OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Brass opposes chain of command changes

She also went after the ability of commanders to understand the nature of the problem, saying that “not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.”

Gillibrand’s bill will be considered next week during the Senate Armed Services panel’s Defense authorization markup. It will face an uphill climb to get included in the legislation, as Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has not endorsed the measure.

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Levin has not taken a position on Gillibrand’s bill, but said Tuesday that “the key to cultural change in the military is the chain of command.”

Republicans have expressed opposition to the proposal, including ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Chambliss criticized over ‘hormones’ comment: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is facing criticism for comments about sexual assault in the military on Tuesday, where he said that the problem was tied to hormones.

“The young folks that are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22, or 23,” Chambliss said at Tuesday’s sexual assault hearing. “Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.”

Lawmakers from both parties quickly slammed Chambliss for the remark.

“It’s simple; criminals are responsible for sexual assaults, not hormones,” said Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Perpetuating this line of thinking does nothing to help change the culture of our military.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called on Chambliss to apologize.

“For a U.S. senator or anyone to write off sexual assault and the personal violation of a woman or a man to the raging hormones of youth shows just how dramatically out of touch the Republican Party is,” she said on MSNBC.

House defense bill markup set for Wednesday: It's all but over the voting for members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who are set to mark up their version of the Pentagon's $500 billion annual spending plan for fiscal 2014. 

Many of the major policy and procurement decisions in the House draft have already been settled by the committee staff and the heads of the defense panel's subcommittees. 

What remains to be seen are what amendments panel members will propose during Wednesday's markup. One issue that will surely come up on that amendment list is Republicans' push for a new missile defense site on the East Coast. 

The amendment from Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), obtained by The Hill, would direct $140 million in the 2014 defense budget to go toward building the ground-based missile interceptors.

Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) did not directly include the funding for the site in his version of the Pentagon policy bill that was released Monday, but he created the space for $140 million that could be directed to fund the East Coast site through an amendment.

The other issue that will be high on the amendment list will be proposals designed to address the Pentagon's problems in dealing with sexual abuse in the military. 

Committee member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said Tuesday those issues will likely dominate the panel's debate over the Defense Department budget bill. 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) could introduce an amendment calling for an independent panel to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault in the military. 

If approved, the amendment would take that authority to go after sexual offenders in uniform away from the military's chain of command. 

But outside new missile shields and sexual assault issues, House defense appropriators are also poised to mark up their bill, which will address the nuts and bolts of Pentagon spending. 

House appropriators slash Pentagon budget plan: House appropriators took the budget axe to the Pentagon's fiscal 2014 spending plan on Tuesday, slashing just over $3 billion from the department's budget blueprint. 

The $512.5 billion that House members set aside for the Department of Defense (DOD) in fiscal 2014 is $3.4 billion less than the nearly $516 budget President Obama sent to Capitol Hill earlier this year. 

The Pentagon spending levels set by the House on Tuesday are also $5.1 billion less than what appropriators approved for defense spending last fiscal year, according to a committee release. 

Despite the cuts, the $512 billion set aside by the House panel is still $28 billion above the defense spending levels called for under the White House's sequestration plan. 

The DOD budget laid out by the Appropriations Committee reflects the panel's "responsibility to prioritize tax dollars and target funding to where it’s needed most," according to committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

The reductions proposed by Rogers's panel run the gamut, cutting spending on everything from funding for the Afghan war to research and development dollars for the Pentagon's next-generation weapons. 

House appropriators also blocked funding for White House plans to transfer terror detainees out of the military prison on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. 

That said, the committee said its work ensures U.S. armed forces will have the resources to be ready to take on any future conflicts. 

"I have always maintained that this [panel] would not adversely impact the readiness of our military," House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said on Tuesday. "We have kept that commitment," he added.


In Case You Missed It: 

— Sen. Rockefeller backs DOD control of armed drones

— House GOP: East Coast missile shield by 2018

— House removes benefit block to sexually abused vets 

— Rep. Forbes sees slippery slope in new counter terror strategy


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