

The bill from Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) makes it a crime to profit from lies about military honors.

There was similar legislation from 2006, but it was struck down last year by the Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds because the law made the lying itself a crime.

Heck introduced his bill last year, but the legislation stalled in the Senate, where there were two competing but similar bills from then-Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).

With both Brown and Webb leaving the Senate at the end of 2012, Heck’s bill got a much smoother ride this year — straight to the president’s desk. Sponsored by his Nevada colleague, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), it passed the Senate by unanimous consent. 


In Case You Missed It:

— Pentagon: Manning’s leaks aided enemy

— Dem blasts bill’s Gitmo spending

— US sends fighters, Patriot missiles to Jordan

— Lautenberg Senate’s last WWII vet

— Think tanks push base closures, compensation reforms


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.