Overnight Defense: Lawmakers aim to halt troop cuts, base closures in defense bill

THE TOPLINE: House Armed Services Committee subpanels released their portions of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which they plan to markup this Wednesday and Thursday. 

The full committee marks up the bill next week, on April 27, in what is usually a marathon session stretching into the early morning hours. 

Here are some highlights of proposals released today... 

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NO NEW BASE CLOSURES: The military readiness subcommittee rejected a new round of base closures in its draft portion of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act released Tuesday. 

A new round of base closures, referred to as BRAC for "Base Closure and Realignment Commission," is supported by the administration, as well as some Democrats on the committee. 

In addition, the readiness subpanel, led by Chairman Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Overnight Defense: House passes 5B defense spending bill | Pentagon moving forward on Trump military parade | Mattis vows 'ironclad' support for South Korea's defense House passes 5B Pentagon spending bill MORE (R-Va.) and ranking member Madeleine BordalloMadeleine Mary BordalloOvernight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks 5 things to know about Guam Guam delegate: Constituents 'very concerned' about North Korea threat MORE (D-Guam), would provide more funds for military construction than the president has proposed for 2017.
Read more on the subpanel rejecting base closures here

NO MORE TROOP CUTS: The subcommittee would reverse planned active-duty troop cuts across the Army, Marines and Air Force. 

Defense hawks have argued the planned cuts don't take into account recent world events such as the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and a resurgent Russia.

The biggest change under the subcommittee's draft would be for the Army, which would increase from 475,000 authorized active duty personnel in 2016 to 480,000 in 2017. That's also 20,000 more than the Pentagon requested for 2017.

The Marines would bump up by 1,000 to 185,000. The Pentagon's request was for 182,000.

Air Force active duty would also get a small bump, from 320,715 in 2016 to 321,000 in 2017. The request was for 317,000.

The Navy's active-duty troop level though would be the same as requested, 322,900, a drop from 329,200 in 2019.

The draft bill also calls for a 2.1 percent pay raise for troops. The administration had requested a 1.6 percent raise.

"That's our starting position," a committee majority staffer said at a background briefing for the press.

More on the subpanel's troop levels here

CYBER AND ANTI-ISIS MESSAGING: The draft released Tuesday by the House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee calls for developing a strategy for unconventional warfare, such as enabling a resistance movement.

Included in the draft is a push for counter-messaging against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The bill also specifically calls out threats from Russia and Iran.

"The committee remains concerned about the growing unconventional warfare capabilities and threats being posed most notably and recently by the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran," a summary of the draft reads.

More on the push for "unconventional warfare" here

MORE COVERAGE: A House Armed Services subpanel would authorize $20.6B for shipbuilding.

AEI'S MACKENZIE EAGLEN RELEASES DEFENSE BUDGET REPORT: Eaglen calls for focusing reforms in three areas: (1) the civilian defense workforce; (2) defense contracting for the services; and (3) the military healthcare system.

Read the report here

CSIS' TODD HARRISON'S BUDGET REPORT: Highlights of what he found: 

-- The ratio of defense civilian workers to active military personnel is at a record high, and only a small fraction of civilians (4.1%) are on the headquarters' staffs. 

-- About half of the Overseas Contingency Operations budget of $30 billion is being used for base budget activities. 

Read the report here

SPEAKING OF $$$, AN ISIS WAR COST UPDATE: The Pentagon released it's latest cost figures for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Tuesday. The total U.S. cost of the war since Aug. 8, 2014 through Mar. 15, 2016 is $6.8 billion, and the average daily cost is $11.5 million, for 586 days of operations. 

Previous cost reports can be found here.  

SENATORS ASK OBAMA TO INVESTIGATE PENTAGON: A bipartisan pair of senators is calling on President Obama to investigate allegations that the Pentagon misled Congress during testimony on sexual assault cases.

Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFord's lawyer: Hearing doesn't appear to be designed for 'fair', 'respectful' treatment GOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw MORE (R-Iowa) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandKamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal This week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Gillibrand calls for Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to Obama on Tuesday they were concerned by a recently released report by a victims' advocacy organization, Protect Our Defenders, which maintains that the Pentagon misled members of Congress during a recent congressional debate. 

"Due to the very serious nature of these allegations, we request that you direct an independent investigation into this matter," they said. 

The report from Protect Our Defenders, released Monday, said a Pentagon official's statement that civilian prosecutors refused to prosecute 93 cases of sexual assault that were later pursued by military commanders was misleading. The group came to that conclusion after analyzing documents on 81 of the 93 cases.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: 

The House Armed Services Committees continue marking up the 2017 Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. 

The Subcommittee on Military Personnel gets things started at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2212.http://1.usa.gov/1WvU9Ak

At 1:30 p.m., the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces will mark up their portion of the bill at Rayburn 2118. http://1.usa.gov/1Sk1qmM

Wednesday concludes with the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces at 3 p.m. at Rayburn 2212.http://1.usa.gov/1qMacxU

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps aviation programs at 2 p.m. at Russell 232A. http://1.usa.gov/1Vv0nBF

Another Senate Armed Services subcommittee will look at posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Russell 222. http://1.usa.gov/1V6XC98

ICYMI: 

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The Hill: White House 'gratified' by GOP concerns over Saudi bill

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Reuters: Afghan Taliban kill at least 28 in major attack in central Kabul

Army Times: Army Pacific chief: Cheaper to keep U.S. troops in South Korea

 

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