Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman’s hopes for Trump | Senators seek to change Saudi 9/11 bill | Palin reportedly considered for VA chief

Greg Nash

THE TOPLINE: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee talked Wednesday about what he’d like to see from President-elect Donald Trump, including a speedy request for more defense spending.

The Hill’s Kristina Wong was at the forum where the chairman spoke and has the full story:


House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said on Wednesday that he is hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will request a supplemental to the defense budget once he takes office.

“My hope is that the new administration will come to us with a supplemental request as soon as they get their feet on the ground,” Thornberry said at a forum hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative.

Thornberry said Trump’s focus on rebuilding the military is “exactly right.”

“Numbers do matter,” he said. “Part of the reason we’re challenged right now is that we don’t have enough aircraft, [and] you have to have numbers to cover geography.”

Read the rest here.


TRANSITION WATCH: Trump has narrowed his choice for secretary of State down to four people, his transition team said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a new name has emerged in reports as a possible Veterans Affairs secretary: Sarah Palin.

The Hill’s Jonathan Easley has more on the State search:

Spokesman Jason Miller confirmed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) are still under consideration.

Miller would not reveal the names of the other two contenders, but it is widely believed that Trump is also considering retired Gen. David Petraeus and Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee for the job.

Trump and Romney dined in public with Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, on Tuesday night in New York City. It was Romney’s second meeting with Trump about becoming the nation’s top diplomat.

Read more here.

On the Palin reports, The Hill’s Rebecca Savransky writes:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is under consideration to serve as the secretary of Veterans Affairs in Donald Trump’s administration, ABC News reported Wednesday.

A Palin aide told ABC News that Palin told Trump transition officials in recent days that she feels “as though the megaphone I have been provided can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”

Read more here.


GOP EYES SAUDI 9/11 BILL CHANGES: Two top senators are preparing an amendment to the law that lets the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. court, which was passed earlier this year when Congress overturned President Obama’s veto.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney has more:

GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are rolling out an amendment to a law allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. court. 

The two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they want to change the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which sailed through Congress, so lawsuits can only be brought against foreign governments that “knowingly” support terrorism.

“We’re asking we put a caveat to the law that just passed. Saying you can bring a lawsuit …if they knowingly engage with a terrorist organization, directly or indirectly, including financing,” Graham said.

Read the rest here.


LAWMAKERS PLEASED WITH GUARD BONUS FIX: Lawmakers reacted Wednesday to the final version of the annual defense policy bill, and among the reactions was praise for how the bill handles the National Guard bonus scandal that enraged Congress last month.

California lawmakers, in particular, hailed the National Defense Authorization Act language, which seeks to prevent the Pentagon from recouping bonuses from Army National Guard soldiers.

“The goal was to make it clear that California National Guard soldiers won’t be forced to unfairly repay bonuses promised for their service a decade ago and this bill accomplishes that,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) said in a statement.

“The language in the NDAA will ensure that the commitments made by [Defense] Secretary [Ash] Carter will be honored by the next administration, any money already repaid will be given back and that the Pentagon will help soldiers who face financial hardship fully recover from this ordeal,” she said.

Read the rest here.


VETS WANT OBAMA, TRUMP TO PARDON DISCHARGES: A group of veterans is urging President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to pardon thousands of post-9/11 veterans who were given less-than-honorable discharges for behavior related to mental health issues.

Advocates say thousands of veterans have received “bad discharge papers” as a result of behavior associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or military sexual assault. Such discharges haunt veterans for the rest of their lives, advocates say, denying them veterans benefits and casting a stigma that can affect aspects of civilian life, such as finding employment.

“This period of transition between administrations offers the opportunity for you to work together to use the power of the office to bring thousands of injured veterans in from the cold and finally get them the care that they need,” Vietnam Veterans of America president John Rowan wrote in a letter to Trump and Obama on Wednesday. “Your cooperation and focus on veterans will help to bring this country together and heal some of the festering wounds of war.

Read more here.



The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts its day-long “Global Security Forum 2016.” Speakers include former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). http://bit.ly/2ft9fbj

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Littoral Combat Ship at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. http://bit.ly/2g83xsU

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/2gWktqp



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— The Hill: Former Pentagon chief hoping he was wrong about Trump

— The Hill: Ex-CIA head: North Korea will be able to reach Seattle with nuke by end of Trump’s first term

— The Hill: Trump team in contact with Moscow on Syria: Russian diplomat

— The Hill: CIA head warns Trump: Undermining Iran deal would be ‘disastrous’

— Reuters: Albright, Hadley urge U.S. to weigh using more force in Syria

— Defense News: NDAA installs major structural reforms to Pentagon

— Stars and Stripes: Coalition airstrikes disable Mosul bridges, limit Islamic State defenses


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@kristina_wong@Rebecca_H_K


Tags Bob Corker Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump John McCain Lindsey Graham

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