OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Grounded Air Force planes get airborne

Defense hawks praised the Air Force’s decision to restore the training hours, while pointing to the news as yet another example of why sequestration should have been averted in 2013 and needs to be reversed in 2014.

“I commend the Air Force for working creatively to keep our pilots in the skies, if only temporarily, but this decision is a band-aid solution that cannot be sustained,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) said in a statement, noting that an A-10 squadron based in Tucson, Ariz., was included in the Air Force decision.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senator on backing Moore: ‘It’s a numbers game’ Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee MORE (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday’s announcement was “welcome news,” adding that he fully expected the Air Force to do away with furloughs, too.

“Today’s announcement proves the military’s pain from sequester could have been mitigated all along had my bill to give flexibility to the Department of Defense been rightfully considered,” Inhofe said in a statement, referring to a bill voted down by the Senate in March before the sequester took effect.

“Instead, the president chose politics over the needs of our warfighters and issued a veto threat of my bill,” Inhofe said.

On the heels of the Thunderbirds news, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelPentagon documents hundreds of serious misconduct cases against top brass Obama defense sec: Trump's treatment of Gold Star families 'sickens' me The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE on Monday asking for justification for canceling the Miramar Air Show in San Diego, one of numerous shows the Pentagon said it cut in 2013 due to sequestration.

Amash pushes GOP leaders on defense amendments: Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP leaders agree to consider Dec. 30 spending bill House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-Mich.) vowed to introduce an amendment defunding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs during floor debate on the defense appropriations bill.

But he appears to face long odds to get his amendment to the floor.

The Rules Committee said that it was curtailing the amendments that would get votes on the floor because “there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process.”

The defense appropriations bill has been considered under an open amendment process since Republicans took over the House in 2011, but defense sources told The Hill that GOP House leadership is worried about amendments on Egypt, Syria — and the NSA.

Amash seemed to sense what he was up against on Monday.

“Most important bill this week: DoD Approps. We can defund #NSA's unconstitutional spying on Americans—if House leaders allow amendments,” the libertarian-leaning Republican tweeted.

The Rules Committee has scheduled a Wednesday meeting to consider a rule on the bill, which will determine whether the amendment process is open, closed or structured — and means the Rules panel must approve amendments before they get a vote.

Watchdog outlines problems with sex assault investigations: The Pentagon inspector general issued a report Monday that found 11 percent of sexual assault investigations had significant deficiencies.

The report reviewed 501 cases from 2010 and found 56 had significant problems, returning them to the investigative agency. Of those, 31 had been re-opened, the inspector general report said, although it didn’t talk about what the outcome was.

In addition, the report found that 72 percent of the cases had minor deficiencies that did not negatively affect the investigation.

Investigations with significant deficiencies included cases in which key evidence was not collected, crime scenes weren’t examined, witness and subject interviews weren’t conducted or thorough or when re-interviews did not happen after new information came to light.

Senate Armed Services gets briefed on Syria: The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a closed briefing on Syria Tuesday with top Pentagon officials.

Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy James Miller and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. James Winnefeld will brief the panel in the classified hearing.

The briefing comes amid a debate between the Obama administration and Senate and House Intelligence Committees over the administration’s plans to provide military aid to the Syrian opposition.

The Intelligence panels voted last month to restrict the aid, and they have been working with the administration to address their concerns.

Because the aid is being approved secretly through the Intelligence Committees, the Senate Armed Services panel doesn’t get a vote, but its members are keenly interested in the Syrian aid developments.

The members of the panel have been some of the most vocal proponents of increased U.S. action in Syria, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE (D-Mich.).

In Case You Missed It:

— GOP leaders pushed on NSA vote

— Thunderbirds are back in the air

— Rules says it may limit defense amendments

— US troops adjust to Afghan combat lead

— Snowden creates new headaches for White House

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