OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Lawmakers consider NSA changes

The Senate's No. 2 Democrat on Tuesday said he did not believe the effort would get far. "I encourage this, though I think it is going to be ill-fated," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

"I think they are going to eventually turn us down," he said of the White House's response to declassifying FISA court opinions.

"They are [just] going to say no," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT
The White House said Congress had been briefed on the operations, but many lawmakers say they were unaware of the programs and are demanding more information.

Senate Intelligence Committee member Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the first time she had heard of either NSA program is "when it broke in the news."

That said, a possible compromise to the Markey-Wyden bill, Durbin said, would be having more lawmakers outside the Armed Services and Intelligence panels briefed on programs similar to the NSA surveillance operations.

"I think that is a good option," Durbin said.

Levin proposes NDAA sexual assault alternative: Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday said he would be proposing an alternative to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) bill to tackle military sexual assault.

Levin’s proposal would require a review any time a commander decides not to pursue a sexual assault case. It also makes retaliation against a victim a crime.

That does not go as far as Gillibrand’s bill, which would give military prosecutors the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases.

Gillibrand’s measure was included in the Personnel subcommittee markup that passed on Tuesday. Gillibrand is chairwoman of the subcommittee.

Levin told reporters, however, that he will be pushing his alternative to replace Gillibrand’s language in the defense authorization bill.

The sexual assault portion of the committee’s authorization markup will be opened up in a rare move by the committee.

Levin cites brass to fight East Coast missile site: Levin also launched a pre-emptive strike against a potential third missile defense site Tuesday, releasing letters from military commanders who say it is unnecessary.

Levin’s letters pushed back at the House Armed Services panel, which included $140 million to begin construction for ground-based interceptors at a new site on the East Coast.

The debate over a third East Coast missile site tends to fall along party lines, and Levin and the Democrats are expected to block GOP attempts to include the site in the Senate’s defense authorization bill.

Levin wrote to the military to make his case before Wednesday’s full committee markup of the bill.

He received a response from Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. J.D. Syring and Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, the military’s joint operational commander for missile defense, who wrote: “There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile site.”

Last year, the House included language to build the East Coast missile site, while the Senate did not. In conference committee, they agreed to conduct an environmental impact study for a potential third interceptor location.

Busy day for the Pentagon on Capitol Hill: There will be a flurry of defense-related activity on Capitol Hill Wednesday as the defense authorization and appropriations bills continue to move forward.

Six committees will take up legislation or host senior Pentagon leaders for hearings.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey will appear before both the Senate and House Budget committees on Wednesday in back-to-back appearances, the Pentagon pair’s final posture hearings of the year.

While they are in the Senate hearing room, the House Appropriations Committee will be marking up the defense spending bill, which allocates $512 billion in base Pentagon discretionary spending.

The full House is also taking up the defense authorization bill on Wednesday, with the bulk of the action on the bill expected to occur on the bill on Thursday.

On the Senate side of the chamber, the Senate Armed Services Committee will begin its markup of the defense authorization bill Wednesday.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, is hosting Gen. Keith Alexander, U.S. Cyber Command chief and director of the National Security Agency. He’s testifying to talk about cybersecurity, but senators will have plenty of questions about the recent disclosure of NSA surveillance programs.


In Case You Missed It:

— White House threatens NDAA veto

— Report: US hacked al Qaeda magazine

— Mikulski considers NSA hearings

— Levin introduces assault policy alternative

— Hagel: No plans for war supplemental


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.

More in Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama to slow Afghan troop withdrawal

Read more »