OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: F-35 stuck on the tarmac

THE TOPLINE: The Defense Department’s expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet remained grounded for the fifth straight day on Tuesday.

The ongoing flight ban for the $400 billion program has jeopardized a pair of long-planned international events to showcase the jet.

Pentagon leaders are still unsure if the constantly behind schedule F-35 will participate in two air shows in Great Britain as they continue to investigate the cause of June 23 fire aboard one of the fighters as it took off from an air base.

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelIntel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security Hagel: Trump is 'an embarrassment' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase MORE will visit Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where the incident occurred, as part of a two-day domestic tour, the Pentagon said.

On Capitol Hill, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee reacted with resignation to the program’s latest setback.

“I just want to keep it going,” said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse members urge Senate to confirm Trump's NASA nominee Senators to Trump: Keep pressure on North Korea while exploring talks Why did this administration back the Palestine Liberation Organization in terrorism case? MORE (R-Okla.), the panel’s ranking member. “It’s too modern to fail.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain asks Trump's CIA pick to explain ties to torture Petraeus: Haspel will explain actions in nomination hearing Afghanistan is our longest war ever and Congress has abandoned all responsibility MORE (R-Ariz.) labeled the program a “debacle.”

“It’s a classic example of the military-industrial-congressional complex,” he said


IRAQ FRUSTRATION. A bipartisan group of Senators criticized the White House for not having a clear-cut plan to defeat the terror group the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The group has captured large swaths of the country in recent weeks. In response, President Obama has authorized sending roughly 800 troops into Iraq to advise government security forces.

“They have no strategy, nor could they articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates say will be a direct threat to the United States,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a sharp critic of the administration, told reporters.

However, Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats desperate for a win hail spending bill Koch-backed group launches six-figure ad buy against Heitkamp GOP Senate candidate slams McCaskill over Clinton ties MORE (D-Mo.) said the White House has strategies to contain ISIS but it is being “appropriately cautious and careful because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in the Middle East right now.”


SANDERS MEETS VA PICK. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCynthia Nixon: 'Sometimes a little naiveté is exactly what is needed' George Clooney writes Parkland students: 'You make me proud of my country again' Lesson from special election: Run on Social Security, Medicare and lower drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) had his first meeting with the Obama administration’s pick to run the embattled Veterans Affairs Department on Tuesday.

The low-key meeting was the next step in what could turn out to be a contentious confirmation process for Robert McDonald, a former 33-year Procter & Gamble executive.

The two enjoyed less than two minutes of small talk before photographers and reporters were ushered out of the room before their meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Sanders gave a speech on the Senate floor where he once again urged lawmakers tasked with hammering out compromise legislation to overhaul the VA not to pay for the final measure with offsets.

Sanders said he recently met with his House counterpart, Veterans Affairs’ Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), and “we had a productive meeting before leaving” for the July 4 holiday.

“We’re working hard on it,” he said.



-Report: GOP wants $3M for Benghazi panel

-Holder warns of Syrian terror threat to West

-Clinton: NSA ‘absolutely wrong’ to snoop on German leader

-Obama urges ‘calm and dialogue’ amid Afghan electoral violence

-Obama wants $3.7B for border


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @kristina_wong, @martinmatishak