Overnight Defense: House passes $578B defense spending bill | General calls out Russia over arms treaty | House to get briefing on Marines' nude-photo scandal

Overnight Defense: House passes $578B defense spending bill | General calls out Russia over arms treaty | House to get briefing on Marines' nude-photo scandal
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THE TOPLINE: The House easily passed a fiscal 2017 defense spending bill on Wednesday that would provide $577.9 billion for the Pentagon.

The bill passed on a largely bipartisan vote, 371-48.

Though many Democrats voted for the bill, they took issue with Republicans taking up the defense bill with no indication that Congress will move on other spending bills. They also criticized Republicans for punting on the defense spending bill at the end of last year, only to pass a version now that closely reflects the spending levels agreed to in December.

"Despite my support for this legislation, I am extremely troubled that we are still working on the fiscal year 2017 defense bill five months and eight days into the fiscal year," said Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), ranking member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. "Even more disconcerting is the fact that the defense appropriations act is just one of 11 fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills that need to be completed by the end of next month. There is no excuse for them remaining unfinished."

Read the rest here.

GENERAL KNOCKS RUSSIA ON TREATY VIOLATION: The U.S. and Russia have discussed Moscow's deployment of a nuclear-tipped cruise missile in violation of an arms treaty, but there's no indication Russia plans to go back into compliance with the treaty, the U.S. military's second-highest ranking officer said Wednesday.

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"We have conferred with the Russians under the bilateral consultations committee that exists underneath the New START Treaty in order to confront them on that deployment, and we will continue to do so," Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on nuclear deterrence.

"I don't have enough information on their intent to conclude other than they do not intend to return to compliance, absent some pressure from the international community and the United States," Selva later added. "There's no trajectory in what they're doing to indicate otherwise."

Read more here.

HOUSE PANEL TO GET BRIEFING ON MARINES' SCANDAL: The House Armed Services Committee will be briefed next week by the commandant of the Marine Corps on the nude photo scandal rocking the service.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters the committee will get a briefing a week from Thursday, rather than have an open hearing, to allow Gen. Robert Neller to speak to what the Marines know so far while the investigation is ongoing.

"Clearly degrading fellow service members is unacceptable in all circumstances," said Thornbery, chairman of the committee. "So it is a matter which needs to be taken seriously."

The War Horse, a nonprofit military news organization, reported over the weekend that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating hundreds of Marines on allegations that they shared nude photos and personal information of female Marines and veterans in a private Facebook group. The Facebook group, called "Marines United," had nearly 30,000 followers.

Read more from Thornberry here.

DEM CALLS FOR FIRINGS: Earlier in the day, an Armed Services committee member, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), called for Marines implicated in the scandal to be fired.

In a speech on the House floor, Speier urged Defense Secretary James Mattis to "hold your leadership accountable for these failures to establish a culture of dramatic change." 

"That means heads should roll," Speier said. "Action is what needed for the integrity of the military. Survivors must be supported. That will only happen if those bad Marines are drummed out of the Corps, with no exceptions."

The Hill's Cristina Marcos has more from Speier here.

MARINES DEFEND RESPONSE: But a top Marine defended the Corps' response, saying that a stronger statement could jeopardize potential future prosecutions.

Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the service was taking into account a judge's 2012 rebuke of former Marines Commandant Gen. James Amos, who was found to have exerted apparent unlawful influence when he questioned the lack of convictions and discharges in the wake of sexual assault allegations throughout the Marine Corps.

"I understand how everyone wants us to come out and be outraged, and we are outraged," said Green, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the Marines.

"There are some things we'd like to say, but due to the legal situation when [Amos] came out and he made bold statements about how he felt about sexual assault, the judicial system said that the statements he made could actually have a negative impact on where they wanted to go with the prosecution."

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

The commanders of U.S. Central Command and Africa Command will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. at the Hart Senate Office Building, room 216. http://bit.ly/2m4c3yu

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee will host "Member's Day" at 9:30 a.m. in room H-140 in the Capitol. http://bit.ly/2mV3Avo

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will have a hearing on Russian disinformation at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2lI1rmt

Members of the Defense Science Board will testify on nuclear deterrence before a House Armed Services subcommittee at 3:30 p.m. at Rayburn 2118. http://bit.ly/2mjL7vd

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Report: Trump admin considers sending 1,000 'reserve' troops to support ISIS fight

-- The Hill: Senators want warrants, court orders for any Trump wiretapping

-- The Hill: McMaster reverses Flynn's move to keep NSC staff out during Trump's foreign calls

-- The Hill: Armed Services chairmen praise missile defense deployment

-- The Hill: Top Intel Dem to seek testimony from ex-MI6 spy behind Trump dossier

-- Military Times: VA to start offering mental health care to 'bad paper' veterans

-- Associated Press: China: North Korea could suspend nukes if U.S., South Korea halt drills

-- Stars and Stripes: Pentagon: Islamic State has lost access to Iraq's oil

 

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