Week ahead: Senators face unfinished defense work

The House is gone in the coming week, but the Senate will still be chipping away at its work.

Time is ticking down, though, until both chambers leave for their extended summer break, with plenty of work on defense issues to do before then. Both chambers are scheduled to leave July 15 and be gone until after Labor Day.

First, there's still no set schedule on when the full Senate might move on its defense appropriations bill - the last of the major defense bills awaiting action. The House already approved its defense spending bill and both chambers approved their defense policy bills.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranEspy wins Mississippi Senate Democratic primary Bottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid MORE (R-Miss.) have previously said they hope it will be taken up soon, but haven't provided any more specifics.

In committee, the Senate defense spending bill found bipartisan support, signaling a potentially smoother path to passage when it does come to the floor than the other defense bills saw.

That's because the Senate spending bill sticks to the letter of last year's bipartisan budget agreement.

The Senate defense appropriations bill would set defense spending at $574.5 billion for fiscal 2017. That would be split with $515.9 billion in base spending and $58.6 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

Also still to be done on defense, the House and Senate have yet to formally enter into conference negotiations to reconcile their versions of the defense policy bill.

Informal negotiations, though, started this week between the so-called "Big Four," or the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

The staff director of the Senate panel predicted this week that sticking points will include funding levels, military health reform and acquisition reform.

Off the Hill, the Navy is expected to release its long-awaited investigation into the detention of 10 U.S. sailors who strayed into Iranian waters earlier this year.

The Navy said Friday it would release the results of the investigation "soon," and several reports indicate it could come Thursday.

With just one chamber in Washington in the coming week, the hearing schedule is light.

On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will host a hearing on "Improving Strategic Integration at the Department of Defense" at 9:30 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal will testify. http://1.usa.gov/28Uo9qv

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will host a hearing on global efforts to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, will testify. http://1.usa.gov/28SsIfn

Off Capitol Hill, on Monday, the Atlantic Council will host an event on "Restoring NATO's Power and Purpose," at 1:30 p.m. at 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC. For more information: http://bit.ly/28WltHX

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