OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Hagel lays out sequester pain

Those proposals — including healthcare fee increases, retiring planes and ships and a new round of base closures — have been roundly rejected by Congress.

What remains unclear is whether Hagel’s letter will have the desired impact on the sequestration debate that Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and members of his committee were hoping for.

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Levin and Republicans on the Armed Forces panel made clear they were asking for details on the cuts not because they want to implement them, but as a way to spur lawmakers to do away with the sequester.

Defense analysts said that Hagel failed to provide a level of detail that could have done so, as he echoed many of the warnings his predecessor, Leon Panetta, made last year.

“What is unclear is why they think this is a smart strategy when a similar approach of denial did not work in 2013 and only made the implementation of sequestration harder as a result once it got underway,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“I don’t know how they expect this to be effective now if it wasn’t effective last year,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Lawmakers on the defense committees issued statements saying that the letter was the latest reason that sequestration must be averted.

“While I would have liked more details, Sec. Hagel's response makes clear that the devastation of sequester budget cuts will only be amplified beyond what we have experienced thus far," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin released Hagel’s letter on Wednesday without commenting on it.

Lawmakers want DOD briefing on furloughs: A group of two dozen Republican House lawmakers are requesting a briefing after the Pentagon said it could legally furlough civilian employees who are paid through “working capital funds.”

The 23 lawmakers said that they disagreed with the decision and wanted to meet with Hagel to discuss it, according to a letter sent to Hagel obtained by The Hill.

“As you know, Defense Working Capital Fund employees are paid through reimbursements for the services they provide, so there are no direct savings in appropriated dollars to be rendered from furloughing these individuals,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“We view this scenario as legally dubious and unnecessary,” they said.

The House members were responding to a July 5 letter from Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, in which Hale said the Pentagon could legally furlough the capital fund workers, who are paid with funds not directly appropriated by Congress.

The Pentagon is furloughing 680,000 of its civilian employees one day per week for the next 11 weeks in order to help cover a $37 billion cut due to sequestration.

Durbin, Feinstein ask Obama to stop force-feeding: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote to President Obama on Wednesday, urging him to put an end to the wide-scale force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay.

The senators said that all force-feedings should stop except those necessary to keep detainees alive, and they urged Obama to direct the Pentagon to follow all of the practices that U.S. federal prisoners do when administering the force-feedings.

Feinstein and Durbin cited a federal opinion issued Monday where the judge suggested the force-feedings violated international law but said she did not have the jurisdiction to stop them.

It was up to Obama to address the issue, the judge wrote.

Durbin and Feinstein are two of Obama’s biggest Democratic allies as he makes a new push to close the detention facility. The force-feedings have grown to more than 40 detainees as over 100 of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo are taking part in a hunger strike.

Navy drone lands on carrier: A Navy drone made history on Wednesday as it landed on an aircraft carrier for the first time.

The X-47B was the first tailless, autonomous aircraft carrier to land on a carrier in what is a significant milestone as the Navy seeks to integrate drones into the carrier fleet.

“Just got a look into the future of #NavalAviation. #X47B successfully completed its first arrested landing,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus tweeted.

After successfully taking off from the USS George H.W. Bush in May, the X-47B on Wednesday completed the more difficult task of landing on the aircraft carrier’s flight deck on Wednesday.

You can watch video of the drone landing here.


In Case You Missed It:

— Hagel warns of ‘severely damaging’ cuts

— Levin: Start planning for Syria strikes

— Watchdog: $34M Afghan facility won’t be used

— Donilon joins Council on Foreign Relations


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